St John's Day
Equinoxes & Solstices
Precession of the Equinoxes
What is Astrology?
Is Astrology Scientific?
Astrology & Astronomy
How Astrology works
Planets & Aspects
St John's Day
All Hallows' Eve
Celtic Fire Festivals
Summer Solstice (June) | Winter Solstice (December) | A Global Shift
Rob Tillett, one of the founders of AstroScope Me, discusses the Solstices, which, along with the Equinoxes, mark the four great arms of the Cardinal Cross in the tropical year. [The commentary here applies specifically to the Northern Hemisphere, as the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere. Some readers have questioned this, our site being based in Australia, but for the vast bulk of humanity, the culture of the northern climes has more resonance – and more influence in terms of the religious overtones! See Note at the end of the article.]
The word "Solstice" derives from the Latin Sol + systere, meaning "Sun" + "standing still". How can the Sun stand still? Well, as the Ancients discovered and calibrated, using remarkable prehistoric observatories such as Stonehenge in the south-west of England, the Sun seems to travel (decline) ever so slightly southward in the ecliptic each day for some six months of the year, beginning in what is now the month of June. The Sun in December also appears to halt for some three days in his journey, before commencing the slow dance northward once more for the next six months – before halting at the opposite solstice and starting again. We can observe this over time by noting the way that the Sun is either slightly higher or lower in the sky at noon.
The places in the ecliptic where the Sun seems to stand still (at its furthest point either north or south of the equator) mark the solstices. These are the tropics. The northernmost point marks the Summer Solstice, and the southernmost the Winter Solstice, when viewed from the northern hemisphere. The Sun at maximum declination appears to stand still at these points, for about three days. This process is eternally repeated, though due to the phenomenon known as the precession of the Equinoxes, its actual starting point in the Zodiac moves back ever so slightly from year to year: this has given us the Ages of the World, such as the one we are soon to enter, the famous Age of Aquarius.
People across the world, in every culture, have assigned a great deal of meaning to this journey of the Sun. Vast amounts of mythology, including important religious and social customs, have accumulated around it. At the time of the Winter Solstice (to be exact, just as the solstice ended), people celebrated the birth of the Sun as he began his life-giving journey north on December 25, now most widely celebrated as Christmas Day. For a detailed examination of this, though from a decidedly non-Christian viewpoint, check out M.D.Magee's Christmas, a fascinating exposition of these mid-winter festivities.
The Summer Solstice
The Summer Solstice is the time when the Sun halts over the Tropic of Cancer (23°N26') on its tropical journey north, then after some three days, turns in its tracks and begins its journey south, towards the equator. This, the shortest night of the year, happens in 2009 on the eve of the 21st of June (June 20). This major calendrical event is the focus of religious and social festivities in all cultures; Christian society marks the event with the Midsummer festival known as St John the Baptist's Day (June 24).
Midsummer has historically been the central point of the magical year: even today in some places, traditional hilltop bonfires are lit to revive the power of the Sun; flaming disks are thrown into the air; blazing wheels are rolled downhill; leaping and dancing around and through the fire are ritual encouragements for maximising the harvest. Magical powers are heightened and the little people are about. It is the ideal time for gathering magical herbs: pluck them before dawn, before breakfast, while the dew still wets the petals. Fern and fern-seed is gathered on Mid-Summer's Eve, to harness the power of the Sun. Golden solar flowers such as St John's wort, mugwort and mistletoe, the golden bough, are worn as garlands.
Astrologically, the June Solstice marks the entry of the Sun into the Cardinal, Water Sign of Cancer. The Tropic of Cancer (23°N26') is the actual degree of latitude over which the Sun stops in its journey north, and then turns, having gone as far north as it is going to each year. Cancer is ruled by the Moon and Midsummer celebrates the elemental powers of fire and water, so people would light fires and bathe in the dew on the morning of Midsummer's Day – as indeed they still do in many parts of the world.
Even in the twenty-first century, people still love to come together and surf the cosmic wave of energy that is released at this time. Every person in the Holy Grail – the Sacred Chalice, planet Earth's Light Grid – participates in the distribution of the Life and in turn restores the Divine Plan on Earth. As the Life enters and flows through all individuals and their world, it makes the whole world sacred.
For a neat graphic and explanation of the celestial show, check out Archaeoastronomy.com.
