Jan 1, 2012

2012: Confronting the Big Questions

As I reflect on the past year, it's almost hard to imagine that the coming year could be packed any more full of significant events. The forces of revolution and rebellion were fully ignited, from the Arab Spring, to London, to Greece, to the Occupy Wall Street movement. We saw the death of three major figures: Bin Laden, Gaddafi, and Kim Jong Il. And the natural world erupted with tectonic and weather disasters, from the Fukushima quake and tsunami to a record-breaking tornado season. Weather patterns around the globe became even more erratic, with extreme drought to record snowfalls and hurricanes. As if that weren't enough, economic structures continued to crumble world-wide.

So, we now enter into the much-anticipated 2012. What is ahead for us, as individuals and as a species? Of course, this is the big question that most people are asking me as an astrologer.

There are several planetary events this year, as is the case with almost any year. There is nothing, in my opinion, that points to 2012 as astrologically special. Rather, there is one long, ongoing aspect which kicks off its exact aspect this year (June 24, 2012): the square of Uranus and Pluto. This transit rightly began in 2010 but came very close to exact in July and August of 2011.They will then continue to square each other through 2015.

The Uranus-Pluto square has been much written about and talked about amongst astrologers.  The last time we saw a hard aspect between Uranus and Pluto was in the mid 60's, when the joining of those two planets reverberated throughout the course of that decade. The seeds that were planted then, however, have not reached maturation yet. In this first connection of those two planets, we reach a crisis point – the first major testing of those things begun in the 60's. This notion makes sense to me as I consider the re-emergence of such issues as women's rights. Many American women in my generation take for granted that women here have already been "liberated" by the women's movement that began in the 60's. However, in much of the rest of world, women are in no way equal to men. In many countries, women are still held as second-class citizens, and enjoy very few basic rights. As I recently watched the atrocities being visited on the women in Egypt as they participated in the protests against their government, it became very apparent to me that we -- women of the world -- are at a cross roads in this battle. However, these and many other women worldwide are at a point where they will no longer accepting this treatment, not only in Egypt and Tunisia, but in Africa (as exemplified by the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize this year to Leymah Gbowee of Liberia), and other countries across the Middle East. They are fighting en masse against the abuses of their governments. I expect that this battle for women's rights all over the world will continue to accelerate in 2012.

In the 60's, when the civil rights movement was born, race and gender-equality were the central issues. But today, the scope our awareness of oppressed groups has widened. With the Occupy Wall Street Movement, for example, we have become more blatantly aware of economic oppression and inequity in this country. And over the past couple years, increasing awareness of animal cruelty has caused many to question our relationship to these fellow living beings. A story that brought my own attention more fully to this was the viral video of the rescue of several lab beagles – beagles that were undergoing cruel testing in a lab for their entire lives, and had never seen the light of day. I was horrified, not only by the story, but by my own ignorance. I hadn't even known there was such a thing as "lab beagles." The good news is that we're becoming more aware of the fact that many animals are much more intelligent and emotionally complex than we have realized , and we are being invited to fundamentally reconsider our treatment of them. On these and many other issues, there is much work yet to be done.

So, how will this transit affect each of us on the individual level? My sense is that many of us will find ourselves at a crossroads this year and through to 2015. It's a kind of "rubber meets the road" time. Life will present us with situations that bring up those big, uncomfortable, Uranus-Pluto questions: How are you going to change the world? What do you want to leave behind when you die? Who or what will you stand behind? And who or what will you no longer support? The answers to these questions can take us into scary (Plutonian) places, where our deepest fears reside. "What will I have to give up?" "How can I possibly make a difference?" But to not answer them is to die a slow death along with the world that is beginning, undeniably, to die around us. I don't mean that the world is literally going to end in 2012, but that the world that we have lived in can no longer sustain itself. Our reality is changing, but our actions will determine whether it be for the better or for the worse.

