Category Archives: ‘New Posts: 2020 onwards

Mercury Retro front line: status report…

Yes, well, much though I have learned over many years to use the three Mercury Retrograde periods per year to re-vise, re-visit, re-draft, re-vitalise (well, maybe not totally …) re-cover (eg  from previous Mercury Retrogrades) and any other re- you can think of, nevertheless I can never quite get over that mild shudder of not entirely excited anticipation when I see another one sidling up over the mercurial horizon.

18 June 2020 is day 1 of Mercury retrograding from 14 Cancer back to 5 Cancer. He then turns direct on that degree on 12 July 2020 but does not catch up with himself at 14 Cancer until 26th July 2020.

So – all of us with a strong Mercury signature in our birth horoscopes: eg Mercury ruling any of the four Angles of the horoscope but especially the Ascendant, conjunct any planets or Nodes, and with any planets, Angles or Nodes between around 10-20 degrees of Aries/Cancer/Libra/Capricorn, are going to feel the effects.

Pay especial attention to the houses involved. eg if you have the Sun at around 10-20 Cancer in the seventh house, do not expect straightforward clarity in your dealings with significant others during this time…( to put it mildly…)

I am a most Mercurial person, with Mercury ruling my Virgo Ascendant, conjunct Saturn, Pluto, Venus and the Moon, exactly semi -square Uranus, exactly sextile Neptune, and widely square Jupiter in the third house. So – I have had many adventures of a Mercury Retro nature.

If you’d like to be informed and entertained by a wander through my Mercury Retro article archive, just click HERE.

So – you will be wondering by now – how was the morning of DAY ONE for me? Reader, I will tell you. Try not to laugh too hard.

This tale concerns a passport. My passport. The ten-year one which expired during the last Mercury Retrograde in February 2020. I should have known there was going to be trouble…

The build -up to the Tale of Day One was a saga in itself. It  involved my hating the photo update for my new about-to-be-applied-for passport so much that I tore it up in disgust. (I know, passport photos are BAD, but I did not wish to have to look at this especially hideous one for the next ten years) This was about two days before UK lockdown, so – no more photo shops. Oh dear, I thought. A more sensible person might have concluded that in the absence of any possibility for travelling abroad, it would make sense to put the passport idea on hold.

Not me.

I loathe bureaucracy in any form – with Mercury exactly semi-square Uranus natally, explanation is hardly needed. And I have large handwriting. So my first effort to fill in the ghastly application form failed on two counts: one, my signature touched the edge of the sacred signature box. Two, I needed a countersignature and a new passport photo.

I found a delightful photographer and together (but socially distanced, of course…) we found an outdoor blank wall against which a second, less hideous passport photo was taken. No, I’m not showing it to you.

Then she had the bright idea of adjourning to a delightful secluded little-used local hidden garden. I needed a back cover photo for my “Sixty Shades of Astro-Musing” ( title provisional)  collected essays etc book which I’m aiming to have ready for next Spring 2021. According to my Editor, the delightful but at times stern Victor Olliver ( editor of the UK’s Astrological Journal) , “This is a perfect year for pulling that book together, Anne. So do get your finger out!” …or words to that effect.

We had a brilliant photo shoot despite the quiet space being invaded by six young children and their harassed mothers, desperate to take their kids somewhere they could play outside without getting to close to one another.

So – I now have a lovely back cover photo. All I need now is actually to organise said book…

Anyway, the new form, filled in correctly, duly countersigned by a ‘person of standing’ and a signed photo stating this was indeed moi, took me right up until – you’ve probably guessed it – the day before Mercury went Retrograde.

Having established that transiting Mercury retro would be squaring my second house Neptune, I had already thought “No way am I sending this application in until end July at the earliest”. However, having fortunately re-checked the submission guidance notes ( natal Mercury and Neptune are in exact sextile, so some saving grace here!) the application had to be sent in within a month of the photo being taken. Since the photo’s signature had had to be backdated to be the same day my countersignee had signed the application form, the month was nearly up.

Given that I’d rather never go abroad again, ever, than go through the previous pantomime for a second time, I gritted my teeth. Nothing for it. I had to take the completed passport application form to the UK Post Office’s ‘check and send’ service on the first day of Mercury Retrograde.

So, yesterday morning, I triple-checked everything, even bringing a chequebook in case my bank card fell down a drain on the ten-minute walk to the local Post Office. (Retro Mercury is in a water sign, was my reasoning). I also left the house just before 10am in order to avoid the social distance queues which build up everywhere as the average day wears on.

‘Great! ‘I thought as I strolled in. No queue. Alas – there was a new person behind the perspex screen who had no idea how to do a ‘check and send’ procedure. My heart sank. After much conferring with two equally bemused looking colleagues, she announced that the fellow who knows how to do it would not be in until 12pm. Could I come back then?

So – I’m sure you can guess my thoughts as I cleared off. However, having run into a friend and her delightful little daughter playing bubble-blowing in the nearby Botanic Gardens, followed by a trip to one or two shops for necessary supplies, and a lovely socially distanced chat with my hairdresser who was in fine form as he painted his salon and tried not to laugh at my home haircut, I returned home in a pretty chilled mood to drop off shopping –  there to await High Noon and my return to the Post Office.

Walking down the street at the appointed time towards the said P.O., realisation dawned that  I had left my phone AND  banker’s card on the armchair in which I’d been sitting in our third floor bay window, enjoying a cup of tea in the morning sunshine. Swearing under my breath, I had no option but to return and collect both items.

Yes, reader, there was a queue outside. And a queue inside. However, I spotted the genial chap who had regretfully knocked back my earlier attempt during the last Mercury Retrograde. He recognised me ( I wonder why?!), waving me over to the appropriate counter.

All went wonderfully well until I stuck my current account bank card into the machine to pay the eye-watering sum it now costs to get a passport. I’d been using a different contactless card throughout months of lockdown to avoid using money – but this card could not be used for large payments.

Try as I might, I simply could not remember my current account card’s PIN. Aaaargh! There followed some moments of angst on both sides of the counter, not to mention in the queue now building up behind me. However, the lovely chap serving me eventually saved the day, having initially told me that the payment transaction now having been cancelled I’d have to go home and find my PIN number. He had already written down on the ‘check and send’ form that the payment method was by card.

Having consulted the  nitpicking instructions, though, he discovered that one scoring-out was allowed  in the labyrinthine process of application and said “Do you by any chance have a cheque book with you? I can score this payment notification out and you can write a cheque instead. ” I never thought I’d ever be happy to write a cheque for over one hundred pounds. But I was verging on the ecstatic as I handed it over. “Great,” he said happily, sealing the relevant package and tossing it into his OUT tray. “Since you’re only re-applying rather than ordering a new passport, it should be with you in three weeks or so.”

Just in time for the end of Mercury Retrograde, it would seem…

1450 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

 

 

 

 

 

One cycle begins, another hasn’t ended…2020, the year of being stuck…

The moving finger writes…

The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.”(i)

That opening quote from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam has been running through my mind for weeks. It has such a fated Saturn/Pluto flavour…

press.uchicago.edu

press.uchicago.edu

The word Fate is derived from the Latin ‘fatum’…literally ‘thing spoken (by the gods)’, a dictat which is not negotiable. It’s an uncomfortable, awe-inspiring word, one with which humans throughout history have never managed to get comfortable, for all our contemporary cleverness and increasing technological sophistication.

Living within the bleak symbolic terms of reference of Saturn/Pluto as its new 33-year cycle gets under weigh,  tends to make us more contemplative of how far the writ runs of our ability to control very much at all.

