Break Down, Break Through: The Astrology of January 2020

It’s not difficult to see the effects of this month’s heavy-hitting, powerfully transformative planetary transits and aspects given the alarming global news headlines. Australia’s incineration and the death of half a billion animal species so far. The build up of war between the US and Iran and the threat of a much larger conflagration in the wake of the drone missile assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Great Britain’s Brexit mess. Ongoing anti-authoritarian / mainland Chinese government protests in Hong Kong.

It’s a jarring time and it can certainly fill one with a sense of acute anxiety, despair, and hopelessness. It’s as if we’re living out the horrors of W.B. Yeats’ nightmare chillingly depicted in his 1919 poem, “The Second Coming”:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.   (lines 3-8)

Much of the chaos and confusion stems from the anticipated exact conjunction, slated for January 12, between structure-, law-, governmental-authority-oriented Saturn and Underworld-rooted, power-conscious, death-and-rebirth preoccupied Pluto. This conjunction is certainly a show-stopper on its own, but there’s actually a quadruple conjunction of planets in Capricorn happening on January 12, two days after a Cancer full moon eclipse! The scope of our narrative broadens. Journey with me into our space-time continuum, won’t you?

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My Annual Year-Wheel Tarot Divination

So we’re immersed in a bit of a cosmic paradox, eh? Here we are, just out of the starting gate of a brand new year, eager to implement all the grand plans we’ve resolved to weave into the tapestries of our life stories in 2016…and along comes a series of astrological events that are the equivalent of STOP signs: a Mercury Retrograde (first in Aquarius for all of two days, then backtracking into Capricorn–in fact, all four Mercury Retrograde periods this year will occur in Earth Signs), starting today; also starting today, the Capricorn Sun conjuncts powerful Pluto, and this aspect seeks to destroy and rebuild foundational structures in our lives, individually and at the collective level (a legacy of the messiness that we’ve inherited in the past four years of the potent and painful Uranus-Pluto square, which I’ve written about here); and this coming Thursday, the 7th of January, will have benevolent and bulbous Jupiter, our Daddy Warbucks of the Zodiac, going Retrograde until the 9th of May (but not leaving the Retrograde shadow period until early August), making us feel as though our personal development is being curtailed, ill luck is prevalent, and cosmic resources are that much more difficult to access. (The opposite, of course, holds true if you were born during a Jupiter Retrograde: this is one of your luckiest times of the year!)

Dizzy yet?

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The Implications of Today’s Astronomical Triple-Header: New Moon, Solar Eclipse, and Spring Equinox

My mother told me that she had the chance to talk to several of our relatives in the former Yugoslavia, Germany, and the island of Malta this morning (Chicago time). They’d all seen/experienced the total solar eclipse–their reactions?

“Terrifying,” Mama reported.

I understood such a response. On Tuesday, May 10, 1993, as I was preparing to leave my apartment to take my end-of-sophomore-year undergraduate Women’s Studies final exam at North Park University in Chicago, I experienced the eerie energies of a total solar eclipse around two in the afternoon. I decided to head out into my backyard and view the phenomenon, clutching a pair of welding glasses I’d borrowed from my father. As soon as I crossed the threshold between the back porch stairs and the door leading to the walkway in the yard, a full-throttle panic attack gripped me. I clutched at the center of my chest; the feeling of oppression was sudden and horrific. My heart rate: ridiculously elevated. And whereas earlier in the day I’d heard a full chorus of neighborhood birds singing away, the landscape–fences, phone wires, tree tops–was completely devoid of stirring wildlife. No sound whatsoever. My panic intensified; I’d broken into a clammy sweat. Now I see, my 19-year-old self thought. I can totally see why our ancient ancestors marked this astronomical phenomenon with utter dread. This is an Extinguishing, a Great Devouring. It seemed to me as though the time-space vacuum was somehow being sucked into itself, and that the very walkway I began to tread was going to crumble apart, leaving me with no choice but to tumble headlong into the Void from which all the Worlds were spun. The earth would swallow me whole. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on This Evening’s Final Uranus-Pluto Showdown

Well, folks, the 7th and final exact hit in the protracted Uranus-Pluto square is timed for 8:50 p.m. Chicago/Central Daylight time. This “exuberant” (to borrow the euphemism Rev. Selena Fox uses to describe unruly children at public Pagan gatherings) planetary aspect has been with us since 2012, and revolutionary Uranus in Aries and transformative Pluto in Capricorn have more than done their duty in illustrating profound dysfunction in the various systems we live under–governmental, financial/corporate, societal. (Pluto, in particular, is a planet dedicated to exposing secrets.)

Uranus in Aries at an exact 90-degree square to Pluto in Capricorn. Image courtesy of www.templeofthejaguar.wordpress.com

Uranus in Aries at an exact 90-degree square to Pluto in Capricorn. Image courtesy of http://www.templeofthejaguar.wordpress.com

The key words coming from both planets in their respective signs are “dismantle” and “restructure.” Uranian energy is like The Tower card from the Tarot: a zapping, instantaneous demolition crew knocking down what no longer works/has served its purpose. Let’s-cut-the-bullshit Pluto in Capricorn detonates with the force of a nuclear blast (think of how Robert Oppenheimer, before testing the atom bomb for the first time, quotes the 11th chapter, the  “Viswarupadarsanam,” of the Bhagavad-Gita, citing Shiva’s declaration that “I have become Death, Destroyer of Worlds”–that’s Plutonian energy in a literal and figurative sense), asking us how we’re going to birth new selves and structures into being, ones that can adapt to the New Normal.

