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New York, Tuesday, August 9, 2011

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The Dog Moon & Cygnus the Swan: Ex Ovo Omnia

This Saturday, Aug. 13, is the Aquarius Full Moon, at about 2:58 pm EDT. Traditionally, the Full Moon of August is sometimes called the Dog Moon. This is a reference to the "dog days" of summer, which were named after the star Sirius, of the constellation Canis Major (Latin for greater dog). Sirius is by far the brightest star in the sky and was also known as "the scorcher." Sirius' proximity to the Sun at this time of year was thought to be linked to the hot weather.

Planet Waves
Selene Rising at Sounion, 2011. The Moon emerges from behind the Temple of Poseidon (450-440 BC) at Sounion, Greece, south of Athens. Photo by Anthony Ayiomamitis.
Note that the Full Moon will be building its tension through the week, which can result in an exaggerated emotional effect. It's doing so while Mercury is retrograde, making rational thought slightly less accessible. And we're currently experiencing some unusual Mars aspects that might be stirring up the emotional level of experience. There is a fair amount of conflict in the sky right now -- be sure to apply awareness and discernment so that you don't get caught up in it.

Visually, this Full Moon is still near its lowest appearance in the sky all year. As we noted last month, when the Sun reaches his highest appearance in the sky during summer, the Moon is making her lowest appearance and is closer to the horizon when full. At midnight the Full Moon will be in the south, but only a little more than halfway up in the sky in between the horizon and zenith, or point directly overhead. Higher up, above the Full Moon and towards the zenith, can be seen Deneb Adige of the constellation Cygnus the Swan. This constellation is also known as the Northern Cross because of the large cross formed by the lines of stars representing the Swan's wings and body.

Cygnus the Swan is one of the three constellations whose stars make up the huge asterism called the Summer Triangle. An asterism is a grouping of fixed stars that are not part of any one constellation, but which are clearly recognizable as a grouping of some kind. These three are mythically associated with the Stymphalian birds of the sixth labor of Hercules. Darrelyn Gunzburg also notes that Cygnus the Swan is associated with the myths of Krishna and Zeus, who both took the form of a swan. The Egyptians for their part saw this region of the heavens as the birth canal of Nut, the great starry sky goddess whose body was the Milky Way, and from whence the Sun god, Ra, was born anew every winter solstice.

The Full Moon is lighting up a part of the sky related to myths concerned with such complex themes as human sexuality, birth, re-birth and shape-shifting. The story of Leda and the Swan has been the subject of many artists including Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Cezanne and Yeats. This story is the subject of much erotic art, presumably due to the ironic fact that it was easier to get away with depicting a woman copulating with a swan than with a man.

Planet Waves
Aquarius Full Moon, conjunct the centaur planet Nessus. The axis of the Full Moon -- across 20 Leo to to 20 Aquarius -- divides the Uranus-Pluto square exactly. You can see this if you look. Uranus is the blue H to the lower right; Pluto is the red golf tee to the lower left. The Moon is a gray crescent toward the bottom of the chart, located halfway between Uranus and Pluto. Therefore the Full Moon conjunct Nessus is 'setting off' our current moment of uprising, tumult, chaos and loss of faith in leadership. Events going on this week are part of a much longer era in history we've recently embarked upon.
In this story, Zeus took the form of a swan and seduced Leda on the same night she slept with her husband King Tyndareus. In some versions, she laid two eggs from which four children were hatched. In this way, Leda bore Helen and Polydeuces, children of Zeus, while at the same time bearing Castor and Clytemnestra, children of her husband Tyndareus, the King of Sparta.

This story can also be seen to incorporate motifs of many earlier myths. In cultures whose religious practices put them into contact with other realms of existence, it was common for shamans to wear a cape of swan feathers, because 'swan medicine' is associated with the power of shape-shifting. We can see this survive in the modern tale The Ugly Duckling, by Hans Christian Andersen. Over time, the ugly duckling grows into the most beautiful bird of all -- a magnificent snowy white swan. This is a familiar tale for children, reassuring them that beauty comes from within, and that when their time comes, they will be transformed and have the grace, beauty and elegance of a majestic white swan.

Jamie Sams tells a similar tale in her Medicine Cards where Little Swan flew into the Dreamtime, looking for the future. She found a swirling black hole and Dragonfly told her that to enter there she had to accept whatever the future holds without trying to change the plan of Great Spirit. Little Swan agreed to do so and through her faith and acceptance was transformed into a state of grace and beauty. Sams says: "[Swan] ushers in a time of altered states of awareness and of development of your intuitive abilities." It relates to our ability to see the future, but also to the act of surrendering to the power of Spirit, and accepting and trusting the healing and transformation available in our lives.

Yes -- transformation, the theme of the hour, and of the era. As we enter the Epoch of Revolution of the Uranus-Pluto squares (2012-2015, but active right now), the Aquarius Full Moon is directly involved in this as well. The Full Moon occurs at 21 degrees Aquarius, which is close to the midpoint between Uranus and Pluto. Anything at that midpoint comes under the spotlight of the Uranus-Pluto theme, which is about crisis bringing about deeply necessary structural change. There happens to be a slow-moving minor planet right there, conjunct the Full Moon and right at the midpoint: Nessus.

Planet Waves
Leda and the Swan, commonly attributed to Pontormo, 1512-1513. It hangs in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
Planet Waves has covered this planet a lot recently; it keeps showing up in charts of world events. Nessus has a very long orbit that crosses the orbits of Uranus, Neptune and occasionally Pluto. It's like all of the outer planets wrapped in a bow. Nessus has a theme of the cycles of karma, or as author Melanie Reinhart puts it, 'the buck stops here'. One other attribute of Nessus is 'potentially inappropriate sexual conduct', a theme that shows up in the Leda myth. Nessus is, on many levels, about responsibility coming home to roost. We can use the wisdom of Swan to navigate the entry into the powerful combination of Uranus, Nessus and Pluto, which will have effects well into the end of the current decade.

Another theme brought up by the mythology of Swan is that of the World Egg. Leda's eggs are related to many older creation stories that involve an egg. Indeed all animals, even mammals, come from an egg. English scientist Charles Harvey expressed this as: Ex Ovo Omnia -- everything from an egg. In mythology, birds are often related to deities because of their access to the upper air. Athena can exist in the form of an owl, Artemis is depicted with wings and so is Nike. Perhaps the story of Leda and the Swan relates to the union of the primordial elements of sky and water via a bird deity, in order to re-create the World. On this note, one wonders if Helen, with her beauty, could be seen as the first woman of a New Age.

This idea that the World is going through a re-birth is really what is at the heart of 2012. Mayan scholar John Major Jenkins sums up the message of the galactic alignment thus: "Cosmic Mother Gives Birth to The First God." This is a natural consequence of the Expanding Universe theory. As the Universe, our World, and our Selves expand and grow we periodically come up against crystallized barriers to that growth. It is as if we are continuously pecking though our egg (ego) shells, growing into a new version of ourselves and then reaching the next shell to peck through. If you are feeling yourself coming up against barriers to growth, then perhaps as our friend Len Wallick put it recently, "it's time to get peckin' peeps!" But remember also to surrender your expectations of the future, like Swan, and accept the future unconditionally -- so that you may be truly transformed.

-- Additional research by Eric Francis

Note from Eric to All the Signs: We're still offering the Mercury Retrograde Report (one of my favorite 12 sign reports ever; this one came in on a beam of light) and the Midyear Report also offers 12 signs of useful, in-depth astrology for one low price.

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