Thursday, December 1, 2016


I was as freaked as you by the election results, believe me.  Successful astrological prediction requires objectivity, and I didn’t have that, so I didn’t attempt an election prediction.  But I was lulled into a sense of security by the prevailing wisdom that Hillary would win, in spite of a lingering feeling of dread whenever I considered the alternative. 

Now that dread has taken a more concrete form, and like everybody else in the world, I’m looking at least four years of backwards motion.  I’m accustomed to dealing with backwards motion, since all the planets go retrograde occasionally.  Sooner or later, they always go direct again, and move forward into new territory.  I have no doubt that this will happen in the US as well. 

But I’m still feeling a lot of grief.  I’m devastated that we’ll have a racist in the White House, after eight years with the first Black president.  I’m sorrowful that the president will be a misogynist, after a woman came so close to shattering that glass ceiling.  And I’m traumatized by the election of a confirmed con man, during a time when so many are calling for real change. 

Astrologically, I blame it on Neptune, the planet of confusion, illusion and hypnosis.  I feel that a large chunk of the country has been under a sort of spell, and I didn’t credit it because it didn’t touch me, or most of the people I know. 

Yes, for a large part of the last year, Neptune has been squaring Saturn, and so everyone has been looking for a messiah.  Trump was an unlikely leader, all surface and no content, but he recognized that it’s all about the energy you generate, and he was good at exciting crowds, especially through corralling and focusing anger.  Seen from the outside, his rallies looked eerily like the Third Reich, but experienced from the inside, they must have been as satisfying as a good work-out (although I’m sure for some people, some sick feelings lingered a while). 

People egg each other on.  And when a huckster can tap into mob mind, and get everybody yelling and screaming the same words, he’s got a lot of power at his fingertips.  With the election over, this energy is still emerging in the increased amount of harassment on the street.  This is not a myth.  A friend of mine, an almost-bald cancer survivor, has been threatened on the street because some men saw her as too androgynous.  This was in Maryland, but there are reports like this from all over the country.   

Will Trump keep fueling this anger during his presidency?  Will he keep his mob focused on a common enemy?  He’s more likely to cause pain to his own followers than to actually hurt the objects of their ire.  There will still be as many brown-skinned people sending their kids to school, as many women calling out sexual harassment, as many gay people marching, but it will be many of his own supporters who suddenly lose their health insurance or their Medicare benefits. 

But there are ways, used by all politicians, to distract voters from all the ways they’re being screwed.  One is war.  Trump may not be smart enough to think of that, but the people around him will.  So that does worry me. 

The upcoming aspect activity is setting a tone for the coming year.  There are two exact aspects in December, and both of them will be repeated twice more during 2017.  Both involve Uranus, the planet of change.  One aspect riles Uranus up, while the other settles it down.  So this is the pattern in December, and a continuing pattern.  One day, everybody is in an uproar, and the next day, calmer minds prevail.  Then, a little while later, there’s another uproar. 

The calming influence is the trine between Saturn, planet of structure, and Uranus.  This is a fiery trine, so it’s not exactly mellow, but it does harness the innovative energy of Uranus, and move it towards organizing, building systems, and long-range planning.  

This could be a description of what progressive people will be doing.  It’s a slow, steady campaign of anchoring a particular philosophy to real-life consequences.  It involves taking responsibility for specific things, educating yourself and others, and combining new technology with established wisdom.  Everyone will be practicing and teaching, but even with many shared objectives, this is not about buying into a group mind. There’s a lot of scope for individual freedom and initiative. 

This aspect doesn’t just influence political movements.  There will be plenty of business people who are able to combine a structured plan and an exciting vision of the future.  Even if the US government maintains a regressive approach to global warming, there are many individuals who will carry on towards a cleaner, greener future.  There will be both independent efforts and some loose coordination.  This movement may not involve as much screaming and yelling as the other side, but it could still be a pretty exciting place for a young innovator.

And then there’s the other aspect, the one that shakes things up, an opposition between Jupiter and Uranus.  This is all about the rebellious, restless energy of Uranus, so it signals some pitched battles.  The confrontations that are forming in December will be forerunners of those we’ll see in 2017. 

For one thing, the legal challenges that the Trump administration will have to parry may be considerable.  Already, there’s a bump in questions about Trump’s conflicts of interest, the relationship between his businesses and his new position, and some of these come from sources that are harder to ignore.  Would Trump give up his businesses to keep the presidency?  Somehow, I don’t think so.    

For progressive movements, this Jupiter/Uranus opposition signals situations in which the message can be broadcast more dramatically, through action.  We already see this at Standing Rock, where people are protecting their homes and water supply, but also making a powerful statement against additional oil delivery infrastructure.   

I’m not sure how this can end well, however, once we have a Trump presidency.  I worry that an unsympathetic president will use the indigenous people as political footballs, reviving that old cowboy vs. Indian storyline for his own use.  Remember, his supporters are happiest when they can vent their rage at a target.   

But if anything, the explosive Jupiter/Uranus opposition shows that people will not take suppression lying down.  People will be standing up and fighting for the things that matter to them.  And whether we win or lose the open battles, the organizing work will resume, a vast underground network of practical, concentrated intention.  

Storms can come along and shake a tree, and sometimes they can topple it.   But it’s the length and depth of the roots that give it stability.  So for this month, and for the next year, my advice to everyone is to find your place somewhere in those roots.    

Friday, October 28, 2016

Halloween and Hillary

Here we are, finally at the brink of November.  I’m not sanguine, I’m still at the edge of my seat, even though all polls say that Hillary Clinton will win.  I’m not objective enough to make any kind of astrological prediction about that. 

