From the depths of antiquity right through until the general advent of electric light in the early part of the twentieth century, humans have been powerfully influenced by the 29.5 day cycle of the Sun and Moon.
The power of the Sun/Moon cycle
They hunted in daylight, made long journeys by the light offered by the Moon as it moved to full illumination of the night sky 14-15 days into the cycle. They timed their most powerful magical/religious rituals to coincide with the Full Moon. Ancient peoples gradually came to understand, as the age of agriculture took root and developed, that the time to plant their crops was when the Moon was waxing in the early part of the 29.5 day cycle, and in the Spring, or waxing, part of the year.
Out of those practical observations of the heavenly bodies, so fundamental to survival in humanity’s early days, came the realisation so beautifully put in the Bible:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (i)
The planetary cycles, from the tiny 29.5 day Sun/Moon cycle to that powerful regulator of human affairs, the 20 year Jupiter/Saturn cycle, were recognised in antiquity as weaving all life including that of human beings into an observable rhythm which brought a context of order, structure, and some comforting predictability to the patterns of life on Earth.
But whether the cycle is huge, like the Neptune/Pluto 500 year one which was not known in antiquity, or small, like the monthly Sun/Moon one, the same basic stages apply: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new.
All cycles’ 12th House phase
Moondark describes the end of any cycle – the 12th House phase – whether we are contemplating the monthly Sun/Moon one or the epoch-defining 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: indeed, a time of “dying back in preparation for the new.” Thus, every year, the time from the New Moon in Pisces to the New Moon in Aries can be seen as the 12th House phase, the Moondark time, of the entire zodiacal year.
Moondark has fascinated me for a long time. I may first have encountered the concept in my twenties, through the agency of Marion Bradley’s magnificent novel “The Mists of Avalon”, set in the time of druidical Britain in the era when Christianity was sweeping through the Roman Empire and the Old Religion of the Druids was being violently challenged as a result.
The legendary King Arthur, disregarding the advice of his Druid priests, married Guinevere in a Christian ceremony – at Moondark, the very end of the Sun/Moon monthly cycle.Since Arthur was a king, getting the symbolism of his marriage right was much more important than it would be for us ordinary mortals! “Woe, woe, no good will come of this!” was the view taken by the Druids. They were right. The marriage was childless; moreover, Guinevere spent much of it in love with Lancelot, one of the knights of King Arthur’s fabled Round Table.
Each year’s Moondark
We tend to think of the annual 20th March equinox, the day that the Sun enters the sign of Aries, as the symbolic beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. But you could argue that the true beginning of spring is when a New Moon takes place in the sign of Aries. In 2022, that celestial event occurs tomorrow on 1st April, both Sun and Moon meeting at 11.5 degrees of Aries, the fiery first sign of the zodiac. The degree of their meeting varies from year to year: in 2021, it was 22.5 degrees Aries; in 2020, 4 degrees Aries; in 2019 15 degrees Aries; in 2018, 26 degrees Aries.
I find it illuminating and helpful to think of each year in those terms. Thus – as we wait for the fresh energy upsurge of the Aries New Moon tomorrow, we are symbolically waiting in Moondark. This year’s Moondark has been especially potent; it has run from the 12 degrees Pisces New Moon on the 2nd March 2022, making a conjunction with Jupiter at 16 degrees Pisces which is already approaching its powerful conjunction with Neptune, due on 12 April 2022 at 24 degrees Pisces. Much is already being written and discussed across the Web regarding the implications of this planetary duo.(ii)
Events of a collective and personal nature have been powerful, dark and traumatic this Moondark: the Pisces New Moon’s conjunction with Jupiter, as that planet approaches conjunction with Neptune, hascertainly brought Ukraine experiences of symbolic crucifixion (iii) via the sweep of war at Russia’s instigation, and its attendant suffering as millions flee their homeland in search of whatever kind of safety can be found. Along with a world-wide Pisces/Neptune response of compassionate desire to help, manifesting in donations of clothing and other supplies, and money pouring in to various charities, there is a general mood of disgust, shock, world-weariness and exhaustion.
