Friday, April 29, 2022

Calm Skies and Brewing Storms

 


I hope the neighbors are happy. We finally got the grass cut. I would’ve been quite happy to just let our lawn become a meadow, and I think the rabbits would’ve liked that better too. This is suburbia, though, and we would have gotten cited by somebody or other. But as I look out my window, I miss all that graceful tall grass, sprinkled with bright little wildflowers, and I wonder about the price of my obedience.   

 

Our lawn inertia was just one area in which we were stalled. A lot of things are on hold right now, as Mercury slows down, ready to go retrograde on May 10. I’m getting my basic work done, but all larger projects seem paralyzed, even the ones that are closest to my heart, like the novel I’m writing. Spring itself seems reluctant to take over from winter.

 

With Mercury retrograde through the rest of the month, forward movement will be unlikely. But moving backwards isn’t bad, since it will give us all a chance to pick up some of the balls we’ve dropped. Mercury will be in the frisky air sign Gemini until May 22, when it moves back into solid, earthy Taurus. It basically trades places with the sun, which will be in Taurus until May 20, and then in Gemini. The Gemini influence adds to the chatter going on around us – the information, and sometimes misinformation, that everyone is picking up. But the Taurus influences this month keep things mostly steady for the time being.

 

Every new moon is the beginning of a new chapter, and May’s chapter starts with the new moon in Taurus on April 30. This gives this lunar cycle a stable, unwavering Taurus quality. However, there are a couple of indications of underlying changes. At this new moon, there’s an eclipse, which signals an important shift in perceptions. And the moon and sun are also conjunct Uranus, the planet of change. What’s going on with these things? It seems like something is peeking out through the long grass.

 

The lunar nodes have to do with karma, and at every eclipse, they meet up with the sun and moon, one way or another. In an individual’s birth chart, the nodes signal the work that you signed on to do in your lifetime. The current positions of the nodes show the work that we are all doing, here and now, as a global collective. The children being born now will take up this work more intentionally, but it’s still here for all of us to do at this time. It’s about turning away from the excesses of the past and finding balance.

 

Currently, the north node is in Taurus, and so it asks us to pause and sink our feet deep into the earth. It’s about living simply and sustainably, grounding ourselves in the moment, and appreciating all the gifts that Gaia gives us. This is our work of the moment, and Mercury retrograde is perfect for this. In Gemini, it starts out with a lot of fast talk and restless gestures, but then it’s like a gear running down, slowly losing momentum and becoming still. As Mercury retrogrades into Taurus, we speak more slowly and deliberately. We tell the truth, recognizing what’s really happening in the world around us. These words have been said before; they are not new. But they have to be said over and over, until they are heard.

 

So this is a good time to stand on the earth, listen to her, and take in what she feels. We know that we – all of us together -  need to live in a more balanced, sustainable way. We know that the economy needs to be entirely different, and that both extreme wealth and poverty are toxic for this planet.

 

What about that Uranus conjunction to the new moon?  I’ve noticed that the fixed signs, the ones that are most firmly planted in their world-view, are also the most explosive ones. The more flexible signs know that, if you know how to bend, you don’t break. But for the fixed signs, there’s so much resistance to change that it comes as a thunderclap. Change is inevitable, a natural process, and if things are calcified, change involves some breakage. So this is the other side of this gentle, calm Taurus energy. We need to simplify and ground ourselves, and figure out ways to live sustainably, yes. But if we human beings can’t do this, it will take an explosion of some kind to bring us to balance.  

 

So Uranus’ position - near the sun, the moon, and the north node -  is by nature of a warning. Nothing could be gentler and easier than loving the earth upon which we live. But to enact this love, we have to embrace some dramatic redistribution of resources, including power. We have to learn how to live without exploiting her, or each other. If we don’t voluntarily change, then change will be foisted upon us.

 

The other important thing that’s happening in May is that Jupiter is going into Aries. Jupiter takes about a year to go through a sign, so this is like the astrologer’s new year. It’s a new beginning, especially in Aries, the first sign of the zodiac. Jupiter is the planet of community growth, and it tells us something about where the community’s energy will take us all. As always, there’s a bright side to Aries – heroic, passionate, spontaneous, courageous – and a shadow side – competitive, militaristic, willful, uncooperative.

