“Winter Solstice, probably the best known and certainly the most appropriated of all the old pagan Holy Days, is celebrated as a time of rest and quiet. … Midwinter Solstice festivals … are cultural winter therapies that … rekindle the human spirit.” – Kim Duckett
“Summer is just around the corner,” my late Grandpa Bob would proclaim at the turn of each winter season.
In the northern hemisphere (where I live), the days shrink, while night expands. At the far North Pole, darkness saturates the landscape for months, save for the compensatory nature of the aurora borealis. Fortunately, winter solstice heralds the dawn of days growing longer. Sun worshippers rejoice! Astrology deniers, take note.
I understand why people resist prophetic interpretations of astrology (I do, too), but we can’t escape from astrology entirely. The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, for example, marks not only the beginning of winter, but also the day the Sun enters cardinal earth sign Capricorn—the zodiac’s first winter sign. The tropical zodiac is oriented to the seasons and originated in the constellations of the ecliptic. The precession of the equinoxes has since been discovered, which explains why the tropical zodiac as we follow it today no longer lines up with the constellations. Astrology may understandably lose enthusiasts as a result.
Nevertheless, each tropical zodiac year begins in March when the Sun plunges into the cardinal fires of Aries, marking the Spring Equinox or the northern hemisphere’s entrance into spring. The Summer Solstice—International Yoga Day globally, or Aboriginal Day nationally in Canada—marks the Sun’s entrance into the cardinal water sign of Cancer. Lastly, the Fall Equinox transitions summer to winter, and marks the Sun’s entrance into the cardinal air element known as Libra.
To recap, the cardinal signs include: Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. Cancer and Capricorn form the summer-winter solstice axis, pole or polarity, while Aries and Libra form the spring-fall equinox pole. The cardinal signs usher in seasons. Along with cardinal signs, the tropical zodiac also hosts fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius) and mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces). For the winter solstice, however, we focus upon Capricorn—the proverbial night and shining rock star of the zodiac.
To start, I find it interesting that Capricorn opens and closes each Gregorian calendar year. Next, nobody knows for sure when Jesus was born, but for all intents and purposes (as Kris Kristofferson so adeptly pointed out), Jesus was a Capricorn. I don’t personally have a problem with Jesus, but I’m over the baby in a manger broken record. Son of God can go, too. Regardless of religious dogma, Capricorn claims fame to Jesus. Jesus was a misfit. The yogis love Jesus. Win.
Chiefly I love Christmas for the lights. Trees wrapped in lights warms my spirit. Decorative lights rock my world. There’s also something about generosity and pleasant surprises.
For the last five years I’ve had two or so weeks off during the holiday season. I enjoy this trend. I could spend Christmas on a beach if I wanted to. In the spirit of holiday cheer, we decorate our homes, businesses and trees, stuff stockings, and exchange gifts. We stuff our faces with turkey dinner, festive treats, and collections of Christmas chocolates. Mint Ovation After Eight for moi, si vouz play.
Then on New Year’s Eve, it’s not uncommon to watch fireworks—that is, lights. We purchase stilettos and sparkling sequined dresses, and ring in the New Year with champagne on ice and passionate kisses.
Undeniably a new year inspires new intentions. This last year I intended to reach new heights of discipline, which I only recommend if you can handle the universe holding you to the pronouncement. Capricorn can become cocky in this “you create your own reality” business, and consequently, forget that honesty about trends walks a fine line with definitive declarations. Careful what you wish for. This next year I am intending to reach new heights of peace, harmony and ease.
With me in mind, the end of birthday season is all about me. My birthday often wraps up birthday season, although I was born with the Sun at 28 degrees Capricorn. Each zodiac month breaks down into 1-degree increments from 00 to 29 degrees. Each degree coincides with a birthdate. I share a birthday with the iconic likes of Janis Joplin, Edgar Allen Poe, and Dolly Parton (to name a few), as well as the actress, Katey Sagal, who played Peg Bundy on Married with Children.
