Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Cold Beginning

It’s a new year, and my fingers are rusty on this keyboard after the holidays.  It’s very cold outside.  I went outside to brush away the snow, so that it won’t freeze on the walkways, and then more snow fell, so then I had to do it again.   I’ve got a snowblind variety of déjà vu.

Why does our Gregorian calendar begin in winter?  Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to begin new years with the spring equinox?  Maybe then we would feel more optimistic about new beginnings.  It’s hard to be cheerful when icicles are dripping off your nose. 

In our calendar, the new year always appears as a cold dunking into reality, since the year begins with the sun in Capricorn.  And 2018 is an extra-Capricornian year, with Saturn and Pluto lingering in this sign.  By the time we get to the new moon at mid-January, there will be six planets in Capricorn. 

Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, and so this is a very Saturnine year.  Saturn is all about scarcity and deprivation, about contraction and resistance, and so these will be the motifs of the coming year.  The Resistance that we saw in 2017 was still fairly robust, but as resources get tighter, as the economic flow slows, we’ll see a different kind of Resistance in 2018.  It will be leaner and meaner, more entrenched, more efficient.   

As we stand poised at the edge of this Saturnine year, let’s look more closely at Saturn.  Of all the planets used in astrology, Saturn is most often interpreted as bad luck or bad news.  I’ve been studying my own transiting aspects for forty years, and I’ve had my share of bad Saturn trips.  Pain, anger, paralysis, depression, disillusionment, and despair -  these are all associated with hard Saturn aspects. 

So Saturn is connected to suffering.  And suffering is something that all humans endure, an intrinsic part of our path as physical beings.  We are tied to this wheel from the moment of our births.  We’re constrained by time and space, by the needs of our bodies, by the webs of responsibility we inherit.  Once we are here, there’s no second-guessing – and Mother Nature plays her part here, giving us the same instinct to live as every other creature.

Saturn is about form.  Having achieved form as living beings, what do we do now?  What forms are essential, and will maintain this life?  What forms make us safer, and ward away danger?  Saturn builds and maintains structures – fences, walls, turrets, towers.  These reflect our need to be placed somewhere;  they symbolize our physical existence here, in our bodies and on our planet. 

And if we were snails, we would be happy with our strong Saturnine structures, and never feel constrained by them.  But we are not often content to live enclosed, secure lives.  And so Saturn is perceived as painful – restricting, binding, freezing, calcifying.  If we look in our pasts, we can see ourselves building these structures.  When did they become our jails? 

To protect the forms we build, we enshrine them, one way or another.  They become further walled by truisms, rules, traditions, religion, or law.  And those of us who are most invested in them will guard them most zealously.  This makes perfect sense, remembering that every form symbolizes our bodies.  If this seems too abstract, think of how often in human history the laws have fallen, and the streets filled with blood.

But there is no mercy in these walls.  There is no poetry.  And there is so much fear built into each stone. 

In this Saturnine year, more stripped-down forms will predominate.  What is it that promotes survival?  It’s clear that there’s no security in gilded palaces full of foppish kings and bitter gossiping couriers.  A great deal of trickery will not survive Saturn’s scythe.  This year is like a winter storm, reducing everything to its basic principles. 

We will be looking back, far back - way beyond the years that are celebrated by racists and red-hatters.  We need to remember how the crones did it, in the dawn of time. How did they practice right livelihood?  How did they bring the sacred into their daily lives?  What did they do with their fear?

There’s a humbling in this, and it will come to all of us.  Saturn is the Teacher, and so we all need to learn how to learn.  This means opening our minds.  And perhaps we can echo that in our structures, giving them more light and air, more choices and possibilities.