Approaching the Dark—Winter Solstice December 22nd
To this world you belong. To this moment, in this place where you already stand, something greater has ushered you—Toko-pa Turner.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. A demure fir tree bejewelled with baubles becomes a dazzling diva. The unassuming delivery man wears a gaudy novelty sweater with “I’m sexy and I snow it” emblazoned across the chest. In small gardens, dancing reindeer and corpulent Santas twinkle, and fairy lights garland trees and hedges. As the old year dies in the darkness of midwinter, rituals—quirky and quaint—secure threads of continuity, create meaning, beguile us with wonder.
For some, this may be a lonely wintering. For those unmoored by a cluster of losses as the darkness closes in, the gaudy glitter and surfeit of this Christmas season amplifies isolation. For some this may be a fallow time of scant resources, for some, the protracted dying of a relationship may rachet up the strength to shrug off a life that now feels too small, too tight. And for some, this festive season may be a time of joyful celebration, as we welcome a new baby into the family, or reunite with a much-loved friend.
On December 22nd the sun enters Capricorn. The old sun dies. A new sun is born. This is the mid-winter solstice, a sacred still point in the year, the longest night, and in the darkness, something is gestating. Capricorn, like all astrological signs is multi-layered, profoundly complex. As ambassador of the mid-winter darkness, Capricorn embodies stoic acceptance, the pared down necessity of wintering through difficult times. Capricorn is an earth sign, a sign that is associated with the quiet alchemy of winter, with lean times and quiet determination. The essence of Capricorn is structure, so this is a perfect time for putting things in order, methodically getting things done.
Capricorn brings a moral awakening toughened with pragmatism, often the self-denial that strips us of those things that are stagnant or decaying and must be relinquished. In a throw-away culture where even our longest relationships can be reactively “unfriended”, where family estrangement has reached epidemic proportions and exile is often self-chosen, we may be actively seeking a new place or relationship that meets who we are becoming. Yet, so much of our conscious awareness lies hidden in the shadow. We might think we think independently, yet we are identified with institutional ageism, sexism and the insidious collective dogma that is so evident in politics, religion and corporations as warring factions separate spheres of belief and project their shadows on the Other. Jung is so often quoted as saying, “when an outer situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate.”
Before we reactively severe ties this Christmas, we might remember that the archetype of the Mountain Goat is also about the endurance, the resilience, of the long-haul.
“At the heart of ‘belonging’”, writes poet Toko-pa Turner, “is the word, ‘long’. To be-long to something is to stay with it for the long haul. It is an active choice we make to a relationship, to a place, to our body, to a life because we value it. Even though that it may not be all that we hope it to be, we are keeping the long view of what is possible, and our life becomes an offering to making it so.”
The last full moon of 2023 journeys through the heavens on December 27th. This full moon falls in Cancer, a sign that embosoms our belonging—to a place, a community, a tribe, or family. The vibratory signature of this lunation symbolises the heart fire of our emotional security, our sense of safety, life-giving friendships and soulful connections that nourish and sustain us through difficult times.
Cancer is a Cardinal water sign, so the days after the festivities may release a torrent of emotion, stir the sediment of memory, dislodge vestiges of nostalgia, and remind us, as we unwrap our gifts and hug our loved ones, of those separated from their families by conflict, or trafficking, those who have fallen through the cracks of the system and are now homeless, sleeping rough.
The astrology of midwinter aids reorientation to what we value, offers a sanctuary to reconnect with ourselves within the darkness. Mercury turned Retrograde in Capricorn on December 13th and on December 27th will be moving Retrograde through the fire sign of Sagittarius, conjunct Mars. This is a time to listen generously, to practice curiosity, to allow ourselves to be surprised. On a more mundane level, Mercury Retrograde times can accompany miscommunication, transport difficulties, train or air traffic control strikes, lost or stolen devices that are alarmingly now the sole point for function in a virtual world. As we enter the new calendar year, Mercury stations direct in optimistic Sagittarius on January 3rd as Mars joins the Sun in pragmatic Capricorn. Jupiter changes direction just before new year’s eve. Jupiter has been moving Retrograde in Taurus (sensual pleasure, finances, property) since September 4th and this cycle ends on December 30th, which might offer impetus to act, to dare greatly, to reach for what you long for with good faith in the outcome.
As we come to the end of this year, the bare bones of winter and the dark contours of the landscape offer no distractions. This is a time to turn within, to gift ourselves with some contemplative time, away from screens and devices, so that in silence we can sense what is dying and what is stirring, waiting to be born.
“The biggest illusion about a path of refuge is that we are on our way somewhere else, on our way to becoming a different kind of person. But ultimately, our refuge is not outside ourselves, not somewhere in the future— it is always and already here—Tara Brach.
Heartfelt thanks to all of you who have supported my work this year past. I am taking a break from technology over the solstice and will be looking forward to meeting again for personal astrology consultations in early January. Please email me to make a booking: email@example.com
Wishing you all a restful and peaceful festive season.