All those reactions are typical Pisces/Neptune responses from all of us world-wide who have been through years of acute political upheaval and turmoil, increasing awareness of the climate emergency we now face – then two years of a pandemic, not yet over, which has upended our whole way of life.
All that most of us wish is peace. We are now having to find ways of being creative, constructive and hopeful in a world in turmoil and transition from an old materialist world order clearly long past its sell-by date…
The uses of Moondark
Moondark is at its best a contemplative time: a time to take stock both collectively and personally. We live in an increasingly frenetic 24/7 society where ‘time out’ is increasingly hard to find, and is not supported by the culture as a whole. Those of us who wish and need to retreat regularly to preserve our balance and well-being tend to be regarded as odd by mainstream society.
But humans have always benefited from times of quiet contemplation, in whatever way suits them best: listening to music, doing yoga/meditation, praying to whatever Higher Power sustains them, making or contemplating art, walking in Nature –especially by the sea, that great universal symbol of dissolution and emergence.
Even half an hour a day of retreat time on a regular basis is nourishing for the spirit. In ancient times, women used to retreat together monthly during menstruation time which was seen as a period of potency, and hidden power – a liminal time to link through dreams and ritual to worlds unseen.
It would be good if individually we could get into the habit of using the time from the Pisces New Moon each year to find some retreat space in whatever way suited us: to take stock of the year that was coming to an end, ponder our successes and our failures, and set some realistic intentions to pursue for the zodiacal year ahead. In a time of unprecedented turmoil, taking retreat time to work out how to cope best with the world we now inhabit, seems more important than ever…
Have you been taking stock ? I certainly have…and your thoughts on what has emerged for you, would be most welcome as we emerge from Moondark and begin a new zodiacal year.
iii) the six-week Christian season of Lent, with its Piscean themes of prayer, reaching out to the Divine, compassion, renunciation and sacrifice, runs this year from the day of the Pisces New Moon on 2nd March, right through to 14th April, just before the first Full Moon of the new astrological year
1300 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2022 Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page
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:
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 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
Saturn entered Aquarius on Sunday, 22nd March, 2020 at 3:58 uk time. On Mothering Sunday (i). That symbolic ‘co-incidence’ really struck home. The planet is our Mother, and we humans have been abusing her for a very long time.
To me, the symbolism (and the corona virus with its attendant worldwide consequences) is saying clearly to our human community (Aquarius) that it is time to take responsibility, accept widespread restrictions (Saturn), for the sake of our communities – and our planet.
The very next day, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston told the nation in no uncertain terms that we are now in lockdown ( another vivid manifestation ofSaturn’s entry into Aquarius), following the actions of other countries from China onwards in attempting to limit the spread of the corona virus.
Saturn in Capricorn
Saturn entered Capricorn on 20th December 2017, beginning his long march towards a grim summit with Pluto, coming within close orb of their conjunction during the spring and early summer, then the winter of 2019.Since that entry, intensified hugely by the conjunction, all our organisational systems from nationhood, to politics, to health, to education, to formal religious institutions, to finance and business, have been tested to their very limits, and been found seriously wanting one way or another.
At the conjunction’s closest point in April 2019, their symbolic danse macabre with the South Node in Capricorn gave rise to Greta Thunberg – the youthful feminine voice of the Great Mother? – and the Extinction Rebellion movement. To an astrologer’s symbolic eye, the North Node in Cancer was now forcing us to pay attention to the crisis point which our planet has reached and pointing us in the direction we needed to go in actually dealing with it instead of our politicians world wide indulging largely in ineffectual posturing or downright denial. “Crisis – what crisis?”.
That much-feared Saturn/Pluto conjunction took place exactly on 12 January 2020; we are now at the outset of a drastic but hopefully positive, if painful cycle of restructuring culminating in the next Saturn/Pluto conjunction at 13/14 Pisces in 2053/4. I am not alone in thinking that a major instrument of that reconstruction arrived in the shape of the corona virus, now shaping up as a world-wide pandemic.
