Monday, December 1, 2014


November tends to be a little dim and dank, but as the month comes to an end, we remember to be grateful for the abundance we have.  And then December brings all those twinkly little lights, more and more as the month goes on.

In December, Saturn leaves dank, brooding Scorpio and enters the lively fire sign Sagittarius (for the next two and a half years).  Saturn, as the planet of limitation and restriction, is never exactly perky, but in Sagittarius, there’s a stronger sense of possibilities.  Sagittarius is about adventure, excitement, passion, and wider horizons. 

Sagittarius brings a broader and more philosophical way of seeing the world, so it lends itself to community progress.  Saturn was in Sagittarius in 1957, when the Civil Rights Act was passed, and when President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Arkansas to protect the Little Rock Nine.   It was in Sagittarius when the peace symbol was inaugurated by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.   It was there when the European Economic Community, a precursor to the European Union, was founded. 

Sagittarius is also a sign of travel.  Saturn was also in Sagittarius when Jack Kerouac published “On the Road”, Edmund Hillary went to the South Pole, Sputnik was launched, and the Boeing 707 flew for the first time.  Who knows where Saturn in Sagittarius will take us?  Already the rights of immigrants are in the spotlight, and as the newest wave of immigrants become more established, the country will grow in innovation, creativity, and perspective. 

This November, we’ve seen continual lessons around the racial divide in the US, and these have to do with Saturn in Scorpio’s tendency to dredge up deeply-rooted feelings.  But the future of these movements is more hopeful, thanks to Saturn’s entrance into Sagittarius in December.

The movement in Ferguson was fueled by immediate outrage but it is taking a long-term perspective.  There has been no obvious victory, since the frightened policeman who killed Michael Brown was not indicted.  But that was not really a surprise.  And victory is not always obvious.     

Real change comes more incrementally and invisibly, often in actions not taken.  Real change is the gun that doesn’t fire, the camera that records a response that once went undetected,  the policeman who learns about unconscious racism.  The Ferguson struggle is just another chapter in a much larger struggle linking all of us here, one which brings up some intrinsic questions about our morality as a nation.

Real change comes slowly, and often invisibly, but it’s still a question of seeing what we haven’t seen before.  That’s always the first and most painful step.  The Saturn-in-Scorpio step was seeing the truth, framed in stark terms of life and death, and the Saturn-in-Sagittarius step will be incorporating what we’ve learned into a new social philosophy. 

And so white people in the U.S. have seen some new truths.  They’ve thought about what it’s like for the parents of an African-American teenage boy, walking down the street in any American city.  First they saw it with Trayvon Martin, and then with Michael Brown.  It might’ve been easy to disown Zimmerman’s actions, to see him as an overzealous anomaly.  It’s not so easy to disown a policeman, paid by the government to do its work, protected by the government in the end. 

There could be quite a few confrontations in December, and confrontation can bring even more clarity.  This month, we experience the sixth exact pass of the revolutionary aspect that began in 2011:  the Uranus/Pluto square. 

There is an eager lunging towards change these days.  We can taste our desire for it.  People are imagining change, creating a wide spectrum of new scenarios that match their fantasies.  I’m doing it too, and in my world, there’s peer pressure but no coercion, anger but little violence, and sadness but rarely desolation.  But there are other visions, a multitude of them, some very much at odds with mine. 

As I get older, I think:  small steps are okay, as long as they’re in the right direction.  But the Uranus/Pluto square is not about small steps. It’s lightning-abrupt, powerful, and definite. 

Uranus and Pluto are both about change.  Uranus is about novelty, innovation, vibration, electricity, radical social movements, and scientific progress.  It’s represented on our screens these days as a huge robotic, armor-clad hero, supported by up-to-the-minute technology. 

Science is in a combative pose these days, but still, there are no angry Luddites in the streets.  Nobody is suggesting that we do away with technology, even the conservatives who think the Bible is the last word on everything, and that the earth was created 6000 years ago, and that we never actually went to the moon.  They still want their own tools -  their cars and computers and factory equipment -   to be modern and efficient.  They haven’t become Amish.  So it’s not that science is being wiped out, but that people keep trying to shackle it – as they’ve done so often through the centuries, often in the name of the church.    

So enter Uranus in Aries.  It’s science fighting to be free.  It’s truth, burning for liberty.  And it has its hero myth, since scientists know they have an important role in rescuing the earth from the upcoming crisis.  Science has sullied air and water, but science can save them.  The danger is that science can identify too much with its hero mythos, seeing itself as Superman instead of fallible and human.    

And what is this high-tech robot fighting?  On the other side of the ring, there’s Pluto in Capricorn.  Pluto is slow, buried power, and it’s much harder to show on the movie screens.  It’s the Shadow.  It’s the black-and-white mystery film with its twitching suspense.  And it’s in Capricorn, the sign of structure, tradition and formality, where it’s especially cold.  Think old stone walls.  Think crystal skyscrapers going up to the sky.  Think the quiet, intricate hierarchies of corporate finance.  

Pluto moves slowly, more slowly than any other planet, and yet it has to do with major transformation.  That’s because the power of transformation is underneath everything.  Everything falls. 

So Uranus wants the structure to fall immediately, right now, and Pluto is basically telling it, “Wait, child.  It will all be gone, and there will be something else in its place.”  Who knows what that will be?  Pluto will be Capricorn for nine more years, and in that time, we could all become vassals of the Chinese.  Maybe we should be paying a lot more attention to the struggle that’s going on in Hong Kong. 

What is our path to wisdom in all this?  We have the momentum, when it comes to Uranus in Aries.  But we need to channel our anger, our urge for freedom, and our scientific know-how.  To me, that says that enlightenment should be our goal.  We need to enlighten ourselves and each other, to be willing to see what we haven’t seen before. 

And when it comes to Pluto in Capricorn, it’s also about listening.  There is some rumbling deep, deep underground.  We may not be standing on this earth anymore when it reaches the surface.  But we may.  And if we are here, it may be there’s no technique or tool that will save us.  But there may be.  And it may be that today’s freedom fighters are the ones honing the tools, teaching people to understand what’s all around us.    

