Winter Solstice, the Great Conjunction and a Christmas Star

December 21st brings much excitement this year! (I know, as if we haven’t had enough excitement already…) So let’s get started…

Winter Solstice

In the Northern Hemisphere December 21 marks the longest night of the year – also known as the Winter Stolstice. Darkness has reached its peak and will soon give way to longer days. The rebirthing of the sun. For our ancestors who lived by the seasons this was a time of rest and renewal. Crops had been harvested and enough food “put by” to last through the (often brutal) winter. Nowadays, the twelve days of Yule – which begin December 21st and last through January 1st – can be a time of symbolic renewal. Everything about Yule honors light, life, and hope.

  • Yule Log
    The familiar custom of burning the Yule log dates back to earlier solstice celebrations and the tradition of bonfires. The Christmas practice calls for burning a portion of the log each evening until Twelfth Night. [source]
  • Evergreens symbolize renewal. Hang garlands of spruce, fir, cypress, pine, or juniper around doorways and windows. Burn pine branches to purify and heal. Make your own evergreen wreath.
  • Another evergreen, holly, was also used to decorate doors, windows, and fireplaces. Its leaves represent the Holly King and because of their spikes were believed to ward-off unwanted spirits.
  • Mistletoe was revered by Druids for its magickal properties. It would be carefully cut from sacred oaks to ensure it never touched the earth, for if it did it was believed the plant would lose all its magick power.
  • Long before electricity candles were used to keep the night at bay. Red, green, gold, and white candles are traditional colors of Yule.
  • Burn frankincense, mistletoe, or sage incense.
  • As some scholars connect Yuletide celebration to the Wild Hunt, it’s not surprising that celebratory feasts included hunted game such as pig and venison. Nuts, berries, fall/winter vegetables, dried fruits, and gingerbread rounded-out the meal. And let’s not forget Wassail: a mixture of ale, honey, spices or mulled apple cider. Here’s a recipe for Wassail punch. (A quick and easy way to mull-up your wine is to steep hot red wine with mulling spices. I use ready-made spice bags.)
  • Ritual: Write down things you wish to leave behind in the coming year then (safely) burn the list while you visualize those things fading from your life.
  • Ritual: Light some incense and grab a warm drink (Mulled wine, anyone?) With your footsteps, create a spiral in a clockwise direction. As you’re doing that, you’re literally aligning yourself with the pattern that the universe is creating. [source]
  • One more: A little Winter Solstice Ritual the whole family can take part in.

The Great Conjunction

The biggest astrological event of our lifetime occurs on December 21, 2020. Jupiter conjuncts Saturn in the first degree of Aquarius – 0° Aquarius 29 to be exact. Astrologically, a conjunction is formed when two or more planets enter the same zodiac sign at the same time and at the same degree. This causes their vibrations to combine and work together. Although conjunctions are common, when they involve cetain slower-moving planets they become much more rare and much more intense. A Great Conjunction only happens when Jupiter and Saturn align.

What makes the December 21, 2020 Great Conjunction so amazing is that it’s happening at 0°, which signifies a completely new beginning AND it’s the closest conjunction since 1623 (which was also in the sign of Aquarius).

A Christmas Star

On December 21, 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will appear to hover in the fading twilight – visible around the world. In the Southwestern U.S., these two planets will be low in the sky about a half-hour after sunset. They are aligning so close to one another that to the naked eye they will appear as a single, glowing star – the first visible “double planet” in 800 years! Because of this and the timing of the event, many are calling this a “Christmas Star.” (Some have even speculated that the so-called “Star of Bethlehem” was a Great Conjunction that occurred c. 7 BCE.)

EarthSky has been posting photos taken from around the world of Jupiter and Saturn, showing their progression towards this once-in-a-lifetime-event.

Watch the Great Conjunction LIVE online
via The Virtual Telescope Project

So what does all this mean? Let me break it down by entity first, and then tie everything together. Ready? Let’s do this!

Jupiter

Planetary Trump:
Wheel of Fortune
(Rules Sagittarius)

Fate and destiny. Change and movement. Expansion and momentum. The end and beginning of a cycle. Developments, continued growth, and success. Unexpected gifts or opportunities. Enterprise. Creativity. Wholeness. Personal vision. Faith, humility, and acceptance.

