The Turning of the Wheel – Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice – Capricorn Ingress of the Sun – Dec 21 2017, 4:27:52 PM  GMT

I believe that the pivotal charts for the two Equinoxes and Solstices are not so much a time for analysis as they are of seasonal observation. They are times of celebration. I will make just a few brief observations on the chart for the time of the Solstice. Before we do that, I’d like to take some time to recognize the nature and symbolism of the Winter Solstice.

This is a particularly auspicious day for people of widely diverse cultures, ranging from the St Lucia Day celebrations in Scandinavia, Saturnalia and its modern variants, Chanukah, Christmas and many Pagan celebrations that go back to the dawn of time. Less well known perhaps is the Persian festival Yalda, or Shab-e Yalda . It’s a celebration of the Winter Solstice in Persia that began in ancient times. It marks the end of the month of Azar. Yalda is symbolic of the victory of light over dark ar the time of the longest night. It is the birthday assigned to the Sun god, Mithra.  There are family celebrations with traditional foods like nuts and pomegranates. The intent is to stay awake all night long in order to welcome the rising Sun.

In my indigenous Celtic tradition, we bring the symbolism of Father Christmas, holly, the Yule Log, Mistletoe, the Christmas Tree and almost everything else we think of at this time of year in European cultures and increasingly in Asian ones as well. Yule is a Pagan holiday that celebrates the Winter Solstice. Every detail has significance. While it is true that Santa Claus and the Christmas tree also originate in part from different, but parallel traditions, the core symbolism of the point of greatest darkness is the seed for the renewal of the light – the waning of the light gives way to the waxing of the light force.

The Celtic Wheel of the Year

The symbolism is shown in the wheel of the year, constantly turning, waxing and waning throughout the year. On this spoke of the wheel,  the Oak King, representative of the light half of the year, changes places with the Holly King, representing the dark half of the year. This ensures that the light and warmth of the Sun will begin to wax each day until the cycles begin again. The universality of celebrations with similar themes are evidence of our deep connection to the cycles of Earth and Heaven.

On this particular Winter Solstice, of particular note is that Saturn enters his own domicile of Capricorn on the day of the Solstice. This is a very good thing. Saturn is relatively miserable in Sagittarius and when Saturn is in a sign that is not congenial, it augurs for more difficulties. You might think of this as something of a homecoming, with Saturn stepping into Capricorn with the Sun.

The warm expressiveness of the Sun is contrasted with the cold, dry astringency of Saturn.  Still, I see this as more of a congenial meeting, particularly because Saturn is in Cazimi. This is a very rare occurrence for the Sun and Saturn to be in this relationship right at the moment of the Winter Solstice. Saturn ends up with the highest score when accidental dignities are considered. It’s an auspicious event to see Saturn enter into his own domicile in this way.

To better understand Cazimi, it’s important to note that traditional astrologers maintain that the proximity of Saturn to the Sun, within approximately 10 degrees, is combust. Combustion is a term of Medieval origin that indicates that a planet is, as it were,  swallowed by the beams or fire of the Sun. When a planet is combust, it won’t be visible. Because light is an essential element in traditional astrology, this further points towards the poor condition of the planet. However, the ancient astrological tradition also recognizes an important exception. This exception is named Cazimi, a transliteration of the Arabic term kaṣmīmī. This empowers the planet greatly. Saturn, as William Lilly stated  “will be ’wonderous strong.’

The Almuten or Guardian Spirit of the moment is Jupiter.  He is the Face ruler of the Sun but has none of the essential Dignity rulers of the Sun.  Jupiter then collects light from both luminaries. This makes him a more powerful participant than may be obvious at first glance.  Mars has greater dignity and is in his domicile. These two in the Fifth House under Mars can be a boisterous combination.  The more difficult elements are not so easily obvious either. For example, the Moon is in the Eighth House. This is the House of death and the place of Aquarius in the Thema Mundi and she is the ruler of the Ascendant. This augurs caution, particularly in London at this time.  This a wonderful time to celebrate at home with family and loved ones.

Feat on Yalda Night

The Horoscope of the World in the Greater Bundahishn – Part I

Combat between Isfandiyar and Simurgh, from Firdawsi’s Book of Kings, circa 1330.

This is but a cursory introduction to the Greater Bundahishn which will be followed by articles with a sharper focus.  The work contains a concise narrative of the Zoroastrian creation myth, including the first conflicts between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu for the hegemony of the world. In the process, the Bundahishn recites an exhaustive compendium on the nature of things, including the properties of the elements and significant astrological material. For those interested, there is a pdf version of the work here.

The Bundahishn exists in two forms, the Greater, and the Lesser. The first is the longer Persian version and the shorter or lesser is an Indian version. Here we will be discussing the former only. The title of the work translates as ‘primal creation”  The work concerns itself with every imaginable question that might be raised about the Creation, including the origin and nature of the dark force and it’s antagonism to the light force, ultimately for a greater good. Compared to comparable works, such as Genesis, it is concise, to the point and quintessentially Persian in its optimistic point of view, even in the face of cosmic adversity.  Although the work is late, almost certainly the ninth century, it harks back to the ancient religion of Zarathustra.