These are energies that make people uncomfortable because of the sweeping changes they bring. In fact, the last time that Pluto and Uranus met was in the mid-1960s, setting the tone for the dramatic cultural and political transformations that occurred in the U.S. and around the world: second-wave feminism, the Civil Rights movement, anti-war protests amidst an escalating Cold War, political revolutions (Kennedy’s assassination, and further down the line, the Watergate scandal was hugely Plutonian given the element of exposure).

Narrowing our focus to the past three years of this planetary square (Obama’s second term, for those of you who are counting), we’ve had an Arab Spring, a resurgence of Cold War rhetoric and saber-rattling between Washington and Moscow, the mounting ecological devastation of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, various harrowing incidents (read: the shooting of unarmed black male youth) bringing to light (there’s that Plutonian spotlight) the egregious imbalance of power tied to race, class, and gender issues in the U.S., the alarming rise of the Islamic State and its heinous killing spree (cultural, religious genocide) in the Middle East and concomitant destruction of world heritage sites, and global economic volatility (the “austerity measures” the EU demanded of Greece, as one example, not to mention our own $13 trillion debt and counting to China) and instability, with talks now of countries like Hungary and Iceland vowing to pull out of the EU, to name but a few events. I’m sure you can think of more.

But as the great occult axiom from the Emerald Tablet imparts, “As above, so below; as within, so without.” That the motions of the planets impact vibrational levels experienced by people on earth at the collective and individual level is the underlying principle of astrology. Think: How has your life evolved in the past three years? What dramatic changes have you undergone? I’ll wager you’ve gone through some life-altering ones during this span of time.

Pluto the planet and the Earth Sign of Capricorn are all about power: consolidating it, manifesting it in the public sphere. (Capricorn rules the 10th house of career/public life.) Who have you become/who are you in the process of becoming on the World Stage? How are you being perceived by the world at large? How does your sense of vocation fit into it? Are you in a position to share the gifts that you’ve been given with others? This is the time to showcase your leadership in an inspirational way, to reclaim (if you’ve lost it) your sense of personal power and use it in the paradigm that Starhawk calls “power-with,” not “power-over” another

And that’s just it: we need to think collectively, about the imprints our thoughts, words, and deeds leave behind. Be mindful of a ripple effect you create, even in the most seemingly mundane of moments, for that is where the magic lies. It could be something as simple as greeting a stranger in the elevator of the office building where you work, holding a door open for a mother struggling with pushing a stroller inside a restaurant’s entrance, offering a person with disabilities your seat on the bus. Little moments of kindness can turn a person’s day–and perspective–around for the better in an instant. The new Uranian-Plutonian paradigm calls for interrelatedness.

Of course, as with the advice given by flight attendants in the emergency preparedness demos before your flight takes off, it’s best to have your own proverbial oxygen squared away before you can lend a hand to your seatmates. As this planetary square is a very intense one–and note that it happens just four days before the Spring Equinox Total Solar Eclipse, which brings its own high-intensity energy levels–it’s very important to make self-care your top priority. Eat nourishing foods, and try to limit your caffeine intake. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Go for walks and let your feet connect with earth energy: stabilizing, grounding. Exercise in other ways, especially in methods that showcase a mindfulness link with the body’s movements, such as dance, yoga, t’ai chi, other martial arts. Surround yourself with positive people who love you, whose interactions leave you feeling energized and content, not depleted and defeated.

Those are the basics of self-care. For those on a spiritual path, especially a Pagan one that features devotional practices at its core, turn to your Power(s) for help. Pray for the removal of obstacles in your life, that the Uranus-Pluto square helps you clear away effortlessly (and hopefully gently!) that which is no longer aligned with your highest good. That the new Self you’re birthing into being (Plutonian rebirth, the phoenix from the ashes) consciously moves forward as a more fitting receptacle of Divinity. Stronger yet more humble. More aware. More generous and helpful. Fully attuned to the rhythms of the interdependence of all beings.

This past weekend, now that the snow has mercifully melted here in Chicago, my Bodacious Beau™ and I began to clear away a lot of debris in and around our humble home, starting with the east-facing balcony of our condo and the veggie and flower garden we have there. Happily, the potted rose from my birthday last September managed to stay alive over the winter in our kitchen, so we transferred it outdoors and repotted other plants as well (rosemary, oregano, hyacinth, spider plants, “hot cakes” seedlings). The black pansies we bought at a local nursery were potted together as a devotional act for Hekate: Goth flowers for the win! And all that sweeping away of gunk and reorganizing that we did really amounted to an effect that’s so refreshing, such a big “Ahhhhh!” every time I walk by the patio door. (As Stephen King would say, it’s become a “sweet spot” of our home.) It’s also a perfect metaphor for the Uranus-Pluto square too: out with the dead, the detritus, and in with the green shoots of new growing things. As we used to chant at Imbolc in my Gardnerian coven (whilst sweeping the ritual space widdershins with our besoms):

Thus we banish Winter

And thus we welcome Spring

Say farewell to what is dead

And greet each living thing

Thus we banish Winter

And thus we welcome Spring

 As the energies of this Uranus-Pluto square rely upon death as the necessary precursor to rebirth/renewal, it’s also been a good time for Dan and I to take morning and evening strolls in the local cemetery, leaving offerings for Hekate, Hel, and the spirit children that died with their mothers in the poorhouse at the Read-Dunning asylum for the criminally insane. On Saturday evening, we even went to fly a kite with the intent of sharing joy with the ghost children, as there was a nice (and apt) strong breeze from the north and kite flying brought out our own inner children in full force. There’s an example of interrelatedness right there: the worlds of the living and the dead reinforcing one another. Death and life, the two sides of the same coin.

Life is breath, and so I suggest we all take a series of deep breaths and set our intention on the new Wyrd we’re weaving together as this final Uranus-Pluto boxing match gets underway. It’s Go Time!

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