Cardinal Grand Cross: A Matter of Trust

Dear Friend and Reader:

April 2014 is the month of the long-anticipated cardinal grand cross — what I have called the peak astrology of the 2012 era. The aspect pattern that’s exact on April 23 has been forming for many decades, a hologram swirling in the seemingly random movements of the cosmos awaiting its moment of emergence. That is about to arrive with both deeply personal themes and vast global ones.

Simplified astrology chart for April 23, 2014. I suggest you print this chart and keep it next to you while you read the article, so you can follow along. The chart is for Mars square Pluto on April 23, 2014, illustrating the grand cross (the red square) and the grand trine (the green triangle). Note that Jupiter, the orange planet to the lower right of the chart, is the one common planet of both the square and the trine.

They share a common thread, and that is trust.

I know it’s not easy for non-astrologers to take too much technical explanation of a chart, but the meaning, beauty and outstanding quality of this alignment would lose much of its impact if you didn’t really have a sense of what it actually is. Plus, if you know, you can then explain it to others. I’ve included a custom illustration and I will do my best to explain it so that anyone can follow. I’ve placed a chart in the middle of the page and I’ll put the instructions for where to look in the chart [in bold and in brackets].

With just a little focus and patience, I think that the chart image will emerge. I suggest you print the simplified chart so that you can refer to it and take some notes as you read.

A grand cross (sometimes called a grand square) consists of planets at four equidistant points of the zodiac, which locates the Earth at the center as if in a crosshairs. The Earth is not shown in an astrological chart; it’s presumed to be in the middle of the wheel. Such patterns lose or gain astrological importance, power or influence (as you prefer) based on what planets are involved, how quickly or slowly they move, where the cross is aligned within the zodiac — plus any unusual factors that might be involved. By all of those measures, this grand cross gets high scores.

The four points of the cross fall in the cardinal signs (hence, a cardinal grand cross) and close to the cardinal points (the first degrees of those signs), those associated with the “four directions.” The four points involved all have the bold number 13 next to them, which is their degree location within their respective signs. Planets with the same degree number are said to be “in aspect.” This aspect is a giant square. [The square is easy to see by following the red lines in the middle of the chart. Note that the red lines all lead to planets that have a 13 next to them.]

The cardinal points are associated with peaks and balancing moments of the Sun’s energy as the seasons change (the equinoxes and the solstices). This grants extra emphasis — anything in the cardinal signs, or close to the cardinal points, picks up on the energy of the Aries Point, which is like a cosmic amplifier.

Moss and pine needles trapped in thick ice, late winter on the Grandmother Land in High Falls, New York. Photo by Eric Francis.

Two of the planets involved consist of an aspect I’ve been writing about here for years, called the Uranus-Pluto square. That is a 90-degreee meeting of two very slow-moving planets whose current cycle began with the conjunction of 1965-1966, rippling out for years on either side — the whole business we refer to as The Sixties. That particular era was an extraordinary and extraordinarily complex time in history, in many ways similar to the times we’re living through today — with one difference: the optimism and passion of the Sixties has been replaced by a diversity of other emotions today, ranging from cynicism to hope to a kind of helpless bewilderment. Much of the idealism that does exist is either invested in ‘faith in technology’ — or it is ungrounded. This is, I believe, something we need to get a handle on.

First let’s look at the Uranus-Pluto square. Uranus is now in Aries [a blue H-like thing, toward the left, below the horizontal line]. When you think of Uranus in Aries, think of radical individualism that can express itself creatively, or get lost in the glamour of technology. Think revolution that can set people free or get caught up in self-aggrandizement. Think scientific innovation that can serve negative or positive interests for the community. Consider the ways that our culture is becoming the product of its own technology — which means that the technology is out of our control.

The second part of the Uranus-Pluto square is Pluto. Pluto is now in Capricorn [depicted as a red golf tee, to the upper left of the chart]. When you think of Pluto in Cap, think of systems breakdowns and the collapse of over-large, too-old institutions. Think of the banking crisis. Think of struggles for and obsession with power, doing it “because you can,” and the constant sensation that this all may be crashing down.

With Pluto in Capricorn, the evolutionary drive of Pluto is being applied to “the system” itself. This has been a long time coming. “The system” may seem indomitable but it’s much more fragile than you may think. On a really good day, various system collapses could get dysfunctional stuff out of the way, and give us an opportunity to build something new and positive in the cleared space. But those are two very different things — the destruction and the rebuilding. They call upon two very different kinds of commitments.

Photo by Eric Francis.