I have just had a very brutal reminder of this. My husband Ian and I were married a few months before the November 1982 Saturn/Pluto cycle began, and he was felled on 12th January 2020, the very day of its ending, by a fatal stroke. I am grateful that he exited this life fast, with minimal suffering and very peacefully – just as he always said he wanted to go.

However, as well as coping with the shock, grief and loss, I have been processing a deep sense of awe in the face of what feels like Fate.

Having been born with (far too many!) Leo planets in the twelfth house, it has always been my way to seek creative perspective on whatever happens to me, mine and the wider world by setting personal dramas in the context of a bigger picture, if possible.

I wrote this column in the contemplative, twelfth house phase of what has been an exceptionally hard year for our planet and its occupants. The New Moon in Aries to me always signifies the true beginning of the year. In 2020 it occurred on 24th March, just after Saturn’s ingress into Aquarius on the 22nd March.

Along with many other astrologers, I have been awestruck in contemplating the symbolic drama taking shape and playing out in our tiny corner of the cosmos in the last couple of years in particular.

The Uranus/Pluto square separated at last with Uranus entering Taurus; Neptune’s ongoing transit through its own sign of Pisces eroded all kinds of boundaries, shattering our illusions of separateness and independence worldwide; Saturn/Pluto gradually claimed centre stage from 2019; and the last Jupiter/Saturn conjunction cycle in Earth for over 200 years is preparing to conclude, entering the Air element with a highly dramatic flourish – with Jupiter and Saturn meeting at the winter solstice 2020 at 0 Aquarius.

Astrologers have been aware for some years that we are going through a period of epochal change: a world turned upside down, right now by corona virus, as I sit in social isolation at my desk trying to make sense of it all.

I’ve been puzzling for some months over a contradictory symbolic picture: on the one hand, we are at the beginning stages of one of the most important, harshly challenging cycles, ie the 33-38 year Saturn/Pluto cycle; on the other, we are not only approaching the end of the 20 year Jupiter/Saturn cycle begun in Taurus in the year 2000, but the end of a whole era of that cycle’s moving through the Earth element.

This shift, ‘…the transition of the conjunction from one element to another – the ‘Mutation Conjunction’ – has always been considered to be of particular importance marking a major shift in emphasis and orientation in the world…’ (ii)

As most countries in the world struggle with the virus,  its effects and implications, the above symbolism in its contradictions seems to be describing our collective state with an eerie accuracy. World-wide events attendant upon the ending of the 1982 Saturn/Pluto cycle and the beginning of the new one in January 2020 have made it brutally clear to us as a human community that our cavalier, exploitative behaviour towards our Mother planet since the start of the Industrial Revolution has got to change if we are to survive. Business as usual is no longer an option.

In order to ram that point home to us so that we don’t return to ‘business as usual’ when the corona virus crisis passes, as we have done with previous viral outbreaks eg swine flu and the SARS epidemic, this particular virus crisis is different in scale and degree.

All our organisational systems from health to education to finance and business are being upended. Everyone is feeling the pain, one way or another. Anyone could die of this virus, even Trump or Bolsonaro. (Quiet, in the cheap seats!…)

That beginning/ending pattern suggests to me that our painful learning process, sufficiently protracted and purging that we will not (or cannot ) return to our old ways, is set to continue for quite a while to come. We have to get to the very end of the old Jupiter/Saturn order which began with the conjunction’s first venture into the earth element in 1802. That does not happen until the winter solstice of 2020. Until then, we remain in both symbolic and literal quarantine, in detention, one way or another – caught and penned in between a beginning and an ending.

However, as the Irish poet W.B. Yeats famously observed:

“…If Jupiter and Saturn meet,

What a crop of mummy wheat!…”(iii)

This rather melodramatic statement, typical of Yeats’ style and very appealing to a Leonine Celt like myself, is essentially positive.

The times we are living through for the rest of this tough year and beyond, are turbulent and pivotal as we shift from one great historical epoch to another. The shift looks likely to reset humanity’s ways of living with one another and our fellow creatures on Mother Earth.

But, as the Yeats quote so vividly states, out of the decay of the old order comes vibrant new growth. So – let’s all grit our teeth, be stoical, start where we are and do what we can to help effect the change that needs to come.

Saturn is now in Aquarius. Let the symbolism inspire us!

Endnotes

(i) This line originates in English in Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of the poem ‘The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam’, 1859

(ii) Baigent, Campion and Harvey in “Mundane Astrology” (publ. 1984, 1992,1995), p185, who also describe the conjunction as ‘…the ground base of human development which marks the interaction between perception of ideas, potentialities (Jupiter) and their manifestation in the concrete world.’( Saturn) (p184)

(iii) This quotation is from the first verse of  ‘ Conjunctions’ from one of W. B. Yeats’s most obscure collections of poems, the “Supernatural Songs.”

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(This post is a slightly edited version of my 28th Not the Astrology Column featured in the May/June 2020 Issue of the UK’s Astrological Journal, edited by Victor Olliver.)

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press.uchicago.edu

1150 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

Part 2: More on the Moon’s Nodes…

Well, as they say, it has been a week! Mine peaked – or troughed – late on Friday afternoon just after I had posted Part 1 and shared it on my Astrology: Questions and Answers Facebook Page, when Facebook locked me completely out of my whole Facebook account, allegedly ‘to protect the security of our community’. You are my readers: do you think you need protection from me? (answers, on a plain postcard…)

Anyway, cutting a very long and tortuous story short, a saga ensued which involved utterly futile attempts to find an appropriate route through algorithmic obfuscations. In the end, my third email to the source of the previous (algorithmic) ones must have been so pungent (not rude, just pungent) that my account was suddenly restored late last night. I was most relieved, since I had been expecting a long haul – in keeping with two similar episodes in the last year – before what passes for normal service was restored.

Judging from the comments left on Part 1, both on my own blog/astrology Facebook Page and on the Pages of colleagues who kindly shared the post, there has indeed been a lightening of mood with some of us consequent upon this shift; an increase in matters communicative and educational/philosophically reflective in others; and, like me, downright disruption, despite which I too feel a lightening of mood this week. This has modified my feelings of exasperation and of being overwhelmed by matters Gemini/Sagittarius!

Back to  Basics

This variation in responses and experiences neatly leads into a reminder of some basic principles, also reiterated by Dr Liz Greene in her second webinar on Chiron which I attended yesterday (9th May 2020): when considering the likely impact of any transit, including the Nodes, you need to remember that the transit invokes the basic nature and strength of the original pattern in the natal horoscope, bringing it into relationship with whatever opportunities/challenges the current transit is offering. 

My own horoscope will serve as a case in point, but readers can easily apply the same principles to their own horoscopes and current transits. I’ve used a Whole Sign format for the houses.

(I’m assuming readers have a basic familiarity with what the Nodal Axis represents. For those who do not, here is a quick summary.)

Anne W Horoscope

Anne W Horoscope

As can be seen, the Nodal Axis is bolted exactly onto the MC/IC axis in the ninth/third houses, very appropriate for a career which has always involved teaching and education in one form or another: all the way from teaching Liberal Studies to bricklayers and gas fitters, through to university entrance qualifications in English to mature students, and thereafter to supervision of social work trainees, and latterly via astrology classes to any and every occupation – from bus driving to psychiatric consultancy.

When you add in that powerful pattern’s being part of a fixed T-Square with the twelfth House Sun/Moon conjunction, also taking in third house Jupiter in Scorpio widely conjunct the IC/South Node, you can see the powerful symbolic role played in the unfolding path of my life’s journey by the Moon’s Nodes. I’ve even written a research study about them!

