Winter Solstice 2018
21st December 22:24 GMT
The kingdom turned to loss, the land was dead and desert in suchwise that it was scarce worth a couple of hazelnuts. For they lost the voices of the wells and the damsels that were therein.
Chrétien de Troyes
This quote is from the King Arthur stories, about the kingdom of the maimed Fisher King, who is the keeper of the Grail, source of miraculous healing. The kingdom is laid waste because the maidens of the wells – the feminine energy that safeguarded the purity of the water, the basis of ecological health – have been violated. The Grail, symbol of the sacred feminine, is therefore confined to the court of the Fisher King, its healing powers unavailable to the land or even to the King himself. The Fisher King (Pelles, as in this image by Will Worthington) is the astrological archetype of Chiron, the wounded healer, and it is Chiron that stands at the gateway of the Winter Solstice this year.
The great gateways of the year (the solstices and equinoxes) are portals that take us from one variety of experience to another. The gateway is an opportunity: what does it bring to us, and we to it? Our tendency is to want to squeeze ourselves through our lives as painlessly as possible, without calamity, embarrassment or distress. What is that part of us that wants to move through the cycles of our lives unchanged and unchallenged? Chiron reminds us that we are always wounded, in some sense sullied by experience. He was the leader of the centaurs and mentor to the solar heroes. Accidentally wounded by Hercules’ poisoned arrow, immortal Chiron cannot die and neither can he be healed. Chiron, in our own experience, marks for each of us the pain that cannot be fixed, that we have no choice but to learn to live with. The deal in this Earth realm is ‘strength through struggle’: it’s a matter of bearing what is sullied and painful, and saying yes to difficulty. This way wisdom is won.
And now we reach the depth and extent of the dark. The Winter Solstice is the seeding moment. The sun-seed of the year of growth ahead is implanting in the womb of winter. This is a time for stillness and holding the mystery. When we think about the future we can feel powerless, as if we ‘just have to wait and see’. And yet, the future is only ever the outgrowth of how and what we are, here and now. And this most contracted point in time signals the need for holding: holding potentiality, holding the not-born, holding hope. Inner discipline is required to be able to be with what we are experiencing without spilling our energy out in emotional reactions. You don’t keep digging a seed up to see how it’s doing. It is for us to gather creative power now as the Sun’s energy is internalised and transforms itself in us through the process we call Winter. External fallowness is met by inward fullness as future time dreams itself in all beings. As Rilke has it, ‘the future enters into us … in order to transform itself in us long before it happens’.
Meanwhile our little island is in a flap. At the national level, we are thinking, discussing and taking action in the political realm in terms that are obsolete. Truly, we are fiddling while Rome burns. The madness of this is hard to bear. It’s not with national sovereignty and trade deals that we should concern ourselves as we slip beneath the rising waters of climate change. Instead our concern should be for how we can take power to act in the service of our planet. Many, many people are doing this, just as many others are obsessing about status, income and the bottom line. We’re all united by a common concern for security, just looking through different lenses and at different levels of awareness.
So we find ourselves in a desert kingdom with a maimed sovereign. Pluto’s relentless passage through Capricorn (sign of authority and governance and the solstice) has been exposing the limitation of all our ‘systems’. It brings purification through purging what is toxic and corrupt, and we have had had a bellyful of that and there’s plenty more to come. But what positively is coming to light is the radical necessity to take responsibility for our human sacred trust, our non-negotiable responsibility for planetary well-being, and to reinstate regard for the sacred feminine.
Pluto was, by the Greeks and Romans, cast as Lord of the Underworld. But underneath his patriarchal robe, Pluto is the expression of an older, female archetype: Kali with blood around her mouth and her vulva, the devouring and birthgiving mother. The great goddess is a powerful aspect of the Pluto archetype that is seeking integration in our understanding and experience. The #me too movement is a terribly faint but discernible echo of the goddess insurgency that is reshaping the world of the collective right now.
At the Solstice moment Pluto occupies 20ᵒ Capricorn, the Sabian symbol of which is given as, ‘The ray of hope through all difficulty.’ Despair is corrosive to our communities and to our own souls; it is a spiritual and social necessity to foster, and act on the basis of, our highest hope. As Kate Tempest beautifully expresses it, ‘Your hope is as old as the language of smoke, the language of blood.’ Hope has archetypal power; it is fundamental to maintaining our humanity. There is food, drink and shelter in our very capacity to hope.
In April 2018 Chiron, the wounded healer, entered Aries, place of sunrise, breaching the horizon after a long nocturnal sojourn. It has re-entered collective consciousness, bringing our awareness both to our deepest wounds and to our greatest capacity for compassion and wisdom. He is making the scales fall from our eyes as we see the wasteland in which we are living. In September Chiron sank back beneath the horizon as it retrograded into the sign of Pisces . It will emerge finally on 19th February 2019. The portal of the Solstice this year is marked by Chiron in a square to the Solstice Sun. It will square both Sun and Moon on 22nd December, when the Full Moon poetically occupies the degree of the Summer Solstice. Wounds that cannot be fixed and cannot be ignored are the source of our creativity and bless us with compassion and wisdom. The jungian, James Hollis, puts it simply: ‘Wounds quicken consciousness.’ They break us out of the prisons of our habit, somnolence and addiction that incarcerate and enfeeble us.
Without our wounds and our hope we might be brilliant machines, capable of a great deal; with our wounds and our hope we are human, capable of conscience, consciousness, insight, nuance, humour, development, love and wisdom. Chiron is a walker between the worlds. His emergence above the horizon and his marking of the Solstice portal indicates a time when the worlds can be seen once more in connection with each other:
world of thought with world of feeling with world of action;
world of past with world of present with world of future;
world of animal with world of plant with world of mineral;
world of soul with world of body;
world of time with world of timelessness;
manifest world with archetypal world;
world of self with cosmic world.
To do this work of reconnection means to bear with what has been spoiled – our wounds – personally, socially, politically, spiritually, environmentally. This will require us to withdraw from blame. We blame because we are in thrall to the idea that our pain has been inflicted by something external to us. In blaming we neurotically fling out the possibility of inner truth and insight that are our gifts and our guidance (and which potentially redeem, at least mitigate, suffering).
This Solstice and 2019 will focus our attention powerfully on what has been spoiled and soured. We choose how best to respond. We can say, ‘To hell with it, let’s go down in style;’ or we can despair, freighting our souls with an insupportable cargo of hopelessness, guilt and blame. Or we can be alert to the tensions and dynamics of our difficult situations and determine to hold them in our awareness, in our experience. We need to find inner discipline and independence of thought and feeling – not to be part of the broiling sea of collective reaction that surrounds us. Can we find the strength to hold our ship steady? Having a context of significance, a set of principles, through which to understand what is happening is like having stars to steer by. When the storm is raging, can we find the still point, the eye of the storm?
We stand to gain a great deal…
I offer astrological consultations to individuals, monthly Soulwork experiential astrology workshops and occasional workshops on astrological themes. Coming up on 17th February 2019, there’s a chance to explore the archetype of Chiron or the Fisher King, the wounded healer. I work in Ashburton, South Dartmoor.