I thought I’d celebrate this special astrological point in the year when the Sun hits the highest point in the heavens as in enters the sign of Cancer, by storytelling: here, the strange tale of how a serious astro-dismisser ( myself, many years ago ) had a highly Uranian encounter in a laundrette in Bath, England, and in the process received a prediction which accurately foretold a major change in the direction of my life.
I also give you some of my Thoughts on Prediction ( decidedly mixed) by way of introduction.
So- pull up a chair, grab a coffee/glass of wine, and have a listen.
And – by the way – the latest lovely review of “Postcards to the future”. Thanks, DL!
5.0 out of 5 stars : from DL Gordon, Chair, Aquarius Rising, Glasgow UK.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 June 2022
“…I’ve found this book absolutely captivating from the first page! Anne’s writing has such depth and richness, it’s a joy to read and I think could be enjoyed even without any great knowledge of Astrology. The Astrological insight and wisdom is an added bonus for Astrologers. A book that’s difficult to put down and will no doubt be revisited again and again :-)…”
Mercury is now in Gemini, going retro on 10th May 2022, and doing a merry dance ( or rather, slow waltz…) over my 29 Taurus MC/North Node conjunction for the next six weeks, and we’ve just had the first solar eclipse of the Taurus/Scorpio eclipse season. And it’s May Day!
S0 – perfect timing for another bout of promoting my latest book, “Postcards to the Future”, subtitled Mercurial Musings 1995-2021.
“Postcards…” has been in whimsical mood today, as you can see from the image below – dropping in on the Kingdom of Faerie:
“Postcards…” has been getting great reviews: here is the most recent one from Moon Zlotnick which appeared in the Spring 2022 Issue of The Career Astrologer. Thanks so much, Moon!
POSTCARDS TO THE FUTURE by Anne Whitaker
‘…,Part memoir, part anthology, and part deep musings about everything from ethics in astrology to the chart of Mary Shelley, Whitaker shares her ideas thoughts and experiences from over four decades of professional involvement with astrology. Having studied with many well-known astrologers including Liz Greene and Alan Oken, and also read and studied Carl Jung, her musings are deeply psychological and profound.
The subtitle of the book is “Mercurial Musings” and it does move lightly from subject to subject. The book is comprised primarily of essays and columns written for The Mountain Astrologer, Apollon, FAA journal, Dell Horoscope, and more. In one chapter she is interviewed by someone from the AFA about her book Jupiter Meets Uranus, while in another she reviews a book by Liz Greene. There is a chapter of an exchange of very lively letters between her and Victor Olliver. This book is never boring, as each new chapter covers different areas of astrology.
Her tone is conversational at times, educational at others, and even deeply philosophical in some chapters. Throughout the chapters she includes very personal experiences and anecdotes that relate to transits and progressions in her birth chart, leaving the reader with the distinct feeling of having entered the inner sanctum of her life.
The book begins with a discussion of critical degrees and then illuminates what it means to be born on a cusp, and follows with a classroom experience studying the chart of a set of twins, a study that confirmed my own theories, partly from my own twin studies, but more from being a twin myself. She continues with an interesting look at cycles, particularly the Saturn/Pluto cycle culminating in 2020.
One of my favorite parts of this book is how Whitaker includes her students and clients’ feedback. In the chapter called “Ingresses” she chronicles four of her students’ lives as Jupiter entered Libra in 2016. After giving us basic chart information she includes quotes from her students illuminating both their inner and outer experiences, a true hands-on learning experience. In the chapter called “Healing and Wounding” she includes letters from her clients describing the healing impact astrology has had on their lives. Each one of these case studies is a gem.
The final section of the book looks to the future and expresses Whitaker’s ideas on the supposed “Age of Aquarius” with the Jupiter/Saturn 20-year cycle having moved in December 2020 into Aquarius – and the Air element for the next 200 or so years, and Pluto due to move into Aquarius in 2024.
I skipped around while reading this book, and read several chapters over and over, finding new gems and insights all along the way. If you’re a seasoned long term professional like me, or someone who is early in your studies there is much to be enjoyed and learned from Postcards to the Future…’
‘…Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery…’
Easter Eve always finds me in a meditative, introspective, usually melancholy mood. The powerful metaphor of crucifixion as Good Friday approaches seems even more grimly appropriate this year, as we contemplate the terrible suffering of the people of Ukraine with horror and disbelief – and reflect on that which has brought those of us fortunate enough not to be caught up in war and persecution, nevertheless to our own personal pain: for Life crucifies us all, one way or another. If we are fortunate, we eventually emerge, hopefully deepened and strengthened.
