Astrologically, the Winter Solstice is when the Sun moves into Capricorn as well as marking the longest night and the seed point of the return of the light. This year the Solstice will be especially powerful, with a Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at 0° of Aquarius on the same day. This conjunction happens every twenty years and always marks a shift in society, a shift which is likely to be heightened this time as this is the first Great Conjunction in an air sign after many decades of conjunction in earth signs. Simply put, this means that the Solstice this year marks the potential seed point of a whole new era, a shift away from materialism, money and the physical towards more innovative ways not just of thinking but also of organising society and understanding ourselves.
Saturn is also the ruler of Capricorn so carries special power at this time of year. Of course, we all know him as Old Father Time but the stark and sometimes limiting energy of Saturn is also carried by the goddesses of winter, the Crone goddesses who remind us of the wisdom and power of maturity. For me, Saturn is often the Old Bone Mother, who strips us bare of masks and exposes our deepest self. Capricorn energy is all about structures and Saturn forces us to examine our inner and outer structures. If they are not strong enough, or if they are too strong and have become calcified, they are torn down, broken apart. And so we learn our lesson, and so we build new and more flexible structures.
In Scotland, the goddess of winter is the Cailleach, who forms the land by dropping rocks from her creel as she strides across the mountains. The mountain is a powerful symbol for Capricorn energy, the slow steady ascent to a goal which may often seem out of reach. Capricorn is known as one of the most ambitious signs and also the most likely to succeed, for Capricorn folk know the value of hard work and are willing to take the time they need to get where they want to go. Capricorn is the sign of cardinal earth, taking the initiative to bring the dreams and visions of Sagittarius, the preceding sign, into manifestation This is the spark of light which is reborn at the Winter Solstice, the active principle which carries our energy out into the world.
Nature slows down in winter, retreating back into the earth to gather and replenish her strength. But she too carries the initiating earth energy of Capricorn, for the new spring buds are already on the trees and deep in the earth, early bulbs are sending out their first shoots. Deepening our roots at this time of year will sustain us, just as it does the nature around us, until the days lengthen and the light returns. Since Samhain, we have been seeking out the seeds of the next cycle in the fertile dark. The spark of energy as the sun is reborn at the Solstice is the beginning of the return of outwardly focused activity and we can take our first tangible steps in manifesting our new vision.
Capricorn is the sign of the goat and in Scandinavian tradition, the Yule goat was traditionally made from the last sheaf of corn at the harvest and saved for the Winter Solstice celebrations, carrying the energy of the last solar cycle into the new solar cycle. The Yule goat was also a quiet spirit who made sure that winter celebrations were carried out properly and a figure who brought presents for the children, either as Father Christmas’s helper or more likely in its own right before the tradition of Father Christmas became popular. The Yule goat may be linked to the worship of the god Thor and is also known from ancient proto-Slavic beliefs and early medieval traditions. It also formed a part of the tradition of wassailing or carolling, with folk going from house to house dressed in costumes, singing songs and playing pranks. The custom of wassailing has been revived in recent years here in the UK as a way of honouring the gifts of the land and especially the fruit trees, and usually takes place early in January, still under the sign of Capricorn. There are also links here with the tradition of the mumming play, trickster energies at work at what T.S. Eliot called “the still point of the turning world”. Capricorn is often seen as a serious sign, but it carries a wry and self deprecating humour which is reflected in these trickster traditions. There’s also the Roman festival of Saturnalia, when the convention and hierarchy normally deeply valued by Capricorn are turned upside down for a few days.
Winter Solstice is a time when we connect with our extended family, reflecting the Capricorn need to embrace tradition and honour the past, the Yule traditions passed down through the generations.. In the cold and dark of winter, we return to Capricorn values of security and stability, rooting down into what we value the most. We feast to remind ourselves that abundance will return, to nature and to the world, invoking the Capricorn cornucopia or Horn of Plenty.
Astrological Magic for the Winter Solstice
Meditating in silence
Although we celebrate the return of the light at the Winter Solstice, this is still a time of dark and quiet. Take some time to sit in silence and in darkness. Notice how it feels – do you resist it and long to turn on a light? Can you sink into the creative potential of it? After a while, light a candle, perhaps speaking an intent for the coming cycle. Pay attention to the shadows as well as the light and honour the whole.
Honouring our limits and exploring our potential
Capricorn and its ruler Saturn are associated with boundaries and limits, energies which contain us but might also hold us back. Use the following journal prompts as starting points for some free writing to explore your own inner and outer structures;
How do I limit myself and why? Where do these limits come from?
What mountains am I climbing? What will happen when I reach the summit?
What do I seek to manifest in the new solar cycle?
Spellcraft with clay
Shaping our intent with clay is a great way to represent slow building energy and create results which will last. Focus on an issue which will need time to manifest or be resolved and for which you want to create lasting results. Shape your clay to represent that intent, visualising the results as you work. You can carve images or symbols to build layers of energy. Air dry or oven dry clay can be painted once its dry, so you can add some colour magic as you decorate it. When it’s finished, leave your figure somewhere it will remind you to take the concrete actions you need to bring your intent into manifestation.
Time in nature
Spend some time outdoors, walking or simply being out in nature. Try to make it a reasonable period of time, as long as you can bear without getting too cold. Capricorn energy builds slowly and takes its time and taking our time is a powerful magic in itself. Pay attention to the bare bones of nature, noticing the shapes of the trees and of the landscape. Seek out signs of the dying year in the seed heads and bare branches and also signs of the new cycle in the leaf buds on the trees. Allow yourself to sink deeply into the energies and sensations of your own body as well as the rest of nature.
Feeding the birds spell
This spell tunes us in to the energies of give and take, the resources around us. Many of us feed the birds in winter and this simply everyday action is a great way to integrate our magical practice with our everyday rhythms. Whether we’re putting out food in your garden, filling a window feeder or scattering food in a suitable corner of a local park, we can make it an offering to the deities and spirits we work with and to the land which sustains us. Before you put the food out, charge it with energies of abundance and thriving. Then as you scatter the food, give thanks for the abundance you’ve received, offering it back to the land and to life.
Lys is a pagan astrologer and tarot reader based in London, you can find her on Instagram @wildstarlys or on her website