Changing of the Guards : Our Movement From Solstice to Equinox
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Posted: March 21st. 2010
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Was Imbolc the old winter solstice? I ask this question completely aware that many megaliths were fashioned to intentionally record “cross-quarter days”.
This speculation is not entirely a mystical story of connect-the-dots. Although astrology is given a bad rep as pseudo-science, it was an integral part of our time keeping system in ancient days. While Paganism seems to have gained a European flavor in many sects, ancient images that we use do connect us to religions that emerged from the Middle East.
I remember when I first discovered the concept of Greater Sabbats being celebrated “old style” it was like a light dawned on me. The four fire festivals known to the Celts: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasa, are celebrated by most modern Pagans not on the actual cross-quarter days themselves but on nearby days.
Cultural holidays, to me, are powerful because they are important to our collective consciousness. However, I discovered there was a great natural power in the exact moment of the turning of the spoke of the wheel between solstice and equinox. These points, these cross-quarter moments, are celebrated by some covens as Sabbats in the “old style”. What is interesting is these are recorded through classical astrology, as “fifteen degrees” or the halfway point in Scorpio, Aquarius, Taurus, and Leo respectively.
These four “fixed” signs are often symbolized as an Eagle, a Human, a Bull, and a Lion. In many modern decks these four characters are shown on the Wheel of Fortune and World card. In Judeo-Christianity, these four characters are also “the four living creatures” that attend the throne of God in Ezekiel’s vision.
It has been explained that the zodiac is a time-keeping system, which explained the nature of weather and of what was going on in each time of the year. However, some of what is taught about the true origin of certain signs is not entirely true. It’s often said that Aquarius was designated to symbolize the spring rains that dissolve the winter. Yet, Aquarius was designated when it was at a winter point.
You may remember that old song “Age of Aquarius” by the band Fifth Dimension. What mystics and hippies of that time discovered was there are larger cycles of time than just days and years. There is, in fact, what astrologers call a “great year” divided into great months. The ancients were acutely aware that every 2160 years, the spring equinox sun would rise 30 degrees westward in a different sign making a different age or great month. This process is called the “precession of the equinoxes”. ť
Well, timekeeping and astrology have evolved through many “ages” - sometimes with the masses conscious, sometimes unconscious of what was going on. There is much confusion as to what astrology is based on and how it works. Even modern astronomers seem to not catch that many modern astrologers are fully aware that our signs have changed. I would like to explain this more concisely by mapping the evolution of timekeeping in four distinct ages through which astrology has moved and is moving into.
The Age of Taurus or The Age of the Watchtowers:
Many modern Pagans (and secret societies) are familiar with the “calling of the watchtowers” - the ritual of calling guardians or watchers from four directions. Perhaps a handful of us are aware these actually refer to “four royal stars”ť: Anatares, Fomalhaut, Aldebaran, and Regulus. These are located in Scorpio, Piscis Austrinus (a sign near Aquarius) , Taurus, and Leo respectively. Some Pagans and Occultists today visualize the watcher in the East as a golden bull. Yet as we move into the Age of Aquarius, it is interesting to note the guards have changed. This bull shall soon represent the summer.
The Age of Taurus is our most concrete time in history, when we can mark where astrology began in ancient Babylon, in the Middle East. The three monotheistic religions of our modern world have preserved some of the most ancient symbolism of astrology from this time, often unknowingly. The 12 signs as we know them today were not always the most fixed at this time. Sometimes, for example, Libra was seen as the claws of Scorpio. However, the greatest emphasis was on spring, summer, fall and winter and those four living creatures we’ve detailed above.
The Age of Aries or The Age of Naming:
Many modern astronomers use their press to disparate astrology for its backwardness. “Your sign, ” as you are told today, “was actually how it was in the time of ancient Greece”. However, some astrologers, indeed throughout history, were acutely aware of this. Astrologers may separate into two camps: those who measure sun-signs as they are now, and those who intentionally record the sun-signs as they were in ancient Greece.
An idea I find delectable from the Cabalistic text the Sefer Yetzirah is that Aries is the “Constituting Intelligence”. Aries is the naming power that names according to natural components. While the stars have moved since the 12 signs were definitely named in Greece, the seasons continue as they have. The personality of a person is more influenced, and not determined, by the influence of seasons and weather than distant stars many light years away.