However, at the end of the month, I do expect to have a female president-elect, for the first time in the history of the U.S.  Not just a woman, but the one who said, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” It’s a great speech, I just reread it. (  

In a couple of days, it will be Halloween, the quintessential woman’s holiday.  Like many other holidays, it began as an important pagan celebration, but unlike the others, it’s never been entirely papered over with Christian imagery.  In astrological symbolism, this time of year – the sun’s passage through Scorpio – is connected with what is hidden.  It’s the time when what lies underneath comes most alive.    

The pagan tradition is one that values the natural world.  This is an interconnected world which keeps its balance through a constant cycle of giving and receiving.  This philosophy has been largely replaced, in much of the globe, by one of hierarchy and exploitation, with women disrespected, equated with the earth and nature.  And now we are so out of balance that we are in the process of destroying our own habitat and our species. 

Looking under the surface,  I see an ancient and holistic tradition buried under centuries of patriarchal dogma.  I see oppression directed towards women’s bodies, softness and vulnerability met with violence. 

I am not so naïve as to think a woman president will allow us to retrace our steps to that earlier time.  There have been women in power before, and Hillary Clinton is a woman of acute contradictions.  She has worked hard on women’s and children’s issues, but she’s been attacked relentlessly whenever she dropped the “traditional feminine” pose and showed her strength.  And so she has lost much of her own spontaneity and trust along the way.  It’s not surprising. 

This election has been a real test of feminism, not just because Hillary Clinton is the first woman to approach the US presidency, but because her opponent is such a misogynist.  He pretty much covers all the classic misogynist postures.  He belittles women, condescends to them, exploits them sexually, and is clearly grossed out by all female bodily functions.  His posture of unrelenting dominance is an illustration of one of the most dangerous tendencies of modern humankind.

He represents something that must be peeled away, in order for us to regain our connection to the earth.  We need to rediscover what is hidden beneath, the underlying ground of human emotion.  In this Scorpio season, we can turn to Hillary Clinton, a woman with the sun, Mercury and Venus in this sign. 

I also have a Scorpio sun, and I completely understand Hillary’s desire to keep parts of herself secret, to control what the world sees of her.  This is the sign of people who feel intensely but do not reveal easily.  And Hillary Clinton has the moon in Pisces, the most sensitive of water signs, so she is doubly vulnerable on the personal level.  No wonder she approaches everything so carefully and strategically. 

And this mistrust is met with a certain amount of mistrust on the part of the people.  What’s underneath that reserve?  For many people, it feeds into their conspiracy theories.  They say she’s murdered people, plotted against anyone who challenges her, frozen people’s hearts with a glance.  They say that she’s a witch, an excuse for persecution that goes back centuries.  They say she’s a practicing lesbian. (We’re considered dangerous because we’re harder to bribe.)   

To walk in the halls of power, you need strong armor.  Hillary has that.  And still, through her life, she’s put much of her energy into the bottom-line issues that have to do with easing suffering.  So, as I prepare to go to the polls, I’m thinking:  More power to her. 

This month, there’s a square between Jupiter in Libra and Pluto in Capricorn.  Pluto is the ruler of Scorpio, and the planet of shadows, underground rivers, deep transformations, secret powers, and unconscious desires.  Jupiter, on the other hand, focuses on what is overt, prominent, and socially acceptable. 

Jupiter also represents the people’s picture of themselves, the philosophy of a community. With Jupiter squaring Pluto, there will be growing tension between the outer image that the country is presenting, and what’s going on underneath.  After the election, I can see the Republicans starting right away to conspire to retake power, to try to reestablish their past empires.  But there could also be healthier and more holistic movements tunneling underneath, like earthworms aerating a garden.   

And I’m sure there will be some overt grabs for power, as well.  At the point where I’m standing, this crossroads between a woman and a woman-hater, I’m still not sure what will happen.  I’m as nervous as a temple healer, watching soldiers from the North destroy statues of the Goddess, knowing they will destroy women next.  This old fear and anger is buried too, and I hope it has been composted into wisdom by the ages.  I don’t want revenge, only a world where both young and old women are free, freer than even men are now.    

And in this coming month, I’m ready for whatever my deep self has to teach me.   

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Basics

“I’m worried about the big march in Venezuela today.  I hope it doesn’t turn violent.”

My wife, sitting on the edge of the bed, reached down to tie her shoes.  This is the interlude when we check in with each other – after her morning shower, after I make the bed, before she drives off to work, before I make myself breakfast and start writing.  We talk about our dreams, our plans, the world, anything we’re thinking about.  Often she’s thinking about Venezuela, her homeland. 

“When does the march begin?” I asked. 

“It’s already begun.” She told me that people have been coming into Caracas for days, including tribal leaders from the Amazon who led a ritual this morning.  She paused to send me links to a bunch of newspapers and websites - El País, El Tiempo, BBC Mundo.  I read that they’re calling this event The Taking of Caracas, and that they’re expecting a million people in the streets.    

I tell her, “It’s a powerful day today, with a solar eclipse.  That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be peaceful.  But it does mean something important is beginning.”

The highway from the airport – a highway that my wife used to travel every day to go to work, a steep but beautiful highway with a view of the Caribbean sea to the north – is now taken over with tanks and anti-riot equipment. Demonstrators are coming in on buses, although sometimes these buses are held up by police roadblocks.  It’s safer to be riding in the buses of people recruited by the government for a counter-demonstration.  Opposition leaders have been jailed, or moved from house arrest to prison.  

They are saying that the march will be peaceful.  They’re marching for a referendum which could revoke the powers of the president, something that’s allowed in the constitution.  But the government is drawing parallels between today’s march and the rally in 2002 that turned into a coup, temporarily ousting Hugo Chávez.  Earlier this week, all TV stations were obligated to show a documentary about that event, entitled “Keys to a Massacre”. 

The march’s goals seem fairly abstract.  The referendum is being held up by the government’s electoral body, and once it's allowed to proceed, the signatures of  20% of the voting population will be collected, and this will force a new vote.  But the basic issues are not abstract.  Food has shifted from a basic human need to a challenging struggle, involving being in the right place at the right time, standing in line for hours, managing not to get robbed, and still getting ripped off in the end by monstrous inflation.   