Known as the Great Benefic, Jupiter symbolizes growth/expansion, healing, prosperity, good fortune, and miracles. It inspires us to grow, expand, and take risks; but can also expose our flaws and weaknesses. In addition, Jupiter governs wisdom & higher truth, the law, and higher education.

Shadow side: Disappointment, withheld feelings, lack of opportunity, extremes of fatalism.

Colors: Darker shades of blue, violet, and deep purple.
Stones: Lapis Lazuli, sapphire, and amethyst.
Metal: Tin.
Incense: Copal, nutmeg, sage, red sandalwood, and pine.

Jupiter’s influence may be brought into any magickal workings that deflect Saturn’s chaotic and destructive energies.

Saturn

Planetary Trump:
The World
(Rules Capricorn)

Pure harmony. Completion and wholeness. The end of the quest. Synthesis between earth and spirit. Divine unification. Absolute peace and happiness. Fulfillment. Emotional pleasures, sexual love. Tranquility, luxury, security. Discovering our true self and our purpose. Self-identity. The cosmic plan of creation.

Known as the Great Malefic, Saturn symbolizes contraction, restriction, structure, discipline, and authority. It is sometimes referred to as the cosmic taskmaster and always represents the cold-hard reality of a situation.

Shadow side: injustice, dogma, lack of insight, prejudice, preconception, stagnation, indecision, irresponsibility, obstinacy, false judgements, holding on to the past, and refusing to accept that the past is gone.

Colors: Black.
Stones: Jet, obsidian, onyx, and smoky quartz.
Metal: Lead.
Incense: Myrrh.

Pewter mixes the energies of both Saturn AND Jupiter.

NOTE: Both planets deal with large-scale issues of authority and leadership but in different ways. (Power struggles?)

Aquarius

Zodiacal Trump:
The Star
(Ruled by Saturn)

Crystallization of inspiration. Spiritual insight. Wishes. Liberation, fulfillment, and promise. Imagination. Peace and tranquility. Calm and perfect faith. Rejuvenation. A unity of thought and spirit. Carefree, optimistic. Union with the Everlasting. Following our star. Living in the perfect present moment. Siren songs and haunting beauty.

An Air sign, Aquarius symbolizes social change, humanitarian efforts, justice for all, progressiveness, independence, and idealism, freedom. Aquarius governs innovation, technology, and surprising events. Note: Aquarius is ruled by Uranus (originally Saturn).

Shadow side: Detachment, rigidity, aloofness, lack of empathy, and unpredictability.

Colors: Aquamarine, electric blue, and violet.
Stones: Amethyst, garnet, turquoise, jade, labradorite, and aquamarine.
Metal: Uranium.
Incense: Sage, lotus.

The Sabian symbol for Aquarius 0° is An old adobe mission. “It is almost inevitable that we will, at some point, be called upon to defend and protect what we think of as home, family and community. […] An aware person is tested to remember their own true spiritual state at all times…In a world of deceit and illusion, where nothing is ever completely fixed in time, this presents a prodigious challenge.” [source]

2020 sees the end of a 200-year era of Jupiter and Saturn uniting in Earth signs, with the focus being on material security and a resistance to change. This could explain society’s “obsession with material things, conquering land, and money“. We may be entering the Age of Aquarius where we will shift our focus to the collective and humanitarianism, creating new forms of group consciousness, cultural change, innovation, and reform. This Great Conjunction also marks changes within ourselves, for this is where true change in the world begins.

Set intentions. Focus on the positive. AIM HIGH and fly like an Eagle. Act honorably. What we do as we enter this new era – individually and collectively – will set in motion that which will be actualized over the next 20 years.


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Remembering Sudan

From GOOGLE

Remembering Sudan, the Last Male Northern White Rhino

Today’s Doodle remembers the last surviving male northern white rhinoceros, Sudan, who was known as an affectionate “gentle giant.” On this day in 2009, Sudan and three other northern white rhinos arrived at their new home in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. Sudan, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 45 (the equivalent of 90 in human years), serves as a cherished symbol of ongoing rhino conservation efforts and a stark reminder of the danger of extinction that so many species face today.