Friday, October 31, 2014

Masks, Life and Death

It’s Halloween, the time when the membrane between the worlds is especially thin, when we honor our ancestors and appreciate all they’ve given us.  About seven weeks ago, I lost my dad, and so when I think of the spirit world today, I think of him.  I’m grateful not just for the life he gave me, but for the lessons he taught me.  And when I open the box of photographs he left me, all these other ancestors crowd out, and each life has a message for me.    

There’s something very essential about this time of the year.  People masquerade, as if they know that these personalities we adopt, these roles we play, are just costumes of the moment.  We’re all elemental forces, walking for a time in this world.  We have just enough time to draw a few strokes in its pattern, but not enough time to look at it and see how it all fits together.  That’s something our descendants do for us, after we’re gone. 

It makes sense that this time comes a month after the balancing act of the fall equinox.  At that time, we measure the dark and the light and see that they’re equal.  At this time, we measure life and death, and see that they are also two sides of the same coin. 

Yes, I’m writing this on Halloween, but the whole of the month has this intensity, this essentialist flavor.  The lightest moments in November are actually the first days of the month, when Mercury sextiles Jupiter, and everybody gets that playful vibe.  After this, the energy intensifies, becomes deeper and more introspective.

This is Saturn’s last month in Scorpio.  Archetypically, Saturn is the Crone, the Old Wise One, the Teacher.  Scorpio is the sign of secrets, death, and transformation.  Saturn has been in Scorpio for two and a half years, and many of her lessons have been about death.  It’s been a time when a grim  virus has decimated a continent, and when religious fervor has stepped up its hopeless love affair with the AK-47.

During this last month, Saturn will have visitors, as the sun, Mercury and Venus are all going through Scorpio, and each in turn will conjunct Saturn.  It’s as if each one goes up to the Crone and asks her for a deeper wisdom.  Venus, the goddess of love, conjoins Saturn on November 12, and love becomes heavier, sadder, and more serious.  The sun joins Saturn on November 18, and brings up questions about authority and identity.  And Mercury conjuncts Saturn on November 25, with questions about how to think, and how to learn what we need to know. 

Mars, the planet of action, makes its own pilgrimage this month.  It’s in Capricorn, the sign ruled by Saturn, and it conjuncts Pluto, the planet that rules Scorpio, on November 10.  And so Mars pauses too, and accepts its lesson from the Old Wise One.  Its preference is for the thrill of spontaneous action, but now it has to become accountable, to see the underlying consequences of action. 

And so it’s a sobering month, punctuated by these Saturn moments.  The energy of Saturn is conservative, and its wisdom tends to be responsible, pragmatic and grounding.  It focuses on preserving rather than changing, on the known rather than the possible, and on a realistic assessment of existing resources. 

It seems like this would lend itself to a healthier and more ecologically sound way of living on the earth.  But it’s not easy to move from a society that’s based on elitist and expansive principles to one that is truly conservative.  A truly conservative system would conserve trees, land, air, and water, and would be friendlier to families.  It wouldn’t deport fathers, for example, forcing them to leave their children.  A truly conservative system would encourage people to grow food, and to learn how to fix things, rather than urging them to consume more and more. 

So I do think we could take back the word “conservative”  any day now.    

The Saturnine lessons of the month will tell us where we are going wrong, where we are deviating from an earth-friendly, sustainable way of living.  Because Saturn is in Scorpio, the lessons will be intense, deep, and shadowy.  We’ll peer into those shadows and catch glimpses of all the things we usually refuse to see. 

I do think people are waking up to the contradictions inherent in the world we live in.  But when we come back to reality, we can only come back so far.  None of us is ready to see the world as it really is.  And so people come up with scapegoats, invent enemies, and imagine them with more power than they truly possess. And then they get snagged there, and their way of being conservative involves resisting these outside forces, one way or another. 

And yet all these villains we see, they’re usually about as dangerous as the masked children that will run through the neighborhood tonight.  When tomorrow’s dawn breaks, we’ll ask ourselves, Where did they go?  Someday people will ask the same question about us.  And they’ll also look to see what we left behind.      

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Summer's End

For lots of folks, Labor Day signals the summer’s end.  By the calendar, there’s still three weeks before the autumn equinox appears with its seasonal shift.  But really, playtime is over.

And actually, that’s always true during the last month of summer, when the sun moves into Virgo.  The emphasis shifts to organizing, fixing, mending, getting needed work done.  And as this September begins, Mars and Saturn – the planet of action and the planet of responsibility – are together in the hyper-focused sign Scorpio.  So it’s a time when everybody is getting down to business. 

Of course, one can be very business-like, very efficient, and still not get anything done.  Today’s paper tells the story of the hundreds of National Guard troops who’ve been deployed to the Texas border, and who spend their days in sweltering body armor, staring at the brush.  Bored, uncomfortable people with guns are never a particularly good idea. 

When it comes to promoting his presidential ambitions, Gov. Rick Perry, on the other hand, is being very efficient.  He’s using handy, available resources to demonstrate what a serious fellow he is, when it comes to border security.  A good politician knows how to read the headlines, sort out the things that make people feel insecure, and make a big show of addressing those insecurities. 

So, yes, Mars and Saturn together make for efficiency, but even though their sign, Scorpio, promotes definite action, it’s not a practical or logical sign.  Like all the water signs, it’s about underlying feelings – including fears, hatreds, resentment, anxiety, and paranoia.  We are all knotted up with these things, but people are more conscious of these inner demons when there are strong placements in Scorpio.   The demons are more likely to take shape.  

With the Mars/Saturn conjunction, some strong walls can be built – walls of distrust, anger and prejudice.  Mars militarizes things, adding way more combat gear than anyone could need, whether the enemy is a kid walking down the middle of the street, or one crossing a river.  Saturn affirms structure, discipline, and responsibility, and tends towards inflexible rules. 

So there is an order to things.  There’s a very strong exoskeleton, and a definite chain of command.  But the center is still mush.  That swampy center is the central human fear of anything or anyone different.  And without a strong center, there can be no real security.   

