“Solstice” and “equinox” are fine old words with a rolling, Latinate solemnity to them, but to my ear they have a rather clinical sound. Wishing someone a happy Equinox always sounds a little stilted to me. When I'm snugged up in bed with another guy, we're probably not going to talk about “penises.” Chances are, if we're talking, we'll use something a little more intimate instead.
A while back I sat down with my friend Ro (“Granny”) NicBourne to see what we could come up with. We pulled my old grad school Anglo-Saxon dictionary off the shelf and gave it a look-see.
We need not feel ashamed of flirting with the zodiac. The zodiac is well worth flirting with.~D.H. Lawrence
I find that a lot of people shy away from astrology because they believe it is based on incorrect astronomy, and so cannot possibly give accurate information. Perhaps they’ve seen a video by Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson taking about how the constellations don’t line up with the signs anymore, and that pesky “extra” constellation (or two). Unfortunately, both Nye and Tyson are clearly ignorant about astrology — a great deal more ignorant than most astrologers are about astronomy. We are not only fully aware of the positions of the constellations, the precession of the equinoxes and the fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun (OK, I’ll try to tone back the sarcasm) but astrology is divided into two major branches based on how we deal with the constellations (groupings of stars) and the precession of the equinoxes.
I’m not going to address the different types of sidereal astrology, of which Vedic astrology is one. Sidereal astrology carefully makes allowances for the precession of the equinoxes, because it works with the positions of the signs relative to the constellations. I’m going to explain the basis of Western astrology, a tropical astrology, which determines the position of the signs relative to the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun around the Earth. I find that a number of astrology students worry about learning the “technical” side, but while the math of astrology can get complex, the basic astronomy really isn’t very difficult to understand, and understanding it will give you considerably more insight into the craft than you could possibly have without it. So I encourage you to take a deep breath and jump into the learning — I’ll make this as easy as possible. Ready? OK, let’s start.
"Oh What a Beautiful Solstice, Oh What a Beautiful Day…"
These are the strains I remember waking to coming from an enthusiastic fellow Pagan Spirit Gathering camper some years back, on the day of the summer solstice. It stuck with me, and I have very fond memories of the experience. The gathering has gotten quite large and sadly, I have not been able to return– but the spirit of PSG stays with me. Drawing on some of that energy and a few of my own Litha gatherings since, here is my idea of the perfect Midsummer camping trip, on a much smaller scale.
On the Winding Path, I have a couple of different rituals that are done around the time of Yule, besides the main one, because this is such an important time of year. Although I live in a climate where it’s unusually mild for this time of year this time around, there have been years of great hardship from harsh weather here. It is in the balance between all of those cold and mild winters that I place my mind when thinking of the Winter Solstice because it represents the breaking of the grip of winter upon the land. In northern climates, this was more true because they hardly if ever saw the sun around this time. There are symbols from the times of our ancestors which have been carried through to today, even by the usurpers of our traditions, like the use of evergreens, or celebrating for twelve days. On the Winding Path, we don’t celebrate for twelve days, but evergreens do play an important role in ritual and just a decoration because it reminds us and signals to us the promise of the return of spring.