Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of December 19th - December 25th,  2003

The Cornerstones of Time

Columns Archive

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Kingfisher

Kingfisher

  There are many rituals which surround the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. The two week period which abuts the Solstice were known as the Halcyon Days. This 'corner' of the year was said to be a time of tranquility and happiness. The name is of Greek origin; as a maritime culture, they noticed while the halcyon bird (Kingfisher) was breeding, the sea was generally calm and could be navigated in perfect security by sailors. The name is derived from two words which translate as 'the sea' and 'to conceive.' According to poetic fiction the halcyon bird was supposed to hatch her eggs on a floating nest, in the midst of the waters.

The Sun at different times of the year

The Sun at different times of the year

  From the Summer to the Winter Solstice, the days have grown shorter in length. This turning point in the year was long ago noted and honored. Some felt the Sun's entry into Capricorn, symbolized by a mountain goat, was representative of a climbing animal who began to reascend to its summer strength. It will continue to climb until it reaches its greatest height at the Summer Solstice.

  Saturn was considered to be the god of agriculture by the Romans, and as such, was thought to deal with fertility. In its most elementary components, this is true; but Saturn is Time and is personified as such, consuming his own children because Time consumes all it brings into Creation. 'From dust ye were made and to dust ye shall return.' Same sentiment, different translations.

Winter

Winter Coordinates

  So if Saturn is Father Time, then 'Time' rules agriculture. While you may sow your seeds in the spring and reap your harvest in the fall, it is the larger umbrella of 'Time' which monitors both the sowing and the reaping, and all the other seasons and activities dealing with agriculture as well. There is a time to every season under heaven. Collectively, the entire agricultural year was monitored and run by time. In the early Roman calendar, there were only ten months to the year, with the winter months blocked together and uncalibrated as the 'time' of year when the Earth rested. There was no need to 'mark time' while agriculture slept. Saturn was said to have brought agriculture to Italy as an early king when people began to increasingly identify the wheelings of the stars with the appropriate agricultural endeavor. Saturn's partner, Ops, was considered to be the Mother Earth, the goddess of plenty. Successfully coupled, Time and the Earth provided the cornucopia of food and abundance which make for the good things of life. Forgetting to 'honor' either of these gods could have dire consequences for the village concerned.

Winter Bridge

Bridge to Winter

  In mid-December, young men would celebrate a 'coming of age' ritual known as Dies Juvenalis, once again a component of the 'Time Lord'. Time was also honored by the Saturnalia running from December 17th until the 23rd. In contemporary terms, Saturn is thought to be the Lord of Karma. He is the power of the Golden Rule. 'Do Unto Others', because what you do comes back to you. 'Mud washes back to its own shores'; or perhaps in a more agricultural vein, 'As ye sow, so shall ye reap.' Being well aware of this sentiment, and as a part of honoring the themes of Saturn, there was a day when masters and servants reversed roles, helping to remind us that how we treat others, regardless of our station in life, may one day change.

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