If you’re feeling a bit jaded about Christmas, you don’t have to dig too far underneath all the artificial bling and glitz to discover that it’s actually a very potent time of year for real starfire magic, as the flaming arrow of the Sagittarius Archer flies towards the Taurus bull of fertility, and the Horned One of Capricorn emerges with the newly-born Radiant Child on his back.
The pure white frosting of a genuine Sugar Plum Faery twinkles merrily over the red roofs of Avalon, where we celebrate the Birth of the Radiant Child at this time of the Winter Solstice.
This story of the Nativity did not begin with the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christian Messiah is just one in a long line of mythological saviours born at Christmas in a stable, pig-sty or cave, going back into time immemorial.
Our early ancestors painted stories in the stars to tell this metaphorical tale about how Nature alchemically recreates itself to build new worlds. They are birthed like “magic” from a magnesium spark that results from what’s termed the Marriage of the Sun and the Moon, otherwise known as the Alchemical Marriage between Father Sun and Mother Moon, with the Earth as the generative organ.
Alchemically, the Marriage of the Sun and the Moon comes from the conjunction of Salt and Sulphur, with Mercury playing Cupid! It’s also shown in the Vesica Piscis, in which the two circles, male and female, overlap to produce the Seed of Life, which is why you often find paintings of Jesus seated within its fruit, an oval shape.
The story of the birth of the Radiant Child long predates the Nativity of Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem, although it seems to be a requisite in these ancient myths, across all cultures, for the Radiant Child to be born, or raised, in humble circumstances – like the Welsh Radiant Child Culwych who was raised in a pig pen.
Another common feature of these old myths is that the Radiant Child is raised by people other than his parents – foster parents – or in a foreign land.
For instance, in the story about the baby Moses, he was found by an Egyptian princess in the bulrushes, who went on to secretly raise him. Jesus was also secreted away in Egypt after his birth. Both of them, Moses and Jesus, were being hidden to protect them from what is another common theme – a jealous king’s “massacre of the innocents”.
This same theme is found in the myth about Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavatham, who is closeted away from a massacre of the innocents being waged by King Kamsa. We also find it in the myth about the birth of Zeus – his mother, Rhea, has to hide all her children from their jealous, murderous father, Chronos.
So what is the story of “massacre of the innocents” really all about, in its deeper metaphorical meaning? Well, most mythologists agree that it’s about the old ruler, the old Sun that ‘dies’ on the Winter Solstice, and who feels challenged by the new and future king (the new Sun that will rise again after three days) and so the Old Sun tries to have the New Sun killed.
Of course, it never works – thank goodness, because the new Sun is always reborn on the Winter Solstice.
The Winter Solstice marks the furthest point away from us that the Sun travels from the Earth, and thus we experience the longest night. From our perspective, it seems as if the Old Sun stands still or ‘dies’ for three days – solstice means ‘Sun standing still’ in Latin. But after three days, the Sun begins its journey back towards us and the new Sun is born again as the Radiant Child.
The Radiant Child is actually an existential stage of spiritual evolution in the journey of the zodiac hero who has passed all his or her trials and challenges. These tests include dying at the Death Gate of Scorpio, and then going down into the Underworld to win the Hallows of Sovereignty during the stage of Sagittarius. If the hero or heroine is successful, they are reborn under the Sun in Capricorn on the Winter Solstice, when the Moon is in Cancer.
The giant gods above and below Glastonbury
The drama of this nativity tale of the Radiant Child is played out by the colossal earthwork giants that make up the Temple of the Stars on the Somerset Levels, otherwise known as the Glastonbury Zodiac.
On the advent of the Winter Solstice, the saga being played out by the gods in the sky over the Glastonbury Zodiac is mirrored three times on the ground below.
- At four hours before sunrise, the Sun aligns with the Sun in Underworld at the Well of the Stars, in the centre of the circle, at Park Wood.
- Then at sunrise, we watch the Sun climbing the ‘staircase’ of Glastonbury Tor.
- At midday, the ecliptic of the Sun crosses the Milky Way and forms a Vesica Piscis – the symbol of the Alchemical Marriage – over the Tor.
Later, at nightfall, the Three Wise Men of Orion’s Belt appear over the earthwork effigy of Orion the Hunter below, whose head is near Compton Dundon, and whose feet are in the boat of Cancer, on Street Moor.
The Cancer constellation is otherwise known as the Gate of Man through which souls descend from the Heavens into human bodies, and so it’s appropriate that the Son of Man should be born there.
Here, in the night skies, we also find the ox and ass overlooking the manger.
The ox and the ass appear in the Infancy Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament Apocrypha thus:
“Therefore, the animals, the ox and the ass, with him in their midst incessantly adored him. Then was fulfilled that which was said by Habakkuk the prophet, saying, “Between two animals you are made manifest.”
So why the ox and the ass?
The ancient Greeks told in their story about Hercules about how the asses helped the zodiac hero in a battle with the crab at Cancer. As a reward, the asses were placed in the Heavens to overlook the manger – the remarkably bright cluster of stars at the centre of Cancer named Praesepe, which is Latin for ‘manger’.
The above article was extracted from and Stories in the Stars and Stories in the Summerlands.