Author’s note: The original form of this article appeared in the second edition of the, The Shamanic Astrology Handbook, co-written by Cayelin K Castell*. The essence of this information, developed in the late 1980s, has been a regular part of my classes and workshops for years. For me, the original spark igniting this investigation came from a wonderful essay written by Robert Hand in Essays On Astrology (and elsewhere) concerning the movement of the solstice and equinox points into new constellations. Hand’s essay was inspired by C. G. Jung’s treatment of the same subject in his book, The Aeon.
Over the years, my experiential and ceremonial work with the night sky, as well as teaching the night sky to others, crystallized the workability of these ideas. In those days, nearly a decade ago, very few in the astrological community were interested in this subject. The only other person I knew of, who was aware of the solstice galactic alignment, was constellational astrologer Raymond Mardyks, whose fine work can be accessed as an example of other directions this same data can lead.
In the late 1980’s, I began corresponding with European master astronomer Jean Meuss, via a recommendation from astronomer-publisher Guy Ottewell, concerning the precisely calculated dates of entry, into different constellations, of the solstices and equinox coordinates. I sent a communication to Meuss in 1991 asking him to calculate the exact date of the winter (December) solstice alignment with the intersection of the galactic plane and the plane of the solar system. He responded with May, 1998. I have been sharing this date in my talks and workshops ever since. Jean Meuss references the May, 1998 date in his book Mathematical Astronomy Morsels.
Within the last few years, spontaneously and intuitively, many people, from many different backgrounds, have become aware of this larger calendric frame of reference. I suspect this awareness and understanding has occurred at other times in history, then was forgotten for a time and remembered again.
In any case, these insights are not necessarily original or new. I’ve recently seen flyers from different organizers, of mainly ceremonial and shamanic events, referencing the upcoming alignments. These events are occurring in various places ranging from the British Isles, Mt Shasta, the Yucatan, and others. Lately, more and more astrologers are showing interest in these events, and this article is responding to that interest. What is offered here is not dogma, or copyrighted material, but rather is intended to inspire speculation and imagination. The clues are all in the sky. All we need do is look and be open.
The Turning of the Ages going beyond the Age of Aquarius
At the end of the millennium, entering the year 2000 there was, and continues to be, much speculation about the so-called “end times.” Catastrophes, apocalypses, various end points of cultural calendars, as well as world renewal and oncoming Golden Ages are common themes. In an astrological context this is often referred to as the beginning of the Aquarian Age.
Within this century, literally scores of scenarios have developed claiming conclusive dating for the beginning of the Aquarian Age.(*2) The question of when the Aquarian Age actually begins is a highly interesting field of inquiry, and worthy of several entire books. However, I prefer to investigate a larger context, raising questions and issues that renders the timing of the “Aquarian Age” moot. I believe shamanic methodology demonstrates that humanity is exactly at the end and beginning of an entire 26,000 year cycle (and 1997-1998 was the center point).
The Tilt and the Wobble
The longest cycle in the natural world that can be apprehended by the human senses, in a single lifetime, is the 26,000 year cycle marked by the precession of the equinoxes and solstices.(*3) This phenomenon is caused by the interaction of the twenty-three-and-a-half degree tilt of the Earth’s axis (creating the seasons) and the wobble of the Earth’s axis (causing entirely different stars to mark “North” over the 26,000 year cycle, among other things). The interaction of the tilt and wobble of the Earth’s axis causes the solstice and equinox points to move backwards or precess one degree every seventy-two years through the zodiac.
There is a huge amount of literature concerning the so-called astrological ages, their connection synchronistically to history, and their remarkable relationship to esoteric and occult mystery schools. Personally, I consider that the western scientific view (also held by some astrologers) contending that the precession of the equinoxes and solstices was unknown before Hipparchus is pretentious and oblivious to the obvious. It is on par with the belief that no culture, prior to the age of western science, had any awareness of the eighteen to nineteen year Lunar Standstill Cycles.
Within the last ten years, scores of astro-archetypelogical sites are known to have as their basis in the extremes of the Moon’s orbit.(*4) This defied the previously held notion that these people couldn’t possibly have known about the 19 year cycle of the Moon.
So even if no one knew about the precession of the equinoxes and solstices prior to 300 BC, it still serves as a valid basis for the investigation at hand, a shamanic investigation of The Turning Of The Ages.
The Platonic Year or 26,000 Great Year
The Neo-Platonists compared an entire 26,000 year cycle to one year, and referred to it as a “Platonic Year.” This analogy is extremely useful. Just as one year has twelve months and four seasons, a Platonic Year also has twelve months and four seasons. However, one month in a Platonic Year is 2160 years long and each season is 6480 years long. These figures are arrived at using simple math, but where do we start the Platonic Year or the 26,000 year cycle? What establishes the boundaries for beginning and ending the Platonic Year?
