Winter Solstice, Sun enters Capricorn, December 21, 2017, 8:29 am PST.
Saturn, 0° 11’ Capricorn.
The arrival of winter in the Northern hemisphere begins Capricorn season. My favorite image that I think of when pondering the archetype of Capricorn is bamboo. Chinese literati painters, the scholarly artists of Asia’s past, preferred the simplicity of bamboo as a subject, because the plant represented endurance. Stable throughout a time of adversity, bamboo models for us an inner strength valued by the Chinese. Push down upon a bamboo branch and feel it push back, return to position and hold its course. Capricorn leads us to personal evolution (look to see the House location of Capricorn in your birth chart) through patience, maturity and hard work. Winter Solstice is marked by the arrival of the Sun into Capricorn, a sign ruled by Saturn. In the Northern hemisphere, the Solstice brings hope for the light of a new year, the eventual arrival of spring, and rebirth. Just two days prior to Winter Solstice, 2017, Saturn entered Capricorn, giving a particularly strong Saturnian flavor to this year’s Solstice and Capricorn season. This is a powerful Solstice as Saturn returns to a place, a sign, of natural support, strength and power.
Saturn takes roughly twenty-nine and half years to orbit the Sun. Last time Saturn was in Capricorn was from 1988 to 1991. It may help you to reflect upon the challenges, visions, goals and changes of those years in your personal story. During those years, the slow-moving planets of Uranus and Neptune also entered Capricorn, eventually together in conjunction with Saturn, combining the structures of Saturn with visionary Neptune and revolutionary Uranus to bring us a time of sweeping technological change, altering the very fabric of how we communicate and connect on a global level. The timing of Saturn’s return to Capricorn this December seems auspicious; each fast-moving planet, first Venus, then Mercury (after the planet moves direct just after the Solstice), and eventually Mars, will meet up with Saturn in the weeks and months ahead. Saturn, in turn, will eventually join slow-moving Pluto in 2020. Mundane astrology, which covers larger patterns of history and humanity’s evolution, suggests a time of intense power struggles and possible breakdown of time-honored structures of government, institutions and leadership. I think this is a time where it helps to recall Capricorn is also about reform and moral responsibility. Evolutionary astrologer Steven Forrest pointed out how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol while Saturn was in Capricorn in 1843. We often think of Ebenezer Scrooge as the epitome of Capricorn’s stern, serious, practical and calculating approach to life’s need for security. But let us also think of the enduring legacy of the moral message of A Christmas Carol, meant to correct an age of greedy materialism and lack of concern for the underprivileged. The wisdom of Capricorn to reform and evolve is the essence and true heart of the story.
At another time in history, Saturn and Pluto were conjunct, together in the sky (as they will be again in a few years), in early Capricorn on November 9, 1518, the day the pope condemned Martin Luther’s writings as opposing traditional beliefs of the Catholic Church. Such astrological transits take time. And, of course, such changes take time, if they happen at all or at least in part. The current Pope Francis has Mercury in Capricorn in the 7th House of his birth chart – House of one-on-one relationship with others - and Saturn will transit there soon. Pluto is currently in his 7th house by transit. Working with others to balance both a maintenance of tradition, while embracing reform, entails careful planning and strategy. After writing these words and before I posted this reflection, I heard the news of the death of Cardinal Law, bringing the painful events surrounding the sex abuse sandals in the Boston archdiocese back into public discourse. Saturn's entrance into Capricorn begins for Pope Francis, as the planet will transit his natal 6th House Jupiter, then eventually his descendant, 7th House cusp, and his natal Mercury. This must be a difficult personal time for Pope Francis as he needs to negotiate tense debate within and outside of Church doors and to reflect upon his own moral conscience and beliefs.
Returning to the 16th century, as Saturn moved through Capricorn the few years following Martin Luther’s initial problems with the authority of the Church, Luther’s teachings were examined. One can only imagine the inner challenges and loneliness Luther felt as he faced a trying and difficult journey, asking for a strength of will and determination to hold fast to his values and beliefs in reform. Though pushed to recant for months on end, Luther did not and was eventually excommunicated from the Church January 3, 1521, just following Saturn’s entrance into Aquarius. Not an easy time, but a Saturnian one. In terms of evolutionary astrology, where we consider individual growth and potential, Saturn’s passage through Capricorn can give us great lessons in maturity and personal conviction.
I often feel like I need to come to Capricorn’s defense. After all, the holidays are a time of relaxation – how does the expression go? “Making rather merry”? The Romans celebrated Saturnalia in honor of the God Saturn in December and filled the season with feasting, pleasure parties and gifts. When sunlight is at a low, we come together with love and warmhearted generosity to share what we got and bring joy and light, into the World. I don’t feel it is necessary to just look at the gloom and doom of Saturn. Let me see if I can give Capricorn and Saturn a positive spin.
Despite such reputations for both sign and planet of limits, struggles, discipline, and responsibility – plain, old hard work - I believe we can look at Capricorn and Saturn for what we can achieve, what wisdom we can learn, what reform we can help to bring about and what mountain can we climb worth a soul’s quest. Capricorn’s symbol, the Sea goat, helps us visualize slow, gradual evolution, the fishtail merging into the mountain goat, similar to the long passage of a human life and the arrival of old age, the crone. We all experience the path of the Sea goat when setting long-term goals, imagining the steps, carefully calculated, like rungs in a ladder, to reach the mountain top. Saturn in Capricorn at this time can allow us more focused energy in creating the kinds of structures we need to build these steps. The House position in your birth chart helps you find the mountain where Saturn wants you to face and embrace that ladder. Saturn can give us strength in this area of our life, but we must want to do the work and make it real. Try to visualize the obstacles as part of one long journey, one worthy of both the valleys and the climb.
As always, when considering our own soul’s journey, we need to consult our individual birth chart – our celestial map for understanding what Saturn’s movement through Capricorn means. Look to see if Saturn forms aspects (especially Ptolemaic: conjunction 0°, sextile 60°, square 90° trine 120° or opposition 180°) to any of the planets or luminaries (Sun, Moon) in your birth chart, and consider the Houses affected as well. Saturn in “old school” astrology is the great Malefic. Why? Because Saturn asks us to face reality, limitations, often blockages, to the areas of life we most need to develop inner strength of character and wisdom. Where the upcoming conjunction of Saturn and Pluto fall in our charts also asks us to reflect upon our personal power, what possible part do we play in breaking down or reforming tradition, what structures do we tear down, what new mountains do we climb? Now more than ever, I believe we need to question our own values, our sense of personal power and/or privilege. To successfully navigate the upcoming Saturn and Pluto conjunction in a few years’ time, you just want to be on the right side of the fence in terms of universal goodwill. Easy? Well, think about it. I know I have to ask my heart constantly. Now is the time to visualize goals, strategies for your own evolution – Saturn allows the time for reflection. In the meantime, there may be some challenges and there may be some obstacles. It is hard to see adversity as a gift, but I suppose the Chinese artist scholar had it right; better to approach life as a simple branch of bamboo, bend but hold firm.
Wishing everyone joy and happiness this Saturnalia and Solstice season, Christmas and New Year. Many Blessings!