As a consequence, all our complacent ways of living are now being upended. Everyone is feeling the pain, one way or another. Anyone could die of this virus, even Trump or Bolsonaro…( hmmmm…)
We have found out in recent days that Boris Johnson and several members of his team spearheading management of the pandemic in the UK are now self-isolating, having tested positive for the virus. Prince Charles, UK head of state in waiting, has also contracted it – more manifestations of Saturn in Aquarius, as male leaders fall prey to an affliction crashing like a malevolent wave through the world-wide human community.
Capricorn and Aquarius
Both Capricorn and Aquarius are ruled by Saturn, Saturn being Aquarius’ ‘old’ ruler. I take some comfort from this as I watch events unfold, stunned and awed as usual by the symbolic accuracy of the planets’ unfolding patterns. Saturn is at its potentially most constructive as it moves through those collective signs.
The transit through Capricorn has been saying, in essence‘I have checked out all your systems. They are not what our Mother planet or its creatures need – although much of it may be what some humans want: eg no minority on the face of this Earth needs to accumulate billions whilst many of the majority go hungry – so I have given these systems, and the illusions and denials that go with them, a good kicking. I have joined forces with Pluto and the Nodes – since a good kicking is apparently not enough – and sent you the highly unpleasant gift of corona virus. Great for the planet, but awful for humanity. Let’s see if that’s enough to make you pay attention to what needs to change…’
Saturn in Aquarius
And now we have Saturn in Aquarius: he dips in for a while, then returns to Capricorn from July until the end of 2020. Saturn has just told us that the old order represented by Capricorn is no longer viable – it’s long past its sell-by date, so to speak. Aquarius is a forward-looking collective sign, more concerned with the hidden potentials hovering in the future than with the past. Uranus, its ‘new’ ruler, amplifies that with its brilliance in developing new technologies in service of the human project. So – we can look forward to new, as yet undreamed-of solutions to the problems threatening us all with possible extinction in the present time.
A much bigger context, though, is this: there is a vast epochal process of turbulence and change happening which reaches a major developmental stage when Jupiter meets Saturn at 0 degrees of Aquarius on the winter solstice of 2020. What does this portend?Baigent, Campion and Harvey in “Mundane Astrology” describe this powerful twenty-year recurring cycle as‘…the ground base of human development which marks the interaction between perception of ideas, potentialities (Jupiter) and their manifestation in the concrete world ( Saturn).’(ii)
There is more. The symbolically world-shaping duo of Jupiter and Saturn take over 800 years to go through the four elements, reflecting changing epochs as they go. I’ve written about this in some detail in ‘Some notes on cycles in a time of crisis’, published last year on Astrodienst if you’d like to take a look.
The Materialist Era
For now, let’s just look back to 1802. That was the year of the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction’s early entry into the Earth element, where it was to remain for over 200 years, its last meeting in Earth taking place at 23 Taurus in May 2000, its final departure in December 2020. That 1802 date co-incided with the Industrial Revolution’s gathering pace and impact at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as the materialist age of exploitation of our Earth’s natural resources for material gain began.
Let’s not get too ‘holier than thou’, here, though. Political philosopher Thomas Hobbes in the mid seventeenth century posited that in the state of nature people’s lives are“solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short …”(iii)and there is no doubt that the lives of a massive number of humans – especially in developed Westerncountries – have gained hugely improved health, longevity, quality of life and opportunities for personal fulfilment as a result ofour astonishing progress in harnessing the forces and resources of Nature.
