I’ve been fascinated by astrology and the symbolism accorded to the movement of the stars, sun and moon for many years now – and having just passed the solstice, I am really excited to share this conversation with Lee Coleman. She shared her insights into our current place in the astrological cycle, the place astrology can play in the modern world, and the way we can invite ancient connections to the sky into our busy lives.
But first, an introduction: Lee Coleman likes big books and she cannot lie, which directly influences her relationship to Astrology. With a belief that discipline is the dance partner of the wild, Lee marries the intuitive with the intellectual, keeping her eyes on the stars but her feet firmly on the ground. Equally important to Lee’s approach is Shamanism, which acts as her spiritual backbone. Lee has never used one word if three would suffice and has absolutely no plans to apologize for employing all four of her Scorpio planets as she sees fit.
Do take a look at Lee’s website here and click here for full info on her Very Luminar lunar cycles course.
Madeleine: Tell me a bit about the solstices and their significance beyond the “longest day” thing. What kind of meaning have they been assigned, historically, by the cultures which honoured them?
Lee: The solstices tended to be seen as gateways by ancient cultures. In some writings, the Winter Solstice is characterised as the “Gates of Heaven”, with its association with death at the time when the light is at it’s lowest. Whereas the summer solstice is called the “Gates of Man” – it’s often associated with birth. And one thing that is also somewhat universal is that these days in the calendar – the solstices, equinoxes and cross-quarter days are meant to be, and I’m stealing this phrase from Demetra George who talks about some of these things a little bit: the idea that on these days there is “a crack in the veil”.
I haven’t come across that before in relation to solstice – but it fits with this idea that we’re at a threshold.
These were days not only to celebrate, but were also days where one gave offerings to different gods, or to the ancestors, or made contact in some way. And for me that doesn’t have to be ritualistic or some big performative thing. It could just be a quiet moment’s meditation, to think about the people in life that have mattered to you. To send them your blessings, and ask for the same. I often choose to write a letter to my ancestors on the solstice.
And I suppose in that sense that we have this opportunity to reflect on where we are in the year it’s also an opportunity to reflect on our lives. I find that quite vividly when I bring to mind the question of how many more solstices will I see? There’s a sense of the preciousness of these times because it’s easy to kind of say, “Oh my God this is June already! What! How did that happen?” And yet in this year the truth is a lot has happened already. There’s something precious about savoring those moments.
Absolutely. Just to be present with time itself is always to dissolve it of its tyrannical power. Because time seems to always be just marching on at an incredible pace that we can’t control… We feel moved by instead of in control of it. It’s one of the only things that we don’t have control over as humans.
To sit in the present and be conscious with time – what’s unfolding, what’s still gestating, and what’s still to come for you, is very powerful in the face of it. It ablates the somewhat tyrannical power that time has over us.
So we talked a bit about Solstice and the significance of us this moment here. So I’m curious then to delve deeper into that astrological moment.
The sun is moving into the sign of Cancer.
And before that we were in Gemini, which is the twins, right?
So what’s Gemini like and then what’s Cancer like, and what’s the movement in between them?
I think what’s important is the contrast between the signs, because the narrative between signs doesn’t progress in a linear fashion, at least I’ve never found that to be the case in my experience. Some people would argue that there’s an “evolution” but I find that problematic in ways I won’t go into here.
In essence, what we’re moving from is an air sign into a water sign, and from a mutable sign into a cardinal sign.
Cardinal signs start seasons. So as the sun moves into Cancer, that’s the moment of the summer solstice. In between that we have fixed signs, which are designed to stabilize the season. Aries is the start of spring, and then Taurus is the stabilization of spring, for example. Mutable signs herald the shift.
Mutable means changeable, so the mutable signs are Gemini, Virgo, Pisces and Saggitarius. And mutable signs give way to other energies. There is one energy when it comes in and another comes out – there is a switch or a change about within that 30 day period.
Gemini is the point, then, between spring and summer when spring gives way to
So that’s what we’ve just been in and I think actually England has been having a very early summer this year. Whereas over here in Portugal, it’s been the opposite. Summer arrived two days ago here – before that it was pretty much just rainy and cold. So that idea of the twins is very relevant. There have been two seasons going on!
