(...this essay can be found on p 20 of my new book ‘Postcards to the Future’, published Autumn 2021 and available everywhere from Amazon, includingAmazon UK. There are 59 other “Mercurial Musings” to choose from! Enjoy…)
Anyone who has ever written a regular column will know that there are times when inspiration is – not to put too fine a point on it – notable by its absence. At other times, so many ideas are flying around that catching one by the tail to pin it down is, to say the least, tricky. And – you never know, as the last deadline is met and you can now relax for a few weeks – which set of conditions is going to prevail the next time.
So, Reader, there I was, new deadline appearing over the horizon, and…nada. Nix. No–thing. At all. Braincell dry as an old chewed-up bone. In this situation there are generally two options: blind panic – or blind faith. I have six fiery planets. This is often a curse, let me tell you, but in the matter of column deadlines, it is a blessing. So, armed with nothing but blind faith, I headed for the office.
To pass time sitting on the bus, I check my phone. Ahah – there’s a message on Messenger. A colleague is beginning a new project for the international company he works for, an unusual company where his boss is an astrology appreciator. He is making a podcast series on Turning Points: asking people to talk for five minutes on the one decision which changed their lives forever. He is inviting me to contribute.
“Ping!!” went the braincell, hit by a mini bolt of inspiration. I had my topic. I’d ruminate on what it was that inspired me to take up, and continue, the long-term study and practice of astrology. That decision certainly changed MY life forever.
So – what was it ?
Was it my youthful awe as I watched the Northern Lights enacting their glorious colourful dance, just above the skyline near our house? Perhaps it was lying cosy in bed, listening to the roaring gales of January tearing the world apart – wondering what the Power was behind that raging wind. Was it the growing excitement, as I grew up, of being able to spot familiar constellations in the clear, unpolluted night skies of my native island?
Or – maybe the Fates had already decided, leaving me a clue to be decoded many years later, via the placement of Uranus, the astrologers’ planet, at 25 Degrees of Gemini, in the tenth house of my natal horoscope?
I have recently been revisiting the significance of the placement of Uranus’ discovery degree, ie 24 degrees 27 minutes Gemini,(i) in the horoscopes of those drawn to the practice of astrology. A dip into my horoscope collection, lifting out three male and three female birth charts, found that all six prominent astrologers chosen have this degree either conjunct, square or opposite natal planets, Nodes or Angles: the lately deceased and much-missed Donna Cunningham, Michel Gauquelin, Liz Greene, Isabel Hickey, Johannes Kepler and Noel Tyl. (ii)
Johannes Kepler Asc 24 deg 25 mins Gemini
Furthermore, when I was 27 years old, progressed Sun crossed asteroid Urania, placed at 19 degrees of Virgo in my first house, square tenth house Uranus. That year, as mentioned in an earlier column, I had a totally random encounter with a pair of astrologers who predicted my future astrological career.
So – did I choose that career or did I come in with it already chosen? Was it Fate, or free will? We will, of course, never be able to answer that question. MY conclusion, hardly stunningly original, is that we dance to the tune of both. There are times when the power of Fate feels strongly present. Other times, the unglamorous wrestle with inertia, poor judgement, and other ills to haul our lives into a reasonably satisfying shape feels very strongly to be determined mainly by our own conscious efforts.
In the latter case, a major ingredient in the shaping process, in my opinion, is the power of inspiration. At twenty-four years of age (second Jupiter Return, anyone?!) I was fortunate enough to have what I later realised was a mystical experience, something which has continued to inspire me. This may well have created a spiritual backdrop for the subsequent encounter with astrology as foreground; when I met those astrologers I was going through a crisis involving wondering what, after all, my life was FOR…not an uncommon state for one’s late twenties!
Their accurate reading inspired me to investigate astrology further, initially via the UK’s Faculty of Astrological Studies. On discovering that I, too, could produce accurate and affirming feedback from those strange marks on a piece of paper which seemed helpful to people trying to understand themselves better, I was hooked. For the rest of my life.
Astrology has continued to inspire because it continues to challenge me. It challenges me because we are working with living energies, patterns whose essential meanings we have established over millennia, but whose manifestations are endless and only partly predictable. Despite decades of experience, I still get that tight anxious feeling before every new client I see, being very aware of my responsibility at least to do no harm, at best to help the person before me see their life in a more constructive, bigger context.
I am, of course, always curious to find out what inspires people to engage with astrology – and to keep going once they get there. There is an occasional series running on my blog, in which astrologers tell their interesting, unusual tales of inspiration and – of course! – an inevitable amount of perspiration…
Want to share your story? Go on…
First published in Dell Horoscope Magazine ‘The astro-view from Scotland’ (from the January/February 2018 Issue), this essay can be found on p 20 of ‘Postcards to the Future‘, published Autumn 2021 and available everywhere from Amazon, including Amazon UK. There are 59 other “Mercurial Musings” to choose from!Enjoy…
One of the delights – and mild horrors – of writing a regular column to a deadline is that you never know from whence arriveth inspiration (feeling a trifle mediaeval this afternoon, forsooth…) – or if it will arrive at all: always the worst case scenario hovering as the deadline looms.
However, inspiration arrived in response to another deadline, two days before I was due to appear on Christina Rodenbeck’s popular The Oxford Astrologer’s regular Members’ Sunday slot on 12th September 2021, to discuss and promote my new book of essays, columns, articles and research
In addition to discussing the book’s content, Christina suggested we reflect on … ‘…the broad sweep of astrology in your time writing about it…’ Hmmm, I thought. Big topic.
The starting place
But it got me going…to hunt out the first thing I’d ever written – as far as I can remember – on the topic of astrology. And I found it:AA Summer School Report 1-5 June 1987…
‘…Titled ON BEING AND BECOMING AN ASTROLOGER, this year’s Summer School offered a varied range of experience from inner personal contemplation to consideration of the likely General Election result…’
This piece was re-published in my column in Journal as part of the 60 year celebrations for the AA in 2018. It made me smile to read what I had written in that 1987 report, rather tentatively, about computers and astrology. As I wrote in 2018:
‘…Few of us on that course had the slightest clue that astrologers, like everyone else, were merely tapping on a door which would shortly swing open to reveal an entirely new landscape of global interconnectedness which – for both good and ill – has already drawn in much of the population of planet Earth…’
One very personal memory strikes me as clearly illustrating that early entry into the entirely new landscape described in the above quote, which has revolutionised the world of astrology along with every other facet of our lives ever since.
It was around the mid to late1980s. I was sitting at our kitchen table in Glasgow chatting over morning coffee to our guest, USA astrologer Tad Mann, who had come up from London to talk to the Glasgow Astrology Group of which I was a committee member at that time. Suddenly Tad produced from the inside pocket of his jacket an object which looked like an elongated pocket calculator. It was, in fact, an early astrology calculator, into which he tapped my date, place and time of birth, and pressed a couple of buttons. I watched, fascinated.
Things got even more interesting. From another pocket he produced a small, square grey gadget which he proceeded to plug into the side of the calculator. Setting them both on the table, Tad then pressed another couple of buttons. The small square grey gadget was in fact a mini printer. A piece of paper looking exactly like a till receipt soon emerged – complete with all my horoscope data: Asc, MC, planets, Nodes and aspects. I was entranced. ‘I want one of these!!’ Not long afterwards, the (rather pricey) set duly arrived from the company in the USA which Tad had recommended.
Shortly after that, I was to be found sitting happily on a stall at a local Alternative Health event, doing 15 minute mini readings for clients from those very pieces of paper. ‘How on earth can you give me an accurate summary of my character from that till receipt thingie?’ I remember one client asking. ‘It’s the shape of things to come!’ I cheerfully replied, not realising just how true that comment was to prove.
From typewriting to computing
So – the broad sweep of astrology in my time of writing about it has taken me from sitting bashing out notes and reports from hand-drawn horoscopes on my old Brother manual typewriter, Tippex to hand, all the way to using highly sophisticated computer programmes which will, quite simply, do everything we need to do as astrologers. From instant push-a-button birth charts to all varieties of prognosticatory options both technical and interpretive, anyone from the very green amateur to the sophisticated professional can have any kind of software they wish, dependent on their finances and predilections. (I still lament the recent demise of the wonderful Io software which I had used since acquiring my first Mac computer in 1995).
The arrival of sophisticated computer technology has been a wonderful gift, also, to all writers – including astro-writers like myself. Apart from personal journals and diaries, which I still prefer to handwrite in aesthetically pleasing, arty books, I haven’t handwritten anything of a short or extended nature, for years.
Another revolution, too, has recently begun, as the larger planetary cycles have graphically shown in recent years. Amongst other astro-writers, I have had much commentary published on the implications of the transition from the 1803-2020 Earth Era to the newAir Era into which we shifted on the Winter Solstice of 2020. On that very day, the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction’s arrival at 0 Aquarius announced the formative 20 year cycle’s settling into the Air element for the next 200 years or so. As we all know, that huge shift announced its presence through an air-borne virus triggering a global pandemic which has upended life on Planet Earth in just about every way possible since 2020.
Taking to the Airwaves : new approaches emerging
Astrology has taken to the air in a really big way. Platforms like zoom have enabled astro-education, astro-groups, astro-readings, and all kinds of astro-chat: wonderfully connective of members of our community to one another. Those and other social media platforms have enabled fatuous, divisive, misleading, and damaging as well as helpful, supportive and enlightening dialogue. It is, as someone observed ‘ …the Wild West out there…’
The broad sweep of astrology in my time of writing about, practising and teaching our great subject has also seen the ebb and flow of dominant fashions, and the taking up of varying positions, within our world-wide community. When I started out, psychological astrology was clearly on the ascendant as the revival of astrology during the Sixties and Seventies ( but begun much earlier by the work of eg Dane Rudhyar) moved us away from the doom-laden fatalism of earlier times to the notion that astrology did not describe a world where humans were pinned to the board of Fate like butterflies.
We did in fact, said psychological astrology, have some negotiating room within symbolic energies which could and did express themselves differently depending on the level of conscious awareness individuals brought to their lives.
In recent years we have had the rise and increasing popularity of evolutionary astrology, as well as the revival of traditional astrology which has been reclaiming and refreshing approaches going back many centuries – recasting those perspectives for contemporary practitioners and audiences. There has also increasingly been much more liaison between practitioners and students in both East and West, and a welcome sharing of approaches and perspectives. All these changes have been made possible by the computer revolution which has totally changed the face of our world in every way.
I was asked about the broad sweep – this column has been a very broad, brief sweep indeed, from one person’s perspective only. One could write a whole book on the topic. Someone is probably doing so even as I write!
In conclusion: has widely available Astrology made us better human beings?
I feel as excited as anyone else by all the creative and diverse changes which have arisen. Younger generations of astrologers and astrology students, refusing to be hemmed in by the increasingly strident orthodoxy of scientific reductionism, are embracing the symbolic perspectives offered by astrology in a big way these days. However, I’m going to end this column, not in my usual upbeat way, but on a rather sombre note.
When I first started studying astrology I was awestruck by the insights into oneself that astrological knowledge could provide. Given this wonderfully enlightening gift, I naively thought that astrologers must surely be more enlightened and evolved people than the general population: more magnanimous, less critical of one another, more tolerant.
Well, I found out pretty quickly that they they aren’t. I come from a long background in adult education, social work and psychiatric work, as well as private practice therapy and counselling. I’ve also known many writers in my rather varied vocational life. So my comments are based on quite a wide range of sampling.
Astrologers are just as kind, compassionate, well-informed and magnanimous as other occupational groups. They are also just as bitchy, backbiting, judgemental, dishonest and intolerant as everybody else. In general terms – since I am fortunate to know and have known some wonderful astrologers who are also brilliant, compassionate human beings – I haven’t seen any evidence over the last forty years that convinces me otherwise.
We all have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do to fashion ourselves into better humans than we currently appear to be. Our present world is riven with all kinds of ugly, dangerous divisions. Those divisions are graphically described in the prevailing planetary patterns: unfortunately, our astrological community is not immune. Perhaps we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and bring more fairness, compassion and tolerance into the ways we treat one another within our community. We have a planet to save. We could start by being kinder and more supportive to one another.
What are YOUR thoughts?
i) ‘Postcards to the Future: Mercurial Musings 1995-2021’ is available locally at Opal Moon, Glasgow G20, Watkins Books and The Astrology Shop in London, The Wessex Astrologer – and everywhere on Amazon, including Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
Well, it’s almost that time of year again: the planet Mercury goes retrograde on Monday 27th September 2021 at 25 degrees Libra, not turning direct again – at 10 degrees Libra (conjunct my Neptune: I can hardly wait!) – until Monday 18th October. It should be an interesting/exciting/ rewarding/ frustrating/memorable three weeks especially for those of us who are ‘plugged in’ to 10-25 degrees of Libra, Aries, Cancer, Capricorn.
I’m feeling rather pleased about my Mercury Retro status this time. Transiting Mercury in my 3rd house at 25 Libra makes a lovely retro grand trine with 6th house transiting Jupiter and natal 10th house Uranus. For starters, this site is being revamped by my new web wizard – who just happens to know a lot of astrology himself, what a ‘co-incidence’ is that?! – during this particular Mercury Retro period. A very apt time to do such a thing. I’m also looking forward to more reviews etc coming in for my newly published book of essays, articles, columns and research“Postcards to the Future: Mercurial Musings 1995-2021”.They have been just great so far…
However, today’s story concerns what happened exactly on Summer Solstice 2021: the very day before retro Mercury was about to turn direct at 16 degrees Gemini. Who on earth in their right mind would choose that day to embark on a long journey? Well, I did – and what a brilliant story it provided. Settle back, Readers, and enjoy the trip…
MidsummerMercurial malarkey: Jupiter to the rescue!
In the beginning…
There I was, that morning, all packed – and multi-ticketed for us both. I had carefully planned and organised our four-stage eight hour journey to the sacred isle of Iona, off the North West coast of Scotland. Getting there involved a three-hour train trip to Oban, one-hour ferry crossing to Mull, one hour plus journey through Mull to Fionnphort, and lastly, a short ferry crossing to Iona. Include travel from our homes in Glasgow G20 to Queen Street station, plus a wait of between one and two hours half way up because of non-joined-up travel links, and you have what truly feels like a pilgrimage. Pretty apt, considering where we were going. Iona has been a place of prayer and pilgrimage since pre-Christian times.
I had been there several times before with my late husband Ian. On our thirtieth wedding anniversary spent on Iona a few years ago, we had made a pact: whichever of us died first, the other would make a pilgrimage back to Iona in their memory. I was fortunate on this occasion to have the company of my dear friend Emily. She and her husband were good friends of us both; her kindness and sensitivity made her the ideal person to accompany me. It would also be a great break for her. A very busy community activist – whose upcoming challenges included showing the Queen around our local The Children’s Wood/North Kelvin Meadow project the week after we got back! – she really needed a few days’ time out.(i)
Our trip had been postponed twice already because of Covid. Third time proved lucky: we both loved the idea of travelling to be there at the Summer Solstice.
What could possibly go wrong? I thought, having dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’ in sight. As an astrologer, I knew the answer to that only too well. Mercury had been retrograde for the previous three weeks. Today, he was pausing before turning direct tomorrow. Having booked our break around Midsummer months ago without checking the ephemeris, this turned out to be a trickstery day for outward travel. Even if I had, the allure of being on Iona on the Summer Solstice would still probably have proved too strong.
I mentioned this apprehension to Emily on the taxi ride to Queen Street station. Emily knows little or no astrology beyond her Aries Sun Sign and Leo Ascendant, but keeps an open-minded interest. Just recently, she’d had her chart read by that very fine astrologer, my friend and colleague Christina Rodenbeck, thus finding out she had Mercury Retrograde in her natal chart. (I don’t read charts for friends or family). Christina had confirmed for Emily what I have noticed often over the years in clients’ and students’ horoscopes: Mercury Retrograde times don’t seem to be so disruptive for those with natal Mercury Retro.
” Don’t worry!” she said cheerfully. “I have Mercury Retrograde in my chart. It’ll be fine, you’ll see!”. Emily is possessed of a level of almost insane optimism, accompanied by dogged persistence, which has seen her take on and win through on challenges from which most of us would have run a mile. “I hope you’re right”, said I, trying to keep my natal MercurySaturnPluto at bay.
And she was. In spite of everything…
Everything began with our arrival at the railway station to discover that our all-important train to Oban had been cancelled. “***@***!!!” …may convey something of our reaction.
We were not the only cross-looking, confused travellers … and we had a pretty tight window for catching our Mull ferry connection from Oban. The first of many helpful encounters that day, a cheerful-looking, patient middle-aged rail employee, advised us thus:
“Leg it as fast as you can up onto Cathedral Street. The direct and the indirect buses should be parked there by now. Get on the direct one if you can. Good luck!!”
I don’t know if you’ve tried ‘legging it’ for a long detour taking in flights of steps whilst trailing suitcases and backpacks and food supplies (no hospitality on trains any more). Not recommended. But we got there, puffing – to survey a milling, muttering, shuffling horde of at least forty folk, a tour party who must have been booked en bloc on the cancelled train, waiting – largely unmasked – to cram onto the direct bus.
Emily looked at me. I looked at Emily. Even if we managed to get on, it would be a cramped, covid-risky journey. This was the point where Jupiter stepped in to help: the point where we offered the whole experience up to Fate.We were of one mind. “What the hell, we’re not doing that. Let’s see if we can get the next train up (there was no guarantee it wouldn’t be cancelled too) and if not, let’s just get on the first train going North and have an adventure! We can get to Iona tomorrow instead.” Much cheered by this, we trundled our cases off along Cathedral Street, retracing our steps.
Unlikely guardian angels – and shadow Jupiter!
Enter Tam and Dougie, two friendly Glaswegian characters who had hailed us on our way to the direct bus. “Where are you girls headed?” We explained both our problem and our decision.
“No need for that!” announced Tam, who turned out to own the bus company from whom ScotRail had hired the second, indirect bus. We were now standing right beside said bus. “Dougie here drives like a bat out of hell – if anyone can get you to Oban on time, despite all the stops he has to cover, he can!”
Moments later found us sitting on the roomy, comfy top deck, the only passengers on a luxury bus, normally used to convey footballers around the UK, equipped with its own kitchen and toilet. “The only problem with this bus is the toilet”, said Tam. “You really need to be (those of you requiring a woke style trigger warning, please shut your eyes for the next bit) an acrobatic anorexic midget to get in and out of it.” Reader, I can testify to the veracity of this statement. Had I not been nimble, slight, and small, I might still be stuck there…
“Wow, have we ever lucked out!” said Emily. I totally agreed with this as we tucked into our picnic lunches, enjoying a wonderful uninterrupted view: marvellous scenery on a beautifully sunny day as we headed North-West. We didn’t even mind arriving in Oban just in time to see the ferry on which I had booked us sailing into the blue beyond. Dougie had done his best, but there were too many stops – not one of which had any passengers waiting…
However, we encountered Jupiter all the way, including the very helpful ScotRail employee Greg (just in case he is reading this! ) who re-booked us on the next ferry and minded our luggage for the duration of our wait. The only exception was a bracing encounter with Jupiter’s shadow side: an overweight, red-faced, almost toothless bus driver at Craignure on Mull. His demeanour in response to our innocent question regarding the timing of the next bus to Fionnphort was so patronising and rude that it had both Emily and I riffing on revenge possibilities – evoking fits of semi-hysterical laughter in us both – to pass the time until the bus arrived.
We did get to Iona that evening: arriving at the jetty a mere five minutes before the last ferry departed.
And now – the horoscopes speak…
Our whole visit to Iona was an absolute delight, the return trip entirely straightforward. We agreed that neither of us had laughed so much for ages during those few days. On returning, of course, I put up a horoscope for the time we heard the Oban train had been cancelled. It is breathtakingly apt!
I’ll leave readers to do their own reflecting, just pointing out a couple of salient features. But it’s important to say that key symbolic pointers to the goodwill of almost everyone we encountered linked in strongly with two main features of Emily’s and my horoscopes (which I haven’t included here):
Her Jupiter is at 0 Cancer, conjunct my Mars at 1.5 Cancer. Thus the potent 0 Cancer Sun on Solstice Day, trine Jupiter at 2 Pisces which sits on the 7th House side of the Descendant of the Cancelled Train chart, without adding anything else powerfully reinforces the presence of the benevolent side of Jupiter in our lives on that particular day – and the few days following.
You can see the disruption to our travel plans in the third house transiting Moon in Scorpio, approaching an exact opposition to that ninth house Uranus in Taurus. Also – my third house natal Jupiter sits at 19 degrees Scorpio, conjunct the Cancelled Train’s IC. This evokes the reason for the trip – a pilgrimage honouring my husband following his death. Emily, too, had recently lost her dad.This significator in the death/rebirth sign of Scorpio is thus particularly apt for both of us.
Furthermore, despite Mercury’s position poised between retrograde and direct motion, which made this particular Midsummer’s day especially prone to communication snafus, note his location conjunct the North Node in his own sign. The stabilising trine from Saturn indicates that the purpose of this trip – with some determination and practical help – was going to be fulfilled.
As, indeed, it was…
i) I have featured the inspiring story of how Emily Cutts galvanised our Glasgow G20 community into collective action, taking on the developers and eventually winning a precious patch of local land for community use, in my upcoming book ‘Postcards to the Future’, in the Transits section, p 283, title Uranus through Aries: fire and fury. Emily’s own story of her inspiring campaign can be found on Amazon, title The Dear Wild Place. It’s an inspiring read!
I blame that bout of tendonitis in around 2015.(i) I had been running no less than three blogs ( yes, mad, I agree…) since launching myself on the Web in 2008, had had one print book and four e-books published, when it struck. The only cure, which took quite a while, was to severely lay off writing, working mainly through a dictation app. NOT recommended if you wish to remain moderately sane, by the way…
I am left handed, which did not help the problem afflicting my left arm and wrist. In the end, I had to make a decision – a hard one, since by then I’d begun the research for book number 5. Either proceed to carpal tunnel syndrome, enduring the rest of my life with it and related arm and wrist unpleasantnesses – or confine myself largely to short pieces from then on. So I chose the latter. This mostly took the form of weekly pieces for only one blog at a time, writing columns (at one point I had three, deadlines falling in the same two weeks every couple of months!) and continuing to send out longer essays and articles to a wide range of magazines and journals – something I’d been doing for around twenty years already.
The result, half a Jupiter cycle later? I have actually arrived at book numero 5 anyway, albeit a very different one from originally envisaged: contents sixty published essays, columns and articles of mercurial variety. (btw I have a third house Jupiter square everything in the twelfth house, so this planet has been just a tad influential). Not only does this accidentally arrived at book have a title ie ‘Postcards to the Future’ and a subtitle ie ‘mercurial musings 1995-2021’ but it has also generated a small publishing company ie Writing from the Twelfth House Publications, and brought together a really experienced, talented production team, headed up by one V Olliver as editor.
And boy, has he been editing to within an inch of my sanity these last few weeks…but I jest… Compared to my last venture into having a print book published ie ‘Jupiter Meets Uranus’ by Arizona-based American Federation of Astrologers in 2009, it has been a breeze. Although I got on very well with the AFA editor, ease of technological transmission between Scotland and Arizona was much less flowing then than it is now. And I didn’t know her at all when the process began. I was just about on my knees, not to mention cross-eyed, by the time that edit was completed.
This time, the esteemed Victor has been editing my work, mainly through this column, for the last five years. We know each other’s literary weirdnesses. Not that I have any, of course…so book 5 edit has actually been a pleasure (well, mostly…)
It’s an interesting business, writing short pieces to deadlines. Here’s a flavour, extracted from one of my columns for the much-missed Dell Horoscope magazine, which you will find in ‘Postcards to the Future’ :
‘…Anyone who has ever written a regular column will know that there are times when inspiration is – not to put too fine a point on it – notable by its absence. At other times, so many ideas are flying around that catching one by the tail to pin it down is, to say the least, tricky. And – you never know, as the last deadline is met and you can now relax for a few weeks – which set of conditions is going to prevail the next time.
So, Reader, there I was, new deadline appearing over the horizon, and…nada. Nix. No–thing. At all. Braincell dry as an old chewed-up bone. In this situation there are generally two options: blind panic – or blind faith. I have six fiery planets. This is often a curse, let me tell you, but in the matter of column deadlines, it is a blessing. So, armed with nothing but blind faith, I headed for the office…‘(ii)
In the end, you simply have to have confidence and faith that your topic will appear from SOMEWHERE…in the above example, it appeared via a random phone call on the bus journey to my office – on the very day of the latest deadline. In the case of longer, more in depth subjects, the process can be rather different. As I put it in a recent AA Journal column: ‘…The idea usually lands in my mind either days or weeks before the deadline. If it refuses to go away and bother someone else, I know it’s mine to tackle…’
My approach is simple. The third time the idea drops into my mind and refuses to go away, I give in and start work. The last essay in ‘Postcards’ is titled Waning and Waxing Crescents: Windows to the Future and was published in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of TMA. The idea refusing to go away was that of linking the horoscope of Mary Shelley, born in 1797 during the waning crescent phase of the 200 year traverse of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions through the Fire element, with that of Greta Thunberg, born in 2003 during the waning crescent phase of the 200 year traverse of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions through the Earth element. What emerged and grew from that idea drove me hard for some weeks – but the end result was truly fascinating to me, and hopefully to my readers.
The subtitle of ‘Postcards’ ie “mercurial musings 1995-2021” offers clues both to the author’s horoscope – Mercury Ruler: conjunct, square, semi-square and sextile just about everything! – and the book’s subject matter. The hardest part for me of the whole editorial process was choosing the sixty pieces which were eventually included. (Let’s face it, Victor has by far done most of the other work, since I told him I’d rather pour hot melted butter into my left ear in the dark than have anything to do with anything technical…)
The range is indeed mercurial: from topics which deserve serious treatment ie ‘What is my job as an astrologer?’ , through a whole long section on planetary cycles, my current preoccupation, all the way to the quirky, ie ‘My Mary Shelley obsession: It has never gone away’ featuring unique synastry between a famous human (Mary) and a dead sheep (Dolly). Then there is a whole section titled ‘ Interviews: Featuring the Bacon Sandwich Motivational Technique, Plus Other Arcane Delights’. And lots more endless mercurial variety.
As I write this column, we are almost there…it’s now over to Ros, our meticulously Virgoan book designer, and Cat, hard at work on what will be a brilliant cover. Well, it’s all Victor’s fault, really, apart from the tendonitis. He is largely responsible for luring me out from behind that twelfth house sofa…
(i) ALSO: this is a collection of sixty selected essays etc going back to 1995. My students and more than one astro-colleague began suggesting that it was time for me to go back through my large stack of varied writings and put a collection together…yes, in 2018, the very year progressed Mercury, sitting stationary on top of my restless third house Jupiter, turned retrograde. Pretty apt, eh what?!
(ii) from ‘Fate, Uranus – and the astrologers’ degree…’.
I often get asked about the effect of the transits of the ‘Big Heavies’ ie Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, over the IC or root point of the horoscope. Here is my story of life-changing experiences occurring when the Big Heavies all crossed that point in my horoscope during my twenties, thirties and forties. Quite a long time ago now!! It’s been one of the most-read essays I have ever written, published in a variety of magazines journals and on-line publications over the years including Astrodienst. It is also one of the sixty essays, columns and articles which is featured in my upcoming book “Postcards to the Future: Mercurial Musings 1995-2021”.
Here is the essay:
Liz Greene once wryly observed in one of her seminars that, if you wanted a relatively quiet and peaceful life, you should arrange to be born when the outer planets were as far away from the personal planets and Angles as possible. I wish! say many of you reading this, as indeed does the writer, who has all the outer planets bolted onto all the personal planets and has had anything BUT a quiet life. (Encouraging note for the similarly challenged – I’m not young any more, but I’m still here –more or less! – and pretty happy with what I have been able to make of my time on this earth to date).
In similar vein, many people – depending on the horoscope yielded by their particular date, time, and place of birth – will never even experience one of the outer planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto crossing their IC ( for non-astrologers reading this, the IC symbolises the point of origin, roots and core of a person’s life).
However, I have had the lot – and am still here to tell the tale. Here it is….
In my horoscope the IC is conjunct the South Node at 28 degrees of Scorpio. Pluto, its ruler, is placed in the twelfth house conjunct Mercury, Saturn, Venus, Moon and Sun in Leo. As a child I would lie in bed watching the roses on the wallpaper turn into malevolent faces as daylight faded; I had to make bargains with them before they would let me sleep.
I read voraciously, and particularly recall the works of Victorian novelist H Rider Haggard whose myth-steeped descriptions of his characters’ adventures in Africa last century fascinated me. But da Silva, the Dutch explorer whose frozen body was found centuries after his death in a cave high up Mt. Kilimanjaro, transferred himself from “King Solomon’s Mines” to the wardrobe in my bedroom, on and off, for a couple of years. Getting to sleep was no mean feat with an imagination like mine!
My ‘real’ life – eating, sleeping, going to school – was incidental to my inner life which was full of what I felt were the really interesting questions : why are we alive, where do we go after death, do we live on several planes of existence at once, what is happening in other galaxies, if there are x million Catholics and even more Buddhists and Hindus, how come they are all Wrong and Damned and a few thousand members of the Free Church of Scotland are Right and Saved ?
And what would happen if you unwrapped an Egyptian mummy and I wonder if I could make a shrunken head like the Jivaro Indians and why did people paint pictures on cave walls thousands of years ago?
These were the issues which preoccupied me for years. No-one knew about them except my maternal grandfather. He had spent time taming wild horses alone in the middle of Argentina before World War 1, and in later life was the only Church of Scotland missionary to visit ill or injured foreign sailors of all religions in the local island hospital, despite the disapproval of the Free Church. “We are all God’s children”, he would say firmly to his critics – and to me. He died when I was eleven, after which I spoke to no-one until I grew up and left home about anything which really mattered.
As Pluto squared 12th house Venus, Moon and Sun, then crossed the IC conjunct South Node from 93-95, what was left of my family of origin fell apart in a particularly painful and tragic way. I had to make choices in order to protect myself from the destructive urges of other family members which involved separation from loved ones which is probably permanent. The major decision I made during those years was that the blood tie does not give others the right to destroy your life. I was indeed fortunate in having an astrological framework, which helped to provide a meaningful context for the pain.
As part of trying to process what was happening, I decided to compile a family history, returning to my native island to collect some oral material from old people who knew my family back a couple of generations. The day I sat down to write it up, transiting Pluto was exactly conjunct the South Node, within half a degree of the IC. During the same week, I looked back through some old writings of my own, finding two unpublished pieces.
The first was written in July 1970, six months after the start of Neptune transiting the IC. I had no knowledge of astrology then…….
“…….My sister and I decided to take the dog and walk from our house, just outside the town, to a beach very exposed to the sea, well beyond the harbour. It would be a long walk, but it was a beautiful briskly windy sunny day – snatched from the usual bleak incessant rains of a Hebridean July.
We took a curving route through the town, then via an outlying district overlooking the navigation beacon. This landmark had winked its electric eye reassuringly at the mouth of the harbour for as long as I could remember. Approaching the district cemetery, my sister walked on by, but I slowed down, never having passed through its gates. Only men attended funerals in the Outer Hebrides when I was growing up.
“The sun is shining on the dead today!” I called to my sister. “Let’s go and pay our respects.” She wasn’t too keen. “Have you ever visited Granddad and Granny’s grave?” I asked.
“No,” she said. ” I suppose we could do that.” We pushed open the heavy creaking gate. The graveyard, beautifully tended, sloped gently down to within a few hundred yards of the sea. I realised that I did not know where my father’s parents lay.
” I remember where Daddy said it was,” my sister said. “Follow me. With our English name, it shouldn’t be difficult to find.”
Our paternal grandfather had been posted to the Outer Hebrides before the First World War, meeting our grandmother on his first trip ashore. English gentlemen were a great rarity in these parts; very desirable “catches” to aspiring island girls like Granny, who had by all accounts been a handsome, strong and wilful young woman. He was well and truly caught; apart from a period of war service he remained in the Outer Isles for the rest of his long life.
His death devastated my grandmother. They had been married for fifty two years. I remember sitting with her in her bedroom, she who had always turned herself out so elegantly propped up in bed, an old singlet of my grandfather’s failing to conceal her droopy, withered breasts from my young eyes. Up to then I had never known the desolation of not being able to console another human being – or that old people ever cried. She wept and wailed and moaned, repeating: “I don’t want to live any more. What’s the use, what’s the use now he’s away? “
Live on she did, doggedly, for nine years, lightened only by a late addition to the family. I was fifteen when my brother was born. Granny was eighty two, and half way senile. The child was called Frederick, after Granddad; as the novelty wore off Granny slipped into senility, a querulous fractious husk, and finally just a husk, and a medical miracle, carried off at eighty six with her fourth bout of pneumonia.
I was at university when she died, having become so distant from her by then that I felt nothing but a vague sense of relief ….
“I’ve found it !” I had fallen behind my sister in my reverie. She was standing about twenty yards away; I hurried to the spot. It was a plain, simple grave. A low railing ran round it. The headstone was in sandstone, with only the facts of their births and deaths etched on it in gold lettering. Noting with satisfaction, which my grandmother would have shared, the absence of ‘fancy versification’, I stood and looked at the grave.
Without any warning, for I had felt quiet and composed, there was a rush and a roar in a deep silent centre of my being; a torrent of desolation and grief swept through me. I wept and wept and wept, quite uncontrolled.
There they were, half my being. Where had it all gone: the passion of their early love; the conception of their children; her sweat and blood and pain as she thrust my father into the world; their quarrels, silences, love, laughter, loneliness and grief; their shared and separate lives? And this was it. On a hot beautiful day with the sea lapping on the shore and the seabirds wheeling and diving, a few bits of cloth and bone under the earth, an iron railing and a stone above.
I was not weeping just for them. Overwhelmed by total awareness of my own mortality and that of all human beings before and after me, I had never felt so stricken, so vulnerable, so alone.” (i)
The second piece, however, written in the autumn of 1971, at the end of the Neptune transit to the IC, whilst Neptune was 0 Sagittarius, shows that something else was now emerging from the underworld which would offer me inspiration and support :
(The ‘pibroch’ referred to is the music of lament played on the Scottish bagpipes)
“ It was a clear autumn evening. Peter called just after seven; he was going out to practice some pibroch. Would I like to come along? It was a rare time of balance – in the weather, in the satisfaction of work which was still new enough to be stimulating, in the fact that Peter and I were falling in love.
Peter drove several miles out of town, winding slowly up deserted country roads to a hill above a small village. Taking out the pipes he began to blow them up, and after much tinkering began to play. To avoid distracting him, I strolled slowly down the road. Peter was standing on a bank of grass at the top of the hill; on his left was a little wood. On the other side of the road was a ditch thick with whin bushes.
Beyond the ditch was a rusty, sagging fence; on the far side of the fence, smooth, mossy moorland dotted with whins, their vivid yellow colour fading into the deepening dusk. In the distance I could just see the Highland hills, purple and rust, gathering shadows in the autumnal twilight.
A myriad of stars, taking their lead from Venus, was growing bright with increasing intensity. A mellow harvest moon was slowly rising, casting a glow on the hills. The air held a hint of cold. I could feel the melancholy music of the bagpipes flowing through me like a magical current.
Reaching the foot of the hill, surrendering myself completely to the intensity of the moment, I lay down in the middle of the road. Spreading out my arms, I gazed up at the stars.
A gentle breeze blew over my body, soughing through the reedy grass. Drifting with the music through the night sky, slipping away from awareness of myself or the present, I was a timeless spirit of the air, travelling the vastness of space on the notes of the pibroch. An unobtrusive rhythm, a pulse, began to beat; growing more and more steady, it became a whispering message in my mind :
‘ There is nothing to fear,’ it said. ‘ There is nothing to fear.’
An image of my lying dead, under the earth, came to me. Such images, occurring at other times, had filled me with panic and disgust. Now, there was none of that. I could gladly have died at that moment; my flesh would return to the earth and nourish it, my spirit would soar to infinity. The pulse continued, flooding me with its light :
‘ There is nothing to fear, nothing to fear, nothing to fear….’
At that point of spiritual ecstasy, I felt the absolute reality of my soul.
Such a moment might have lasted a second, an hour, or a hundred thousand years; but the music ceased, and the chill which was gradually taking over my body drew me back gently into the present…….” (ii)
The knowledge that such a vitalizing sense of connectedness was possible, glimpsed during the above experience, kept me going through the long struggle to believe that life had an overall meaning, and to find my own way of offering my energy creatively in the years which were to follow.
When Uranus crossed the South Node/IC in 1980/81, I began to study astrology, thereby fulfilling a prediction made by an astrologer I had casually encountered in a laundrette in Bath in England in the early 1970s. I also met, moved in with and later married my partner – his Scorpio Moon is conjunct my IC and South Node, and he has an Aquarian Sun and Venus. All very appropriate symbolism for the timing of the Uranus IC transit !
His steadfast support, combined with the deep awareness of teleology which many years’ practice of astrology brings, have been vital for my personal and professional growth and development from the time Uranus crossed the IC until now, (ie end 1995-early 1996) as Pluto moves off that point.
When Pluto was still transiting the IC, but from Sagittarius, I applied and was accepted for a major astrological study course. The very day that Pluto was exactly on the South Node and about to cross the IC for the last time saw me beginning the first year of study. I felt a powerful sense of standing on firm inner ground after the turbulence and trauma of the last few years – of being in the right place at the right time, of having done what I could, for now, with my family inheritance – of being ready to move on to the next growth cycle.
Now that the outer planets have crossed the IC and moved into the Western hemisphere of my Horoscope, I feel liberated from much of the pathology of the past, and more able to use directly in the world the undoubted creativity inherited with it. Nor do I need any longer to make bargains with the shadowy figures who emerge when the light of day is dimming….
i & ii : Both extracts have been published both together and separately in several articles in the USA, the UK and Australia, eg in “Of Cerberus and Blackest Midnight Born” which appeared in the UK’s Astrological Journal, 1996, and was then reprinted in Considerations magazine (USA) in the same year.
“Of Cerberus and Blackest Midnight Born” is a quote from ‘L’Allegro’ by the English poet John Milton
Is it Covid, or is it me? Or you? I am finding, these days, that Time seems to drag interminably on the one hand, and whizz by at warp speed on the other. Coming round slowly as usual over my morning cuppa (not a morning person, me…) I was jolted awake by realising that it’s almost Midsummer. How did that happen? It seemed like it was the Spring Equinox about five minutes ago. Much has happened/not happened since then…depends on what level of lockdown you’ve been enduring where you are, I guess!
So, I thought I’d revisit the post I wrote for the UK’s Astrological Journal at the time of the Spring Equinox 2021: taking stock, as it were, of where we were then, and where we are now, as Midsummer approaches. Your thoughts, as ever, are most welcome!
Normally, I don’t have too much bother coming up with a column topic. The idea usually lands in my mind either days or weeks before the deadline. If it refuses to go away and bother someone else, I know it’s mine to tackle. Either that, or final deadline looming has a miraculously stimulating effect on my inert capacity for creative cogitation.
Not this time.
I have been in what can best be described as ‘zombie slug’ mode, as the latest covid lockdown has deprived all of us of most activity involving direct social contact with our fellow human beings. I share the apprehension of many worldwide who have been shocked at the full frontal assault on democracy provoked by Trump in the dying embers of his less than successful presidency. Tomorrow, 20th January 2021, is Inauguration Day in the USA.
What shape is 2021 going to take? The astrology of the new Air Era which began on 2020’s Winter Solstice has produced much commentary from me and fellow astrologers across the globe. I feel dispirited at the thought of coming up with anything relevant to say in my current mood.
However, dragging myself out into the dank, cold, grubby murk of a city morning for the usual walk, I found the cheery defiance of new season’s snowdrops sprouting merrily in the local park more inspiring than ever before. Their simple yet powerful reminder that Life goes on despite the antics of humans, cheered me up.
‘I know!” I thought. “I’m going to have a look at the 2021 Spring Equinox horoscope – and not allow myself to be intimidated by knowing that knowledgeable and erudite commentaries from experienced mundane astrologers are even now being penned the length and breadth of lands various…’. ( yes, I know no-one pens anything very much any more…it’s just a figure of speech)
After three days’ procrastination, a much cheerier mood prevails as I begin perusing this year’s Spring Equinox chart. The USA now has a presidential President in Joe Biden; despite the pall of covid hanging over us all, he set the tone for an inspiring Inauguration.
And the women – wow!
First off, we now have the first black/South Asian female Vice Ppresident: two firsts rolled into the formidable Kamala Harris. Next up, the accomplished Dr Jill Biden as FLOTUS. Then Lady Gaga’s knockout rendition of the USA’s national anthem. And the magnificent poem performed superbly by 22 year old Amanda Gorman.
Also: in the roll-call of Biden appointments, this from CNN on Inauguration day:
“At least six major news networks have assigned women to lead White House coverage of the Biden administration, raising the profile of female journalists in an institution long dominated by men”(i)
But more on the women shortly…
This Spring Equinox horoscope certainly holds some cheer for us: Jupiter is closely conjunct the Aquarian MC, trine Gemini rising, as he moves away from Saturn. Both Saturn from the 9th house and Jupiter from the 10th are trine a 12th house Moon/North Node/Mars combination in Gemini. This suggests some cautious optimism and focused energy arising behind the scenes in our world-wide community, with plenty new ideas coming slowly to the fore – hopefully as the covid infection and death rates slowly fall with the gradual rise and impact of mass vaccination programmes.
That Jupiter on an Aquarian MC does suggest that rich male benefactors with a social conscience might divert some of their squillions toward the common good – eg helping to get the world vaccinated. Come on, Besos and Musk. Step up!! ( ps 8.6.21: They haven’t as yet…what a surprise.)
Meanwhile, we are in for a whole year of Saturn square Uranus, which first kicked off from March to July 2020. This year, their squares are exact at the following points: February17th (7 deg Aquarius/Taurus) + June 14th (13 deg Aquarius/Taurus) + Dec 24th (11deg Aquarius/Taurus). Much has already been said, and will be repeated as 2021 unfolds, concerning the intractable and potentially violent taking up of intransigent, polarised positions politically and culturally from which we have suffered so much in the year just gone.
However, as I reflected on the many variations on the battle between the old and new order arising already from this alarming square, my eye fell on the Venus/Neptune conjunction, sitting right next to the equinoctal Aries Sun.
I realised that its 24 deg Pisces midpoint fell on the Saturn/Uranus midpoint. Suddenly – honestly, I’m not making this up! – a vivid image came to me: Gustave Moreau’s 1866 painting of ‘Venus Rising from the Sea’. I’ve always preferred this version of the mythical birth of Venus (from the severed genitals of mythical sky god Uranus castrated by his mythical offspring Saturn and cast into the briny, supposedly off the coast of Cyprus …) to Sandro Botticelli’s much more demure Venus, painted sometime in the 1480s, arriving onshore draped prettily within a seashell. Moreau’s Venus, as can be seen from the accompanying image, is much more authoritative, tougher- looking in her beauty – pretty formidable, in fact.
(No – I could not resist checking my battered copy of Michelson’s wonderful Tables of Planetary Phenomena to see what was going on in 1866. Yes – in July and August that year, there were significant Saturn/Uranus aspects: with Saturn at 6 deg Scorpio waxing trine Uranus at 6 deg Cancer + Saturn at 7 deg Scorpio waxing trine Uranus at 7 deg Cancer. Some co-incidence, eh?!)
Now – back to the formidable, authoritative women who are very much part of our current world picture.
In 2019, we had Greta Thunberg coming to the fore with the South Node conjunct Saturn/Pluto in the Spring, taking ineffectual male politicians to task in the face of a building world-wide climate crisis, and winding up as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. She succeeded in turning vague anxieties about the planet into a worldwide movement calling for global change.
My Jan/Feb 2021 NTAC column concerned the provocative ‘silver blob’ commemorative statue to Mary Wollestonecraft, arguably the world’s first publicly influential feminist via her famous 1792 tract ‘Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ and mother of the prescient Mary Shelley. Shelley warned us – via ‘Frankenstein’ published in 1818 – of the consequences of science being allowed to run unchecked by either compassion or ethics.
That statue, unveiled on 10th November 2020, succeeded in raising the ire of women across a wide spectrum – in the same week that Kamala Harrismade history by becoming Joe Biden’s Vice President. The horoscope of the statue’s launch – which includes the four key female asteroids Ceres, Juno, Pallas, and Vesta – shows strong, combative female energy being very much to the fore, reflecting in microcosm what is currently going on across the world. Female leaders from Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon to New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and Germany’s Angela Merkelare generally making a better job of leading their countries through the covid crisis than their male counterparts.
I was powerfully struck by the arrival of Moreau’s formidable Venus in my mind’s eye as I contemplated the Spring Equinox’s Venus/Neptune in Pisces in relation to that intractable-looking Saturn/Uranus square. It strongly suggested this to me: if the angry and dangerous stances of opposing camps are to be slowly dissolved and gradually transformed into more constructive, co-operative positions as this (yet another!) crisis year for the world unfolds, it is likely to be the energies of formidable, authoritative, powerful, compassionate women which play a significant part in enabling such a transformation…
What does Chiron mean to you? Have you experienced his symbolic energy as healing? Wounding? As the ‘inconvenient benefic’, kicking open doors to places you’d never have thought to go? Does he simply not register as any kind of recognisable influence in your life or those around you? Or have you simply not given him much thought as you work with your horoscope in relation to your life?
Lots of questions. Let’s address them now!
Chiron moved into Aries on 17th April 2018, dipping back into Pisces for a few months in the autumn of that year, settling into his journey through Aries on February 18th 2019, where he will remain until 2026/7 when he shifts into Taurus.
Chiron’s orbit is very irregular. If you’d like to go into the detail of this, Cafe Astrology is the place to go for some very clear tables. However, his return cycle is a steady 50 years: we all have a Chiron Return at that age. This Aries return is especially significant since it represents the end of a whole 50 year period from 1968/9 when Chiron was last in Aries. The shift from Pisces the last sign of the zodiac to Aries the first is always more radical than any other – and fierier, more disruptive and far-reaching at a collective level.
Chiron in Aries – 20th Century
50 years back from 1968/9 takes us to 1918/19 and the turbulent aftermath of the First World War. Some of us still vividly remember 1968/9 with the student riots in Europe, the protests in the USA against the Vietnam war, and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King against the turbulent backdrop of the Civil Rights movement. We also remember that wonderfully pioneering event of the Moon landing, a stunning example of humanity’s kicking open a door to a place no-one throughout our whole history until that moment thought we would go.
Early on in Chiron’s transit through Aries, ruled by the red planet Mars, preparations for the first human mission there envisaged for the 2030s are well under way. The Mars 2020 rover has been studying the availability of Martian resources, including oxygen. This is a major step forward in the preparation process. Some of us baby-boomers, if we live a long life, may well see the first blast-off taking humans in Shakespeare’s famous words about death, to “…The undiscovered country from whose bourn. No traveler returns…” ( Hamlet act 3 Scene 1) The Mars explorers know they will not return to their home planet…
No doubt there will be much more speculation across our various media outlets regarding what this shift may mean both collectively and individually. It has already begun, as a quick google search will testify!
Back to first principles
However, I have found my reflections returning me to contemplation of first principles: the questions at the start of this post are in fact my own interrogations both of my experience of Chiron’s symbolic energies in my personal life and my professional practice.
In response to those questions, on looking back I can say that I have seen Chiron, in his popular ‘wounded healer’ mode, most notably in colleagues and acquaintances with Chiron prominent in their charts eg 2nd, 6th or 10th Houses and/or strongly linked with planets, Nodes and Angles. They have found their way into caring, alternative healing or medical/nursing contexts, usually propelled there by family and/or personal wounding they were consciously or unconsciously seeking to assuage.
I have also seen situations where the wounding dimension was well to the fore and people struggled to see any healing in what they were experiencing – quite often at the Chiron Return point, when the whole horoscope’s Chiron aspects are triggered. This is where as an astrologer it is so vital to tread carefully in seeking to offer a context to deep pain and suffering which may offer some comfort and hope without raising unrealistic expectations – and to know when we are coming up against our own limitations eg in lack of specific expertise in dealing with questions of health and healing.
Here, it is important to have a network of reputable and experienced practitioners in various healing modalities who might be able to offer some support which builds on what one has hopefully been able to clarify for the client.
It was the late astrologer A.L. Morrison who coined the term ‘inconvenient benefic’ as a facet of Chiron’s actions – I can see on considering the placement of Chiron in our solar system, his source for this interpretation. Chiron appeared in 1977 between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. He can be seen as the one who unlocked the door between the safe boundaries of the known system contained by Saturn, lord of form and structure, security and stability and the outer planetary realm of Uranus –lord of misrule, breaker of custom, known code and convention. It is very threatening to be kicked out of safe territory into the unpredictable and unknown. But often it is just what we need although we don’t appreciate it at the time.
I have certainly seen this Chironian dimension in action by transit or progression with clients who turn up for readings after a long process where life has given them a good kicking (sound familiar, anyone?!) but who emerge out the other end realising that the kicking was necessary to get them to move in a direction they would not have been brave (or foolish!) enough to see held considerable positive benefits for them.
An amusing (in retrospect…) and quite significant example of this ‘inconvenient benefic’ aspect of Chiron in action can be offered from my own life a long time ago. My husband developed mumps, and had such a sore throat for several days that he could neither speak nor eat anything that wasn’t liquidised, and certainly could not bear to smoke. Chiron was then transiting his Gemini Midheaven. He quit smoking for good…
Chiron’s Return at Midlife
It makes sense that Chiron doesn’t feature very strongly in a person’s life if not prominent by horoscope placement or by aspect. However, even in such cases, if Chiron directly transits any of the personal planets or Angles, it is very unusual for there to be a ‘dumb note’ struck. It also seems to me that the Chiron Return at age 50 registers with everyone, but especially strongly when Chiron is a powerfully placed and aspected symbol.