So – it’s hardly surprising that their shift this week has been very challenging for me. In addition to circumstances already described in Part 1, I’ve been having one of my periodic “What am I supposed to be doing with the rest of my life/ I need some new input!! ” Mercury/Jupiter crises. You’d think at my age I’d have settled that one. No such luck…

The Nodes’ journey through the natal chart

The stronger the links are, then, between natal planets and Angles with the Nodal axis, the more powerfully we will experience the symbolic impact of that axis as it regresses through our horoscopes, taking 18 months to go through each sign and house – pulling the potent twice yearly eclipse seasons with it – taking 18-19 years to return to its natal position. It will bring the core challenges of that natal pattern along to whatever sign, house and planetary aspects it happens to be making in that 18-19 year journey.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the Nodal shift into Gemini/Sagittarius and my tenth/fourth houses has already brought up powerful issues centring round having to balance the demands of domestic and vocational life. With the North Node conjunct the MC strongly pushing me to favour my vocational path, I’ve always been dragged back, usually unwillingly, to the South Node/IC position to deal with domestic matters from which I was unable to escape. It’s taken me decades to arrive at a reasonable balance between those two poles.

As I pointed out some time ago in The Moon’s Nodes in Action’:

‘…Identifying with the South Node position too strongly means leading a life which depends on using the abilities we already have to keep us safe from risk, challenge and therefore growth; whose main priority is comfort; whose mode is a habitual and largely automatic response to life.

Taking up the challenge of the North Node, on the other hand, brings with it a life which feels meaningful and open to new experience; which takes opportunities to develop innate talents and new insights and skills through responding positively to the impetus for change; whose mode is of acceptance of conflict and discomfort as a necessary part of developing as a person.

At the heart of the fullest, most creative expression of the struggle both collectively and individually lies a deep paradox – to move on as human beings we must individuate, follow the path of the North Node, and leave the South Node behind. But we must also make the return journey, to honour that which we ideally do not leave behind at all, but incorporate in our movement towards our own destiny…’ (i)

This personal example serves to illustrate a vital point about the Nodal Axis which applies to us all. We have to honour the challenges of the whole axis as our life path unfolds…

The current Nodal picture

Along with many of us, I’ve found the Nodal Axis’ transit through Cancer/Capricorn, crossing Saturn/Pluto in mid 2019 along the way, to be especially painful in terms of family, loss, and having to restructure life in ways that I would definitely not have chosen. No wonder the Moon’s Nodes, especially when they link with Pluto, have such a fated ‘feel’ to them. This was certainly one of the stand-out conclusions at which I arrived as a result of my own research into the Nodes.

I do not need to remind any of us of what a battering our world community has taken from the winter of 2018/9 as the Nodes have regressed through Cancer/Capricorn, culminating in the rise and spread of the grim pandemic now engulfing the world as the Nodal Axis shifts. Through the corona virus, our planet seems to be telling us in no uncertain terms that we need to radically change the way we live on planet Earth.

It’s fascinating to me as an astrologer (and I’m sure many other astrologers also think the same thing) that the shift of the Nodes into Gemini/Sagittarius has co-incided with several distinctive collective shifts. Here are just a few examples: One, the restlessness and desire to ease lockdown which is becoming more manifest in different countries despite the risk that certainly poses. Humans can only endure severe restriction for so long. We are too restless as a species, and this particular Nodal shift is amplifying that restlessness.

Also noticeable has been that the international search for a vaccine which would gradually bring us greater freedom has been ramping up, producing some promising results eg in the UK where human trials have already begun.

Furthermore at a more negative level for humans, though beneficial for the planet, has been the dawning of a realisation coming into clear focus now: the aviation industry, that supreme ally of human restlessness, is in severe trouble. We may never again be able to take to the air and see the world in the same relatively cheap and carefree way that we’ve come to take for granted in recent decades…

In conclusion– something else which strikes me as apt, and significant, is the North Node’s current presence in airy Gemini, midwifing the Air era beginning at this year’s winter solstice with the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction’s dramatic arrival at 0 degrees of Aquarius. We are going to need the adaptability of Gemini and the optimism and vision of Sagittarius as we step into the great collective adventure of the next two hundred years!

Endnotes

(i) The Moon’s Nodes in Action’: p15

1450 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

 

Nodes enter Gemini/Sagittarius …communication goes nuts!

Honestly, I wasn’t going to bother writing about the Nodes’ ingress into Gemini/Sagittarius…until it happened on the morning of Tuesday 5th May 2020 (if you go by the True Node – more on this later) during the first formal zoom tutorial with my student group.

Immediately following this my week exploded into a flurry of admin, dealing with annoying domestic detail, numerous phone calls at inconvenient moments eg when I was struggling to make sense of my tax return, zoom chats, teaching – and group participation via two seminars, one on Saturday planned for some time, the other on Sunday, arising from a zoom meeting with a friend and colleague today. This upcoming weekend is suddenly full of zoom, zoom, and more zoom!

I haven’t been feeling hugely inspired of late, but the extraordinary ramping up of all things Gemini/Sagittarius in my life this week with the Nodes’ shift from Cancer/Capricorn has truly got me going. This shift places the North Node in my tenth house, South Node in the fourth house; my week has been characterised thus far by considerable frustration as I struggled to free myself from the grip of admin etc etc centred on matters concerning my domestic life, in order to follow the promptings of the North Node in the tenth and get on with writing my A A Journal column and another piece of writing still gestating.

The manifestations of this shift for me were so striking that I really feel inspired once again to return to reflecting on the Moon’s Nodes, and in this post, on the significance of  ingresses. Planetary ingresses (entries) into signs have fascinated me ever since I began to study astrology and to realise the striking correlation between newspaper headlines on the day after a planet had shifted from one sign to another, and events in the wider world. At one time I had a whole file full of dramatic press cuttings illustrating this eg a photograph of the Japanese city of Kobe on fire following a massive earthquake on 17th January 1995 – just as Pluto shifted into Sagittarius.

But what of ingresses which are not planetary, ie the ingresses of the Moon’s Nodes which we are discussing here? Is it worth paying attention to these points of ingress in personal life? Or collective life? Have you had any striking experiences this week illustrating the energetic shift of the Nodes from one pair of signs to another? Has your mood lightened ( despite lockdown) in response to the Nodal shift from water and earth (Cancer/Capricorn) to air and fire (Gemini/Sagittarius)?

I’d be interested in my readers’ thoughts on this topic, whilst I write in some more detail about the Moon’s Nodes in general, and in Gemini/Sagittarius, for next week.

450 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

On the Taurus New Moon: Holy Dharma with Heron…

After enjoying a beautiful sunny late Spring day, my spirits have just been further lifted by a most wonderful sight just after sunset: the gorgeous silvery crescent of the New Moon in Taurus, with Venus, Taurus’ ruling planet, close by. 

A very striking aspect of our current lockdown has been how, in a variety of ways, we have been turning back to the natural world for comfort. I cannot believe how many people I saw on my daily walk today who were out tending normally unruly and neglected looking local gardens. I’ve been especially enjoying the joyful singing of  the many species of birds on our local area: I think they’re celebrating the lack of traffic and cleaner air…

Tonight I was thinking about birds, and suddenly remembered this piece I had written some years ago, in celebration of the heron, one of my favourites. It seems apt to share it with you on this waxing Taurus New Moon, as we turn back to Nature, our mother, for comfort in these dark and difficult times: 

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

“…I love herons. Their elegance: long, lean, streamlined curves over water, poised, waiting. Their focus: totally in the moment, poised, waiting….to strike sharp and swift. I love their languid flight: long wings lazily beating, slow concentrated strength and grace.