And this eclipse in Virgo is all about the basics – nutrition, health, daily life.  It’s about the little things which, day by day, become the foundation of the future.  What kind of future is built on fear, anger and scarcity?  A solid foundation comes from children with strong bones, the free time to learn new things, and the good will that comes from a full stomach. 

So we are at a crossroads.  Which future are we engaged in building?  There is an eclipse at the new moon today, and another eclipse at the full moon on September 16.  Both of these engage the Virgo/Pisces axis, the tension between small details and larger visions.  The Virgo side boils down to:  how do we make it work?  How do we organize our society so that it gives us the basics that we need?  The Pisces side is about empathy, compassion, and spiritual awareness, the softening agents that encourage us to work for the common good. 

In addition, Mercury is retrograde for most of the month, until September 22.  So the focus is on reclaiming.  There may be many important inventions that haven’t yet been developed, and that will play a crucial part in our future.  But there are many more methods and techniques that we already know about, things we don’t use because there’s no profit involved.  We need to reclaim these basic skills.  We need both Virgoan skills – how can we do it better? – and Piscean skills – how do we connect to each other and create one shared, peaceful earth? 

In addition, Jupiter changes signs in September, something that only happens once a year.  The Jupiter sign points to social preoccupations, and gives a particular direction to collective improvements.  For the past year, Jupiter’s been in Virgo.  What have we seen during this time?  For one thing, and for the first time, all nations agreed to reduce climate emissions at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Will the commitments made there be enough to save us as a species?  Maybe, maybe not.  But Virgo is all about small steps.  At least we’re trying to figure out a sustainable way to live on this planet. 

This month – on September 9 – Jupiter is entering Libra, a much more abstract sign.  At its best, it’s the sign of equality, peace and partnership, and we can hope for new peace initiatives and a stronger commitment to justice. 

But while Libra is a sign that fosters cooperation, it can also give a tendency to try to be all things to all people.  Libra gives the ability to see both sides of any equation, and this can give a gift for compromise and diplomacy, but it can also mean endless debate and argument.  You can see this with Donald Trump, who has Jupiter in Libra, and is skilled at playing different factions against each other.

Is it good for Trump that Jupiter is entering the sign it occupied when he was born?  I have to say yes.  Does this mean he’ll win?  I certainly hope not!  I have to note that Bill Clinton has Jupiter in Libra, and it was in this sign when he won the presidency.  But I’m not despairing.  Hopefully it just means that the election and its aftermath will make Trump richer than ever, and that will count as a win in his book. 

What will Jupiter in Libra mean for the opposition in Venezuela?   This sign tends towards balance between opposing social elements, so it won’t necessarily mean an immediate victory.  However, we can look to Venezuela in 1945.  Then, under Jupiter in Libra, there was a coup by Acción Democrática, a party that was still operating in Venezuela when I lived there fifty years later.  So sometimes the balance shifts. 

The eclipses of September do signal a change. For those living in the most unbalanced places in the world, this shift could just be a matter of a million people congregating in the street, giving weight to their basic human need for sustenance.  We humans been coming together to help each other eat for millennium;  it’s something we do.  But when we obstruct each other’s access to food, something has to give. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Real and the Unreal

We’ve been going through a period of hype, hope, glamour and confusion, with the Saturn/Neptune square, and it’s not over yet.  In fact, it won’t be over until early October, giving people one short month to come to their senses before the election. 

Saturn is the Crone planet, the one that represents the Wise Elder.  It’s all about the ability to take responsibility, to build clear structures, to discipline yourself in order to reach certain goals.  Saturn is the planet of caution, experience, and realism, so it’s pretty clear which candidate is more Saturnine. 

On the other side is Neptune, the planet of mysticism and imagination.  Neptune represents the fantastic illusions of, say, the Wizard of Oz.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  But even though he keeps making awkward moves and showing who he really is, the glamour holds.  He could shoot somebody and they’d still vote for him.  That’s the magic of pixie dust, a lovely blurry filter made up of expensive suits, good television angles, and spontaneous superlatives. 

To be adult, or to live in a fantasy?  That’s the choice that’s underlined by the Saturn/Neptune square. 

Of course, there’s another way to see this.  Saturn is also the planet of limits, restrictions, and fears.  It represents an earthy reality, enclosed within a set of established laws.  It gives little room for change.  It’s safe, but maybe too safe?

Neptune, on the other hand, is odd, tricky, fey, with the ability to change its shape.  It represents the yearning for something cosmic and beautiful, something beyond our current choices.  A celestial city, a dream of peace.  And there’s nothing Neptunian about the brutish tendencies shown by the Republican candidate.  So you could say that Bernie is the Neptunian choice, and the impossibility of him being elected just adds to that - because Neptune is the planet of beautiful fantasies. 

Bernie himself is a much earthier and more pragmatic guy.  He’s got a lot of air signs in his natal chart, so he’s definitely an idealist, but he’s not particularly woolly or dreamy.  With his Neptune conjunct the north node in Virgo, his destiny in this life is to attract dreamers and then point them towards concrete, human-sized solutions to problems.  This has been somewhat flattening for some of his supporters.

With every illusion, disillusionment naturally follows.  This is not to say that dreams don’t sometimes come true, but this only happens when there are at least a few real, solid ingredients in the formula.  Since Bernie is an earthy guy, his candidacy didn’t lack for concrete proposals, and there’s a good chance that most of them will be adopted through the years.  But the illusion was that this country was ready for a revolution, an actual dramatic restructuring of the economic hierarchy by a Socialist.  And the people who are in the worst shape, who might be ready for revolution, don’t necessarily want an old white guy leading the charge.

