I’m going to start this month’s column with a bold statement: We live during a magnificent but temporary portal of time and space which invites us to participate in nothing less than the evolution of humankind and the earth itself. Yet, as noted by author John Major Jenkins,
Like the flock of sheep who fail to leave the pen even when the gate is left open, the modern world has rendered human beings unconscious enough that even when the ultimate spiritual goal of human life is revealed for all to see, yet it goes ignored. [i]
This message of our unfolding future is clearly written if one knows where to look and how to read the missive. Where? In the sky, for starters: That scroll upon which humans have conveyed their knowledge and wisdom to future generations over the centuries and around the globe. The current message is available to us not only through lore but also through direct experience. I cannot help but feel that we astrologers are the guardians of the knowledge of the sky, and if anyone should able to see this handwriting on the celestial wall, and perhaps more importantly, to correctly interpret it, we are the ones. In fact, understanding this evolutionary message and assisting in its fulfillment may be the very reason for our current incarnation.
How is it possible, then, that such an important stellar announcement escapes our attention? In order to answer this question, we’ll have to turn out the lights and stay up past our bedtime. Darkness, along with an intimate knowledge of the night sky, has been part of human experience since time out of mind; our very life depended upon it. No more! Now, thanks to light pollution and cultural demands, we are more disconnected from the sky than ever before. Fortunately, our ancestors left road maps for us, by way of architecture, ceremony and myth.
The deliciously dense 1969 book Hamlet’s Mill [ii] by Hertha Von Dechend and Giorgio De Santillana boils down to this premise: All myth is sky-based, with 4 or 5 “proto-myths” of which there are infinite variations. As “Paleolithic Astrologer” Wendy Ashley notes:
Mythic stories are not merely tales….nor astrological indicators….nor fables with a moral at the end…They were, and still are, transmission instructions. They are the manual that teaches how to live in order and harmony with all life, with ourselves, and with the Divine. [iii]
If all myths are indeed founded in the sky, including the Mayan myth upon which their calendar is based and from which our current “end of an age” prophecy is derived, then it’s worth our while to learn the basics of our way around the upper firmament. To begin with, let’s review a couple of important elements of celestial mechanics by employing a very mundane object: a hula hoop.
The first hula hoop is attached to the constellations, or individual star patterns. Not all of them, of course; just the 12 that have the same names as our zodiac signs. The constellations are not the signs, but they have the same names, and that can be confusing. To solve this problem, Rudolph Steiner came up with a great idea over a century ago: call the constellations by their “common” names; the Ram for Aries, the Bull for Taurus, the Twins for Gemini, etc. I love this concept and adopted it right away. If only everyone else would follow suit we’d soon eliminate any confusion between the stars and the zodiac signs. But, I digress! Take a look at the hoop, and see how the constellations form a nice circle, based on the hoop. This will be our Constellation Hoop.
Astrologers will notice that this hoop is also divided into 30-degree segments or signs. This is the sidereal zodiac; the one used in India and other eastern forms of astrology. In this zodiac, the signs and constellations do actually align, more or less. However, there is a very major difference between the sidereal zodiac and the tropical zodiac we use in the west: the sidereal zodiac is not seasonal.
The next hoop hooks up to the signs we all know and love: Aries through Pisces. You’ll notice that each quarter of the hoop aligns with one quarter of the zodiac: one season, to be precise. The divisions on this Zodiac Hoop, then, represent the solstices and equinoxes as the “turning points” of our zodiac, separating the seasons and regularly hitting the restart button of life on earth. It is precisely this dependable alignment with the seasons that gives our tropical zodiac its validity, so don’t let anyone tell you that your zodiac is wrong, that is has thirteen signs, that it doesn’t align with the constellations or that it doesn’t make sense; none of which is true. But, I digress!
These two hoops actually sit one on top of the other, so that if you were looking at them straight on, they would appear as one (which in fact, technically, the are! But for the sake of this exercise, we shall separate them). The important thing to realize is this: The signs are separate from the constellations, and furthermore, signs can and do move independently of the constellations in a slow process called precession.