Another thing that’s emerging these days is the question of entitlement.  This has become a more prominent issue in the last few years, especially with Occupy Wall Street’s emphasis on the 99%.  But now questions around entitlement are being demonstrated more openly, with Jupiter moving through the royal sign Leo.  

And there’s an ongoing tension between Jupiter in Leo and Pluto in Capricorn -  a conflict between earth and fire, between pragmatism and glory. 

Pluto in Capricorn is basically pragmatic, and entitlement is enormously wasteful.  In fact, those who are entitled are encouraged – you might even say required – to waste resources.  I know this, as a citizen of the US.  It takes a lot more effort to minimize one’s carbon footprint than to go along with the usual spend-and-throw-away routine.   There’s often no way to repair, to share, or even to surround yourself with things that will last.  And so I join everyone else, tossing out things that represent precious natural resources and the lives of laborers.   

The less entitlement there is, the more equable the distribution – not only of things, but of power and choices – the less likely there is to be waste.  There really is enough to go around.  I believe that, although this truth has yet never been tested in the history of the world.  

What Jupiter in Leo gives to the world is glory, glamor, and glitz, and we’ve all gladly embraced it, allowing Ali Baba fantasies to light up the more boring corners of our lives.  It seems we need kings, celebrities, and the uber-wealthy to embody this fantasy.  But maybe Pluto in Capricorn is saying that we no longer have time for this childish play-acting, in the face of a world which isn’t working all that well.  Maybe, when hundreds of thousands of fish are floating in Mexican lakes, when colonies of honeybees are dying all over the world, when monarch butterflies have become rare, there is a need to get serious.   

But if Jupiter in Leo’s sin is conspicuous consumption, Pluto in Capricorn’s sin is a tendency to a wintery austerity.  And along with this, there’s an automatic deference to tradition.  Some traditions are useful, and others – not so much - but there’s a large bloc that believes everything was simpler way back when, when everybody knew their place.  Tea Partiers and Islamic Jihadists have a lot in common, wanting women in kitchens/veils and gay people invisible/dead.   

The answer is to find the best expression of both these influences.  Pluto in Capricorn is essentially practical and responsible, and can give some useful answers to the new questions confronting our species.  How can we live simply, but in a way that’s different from our fairy-tale versions of the way our ancestors lived? 

And Jupiter in Leo has a lot to contribute too.  Leo is the most flamboyantly creative sign in the zodiac, and we will always need musicians, poets, story-tellers, actors, and comedians.  And they are everywhere.  We don’t need to take a few of these and turn them into gods or kings.  We can move towards a world in which everyone has what they need, and there is still plenty of time both to create art and to enjoy it.   

This world is possible.  And, as in every period of heightened tension, we’re pushed to figure out how to make it happen.  How can we live another way?  How can we be both creative and clear-headed?  What is the secret to our continued survival on this planet?   There’s a middle way, somewhere between punitive austerity and careless indulgence.  And as the sun moves towards its point of balance at the equinox, it’s time to find it. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

No Time for Half a Heart

So my wife and I just bought a 13-year-old Mercedes over the phone, with the help of her brother, the Car Whisperer, in Florida.  This feels a little unreal to me, but we’ll see it tomorrow when we drive out to Virginia.    

At the same time that all this was happening – with multiple phone calls and computer messages - my keyboard suddenly stopped furnishing me with apostrophes.   Everything I wrote sounded like a texting teenager, words glued together every which way. 

Is life moving faster?  Can I keep up? 

It’s definitely moving faster, now that Jupiter is in Leo, and the sun is there too, in its own sign.   There’s an unsettling sense of acceleration.  Some things are planned – including our six staggered out-of-town guests – and some things are half planned and half spontaneous – like this car.  We’ve been looking for one, in a half-hearted way, for more than a year. 

But that’s the thing.  Nothing is half-hearted now.  Leo rules the heart, and so the heart’s wishes suddenly become paramount.  And the heart is all about what’s immediate, the raw emotion and sensation of the moment.  It squeezes, lets go, squeezes again, and it’s bursting with blood and will and urges. 

These days, we live in a very otherworldly world, with many things just beyond the reach of sight and touch and taste.  And yet, we still move among these things, making choices, making decisions, making an imprint.  So much of our lives are virtual, lived in the mystical and esoteric cloud landscape our people have developed. 

What would people in the past think of this?  There have always been those who wandered around talking to themselves in the street, but now they’re the norm.  There’s an inwardness to the lives we lead, but there’s also an ability to see far things that are away, in time and distance.  People focus on their small machines, and find that these are doorways to the whole world. 

But it’s a world that conforms to our preferences, filtering out whatever we don’t want to see.  And soon we will have these portals on the insides of our glasses, or as a little window on the upper right side of our eyeballs.  In the middle of a conversation, a person will glance to the left and find the perfect Shakespeare quote for whatever topic just came up.  Or the perfect joke.  Or a way to refute the argument that’s just been made. 

All this cloudiness comes from Neptune, which has been in its own sign for a couple of years now, and will be there for another dozen.  The mystery, the strangeness, and the detachment will increase over the next decade. 

But right now, with the sun and Jupiter in Leo, there’s a reaction against this, a desire for raw, exciting, activity.   The new moon of July 26 set the tone for this lunar cycle, and it gives its flavor to the month of August.  The sun was conjunct Jupiter at this new moon, magnifying all the Leo traits.  There’s passion, courage, creativity, playfulness, pride, and a strong sense of honor.   And there’s a need to take risks, to leap into the game and gamble everything. 

And no, this is not particularly peaceful.   All the fire signs tend towards a certain amount of struggle, and Leo is the fixed fire sign that does not give up until the enemy is utterly vanquished.  After winning, Leo is generous, magnanimous, ready to shake hands with the former foe and turn all that energy in another direction. 

Looking at the war between Israel and Palestine, this doesn’t look good for either side, since both are willful and tenacious.  And so we have this bloody war, likely to get bloodier before it’s done.     