Sudan was born in Shambe, in what is today, South Sudan in 1973 and is believed to be the last northern white rhino born in the wild. In 1976, he was taken to Dvůr Králové Zoo in then Czechoslovakia, where he grew to be 6 feet tall and a whopping 5,000 lbs (roughly the weight of a midsize car) and fathered two daughters.

In 2009, after the northern white rhino was declared extinct in the wild, four rhinos including Sudan, his daughter Najin, and his granddaughter Fatu were transferred back to their native African habitat. Conservationists hoped that the natural Kenyan environment of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy would encourage breeding among the rhinos, but within several years, veterinarians came to the conclusion that natural reproduction would most likely not be possible.

Yet there is still hope, as scientists work to develop in vitro fertilization techniques to save the subspecies from the brink of extinction. For now, Sudan’s legacy rests with Najin and Fatu, the world’s final two northern white rhinoceros.

Sudan: A Tribute To An Icon
Sudan @ Wikipedia
Northern white rhino can be saved from extinction scientifically
What I learned documenting the last male northern white rhino’s death

Every year, more than 100 environmental activists are murdered throughout the world. […] A 2020 incident saw several rangers murdered in the Congo Rainforest by poaching squads. Occurrences like this are relatively common, and account for a large number of deaths. [source]

When I served as Happy Hollow Park and Zoo’s “Web Wrangler”, one Halloween I created an online version of their Extinct Graveyard. One of the now-extinct species was the Carrier Pigeon. Of all the background stories I researched for each animal, this was the one that brought me to tears: “About September 1, 1914, the last known passenger pigeon, a female named Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. She was roughly 29 years old, with a palsy that made her tremble. Not once in her life had she laid a fertile egg.” [source]

Imagine cradling an animal in your hands KNOWING that you’re holding the last of its kind…

Top 10 Extinct Animals
(West African Black Rhinoceros, Baiji White Dolphin, Pyrenean Ibex, Passenger Pigeon, Tasmanian Tiger, Stellers Sea Cow, Great Auk, Dodo, Woolly Mammoth, Sabre-toothed Cat)
22 Extinct Animals We’ve Lost in the Past 150 Years
(In addition to the list above: Bramble Cay Melomys, Northern White Rhino, Spix Macaw, Quagga, Golden Toad, Zanzibar Leopard, Po’ouli, Madeiran Large White, Carolina Parakeet, Tecopa Pupfish, Falkland Islands Wolf, Javan Tiger, Round Island Burrowing Boa, Pinta Island Tortoise, Dutch Alcon Blue Butterfly, Schomburgk’s Deer)
List of Extinct Big Cats, From Prehistoric Times to Now
(Zanzibar Leopard, Javan Tiger, Barbary Lion, Caspian Tiger, Bali Tigers, Cape Lions, Smilodon, American Lion, Scimitar-Toothed Cat, American Cheetah, Siberian Cave Lion, European Lion, Trinil Tiger, Giant Cheetah, Xenosmilus, Cave Lion, European Jaguar, Longdan Tiger, Machairodus kabir, Dinictis)

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Plant Lust::Schlumbergera

one of my 7 Heavenly Lusts

Schlumbergera
Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus

Native to the coastal mountains of Brazil, schlumbergera are epiphytic, growing on trees or rocks in generally shady areas with high humidity (such as a rainforest). Common names (Thanksgiving/Christmas cactus) generally refer to their flowering season which in the Northern Hemisphere is fall/winter. Flowers appear at the tips of draping branches which consist of flat, green setments and can grow to 3 feet in length. The flowering period for schlumbergera spans several weeks with each bloom lasting several days. Too much water, lack of water, or dramatic temperature swings can cause buds to drop. Schlumbergera flowers come in white, pink, yellow, orange, red, and purple.

Differences between the two cultivars:
The most commonly sold schlumbergera, Thanksgiving cactus, bears flowers with yellow pollen and pointy “teeth” on the sides of each stem segment. Whereas the stem segments on the Christmas cactus are more scalloped or rounded, with pink pollen produced by its flowers.


