Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of November 30th, - December 6th, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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  On the 22nd of November this year, the Sun entered the sign Sagittarius.
Yule log

Yule log

It will remain in this sign until the Sun slows down and stops for one of its two annual rests with the Winter Solstice on the 22nd of December.

  Sagittarius is a mutable fire sign ruled by the planet Jupiter. It is a sign of optimism, bounty and spiritual support, and yet, it is a time when the power of the Sun is waning, with darkness building into its longest nights of the year on the Winter Solstice. As a result, Sagittarius is a time of the festival of the lights, when candles are traditionally lit in the late afternoon twilight, remembering back to a time not so long ago before we learned to flick on electrical switches to do the same.

  Sag is a fire sign in a time of darkness. Candles allow us to not only see in the dark, it was once thought that this ritual helped to 'get the Sun through' these difficult times, encouraging it to 'make it' to the Winter Solstice and its ultimate test. Judaism remembers the miracle of a small amount of oil being stretched to last for an extended period of time. Christianity's Advent recalls the weeks leading into Christmas with a new candle being lit each Sunday. We culminate the season as the Sun, having rested at the same degree of latitude for three days, begins to climb in the sky once again on the morning of December 25th. The night before Christmas, when the Sun has been at its lowest latitude for the longest period of time, High Mass celebrates a candlelight service which culminates at midnight, during the darkest hours of the night. In the Celtic tradition, the New Yule log is lit for the year on the Winter Solstice as the wheel turns for another year. In different ways, each of these traditions are remembering the light and helping to rekindle its return.

Candlelight Mass

Christmas Eve Mass

  While the focus for this season may be the soft, flickering light of a candle, it is also a time of great spirituality. Since Sagittarius is a sign of bounty, the spirit of giving and abundance opens with Thanksgiving, a time when tradition helps us to pack on the pounds in a insulation of fat to help keep us warm through the winter and to dip into the stores of our autumn harvest and consume some of them before they go bad. Sag is ruled by Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. It's nature can be benevolent, giving and expansive. This season of the 'Jolly Old Elf' with a nose like a cherry and whose belly shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly wonderfully captures the essence of the season. Some might think Santa has had a little too much to drink with that bright nose, but it's all part of the abundance of the season. Shop 'til you drop. On darkened street corners and outside stores Santas vie with the Salvation Army for change and donations, seeking to share with those who may be less fortunate during these cold, dark times.

  Everywhere we look at this time of the year, cultures have sought to capture the essence of this season. The mutable fire sign of Sag is not as strong as the fixed fire sign of Leo (at the height and power of the summer sun in August), nor as enthusiastic as the cardinal fire sign of Aries (when light triumphs over darkness for the first time since winter). It is a light which must be protected from the wind and nourished by the season, as the soft, inner light of our being seeks to remind us of our true divinity.

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