At 04.47 GMT today 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. 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.
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, 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!
The image comes from my AstroArt series. ‘Capricorn’ is a collage, using watercolour on paper.