‘At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.’
(from T. S. Eliot, ‘Burnt Norton’ II, The Four Quartets)
Except for the still point, there would be no dance… The summer dance is a full-swung thing. We are drawn towards flowering and fruiting and activity; teased and extended into opening and revealing all that was seeded in the chill stillness of the winter solstice’s midnight moment. Midsummer is the zenith, a time of burgeoning growth, as the Sun reaches the peak of its powers. Its light and building warmth call us to wakefulness and vividness. Come alive!
Under the all-seeing eye of the solstice Sun there are no hiding places; it is a time of reckoning. The great poet of the natural world, Kathleen Raine writes, ‘the sun shows the world to the world’.1 Are we able to see, to bear witness and be with all that is shown by the light of the Sun? In her poem ‘To the Sun’, Raine calls the Sun, ‘great giver of all that is’, and now – at this still point, this moment of grace – is the time to meditate upon that truth.
The midsummer solstice is marked by the Sun’s entry into Cancer. Here in the northern hemisphere we experience the longest day as the Sun reaches its zenith in its journey through the wheel of the year. The Sun is the central organiser of the individual’s life force just as it is the centre of our solar system: around it all forces of our realm are constellated. In the birth chart the Sun represents consciousness, authenticity, personal power, purpose and purposeful activity. It is our source, our star and, to this extent, our deity. The stellar level pertains to the spiritual forces of soul or the higher self. The Sun, in the chart, is the lens through which the soul focuses its intention, showing where and how it intends to gain experience through the form life (personality, body and physical conditions) in the present incarnation. The Sun enlivens soul activity: it seeks to swing us into our true line. This can feel both challenging and rewarding. If we have not, in our lives, established our centre of gravity in the solar energy we tend to be existentially disorganised and unintegrated, as it is the Sun that focuses force and makes conscious sense of life for us. Seeking to align ourselves with solar energy is essential to our well-being; it is key to the contribution we, as individuals, need to make to humanity and to Gaia in the development of planetary consciousness. This is the effort we need to make for the whole: to give our individual selves fully to life, and to the world. And right now we are provided with a greater opportunity and encouragement to do that.
As the ruler of Cancer (sign of the solstice), the Moon’s condition at the moment of the solstice helps to describe what this ‘still point’ or portal is opening to us. The solstice occurs at 16:39 GMT on 21st June 2015. At this time the Moon is occupying 29° Leo, the unstable degree where the energy oscillates between the antithetical forces of Leo and Virgo, calling to both the childlike joy in simply being (Leo) and the dutiful urge to attend to tasks (Virgo). How to marry the energies of joyful being and dutiful doing? Willingness and Sun-infused joyful giving of our ability to work, applying ourselves to tasks with purpose and authenticity, are the way forward at this time. There is a fluid interaction between the luminaries right now as they are in mutual reception (occupying each other’s signs), which is a real opportunity to discern between the authentic reality of the life-giving Sun and the seeming-real glamour of the Moon, which is merely a reflector, a mirror of vitality, a memory of something past. The Sun is illuminating what is real; the time asks us to know the difference between the real and its many reflections.
The solstice Moon is in an exact square with retrograde Saturn on 29° Scorpio. The Moon and Saturn, the veil of the past, thus uncomfortably in league, call us to account: finish the clearing that was undertaken, fully address the shadow stuff that has emerged over recent months. There is deep work still to be done, things to bring to completion. This involves breaking out of some of our conditioned, knee-jerk reactions. The Moon in Leo needs discipline and sober Saturn provides it; with this square it feels like the brakes are on: depressing, frustrating and stultifying. Emotional reactions are being challenged. We are changing.
The Moon is in its Crescent phase at the solstice, encouraging us to overcome past conditions and see clearly the opportunity of NOW, which is perhaps to apply ourselves authentically to completing our inner work. The New Moon occurs on 16th June in conjunction with Mars, giving zeal and momentum and a strong urge to just get on with it! This carries on into the solstice moment. This drive needs to be engaged purposefully in the work of completion, or inflammation, anger and frustration will result. Some discipline and creativity are required as we do the work of resolution and integration. Mars is the spur here, its frustration points to where we want to be, but its energy must first be focused and held, recruited to the task in hand: to help us break through conditioning rather than just break loose.
The midsummer solstice weaves together the seed held in the frozen earth at the time of contraction (midwinter) and the new seed forming in the green of the flourishing plant at this time of expansion. Dream and fulfilment are being woven together through our beings. Is summer the dream of the sleeping earth, or the waking fulfilment of winter’s dream? Maybe both are true, as we move between inwardness and outwardness, expansion and contraction, dream and reality, sleep and wakefulness. At this time of solstice, we recognise that the still point is the turning point – this is the moment when the balance tilts once more towards winter, and, traditionally, the holly king overwhelms the oak king. Winter is with us at midsummer. Living is in dying, as dying is in living.
Finally, Neptune as the esoteric ruler of Cancer, adds a further layer of description to the solstice moment, as it retrogrades on 9° Pisces exactly squaring Mercury in Gemini. Neptune is infusing our rational minds and communication with unworldly inspiration and imaginings. This download of spiritual inspiration is a lot for young Mercury to take. It can’t really cope and is somewhat stupefied, resulting in confusion, mental fog, hallucination, lies and delusion. The rational mind has to creak open under the eroding pressure of Neptune as the spiritual seeks expression. Do we have a spiritual context, a context of meaning adequate to what we are experiencing? Neptune is issuing a call for Unity, to see the connectedness of all things and all beings, and to have this vision glimpsed by the rational mind. This disrupts rationality and impairs judgement, but the vision is beautiful, inspiring and redemptive. Our task is ever to cultivate discernment.
A solstice of paradoxes: energy, drive and inspiration on one side, countered by holding and frustration of impulse on the other. The impeding force of Saturn may be difficult but it is reaching towards a new maturity, which is unlocked when Saturn resumes its direct motion on 2nd August (Lughnasadh). It leaves the sign of Scorpio (not to return until 2041), entering Sagittarius mid-September in time for the autumn equinox, at which point we will be harvesting the fruits of Saturn’s sojourn through Scorpio and finding relief and release into a very different mood.
‘Ancestral sun, do you remember us,
Children of light, who behold you with living eyes?
Are we as you, are you as we? It seems
As if you look down on us with living face:
Who am I who see your light but the light I see,
Held for a moment in the form I wear, your beams.’
(from ‘To the Sun’, Kathleen Raine)
1 From ‘Far-darting Apollo’.