Astrology on the Most Personal Level

Dominick’s Café, on a rainy morning in Kingston, NY. Photo by Eric Francis.

Dear Friend and Reader:

We are again in one of those moments when the world seems to be coming unhinged — as we’ve gone through this week’s news items, it’s really impressive how much pain and struggle there is going on. That said, there seemed to be some progress on immigration reform and gun control, which if they stick, is nothing less than a miracle. Pres. Obama’s nominee for defense secretary believes we need fewer nuclear bombs. Go figure.

Meanwhile, the astrology is pointing in a distinctly personal and introspective direction. Planets that are prominent in the charts include the Sun, Mercury, Venus and Mars, as well as a centaur planet called Nessus. This began last weekend with the conjunction of Mars and Nessus in Aquarius, which has gone a long way to bring emotional and sexual shadow material to the surface of awareness, and instigate some real discussions.

The northward-flowing Coxing Kill in midwinter, on the Grandmother Land in Ulster County, NY. Photo by Eric Francis.

The main event is Mercury making a conjunction to Nessus, which is about learning to speak the unspeakable. Nessus represents all that is denied, and Mercury represents what we think about and communicate to others. We are in an extended moment of truth, where the ice that is caked over the ability to communicate real feelings is, at least for now, beginning to thaw.

Before I get into that, let’s start with Imbolc, which is the Sun crossing the midpoint of the sign Aquarius. That’s exact Monday at 11:13 am EST. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the halfway mark of winter, midway between the Capricorn solstice and the Aries equinox. It’s one of the cross-quarter days, related to Beltane and Halloween. We get a cross-quarter day any time we’re halfway between an equinox and a solstice. They always fall when the Sun is in a fixed sign.

Imbolc is not the beginning of spring; rather, it’s winter gradually losing its hold on the environment up north as the Earth’s angle seems to draw the Sun in our direction. As with all the cross-quarter days, a diversity of holidays are gathered around the Celtic feast of Imbolc (which means “in the belly” or “in the milk,” a reference to being surrounded by darkness). The Catholics call it Candlemas, which actually preserves a link to the original intent of this holiday season — it’s about fire.

Candlemas was usurped by the Catholics from an earlier holiday (as are all Catholic holidays) celebrating the return of Persephone from the underworld, carrying a candle to help her light her way. It’s also associated with (Vesta-like) Brigit, a fire goddess. Lighting the way through the dark is the common theme of this time of year. In modern terms, it’s Groundhog Day, which preserves the early theme of weather divination. This is soon followed by candle-lit Valentine’s Day.

The constellation Aquarius overlaps with the astrological sign by the same name. It’s known to be among the oldest named configurations of stars, and stands “with his foot on the head of the great Southern fish, into whose mouth his waters pour,” according to astrologer and cultural astronomer Catherine Tennant.

Modern interpretation of Aquarius, from the Thoth Tarot. This is The Star card (Trump XVII) illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris in the 1930s.

She traces the god Aquarius back to Babylon, noting that he rules over a huge area of the sky where are gathered the southern fish, the dolphin, the fish of Pisces, the mighty River Eridanus (the River of Night) and Cetus the sea monster. These ancient waters and their primal creatures were “seen as the source of life, through which the Sun passed during the rainy season.”

In the hands of Aquarius, says Tennant, is the Norma Nilotica, the stick used to measure the waters of the Nile River for the purpose of agriculture — an important indicator of agricultural success, and hence of survival.

In these same rainy days of winter, half a world away, the Celts were busy with agricultural matters of their own: doing the earliest preparations for planting in the coming spring. A feast marked the waning of winter. Germans in Europe and Indians in the New World were taking stock of how much remained of their winter rations. The ability to manage their food supply was critical to their survival through the remaining weeks of cold.

“Prophesy and purification are the recurrent and symbolic themes of the midwinter festivals,” writes Donna Henes in her book Celestially Auspicious Occasions. “The concept of prophesy is drawn from the foresight and faith that spring, in all its verdant glory, is on its predictable way, even amid the hard, white winter. Purification suggests careful preparations for its coming.”

