Dear Friend and Reader:
Today the Sun reaches 15 degrees of Aquarius — the exact midpoint of that sign. This is called Imbolc, which means “in the belly” or “in the milk.” This acknowledges that we are at the depths of winter; though today is a holiday called Midwinter. In the Catholic tradition it’s called Candlemas — the time we take stock of how many candles are left, and if there are enough, light one in every window. (If you take part in this tradition now, please mind the curtains.)
Imbolc is one of eight turning points of the solar year; that is, the year that is based on the Sun’s apparent movement through the seasons. We are familiar with the equinoxes and solstices: the points in the year when the day is longest or shortest; and those when day and night are equal. These are considered the “major” turning points. They are when the seasons change and the Sun enters one of the cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra or Capricorn. They are called the quarter days because they are the points wherein we divide the year into four.
Then there are the lesser-known cross-quarter days, which are offset from the quarter days by about 46 days or 45 degrees of solar movement through the sky. They are the midpoints between the changing of the seasons, and they occur when the Sun reaches 15 degrees of the fixed signs Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius.
Two of them have holidays we are familiar with, Halloween and Ground Hog Day. While Valentine’s Day is technically about 11 days after the cross-quarter, it’s still close enough to count. You can see that it’s a power point because Valentine’s Day seems to draw more energy every year, even though it’s a holiday that obsesses over the relatively unholy theme of romance.
Meanwhile, the cross-quarter in May is turned into a party or a ritual mainly by Pagans (it’s called Beltane, and it’s the celebration of Venus, the Goddess and the May). This would actually be a lot better time of year for Valentine’s Day. And the one in August, also known to most Pagans, is called Lammas or Lughnasadh. That is the “second planting” or “first harvest” as opposed to Sahwen (traditionally spelled samhain) or Halloween, which is the “final harvest.”
That’s the background. These holidays represent a cycle; they have many names; they tell a story, which is the cycle of our lives. It is illustrated, in part, by the energies, archetypes, gods and goddesses of the zodiac. And of course, they are illustrated with the poignancy of the seasons.
We are now at Imbolc. In practical terms, winter is half over. Most of us up in the Northern Hemisphere are sick of the cold weather by now, so this is a turning point; it usually does feel like a step toward spring, even though there are a few good snowstorms and slush puddles ahead of us.
Energetically, this is the Aquarius holiday and there is a lot of Aquarius to go around. There happens to be a planet sitting at the midpoint of Aquarius right now; actually there have been for years, as Chiron and Neptune have finally reached 20+ degrees of Aquarius. The planet that’s there is Nessus, which is a centaur in Chiron’s class of planets: intense, highly-focused energy that feels a little like catching a boomerang when we’re working with it carefully and consciously.
Nessus in Aquarius illusrates what is, in my view, one of the major crises of the lives of most people — how and whether to fit into the groups of people around us; how and when we need to get out; and the distinctly negative influence that conformity can have if we don’t work with it consciously.
What is consciously? We need to see and address the influence that needing to be like other people has on us. I assure you: most of the time it’s not a friendly influence. Most of the time it’s about covering for the insecurities of others, or more to the point, our own. It takes guts to stand up in your truth, to speak your mind and to believe what you know to be true and not hide it.
Nessus on this Midwinter holiday is suggesting we take a moment of real reflection about the impact of our need to conform, and to remember that sooner or later, the karma of self-deception always comes back to us. There is another way — but we need to find it. Consider that we’re not going to find it alone. We need each other, not to hide the truth of who we are, but to bring it to the light of day.
Yours & truly,