Astrology and Christmas: All Posts Midwinter Festival

(Astrology Explored) Our ancestors watched the sun, moon and stars to determine the passing of time. Of particular importance, besides the full moon, were the solstices and equinoxes. The theme of both solstices and equinoxes was the interplay of the light and the dark, both being essential to the balance of the Universe. Winter Solstice stories revolved on the death of the old year, the old sun, and the birth of the new. In the middle to the cold and the dark was the hope that the sun would once again warm the earth. Over the years I’ve written a number of pieces about this time of the year, so I thought I’d share them with you once again.

The Astrology of Christmas Myths–Holiday Sales Will Save Us

The Astrology of Zodiac Ages: Christmas and the Next Two Thousand Years

The Astrology and Astronomy of the Star of Bethlehem

Astrology, History and the Winter Solstice: Our Christmas Traditions

Astrology and Mythology: Saturn’s Story and Saturnalia

The Astrology of Christmas: Winter Solstice Traditions

The Astrology of Christmas: Dickens and Scrooge

The Astrology of Christmas: History, Prophecy and Bad Uses of Astrology

Happy Holidays!

Photo published under a Creative Commons License by User GrizDave as explained on Flickr.


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Astrology and Carl Jung: Part 4–Personality, Archetypes and Synchronicity

(Astrology Explored) Note: As my Facebook friends know I have reentered college to finish up my degree in psychology. As part of one class I wrote this paper on the influence of astrology on Carl Jung. Jung is widely embraced in the astrological world because his theories on archetypes, which he used to create a therapeutic model, fits neatly with the symbolic language of astrology.

Part One–The Influence of Astrology on Carl Jung

Part Two–Jung’s Childhood

Part Three–Seeking Answers in the Paranormal

Chasing the ShadowHow Astrology Influenced Jung’s Theories

In 1921 Jung published his book Personality Types. In this book he presents his theory that people are either extroverts or introverts: thinking or feeling. It is one work that he did not rework over the years. It is most likely that he did not need to rework these theories because the book is based on well-established astrological symbols.

The zodiac signs are based on three principles, elements, modes and gender. Quite simply the odd numbered zodiac signs are considered “male” or “positive” and even numbered signs are “female” or negative. Along with this gender associations are the connotations of extrovert (male) and introvert (female). The elements are also ascribed gender, with “fire” and “air” signs considered masculine, while “water” and “earth” are female.

Jung posits four psychological functions that match precisely the functions of the elements. The intuiting, creative intellect correlates with the fire element. The sensing, practical function matches the earth element, the feeling function lines up with the water element, and the thinking type corresponds with the air element (Jennings 1999). These functions line up so precisely with the astrological elements that it suggests that Jung’s theories were taken directly from astrology.

The Archetypes

Instructed in the precepts of astrology, Jung saw how the symbols of the stars illustrated personal myths. We see reflected in this quote: “The starry vault of heaven is in truth the open book of cosmic projection, in which are reflected the mythologems, i.e., the archetypes. In this vision astrology and alchemy, the two classical functionaries of the psychology of the collective unconscious, join hands ”(Jung 1911).

Jung assigned the term ‘archetypes’ to the symbols he believed were present in the collective unconscious. He considered archetypes central to understanding human nature since they represented universal symbols to which all humans could relate. Thus, to name a few of these symbols, the moon and Venus, the female sexual principle became his “anima, Mars the male sexual principle became his “animus”. The sun, in astrology the conscious self, becomes the “ego” in Jungian thought. (Jennings 1999)

Jung often used the term ‘objects’ when describing archetypes. In his article on personality types (Campbell 1977) he describes in painstaking detail how the different personality types related to these ‘objects’. In his work he used archetypes as analytical and therapeutic tools to help his patients explore the workings of their minds Continue reading

Astrology and Carl Jung: Part 3, Seeking Answers in the Paranormal

(Astrology Explored) Note: As my Facebook friends know I have reentered college to finish up my degree in psychology. As part of one class I wrote this paper on the influence of astrology on Carl Jung. Jung is widely embraced in the astrological world because his theories on archetypes, which he used to create a therapeutic model, fits neatly with the symbolic language of astrology.