This year, I have returned for solace and perspective to a favourite book “Women in Search of the Sacred” by Anne Bancroft, from which that wonderful header quote by Annie Dillard is taken. Where lies the sacred, in which our deepest solace is to be found? What are the ways that lead us to its discovery? To some, organised religion is the path to a spiritual life, while to others the natural world reveals the transcendent within the everyday, the holiness of what is. This fascinating book surveys the careers of ten very different women and examines the ways in which they have developed their spiritual lives.Those skilfully and sensitively interviewed by Anne Bancroft include Iris Murdoch, Susan Howatch, Sheila Cassidy, Vivianne Crowley, and Annie Dillard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and nature mystic. The book, though published in 1996, is still available…I truly recommend it as an inspiring read this Eastertide.
I can also still clearly recall the profound, uplifting impact many years ago of reading Annie Dillard’s account – in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ – of what is, essentially, a mystical experience. She was only 27.
“…..Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The lights of the fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had my whole life been a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam…..”
–Annie Dillard, ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ (1974).
‘….I’m still spending the power….’ I know what she means. I was fortunate enough to have a mystical experience myself once, at the age of 24 – out of the blue, on a clear, starry autumnal night with Venus rising over the Perthshire hills in the Scottish Highlands. It has sustained me through many difficult experiences, and in Annie Dillard’s unforgettable words,‘…. I’m still spending the power….’
Here is another lovely review of my latest book ‘ Postcards To The Future’ this time from Trish Marin of the Astrology Quarterly magazine, from the January/March 2022 Issue, Vol 86, No 4.
Thank you, Trish!
“…Anne Whitaker’s mercurial musings weave through the last quarter century, unpicking some of the highlights of astrological patterns and mundane events. Postcards To The Future reveals the correspondences and synchronicities between our everyday lives and planetary movements in a convincing display of astrology of the moment.
The book is an entertaining compendium of some of Anne’s prolific blog posts and articles published over the years by a wide variety of sources. Broad in scope, it whizzes authoritatively through planetary cycles, notable conjunctions, typical beginner’s questions, interview Q&A and correspondence, while scattering generous gems of astrological wisdom.
As an astrology teacher and meticulous researcher, Anne provides clear explanations of some complex concepts presented in an engaging and memorable way. As she explains in the book, she was initially a sceptic, until her ‘encounter’, described here in humorous detail. Throughout, the astrology is brought to life with witty and amusing examples and stories from her own life experiences and those of her clients and students. Sprinkled with literary references and philosophical reflections it makes an enjoyable, illuminating read.
I felt compelled to reach for the ephemeris and to look again at the Jupiter/Uranus conjunctions and the part they played in my own past adventures. Secondary progressions had always seemed a rather subtle, internal influence but I was prompted to re-examine their impact with some unexpected insights.
Anne admits to being obsessed by Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, and has written of her synastry with Dolly the Sheep, as Frankenstein’s real-life enactment. Furthermore, Mary Shelley has a twenty-first century counterpart who, like her, is sounding a siren for the future of the earth; Greta Thunberg, born nearly two hundred years later, carries her message forward.
A mercurial book, suitable for both beginners and experienced astrologers, delivered in bite sized chunks it can be dipped into or savoured in larger portions. I highly recommend it to all our readers…”
This morning I did an hour’s housework: an event sufficiently unusual in itself to qualify for an Aquarian stamp. Disproportionately pleased considering how much hadn’t got done, I headed out for a bracing walk, narrowly avoiding being blown over by periodic gusts of wind.
Hurrah! Black Pine Coffee, my favourite Glasgow West End coffee shop, as of today was once again allowed to admit sitting customers. However, the message couldn’t yet have got around, since the place was unusually quiet, giving me more of a chance than usual to chat with the owner, Pete, and his assistant Sandi (real names with permission).
We agreed we were glad January was now over, it not being the best month for single minded enthusiastic focus on the tasks in hand, to put it mildly.… Personally, if at all possible I prefer to spend that month with a metaphorical blanket over my head. “I like January though,” said Pete. “It’s my birth month, after all.” I remembered that he had told me this some time ago ( I do drop in here quite a lot – great coffee, fun chat) and I had remembered the date as being close to that of my late husband Ian on 30th January. “I was born on the 28th”.
“That makes you an Aquarian, Pete,” said Sandi. “Funnily enough, I have an Aquarian Moon. My mum’s friend drew up my birth chart when I was born (1995). I still have it in my baby book.” It was beginning to occur to me that you couldn’t make this up: here I was, a few hours into the Aquarian New Moon, talking to a Sun Aquarius man and an Aquarian Moon woman.
“Well, Anne”, said Pete, turning to me as he made my coffee, “you’re an astrologer. What would you say were key Aquarian characteristics?” So of course I gave my usual spiel about it being impossible to mirror back accurately the complexities of any human using purely one lens, eg that of the Sun sign or the Moon sign, and how you needed the full birth horoscope based on time, date and place to do that.
“Yes, yes, you’ve told me that before,” persisted Pete, grinning winningly. “But go on: name just a couple!”
‘Very stubborn, very charming, somewhat left field’ I replied.
“Yep, that’s me!” said Pete.
Sandi by this time was looking at me expectantly…clearly my spiel was not having much impact as yet. ‘Aquarian Moon – give me space!’ said I, quite happy to play the game with such great young folks. “Oh yes – too true, that’s me!” she said.
By now, some other customers were drifting in, so I settled down to drink excellent coffee and catch up with my phone emails. However, during a lull some minutes later, Sandi tentatively asked “Do you have any astrology apps on your phone?” Very shortly afterwards we were deep in contemplation of our mutual TimePassages app, with me explaining to her how to navigate it.
I also recommended one or two of my astrology colleagues if she wanted an in-person/zoom reading of a high standard from astrologers who are reputable, experienced, know what they are talking about, and take their responsibilities to clients seriously. I strongly suggested she be very wary of the vast array of ‘astrologers’ enabled by the ease with which one can acquire a smattering of astrological knowledge on-line these days – but without a firm grounding in either experience, in-depth study, or an adequate awareness of the responsibility inherent in calling oneself an astrologer and taking on both teaching and practice of such an ancient, powerful art.
Sandi is clearly very very interested in astrology – I did my best to point her in some quality directions, and she clearly appreciated that. Who knows where her interest may take her? I hope I get a further opportunity to find out!
It was a delightful encounter: totally spontaneous, completely unexpected – and a brilliant manifestation of the Aquarian New Moon’s current energy field drawing the three of us together ‘in the moment’ and offering a shared experience very much of the nature of that moment.
But that Aquarian Moon wasn’t finished making its presence felt in my life today. On the way home, I ran into a journalist friend I hadn’t seen for quite a while – someone with a strongly Aquarian vibe.
>….ie today, a fantastic review of my new book ..’Postcards to the Future‘ by Karin Hoffman of the world-renowned Astrodienstwebsite:
Karin says: ...”Present and future astrologers will find in this deep and varied collection nuggets of pure gold, forged in a lifetime, collected and polished for display and – most importantly – for enlightenment and use…”
To read the whole review – and hopefully treat yourself or a friend, student of astrology, or interested member of the public who wants to know more about the depths and delights offered by astrological knowledge to a copy of ‘Postcards…’ – here it is:
The story of humanity is one of an unending attempt to create some recognisable order from the chaos of our earliest origins. In order to survive and evolve as a species, we have created contexts for ourselves over many millennia from our interpretations of the world around us.
Modern science has shown us that we are part of an interconnected universe of mind-boggling complexity, in its minutest essence a vast energy field, ever moving and changing to the shifting dance of waves and particles – chaos and order forever interweaving, forever returning to and arising from the Quantum Vacuum, or in Buddhist terminology the Void, or in Western spiritual terminology, the Ground of our being.
The vivid quotation from the philosopher Arthur Koestler illustrates the origins of the ancient art and science of astrology – literally ‘the study of the stars’, whose basic precept “as above, so below” demonstrates that our modern understanding that we live in an interconnected cosmos is not a new idea at all.
It has been around ever since we fragile humans, vulnerable to the vagaries of a tempestuous earth with its storms, earthquakes and floods, began to evolve a context of meaning by plotting with increasing sophistication as time went on, the movements of the heavenly bodies in the starry skies above us.
From observing the regular patterns and cycles followed by those heavenly bodies, and recording with care what links there seemed to be between such movements and the ebbs and flows of human life, the early astrologer/priests began to be able to determine(with varying degrees of accuracy – prediction in any field of endeavour has never to this day become an exact science!) the fate of the king and the nation according to the movements of the planets.
Personal horoscopes plotting the patterns of individual life were unheard of then. Individual personal horoscopes are not to be found until the fifth century BCE: the oldest known personal horoscope is from the year 410 BCE.
Modern-day astrology is very different from the fate-ridden pronouncements of the past. The twentieth century saw big shifts in our understanding of science, history and culture which moved us from the Modernist era of ‘grand narratives’ describing with confidence and conviction the way we are as humans, to an altogether less certain set of perceptions.
Just as modern science has shown us that there can be no absolute objectivity since the presence of the observer can be shown to influence the outcome of the experiment, so we now live in a Postmodern era where we understand that we are embedded in the unfolding action of the plot of life on Earth. Thus we shape our ‘reality’ even as we are living it – and indeed recognise that there are probably many ‘realities’. Absolute truth is not what it once was!
Astrology, too, has moved with the times although there are still many reputable and respected practitioners who stick closely to traditional methods of interpretation and prediction rooted in antiquity. Knowledge of astrology doesn’t result in harmonious agreement – even if it is to differ! – amongst astrologers. Far from it. In that respect, we are just as riven with conflicts and disagreements as any other human group.
Modern psychology, rooted in the great insights of Freud and then Jung who was basically a mystic, more eclectic and open minded in his knowledge base than Freud, has had considerable impact on how astrology is now taught and practised.
In antiquity, the planets were seen as gods whose interaction with and action upon humans’ lives determined their fate. Jung’s great contribution to the modernising of astrology in the 20th century was his formulation – from the study of universal myth – of the concept of the collective unconscious, an updating of the ancient idea of the World Soul.
This collective unconscious comprises a group of energy patterns or archetypes, an idea taken from the Greek philosopher Plato, which are present in all cultures across the world and which shape every aspect of human behaviour.
Jung’s view was taken up by the first of the great psychological astrologers Dane Rudhyar in the middle decades of the twentieth century, and further developed by other astrologers, most notably well-known Jungian analyst, astrologer and author Liz Greene whose fusion of mythology, Jungian psychology and astrology further shaped the model known as Psychological Astrology which has become very influential in the thinking of many contemporary astrologers, myself included.
As my tutorial students would tell you, my big love and fascination in the vast range of possible obsessions offered by astrology is: cycles. No, not bi-cycles. Planetary cycles. Large and small, I love them all. But whether the cycle is huge, like the 500 year Neptune /Pluto one, or tiny, like the monthly Sun/Moon one, the same basic stages apply: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new.
Cycles: beginnings – and endings
In East Coker, the second of T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets, he began that section with “In my beginning is my end,” and ended it, “in my end is my beginning”. This rather paradoxical juxtaposition bookends the whole of life. Every beginning carries the seeds of its ending, every ending, potential for new beginnings. However, generally speaking you don’t find much astrological musing on the topic of cycles’ endings – or their slow beginnings. Especially in this particular Western cultural phase, expedited by faster and faster broadband speeds and ever more sophisticated technology, the emphasis is on satisfying the wants (often as opposed to the needs) of NOW.
The problem with this, however, is that Life on our planet still continues in its ancient, cyclic way, to which humans are still physically, emotionally and spiritually bound. Chronic disregard for this reality is now throwing up huge problems for us from the state of the planet to the increasingly fragile state of some of our young folks’ mental –and physical–health.
Here is an example, from a recent issue ofThe Week which compiles ‘the best of the British and international media’: in a hard-hitting piece entitled ‘Deaths of despair: why Americans are dying young’, Joel Achenbach in The Washington Post says
‘…Whether as a result of economic hardship, stress, the lack of universal healthcare, loneliness or family breakdown, people just aren’t looking after themselves properly, and are making destructive life choices…’
The importance ofpaying attention
So – in my (it is alleged…) contrarian way, I am here to muse on the endings, or balsamic phases, of cycles and the great importance of paying attention to them, especially as we approach the ending/new beginning of a whole 37-year Saturn/Pluto cycle. As everyone must be aware by now, astrologers or no, we are not living in a particularly easy light-hearted time either collectively or individually. To put it mildly.
That excellent astrological writer Dana Gerhardt observed some time ago in relation to the balsamic phase of, for example, the 29 year progressed New Moon cycle:
“When will it end?” is everybody’s first question on learning they’ve entered a progressed Balsamic phase. No matter how colorfully I paint its virtues, they peer beyond to a bleaker landscape, to a three-to-four-year sentence of all loss and no gain. I can see it in their eyes…. I tell them this is the richest spiritual time. I tell them when my own progressed Balsamic phase was over, I had nostalgia for it. I cheer: “You will too!” But it’s a tough sell….”
I would certainly endorse this from my own experience some years ago, of beginning a new phase in my career journey when no less than four major cycles were coming to an end over a period of almost a decade. I should have taken astrology’s advice, not that of my own ego!
The consequence was a long period of enforced retreat, triggered by a long family crisis and my subsequent energy burnout – an enriching and deepening time, but very tough whilst it was happening… until the Progressed New Moon told me it was time to emerge and begin again.
Trying to do things differently…
Looking over my last few posts, I can see my preoccupation with cycles generally and this Saturn/Pluto one in particular. Hardly surprising, being so ‘plugged in’ to it from birth myself. In “Some notes on cycles in a time of crisis”published recently on Astrodienst, I offered this very brief summary of Saturn/Pluto’s challenges:
‘…In essence, Saturn/Pluto lets us off with nothing, either personally or collectively. We are forced into increasingly tight corners, whilst the pressure is ramped up on us to face and deal with the present consequences of past decisions, some of which might not be of our direct making. The environmental crisis which has become so vivid this year with the Nodal Axis joining the dance of Saturn/Pluto throughout 2019, is a case in point…’
As I write today, on 4th January 2020, Australia is ablaze, and on USA President Trump’s directive – apparently without running the plan through Congress first –Qasem Soleimani, top general and one of the most powerful men in Iran, was killed in a drone strikeat Baghdad airport early today. His deputy was also killed. According to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the airstrikes disrupted an “imminent attack” in the region that put American lives at risk. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vows for “harsh revenge.”
Collectively, Saturn/Pluto = warfare of one kind or another; relentless consistency every time.
Our political masters worldwide should study history via the planetary cycles, see if they can just for once learn something from them. It would make a change to be making war on the issues that really matter e.g. climate change, increasing social and fiscal inequality, widespread homelessness, equal rights for women worldwide, inadequate healthcare – to name just a few contemporary problems urgently in need of war being waged upon them. Wouldn’t it be great if most of our countries in the world weren’t being run by narcissistic psychopaths?
Personal power and insightful choices
It is one of Life’s great ironies, pointed out by Carl Jung some time ago, that as individuals we probably have more control and choice over how collective energies manifest than eg nations do. In order to exercise that control and choice, however, we need to work towards more conscious awareness ofwhat our personal issues are – and how we go about making choices in relation to what Life throws at us. This is where astrology can be such an enlightening help.
Working with awareness, we can see patterns shaping up, get some idea from our first encounter with them eg Saturn/Pluto opposing/conjuncting/squaring our personal planet(s) what challenges they are offering – then with some reflection and perhaps therapeutic/astrological help when necessary, work out what the planetary gods in question are asking of us over the several years in which long-term transits/progressions are in operation as they slowly apply, become exact, and separate.
“You have to give the god what the god wants…and if it’s Mars, don’t offer a bunch of flowers!”
I’ve never forgotten this sage advice, and have passed it on many times both to clients and students. However, like all good advice, most of us to our detriment fail sometimes on the good advice front. As I admitted earlier, I failed to pay attention to what the planetary cycles were telling me, with very harsh results.
The wisdom offered by planetary cycles: a general overview
In nearly forty years of working with clients, students, and with my own process, I have found that sharing wisdom offered by the planetary cycles has been very useful in helping to set Life’s sails to go with the prevailing winds at any given time. I routinely take people through the 11-12 year Jupiter cycle, the 7/8-year stages of the 29/30 year Saturn cycles, and the progressed Sun/Moon cycle.
Depending on the lunar phase at which a person was born, a progressed New Moon can fall in any year of life, eg at age four. You can then see that in 29/30 years’ time, another progressed New Moon in a new sign, usually a new house, and making different aspects to the natal planets, is describing the early start of a new life phase.
I recall a recent client who experienced progressed New Moons at those very ages. She could see how a whole challenging process had arisen as a result of a significant event at the time of her first progressed New Moon when she was four years old, and how life changes at her second progressed New Moon in the next sign had symbolised a new start – feeling like an important stage along the road of freeing herself from old negative patterns.
It is really moving, and powerful, to see eg how the theme of opening up to new adventures of mind, body and spirit develops as eg clients’ and students’ Jupiter cycles unfold: age 11/12, then 23/4, then 35/6 and so on depending on the person’s age at the time of a reading, or in a class when we are doing some qualitative research within the group.
A great gift of astrology, perhaps its greatest gift, is this: it shows us that we are part of Something vast and meaningful, not mere random accidents in space/time. That knowledge offers a great challenge: to take our tiny ‘chip’ of that vast energy field as revealed though the symbols in our horoscopes, with its pains as well as its gifts– and strive to leave the world a slightly better place on our exit than it was when we came in. Grand achievements are not mandatory. Just being better, more fulfilled human beings as a result of having an extra, symbolic, source of potential insight is quite enough…
The degree to which a person’s life responds to the promptings of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto transits and cycles – and the 18.6 year cycle of the Moon’s Nodes – depends very much upon how strongly that person is ‘plugged in’ to that particular planet or point, its transits and its cycles. It is also very important in contemplating the planetary cycles, to realise that each cycle carries the same basic developmental template within it: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new.
So – as any cycle comes to an end, typical feelings are: restlessness and ennui; lower energy available to put into the key areas of life/activities governed by that cycle; dissatisfaction with what once seemed to work quite well, but now does not. In the case of the larger cycles’ endings, eg Saturn/Pluto, Uranus/Pluto, Uranus/Neptune, life can sometimes plunge us into circumstances of extreme difficulty or pain, at times through upheavals and hurts not directly related to our actions or choices. Some might prefer to call this the action of Fate…
However, it is also most important to note, asthat wise poet TS Eliot observed,
“in my end is my beginning”:
Germinating, hidden below the churned-up earth of cycles’ endings, are also the delicate seeds of new beginnings. I have always found it helpful for myself, students and clients to relate this to our solar system’s tiny monthly cycle of the sun and moon, clearly observable in the heavens above us. The delicate sliver of the waning crescent moon which we can sometimes see if the skies are clear, indicates that an old cycle is in its dying days. Then nothing is visible for another couple of days. It’s important to remember that the New Moon, and a new cycle beginning, takes place in the dark.
Think the moment of conception of a new human or a new animal. Without the very sophisticated technology of IVF, a very recent phenomenon in terms of our technological progress, this cannot be observed – although it may well be sensed, especially by a child’s mother…similarly, some of us may sense, at that liminal point, that something has changed, something new may be emerging. And then – that beautiful slender silver crescent of the waxing new moon appears in the sky, two or three days after its total absence. We are on a new journey.
We can apply that basic template both to individual planetary cycles, eg the famous 29/30 year Saturn one, and to the cycles of planets in combination eg the 172 year Uranus/Neptune cycle or the vast 500 year Neptune/Pluto cycle. The latter began in the 1890s, and we are still only moving off from the first sextile one hundred and thirty years later…an average human life will only encompass two full Saturn/Pluto cycles, and perhaps part of a third one.
Saturn/Pluto in particular
So – what can we do as individuals to navigate this significant Saturn/Pluto ending/ new beginning with some degree of useful awareness?
What I write here can only be of general guidance. How things work out for you in particular depends on your personal horoscope and its patterns. However, the more strongly this combination occurs in your natal chart, then by transit/progression as your life unfolds, the more potent the challenge is going to be. It’s also helpful to note the houses/Angles/Nodesruled by Saturn and by Pluto.
For example, I have Saturn/Pluto in the twelfth house conjunct Mercury, Venus, Moon and Sun, all in Leo; Saturn rules the fifth house, Pluto the IC/South Node conjunction. All my major life challenges have circled round children (others’, not mine), home and roots – and how to extricate and direct my powerful creative energies and vocational drives from the mire of family fate and from the consequences of unwise choices, often not made by me.
The first piece of advice – I do realise, of course, that it may well not be to your liking, since it certainly wasn’t to mine! – is have patience. This is a pretty long cycle ending and beginning, so things are likely to have been difficult for you in one way or another, along the lines of what I outlined earlier, for around a couple of years, perhaps more. Similarly, it is likely to take around that amount of time for the energies of the new cycle to take form and focus so that you can see the way ahead more clearly.
There is no point in pretending that the combination of Saturn and Pluto is not tough. I used to find with my classes that the aspects from which new students recoiled the most, and the transits they most feared the more they learned, were those of Saturn and Pluto, both separately and in combination through their cycle. Pluto manifests the raw creative and destructive power of the life force; Saturn tries to shape, control and focus that power.
This dynamic in our collective lives has always produced life or death struggle of one kind or another. Individuals plugged in have a ‘chip’ as it were of that powerful energy pattern to wrestle with, and hopefully learn to channel wisely and constructively, throughout their lives.
As I said at the outset of this esssay, ‘…In essence, Saturn/Pluto lets us off with nothing, either personally or collectively. We are forced into increasingly tight corners, whilst the pressure is ramped up on us to face and deal with the present consequences of past decisions, some of which might not be of our direct making…’
The next piece of advice is this: try to get some perspective on what the challenges are now, and how you might best deal with them as the new cycle starts to unfold. To do this, go back to the beginning of this cycle, note the dates, and check out what was going on in your life then. Then note the dates of the waxing square, then the opposition, then the waning square. There are of course the other aspects as the cycle waxes and wanes. But let’s stick with the biggies for now.
Those of you young folk who have not yet lived through a whole cycle, take especial note of the nearest of the biggies to your birth date. Some of you older readers will be able to go further back – it is worth making the effort to do so: both for the life insights it may well give you, but also regarding your family history in many cases, since Pluto usually seems to have connections to issues of family fate and its consequences which have woven into the fabric of the present time. Some of that material, and its influences on your life, can be usefully recognised, mined and processed during Saturn/Pluto periods.
Let’s do it now.
The first Saturn/Pluto conjunction of the last century occurred in October 1914 at 2 Cancer, and May 1915 at 1 Cancer. The second followed on August 11 1947 at 13 Leo. You can look up the first squares, opposition points, and waning squares of both those cycles in a 20th Century Ephemeris – or google them!
The last Saturn/Pluto exact conjunction occurred – once – in November 1982 at 27 Libra, applying for a year before, separating for a year afterwards. The waxing square was exact in March 1993 at 25 Aquarius/Scorpio, then again at 24 Aquarius /Scorpio in October 1993, and finally at 27 Aquarius/Scorpio in January 1994. The opposition was first exact in August 2001 at 13 Gemini/Sagittarius, then in November 2001 at 14 Gemini/Sagittarius, lastly in May 2002 at 16 Gemini/Sagittarius. The waning square was exact in November 2009 at 2 Libra/Capricorn, then in January 2010 at 4 Libra/Capricorn, then finally in August 2010 at 3 Libra/Capricorn.
The end of the 1982/2020 cycle occurs, with the new Saturn/Pluto cycle starting slowly to form, on 12th January 2020 at 23 Capricorn – a much anticipated, feared, and discussed planetary event as a new decade begins (or an old one ends, depending on your stance on the matter!). If you care to do so, you can go forward in the 21st Century Ephemeris to plot the waxing square, opposition, waning square and ending dates of this new cycle.
