Posted to Subscribers on 20 December 2009
  Dear Subscribers,

As I write, the sun is exactly 29 Sagittarius. Thus, 24 hours from now it will enter Capricorn and this is the day of the winter solstice, a sacred date for many individuals and for some ancient cultures. For example, the astrology of the I Ching is built on the solstice as the starting point of the yearly calculations, quite different from the new year celebrated with dragons and firecrackers. It is a contemplative time of year because in the northern hemisphere, the sun appears to linger in what is called the southern tomb and then it heads northward. The days become longer and this symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness. It could very well be the start of a new year unless one were basing the calendar on some other astronomical and mystical principles. I believe these seldom considered factors are part of our spiritual heritage and well worth remembering once a year so I enjoy going into the cave, meditating, and then celebrating the rebirth of hope and inspiration.

Our present calendar is called the Gregorian calendar, named after Pope Gregory XIII (16th century). It replaced the Julian calendar which is still in use in some parts of the world, such as by Orthodox churches and Berbers of North Africa. It is more or less 10 days different from the Gregorian calendar. Calendar reform is generally a hotly contested political and religious undertaking that gives rise to allegations of everything from ego to meddling with the private affairs of God. Julius Caesar, of course, managed to have both the longest month and the calendar itself named after him. If you think about it, there is no tidy way to create a perfect calendar since the day is based on the rotation of the Earth on its axis and the year is based on its orbit around the sun which takes 365.24 days, a number that does not easily divide into lunar months. As some of you know, I spent quite a lot of time with Nechung Rinpoche in the seventies. One day he was explaining his birth and I asked, "Are you using a lunar or solar calendar?" He said, "Lunar," but he was astonished because it had not occurred to him that anyone was using any other sort of calendar. In short, the horoscope I had done for him for October 10th was way off because he was born on the auspicious tenth day of the tenth lunar month and I never actually figured out the equivalent in Gregorian terms.

If the truth be known, our calendar is still a mess. Moreover, like many others of my ilk, I believe that a calendar that is both astronomically accurate and spiritually relevant would be preferable to what we have now, but I hear the moaning and groaning because resetting a calendar is arduous. The Roman calendar had 355 days but when the conversion to the Julian calendar was implemented, the year 46 B.C. had 445 days. Okay, you don't really need to read all this from me because if you are interested, you can google.

To keep this a little more interesting, let's hypothesize that there might have been a time in the past or perhaps there will be a time in the future when the mathematics of astronomy are tidier. For example, if the Moon were a little further from the Earth and retained its same speed, maybe it would orbit the Earth exactly 12 times each solar year. Or, if the Earth moved a little closer to the Sun or speeded up its movement, the year would divide into 360 days or the Earth could spin a bit slower on its axis and that would be quite dramatic . . .

Let's leave it for those who love to think "what if?" I would like to shift attention from the astronomy to the spiritual significance. My mother, who was obviously an interesting person, used to say that all cultures, including ancient pagan ones celebrated festivals of light at this time of year. You know, I was born the way I am now, asking questions and this really made a lot of work for the only one in my youth who even tried to answer the questions for me. My teachers and ministers were a lazy lot who bored me so much that I complained and complained. To appease me, my mother kept me home and wrote strange notes to the school, never saying I was sick, just that I stayed home to be with her. She was charming and got away with it.

So, I thought, if long before Jesus was born, we were already celebrating festivals of light, when was Jesus born? The longer I thought about it, the more I felt that December 25th was really more likely the time of death and resurrection than birth so how did Kepler and Clavius construct the Gregorian calendar? I don't mean to be sacrilegious, but if the sun goes into the tomb for three days and then reappears, isn't this much more like the ghastly crucifixion of light and its triumph three days later over evil?

Some questions linger. By this I mean that we live with the questions for decades or perhaps through many lifetimes. In any event, what is certain is that Jesus was not born in the year zero because there was no such year. There was a year 1 B.C. and the next year was 1 A.D. Assuming the historical accounts are at least partially correct and that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod, then the birth was earlier. Herod died in 4 B.C. Most who have tried to determine what the wise men were following believe it was the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and a triangulation with Mars in 7 B.C. It would have been visible during the night in summer because the stellium was in Pisces so the king born in the House of David would have been born under the sign of Leo in August.

The calendar really is a mess!


If we believe that Western civilization (which, of course, is the source of the Roman, Julian, and Gregorian calendars) was built on earlier civilizations, like the Greek and Egyptian, it might be interesting to look at pre-Christian customs. The Egyptian calendar was based on the flooding of the Nile which occurred when Sirius rose with the Sun. If you study ancient Egyptian history, you realize that the solar influences were also linked to concepts of light and monotheism so that today's "Light Workers" probably all have deep ties to this time in history and most likely therefore also to Sirius.

Interestingly, there is a tribe known as the Dogon, much covered in the past by National Geographic and others. The people of Dogon believe they came to Earth from Sirius B. This is a part of their mythology but until recently, astronomers were unaware of the existence of Sirius B so they denied the myth as well as the astronomy that might have supported the myth.