Part One–The Influence of Astrology on Carl Jung

Part Two–Jung’s Childhood

Mithras killing the bullWhen he was a twenty-three old medical student, two paranormal events, a walnut table splitting suddenly in two and steel knife that shattered spontaneously while in a closed drawer was said to influence his decision to enter psychiatry. However, even before these events, Jung attended and even initiated séances, (Main, 1997) a cultural fad in the late 19th and early 20th century. His doctoral thesis was on “The Psychology and Pathology of So Called Occult Phenomena” which featured his cousin as the medium. (Main, 1997). But rather than affirm the paranormal experiences of the feminine side of his family, he chose instead to announce through his thesis that mediumistic experiences were the result of psychological processes rather than paranormal events.

During the first decade of his career he continued his research into séances (Main 1997) and unconscious psychic states and explored dream symbolism (Campbell 1971) and mythology with Freud (Noll 1997). Continue reading

Hecate —The “Dark” Goddess & The Space Between

Hecate

(Astrology Explored)

note: play YouTube video at the end while you read

Dave Matthews sings:

The space between what’s wrong and right
Is where you’ll find me hiding, waiting for you
The space between your heart and mine
Is the space we’ll fill with time

Twenty-five years ago, I visited a friend who was doing quit a bit of channeling work. Halfway into the reading she said, “Ooh, this is quite unusual. Someone is coming through, and she is dressed all in black. She is saying that you came here to learn astrology. She is quite stern and serious. She is saying you need to learn astrology, or else!

It didn’t take me much prompting to get serious with my astrology studies, even with the “or else” ringing in my head whenever I started to slack on my studies. Soon I found an astrologer giving weekly classes in a mid-level group who took me on with some reservation. Her reservations however didn’t last long.

Who this entity was, though, eluded me many years until I stumbled upon a Celtic goodess the Morrigan, and her earlier incarnations, one of them being Hekate.

Modern times has Hecate, the third of the goddess triad of the mystery religion, the Elysian mysteries as a crone, or hag associated with witchcraft. However, there is evidence that the ancient Greeks did not view Hecate as an old woman, but rather as a young maiden and her role was very different from that of a purveyor of magic.

The ancient role of Hecate is obscured by the very veil of mystery the congregants of the Elysian Rites spread over their practice. Only a few scrapes of the rituals remain in texts, though it appears to be a religion based the idea of resurrection and the return to the source of life.

Hecate, in the Greek myths, attends to the wife of Pluto, Persephone, the daughter of the earth mother, Demeter. Persephone’s essential role is that as a bridge between life and death, spending half of the year in the underworld with her husband and half of the year on the earth with her mother.

Hekate assisted Demeter in her search for Persephone, guiding her through the night with flaming torches. After the mother-daughter reunion became she Persephone’s minister and companion in Haides.

Hecate’s twin flaming torches are said to be twin aspects of ever present Venus, as the morning star and evening star, the beginning and the end of the day.

But what is Hecate doing with these torches and why is she guiding goddesses in their quests and journeys? The answer to this question reveals Hecate’s essential nature.

In Greek statuary, Hecate’s image would be shown on panels in a three sided triangular column and placed at door posts and crossroads. Thus Hecate could watch the road in front of you, in back of you and the place in between front and back.

The places “between” were of special concern to the Greeks. In the story of Ulysses, he and his crew had to pass through the channel containing Scylla and Charybdis. Wikipedia tells us:

Scylla and Charybdis were mythical sea monsters noted by Homer; later Greek tradition sited them on opposite sides of the Strait of Messina between Sicily and the Italian mainland. Scylla was rationalized as a rock shoal (described as a six-headed sea monster) on the Italian side of the strait and Charybdis was a whirlpool off the coast of Sicily. They were regarded as a sea hazard located close enough to each other that they posed an inescapable threat to passing sailors; avoiding Charybdis meant passing too close to Scylla and vice versa. According to Homer, Odysseus was forced to choose which monster to confront while passing through the strait; he opted to pass by Scylla and lose only a few sailors, rather than risk the loss of his entire ship in the whirlpool.