A personal example
As the Saturn/Pluto cycle begun in 1947 drew to a close in 1980/82, little did I know that a whole phase of my personal and vocational life was also ending, and a new one was set to begin. I knew nothing then of astrological cycles and their significance. I met my husband in 1980, marrying him a few months before November 1982 and the start of the Libran Saturn/Pluto cycle. I also began studying astrology in 1980, commencing serious work on the Certificate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies in November 1982.
Each of the four key stages ofthat unfolding cycle from 1982 up to the present time have brought very challenging, painful and difficult issues of a family of origin nature for me to cope with, as well as with my husband’s family since I took on a step-parent role with our marriage. These times also represented key stages in the development and unfolding of my parallel careers as a social worker, trainer, and private practising therapist along with developing an astrology consulting, writing and teaching practice.
However, as the cycle has moved towards its slow conclusion from the waning square in 2010, I have been aware of an increasing feeling of deep satisfaction with how an initially tough life pattern has turned out, beginning withmy birth seven weeks prematurely and an expectation that I would not survive. I am experiencing the long-term rewards from hanging on in there, at times having to struggle very hard to deal with and free myself from old family complexes as much as possible which were getting in the way of my professional and relationship lives.
Our marriage has survived and deepened, my Aquarian husband having provided unwavering support both personally and professionally. Through some tough and at times tragic family challenges, I have slowly and gradually learned something which I believe only Saturn/Pluto could have pushed me to learn, but which growing older with less life force to waste has helped along: to focus and channel my Leonine creative energies as much as possible into constructive vocational pursuits, thereby honouring my path. And most importantly, not to waste that life force on those who are unwilling or unable to benefit from my efforts.
Learning the very hard way that you can’t make anyone do anything for what you see as their own good if they don’t wish to – or can’t – is an excellent lesson for a Saturn/Pluto control freak!
I still love astrology as much as ever. The difference, though, as this cycle closes and a new one arises, is this: my desire to work directly with clients has waned, as has my desire to have any public role other than through my writing and a limited amount of teaching and mentoring. However, my awareness of the need to claim and honour the role of Elder, to offer as much support as I can to the next able generation of astrologers arising, especially in my local area, is growing.
Beyond being aware of the gifts as well of the limitations that come with ageing, and of the importance of living as much as possible in a soulful way in the present moment, sharing whatever time we may have left with my husband, close family members and friends, I have little idea of what new creative challenges/opportunities the new Saturn/Pluto cycle may bring. I’m not too worried about that, feeling freer in spirit now than I have ever felt – despite the dismal state of the world at present as we grapple with unprecedented turbulence and a planet under threat…
To paraphrase Jung’s point, mentioned earlier: individuals working in a conscious way can have more power to shift the balance of a difficult planetary pattern in a positive direction, than collectives do. I have long believed that if we want to change the world, we need to start with ourselves, and work outwards.
We are currently experiencing the end of an important, powerful, challenging and formative planetary cycle, and wondering what this next Saturn/Pluto phase will bring. It is my hope, therefore, that my musings in this essay may offer some pointersregarding how to approach and understand the phase that is passing – and to gain some perspective which will help in facing the upcoming Saturn/Pluto cycle with greater understanding and insight.
……a quotation from “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach states……
“ Gloom we have always with us, a rank and sturdy weed, but joy requires tending.”
This has never seemed truer as we approach the end of what has been a very difficult year, our human community across the world riven with even more – and more angrily polarised – conflicts than usual.
It is becoming much harder, since young Greta Thunberg’s resolute pounding on the door of our resistance to facing the truth of our planetary crisis, to avoid facing certain harsh realities. It’s been a year for being confronted with those, both individually and collectively. Many of us are feeling pretty dispirited, exhausted, lacking in optimism for the future.
So, what to do?
Having an astrological perspective is a great help, at least in being able to stand back and realise that we very clever 21st century folk are not immune to the turbulence which has followed the unfolding of the human story throughout history. The planetary cycles are telling us quite clearly, as I outlined in my recent article on Astrodienst, that we are at a time of extraordinary, epochal change.
For the old order to die, and the new one to emerge, we need to go through a form of collective death and rebirth.
How can we help this along, and in our own small way contribute to a more positive world in the future?
Personally, I find it helpful always to return toJung‘s view: if there’s something wrong with the world, with society, with nation or with family, then there’s something also wrong with ME; so, taking responsibility for who I am and where I’m at, is the first step in changing the world for the better.
In other words, start where you are, and do what you can, to bring some light into the dark both at this solstice time of year, and during the year which is fast approaching. As the wise quote says, we need to keep ourselves from becoming too gloomy, and cultivate joy wherever we can.
Today, I had a lovely experience of doing just that. I met up with a young friend who has just completed her first term at university. After many very difficult years, she has gradually found a firm place on which to stand in her life: in a mutually supportive relationship, she knows what her future vocation is now, and her studies are focused on some very clear goals. She is fizzing with enthusiasm and excitement, and has done extremely well in her first term’s exams.