We have one last hoop to add to the picture, and it represents the Milky Way.
We explored this fascinating and wondrous part of the sky last month, and it provides the final piece to the jigsaw puzzle we are solving. That’s because the Milky Way Hoop intersects with the constellation hoop in such a way as to form an unchanging framework in the sky; an architecture, if you will, that is fixed and permanent and not affected by precession.
Take a look.
Notice how the wide part of the Milky Way joins the constellations at the Scorpion/Archer configuration on one side, and the narrow side intersects the Bull/Twins figures on the other side. You’ll remember that these areas also mark the Galactic Center and the Galactic Edge, as we explored last month.
Now, it turns out that this structure or framework provides a wonderful way to measure precession, which is simply the slow clockwise rotation of the tropical zodiac, or signs, in relation to the constellations.
It takes almost 26,000 years for the circuit to complete. Although incredibly slow-moving, the process of precession creates several important and clearly visible effects on the sky which were carefully monitored by the ancients. In many cultures, this process—and the changes it created—has been described in detail through mythology.
There are several ways to measure this slow processional motion, a gradual change which created much upheaval in the ancient world. The usual way is to observe equinox and solstice points as they change their relationship with the constellations over time. This system creates the Great Ages we’ve all heard about: the Age of Taurus, Aries, Pisces, etc. We are now lurking on the cusp of the Age of Aquarius—although, if we use Steiner’s naming system, we’re leaving the Age of the Fishes and entering the Age of the Water Bearer, which has a much nicer ring to my ear, anyway!
Another visible and measureable effect of precession involves the role of the North Star. This unique star marks the earth’s North Pole, and thus remains stationary while all other stars revolve around it. It was the tree, post or spindle that connected heaven to earth and it held an incredibly important mythological and spiritual significance. Any change to the North Star would mean that the earth was falling off its axis; a cosmic catastrophe!
About 7 or 8 different stars claim this designation over the course of the precessional cycle, one after the other, creating a giant invisible circle in the northern sky (a similar phenomenon occurs in the southern hemisphere, too), generating much mythology and the subject matter for the aforementioned Hamlet’s Mill.
A third way to measure precession is by using the Milky Way framework shown earlier in this article. Every 6400 years or so, an equinox or solstice point will precess over one of these important intersections of the constellations and the Milky Way. This not only provides an excellent way to monitor precession but also indicates periods when the earth is positioned to receive extra energy from our galaxy. Remember that the Galactic Center, also known as the Dark Rift, is the birthplace of our galaxy and still a continually active matrix of creation. If you have any doubt of the vast power emanating from the center of the Milky Way, take a look at this.
We are in one of these rare phases RIGHT NOW when the Winter Solstice Sun aligns with the Galactic Center. You can check this for yourself by using a handy “Precessional Dial,” a tool I put together to help myself understand the mechanics of precession (click here to download the “Processional Dial tool as a PDF).
It is this time of which the Mayans spoke, when the Solstice Sun God would align with and emerge from the Cosmic Mother in the ultimate act of creation, and humanity would be born anew. Once every 26,000 years, the Sun King is reborn from the cosmic womb! And that time is NOW! This is the temporary, visible portal of time and space when our Solar Father unites with the Cosmic Mother in an extraordinary creative venture. It’s difficult to overestimate its importance.
This won’t happen overnight. The disc of the Sun is about ½ degree. The rate of precession is 1 degree every 72 years (360 degrees X 72 years = 25,920 years), so it takes about 35 years for the disc of the Sun to precess over a given point—and the Galactic Center is hardly a single point, although 27 degrees of Sagittarius, tropical, is the central area of the entire zone.
