Ever wonder why the British flag looks like a red and blue cross over an 'x'? It occurred to me recently that perhaps the flag is a symbolic representation of the old religion, with the “x” representing the four cross-quarter days of the year: St Brigid's day in February, Beltane in May, Lugnassah in August, and Samhain in October. These are four “holy” days celebrating the midpoints between the turns of the season: the coming of spring, the flourishing of new green life and pollination, the beginning of the harvest, and the end of the harvest and turning in for winter--rest and preparation for the coming year. And perhaps the cross in the British flag represents the solstices and equinoxes.
In a recent article in the Mountain Astrologer magazine, a British author introduced the idea of the personal solar cycle, in which specific personal days of the year correspond to the old-time seasonal festivals. She explains that to find your own special days, simply count forward every six weeks from your birthday. These seven days, plus your birthday are your special days. The birthday, which is our personal New Year, is the first of our special days. In addition, she associates these eight festival days to the eight phases of the lunar cycle. Quite an ingenious correspondence! (See the article Cycles of Health, on page 16 of the Oct/Nov issue of the Mountain Astrologer.)
So how do we use these?
In the old tradition, the cross-quarter days were dedicated to the goddess; the feminine principle. On these days, we celebrate the feminine principle and the meaning of our current experiences. One of the most well-known of these festivals is Beltane, which occurs on or close to May 1st. This day is a celebration of sexuality and procreation, of flowers and earthy abundance, of love and of the hunter's chase. In astrology, this point corresponds to 45 degrees from the natal Sun and represents the “waxing crescent ” point, and 45 days (six weeks) after the birthday. It is a time when new themes and experiences in our lives are growing in abundant vitality and we are potentially making more and new connections. Finding a way to celebrate these and discover the joy in them seems very appropriate for Beltane.
(In the system I am suggesting, a person's birthday corresponds to March 21st, the spring equinox. The birthday also corresponds to the New Moon in the monthly lunar cycle.)
The other most well-known of the cross-quarter festivals is Samhain, also called Halloween in the USA. In the old religion in Britain and Europe the harvests are nearly completed and nature is turning inward towards winter at this time. Trees turn brilliant colors, then the leaves fall from the trees to return to the soil and rot. Animals will soon go into hibernation. Death in nature is evident everywhere. People celebrate ghosts and goblins and skulls and scariness and close contact with the spirit world. Samhain’s themes represent a reminder to go indoors, turn inward, and shield oneself and one’s family from the ravages of cold and winter, to live off the harvest and prepare for the next growing cycle by fixing tools, mending clothes, and other similar quiet tasks. In the personal solar cycle, this festival corresponds to a date 225 days after the birthday, which is about 32 weeks. Astrologically, it is when the Sun in the sky is 225 degrees past the natal Sun, and it corresponds to the disseminating phase of the lunar cycle. Finding a way to celebrate the transition from abundantly expanding life force and fruition to a period of turning within and reflecting on what has been produced over the year since the birthday seems appropriate for this day.
Personally, I am in the balsamic phase of my solar cycle, which is the last six week period before my birthday. In the old religion, the beginning of this period corresponds to St Brigid's day, which was a time to celebrate the coming of spring and the new growing season. Finishing up winter maintenance tasks and preparing seed and tools and laborers for soil preparation and planting were the tasks for this period. Any completion of work and growing plans that are still needed are completed at this time as well. It is an anticipatory time in advance of the execution of a huge work effort. In the lunar cycle, the balsamic phase is the final winding down of the old cycle and the preparation for the new. Anything of the old cycle that still needs completion and resolution is done at this time. Plans and considerations for what is to be manifested during the next cycle are a major part of reflections and activities during this period. The balsamic period is a time to slow down the pace of life and take more rest. If we don't do this deliberately, we may finding ourselves sick and forced to take bed rest and days off work. It is also a good time to seek out gentle healing therapies, such as an acupuncture “tuneup,” a reiki session, raindrop aromatherapy, and other similar healing sessions. Clearing out the old year on a deep energetic level allows us to more easily wrap up the conscious aspects of our old year and welcome in the new.
For me, the Balsamic phase has been about a quiet reflection of what is important to me and what has been working for me in my recent life. For example, I continue to affirm the value of astrology and astrological practice, even though it is an after-hours effort for me (I have another full-time job.) I’m finding myself re-committing to my practice and to updating and developing my website, and to helping other astrologers build their business. And I’ve recently started new efforts in this direction. All of this is part of the Balsamic phase experience!
In an upcoming blog I will discuss how to use the astrology chart to extract guidance on important themes during the six week period we are in or coming upon.
Happy celebrating your phase of your solar cycle!