 

And so this doesn’t look like a particularly tranquil year. Jupiter in Aries favors the revolutionary, the iconoclast, and the inventor, as well as militants of various stripes. At its heart, Aries is about the search for the true self, and so you’ll see more people chopping through the weeds and making their own paths, eschewing the usual social bribes.  With all this sedate Taurus energy and with Mercury retrograde, we might not see the fiery quality of Jupiter in Aries right now, in May. But we have a year for it to assert itself.  

 

And so, the coming year looks hot, literally and figuratively.  Hot people often do wild, crazy things. When people are highly uncomfortable, they act on impulse, and there are more accidents, more wars, and more revolts. The earth also responds in cataclysmic ways to high concentrations of heat, and she may spend some time sweeping those pesky humans off her surface. This is all the more reason to pay attention to the message of the north node, which will stay in Taurus all the time that Jupiter is in Aries. It’s like a voice telling us to stop, take a few deep breaths, and quite literally cool out, before it’s too late.  




Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Trickster

 


I always celebrate April 1st by writing a letter full of lies and sending it to the people I know best – in other words, those who won’t immediately call the guys with the butterfly nets to come take me away. I write about tsunamis in the mountains, blessings from the pope, runaway Supreme Court justices, floating taxis, alien visitations, talking squirrels, and that sort of thing.  I usually start out in the realm of the probable and get more and more outlandish, hoping to lull my hapless readers into swallowing the whole thing. It used to work, but now I very rarely fool anybody, probably because these letters show up on the same date every year.  

 

I like to impersonate the Trickster during that one day in the year. As a mythological figure, the Trickster is the one who reminds us that there are always sneaky ways around the rules and regulations that bind us. He/she is a rebel, a shape-shifter.

 

Astrologically, April is uneven, a Trickster month. There are a few stretches of relative inactivity, but these are suddenly punctuated by high-octane days in which a lot happens all at once. All the planets are direct until the end of the month, when Pluto retrogrades, so everything is moving forward.  People are not much invested in reviewing the past, but rather pushing towards their goals and ambitions, and in the process, coping with new conditions.

 

Jupiter, moving quickly this month, has an expansive effect in many people’s lives, so that everyone is busier, as well as more excited and expressive. Whatever people are into, they’re more into it now, and wherever they’ve put their energy, they’re seeing results, adding extra enthusiasm. As plans come into fruition, it’s heady. Jupiter goes through the otherworldly, imaginative sign Pisces, keeping those creative juices flowing. At the same time, there are people who getting carried away, losing contact with the ground altogether. Jupiter in Pisces is magical, it’s heady, but it’s also shaky, changeable, confusing and unreliable.

 

The Trickster is not always a benign figure, as we see by looking at Neptune, the Trickster planet, the planet of imagination, hypnosis, addiction and illusion. Neptune rules all trance states, some of them blissful (like falling in love, or feeling a religious calling), and some awful (like drinking oneself to death, or being taken in by a conman). Neptune takes you away from the ordinary, into a realm which has no borders. This could be pure emotion, or an absolute belief, or a powerful dream, or a delusion.  

 

On April 12, expansive Jupiter and imaginative Neptune will meet up. This conjunction happens about every twelve years, and the last time was in 2009, in the sign Aquarius.  That was the year that Barack Obama was sworn in as president, causing lots of people to swear that racism was over. (It wasn’t.) 2009 was also the year the bitcoin was established, an economic sleight of hand if there ever was one. There was also a pandemic in 2009, called the swine flu, although people argued a lot about the name, and never really decided what to call it. It wasn’t as deadly as our current pandemic, but there were major outbreaks, especially in Asia. Here in the US, it helped that the government took swift action, with no particular political opposition to vaccines or any other preventative measures.

 

The current Jupiter/Neptune conjunction in Pisces brings a lot more oddball conspiracy theories than we saw the last time, as well as the strange resistance to public health measures. That’s largely because of Trump, the trickster figure who came along halfway between the conjunctions. A liar and a thief, he tried his best to corrupt every person and institution he touched, and often succeeded.  

 

We live in a time in which many people are afraid, and this makes them especially vulnerable to trickster characters like him. Our habitat is degrading quickly, but people want to ignore all this, to pretend it doesn’t exist, to stay hypnotized. Trump had the meaningless but hypnotic patter, the ability to misdirect the public attention. His vigorous insults to the press meant that his followers had no clear source of commonly held truths. This echoes the way abusive partners cut off their victim’s access to the outer world.  