Mars – the planet of war - is also in a fixed sign, making for even more drawn-out conflicts.  Mars is in Scorpio, and like all water signs, this gives a long memory for old wounds.  Both Palestine and Israel are the walking wounded, both threatened to the core by their treatment at the hands of the rest of the world.  And for both of them, fighting has become a necessary way of life. 

With the long memory of Mars in Scorpio, the vanquished – and it will almost assuredly be Palestine – will just go undercover, to regroup and fight again.  Those tunnels are associated with Scorpio, the sign of secrets.  And Scorpio is also the phoenix, who is reborn from its own ashes.

And so what’s the answer?   It comes from the heart energy of Leo.  The heart grows from giving, creating, and loving, and these are also the ways that a wounded heart can be healed.  The natural magnanimity of Leo will not immediately stop war.  People can give money, time, words and attention, and it may all be siphoned off into the uses of war, with some of it maintaining the people in charge. 

But eventually, heart energy, if continually and freely given, manifests in something good.  There is a critical mass, and we’ve been saying this for years - but it’s true.  The fiery energy of Jupiter in Leo, with the sun joining it this month, can do this. 

And peace is not the word I would use to describe the aims of Jupiter in Leo.  I would say health is the end goal, and sometimes health requires conflict.   Challenges are always necessary for this Leo energy, and these challenges need to be immediate and exciting.  But these endless wars and power skirmishes are not worthy of the great spirit of Jupiter in Leo.  No, this is a sign that can take us back to living in our bodies, in the moment, passionately involved in the world around us. 

So don’t look for peace.  But move towards health.  Let yourself live – playfully, passionately – with all the uncertainty that the world offers these days.  There’s lots of ways to escape from our bodies and our surroundings, but your own beating heart has a different message.   Anything can happen.   

Monday, June 30, 2014

Teaming Masses

I had a good laugh this morning, googling Ann Coulter’s rant against soccer and reading it aloud to my spouse.  I kept saying, “She’s being funny, right?  She’s not serious with this.”  It read like good satire.   Soccer, a sign of the nation’s moral decay???  A liberal conspiracy?  No room for individual expression?  Non-athletic?  Please.  Is she watching the same sport I am?

I’ve never been a sports fan, but somewhere in my long and eventful life, I did start watching soccer.  It rubbed off on me, like things do.  And I guess it had mostly to do with living overseas, in Ecuador and in Germany, countries that took the game seriously.   Living around all that fervent passion, I had to start paying more attention.  And now I like the game, although I’m still not all that sporty, and you’d have to tie me down to get me to watch baseball or football. 

One of Ann Coulter’s points against soccer is that it’s foreign.  Which for her means it’s un-American.  Why do those two things go together, for her?   What’s so terrible about “foreignness”?

Coulter was raised in a wealthy white town in Connecticut, and to her that’s the American Normal.   When she complains about foreigners infecting these shores with the soccer virus, she’s saying she doesn’t altogether trust anyone who doesn’t look, speak or think like her.  I’m sure the first inhabitants of this country had that same sinking feeling, when they saw those big white sails on the horizon, and then those smelly guys climbed down from the boats, muskets in hand.  It doesn’t always go well, when strange people arrive. 

But change is inevitable, and demographic change is the norm, all through history and everywhere in the world.  Coulter’s desire to keep this country as her pristine little enclave is as unrealistic as that of the indigenous people of the Americas.  Moreover, there are ways and ways of invading.  Invading with soccer balls and ethnic restaurants is way friendlier than with musket-balls.

And one reason that I’m back in the States is that it is a country that’s changing.  If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be living here;  I’d be in Canada, where my spouse and I first planned to immigrate, about seven years ago  – because we could get married there.  The changing demographics, the leftward popular bent, and yes, the soccer – all that has made the US a place where my wife and I can live – happily, comfortably and safely. 

It’s clear that Coulter is on the wrong side of history, but she’s not alone.  There are a lot of people who see some lost paradise in the all-white suburbs or the small towns of their youth.  Whatever they didn’t have back then, nobody needs. 

As July begins, Jupiter is in Cancer, the sign of Home and Family, the most sentimental sign in the zodiac.  It’s been here for a year, and we’ve seen a lot of nostalgia during this time, on both sides of the cultural divide.  New families come to the US, carrying their traditions, planting them in new soil. Sometimes children come across the border alone, hoping to rejoin families they haven’t seen in years.  And established families learn, or don’t learn, to adapt to the changes in their towns and cities and neighborhoods. 

Some are scared, some are really deeply scared, and some have guns.  But sporadic gunfire doesn’t change the fact of change. 

That aspect of dramatic transformation, the Uranus/Pluto square, isn’t over yet.  But it’s not a strong influence in July, since Pluto has been retrograding out of range.  And so this month, you get a lot of politicos repeating the same message over and over, marking time, fighting with each other without much conviction, like scrappy but well-fed dogs.  When Pluto goes direct again in September, some new life will enter the political arena, one way or another, and it looks like a hard-fought election season. 

However, there is a definite stylistic change in July, with Jupiter entering Leo in mid-month, just a few days after the final match of the World Cup.  It will be in this sign for a little over a year.  Leo is the sign ruled by the sun, an open-hearted sign given to celebration, ritual, art, and drama.  It’s a good time for all of us to cut loose, to live larger.  As a fire sign, Leo is not always peaceful, but it encourages activism on all sides, so it keeps things moving. 

Last time Jupiter was in Leo, millions of people were in the streets protesting the impending war in Iraq.  That didn’t prevent the war from happening.  But there are lessons in failure as well as in success, and political activism is a skill that takes time.  And this is a different era, and we live in a different country, demographically speaking.  We live in a country where people watch soccer.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Soft Moment in Costa Rica

This is peace itself.  It’s a wonderful interlude between two intense womyn’s events.  I’m at the Hotel Bougainvillea in San José, Costa Rica.  My wife was coming here on business, and so I tagged along, and now her work is done, and she’s joining me for a weekend of pleasure and leisure.   

