The annual Sagittarius Full Moon tends to be a favourite of mine. With the summer Sun (situated in goodtime, garrulous Gemini) illuminating the full face of luscious Luna (in enquiring, adventurous Sagittarius) the next fortnight regularly sees a raft of harmonious win-wins for the moon sensitive here on Earth. Often dubbed the 'Strawberry Moon' as the first flush of fruit signals the arrival of northern hemisphere summer, this is a time of year to enjoy the sweet taste of natural abundance wherever we find or cultivate it.
This is the full moon for travel, but currently perhaps more acutely attuned to discovery close to home. The coming week begs us to take the road less travelled, seizing every opportunity to explore unknown pathways and environments in our own neighbourhoods and regions. Great adventure can be found doing the local thing rather than galavanting glamorously off to exotic, far flung climes. This moon is more about walking and cycling on home turf - navigating the world under our own power at our own pace - than burning the cash and fossil fuels to find ourselves anew elsewhere. Seeking excitement in the stuff close to home, in our relationships and domestic environments, could mean a night out with new friends in places you've never been or equally, an intimate night in with a lover on a slightly different voyage of exploration. Whatever the adventure, it's a wonderful moment for deeper communication and sharing a passion for life and love that could resonate positively for the rest of the year. Yes, it's a time to party but let's make sure we're revelling with those of like mind, who think creatively and enjoy open philosophical engagement deep into these longer summer nights. Why not gather under the stars round the campfire and go native with the neighbours?
As you might have seen plastered across your chosen media outlets, people in the UK now have a fully invested new monarch. Near enough a month on from the anointing and coronation of King Charles III, it may be worth exploring, in a suitably Sagittarius Full Moon fashion, what that might have meant for denizens of the UK and beyond. The institution of British Royalty remains one of abiding interest/intrigue internationally with approximately 300 million viewers worldwide tuning in to watch the London ceremony and parade. Of that figure, an average of 18.8 million folks in the UK watched proceedings on the telly, significantly 10 million less than watched the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II last September. An alternative perspective was delivered by the British anti-monarchy website Republic, estimating that 7.8 billion people would not watch the coronation from a world population of 8.1 billion. The remaining 300 million who did, were in fact far fewer than the TV audience for the World Cup Final in 2022, estimated by FIFA to be 1.5 billion viewers.
But 300 million is still a whole lot of folks, all of whom are in some way contributing to the collective consciousness surrounding the coronation whether or not we consider their number to be of major global significance. What is it about this royal pageant that stimulated such levels of interest and what does the 1000 year old ceremony represent to modern society? To what purpose can the largely positive thoughts and feelings of the viewing audience be directed or employed? What good might actually come of it?
Weirdly perhaps in this increasingly secular age, the whole coronation experience remains essentially religious, drawing on arcane British law that casts the new King in the role of Defender of the Faith - a title bestowed on Henry VIII by the pope shortly before England broke with the Roman Church. The commonly held belief remains that this 16th century religious reformation was enacted by the King so that he could finally wangle a divorce (technically a marriage annulment) from Catherine of Aragon. Ironically, King Charles III is the first divorced sovereign since then, although as recently as 2002 divorcees were actually barred from marrying in an Anglican church.
In 1994, Charles courted controversy by saying as king, he would rather be "defender of faith" than Defender of the Faith in his desire to reflect Britain's religious diversity, which suggested a change in coronation oaths might eventually be in the offing. However, he later clarified his position, "I mind about the inclusion of other people's faiths and their freedom to worship in this country." The role of monarch was "not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead the Church (of England) has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country." Fair enough. Not before time Charlie.
In the coronation ceremony itself, the monarch to be crowned is led through a series of metaphoric 'gateways' from the west entrance of Westminster Abbey, up the symbolic vertical axis of the church to the high altar. In front of the altar lies a mosaic floor, a universal cosmic map: the Cosmati Pavement, at the centre of which, under a canopy of golden cloth, the monarch is anointed on hands, breast and head, with oil blessed and consecrated by the archbishop of Canterbury. With the physical passing through each gateway, led by senior priests, the monarch is prepared (elevated) spiritually for the anointing at the centre of a metaphysical universe. The chintzy, regal robes of office are discarded as the monarch strips down to a simple white shirt that represents the divesting of all worldly vanity to stand before God in service. At the moment of anointing it is the symbolic naked human that kneels before the True Power of God (the Holy Spirit) to seek Its blessing for the forthcoming life of service. This is the primary moment of (relative) privacy for the monarch during the ritual, the intimacy of the anointing shrouded from public scrutiny by screens and canopy.