In traveling to the Underworld, the soul would first pass through and underground passage to encounter the River Styx, the dividing line between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Once a soul crossed the river, they would be forever bound to the realms of the dead, and their ultimate fate.

Hecate herself seems to a version of the Sumerian war goddess Innana, and later Istar, who were identified with the planet Venus. In Innana’s own story is an episode where she died in the halls of the Underworld ruled by her sister Ereshkigal and was resurrected by actions taken by other gods. Thus identified with a version of Venus, it is not so unusual for a dark aspect of Venus to be bearing the torches that associated with Venus.

With Persephone’s essential role is that as a bridge between life and death, spending half of the year in the underworld with her husband and half of the year on the earth with her mother it was Hecate’s specific task to act as a guide as Persephone journeys taking her through the places “in between”.

The place ‘between” then was a place of transition, the end of one thing and the beginning of another. Hecate, in bearing the torches of beginning and ending, was the guide through the place “in between”.

What then can we say about Hecate in our charts?

In astrology, Hecate is asteroid 100. To find the position of Hecate in your chart go to Serennu’s asteroid page and enter your chart info and the number of the asteroid.

In my personal chart Hekate is buried deep within my twelfth house, poised between my Mars in early degrees of Taurus and my Ascendant in late degrees of Taurus. Talk about your prophetic utterances! She is sextile my Moon in Pisces and squares my Sun/Chiron combination in Aquarius. This Sun/Chiron combo opposite my Uranus is the marker in my chart for my profession as an astrologer. With Hecate in challenge aspect to this no wonder she said, “Or else!”

If you look up your Hekate, don’t get too worked up if you don’t find a direct connection with other planets in your chart. If I was counseling on Hekate’s position, I would look to see if she was making a conjunction or tight aspects to any personal planet and check out where she was by house. If nothing was going on currently but I saw that there was a transition coming on, I would look to her house position and the ruler of the house to see where you might get guidance on handling the transition.

Despite Hekate’s fearsome reputation, there is no need to fear her. If she is grim, it is because she’s walked places few mortals have tread. Nontheless, there is no better guide for the places “in between”.

If you would like a single question answered on these pages, please send your birth date, birth place and birth time to starrynightastro@aol.com. Sorry, time limitations prevent answers to anything else than a specific question.


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Neolithic Mythology, Saturn, & the Winter Solstice

Saturn with the baby New Year

The Saturn Myth

The day that Sun slides into the sign of Capricorn is the day that is celebrated as the Yule, the symbolic rebirth of the sun god. Many myths and legends surround this day, this solstice a rallying point for pagan and Christian beliefs. Digging deep into the lore of Neolithic peoples, our direct ancestors, is the story of Saturn, the planetary ruler of the sign of Capricorn. The primordial god, Uranus, ruled the earth, with the Earth Mother as his consort. Uranus was a god of instinct, his actions ruled by his passions rather than reason and in fear. Though Uranus came every night and covered the earth, mating with her, he hated the children she bore him. He imprisoned his children in the earth where they caused Gaia pain. Gaia fashioned a sickle from flint and begged her sons to attack their father. Only one, Saturn, would agree to help his mother in her plot. This flint sickle was a powerful symbol of the harvest tool utilized by our agrarian ancestors.Saturn attacked his father with the sickle and castrated him, stealing his procreative power thus transferring it to himself.

This coup of Saturn with his sickle represents a shift from living instinctually with the earth, as nomadic hunter-gatherers to working the earth in settled agricultural communities. It also signaled a shift from bicameral awareness, where our early human ancestors perceived their own thoughts as promptings from the gods, to the type of individualized self-awareness that we have now. This complex process necessitated the development of a framework in which society could work. Where before as hunter-gatherers individuals worked for survival as part of groups, as farmers, humans evolved the need to retain the cohesiveness of community while assuring the autonomy of individual action. Thus traditions, how things were always done, became important, as well responsibility and duty to family and community. All of these are Saturn themes.

Celtic Mythology of the Solstice

The entrance of the Sun into the sign rule by Saturn had a special significance to the ancient Celts.

In the Celtic lunar calendar this event happens at the end of the Month of Elder, called Ruis (sounds like “r’ uhish”).