The Winter Solstice
The Winter Solstice is the time when the Sun halts over the Tropic of Capricorn (23°S26') for some three days at the end of its tropical journey south, before recommencing its tropical journey north. This, the longest night of the year, happens in 2009 on the eve of the 22nd of December (Dec. 21). It is the focus of religious and social festivities in all cultures, including the Christian celebration of Christmas. The solsticial period lasts some three days as a rule, so when the Sun begins to rise earlier again after three days at its lowest ebb, it has been cause for jubilation since prehistoric times, for it symbolizes the rebirth of the divine and glorious Spirit of Life.
Astrologically, the December Solstice marks the entry of the Sun into the Cardinal, Earth Sign of Capricorn. The Tropic of Capricorn (23°S26') is the actual degree of latitude over which the Sun stops in its journey south, and then turns, having gone as far south as it is going to go each year. Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, so the ancient Roman festival of the solstice was called the Saturnalia. As with our festivities today, there was much feasting! Wine, women and song were spread liberally around; masters served their slaves, and the rule of law was turned upon its head! Indeed, until the Christian Church became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th Century, Christmas was not actually an official festival of the Church. Its pagan nature was frowned on. Things have loosened up a bit since then.
A Global Shift
In 2007 the December Solstice represented a major shift in global consciousness from Fiery spirit and outward-looking adventurism to Earthy material wellbeing and restructuring of political and social forces. It is significant that this change of phase was marked in the world by the Global Financial Crisis, which revealed the first cracks in the leveraged edifice of commerce just days after Saturn entered Virgo in September 2007 with the collapse of Northern Rock, a medium-sized British bank. The highly leveraged nature of its business led the bank to request security from the Bank of England. This in turn led to investor panic and a bank run in mid-September 2007 and was in full catastrophic swing a year later with the collapse of investment giants Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and insurer AIG, plus the Treasury takeover of the US government sponsored mortgage colossus, Fannie Mae and the associated Freddy Mac. Trillions of dollars went up in smoke as the global financial system collapsed into meltdown.
This was marked astrologically by the movement of the two time-lords, Saturn from dramatic, optimistic Leo to thoughtful, detail-oriented Virgo and Jupiter from bold, risk-taking Sagittarius to ambitious, conservative Capricorn. This reshuffling was followed and transformed at a deeper level by the transition of Pluto from Sagittarius to Capricorn, as outlined elsewhere on this site. It's worth noting that the phase of Pluto in Capricorn is a long one, effectively lasting until November 2024. Can we restructure society consciously, in order to guard against catastrophic social and financial meltdowns, and prepare ourselves for natural calamities such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis?
It is striking that next to no economists predicted the crash. The ego-boosting "success" of a dangerously deregulated banking system, combined with naive social engineering and ignorance, or rather active denial, of human nature by government and business has created immense human suffering and enviromental destruction. These institutions and their social agendas were driven by unprincipled and inexperienced operators dazzled by the power of the financial bubble in which they swam. This social catastrophe is a wakeup call for the world. Will we hear it? Probably not. Will the government establish cadres of skilled astrologers to advise their economists, sociologists and psychologists? Almost certainly not, at least in public in the West, where religion and science have combined to mock and deny the evidence – which is clear enough to anyone who cares to look. Fortunately, this is not such a problem in India, where astrology still has immense influence, thanks to the traditional religions and spiritual intellects which have not suppressed this vital understanding of nature and its patterns.
So much for my rant. We have of course moved on a little since then, but these articles are still worth a look. Also check out the later Saturn (on line soon) and Jupiter movements, as Jupiter has now moved on into Aquarius. and will enter Pisces on January 18th, 2010. The Solstice in 2009 is again associated with cosmic turmoil. Mars turns retrograde in the sign of the Lion on Dec 20 and Mercury turns tail in Capricorn on Dec 26.
Click here for the details of the Planetary Solstice World Meditation, and align with the annual commencement of the Spiritual Hierarchy's meditation in preparation for Wesak on Monday, December 21 09:47 am PST (17:47 UT, or 04:47 am Dec 22 AEDT [Sydney time]. For a time zone decoder, click here).
The Equinoxes mark the other points of the Cardinal Cross. Click for more on The Equinoxes
Click here to view a Table of Equinoxes and Solstices
Click here for much more detail on the June Solstice and on the December Solstice