Solar Eclipse in Capricorn
Once upon a Christmas time in Camelot, the court of King Arthur was filled with feasting, fellowship, carousing, and carolling. The noble knights of the Round Table were gathered along with the most lovely of ladies, surrounded by the most lavish of Yuletide decor, with the luminous Queen Guinevere and King Arthur at the center. As the revelry settled for the first sumptuous serving of supper to be served, a massive, mighty, and mountainous man appeared in the doorway, eclipsing the merrymaking with awe and amazement in all- for this fearsome figure was “entirely emerald green” in every detail of his handsome features. All of his garments were green, with green flowing hair and a green bushy beard growing down his body- even his horse was pure green in color, with a green mane groomed with gold that had been tinseled, tied, and twisted with beads and chiming bells. “His look was lightning bright / said those who glimpsed its glow. / It seemed no man there might / survive his violent blow.”
Yet the green knight wore no helmet nor armor, held no sword nor shield, “but held in one hand a sprig of holly – of all the evergreens the greenest ever – and in the other hand held the mother of all axes.” The green knight demanded audience with their sovereign, and asked King Arthur to gracefully grant his wish for a game of guts. The green knight called for one present to step forward and strike him with his axe one stroke and then be struck by him in return. After King Arthur gripped the axe while the green knight calmly awaited his attack, the King’s virtuous nephew Gawain intervened and took responsibility for the daring deed. Gawain swore an oath that after striking the green knight with a blow he would be struck in return in twelve months’ time by the green knight, and then proceeded in one clean stroke to cut off the green knight’s head. As the separated head rolled across the floor, the blood covered and headless green knight stoically snatched it off the ground as he swung himself into the saddle of his steed. He held up his severed head which opened its eyelids to stare straight at Gawain and spoke a reminder of the vow he had made to receive his blow the next New Years dawn.
The late fourteenth century chivalric poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight goes on to tell the magical tale of Sir Gawain’s journey to fulfill his oath made to the green knight, a quest that serves as a mysterious test of his mettle, faithfulness, virtue, and courage. Those in pacific, mountain, and central time zones will experience the Solar Eclipse in Capricorn on the night of Christmas, while those in other time zones will experience the blackening of Sol’s light on December 26, 2019. In any case, the Capricorn Solar Eclipse occurring four days after the Solstice is a dramatic initiation into a tumultuous year that will feature another Solar Eclipse at the Cancer Solstice and will end with the epochal conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius on the Capricorn Solstice of 2020. The rise and fall of collective fortunes that will correspond with the extremely volatile astrology of 2020 will test the character and determination of each of us, calling forth our heroic capacities, tender compassion, and creative potency. It will be a year necessitating that we engage the world as active creative agents and receptive responders to those in need, allowing ourselves to be reshaped through participating in the changes to come.
“There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.” — Aragorn, son of Arathorn
Since ancient times across many cultures, eclipses have been portrayed as a great dragon consuming our Sun and Moon, with the North Node of the Moon symbolizing its head and the South Node its tail. Like the ouroboros imagery of a dragon devouring its own tail in alchemy which mirrors the dissolution of nature that seeds new forms, the dark void of eclipses function as a fertile matrix which can suddenly unleash shifts in storylines we had not been prepared for. Realities that had been hidden from our perception can arise forcibly into our awareness, and in the weeks surrounding eclipses there can be an intensification of forms and relationships entering and leaving our lives.
Since the Capricorn Solar Eclipse is aligned with the tail of the dragon, the headless Ketu, there will be an emphasis on the sacrifice of making the changes sacred, releasing fixations and being willing to enter the mysterious unknown. Rather than focus on expansive new growth, themes such as releasing, purifying, emptying, cleansing, resting, meditating, and letting go will be favored. As the dissolution of the eclipse loosens the binding of the innumerable strands of historical and cultural conditioning bound up within and without, we may reforge our presence and knowing when immersed in stillness, just as the Sun recently stood still at the Solstice.