I personally have felt overwhelmed when I consider these questions for myself. I am overcome by all the suffering that exists. I have asked my own guidance: "Where do I start?" The answer that came to me was: "Pick something. And just start. There is more than enough suffering to go around."

We live the answers to these big questions within the seemingly mundane actions we take every day. My wish for you in 2012 is that you may live your answers with awareness and commitment, and shine your light fully into a world that very much needs _you_.

Sep 7, 2011

"Wow, Baby Stars!"

Antares Nebula - A "Star Nursery"
My partner, Brad, and I went to a show at the OMSI Planetarium recently, “Journey to the Stars.” It had been a while since I’d been to one, and years since I’ve been to OMSI; it seemed a lovely diversion on a hot summer’s day to step inside the cool, dark dome to watch stars being born. Planetarium shows are generally geared toward kids, but Brad and I, who both have Gemini Rising, can easily turn into big kids and enjoy such things.  The show itself was pretty neat – lots of great computer graphics of stars turning into red giants, supernovas, and white dwarfs. We indeed journeyed through the stars and galaxies as the swooping camera took us through several nebulae, the “nurseries of stars.” 

What I enjoyed even more than the show, however, were the reactions of the children in the audience.  Almost every new image on the screen induced a “Wow!” or a “Whoa!” or a gasp of delight. My favorite comment was from an adorable 4-ish-year-old girl a few feet away from me in response to a nebula where, the narrator explained, stars were being born. “Wow, BABY STARS!” She shouted. Brad and I were still giggling about it hours later. Afterwards, I was so glad I went. I was reminded of my own fascination with the actual stars as a little girl, and how that had led me to astrology. And I was reconnected with something that is so easy to lose track of in the business of mundane life – a sense of awe.

In part, Astrology is a science. Astrologers for thousands of years have observed the movements of the planets and correlated these movements to events on Earth. These correlations were made in the hopes of being able to gain power through the art of prediction:  if one could observe the results of a planet’s movements in the past, one could possibly foresee future events. The science and the technical aspects of Astrology became highly developed so that the art of prediction could be perfected. Over time, ancient astrology developed many accurate and reliable prediction techniques.

 But Astrology is not only a science. At its core is a mystical awareness of the natural world and our connection to it. I remember an early astrology teacher relaying a story to me that one of her students, perplexed with something in a chart, had looked up from her paper during their tutorial one day with total amazement and said: “You mean, the Venus that’s here in the chart is the same one that’s out there in the sky?” While most of us are pretty savvy to the fact that, yeah, that’s the same Venus, this story serves as a reminder of how easy it is to get disconnected from what is meaningful about Astrology.  The chart is a representation of our connection to these amazing planets, and to this very real, medium-sized yellow star. When you’re calculating orbs, drawing glyphs, and interpreting the meaning of Venus conjunct Saturn, that connection can be easy to forget.

So, I take my experience at the planetarium as a little reminder as to why I started this journey in the first place. I also intend to spend more time out under the stars, something I’ve been “meaning to do” for too long. And, at least once while hunched over my preparation for a reading, I should remember a little girl’s voice saying: “Wow, BABY STARS!”

Aug 12, 2011

Mars and the Cardinal Cross: How You Doin’?

More than one client has entered my office this week with first words being: “What the (expletive of your choice) is going on out there?!?”  Well, I reply, in astro-lingo, we have Mars entering Cancer (as of August 3rd) and becoming the fourth arm of a Cardinal Cross formation, squaring Saturn and Uranus and opposing Pluto through most of the month. This peak of the Cardinal Cross energy is taking place during a Mercury Retrograde. And that, in non-astro-lingo, is the cosmic representation of what we might call a (expletive)-storm.

