The longest night – winter solstice
Many of us look forward to the slower pace of winter days. Not so our ancestors, who prepared for the coming of winter well in advance. They understood, first-hand, the challenges of finding food and keeping warm. The midwinter solstice was a vital turning point in the seasonal calendar, marking the longest and darkest night of the year. From midwinter to the summer solstice six months later, the nights would grow shorter and the days longer.
In Australia, our winter solstice is marked by the passage of the sun into Cancer on the 21st June. If you watch where the sun rises from the 21st-23rd June and you will see it is in exactly the same place over these three days. Solstice literally means sun standing still. It’s a time for withdrawal, introspection and reflection.
Winter is a natural part of the seasonal cycle. And just as nature slows down in winter, we need to slow down too. This means conserving energy, and eating nourishing foods. Spend more time sleeping, taking hot baths or saunas. We should be allowing our bodies to rest and recuperate. Winter solstice festivities traditionally include feasting, singing, dancing, warm fires, and nurturing time with close friends and family.
Maeshowe – winter solstice magic
In 2019, I visited the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland. I went there to explore the Neolithic stone circles, burial mounds, astronomical and stellar alignments. And, of course, the local legends and folklore. Orkney is 59 degrees north of the equator and at these extreme latitudes the sun and moon pass very close to the horizon in winter.
Maeshowe (‘howe’ comes from the Norse word for ‘hill’) is an ancient chambered cairn or passage tomb over 5000 years old. It is aligned to the winter solstice sunrise. It’s one of the best preserved tombs in Northern Europe; part of the Heart of Orkney World Heritage site. It has been linked to the famous Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland, which also aligns with the winter solstice sunrise.
Inside Maeshowe is a network of chambers with one large central chamber linked to the outside world by a long, low tunnel. Four large standing stones mark the corners of the main chamber. The quality of the stonework is exquisite.
Welcoming the sun’s rays
For three weeks either side of the winter solstice (21st December in Orkney) the rising sun’s rays beam through the small doorway along the passageway, lighting up the central chamber. A similar phenomenon occurs at Newgrange. But there the sunlight penetrates for just three days a year; one day either side of the winter solstice.
All over the world monuments, temples, churches and prehistoric sites were built in alignment to the winter and summer solstices to mark these key turning points of the year. Standing in the darkness of the Maeshowe chamber, I felt a sense of awe. I imagined those who had watched and waited for the sun’s rays to light up that same chamber, thousands of years ago.
North Node in Gemini – local vs global
With the world still reeling from the knock-on effects of coronavirus, in early May, the north node of the moon, representing our collective fate and focus, slipped silently from Cancer to Gemini for an eighteen-month sojourn. What could this mean?
Gemini is an air sign, noted for quick thinking, impatience, mental brilliance and the ability to connect people and ideas. Gemini rules information technology. So we can expect an explosion in online communication and e-commerce. Local neighbourhoods, local shops and local service industries will flourish. There will be a desire to travel shorter distances for both holidays and work. This could lead to more people biking, walking and taking public transport. More people working from home. And more holidays and leisure activities enjoyed closer to home – or at home, and in the neighbourhood.
Flexible, fresh ideas
With communication planet Mercury ruling the Gemini north node, we will need to let go of preconceived ideas and remain open to new directions over the next year and a half. Curiosity, flexibility, fresh ideas, and perspective coupled with a willingness to listen and communicate openly will help us all move forward together.
And while it might sound obvious, Gemini rules the lungs and respiratory system. Given that coronavirus is an airborne virus transmitted via coughing and sneezing and affects the lungs and respiratory system, with north node in Gemini we could find solutions to combat the virus and neutralise its effects.
As the south node of the moon (point of release) shifts into Gemini’s opposite zodiac sign, Sagittarius, traditional beliefs will be left by the wayside. Expect fundamental change in the classic Sagittarian domains: long distance travel; international affairs and commerce; higher education; law; philosophy; religion and freedom of movement.
June-July eclipses – endings and new beginnings
Eclipses are like newspaper headlines, boosting and enhancing planetary energies. During an eclipse, there is an interruption of the electromagnetic stream of energy from both sun and moon. The earth’s energetic patterns, the matrix of mass consciousness, and our own mental structures, are interrupted enough to create openings for shifting gears and changing old mindsets and unconscious programming.
Major life transitions often occur under an eclipse as old, outworn parts of our lives are suddenly eclipsed, making room for new people, new ideas and exciting change. Sometimes eclipses bring loss and apparent misfortune, but there is always a lesson behind the event. As one door closes, another will surely open.
We have two eclipses in June, a lunar eclipse at the Sagittarius full moon on the 6th June and a solar eclipse at the Cancer new moon on the 21st.
Sagittarius lunar eclipse – shifting perceptions
The Sagittarius full moon opposes the sun and retrograde Venus in Gemini, with Mars and Neptune in Pisces, sitting midway between the sun and moon. This lunar eclipse will expand our perception of reality, by opening the mind and revealing hidden truths, particularly in relationships. Some will throw caution to the wind and spontaneously choose risk and adventure over fear. It’s advisable to avoid making far-reaching decisions until you’ve had a chance to reflect, but have the courage to be your true self. The eclipse will be visible from East Coast Australia in the hours before dawn, with maximum coverage at 5.24 am.
