AUTUMN EQUINOX 23rd September 2018, 01:55 gmt
The autumn equinox, marked by the Sun’s entry into the sign of Libra teaches us about the experience of balance. It is a time of poise and pause before we tilt towards the dark part of the
year. Balance, as the wheel of the year shows us, comes and goes; it is not a place you can pitch your tent. We move in and out of it and we can’t hang on to it, but simply have to taste it when it’s present. The equinoxes, joints in time where the forces of day and night are, for the whole globe in balance, are governed by Aries and Libra: the forces of self-actualisation and the call to relationship.
If Aries were to operate autonomously the wilful impulse towards self-actualisation would be crudely aggressive. The unmoderated will of the isolate self can be brutal. Autonomous and unmoderated Libra would yield sycophantic appeasement of others and the need for agreement at all costs, with no regard for self or truth. Mars/Aries and Venus/Libra need to be held in a fruitful and dynamic tension, they do after all belong to each other, extremes of a continuum of energy. Aries enacts the will of the self while Libra calls for regard for other and the path of harmony and balance that must be found between contesting forces. Aries, the warrior, can be seen as wielding the sword of light, Excalibur; while Libra, the lover, the bringer of peace, carries the Grail into the court of the Fisher King. The sword represents what we might call the masculine principle: its role is to defend and champion the feminine principle and to direct the light. It is truthful. The Grail is the feminine principle, the chalice or cauldron: the womb. It holds sacred substance – spiritual forces, bringing them into manifestation, holding, healing and inspiring the masculine. It receives the light.
The Arthurian legend of the Fisher King presents us with a character that belongs to the Chiron archetype (the wounded healer). The shock of being burnt by a mouthful of hot salmon (the Salmon of Wisdom, one of the totemic animals of Britain, the “honeyed isle”) made a prince stumble into a fire where an ember wounds him in the groin. The injury is such that he cannot be healed and yet he cannot die. It causes him such weakness that he retreats to his court. His pain is only relieved when he is in a skiff with a fishing line in the water, so he is sometimes seen alone on lakes of his increasingly devastated lands. As the land is laid waste he, in parallel, becomes less and less substantial, his lifeforce retreating to the more subtle realms of the etheric, to the extent that his castle seems no longer to be on the ground and sometimes simply cannot be found. To travellers who sight him and ask for hospitality, the Fisher King will direct them to his home where, to their amazement, they will see a nightly procession at the head of which a fair woman bears the wondrous radiant Grail into the hall. All who drink from the Grail are healed and restored; the Fisher King is too weak, too energetically refined, to lift the cup to his mouth. And yet, he is the Grail’s custodian.
The Fisher King, trapped between worlds, reluctantly rules over a wasteland. Meanwhile the brotherhood of Knights of the Round Table have disbanded, each going his separate way, riding into dense and pathless forest in a quest to find the Grail and restore harmony to the land. Lacking the Grail, they are just a bunch of desperate sword-wielding men, seeking it, but unable to protect and champion the sacred feminine. The Quest for the Grail is the call from the soul to the personality to restore and honour the feminine principle, the Goddess; to inspire the personality (the knight) into action on behalf of the soul that, bodiless, cannot act; and to unite the inner and the outer worlds, bringing healing (wholeness) to both.
The Grail is trapped between worlds with the Fisher King; Excalibur has been thrown back into the hand and waters of the Lady of the Lake. Things that belong together have been put apart and the quest of the soul is to reunite them. The knight of personality is the vehicle that has to undertake this task. The personality first must hear the call of the soul and then heed it, ride into that pathless forest with the sheer desire to recover and bring together the chalice and the blade.
This quest is for all of us and it is urgent. We know this. The land is laid waste; we have to find the faith and courage to act: to reunite head and heart, inner and outer worlds, the divine feminine and masculine, the soul and the personality, spirit and matter…
We stand at the gateway to the dark half of the year and the winter journey will be marked by the energy of this time. It promises us a sighting of the Fisher King, who can, if approached, direct us to his court. This is because the equinox Sun on 0° Libra is exactly opposite Chiron (wounded healer, Fisher King) on 0° Aries. We are likely to touch into the shame and pain of our deepest wounds. How to feel those places without massive reaction; how to feel them and know that they are the key to our deepest gifts of wisdom and compassion? These cosmic powers (Sun and Chiron) are occupying both equinox positions where the solar plane intersects with the celestial equator, calling out for a balance of forces between the warrior and the lover, making us painfully aware of the woundedness that results from their separation. The rulers of the spring and autumn equinoxes, Mars and Venus, meanwhile are in a fixed t-square with Uranus, planet of rude awakenings and ambassador of the soul. The challenges we are facing are soulful interventions, rattling our cages and requiring us to find new and very different ways of being and doing.
Embrace the difficulty, cleave to it, as the poet Rilke advises dear Mr Kappus in his Letters to a Young Poet:
And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. … [Y]ou know that you are in the midst of transitions and wished for nothing so much as to change.