I live in Glasgow, Scotland – UK city with the most green space. My flat overlooks the river Kelvin which flows through the West End’s Botanic Gardens. On the riverbank, throughout the Gardens, all kinds of wildlife abound: amongst the over-fed pigeons and importunate grey squirrels the occasional kingfisher, an otter once seen on Boxing Day, sometimes a cormorant or two – and several herons taking up favourite positions along the river bank.

The fish ladder by the weir is a choice spot of theirs. Another pitch is partly concealed by vegetation, right below the Humpbacked Bridge leading to steep steps rising to the upper, more cultivated part of the Botanic Gardens.

Most days, I take a well-travelled route down from my house – crossing the Humpbacked Bridge, up the steps, through the Botanics past the Kibble Palace. This splendid circular, domed Victorian glass house hosts fine sculptures, elegant glass panels, a well-stocked pond – with some very old fishy friends adept at dodging the coins and wishes raining down on them on a regular basis – and a wonderfully displayed selection of plants and flowers from many parts of the world. It is a local jewel.

Strolling around those familiar, well-loved landmarks, I always enjoy occasional sightings of the heron. We can never decide how many herons there are of the same age and appearance. Maybe we are seeing the same one, over and over? Conversations like this weave together a very disparate, loose group of park regulars of all ages with a variety of views and opinions about the Botanic Gardens’ wild creatures. But the heron is a favourite; we always report sightings to one another.

We are inured to plentiful rain and bad weather as the default position for our local climate; stepping out into a pleasant, crisp, sunny morning  is therefore an immediate delight, especially with the Botanics emerging into the full glory of Spring.

Whilst appreciating this beautiful morning, my head was also full of the usual thought traffic as I contemplated the day ahead. The Buddhists speak the truth: we are only ever partly here. In each waking moment of our short, precious lives, we are usually distracted by something or other from being fully present. Thus we rarely savour fully the Holy Dharma of this very moment which will never come again.

Suddenly, my attention was totally focused on a sight I had never seen before. The heron was perched in full view, half way along the left-hand side of the Humpbacked Bridge!

I  stopped dead.   “Should I stay watching right here, or try to creep closer?” I wondered, full of excitement and apprehension. Deciding on the latter option, I tiptoed very very slowly onto the eight-foot wide bridge, veering to the right in order to edge along the opposite side of the bridge to the heron.

The wild creature seemed absorbed in his own surveillance operation, long elegant neck moving slowly from side to side, eyes glinting in the morning light reflected off the quietly flowing river. Whether he had spotted me or not, he was paying me no attention. Barely able to believe my luck, I inched along  extremely quietly until – to my great amazement – I was level. We were only a bridge width apart. Never in my life before had I been so close to such a large wild bird.

The morning was still. The heron, briefly, was still. I was still. The Holy Dharma moved with the air currents across the bridge, the heron and me. All was One.

Japanese Heron Painting

Japanese Heron Painting

Hours might have passed. It was probably less than a minute. I caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of my left eye. A slender young man dressed all in black, carrying a rucksack, i-pods in his ears, was rapidly approaching the bridge. Stealthily, I crept forward a couple of feet, heading off the bridge toward the steps, still hugging the side opposite the heron. He still didn’t budge. For a fleeting moment I thought “Anne, that wild creature is tuned to you. He can feel your goodwill….” Then the rationalist dismissed such a thought. Still….

The young man was about to step through the gate onto the bridge. I held my finger to my lips, indicating silence; with my other hand palm up,  I signalled to stop, waving him over to my side of the bridge – hoping this unknown young man might share a rare experience. But he ignored me. As he marched past us the heron took off, winging his lazy languid way downriver. Waving goodbye, I stood for a moment – partly watching the heron, partly watching the young man’s back as he tramped up the stairs.

In that moment I truly felt the force of life’s duality: on the one hand, such gratitude and joy that the heron and I had shared a pure, holy moment of Oneness. On the other, deep sadness that the young man, shut in with his technology, had missed it. Carl Jung’s comment, which comes to me often, came to me then: “Our task in this life is to reconcile the opposites”…..

….and a ps to this story….a couple of weeks later, I was strolling home through the Botanics by the river Kelvin on my way home, having spent the afternoon at my office.There on the riverbank, in  places where I had never seen them before, were – to my amazement and delight – two herons….”

Endnotes

This is a slightly edited version of a post which first appeared on this blog in 2015.

Japanese Heron Painting

Japanese Heron Painting

1150 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

Saturn/Pluto at Easter Eve…

This is our first Easter since the unfolding, relentless Saturn/Pluto cycle which began on 12th January 2020. The archetypal story of suffering, crucifixion, death – and rebirth, let us not forget! –  which is at the core of the Easter message, feels profoundly appropriate now as our human community travels the dark night of the current corona virus crisis. At present we have no idea of when, or how, we will emerge. So we wait, and hope…

Here are my thoughts, which I first wrote at Easter Eve some years ago. They seem even more apt now:

Iona Cross, Full Moon, August 21 2013

Iona Cross, Full Moon

photo: Anne Whitaker

“…There is a stillness about Easter Eve. Whether you are Christian, hold another faith, or none, the underlying archetypes of the Easter journey are common to all human experience.

We have all, unless we have led a supremely charmed life, been cast out into the wilderness at one time or another. Life has crucified us all, to a greater or lesser extent. We have been in the Underworld, have known what it is like to go through experiences so severe that we die to our old selves. Then there is the wait, the wait in darkness, fear, and not knowing.

Will we ever emerge, reborn? And when we do emerge, who are we now? Who recognises us, acknowledges and honours where we have been?

And the most profound  question of all: what should we do with the life which has been given back to us?

As ever, in times of waiting, the great poets have been there before us, giving a context, bringing collective dignity to our individual struggles. Here are some magnificent lines from T.S.Eliot to see you through this dark night, before the Easter light returns:

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” …” (i)

Endnotes

(i) from T.S.Eliot ‘s “East Coker” No 2 of  The Four Quartets

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Iona Cross, Full Moon

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Saturn enters Aquarius: prequel to a new world order…

Saturn entered Aquarius on Sunday, 22nd March, 2020 at 3:58 uk time. On Mothering Sunday (i). That symbolic ‘co-incidence’ really struck home. The planet is our Mother, and we humans have been abusing her for a very long time.

To me, the symbolism (and the corona virus with its attendant worldwide consequences) is saying clearly to our human community (Aquarius) that it is time to take responsibility, accept widespread restrictions (Saturn), for the sake of our communities – and our planet.

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The very next day, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston told the nation in no uncertain terms that we are now in lockdown ( another vivid manifestation of  Saturn’s entry into Aquarius), following the actions of other countries from China onwards in attempting to limit the spread of the corona virus. 

Saturn in Capricorn

Saturn entered Capricorn on 20th December 2017, beginning his long march towards a grim summit with Pluto, coming within close orb of their conjunction during the spring and early summer, then the winter of 2019.  Since that entry, intensified hugely by the conjunction, all our organisational systems from nationhood, to politics, to health, to education, to formal religious institutions, to finance and business, have been tested to their very limits, and been found seriously wanting one way or another.

At the conjunction’s closest point in April 2019, their symbolic danse macabre with the South Node in Capricorn gave rise to Greta Thunberg – the youthful feminine voice of the Great Mother? – and the Extinction Rebellion movement. To an astrologer’s symbolic eye, the North Node in Cancer was now forcing us to pay attention to the crisis point which our planet has reached and pointing us in the direction we needed to go in actually dealing with it instead of our politicians world wide indulging largely in ineffectual posturing or downright denial. “Crisis – what crisis?”.

