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Sunday, December 21, 2014


Tim Rubald
Maui Druid, et cetera

Winter Solstice, Turning of the Year
(and My Birthday on Winter's Eve)

For many, many years I've written an annual birthday poem. This year's version is in prose.

I was looking for a way to respond to the landslide of birthday wishes I got for the 20th. This is my attempt.

"The year is a wheel with eight spokes. Each circuit is comparable to the cycle of a human life. The Winter Solstice is the time before we were born, the great dark uterine void from which all is formed. The vast black ring around all possibility, its perimeter bulging with promise. Light is conceived in the cold dark at the time of the Winter Solstice. The smallest spark, the most tentative hint of a glow, is imagined in the dense ambience of its absence. The sun is a mere gleam in the eye of eternity. Light, no matter how tiny, equals life."

-- Donna Henes, Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles & Celebrations. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1966, p. 5. via:

December 21-22
Winter Solstice
Birth of the Year

In 2014
December 21: GMT 23:03:02, EST 6:03:02 PM, CST 5:03:02 PM, MST 4:03:02 PM, PST 3:03:02 PM, HST 1:03:02 PM.

Sol reaches his shortest period in the day sky while the night is the longest of the year. From the point of the Solstice onward there is an increase of light.

" very ancient times the most important yearly turning points were considered to be the summer and winter solstices. Later, in the 4th century A.D., the Emperor Julian opted for the Winter Solstice in particular, "when King Helios returns to us again, and leaving the region furthest south and rounding Capricorn as though it were a goal-post, advances from the south to the north to give us our share of blessings of the year."

--- Quoted by Charles Harvey in Michael Baigent, Nicholas Campion and Charles Harvey, Mundane Astrology, 2nd ed. London, Aquarian Press, 1992, p. 243.

In the 20th century, Charles Carter in England and Alfred Witte in Germany both echoed the Emperor Julian's sentiments and made a persuasive case for the Capricorn ingress [as the beginning or start of the year]. Quite reasonably, Witte saw the Capricorn ingress as the beginning of the solar cycle. In the Northern Hemisphere it's the time when the old Sun dies and a new one is born, and, as Chinese astrologers saw it, increasing yin switches over to increasing yang. Like the New Moon, which most astrologers acknowledge to be the beginning of the lunar cycle, the Winter Solstice marks the end of the waning half of the cycle and the beginning of a new waxing half.

Also, at least in Northern latitudes, Capricorn is probably the most emotionally laden of the four Cardinal ingresses -- the one that brings up primal fears of darkness, cold, hunger and the cessation of all life. Will the light return? Will the round of life continue? For peoples who routinely experienced cold, famine and nights lit only by firelight, seeing the waning of the Sun's strength finally reverse itself must have truly seemed like a rebirth and must have been an occasion for heart-felt rejoicing.

Today, around the time of the Winter Solstice we still compensate for the withdrawal of the Sun's light and heat by cozily nesting indoors, stoking the fire, festooning trees with lights, and warming ourselves with food, strong spirits and the company of others. To counter nature's threat of scarcity, we invoke a great-bellied saint clad in the color of fire, whose pack brims with human-made abundance. Our thoughts turn from fresh-picked food toward what is preserved and stored, from the vanished lushness of the natural world toward the human-created social order with its own ingenious methods for sustaining life and hope.


March 20-21 *
Spring Equinox
The Wheel Turns toward the Triumph of the Light
Daylight has increased and now occupies half of the day, equally matched to the length of night. Light is strengthening and establishing its place in the yearly cycle.

June 20-21
Summer Solstice
Triumph of the Light, of Sol. The daylight reaches the peak of its reach through time.  We celebrate the exuberance of the day.  At the same time we realize this is the beginning of the increase of darkness. From this point daytime will wane in comparison with night. The night gains but is remains secondary to the longer day.

September 22-23 *
Autumn Equinox
The Wheel Turns Toward Darkness. The energies of the Dark Gods and Goddesses begins to increase and gain attention. The balance described by the Taoist symbol of Yin and Yang reflects the Equinoxes but an imbalance begins at the point of Equinox as night begins to overtake daylight's duration. The processes of inward turning gain significance. Persephone returns to her throne with Hades in the Underworld.

December 21-22
Winter Solstice
While the realm of the night has reached its maximum, so the day begins ascending in duration. And so it goes.

* Days of Equinoxes and Solstices, Why do the equinoxes not always occur on the same days each year?

The Earth takes approximately 365.25 days to go around the Sun. This is the reason we have a leap year every 4 years, to add another day to our calendar so that there is not a gradual drift of date through the seasons. For the same reason the precise time of the equinoxes are not the same each year, and generally will occur about 6 hours later each year, with a jump of a day (backwards) on leap years.

