The Saturnian Strangeness of the Winter Solstice

Saturn rules Capricorn, the zodiac sign which became associated with the dates of Christmas. Bright lights, good cheer, a nosh- up, a knees-up; the Romans celebrated Saturn as the god of agriculture, and also because, according to their theology, Saturn was the god who ruled the world during the long lost Golden Age, and they wanted it back, please.

The Saturnalia was celebrated 17 December, with festivities usually culminating round 23 December.

Public Domain

Outside of this context, Saturn is not usually so jovial in aspect. It is the planet of great virtues, but stern and serious. Life is a serious business, and requires effort, is the message of Saturn.

Caesar must be rendered to. The bottom line safeguarded. Nothing came from nowhere, nothing is for nothing. Even the birds don’t sing for fun. The birds especially do not sing for fun. They sing to win and stake a territory, and keep it. They sing to win a mate, they sing to ward off threats to their nests, but is their song less beautiful for that?

Saturn is all about the bottom line. Food is the bottom line, and the solstice meant the return of the sun for the new year’s crops. It wouldn’t do to take Saturn for granted.

The face of Janus, past and future, could be seen as another face of Saturn himself. Janus, the primordial god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, is the god of endings. An ancient legend said the souls of the dead returned to their origin, rising through the gates of the constellation of Capricornus, where the souls of newborn descended to arrive on Earth through the gates of Cancer, zodiac sign of the summer solstice in a never-ending wheel of souls.

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For all of us there comes a point where every year, a familiar face or name will leave the orbit of our lives, and we revisit the memories. Maybe it is a person, or maybe it is a place. Perhaps it is something we used to do, or used to wish for. The ghosts have their own pictures, particular songs, sounds and smells.

They are many, bittersweet, the ever-more crowding ghosts of Christmas past.

WHO WALKS THIS EARTH UNSEEN

The ghosts of the Displaced

Those who could have been

Those who never knew

What else where else

To whom they could belong

Not here or now where else

They could have been

What else around us all

The ghosts of Might Have Been

Behind the lives behind the claims

Their space not yet but come their time

Make way

Margaret Whyte, December 2019

Christmas 1972

Capricorn, the Cosmic Sea-Goat

An introduction to the astronomy, history and, mythology of the zodiac sign of Capricorn…

 Most of us know our zodiac or sun sign, but what does it look like in the night sky, and what’s the story behind it? This month it’s the turn of Capricorn…

Common associations

Symbol:

Date of Birth: 21 Dec to 20 January

Ruling planet: Saturn

Lucky Day: Saturday    Lucky Numbers 2 and 8

Energy: Yin

Element: Earth

Quality: Cardinal (the start of the season of winter)

Key phrase:  I build, I use

Body:  Skin, knees, skeletal system

Birth Stone:  Red Garnet, Black Onyx

Herbs/Flowers: Wintergreen, Ivy, Carnation

Tarot card:  The Devil (Pan/Nature, Mystery, Fascination, Obsession, Entrapment)

The Devil card wiki.jpg
From The Gilded Tarot by kind permission of Ciro Marchetti

The Astronomy

Capricorn stars wiki 256px-CapricornusCC.jpg
Public Domain

The constellation of Capricornus is located in an area of sky known as The Sea or The Water, containing other water-related constellations including Aquarius, Pisces and Eridanus.

Its name is Latin for “horned goat” or “having horns like a goat’s”, and it is commonly represented in the form of a sea-goat: a mythical creature that is half goat, half-fish, like Pricus, the son of Chronos (Time) king of the mer-goats of Greek myth. This seems to have been an evolution legend.  The children of Pricus left the sea to dwell on mountains, leaving him alone in the oceans with no-one to teach any more, and Pricus was a great teacher. Zeus placed him in the Sea of the Stars so that he could see his children again, and they could look up and see him.

Capricornus is the smallest constellation in the zodiac, with no first magnitude stars. Even so, the brightest star, Delta Capricorni A, is a white giant with a luminosity 8.5 times that of the Sun.

Capricornus has three stars with known planets and contains a Messier object, Messier 30, a globular cluster 28,000 light years distant,about 90 light years across in size.

The cluster is approaching us at the speed of 181.9 km/s. It was one of the first deep sky objects discovered by Charles Messier in 1764.