That much-feared Saturn/Pluto conjunction took place exactly on 12 January 2020; we are now at the outset of a drastic but hopefully positive, if painful cycle of restructuring culminating in the next Saturn/Pluto conjunction at 13/14 Pisces in 2053/4. I am not alone in thinking that a major instrument of that reconstruction arrived in the shape of the corona virus, now shaping up as a world-wide pandemic.

As a consequence, all our complacent ways of living are now being upended. Everyone is feeling the pain, one way or another. Anyone could die of this virus, even Trump or Bolsonaro…( hmmmm…) 

We have found out in recent days that Boris Johnson and several members of his team spearheading management of the pandemic in the UK are now self-isolating, having tested positive for the virus. Prince Charles, UK head of state in waiting, has also contracted it – more manifestations of Saturn in Aquarius, as male leaders fall prey to an affliction crashing like a malevolent wave through the world-wide human community.

Capricorn and Aquarius

Both Capricorn and Aquarius are ruled by Saturn, Saturn being Aquarius’ ‘old’ ruler. I take some comfort from this as I watch events unfold, stunned and awed as usual by the symbolic accuracy of the planets’ unfolding patterns. Saturn is at its potentially most constructive as it moves through those collective signs.

The transit through Capricorn has been saying, in essence ‘I have checked out all your systems. They are not what our Mother planet or its creatures need – although much of it may be what some humans want: eg no minority on the face of this Earth needs to accumulate billions whilst many of the majority go hungry – so I have given these systems, and the illusions and denials that go with them, a good kicking. I have joined forces with Pluto and the Nodes – since a good kicking is apparently not enough – and sent you the highly unpleasant gift of corona virus. Great for the planet, but awful for humanity. Let’s see if that’s enough to make you pay attention to what needs to change…’

Saturn in Aquarius

And now we have Saturn in Aquarius: he dips in for a while, then returns to Capricorn from July until the end of 2020. Saturn has just told us that the old order represented by Capricorn is no longer viable – it’s long past its sell-by date, so to speak. Aquarius is a forward-looking collective sign, more concerned with the hidden potentials hovering in the future than with the past. Uranus, its ‘new’ ruler, amplifies that with its brilliance in developing new technologies in service of the human project. So – we can look forward to new, as yet undreamed-of solutions to the problems threatening us all with possible extinction in the present time.

A much bigger context, though, is this: there is a vast epochal process of turbulence and change happening which reaches a major developmental stage when Jupiter meets Saturn at 0 degrees of Aquarius on the winter solstice of 2020. What does this portend? Baigent, Campion and Harvey in “Mundane Astrology” describe this powerful twenty-year recurring cycle as  ‘…the ground base of human development which marks the interaction between perception of ideas, potentialities (Jupiter) and their manifestation in the concrete world ( Saturn).’ (ii)

There is more. The symbolically world-shaping duo of Jupiter and Saturn take over 800 years to go through the four elements, reflecting changing epochs as they go. I’ve written about this in some detail in ‘Some notes on cycles in a time of crisis’, published last year on Astrodienst if you’d like to take a look.

The Materialist Era

For now, let’s just look back to 1802. That was the year of the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction’s early entry into the Earth element, where it was to remain for over 200 years, its last meeting in Earth taking place at 23 Taurus in May 2000, its final departure in December 2020. That 1802 date co-incided with the Industrial Revolution’s gathering pace and impact at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as the materialist age of exploitation of our Earth’s natural resources for material gain began.

Let’s not get too holier than thou’, here, though. Political philosopher Thomas Hobbes in the mid seventeenth century posited that in the state of nature people’s lives are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short …”(iii) and there is no doubt that the lives of a massive number of humans – especially in developed Western  countries – have gained hugely improved health, longevity, quality of life and opportunities for personal fulfilment as a result of  our astonishing progress in harnessing the forces and resources of Nature.

However the point would appear to be that, at the very end of Jupiter/Saturn’s sojourn in the Earth element, we have been brutally made aware especially in the last couple of years that the costs of ‘the march of progress’ now heavily outweigh the benefits, to the extent that the very survival of our lives on planet Earth is under threat…

The Airy Future…

I find it fascinating that the years since 2000, if you like the 12th house phase of the long Jupiter/Saturn traverse through the Earth element, have offered us more than a glimpse of what the impending shift of the conjunction into the Air element may look like. The appearance of the first iPhone in June 2007 and its spread – like a virus! – until smartphones became ubiquitous technology across the globe in less than ten years, has revolutionised the way we live. The generation born from the Millennium on are the first in human history never to have known what a life without airy inter-connection was like.

Astrologers have known for a long time that the year 2020 was to be one like no other: it is the first year for over 200 years of ‘…the transition of the (Jupiter/Saturn) conjunction from one element to another – the ‘Mutation Conjunction’ – has always been considered to be of particular importance marking a major shift in emphasis and orientation in the world…’ (iv)

Thus far, as we live through stormy turbulence at the beginning of 2020, we can see the emphasis and orientation’ of the approaching Air era becoming clear. One major consequence of the corona virus pandemic sweeping through our world as Saturn shifts into Aquarius inviting us to live differently and more responsibly as humans, is already very obvious. In the last couple of weeks, there has been an explosion of collective Zooming, Skyping, WhatsApping, etc as we set about working from home and transferring our individual and group lives to the airwaves.

Still to come after the Mutation Conjunction into 0 Aquarius on the Winter Solstice of 2020 ( how’s that for a Fated-sounding date?!) – Pluto’s shift into Aquarius in 2024.

Fasten those seatbelts, folks. We’ve been selected to be present at the dawn of a new epoch…

Endnotes

(i) Mothering Sunday is celebrated by Christians in the United Kingdom, Ireland and some other English-speaking countries… It is increasingly being called Mother’s Day, although that name also belongs to the American and Canadian secular holiday which is quite distinct from the original Mothering Sunday. (c/f Wikipedia)

(ii) Baigent, Campion and Harvey in “Mundane Astrology” (publ. 1984, 1992,1995), p184

(iii)…from…”Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil”, commonly referred to as “Leviathan”, is a book written by Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) and published in 1651. 

(iv) Baigent, Campion and Harvey in Mundane Astrology” (publ. 1984, 1992,1995), p185

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What is an astrology reading? Why should I have one?

 Occupying the collective mind currently, and forcing us to start changing the way we live, is the corona virus crisis. As the fear-inducing Saturn Pluto conjunction of 12th January 2020 grew closer during 2019, the environmental crisis forced its way to the forefront of public consciousness, via the efforts of climate change activist Greta Thunberg which have given rise to the Extinction Rebellion movement. 

 We are living in a time where awareness of theinterconnectedness of all things’ is now at the forefront of public consciousness across the world. Evidence is piling up increasingly starkly: what happens in one part of our world impacts everywhere. 

The ancient maxim ‘As above, so below‘ has thus never seemed more relevant. The art and practice of astrology has been based on that maxim for at least six thousand years. Astrology links what happens in the individual and collective lives of human beings to the movement of the planets through the solar system of which we are part. As contemporary astrologer, writer and philosopher Prof. Richard Tarnas so eloquently puts it:

“It is astrology’s extraordinary insight that these complex, multidimensional archetypes which govern the forms of human experience are intelligibly connected with the planets and their movements in the heavens, an association that is observable in a constant coincidence between specific planetary alignments and specific corresponding archetypal phenomena in human affairs.” (i)

Popular Sun Sign astrology as found in the media can only give a general picture of one dimension of the person. It’s simply not possible for this astrology to describe fully who you are, since it focuses only on where the Sun is (ie in Pisces, Aries, Virgo etc) on your birthday. It’s like trying to tell the story of a complex play with reference to only one character on the stage.