When the Sun is crossing Aquarius, most of our time is still shrouded in darkness, and we remain, for a while, in the belly of the stars of night. We might be tempted to look to the meanings of Aquarius to help understand this fascinating convergence of holidays and themes, which involve containment (whether of fire, by the Vesta-like chevron, of water by an urn, or of humanity in the dark of night).

Yet it seems more appropriate to apply mystical and agricultural folklore back to Aquarius, reminding ourselves that its waters bring purification and moisten the land for the first growths of spring. In the long, dark nights, we’re reminded that we really are in the belly of the stars, gestated, born and living in a mysterious cosmos.

Nessus in Aquarius

All the centaurs address shadow material. Nessus is about the cycle of abuse — in particular, the moment when someone breaks the cycle. As abusive tendencies travel down the generations, there is sometimes someone who says that enough is enough, and really means it.

Melanie Reinhart gives Nessus the key phrase “the buck stops here.” I asked her this week where she got that and she said, “I heard client after client use that exact phrase when describing what was going on in their process, when Nessus seemed to be clearly a significator in the transits — transits ‘to’ or ‘from’ Nessus. I saw many miracles happen, and you know me — I wouldn’t say that lightly or in false hope.”

Den Haag, probably summer 2005. Photo by Eric Francis.

I do know her and she would not — I’ve seen the same miracles happen, where people wake up and figure out what’s going on and make a decision what to do about it. Often a process of resolution takes on a life of its own, aided by our least cooperation.

Nessus brings this process into Aquarius. Nessus has been in Aquarius for a number of years, and on Saturday Mars made a conjunction to it. In a sense, it’s a struggle for collective accountability — or for an individual to hold a group accountable. Short of that, this is when one person takes responsibility no matter what anyone may think. Mars is activating the individualism rather than the conformism aspect of Aquarius, which is what it takes.

But it’s not always so easy. Mars is the planet of desire, and desire is often infused with guilt, hesitation and fear. Acting on desire is the very essence of personal volition, so when someone wants to control another person, the thing to do is to corrupt desire.

This is so pervasive we might think it’s normal: someone makes someone else feel guilty for so much as wanting something, or someone. There are many subtle forms of abuse, and most of them involve shame and humiliation. This can reach people so deeply that they feel like they have no right to make a decision, or even to consider doing so. The Mars connection is about reclaiming that privilege — the right to think and want what you want.

Along the way, though, one must encounter the resistance that groups, families, tribes and social networks can put in the way of an individual standing up for his or her right to exist. Once internalized, that resistance becomes a form of personal shadow material that can only be addressed by an individual, and that is where we seem to be now.

Mariel Hemingway went public recently about the history of abuse, mental illness, alcoholism and suicide in her family.

There were two examples of this in the news this week, both deeply touching. One was former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords testifying before Congress, calling for tighter gun laws.

Barely able to speak after being shot by Jared Lee Loughner two years ago, she told her former colleagues, with her husband by her side to help keep her steady:

“Thank you for inviting me here today. This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats, and Republicans. Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying — too many children. We must do something. It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Thank you.”

Note, Nessus is prominent in her chart, as well as that of the person who tried to assassinate her — they both have it conjunct the Sun (see article from that event here). You could say this was her moment of declaring, “The bullet stops here.” You would think that Congress would be receptive to a former colleague who survived an assassination attempt and in fact several key Republicans with A ratings from the NRA have begun to tip the scales in favor of gun control, coming out in favor of sane measures like background checks for those purchasing weapons.

And Monday, Mariel Hemingway was interviewed about her new documentary, Running from Crazy, by Amy Goodman on her program Democracy Now! She describes the multigenerational pattern of suicide, talks about the alcohol abuse and mental illness in the family, and alludes to the sexual abuse that went on as well.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was nearly assassinated by someone using a Glock 19 with an extended magazine, testified with the help of her husband, Space Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly.

Notably, this film was released at the Sundance Film Festival just as she entered a major Nessus phase in her life — transiting Nessus square natal Nessus. This is happening to everyone born approximately from 1959 to 1962 right now.

Here’s something interesting as well — just now, news floated into my inbox that a new centaur planet has been named. It’s called Orius. It was discovered in 2009 at the Baldone Observatory in Latvia.