The December 25/26 eclipse is the second and final solar eclipse to occur in Capricorn during the 2018 – 2020 period of the transiting lunar nodes occupying the signs of Cancer and Capricorn. The previous Solar Eclipse in Capricorn was on January 5, 2019 and there will be one more powerful solar eclipse along the Cancer-Capricorn axis six months from now on June 21, 2020. While you may be familiar and used to working with whatever themes in your life have arisen with the eclipses and nodes moving through Cancer and Capricorn in your nativity, a new chapter filled with new storylines will commence as the Capricorn Solar Eclipse initiates a lunar month in which the midpoint features a Lunar Eclipse in Cancer on January 10 followed by the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn on January 12.
In part due to Capricorn being the sign of the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, it was associated in ancient text with the ascent of souls following death to the realm of the immortals and ancestors. Porphyry in On the Caves of the Nymphs described Capricorn as the southern gate that “dissolves life” and “sends it upward to the heat of a divine nature.” Capricorn is the nocturnal home of Saturn, inwardly directed zodiacal terrain that favors creation through contraction and pulling back to make empty space for new growth to germinate and take root. As Saturn approaches its exact conjunction with Pluto in the next three weeks, even those wishing to focus on external achievement are likely to become grounded by the gravity of graveyards and confronted with personal issues and lessons that need to be accepted and addressed rather than resisted. Make whatever space is needed to contemplate the darkness within, listening for the message you need to receive rather than your preconceived notion of what you want to hear.
“Down in the underworld where western logic comes from, where the roots of earth and water and fire and sky merge into a single whole, the entire world as we think we know it with all its imaginary distinctions and divisions disappears. Everything we cling on to, everything we hold important, is gone.”
— Peter Kingsley, Catafalque
“All around him, for as far as he could see, lay a rough land strewn with rocks, with not a drop of water, nor a blade of grass. Colorless, with no light to speak of. No sun, no moon or stars. No sense of direction, either. At a set time, a mysterious twilight and a bottomless darkness merely exchanged places. A remote border on the edge of consciousness. At the same time, it was a place of strange abundance.”
— Haruki Murakami (born with Sun and Jupiter in Capricorn) from Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage
Jupiter in Capricorn is closely conjoining the eclipse by one degree, and so is seeding the eclipse with its growth-inducing influence and significations. The Capricorn Solar Eclipse marks the end of Jupiter’s synodic cycle, as it will enter the heart of the Sun on the following day to be regenerated with the creative potency of the Sun’s stellar light. It is therefore an old, elder Jupiter ready to fall into death and rebirth that is meeting with the Solar Eclipse, another indicator that promotes investing time in reflecting on the lessons you have learned and the beliefs you have shed in the past year. Like Pan, the wild nature deity who is part of Capricorn’s constellational mythos, Jupiter in Capricorn can function as our shepherd through the fertile darkness of the eclipse, reshaping and organizing our consciousness while attuning with the flux and reordering of Nature and the natural cycles of change coming into form around us. Inspiration may be found through engaging with the constraints of our circumstances rather than through pushing for expansion.
At the same time that the Moon is conjoining with the Sun and its own South Node in Capricorn, Jupiter is also approaching a conjunction with the South Node of Jupiter in Capricorn while Saturn and Pluto are also coming together in close proximity with the South Nodes of Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn. This means that the orbital arcs of the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto will all be pouring down across the ecliptic at the time of the Capricorn Solar Eclipse, saturating our collective field with the putrefaction of the entire archetypal arcs of their past cycles. Not only can we no longer escape our past history at this time, it will be also be a vital responsibility to acknowledge the multiplicity of historical streams of oppression and resiliency feeding into the rising river of collective crises flooding across global civilizations. While we will be motivated to look toward a future of new intentions as 2019 ends and 2020 begins, we also need to look backward for what can be learned from not only our own past but from the legacy of our ancestors as well.
“Our modern democratic age has manufactured a personal spirituality to meet everyone’s needs which is absolutely guaranteed to be calm, sweet, peaceful, polite, positive, comfortable, reassuring, unthreatening . . . But this happens to be almost the exact opposite of the ancient understanding – which is that spirituality and the sacred offer the profoundest challenge to our complacency, as well as presenting the most radical threat . . . truth was seen as something extremely painful, even impossible, for most people to bear.
