Monday, December 19, 2011

Capricorn Approaches

We shall enter the astrological period of Capricorn with the Winter solstice on Thursday. Looking ahead a little this morning, I met this image on Wikipedia (link) and thought it lovely enough to reproduce. It originates in a fifteenth century astrological book captured by an unknown scanner and placed on the world wide web a while back. The pleasing image suggests to me that even a pagan (or in the fifteenth a kind of neo-pagan) view of this season beats anything our time routinely produces to celebrate the ultimate feast of Commercial Consumption.

Capricorn is the sea-goat—although we see no ocean anywhere here. The name of the constellation evidently arose in Babylonian times and, at one time, featured a fish as well as a goat or a goat’s head. Such is the nature of staring up into the sky and connecting luminous dots. Anything goes.

In astrology constellations mark the year. For a period of roughly a month, in this case from December 22 through January 20, the sun rises in the House of Capricorn. Looking up at the still dark sky very early in the morning as the sun’s first rays appear, it is that constellation that is directly above the sunrise in the northern hemisphere, hence that is the “house” the sun enters.

Now in the astrological scheme of things, every period has its ruling planet. Here “planet” must be understood somewhat loosely if we use a modern conception of things. Thus not only the planets but also the sun itself (associated with Leo) and the earth-satellite, the Moon (associated with Cancer), act as rulers. Capricorn’s ruler is Saturn, evidently because the planet is in the ascendant during this period. Its glyph symbolizes material reality as a cross burdening spiritual nature, symbolized by the half-circle—the inverse of Jupiter’s symbol, in which the spiritual dominates matter. Saturn therefore suggests limitation—a fitting sort of message in our currently troubled economic times. It is the ruler of this season, of course, that gave this festival, in Roman times, its name: the Saturnalia.

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