On the other side, the Republican candidate has nothing particularly solid in his repertoire, so there’s really nowhere for his acolytes to go when it all falls apart.  He brings up a nostalgia for a time that was simpler for white folks, when the rules were clear and nobody else had any rights to speak of.  His constituency consists of a bunch of people whose time has passed, but who are unwilling or unable to embrace another way of living.  

You could say that Neptune is about living in service to a dream.  Some dreams may be worth serving, because they make you and other people happy.  I think artists embody this.  But there are other kinds of unreal constructs that are less innocent, and racism is one of these.  It’s a world view that postulates all kinds of magic powers to one group, and pins unwieldy caricatures and angry projections onto others.  This country has been caught in this bad dream, this skein of illusions which is going through a long, slow unraveling process.  And those who are clinging to it are destined to fall the hardest.     

But as Neptune weaves its spell on us, Saturn keeps finding the words, ideas, and practical necessities that bring us down to earth.  Saturn is about looking around you and seeing what’s really going on, and because of that, Saturn can be damned depressing.  This is not an easy time for a lot of people, and it’s probably easiest for those who are most removed from reality.  So if you’re feeling some pain, congratulate yourself.  You’re dealing. 

In August, Saturn stations, which means it appears to hold still.  It stays at 9° Sagittarius for most of the month, so if you have any planet close to 9° in any mutable sign (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius or Pisces), you’ll be more affected by this square.  You’ll be feeling Saturn’s static voice in your bones, while Neptune’s haunting tones seduce you at odd moments. 

But for all of us, this is a time when we're aware of the two sides of this conflict.  Saturn says, “This is the world.  Get used to it!” and Neptune says, “None of this is real at all.”  Can we find a meeting place between these two voices?  Can we find magic in the world, and a little more of the world in our magic?  Can we be gentle with ourselves as our bubbles burst, rather than castigating ourselves as fools, or seeing the world as too sharp and cruel? 

It’s just the world:  a rocky place with enough gravity to keep us anchored here, while strange thought-balloons drift over our heads.  The wind catches them and they turn into wisps:  feelings and memories and stories. We have to let them go.  There will always be more.  

Friday, June 3, 2016

The High Winds of June

I’ve officially turned into an old lady since last month’s blog, since I’m walking with a cane now.  It’s a knee problem, which I keep insisting (to myself and to anyone in earshot) is temporary, but still the cane is a marker, especially combined with flyaway white hair and skin sag.  I’ve been a granny for nine years now, but suddenly, I look more like everybody’s definition of one.  

It’s weird to be moving so slowly in such a fast-moving time.  There is so much happening, in my own life and around me, that it’s hard to keep up.  I just got back from Womonwrites, my much-loved lesbian writers’ conference, and I’m about to go to Where Womyn Gather, a festival of womyn’s spirituality.  All of these things involve a higher intensity of thinking, feeling, talking, connecting, and driving – and I am trying to do it with very little standing or walking. 

I have now become aware of the intricate strategies used by disabled women.  Sisters, I never before realized the care and focus with which you go through your days.  Whatever else I’m learning from this, it’s broadened my awareness in that area.

It does make sense that I’m simultaneously dealing with slowness and speed, because we’re all handling some very contradictory influences this month.  The new moon on June 4 sets the tone for the month.  There’s a mutable grand cross, and this is sensitive, changeable energy.  It rushes here, rushes there, gets distracted midway, changes its mind and heads back the way it came.  It’s like a flock of butterflies, random and inspired. 

And yet one of the planets involved is Saturn, the planet of resistance, delays, and obstruction.  Saturn keeps trying to formalize things, to turn all these skittish ideas into some kind of resolution.  What are we doing?  Where are we going?  We need a plan!!  The other planets in the mutable grand cross just keep zinging through the air, headstrong, excited and heedless, while Saturn tries to catch them.  Yes, Saturn is like a big butterfly net, determined to pin things down. 

If Saturn is sitting on one of your planets, then you may be feeling stuck, while all around you, there’s a bewitching, confusing, bewildering fluttering of wings.  If you have planets in the middle of any mutable sign (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius or Pisces), this will particularly affect you.  I do, and I’m definitely fingering Saturn as responsible for my uncooperative knee.  Of course, Saturn is also sponsoring whatever wisdom I’m supposed to glean from this.    

The other planets are Jupiter and Neptune.  Jupiter is all about abundance, enthusiasm, and growth, the antithesis of Saturn.  With Jupiter and Saturn squaring each other, there’s an ongoing tension between the urge to surge forward and the need to hold back.  Jupiter is in Virgo, the most sensitive of the earth signs, the one that is drawn to heal, fix and organize whatever is sick, broken, or chaotic. 

The Achilles heel of Virgo is a sense of absolute certainty about what needs fixing, and how to do it.  And you are probably seeing this all around you.  People are absolutely convinced they know how to make things better for their friends, family, the country, and the world, and if everybody would just get on board and use these particular tools and methods, everything would be okay.  Jupiter in Virgo, especially when it’s dealing with all this resistance from Saturn, can be zealous and dogmatic.

And Neptune is the planet which rules hypnosis, illusion and imagination, so there could be a shortage of clarity.  All those people claiming they know the one true path – well, they could be completely deluded.   You have probably been thinking that at least half of them are, mainly the half that don’t agree with you.  I think this too.  Why are people so convinced they’ve found their Messiah?  That never works out well.  Or is it just that I lack faith? 

Whatever you can say about this rambunctious, noisy period, at least it’s very much alive.  With the Gemini new moon ushering in the month, the level of talk and writing will rise.  New ideas are popping up everywhere, some of them completely nonsensical, some of them brilliant.  The future is taking shape, and it’s hard to see, because the images are changing at breakneck speed, with a prescient idea one second and a crazy notion the next.  We all know that some new possibilities are coming into being, but how to separate them from the static? 