In mythology, Orius was killed by Heracles when he tried to steal the wine collectively owned by the centaurs, which was kept in the cave of Pholus. A lot of centaurs got killed that day, and now we know the name of one and what he tried to do.

This is a long story, but here is the upshot: it’s dangerous for an individual to try to take on collective karma. Sometimes it has to happen, but it’s better to work at the personal level — rather than taking on everything, or fixing everything, you are the place where the buck stops.

More Personal Planets Coming

Beginning today (Friday, Feb. 1), we have a new series of events. Let’s take them one at a time. Today, both Venus and Mars change signs. Within one hour of one another, Mars enters Pisces and Venus enters Aquarius (at 8:54 pm EST and 9:47 pm EST, respectively).

When Mars ingresses Pisces, it immediately moves into a conjunction with Neptune. Mars-Neptune is always an interesting, compelling mix. It can work many different ways; it has a wide range of effects, from the most creative to the most toxic. When Mars and Neptune are in any aspect, it’s necessary to exercise your best judgment — especially if the aspect is a conjunction.

One of the traditions of Candlemas, dating back through many generations of prior holidays, is to put a candle in every window, assuming after you do your inventory that you have enough to get you through the rest of winter. Please be careful of the curtains. Photo by Eric Francis.

Neptune conjunctions, by the way, have the widest orb of influence; Neptune is unusually sensitive to transits and aspects. This is amplified by the whole thing happening in Pisces — notably, this is the first Mars-Neptune conjunction since Neptune entered Pisces (the first of seven in Pisces between now and 2024).

If you have some spiritual awareness, this could be very helpful with things of a more mystical nature. Your dreams might be especially interesting or intense. This is not the time to be playing with the Ouija board or inviting entities into your space. If you are going to drink alcohol, I suggest you stay home, where you have some safe containment.

It can, however, be a fantastically creative time, for art, music, poetry and visioning your life, though what you come up with may take some fact-checking or revision. You’ll need to sift for the gems among your ideas; take notes because anything involving Neptune can be volatile, fleeting or difficult to grasp.

The main event, though, seems to be Mercury making a conjunction to Nessus on Saturday. This feels like a conversation starter — a moment of going beyond being ‘real’ and instead being authentic; a moment of actual truth.

It’s almost always challenging to discuss shadow material, especially when it’s tribal — and it almost always is. So, I suggest you remind yourself that it takes courage to speak up, and to admit anything that happened to you, or that you witnessed. But Mercury conjunct Nessus in Aquarius seems like a moment of finding that courage and speaking up about what you’ve experienced.

Yes, you may feel like you’re blowing the whistle on your family, or like you’re betraying your tribe. What you may really be saying is: enough is enough.


Weekly Horoscope for Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 #936 | By Eric Francis

Mid-Aquarius Birthdays

As the Sun reaches its peak in your sign this week, Venus ingresses your sign, reminding you of something significant: live your beliefs with the full momentum of your life. This will do two things: strengthen your faith if they turn out to be worthwhile ideas, and demonstrate that it’s time to change your mind if you figure out they don’t work. What you’re likely to discover is that your faith was well invested and that you really can push a few limits about what you will accomplish if you put that into action. There’s also something about feeling safe and how you might go about that. What the astrology says is, live as if you are safe and see how that works. Safety is a feeling, and you will have that experience by creating space for it, practicing and strengthening it in your day-to-day affairs and your relationships. Your sense of belonging on the planet is not something that’s given to you; it’s something that you must actively create, and you can.

