Harleys, Barbeques and Integrating Mars

Dear Friend and Reader:

Lately I’ve been working through some rage at the guys on Harleys who roar past my studio without any tailpipes. Harleys, due to the way the engine cycles, have that distinctive slap and are loud enough with tailpipes; but I guess not loud enough for some. Between fantasies of taking matters into my own hands, I’ve been trying to figure out just why exactly someone would need to rumble down the street at 150 dB.

Harley-Davidson Deluxe Hog. Do loud pipes save lives, or announce one’s arrival? Photo John Cachero.

On one level, it’s what you might call pure testosterone. I was sitting with a client recently and she said she was turned on by the roaring bikes going by. She kept getting up to see what they looked like. I found this interesting; more interesting than wanting to take pot shots at them. It was a clue to what was going on. How we handle anger has a lot to do with our Mars placement, and how we integrate Mars.

That sound certainly gets you to look, whether you’re turned on or you want to see what jerk could possibly be that rude; that engine blasting is a form of publicity and it’s designed to be sexual. It’s the vehicular equivalent of squawking and parading around with one’s plumage out, doing the eternal dance. There is a lot of Biker Guy seeks Biker Girl in those loud engines; sooner or later some chick is gonna think it’s too hot to resist. So what if she has stainless steel teeth.

But this can’t be all. It’s more transgressive than a bird dancing around the backyard; there are lots of ways to get the attention of women. Everyone knows we don’t have earlids, at least not in this dimension, so with all that sound there’s an invasion involved. It’s aggressive. The message that “you are powerless to stop me from doing this” took a while to sink in intellectually; I experienced it as rage. But I knew the anger was telling me something; it usually is.

Henry McCarty a.k.a. Billy the Kid.

The guys know the cops are powerless, too. Having a loud engine is an equipment violation, not a moving violation. If you get a ticket you don’t even need to go to court. If you “fix” it within a day or so, the ticket is dismissed. Then you can unscrew tailpipes again and the game repeats. Under the current state traffic law as I understand it, there are no consequences for doing this to people. It’s little consolation that the driver slowly goes deaf; it’s mean to dogs and cats.

In this drama, I detect a bit of the Great American Outlaw, only like most things Great American, it’s a parody. We’re not talking Billy the Kid here. But then men in our culture, and in most civilized cultures, have a problem.

While biologically-based female roles dating back into the hunter-gatherer days (about three million years of human history, as compared to less than 10,000 years of civilization) are still available and in a sense inevitable for many women, many traditional male roles are not available. Nursing a child is still nursing a child. Slaying a mammoth is different than stopping at Whole Foods and picking up an organic steak. But think of it: is there anything more tantalizingly masculine than a guy standing next to a grill wearing an apron cooking up cheeseburgers for his hungry brood?

Yesterday I was studying the charts for my morning blog and I noticed that Mars is in the very last degrees of Taurus, about to change signs to Gemini. I took one glance at that chart and thought, This is about integrating Mars. By integrating Mars, I mean fully absorbing the energy of Mars into one’s psyche, and allowing it not just a place to be itself but accepting it into every aspect of existence. Mars is about volition, motivation and desire. An energy at the core of the personality, it is the quality that we use to consciously create our lives the way we want or need to. Mars is part of everything from the sex drive to the ability to create money, make decisions and stand up for our rights.

Both men and women have Mars and in our current society I believe have issues integrating that energy. We have so few examples of men who are in harmony with their masculinity that exceedingly few people have a concept of what it’s supposed to look like, or feel like, or do.

Our “powerful past.” Photo: AFP.

For a while recently, Mars took a dangerously toxic form: George Bush and Dick Cheney bombing helpless populations. These men set a desperately painful example of what it meant to be a man, or masculine, to a whole generation of young people. In effect, you can be as violent as you want with no consequences to yourself. This is not new in our era of history. Just this week, Robert McNamara, the architect of the Vietnam War, died at age 93, one of the world’s most horrid examples of poisonous, misguided Mars energy.