This is a time to reconcile faith and intellect, and to work on untangling many other internal contradictions.  A mutable grand cross contains all four of the elements, so fire, water, earth and air are jockeying for position.  Mental clarity is burned away by passion, passion gives way to hard realities, reality is denied because of emotional needs, and deep needs are asked to justify themselves intellectually.

But the elements can work together, and each can grow during this period of testing.  If you can stay intellectually clear in the face of passion and anger, you can keep learning.  If you can be passionate in the face of pragmatic realities, you can remain inspired and involved.  If you can maintain your hold on reality even though your feelings are churning, you are truly grounded.  And if you can believe in the truth of your emotions no matter what your rational mind is telling you, then you’re in touch with your own intuitive wisdom.

I don’t have to tell you to keep moving.  There’s nothing but movement this month.  There are some strong winds that keep stirring everything up, rearranging any order you set up for yourself.  For myself, I may be walking very slowly, but there are still ways that I can fly. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Unhurried May

I wake up in the morning when my wife’s second alarm goes off.  (I usually manage to sleep through the first one.)  She drags herself out of bed and into the shower, and I pry my eyes open and grab my phone.  I thumb up some music.  This morning the first song was a Cris Williamson tune that I fell in love with more than thirty years ago.   After that was a modern cover of a song that was a hit sixty years ago.    

Yes, there are five planets retrograde right now.  So if you feel that you’re easing a little more into the past every day, that’s why.  This is the time to catch up on yourself.  Rediscover the things you loved, especially the things you’ve allowed yourself to forget. 

For myself, I’ve felt this strong desire to set my life in order.  There are lots of things that have gotten more and more disorganized through the last few months.  What is in that pile of papers, my “Deal With This Sooner Or Later” pile?  Maybe I should have dealt with some of that stuff by now? 

There’s private history, and then there’s collective history.  Every day as I check my facebook feed, I find links to political essays.  My friends who are Bernie supporters post the most, and I read everything.  I often find myself searching through the internet, wanting to find out more about the things they reference.  “Is this really true?” I ask, and then I look for more information.  Often it’s true, but not the whole truth.  I follow the sedimentary layers back into history.  Sometimes I remember the atmosphere at those times.  I remember what it was like. 

My friend writes an eloquent essay against incrementalism, claiming that all the bad things have happened suddenly, so why should we take an incremental approach to the good things?  But when I look back, I see changes – both negative and positive – as slow processes. 

Of course, some things happen quickly.  In my 64 years, there have been pivotal moments  – such as the Roe vs. Wade decision,  the Berlin Wall falling, apartheid in South Africa ending, the first African-American president, and the Supreme Court giving gay people the right to marry.  But even the things that happen quickly are built on years of organizing, and are followed by years of backlash and re-organizing.   

So I guess I am an incrementalist, a practical liberal, since I haven’t jumped into the Bernie fervor.   The discovery that I’m not as much a leftist as I thought I was has been a little disconcerting at times.  (I also thought I would have a lifelong exemption from joint pain if I kept doing yoga.  Ha ha.  Silly me.)  But with all these planets retrograding, it makes sense that I’m backtracking, examining everything more closely. 

The month begins with four planets in Taurus, a cautious influence.  Taurus is the sign of preparation, the gardener’s sign.  it’s an earth sign, and it is conservative in the same way the earth is conservative.  There’s change, but it happens within a particular repeating pattern, and the pattern only shifts slowly over time.  Eons pass, the earth floats through her cycle, and we humans, like all the other species, have to find our niche, and change ourselves to adjust to the conditions here.  And when we aren’t able to do that, we’ll be toast, and other species will move in to fill our spot.

Even though Taurus is generally a slow-moving sign, resistant to change, there are two configurations that point to May as an important month.  There’s a great trine in earth signs, and a T-square in mutable signs, and both of these are likely to manifest in historically important events. 

Great trines show successful events, those that are carried through to fruition and that have a strong effect.  There are always at least two ways to look at everything that happens, so this doesn’t say that a successful event will be a good thing.  But it does show that, this month, something could happen that marks a turning point in a long, slow process. 

The Boston Tea Party happened under a very similar great trine in earth signs.  The demonstration not only worked – they managed to dump all that tea without falling in and drowning themselves – but it lit the fuse on a revolution.  However, you could say that the American Revolution wasn’t that good for everyone.  It solidified a hierarchy of rich white men in this country, did it not? 

The other configuration, the mutable T-square, is thornier, more disruptive, more confusing, and more conflict-prone.  And this T-square, since it involves a hard aspect between Jupiter and Saturn, could indicate economic downturns.  But the question is:  for whom?  Since most of the wealth in this world is gathered into the hands of a very few, they are the most likely to lose under this influence.  Will there be further repercussions from the Panama Papers?   Is this about the continuing agitation from the Bernie Sanders camp? 

Even though some dramatic events are likely, the effect may not be instantaneous.  Since there are so many retrograde planets, and since Jupiter moves hardly at all in May, there’s a sense that everything is fixed in space and time.  We’re all so busy looking backwards that we may not notice the crossroads until we’ve long passed it.  Then we can look back and say, “Hey, that was a time of change.  And we were there.”

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Young World

The world is young.  This morning I noticed that our azalea bushes are getting ready to bloom.  The grass is growing out and getting raggedy.  Rabbits appear, nibbling on all the new weeds in our yard.  The birdsong is louder, and my windows are open. 

The coming month is full of fiery influences.  The fire signs are fresh, impetuous, spontaneous, playful – like spring.  They’re also hot-blooded, impatient, and sometimes combative.  Throughout April, we have four to five planets in fire signs.  The second strongest element this month will be earth, and this helps ground the energy somewhat.