However the point would appear to be that, at the very end of Jupiter/Saturn’s sojourn in the Earth element, we have been brutally made aware especially in the last couple of years that the costs of ‘the march of progress’ now heavily outweigh the benefits, to the extent that the very survival of our lives on planet Earth is under threat…
The Airy Future…
I find it fascinating that the years since 2000, if you like the 12th house phase of the long Jupiter/Saturn traverse through the Earth element, have offered us more than a glimpse of what the impending shift of the conjunction into the Air element may look like. The appearance of the first iPhone in June 2007 and its spread – like a virus! – until smartphones became ubiquitous technology across the globe in less than ten years, has revolutionised the way we live. The generation born from the Millennium on are the first in human history never to have known what a life without airy inter-connection was like.
Astrologers have known for a long time that the year 2020 was to be one like no other: it is the first year for over 200 years of‘…the transition of the (Jupiter/Saturn) conjunction from one element to another – the ‘Mutation Conjunction’ – has always been considered to be of particular importance marking a major shift in emphasis and orientation in the world…’(iv)
Thus far, as we live through stormy turbulence at the beginning of 2020, we can see the ‘emphasis and orientation’ of the approaching Air era becoming clear. One major consequence of the corona virus pandemic sweeping through our world as Saturn shifts into Aquarius inviting us to live differently and more responsibly as humans, is already very obvious. In the last couple of weeks, there has been an explosion of collective Zooming, Skyping, WhatsApping, etc as we set about working from home and transferring our individual and group lives to the airwaves.
Still to come after the Mutation Conjunction into 0 Aquarius on the Winter Solstice of 2020 ( how’s that for a Fated-sounding date?!) – Pluto’s shift into Aquarius in 2024.
Fasten those seatbelts, folks. We’ve been selected to be present at the dawn of a new epoch…
(i)Mothering Sunday is celebrated by Christians in the United Kingdom, Ireland and some other English-speaking countries… It is increasingly being called Mother’s Day, although that name also belongs to the American and Canadian secular holiday which is quite distinct from the original Mothering Sunday. (c/f Wikipedia)
(ii) Baigent, Campion and Harvey in “Mundane Astrology”(publ. 1984, 1992,1995), p184
(iii)…from…”Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil”, commonly referred to as “Leviathan”, is a book written by Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) and published in 1651.
(iv) Baigent, Campion and Harvey in “Mundane Astrology” (publ. 1984, 1992,1995), p185
Occupying the collective mind currently, and forcing us to start changing the way we live, is the corona virus crisis. As the fear-inducing Saturn Pluto conjunction of 12th January 2020 grew closer during 2019, the environmental crisis forced its way to the forefront of public consciousness, via the efforts of climate change activist Greta Thunberg which have given rise to the Extinction Rebellion movement.
We are living in a time where awareness of the ‘interconnectedness of all things’is now at the forefront of public consciousness across the world. Evidence is piling up increasingly starkly: what happens in one part of our world impacts everywhere.
The ancient maxim ‘As above, so below‘ has thus never seemed more relevant. The art and practice of astrology has been based on that maxim for at least six thousand years. Astrology links what happens in the individual and collective lives of human beings to the movement of the planets through the solar system of which we are part. As contemporary astrologer, writer and philosopher Prof. Richard Tarnasso eloquently puts it:
“It is astrology’s extraordinary insight that these complex, multidimensional archetypes which govern the forms of human experience are intelligibly connected with the planets and their movements in the heavens, an association that is observable in a constant coincidence between specific planetary alignments and specific corresponding archetypal phenomena in human affairs.”(i)
Popular Sun Sign astrology as found in the media can only give a general picture of one dimension of the person. It’s simply not possible for this astrology to describe fully who you are, since it focuses only on where the Sun is (ie in Pisces, Aries, Virgo etc) on your birthday. It’s like trying to tell the story of a complex play with reference to only one character on the stage.
Using this analogy, you can only get a view of all the characters on the stage of your life from the map which an astrologer draws of the heavens at the particular TIME and PLACE, as well as DAY, of your birth.
This map or Horoscope or Birth Chart can then be used as a tool to mirror back to you, as lucidly as possible, with great care for your sensitivity and level of awareness, what the different characters are on the stage of your life and how they interact with one another.