It made me feel joyful to share her enthusiasm and her optimism for the future. As an older person, being able to support young folk like her is a simple and positive way to keep the rank weed of gloom at bay, and cultivate a positive approach to whatever our future proves to be.
So – what’s your recipe for cultivating joy as 2020 approaches? Do share!
It’s all identity politics’ fault. Trying to come up with a Big Picture context for this 21st century phenomenon has led me toward contemplating the so-called Aquarian Age, such a cultural cliche by now that I usually prefer to let the ageing braincell focus on fresher topics. However, bear with me. I’ve got to something which might intrigue you…
But first, a definition of identity politics:
‘…politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group…’ (i)
Does this suggest the shadow side of the Leo theme to anyone? It certainly does to me. Given that the interplay of opposites is a fundamental generator of the life force –think egg, sperm and first division of fertilised egg here – this by astro-logic brings us to Aquarius, Leo’s polarity. Aquarius is fundamentally concerned with the larger group. As the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, an Aquarian, (1748-1832) so famously stated: “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”. (ii) Aquarius, especially since its new ruler Uranus appeared to our view in the turbulent 1780s, is also strongly associated with revolutionary change, especially technological breakthroughs.
To be clear: I do not subscribe to the touchy-feely idea that the Aquarian Age, if it exists at all, will bring an era of universal love. The evidence from our contemporary world suggests otherwise. Moreover, the eminent astrologer and cultural historian Dr Nicholas Campion has collected around 100 dates for the supposed commencement of the Age of Aquarius – from around 1260 AD to around 2300 AD. (iii)
Perhaps best, then, to see the astrological world ages of roughly 2000 years each, as vast metaphors for helping us to comprehend political, cultural and social change.
However, I am intrigued by Carl Jung’s notion, set forth in his essay ‘The Sign of the Fish’(iv) that when world ages change, ie when the first point of Aries can be seen against the backdrop of the next constellation, our image of the Divine changes. The Aries point, having shifted backwards from its 2000 or so years’ traverse of the previous constellation of Pisces, roughly the era of Christianity, is now somewhere between the first star of the constellation of Pisces, and the last star of the constellation of Aquarius.
We have been going through an enormous technological revolution in recent decades as science makes huge strides. Mapping the human genome, expanding our view of the vast universe we inhabit via wonderful Hubble images, and linking much of the human population via the Internet and mobile phone technology are but a few examples. You could even argue that a new religion is arising: Scientism, which holds that only the 5% of the cosmos which we can perceive through our senses or test out through the procedures of reductionism is worth considering.
As societies become increasingly secular and materialistic throughout the world, I think we are beginning to project the Divine onto science and technology…even to the extent that the goal of prolonging human life indefinitely into some kind of techno-immortality is being seriously pursued in some quarters.
Pushing the boundaries of science forward just because it can be done conjures the spectres of Dr Frankenstein and his Monster, immortalised in Mary Shelley’s modern myth “ Frankenstein, or the New Prometheus”. It also speaks strongly of the shadow side of the Aquarian theme, which doesn’t mind how many individual lives it disrupts or destroys in the name of revolutionary change.
Hence its Leo shadow opposite arising in the shape of identity politics, as defined at the start of this column.
Reflecting on the stubbornly fixed positions which have increasingly been taken up in recent times eg in political discourse, religious conflicts, and environmental activism, has evoked for me the fixed cross in astrological symbolism, which on further reflection I have mapped onto the four Angles upon which every horoscope hangs: Ascendant, IC, Descendant, MC.
Since the Ascendant/Descendant horizontal axis speaks of the here and now of our individual and collective lives– the current Age – how about placing Aquarius on the Ascendant, opposite Leo here? Thus we see the march of technological progress for the supposed benefit of us all, not getting along too well presently with individual identities in various forms.
Completing the fixed cross, the IC/MC vertical axis speaks of roots (IC) from which our future direction (MC) arises. The Taurus IC is the ground on which we stand, our Mother Earth. Scorpio on the MC speaks of the deep crisis which our home planet is facing. The old materialist order is currently dying – the evidence is everywhere. The question is, what will replace it?
I have found contemplating the metaphor of the astrological fixed cross, which condenses the polarised conflicts of our current era into four fundamental themes, powerfully illuminating. It may even suggest that, symbolically speaking, the Age of Aquarius is indeed upon us.
We need to find a revolutionary way forward: from our present stubbornly fixed shadow positions, and the extreme turbulence of our current world, to a situation where respect both for the greatest good of the greatest number and the dignity of individual rights are harnessed and directed – towards respect and care for our mother planet, and away from its destruction.
This post is a slightly edited version of my bi-monthly column for Dell Horoscope Magazine ‘The astro-view from Scotland’ from the May/June 2018 Issue.