A Shamanic Look at the Turning of the Ages
by Daniel Giamario, article edited by Cayelin K Castell, and revised by Giamario in January 2022.
Author’s note: The original form of this article appeared in the second edition of the The Shamanic Astrology Handbook, edited 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 Aion.
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, over thirty years 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 alignments, was constellational astrologer Raymond Mardyks, whose fine work can be accessed as an example of other directions this same data can lead to.
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.
Now, in 2022, the greater part of the Astrological community still largely ignores the perspectives offered here. There are significant exceptions, however, such as Gemini Brett and Linea Van Horn. Also, with few exceptions these observations are ignored by most astronomers. I have found that ceremonially oriented persons, often with indigenous backgrounds, can more easily understand it. As the Turning of the Ages continues to accelerate, many more people, from many different backgrounds, will surely 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. What is offered here is not dogma, but rather is intended to inspire speculation and imagination. This body of knowledge is, however, a organically growing foundational element of our school and the Shamanic Astrology Paradigm ™. The clues are all in the sky. All we need do is look and be open.
The topic of the Turning of the Ages will now be gaining greater emphasis in our school. I felt it appropriate to go back here to an updated version of the article that started it all.
My latest research was recently presented at the Turning of the Ages seminar presented December 29th, 2021, which you can see here:2021 December Solstice Presentation. A similar presentation takes place January 14th for the Tucson Astrologers Guild—LINK HERE.
Also included here is a new glossary of terms used in this article and forthcoming articles.
The Turning of the Ages going beyond the Age of Aquarius
At the end of the millennium, whilst 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”.
Since the late 1890’s, literally scores of scenarios have been developed claiming conclusive dating for the beginning of this 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. Included as part of this topic is the general misunderstanding that the “Age of Aquarius”, generally referring to the sign of Aquarius and its usual meaning, actually should refer to the constellation of the Water-Bearer, with a really different image and meaning. We have many videos and articles, over the years, on this subject. However, I prefer to now investigate a larger context, raising questions and issues that should render the timing of the “Aquarian Age” moot. I believe experiential shamanic methodology demonstrates that humanity is within the time-frame of 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 ancient sites, throughout the world, are now 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. The next Lunar Standstill season has already begun, and peaks in 2024-2025.
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” or the “Great 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 can be represented with the plane of the solar system, or the ecliptic, marked by the constellations of the zodiac as a background. The best way to begin a circle is to cut through the circle from the outside. For example, Aries, 0 Aries, is the first sign of the zodiac (or circle), because conventionally it is the first thirty degrees following the March equinox. Therefore it is the March 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 begin the circle relative to 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 considerably 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 plane of 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 (aka 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 (aka 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 intersects the circle, thus 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 the solstice or equinox points within a solar year to determine the beginning of a new year.
The only exceptions to this are locations on the planet, that are closer 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 and Egyptian, chose the rising of a star or constellation (i.e. the Pleiades or the star Sirius), and then calibrate the event with a new Moon to mark a new solar year. Most cultures, however, have chosen either the March equinox, December solstice, September equinox, or occasionally the June solstice as the new year’s starting point. For example, our modern western secular calendar, beginning January 1, originally began near the December solstice. Meanwhile, both astrologers and astronomers today begin their coordinate and calendric systems with the March *(Vernal) 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, as 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 plane of 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 entire Platonic Year? How do we determine the more important intersection points? Of the four seasonal points, is it the solstices or equinoxes points that may have precedence?
The intersection between the Sagittarius/Scorpius constellations is visually impressive, and is also the area of the “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 around about every 250,000 years. When the equinox or solstice points are aligned with this intersection, the Sun rises at galactic center on certain dates – occurring about every 6480 years marking a change of Platonic Seasons. It’s happening now, and using one degree equals 72 years, we suggest the zone of 1962-2034 as a great Turning of the Ages.
Why 1998 was so Significant
According to the calculations of Astronomer Jean Meuss,(*6) famous for calculating stellar occultations and so many other things, the December 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 exactly aligned with this cross.
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 March equinox formed precise alignments with the royal star Aldebaran and then with the Pleiades. The rising Sun at the March equinox was conjunct the Pleiades during the very same years that the Sun rose at the June solstice with the royal star Regulus. Recent research has suggested that the famous Mayan Long Count was backdated to begin with the heliacal rise of the Pleiades at the March equinox. 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 also at the September 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).
Many cultures have considered the December solstice to be the 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 esoteric turning of the year. The December 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 (Great) year, because of the primacy the shamanic and traditional cultures give to the December Solstice. However, this can and should create a great stimulating debate on this issue.
Is it the Turning of the 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 (March) 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 great sphinx is witness to the March equinox Sun rising with the constellation of the Water-bearer, (not the sign of 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, that is one of the two crosses.
I propose that all shamanically and experientially oriented individuals prepare for participating in conscious ceremony and festivals, especially during the December solstices from 1962 to 2034(*7) celebrating the end and beginning of a galactic great “year”. The rising or setting Sun at the December 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. This cross is known by many as the Golden Gate. The arrow of the Archer, the stinger of the Scorpion, and the thyrsus/spear of the centaur constellation all point to this gate. It’s an exit point, a place of composting, of dissolution and of ascension. At the same time, at the June Solstice is the other cross, known often as the Silver Gate, seen as an entrance point, as souls enter at the Galactic Edge.