For the coldest, darkest month of the year, Capricorn irrefutably leaves a legacy of lights. Since I’m born on what usually ends up being the final day of Capricorn, I like to think that I’m the light at the end of the legacy. Capricorn closes out the year, and I close out Capricorn.
Backtracking to the winter solstice and centuries ago when people followed, not zodiac signs, but planets… The ring’d taskmaster Saturn governs the domain of Capricorn. For the last three or so years, Saturn has been transiting the mutable fire sign of freedom-loving Sagittarius, traditionally ruled by the gas giant Jupiter. Jupiter is known for expansion, while Saturn (ruling the physical reality) is known for limitation. Although Capricorn can party like a rock star (think Elvis, Janis Joplin, David Bowie), Capricorn is also known as the workaholic of the zodiac.
Shamanic astrology interacts with the planets as sentient beings, and teaches us to develop relationships with the celestial bodies accompanying Earth in our relatively small solar system. Saturnalia is an ancient Roman festival that honours the Roman god of plenty and peace (Saturn, ruler of time), while in contemporary times, we could simply celebrate the planet Saturn. Nonetheless, the festival opens the winter solstice each year, paving the way for the Sun’s entrance into Saturn’s home cloak of Capricorn. In 2017 (in a curious twist of astronomical fate), Saturn dove rings first into the goat-mermaid’s pie in the sky during Saturnalia, mere days before the Sun. Only time can weave the story of how this planetary transit stirs us individually, socially and collectively.
With respect to yoga, Jupiter is known in Sanskrit as guru—the wise sage within. Light transmits information. The siddhis—or information—occur to us when we feel relaxed or inspired, and thus receptive. The physical practice of yoga helps us to feel more balanced and receptive.
Each different zodiac sign governs different parts of the physical body. Capricorn rules the teeth, knees and bones. Bones, like stone, are said to house or store information. Examine the idiom, “I know it in my bones,” or, “I feel it in my bones.” The Sanskrit word samskara indicates emotional scarring (or resistance) in the tissues, which blocks access to information that could plausibly be stored in the bones. Ever notice random memories surfacing during a yoga practice?
Yoga is an intelligent, effective, versatile technology. Consider the breath. How often do you hear your yoga teacher encouraging you to breathe? Why is the breath important? What is it about the breath that sustains us? On planet Earth, we cannot live without our breath. Breathing is an autonomic response, meaning we breathe automatically. Along with soaking up light through our skin and eyes, it is said that we take in information through the breath. Inspire. In yoga, we breathe in as deeply as possible to oxygenate (or inform) our cells. Trillions of cells compose the human body. Obviously these cells must communicate, be informed, and exchange information.
Along with informing the cells, Prana—life force energy harnessed from breath—nourishes the pineal gland, which then interacts with the endocrine system. We’re either in growth or survival, depending predominantly on the thoughts in our minds. The mind is a soul. Psychology originally masked astrology (study of the soul) within academia, but textbooks don’t share this information. Consider for a moment why inhaling essential oils can be such a pleasurable experience. From a cosmic perspective (for those who appreciate comfort and information), we breathe for the pleasure of breathing.
How about thinking for the pleasure of thought? Oh wait. We’re running ahead of ourselves here. That’s Aquarius, which brings me to be the last best thing about birthday season. On the tropical zodiacal wheel, Capricorn cozies up next to my favourite constellation: Aquarius. Aquarius rhymes with hilarious.
Known for a “dry” sense of humour, Capricorns are like fine wine in that we ripen with age. I joke that Aquarius can talk my panties off in five seconds. At the very least, Capricorn can’t help but break the bonds of resting bitch face to laugh in the company of brilliant expression. Jilliant, when I’m being bashful.
And that, my friends, is what winter solstice and subsequently birthday season mean to me. Next stop? Summer.