Temperature:  60-70°
Light:  Bright indirect light; will tolerate early am/late pm sun
Average to high humidity (I have mine in front of the kitchen window where it gets bright light and plenty of humidity.)
Use a well-draining potting soil like a cactus/succulent mix
Prefers to be slightly pot-bound so when you do replant choose a pot that’s only a tiny bit larger.
Water thoroughly when the top surface feels dry but never let the plant sit in water – it will develop root rot.
Use a balanced water-soluable houseplant fertilizer (half-strength) every other week during blooming season.
Propagation:  Cut a short Y-shaped segment from the stem tips. Plant the segment approximately a quarter of its length deep in slightly sandy soil. Moisten evenly and place the cutting in a well-lit area, away from any direct sunlight. You can repot when roots develop.

Schlumbergera are considered non-toxic to dogs and cats.

How to get your Thanksgiving/Christmas cactus to re-bloom

more Plant “Spotlights”

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It’s a Saturnalia Miracle*

If the video doesn’t automatically start at 3:13 in,
you may have to manually forward to that point.

*The Big Bang Theory (S2 E11, “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis”)

“In the pre-Christian era, as the winter solstice approached and the plants died, pagans brought evergreen boughs into their homes as an act of sympathetic magic, intended to guard the life essences of the plants until spring. This custom was later appropriated by Northern Europeans and eventually it becomes the so-called Christmas tree.”
– Sheldon Cooper, on the festival Saturnalia

lo, Saturnalia!
(Pronounced “eeyo sa-tur-NAL-ee-uh”)

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival celebrated in honor of the god Saturn, an agricultural deity said to have reigned over the world in the Golden Age of peace and plenty. Traditional held on December 17th it lasted from one to five days (variously) throughout its history – which continued into the 4th century C.E.

A huge public celebration would be held at the Temple of Saturn in Rome. All Romans (including women and slaves) spent Saturnalia feasting, singing, playing music, putting on satirical plays, and gambling. Equality and free-speech were embraced and role reversals were de rigueur; some slaves would even find themselves being fêted by their masters. Considered free men during the festival of Saturnalia, slaves were allowed to wear the pileus or cap of freedom.

As celebrations continued into the night it’s no surprise that traditional gifts of white candles (cerei) were exchanged. Romans decorated their homes with greenery and the aristocracy traded their traditional togas for brightly colored garments in shades of red, purple, and gold. The people would feast on bread, nuts, dried fruits, cheeses, sweet treats made with honey, nuts and dried fruit, pork, winter vegetables, and plenty of a mulled honey wine called mulsum.

A mock king, the “Lord of Misrule“, would be chosen to serve as a master of ceremonies. The King of Saturnalia was responsible for making mischief during the celebrations and generally ruling over the ever-increasing chaos and debauchery.

Sources:
How to Celebrate Saturnalia December 17th-23rd
Happy Saturnalia! Roman Festive Food
Mulsum recipe
Saturnalia @ History
Saturnalia @ Wikipedia
Saturnalia @ Witchipedia

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12.14.2020 ~ New Moon Solar Eclipse

A new moon solar eclipse occurs when the moon “sweeps across the daytime sky and fully covers the sun’s disk as viewed from Earth, briefly blocking out the entire body of the sun except its outermost layer, called the corona.” [source]

This creates a 360-degree sunset and causes plants and animals to respond as they would at twilight.

The New Moon solar eclipse on December 14, 2020 will happen at 11:16am ET (8:16am PT). It will only be visible in parts of South America and will cause sections of that continent to experience darkness for a brief period.

However, everyone will be feeling its effects. For centuries solar eclipses have been considered powerful omens of change or turning points – and this one’s going to be a doozy!

The eclipse occurs 23° Sagittarius and is the only TOTAL solar eclipse of 2020. It also takes place a couple of degrees shy of the Galactic Center – aka the heart of the Milky Way.

"...the knowledge that our entire Solar System revolves 
around a yet greater centre called the 'Galactic Centre' 
parallels an inner need within humanity to be released from
the egoic 'false-self-hood' as represented by the (distorted) 
heliocentric worldview. Trapped in this paradigm, human 
selfishness engenders a narcissistic way of life fuelled by 
greed and consumerism – vested interests convince us that we 
have to get, buy, procure or achieve a multitude of substi-
tutes for the true Self-hood for which we long. However, our 
true individuality...prompts us to see through these delusions 
and to rest in the inner light of which it partakes, safe in 
the knowledge that the Self is innate and cannot be bought, 
sold or achieved." 
[source]

It also happens that the Sun is also residing in the astrological sign of Sagittarius (November 23-December 21), as well, so we have the freedom-loving Archer doing double-duty!

