Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Saturn versus Saturnalia

17 December, in the Roman calendar, marked the beginning of Saturnalia, a two-week festival celebrating the god Saturn. Because, in traditional astrology, Saturn the planet has been labelled a malefic - the "greatest malefic" in fact, one might find it puzzling that Romans celebrated so enthusiastically the god after whom the planet has been named. Or, conversely, why the farthest visible planet from Earth was so named, and accredited as malefic when its godly namesake had been so obviously revered.

In her book Mythic Astrology, astrologer Liz Greene began a chapter on Saturn thus:
The Golden Age is an ancient and indestructible human dream. Not only the bible, but the myths of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans describe it, each with its own story of a Fall when divine law was transgressed by erring humans. And we conjure up the dream of the Golden Age now, whenever we turn to the past and glimpse the shining vision of a time of law and order, when human beings lived in harmony with the cycles of nature and had not yet degenerated into violence and corruption. In Hesiod's Cosmogony this Golden Age was under benign rule of the stern but just Greek deity, Kronos, whom the Romans called Saturn. He was god of earth, not of heaven, and he governed the orderly cycles of the seasons, the irrevocable passage of time, and the laws by which men and women might live in accordance with nature and their own mortality. As patron of agriculture and lord of the harvest, he symbolized the fertility of the tilled earth and conferred the rewards of honest effort. He was a working god and a wise king, who taught men and women how to press the olive and cultivate the vine. To those who obeyed his laws of discipline, time and mortality, he was a generous ruler who offered peace and abundance. To those who sought to impose their own will on the laws of life itself, he was a merciless and implacable judge. The Romans worshiped his friendly face at the year's end through the two-week carnival of the Saturnalia, which even Rio, in Brazil, has never succeeded in surpassing. It has been suggested that the name Saturn comes from the Latin 'sator', meaning to sow; and on the most profound level this god symbolized the dictum that as we sow, so shall we reap.

In Louis MacNeice's book, Astrology, I found the illustration below - click on it for a sharper image:
15th-century German allegorical picture of Saturn and some of the types of people associated with this planet. Saturn, depicted as aa horseman, rides in the sky above his two Zodiac signs, Capricorn and Aquarius. To astrologers, Saturn's influence is mostly malignant, causing misfortune, disease and death - indicated here by the criminals in the stocks and on the gallows and the hobbling cripple. Some less unfortunate Saturn types portrayed are the farmer (plowing), the gardener (digging), and the tanner (skinning a horse).

Saturnalia was in no way malignant, apart perhaps from a few nasty hangovers after days of carousing. During the long festival all social hierarchies and obligations were temporarily suspended, creating a period of chaos, a world upside down, symbol of renewal.

From Winter Solstice Traditions. Hat tip HERE
The Romans called it Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. The Roman midwinter holiday, Saturnalia, was both a gigantic fair and a festival of the home. Riotous merry-making took place, and the halls of houses were decked with boughs of laurel and evergreen trees. Lamps were kept burning to ward off the spirits of darkness. Schools were closed, the army rested, and no criminals were executed. Friends visited one another, bringing good-luck gifts of fruit, cakes, candles, dolls, jewellery, and incense. Temples were decorated with evergreens symbolizing life's continuity, and processions of people with masked or blackened faces and fantastic hats danced through the streets...... Roman masters feasted with slaves, who were given the freedom to do and say what they liked (the medieval custom of all the inhabitants of the manor, including servants and lords alike, sitting down together for a great Christmas feast, came from this tradition). A Mock King was appointed to take charge of the revels (the Lord of Misrule of medieval Christmas festivities had his origin here).
So... Saturnalia was a reverse of the Saturnian norm, an annual loosening of daily demands, bonds and customs. Sounds like a good idea! As Mick Jagger is credited as having said though, "It’s okay to let yourself go, just as long as you let yourself back." That is a fairly Saturnian statement to my mind. Hmmm. Well, well, well, whad'ya know? Jagger has Saturn in his first house, could be quite close to his ascending degree. (See HERE.)


mike said...

I appreciate this quotation:

“The existence of God, I discovered one day, is not a problem. Whether he exists or not doesn't affect us; in the slightest, and there is no reason to worry about something that doesn't affect us. But religion on the other hand does affect us; it stuck its pointed nose into even the most hidden depths of our lives. Like an invisible policeman, it had tried to keep our existence under surveillance, to regulate with its cruel, cold, hypocritical logic. As Jupiter castrated Saturn, so the church has tried to castrate all of us.” Francisco Rebolledo, Rasero

It provides that Jupiterian philosophy and higher thinking (Sagittarius) can diminish and deny the Saturnian order of the natural world. The natural world "is", regardless of thought. Lean too favorably toward Jupiter for solace and reward, and all hell eventually breaks-out to placate the reality of Saturn.

Here's an interesting discussion about the Jupiter-Saturn synodic cycle:

Twilight said...

mike ~ Excellent quote!

Yes balance is all - always and in all ways.

Thanks for the link. I've often found some good stuff on Daybreaker Journal. I've read the piece once but will re-read it later, as I got a bit lost somewhere in the middle. I got back "online" two-thirds way through. There's a lot in it!