This is identical to the problem of where to begin a circle. In this case the circle represents the plane of the solar system, or the ecliptic, marked by the signs and constellations of the zodiac. The best way to begin a circle is to cut through the circle from the outside. For example, Aries is the first sign of the zodiac (or circle), because conventionally it is the first thirty degrees following the spring equinox. Therefore it is the spring equinox that cuts the circle of the zodiac to begin a standard solar year.
However, where do we begin marking the beginning and ending of the entire 26,000 year cycle? Is there something else we can use to mark the circle relative of an entire Platonic year? If so, this issue of where to begin and end the greater cycle could be resolved. This also means that the smaller issue of where to begin and end one of the Platonic months (i.e. Aquarius) becomes far less significant.
A Shamanic Approach to the Night Sky
A mytho-shamanistic approach to astrology involves the direct observation of the night sky, connecting with natural phenomena using the human senses. It is not based on an abstract, complicated computer-generated solution to a problem. In the night sky, there is one very clear and even dramatic phenomenon that cuts the circle of the zodiac – the Milky Way!
The plane of our galaxy cuts the zodiac/ecliptic belt at about a sixty-six degree angle in the region of the zodiacal constellations of the Archer and Scorpion (a.k.a Sagittarius and Scorpius). The Milky Way intersects the zodiac near the center of the galaxy in an extremely rich and thick field of stars. Looking out towards deep space in the opposite direction, another intersection takes place in the vacinity of the constellations of the Twins and the Bull (a.k.a. Gemini and Taurus) where the Milky Way is barely noticeable. The phenomenon of precession does not change these intersection points. The Milky Way’s fixed star relationship to the zodiacal constellations creates a visible framework far grander, and much longer lasting than even the 26,000 year precessional cycle.
Where Does the Circle (Cycle) Begin?
We have now established what cuts the circle establishing a wider context, however, a timer is still required to determine the end and the beginning of the 26,000 year cycle. The majority of the world’s cultures have chosen solstice or equinox points within a solar year to determine the beginning of the new year.
The only exceptions to this are locations on the planet, close to the equator, where the seasons are similar and not much difference is noticed between solstice time and equinox time.
These cultures, such as the Hawaiian, choose the rising of a star or constellation (i.e. the Pleiades), and then calibrate that event with a new Moon to mark the new year. Most cultures, however, have chosen either the spring equinox, winter solstice, autumnal equinox, or occasionally the summer solstice as the new year’s point. For example, our modern western secular calendar, beginning January 1, originally began on the winter solstice. Both astrologers and astronomers today begin their coordinate and calendric systems with the spring equinox.
The solstice and equinox points can also be used as the timer for the wider 26,000 year framework. These points can be used to determine the astrological age, or Platonic Month, the Platonic Season, as well as the Platonic Year, because they precess at approximately one degree every seventy-two years.
It’s the arrival of the solstice and equinox points at the intersection of the Milky Way and zodiac that clearly determine the Platonic Seasons, which occur about every 6480 years. But what Platonic Season determines the end and beginning point of the Platonic Year? How do we determine the more important intersection point? Of the four seasonal points, is it the solstices or equinoxes points that have precedence?
The intersection between Sagittarius/Scorpius is visually impressive, and is also the area of “galactic center.”(*5) If the Sun is central to the solar system, galactic center is like the central Sun that all the stars of the galaxy circuit. When the equinox or solstice points are aligned with this intersection, the Sun rises at galactic center on those dates – occurring about every 6480 years marking a change of Platonic Seasons. It’s happening now.
Why 1998 was so Significant
According to the calculations of Astronomer Jean Meuss,(*6) famous for calculating stellar occultations, the winter solstice coordinate exactly reached the intersection of the plane of the Milky Way with the zodiacal plane in May of 1998. This is the only time in the 26,000 year precessional cycle that the December Solstice (Winter Solstice in North America) is aligned with galactic center.
The Sumerian/Babylonian civilizations chose a spring equinox calendar and modern astrologers and astronomers still use it. There are two possible reasons for this choice. For one thing, around 4000 BC, the equinoxes were in alignment with the Milky Way/Zodiac intersection where the Solstices are now located. This was one whole Platonic season ago – about 6500 years ago. This cosmic frame of reference had an equinox priority then.
Secondly, during the third millennium BC, the spring equinox formed precise alignments with the royal star Aldebaran and then with the Pleiades. The rising Sun at spring equinox was conjunct the Pleiades during the very same years that the Sun rose at summer solstice with the royal star Regulus. It is easy to imagine this was quite impressive and worthy of creating a new calendar! So, at that time, the Sun rising near Galactic Center was at the autumnal equinox and that was overshadowed by the dramatic celestial events occurring in the constellations of the Twins and the Bull (a.k.a. Gemini and Taurus).