Aside from going out and getting drunk on coffee blends, I haven’t done much.  I’ve walked along flower-lined paths, lounged by the pool, and watched the afternoon rain from the balcony of our room.  Now my body is deliciously relaxed and my mind empty.  Occasionally, a thought will emerge and I’ll watch it slide across my consciousness, searching for a foothold.   But all my mental filing cabinets are gone, replaced by birdsong and warm breezes.   

It wasn’t like this last week.  I was at Womonwrites, a lesbian writer’s conference held just south of Atlanta.  It was a place of verbal abundance, between the readings from talented writers, the workshops full of furious writing, and the impromptu conversations between the lake and the dining hall.  I did my astrological thing, turning the archetypal language of astrology into words relevant to women’s lives.  As always, the feedback was complex and exciting. 

Next week, I’ll be at Where Womyn Gather, a womyn’s spirituality festival near Carbondale, Pennsylvania, and it will be just as intense.  All sorts of women, transplanted from their ordinary lives, will look for experiences that take them to a higher plane – through drumming, meditation, ritual, and yes, through the charged symbol system of astrology.

I love those womyn’s spaces.  But I also belong here, in this place of perfect peace.  Even though I’m in a hotel room, it feels just like home to me.

And that figures, because Jupiter’s still in the sign Cancer, spreading those comfortable, warm vibes, and Mercury just entered this sign as well.  As I write, the moon is here too.  And Cancer is the sign of home.  It’s the sign of belonging, and it heightens both the sense that you don’t fit, and the sense that you do, depending on your circumstances. 

This is a time when your surroundings affect you more, so that you truly inhabit the space you’re in, and sometimes it feels like it’s inhabiting you.   Jupiter in Cancer brings you inside, into interiors that hold you, and towards people with whom you share intimate moments. 

Cancer is aligned to women’s energy, since it’s connected to the nurturing we all receive from the first woman in our lives.  Cancer is also a sign of memory, and so, during much of this interlude in Costa Rica, my spouse and I  tell each stories of things that happened during the week we were apart.  We both spent time with women, with old friends, with people with whom we have a long shared past.  These stories lead to older stories, and we learn from them as we retell them. 

I’m experiencing time more slowly these days, and I know this has something to do with being on vacation in a tropical paradise.   But it’s also because Mercury is slowing down, preparatory to going retrograde on June 7.   Mercury retrograde is all about living in the past, recapturing the experiences you’ve forgotten, tying up the loose strings you’ve left lying about.  It will spend all the rest of June retrograde, so everyone will have time to tidy up the past, to make amends, to reminisce, and to heal.

Besides the emotional largess of these Cancer influences, there’s also the Gemini influence in June, and this is more distracting and faster-moving, with a focus on mental activity and communication.  The sun is in Gemini now, so there is an undercurrent of chatter.  And mid-month, Mercury retrogrades back into Gemini.  Things become more scattered, especially during the following three days (June 17 to 20).  After this, the sun enters gentle Cancer, and the focus returns to feelings. 

This would be a mostly mellow month, if it weren’t for Mars.  Mars is very purposeful these days, having just emerged from three months retrograde, recharged and ready for action.  It’s in Libra, the sign of ethics, equality, justice and judgment, so there’s an emphasis on accountability, and it’s making hard aspects to the planets of change, Uranus and Pluto.   

This echoes the cardinal cross of April, but in a milder way.  There’s time between these aspects; not everything happens at once.  

However, it is best to be cautious around these times.  The Mars/Pluto square, exact June 14, can indicate dangerous situations, especially when you’re trying to do the right thing.  For example, you could go out in the road to move a turtle, and get hit by a Mack truck.  Your intentions are good, but the danger lies in pitting yourself against forces that are much greater than you are.  So unless you just want to go down in history - sooner rather than later - it’s wise to check things twice. 

The Mars/Uranus opposition, exact June 25, is even more prone to accidents and technical problems.  Uranus’ energy is swift-moving, electric, and quick to overturn existing structures. This is not the time to stand under trees during lightning storms, especially if you have any planets near 16 degrees of cardinal signs.  I’ve got the moon at 16 Cancer, and I’m not going to cross a street without looking both ways, and probably up as well.  Who knows what could fall out of the sky?

These two aspects come along like a clean-up crew, startling the retrograde Mercury out of its reminiscences, reminding everybody that some structures still need to topple.  They’re very creative and exciting, and so doors can suddenly swing open this month.  Don’t take that for granted, though, as doors can also slam shut with equal abruptness.  It’s about rearranging things, and with Mars in Libra, the idea is to do this according to higher principles.  Since everybody has a different idea of what those principles are, this can mean conflict. 

Luckily, the retrograde Mercury keeps reminding us of our past mistakes.  And Jupiter in Cancer brings it down to what feels right.  If it doesn’t feel right, if it makes your skin crawl, it’s not a good thing.   We all want peace, kindness, and a sense of belonging.  We all want to feel at home in this moment, on this planet.  This is the ideal, and we keep returning to it, over and over. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

All This Water

April’s been a tough month for a lot of people.   If you’re reading this, hey, you survived.  Mostly, there was a sense of pressure coming from all directions, and there were also quite a few accidents and health scares among my family and friends. 

And spring never really got a foothold.  As I write this, two days of cold rain have flooded my yard.  This has happened before, and I know it will drain when the water stops, if it ever stops.  The birds don’t seem to mind it; they perch on half-submerged logs and peck at the bugs floating by.  But it makes me nervous, especially when thunder rumbles and signals a bout of even harder rain.  And when my phone makes a sudden jangling sound, warning me of flash floods.   

Tomorrow begins a new month, and it should be a calmer one.   Gradually the Jupiter/Uranus/Pluto T-square loosens its grip on us.  Emotions will cool down, and rebellious urges diminish. 

The Uranus/Pluto T-square is not completely gone; it will be back twice more, bookending the next winter.  So we’re still living through a tense time, geopolitically.  But this particular passage has been the most stressful, with Jupiter - the planet of hubris – encouraging a tendency to strut and goad.  We’ve seen this especially in the Ukraine, a stress point between east and west, a country slowly being ripped in two. 

