Planet Waves | Firedancing by Eric Francis



Planet Waves for March 2001 | By Eric Francis

At the opening ceremony for the recent 9th annual Women of Wisdom conference in Seattle, the drumming started and a young woman in an elegant black dress stepped onto the stage wearing gloves with long extensions off of each finger. A candle was lit, and each of the extensions, dipped in the flame, became a torch; the lights were dimmed, and the week-long feminist spirituality event was invoked with a fire dance ritual.

I spoke to the dancer later, and as I guessed, she had first learned fireplay at the Burning Man celebration, which happens each summer in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Burning Man is a "temporary autonomous zone," a portable city created on a bare, ancient lakebed (or "playa"), and then removed after the week-long event, leaving the desert empty. Anything (literally) can happen, as long as it doesn't involve guns or motorized vehicles. Art, sex, drugs, music, theatre, whatever -- anything goes. A central theme of Burning Man is fire: burnable art, fire-breathing, fireworks, and flame twirling, with the main ritual, the last night, being the of burning of a six-story tall effigy of a man.

At other rituals I've been to in recent years, the importance of fire as an empowering and purifying element is being remembered. Burning Man has had its influence; I keep turning up places where people get out the torches or batons and light the flames of transformation. Lots of them trek out to Nevada every summer for some authentic freaking out.

We live in a culture where fire is a very contained, frightening element, and one usually associated with poison and not purification. Some of us get to have gas stoves and wood heat, and a scant few of us get to experience open fire. Except for candles, our society has for the most part reduced fire to resistance (electric heat and stoves), internal combustion engines (cars and trucks), dioxin (incinerators), and good old smoking. We believe the Sun is toxic, and nuclear power, a kind of weird, unburning fire, is toxic for centuries after it's usable. Things do burn down, and we're also familiar with fire as an unpredictable and destructive force of nature, which bystanders watch with amazed attention.

So the return of fire the creator, fire the cleanser, fire the impassioned, and fire the theme of a sensuous dance at a women's conference, is a happy turn of history. Fire, in all its forms, is contagious. Passion, change, heat and erotic energy, all represented by fire, can move from person to person, from mind to mind, if we open up and allow, if we breathe it out, and breathe it in.


Fire in the Sky

The astrology of Spring is a dance of fire. It will be difficult to miss, though it's nice if you know what's happening. Each Spring at the Equinox, the Sun returns to the beginning of the zodiac, the fire sign Aries, when the days become longer than the nights. Aries is the sign of the god Mars, and we count this time as the return of passion, light and life here in the northern hemisphere.

But there's a lot more going on than that. You may already know that Pluto and Chiron are making their way across Sagittarius, a fire sign which represents world culture, the fire of the creative intellect, as well as the passion of Spirit. Since Pluto entered worldwise Sagittarius in 1995, we have seen the surfacing of three kinds of globalization themes: corporate (IMF and World Bank-style); raging protests against this kind of unabashed planet-mongering; and the emergence of World Beat culture, where influences from civilizations on every continent are finding their way into our lives as music, food, tea, medicine, dance, ritual, folklore, literature and art.

Chiron, a planet with strong themes of healing and Shamanism, swept into Sagittarius in 2000, making a conjunction to Pluto just as the first wave of anti-Free Trade protests was ending in Seattle. The amazing thing about those protests was how aware one needs to be in order to protest against an abstract entity like a trade organization, which hardly poses the immediate threat of the draft (which inspired lots of protests against the Vietnam War not so long ago). Something else that turned me on about Seattle was the presence of Pagan leaders including Starhawk, and the use of ritual, prayer and conscious intention by protest leaders and participants. I think when we look back on Chiron in Sagittarius and the rare Chiron-Pluto conjunction, this is what we will remember.

Now, a lot more happens with Pluto and Chiron later in the Spring, but I would be getting ahead of myself. First we get to have some real fun and talk about Venus.


Fire Walk With Me

Venus is Planet Desire, and she is also Planet Fulfillment. Though we usually think of her as associated with chocolate bonbons, bear in mind that the temperature on Venus is about 900 degrees, which is the temperature of most women if you can (metaphorically speaking here) get past the dense cloud cover that envelopes the surface of the actual planet. Venus is currently in Aries, which is a sign of fiery initiative, outgoing lust, and passion. In Aries, Venus is about selfconscious beauty, but she takes on a Marsy property and openly wants more, and is not afraid to be unladylike and, you know, Just Do It.

Every two years, Venus does something we usually think of only Mercury doing, which is turn to retrograde movement. She moves faster than the Earth, and is about to pass us on the inside bend, whizzing by and creating an illusion of reverse movement through the zodiac. Retrograde motion occurs when the Earth and the retrograde planet align on the same side of the Sun. The effect is just like when one train is passing another, and the slower train appears -- very convincingly -- to be going slowly backwards.

This can turn the love and desire emphasis of Venus to selflove and selfdesire, a kind of inner experience of erotic passion. We are very dependent on other people for our fulfillment and for affirmation of who we are. I don't think we can get out of this any time soon, but we can learn to make the best of it -- and we can learn to appreciate ourselves in the process.

I've already mentioned that Pluto and Chiron are in another fire sign, Sagittarius. Mars has joined these two planets in Sagittarius, and on March 18, there is a rather beautiful event. Mars crosses over Pluto's position, in the 16th degree of Sagittarius. In the 16th degree of Aries (a perfect trine), we will have Venus conjunct the powerful asteroid Juno, whose themes involve marriage and commitment. Venus retrograde in Aries, plus Juno, says marriage to Self is the true marriage of this season: self as Higher Self, self as Lover, self as our true lifelong consort.

But these goddesses align perfectly with Mars and Pluto in Sagittarius in a gentle and harmonic trine aspect. The potent energies of male Eros, Anima, male desire, join one another and find freedom and expressiveness within the fully realized image of inner female, Animus. The image is of joining, ease of communication and contact, opportunity and freedom. Three days later, the Sun enters Aries and Spring begins.


Galactic Times

There is one more act in this play. Mars continues on his way through Sagittarius, where later in spring he will meet Chiron. Chiron is also beginning a retrograde at this time, standing still in the last degrees of Sagittarius, which align with the center of the Milky Way galaxy, our home universe. In the coming months, because Mars will also turn retrograde, there will be three close conjunctions between Mars, the primary male energy, Chiron the energy of healing, learning and transformation, and the galactic center which astrologically symbolizes the central source of our existence and intelligence.

In reading the symbols and signs of the universe, we could not wish for a more vivid harbinger of the reuniting male energy with its higher vibrations, original intention and Mystic Warrior quality, and in the process, making contact with feminine energy in harmonious ways.

In recent years, there have been many words spoken in New Age circles about sexual healing, awakening the inner male and female, and healing our anger, relationships and gender issues. The wandering stars are aligning in a rare, long-lasting and magnificent dance which we can follow down here in the small world: a dance of life, love and the exchange of passion and fire that has been liberated from the fears and hurts of the past.

If we want.++

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