The Longest Night: the Astrology of Winter Solstice

The Longest Night: the Astrology of Winter Solstice December 20, 2023

This week is the Winter Solstice here in the northern hemisphere, marked by the sun moving into Capricorn. The darkness reaches its peak and in the same moment, the light is reborn. The astrology of the Winter Solstice is seen in nature, slowed right down and rooted back into the earth. There is a gathering and replenishing of strength, along with the initiating earth energy of Capricorn. The new spring buds are already on the trees even as we are rooting down. Since Samhain, we have been seeking out the seeds of the next cycle in the fertile dark. The spark of energy as the sun is reborn at the Solstice is the beginning of the return of outwardly focused activity. As the days begin to lengthen, we take our first tangible steps in manifesting our new vision.

Gods and Goddesses of Capricorn season

Saturn is the ruler of Capricorn so carries special power at this time of year. We know him as Old Father Time, bringer of limits and structures.  The goddesses of winter also carry this sometimes stark energy. The Crone goddesses remind us of the wisdom and power of maturity. For me, Saturn is the Old Bone Mother, who strips us back to bare bones. Capricorn energy forces us to examine our inner and outer structures. If they are not strong enough, or if they have become calcified, we tear them down, and break them apart. And so we learn our lesson, and so we build new and more flexible structures.

In Scotland, the goddess of winter is the Cailleach, who forms the land by dropping rocks from her creel as she strides across the mountains. The mountain is a powerful symbol of Capricorn energy, the slow steady ascent to a goal that may often seem out of reach. Capricorn is one of the most ambitious signs and also the most likely to succeed. These folk know the value of hard work and take the time they need to get where they want to go. The sign of cardinal earth takes the initiative to bring the dreams and visions of Sagittarius, the preceding sign, into manifestation. This is the spark of light which is reborn at the Winter Solstice, the active principle that carries our energy out into the world.

Capricorn Solstice traditions

Yule goat in Sweden, 2009. Astrology of Winter Solstice.
Yule goat in Sweden, 2009, image courtesy of Tony Nordin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The goat symbolizes Capricorn and in Scandinavian tradition, the Yule goat was traditionally made from the last sheaf of corn at the harvest and saved for the Winter Solstice celebrations. It carries the energy of the last solar cycle into the new solar cycle. The quiet spirit of the Yule goat made sure that winter celebrations were carried out properly. The goat also brought presents for the children, either as Father Christmas’s helper or more likely in its own right before the tradition of Father Christmas became popular. The Yule goat may be linked to the worship of the god Thor and is also known from ancient proto-Slavic beliefs and early medieval traditions.

There are many seasonal traditions of wassailing or caroling. Folk go from house to house dressed in costumes, singing songs, and playing pranks. The custom of wassailing has been revived in recent years here in the UK, as a way of honoring the gifts of the land, especially the fruit trees. These celebrations usually take place early in January, still under the sign of Capricorn. There are also links here with the tradition of the mumming play, trickster energies at work at what T.S. Eliot called “the still point of the turning world”. We might celebrate the Roman festival of Saturnalia when the convention and hierarchy normally deeply valued by Capricorn turn upside down for a few days. Capricorn sometimes comes across as a serious sign, but it carries a wry and self-deprecating humor which is reflected in these trickster traditions.

Some practices for Winter Solstice

Time in nature – Spend some time outdoors, walking, or simply being out in nature. Try to make it a reasonable period of time, as long as you can bear without getting too cold. Capricorn energy builds slowly – taking our time is a powerful magic in itself. Pay attention to the bare bones of nature, noticing the shapes of the trees and the landscape. Seek out signs of the dying year in the seed heads and bare branches. Seek out also signs of the new cycle in the leaf buds on the trees. Allow yourself to sink deeply into the energies and sensations of your own body as well as the rest of nature.

Feeding the birds spell – this simple everyday action is a great way to integrate our magical practice with our everyday rhythms. We can make the food we put out an offering to the deities and spirits we work with, and to the land which sustains us. This tunes us into the energies of give and take, the resources around us. Before you put the food out, charge it with energies of abundance and thriving. As you scatter the food, give thanks for the abundance you’ve received, offering it back to the land and to life.


About StarLys
StarLys is an astrologer, pagan and tarot reader based in London, England. Qualified as a professional astrologer with the Faculty of Astrological Studies, she now teaches and serves as Director of Studies on the Faculty's world-renowned Diploma course. Having followed a pagan path since her teens, these days she mostly identifies as a Druid. The wheel of the year and the cycles of the planets are her touchstones, along with the nature she explores close to her home. You can read more about the author here.

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