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 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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Celtic Astrology–The Symbolism of the Winter Solstice

Ceridwen

Ceridwen

The entrance of the Sun into the last of the Cardinal signs had a special significance to the ancient Celts. While this time is the start of the sign of Capricorn for us, in the Celtic lunar calendar this event happens at the end of the Month of Elder, called Ruis (sounds like “r’ uhish”) and marks the birth of the “new king” that will reign over the year.

Solar, 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 become the prisoner of the King of the Underworld. The New Sun is born on the Winter Solstice as the child of the goddess Ceridwen. The Sun was regarded as the son of Ceridwen, and the God Celi, incomprehensible spirits from whom all life came.

One 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 masculine principle.

The story goes like this:

Ceridwen bore a child that was so ugly she despaired of his future. She decided to use her magic cauldron that could make a portion that would grant great wisdom so at least her son could have that.

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 is born on the day of the Winter Solstice but he remains hidden from us until the first day of the new lunar calendar of the year which is usually around December 24th. 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.

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.


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Full Moon in Gemini–The Long Nights Moon

Eclipse MoonThe last time it happened was in 1991. The next time it will happen is in 2094. This rare is astronomical and astrological event is a total lunar eclipse that falls on the Winter Solstice.

Nasa tells us that the eclipse will be visible throughout most of eastern Asia, Australia, the Pacific Ocean, the Americas, and Europe. The eclipse will be visible after midnight in North and South America. The moon will be at its maximum northern position staying above the horizon a long time while the sun will be at its lowest point in the sky. This gives an special emphasis to the name of December’s full moon, the Long Nights Moon.

In Celtic mythology the Winter Solstice marks the death of the “old king” an allegory for the old year, and the birth of the “new king”, the New Year. There will be endings, but in these events are the seeds of new growth. In Celtic legend, the “new king’s” birth is hidden until December 24th, when the days start to visibly lengthen. The period in between the solstice and December 24th is called the nameless day, a period suspended between death and birth and belonging to the realm of the underworld.

Eclipses act like an exclamation point in the transit chart, marking by it position a point in your natal chart that will be of special emphasis in your chart for the next six months. When talking about the moon we are dealing with such topics as our mothers, the past, our home environment, the things that make us feel secure. This lunar eclipse will happen with the moon at 29 degrees of Gemini.

29 degrees of any sign, poised as it is on the cusp of the next sign, calls for a decision. Are we going to sit on our heels and have the world pass us by? Or are we going to go forward like the tarot card “The Fool” and fall into our next adventure? Seeing that the next sign is Cancer, which is ruled by the moon and talks about all the topics mentioned above, how is that going to translate into our lives? Cancer’s survival strategy is to hold on with a tenacious grip. But let us not forget that opposite that Cancer energy is powerful and transformative Pluto in Capricorn, wresting away, by force if necessary, the very things that make us feel secure. Whatever happens the name “Long Nights Moon” is an especially apt description.

So what do you look at in your chart to see where you will be concentrating your energies, where you want to hang on and where you should let go? Most people can look at which house the eclipse falls in, but more advanced students and also, professionals, can also look at the aspects to Mercury, the ruler of Gemini and Saturn, the ruler of Capricorn in their charts.

Tomorrow: Eclipse Predictions

Photo published under a Creative Commons license from Flickr.


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The Astrology of Christmas: Winter Solstice Traditions

Christmans Tree(Astrology Explored) Our Christmas traditions, the Christmas Tree and Mistletoe go back our ancient roots as a species. Wikipedia reports the Christmas Tree was a tradition tied to the Winter Solistice as far back as the Chaldean culture.

From Wikipedia:

“In the Chaldean custom, Tammuz, son of the sun god Nimrod and the virgin mother Semiramus, was known as Zero-Ashta, “The seed of the woman,” and also Ignigena, or “born of the fire”. At the time of the winter solstice, the past sun god would die, his branches stripped from him – and one piece, the seed, would enter the fire on “Mother-night” as a log. The next morning, the new triumphant sun god was born from the fire as a tree, the “Branch of God”, who was celebrated for bringing divine gifts to men.

In the Bible, Jeremiah the prophet admonishes those who dare to erect such a pagan artifact: “Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen…For the customs of the people are vain; for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” (Jeremiah 10:2-6)”

Egyptians carried through the same tradition by bringing in fronds of palm trees into their homes and the Romans set up fir trees and decorated them with pieces of metal.

Ancient Celts would decorate with greenery from evergreen trees and burn a log on the solstice, celebrating the perpetual cycle of life, the death of the old Sun god and the birth of the new on the Solstice.

From Wikipedia

“The fir tree has a long association with Christianity, it began in Germany almost 1,000 years ago when St Boniface, who converted the German people to Christianity, was said to have come across a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree. In anger, St Boniface is said to have cut down the oak tree and to his amazement a young fir tree sprung up from the roots of the oak tree. St Boniface took this as a sign of the Christian faith.”

While we might be amazed that a fir tree sprang up from the destruction of an oak tree, Celtic “pagans” would not. They observed a similar thing in nature. Mistletoe is a partly parasitical plant that would spring up on woodland trees, sprouting from the seeds consumed and excreted by the bird called the mistle who found the berries of the mistletoe especially tasty. While the Celts didn’t understand the full mechanics of the parasite, they considered it to be “the soul of the tree”. Druids especially revered the Mistletoe gathered from their sacred oaks. Most likely, because Druids were prone to do this with all manner of herbs, barks and berries, they made a wine from the berries for use during Solstice rituals. Though we do not know the particulars of these rituals it isn’t a stretch to imagine why the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe became a holiday favorite.

Happy Holidays!

Other posts on Christmas Traditions:

Astrology, History and Bad Uses of Prophecy

The Astrology of Christmas: Dickens and Scrooge


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