Last night was the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. The word Solstice, derived from the Latin Sol (sun) and Sistere (stand still), describes the phenomena where the sun, at it’s lowest point in the sky, appears to stand still, before reversing direction and then beginning to ascend again. Today, the new sun rises.
We are in the north on the Medicine Wheel; the time of earth, the elder, the midnight sky, the white buffalo, death and the giveaway. There is no other time when I feel we are less congruent with earth’s wisdom than now. When the natural world folds in a dark embrace, we too should slow down and turn inward. These final days are the last exhale of a year that has passed for most of us in a hurry. This year it has been nothing short of chaos and urgency. But, as poet and writer/theologian John O’Donohue says:
“The beauty of nature insists on taking its time. Everything is prepared. Nothing is rushed.”
While our calendar year is coming to a close, the astrological wheel/year is just finishing its third quadrant. After Scorpio’s dark descent, Sagittarius’ soaring expansion and focus is the rise from the ashes. Sagittarius is the 9th Astrological sign and a fire sign, ruled by the planet Jupiter. The symbol for Sagittarius is the archer, most often depicted as a Centaur (half man half beast) shooting an arrow straight into the sky. Jupiter is the largest planet and brings faith, optimism, growth, and expansion. While Scorpio breaks down and transforms, Sagittarius unifies and sends us not just forward but upward. Who doesn’t need some of that right now?
The 9th house is the last before we meet our Mid-Heaven, the vertical axis of the chart. We’ve been under the Sagitttarian Sun for several weeks. The New Moon was last week. Today we greet the Winter Solstice and the much proclaimed Saturn and Jupiter Grand Conjunction in Aquarius.
The last time these planets joined in this sign was the dawn of the Renaissance, the period of renewal and revival following the Dark Ages, or the nine hundred years in Europe after the Holy Roman Empire’s fall. The French word renaissance literally means “rebirth.” While the energy alone is significant, it also falls at the start of Aquarius. All first degrees bring heightened influence.
In his extraordinary book, “Star Sparks,” Astrologist Elias Lonsdale has described each sign’s distinct degree. There are 30 degrees for each of the 12 signs, which complete the 360-degree circle. Here is the final paragraph of Aquarius 1, where this Grand Conjunction takes place:
A vision is held here of a world in the near future where all sides are included, where the myriad aspects of existence are simultaneously upheld, honored, seen, appreciated, given their voice, their power, their spark of contribution, and inclusion. This will happen when there is no further need to deny or negate, to judge or get rid of the shadow, the other side. The sun rises inside the shadow. Christ returns unto the soul, unto the life, bringing wholeness and the oneness so desperately sought.
One of the hidden gifts of this dark year, for me, has been a renewed appreciation of poverty and all its many faces – hunger, loneliness, fear, anger. And while it’s painful, it’s also healing, for it often brings us together, maybe more so than even abundance.
There is a poverty in the winter season. It is an emptiness that does not evoke lack but surrender, an invitation not to absence but to presence. Winter is the oldest season. It waits for the parade of colors to pass then arrives quietly in a cloak of black and white, reminding us that there is reverence in the simple things; heat, light.
I invite you to seek the mystery of silence in this holy time. Honor the Solstice Sun, the Christ Child or the Hanukkah, Divali, or Kwanzaa Light. Look to the western sky at night for the crescent moon. Below her, rising just above the horizon, Jupiter and Saturn will appear as one, a rare Star of Bethlehem shining in the night sky.