Because these two planets move so slowly, they hold their exact 90-degree angle for about four years, which began in spring 2012 and which ends in spring 2015 (with a wide time orb on either side). This aspect comes with the sensation of the turmoil we’re witnessing in the world, the sense of living on the edge or over the edge, and the sensation of everything happening at once.

It also offers another quality that many other tumultuous aspects don’t necessarily have much of — the quest for liberation, and the potential to create it. Pluto drives growth and progress. Uranus drives sudden change. The two working together, combined with human awareness and creativity, can have beautiful results. They can also combine into something that is dangerous and unpredictable, such as revolutions that give rise to even worse regimes than before; activist movements that start off strong and end in apathy and defeatism.

The third point of the cardinal cross is Jupiter in Cancer [an orange glyph similar to a 4 to the lower right side of the chart]. Jupiter bestows protection (including, literally, protecting the Earth from impact with asteroids and comets), it magnifies anything it comes into contact with, and it can bring an exotic quality (such as foreign, otherworldly or mystical) into the scenario. Jupiter is a classical planet and it is exalted in Cancer — it’s the most strongly placed planet in the whole alignment. The other planets have significant impact; Jupiter is strong in its sign by the classical rules, and comes with the message, “This is home. Let’s make the most of it.”

Note, the United States’ Sun is at 13+ Cancer. That is to say, where Jupiter is now, the Sun was on July 4, 1776. For Americans, that Jupiter is a double reminder of what it means to be home, and to take care of home. There is also the implication that the United States will be involved in an unusual event this April.

Jupiter also has another role — a link from the grand cross to the grand water trine that also currently exists. Yes, we are in the midst of both a cross in the heavens, and a trine. The grand water trine means there are planets in aspect in all three water signs. [Those are illustrated by the green triangle in the middle of the wheel.] The other water signs are Scorpio, covered by Saturn, and Pisces, covered by Neptune, Chiron and Venus. The one point that the two patterns share, the cross and the square, is Jupiter.

Photo by Eric Francis.

Notice how both red and green lines converge on Jupiter. Jupiter has access to all of the other planets in both patterns. It’s not exactly the hub of the wheel; it’s more like a command center set off to the side. A grand water trine means that it’s easy to get caught in one’s emotions, and for the whole society to get caught in an emotional “Bermuda triangle” and not be able to escape. We need to watch carefully for this kind of experience. It’s also easy for individuals to get caught in an emotional pattern and have the same basic effect. Think of Jupiter as home base, that is, the reminder that we are at home, and that we can use that to our advantage.

What makes April 23 the peak of the grand cross is that Uranus, Pluto, Jupiter and lastly Mars will be aligned to within one degree, at 13+ degrees of their respective signs [The degrees are indicated by bold numbers, and fractions of a degree in smaller numbers closer to the center of the wheel.] This is a remarkably close alignment, given that all four placements split a single degree. And it’s astonishing that this aligns with the U.S. Sun to the very degree.

Okay, now for the last element — Mars, the one that to me illustrates the matter of trust; and the point that applies the burst of energy to the pattern that makes it such a strong factor right now. [Mars is to the right, above the horizontal line, in red, looking just like you might expect it to.] When fast-moving inner planets like Mars get involved in slow-moving patterns, they tend to activate the pattern, push it to the forefront and make it personal.

Mars is a close-by world, often called a “personal planet” by astrologers since the feelings and qualities it represents are so accessible to all people (anger, motivation, sex drive, competitiveness and violent urges among them). Mars can be assertive, aggressive, lusty, driven, angry or violent, depending on the circumstances. It is the nearest, fastest-moving and most mentally accessible planet of the four that are involved in the cross.

Photo by Eric Francis.

Mars is in Libra, the sign of beauty and balance, of relationships and of the kind of sex we experience as elegant and beautiful. Libra is a sign associated with Venus. Mars seems out of place in this sign opposite its own (Aries); it is taking a long retrograde through a feminine environment, and appears to be compensating for this by switching its polarity (retrograde movement).

This is the very image of what some call “passive” aggression. There really is no such thing. The passive part of passive aggressive really means concealed or disguised. It is more like a sly attack, or the lurking fear of one. This is a slippery placement and it’s not easy to readily identify what it represents; one must really focus and do an inner investigation.

Mars retrograde in Libra illustrates the festering anger that is resident in many relationships, along with the resentment and hostility. Sometimes this is veiled and sometimes it’s blatantly overt. In any case many people live with anger as a seeming fact of life in their relationships. There is no easy way out of their situations, people seem to have power over them, and the nearly universal human quality of passivity leads people to feel they lack even the most basic influence over their lives.