Anyway, the heliacal rising of Sirius takes place in summer but I did not realize the significance fully until I was taking a rest between lectures in Adelaide in early 1990. We were sitting on the grass on the campus of the university and a car with very bright headlights approached when suddenly there was a third luminary that rivaled the headlights. It was dazzling. The car, of course, left and only Sirius remained. If you have not been to the southern hemisphere, you have missed an astronomical feast for the eyes that is absolutely incomparable. Anyway, new year's day was celebrated on the first new moon after the reappearance of Sirius after it disappeared due to the alternation of day and night.

Another Explanation

If there are 29.5 days to a lunation and 12 months to a year, there are some left over days to jam in at the end of the year to make the calendar start right. You might as well assign them to when the sun has gone missing and then you can have a big celebration when this tragedy is reversed. There is still that vexing quarter of a day and leap year was not added until 30 B.C., by Augustus Caesar who then, of course, messed up the calendar a bit more because he needed a month named after him that was as long as July.

After these caesars, the calendar is kind of dull: September is the 7th, oh goodness, month; October the 8th; November the 9th; and December the 10th. Did I say "mess" yet?

Well, to understand that, you have to go back to the time that the Romans had a really "civil" calendar. Janus and Februa were later crammed in to fix it up a bit. January is named after the deity with one face looking back and one looking forward. February is named after the time of purification, aka spring cleaning, also called Lupercalia after the lady wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus. Honestly, it cannot really be sacrilegious to reform calendars, can it?


I don't want to narrow my discussion of calendars to those that influenced Western civilization, though we appear to have imposed our chaos on most of the world. The Hawaiian word for new year is "makahiki" and it lasted more or less four months and occurred in the fall. As with other cultures, there was a mixture of civil and religious influence. After the harvest, offerings, also known as taxes, were delivered to heiaus, Hawaiian temples, and the elite collected them. The word "makahiki" is believed by some to come from Makali'i, the name for the Pleiades which rise at sunset at the start of the festival. This is however not what Morrnah told me. She said that the new year was based on the setting of Arcturus. Regardless of the facts, there is little doubt that the Hawaiians found the islands by relying on navigation chants in which Arcturus played a central role.


India has a history of great erudition. I actually have an ancient ephemeris calculated for 7 p.m. Benares time, not Greenwich mean time. I will always treasure it because I can almost feel the waters of the Himalayas melting into the Ganges and reaching Varanasi. The primary reference point is Spica, a blue double star in Virgo that was used by such illustrious astronomers as Hipparchus and Copernicus to calculate the precession of the equinoxes. Spica is 2300 times brighter than our sun which gives some idea of its "magnitude" and it can be seen very close to the ecliptic. Our sun appears to pass Spica within two degrees on October 16th and the heliacal rising is two weeks later. If you want to get into this a bit more viscerally, look for the handle of the Big Dipper, follow it to Arcturus and then continue on the same trajectory for a similar distance and voilà!

Directly opposite Spica is the start of the Zodiac, Aries, defined as where the ecliptic meets the equator, celestial Equator! This is the "new year" in Assam, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and several other parts of India and it occurs in mid-April. Just for the record, the calendar started in 3102 B.C. If you want to know how easy it is for chaos to reign, you might study the writings of Sri Yukteswar, the guru of Paramahansa Yogananda. The theory is that based on the orbit of our sun to its center, we experience greater or lesser degrees of consciousness. Kali Yuga is rock bottom so when it officially began, Maharaja Yudhisthira abdicated in favor of his grandson and went to the Himalayas with the pundits of his court, leaving mathematical dunces to perpetrate calculation chaos until our sun's orbit changed and enlightenment could prevail. Obviously, this is a very liberal condensation of what happened on the subcontinent.


I don't want to go on and on, but like the Indians, the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, and the story brings us back more or less to where we started. Since the times of the Emperor Wu Han, the Chinese calendar has begun on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Of course, China has not been free of calendar chaos either. Historically, the Son of Heaven, aka emperor, had official oversight but the calculations were performed by a bureau with a two thousand year history. Today, China differentiates a yin calendar based on the moon and a yang calendar, the Gregorian, based on the sun. Exactly when the year starts has shifted a bit as have the calculations because of the annoying need for intercalary adjustments for all the astronomical reasons already cited. Unlike some of the more colorful accounts from other cultures, the current Chinese calendar seems more philosophically neutral. The months are numbered, sort of like Rome before the caesars. The reference point is midnight on the dark of the moon, not some distant star called home. However, like many cultures, the calendar does have agricultural relevance so the numbered months do, in some systems, relate to the plants in season, for instance, the second month relates to apricot blossoms and the ninth to chrysanthemums.

On this note, I will leave you to your celebrations and wish you all depth of insight, peace and comfort in the dark, and renewal in the light.

Many blessings,


Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2009


The Astrology of Healing





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