It's solstice time once again, and in the Northern Hemisphere that means it's time to celebrate the return of the light through a variety of seasonal festivities.
This year, the exact moment of the winter solstice takes place on December 21 at 9:30 p.m. "Solstice" means the Sun's standstill, and it marks the extreme positions of the Sun when it is rising in the East and setting in the West, positions that appear to occur at the same point on the horizon for three or four days in a row. It is as if the Sun seemingly comes to a halt as it turns around in preparation to repeat its path. Of course we know that the Sun is not following a path — we are — and that the winter and summer solstice occur because of Earth's axial tilt to the Sun along our orbital path.
It seems our ancient predecessors in a variety of cultures that span the globe were well aware of these solar extremes, and many archeological sites in the Northern Hemisphere are aligned with the sun rise of the winter or the summer solstice; Newgrange, in Ireland, and Stonehenge, in England, are among the most famous locations.
My favorite solstice symbol is the Sun Dagger, an Anasazi petroglyph located on Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Unrelated to any of our Christmas icons — Santa Claus, Rudolf, or the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction known as the Star of the Magi — the Sun Dagger is believed to be the only astronomical marker of its kind: It indicates within a simple spiral, etched in stone, and a secondary smaller one next to it, also etched in stone, the winter and summer solstice, the vernal and autumnal equinox, and the major and minor extremes of the moon. (Frankly, until I studied the Sun Dagger, I was completely unaware that the Moon also had a "solstice" or standstill pattern.)
But what's even more amazing is that all these significant astronomical moments are marked with the passage of light across the petroglyphs carved into the side of rock, which (and here's where it gets mind-blowing) is hidden behind three enormous boulders. (And I'm not even talking about the rattlesnake nests you have to climb through to see it.)
Because the Sun Dagger is staggering in both its simplicity and its complexity, the research about it tends to focus on how the Anasazi managed to calculate and so efficiently mark these solar and lunar events. Yet while the "how" is important, I'm more interested in the "why." For our ancestors, the cosmos was a structured, orderly, animate and intelligible system that contained both Heaven and Earth. Celestial events mattered because they were organically linked to terrestrial experiences. "As above, so below," goes the old adage. The Sun Dagger marks the solstice at Noon, another archeological rarity that reminds us of the diversity of ways cosmic order is observed and expressed.
This solstice, from dawn to dusk, invite the Sun to light your way, as a reminder that no matter how chaotic and out of control life may seem, a greater order persists.
If you know your Ascendant and/or your Moon Sign, read that, too.
ARIES The solstice illuminates your solar house of career, encouraging you to renew your efforts to find work that satisfies body, mind, heart, and soul. Oh ... and also provides financial security.
TAURUS Engage wholeheartedly in spiritual pursuits, and even if your search takes you far afield of what you normally believe, allow the solstice light to help you to consider a new view.
GEMINI The solstice sheds light on the need to transform any areas of your life that may be stagnant or stuck. Pay particular attention to the question of how your values align with the values of others.
CANCER The solstice sun has the potential to clarify relationships with significant others. Allow yourself to contemplate how you can weed out negative habits by strengthening positive connections.
LEO Even though you want to revel in seasonal excess, the solstice sun is beckoning you to hard work. Rather than resent this invitation, make the most of it.
VIRGO The light of the solstice sun could inspire you to new creative heights. So refuse to participate in any activity that will stop the flow of ideas, and express yourself without hesitation.
LIBRA The solstice is likely to stimulate a deep longing to belong. Coupled with your normal urge toward connection, that fact should keep you busy and engaged in all sorts of relationships.
SCORPIO The solstice stirs a need to participate in a number of conversations on a wide range of subjects and with a variety of people. Even though it's not your nature, don't hold back; hold forth.
SAGITTARIUS You can say it's all about the money, but what the solstice really lights up are issues of self-esteem and self-confidence. Remember: Money is never the true measure of ultimate worth.
CAPRICORN The solstice sun simply lights you up, so keep that brightness turned up high and make the most of the season by reveling in who you are, just as you are.
AQUARIUS Use the light of the solstice sun to illuminate the deep. By that I mean use this time to meditate, contemplate, and pay attention to what you need internally to feel at peace.
PISCES Use the solstice light to discover how you can better share your gifts with the rest of the world. Instead of thinking wide and big, try purposeful, authentic, and heartfelt.