Athena's Web Weekly Column
Week of Dec 9th - Dec 15th, 2005
Time, time, time, see what's become of me;
Hazy Shade of Winter -Simon & Garfunkel
We stand here in December contemplating time. According to the Celts, the wheel of life takes another turn as the Yule Log is rolled out to burn all year in the hearth. The log is part of the tree of life around which Creation turns. The turning of this wheel is time turning on its axis. According to the Romans, Father Time is Saturn. As ruler of Capricorn, this planet (and god) is linked to the month following the Solstice. Cronos, (Saturn's Greek persona) was the child of Uranos and Gaia. Time has always been the child of Heaven and Earth.
When Julius Ceasar cut the Moon out of the calendar, he was getting rid of political corruption. Priests were in the pockets of the politicians. If paid enough, they provided politicians with longer years to be in power. Originally, the New Moon was used to designate the beginnings of each month; but this system must be monitored. Every third year an extra month (13) needed to be inserted so that the solar and lunar cycles might stay in synch with each other. This extra month had been inappropriately applied so often that the calendar was in rough shape and Caesar simply dealt with it. No more priests to regulate the calendar, no more erroneous calendars, no more lunar link to time, together with all its astrological (agricultural) advantages.
The problem with the Moon is that she vacillates considerably in her heavenly orbit. The lunar extremes run through a cycle of 18.6 years. In order to properly graft this cycle on top of the solar cycle would need a team of observers who would carefully monitor the motions of the Moon over an extended period of time. One of the reasons for switching to solely the Sun was because its mathematical motion (when compared to that of the Moon) was relatively uniform, regular and predictable. Caesar's basic theory was sound, but had to be modified slightly with an additional correction implemented under Pope Gregory centuries later.
In spite of the obvious differences between the Solar and Lunar cycles, the Sun does demonstrate some peculiarities of its own.
Around the Equinoxes, the Sun exhibits its fastest apparent motion, shooting up from the eastern horizon, traversing across the sky, or plummeting into the waters of the west at sharp angles. However, as the Sun approaches the Solstices, it slows its motion, finally coming to a halt in latitude. The Latin term 'solstice' means 'The Sun' (Sol) 'stopped' or 'stationary' (sistere). This heavenly slowing was reflected in the Mediterranean, which exhibited a period of calm for the week around the Winter Solstice known as the Halcyon days. It was a time of serenity and peace. According to the myth while (H)Alcyon brooded, the sea was held unusually calm to protect her and her offspring.
At the Solstice, the Earth pauses to take a breath as the Sun slows to reverse his motion. What we see is a reflection of this dance wherein both Earth and Sun pirouette together, whose essence is a three day period during which the Sun holds still in the sky, and there is a peace that can be sensed on the land.
As the stillness of darkness honors these long hours we prepare for birth on this 'Silent Night, Holy Night'.