The Longest Night
Photograph by Felix Thiollier
As we approach the much lauded Jupiter - Saturn conjunction in Aquarius, beginning a new cycle of conjunctions in air signs, we find ourselves once more perched upon a hedge between worlds. This conjunction will occur as the Sun enters the point of Winter Solstice found at 0 degrees Capricorn on the Tropical Zodiac for the Northern Hemisphere. Solstice and Equinoctial points have long been considered liminal zones marking the changing of the seasons as well as important religious festivals. Jupiter and Saturn conjoining at this time is not to be taken lightly, as it signals both the depth of a cycle reached as well as the pregnant possibility of new heights to come.
Yet what of the Moon and her time scales? The Winter Solstice marks the Sun's exit from the 21st Mansion, Al Balda (The City, The Empty Place), into the 22nd Mansion, Sa'ad al Dabi (The Luck or Fortune of the Slaughterers). Leaving the sidereal zodiac aside for the time being, the tropical lunar mansions somewhat align with the symbols previously mentioned. Ibn Arabi calls Al Balda 'The Death Giver,' reasserting a mark of termination in this part of the sky. The Arabic letter associated with this Mansion is ش (sheen). This letter is the shushing motion of initiating silence, a cosmic inferno engulfing the various layers of dross. On the other side of this starry crematory we encounter the immutable philosopher's stone, a mercurial mansion, ever alchemized, the resplendent jewel. The twenty second mansion is thought to be of 'minerals, and metals' according to Ibn Arabi. The most mysterious Nakshatra in the Vedic lunar zodiac, Abhijat - birthplace of Krishna -, residing in the liminal space between. Associated with both the constellation of the Lyre as well as Vega, here we see connections with the falling eagle and underworld journeying figures like Orpheus; the radiant stone, the jewel in Lucifer's crown, the key to the realm of the immortals. Just as Vega was once a pole star, we see this part of the sky as being inhabited by fallen angels who seek to return to their former axial position. Concretized in matter spirit has forgotten the heights to which it had once soared. Now, it waits to be charmed as the serpent from the basket; glory contained only to be reinvigorated by a long lost charm.
Al Balda is seen as a Janus faced mansion, that is two faced. Our double bodied water-goat is not dissimilar, as one face looks back upon an archaic past found dwelling in the oceanic depths, and the other, with an ambitious gaze towards the mountains of the ensuing generations. The treasures which await in the following mansions ask us to collapse these faces into a circular gaze. As the Headless God may teach us, 'to see through the feet.' Similarly, the serpent's tongue begs the same question, for if we come upon it without preparation we may easily fall prey to its venom lubricated kiss; perhaps in spite of so many Edenic whisperings and songs. The fact is that this Winter Solstice has indeed poised us upon the greatest of two headed opportunities. From our present vantage point both directions seem to lead nowhere. In a demonic reversal of the آیة النور (Surah 24, Light, Holy Quran), our two heads are mired in 'darkness upon darkness;' fitting for the winter solstice as the point of Longest Night.
Heightened solar drama notwithstanding we are still speaking of a solstice point. Though the presence of the Sun moving through lunar pathways is not entirely incidental we would be remiss in not discussing the movement of the Moon at this critical junction. So, as these words are being spoken on the thirteenth of December, we are reminded of the Christian Martyr Lucia and her vision set upon the disc. Luna is nearing conjunction with the Sun, a blinding of her light, the removal of the physical eye. The temporary death induced by a novel Moon is one more reminder of a state of darkness in this process of necessity. Darkness upon darkness, and yet, an opportunity for renewed vision. Lucia, or Light itself, is not limited to the niches of our skull; her eyes upon the plate as if an offering to be consumed by those who seek a greater vision.
The conjunction at hand will trigger a solar eclipse on December 14th as the Moon conjoins the Sun on the lunar southern node, or the tail of the dragon. Once more, we see a luminary obscured in darkness as the solar eye becomes consumed and inevitably digested by the Great Dragon. Consistent with the themes of the Winter Solstice we see our brightened dreams reduced to a kind of excrement. Creative / Destruction, on and on.. as the Sun's fire is reduced to ash, squeezed through the reptilian gullet to emerge as carbon for our future fires. Such is the valuable material for our survival through winters to come.
Our two luminaries, Sun and Moon, spectacles of sky, ever so close and both approaching darkness. As the Sun reaches Longest Night the Moon has already sensed a glimmering as she begins to wax. Curiously enough, her movement through the Lunar Mansions will be reflecting the Sun's journey in a variety of ways. Having just passed through Mansion 26 & 27, the more official crematory funeral cot of the sky, Luna has been reduced to ash as her spirit awaits rebirth. On the Winter Solstice proper the Moon will move between the final mansion and begin anew just beyond the 0 degree of Aries into Mansion number 1. The 28th Mansion, Al Risa or Batn al Hut, is the final swim of countless spermatozoon towards the sheltered rest within the great cosmic egg. Here we have Jonah swallowed by the whale, taken to the sea, uncertain of his return. Mirroring a water vessel, the curved lips of the fish will speak prophecy from the interior. The coming of a new being. A rebirth of sorts. As the Moon moves into the 1st Mansion, Al Sharatain, on the other side of the solstice, we are reminded of the Pen, Al Qalam, which explicates the axial forms upon the horizon. Marking hieroglyphics from unknown worlds, the Moon has brought something of the darkness into the growing light. A contrast, if you will, so we may decipher these signs of things to come with discernible shapes and patterns.
|'Isle of the Dead' (detail) after Arnold Bocklin - Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach|