Comets have inspired dread, fear, and awe in many different cultures and societies around the world and throughout time. They have been branded with such titles as “the Harbinger of Doom“ and “the Menace of the Universe.”
They have been regarded both as omens of disaster and messengers of the gods. Why is it that comets are some of the most feared and venerated objects in the night sky? Why did so many cultures cringe at the sight of a comet?
To reflect on these and other questions concerning comets, check out
A core memory from my Hebridean childhood is located in winter’s depths. Whilst dashing out to play after our evening meal, running up the garden path, breath frosty on the clear cold air, a glance at the pitch dark sky stopped me dead. A magical swirling dance of colour was washing the Northern sky with translucent radiance. I held my breath, friends forgotten, gazing for a long time at the wonderful display. Gradually, inevitably, it faded and vanished. I remained entranced for a very long time afterwards.
Subsequent adult reading provided a scientific explanation for the phenomenon of the aurora borealis. But science cannot explain the sense of wonder and awe which the Northern Lights have evoked in countless numbers of us since our remote ancestors scanned the skies, seeing the Divine in natural beauty.
This first experience of awe has remained etched on memory. It imprinted on my soul, at a very young age, a deep intuitive sense that there is a sublime mystery at the core of the interplay between light and dark.
Several decades later, my ambition is to witness the Northern Lights again before I die. Perhaps I will, maybe not.
In the meantime, one can access and enjoy many, many film clips of this wonderful natural phenomenon via the internet. This morning on Twitter, thanks to Jeff Faria @PatriotsOfMars, I came across the finest film of the Northern Lights that I have ever seen. It is titled
Do treat your soul to an uplift by watching this clip. Forget the Measurers and the reductionists for a few minutes. Whatever they may do their best to tell us, there are and always will be sublimely mysterious dimensions to life for which materialist science with all its brilliance can provide only one dimension of the answer…..
Today is another glorious autumn day in my adopted home city of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Our default position here is wet, often cold, resolutely cheerful in an ironic, defiant kind of way. Today is different. There is a reflective, drifty mood around. There is hazy warmth in the sun. Park benches in the leaf-strewn park are full of outdoor lunchers – our last chance till the Spring?
And I am feeling melancholic, but in a good way….reflective….poetic. Here are two autumnal poems I hope you will enjoy. The first needs no introduction. The second, whose author I do not know and with whom google was no help, I found pinned to a board inside the David Elder Chapel, an exquisite, still jewel of a hidden place within Glasgow’s Western Infirmary.
“Just as water flows downhill, the tendency in all of nature is to take the easiest path. That direction, however, is not the path of personal growth.” (1)
“…Saturn’s heat and pressure are needed in order that we can develop what Buddhists call the ‘diamond soul’.” (2)
I like both of these quotes very much. The first conveys a basic realization about life that needs to dawn by the first Saturn return, so that in terms of personal growth, we can gain real benefit from the unfolding of Saturn’s second cycle. The second quote contains a marvellous image of what the rewards can be during the second Saturn cycle as we grapple with the stern demands of the Saturn archetype.
During Saturn’s first cycle, the major task is to find a place to stand in our lives and perceive a few reliable landmarks from which to take bearings, so that we can face life more than retreat from it. Then from 29-30 onward, we can begin to extend and deepen the various possibilities that our lives contain–a process culminating in the second Saturn return at the age of 58-59. After this point of stock-taking, the third and final cycle begins.
However, before being able to define clearly what the psychological changes and challenges of the three cycles are, it is necessary to define the essence of what the Saturn archetype brings into our personal lives.
I find it beautifully symbolic that the cycle of the progressed Moon runs closely with the Saturn cycle. The progressed Moon talks about our inextricable connection with the rhythms of life — its cycles and its limits. It describes the necessity of separating out and moving on from one period of experience to another if we are to develop texture and complexity. But it also explains our drive to be safe and secure and to keep ourselves on familiar territory. The progressed Sun challenges the latter need, pushing us to differentiate, to take risks, to “follow our bliss”.
The Saturn archetype, however, contains BOTH dimensions of this inner sol-lunar dynamic described by the progressed Sun and Moon, and it can be seen as their external worldly agent. Saturn as life’s challenging, defining, and shaping principle clearly says to each newly born individual “Anything you can achieve in your life is confined by the inevitability of your mortality, and by the given described in your birth chart. In terms of complete Saturn cycles, you have three to work with at the most. Now get on with it — see how far you can go!”
At the start of life, all is potential. As the Saturn cycles unfold, they describe how that potential gradually crystallizes, concretizes, until by the end there is nothing left to develop in this lifetime. The challenges presented by Saturn have at their core the demand that we become who we are, and who we can be, as fully as possible, by separating from that which we are not and could never be.
There are important differences in the developmental demands of the stages symbolized by the three major cycles of Saturn. The first, from birth to ages 29-30, is the thesis stage. It is the most intensely physical, energetic, and least conscious cycle. It is about building the platform on which to stand in life. The second cycle, from 29-30 to 58-59 is the antithesis stage.
The initial structure is tested, challenged to grow; awareness and consciousness are more fully developed; life’s goals are pursued and hopefully achieved to a sufficient degree in order to bring at least a tolerable level of satisfaction. In the synthesis stage, culminating at ages 87-88, ideally there is a bringing together and summing up of what one’s life has meant, and a shifting of emphasis from worldly achievement to reflection and spiritual maturing. There is an acceptance of, and preparation for, the inevitable physical decline that ends in the death of the physical body.
I find the Saturn archetype profoundly paradoxical. On the one hand, Saturn represents that which nails us to the cross of matter, holding us in the world of form. On the other hand, when Saturn’s challenges have been patiently and honestly worked with, and a mature realism arrived at, the sense of freedom of spirit that can then be released is immense – full of the potential for satisfaction and joy. This sense of freedom is unconfined because it does not relate to matter at all. I am sure this is what the Buddhists mean when they talk about the “diamond soul”.
References and Notes
(1) Alexander Ruperti “Cycles of Becoming” (CRCS 1978) p 56
(2) Stephen Arroyo “Astrology, Karma & Transformation” (CRCS 1978) p73
( NOTE: The full text of this article was first published in the UK’s ‘Astrological Journal’ (Nov/Dec 1996), and subsequently in ‘www.innerself.com’ and ‘The Mountain Astrologer’ (Feb/Mar 1998)
It was recently included in The Mountain Astrologer’s “Editor’s Choice” : 43 previously out-of-print articles from TMA in the 1990s, available on CD from the autumn of 2010.“The Mountain Astrologer” is recognised as the world’s leading astrology magazine. )
Click HERE for Part 2: First Saturn Return Cycle: Ages 29-30
800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page
In astrological symbolism, Mercury represents the principle of communication in all its facets.
Mercury, quicksilver Greek god of communication and travel – isn’t he gorgeous?!
In the spring, summer and autumn/winter of each year, the planet Mercury does something strange. It appears to slow down in its orbital pace, stop, then start to move backwards. This is known as retrograde motion. It is of course an illusion. Otherwise, we’d have fallen off the solar system aeons ago.
However, the effects down here on Earth when Mercury is in its 2-3 week retrograde phases are anything but illusory. For years, I studied this phenomenon in my own life, the lives of family, friends, and astrology students. In sum, communications of all types become strangely awkward and hard to manage during those times.
I learned to look forward to having some rest during Mercury Retrograde, since my referral rate dropped. Normally clients always turned up for appointments, MR periods being the exception. Cancellation rates increased. Once, a client called to cancel because her house had just caught fire (yes, she called the Fire Brigade first!).Two clients often turned up at the same time. Cheques invariably got lost in the post, or clients forgot to bring cash. One summer I moved office during MR, becoming involved in a dispute of byzantine complexity with the telephone company which took almost a nervous breakdown to sort out.
As MR periods approached, I used to entertain my students by looking at their individual horoscopes, which enabled me to be more specific regarding possible MR effects. I told one student, a lawyer, that a female helper in his workplace was likely to have communication problems which would impact on him. His feedback? His secretary sprained her wrist, and was unable to type during the entire MR period.
Mercurial people, eg writers, are those most affected by Mercury’s retrograde phase.
What can we writers do to maximise advantage and minimise disruption when Mercury is retrograde? As a general principle for all of us, writers or not, Mercury Retrograde is a positive time for going back over all matters to do with communication, and cleaning up.
Some examples: if you’ve been putting off a purge of your filing system, do it now. If your accountant has asked you nine times for your last year’s papers, use this 2-3 weeks to update them. Dig out and finish some of those half-worked articles. Use MR times for reminder letters to editors. If you’ve been writing furiously and the brain/wrist is seizing up, have a break. Catch up with some reading. As we know, fallow time is creative.
The don’ts? If it is not feasible as a working writer to avoid or delay taking new initiatives or completing existing processes, eg sending out new proposals and submissions or signing contracts, leases, etc, try to accept complications or thwartings philosophically. Also – be prepared for delays, eg when travelling, especially long distance. Don’t sit under the mailbox waiting for cheques. And please, don’t arrange for a phone installation!
“Come on then !” I can hear you shouting as you search for my phone number or email. “Tell us WHEN !”
The Mercury Retrograde period for 2011 is :
Retro 24/11/11, Direct 14/12/ 2011.
Let me know how you get on !
Bonus Extra –
2012 Mercury Retrograde Dates:
Mar 12 – Direct Apr 4
Jul 15 – Direct Aug 8
Nov 6 – Direct Nov 26
600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2011
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page