Using this analogy, you  can only get a view of all the characters on the stage of your life from the map which an astrologer draws of the heavens at the particular TIME and PLACE, as well as DAY, of  your birth.

This map or Horoscope or Birth Chart can then be used as a tool to mirror back to you, as lucidly as possible, with great care for your sensitivity and level of awareness, what the different characters are on the stage of your life and how they interact with one another.

After many years of doing readings professionally, I think the central thing that an individual gains from an astrology reading is confirmation of who they actually are: what their  strengths and weaknesses are, what are their gifts and their difficulties. It gives them more confidence and courage to be themselves. It is a very powerful and potentially spiritual experience to have a stranger, who knows nothing of you, describe your essential qualities accurately from a map drawn of the heavens.

The other great gift that astrology can offer is that of saying: ” This is your moment in time, through which you are connected to a process which was unfolding aeons before you were born, and will continue long after you have departed. You are a unique strand in the weave of life, you have a contribution to make, using the energy that you have been given as fully and as creatively as possible.”

Astrology readings, done with compassion, skill, sensitivity and professionalism are a significant way of contributing to promoting that sense of connectedness.

Feeling meaningfully connected to relationships, family, community, and whatever Big Picture sustains you – as countless contemporary research studies in psychology, education and other related fields have shown – is an effective antidote to those feelings of alienation and pointlessness which our materialist culture seems to be amplifying rather than reducing.

However, given the explosion of astrologers and astrology sites – often of highly dubious quality – across the internet in recent times, it is perhaps as well to sound a note of caution, as highlighted in the late great astrologer Donna Cunningham’s article on Awful Things Astrologers Say to their Clients.

That old maxim “You get what you pay for” almost always applies, across the board. Before signing up for an astrology reading, do your homework. Ask for recommendations. Read some of the writings of astrologers whose approaches you admire, to get the ‘feel’ of whether their approach might suit you.  And – be prepared to pay a proper professional rate which reflects the experience, training and integrity of the person you consult. In that way, you are maximising your chances of engaging with a uniquely creative opportunity to enhance your self awareness – as well as the way you live your life.

Endnotes

(i) “Prometheus the Awakener” (1993, p8)

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What is astrology?…since you ask…

“Six thousand years ago, when the human mind  was still half asleep, Chaldean priests were standing on their watchtowers, scanning the stars.”

(Arthur Koestler from The Sleepwalkers)

The story of humanity is one of an unending attempt to create some recognisable order from the chaos of our earliest origins. In order to survive and evolve as a species, we have  created contexts for ourselves over many millennia from our interpretations of the world around us.

Modern science has shown us that we are part of an interconnected universe of mind-boggling complexity, in its minutest essence a vast energy field, ever moving and changing to the shifting dance of waves and particles – chaos and order forever interweaving, forever returning to and arising from the Quantum Vacuum, or in Buddhist terminology the Void, or in Western spiritual terminology, the Ground of our being.

The vivid quotation from the philosopher Arthur Koestler illustrates the origins of the ancient art and science of astrology – literally ‘the study of the stars’, whose basic precept “as above, so below” demonstrates that our modern understanding that we live in an interconnected cosmos is not a new idea at all.

It has been around ever since we fragile humans, vulnerable to the vagaries of a tempestuous earth with its storms, earthquakes and floods, began to evolve a context of meaning by plotting with increasing sophistication as time went on, the movements of the heavenly bodies in the starry skies above us.

From observing the regular patterns and cycles followed by those heavenly bodies, and recording with care what links there seemed to be between such movements and the ebbs and flows of human life, the early astrologer/priests began to be able to determine (with varying degrees of accuracy – prediction in any field of endeavour has never to this day become an exact science!) the fate of the king and the nation according to the movements of the planets.

Personal horoscopes plotting the patterns of individual life were unheard of then. Individual personal horoscopes are not to be found until the fifth century BCE: the oldest known personal horoscope is from the year 410 BCE.

Modern-day astrology is very different from the fate-ridden pronouncements of the past. The twentieth century saw big shifts in our understanding of science, history and culture which moved us from the Modernist era of  ‘grand narratives’  describing with confidence and conviction the way we are as humans, to an altogether less certain set of perceptions.

Just as modern science has shown us that there can be no absolute objectivity since the presence of the observer can be shown to influence the outcome of the experiment, so we now live in a Postmodern era where we understand that we are embedded in the unfolding action of the plot of life on Earth. Thus we shape our ‘reality’ even as we are living it – and indeed recognise that there are probably many ‘realities’. Absolute truth is not what it once was!

Astrology, too, has moved with the times although there are still many reputable and respected practitioners who stick closely to traditional methods of interpretation and prediction rooted in antiquity. Knowledge of astrology doesn’t result in harmonious agreement – even if it is to differ! – amongst astrologers. Far from it. In that respect, we are just as riven with conflicts and disagreements as any other human group.

Modern psychology, rooted in the great insights of Freud and then Jung who was basically a mystic, more eclectic and open minded in his knowledge base than Freud, has had considerable impact on how astrology is now taught and practised.

In antiquity, the planets were seen as gods whose interaction with and action upon humans’ lives determined their fate. Jung’s great contribution to the modernising of astrology in the 20th century was his formulation – from the study of universal myth – of the concept of the collective unconscious, an updating of the ancient idea of the World Soul.

This collective unconscious comprises a group of energy patterns or archetypes, an idea taken from the Greek philosopher Plato, which are present in all cultures across the world and which shape every aspect of human behaviour.

Jung’s view was taken up by the first of the great psychological astrologers Dane Rudhyar in the middle decades of the twentieth century, and further developed by other astrologers, most notably well-known Jungian analyst, astrologer and author Liz Greene whose fusion of mythology, Jungian psychology and astrology further shaped the model known as Psychological Astrology which has become very influential in the thinking of many contemporary astrologers, myself included.

To be continued….

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“ in my end is my beginning”: Paradox and the Saturn/Pluto cycle…

As my tutorial students would tell you, my big love and fascination in the vast range of possible obsessions offered by astrology is: cycles. No, not bi-cycles. Planetary cycles. Large and small, I love them all. But whether the cycle is huge, like the 500 year Neptune /Pluto one, or tiny, like the monthly Sun/Moon one, the same basic stages apply: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new.

Cycles: beginnings – and endings

In East Coker, the second of T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets, he began that section with “In my beginning is my end,” and ended it, “in my end is my beginning”. This rather paradoxical juxtaposition bookends the whole of life. Every beginning carries the seeds of its ending, every ending, potential for new beginnings. However, generally speaking you don’t find much astrological musing on the topic of cycles’ endings – or their slow beginnings. Especially in this particular Western cultural phase, expedited by faster and faster broadband speeds and ever more sophisticated technology, the emphasis is on satisfying the wants (often as opposed to the needs) of NOW.

The problem with this, however, is that Life on our planet still continues in its ancient, cyclic way, to which humans are still physically, emotionally and spiritually bound. Chronic disregard for this reality is now throwing up huge problems for us from the state of the planet to the increasingly fragile state of some of our young folks’ mental –and physical–health.

Here is an example, from a recent issue of  The Week which compiles ‘the best of the British and international media’: in a hard-hitting piece entitled ‘Deaths of despair: why Americans are dying young’, Joel Achenbach in The Washington Post says

‘…Whether as a result of economic hardship, stress, the lack of universal healthcare, loneliness or family breakdown, people just aren’t looking after themselves properly, and are making destructive life choices…’

The importance of  paying attention

So – in my (it is alleged…) contrarian way, I am here to muse on the endings, or balsamic phases, of cycles and the great importance of paying attention to them, especially as we approach the ending/new beginning of a whole 37-year Saturn/Pluto cycle. As everyone must be aware by now, astrologers or no, we are not living in a particularly easy light-hearted time either collectively or individually. To put it mildly.