After many years of doing readings professionally, I think the central thing that an individual gains from an astrology reading is confirmation of who they actually are: what their strengths and weaknesses are, what are their gifts and their difficulties. It gives them more confidence and courage to be themselves. It is a very powerful and potentially spiritual experience to have a stranger, who knows nothing of you, describe your essential qualities accurately from a map drawn of the heavens.
The other great gift that astrology can offer is that of saying:” This is your moment in time, through which you are connected to a process which was unfolding aeons before you were born, and will continue long after you have departed. You are a unique strand in the weave of life, you have a contribution to make, using the energy that you have been given as fully and as creatively as possible.”
Astrology readings, done with compassion, skill, sensitivity and professionalism are a significant way of contributing to promoting that sense of connectedness.
Feeling meaningfully connected to relationships, family, community, and whatever Big Picture sustains you – as countless contemporary research studies in psychology, education and other related fields have shown – is an effective antidote to those feelings of alienation and pointlessness which our materialist culture seems to be amplifying rather than reducing.
However, given the explosion of astrologers and astrology sites – often of highly dubious quality – across the internet in recent times, it is perhaps as well to sound a note of caution, as highlighted in the late great astrologer Donna Cunningham’s article on Awful Things Astrologers Say to their Clients.
That old maxim “You get what you pay for” almost always applies, across the board. Before signing up for an astrology reading, do your homework. Ask for recommendations. Read some of the writings of astrologers whose approaches you admire, to get the ‘feel’ of whether their approach might suit you. And – be prepared to pay a proper professional rate which reflects the experience, training and integrity of the person you consult. In that way, you are maximising your chances of engaging with a uniquely creative opportunity to enhance your self awareness – as well as the way you live your life.
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.
A week or so ago, there was a question on one of the astrology discussion groups I drop into from time to time – from a newcomer to astrology. This person was very concerned about how to deal with ‘transits and predictive work’, commenting on how anxiety-inducing it was for so many people when they contemplated upcoming challenging transits eg Saturn/Pluto, both in relation to themselves and how they could talk about tough upcoming patterns with their clients.
Chiron – Wounded Healer
This reminded me of an article I had written some time ago for the Centre for Psychological Astrology’s in-house magazine Apollon on that very topic. It is called “Astrology as a healing and a wounding art”(i) and deals precisely with the anxieties that everyone has to face who begins to dig beneath the surface of the Star Sign column level of popular astrology.
In the article, which you can access via the Endnotes to this post, I decided to interview a number of my astrology students who had been studying/practising astrology for some time, regarding what they thought were both the healing and the wounding aspects of astrological study and practice. The results were most interesting. I hope you find reading the article useful – do feel free to leave your reactions via comments.
As you may imagine, there were a number of responses to the worried astro-newcomer’s questions and concerns. Here is what I wrote, which struck me on re-reading it as having quite a Saturn/Pluto tone to it. Hardly surprising, since I have a Mercury/Saturn/Pluto line-up in my own horoscope…but I think that there are certain tough realities which need to be faced if you are going to take up the practice of astrology. Maybe those of us who have been practising for a long time don’t spell them out clearly enough…
“…I used to start my astrology classes by pointing out to students that 99% of the human race had got through history and their lives without knowing any astrology and had managed to get by. I also used to point out to them that while astrology is archetypally predictive, its track record on actual specific prediction is historically pretty unimpressive.
I also told them the story of Prometheus, who stole the fire of knowledge from the gods and was severely punished as a result.
Astrology is a wounding as well as a healing art, and if students/practitioners can’t make their peace with that reality in such a way that they can be of constructive value to their future clients, they should take up something non-threatening like e.g. stamp collecting…”
Note: the link will take you through to the pdf Issue 3 of Apollon – scroll down and the Contents page will tell you where to find my article. There is also a brilliant article by Liz Greene called ‘Wounding and the will to live’ – about Chiron – which I would urge you to take the time to read.