The stars merely mark changes on Earth; they have never determined them. Because astrology’s seasons were so sufficiently named by the philosophers and mystics of our intellectual fore-bearers, that influence is still useful for students of the occult nowadays.
The Age of Pisces or The Hidden Age:
Few people in our world of modern religion and intellect care to question the absolute blatant astrological symbolism in Christianity. Christ is symbolized by a fish and is born of a Virgin. That alone speaks volumes. We are in this age of Pisces and every year the sun rises in Pisces in spring and sets in Virgo in autumn, which gives birth to spring again. Likewise, the modern image of the devil is derived from Capricorn, the northern regent of old astrology, and the keeper of winter. The age of Pisces marked the “death of the lamb”ť or the passing of the beginning of Aries. Secret societies often regard the winter solstice and summer solstice as sacred to the two “Johns”ť - they are much like JANUS, the two-faced keeper of doorways.
One of the stones often associated with Pisces is the pearl. Gnostic texts frequently speak of a “pearl of great price”ť that is not known because it is so common it eludes common sight. As egalitarian mysticism arises out of the fundamental religions of harsh survival, it becomes easy to demonize this passing age.
However, in most accounts, we are not exactly out of the age of Pisces. Actually there are more divisions to this age than meets the eye. I would say we are definitely in the “orb of influence” of Aquarius and we are definitely in the second half of this age symbolized by the second of two fish that swims with the world rather than toward highest heavens.
The greatest downfall of the Piscean age is often regarded as the Dark Ages and this is perhaps an experience of the split between the two perceptions of transcendence and immanence. Yet Pisces is not to be feared. It marks the 12th house in astrology, the treasurer of all houses, the keeper of the pearl of great price, which is a hidden and occult knowledge.
The Age of Aquarius or This Coming Age:
Out of the four living creatures, Aquarius is the most human. Since ancient Babylon when astrology began, the guards have changed places. What was then the rising of the bull is now the rising of a remarkably human form. Even if the exact point of this dawn has not yet come, we should prepare for it as a dreamer prepares for the dawn. History is full of enigmas, but even the murkiest of dreams can have lucidity. Even the deepest shadow is threatened by morning light.
Yet as Pisces is not wholly bad neither should we see Aquarius as wholly good, the issue of literal floods and even too much information is something we have to deal with.
We celebrate astrology based on ancient timing and today our modern Imbolc, Groundhog’s Day, is often seen as a human figure as it was in ancient times. Often symbolized by a Goddess, a helper of both flocks and human beings or symbolized by a virile male youth spilling abundant waters on the earth. Yet in actuality this figure is quickly approaching dawn in the spring of the year.
If we had to rewrite the story in the style made and intentionally hidden by early Christians, the new Aeon would be symbolized as a water-bearer born of a lion. In India today this knowledge has already come, the fall is the time of Durga Ma, the Mother who rides upon a lion.
Is Samhain the old Fall Equinox? This is a question I have rarely seen asked in Pagan Circles. Some megaliths do indeed record the cross-quarter days. But I cannot help but wonder if they like our modern astrologers are looking back into time. That maybe the haunting images of Halloween are also an equinox forgotten in the dusk of the days of old Babylon.
This is also a pattern that predicts and knows the coming winter. The Greater Sabbats are a month a half ahead of seasons in the states, I think this is because they see and predict what is to come. Imbolc sees spring; it is foresight.
I do not believe we should change astrology entirely but we should addend the new story and the new actuality of what signs are occurring now. We must uncover the age we are in, which was intentionally hidden from common knowledge. We must fabricate stories and mythos and heroic legends to detail the archetypes of our current struggles and victories no longer with such obscurity.
Though the Christ story seems to line up exactly with the story of the sun’s movement through the year, some will see this as destiny and still believe he was literally incarnate. Perhaps this is better than, that some may celebrate both the solstice and Christmas in clear conscience when they understand the importance of the influence of climate and weather on our subconscious. It will be better when we discover the novelty of fate in the stars, the importance of our story telling devices.
In our new stories, people’s actual lives may begin to coincide with mythos. There shall be new legends and newfound gods and goddesses, perhaps millennia old. These are the gods of poetry, the giants of nature personified and perhaps incarnate. We must take it upon ourselves to see all scales of literality and symbolism in mythical story and in the lives of people and the movement of the heavens. This is after all, our coming dawn, the real golden dawn of awakening.
Included in the URL is a useful guide for determining cross-quarter days O.S.
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