 

The Jupiter/Neptune opposition which produced the trickster Trump was the low point, and the new Jupiter/Neptune conjunction both ends the cycle which began in 2009, and begins a new one. Every Jupiter/Neptune conjunction contains the seeds of a new spiritual vision, and we saw this when Barack Obama was elected. Some people were afraid, but many others were joyful and inspired. His election didn’t put an end to racism – and in fact, the backlash has been considerable – but it made it more transparent. Racism itself involves a certain sleigh-of-hand. It originated as a successful ruse to convince some people to participate in the abuse of others, and, as the trick is revealed, the fog clears away. The trickster Trump may have obscured this truth, but only temporarily.  

 

The pandemic, so terrible in so many ways, now seems to be ending. This is another ending and beginning, a reset. Structures that faded away during the pandemic don’t come back unless people want them to, and there are some things about the old world that no longer appeal to the citizens of the new world. Cutthroat capitalism no longer seems quite as inevitable as it did back then. It was always a trick. It was never the only way, but a lot of folks were fooled into believing it was.

 

So how do we make the best use of this Jupiter/Neptune conjunction? At its core, Neptune is holistic consciousness, pure spiritual awareness, and Jupiter can amplify and spread that. When we feel the unity of all people and all things, it’s very hard for malevolent tricksters to find a foothold. They can only climb using the cracks in our psyches, the places where we feel disconnected and powerless.

 

Imagine a different kind of world. Imagine that we all could live together in peace, helping each other freely, finding ways to rescue our habitat from the degradations of the past, acknowledging each other’s beauty, creativity and tenderness.  Remember that John Lennon/Yoko Ono song, Imagine? It was first published during a Jupiter/Neptune conjunction.  There are many other songs like that, still coming from the hearts of the people. There’s an endless flow of them.

 

We can’t close our eyes and wish another world into immediate existence, but we can put our dreams and visions into the work of our hands and our minds, and bring them forth. This is a good time to take the first steps, towards what feels true.




Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Notes on Ukraine

 


At first, it was just rumors of war, and then it was war. On February 24, in the early morning hours, Russia invaded Ukraine. With Venus and Mars – the planets of pleasure and desire -  traveling together these days, you would think everyone would be too busy making love to make war. But no.

 

And really, it doesn’t matter what most people are in the mood to do. The soldiers, the ones who are trained to follow orders and then sent out to die, have no say at all. You could say that it’s Vladimir Putin who is invading Ukraine, using the bodies and resources of his citizens to attempt some kind of strong-man glory. For him, pleasure and desire come through tweaking the geopolitical currents of the world.  

 

It's a little shocking. Dictatorship seems outdated, a barbarian concept. And yet, there are plenty of individuals in this world with power over millions. When one of these folks has a bad hair day, somebody else can lose their livelihood, or their life.

 

Looking at Putin’s chart right now, my guess is that he is having romantic problems, although of course we’ll never know. But, with Uranus going through his 7th house and opposing his Venus in Scorpio, the transition from one girlfriend to another is probably rockier than usual. What better way to prove virility than to invade a neighboring country?

 

Countries have charts too, calculated from the moment they take on a separate legal identity, and Ukraine’s chart derives from the time it became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. Ukraine has Capricorn rising, and Pluto is currently at the same degree in Capricorn, stressing Ukraine’s sense of an independent self.  

 

If Ukraine were a person, I would say that she is sometimes lonely, and she has to work hard to keep other people from overpowering her. Saturn is in her 1st house, close to the ascendant, making inconjunct aspects to a whole raft of planets in bright, demanding, bossy Leo, in the 7th house (of relationships). It seems to me that Ukraine’s whole lifetime has been spent pivoting, trying to figure out with whom to associate. Who will treat her right? Europe? NATO? Who will try to steal her resources and then treat her badly?

 

Of course, there are some major differences between country charts and individual charts. People can be colonized, and they can be treated badly by others, but nobody can get inside your skin and change your physical dimensions. But for countries, this happens all the time. For us humans, our skins are our boundaries. But for countries, all boundaries are artificial, a line in the sand drawn in response to the political forces of the moment, maintained by others who are okay with it. The earth has no real barriers.  

