The Solstice, or the moment when the Sun "stands still" happens twice a year. In the Northern Hemisphere, we will experience the Winter Solstice Friday, December 21 at 2:23pm Pacific. Winter Solstice is associated with the longest night and the deepest dark. It's a time when we have the opportunity to turn inside ourselves, and towards each other, to find the light that's missing in the external world. We remember that even in the darkest times, there is a spark of divinity within each of us that can always be found and remembered.

What magical medicine for this time in our collective evolution, right?

But it's more than just "magic," and reminds us that any form of magic is best accompanied by concrete action so that we are active participants in the intentions and goals that we set in this world.

Last night I attended a Solstice ritual led by Michael Meade, an individual who has become one of my 'elders' -- even though I have no personal relationship with him. Every time I go to see him he speaks to the spark within me that knows exactly what it's here on this earth to do.

Mr. Meade talked about many things throughout the ritual, all centered on a few basic premises of the Solstice. The symbolic resonance of the Sun standing still speaks to what happens when the light goes missing in the world: it is found in the souls of the people and in our connections to each other. In times of darkness it is recovering that light and connecting with people who can see and recognize the light within us that has the biggest impact...

...and that we aren't truly capable of Being the Light until we face and feel our own darkness.

That last point is an important one. We have an entire culture that is obsessed with light. We glorify light (white) skin to the detriment of all others. We praise logic and reason as if doing so will render obsolete the many facets of our beings that are not logical or categorizable. The New Age movement oftentimes uses 'reaching for the light' as a way to bypass the often ugly and complicated parts of being a human.

We try to find what we've lost to the darkness of history, or that has been repressed and is unconscious, in spaces we can already see. But what has been lost in the dark can only be found by venturing there.

The time when the Sun stands still (which is quite literally what the word 'Solstice' means) provides an opportunity to surrender into those spaces where the unknown awaits, and feel into what we find there so it can be recognized and transformed.

Astrologically speaking, the winter Solstice is defined by the moment the Sun enters the zone of the sky we call Capricorn, marking the initiation of the winter months. The Solstice this year is followed by a Full Moon in Cancer, exact at 9:48am Pacific on Saturday, December 22.

Cancer is an archetype that, among many other things, relates to our ancestors and ancestral heritage. It is, quite specifically, the connection from womb to womb. The genetics and DNA that flows through us, and through our ancestors. Our cellular memories. Our family mythologies. The ways we're supported -- and often haunted as well -- by what has come before us.

The ritual last night asked us to remember our ancestors. My grandmothers arrived fairly quickly, strong and free and vibrant as the participants in the ritual all held space together in song. The three grandmothers I knew in this life were present in particular, but there was another there who is not as familiar. My mind deviated at times, wondering if I should be remembering other deceased relatives. The men who I was closer to in this life than I was my grandmas. But no, it was the grandmothers that were there strongly and persistently, loving the attention.

The strong presence of these women resonated for me as I recognized all that has gone on in the past year with the 'feminine'. As it clicked into place, that this Solstice gateway is about further affirming the return of the solid, strong and rooted feminine, I realized what I that what I was singing for, and what the memories of my grandmothers was leading me towards, was a deep and abiding love for the Mama that grounds and holds us all -- Mama Earth. I felt my deep desire for her health and a profound love and respect for her strength right alongside a sorrow and grief for the ways she's been violated and abused.

I also recognized that that health, love and respect I was extending to her through this ritual was something that was instantly extended to myself and everyone else in the ritual and beyond as well.

Because it all flows. It is all connected.

Another cycle of the ritual has us all placing white flowers on an evergreen dais overseen by Kuan Yin, deity of forgiveness, compassion and mercy. I began to feel the maturity of forgiveness coming through as we chanted "Ohm" over and over again. Ohm. Home.

Home is a very Cancerian theme as well. Many spiritual traditions speak to a return to our spiritual homes, where all our trials are laid down, and all is cleansed and forgiven. But we can't always wait for some moment in the afterlife to get the clarity that comes from absolution.

It is Capricorn, then, the sign opposite Cancer and where the Sun sits now, that teaches us the emotional maturity needed to set the past aside and move forward into the future by letting ourselves off the hook. Cancer can be kind of emo, twisting and turning in the tides of emotion and waiting for mommy to come fix it all. Cancerian vortexes are intensely subjective. Capricorn teaches us to balance our personal struggles with objective understanding of long term goals.

Michael Meade spoke to the importance of self-forgiveness, for without forgiving ourselves, and stepping out of the captivity of guilt and shame, we can't truly do the work of holding space for others. I recognized that sometimes, holding on to shame and guilt as if they define us can become quite an immature thing to do.

Emotional maturity can involve recognizing when to let ourselves off the hook for something. Extending forgiveness within as we would a child who is just learning lessons through trial and error. Shadow Capricorn would say, "Get over it. Grow up." Really great and actually helpful Capricorn would say, "Yeah, this stuff is hard. But it's holding you back, so now is the time to heal it and let it go. How can I help you figure out and then get the support you need?"

The energy of this Solstice Full Moon supports that kind of release and cleansing of emotional and ancestral patterns that have been with us for some time. For understanding that in order to move through this moment in history, we have to also move through the blockages of shame and guilt that twist into fear, controlling us from the dark. We have an opportunity to let go of old conditionings that keep us from feeling the love.

We live in tragic times, which is very much the same as living in a specific location where tragic events are happening. We're all affected by natural disasters and human-made ones as well, even if our reaction is numbness, overwhelm and avoidance. It is our responsibility to face and move through the emotions of these tragedies, lest we remain or become like a child waiting for its parent to fix it for us.

It's also an opportunity to step out of our personal hurts. To stop blaming, recognizing that although we are not responsible for the harms done to us by our families, be they direct harms or the harm caused by old patterns, we are responsible for the healing required to move out of recreating those patterns.

The Solstice is a time that embodies the magic-made-manifest of the season. Moving through the darkness and into the light. Here's to moving forward in song and with reverence and wishing each of you blessings and joy

Amanda is an astrologer and soul worker who can be found online at www.aquarianspirals.com. Amanda does astrology and tarot readings on Thursdays at East West.