Winter Solstice 2015
22nd December 2015, 4:49 GMT
The descent is over. We have reached the deepest, darkest time of the year. Here we are held in stasis: darkness, limitation and restrictedness. The dive towards this moment began in the hot and heady moment of the Summer Solstice when the forces of growth were at their zenith. Now they are at their nadir. The lifeforce is contracted, withdrawn to the roots, and we are in the midst of the die-back.
It is also at this very moment that the spark of life is re-ignited, the Sun reborn, and the new cycle of growth inaugurated. The Oak King slays the Holly King and the tree of summer rules from now until the Summer Solstice. This is the birth time of the solar heroes and the Christchild. We celebrate the birth of the divine child or the spark of divinity that lives within us all. Our celebrations give human form to the light and warmth of the Sun, while they are in short supply in the natural world. We call the Sun back, with hope and faith in the new cycle of growth that is coming to birth.
The Winter Solstice is marked by the Sun’s entry into the sign of Saturn-ruled Capricorn. Saturn (Chronos) sits at the head of the table for this feast, reminding us of the passing of time. In the realm of time all things are subject to growth, decay and death. You know the taste of freedom, now taste restriction, he seems to say. When all the growth is stripped back we get a good look at the underlying structure of things. There is a choice now about whether we neglect, maintain or rebuild those structures that organise our lives – physical, mental and emotional.
Since last December Saturn has been transiting through Sagittarius where it will stay until December 2017. In this sign the focus is broad and outward for Sagittarius is the sign of expansion, the quest for meaning and the pursuit of new horizons. It seeks to travel physically, to go into foreign countries and cultures; or to travel mentally by engaging in mind-expanding study; or spiritually, by developing religious ideas and practices. Saturn’s sojourn through Sagittarius brings a serious, authoritative and, sometimes, authoritarian engagement with such matters. Sagittarius may be the lawmaker, but it is Saturn who polices and enforces the rule of law. It is Saturn that rules over the construction of borders and boundaries.
We are aware of the contentious and difficult experience of the borders within and around this continent, our minds uncomfortably drawn to the thought of many men, women and children in transit or living in makeshift camps as winter deepens in Europe. Cultivating human light and warmth in the absence of the Sun is a dire practical need for these people. Acts of war in other lands also come to mind in this context. Saturn tends to provoke fear-based reactions: attempts to assert order and control readily become more forceful and more harmful when the old basis of order is outgrown and obsolete. Saturn asks us which way we will go: will we keep ever more desperately trying to make the old way work, or will we find a new way. Bend or break.
Saturn governs the solstice forces of contraction and crystallisation. It is currently taking these forces into an awareness of the wider world, the bigger picture and the principles underlying the structures and strictures that hold us in personal, familial, social and national arrangements. We have choices now: do we neglect, maintain or restructure? Saturn calls for our commitment to a course of action, which it will then help us consolidate and give form to. But Saturn is, now and in the coming nine months, under the significant influence of Neptune. While Saturn concretises, Neptune dissolves. Saturn moves towards form, Neptune towards formlessness. Saturn builds, Neptune erodes. The oceanic force of Neptune is irresistible; Saturn’s rule will not withstand it. Neptune teaches us the meaninglessness of separation – all is connected. Inundation is the way of Neptune. Flood waters do not discriminate. When tides are high enough breakwaters, boundaries, borders and defences are breached.
Saturn and Neptune are making three transiting squares to each other: the first was 26th November, the second on 18th June 2016 and the third on 10th September 2016. This sequence is a series of challenges to Saturn, which may cling to fond notions of separation, but Neptune’s business is to overwhelm separative consciousness with an irrefutable experience of unity and interconnection. Neptune is ‘spiritualising’ Saturn in Sagittarius, waking him up to a higher truth, urging him towards compassionate understanding. Canute-like, he is bound to order back the waves, but the waves will keep on coming, for they are beyond law.
Accompanying Neptune’s challenge to Saturn, is the transit of Pluto through Saturn’s sign, Capricorn, that began in January 2008 and continues until November 2024. This process is as thorough-going as it is long: Capricorn matters are being penetrated, revealed, dismantled and, what doesn’t serve is getting trashed: social structures and forms of authority are subject to the purgative action of Pluto. The deep, largely unconscious action of Pluto is brought to mind now as Mercury, messenger of the gods, makes a brief conjunction to Pluto on 19th December. (The Sun will conjunct Pluto on 5th January underlining Pluto’s message once more.) We have witnessed many falls from grace over recent years as corruption, greed, exploitation and the pursuit of power (with all their manifold concomitant abuses) have brought many unpleasant realities to our attention. We must bravely look at what is revealed and learn to create social structures and forms of authority in new and different ways. Saturn is currently being inspired by Sagittarius and by Neptune, which point to new ways of being for all of us; there is much to learn – and to unlearn! We have to learn to step out beyond our normal, comfortable frontiers, to widen our horizons and enter ‘the gloom and the gleam of the world’ as it is, here and now, with tolerance, wisdom and compassionate action.