That excellent astrological writer Dana Gerhardt observed some time ago in relation to the balsamic phase of, for example, the 29 year progressed New Moon cycle:

“When will it end?” is everybody’s first question on learning they’ve entered a progressed Balsamic phase. No matter how colorfully I paint its virtues, they peer beyond to a bleaker landscape, to a three-to-four-year sentence of all loss and no gain. I can see it in their eyes…. I tell them this is the richest spiritual time. I tell them when my own progressed Balsamic phase was over, I had nostalgia for it. I cheer: “You will too!” But it’s a tough sell….”

I would certainly endorse this from my own experience some years ago, of beginning a new phase in my career journey when no less than four major cycles were coming to an end over a period of almost a decade. I should have taken astrology’s advice, not that of my own ego!

The consequence was a long period of enforced retreat, triggered by a long family crisis and my subsequent energy burnout an enriching and deepening time, but very tough whilst it was happening… until the Progressed New Moon told me it was time to emerge and begin again.

Trying to do things differently…

Looking over my last few posts, I can see my preoccupation with cycles generally and this Saturn/Pluto one in particular. Hardly surprising, being so ‘plugged in’ to it from birth myself. In “Some notes on cycles in a time of crisis” published recently on Astrodienst, I offered this very brief summary of Saturn/Pluto’s challenges:

‘…In essence, Saturn/Pluto lets us off with nothing, either personally or collectively. We are forced into increasingly tight corners, whilst the pressure is ramped up on us to face and deal with the present consequences of past decisions, some of which might not be of our direct making. The environmental crisis which has become so vivid this year with the Nodal Axis joining the dance of Saturn/Pluto throughout 2019, is a case in point…’

As I write today, on 4th January 2020, Australia is ablaze, and on USA President Trump’s directive – apparently without running the plan through Congress first – Qasem Soleimani, top general and one of the most powerful men in Iran, was killed in a drone strike at Baghdad airport early today. His deputy was also killed. According to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the airstrikes disrupted an “imminent attack” in the region that put American lives at risk. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vows for “harsh revenge.”

Collectively, Saturn/Pluto = warfare of one kind or another; relentless consistency every time.

Our political masters worldwide should study history via the planetary cycles, see if they can just for once learn something from them. It would make a change to be making war on the issues that really matter e.g. climate change, increasing social and fiscal inequality, widespread homelessness, equal rights for women worldwide, inadequate healthcare to name just a few contemporary problems urgently in need of war being waged upon them. Wouldn’t it be great if most of our countries in the world weren’t being run by narcissistic psychopaths?

Personal power and insightful choices

It is one of Life’s great ironies, pointed out by Carl Jung some time ago, that as individuals we probably have more control and choice over how collective energies manifest than eg nations do. In order to exercise that control and choice, however, we need to work towards more conscious awareness of  what our personal issues are – and how we go about making choices in relation to what Life throws at us. This is where astrology can be such an enlightening help.

Working with awareness, we can see patterns shaping up, get some idea from our first encounter with them eg Saturn/Pluto opposing/conjuncting/squaring our personal planet(s) what challenges they are offering – then with some reflection and perhaps therapeutic/astrological help when necessary, work out what the planetary gods in question are asking of us over the several years in which long-term transits/progressions are in operation as they slowly apply, become exact, and separate.

To quote Dr Liz Greene from one of her 1990s seminars at London’s Centre for Psychological Astrology:

“You have to give the god what the god wants…and if it’s Mars, don’t offer a bunch of flowers!”

I’ve never forgotten this sage advice, and have passed it on many times both to clients and students. However, like all good advice, most of us to our detriment fail sometimes on the good advice front. As I admitted earlier, I failed to pay attention to what the planetary cycles were telling me, with very harsh results.

The wisdom offered by planetary cycles: a general overview

In nearly forty years of working with clients, students, and with my own process, I have found that sharing wisdom offered by the planetary cycles has been very useful in helping to set Life’s sails to go with the prevailing winds at any given time. I routinely take people through the 11-12 year Jupiter cycle, the 7/8-year stages of the 29/30 year Saturn cycles, and the progressed Sun/Moon cycle.

Depending on the lunar phase at which a person was born, a progressed New Moon can fall in any year of life, eg at age four. You can then see that in 29/30 years’ time, another progressed New Moon in a new sign, usually a new house, and making different aspects to the natal planets, is describing the early start of a new life phase.

I recall a recent client who experienced progressed New Moons at those very ages. She could see how a whole challenging process had arisen as a result of a significant event at the time of her first progressed New Moon when she was four years old, and how life changes at her second progressed New Moon in the next sign had symbolised a new start – feeling like an important stage along the road of freeing herself from old negative patterns.

It is really moving, and powerful, to see eg how the theme of opening up to new adventures of mind, body and spirit develops as eg clients’ and students’ Jupiter cycles unfold: age 11/12, then 23/4, then 35/6 and so on depending on the person’s age at the time of a reading, or in a class when we are doing some qualitative research within the group.

A great gift of astrology, perhaps its greatest gift, is this: it shows us that we are part of Something vast and meaningful, not mere random accidents in space/time. That knowledge offers a great challenge: to take our tiny ‘chip’ of that vast energy field as revealed though the symbols in our horoscopes, with its pains as well as its gifts  – and strive to leave the world a slightly better place on our exit than it was when we came in. Grand achievements are not mandatory. Just being better, more fulfilled human beings as a result of having an extra, symbolic, source of potential insight is quite enough…

The degree to which a person’s life responds to the promptings of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto transits and cycles – and the 18.6 year cycle of the Moon’s Nodes – depends very much upon how strongly that person is ‘plugged in’ to that particular planet or point, its transits and its cycles. It is also very important in contemplating the planetary cycles, to realise that each cycle carries the same basic developmental template within it: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new.

So – as any cycle comes to an end, typical feelings are: restlessness and ennui; lower energy available to put into the key areas of life/activities governed by that cycle; dissatisfaction with what once seemed to work quite well, but now does not. In the case of the larger cycles’ endings, eg Saturn/Pluto, Uranus/Pluto, Uranus/Neptune, life can sometimes plunge us into circumstances of extreme difficulty or pain, at times through upheavals and hurts not directly related to our actions or choices. Some might prefer to call this the action of Fate…

However, it is also most important to note, as  that wise poet TS Eliot observed,

“in my end is my beginning”:

Germinating, hidden below the churned-up earth of cycles’ endings, are also the delicate seeds of new beginnings. I have always found it helpful for myself, students and clients to relate this to our solar system’s tiny monthly cycle of the sun and moon, clearly observable in the heavens above us. The delicate sliver of the waning crescent moon which we can sometimes see if the skies are clear, indicates that an old cycle is in its dying days. Then nothing is visible for another couple of days. It’s important to remember that the New Moon, and a new cycle beginning, takes place in the dark.

Think the moment of conception of a new human or a new animal. Without the very sophisticated technology of IVF, a very recent phenomenon in terms of our technological progress, this cannot be observed – although it may well be sensed, especially by a child’s mother…similarly, some of us may sense, at that liminal point, that something has changed, something new may be emerging. And then – that beautiful slender silver crescent of the waxing new moon appears in the sky, two or three days after its total absence. We are on a new journey.

We can apply that basic template both to individual planetary cycles, eg the famous 29/30 year Saturn one, and to the cycles of planets in combination eg the 172 year Uranus/Neptune cycle or the vast 500 year Neptune/Pluto cycle. The latter began in the 1890s, and we are still only moving off from the first sextile one hundred and thirty years later…an average human life will only encompass two full Saturn/Pluto cycles, and perhaps part of a third one.