To some people it looks like Grand Theft Auto, that video game where you get to pick up a hooker and kill her. To some it’s all about having a closet full of assault rifles, but that’s half-baked; shooting at trees and targets (or deer and bear) is not nearly as satisfying as risking your life in the heat of combat. None of this is in integrity; Mars is there, but it’s not integrated into the psyche. It’s this thing you do on Saturday.

The last two degrees of any sign are considered by some astrologers to be what’s called anaretic. Those degrees can indicate a crisis of integrating the energy involved; this can go to the point of a life or death struggle. When a planet is out there at the end of a sign, you have to deal with it. It’s going to be one of the things in the chart that gets your attention over and over, mainly because it’s acting like a missing piece, or a renegade piece. It’s insisting on being absorbed fully into existence. It’s an invitation to attain the closest thing to mastery over an energy that we can get in this life.

Taurus is a sign associated with Venus, so here we have Mars struggling for acceptance in a feminine angle of the psyche. We all have the whole zodiac working in our charts and we all have Venus and Mars. I’ve noticed that most of the gender drama that we see or feel is an expression of how those internalized energies feel to us, which are then projected outward as events, situations and people. Mars in Taurus is trying to be accepted by the feminine side of the psyche. Men are often trying to be accepted by women, or struggling with not being accepted; let’s imagine that the current setup is about the feminine side of the psyche struggling to accept the masculine side. Or, we have a situation where the masculine energy of Mars feels out of place in such a feminine sign as Taurus, and this alienation is an inner confrontation.

Some say men are from Mars and women are from Venus. The fact is, we are both from Planet Earth, and we have to live together. Photo by Eric Francis.

Most people have quite a bit of difficulty stepping out of their programmed gender roles. I think we give ourselves more credit than we deserve for succeeding at this. Women, how open are you to actually asserting your needs and desires, including your sexual needs and desires? How willing are you to subvert those needs and desires to keep the peace, to seem acceptable to men or to maintain your mother’s respect?

Men, how willing are you to be penetrated, psychically or otherwise? Are you receptive to your own feelings, or the feelings of others? In particular, are you receptive to the messages and desires of your intuitive or nurturing side? Are you willing to show your pain, grief or disappointment?

One thing I’ve noticed is that often, members of both genders want their counterparts to be different, then have no clue how to respond when they get what they ask for. Many women ask for more receptive, emotionally open men but get panicky when they find this; they don’t actually identify it as male. Men often claim to want a sexually or intellectually assertive woman, but nearly every woman I talk to says she gets into trouble with men when she asserts her desires or takes initiative. I hope this is a generational thing; I do see signs of progress in some of the young women I hear from.

Still, we live in times when “tradition” is pushed down our throat, meaning traditional roles that take gender to the level of a cartoon. Often, exaggerations and distortions are a defense against something. I think that a lot of macho drama is about rejecting the feminine as an internal attribute; as a fact of biology. A major aspect of the drama, the war between the sexes, and the hyper-exaggeration of gender, involves denial of the fact that we all contain attributes of both sexes in a multitude of formulas — in each of our charts. Despite certain biological facts, we have more in common as humans than we have differences as men and women, but for many purposes, the differences are exploited and emphasized. Astrology, if you use that as a map, does not differentiate between people based on sex. You cannot tell the sex of the person behind a chart from the chart. You need to get that information along with the birth data.

It’s a boy. It’s a girl. It’s androgyny. The singer Devendra Banhart. Photo by J.B. Mondino.

But you can tell a lot about gender orientation. Some women have charts that feel quite masculine, often in very specific ways. Some men have charts that feel truly feminine. Most charts have a diversity of these energies distributed along a wide, complicated continuum. There can be masculine expressions that fail to communicate with feminine expressions; and sometimes the dialog is clear.

In the relationship between Mars and Taurus, in these critical degrees at the end of a sign, we have a question: what would you want your inner masculine energy to do to or with your inner feminine energy? What about your inner masculine is repulsive to your inner feminine? Men: do you ever want to do to yourself what you want to do to women? Women: how do you feel when your libido feels like that of a man? Be descriptive.

One thing to remember is that our masculine and feminine attributes have different qualities from one another, different experiences and may have suffered different injuries in childhood. For certain purposes such as self-study or therapy, it’s helpful for a while to treat them as distinct entities and see what their experiences have been like.

So far, we’ve been talking about a transit with this Mars in Taurus energy. You can also use your natal chart for more specific information. Your house and sign positions of Venus and Mars will tell you a lot about yourself. The aspects to these planes will take you a level deeper. Make sure you draw from about five different sources for each placement or aspect, and make up an original interpretation from there.

On Saturday, Mars will join Venus in Gemini. They’ve already made a couple of conjunctions, so Venus, recently retrograde, is now separating from Mars; they are functioning like two different processes. But in the same sign they will have a lot in common. Gemini has several distinctive properties; one of them is that it’s mental, and it loves words and ideas. Another is that it feels young. Another is that it’s dualistic, and everything in Gemini is going to have two or four different expressions; two or more different opinions of itself.

Couple. Photo by Eric Francis.

Venus is younger in Gemini; younger, I believe, than it is in Aries or Taurus. There is a freshness to this Venus, a light quality, an androgynous quality. She wants to talk and she wants to express her curiosity; part of what we can offer to Venus in Gemini is answering the questions of young people, and treating every encounter with them as an initiation. This, along with the recent Mercury conjunct Vesta, is an invitation to respect young women, and the sexuality of young women, instead of resenting these things. There is something here about honoring the inherent bisexuality of young women, and of women in general. There is a question for men: why do many of them feel that female bisexuality is fabulous but male bisexuality is strange?

Mars in Gemini can be overbearing; it can yell louder than it can listen. It’s opinionated and it may respond to the androgyny factor of Gemini by polarizing toward the macho end of the spectrum. Mars in this sign needs to learn something from Venus: take a light approach. Express your desires in words, politely, and see what happens. Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Keep the conversation going for at least an hour, and be patient with what you learn.

Mars crossing over into Gemini has to do with an alteration in the way that male energy likes to think of itself as protective. Most of what men think of as protective is really about being possessive. Venus and Mars in Gemini want some freedom, particularly the freedom to consider ideas. As I suggest in the Aquarius horoscope below, this is excellent astrology to consider the possibilities, to express curiosity, and to have some excellent beyond-hot conversations, confessions and inquiries about one’s personal truth. Gemini doesn’t want to judge anything — it just wants to consider it in a real way. Remember to listen. Use your ears, use your mind and use your heart.

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis

Debunking the Moon Landing Conspiracy Conspiracy

Astronomer Phil Plait over at Discovery magazine’s Bad Astronomy website isn’t afraid to light out after folks who push, well, bad astronomy. And with the 40th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing nearly upon us, he is revisiting one of the most enduring conspiracy theories around: The Alleged Moon Landing Hoax.

One of the first images produced by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Photo: NASA.

Plait starts out by speculating whether the new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is taking high-quality images of the Moon’s surface — including the original Apollo Moon landing sites — will quell any of those doubters. His answer? Nope.

“That would be nice, but obviously it won’t,” says Plait. “If they don’t believe the thousands of pictures and video taken from the lunar surface by the Apollo astronauts themselves, why would they believe further NASA evidence?”

For good measure, though, Plait linked to his 2001 review of a Fox TV program about the supposed Moon Hoax, “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land On The Moon?” In it, Plait goes through and provides point-by-point refutation of the conspiracy theorists’ claims, from why the photos taken on the Moon don’t show stars to the “deadly radiation of space.”

The Apollo 11 lunar module touched down in Mare Tranquillitatis (the Sea of Tranquility) on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon (it was not Neil Young, as previously reported in Planet Waves), uttered the familiar phrase, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” while his fellow moon walker, Buzz Aldrin, described the view as “magnificent desolation.” Armstrong’s quote was supposed to be, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” but understandably enough, he was a little nervous at the time.