A long time ago – I no longer have the chart or notes for reference but still remember the situation – a woman with Chiron conjunct her Moon consulted me not long after her 50th birthday. Chiron had recently returned to that natal conjunction. I recall that Saturn by transit was also probably involved. I asked her whether there was a difficult issue currently involving a key female in her life, and she said yes, that her mother-in-law to whom she had been very close had recently died and she was having difficulty getting over this loss; her deep grief seemed to her to be out of proportion.
I then asked if she had had a similar loss in the first year of her life. It turned out that her own mother had died when she was less than a year old, and that she had felt bereft of mothering until her mother-in -law came into her life, hence her great difficulty with the current situation. Both the client and I were deeply moved by how powerfully the Moon/Chiron symbolism had spoken on Chiron’s return to its natal position. But realising this also helped the client to make more sense of the depth of her grief, and hopefully to process it more consciously.
Chiron and our deep ancestral wound…
In approaching what Chiron’s symbolic action may bring in our own and clients’ horoscopes, it seems to me to make sense to hold those several facets I have described in this post in mind as we reflect.
However, there is a deep layer which has meant more to me than any other, which I first came across in an article by Liz Greene called ‘Wounding and the will to live’ in Issue 3 of Apollon, the Journal of Psychological Astrology (1999). This article is now available on Astrodienst, and I would strongly suggest that any readers interested in exploring Chiron’s meaning at profound depth should read it.
Here, Liz Greene points out re the centaur Chiron’s unhealable wound, that “….the wound exists in the collective and is ancestral..”
My understanding of what she is saying is that where Chiron appears in our birth charts represents our ‘chip’ of the accumulated woundedness of humanity over the ages. It is not our fault that we have this particular ‘chip’ allocated to us, any more than it was the centaur Chiron’s fault to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in the centaurs’ battle with the Lapiths during which he was grazed in the thigh by a poisoned arrow which would not heal because it was dipped in the blood of the Hydra.
We are not directly responsible for our personal share of humanity’s wounding. But if we can work with as much honesty and humility, and as little bitterness as possible with that share as indicated by Chiron’s placement in our natal chart, then we can begin to transform that woundedness into something which can be offered for the healing of others. This process can ultimately help us to grow sufficiently that our personal wound becomes an increasingly smaller part of who it is we are able to become.
I have used this understanding of Chiron in many client readings now, and have found that it offers inspiration and consolation. Much of that healing flows from helping clients to accept that the wound is not our fault – but it is our responsibility to choose how we deal with it. No doubt the fact that I have found this deep message a consolation in my own work with ancestral wounding, also communicates itself to my clients without my having to say a single word about my own process…
Published on Astrodienst in 2018 as Reflecting on Chiron, as his Aries trip begins …
Anne’s new book, ‘Postcards to the Future: Mercurial Musings 1995-2021’ will be published at the end of Summer 2021 by Writing from the Twelfth House Publications.
I was born at the very end of Moondark, with the Moon only three degrees behind the Sun, and both those Lights plus three other planets in the twelfth house of my horoscope. So – twelfth house/Balsamic/Moondark phases of any month, year or indeed planetary cycle whether progressed or by transit affect me very deeply and interest me profoundly.
I have learned over decades to live with those complex stages reasonably productively, so I hope that my musings in this post during the approaching Moondark of the whole year of 2020/21 will provide productive food for thought and appropriate contemplation!
Moondark describes the end of any cycle – the 12th house phase – whether we are contemplating the monthly Sun/Moon one or the epoch-defining 500 year long Neptune/Pluto cycle. It is the time of withdrawal and dissolution of energy – think of wintertime, the stripped trees, the cold, barren earth – a time of dark power in which the old order dies at a number of different levels, so that fertile energy can emerge from the womb of the night.
It occurred to me some years ago that this ancient astronomical pattern of the yearly phases of the Sun/Moon relationship and its attendant meaning in the yearly cycle had been taken up and overlaid – as with so many of the old pagan yearly traditions – by Christianity. Easter and Christ’s Resurrection could be roughly mapped onto the return of the Sun to the Northern Hemisphere around the 20th of March each year, followed by the Aries New Moon and the beginning of Spring.
In Christianity, the forty days preceding Easter when Christ retreated into the wilderness to wrestle with various temptations, to fast and to pray, is known as Lent: a time of watching, waiting, self-denial, contemplation and prayer.
The March/April period each year is also observed at various times by other religious traditions including Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Judaism. The ancient longing, waiting for the return of the Sun to the Northern Hemisphere and with it the renewal of Spring has deep roots: to a time when our ancestors’ whole existence was predicated closely upon the path of the Sun and the Sun/Moon relationship.
Thus, despite all the sophisticated technological trappings of 21st Century living, my feeling – based on observation of my own, my clients’ and students’ lives over several decades – is that at a deep psychological level these ancient patterns still affect us whether we are consciously aware of them or not.
That wonderfully poetic astrological writer Dana Gerhardt puts it beautifully:
“…Balsamic begins with the waning Sun/Moon semi-square. The Moon is a slim Crescent, forty-five degrees behind the Sun…Our physical energy is necessarily as low as our psychic energy is high. We’re at a threshold, ending one cycle while anticipating a new one round the corner. We might want to get into motion, but our bodies are tired. Our clarity and focus wane, like the Balsamic Moon herself, rising thinner and fainter each morning until she eventually disappears altogether, lost in the Sun’s glare. This is the Dark Moon.
Much of the time we won’t know whether we’re finishing up or leaning toward the future, whether we’re being truly psychic or simply dreaming – which is why this is a better period for introspection than for action. Without the dormancy of winter, spring’s (or the New Moon’s) seeds cannot mature…”(i)
So – this is the Moondark phase of the whole of 2020/21 about to begin with the Pisces New Moon on Saturday 13th March. And – right now is the Moondark phase of the whole month from the New Moon in Aquarius on 11 February 2021. I feel pretty amazed that I was able to get out of bed today, never mind write a blog post! as Dana Gerhardt wisely says:
‘…this is a better period for introspection than for action…’
So – it might be productive for us to spend some time just now and over the upcoming Pisces New Moon period in reflecting on the ending phases of those major cycles which we all share: the 11-12 year cycle of Jupiter, the 18-19 year cycle of the Moon’s Nodes, the 27-year cycle of the progressed Moon, the 29-30 year cycle of Saturn, and the 50 year cycle of Chiron.
What were you doing in the last year or so – the Moondark period – of each of those cycles? What had changed by the time the new cycle had begun to take shape after 1-2 years? Depending on your age, you may by now be able to look back through eg three or four or more cycles of Jupiter, or eg two cycles of Saturn? What themes can you detect which have unfolded through these cycles and repeats? I have really enjoyed working in this way over many years with my clients, students and mentorees – and myself. There is much understanding and learning to be gained from such reflection.
There is already plenty of commentary of varying quality across the Web regarding the nature of this upcoming Pisces New Moon, and what we might expect it to bring. I’ll be sharing (on this blog’s Facebook Page) one or two of what I think are the best of those writings as the Pisces New Moon waxes.
At a personal level, we will need to ‘go with the flow’, disruptive though it may well be, as much as we can. It’s a good time for letting things hang loose, not making any definite plans and expecting if we do, that things may very well not go smoothly.
At a collective level, what strikes me most powerfully as this zodiacal year ends is how weary we all are now of the lockdowns and restrictions necessitated since last March 2020 by attempts with varying degrees of success to control the Covid pandemic sweeping the world. There is increasing hope, as Spring gathers pace, that we will gain some freedom at last as the pace of vaccination speeds up, and the rates of infection gradually diminish.
So – let’s hope that we can all keep our heads above turbulent waters, and learn a bit more from whatever experiences come our way, as the month unfolds prior to the Aries New Moon on 12th April, the true beginning of the astrological New Year…
I grew up on a small, windswept island off the West Coast of Scotland, where environmental pollution was negligible; the night skies were wonderfully, deeply dark. Dazzlingly dark – especially on cold, clear winter nights. Becoming utterly fascinated by the heavens above me, I was gradually able to discern some of the patterns made by the stars, learning to spot even Saturn at certain times of the year.
However, what I especially loved was the comfortingly predictable rhythm of the Moon’s monthly traverse across the night sky. I waited eagerly to see – intermittently because of our frequently stormy and cloudy weather! – the fragile silvery sliver of the waning crescent. Then darkness. And a couple of days later – again, if I was lucky and the skies were clear – the welcome appearance of the fresh, new waxing crescent Moon.
That was outdoors. Indoors, things were uncomfortably unpredictable to say the least as I slowly emerged from childhood, gradually gaining agency culminating in an early departure from home in my late teens. The one steady source of comfort as I moved towards that goal was a picture: the picture you see here. I knew nothing whatever about it apart from its title:‘Reaching for the Moon’. No-one in the house seemed to know where it had come from…only many years later thanks to google did I find out its author and provenance (ii)
That stylised Art Deco image inspired me to reach in my teens toward the waxing crescent of my slowly forming future life…only many years later on receiving a hand-drawn horoscope from the Faculty of Astrological Studies’ cartographer as part of their Certificate course in the early 1980s did I discover my birth had occurred on a Sun/Moon conjunction in Leo in the twelfth house – just a few hours before the New Moon. No wonder the soli/lunar cycle had fascinated me in my childhood; cycles have increasingly continued to do so ever since.
Whether the cycle is huge, like the five hundred year Neptune/ Pluto one, or small, like that of the monthly Sun/Moon, the same basic stages apply: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new. Those stages describe developmental processes from gnats to galaxies; we can thus apply the basic template of what we see enacted above us in the heavens every month to the ebb and flow everything, including cultural phases and the rise and fall of whole civilisations…
In mid-life, during one single decade I had to negotiate a passage through the endings of not one, or two, or three but four major cycles amplified by a long Uranus then Neptune transit opposing my twelfth house planets. This necessitated a lengthy period of contemplative retreat and slow re-emergence, which was both personally purging and a wonderfully close-up qualitative research opportunity (you have to look on the bright side!). Although aspects of this ten-year period were pretty devastating, I emerged with both deepened insight into – and fascination with – the waning and waxing crescent phases of cycles great and small, personal and collective.
