Category Archives: solstice

Christmas from the Astrology Viewpoint

seasonalvariations-editedThere is an astrological meaning behind the Christmas holiday that even many Astrologers are not aware of.  It is actually a very important day and time of year for a wide array of civilizations and cultures on this planet, and the reason for this is completely astrological in nature.  In this post the focus will be mainly on comparing the Christian holiday with the Vedic/Yogic perspective, but it should be noted that this time is incredibly important for almost every culture on this planet and has been for thousands of years.

From the standpoint of Yogic and Vedic philosophy, Christmas day just so happens to be the first day in six months that can at least generally be considered each year to be an auspicious day.  This is because it is the first day in six months that the Sun begins to noticeably move north, and the present day lasts longer than the day before.  This is not popularly recognized, so don’t be surprised if you are a Hindu/Sanatan Dharma adherent reading this and you do not understand what I am talking about or how Christmas is relating to the Vedic traditions.  Please bear with me, as there is a lot to explain to make this point clear.  And remember, the aim of this post is only to add more spiritual significance to this day as a Christian holiday and also as a special day for all people on Earth, because of the astronomical activity that occurs on this day.  There is no intention to take anything away from the Christian religion or any religion. I have the utmost respect for all religions and enlightenment traditions.

The Sun Moves North on the Winter Solstice

First we need to know why the Solstice matters in the first place.  The reason the solstice and equinox times matter is because these are the places where the Sun noticeably changes its course, and where there is a change in the light of the world.  This in turn creates the seasons, the natural cycles, the sense of time, and the balance and harmony that makes life on Earth so beautiful.  At the Winter Solstice (Dec 21-25th) the Sun reaches its lowest point on the ecliptic (The path that it appears to make around the Earth each day), and stays at that lowest point for three more days.  Then on the next day it finally begins to noticeably rise at a more northern place.  This day (Dec 25th) is the first day since late June that the daylight, the light of this world, lingers longer than the day before.  That is a very big deal, though it may not seem like it in this modern age, with the common person being so divorced from nature. But take away the smart phones and electricity and this knowledge becomes the difference between surviving winter or a painful death. Now we can see why this date has been so important to cultures and civilizations since time immemorial.  This may be even more appropriate in very northern parts of the world such as Siberia and Russia, where Christmas may have originated. Here the Sun can hardly even be seen at this three day period where it is at its lowest point.  Then on the 25th, it rises and continues to do so for six months until the Summer Solstice point, on June 22nd.  At the midway point, we find the Spring Equinox, the place where there begins to be more daylight than night and thus, the beginning of Aries, as all of nature cyclically charges forth into being at that time. The Summer Solstice point is where the Sun appears to stall for a moment, and then begins backing down or moving south for six months, thus this space has the qualities of the sign of Cancer, the crab.  Crabs appear to go forward and then stall, and start moving sideways back in the opposite direction, which is exactly what the Sun can be observed to do here.  Cancer is also the most Yin sign, the sign of the divine feminine, and in many ways it is like the Sun is relaxing and being more Yin at this point, after six months of charging north. (Read more about that here).  Then at the Fall equinox in late September marks the point where there begins to be more night than day, and thus the Sun “falls” in the sign of Libra.  At this point the Sun is starting to move south quickly and the days are noticeably shorter.  Then we get back to the Winter Solstice point and the cycle repeats.  Notice that these four points mark the “cardinal” (or moveable) signs in both Western and Vedic Astrology.  This is the rough logic behind that, but if you want to read more details on how this relates to the nature of the cardinal signs, read this older blog post.

How this relates to Christianity

So what better of a time of year to celebrate the birth of the “Son of God” then the exact astronomical time when the physical “Sun of God” has just been noticeably reborn?  It’s even more interesting when we consider that in the Northern regions of the Earth the Sun can literally not be seen for three days, because it is so far south, hence a perfect symbol for death and resurrection. The northern areas of Russia and Siberia seem to have the oldest connections to the reindeer and other symbols associated with Christmas.  It is well known and well documented that the Christian tradition wisely co-opted these symbols to strengthen their own relevance at the time.  And it certainly seems to fit nicely….But we really don’t know when Christ was born, so he may have been born at that time or not; we really just don’t know.  But it certainly does make sense to celebrate the birth of Jesus at this time though, due to the astrological synchronization explained above.

