Days of high wind have blown all the leaves off the trees. Autumn seemed short to me this year: just a glimpse of bright red and yellow before it was gone.
And now we’re moving into the most manic season, when people have long lists of emotionally-freighted ritualistic tasks to do. We are pretty minimal about this in our household. But, every year, I do haul some ornaments down from the attic and decorate a table-top tree. I feel compelled to do it because the little figurines are so weighted down with bits of our shared history. I can’t leave them to languish up there in the attic.
Ritual binds us to our families and our community, and religious ritual does this most of all. Religion gives us permission to move completely out of our logical minds, and to imagine something greater, wiser and more beautiful than ourselves. We need this more than ever now, because we’ve been living through a cold, tough year.
Things are heating up, though. Jupiter is now moving through Sagittarius, the most zealous and passionate sign in the zodiac, the sign of shared beliefs, of organized religion, of wider philosophies. The sun is always here at this time of year (until the winter solstice), and Mercury will be here most of the month as well. And so this year, I expect everyone to celebrate a little more intensely, to believe more earnestly than ever.
At the same time, the astrological backdrop is still very conservative. Pluto and Saturn are still moving through Capricorn, the sign of time and structure, a sign that tends towards formality, hierarchy, seriousness, and caution.
Yes, the Democrats took the House back, and this is something to cheer long and hard about. But we’ve scrambled up this cliff before. And conditions are not exactly hospitable up on top, with Trump talking gibberish in the presidency, McConnell squashing progress in the Senate, and a Supreme Court tilting towards the right. What we’ve won is a little more power to confront this hard wall of established privilege.
The coming month is very mutable, and mutable signs are sensitive, changeable, and impulsive. The strongest influence at the new moon (December 7) is a mutable square between sun/moon in Sagittarius and Mars/Neptune in Pisces. So this is not an easy month to make progress. The passion and excitement of Sagittarius can easily dissipate in the emotional swamps of Pisces.
And the Mars/Neptune conjunction is not an easy pairing, since these planets are so different. Mars is active while Neptune floats aimlessly. Mars is about individual effort, while Neptune is generational and transpersonal. Mars is about identifying a desire and doing something about it, while Neptune is about picking up cosmic currents and aligning yourself with them. When these planets come together, there’s often a little frustration (for Mars), and a little passive resistance (from Neptune).
Neptune can lift you up, though, and Mars is ever eager to move in some direction or another, so this could be a month full of magical experiences. People may be more aligned with their intuition, more graceful and responsive, more spiritually aware. But Neptune is also the planet of fantasy and illusion, so some people could completely check out of reality. They could go around in circles, chasing lovely chimera. They could find themselves dizzy with celestial longings that never coalesce into anything real.
There’s a strong current of unreality moving through our body politic here in the US. Of course, all these elaborate conspiracy theories show some creativity. I used to laugh admiringly at the crazy stories printed in the Weekly World News - “Alien baby is implanted in potato! Nose falls off its owner’s face and walks!” (I may have made those up, but they could easily have been printed there.)
But the recent trend towards public deception is more sobering. It’s a shadowy art that feeds on people’s fears. It’s a vampire. It’s always been around, but the global communications network has vitalized it, given it lots of new blood to feed on. And to drain this metaphor further, it has to be killed with the stake of truth.
Neptune is also a planet that relates to addiction, and that’s always a problem at this time of year, especially combined with Sagittarian impulsiveness. There are people reaching for opium or alcohol, looking for that crystalline joy that they once felt during the holidays, looking for an end to pain so that they can just enjoy the season. There are people playing long odds, gambling away whatever they have, hoping to win enough to buy great presents for their kids.
Some people won’t be able to satisfy their addictions; they just won’t have the means. And depression is always a danger, whenever escape is impossible - especially after the sun moves into Capricorn on the solstice.
Capricorn is a sign that focuses on the long game. And even though it tends to support existing hierarchies, it’s also a practical sign. When something doesn’t work, it dies, sometimes slowly, but inevitably. There are many things in our society that aren’t really working – national borders, monolithic corporate control, gas and coal addiction, the rule of old white men in America - and these things are slowly passing away. It’s a tedious process, and we all sometimes wonder whether our species will still be around by the time it’s over.
Patience isn’t a word that gets used much at this time of year, with the rush and tumble of the holidays. I balk at it myself. But one thing about electing a Democratic House is that they will all now have to work on strategy. They have power, but only a certain amount of it. They will have to navigate through a complicated and often stuffy system. They’ll be given great privilege, but asked to beg for money every day. It’s up to us, the public, to urge, to support, to clamor, to make noise.
This is where we can combine the passion of Sagittarius and the practicality of Capricorn. There is no external magic that will save us, but we still have voices to speak up, and our lives and bodies make a statement. We are the people, the passing generations. We learn slowly, and we try and fail often. Sometimes we rest, sometimes we stop to tell each other stories, and then we begin to move forward again. We know where we’re going. We know how it will feel. We recognize how kindness and peace feel in our hearts, and we want that for our world.