It’s that time of year again. You’re making it through another winter, head down, nose to the grindstone (most of us, I think, work harder in the winter, no doubt Capricorn’s influence over the season), when all of a sudden, it happens. A warm breeze hits you just when you’ve grown chummy with the icy blasts, and suddenly, there it is. Green everywhere. Grass. Budding leaves. Daffodils. The living earth is returning.
Not so coincidentally, it’s also the season of shamrocks, leprechauns, and green beer (I actually have never seen such a thing; they tell me it exists–green beer, not leprechauns. I know leprechauns exist.) You might think the reawakening of the earth and St. Patrick’s Day aren’t related, but they are, astrologically, and in a very deep way. All things considered and St. Patrick aside, his celebration is very much an astrological holiday. So whether you are one of those people who loves St. Patrick’s Day, or whether you think it’s a day off for drunken hooligans, there is no mistaking its archetypal roots. It’s green all around. Everything is new. Everything is beginning. We’re awakening from our long sleep.
We pay a lot of attention to the solstices. It makes sense, they’re all about the Sun–and the longest and shortest daylight of the year. That meant a lot for our electricity-deprived ancestors. You had to make hay while the Sun shone–literally. The June Sun was a celebration of warmth and light. During the December solstice, you did what you could of the mending and fixing and thawing your fingers in front of the fire and prayed for either the viril, creative Sun to return, the young king, or for Mother Earth (Cancer) to become fecund again (depending on your culture). The effect this has on us psychologically is unmistakeable. I remember the impact it had on me when I moved northward a few latitudes, to London. There, during December, the sky starts turning purple around 3:30 pm. The early twilight is both eerie and appropriate. No wonder ghost stories are a Christmas tradition there.
Everyone knows that the Winter Solstice and Christmas are amalgamated through mythology, tradition and ritual. We’ve borrowed a lot from our pagan ancestors, their Yule log, their mistletoe. But I don’t think we think enough about the astrological and astronomical foundations of our holidays. The Solstices are about Cancer/Capricorn, the Earth at its ripeness and the Earth at its most barren. This in fact, coincides with the natural position in the chart of the MC and the IC, birth and death, physical initiation and culmination, our depths and our heights. How dramatic. How like the Sun.
In comparison, the Equinoxes get short shrift. Oh, sure, we mark the beginning of Spring and Fall. But there are a lot of people out there, even astrologers, who don’t know why it’s called an equinox. It’s all about light again. At the equinoxes, the light is balanced–an equal amount of light and dark. Surely something as powerful as that deserves a celebration of its own?
The equinoxes describe the beginning and the end of the season of growth. We sow in spring and reap in fall. The Sun is literally at zero Aries in March and zero Libra in September.
The emergence of the Spring from the remains of Winter is very much about the shift from the last sacrifice of Pisces to the screaming newborn, Aries. Aries will not be denied. Try to keep that grass from growing or those buds from forming. It just won’t happen. (To get on a personal rant here, we would see the effects of the light much more clearly if the ******governments of the world would stop messing around with the time. When is someone going to universalize time change? Why do we need it at all? And don’t get me started on the way bloody Dubya Jr. (Bush to you) shoved our Daylight Savings two weeks ahead of Europe, and strung it out on the other end as well, making life hell for those of us who work internationally. As if we didn’t have enough reasons to despise the former regime–for astrologers, it’s a nightmare.) The aggression of Spring is partnered by the mildness of a Libran September. The days are still warm and the harvest is plenty, and still coming in. We can reap the benefits of our work.
Again, our pagan ancestors understood this, and divided their calendar into the Equinoxes, Solstices and the midpoints in between, giving eight feast days in all, and from this, with an overlay of mythology and Christianity, we have derived our major holidays. You might consider Valentine’s day a Hallmark holiday (holidays invented to sell greeting cards) but in truth it is what we have left of Imbolc, a celebration of the return of the light. Easter and Mother’s Day are both associated with fertility (c’mon–rabbits, eggs, and flowers) and connected to the May holiday of Beltane. We’ve lost the celebration of the three stages of harvest–ripened grain/seed that was connected with August (Lammas) and the the gathering in of the Autumnal equinox (Mahon) but it culminates in that giant shadow festival we celebrate as Halloween (Samhain). (There is an element to both of the earlier festivals that relates to enjoying the fruits of your labours, so the celebration may very well be connected to our Labour Day and/or our annual holidays in the lazy days of summer.)
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt a keen connection to these holidays. Scratch the surface of their ‘Hallmark’ meanings, and you get important ritual days that mark the passage of time, light, and life. They represent the way time is reflected in the heavens, and the way our lives are defined by the spin of the planets through the dark universe. As astrologers, we take it a step further, and understand that planetary movement can provide a kind of guidance that is crucial. Beyond the light, planetary movement allows us to see how our own evolution is connected with the evolution of the world around us. The seasons, and our ritual holidays, provide a framework that allows perspective. The light will come, the light will go, and the light will return again.
Happy Vernal Equinox, everyone. Now go plant something and watch it grow.