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You may find excellent company among those others think of as strange. Let yourself be guided by intuition, instinct or the angels — speak to whom you’re guided or gravitate towards. If you have to get over a little bump of fear to do that, and to make contact, all the better. In some ways this is an exercise in trust, and you really don’t have much to lose, especially in the social realm. However, in today’s chilly version of society, it seems like nearly everyone has inflammations of social phobia, accentuated by the fear of what you might do in the event that something real actually happens. What you want is exactly, precisely, something real. As such, it may be a little strange, having that slightly alien feeling. That’s the idea. If you’re at a party, the person you want to talk to is the one with the pointy ears, the color eyes you’ve never seen, or the unusual scent.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Your professional life continues to be the focus. If you’re experiencing some form of success, this is just a hint of what is possible. But you might consider how you got here: by taking chances, by challenging your own boundaries, by deciding to have the confidence to bring up supposedly taboo subject matter, and by embracing what you think of as your opposite. There’s a finesse to all of this, and for you that has a lot to do with logic. It’s also associated with being able to express yourself. If you’re articulate and you have some respect for the reasoning process, you can cover a lot of ground in territory that seemed impassable just the day before. There’s something else here as well, which is your willingness to face your challenges directly. That willingness builds confidence in you and it’s evidence of your confidence to others. What you may be discovering is that you are more cut out for leadership than you ever thought, and much of that involves being something of a pioneer on the level of ideas.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You may be one of those people who is too smart to have been influenced by religion, though I would propose that you would have to be a ninja-from-birth kind of critical thinker to avoid that. If you’re having any angst at all, particularly a struggle with the past or some psychological pattern, I suggest you go digging on the history of religion in your life and in your family. Getting beyond this is not merely a matter of ‘mental override’. It’s about understanding the ways in which you were influenced by specific ideas that influenced you — including by the values of any atheists or agnostics in your history. You will be able to use logic to get you out of this, though it’s a special kind of logic in that it involves understanding the nature of how you think and why you think that way, not merely the nature of a few specific thoughts. In the end you must have conscious faith in something; it’s a matter of what, and now seems like a good time to find out.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You’re starting to figure out that you must have a vision for your life, though the even better news is that you’re starting to get one. Sometimes this seems easy and sometimes it seems much more difficult. Recent developments are giving you a clue how much progress you’ve made over the past couple of years, and now you seem to be at a flashpoint. It is essential that you think in terms of what is possible, coupled with your willingness to take the steps to make it actually happen. It’s also vital that you focus on cooperation with others rather than competition — which means casting others in the role of supporter, collaborator or partner. If you allow yourself to have a bias that others are here to help you, you’re more likely to think of them that way. And there’s a pretty good chance it’s true, so you have the odds in your favor here. Keep an eye out for the person who knows how to influence others.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — If any children or young people around you are acting strangely, look at what’s in their environment, particularly their media environment. I suggest that you pay attention to this for the foreseeable future. In many ways the whole thing seems out of control — you cannot walk into a restaurant without being pelted by five flat screen monitors. There may, however, be specific things to look for — games, websites, applications. Nearly all films coming out of Hollywood are designed to manipulate and undermine self-esteem. Then they are impregnated with violence and images of superhuman power. I don’t have kids, but if I did, with rare exceptions, I would not be taking them to the movies for the latest thriller. Don’t come down like an authoritarian, though. Instead, do a survey of the media intake of the kids. Have a clue what it is. You will have a lot more influence if you can add in positive factors: books, music, recorded books and other carefully selected materials that have a purpose besides entertainment.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Be careful what you say, and be mindful as you interpret what you hear. Take conversations slowly, especially at work — there is significant potential for misunderstanding. It’s one of those situations where the more you analyze, the less you may actually know. Meanwhile, passions are running high in your environment, so there’s added potential for things to get weird. Therefore, take a minimalist approach. I would advise against trying to solve anything or fix anyone; this is a moment to adapt and lay low for a few days. It’s definitely not the time to take people on their word, though it’s not an especially great time to doubt them either. It’s an excellent time to put most discussions on hold, sniff around for missing information and see what comes out in the wash. Resist, evade, avoid or eschew your impulse to state your opinion anywhere but in your journal — at least till early next week. Especially at work. Meanwhile, if you’re involved in a matter of personal healing, focus on the mind level first. Don’t take the opinions of others too seriously, till you have your own facts correct.