For a leader struggling to maintain power, in a country which doesn’t have much in the way of term limits, war is not a bad option.  War unleashes emotion, and if you know how to surf that emotion, you can have a sweet ride.  World leaders through the ages have practiced this art, relatively safe for them, not so safe for the young men in the field.   Vladimir Putin promises his people excitement, victory, expansion, and a slap in the face of NATO.     

And no matter how reluctant Obama is to wage war – as he should be – he may not be able to escape it.   Everyone who runs for president promises to kill the bad guys.  Like the pope’s set of ceremonial robes, the machinery of war comes with the office. 

And many Americans want it too.  They watch TV, they go to movies, they know the heroes from the villains.  They want to see Vlad’s butt kicked, and they want President Obama to do it, one way or another.  Hey, he’s the Guy, right?   His currently low poll numbers could be a byproduct of his reluctance to go in with guns blazing.    

Although his pride may be hurt - and we see this because Pluto is currently inconjunct his sun – he has little impetus to wage war.  Unlike Putin, Obama won’t be in power forever, and he’s thinking more about long-term legacies than popularity polls.                                                                                                         

But May won’t be quite as belligerent as April was.  For one thing, Jupiter and Saturn will make a watery trine – between May 17 and 30 – and this will be a stabilizing force.  It will be good for the economies of the world - for trade, for access to food and water, and for humanitarian aid.  In harmonious aspect, Jupiter and Saturn give wisdom, balance, and controlled growth.

This is not to say the threat of war is over.  We live in a very emotional time, and this has to do with Jupiter moving through the tender sign Cancer.  Cancer is a kind, sympathetic sign, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always peace-loving.  The U.S. has a Cancer sun, and so it’s a very sentimental, family-oriented place, but at the same time, there’s a tendency to blow people away if they don’t share the same sentiments.  It’s a movie cliché that, in the midst of mayhem, a puppy or baby gets rescued.

However, in harmonious aspect to Jupiter, Saturn plays the role of the adult in the room.  It points out the long-term effects of any course of action, as well as the underlying causes.  Saturn is in Scorpio, a watery sign of transformation, and this isn’t the easiest place for the planet of structure.  But Saturn in Scorpio points to possibility of building structures that will aid in transformation, that will promote a better world, given time.  Saturn is always about time.

With three outer planets in water signs, though, it may be a wet month.  I look out at my yard and can’t imagine that it could get any wetter.  But all these watery planets don’t just signify rainstorms and flooding.  Water is a connecting force, dissolving differences in the universal experience of wetness.  We’re born in a surge of water, and inside we’re mostly water too.

Water carries away all the old junk, redistributes it, brings people together, and creates a muddy fertility.  With the structural help of the Jupiter/Saturn trine, we can do some rebuilding this month, working through our immediate emotional reactions.  We can find the points of intersection between our needs and interests, and those of our neighbors in the world.  Us humans,  we’re all family, and that doesn’t mean we don’t fight.  But it also means it’s not so easy to get away from each other.   

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Crossroads of April

Astrologers all over are flipping out over April 2014.  I’ve been mostly flipping out over the weather lately, since like all humans, most of my cranial alarm bells are set for whatever is going on in my back yard.  And my back yard has been through a lot. Ice, snow, floods, and any minute, I’m expecting the four horsemen of the apocalypse to trot on by.

Maybe, too, I’m focused on my back yard because the larger trends seem so daunting.  There’s a palpable sense that some dramatic historical drama is being set up,  that the forces are aligning for a major change.  The T-square is already in place, and edging closer all the time.  Uranus, Pluto and Jupiter are all in tense aspect to each other, with these aspects exact on April 20 and 21. 

Pluto is about slow, inexorable transformations, while Uranus is about sudden rebellions and abrupt turns.  Jupiter is about business, economics, law, principles, and community, and all these things can swing wildly back and forth.  Since it’s currently in Cancer, Jupiter is also about the homeland, the sense of belonging.

On April 22 and 23, Mars joins the fray, plugging into the empty space and turning the T-square into a cross.  Mars is the planet of action, the trigger planet.  So this is when people could reach a moment of resolution.  This could express itself in angry words, flying bullets, or tanks in the street.  

Of course, that’s already true in Venezuela, as the protests drag on.  My spouse’s aunt says that her neighborhood in San Cristóbal is desolate, a maze of ripped-up streets.  It used to be that if you saw a gun, you were being mugged, but now the gunshot in the streets comes from the military, or from the government gangs that patrol on motorbikes.    

Things are tense everywhere.  We’ve already seen Russia carve off a piece of the Ukraine, abruptly altering the world map.  The people in the Crimea have had to figure out where they belong, as they adjust to this shift in the boundaries of their world.  They are either celebrating a return to the Russian motherland, or packing everything and bustling the whole family out the door, or just staying put and feeling anxious and displaced.

And we’ve seen the earth itself move, in various places.  A mountain lost its grip in Washington state, swallowing most of a small town.  There’ve been a bunch of little quakes in California.  Will we see more of this as these aspects grow stronger in April?  

These almost simultaneous oppositions are very rare, and that’s why astrologers are getting so excited.  Especially from April 20 to 23, it’s best to be a little more cautious than usual, especially if you have any planets close to 13° of cardinal signs.  The U.S. sun is at 13° Cancer, so, as a nation, we will be affected:  our priorities, our sense of identity, our national ego.  Venezuela, with the sun at 12° Cancer, will also have to redefine itself.  And Russia has Uranus at 13° Cancer, indicating an even more radical shift. 

Vladimir Putin has the sun at 13° Libra, so he will be right in the middle of what’s going on.  Mars, the trigger planet, is right on his sun – his leadership, his sense of purpose, his ego.  He’s definitely ready for a showdown.  Barack Obama has nothing in the sensitive range of cardinal signs, and is clearly not that interested in mixing it up with a cowboy, but with Neptune currently opposing his Pluto, some old karmic power issues are up for him.