Truth, or alêtheia, had its own mythology that confronts humans with the grim but glorious reality of what they are “from the beginning”: unimaginably glorious because of their boundless inner potential and unthinkably grim because of the overwhelming responsibilities such a forgotten potential brings.
This is why it- or she, because Truth often appears as a goddess- was always intimately involved in the superhuman effort to stop that process of forgetting. Her role, above all, was to preside over the supremely urgent task of remembering not what happened yesterday or even last month but what happened in the distant past that shaped this present moment and will also produce our future.”
— Peter Kingsley, Catafalque
Saturn in Capricorn rules the eclipse while applying toward a conjunction with Pluto it will complete on January 12, two days after the forthcoming Lunar Eclipse in Cancer. Though the close balsamic phase between Saturn and Pluto has been a pivotal influence during the past year, there will be a deeper level of impact felt as they finally complete their long anticipated union. The multivalent significations unleashed in collective events during hard alignments between Saturn and Pluto (conjunction, square, opposition) were deftly described by Richard Tarnas in his tome Cosmos and Psyche. Tarnas described periods of historical darkness and gravity requiring moral courage from individuals in the face of severe collective events full of the “morally problematic aspects of human existence” and “the end to naïveté and inflated privilege.” Tarnas also gave a compelling list of artistic masterpieces produced during Saturn Pluto alignments representative of its archetypal meaning, such as The Trial, Moby Dick, Frankenstein, 1984, The Stranger, The Scarlet Letter, Death of a Salesman, Crime and Punishment, The Waste Land, The Grapes of Wrath, The Rite of Spring, Heart of Darkness, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. As shown in these artworks, during periods of Saturn Pluto we must encounter the dark underbelly of civilization and a reckoning with humanity’s aspirations for power.
With Ceres, Mercury, and the Sun also conjoining the coming together of Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn, it is clear from current events how their significations are combining with Saturn and Pluto around themes such as environmental destruction and the plundering of natural resources for human consumption, grave moralistic questions concerning the use of technology and its interface with global power structures, women’s reproductive rights, as well as coming to terms with historical oppression of women and many other identities and cultures by those representing dominant cultural identities. As the volatile force of eclipse season will be mixing with the union of Saturn and Pluto, although the collective crises we are facing feel overwhelming we also have the opportunity to take responsibility for doing our part in reshaping the world that will be taking form between now and next year when Jupiter and Saturn move through their conjunctions with Pluto to initiate their new cycle in Aquarius on December 21, 2020.
The Nobel Prize winning novelist Olga Tokarczuk, who was born with Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius, recently gave a powerfully penetrating acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature that evoked the quality of time we find ourselves in:
“The climate emergency and the political crisis in which we are now trying to find our way, and which we are anxious to oppose by saving the world have not come out of nowhere. We often forget that they are not just the result of a twist of fate or destiny, but of some very specific moves and decisions―economic, social, and to do with world outlook (including religious ones). Greed, failure to respect nature, selfishness, lack of imagination, endless rivalry and lack of responsibility have reduced the world to the status of an object that can be cut into pieces, used up and destroyed.
That is why I believe I must tell stories as if the world were a living, single entity, constantly forming before our eyes, and as if we were a small and at the same time powerful part of it.”
–Olga Tokarczuk’s Nobel Prize for Literature speech on 12/07/19 translated by by Jennifer Croft and Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Capricorn 1 Decan
The Capricorn Solar Eclipse falls in the first decan of Capricorn, associated with the Two of Pentacles tarot card illustrated above by Pamela Colman Smith. The image of a juggler dancing while holding the ouroboric motion of two pentacles, against a backdrop of a pivotal sea change, embodies the capacity of the first decan of Capricorn to penetrate into structural forms and impact matter from the underlying fabric of reality. Tarot author T. Susan Chang recently posted an insightful article on the first face of Capricorn, calling it “The Difference Engine.” Chang described one of its lessons being that since “the only constant is change” we need to find the opportunities available to make our own luck, but that simultaneously it also offers greater ease communicating with the past and with ancestors while reconciling “the turn toward light and life in the midst of the darkest hour.”