Cancer solar eclipse – new chapter
This solar eclipse falls just hours after the winter solstice with the sun and moon in the first degree of Cancer. It marks a new chapter in our lives with its effects lasting for at least six months. During a solar eclipse, lunar concerns (gut feelings, emotional patterns, subconscious mind and habits) somehow interfere or block out our outwardly focused energy (the sun) which can be both enlightening and frightening. The eclipse is in Cancer, an emotional water sign, ruling home, family, tradition, nurturing and security. And as Cancer is ruled by the moon, now is the time to send out an invitation to the universe asking for what your heart truly desires. This eclipse will be visible in the northern parts of Australia just before sunset.
Relationship planet Venus continues her six week retrograde journey through air sign Gemini, a journey which began in mid-May. It will end on 25th June.
Venus retrograde offers us the chance to assess the value of the people and possessions in our lives. It invites us to move away from people and activities that no longer serve us. When Venus is retrograde, others instinctively sense our true motives and allegiances. And this is especially so in personal relationships. This can lead to arguments, break ups, uncomfortable encounters and unpleasant home truths. But Venus retrograde also clears out dead wood, freeing us up to pursue relationships, friendships and activities we truly enjoy.
The Venus retrograde period can be divided into two halves of approximately three weeks each. The first is from 13th May to 4th June when Venus disappears from view, swallowed up by the Sun. The second period lasts from 5th June to 25th June. Matters tend to come to a head in the first three week period. The truth of the heart is revealed. In the second half of the Venus retrograde period we reflect on what has been revealed and make new choices or put things right.
Out with the old and in with the new!
During Venus retrograde, you could find people from the past reappearing in your life. Perhaps a reassessment of old friends, ex-lovers, estranged family members, or former work colleagues/partners. And as Venus is the planet of beauty and aesthetics, you may find yourself throwing out old clothes, repainting the shed, or changing your hair colour.
Venus will be reborn as the morning star on 10th June, rising before the sun, and start moving forwards again on the 25th June. This is a signal to open up to new connections and relationships. It will be interesting to see how this ties in with any further lifting of social distance restrictions in late June.
Mars in Aries – impatience creates forward movement
Warrior god and action planet Mars will enter ruling sign Aries on 29th June for a six month stay. Normally Mars spends just six weeks in a zodiac sign, but every couple of years, he turns retrograde, moving backwards and forwards through the same zodiac sign for months and going over the same ground.
Throughout the coronavirus lockdown period, Mars has been travelling through Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces – signs of duty, care for community and selflessness, where the desires of the individual are willingly (or sometimes begrudgingly) sacrificed to the needs of the collective. The end of June brings a dramatic shift in priorities. Mars in Aries is an independent, self-willed, selfish and impatient kind of energy. This could manifest in a number of ways.
As many countries plan to ease lockdown restrictions in June/July, we could see a tremendous, yet positive burst of energy and excitement, with people surging forward, full of impatience and keen to get their lives, businesses, holidays and finances back on track. This period will last right through to the end of the year with Mars leaving Aries in early January (and retrograde between 11th September and 15th November).
Rise of rebellion and rage
However, with Mars being the god of war and conflict, we could also see outbursts of anger, rebellion, rage and violence as people blame governments and attempt to deal with the personal, financial and emotional fallout from coronavirus. We could also see a rise in childish and selfish behaviour after months of frustration and restriction.
Interestingly, the US Presidential Election is scheduled for 3rd November – right in the middle of the Mars retrograde period. Given Donald Trump’s current loss of popularity, due to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, is it possible he could try to postpone the election in order to boost his chances of staying in office?
Hopefully this powerful Martian energy, which affects us all, can be channelled into world recovery and cooperation. Let’s work together, using this energy, to get back on track and finding strong, effective solutions for everyone.
Saturn in Capricorn – establishing the new normal
Providing a challenge to Mars, throughout the second half of 2020, is sensible Saturn who shifts back into ruling sign Capricorn on 22nd June. Saturn is the taskmaster of the zodiac. His focus is on obeying laws and creating lasting structures that benefit society and promote stability.
Saturn will be in Capricorn until 23rd December forming a stressful angle to Mars for much of the second half of the year. People are looking to governments, scientists and leaders to offer strong and competent guidance so, with the fire of headstrong Mars and the steadying influence of sensible Saturn, this six month period will be crucial for setting up the ‘new normal’ in a constructive and effective manner.
Mercury retrograde – moving backwards to move forwards
And finally, as if we didn’t have enough to cope with this month, Mercury, planet of communication, commerce and travel, will be retrograde in nostalgic Cancer between 19th June and 13th July.
Normally Mercury retrograde is a time to slow down and deal with unfinished business. Given that the whole planet seems to have been in retrograde or backward motion since March, however, it’s entirely possible that this particular Mercury retrograde will take us forwards by taking us backwards… Taking us back to being able to move around freely. Taking us back to meeting face to face. Seeing our friends. Visiting our relatives. Hugging those we love. Starting up our businesses. Reconnecting with our clients. Taking a holiday, or even jumping on a plane. But when we do go back to the old ways, we get the chance to do things differently. Think about what that might mean for you…
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