Those of you who have Sagittarius in your birth charts may be feeling this New Moon already – and if that Sagittarius is in Decan 3 (20°-30°) it’s influence will be experienced in spades! (I have a Sagittarius Ascendent 19° and my Mars is in Sag 27°. Just this week I began having this strange sense of lightheartedness coming from nowhere in particular…)

Yes, indeedy. This Sagittarius New Moon is going to kick open a new door, paving the way for a Grand Conjunction on December 1st. So, let’s take a look at what energy Sagittarius is bringing to the table.

“I philosophize”

Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, the planet of expansion, good fortune, and prosperity. He’s generous, jovial, and full of good vibes – just like…Santa Claus! (How appropo.)

Sagittarius is:
Highly idealistic
Ethically-oriented
Focused on the big picture
Freedom-loving
Adventurous
Optimistic
Innovative

Sagittarius Decan 3 (which is where this eclipse is happening)
Exudes a powerful presence
Filled with integrity
Is unable to function as an unauthentic being
Uses his abilities in the service of a higher cause

On the downside, Sagittarius can be a bit reckless and blunt. Remember, the Archer is ruled by expansive Jupiter which has a tendency to magnify EVERYTHING it touches. So rein in those impulsive urges and run your thoughts through a filter before voicing them out loud – or online. The word here is finesse, otherwise you can be confident in speaking your truth.

finesse
n. artful subtlety, typically that needed for tactful handling of a difficulty
v. do (something) in a subtle and delicate manner

From an archetypal standpoint, this sign is considered to be a Gypsy Archetype due to its love of freedom and adventure; however, I’ve always seen Sagittarius as being a Philanthropist. Along with Aquarius (whom we will hear from in the coming weeks), the Archer is a humanitarian with philanthropy, mission and charity work, and volunteering an expression of their true heart.

‘Kayso, it looks like Santa Claus is coming early. But (There’s always a friggin’ BUT.) there will be some bumps in the road courtesy of Mercury, Messenger of the gods, and the planet of ideas, thought processes, communication, and the exchange of ideas. The December 14 solar eclipse is conjunct Mercury. Fire (Sagittarius) works well with Air (Gemini, who is ruled by Mercury) so this association works well together. Unfortunately, Mercury forms a square with Neptune (illusion) which may foment deception, trickery, fraud, and confusion. What’s needed here is someone who has our back. I’m talkin’ ’bout Mars (still in Aries), The Warrior. Mars is forming a trine with the sun, moon, and Mercury which will instil all three astronomical bodies with his strength of Will and call to action. The positive energy of Mars is what will be needed to break through the veil of deception those in power will use to block the (inevitable) change that’s coming.

But wait, there’s more! The eclipse will also connect with the South Node of Destiny which also happens to be in the idealistic sign of Sagittarius. Something is coming to an end – an end that is necessary in order to make room for something new. One door closes and another door is opened. And for those of you who pay attention to signs and symbols, the Sabian symbol for Sagittarius 23°-24° is “a bluebird perched on the gate of a cottage” and if that doesn’t bring a smile to your face and a spring to your step, I’m at a loss for words.

Major themes/energies of the December 14, 2020 New Moon Solar Eclipse
Thinking and communicating
Speaking out and sharing your truth
Expansion of consciousness
Optimism
Positive energy
Freedom
Connecting with others

We cannot just sit back and let the Universe “take care of things”. It’s offering us TONS of pre-holiday presents that we need to unwrap and put to use right away. This eclipse is about the greater good. Mars is giving us courage and Will to create change in both the world and ourselves. Embrace your fighting spirit. Your Inner Warrior.

Sagittarius urges us to AIM HIGH. Make plans, set new goals, and act on them with courage and confidence. Focus on abundance, appreciation, and gratitude. Expand your mind and open your heart. Be adventurous while keeping your wits about you. Mercury encourages us to speak our truth and communicate it to the world, but be prepared to turn those words into actions.

And watch out for those bluebirds…


The 9 of Scepters (Wands) represents the Moon in Sagittarius and signifies tremendous inner strength, defending ourselves and others against the bullies of the world, standing up for what is right, and possessing the spiritual backbone of a Holy Warrior.

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