Part of the evidence validating the landing on the Moon is astrological. The same astrology that brought us the Woodstock festival just three weeks later brought us the success of the Apollo program: a Jupiter-Uranus conjunction in Libra, opposite Chiron in Aries; all aligned with the Aries Point. We will have more about this in next week’s edition.

It’s Time for Unleaded Purses

The Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, Calif., has filed a lawsuit against a number of retailers claiming that some of the purses they sell contain potentially harmful amounts of lead. After decades of trying to get the lead out of gasoline, paint, plaster and many other products, this report is the latest in a trend of lead turning up in numerous products, many of them from China.

Some fashion handbags contain lead. Photo by Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the nonprofit organization tested purses — mostly vinyl and faux leather — produced by some 26 manufacturers and found “their products contain lead at levels high enough to pose a health threat.” The Center for Environmental Health notified those manufacturers of the test results.

This action was brought under the auspices of a California law — Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 — that requires shoppers be warned of lead dangers. According to the article, “Lead is found in vinyl and other fabric. The metal serves both as a stabilizer and as a chemical ingredient in some dies, paints and other coloring agents. It’s also found in zippers and zipper pulls on some of the products.”

It’s starting to sound like PCBs, which were a wonder-chemical that was put into everything from fabric dies to flame retardants to surgical implants — before being recognized as universally toxic.

So how serious a health threat could this be? Well, lead exposure has been proven to cause a raft of health problems, and it’s especially dangerous to children and pregnant women. Part of the problem is that lead, like many other heavy metals, is both an acute toxin, a neurotoxin, and is hormonally active. Lead is known to make people stupid, especially if they are exposed when young. For many years it was used as an additive in gasoline. The thing about lead is that what goes up must come down — right near where it went up. Lead emissions tend to stay local, rather than to drift. The generations born in the 50s, 60s and early 70s sustained the maximum exposure in North America; finally lead was banned as a gasoline additive, and started showing up in nearly everything else.

The health effects of lead have been known since Classical times, with the Wikipedia entry on lead poisoning noting, “Lead toxicity was first recognized as early as 200 B.C. Nicander of Colophon wrote of lead-induced anemia and colic in 250 B.C.” But that didn’t stop the Romans from using it in pipes and goblets.

A lawyer for the Center for Environmental Health told the Chronicle that the group hopes retailers can be convinced to use their buying power to influence manufacturers, by refusing to stock any products that contain lead.

A complete list of the manufacturers whose products were shown to have lead can be found here.

The Pope and the Capitalists

It’s no surprise that the head of the Roman Catholic Church recently released a document declaring, in a nutshell, that people should come before profits. After all, social justice is a calling card of many, if not most, world religions.

Benedict XVI meets Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Photo: Daniel Acker.

But the publication of Pope Benedict XVI’s third papal encyclical letterCaritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), goes well beyond that, calling for a sea change in world financial systems, so that more benefit and fewer profit, through the redistribution of the world’s wealth from richer nations to poorer.

According to a Washington Post article about the encyclical, the pope declared “access to food and water is a universal right, wealthy nations share with poorer ones and profit is not the ultimate goal of commerce. He advocates the creation of a ‘world political authority’ to manage the economy.” Benedict XVI further asserted that there needed to be greater care for the environment with “more research into alternative energy, worldwide redistribution of energy resources and pushing more advanced countries to lower their energy consumption, either through technology or through greater ‘ecological sensitivity’ among residents.”

Some might see irony in this latest papal pronouncement, given that the Roman Catholic Church is often cited as one of the richest organizations in the world, having some of the most impressive gold reserves, its own bank and its own stock market. The Vatican City is a repository of some of the most important artworks of Western civilization, and the Church owns property all over the world. However, putting a number on the total wealth of the Catholic Church isn’t easy; speculators claim amounts of up to $100 billion or more, but there is little documentation to support any definitive calculation.