Of all the fire signs, Aries is the most rambunctious and dynamic, and there will be a strong Aries influence all through April.  So there will be plenty of passion, especially among the young.  I remember what it was like being young, that constant high level of excitement, anxiety and confusion, and the endless search for a larger meaning.  Young people are vital, creative, full of promise - but also so easily exploited, so often lacking in worldly power.      

Ever since the sun entered Aries, there’s been a spate of deadly terrorist activity -  in Belgium, Turkey, Iraq, Yemen, and Pakistan.  In Lahore, sixty-nine picnickers died, many of them young, many children.  And although I know nothing of the suicide bomber who carried out the attack, it’s likely he was also young. 

The fire signs are the heroic ones, the ones who want to demonstrate their courage and dedication to noble principles.  When a suicide bomber is surrounded by people praising him for this “selfless” act, how can he turn away from it?  He’s caught up in the worship of violence.  Violence is a fetish in every culture in the world today, although in some much more than in others.   Handling instruments of death and destruction, a person becomes as powerful as a god, for just a moment – and then it’s over.  

With the sun in Aries, this culture of violence is even more apparent to all of us.  We no longer live in a world where the young are carried up a mountain and sacrificed to the gods with an obsidian blade.  But still, we practice human sacrifice, and it’s a cause of great suffering.

Even in this fiery month, there’s one factor that might slow the bloodshed, and that’s Mars turning retrograde.  Mars is the ruler of Aries, and it’s the planet of action, will, physicality, desire, anger, combat, competition, blood and war.  It retrogrades once every two years, and then stays in apparent reverse motion for a little over two months. 

Usually Mars makes a few aspects every month, and these aspects make it visible.  When it makes a soft aspect to another planet, that planet is suddenly vitalized, and things get done.  When it makes a hard aspect to another planet, the planet has to struggle with some conflictive energy.  Either way, the rough, fast energy of Mars comes through. 

But this month, Mars makes no aspects to any other planet.  It hovers there, barely moving.  In April, its function seems to be mainly jinxing most plans to move forward.  On all sides, monkey wrenches will be thrown, and gears will grind.  It takes a while to find the wrench, extricate it, and get the engine fixed, and when that’s done, something else may break down.  There’s a pervasive uncertainty, very different from Mars’ usual brashness. 

This is not a particularly good month to attack anybody, especially after mid-month.  And when people do attack each other, they’re likely to end up hurting themselves.  But this doesn’t mean that people will stop trying, since all this fiery energy seeks outlets.  However, we may see more people burnt by their own matches.  For example, more of the GOP front-runner’s insults could bounce back onto himself.  More of his people may get busted for enacting violence on people in the crowd. 

The point of Mars retrograde is to turn us all away from business as usual.  How do we use our energy, our passion, our will, our amazing physical bodies?  What are we doing with these resources?  When we come to a place where new beginnings are possible, what do we choose to do?  What doors do we open?  What paths do we create, leading to which futures?

This is the month of the Aries new moon, always a great time to plan the future.  It’s the optimum time for planting seeds, both literally and figuratively.  It’s a time of renewal for this world we’re living in, a place that’s abundant, surprising, and beautiful.  There’s so much we can do here, and this is the time to experiment, to try new things, to follow our inspirations.

With Mars retrograde, we will have to pause though, to look at the situation in a different way, and sometimes even to refrain from whatever we passionately desire in the moment.  We might have to attend to the things we’ve learned from the past.  We might need patience, and a sense of humor.  We might have to take a lot of deep breaths until an impulse passes, especially if the impulse involves firearms.  And if we can’t resist, and we throw a punch, or lob an insult, we might need to step back, before the energy comes around to us again. 

The world is young, and full of vigor.  All that we long for is before us.  And also before us are the shadows, the contradictions, the wounds and knotholes, everything that’s part of living.  It’s never quite as simple as it appears at first.  It’s okay to hesitate, in this moment, as we stand here and imagine the new world we are entering.   


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Unhinged Party

Although it’s cold, it’s exhilarating to walk outside and feel that fierce wind blowing away one season and bringing on the next.  March is always an amazing month, since the return of spring never seems quite possible.  Those naked, barren trees are like a permanent feature of the landscape, but it won’t be long before it all comes to life. 

This month holds even more change than usual.  Not only are there two eclipses, but the outer planets are involved in a dance led by Jupiter.  There are indications of rebellion – Jupiter is inconjunct Uranus, the planet of change.  There are hints of deeper reform – Jupiter is trine Pluto, planet of long-term trends.  And there’s financial instability – Jupiter is square Saturn, planet of limitation.  All this in one month. 

With the surge of primaries and caucuses in March, it’s clear that stakes are being raised, bets are being placed, and winners and losers declared.  But I think that more is going on. 

My own feeling is that the Republican Party is in its death throes.  It’s becoming unhinged, dividing itself into two parties, at odds with each other.  If they do give Trump the nomination, then a big block of Republicans will split off, call themselves something different, and run their own candidate.  If they manage not to nominate him, he’ll start his own movement of renegade Republicans.  My sense is that there are people working out plans for both these eventualities, right now. 

It figures that the Republican Party would divide eventually.  It’s been the party of racists and millionaires, and what do these two constituencies have in common?  Not all that much.   The goal of uber-wealthy families is to hang on to their assets, and the goal of racists is to hold on to a perceived personal superiority, even when it doesn’t benefit them in any way. 

For the last fifty years, the super-wealthy have used racism and misogyny as tools, sometimes overtly and sometimes subtly, as ways to increase their own power and influence.  Anything that makes money for them is branded as good, and anything that distributes money more fairly  – unions, public education, welfare, women’s rights – is bad, or sometimes just terminally unhealthy, and is blamed on “those people”.  This has been the tactic that created the modern Republican party. 

But we live in something of a democracy, and so politicians have had to come out in favor of the things that ordinary (non-rich) people want.  This requires artfulness.  They have to say “small business” when they mean big corporations, “safety” when they’re talking about profit-driven prisons, and “national security” when they’re trying to boost weapons dealers.  