How this relates to Hinduism

In the Hindu/Yogic perspective, the time of the winter solstice, and the Sun’s change of direction to move north is incredibly important.  This same time is called the Makara Sankranti, which can be translated to “The ingress into Capricorn”.  Sankranti is Sanskrit for ingress, basically.  Makara is sanskrit for crocodile, which is what Capricorn is the symbol of in Vedic Astrology, and most likely in the original western astrology as well, but that will have to be explained in another post.  So this is an important time and it traditionally is celebrated as such by flying kites and other activities as it is said to be an auspicious date.  It is currently celebrated about three weeks late by most in India due to calculation errors that put the Capricorn ingress around January 14th.  The Solar ingress celebrations are meant to be calculated with the seasonal Tropical zodiac and this is something that Sri Yukteswar was very adamant about.  To explain this fully would also take another post, but understand that this same celebration is actually supposed to coincide with Christmas, for the exact same reasons as Christmas does; because the Sun moves north.

This Northern change of the Solar energy is also called the Uttarayana, in Vedic philosophy.  Uttara means “North” in Sanskrit, and Ayana means “movement”, or “time pass” in Sanskrit.  The Uttarayana has been mentioned in ancient Vedic texts as being extremely important from the spiritual perspective, and this basis is astrological.  Any auspicious deed or project we want to accomplish, we want to start it when the Sun is moving north.  This way we start the project in rhythm with nature and all of the elements, as all of nature is growing with each new day as the Sun is moving north.  In the same way, whatever projects we start at this time will “coincide” and therefore be more likely to grow stronger each day along with the Sun, the Soul of the Universe.  We want to do things in harmony with the Universal Soul whenever possible.

So Christmas day marks the first generally great day to do auspicious deeds in six months!  This is not to say that for six months of the year one should avoid doing good deeds, not at all.  In the six months that the Sun moves south one can find many other shorter windows of time when the muhurta/electional astrology factors are all lining up in a fortunate way for the goal in mind…. But if the goal in mind is very important and it can wait, it should wait for this time, the Uttarayana.  And then if possible, one should have an astrologer find the exact day and hour and minute that one should implement this action, if it is a truly important undertaking and one wants to make the best of it.  This way whatever negative karma one has from birth that may prevent the full realization of the goal can be minimized and negated by choosing the most auspicious date to begin that would neutralize those negative factors.  This is much of the basis behind Electional Astrology, or Muhurta as it is called in India.

Now it makes sense why we all give gifts on this day

snowqueenbycharlesrobinson

Snow Queen by Charles Robinson

Now we can see why it is so astronomically perfect to give gifts to each other on December 25th.  It is the first auspicious day in six months, and what better way to make use of that than by giving gifts to all of your loved ones!  Its also very interesting because this date was mentioned in the ancient Indian text, the Mahabarata, and one character refuses to die until the Sun starts moving north, because he knows how much more auspicious it is to die when the Sun starts moving north, then when it is moving south.  There are spiritual reasons for this significance as well, and one will notice that generally more saintly and spiritually evolved beings tend to leave their bodies as the Sun moves north.  Likewise more people tend to commit suicide as the Sun moves south and particularly around November and December, when the Sun is very low and weak in strength.  The Sun is our self-esteem, and a weak Sun leads to depression more easily.  It is likely that people who have difficult depression placements in their charts get more heavily impacted by this weak Sun transit than the average person, but most people will agree that November and December can be times when depression seems to set in more easily.

There is a lot more to this cycle and how it affects us psychologically, but this will have to wait for another post, as this one is long enough for now.  In the next post we will go into how this relates to Yogic philosophy and the esoteric meaning of the Sun.