Solar events, signifying the masculine and lunar events corresponding to the feminine principle had equal importance in the complex mythology of the Celts. The day before the ingress signified the death of the old Sun, which then became the prisoner of the King of the Underworld. The New Sun was born on December 22 as the child of the goddess Ceridwen, the goddess of wisdom. The Sun was regarded as the son of Ceridwen, and the God Celi, an incomprehensible spirit from whom all life came.

Another story of Ceridwen runs concurrent with the story of the birth of the Sun, which reveals more of the underlying meaning of the birth of the sacred child at the winter solstice.

Cerwiden by Christopher Williams

Cerwiden by Christopher Williams

Part of Ceridwen’s story goes like this:

“Ceridwen had a magical cauldron that could make a potion granting wisdom. The mixture had to be cooked for a year and a day. Morda, a blind man, tended the fire beneath the cauldron, while Gwion, a young boy, stirred the concoction. The first three drops of liquid from this cauldron gave wisdom; the rest was a fatal poison. Three hot drops spilled onto Gwion’s hand as he stirred, burning him. He instinctively put his hand in his mouth, and instantly gained great wisdom and knowledge.

Ceridwen chased Gwion. He turned himself into a rabbit. She became a dog. He became a fish and jumped into a river. She turned into an otter. He turned into a bird; she became a hawk. Finally, he turned into a single grain of corn. She then became a hen and ate him. When Ceridwen became pregnant, she knew it was Gwion and resolved to kill the child when he was born. However, when he was born, he was so beautiful that she couldn’t do it. She threw him in the ocean instead, sewing him inside a bag of sealskin. The child did not die, but was rescued on a British shore by a Celtic prince named Elffin; the reborn infant grew to became the legendary bard Taliesin.”

Gwion represents the non-initiated soul, one, who in the service of the Goddess of Wisdom, is reborn as a “divine child replete with knowledge”. It suggests that wisdom is ultimately received from an acceptance of feminine knowledge of the divine essence of the cycle of life.

The divine child remains hidden from us, however, until December 24, the first day of the new lunar calendar of the year. The time during the divine child’s birth and this day is known to the Celts as the nameless day. This day that falls outside the thirteen sign, twenty-eight day dichotomy of the lunar calendar. It is sacred to the Queen of the Underworld, Arianhod. It represents the part of feminine wisdom that always remains concealed.

Helena Paterson, author of “The Celtic Lunar Zodiac” says of people born on this day:

People born on this ‘nameless day’ have a cosmic spiritual awareness-time travelers, akin to Australian Aborigines whose dreamtime reflects an evolving creation and creator.

The dark was considered the time of seeding, while the light was time when new growth emerged and matured. For the solar cycle the solstice points and the midpoints of the solstice points were considered important. While each of the midpoints of the solstice was considered part of the cycle of female fertility, the solstice points were celebrations of the cycle of death and rebirth of the male Sun god. The male Sun god carried great responsibility, for it was his light and his vitality that ensured the continuance of the community. At the autumn equinox the sun god symbolically passed into the underworld where he waited until the Celtic New Year, that which we know as Halloween, to couple with goddess of the underworld to seed the New Year. Yule is the triumph of the light over the dark when the male Sun god is reborn as a child of the great goddess to grow, mature and carry on his work of insuring the fertility of human activity upon the earth.

More than the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice marks the time of the revelation of the timeless nature of the cycles of life. It tells the story of rebirth of the human spirit, the archetypal spiritual acolyte in all of us, to seek the lessons and the wisdom of the year to come.

Saturn image published under a Creative Commons license from Flickr.

Image of Cerwiden published under a Creative Commons license from Wikipedia.

Celtic Astrology: The Harvest Moon–Remembering the Future

Harvest MoonThe Celtics were a people that reconciled opposites, day and night, dark and light as the continuum of the same forces that bound the lives of men and gods together. Unlike us, with our 9 to 5 routines, the Celts viewed Time as fluid, as having the ability to flow back on itself. The Druids called prophecy “remembering the future”.