The times we are currently living through are devastatingly disruptive and at the moment we have no real idea how – or who – we are going to be when we eventually emerge. It struck me recently that the very last 20 year Jupiter/Saturn cycle in the Earth element could roughly be mapped onto the waning crescent of that 200 year period; and the cycle’s first twenty-year journey through the subsequent Air era could be thought of as the waxing crescent of a very different time unfolding.
Three major cycles’ endings…
At times symbolism seems to step down a level, manifesting in a very literal way in the world we ordinary mortals inhabit. I experienced such a moment of symbol becoming strikingly ‘real’ in the week following Saturn’s first entry into airy Aquarius on Sunday 22nd March 2020, Mother’s Day in the UK. This was also the day the UK government declared that we were in lockdown owing to the threat posed by the covid 19 airborne pandemic, thereby joining much of the rest of Europe and parts of North America, much of Asia having got there weeks before us.
A few days later, it seemed as though the human community had literally taken to Air en masse – via Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Facebook etc – a powerful, immediate, adaptive response to the locked-down world.
Along with many of my astrological colleagues, especially those of us who have been ‘tuning in’ to the larger planetary cycles which span aeons of time, I have been observing the turmoil and difficulty of the very ending of the 1982-2020 Saturn/Pluto cycle and its manifestations in the reality of life on Earth with grim fascination.
I’ve also been very aware that the long sojourn of the 20-years long Jupiter/Saturn cycles through the Earth element, which began in 1802, will terminate with a dramatic symbolic flourish following its full entry into Air, meeting Jupiter at 0 Aquarius on 21st December 2020 – the Winter Solstice, no less…
Thus we are not only at the end of the 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…’ (iii)
This ‘triple whammy’ of Moondark in 2019 and 2020, involving the very ending of no less than three major cycles of 200, 33-38 and 20 years respectively, therefore points to those years as being especially symbolically significant.
We have increasingly been handing over the conduct of our ‘civilisation’, for good and ill (the usual inextricable twins) to the airy Internet in recent times, gaining pace from the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction’s first brief, 20-years appearance in the Air element, in Libra, in 1980/81: creating an increasingly interconnected cyber-world. However, the last week of March 2020 powerfully brought home to me the literal reality of the symbolism I’d been observing: at the end of the waning crescent phase of the Jupiter/Saturn cycles travelling through Earth, the Air era truly is almost upon us.
We are seeing the seeds of the next 200 years beginning to push through the darkness of the future. As the Earth era loses power and agency in its waning crescent, a new world order is gradually emerging…
Deaths – and Entrances
It feels as though we humans – tiny chips of the huge prevailing energies of turbulence and change – are living
“On almost the incendiary eve
Of deaths and entrances” (iv)
as Dylan Thomas so powerfully put it. It is a very ancient human tendency, when knowing that a stage of life has come to an inexorable end, to look back to wherever the beginning might have been in trying to come to terms – and in starting to contemplate the largely unknown future.
That has very much been my recent experience. My husband Ian was felled by a stroke on the 12th January 2020, three hours after the opening crescent phase of the new Saturn/Pluto cycle in Capricorn: a brutal opening for me to a new way of life. One of my ways of dealing with his loss has been to go back, back to just before the opening 1982 Saturn/Pluto cycle in Libra, when we were married nearly forty years ago, to reflect on what that precious time may have meant both in my life and his – and where I go from here.
However, 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 if possible in the context of a bigger picture.
Thus, as we all sit in 2020 – penned in and fearful as a deadly airborne virus takes down not only individuals, over half a million as I write in July 2020, but also much of the economic and social structures upon which the Earth era rests – I have been very strongly drawn to reflecting on another ending and beginning on the very large scale: the closing crescent phase of the Jupiter/Saturn cycles through the element of Fire in 1603 which ended with the conjunction’s first meeting in Earth in 1802.
What a turbulent ending and beginning that was! The waning crescent of the Fire era hosted not one, but two major Western revolutions: the American Revolution between 1775 and 1783, and the French Revolution from 1789 to 1799. These occurred against the backdrop of the combined forces of the accelerating Industrial Revolution and the Scientific Revolution, which really got under weigh from the Jupiter/Saturn cycle’s shift into Earth in 1802 and the rise of the materialist era thereafter – rooted firmly in exploitation of the resources of Planet Earth.
It needs only a sketchy knowledge of the historical timeline, looking back, to realise that those revolutionary upheavals at the waning crescent of the old Fire era were largely responsible for the rise and pan-global impact of Western civilisation as the new Earth era took shape.
One of the fascinating seeds of the coming Air era emerging in the waning crescent phase of our current Earth era, has been the undoubted rise and expanding influence of the East, spearheaded by the expansionist, exponential rise in worldly power and influence of China whose dominance and global influence via sophisticated technologies has given us at least some idea of what shape the Air era will take. A manifestation of the negative dimensions of this Airy shift has been the rise of cyber-warfare in recent years…
Powerful new Earth-based technologies, eg Big Oil, arising in the materialist era have provided lifestyles and opportunities undreamed of by our ancestors – in the wealthier parts of the world. But, uncoupled from any agreed collective sense of responsibility towards our mother planet, they have also as the Earth era draws to a close, placed her very survival under threat. Clearly, as the opening crescent of the new Air era takes form, we will need urgently to develop technologies which no longer depend upon sawing off the branch on which we are all sitting…
From the collective to the personal – Mary Shelley, prophet…and Greta Thunberg, climate activist
Some individuals have a more powerful impact than others on the way history and culture take shape. As Greta Thunberg herself neatly put it in her first book’s title: ‘No One is Too Small to Make a Difference’(v). As my reflections on the waning crescent phases of both the 1603-1802 Fire era and the 1802-2020 Earth era continued, the impact of two very young women – Mary Shelley and Greta Thunberg – struck me forcefully as individuals whose lives and work bracket the beginning and ending of the Earth era, as well as setting the tone for our entry into Air.
Mary Godwin Shelley was born on 30th August 1797. Daughter of the famous philosopher and writer William Godwin and the early feminist writer Mary Wollestonecraft who died 10 days after her birth, she made her entrance in the turbulent final years of the dying Fire era, its waning crescent.
Little did her parents know that their child, at the time of her first Nodal Return whilst only nineteen years old, in the waxing crescent phase and the first twenty-year Jupiter/Saturn cycle of the new materialist Earth era, would write an enduringly famous book which has created a modern myth. “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus” (published 1.1.1818), issued a prescient warning of the grim results which might well follow from scientific endeavour being pursued without compassion or due regard for ethics or morality. As Emily Sunstein, in her wonderful biography of Mary Shelley, put it:
“Mary Shelley … will be best remembered for her perception in ‘Frankenstein’ … that the Promethean drive is at the heart of human progress and yet a bringer of new
ills if not focused on ethical means and ends …”(v)
Here comes Greta
At the end of the waning crescent of the Earth era, and the outset of the final Jupiter/Saturn cycle in Earth, enter another globally significant young woman, her birth taking place at an earlier stage of an era’s end than Mary Shelley’s: her preoccupation being the dangerously damaged state of the Earth, our mother.
I find it fascinating, if chilling, that the warning issued by Mary Shelley via ‘Frankenstein’ can be seen clearly now to have been so prophetic. That materialist era’s wanton disregard for the health and wellbeing of our world and all its creatures, largely in the name of profit, is reaping its consequences in terms of planetary and climate upheaval which now threatens our very survival.
None of us had heard of a young Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, born on 3rd January 2003, until she began her solo protest against climate change in August 2018 at the age of fifteen. By the end of 2019, she had been declared Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year”. Here are the bare bones of her story, in the words of their 23/30 December 2019 issue:
“…Thunberg began a global movement by skipping school: starting in August 2018, she spent her days camped out in front of the Swedish Parliament, holding a sign painted in black letters on a white background that read Skolstrejk för klimatet: “School Strike for Climate.” In the 16 months since, she has addressed heads of state at the U.N., met with the Pope, sparred with the President of the United States and inspired 4 million people to join the global climate strike on September 20, 2019, in what was the largest climate demonstration in human history. Her image has been celebrated in murals and Halloween costumes, and her name has been attached to everything from bike shares to beetles. Margaret Atwood compared her to Joan of Arc…”(vi)
We do not know as yet what Thunberg will do as we all step over a powerful threshold into the opening crescent of the new Air era on 21st December 2020. She has already published two books: one of her speeches, the other a memoir featuring her family. What we do know is that her challenges, issued at the closing crescent of the 1802-2020 Earth era, have birthed the Extinction Rebellion movement, thereby setting the agenda for one of the defining themes of the opening Air era – and of the Jupiter/Saturn cycle at 0 Aquarius with which it begins – ie we can no longer ignore the grim reality that our planet is under threat to its very survival.
It would seem likely, therefore, that the waxing crescent of the Air era will involve the development of new, community-based politics which are a radical departure from the old, broken, top-down model. It will also need to evolve technologies which facilitate the conserving of our planet and its abundant but limited natural resources, and find a way of doing this relatively quickly. Youthful leaders are already arising from the Millennial generation. I imagine that Greta Thunberg will be one of them.
Mary’s and Greta’s horoscopes
Mary, Greta, Neptune Direct
Surely, I thought, there must be significant connections between their birth charts? Indeed there are. There is much upon which to reflect with those horoscopes, both individually and in conjunction. I’m confining myself, however, to commenting on the three sets of links which struck me as most significant. I’m sure readers will find more…we do not as yet have a birth time for Greta. But the Sunrise chart I have used is still very descriptive.
Mary’s painful first house Saturn rising in Cancer, signifying her maternal loss and the alienated Monster in ‘Frankenstein’, abandoned by his Creator, friendless, and alone, opposes Greta’s powerful Sun/Chiron conjunction. This signifies her very extreme, wounded response to the pain of our planet which set her off on her protest, and may also point to her autism and other personal wounds; the classic ‘wounded healer’ significator. One can see in this linking the powerful sensitivity to woundedness in them both which fuelled Mary’s writing and Greta’s campaigning.