Hopefully I have not already offended anyone with my fake expletives, but I’m feeling very Mars-y these days. (Mars happens to be hanging out near my natal Mercury, and will soon be conjunct my Sun). Mars doesn’t care who is offended, and certainly has little regard for etiquette. Mars energy is direct, to the point, and fast.  It is also passionate, and can be violent. As Mars enters into the ongoing Cardinal T-Square, particularly in its current close orb the ongoing Pluto-Uranus square, it is the giant spark that’s just ignited a tinderbox of long repressed emotions (Cancer). 

At the end of July I wrote about the U.S. Chart and the Mercury Retrograde, playing at theaters near you for nearly the entire month of August. Of course, that was before the stock market roller coaster and the S&P Downgrade even began; at the time of my writing, the “deal” had not yet been sealed. In that newsletter I did not even mention Mars, as I had enough on my hands just dissecting the many potential unfortunate developments indicated by Mercury Retrograde’s aspects and Saturn’s contribution.  We have officially entered a very difficult and heated period wherein Mars is affecting the collective but is also very tied in to the United States chart in particular.

As you may have noticed, this past week has been kinda rough out there in the world; for example, the riots in London (!) And then we had the stock market dive, followed by the S&P downgrade, followed by huge ups and downs in the market and the predicted volatility. “Volatile” is a very Mars kind of word. While things seem to be smoothing out today with the market, what can we expect over the coming month in general?

The worst of the Mars-Cardinal-Cross energy is now dissipating somewhat; it was at its height between the conjunction of Mars to the U.S. Natal Venus on August 7th and its conjunction to U.S. Natal Jupiter on August 12th (as I write this).  This past week has been scarily reflective of that. However, today’s conjunction of Mars to the U.S. Jupiter can even be viewed as a boost toward more fortunate outcomes for the moment (today’s upswing in the market, for example). As Robert Hand writes of Mars conjunct Jupiter in Planets in Transit: “Mars-Jupiter has the general connotation of ‘fortunate action’ and is favorable for launching any new enterprise.” But let’s not get all excited and hopeful just yet. The U.S. chart experiences a 1-2-3 punch toward the end of the month:  Mars conjuncts the U.S. Natal Sun while squaring the U.S. Saturn on August 23rd – 25th, building to the final exact peak of the U.S. Saturn Return on August 28th. The combination of Mars-Saturn energies indicates frustration, real hardships, and the need for focus and discipline (Saturn) to keep the Mars shadow from running rampant. We definitely have some rough territory ahead, particularly around the end of the month, and we must proceed carefully and patiently as a nation in order to navigate these difficult waters.

In our own lives, this period of the heightened Cardinal Cross energies will begin moving out of orb by early September, at the same time Mercury will be direct and out of its storm.  Until then, hang tight. In the words of Bette Davis from one of my favorite movies, All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Related Reading and Viewing:

Jul 27, 2011

Fame and Addiction: The Chart of Amy Winehouse

Many of us might think we want fame. Particularly in the U.S., many young people would say that they hope to be “famous” for something someday (it is quite possible to be famous for nothing, however, as evidenced by the success of reality shows).  Yet, as we have seen, fame can be a monster. The list of those famous writers, actors, singers, painters and other artists who have also struggled with addiction is a long one. We take for granted that fame and addiction often go hand in hand. The same sensitivity and openness which allows the artist to express their creative gift is often accompanied by deep fears, insecurity, and depression. The trappings of fame seem to simply fuel the demons which may already exist within the creative individual. The success, notoriety, and wealth that fame supplies can cause the addict to self-destruct at an accelerated rate.

When I heard the news of Amy Winehouse’s death, my first response was, well, not a surprise. Then I was taken aback at my own cynicism. I have family members who have struggled with addiction, and perhaps her death hit a little too close to home, triggering my own fears. It makes me angry at the waste of a life and of a beautiful talent. After that initial cynical reaction, her death and the sadness of it started to seep into me over the past few days. I have been stewing on this relationship between fame and addiction, and the tendency of young artists to self-destruct. I looked to astrology to find some help in understanding the forces at play, and to understand this soul and her burdens. 