When sharing this material over the last few decades, I have found it is the native and traditional peoples of shamanic orientation who most easily resonate with this due to how they ceremonially “work” with the cycles of the Earth and Sky.
They know what the winter solstice is, a time of greatest density, the deepest descent of spirit into matter, the longest night, and then the return, or rebirth, of the Sun. It is the turning of the year. The winter solstice, not coincidentally, was chosen by the current world culture (through its secular calendar) to be the most important of the four calendar turning points, to mark the turning of a solar year.
We can imagine then that the December Solstice has higher calendric priority (in this case, more than the equinoxes) for marking the end and beginning of an entire Platonic year, because of the primacy the shamanic and traditional cultures give to the December Solstice. However, there can be a great stimulating debate on this issue.
Is it the Turning of Great Year or a Seasonal Shift?
At the very least, we know humanity is at a seasonal shift. If now isn’t the end and beginning of the Platonic year, then at the very least it is the “mirror image” of what happened 12,500-13,000 years ago, when the December solstice was at the galactic edge. This marked the time when the vernal (spring) equinox was entering the constellation of the Lion (represented by the Sphinx of Giza, facing due east as silent witness to those historical events). Today, the sphinx is witness to the spring equinox Sun rising into the constellation of the Waterbearer, or Aquarius.
In my travels to Peru, Bolivia, and Scotland, I have had impressive direct experiences of numerous ancient monuments built to capture the precise rising and/or setting of the December Solstice Sun. It is as if these monuments were built with this time in mind. For only now, (and the mirror image time 12,500-13,000 years ago) can the rising and setting Sun be experienced at the solstice, Milky Way, and zodiacal intersection.
I propose that all shamanically and experientially oriented individuals prepare for participating in conscious ceremony and festivals, especially during the winter solstices from 1962 to 2034(*7) celebrating the end and beginning of a galactic year. The rising Sun at winter solstice is a marvelous opportunity to receive a transmission of galactic intelligence directly from galactic center, for dreaming and co-creating the next great age.
*1. The Shamanic Astrology Handbook by Daniel Giamario with Cayelin K Castell
*2. Some of the more interesting proposals are:
- 1962 AD The great conjunction of planets in Aquarius
- 2018 AD The movement of the star Regulus into the sign of Virgo (from Dane Rudhyar)
- 2376 AD Vernal Equinox enters the constellation of Aquarius as defined by the sidereal zodiac of Fagan and Bradley
If we use the tropical zodiac to create twelve equal ages, then each age is about 2160 years long. If we date the beginning of the Piscean age at approximately 100 BC, then the current time is very near the entry into the next constellation of Aquarius. If we use the constellational boundaries of Ptolemy, the vernal equinox will not reach Aquarius until after 2600 AD.
*3. Various numbers of years have been given for this cycle. The number of years is probably not entirely stable and may oscillate a bit over time. Dane Rudhyar uses 25,868 years because that is used in Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine. Charles Jayne uses 25,694 years. Most popular literature currently uses 25,920 years. My personal favorite exact figure is 25,800 years used by many astronomers such as Guy Ottewell. To simplify, I use the rounded figure of 26,000 years for the cycle.
*4. Chimey Rock, Colorado, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, Callanish, Scotland and many others
*5. The precise location of Galactic Center, currently at about 27 degrees Sagittarius, lies below the ecliptic and thus below and to the right of the intersection of the Milky Way and zodiacal constellations. But it’s pretty close.
*6. From a personal correspondence
*7. These could be the exact ceremonial timings, but note that the greater festival is at least a 72 year window lasting from 1962 to 2034.
Suggested Bibliography for Research on The Turning Of The Ages:
- Hamlet’s Mill by Girogio de Santillana and Hertha Von Deschend, Boston: Gambit 1969
- The Myth of Replacement : Stars, Gods, And Order In The Universe by Thomas Worthen, University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1991
- Astrological Essays or Essays on Astrology by Robert Hand
- The essay which is a commentary on Jung’s book The Aeon, concerning the movement of the vernal equinox through the stars of Pisces.
- Astrological Timing by Dane Rudyar
- The Origin of the Zodiac by Cyril Fagen
- The Astronomical Companion and The Astronomical Calendar by Guy OHewell, Astronomical Workshop, Furman University, Greenville, S.C. 29613
- The History of the Zodiac (pamphlet), Astro Communication Services
- The Glorious Constellations, History and Mythology, Giuseppe Maria Sesti, Harry N Abrams, Inc. New York, 1987
The Shamanic Astrology Handbook Info and Order