The process began in the mid-late 1990’s, and reaches its maximum in 2012. The exact date is open to debate. Most experts agree it occurs late this year. However, since the entire process takes about 30-35 years, does the exact date really matter? It cannot be reduced to one day! This is a years-long process which reaches its maximum in 2012. It has been building for some time and it is happening NOW! After 2012 the portal will slowly begin to close and the opportunity will pass.
What, then, is the Galactic Embrace? You may remember reading in last month’s column about the curious motion of the Milky Way as it circles through our night sky. At times it arches overhead but at other times, it hugs the horizon—a galactic embrace! What’s happening now, during our lifetimes, is that at the Winter Solstice, a special turning-point of the year, the Sun rises in the arms of this Galactic Embrace.
In a classic case of “as above, so below,” it is surely this image which captured the imaginations of the peoples who constructed one of the most remarkable and amazing neolithic sky temples in the world: Ireland’s Newgrange. It is “a large mound, built of alternating layers of earth and stones, with grass growing on top and a reconstructed facade of flattish white quartz stones studded at intervals with large rounded cobbles covering part of the circumference.” [iv]
At the winter solstice, the rising sun’s rays pierce a small opening in this building and penetrate sixty feet into the mound onto a spiral etched into a wall deep inside the structure, set there by design to receive it. The monument is defined by the unique short white supporting wall that surrounds it; surely in a temple designed to capture the Winter Solstice sun this curious exterior feature is no coincidence! The image evokes an association and resonance with the Mayan myth of the Solstice Sun God rising the arms of the Cosmic Mother; the very act is simulated and activated by the Winter Solstice Sun at Newgrange.
At the Winter Solstice, the Sun enters the sign Capricorn; signified in the Northern Hemisphere by the longest night and shortest day of the year. This is the most dense and materialistic of all the signs, known as the Master of the Earthly Plane. It represents the lowest descent of spirit into matter, not in a negative way, but as part of the natural cycle. We can see evidence of this universal density all around us by way of environmental and economic disasters and hardships, mass species extinction, increased illness, etc. This energy requires us to focus on the material plane. However, Capricorn also holds within it the seeds of rebirth and the return of the light, which is why the winter season is welcomed with Festivals of Light all over the world. It is this union of the dense with the sublime which initiates the spiral toward increasing spirituality and away from matter.
How remarkable, then, that you are alive in the very time of which the ancients foretold! Does it not cause your blood to thrill? What does it all mean? My current understanding is this: We are currently at a crucial portal of time and space. Earth is being flooded with intense pulses of galactic energy, at a time when we are more receptive. This enables a giant evolutionary leap, possibly for the entire planet. A shift in consciousness is occurring, one that changes the focus from global to universal.
We have navigated many such transitions before, according to the Veda masters. The World will not end, humans will survive, and life will go on. Meanwhile, we have an unparalleled, limited-time opportunity to recognize and consciously participate with the Galactic Alignment. If ever there was a time to think of the seventh generation and beyond, it is now. That’s why it’s so essential to plant good seeds during this incredible moment of fertility and creation. They will not come to fruition during your lifetime, or during your children’s, or even your grandchildren’s lifetimes. But ripen they will, making flower, fruit and seed in a never-ending energetic process that has earthly consequences.
Therefore make your intentions with the highest possible purpose in your mind and heart. Be mindful of your thoughts and words: every one is a seed. What are you sowing? You are important, and what you do matters.
Remember that you are at an exceptional hour in a unique epoch, that you have this great happiness, this invaluable privilege, of being present at the birth of a new world. ~The Mother, Sri Aurobindo Ashram
[i] John Major Jenkins, Galactic Alignment: The Transformation of Consciousness According to Mayan, Egyptian and Vedic Traditions, 2002, Bear and Co, Rochester, Vermont, p. 175.
[ii] Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha Von Dechend, Hamlet’s Mill, 1969, Nonpareil Books, Boston.
[iii] Wendy Ashley, “The Dragon and the Bear, the Tao of the Circumpolar Stars” published in NCGR Journal, Autumn 2001, p. 9.