Also, unlike us, the Celts found the seeding of things in the darkness. A Neolithic people of the land, they were keyed to the rhythms of life and death, the fertility of the land and of their tribes, and the phases of the Moon. As the Sun dipped below the horizon, the moon rose, and literally, a new day began. Continue reading

Astrology and Mythology: Eros–Beauty and the Beast

Cupid Revives Psyche

Cupid Revives Psyche

One ancient Greek myth survives in the story Beauty and the Beast. In the fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, dutiful and loving daughter Beauty, is sent to live in a beautiful, magical castle where she lived in luxury. The catch was the master of castle, incredibly rich as he was, was a horrible looking beast. Gentle and kind though he was, Beauty was repulsed by his physical form. Each night he asked her to marry him, and each night she refused.

When Beauty grew heartsick from missing her family, the Beast allowed her a visit to them, on the proviso she would return in a week. When she missed the return date by a day, she was horrified to find the Beast half dead from heartbreak. She threw herself on his prostrate form and sobbing declared she would marry him if only he did not die. Upon her words the beast transformed into a handsome prince. The prince then told her he was cursed by a fairy for his selfishness to live his life as an ugly beast until he found a woman who would marry him as he was. Continue reading

Celtic Astrology: Saint Patrick’s Day, Celtic Zodiac, and the Cauldron of Regeneration

Celtic Dragon

Celtic Dragon

(Astrology Explored) March 17 is the ancient feast day of Saint Patrick, the patron Catholic saint of Ireland, the day when most everyone claims to be Irish, at least to lay dibs on the beer. But for those of us whose lineage runs from the Emerald Isle, it is a day that reminds us of the indomitable spirit born of a people, the ownership of whose land was continuously contested.

Ireland was a land whose was overrun by a variety of invading peoples, the Anglo-Saxons, the Norse, the Romans, and the Britons. Multiple religions existed side by side the moon based beliefs presided over by the Druids, the caste of priest and priestesses that practiced the ancient rituals. Eventually, most of the invaders were absorbed by marriage into the traditional ways of the Celts. Catholicism broke this chain of invasion and absorption, with Saint Patrick’s claim to fame not driving snakes out of Ireland, but by driving the Druids, represented by the serpent, underground. So deeply were the Druids driven underground, that ancient genealogical lines of druidic origin were forgotten or lost and the ancient teachings hidden beyond the reach of most Irish. But one thing about the Irish remain, and that is the love of a good story. The Celtic tales of love, battle, glory and loss remained mostly in oral tradition, but were catalogued by a succession of scribes from the thirteenth century on.

From these works, Helena Patterson reconstructed the Druidic teachings of the lunar/solar calendar in her book The Celtic Lunar Zodiac. Celtic astrology is primarily moon based, though there is a ying/yang element of the Sun and Moon sharing dominion over the earth, and their relative strength to one another according the amount of light and darkness seen during the day. It is an astrology designed to achieve balance between the duality of feminine and masculine forces.

Saint Patrick’s Day falls just about at the spring solstice, when the Celts herald the arrival of the lengthening day and the Moon goddess as a fertile young bride. It was a major celebration, one of the four fire ceremonies, which was, of course, the excuse for revels and feasts.

During these revels, the Irish bards would sing the cautionary tale of British King Bran, brother of the sea God, Manannan, who won the battle but lost the war through the extreme losses of his kin and fighting forces against the Irish king Matholwych. Matholwych had married Bran’s sister, Branwen, but dishonored her, and therefore Bran, by refusing to acknowledge her as his queen. In doing so he denied the traditional matriarchal line of succession.

Matholwych, in marrying Branwen, had obtained from Bran the powerful Cauldron of Regeneration. We see the Cauldron of Regeneration in the Greek myths as well, when Medea used it to kill Jason’s uncle Pelias, so that he could secure his rightful kingdom, Pagasae. In both these tales we see the ill effects of use of power for a solely masculine agenda. In the tale of King Bran, because Branwen was dishonored, the Cauldron of Regeneration failed to produce the desired results. The Irish dead revived in the cauldron were alive but were no better than zombies.

Because Bran lost some of his family, including Branwen, all his army and most of his generals, he was unable to defend his throne against a usurper and was forced into exile.

Since we are culturally divorced from celtic ways, the story does not yield up an alternate solution from which Bran could salvage the situation. However, it is clear through the story that Bran failed to act as a proper protector to his sister’s interests and thereby lost everything.