Among the criticisms leveled at the Catholic Church in the past have been that its institutional wealth stands in stark contrast to the poverty Christ lived in, and that by liquidating some of its assets the Church could provide services to millions of people in under-developed nations.

The 144-page encyclical can be downloaded in PDF form here. The Church has not changed its position on female priests, birth control, or abortion. Mass can still be given in languages other than Latin.




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, July 10, 2009, #774 – BY ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
You may find it easier to express what you’ve been feeling, particularly if that involves an erotic/spiritual/emotional nexus that has had you tied in knots. Two things to remember, as the next days unfold: one is you’re not as tied up as you were a week ago, so you don’t need to tug as hard, or at all. Second, the new space into which you’re projecting your thoughts and ideas requires less energy than the old one; when you speak, try to use understatements. The main thing you need to do is hear yourself. You have complete control over this factor; the twist involves sorting out the truth when you seem to have two conflicting opinions on the same matter.

Taurus (April 19- May 20)
Financial matters rarely take care of themselves; we need to roll up our sleeves and do something about them. Emotional matters are usually the same way; they don’t get better unless they get attention. Anyway, so far as I can see, you need the satisfaction of resolving something on your own terms: yet frequently those terms involve taking a passive approach. Gradually your motivation has been perking up, but it’s been easy enough to ignore. Over the next few weeks, you’re likely to be feeling highly motivated to get your life in gear; which is a beautiful thing as long as you connect the engine to the wheels. If you get the sense that the free flow of energy is blocked, it’s not actually about money or about love; it’s about your trust in your own creativity; trusting your ability to make a positive impact on a situation. I would ask you, what exactly would it take to get you there?

Gemini (May 20- June 21)
This weekend Mars joins Venus in your birth sign. This is an invitation to act on your desires; meaning to take action. You can bet these include sexual desires, to which I will say: we are conditioned to ignore or deny ourselves what we want. Then when we make a move toward getting what we want, the programmed response is guilt. The problem with guilt is that it’s self-reaffirming; in other words, the guilt reaction itself is usually enough to convince us that something is wrong, which has a touch of Alice in Wonderland to it: declaring the sentence before the trial. Of course, actions have consequences; but that does not make them inherently right or wrong. Remove guilt from the equation, if you can, and you’ll get to manage all of this consciously.

Cancer (June 21- July 22)
Look carefully and you will see that you’re in entirely new relationship territory than you were in just one season ago. Something old has been removed or is losing its power; something new is gradually taking its place. This is not an easy transition, and it involves developing the ability to make agreements, and for everyone involved to honor those agreements. Our civilization has yet to figure out that most of its woes are encrypted directly into the most personal modes of relationship, and the most intimate. As a culture we have yet to figure out that what made our parents miserable will probably make us miserable, but as an individual you are finally coming around to this revelation. Just remember, their fears are not your fears. More to the point, they did generally not see their fears for what they were; you cannot afford that particular delusion.

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
The problem with the concept ‘spiritual’ is that it tends to be applied only to things that are outside the regular affairs of life; not, for example, to sex, relationships, work and politics, to name a few. These are the areas of existence that typically get the exemptions, and that doesn’t leave much; such as yoga class. As much as we say that spirituality is different than religion, it’s the same thing as long as we have the Saturday night / Sunday morning false division of reality. You are one of the pioneers of the notion that everything is spiritual and that spiritual ideas are useless if we don’t apply them to whatever we need to. You’ve always known this, but lately it seems like a focusing lens has been dropped in front of this issue and you can see just how vital it really is — to your happiness and that of the rest of us.

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
You’ve had so many ideas and so much to do that frankly I’m surprised you have time to read your horoscope. Now if you want to accomplish some of what you’ve set out to do, you need to change your methods. At the moment, that involves taking leadership. You have done a lot; you’ve accomplished plenty. You continue to do a lot, indeed, too much: the next step involves taking leadership over some form of coordinated activity, and taking over the language involving the object, goal or orientation of the project. There has never been a time when your ideas and what affects many people beyond your scope of perception were more closely related. You just need to climb a little higher to see the connection; it would help to set a goal for yourself that you feel is outside your current abilities.

Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
What we need to get used to, in my opinion, is the nexus between sexual experimentation and healing the relationship between our soul and our body. I mean this about all forms of sex; and here is the issue. What has the power to heal has the power to harm. If we don’t consider our erotic exploration a means of healing, it will manifest as something that divides us between ourselves, and that is what usually happens. That is why so many of us are in so much sexual pain. We expect sex to come with various shades of deceit; we expect it to get in the way of friendships; we don’t consider the deeper implications of engaging in this activity that has the power to create humanity and consciousness. Your life is an example of the most creative expression of these ideas. Please don’t keep them to yourself.

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
What has a back has a front — in this dimension. If you expand your awareness to include a wider array of possibilities, everything can change. True, it’s simpler to think in binary terms; in linear concepts; but you would be missing most of the story if you do. You are about to enter a world of possibilities, and that world may seem like a hall of mirrors, where it’s unclear whose feelings belong to whom and what results will come from certain actions. It would help to remember that many more possibilities exist than you can currently observe, both personal and professional. You may not be able to see them right away, but you will be able to feel them: in the form of tension with people you encounter. If you notice any form of polarity, or a pull toward someone, or even a negative sentiment like resentment or jealousy, explore it; look right at it, and speak to it clearly.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
You want people to be less wimpy, to stand up for their beliefs and not cower down from the least argument, and you’re about to get it. The challenge for you may be figuring out what side of a particular issue someone is taking; that may be the same puzzle they are facing. So if you want a good conversation, your role initially may be to help others figure out what their opinion is. This is kind of like being an editor, which in fact would be a fine role at this point in your life, given how much activity is happening in your 3rd solar house. The problem is that editing and even writing are becoming things of the past, requiring too much patience and discipline than is well supported in the current version of the world. Who has six hours or six months to think about something? That’s the real issue; you need more time to think, and you can give it to yourself.

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
Watch your workload over the next few days. Things are going well now, but you could find yourself snowed under when you least expect it; and much of what you think must get done doesn’t have to be done. Besides, you’re not the only one who can do it, though you may be feeling that way. Part of what will help is to cut through the chatter, the paperwork and the distractions and make one key decision from which everything else will follow. Part of how you know you’re making the right decision is that you’ll feel like you have to make some immediate adjustment to your idea-framework, timing and use of language — and that will help you see how little you have to do, in order to get quite a lot done. With Mars in Gemini, work from idea to action and not the other way around.

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Now it’s time to test your theories. You don’t test a theory in theory, you test it in action. An experiment is involved. Mars (now joining Venus) moving through one of the most adventurous, dynamic angles of your solar chart for the next few weeks will give you plenty of ideas and plenty of words for them. The action point is the contact point. To have actual pleasure, growth-oriented experiences or the excellent thrill of creating something new, it’s necessary to take a chance. With Venus and Mars both in Gemini, the possibilities may seem endless, as do your options for how to apply them. If I were experiencing this astrology I would go for the person or experience that I find the most appealing; and now that I contemplate the Gemini aspect, that could indeed begin with hot, hot, hot talk.

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
The intangible may be so real you can hold it in your hands; give it a chance to become so. Seek with the faith that you will find, and feel with the faith that you will experience fulfillment as a result. Remember that the richest territory for you is interior, regardless of how expressive or interesting your life is now. What you are firming up is your ability to be a container, and therefore to feel full. You cannot hold energy if you don’t have the ability for some kind of psychic containment; you cannot share if you don’t have enough for yourself. These are old problems that you’re finally able to remedy. That planets at times may seem to be playing a game of paradox with you, and at at times you may be feeling deeply mixed emotions. Stick with your feelings and discover the win-win: the more you have, the more you can give; the more you have, the more people give to you. Try to get this one down; it’s a keeper.

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