Then the real pomp and circumstance kicks in. The anointed monarch, King Charles III, gets dressed up in the grandest finery, golden robes and suchlike before having a big crown plonked on his noggin.. He is then presented with all sorts of priceless trinkets and baubles, among them a huge bejewelled sword, symbolic of the power that he, as crowned servant of spiritual energy, pledges to wield "as a sign and symbol not of judgement, but of justice; not of might, but of mercy." Best not to mention the 'justice' in historic, colonial slavery at this moment in ceremonial proceedings I guess.
Then a bunch of people, including the next in line to the throne, pay official homage to the King before the attendees of the coronation and anyone else watching at home are invited to ceremonially pledge their allegiance with this specific wording: 'I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.' The invitation is extended by the High Church of England, voiced by the Archbishop of Canterbury who oversees the entire glorious (and fabulously expensive - a widely estimated £100 million bill for the UK taxpayer) ceremony. There is no obfuscation throughout about where the power really lies here - it is with the priests: the ordained, earthly representatives of God, whose lineage and authority bestow understanding of Divine Right upon 'chosen' human form.
Then there's a good old sing song followed by a procession from the spiritual realm of the high altar, descending the central aisle of the Abbey, back through all the symbolic thresholds to arrive once more at the earthly western gate to unify the spiritual and material experience in the eyes of those the King has pledged to serve, represented by the thousands of adoring royalists waving flags outside.
But where does all that resplendent shenanigans leave those of us whose colours are nailed to neither royalist nor republican masts; who wave neither religious nor secular banners? What is it that elevates this whole parade beyond the brilliantly sardonic Private Eye front page headline, "Man in hat sits on chair"?
I wrote at length in this column last September (Who Wears The Crown?) about sovereignty after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, but there is something new to add under this Sagittarius Full Moon that speaks to the future rather than nostalgically dwelling on some idealised, possibly non-existent, paragon of a passing 'golden' age. Our current discordant era, subconsciously agonising over its relatively recent harsh divorce from the natural world on which it nonetheless still depends, requires a new, contemporaneous reading of all these majestic, arcane archetypes. These royal mythologies, and the individuals through which they are symbolically embodied, interlace across cultural and geographical boundaries; in distant but shared philosophy, ideology, tradition and wisdom. Collectively we have borne historic witness to kings and queens, chiefs, gurus, elders, christs, buddhas, prophets, saints, sinners, rock 'n' rollers, stars and starlets, ascetics and a pantheon of otherworldly godlike genius. These idealised, totemic figureheads cannot, and should not, be easily discarded as emblems of anachronistic storybook superstition that has long been superseded by modern reductionist rationale. They exist as time honoured icons, archetypal prompts for our own inner exploration and understanding. Utilised as such they can be helpful starting points on any journey of self examination.
The archetypes of Westminster Abbey are enduring, (endearing if you can get there) allegories for our times. The monarch represents each one of us, sovereign of our own domain in thought, word and deed should we take the time to realise the power held within that personal kingdom. In a conscious pledge to serve rather than to be served, the distortions of our habitualised, conditioned behaviour can be addressed and atoned; reparations can be made, meaningful change inspired and practically instigated. We sit on the throne at the centre of our own Cosmati Pavement: our own universe, humbly anointed moment by moment with the holy, animating, lubricating oil of life itself. We are recipients of, yet participants in, the unerring beneficence of all existence. We are that very force of movement; the power of constant, expansive, evolutionary change; Love by any other name.
Ultimately, the ‘crown’ we all wear is an integral treasure of the universal sovereign democracy we inhabit. We are individuated constituents of the same miraculous, majestic whole, each a priceless jewel in that cosmic coronation. We wear the crown but are also of it, no part more important or worthy than any other, from humble grain of dust to magnificent diamond; from industrious ant to gargantuan whale. As we become more aware of our inextricably connected divine heritage - of our sovereign power in thought, word and deed - we come closer to the immense power of a life committed to the benefit and love of others. In love of 'other' as Self we finally ascend from attendant rightful heirs, to the throne of The Kingdom itself.
Under this playfully explorative Sagittarius Full Moon, let's pledge to pay homage to the sovereign monarch in everything and everyone, everywhere we travel. It's the transcendent big thrill adventure, the treasures of which we don't even have to leave the comfort of our own throne to discover.
God save the King? May love save us all.
God of compassion and mercy whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve, give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth. Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and conviction, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace. through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The King's prayer, King Charles III, May 6th 2023, Westminster Abbey)