Monday, 22 December 2014

Capricorn and the Winter Solstice


'Capricorn'
© Alison Coals

At 11.23 pm GMT yesterday (21st December), those of us in the northern hemisphere celebrate the Winter Solstice, the solar festival sacred to the Old King and to the reborn ‘Sun Child’, whom we find in various incarnations - Mithras, the Mabon, Jesus, among others.  ‘Solstice’ means ‘sun still’, and refers to the sun seemingly being at a standstill – its turning point, the ‘shortest day’ – as well as its lowest point in the sky.  Up to now, the hours of daylight have been decreasing, the nights growing longer.  At the moment, though, the sun ‘stands still’, the Wheel of the Year seems to stop, and time appears to hang...but from now on the light will start to increase and days will lengthen.

'Capricorn as Sea-Goat'
© Alison Coals
The Solstice also marks the Sun’s ingress, astrologically speaking, into the sign of Capricorn, the tenth astrological sign in the zodiac. It originates from the constellation of Capricornus, usually shown as a goat with a fish’s tale, but is also seen as a more conventional goat that we’d see on land.  There are, as usual, a number of myths and stories behind the sea-goat. One involves Pan, the goat god. When he was attacked by the monster Typhon (so now you can guess where the name ‘typhoon’ came from!), he ran into the Nile to escape. The part of him below the water’s surface transformed into a fish.  Images of sea-goats go back to Babylonian times, with symbols for the god Enki being both a goat and a fish. The constellation of Capricorn is also sometimes called Amalthea, the goat nymph (in Greek mythology) who reared Zeus after he was saved from being devoured by his father Kronos.

'Kronos'
Kronos, of course, was the father of the Greek gods, and was also known as the ‘father of time’, giving us the word ‘chronology’. In the Roman pantheon, he was known as Saturn – the planet that rules the sign of Capricorn.

Capricorn, then, has links to time, as well as to structure and boundaries.  In the image of the mountain goat we can see the Capricornian qualities of tenacity and sure-footedness, determination to overcome obstacles as it works its way towards to its goal.  It’s about retaining integrity, but can also be ambitious. There’s a business-like quality to Capricorn, too – it’s an Earth sign, so it’s practical and level-headed, but at the same time it’s also a Cardinal sign, so it’s not afraid to get things going, to start new enterprises. On the ‘shadow’ side, it can appear as greed, in terms of material ambition.  

Over the next few weeks, as we move through Capricorn, I’ll explore the cards in the tarot that are associated with this sign... Watch this space! 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Yule Tarot Blog Hop - The Joy of Gift-Giving





Welcome to Alison’s Alembic!   You may have arrived here as a stop on the Tarot Blog Hop from either Chlöe's Inner Whispers blog or the TABI blog (also by Chlöe). Or you may have found this through TABI’s Facebook page, or though one of the many wonderful tarot bloggers in the ether... It doesn’t matter – what does matter is that you’re here!


Photo courtesy www.twanight.org
Today is the Winter Solstice, for those of us in the northern hemisphere – the solar festival sacred to the Old King and to the reborn ‘Sun Child’, whom we find in various incarnations – Mithras, the Mabon, Jesus.  Solstice means ‘sun still’, and refers to the sun seemingly being at a standstill – its turning point, the ‘shortest day’.  Up to now, the hours of daylight have been decreasing, the nights longer.  Today though, the sun ‘stands still’, the Wheel of the Year seems to stop, and time appears to hang...but from now on the light will start to increase and days will lengthen. So, the sun stands still, the Wheel of the Year seems to stop, and time appears to hang.

Photo courtesy www.tillhecomes.org
The Winter Solstice also marks the festival of Yule. Days later, Christmas arrives. Kwanzaa is also celebrated around this time (26 December-1 January). Hanukah, the Jewish festival of lights, is already well underway this year, having started on the 16th, ending on the 24th.  Many of these traditions involve gift-giving, the theme of this year’s Yule Tarot Blog Hop. 


It seems that the concept of Christmas presents goes back to the Romans, when high-ranking officials were expected to give the Emperor a present on the festival of the Kalends (apparently corresponding to 1 January). Originally the gift were simply branches from evergreen trees that grew in the grove of the goddess Strenia, but later cakes and honey were given, representing wishes of a year of sweetness and prosperity.  The Christian nativity story involves gifts too – the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh carried from the east by the magi.  In Catalonia, it’s traditional for children to be given their presents by the three kings on the night of 5th January.


Our wranger, Arwen, has asked us to write about the anticipation of giving and receiving gifts, through her lovely spread. I'm using the Wildwood Tarot (created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections).

  1. What gift would you give the world if you could?             

The Pole Star (17)
The Pole Star, still thought of as THE fixed star in the sky (although it isn’t really), offers a guiding light by which to navigate the waters of life. (No, AC, AM and VK, not whisky!)  It requires a sort of faith to follow it, but that’s what I would give – hope, faith, guidance.














    The Hooded Man (9)
  1. What gift would you want from the world?  

Time to withdraw and rest!  It’s winter in this image of the Hooded Man, a time to go within and prepare to plant new seeds.  Just what I need... a time to stand still, just like the sun on the solstice – the time of year associated with this card in the Wildwood.  The wren is a secret keeper of wisdom, a perfect companion for the Hooded Man (although not me, perhaps!) and was considered to be an oracle.  As I have just received an oracle deck as a gift (thank you TABI!), I could use this time to learn how to use it.





  1. What gift have you received that has brought you joy?                 

Six of Bows
Six of Bows – Abundance.  I have been blessed with abundance this year, in many shapes and forms, all of which have brought me great joy.  The Wildwood’s version of the card is less about public acclaim and ‘victory’, and more about reaping the rewards of our work or actions – and I suppose if I had to pick one specific thing that brought me abundance, it would have to be selling my house....

Three of Vessels - Joy
... but I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of two very good friends…




  1. What gift have you given that has brought you joy?        

Six of Vessels - Reunion
Six of Vessels – Reunion.  It’s actually hard to separate this from the gift I’ve received, because the ‘abundance’ has allowed me to give this gift, and the ‘reunion’ has in turn given me a sense of increased abundance.  This is all about the importance of family and extended family and friends – keeping them close in my heart, even though many of them are thousands of miles away.  The otter here is definitely significant – crossing water in order to reach different land!  Past memories too have been kept alive by staying in touch with not only my friends but also my parents’ friends – just last week I spent a happy hour on the phone with my mother’s best friend reminiscing about all the happy times our families enjoyed together. At the end of our conversation, she told me how much joy that call gave her – but it gave me just as much pleasure!



    The Sun of Life (19)
  1. What is one last thing you would like to share about this season?           

The Sun!  I wish you all great joy, good health, harmony - and a year full of creativity!



Thank you for stopping off here on your own journey through this Yule Tarot Blog Hop -  please do come back and read some of my other posts.  



The next stops on the Tarot Blog Hop are - depending on whether you’re moving backwards or forwards through the list – Chlöe's Inner Whispers blog or the TABI blog (also by Chlöe). The Master List can be found here.