So when you lift your mug, proclaiming your Irish heritage, real or imagined, remember the story of the British king Bran and the your role in protecting the family and the hearth.

Erin Go Braugh


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Astrology and Mythology: Saturn’s Story and Saturnalia

The Roman God Saturn

The Roman God Saturn

Saturn is one of those planets that people have a hard time wrapping their head around. After all, what good is hardship and limitations? Why would we embrace difficulty and want? What good does this planet do in our lives? What better time then to explore the meaning of Saturn during this time of the winter solstice, when the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, the feast of the god Saturn?

The Feast of Saturn, which in Latin was called the Saturnalia, was celebrated as a state holiday for one to three days around the winter solstice, between the end of one planting season and the beginning of the next. A series of religious observances for various gods stretched this period by custom by for a least a full week, from what we would call December 17th to December 23. During this week many of the traditions that we associate with our Christmas, decorating trees outside the home with baked goods and treats, homes with garlands and wreaths, the giving and receiving of gifts, visiting friends and grand dinner parties were part of the festivities.

At the beginning of the holiday Saturn was sacrificed to according to Greek ritual, with the head uncovered and the linen wrappings that bound his feet during the year removed. After the ritual, a public feast was held which was to honor the golden era over which Saturn ruled.

During the holiday>, restrictions were relaxed and the social order inverted. Gambling was allowed in public. Slaves were permitted to use dice and did not have to work. Instead of the toga, less formal dinner clothes (synthesis) were permitted, as was the pileus, a felt cap normally worn by the manumitted slave that symbolized the freedom of the season. Within the family, a Lord of Misrule was chosen. Slaves were treated as equals, allowed to wear their masters’ clothing, and be waited on at meal time in remembrance of an earlier golden age thought to have been ushered in by the god. In the Saturnalia, Lucian relates that “During My week the serious is barred; no business allowed. Drinking, noise and games and dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping of frenzied hands, an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water—such are the functions over which I preside.”

So how did a festival of license and the reversal of the social order come to be associated with stern Saturn?

Saturn’s Backstory

Saturn in the Roman world was the god of agriculture. Saturn was the father of Jupiter (Zeus) and the son of Uranus. Uranus in mating with the earth mother Gaia produced by her children that he hated. He cruelly imprisoned them in the depths of Gaia, causing her pain. Gaia implored her children to rise up against their father and end her suffering, and Kronos (Saturn) agreed to help her. She fashioned for him a flint sickle to use against his father.

Saturn used the sickle to castrate Uranus, thereby destroying his procreative power.

But Saturn started his rein with violence against his father, and grew to fear the same outcome for himself especially when the Furies made a prophecy that one of his own children would depose him. To avoid this fate, he swallowed each of his own children as soon as each was born.

His wife Rhea fashioned a plan to keep Saturn from snatching another of her babes from her arms. When Zeus, (Jupiter) was born she gave Saturn a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes to swallow. After Zeus came of age his mother pleaded with him to free his brothers and sisters. Saturn was deposed as prophesied as Zeus marshaled ancient gods to stand with him against Saturn. Saturn was imprisoned in the bowels of the earth (or in Hades according to other versions) never allowed to see the light of the day again.
Thus we can see where Saturn is associated with fears and imprisonment. But where do we make the connections with boundaries and social order?

The overthrow of Uranus established Saturn as the king of the gods, but also signals for us a point of evolution in the human race, where during the Neolithic period we gave up our nomadic ways and settled on and farmed the earth.

How can we trace the story of Saturn to this period of time?

Wikipedia tells us:

The detail of the sickle’s being flint rather than bronze or even iron was retained by Greek mythographers . . . Knapped flints as cutting edges were set in wooden or bone sickles in the late Neolithic, before the onset of the Bronze Age. Such sickles may have survived latest in ritual contexts where metal was taboo, but the detail, which was retained by classical Greeks, suggests the antiquity of the mytheme.

With humans bound to the land and forming communities, borders, fences and trading agreements became necessities to help humans maintain order. So it was Saturn became associated with boundaries, restrictions and limitations as well as establishing and keeping the social order.