This is the “yes means no” Mars; it’s also an image of ambivalence that is driven by a deeper underlying doubt.

Many of us also live with anger in other forms: at ourselves, at our parents, at the world situation, at God. Yet our culture lacks a vent for this anger, or for productive ways to process it, much less to turn it into another form of energy. What it tends to do is to erode trust. We might think we live in a cold and unloving world, but imagine how that would change if people trusted one another more readily.

Memory of Winter. Photo by Eric Francis.

Part of what we specifically lack trust in is justice and fairness, two themes covered by the sign Libra. This runs in at least two directions — how you are treated, and how you treat others. Notice the cynicism that has pervaded our society in these years; but no matter how “well founded,” cynicism can never lead to trust. And trust is the one thing we need to work together.

Most of what we’re missing, I believe, is trust in ourselves. Self-trust is the foundation of all other kinds of trust because all of them come back to you trusting your decision to have faith in a situation. This has been injured so many times that it seems like trust is either impossible, or it is always going to be betrayed. Neither of these is true, but it will seem true if it’s the only option we have.

Mars retrograde is pushing these issues to the forefront. We stand at a point of decision. And in a few weeks that may seem deeply urgent. If you’re looking at the world, at your relationship or at yourself and wondering what to do, I would ask: what would it take for you to trust? What would you need, or need to do?

If I may make a suggestion, one of the things that characterizes our time in history is an extreme sense of seeking what we can get out of any situation. It’s true that nearly everything is connected to a monthly bill and we live with the sensation of being constantly exploited. There is another side to that, which is a society that sometimes feels like yellow jacket wasps in late autumn trying to extract nourishment from a brightly colored potato chip package.

I believe that trust is cultivated by exactly the opposite property: understanding what we can give to any situation. Trust and love are closely related; we tend to love what we nurture, whether it’s a child, a friend, a puppy or a home. One skill here is learning to properly nourish yourself, which will definitely help — but replacing this chilly quality of “what can I withhold?” with “what can I offer?” is going to help many ways, including proving that you really do have something to offer; something truly worthwhile — and that may answer one of your most nagging doubts.