When I first looked at Putin’s chart, especially in terms of the karmic influences, it definitely gave me pause.  He has a Leo conjunction involving his midheaven, Pluto, the south node, and Black Moon Lilith.  And to me, this says that he has a deep hunger for conquest, left over from a past life in which he didn’t quite get his chance to run the world.  When I see this, and when I think of the official homophobia and covert anti-Semitism in Russia, I get nervous. 

Adding to the charged atmosphere this month, there are also two eclipses in April.  The first, the total lunar eclipse that goes along with the full moon on April 15, is the most volatile one, since Mercury is at 13° Aries, side by side with the fiery planet of change, Uranus.  This could mean sudden shifts in intention, communication, or process.  There could be fighting words, a challenge, an audacious plan.   

By the new moon of April 29 – which brings us an annular solar eclipse – the pattern is dissipating a bit, and a few Taurus influences help to ground things.   Still, the energies of the cardinal cross and the eclipses will have lasting repercussions.  Countries, allegiances, and ideas will be juggled this month, and this new state of things will comprise our reality for quite a while. 

The cardinal cross indicates a time when things are being broken down.  We can all agree that some things need to break down, and to be rebuilt in a better way.  But the process itself is turbulent, scary, and sometimes dangerous.  So it’s time to take a wider view, a historical view.  We may all have to look beyond our backyard, and notice what’s coming down the road.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Streets of Venezuela

Venezuela is not my homeland, but it was my home for nine years, so I have a strong connection to the country.  I hold it in my heart:  the warm and energetic people, the parrots swinging through the sky, the powerful statue of María Lionza in the middle of the Caracas Autopista. 

And it’s my wife’s country.  She’s the one who’s been losing sleep these past weeks, anxious about the bloodshed in the streets, angry about the repression, passing along crucial and hidden information to others on facebook.  She’s the one who’s been writing long tracts, clarifying the situation for those who are still buying the government line.

We both run into this a lot:  leftists who feel it’s important to support any government that calls itself socialist.  But history has shown us that leftist leaders are just as likely to suppress protest, to lose sight of human dignity, and to become hungry for more and more power.  For example, you can say good things about literacy and health care in Cuba, but you’re also dealing with a country that has inadequate mechanisms for dissent, challenge and change, and so responds to these things by controlling people’s movements and choices.

And that’s pretty much what people in Venezuela are ticked off about.  They are also frustrated with living conditions – one of the highest murder rates in the world, corruption at all levels of government, silencing of the press, tight currency controls, rocketing inflation, and constant scarcity.  And the Venezuelans I’ve known are a vocal, confident people, who are not about to keep their mouths shut and go along with whatever line the government is feeding them. 

And no, this doesn’t mean that they’re stooges of the US, controlled by the CIA, or any of that.  Neither does it mean they’re fascists, as president Nicolás Maduro keeps claiming. It just means that they have voices, voices to sing and shout with, and they want more power over their own lives, and some positive changes in their society.   

Venezuelans are angry, not terrorized - even though a dozen so young protestors have been killed, and many more tear-gassed, peppered with buckshot, or arrested.  But Maduro’s responses have just made them angrier.  This rebellion is being shared on lots of little cameras, even though there have been blockages in Internet access and Twitter.  Still, the videos of National Guardsmen kicking and hitting unarmed protestors are getting around.  

As an astrologer, what do I think will happen next in Venezuela?  This is definitely a watershed time, with Pluto closely opposing the Venezuelan sun.  It’s a tense, pressurized struggle for power, with the health and well-being of the country at stake.  The basic question is one of identity, with the government basing its vision on the Cuban model, and the majority of the people struggling for something looser, freer, and more natural to them. 

And yes, I actually do think Maduro is an idealist, with his sun in Sagittarius squaring Jupiter in Pisces – although it’s true Pinochet had the same configuration.  Maduro is a true believer, someone who has found both temporal power and inspiration in the same philosophy.  He’s also an emotional person, with a preponderance of water signs, and his success has largely come from his ability to attach himself to the right people, to demonstrate that he’s caring and trustworthy. 

His Achilles heel is that he worries that he’s not big or important enough, and this is probably what’s caused him to react so fiercely to the protestors.  He’s acting from an old ego wound, so often a cause of dangerously defensive behavior.  In November 2013, weeks before the municipal elections, he invited Venezuelans to help themselves freely to all the merchandise in appliance stores, with the protection of the military.  He figured it would make him popular, and help his party win, and mostly it worked.  Now he’s extending the Carnival vacation by two extra days, again working hard to win the hearts (if not the minds) of the people.    

And I do think things will calm down fairly soon, perhaps from protestor fatigue combined with the temptations of Carnival, perhaps from a few government concessions. Mars retrogrades on March 1, and Saturn on March 2, giving a general need to go back and take care of untended obligations.   

The retrograde Mars in Libra could mean a reversal of course both for the protestors and the government.  This indicates a time to reassess one’s strategies, tools and methods, and figure out if they are actually having the desired effect.  And this is one of the problems of the Venezuelan protest movement, a diffusion of goals and solutions. On both sides, there may need to be a lot of processing about ethics and principles.

With Mars in Libra, both sides will claim the mantle of old revolutionary icons, carving Simón Bolivar neatly in half.  However, as independent, progressive and enlightened as Bolivar was, he was no socialist, and in fact, he could easily have been labeled an oligarch – one of Maduro’s favorite insults, inherited from Chávez.  Bolivar believed that the landed gentry should be the ones in charge.  But there’s not always a lot of connection between the real human being and the icon he or she becomes. 

In any event, there are some gentler influences during the next month. Jupiter is also just about to go direct and pass over Venezuela’s sun in Cancer, and tomorrow’s new moon makes a promising trine to Jupiter, as well.  These indicate more generosity, less defensiveness, and an expansion of opportunities.  And so people may make a little more room for each other, and work out some tentative agreements. 

March is more cerebral than February was, and it’s a chance for the movement to enter a new and more thoughtful phase.  But there’s still an emphasis on justice.  At the new moon on March 1, the square between Jupiter and Uranus is very strong, and this is an independent, visionary, forward-looking aspect, hungry for positive change, eager for self-expression, intolerant of repression.  This aspect has been predominant for weeks now, and was exact a few days ago, on February 26.  It will continue to affect us all until early May. 