Saturn/Pluto in particular

So – what can we do as individuals to navigate this significant Saturn/Pluto ending/ new beginning with some degree of useful awareness?

What I write here can only be of general guidance. How things work out for you in particular depends on your personal horoscope and its patterns. However, the more strongly this combination occurs in your natal chart, then by transit/progression as your life unfolds, the more potent the challenge is going to be. It’s also helpful to note the houses/Angles/Nodes  ruled by Saturn and by Pluto.

For example, I have Saturn/Pluto in the twelfth house conjunct Mercury, Venus, Moon and Sun, all in Leo; Saturn rules the fifth house, Pluto the IC/South Node conjunction. All my major life challenges have circled round children (others’, not mine), home and roots – and how to extricate and direct my powerful creative energies and vocational drives from the mire of family fate and from the consequences of unwise choices, often not made by me.

The first piece of advice – I do realise, of course, that it may well not be to your liking, since it certainly wasn’t to mine! – is have patience. This is a pretty long cycle ending and beginning, so things are likely to have been difficult for you in one way or another, along the lines of what I outlined earlier, for around a couple of years, perhaps more. Similarly, it is likely to take around that amount of time for the energies of the new cycle to take form and focus so that you can see the way ahead more clearly.

There is no point in pretending that the combination of Saturn and Pluto is not tough. I used to find with my classes that the aspects from which new students recoiled the most, and the transits they most feared the more they learned, were those of Saturn and Pluto, both separately and in combination through their cycle. Pluto manifests the raw creative and destructive power of the life force; Saturn tries to shape, control and focus that power.

This dynamic in our collective lives has always produced life or death struggle of one kind or another. Individuals plugged in have a ‘chip’ as it were of that powerful energy pattern to wrestle with, and hopefully learn to channel wisely and constructively, throughout their lives.

As I said at the outset of this esssay, ‘…In essence, Saturn/Pluto lets us off with nothing, either personally or collectively. We are forced into increasingly tight corners, whilst the pressure is ramped up on us to face and deal with the present consequences of past decisions, some of which might not be of our direct making…’

The next piece of advice is this: try to get some perspective on what the challenges are now, and how you might best deal with them as the new cycle starts to unfold. To do this, go back to the beginning of this cycle, note the dates, and check out what was going on in your life then. Then note the dates of the waxing square, then the opposition, then the waning square. There are of course the other aspects as the cycle waxes and wanes. But let’s stick with the biggies for now.

Those of you young folk who have not yet lived through a whole cycle, take especial note of the nearest of the biggies to your birth date. Some of you older readers will be able to go further back – it is worth making the effort to do so: both for the life insights it may well give you, but also regarding your family history in many cases, since Pluto usually seems to have connections to issues of family fate and its consequences which have woven into the fabric of the present time. Some of that material, and its influences on your life, can be usefully recognised, mined and processed during Saturn/Pluto periods.

Let’s do it now.

The first Saturn/Pluto conjunction of the last century occurred in October 1914 at 2 Cancer, and May 1915 at 1 Cancer. The second followed on August 11 1947 at 13 Leo. You can look up the first squares, opposition points, and waning squares of both those cycles in a 20th Century Ephemeris – or google them!

The last Saturn/Pluto exact conjunction occurred – once –  in November 1982 at 27 Libra, applying for a year before, separating for a year afterwards. The waxing square was exact in March 1993 at 25 Aquarius/Scorpio, then again at 24 Aquarius /Scorpio in October 1993, and finally at 27 Aquarius/Scorpio in January 1994. The opposition was first exact in August 2001 at 13 Gemini/Sagittarius, then in November 2001 at 14 Gemini/Sagittarius, lastly in May 2002 at 16 Gemini/Sagittarius. The waning square was exact in November 2009 at 2 Libra/Capricorn, then in January 2010 at 4 Libra/Capricorn, then finally in August 2010 at 3 Libra/Capricorn.

The end of the 1982/2020 cycle occurs, with the new Saturn/Pluto cycle starting slowly to form, on 12th January 2020 at 23 Capricorn – a much anticipated, feared, and discussed planetary event as a new decade begins (or an old one ends, depending on your stance on the matter!). If you care to do so, you can go forward in the 21st Century Ephemeris to plot the waxing square, opposition, waning square and ending dates of this new cycle.

A personal example

As the Saturn/Pluto cycle begun in 1947 drew to a close in 1980/82, little did I know that a whole phase of my personal and vocational life was also ending, and a new one was set to begin. I knew nothing then of astrological cycles and their significance. I met my husband in 1980, marrying him a few months before November 1982 and the start of the Libran Saturn/Pluto cycle. I also began studying astrology in 1980, commencing serious work on the Certificate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies in November 1982.

Each of the four key stages of  that unfolding cycle from 1982 up to the present time have brought very challenging, painful and difficult issues of a family of origin nature for me to cope with, as well as with my husband’s family since I took on a step-parent role with our marriage. These times also represented key stages in the development and unfolding of my parallel careers as a social worker, trainer, and private practising therapist along with developing an astrology consulting, writing and teaching practice.

However, as the cycle has moved towards its slow conclusion from the waning square in 2010, I have been aware of an increasing feeling of deep satisfaction with how an initially tough life pattern has turned out, beginning with  my birth seven weeks prematurely and an expectation that I would not survive. I am experiencing the long-term rewards from hanging on in there, at times having to struggle very hard to deal with and free myself from old family complexes as much as possible which were getting in the way of my professional and relationship lives.

Our marriage has survived and deepened, my Aquarian husband having provided unwavering support both personally and professionally. Through some tough and at times tragic family challenges, I have slowly and gradually learned something which I believe only Saturn/Pluto could have pushed me to learn, but which growing older with less life force to waste has helped along: to focus and channel my Leonine creative energies as much as possible into constructive vocational pursuits, thereby honouring my path. And most importantly, not to waste that life force on those who are unwilling or unable to benefit from my efforts.

Learning the very hard way that you can’t make anyone do anything for what you see as their own good if they don’t wish to – or can’t – is an excellent lesson for a Saturn/Pluto control freak!

I still love astrology as much as ever. The difference, though, as this cycle closes and a new one arises, is this: my desire to work directly with clients has waned, as has my desire to have any public role other than through my writing and a limited amount of teaching and mentoring. However, my awareness of the need to claim and honour the role of Elder, to offer as much support as I can to the next able generation of astrologers arising, especially in my local area, is growing. 

Beyond being aware of the gifts as well of the limitations that come with ageing, and of the importance of living as much as possible in a soulful way in the present moment, sharing whatever time we may have left with my husband, close family members and friends, I have little idea of what new creative challenges/opportunities the new Saturn/Pluto cycle may bring. I’m not too worried about that, feeling freer in spirit now than I have ever felt – despite the dismal state of the world at present as we grapple with unprecedented turbulence and a planet under threat…

In Conclusion…

To paraphrase Jung’s point, mentioned earlier: individuals working in a conscious way can have more power to shift the balance of a difficult planetary pattern in a positive direction, than collectives do. I have long believed that if we want to change the world, we need to start with ourselves, and work outwards.

We are currently experiencing the end of an important, powerful, challenging and formative planetary cycle, and wondering what this next Saturn/Pluto phase will bring. It is my hope, therefore, that my musings in this essay may offer some pointers  regarding how to approach and understand the phase that is passing – and to gain some perspective which will help in facing the upcoming Saturn/Pluto cycle with greater understanding and insight.

3,600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

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