The longest night of the year has begun up here in the northern half of the world. Today is the Winter Solstice, celebrated in pagan tradition as Yule, the Festival of Light. The Sun moved into Capricorn this morning at 5:45, marking the start of the winter season. Bitter cold winds, ice, and snow loom ahead for many of us, and it takes a stoic thick skin to brace for the impending battle with nature. That, in a nutshell, describes the backbone of the earth sign Capricorn– a gritty determination to do what we have to, regardless of how hard it may be.
The Solstice is also celebrated with a nod to Capricorn resiliency– the triumph of the days getting longer, symbolized in many religions as the birth of a deity. We celebrate faith in humanity at this time of year, and good will to all, as we dive into winter with merrymaking and overeating.
Mercury stationed retrograde in Capricorn this past Monday, Dec. 19, just before reaching a conjunction with Pluto. It will backtrack until Jan. 8, forcing us to slow down our pace during the holidays. Because the planet of communication relates to how our words are perceived, it’s wise to take extra times choosing what we say. Traffic and delays are often more prevalent during a retrograde cycle, or at least seem to be more of a bother. Patience is needed during this high volume phase of humans shopping and gathering.
Our first New Moon of the winter is Thursday, Dec. 29 at 1:53 a.m. The Sun and Moon form a conjunction in Capricorn, a moment symbolic of laying a foundation for the new year ahead. This theme echoes the meaning of the Solstice: the winter is an ancient time of purification, refinement, and renewal. The Capricorn New Moon is a powerful and dedicated starting point to build from.
January 2017 begins with leftover visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads. Despite the rational presence of the Sun and Mercury in Capricorn, we have a Mars/Neptune conjunction in Pisces. We tend to be more subjective at this time, allowing our feelings to dictate. And with Venus moving into Pisces on Jan. 3, the emotional influence keeps rising. It’s important to stay grounded and not get carried away with wishes and illusions about others. The strong Pisces vibe means that we can misjudge limits or boundaries of what other people are capable of, and will need to employ some of the mental competence and self-reliance of earthy Capricorn to deal with reality. Be careful and deliberate making decisions, especially as Mercury slows down and begins moving direct again Jan. 8. Things are muddled and colored by perception.
The first Full Moon of 2017 occurs at 6:34 a.m. on Jan. 12, forming a Grand Cross between the Moon in Cancer, Sun in Capricorn, Jupiter in Libra, and Uranus in Aries. Look for volatile sensitivity around this time, as potentially raw wounds feel exposed. The struggle is how to remain connected while emotionally safe. Venus will also form a conjunction with Neptune in Pisces, hopefully allowing us to help each other out in times of stress. Escaping into self-indulgence is a typical strategy, but numbing ourselves won’t help moving forward from of the same old drama.
There’s a tension between secrecy and intimacy in this lunation, one that highlights a larger theme of the winter months– the Jupiter/Uranus opposition. These planets can help us broaden our comfort zone if we engage with them, but there’s also a danger of watching the game rather than getting into it ourselves. Jupiter in Libra urges us to improve our sense of worth through relationships in our lives. The shadow side of this transit is putting surface-level harmony over authentic honesty and trust. Jupiter is slowing down to station retrograde in February, and will remain at 23 degrees Libra for over two weeks. We can use this phase as a reflection on what matters to us, particularly in our relationships and activities– the people and things we choose to spend time and energy on. Jupiter always asks us where we’re taking ourselves for granted, and where we’ve grown too far for our current situation.
The Sun shifts into Aquarius on Jan. 19, followed by the Aquarius New Moon on Jan. 27 at 7:07 p.m. Openness to change finds support in this freedom-oriented sign. This is a good time to honor personal choice and let everyone have a bit of space. Mars is moving into fiery Aries on Jan. 28, and Mercury finally reaches Pluto in Capricorn, where it began its retrograde cycle. There’s an unapologetic and headstrong quality to this, which may put some callous words on the table. It’s important to let other people have their opinions, while remaining true to our own convictions. At its best, Aquarius is a diplomatic and collaborative energy that helps us live and let live.