Sunday 23 December 2012

Getting your goat? Moving into Capricorn

At 11.11 am (GMT) on the 21st December, the Sun moved (astrologically) into the zodiac sign of Capricorn.  This marked the Winter (in the northern hemisphere) Solstice – the time when the sun seems to ‘stand still’ at its turning point; from now on, the days will become longer.  

Copyright Alison Coals
Capricorn is 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 convential 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!

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, inspired by walking the Glastonbury Landscape Zodiac, part of the Alchemical Journey (  ‘Capricorn’ is a collage: watercolour on paper, and origami paper.  Prints of the cards can be bought on Folksy ( or by contacting me (see my Readings page for contact details).

Friday 21 December 2012

Yule Blog Hop 2013

Welcome to Alison’s Alembic!   You may have arrived here as a stop on the Tarot Blog Hop from either Koneta Bailey's or Jaymi's blog.  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! 

The topic for this Yule Blog Hop is ‘Christmas Present’.  Well, this presents (!) a number of possibilities.  ‘Christmas present’, as in Christmas gift? ‘Christmas Present’, as in past-present-future?  If I followed that line of thought, there's always the possibility of a past-present–future spread.  Or I could go the ‘what does this Christmas present?’ route, as in ‘what is it going to show us, or present us with?’  Decisions, decisions.

But wait! Route... reindeer route...the route of the Magi...the root of that story – of all Christmas and Yule stories, myths, legends...(isn’t word association wonderful?)  What’s at the root of Christmas? 

Copyright Alison Coals
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’, who 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, but now 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. What better time to consider the present, when time has ‘stopped’ and all there IS is now, the present?

With the birth of the child, be this the Sun Child or Jesus or Mithras or whoever (or whatever) you see this as, it’s a time to rejoice.  Light and warmth are on the increase, and the seeds of what we’ve been germinating in the winter months are growing, although we have to wait until Imbolc for them to start to bud.  It’s time to stop and take stock of where we stand (still), and what it is we want to germinate before spring arrives.

Copyright Alison Coals
Past tradition in Christmas present?  There’s a reminder of the Old King or Sun God, in the form of the stag, are found in the carol “The Holly and the Ivy” – “...the rising of the sun and the running of the deer...”.   We use holly, ivy and mistletoe to decorate - holly for the Holly King and the waning year, ivy for the Goddess, mistletoe for fertility.  Mistletoe grows most commonly on apple trees (the apple was the fruit of death for the Celts), but the most sacred mistletoe is found on the oak, the tree of the waxing year and important in Druid tradition.  We see robins and wrens on Christmas cards; once upon a time the wren was hunted and killed at this time of year to represent the death of the Holly King, making way for the Oak King.  

One of my favourite images from the Wildwood Tarot *, the Hooded Man, contains many of these symbols – not surprisingly, this card sits at Yule on the Wildwood’s Wheel of the Year.  (Images from the Wildwood Tarot, created by John Matthews and Mark Ryan, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections.)

As for Christmas presents, this goes back to the Romans, where 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.

So back I come to that idea of a past-present-future spread...

What Christmas present do I carry from the past?    
The Ancestor (I kid you not).  I bring with me ancestral memory and wisdom, and a reminder to listen to my instinct. This card sits at Imbolc, the direction we’re headed in now.

What can I present to others at Christmas? The Three of Bows.  My present is my ability (or, as I see it, a goal yet to be achieved!) to be still (ah, there’s that word again) inwardly and focus; this may allow others to have confidence in me.

What does Christmas present me with for the future, in terms of my ‘route’?   
The Page of Stones.  I will be presented with the opportunity to learn something new, something practical perhaps, or of a ‘down-to-earth’ nature.  On the Wildwood’s Wheel, this card sits just past the Winter Solstice, heading for Imbolc.

Copyright Alison Coals

Merry Christmas - Happy Yule - Blessed Solstice  - Season's greetings!

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, which case it's 
Koneta Bailey's site ....


....or forwards, in which you're headed to

The Master List can be found here.

Sunday 16 December 2012

The 30 Day Tarot Challenge - day 2

Day Two of the Tarot Challenge.  Today's question is:

What was your first deck and why/how did you get it?

My first deck was the Sharman-Caselli deck (created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections).  Why this one?  I first looked at the Rider-Waite-Smith deck but couldn’t connect to it.  My first tarot friend, who I met on-line but turned out to live in the same city as me, had the Sharman-Caselli so I borrowed that for a bit.  I found the images more accessible – I’m a visual person, so being able to connect to the artwork is important for me.  So off I trotted to a local bookshop....and the rest, as they say, is history.

And the history continues, with question Three - soon to be answered! 

Both images from the Sharman-Caselli Tarot, published by Connections 2002.