The Solstices and Equinoxes Part 1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we look across the globe at many different cultural traditions, there seems to be an emphasis on the importance of the astronomical periods known as the Solstice and Equinox times.  Many of the most ancient landmarks that have ever been discovered, such as Stonehenge, Newgrange, the temple at Karnak, Macchu Picchu, and Chichen Itza have all  been oriented to these four points, the winter and summer solstice, and the spring and fall equinox.

Why is that the case? Well, we may not know all the reasons why.  Historians point out that these times needed to be known in order to know when the seasons were coming, to know when to plant seeds, and to know when to harvest them.  So there is likely a practical reasoning behind it, but there also seems to be a profound spiritual logic behind the awareness of these four times.  In this post I will try to clarify the importance and meaning of the astrological and astronomical significance of the solstices and equinoxes, which have been called the “Celestial Cross”.

Clipboard01First lets clarify what these terms “Solstice” and “Equinox” actually mean.  The Solstice is an astronomical event that occurs twice each year as the Sun reaches its highest or lowest point in its apparent year long course across the equator and back down. And the equinoxes are the two middle or “equal” points that the Sun hits as it goes up and down across the ecliptic as we see it from the Earth.  The Equinoxes are the exact days when the day and night are of equal length.

(Note: Astrology is an Earth based science, and as such, it is not important whether the Earth actually is moving around the Sun, or the Sun around the Earth.  The symbolic importance is what appears to be happening from the perspective of being on Earth.  So we say that the Sun moves north and south, even though it is commonly understood that the Earth is what is moving around the Sun.  From the perspective of the relativity of motion, it really cannot be proven that the Earth is moving around the Sun, as the entire Universe could equally be said to revolve around the Earth, as the famous physicist Ernst Mach has contended.)

THE VERNAL EQUINOX

The vernal equinox is usually around March 20th of each year and marks the beginning of “Spring” as we commonly call it.  This is astrologically the beginning of the sign of Aries, “the ram”, and the beginning of the Sun’s course through the Zodiac again.  As this is the point where there begins to be more daylight than night, and all of nature begins to awaken and “spring” up from dormancy, we can see why this is symbolized by a ram.  Rams are powerful and fearless creatures that climb mountains and smash into their enemies head first.  They push the boundaries of what can be possible.  We can see how this fits as a perfect symbol for the time of year when nature itself seems to awaken and burst forth into activity.  Aries individuals are very comfortable with this sort of activity and are courageous, adventurous, pioneering, and love initiating new projects.

THE AUTUMNAL EQUINOX

The autumnal equinox is the exact opposite point of the solar path, and marks the first day of “Fall” or “Autumn”, and is astrologically the first day of the sign of Libra, “the scales”.  Libra is the sign of the balancing scales, and that should make sense to us as we now know that this is the middle point, or “balancing point” of the zodiac.  Naturally Libra is a sign that seeks balance, equality, and harmony, and we can see the logic behind that, in the Sun’s yearly course.  Also, Libra is the sign where the Sun is weakest, and the weakest sign for a planet is referred to as its “fall”.  Its as if the planet falls from its natural strength at that place.  Hence, we call this time of year, “The Fall”, as it is the time when the Sun “falls” astrologically, but also this means in actuality that the light on earth is diminishing more quickly each day as winter approaches.  So the fall equinox marks the equal point of the Sun’s descending path, after which there will be more darkness than light for 6 months.