Fittingly for a South Node Solar Eclipse taking place in this face, Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces ascribed the image of “A Headless Body” to the first face of Capricorn. Coppock stated that the first face of Capricorn “entails the descent of the spirit into the body of the world itself,” bringing consciousness to deeper and deeper levels of matter to “set those powers in motion” as well as “use the higher, logoic functions to guide them along their course.” Coppock analyzed the ancient attribution by Ibn Ezra of a bestial man carrying a cattle prod to this face, suggesting it reveals the capacity of this decan to not only set material forces in motion but also steer them in order to create change such as new work of art or sources of sustenance.
The “atavistic consciousness” Coppock described within the first decan of Capricorn that “descends into the natural world with ease” connects well with the ancient Hellenistic text 36 Airs of the Zodiac attributing the ancestor of earth and body-based healers, Asklepios, to the first face of Capricorn. Asclepius, son of the Sun god Apollo and a mortal woman, is a compelling figure in relation to the Capricorn Solar Eclipse, for he embodies a centered focus which integrates all surrounding realms, both material and immaterial. Rooted in Earth, Asclepius is a healer who emerges in times of crisis and cathartic change, reverent of Nature, in balance with masculinity and femininity, and reliant upon ritualistic incubation to find healing cures. Asclepius is associated with healing through dreams, an incubatory process that reveals the connection between external symptoms and the underlying unconscious. With his hermetic staff planted in the ground, Asclepius weaves together meaning from celestial and chthonic realms through discernment centered in his sensual nature, applied to his work through the type of disciplined spiritual practice which pleases the ruler of the eclipse, Saturn in Capricorn.
Jupiter is the ruler of the first face of Capricorn, and since Jupiter is not only transiting through the first face of Capricorn but is also closely conjoining the Solar Eclipse, the meaning of this decan will be noticeable in personal and collective events. Walking with the tender awareness of Asclepius for not only the interconnectedness of our surroundings but also the visions of new forms we can churn from subconscious depths will be a way to navigate the chaotic changes that will be rippling through our global collective. Since periods of Saturn and Pluto aligning correspond with an intensification of collective scape-goating and projecting dark, unrecognized material onto others, the capacity of Asclepius for exploring one’s shadow and accepting one’s inner multiplicity through contemplation of dream images as well as passing omens and synchronicities will be vital skills to develop.
The connection of Asclepius to the first face of Capricorn is further interesting in the context of Robert Hand’s work demonstrating that through precession of the solstices that the Capricorn Solstice point in recent years has passed through the hand of the Serpent Holder (a figure often connected with Asclepius) in the Ophiuchus constellation that is holding the Serpent. Hand has connected the meaning of this alignment in current events with ecological disasters and crises in which nature rebels against human attempts to tame or control it for power and resources. Hand has stressed this alignment indicates the critical necessity for coming to terms with climate change and human consumption of natural resources for energy.
While there are no easy answers to fix the myriad collective issues demanding attention, individually we can each take steps to nurture reservoirs of inner strength to draw upon when needed in response to difficulties or when devising creative solutions. The Capricorn Solar Eclipse initiating our entrance into the new decade of the 2020s serves as a fitting omen for the new year bringing to a close an old way of being while intimations of a reordering to help shape comes into greater awareness. As the Solar Eclipse conjoining the South Node suggests letting go of old patterns, we can shed and release any beliefs we have been holding or actions we have been taking that are not aligned with our values and do not serve the greater good. Make the time and space to explore your inner darkness, listening for the gifts you possess to cultivate and share with the wider world. Be open to connecting with creative collaborators with whom you can combine skills and strengths while mutually supporting one another. Claim the courage to creatively actualize more of your potential in 2020 and help make the changes you wish to see happen.
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Armitage, Simon. (2018). Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Revised edition. Faber & Faber Ltd.
Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.
Hand, Robert. (2014). The Precession of the Capricorn Solstice and the Importance of 2017 to Humanity. The Mountain Astrologer. October/November 2014 issue.
Kingsley, Peter. (2018). Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity. Catafalque Press.
Murakami, Haruki. (2014). Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel. Alfred A. Knopf.
Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs (1917) English translation by Thomas Taylor.