The spirit of license lasted for only a short time, and at the end of the festival another Roman activity we are well acquainted with started, that of the settling of accounts. Yes the Roman practice of the payment of debts and taxes after the holidays has followed Western Civilization since. When you go to pay those credit card bills and first of the year property taxes you can blame Rome.
The Romans honored Saturn in the Saturnalia because they believed he ruled over a golden age of peace and plenty, the gifts that a well-ordered Universe could provide to humanity. Saturn in our own lives can function in our lives the same way when we accept our own responsibilities to ourselves and our community.


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Astrology and the Geminids Meteor Shower: Be Careful What You Wish For

Hint: Play Video as you read

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)
Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)

We don’t need airplanes to make a wish on a shooting star with the annual Geminids meteor shower playing through the skies from December 7 through the 21th with the December 13th and 14th being the crescendo of the display.

This year is favorable for the Geminids, the year’s grand finale for meteor-watchers. As a general rule, it’s either the Geminids or the August Perseids that give us the most prolific meteor display of the year. Unlike many meteor showers, you can start watching for the Geminids around 9 to 10 p.m. – in years when the moon is out of the sky. The waxing gibbous moon interferes during the evening hours this year, and doesn’t set till around midnight. However, this shower tends to gain strength after midnight and to climax at roughly 2 o’clock in the morning, when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky. So look for the Geminids to be at their best after moonset. Geminid meteor maximums commonly rearch 50 or more meteors per hour.

The Geminids are so named because the meteors seem to radiate from the constellation of Gemini. However, they are in fact caused by the Earth crossing the dusty debris trail of an asteroid (or possibly an extinct comet) called 3200 Phaethon, which then enters and incinerates in the Earth’s atmosphere producing the spectacular Geminids Meteor Shower.

The Geminids are unique in the Solar System in that most annual meteor showers are identified with active comets, where as the Geminids are thought to be caused by the Palladian asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon. It has been speculated that when Phaeton was young it got caught in Saturn’s orbit and now passes by the Earth every year leaving behind its debris trail.

In mythology the story of Phaeton is a story of young man driven to prove himself regardless of the consequences. Phaeton was the son of Helios, the god of the sun, who drove his shiny chariot drawn by four fiery and powerful steeds across the sky each day to light and warm the earth. Phaeton’s mother was a mortal woman who raised Phaeton alone. An apparently fatherless boy, Phaeton was given quite a hard time by the other boys. Phaeton begged his mother to give him his father’s name. Reluctantly, his mother agreed. Not quite believing his mother he undertook the journey to his father’s palace, where his father greeted him and acknowledged him as his son.

Phaethon was exuberant. He father was an important and influential god, and the boy was no doubt awed by the power that Helios wielded. So Phaethon did something rash – he asked his father for a favor. Helios, thrilled at meeting his young son, immediately agreed, without even knowing what the boy would ask. However, this fatherly attempt at affection was to have unfortunate consequences. For Phaethon wanted to drive the Sun-god’s chariot across the sky. Knowing the folly of the request, but unable to take back his gift, Helios was forced to comply.

In the folly of youth, Phaeton leaped upon the chariot and grabbed hold of the reins. The horses sensing the inexperienced hand as they rose up over the earth ran out of control and dipped too close scorching the wide swatch of area we know now as the Sahara. Zeus, seeing the danger, sent a thunderbolt to stop the chariot and Phaeton was struck down. HIs broken body fell into the Eridanus river, were he was mourned by his sisters. Their grief was so intense, Zeus transformed them into trees, Weeping Willows.

This two week period is a bridge between now and the winter solstice. During this time Mercury, which represents young people, moves in retrograde motion past Pluto, Mars and the Sun. In Celtic astrology, the solstice represents the death of the old sun and the birth of the new sun of the year, a very potent myth that I’ll reprint shortly. Astrologically we see the journey of Phaeton to his father’s palace and in the granting of his wish Phaeton’s violent transformation. This tranformation effects not only his life by that his community, that of his sisters, as well. The Geminid meteor shower falls against this astrological backdrop highlighting a need to be careful what you wish for.

Astrology Chart of Geminid Meteor Shower


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