And now here comes a politician who has none of that artfulness, and who threatens to collapse the whole structure by being too obvious about it.  He blurts out racist and misogynist things instead of using the well-honed dog whistles that his party has refined over the decades.  Even though he’s a millionaire himself, he doesn’t seem to have learned the language very well.  He doesn’t have that millionaire sense of solidarity. 

So, like an iceberg in Antarctica, the Republican Party is going to calve.  That doesn’t mean we’ll be better off as a nation, although we could make some progress during the time it takes for it – or the new party -  to build itself up again.

And what about the eclipses of March?  The first one, a total solar eclipse on March 8, has Jupiter in Virgo facing off against the sun, moon, Mercury and Neptune in Pisces.  This mass of Pisces planets is like the solid dedication of true believers, who only need something or someone who will fulfill their fantasies of deliverance. 

This yearning to believe in something has a lot to do with Trump’s success.  He’s the “Great White Hope”, a figure who can rescue the flawed dreams that have been fed to white people in the US.  We’ve seen him in history before, and it doesn’t usually work out too well.  But this figure has been known to do a lot of damage before going down in flames.    

On the other side of the wheel is Jupiter in Virgo, which represents the principle of social organization.  With Jupiter in an earthy sign, this is a practical process, involving observation, good tools, and a certain amount of trial-and-error.  A static society is not a healthy one, and so Jupiter in Virgo represents change that’s both logical and ecological.  Ideally, everything grows organically and cooperatively.  Of course, for true believers, this is limiting and even boring.

Then on March 23, there’s a penumbral lunar eclipse.  It’s not quite as intense, but because the sun is in the fire sign Aries, there are conflicts that now move into the open.  This eclipse emphasizes the Aries/Libra axis, which is about independence vs. law.  Rebellious movements could gain a foothold. 

The Jupiter/Saturn square is very close, and so there could also be an economic downturn around the time of this eclipse.  This won’t necessarily last a long time, but it’s a good idea to be a bit more frugal in March, in preparation for this.  There could be a moment of reckoning when many people have to figure out what to do about long-term commitments.  Can we still afford to do the things we once planned? 

As a society, we may also have to look at long-term plans.  Saturn is in Sagittarius, the sign of travel, so problems with roads and bridges may become more evident, and perhaps very dangerous.  Funds will need to be diverted to deal with this, and where will these funds come from?  The millionaire class, and their pet politicians, will join together with an obvious answer:  let’s try again to get rid of health care. 

But Jupiter’s other aspects do point to change, so there will be a regrouping.  For many of us, spring is a chance to sketch out the world we’d like to live in.  If nature can reinvent herself, why can’t we?  For myself, I’d like to see a world with neither racists nor millionaires, but I think that will take more than one season. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Stern Winter

January was bleak, in more ways than one.  Midway through the month, my family lost a brave, smart woman to an aggressive cancer.  Carol was gone way too soon; she wasn’t even sixty.  And not long after she died, the whole world turned white, and the snow pinned us in our houses. 

So in February, I am ready to learn whatever it is I’m supposed to learn from all this.  I want the snow to melt, making slow rivers on the sidewalks and the streets.  And I want wisdom to seep into my mind, bit by bit, so that I can make it through the rest of the winter, and whatever future winters come my way. 

Outside, as I write this, it’s warming, and I can hear the snow sliding off the roof.  On my desktop, there’s an 18th century painting: a lady in pale blue silk, with a long nose and soft, mousy brown hair.  Her name was Elisabeth, and she looks calm and friendly as she sits for her portrait, as relaxed as anyone could be under such a large, diaphanous hat.

For the painter, Adelaide Labille-Guiard, all that mattered then was adding the right amount of green to the background, bringing out the pale tones of the portrait.  Neither of them knew that seven years later, Elisabeth – who was sister to the king – would be beheaded in the Reign of Terror, and Adelaide would be burning her canvasses of the royal family, in order to save herself.     

I look to Elisabeth for wisdom because her life and death are a closed circle, 222 years in the past.  Surely when we see the entirety of a life, we can parse its meaning.  Instead, I see a labyrinth of shifting fortunes, love and loyalty, fear and pride.  And then there are larger weather systems that alter the paths of hundreds of people, although each person falls as an individual.   

Astrologers study closed circles all the time, mapping out the flow of energy, correlating the shapes we see with other shapes from the past.  But we are always feeling our way, because life is an experiment that can never be replicated exactly.  And the messages we read are always slightly garbled, waiting for us to smooth them out and turn them into a reasonable probability. 

Sometimes I resist this process of reading the chart, of making it yield something practical.  It often gives useful information, but I always wonder what I’ve lost.  What richer messages am I ignoring?  What mysteries won’t yield to language?  

Once I went to a workshop that presented the planets as literal gods, and each birthchart showed the way we surrender to these gods. But most of us are not willing to surrender, to give up our sense of autonomy, even when we sense we’re surrounded by something looming and powerful.     

January called to mind those hard and demanding gods.  The month has been powerful, relentless, like an avalanche of snow scouring a mountainside.  And as we end the month, we’re stripped down to our bones. 

And this comes from Pluto, symbolic of the calloused hand of destiny.  It’s ironic that a dwarf planet shows up when we have this feeling of being swamped by oversized fates which we can’t control.  But January was very Pluto-driven.  First the sun conjuncted it, and then Mercury slowed down to a crawl, and stationed right next to Pluto.  As February begins, it’s still there, and when Mercury eases away in a few days, Venus will move in and take its place. 

How can one learn anything from these Pluto aspects?  You’re just trying to survive.  And yet this is when we learn things on the deepest level, in our bones and teeth and hair.   When we’re in survival mode, we’re trapped in a room with our wildest and hungriest selves, and no formula will turn these into docile pets.  But at some point, often years later, we honor the parts of ourselves that sacrificed everything, that became unrecognizable, in order to show us the way out of that room. 

