A Balance of Light
THE LIBRA EQUINOX
Sept 23, 2019 at 12:50 am PDT / 7:50 am UT
The Sun Reaches 0° Libra
A few years ago, coughing and hacking my way through recovery from walking pneumonia, I started seeing an acupuncturist to help me with a seemingly permanent cough and wheeze. After each treatment, I would float out the door, energy fluffed, body humming, clutching a little green and white bag covered in elegant Chinese letters. The bag, half filled with dried herbs and spices for healing teas, was a custom blend to further soothe my weary lungs and balance my out-of-alignment chassis.
Although traditional Chinese medicine is great for chronic health problems, it's best used, as my double Virgo acupuncturist told me, as a preventative at each season's end when energetic shifts occur. These seasonal tune-ups are especially helpful in the fall when the yang of summer is transforming into the yin of winter, and again in the spring when the energies shift once more. At these times, our systems are more easily thrown off kilter, which can lead to asthma and allergy flare-ups, as well as colds, flus and other acute illnesses. Regaining balance is essential to health.
Astrology reflects the critical need for balance with Libra, the sign of the scales, holding court at this shifting-sands time of the year. Libra, the only zodiac sign with an object, rather than a creature, for its symbol, is the archetype of balance, and its relative attributes of equilibrium, harmony, beauty, symmetry, and justice. According to Webster, equilibrium refers to "a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced." The origin of the word dates back to the early 17th century, derived from the Latin aequilibrium: aequi- 'equal' + libra 'balance,' and refers to physical balance as well as a calm state of mind — an interesting correlation of sign and word meaning as Libra is one of the rational/intellectual air element signs.
So over this next season, seeking and preserving equilibrium is a key process. But how do we achieve and maintain even a tiny fraction of this ideal Libran state, living as we all do in such a topsy-turvy world, getting crazier by the minute? Libra is primarily concerned with one-on-one relationships, the give-and-take of intimate as well as professional alliances — yet all of our relationships have to function within a highly dysfunctional sphere.
We can't ignore the times in which we live no matter how deeply we bury our heads in the sand and refuse to keep up with the tragedies that unfold daily. So how do we take in the stark reality of life, as it truly is, with a million acute problems demanding our attention — tar sands extraction, one horrendous pipeline after another jammed down our throats, endless regime-change wars, fracking, Fukushima, massive extinctions in progress. And if you caught journalist David Wallace-Wells's article, The Uninhabitable Earth, in New York Magazine a few years ago now — it is one of the most read articles in the magazine's history — global warming is far, far worse than we imagined. This excerpt from the article especially stood out for me, clarifying how much of this human-wrought devastation has been unleashed in just the last three decades:
"Many people perceive climate change as a sort of moral and economic debt, accumulated since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and now come due after several centuries — a helpful perspective, in a way, since it is the carbon-burning processes that began in 18th-century England that lit the fuse of everything that followed. But more than half of the carbon humanity has exhaled into the atmosphere in its entire history has been emitted in just the past three decades; since the end of World War II, the figure is 85 percent."
— David Wallace-Wells
What do we do with all of this? How do we function, make a difference, without losing our own peace in the process? How do we avoid becoming too anxious, bitter, or cynical? How do we stay useful and effective?
I don't have any answers, in fact more and more I struggle with this, but I've noticed in this huge challenge of "how to be an active participant in a ever scarier world" is the importance of finding comrades who are committed to the same ideals, and not quit, to keep plodding on one step at a time, even if it feels like no effect is happening at all. And keep that Libra balance in the process: not forgetting the precious gift that life is, no matter how bleak it gets.
