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Saturnalia, a Saturn-Jupiter Conjunction—Feasting & Ritual 2020 Solstice

SATURNALIA and SATURN-JUPITER CONJUNCTION

December 2020 will not disappoint. Hard on the heels of celebrations for Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving and Diwali by a world weary of restrictions, comes Greek/Russian Orthodox Advent and—back to our pagan roots—Roman Saturnalia.

You thought Hogmanay in Scotland (December 31st) was wild, unruly and, like the people, friendly. We’ve a whole gamut of cultures to wander through before the month is out, and that happens.

Saturn-Jupiter 20-year ‘Collision’: Giant Conjunction on Solstice

Meantime, astronomers and astrologers are scanning the evening skies and their charts in preparation for Solstice, December 21st—the longest night—and the moment before dawn aka 10:20a.m. PST when both giants, Jupiter and Saturn, come to within one-tenth of a degree (6.1 arc minutes) of each other. So close, they will look like one bright star.

Nightly, the gap is rapidly closing between the two, as worldwide telescopes—except the sad, abandoned Arecibo— pictured below after collapse—are nightly trained to watch the northern heavens. The Great Conjunction happens when both planets’ orbits appear to intersect from our Earth view. Jupiter’s orbit round the Sun—’sidereal period’—is 11.86 years. Saturn’s is close to 30 (29.65 years).

They met in 1980 and 2000. But, the last time they met this close was 1623.

‘A sidereal period is defined as the time required for a celestial body within the solar system to complete one revolution with respect to the fixed stars. Saturn’s period of 29.65 years multiplied by Jupiter’s period of 11.86 years amounts to 351.65. Dividing this value by the difference in their sidereal periods gives us 19.76 years.’ Space.com 

Roughly every 20 years, Jupiter and Saturn have a rendezvous. Photo NSF Arecibo after second cable snapped, November2020

Coincidentally, that Great Conjunction of 1623 was 20 years before the Great Fire of London which destroyed and incapacitated the Great Plague. Shadow phantoms surfacing for 2020, amid medical excitement at the prospect of a new vaccine.

Roman Saturnalia Pulls out all the Stops

The ancestors knew how to handle stress, chaos, the unknown. Prior to the darkest times, even before all our Solstitial shenanagans, there’s that time of anticipation in preparation for Yule, and the 3-day ‘standstill’ of the Sun. When time appeared to stop, the Ancients gladly rejoiced at its return, rebirth, reincarnation. Romans chose to celebrate (Julian calendar, December 17-23) in all-out chaos-defying orgiastic manner. Feasting, baths, Games, entertainment. With loads of wine.

By late Roman times (early Christian era), the Circus Maximus was alive with events, chariot races, slave gladiator hand-to-hand combat, spilling blood in the day, and wine at night.

KRONOS (Roman Saturn) was the primordial Greek god of time. In the Orphic cosmogony he emerged self-formed at the dawn of creation. He was seen as discorporeal, serpentine in form, with three heads—of a man, a bull, and a lion. He and his consort, serpentine goddess Ananke—Inevitability—enveloped the primordial world-egg in their coils and split it apart to form the ordered universe of earth, sea and sky. After this act of creation the couple circled the cosmos driving the rotation of heaven and the eternal passage of time

Khronos, Father Time—in his human persona Aeon—holds zodiac wheel in balance for human race

Khronos, Father Time—in his human persona Aeon—holds zodiac wheel in balance for human race
Kronos in Greco-Roman mosaic is Aeon—Eternity personified. He holds a wheel inscribed with zodiac signs and Gaia—Mother Earth—reclines at his feet, c..5thC Nonnus of Panopolis described Aeon as an old man with long, white hair and a beard, but mosaic-shows a youthful figure

The figure of Kronos was essentially a cosmological double of the Titan Kronos/Cronus—Father Time. Confusing the heirarchy, Hellenist culture sometimes merged Kronos with creator-god Phanes, and occasionally with the Titan Ophion. He became Saturn, Roman god of agriculture and abundance.

Saturn metamorphosed for Rome, as god of regeneration, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. Saturn’s mythical reign was depicted as a Golden Age of peace and plenty.

At some point after Circus Maximus became such a success—Bread and Circuses appease the masses—the god of a successful harvest (including grapes) and bountiful year-end had focus of his celebration enlarged to include gifts from Bacchus, Dionysus, Cupid. Latterly c.4thC it was a necessary therapeutic year-end party for the people that lasted six days. Rich and poor alike, all work ceased and the rich reclined in their triclinium, and the poor reached over laden tables and drank themselves into oblivion.

It was not unknown for rich Romans to have their digestive systems soothed and enhanced by addition of hemp to the communal wine decanter.

Ladies were not immune to the charms of triclinium dining, top left. They usually ended in a drunken orgy or were spirited off by a faithful servant to attend the Games while sobering up. A week of solid eating and drinking, attending the vomitorium and returning to the table, plus attending Circus gladiatorial displays or chariot races must have been a punishing schedule. But, as they say, it’s only once a year! Carpe diem.

Celebrate Last Dark Days & Return of the Light

Writerly Shoutout to Celebrating NaNoWriMos

Once that Saturnalian party atmosphere begins to illuninate your dark days, and remembering we Space Age writing revellers-in-Lockdown are able to find ways to celebrate nobody ever thought of, there are a few signs.

Saturnalia: Time of MisRule and Synthesis

Romans decorated their houses with wreaths & seasonal greenery, shed traditional togas in favour of colourful clothes called synthesis. Slaves especially didn’t have to work during Saturnalia. Their servant’s cap was removed, & they got to share in the festivities, sitting at the table while their masters served.

No work was undertaken, law courts were closed, They spent 17 days & nights (extended late A.D. 2-3rdCC to Jan.6 Epiphany) drinking, gambling, singing, playing music, feasting, vomiting, bathing, socializing and giving the gods and each other special gifts e.g.wax taper beeswax candles—cerei— seasonally symbolic of return of the light after the solstice. Circus Maximus entertainment was high on citizens’ social calendar. Think Gladiators & free food.

Snow, Hail or Lightning, Keep on Writing thru the Storm

Venus balances Mars’ fire as the Sun stands still on cusp of Capricorn for three days. Its rebirth is heralded by Saturn and Jupiter conjunct, both at 0º Aquarius midheaven with Mercury direct. All go for new beginnings.

For those fellow scribes who just completed their writing marathon at NaNoWriMo, bet you’re glad November is over. Breathe. There, that brief rest was short-lived—look out here comes Saturnalia—then Christmas: another pagan tradition reworked to fit in admirably with human need for ritual—for beginnings and endings. Interesting that Mithras, Dionysus, Horus and Krishna were born at Midwinter. Happy Solstice.

Post scriptum—with the heartening news of a British-International vaccine, we can all give a sigh of relief. ©2020 Marian Youngblood

December 2, 2020 - Posted by | ancient rites, astrology, astronomy, authors, blogging, calendar customs, culture, festivals, history, pre-Christian, publishing, sacred sites, seasonal, traditions, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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