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — People seem to be treating you with more respect these days. It’s as if they have some kind of interest in keeping you as a friend or ally, after experimenting with a diversity of other approaches to your presence. At the same time, you are starting to focus your faith in yourself, your creativity and your longterm vision for your life. The two are working together to point you in the direction of some positive outcomes — especially in relationship situations, which have been something of a tender spot for the past year or so. It’s time for you to take some new risks, and one of them is a creative orientation on your partnerships. I believe that a central question in any relationship is, what are we going to make, as opposed to what are we going to do? Making love is a good start, but I don’t think it’s enough. The idea is more like, what are we going to make with love? All that creative energy wants to go somewhere — you get to decide where.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — This time of year is always a point of reorientation. The Sun is now passing across the backbone of the fixed cross, which includes your sign. The Sun is at the midpoint of Aquarius, where Venus is approaching and Mercury has just been. This is a time to clean and maintain your foundations, to repair cracks and to process through the feelings that are coming up. Note, some of these feelings are ancestral — they involve people in your family much more than they actually involve you, though you’ve inherited the situation. Over the next few days, it’s essential that you not indulge any self-destructive conduct. I would keep alcohol use to an extremely modest level, and I don’t recommend doing anything that changes your mind or feelings anywhere but in the safety of your home. When you’re speaking to anyone, if you hear yourself say anything but the truth, pause and consider why you’re saying what you’re saying. Your integrity is being tested. Honor that test and you will find yourself in a new place.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Your ruling planet Jupiter stationed direct this week, which is a sign that certain wrinkles in your relationships are ironing themselves out. You may also experience a gush of subject matter coming up that was held in reserve or at bay by the retrograde, but I don’t suggest you have all the conversations at once. Give things a week to unfold on their own. There’s a lot of hot astrology coming up in your chart over the next week, and the potential for exaggerated emotional reactions is pretty high. So I suggest you focus on being observant, on listening and on noticing what you’re feeling. Your emotions are likely to be somewhat contradictory at times, so don’t expect them to make sense, or try to force them to. If you take things slowly and gently, the roots of those contradictions will make themselves known. That information will help you, though it’s essential that you not come to conclusions. Rather, be happy with observations that lead you a little deeper into your understanding of yourself.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You may be tempted to say what you don’t like, or to articulate what has hurt you — though I suggest that you keep things positive. When you notice what you don’t want, turn that into an affirmative and state what you want. I know that you have a list of things that you would rearrange if you could, and that the conduct of the human race has you confused at least half the time. The main difference between you and so many people is that you have options, and you’re starting to figure this out. This is the thing to remember: No matter what you like about the world or don’t like about it, you have the power to choose and the choices to choose among. If you’re feeling like you’re boxed in, make a list of your options. Then remind yourself that you can choose. If you have any misgivings about that, then I suggest you note that fact and see if you can figure out who you might be ‘betraying’ by making your own choices.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Over the next few days, Mercury will be conjunct Nessus in your birth sign. This is going to focus some ideas for you, and you may become passionate about them. Let’s start with Nessus, which I’ve been writing about frequently — just check the Planet Waves blog for deeper information about this planet associated with healing abuse and betrayal. On one level, Nessus describes the failure of ethics that we experience, so often associated with sexuality. Your chart suggests you may find yourself feeling obsessed with resolving all that has happened to you — other aspects are adding passionate drive to your experience of life, and a sense of immediacy. Actually what you’re figuring out now has been trying to get your attention for a long time. Certain fixed ideas were getting in the way: beliefs you refused to change, an attachment to your public image and the fear of being less than perfect. These are all a ruse thrown over your fear of simply admitting what is true for you. That’s the place to start. Action comes later.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — As of Friday, Mars has arrived in your sign for the first time in two years. This is bringing your passions to a boil, which were already going at a nice simmer. Everything is likely to feel more vibrant, direct and intense. Deeper truths are likely to come flowing into your awareness. People will respond to you more strongly than they usually do — perhaps attracted, perhaps repelled. This will help you see the world in more vivid contrast. And this is your opportunity to see who and what is around you, and choose based on what you want, and what you observe to be true. You may, however, feel pushed to rush ahead; I suggest you slow down. This, I know, is challenging for someone under the influence of Mars, but the thing is, you don’t really know the environment you’re in, because Mars is conjunct Neptune. The only thing you can really trust is your imagination, and that, for purposes of creativity. In all matters relational, sexual and otherwise impassioned, look closely and listen carefully, including to yourself. Pause and think before you do anything you cannot reverse.

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