Right. And remember, that’s obviously a northern hemisphere perspective and it also does depend somewhat on weather patterns. You know, if you were to live in the northern hemisphere but in the Middle East as I used to, you wouldn’t see a cyclical change of the weather – or in fact sometimes it could be inverse to what you might be led to believe.
And this is why I think the solstice itself is very interesting, because no matter where you are you’re going to experience the impact of the sun being at its highest point.
That’s right. In Ancient Egypt the solstice was a moment of birth, because around that time within that general time period the Nile would flood and there would be a great moment of fertility that would bring life again, connecting Cancer with the period.
For other countries and regions it would be a time of Death. In Ancient Sumeria it would be when the heat was at its greatest. The fields would lay fallow and everything would be burned under the summer sky, but that still made it a potent time for its own reason. It was still a peak moment in the calendar.
What are some of the characteristics of these specific signs?
Gemini is airy, flighty. It’s a breezy, airy, light sign. It dances on its tiptoes, going around sampling things: meanings, people, exchanging information – it’s always on the move, it’s very dynamic. It’s also concerned with thought and speech and ideas and communication and bouncing things around.
It’s also very social: it’s in the mix and likes to be out and about exchanging, cross-pollinating if you will.
Cancer’s something altogether different. Cancer is comfort. Nurturing. The feeling of being home, the feeling of being held by other people. There’s a warmth to Cancer and a generosity, an ease. It’s being in a place where you feel comfy and happy, with people you enjoy. With the right food and drinks in tow!
So that’s very fitting then for this summer aspect. Maybe about stepping away from that productivity thing a little bit, and just enjoying where we are.
Absolutely. It brings us into the summer. And it is interesting that Cancer is the sign that starts summer, because it’s a sign of comfort – creature comforts. Gemini might be out on the move, swirling and twirling. Cancer is about returning. It’s about sentimentality, it’s about memory, it’s about what’s familiar.
And aren’t those concepts so associated with summer. The nostalgia for summers past, for our childhood…
Absolutely. We have a nostalgia for the summer, we do, in a way that we don’t for spring, for example. Spring feels exciting, has its own different energy. The summer feels like… it’s the ice cream truck that goes by, or the special food you have in summer and you sit outside to eat it instead of being inside.
I love it when people reminisce about summer clothes: their favorite shorts say, or that one summer dress. Your favourite sandals as a child – maybe 30 years have gone by, but you’ll never forget how special they were.
Skinned knees and sunburn and playing ballgames until the absolute last bit of light is in the sky…
I like that. Even though I know it’s a bit of a fantasy. I think nowadays I just kind of embrace that and go for it and think, great you know, how can I create those moments this summer, that I will look back on? We let down our guard a little bit.
There’s a general feelgood vibe. The sun in Cancer, it makes family everywhere. It makes people feel like family. It’s the kind of person who goes into an office and is warm fast friends with everyone there. Everyone tells that person their private stuff… there is a sense of feeling held so you can weaken the normal boundaries.
That’s a great concept. Whether it is taking a day off, or just connecting with people.
It’s that sensation: now summer is definitely happening. Holidays are on. People are going to travel, there’s a sense of being out every night, walking down the streets and people are still out and about having a drink enjoying themselves.
One thing that I am curious about then is the way that the moon works with the different signs, because the moon is in the opposite sign, is that right?
That’s a big question! It’s actually what I teach in my lunar cycles course.
Oh great! So there’s a full moon coming up, is that right?
A full moon in Capricorn, that’s right, the first full moon after the summer solstice. It is true that quite often people live by “Sol y Luna” calendars, a mix of the sun and the moon, so celebrations might happen at the full moon just past an equinox or summer solstice. Easter Sunday, for example, is the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.
There are always adjustments about the solar and lunar calendars. The lunar events around a solstice or equinox, bring things to a further peak. It’s like an echo or a reverb. And it’s true that in a full moon, the sun and moon will be in opposite signs: So sun in Cancer, Moon in Capricorn.