About midway through February,  Pluto will stand alone once more.  There will be no planets conjuncting it, no henchmen to do its bidding.  The sun, Mercury and Venus will all have moved into Aquarius, and this is definitely a more hopeful and autonomous sign than Capricorn.  The focus will turn to friendship and community.  Suddenly, there will be more room to move around, to try something new. 

Aquarius allows objectivity, a certain distance between an experience and its meaning.  We don’t have to learn everything through the body, through the hard and barren earth, through the shovel and the rock. Knowledge will circulate more freely among people, and of course, there will be plenty of clashes of opinion in February, because people never agree on what’s true.  And the further you are from survival mode, the more truths there are. 

And then on February 19, the sun will enter Pisces for the last, dreamy month of winter.  This is the month when we all need our private escape routes, in order to imagine the green we’ve forgotten.  This is the month when people leave their bodies without a whisper, hoping that there are other worlds with flowers and soft breezes.  But this is also the time when we incubate whatever we want to be born in the spring.

For now, we’re buffeted by winter, and it’s all too real.  It may be too soon to say what we’ve learned.  All we can do is hunker down and study the face of time.  It’s the devil we know all too well, and the wisdom we always gain the hard way.    

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Look at 2016

After the glitz of Christmas, it’s hard to settle down into a winter and a new year.  The rituals connected with the holidays and the year’s turning have left me sensitized, sentimental, and also a little vulnerable.    

The first week of 2016 has gone by, and I’m sitting at my desk, staring out at the late-afternoon dusk, and thinking about the rest of the year.   So far, 2016 seems lean and still, like the grey and brown landscape out my window.  When I see a squirrel or a bird, I feel grateful for that dash of movement. 

It feels almost sacrilegious to be speaking out in this winter wrap of silence.  It seems to ask for quiet, for acceptance, for humility in the face of its inexorable rhythms.  What can I say about the year to come?

At about that moment, writer’s block came crashing down, and I opened facebook.  I went to my brother’s page to find out what is going on with him, and he’d posted something about political correctness, and I answered at length from a feminist perspective, and then someone posted a counterpoint to something I said from a transgender perspective and then I wrote a response, and then I thought, what the heck am I doing?, and erased it.  Clearly I do not have writer’s block if I can go on like this. 

So here I am again, on this page, trying to wrap my brain around 2016.   Yes, it looks like we’ll have many of the same old struggles this year.  Pluto is about halfway through Capricorn, and so I would say we’re about halfway through what the history books will call the Age of the Corporations.  They’ll describe this as the period between 2008 and 2023, when the wealth and power of corporations reached such extremes that a new form of feudalism was created, and then quite suddenly, the whole structure collapsed. 

Of course, neither the build-up of corporate power nor the collapse happen alone.  Corporate power will be  weakened by a great pack of termites, in the form of legal work, revolutionary movements, and political efforts.  Notice how I moved from the past tense to the present there.  That’s because we’re living it now, this year.  But it is useful to keep checking in with a historical perspective, and that’s the gift of astrology – to offer a larger sense of the cycles.  Of course, interpretation is always the product of one mind, firmly rooted in her own time.    

But 2016 is definitely a year of struggle.  The year begins with an angry aspect, the square of Mercury and Mars, as Mercury retrogrades.  This can bring up a lot of old blood feuds.  Then there’s the Uranus/Pluto square, which has been going on (off and on) since 2012, and it’s in orb during the first three months of this year.  It makes for more extremes, a stronger tendency to push and to resist.  So throughout this winter, there will be lines drawn in the sand, literally and figuratively.   We see this happening right now in Oregon, as a small right-wing attempt at a coup develops. 

The other hard aspect this year is the Saturn/Neptune square, and we already saw this in operation in November and December of 2015.  It manifested as a surge of fear, mainly directed towards refugees,.  It will be back in 2016 for a much longer time, between May and October, so we’ll be dealing with a period of continuing delusions and anxieties. 

Archetypically, you can see this Saturn/Neptune square in various ways.  One way would be the clash between the old people and the strangers.  Saturn represents the established structure of things, guarded by the old people.  Neptune represents the stranger:  anyone who seems odd, fey, peculiar, or disquieting.  Since I’m an old person and can easily disguise any tendency to be peculiar when I’m out in public, I do have to think about my own biases and assumptions.  I have to look at what I spend energy preserving.    

At the same time, Saturn is the planet of tradition, and the oldest of traditions can be especially valuable, having to do with respecting the earth and practical human experience.  Saturn can be about survival.  And Neptune can represent mesmerizing fantasies, dreams, and our tendency to lie to ourselves and to distract ourselves with glitter, lights and toys. 

Neptune can also be about the pull of religion, the tendency to make up dream figures and then insist that everybody bow before them.  Saturn can counter that with knowledge of the earth and its basic laws.  As global warming advances, Saturn could be a good defense, since it’s about paring back, cutting back on the waste of resources. 

At the same time, Neptune can be about spiritual awareness, the knowledge that there is way more going on than we can take in, with our limited senses.  And Saturn can be skeptical, even cynical.  Saturn is a planet of winter, and has a hard time recognizing that spring will eventually come. 

So in 2016 we’ll work on the interplay between what is established and what is strange, in many different ways.  The war between the secular approach and the dogma of religion will have many fronts.  People will come to terms with their fear of those who are different, and the gender continuum will become ever more apparent, and unsettling to some folks. 

At the same time, there need to be some touchstones, some caution, when it comes to diving into both seductive dreams and alienating hallucinations.  We need people who will say, “This isn’t real,” and then we need to talk seriously about whether what we’re seeing is just a stray dream floating into our collective consciousness, or the first dim shadow of a new paradigm.