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.