THE WINTER SOLSTICE

This brings us to the Solstices.  After the autumn equinox, the next major change will be at the winter solstice, which occurs on December 20th or 21st.  This is the shortest day of the year, where the Sun is seen from Earth’s perspective as being the furthest away and dimmest that it will be.  If one is far North enough above the equator, then the sun can appear to disappear or not even rise on this day.  At the north pole, the sun does not rise at all.  For three days the sun’s path stays the same, and so in the northern regions of Earth, the Sun is apparently gone (or barely visible) for three days after the 21st. Then on the 25th of December, the Sun rises just a bit further North, and is just a bit more visible, and the day is just a bit longer.  This day marks the beginning of the Sun’s 6 month journey northward across the equator and the beginning of the longer days.  This winter solstice point is astrologically the first day of Capricorn, the goat-fish in western tradition, and the crocodile in the Indian tradition.  Both symbols represent the same energy of coming from darkness into more light.  The crocodile is often half submerged when seen, and lays low but can be quite powerful and fearsome when it moves up onto dry land.  This fits the nature of this time, when the Sun is most hidden, but is beginning to make its journey towards more light.  The goat or goat-fish in the western tradition, has the same symbolic meaning.  The fish-half can represent the submerged, hidden, or darker emotional aspect of ourselves or our karmas that can sometimes surface during the winter time.  The goat, being a natural mountain climber and survivor, symbolizes the inevitable rising up into life and light of the Sun on its 6 month journey that begins at this stage of Capricorn.  The goat will always make it to the top of the hill eventually, but may take its time. This is how capricorn natives behave, they are focused on long term goals, security, moving up in the world, and on metaphorically “getting through the winter”.

THE SUMMER SOLSTICE

After 6 months of the Sun moving north, it reaches its peak of northern movement on the summer solstice on June 21st.  This is the brightest day of the year, and the Sun is as far north as it will ever be.  For 3 days the Sun stays at about that same place, just like the opposite winter solstice. Then on June 25th, the Sun actually starts descending and moving south.  This is astrologically known as the sign of Cancer, the crab.  And as crabs are easily seen to side-step as they move, this is exactly how the Sun behaves here.  The sun was moving north, north, north, then it stops at cancer…. and then side steps for 3 days, and then retreats back south, like a crab running back to its hole in the sand.  Cancerian individuals are known to be a bit fickle, and often dont address issues head on like the ram, they tend to pause and side-step around the issue if possible.  They are able to yield to the moment, and enjoy receding from the world into their home or something they are comfortable with.  This makes sense as this is the point at which the Sun actually stalls and yields from moving any further north, and then changes direction, and begins to move south.  Cancer natives are very receptive and are similar in that they can stop and check in with their emotions and say, “is this the right course for me?  Perhaps I should change the course”.

Hopefully it is beginning to make sense that this course of the Sun, along with the Moon’s monthly course around the Earth, are the cycles that create our seasons and therefore our sense of time and rhythm as we live on Earth.  That is very important!  It makes sense that these cycles will also have a big influence on our psychological states, and this is obvious when we take even a basic look at the signs that are associated with the four major points of this solar cycle, as we did earlier.  These four major points that correlate to Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn are places where the Sun and the Earth are in an alignment, and so naturally we would assume that these signs would have importance.  And even those with a basic knowledge of astrology know that this is true, as these four signs are called the “cardinal” or “chara” (changeable) signs.  These cardinal signs are naturally the most active, and the most changeable.  This makes sense as these are the actual points where the sun “changes” its course.  The Sun represents the “Soul of All”, or Saarva Atman, as discussed in a previous post.  Logically it makes sense that if these signs are where the Soul of everything changes its course, the people born under that sign will also be more likely to change course throughout life, and be more comfortable with change.

We can also think about this and see that it is likely not some star constellation that looks like a ram that is making an aries person so impulsive, but the very framework of the Sun and Earth’s movement (these equinoxes and solstices) that is the factor.  This makes more sense when we contemplate it, as stars can burn out or appear in different areas over time, but the Sun and Earths relationship appears to be much more consistent over the long term, and hence a better framework for time.

We have been dealing with these cycles our whole lives, so we may not notice the effects from day to day, but these cycles can definitely be noticed and felt to varying degrees, depending on the consciousness of the person experiencing them.  This is a very important pattern and the ruins of ancient cultures across the globe are all aligned to this “celestial cross” as it has been called.  In the next post about the Solstices and Equinoxes I will elaborate more about the spiritual and yogic symbolism of this same cycle.