There have been many blogs and FB discussions out there about the transits on her death date, so that will not be my primary focus here, nor will I provide an exhaustive interpretation of the entire natal chart. I found that in looking at just a few potent pieces – the South Node, its ruler, and aspects to the Nodes and their rulers – we can understand quite a lot about Amy and her karmic relationship to fame and addiction. Here is the natal chart on the inner wheel (with the transits included for those who are interested). I have labeled those chart elements I've chosen to discuss.

Amy’s South Node is in Sagittarius. With the South Node, we should consider the shadow side of its sign as the nature of the past-life dynamic for this individual. We ask the question:  What was left unresolved in the past life in order for it to now show up as karma (South Node) in this life? False bravado, arrogance, and living to excess can be negative expressions of Sagittarius, or dysfunctional Jupiter (ruler of Sag.)  It is likely that Amy experienced a past-life scenario in which she was a bigger-than-life character. There is even an indicator of past-life fame with the ruler of the South Node (Jupiter) conjunct the ruler of her Midheaven (Uranus). The Midheaven is the cusp of the 10th House of Career, Fame, and Reputation. But her bravado and arrogance were false, indicated by her Sun in Virgo square the South Node, representing the deep insecurities that plagued her. In the past life pattern, the combination of fame and insecurity likely got the best of her, ultimately isolating her (Uranus) from those whose approval was so important to her.  Most of all, she could not approve of herself.

The pain of not measuring up (Virgo Sun square Nodes), whether that was merely a self-perception or a real lack of skill, may have led to addiction and escapism (Neptune conjunct the South Node).  Likely she became dependent on a partner or other significant people in her life, leaning on them inappropriately and demanding more and more from them as she became incapable of caring for herself (South Node in the 7th conjunct Neptune).  The wide conjunction of her Capricorn Moon to the South Node also expresses a sense of being ruled by emotions of neglect and abandonment.

If these themes sound reminiscent of her present lifetime, such is often the case when we look to the South Node.  It is difficult to escape the patterns of the past, as they are deeply ingrained in the soul’s memory. We feel most comfortable when repeating the familiar. The gift of astrological awareness is that we can, if we are open to it, learn about these past patterns, become conscious of them, and move actively toward transcending them.  Even small success in escaping the repetitive traps of the karmic past can offer a feeling of joy and accomplishment on a soul level.

The North Node and its ruler in Amy’s chart points toward the way out of the karmic trap:  Gemini, the 1st House, and Mercury conjunct the Sun in Virgo 5th house. Gemini in its highest expression is an openness of mind and spirit, a curiosity about life, and a willingness to learn and to explore new ideas. Conversely, the Sagittarius South Node indicates a stubborn attachment to a dogmatic belief system, or to one’s own ego as God. The 1st House North Node suggests a need to learn to stand on her own two feet, to assert her free will, and to let go of blaming others for her circumstances or in relying on others to fix them (South Node in the 7th).  Mercury as the planet square the Nodes, hanging in the balance, is a very important planet for her as ruler of her North Node, ruler of the chart, and ruler of Virgo, conjunct the Sun in Virgo.  Mercury in Virgo was the  opportunity to use her voice (Mercury) within a creative (5th House) craft (Virgo). The Sun in Virgo also indicates a need for humility and willingness to deeply commit to the perfection of one’s skills. Who knows what kind of talent she may have grown into had she had more time?

Ultimately, did she feel she was worthy of all of the attention that fame bestowed on her? With a Virgo Sun, it is likely that she often questioned herself and her abilities, and the Sagittarius South Node compounded the situation by enticing her into arrogant and defiant behaviors in order to cover up her fear (just watch the video for “Rehab” to get a sense of that defiance.) I feel compassion for this woman who was born into a time wherein fame, and all the baggage that comes with fame, made it nearly impossible to move away from the seductiveness of the old patterns. 