Greta has an exact first house conjunction at 26 Aquarius between rebellious, political, potentially fanatical Uranus and Pallas, the asteroid signifying warfare, wisdom, skill, strategy and commitment to fairness and justice. This falls closely conjunct Mary’s 27 Aquarius MC, conjunct Pluto at 1 Pisces. I was stunned to find that Mary’s progressed Moon is crossing this combination, at 26.5 Aquarius, at the Winter Solstice 2020. This link between Mary and Greta as rebels, innovators and visionaries hardly needs explanation.
I’ve saved the most significant connections till last. Mary Shelley’s North Node at 19 Gemini in the mediumistic twelfth house, opposite the South Node at 19 Sagittarius in the sixth, squares her Sun/Venus, Sun/Mercury, and Uranus/Mercury midpoints in Virgo, making a powerful T’Square. This potent combination speaks of a visionary writer whose task, set by the North Node’s position, was to send out a futuristic, ground-breaking challenge and warning which was to echo down the ages…
Her first Nodal Return with its attendant eclipses triggering off this pattern, co-incided with the birthing and publication of ‘Frankenstein’.
Greta’s Nodes are in the same pair of signs, at 8 degrees Gemini/Sagittarius. Her Pluto at 18 Sagittarius sits exactly on Mary’s South Node. What a fated connection! And here’s the knock-out Nodal link which took my breath away when I saw it. Not only is the North Node in airy Gemini, midwifing the shift from the Earth to the Air era on the winter solstice 2020: the Nodal Axis then is at 19 degrees Gemini/Sagittarius: exactly conjunct Mary Shelley’s Nodal T’Square – and Greta Thunberg’s Pluto. Co-incidence – or Fate?
At the Winter Solstice of 2020, as we make our dramatic transition into the new Air era, transiting Neptune having turned direct at the end of November 2020, will be at 18 degrees Pisces, squaring the transiting Nodes at Gemini/Sagittarius, Mary Shelley’s Nodes and Greta Thunberg’s Pluto.
From all those stunning overlaps, it certainly looks as though Greta Thunberg one way or another, is set to continue where Mary Shelley left off as we step into our Airy future.
Voices of the Great Mother…
There was a stand-out moment for me last spring 2019, when the South Node met Saturn/Pluto in Capricorn; at that time the very Capricornian Greta Thunberg strode onto the world stage, forcefully confronting us all – and our political leaders in particular – with the dangerous state of our mother planet and challenging us to do something about it.
Listening to this slight sixteen year old girl speaking so passionately, articulately and forcefully, I had one of those moments where one gets a shiver down the back and becomes tearful – accompanied by an eerie sense of listening to the voice of the Great Mother calling to us through the voice of a woman barely out of childhood.
Thinking about this, and Greta’s evocation for me of the voice of the Great Mother, brought to mind an article I had written featuring Mary Shelley published in TMA way back in 2001 at the opening crescent of the final Jupiter/Saturn cycle through Earth, called ‘Mary, Dolly, and Andi: O Brave New World?’
In this article, I wrote about the exact links between Mary Shelley’s Placidus ninth house cusp at 5 43 Aquarius; the February 1997 Jupiter/Uranus conjunction at 5-6 Aquarius and the public announcement of Dolly the Sheep at that time; followed in January 2001 by the birth of rhesus macaque monkey Andi, the world’s first genetically modified primate, just when Neptune at 5-6 Aquarius went over Mary’s ninth house cusp. I wrote the following:
‘This is a stunning piece of synchronicity. How do we interpret it? The long traverse of Neptune through Mary’s Aquarian ninth house which has now begun, could be seen as a metaphor for the slow,inexorable consequences of what she foresaw seeping into every facet of human life, radically altering it forever.
An image arises of Mary Shelley, standing alone on the shoreline of her imagination and her dreams, calling out a message to the far future like the Oracle in ancient times…’
As the human community prepares to step into the challenge, terror and exhilaration of a largely unknown future, we have already been provided with significant clues regarding the shape of what lies ahead for its waxing Air crescent – and what we must do if we are to survive for the next two hundred years.
Has the Great Mother indeed spoken to us? And are we listening?
Mary Shelley, August 30, 1797, London, 11:20 p.m. L.T.
Source: father William Godwin’s journal – he was present at
Greta Thunberg, January 3 2003, Stockholm, Sweden
Sunrise 8:51 am CET – no known birth time
from… ‘Fragments on Nature and Life’… p 340… by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
(iii) 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)
(iv) from v3, Dylan Thomas’ poetry collectionDeaths and Entrances(1946)
(v) Emily Sunstein, Mary Shelley, p. 403, quoted in Dreaming Frankenstein – The Creation of a Modern Myth by Anne Whitaker, published in TMA April – May 2016
‘…The constant dance between form and formlessness, being and non-being, order and chaos, occurs in all epochs and at all levels.
Humans have created a range of paradigms and metaphors, from ancient myths to modern cosmology, within which to explore this dialectic. Our ancient Babylonian forebears envisaged the beginning of the world as a battle to the death between the great sea-serpent Ti’amat and her son, the Underworld god Marduk. He vanquished her, creating Heaven and Earth from her divided corpse. Meanwhile, the grapple goes on.
Astrology has its own language for this struggle, speaking through the polarity of Saturn and Neptune. Saturn at its core represents the drive to take form; Neptune’s teleology is that of dissolution…’ (i)
Tiamat Vs Marduk (Christian Johnson) reddit.com
Here we are – again. We do not need astrology to tell us we are in the throes of that epic struggle between Ti’amat and Marduk as the two hundred years long era of Jupiter and Saturn meeting in Earth comes to a messy and turbulent end. The ‘official starting date’ of the incoming Air era is on 2020’s Winter Solstice, when Jupiter meets Saturn at 0 Aquarius.
The signs are everywhere you care to look: covid 19 is brutally upending our way of living, which has largely depended on trashing Mother Earth since the outset of the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions. Fire ravaged parts of Australia in 2019, and is currently blazing swathes of destruction through California on the one hand, and the Brazilian rainforests in another. Destructive flooding is on the increase. Species extinction is advancing apace. Social inequality is worse than it has been for a very long time. I could go on and on…
Where astrology CAN be helpful, at least for those of us of a philosophical bent, is via the perspectives which studying the larger planetary cycles can provide. We can thus step back, zoom out as it were (quite the apt expression since much of the world is now Zooming!!) and with even a sketchy grasp of an historical timeline reflect upon the scary evidence of an increasingly divided world in turmoil – from a longer-term and possibly more optimistic perspective.
From observing both my own life and that of our wider communities, it seems that the most fear-generating dimension is the profound uncertainty which contextualises all our lives at present. None of us can plan with any confidence for anything. Just today, as I write this on Monday 14th September 2020, the covid ‘rule of six’ has come in in Scotland – but with different restrictions in other parts of an increasingly fragmenting UK as the shadow of an impending no-deal Brexit lengthens under a chaotic government with little apparent respect for the rule of law.
Neptune – as Chaos– is surely gaining the upper hand. This been increasingly the case since Neptune’s entry into Pisces in 2011/12; Saturn is struggling to maintain order: his shadow, Fascism, with violence as its inevitable companion, is on the rise in various parts of the world.
As is often the case for me (and probably other writers…) when I’m reflecting on a possible column topic which has been chewing at me for weeks – in this case the Saturn/Neptune order/chaos dialectic, and where uncertainty fits in – I came across an essay in the wonderful aeon.com last Friday which was really helpful and illuminating, from a philosopher whom I only vaguely recollected from university philosophy (aeons ago, in my case!) – Karl Jaspers (1883-1969). The header quote on the essay stopped me in my tracks:
‘…To Karl Jaspers, uncertainty is not to be overcome but understood…’
Karl Jaspers ( Astrodienst)
Karl Jaspers’ work ‘…revolves around the meaning of uncertainty in an increasingly precarious and radicalising world…he is one of the very few existentialist thinkers…who did not seek to master, tame or conquer the unknowable and finite condition of human life. Instead, he tried to cultivate a relationship to this essential quality of life and engage it on its own terms…’(ii)
Even a sketchy understanding of history reveals that our collective attempts in every culture under the sun ‘…to master, tame or conquer the unknowable and finite condition of human life…’have been held in the vast context of that dialectic between Ti’amat and Marduk, Saturn and Neptune, order and chaos. We have lurched between those extremes, with spells of varying lengths in which we managed to get the two in balance for a time – for ever.
The twenty-year cycle of the Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions concluding their journey through the Earth element and entering the new Air era, can roughly speaking, be mapped onto the waning crescent of the ‘old order’ and the waxing crescent of the new. This gives us a time period from around 2000 to 2040, a time in which, to use Robert Hand’s vivid phrase: ‘…the past has minimum hold upon the present, but the present has a maximum hold on the future…’(iii)
We are in a unique time now: not only humanity, but the whole of Mother Earth and all her creatures great and small are suffering the pain and turbulence of increasing chaos as the old order loses its grip. But without Neptune to dissolve the deadening rigidities of Saturn past its sell-by date in any phase of civilisation or culture, life could not go on. Dissolution precedes renewal.
In the meantime, we need to cultivate qualities which do not come spontaneously to most humans, but need to be cultivated these days, probably more than ever before in our long and bloody history: humility, patience, and tolerance for one another in the face of our our many-faceted differences. Times of uncertainty create great fear, but also greater potential to renew ourselves. Let’s not forget that uncertainty can be a harsh, but profound gift – which Neptune is offering us right now.
P.S. Of course, after writing this I couldn’t resist checking out Astrodienst for Karl Jaspers’ horoscope, and there it was, as I had suspected, right up there in the tenth house in Taurus: Saturn conjunct Neptune, focal point of a grand trine with Moon/Uranus in Virgo and Venus in Capricorn. Maybe we should all be reading him!
(i) From The Mountain Astrologer “Contemplating the 12th House: An Optimist’s Take on Self-Undoing,” by Anne Whitaker, in the Aug/Sept. 2014 issue.
(ii) From aeon.com(11.9.20) , an essay by Carmen Lea Dege who is currently writing a book on the theory and practice of uncertainty.
(iii) From “The Astrology of Crisis” Llewellyn Publications 1993, p116
(This post is a slightly edited version of my 31st Not the Astrology Column featured in the November/December 2020 Issue of the UK’s Astrological Journal, edited by Victor Olliver.)