There’s so much in astrology. So much to delve into, so many layers. I’m assuming you don’t spend the entire time reading the charts! How do you find a way to bring it into your day to day life? Because I love that you say you’re “not a ritual person”. I always imagine people who know loads about this stuff will spend their whole time bedecked in robes doing things with altars…
I always aim to keep astrology in its place, which is to be mastered – or at leas on the path towards mastery – rather than to be mastered by it, which something I feel very strongly even when I’m working with clients.
Astrology shouldn’t be a tool that we look to to feel fear or to be like “oh this new moon looks horrible, it portends horrible things.”
It’s really important to sit with all of the information and give it its appropriate place and weight and value.
With the sun and the moon, I’m attentive. I’m actually thinking about making a calendar, because I already print out my own calendar which has all the transitions and phases in it. I’m very cognizant of the lunar cycle – I teach the lunar cycles class so I am quite often midwifing other people through that learning.
I just kind of keep it in the back of my mind. If the moon is in places I know it’s going to give the day a certain feeling. Pisces might be more for something that’s empathic or compassionate or inspired. Aries might be a better energy for the fight forward for something, or if it’s time to take a leap or act boldly. Well, it’s also important in that sense eventually to understand your own birth chart enough to know where the moon is pulling the energy into different parts of your chart.
It can be really personal then. I’m picturing perhaps, you could check your chart in the morning and just hold it loosely, knowing that the energy of the day might inform your decisions.
I don’t know if I always make choices based on that, but it might flavor it differently. Take a day when I’m writing, for example. If the moon is in the 12th house which is a very isolated, very deep place, I may be in a deep retreat, an isolated moment where I’m burrowing down into something.
Whereas if the moon was in the 5th on that day, I know it’s a very expressive or artistic, creative, even indulgent place. It might feel like a flight of fancy that I write out.
I look more into my body than I do the stars. I think there’s that too. I don’t believe the stars impact us. I think they reflect what’s already occurring, which I think is important to think about. Because otherwise again it becomes this thing: “I am just a slave to these things gyrating in the sky and they are doing whatever they want… they are going to, you know, put a pox upon my house when I’m not looking!”
Whereas I just think that the stories reflect what is happening in what is unfolding in the sky. I don’t think they dictate, or impact, as such. One view is of a cause and effect consequence and the other one is to say that it’s demonstrative or symbolic or representative or reflective of something. I prefer the latter. This idea that there’s something symbolic happening, there is something reflective.
That feels like a very modern approach, which I am all about. It feels like there’s more and more of us connecting to these things, who aren’t afraid of technology, who are participating in the modern world, and who are curious about how we can reconnect to these ideas. Do you feel that?
I think so, and I hope so, is probably a better answer. I can only speak about astrology because it’s the only thing I’ve studied in depth in that way. Astrology to me is an entire structure or a vessel that you can animate with whatever you want. Animate coming from the word “soul” – you can ensoul your practice with whatever you like.
You can pump it full of neuroticism if you want. It can be nothing but doom and gloom. It can be nothing but warm and fuzzy, on the opposite side of the spectrum – we can use it to bypass things and to repackage those things that we find unpleasant.
You can use any of these tools however you wish, but I think finding the middle path between intellect and intuition is to me just as vital and important as is balance in the linear and the non-linear, the yin and the yang, or the lunar and the solar. We need both levels of consciousness in order to work properly.
I’m not a religious person but if I were going to be religious I would probably go for the Bahai faith which says something to the effect of: Humanity is a great bird with two wings. One is male, and one is female, and unless we have both of the wings, the bird will not fly.
I think that is the approach that must be pulled in if we are going to be uplifted and empowered by things like astrology, the tarot, reiki healing… Any of these things can be used to embed our neuroses further; any of these things can be used to bypass.
We have to make really mature and disciplined decisions about how we buy into these things and or invite these things into our lives and how we let them unfold. And I think hopefully a lot of people are moving towards embodying and combining these cycles, the life of seasons, the life of the year and using them with real measure.
I love it. I love your brain. Thanks for speaking with me today.