Note about her birth time:

Birth data is from Frank Clifford as stated on The Mountain Astrologer’s Facebook page; RR: A


Jun 30, 2011

The Three Eclipses – Part Three: The Cancer Solar Eclipse

The July 1st Eclipse at 9 degrees Cancer (1:55 AM PDT) forms one arm of the Cardinal Grand Cross formation, with Pluto, Uranus, and Saturn residing at the three remaining points of the cross (see chart).  These early Cardinal degrees were activated last summer during the much-discussed “Cardinal Climax” period, although upon reflection that time seems to have been a seeding of events that are now coming into full flower during this tumultuous year of 2011.  A New Moon represents a time of new beginnings within the themes of its current sign, and an eclipse magnifies those themes and casts their resonance forward for the next six months. This New Moon in Cancer puts the focus on nourishment, security, foundations, and family. 

The Grand Cross formation indicates this as a time of being at a “crossroads.” The presence of Saturn making a hard square to the eclipse seems to be saying “get real.”  It is a time in which we must make some potentially difficult choices.  This may sound none too pleasant, but there is a freedom available to us when we finally just do the thing we have been putting off and dreading because it’s “too hard.” When we take on difficult tasks, we are able to release the things that have been weighing on us.

Our sense of security (Sun and Moon in Cancer) is also challenged under this eclipse by a square from Uranus in Aries and an opposition from Pluto in Capricorn.  Uranus’ transit through Aries began auspiciously under the Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March; since then, things have not slowed down on the natural disaster front. The Cancer Eclipse is especially significant for the United States (see chart), as the Sun and Moon land right amidst the U.S. natal Sun-Jupiter-Venus conjunction, while squaring the U.S. natal Saturn (currently undergoing a Saturn Return).  Money and security are front and center right now as we approach the deadline for raising the debt ceiling. I enjoyed Barack Obama’s rather testy attitude toward congress in his press conference yesterday about the approaching deadline; he sounded like a stern father scolding his children.  He was the embodiment of Saturn energy, and perhaps that is exactly the medicine needed right now or our economy may be facing the hard consequences when the U.S. Saturn return reaches its last exact peak in late August.

The chart for this eclipse does not immediately give an overall warm and fuzzy feeling. However, we must remember that the sign of the Eclipse is Cancer, the Moon’s sign, so the lunar influence is extremely strong. The Moon links us to security, home, emotional connections, and family. Emotions will be running high during the time of this eclipse as well as during the two weeks afterwards.  For the collective, family issues are at the forefront.  A positive use of this eclipse period is to reconnect with your true family, whether they be your actual blood family or those you feel to be kin.  Remembering the emotional connections that sustain us can help to ease the tensions of this time.

Jun 15, 2011

The Three Eclipses – Part 2: The Sagittarius Lunar Eclipse

The series of three eclipses began with the June 1st Solar Eclipse in Gemini.  The energy of any eclipse is most profound in the days building up to then two weeks following the eclipse, but also may impact the six month period from one eclipse to the next corresponding one.  A full moon/lunar eclipse shines light on what has been in shadow, and this coming Wednesday’s lunar eclipse in Sagittarius shines light on the shadow aspects of that sign. So what Sagittarian things might now be coming to light?  The shadow expression of Sagittarius can show up as an over-developed sense of one’s “rightness,” or in only seeing the big picture while glossing over inconvenient (but important) details. We can fall into one of these common  traps when we forget to pay attention to facts and information. We can paint a picture of reality that fits with what we may want to be the Truth, but is actually only our own spin on a situation.

So, what should we be paying attention to, and where can we get helpful information during this period? The chart for the eclipse features several aspects from Mercury, ruler of Gemini.  Mercury is conjunct the Sun, opposed the Moon, and is moving toward a trine to Neptune.  Mercury is the messenger god, moving swiftly to carry information.  With his trine to Neptune, information may be coming to us via unorthodox means, such as our dreams and flashes of intuition.  Pay attention to odd coincidences and synchronicities, particularly if a particular message seems to be showing up for you multiple times. Look for patterns and listen to what message Mercury might be trying to carry to your ears. In my own life, I’ve had the work of a particular author recommended to me three separate times by three different sources over the past week, for example.  I took action on this message by ordering her books from the library. It is important for us to honor Mercury by taking action on the messages we receive.  If we ignore these messages, discount them, or don’t take action on them because we are “too busy,” we lose the opportunity to participate in the co-creation of our lives.

Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius (and traditional ruler of Pisces), has recently entered Taurus (June 4th,) and makes two harmonious aspects at this eclipse: a trine toPluto  which will be ongoing through early 2012, and a sextile to Neptune, co-ruler of Pisces.  The light side of Jupiter/Sagittarius energy to embrace is hope, faith, and optimism. When we choose optimism, we become open to the adventure and mystery of Life.  The message of the opposition between Sun in Gemini and Moon in Sagittarius at this eclipse period is to balance the two signs within our lives: pay attention to what you are being shown, then use that information to make a Sagittarian leap forward in some area.  Life is as mundane or as magical as we decide to make it – it is all a matter of perception.

Jun 2, 2011

The Jupiter-Pluto Trine in Earth: 2011-2012

Jupiter enters Taurus, cooling his heels after a year-long trek through Aries on June 4th. Jupiter and Pluto will then be trine each other for about a nine month period from June 2011 through March of 2012 (with three exact trines: July, October, and March). Jolly, optimistic Jupiter meets brooding, intense Pluto…hmmm. At first glance, these two don’t seem too compatible. However, they are meeting by the trine, a harmonious aspect. The trine aspect also generally means that those planets will be in the same element. Jupiter is in matter-of-fact Taurus, and Pluto is in let’s-get-real Capricorn. So what happens when these two planets meet by a trine in earth?

Taurus is about our connection to the physical world, our bodies, and what we value on the material level. Jupiter in Taurus can help us to reconnect to the positive aspects of our physicality. What is good about life within these bodies? With Pluto trining Jupiter, we may also be confronted with where we have been neglecting our health, and perhaps healing is found in the simplicity of Taurus medicine – relaxation, good food, rest, and quiet.

Pluto also connects us to the cycle of endings and beginnings: in order for something new to be born, the old must die. Pluto has been traveling through Capricorn since 2008, and we have certainly seen the literal endings of governments and the crumbling decay of the world economy. But while Pluto connects with Jupiter, we might at least for this time more easily be able to see the advantage in letting go of the old, and become optimistic toward the birth of the new.

For the collective, a Jupiter-Pluto aspect will embolden both these planets’ energies on the world stage. We recently saw the results of the last contact between the two planets when they formed a square, exact on February 25th (and within orb for a couple weeks either side of that point.) February of this year was marked by an increase in the momentum of the Arab Spring, the uprisings in Libya, and the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Jupiter-Pluto square was most notably also still in orb at the time of the Honshu, Japan earthquake on March 11th. However, Jupiter was in fiery Aries, making a stressful aspect – a square – to Pluto. The upcoming trine between the two planets does not in itself carry the same signature of unrest, catastrophe and upheaval.

But even with a trine, there is always a shadow possibility – that each planet brings forward the dysfunctional behavior of the other. The dark side of Jupiter in Taurus is a rigid adherence to dogma, an over-attachment to wealth, and gluttonous tendencies. Pluto in Capricorn’s shadow, which we’ve had the opportunity to become acquainted with over the course of the past three years, is coldness, cruelty, and power-mongering. But ultimately, Jupiter and Pluto now coming together for an extended trine offers the gifts of healing and regeneration after a rough period. It is up to us to remain aware of both the opportunities and the dark possibilities, and to act consciously. Ultimately, it is a time to count our blessings, reconnect to the earth and its creatures, and remember where our “true source of nourishment lies.”*

*From the passage for the rune “Fehu,” The Book of Runes by Ralph H. Blum.