 

At the same time, the people of a country form a web of emotion and intention, and this is what we see in a country chart. The human desire to stick together is a mighty force, and it can be powerful enough to maintain a country through hostile attacks, even through occupation. We’ve seen this over and over in the world. Ukraine looks unexpectedly vigorous, thanks in part to its own president, and it’s making good use of the international court of opinion.

 

How will things develop during the coming month?  March is pretty intense, and a lot of inner planets are conjuncting outer planets, especially during the first half of the month. This is because all the planets are so bunched up at this time, and they can’t help tripping over each other. So what we are seeing are meetings, connections that aren’t usually made, transfers of energy that are fiercer and more dramatic than usual. You may see these tangles and complications in your own life.

 

On March 2, Mercury conjuncts Saturn in Aquarius, focusing our attention on our responsibilities and commitments. This happens very close to the moon in Ukraine’s chart, and it looks like a call for help. It’s also close to Velensky’s midheaven, at the top of his chart, so it’s a moment of reckoning for him, and it could be a tough one.

 

Then on March 3, Venus and Mars are both conjunct Pluto, planet of power, and this happens right at Ukraine’s ascendant. Whatever happens at this point, it will happen on the world stage, and it looks operatic. Symbolically, Venus and Mars are the Lovers, and Pluto is the Demon Lover, the Stranger, the Hand of Fate who forces them apart in so many myths and stories.

 

It’s strange how close the name Pluto is to Putin, and naturally this leads me down a runaway path!  Pluto is the planet that deals with the underworld, the deep unconscious, hidden sources of power and transformation. It’s also connected to nuclear power, which is somewhat worrisome. And Putin is playing that role these days, with his secrecy, his naked power grab, and his nuclear arsenal. Of course, he’s not an actual devil, but he’s putting his face on that archetype for a lot of people.    

 

A more fortunate aspect happens on March 5, as the sun and Jupiter come together in Pisces, trining Pluto in Ukraine’s chart. This can give a deep, underlying strength. On March 6, Venus and Mars are exactly conjunct in Aquarius, right on Saturn in Ukraine’s chart, and this looks to me like diplomacy. It may mean concessions, though, including things that Ukraine does not want to give. So it’s not necessarily a time for celebration.

 

After this, the next conjunction is that between the sun and Neptune, on March 13. And this seems like some kind of surrender, especially since it makes tricky aspects to the planets in Ukraine’s relationship house.  

 

Of course, I may be interpreting this too pessimistically. When I look at the same aspects from Russia’s point of view, however, the only challenging one is the sun/Jupiter conjunction, which opposes Russia’s Jupiter. So it’s clear that this is a very expensive war for Putin, probably more than he expected.  

 

For all of us, March is intense. There are moments of ecstasy, some sharp desires and pleasures, but there are also fears and worries. And during the second half of March, things are not exactly placid, since Venus and Mars will square Uranus. So do watch your step this month. Sometimes boundaries aren’t as firm, or as clear, as you want them to be.

 

As far as the US goes, several astrologers have mentioned that this country is having a Pluto return. Pluto’s cycle takes 240 years, so no human lasts long enough for it to return to its original spot in the birthchart. But trees do last that long, and sponges do, and so do countries, given stability. The US has survived with its main threats coming from within, even though we’ve been aggressive towards other nations. Crab-like, we pinch and then retreat.

 

But at our Pluto return, a deeper transformation is happening. Will we be drawn into a European war? Although I dread this idea, I can’t say it won’t happen. However, my hope is that this Pluto return will move us towards a deeper understanding of ourselves, our history and our potential.  

 

We can look at the most conservative elements in the US, and see what these folks are most alarmed about, and these things are sure signposts towards the future. Right now, the right wing is anxious about the way American history is taught, and so there we have the secrets that we need to uncover, mainly the essence of our power as a nation. As we understand our past, especially the role of Black workers in constructing the wealth of this country, we can move ahead, no longer muffled by denial and delusion.  

 

Currently in the US of A, we have a bunch of white male plutocrats running things. We need to learn how to use our actual human potential – women, children, scientists, artists, skilled workers, indigenous people, Black people, and people from every wave of immigrants. The pandemic has made it necessary to reframe a lot of things, and it’s pinpointed what is essential and what isn’t. The oncoming climate crisis is doing the same, more slowly but even more inexorably.  

 

As we bump along through March, all eyes are on Ukraine. The situation there is a testing ground for us as humans. As a world, are we mostly propelled by violence, or can we shape our lives through communication and mutual support? Are we civilized yet? Will we get there in time?





Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Mid-Winter Pause

 


We’re in the middle of winter. This time of year always brings a sense of waiting. Outside my window, the world is monotone, with snow edging the grey-green of old grass. The trees are bare and stark, and in the sunlight, they cast long dark shadows across the yard. The pale blue of the sky looks like the delicate tinting on an old photograph.  

 

We are all waiting for winter to end. Even more, we are waiting for the pandemic to end. There were those days in summer, when it looked like we were heading back to normal life. And then Omicron showed up, and suddenly, lots of people we knew were getting sick. Yes, it was less lethal, but it was still painful and scary for those who caught it. So my wife and I are hunkered down again, waiting it out.

 

People adapt to conditions, even while waiting for them to change, and that’s what we all continue to do. We all make small adjustments in our lives, trying to make ourselves more comfortable in restrictive conditions.

 

In January, Venus and Mercury were both retrograde, emphasizing the past. Venus turned direct a few days before January ended, and Mercury will be direct quite soon, on Thursday, February 3, at 11:12 pm EST. But in February, they continue to move slowly, as they go back over territory they’ve already covered. This is called the shadow period after a retrograde, when all the old aspects are reprised. It’s like a singer relying on past hits, not quite daring to sing anything new.

 

After Mercury turns direct, there are no retrograde planets any more in February, and this is quite rare, since usually there are a few outer planets that are retrograding. What it means is that all the planets are on the same side of the earth as the sun. You can see Jupiter in the western sky these days, setting about two hours after the sun.  And if you’re up early, you can see Mars rise about two hours before the sun. But you won’t see a planet in the middle of the night these days, even if you have a telescope. They’re all traveling on the sunny side of the earth, aligning themselves with the daylight.   

 

With all the planets mashed together on one side of the planet, nobody feels particularly in balance. Even though we’re all physically separated from each other, there’s this sense that we’re in a crowd, because so many of us are sharing the same anxieties, fears, hopes and dreams. We’re all looking for solutions, and then passing them along to each other. The scientists are busy, as are plenty of non-scientists who’ve decided that they have the answers.

 

The battle between science and faith is one of the themes of February, and that’s because the main zodiacal influences this month are Aquarius and Pisces. Aquarius, an air sign, tends to be reasonable, objective and scientific, while Pisces, a water sign, depends more on intuitive knowledge and emotional intelligence. Aquarius is a fixed sign, giving a tendency to stand quite firmly on that base of knowledge and defend it, while Pisces is a mutable sign, so intuitions can fluctuate randomly, rippling together and apart.

 

This battle between factual truth and inner truth is not just about Covid. February is Black History month, and there have been a lot of struggles lately around how much history white people can handle. (In Virginia, the new governor has decided the answer is, “Not much.”) However, one lesson that history itself teaches us is that history can never be truly repressed. The truth always fights to emerge, in one form or another. If it’s not recognized in schoolbooks, it lives even more vividly as myth. But currently, with Saturn in the sign of knowledge, Aquarius, there’s an emphasis on what we know we know.

 

The 1619 Project, spearheaded by Nikole Hannah-Jones, has been going on for many years, but with the publication of the book in 2021,  more and more people are exposed to this pivotal information. More and more, white people are admitting what Black people have known all along, that this country’s success was built on the labor and skills of enslaved people. This knowledge wars with the hero tale of the American Revolution, and this is very hard for some folks to accept. But historical events rarely have just one cause, just as human beings are complicated mixes of motive and desire. The sooner we stop deifying historical figures, the better. Maybe then we can also accept ourselves as ordinary and flawed.

 

We are waiting for the situation to change, but we’re also adapting to less than optimal conditions. All of us can learn from those who have become masters of adaptation. Of course, nature does this very well, responding to scarce sunlight by wrapping things up for months at a time. And adapting doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Whether change takes a few months, or four hundred years, it never happens all at once. It’s only that we see the outer manifestations as surprising, and sometimes that’s because we haven’t been paying attention.  

 

Today is the new moon in Aquarius, and this brings up questions about what kind of world we want to see. What are we waiting for?  What do we want to learn from our past, from the communities that exist around us, from nature’s deep knowledge? What do we know instinctively, and what makes sense to our rational minds?  How can we find the right balance between science and faith?  None of us knows everything, and in a better world, we don’t have to pretend we do. Learning is its own point of balance.