From year to year, there is always some variability in the equinoxes and solstices because of the way Earth's changing tilt matches up with its orbit around the sun. The equinoxes and solstices do not always occur on the same days each year. This is due to the Earth taking approximately 365.25 days to revolve around the Sun. Since the days of the tropical year is not a whole number, the time of the equinoxes are generally about 6 hours (0.25 day) later each year. However, to prevent a drift of dates over a long period of time, we add a day to our calendar, thus we have a leap year every 4 years. Take the time of equinoxes for example. The time of both equinoxes varies within 2 days. The days occur about 6 hours later each year for 3 years before taking a jump backwards on the leap years.



 As I grow older, and if not wiser, at least more knowledgeable, I understand more about the Wheel of the Year and the astrological implications of my birthday, and of all other birthdays the year long. The Sun is the core of being, the source of life on Earth and of the energetic (if not biological life) on the rest of the system that orbits Sol. The place of the Sun in the Tropical Zodiac is what determines your "Sign."

With this very, very basic astrology that verges perilously close to what I've called Signology, I grow ever more deeply into a ritual appreciation of life and living. I grow closer to the sacredness of life, my respect for the mystery deepens, my connection to the chimera of the ancient gods increases. These are not the gods and goddesses of traditional and ancient devotion, but symbols arisen from the rhythms of the heartbeat of the solar system, of what some traditions know as "the Word."

"There is that continual heartbeat of creation, the Sun. The Sun's communication with us has developed and will continue to develop over time. Our lives on earth are quite brief though and one earthly life will simply experience the Word as regularly as a heartbeat.

While the heartbeat may slowly alter over eons of time, Earth's relationship with the Center cycles rhythmically through the Centuries. That essential relationship of Earth to Sun establishes a core pattern that is the basis of Tropical Astrology. That is not to say that other orientations, other methods of astrology are inferior. In fact, I find Constellational Astrology (Sidereal and Jyotish for example) more intellectual, you might say more scientific (I wouldn't but some would).

The gift of increasing information by observation and experience seems to work in both directions for me. One direction is toward detail and technique and the other is toward a very Earth-oriented, you might say Pagan appreciation (I would say that, but only in the most basic ways beyond the approaches of specific groups or tribes like Wicca, Heathen, Thelema, or what have you).

My understanding of the Wheel of the Year or Season Cycle reaches to the roots of most beliefs and religions and even to modern physics. I find solid support for my understanding in several branches of physics, especially: quantum mechanics, special relativity, stellar, galactic and extragalactic astrophysics, cosmological, evolutionary, bio, cellular, particle, experimental, theoretical, atomic, molecular, mechanical, condensed matter, optical, mathematical, and gravitational wave astronomy (I may have left some out).

So what does this mean for me and for you? It provides a deeper understanding of astrology, which serves all of the work that I do for you. On the one hand, it is the simplest part of astrology as it provides the framework upon with Tropical Astrology hangs the circular measuring rule of the Zodiac. That begins and ends at the Spring Equinox, zero degrees of Aries.

Happy Birthday! Everyone! And a Merry Christmas to All. And Happy Hanukkah, Longest Night, Anastasia of Sirmium feast day, Las Posadas, Feast of Winter Veil, Festivus, Pancha Ganapati, Modraniht, Saturnalia, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (this fits my view perfectly, "Day of the birth of the Unconquered Sun" - Zoroastrianism), Yule (of course), Soyal (21 December - Zuni and Hopi), HumanLight, Newtonmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, Dongzhi, and my apologies if I've missed your favorite Solstice Celebration.

I must include this one from Wikipedia.  Yalda: 21 December - The turning point, Winter Solstice. As the longest night of the year and the beginning of the lengthening of days, Shabe Yalda or Shabe Chelle is an Iranian festival celebrating the victory of light and goodness over darkness and evil. Shabe yalda means 'birthday eve.' According to Persian mythology, Mithra was born at dawn on the 22nd of December to a virgin mother. He symbolizes light, truth, goodness, strength, and friendship. Herodotus reports that this was the most important holiday of the year for contemporary Persians. In modern times Persians celebrate Yalda by staying up late or all night, a practice known as Shab Chera meaning 'night gazing'. Fruits and nuts are eaten, especially pomegranates and watermelons, whose red color invokes the crimson hues of dawn and symbolize Mithra.


I hope this gives a bit more understanding than you had of the Season Cycle. Now you can begin to fit in your own birthday to where you landed on the wheel. That message is extremely basic, yet goes to the very foundation of whom and why you are.

Happy trails,


Copyright © Tim Rubald 2014

Tim Rubald, C.A. NCGR-PAA, C.A.P. ISAR
tweeting @startalker

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