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Libra, ruled by Venus, is not only associated with love and relationship, but also aesthetic sensibility, our artistic, creative soul. And perhaps, over this Libra-ruled season that begins soon, we can look more deeply at how we can use our own artistic, playful selves in some way to effect change, like Banksy's art displayed here and above. At the time of the Sun's entry, the Moon will have just entered Scorpio, sign of just that: the ability, the courage to peer into the darkness and really take it in. Journalist Chris Hedges, reflects on this point, the power of culture and this kind of creative response to the challenges of life:
Culture, real culture, is radical and transformative. It is capable of expressing what lies deep within us. It gives words to our reality. It makes us feel as well as see. It allows us to empathize with those who are different or oppressed. It reveals what is happening around us. It honors mystery. "The role of the artist, then, precisely, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through the vast forest," James Baldwin wrote, "so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more [humane] place."
Artists, like rebels, are dangerous. They speak a truth that totalitarian systems do not want spoken. [...] Without artists such as musician Ry Cooder and playwrights Howard Brenton and Tarell Alvin McCraney we will not succeed. If we are to face what lies ahead, we will not only have to organize and feed ourselves, we will have to begin to feel deeply, to face unpleasant truths, to recover empathy and to live passionately. Then we can fight.
— Chris Hedges, "The Sparks of Rebellion"
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When the Sun enters Libra, we arrive at a time when day and night throughout the world are nearly the same length, as close to perfectly equal light as we get. At this time, the apparent path of the Sun crosses the celestial equator (the Earth's equator extended out into space) on its way south. As the Sun crosses this line, dark begins to overcome light in the north. From this moment of Libra equilibrium, the Sun drops toward one of two culmination points in the year, its southern extreme marked by the December solstice. Here, north of the equator, we are entering the coldest, darkest half of the year, while the south is rolling towards summer.
The Light of the Sea
For those of us in the North, the Libra equinox marks the official start of autumn and heart of the harvest season. The Druids refer to this equinox as Alban Elued, which means "The Light of the Sea" — and refers to the descent of the Sun into the western seas at sunset. For the autumn equinox is the seasonal equivalent of sunset, when the fiery solar energy of the growing season gives way to telluric, earthy forces. We begin our retreat once more into Mother Earth for the winter's long rest. The autumn equinox is the seasonal equivalent of sunset, when the fiery solar energy of the growing season gives way to telluric, earthy forces. At this time, the Wheel of the Year rolls towards its end and new beginning at the winter solstice. As John Michael Greer writes in The Druidry Handbook, this fourth and final alban or "light" gate of the year, Alban Elued, marks the outflowing of fertile solar energy that's been pouring into the Earth with the arrival of spring, half a year ago now.
Alban Elued's chief emblem is fruit and the horn of plenty, representing the abundance of the harvest. Again Greer writes: "from the green realms of the Earth Mother, the spirits of nature gather gifts for our sustenance" and "Esus, chief of all tree-spirits, who sits in the first fork of the sacred oak is honored."
"It is the time of recollection and return. Now the leaves turn from green to gold and descend with the waning Sun into the depths of the Earth Mother. Now the sea becomes dark as the year descends into the ocean. In silence, the seed of wisdom is gathered up, to be stored through the winter that it may become new life in the spring."
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The gorgeous photo of the sun setting over the sea was taken by Tim Burns, who titled it "Mark Rothko, as it very much evokes Rothko's genius for spare abstract art that is anything but simple, instead seems to encompass eternity.
Christopher Hedges is an American journalist specializing in American politics and society. He is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City, and spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than fifty countries, and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News, and The New York Times, where he was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years (1990-2005). In 2002, Hedges was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the paper's coverage of global terrorism. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University and The University of Toronto. He writes a weekly column on Mondays for Truthdig and authored what The New York Times described as "a call to arms" for the first issue of The Occupied Wall Street Journal, the newspaper giving voice to the Occupy Wall Street protests in Zuccotti Park, New York City.
The "I Want Change" and the ballerina pieces shown in this essay are by Banksy, a British street artist who combines humor and political satire. As described in a Wiki article, his "satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti done in a distinctive stencilling technique." Perhaps his most daring project was in August 2005, when Banksy painted nine images on the Israeli West Bank barrier, including an image of a ladder going up and over the wall and an image of children digging a hole through the wall.
© Elaine Kalantarian, all rights reserved