If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down—Toni Morrison
The first month of the calendar year, is named in honour of Janus, two-headed god of thresholds.
“This year will be better…” we say hopefully, perhaps as a talisman to ward off the aftertaste of the year gone by. As the effervescent bubbles of New Year’s Eve flatten into the sober days of January and we minister to the minutiae of our daily lives Fate may enter softly through the open door, catching us unprepared. She brings news that that skids and spins us off the smooth tarmac of your carefully scheduled New Year planner.
“God never gives us more than we can handle”, is the trite knee-jerk response to desperate calamities and unspeakable suffering that so many endure. A visit to a psychiatric hospital, a war zone, the trauma unit in your local hospital, witnessing an execution on You Tube, makes me question what kind of god who would gift us with this kind of suffering.
The uncomprehending stare of a young mother’s eyes when she is told her child has died, a young man paralysed from the waist after diving into an azure pool one hot summer’s day, the black dog of depression that gnaws at so many, trapped in a snare of excruciating loneliness and loss.
For many of us this year, we will have to bow our heads to the necessity of getting out of bed each day and finding something to be truly grateful for. We will yoke ourselves to the inevitability of change: children who leave home, a lover who no longer loves us, a dear friend who moves far away, a beloved parent who now needs the same vigilant caring as a toddler. As we eat of the bitter herb, may we know that there is milk and honey also, in the acceptance of things as they are.
Our ancestors lived close to the cycles of the seasons, the rhythm of Life. During the unrelenting grip of famine or displacement by war, flood or fire, they walked with the primordial goddess of Necessity. She was Ananke, also called Force or Constraint, she was mother to three daughters, the Moirai, the Fates. As omniscient goddess of all circumstance, greatly respected by mortals and gods, it was she who ruled the pattern of the life line of threads of inevitable, irrational, fated events in our lives. Ananke determined what each soul had chosen for its lot to be necessary—not as an accident, not as something good or bad, but as something necessary to be lived, endured, experienced. Necessity has been outcast in our mechanistic material culture where we, in our hubris and our self-inflation, actually believe that are all powerful—we can fix, manifest, cut away, or buy our way out of any mess we make.
Ananke is an ancient goddess, and the resonance of her name has its tap root in the ancient tongues of the Chaldean, Egyptian, the Hebrew, for “narrow,” “throat”, “strangle” and the cruel yokes that were fastened around the necks of captives. Ananke always takes us by the throat, imprisons, enslaves, and stops us in our tracks, for a while. There is no escape. She is unyielding, and it is we who must excavate from the depths of our being, our courage, tenacity, and acceptance of what is.
This New Year, Necessity may lay her hand on a defining moment in your life. The ending of a love affair, the barren womb, the not-so-exciting job that pays the bills. She may still the tug-o’-war of the heart’s calling, block the mind’s plan, and fasten the collar around our neck. There may be no escape, except a shift in perception, and the courage to accept that which cannot be otherwise and a resilience to stay the course and just do it. Author, Doris Lessing once said, “whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”
The astrological signature this month accentuates persistence, discipline, and realism. The quiet dignity of commitment. The promises we keep. The words we honour. Mercury changes sign on January 11th, joining the Sun, Saturn, Venus and Pluto in Capricorn. And the month of January is bound by a pair of full-bellied Moons that hang melon-ripe, luscious in the night sky. They nudge so close to our earth that they appear larger, brighter than usual. American astrologer, Richard Nolle, coined the term Supermoon, in 1979, and symbolically these Moons amplify and illuminate those areas in our lives, casting their silvery luminescence on what might have been obscured or denied. On January 2nd, at the threshold of this new year, the Cancer Moon nestled protectively close to her sister Earth as we shrugged off the old year to gaze with hopeful eyes upon the pristine newness of the year ahead. This Moon was a harbinger of the total lunar eclipse on January 31st, at 12 degrees Leo. Observe the interplay of the elements—fire and water, yin and yang. The contrast in the terrain of the landscape this month might be a template for the choices we must make to fly as we let go those things that weigh us down, or stoically accept that things are as they are for now. Leo is associated with spontaneity, with self-expression and with courage.
This lunar eclipse is the first of the eclipse season this year, the next lunar eclipse occurs on 27th/28th July five degrees Aquarius.
As the shadow of our Earth sweeps across the face of the Moon she grows darker. Imagine how our ancestors would have observed the goddess growing darker, redder, or paling into blue, depending on the amount of dust in our atmosphere—a sign, an omen.
Modern astrologers tend to agree that eclipses are wild cards, and the effects are unpredictable, though solar eclipses tend to be externalised and lunar eclipses are subtler, more internal, often related to the past, to our emotions and perceptions.
Poet and novelist, Ben Okri writes, “bad things will happen, and good things too. Your life will be full of surprises. Miracles happen only where there has been suffering. So, taste your grief to the fullest. Don’t try and press it down. Don’t hide from it. Don’t escape. It is Life too. It is truth. But it will pass, and time will put a strange honey in the bitterness. That’s the way life goes.”
As we honour Necessity, we can choose which threads and which colours we wish to weave into the cloth of our lives. We can discover the Miracle in the suffering, we can taste the strange honey in the bitterness of our grief as we feel what needs to be felt—in the light and in the dark of the Moon.