Glossary of Terms:
AEON (or Eon): Possibly the most appropriate term for this inquiry as it was used by Jung in his late writings (the book “Aion”) and this “god” having major astrological implications. It refers to the zeitgeist of an astrological “age”. Dane Rudhyar refers to “Eonic” consciousness in this context. The etymology comes from notions of age, a vital force, or a long period of time. Check out “Age” further down. Aeon or Eon has often been used synonymously to refer to any particular span of time. Significantly, it is always less than the age of the manifest Universe itself.
EPOCH: Has a fixed suggested starting point in time, with some world changing event. Its etymology suggests a point marking the start of a new period of time. This is like BCE, AD, or BC, with reference often to a suggested birth of Christ.
ERA: This refers to what follows the beginning of an Epoch, such as the “Christian era”. Refer back to Epoch.
AGE: This is like Era, but more general, not necessarily needing a fixed starting point. It is often seen with expressions like “Victorian Age” or “Tudor Age”. Of course, this is quite connected to the commonly used expressions in astrology like the “Age of Aquarius”. As I have written and shared about so often, there are scores and scores of suggested starting dates (epoch) for this age. Our school and this presentation can hopefully resolve this issue.
GREAT YEAR: A Great Year is one entire precessional cycle, or 12 ages as one year….sometimes it’s called “The 26,000 year year. Each astrological age is one of 12 months in a year.
Other Important Words Often Used:
SAGA: This is a long story, usually from oral tradition. Our school uses this with reference to the long interactions of Venus, Mercury, and Mars, and various “stories” that can be applied to their dance.
SAECULUM: An ancient Etruscan concept, later incorporated by the Romans, and others. Originally it was meant to refer to the oldest living elder at any given time, usually seen as about 90 years. Later on it was used to sometimes mean 100 years or a century, or almost any somewhat long period of time. It was also used to refer to the fact that four entire generations would turn over within one saeculum. This understanding is expounded in the essential book: “The Fourth Turning”. It also has greatly contributed to our school’s understanding and teachings regarding the shamanic timeline cycles, and four seasons of life.
MAYAN LONG COUNT: 5,125 years. Said to begin in 3114 BCE, but that is controversial. The long count was said to end Dec.21st, 2012, and that also is controversial. Recent research suggests that the Mayans backdated this start date (an epoch) to the year that the Pleiades conjoined the Vernal Equinox. Five of these Long Counts nearly equal the current accepted length of a precessional cycle. See the Last entries.
KALPA: This is a concept from the Indian sub-continent that usually describes the very largest views of creation and dissolution. As with the Yuga understandings following, it can refer to really long time frames, or somewhat shorter time-frames. There are many competing opinions. Some current teachers believe that we are now at the end and beginning of an entire Kalpa.
YUGA: This is a concept from the Indian sub-continent, and can be applied to really long periods of time, or as recent research and scholarship has established, can be synchronized with the precessional cycle. Like the Kalpa, there are many competing opinions. This is discussed in these presentations.
FOUR SUNS or FIVE SUNS: Within the Mayan, Aztec, and Incan world views, they perceive either five or four Suns. This refers to four or five different periods of creation and destruction, and then a complete rebirth. I favor the five sun approach, as it so elegantly corresponds with the recent Yuga scholarship, as well as the precessional cycle. This is discussed in these presentations.
THE PRECESSIONAL CYCLE: Currently calculated as 25, 920 years (or sometimes 25,772 or 25,800), this is the great cycle produced by the wobble of the Earth, in space; that creates the phenomenon of different North stars, over time, as well as the creation of new “ages”. This is also the most important astronomical factor that illustrates how every constellation will align with every astrological “sign”, over the course of 26, 000 years. There is an emerging view that this precessional cycle is not constant, and can vary over time. Sri Yukteswar, in the late 1800’s, based on the research at that time, believed the cycle to be 24,000 years. Hipparchus, the alleged “discoverer” of precession once thought it oscillated back and forth in a much shorter time, and then later, 30,000 years was suggested.
GALACTIC ALIGNMENT: Proposed by Raymond Mardyks in the 1980’s and popularized by the books of John Major Jenkins, this refers to the truly significant alignment of the solstices and equinoxes with the intersection of the plane of the galaxy and the plane of the solar system. This can occur 4 times in a 26, 000 year precessional cycle. The very first presaging of this was in the book “Hamlet’s Mill”, from 1969.
THE TURNING OF THE AGES: Originated from Daniel Giamario in the 1980’s, this is another term somewhat similar to the Galactic Alignment. Our school suggests a time period from 1962-2034, as the current Turning of the Ages, when the December Solstice Sun is located at the intersection of the Galactic plane and the plane of the Solar System. Giamario consulted Jean Meuss in the 1990’s to have him calculate the exact date of the intersection, which was determined to be May, 1998.
COSMIC YEAR: 225-250 million years; the amount of time for our solar system to go around the Galactic Center
*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
- 2012 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 Giorgio 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 Aion, 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 Ottewell, 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