As stated by the author at Encyclopedia Iranica, “it’s a major Pahlavi work of compilation, mainly a detailed cosmogony and cosmography based on the Zoroastrian scriptures but also containing a short history of the legendary Kayanids and Ērānšahr in their days. There is also a Ṣad dar-e Bondaheš, a considerably later (ca. 8th-9th/14th-15th century) work in Persian of a hundred miscellaneous chapters on the Zoroastrian religion, morals, legends, and liturgy.” (Encyclopedia Iranica)

As David Pingree has observed,  “the Sassanian horoscope is quite different from the normal Greek Thema Mundi. with which it has been compared.” (Masha’allah: some Sasanian and Syriac sources. pp. 5) The most immediately noticeable feature of the Sassanian horoscope is that it is diurnal, with Aries, the exaltation of the Sun occupying the tenth house, rather than the Sun with Leo in the second house in the diurnal Thema Mundi. Instead of the planets and luminaries being placed in their respective domiciles, they take the place of their exhalations.  However, there are some interesting anomalies. The Ninth House is occupied by the sign Pisces with Venus and Mercury, the first is exalted in Pisces, but Mercury falls in the sign of the Fishes.

The degrees assigned to the signs and planets is crucial to the overall meaning. We know that Persians translated Greek astrological material. Less often mentioned is the influence of Indian astrology.

Thema Mundi

The Ascendant is in Cancer at the same degree as Sirius, “know as Tishtar in the Khurta (Lunar constellation) Azrarag, which corresponds to the Indian naksatra, Aslesa [9th of the 27 nakshatras in Hindu astrology.] (Cancer 16;40° – 30°)” Pingree p. 5-6.

The other most striking difference is in relation to the nodes, in the exaltation but occupying the unfortunate houses. The house of the Evil Spirit is given to the North Node (Rahu) and Gemini. The S. Node (Ketu) is given to Sagittarius.

However, the exaltation of the Sun in Aries is shown at 19° which concords with the Greek assignment. The Indian degree of exaltation is 9°. The Persian sources appear to be troubled by the Sun being in a nocturnal chart of creation. This makes perfect sense considering the importance and symbolism of the Sun in indigenous Persian religion. The Lunar Mansions and Fixed Stars clearly play a role in the placement of the planets and luminaries but beyond that, we need to refer to the Persian accounts of Creation.

The Hermetic Thema Mundi is an astrological teaching tool and it is also decidedly Platonic in its expression of a perfect world of the Forms to be referred to for those who practise astrological divination. It may very well be more than that, but the Sassanian version is something quite different. It appears, after all, in a text describing every element of creation, according to ancient Persian and specifically Zoroastrianism cosmology:

“According to the spherical model assumed in Sasanian Iran under the impact of Greek and Indian astral sciences, the inferior sphere was called the spihr ī gumēzišnīg “sphere of mixture;” it comprised the twelve constellations (Pahl. 12-axtarān) which were subjected to the “mixture” with the demoniac and evil forces (planets, falling stars, comets, etc.); this sphere, of course, included the Zodiacal belt (see Ir. Bd., II, 8-9; cf. Henning, 1942, pp. 232-33, 240; Belardi, 1977, pp. 125-26) with its 12 constellations (Gignoux, 1988); here a most important battle between astral demons and divine star beings takes place, according to the Pahlavi sources. In the framework of the fight between stars and planetary demons, the Zodiacal constellation were considered as bayān, in its early meaning of “givers” of a good lot in opposition to the planets, who are “bandits” (gēg) and robbers of the human fortune.” (Encyclopedia Iranica)

The Greater Bundahishn is a compendium of ideas that are believed to pre-date Zoroastrianism, but the core is true to the cosmology of that religion. There are also some elements that would indicate knowledge relatively contemporary to its ninth century appearance. It appears to be putting preserved knowledge in one place after the horrific destruction in the wake of the Islamic invasion.

‘Buddha offers fruit to the devil’ from 14th-century Persian manuscript ‘The Jāmi

Commentary on Averrores – BBC

Abū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rushd‎ (Latinized as Averroes), lived from 14 April 1126 – 10 December 1198. He was a Medieval Andalusian polymath who wrote profusely on logic, Aristotelian and Islamic philosophy, theology, the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence,  psychology, political and Andalusian classical music theory, geography and mathematics, Averroes is of great importance in Islamic philosophy for multiple reasons. He argued for the reconciliation of reason with revealed religion, pointing out passages from the Qu’ran to support his position. He was a powerful proponent of Astrology for the same reasons. He was accused of shirk or polytheism, for referring to the planets, and most particularly Venus, as if they were divine. He was exiled but eventually embraced back into court in Morroco.

Liber Locis Stellarum Fixarum – Abd al-Rahmān al-Sūfi (964)

عبدالرحمن صوفی’ or Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi was born December 7, 903 in the Persian city of Rey. He was also also known as Abd al-Rahman Abu al-Husayn, ‘Abdul Rahman Sufi, ‘Abdurrahman Sufi and known in the west as Azophi. A Persian Astronomer, Al-Sufi published his celebrated Book of Fixed Stars in 964, using both text and images. It was written in Arabic, rather than Farsi and was an attempt to combine elements of Claudius Ptolemy’s work and indigenous Arabian compositions or Anwa

He is credited with a large number fo discoveries, including what we now call the Magellanic Cloud, not visible from Persia, but from Yemen. It’s clear that he travelled a great deal. Astronomers have honored him by naming a crater and a very small planet after him, but for most of the world he is obscure.

This short piece is to bring attention to his contributions in the history of Astronomy and Astrology. For each constellation he painted two images, one from the outside of a celestial globe, and the other from the inside. He listed the position, colour and magnitude of the star. I also appreciate his fine and charming aesthetic as a visual artist.

The accompanying music is by Le Trio Joubran, ‘Masâr’, dall’album ‘Majâz’