Planet Waves Monthly for April 2014, #991| By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You may be feeling confident, brassy and ambitious, though I suggest you monitor the world for your own reflection every time you turn around. You need feedback in realtime, and you need it from multiple sources. You have Uranus in your sign, which may be leading you to feel unstoppable. Jupiter in Cancer is offering a sense of safety while Pluto in Capricorn is suggesting that the sky is the limit. But your ruling planet Mars is in your opposite sign Libra. This suggests a more fragile and less easy-to-read situation than you may imagine, particularly as the energy heats up mid-month. Therefore, it’s essential that you tune into your navigation and feedback systems as soon as you can, so that you begin to notice the ways that the echo of your environment comes back to you. You may not think, or want to think, that this is somehow an expression of your own energy. The purpose of this feedback is not to judge it but rather to evaluate it. So before getting caught in your own opinion, notice the ways that shifting your approach to people and circumstances and altering your energetic posture actually gets a result. The nice thing here is while there may be some subtlety to what you’re perceiving and how you have to adapt, the feedback and the results should come quickly.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You are well-placed to experience this month’s grand cross event in a supporting role, as an observer and voluntary participant. Your ruling planet Venus is in Pisces, happy, resourceful and a safe distance from the fireworks. Yet there is another dimension to this month’s activity, which involves a solar eclipse in your birth sign on April 29. Eclipses in your sign are ‘before and after’ events, demarcation points that shift the way you think about yourself. The theme of this eclipse is your identity as a relationship partner. Among the reasons that might be challenging is that it’s not easy for you to shift any facet of your identity; you tend to camp out in what you know. Yet most of what we know about ‘being a partner’ comes from two sources: our parents, most of whom struggled to have a single clue about this, and the rest from social conditioning such as fairy tales, movies, television and then a whole heap of peer pressure. The beauty of an eclipse is that it’s a wildcard. Circumstances may seem to be operating outside of your control, yet in truth you have the full power of choice. Give yourself a break, observe what is right for you, and remember most people around you will be so invested in other matters they are unlikely to notice, much less judge, your conclusions.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You must keep your wits about you at all times, and be realistic at every turn. That means making no assumptions, which is a miracle in a world where so few people even know when they are doing so. Therefore, the first step is being aware when your perceptions are supported by actual data rather than by something you would like to be true, or by something that someone is trying to convince you is true. We are about to enter one of those ‘all is fair in love and war’ phases of social history where for a while it may seem like all bets are off and none of yesterday’s rules apply. As Graham Nash said, you who are on the road must have a code that you can live by. You need your own personal code, your way of life, that is distinct from anything that was ever imposed on you, and which depends on what you have learned from all your travels. Most of all your guide to living must be informed by the outcomes that you want, measured not so much in material things but rather in the form of ethics, cooperation, the value you place on your relationships and most of all, the value you place on the future. These are things that count, and the things I suggest you keep right at the front of your mind, every step you take.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Your sign has a unique position amongst the many unusual developments of this month. The two main events are a cardinal grand cross (see related article) and a water grand trine. Yours is the only cardinal water sign — that is, the only sign directly involved in both configurations. The planet involved is Jupiter, currently in Cancer and very happy there. Jupiter indicates that you have plenty of resources to apply to what may feel like an increasingly demanding or complicated situation. You may be in a helping role — this may or may not be directly about your personal existence (in other words, it may reach far beyond). Yet despite your state of abundance, you will need to allocate your resources thoughtfully. You’ll need to take care of yourself before you take any responsibility for the many people who may be making demands on you. Be on the lookout for overreactions by others; stay away from drama queens and those who seem to exist without purpose. Focus on those who are being true to themselves and who are connected to the greater whole. Notice who is being self-serving, who is taking advantage of others and who is just taking up space. Notice, that is, so you can also identify who is in a supporting role. Help those who are making a difference.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — It is time to step up and take leadership whether or not you think you are ready. For this to work, your idea of leadership needs to evolve. It’s not a supporting or coordinating role; those are the people that leaders need around them, and I suggest you get a few supporters and coordinators onto your team. Leadership is making sure the right thing happens at the right time. That will take cooperation, and so right up top of the concepts of leadership is the one who focuses a group effort. I know this is a quality more typically assigned to Aquarius, and I have noticed that many Leos have a heck of a time with the whole recruiting and delegating thing. However, putting that skill to work will be necessary if you want to use this extraordinary moment and achieve at least a few truly unusual things, even as the world seems to go mad. I recognize the extent to which this type of leadership may seem to involve a profound shift of orientation for you. Maybe it will seem more within reach if you think of it like how you want your family to run — as a fully cooperative entity. Teach young people all the time. Shift your emphasis from doing things personally to making sure that others do them as well as, or better than, you.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Events of this month may seem like a huge spectacle, something that you’re destined to witness rather than participate in. It’s also possible that what you see will seem so close to home that you will fail to notice what is happening outside your immediate environment. I suggest you go beyond what seems to be directly personal and reach with your awareness into wider circles. Make contact with those who have a global perspective, those who are not caught in their own little reality bubble — that will help take you beyond the limits of your own perception. You may be feeling a bit boxed into your reality, as if you’re reluctant to change your mind about something. Yet everything you’re seeing, hearing and experiencing is howling and cheering for you to do precisely that, to get in tune with the moment. If you are feeling like “I don’t want to change my own mind; I would rather have it changed for me,” that is what will happen, but it won’t be the most pleasant or creative way to experience the current astrology. The more creative approach will include allowing others to gently lead you beyond what is familiar. Some of those experiences will come through your relationships and some will come as a result of them. Still, the idea is the same — embrace others who are willing to take you beyond yourself.