There are five meteor showers associated with Capricornus: the Alpha Capricornids, the Chi Capricornids, the Sigma Capricornids, the Tau Capricornids, and the Capricorniden-Sagittarids.

Like other constellations of the astrological zodiac, Capricorn was first catalogued by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century.

The planet Neptune was discovered in the constellation Capricornus, near Deneb Algedi, the brightest star in the tail of the goat, on September 23, 1846.

This perhaps explains or illustrates a strong astral and psychic mythic connection between Capricorn and Pisces the Fishes.

History and Mythology

Though Capricornus is the second faintest constellation in the sky after Cancer, its imagery is very ancient indeed, associated with myths that go back to the 21st century BC and several of which centre on various sun gods nursed by a she-goat.

All myths of astrology have their roots in Earth’s seasons. Goats, and their relatives, ibex, were depicted in Ice Age paintings, and later immortalized in myth as Capricorn.

Male ibex started fighting and mating during early winter, December and January, coinciding with the later days ascribed to Capricorn.  In the early Bronze Age, Capricornus marked the winter solstice and, in modern astrology, as distinct from astronomy, Capricorn’s rule still begins on the first day of winter. The constellation itself is actually overhead nowadays during Aquarius, due to the wobble of the Earth, an effect known as precession, but the sun sign named after Capricornus retains the dates accorded to it by Ptolemy.

Before 1000 BC the Sumerians knew Capricorn as the goat-fish, or SUHUR-MASH-HA, but the constellation is nowadays more widely associated with two mythical creatures from Greek legends: the deity Pan, and the she-goat Amalthea who suckled baby Zeus, although these legends were based on far more ancient stories involving kindly she-goats and baby sun deities.

The forest deity Pan has the legs and horns of a goat, like Krotos, his son, who was a great archer and devotee of the Muses, and is identified with the neighbouring constellation Sagittarius.

Pan, so the legend said, was placed in the sky by Zeus in gratitude after he came to the rescue of other gods during a time the Olympian gods sought refuge in Egypt following their epic battle with the Titans, when the monster Typhon, son of the Titan Tartarus and Earth, sought revenge.

Typhon was a fearsome fire-breathing creature, higher than mountains and with dragons’ heads instead of fingers. The Olympian gods sought to escape his vengeance by adopting various disguises: Zeus, a ram – Hera, a white cow, Bacchus (another version of the myth suggests Pan) a goat.

Zeus was dismembered by Typhon, but was saved when Bacchus/Pan played a sound on his pipes, ‘panikos,’  from which we get the word ‘panic’ – and he panicked  the monster long enough for an agile Hermes to collect the supreme god’s limbs and carefully restore him. In gratitude, Zeus transferred Bacchus/Pan to the heavens as Capricornus.

Another legend says that while the souls of those about to be born descend to Earth through the constellation of Cancer, via the Beehive Cluster, the souls of the dead return to the cosmic sea, ascending through the gate of Capricorn.

Capricornus.jpg

Public Domain: Celestial Atlas 1822

The Astrology

Capricorn is the tenth sign in the Zodiac.

There is no such thing in reality as THE Capricorn personality and the same goes for all the zodiac sun signs. Your sun sign is an archetype, a keynote but of course it is not and never could be the whole story.

The archetype of Capricorn is shrewd, wise, and even Gnostic. They are profound thinkers, often deeply enquiring, and with a wry sense of humour, self-reliant, stoic in the face of adversity, hard-working, determined and resilient.

They have high standards, and expect much of themselves but also others which, depending on other aspects of their astrological portrait, can make them demanding or even overbearing task-masters,

They are known for a dry rather than a joyful wit, and if Saturn gets too prominent, they can be downbeat, cynical and suspicious, seeing traps and problems everywhere, viewing the enthusiasm of others as premature or naïve.

Capricorn is no-one’s fool, but Capricorn carries its own weight, and the weight of others too from time to time, and Capricorn climbs the mountain to see the world, not so that the world will see Capricorn.  

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Public Domain

“Duties are what make life most worth the living. Lacking them, you are not necessary to anyone. And this would be like living in an empty space. Or not being alive at all.”- Marlene Dietrich, born Dec 27, 1901

Season’s Greetings!