And so all over the world, we see people in the streets, making it clear what they believe, what they want, what they’re willing to fight for.  And thousands of passionate, clamoring people do make a difference, sooner or later, one way or another.  To speak out is to indicate faith in a different future, and so this is a time of unrest but also a time of hope.  

Friday, January 31, 2014

Out of the Comfort Zone

My spouse and I went to California for a week in January, and got away from winter.  Walking into the brilliant sunlight of Los Angeles, I felt that I was on some gorgeous golden planet, far from reality.  After only a week, I forgot winter; it seemed like some odd, improbable concept.

When it was time to fly back to DC, we found out that National Airport had been closed all day because of the snow.  Our plane change was in Detroit, where everyone but us deplaned in parkas and overcoats.  When we were loaded onto our flight, the pilot told us that if we couldn’t land in DC, well, we’d land someplace else.

We did land, hearing that we were only the fourth flight to do so that day.  Outside, the air was thick with snow, and our cab ride home seemed interminable.  The Beltway was a long gray ribbon, with a few slow, half-blind cars bumbling along.  Then we were dragging our suitcases through the snow to the lighted front door, where my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law welcomed us home.

Since then, the song “California Dreaming” hasn’t left my head (except for a very brief phase when it was replaced by “Da Doo Run Run”).  It’s snowed again, gotten really cold, iced, gotten slightly warmer, melted some, and then re-snowed.  Icicles have dripped from the roof onto the welcome mat, sending a mixed message.  There are treacherous slats of ice on the sidewalk, but it doesn’t much matter, because nobody wants to walk anywhere. 

Of course, it’s been dreary, but not really abnormal for this semi-Southern, semi-Northern city.  It’s my Southern friends who are really confused, seeing snow as a rare creature that doesn’t usually visit their neighborhoods.   Like polar bears searching for their missing ice floes, they’ve been flummoxed by the strange weather patterns.

And if I was in California, if I was back there in the land of my pervasive inner pop tune, I would be dealing with a historic level of drought.  Everywhere, the weather is pushing towards extremes beyond the human comfort level.  It’s ironic, in that it’s been our own pursuit of comfort that has triggered the extremes we are beginning to experience. 

Jupiter is in Cancer, the sign of comfort.  Cancer is a sweet, nurturing, childlike water sign that gives strong attachments to family, home, and neighborhood.  It’s kind, sentimental, empathic, and not particularly fond of the unfamiliar.  But Jupiter has been dealing with an opposition from Pluto, representing the forces of transformation, and so this has not been a restful time.  Everyone has been a bit tense lately. 

Earlier in January, the chemical spill affecting the water in West Virginia was an example of this aspect.  Pluto deals with toxins, pressure, stress, anxieties, and underlying cracks in the system.  My healer says that lots of people have been discovering boils, pimples and abscesses, examples of hidden poisons coming to the surface.  And of course, another random shooting incident – this one a few days ago at a mall in Columbia, Maryland – makes everyone feel more stressed, less comfortable, less safe.  While most of us just bite our nails, some people deal with intense anxiety by shooting strangers. 

This Jupiter/Pluto opposition continues through the first half of February, and it overlaps with the even more volatile Jupiter/Uranus square, which goes into orb the first week of February, and will hang around the rest of the winter.  Uranus deals with sudden shocks, disruptions and rebellions, and the Jupiter/Uranus square can signal an abundance of these.  So Jupiter in Cancer is not going to spend much time with its feet up, sipping hot cocoa before the fire this winter.  There are wolves at the door. We will all be shaken out of our comfort zones.

This may spell bad news for the more toxic leaders of the world, as they try to hold on to power in the face of the public will.  This is generally a losing battle, and even more so these days.  But those who are addicted to money and power are not going down without a fight.    

And what about the Olympics?  This is not the best time for them, especially in such a war-torn region.   But looking at the planetary patterns, I see a very different kind of problem. 

The day before the Olympics are due to start, Mercury goes retrograde in Pisces, right next to Neptune, and this is a particularly vague, confusing, disconnected influence.  This doesn’t look like bombs and mayhem, but rather like everybody wandering off in the wrong direction and never making it to the finish line.  There are quite a lot of things that could go wrong, many of them having to do with mixed signals and bad communication.

As we know, Sochi lies in the warmest region in Russian, and there has actually been no snow there this winter.   Snow is there, however, well-guarded, kept in snow vaults under thermal blankets, glued together with special snow salt.  This sounds like a pretty vulnerable situation when the eyes of the world are upon you, and when Mercury is retrograding in a water sign.  Is this alien snow really going to work out?  It sounds like the beginning of a remake of the Blob.

Bad communication can also be dangerous with the abundance of uniformed men and women who will be everywhere in Sochi.  They’ll be holding lethal pieces of hardware while listening to garbled messages through their ear-pieces.  And there’s another inhibiting influence a few days after the Olympics begin, the sun/Saturn square, which tends to delay everything.  With all this, I’m beginning to wonder if the Olympics will even happen.    

Whatever happens, Mercury will look on laughing, in its trickster aspect.  And so some of the excitement generated by the rebellious Jupiter/Uranus square will fizzle out, and some of the threats will fail without anyone ever knowing about them.   Some demonstrations will be derailed because of poor planning, and some bomb-makers will take the wrong bus and never make it to the target area.    

And some people will just have changes of heart.  There will be those who suddenly look at their guns and bombs, and don’t like what they see, and toss them in the nearest dumpster.  Some people, saddened by all the wrong around them, will join together and protest more peacefully.  Many will recognize the power and purity of non-violence.   

Pisces is a strong spiritual influence, and so some folks will start praying more, and some will have powerful and beautiful visions.  These may be visions of connection, of oneness with other people and with the earth.  And sometimes these visions will mean going backwards, making corrections, asking for forgiveness, and realigning with the best in oneself.

And that’s not necessarily comfortable either.  But in the end, it may be what saves us all.