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Mars retrograde in your sign is about to take center stage. Mars represents a process that started long ago and over which you have little control; it seems to represent something that you must go through and experience at full intensity. Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that would be the best course of action. Yet several factors describe the way you might be inclined to take this experience in an unconscious way, acting out the past, or that of your ancestors. For you, there are two keys to this astrology. One is to remain fully present in your experience of what is happening. Find people who are willing to help you stay grounded and give you honest feedback, and moreover, who are able to provide a sense of context. The other is to maintain your compassion at all times. The theme of Mars retrograde in Libra is a dangerously slippery form of inwardly directed anger. Venus, the actual planet that represents you, is placed in Pisces, where you are being invited to see your life from a whole other perspective. The time has arrived to devote yourself to healing as a full-time occupation. If you want to do your part in helping resolve the global crisis and guiding humanity through its raging adolescence, your own healing process is the place to begin — and now is the time.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — It would be easier to deal with fear if we could recognize it when we see it. Yet the problem with fear, and its first cousins guilt and anger, is that most of the time, we don’t recognize them when we see them, or feel them. They take so many forms, come wrapped in so many packages and dressed in so many disguises, we could be dealing with them all day and still not know it. And that is precisely what we do. Your job is to know when you’re dealing with these emotions, and when they are driving you. It is only this awareness that will protect you from being manipulated and manipulating others. Only this awareness will allow you to connect with more loving motives. At the moment, it seems like the entire ‘outer’ world we are witnessing is being driven by dark emotions and self-serving motives. At the same time many things seem wrapped in a blend of ambivalence and ignorance that could lead otherwise intelligent people to support the cause of (for example) fracking or genetically modified foods. Yet neither your most wholesome survival instincts nor your most sublime creative guidance will be apparent when you’re caught in the deceptive, slippery haze of fear, or guilt, or anger. And that is what you must now focus every skill and grain of wit into transcending. If there is a road to truth, it is surely the same one away from lies.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You seem to be central to many events and activities around you. Actually, this appears to be so true that the most significant thing you can avoid is losing yourself in the midst of all the excitement, the drama and the goings-on. Whether you recognize it or not, the resources that are being drawn on are your emotional resources. You might think it’s your creative talent, your money or your ideas; you might have those moments when you think it’s your sexual energy (and you would be getting closer). The thing you have, that which others want and think they need or are just drawn to without understanding at all, is your emotional pool. You might be saying, “The Only Astrology Book You Ever Need said Sagittarians aren’t so emotional,” though astrology books don’t really point to this quality about you. Yet it’s as real as you are, and it’s present right now, and I suggest you insulate yourself a bit and keep a meter on what you share with others, so that you have sufficient reserves of your own. In addition, it’s imperative that you set your own course in life without being distracted by those with whom you’re sexually involved or with whom you may share a bank account. This is a time when you must be absolutely free to make your own decisions, and make them without hesitation.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Of the many messages I could deliver at the time of the grand cross, at the top of the list is to protect your reputation. Like a bookstore, reputations take years to build and can burn in minutes. There is no indication in your chart that this will happen, but many factors conspire to raise the probability level. Therefore I suggest you temper your ambitions for the moment and focus on maintaining what you’ve currently got going on. You have plenty of responsibility, and some of what you’re being required to do is sufficiently ambiguous as to require considerable thought. One potential risk is ending up taking responsibility for the actions of someone else, so I suggest you refrain, for the moment, from doing anyone else’s bidding, no matter how politically expedient it may be. There are also likely to be a few matters from the past that are coming up for closure, especially involving your professional activities. Take care of them. The planets in their courses are, as you know, holding out a vision of success, yet it’s vital that you allow this to unfold in due time, and that you skip no steps on the way to getting there. Soon enough, once you’ve passed unscathed through your current adventure thanks to your persistent vigilance, you will once again be able to throw caution to the four winds.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Despite the considerable fuss and turmoil of the world, you seem intent on grounding yourself in your home, with your partner, with your family or in your community (these, in some combination). That looks like the right idea at the right time. You are in a position to build your life from the center outward, similar to how a tree grows. You would have to be pretty tuned into nature to look at a tree and say, “Gee, I see it growing right now.” (Such is possible.) But you would have to be pretty out of it to look at the tree year after year and not notice that it’s filling out and becoming taller and stronger. Your professional activities are in a similar pattern of nearly imperceptible growth, but increasingly solid rooting. Your ruling planet Saturn is in your solar 10th house — perhaps its most functional place. The work of the 10th house is the slow building of one’s professional purpose, identity and image. Keep that process slow, and continue to make sure that your reputation is built on absolutely solid ground, making sure that every career-oriented contact you make has an actual emotional — that is to say, human — basis to the relationship. Take the time to slowly and meticulously orient around the goals that you hold the most dear to your heart. Then, work that blend of ‘make it happen’ and ‘let it happen’.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Whatever may be going on around you, the waters deep within the Pisces sea can be clear and calm. They will be, if you remember to leave any trouble and turmoil at the surface. The spiritual reservoir of your sign is full right now, in part because the water trine that’s holding out a veil of protection over the world involves all three of the planets associated with your sign — Venus, Jupiter and Neptune. Yet this is also hinting that you will be in a vital supporting role to certain people around you, maybe to many people. It’s essential that you keep yourself nourished, rested and organized. Take the ‘self sacrificing’ thing about Pisces and set it aside — whoever invented that did a service to nobody. Your charts are about the pleasure you can experience, the creative expansion, the art and the music that you can experience, even amidst any strange and chaotic developments of the world. The thing to remember is that you don’t owe anyone anything, and that your life is a gift to yourself. If you live sincerely and in balance, you will be available to support others in unusual ways that sidestep many of the typical notions of what community or world service is about. The direct and rather bold message of your chart is that what serves you will serve others — a happy state of affairs.

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