Pluto in Capricorn: Fiddler on a Roof

Dear Friend and Reader:

Growing up an honorary Jew in New York City, my favorite musical was Fiddler on the Roof. My mom took me to see the first Broadway revival with Zero Mostel, who performed in the original 1964 production. I learned the song “Sabbath Prayer” in piano lessons. And I thought a lot about the message of the play, which involves the relationship between tradition and change.

Promotional image for the play Fiddler on the Roof.

Reb Tevye, the play’s leading man, explains why there are so many customs among orthodox Jews that must be followed exactly. “Here in Anatevka,” he says, “we have traditions for everything. How to sleep. How to eat. How to work. How to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered and always wear a little prayer shawl. This shows our constant devotion to God.”

“You may ask, how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you. [He pauses for a moment.] I don’t know. But it’s a tradition. And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”

And then there is the famous line: “Without tradition, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on a roof.”

And that is about where our society is today. After writing last week’s article on the cardinal grand cross and grand water trine, I got the feeling that I needed to go deeper into the Pluto in Capricorn leg of the grand cross. You can think of that as the deepest root of the whole arrangement. Pluto goes deep in any event, and in this configuration (counting both the cross and the trine) Pluto arrived in its sign first, dipping into Capricorn before Pres. Obama was elected.

Pluto then slipped back into Sagittarius for the election, and by the time Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009, Pluto was in Capricorn to stay, until it first touches Aquarius in March 2023.

Capricorn is the sign of tradition. In worldly terms, it’s the sign that represents society’s institutions, such as governments, corporations, large churches and other power-wielding organizations. Those have been shaking and quaking during the Pluto in Capricorn era, starting with the banking system collapse of 2008.

Many other things have seemed to crumble; there have been scandals throughout the military command, the Secret Service (which went on a bender in Amsterdam this week) and the usual litany of malfeasance by politicians.

Topol as Tevye in the 1971 film production of Fiddlier on the Roof.

We’re also in an obsessive era of power grabs by companies, churches, political organizations and the government. Plenty of this involves seizing power over women, most of whom are oblivious to what is happening.

Other forms of power concentration involve concentrations of wealth higher up on the economic food chain, ever-larger mergers, concentration of who controls the information that flows to you (ever fewer gatekeepers), and the ways in which we are being suffocated by charges of pennies, nickels and dimes up to $50 and an interest rate hike for a late credit card payment. Basically we live in the age of “we do it because we can,” where many people and nearly all institutions do whatever they can to get over on people.

The government’s combined refusal and inability to take care of returning war veterans is one of the most disgusting emblems of the era we live in. These things, too, are all well-represented by Pluto in Capricorn.

Then of course there is the NSA, which thinks it has us surrounded and is gluttonous for unchecked power. Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and others are exposing and undermining what would otherwise be an unmitigated concentration of influence, going on behind our backs.

And looking at one example where traditions are being reshaped and reformed, the movement to include same-sex couples in the ‘institution’ of marriage is an attribute of Pluto in Capricorn.

Our Relationship to Tradition

We could go on and on with Pluto in Capricorn metaphors in the outer world, the one that surrounds us. They are identifiable because we can construct images using the combination of Pluto + Capricorn.

Yet while you may be observing these outer manifestations, there is the more significant inner level of Pluto in Capricorn. Think of Capricorn as representing the solid ground on which consciousness stands. It’s a level even deeper than our life patterns or social patterns, which are usually illustrated by Aquarius. You might say that it’s the foundations on which those life patterns are built: concepts like family, trust in society, faith that there will be an economy and a food supply, faith that there is sufficient knowledge to solve a problem, should one arise.

The catastrophic failure of Washington Mutual was one of many, many thousands of bank failures that are still unfolding today. When most of us were younger, a bank was considered something solid and stable. But your great-grandparents might not believe that.

You might think of Capricorn as representing all the ways we have faith in ‘the establishment’ and that it will be there when we need it. And needless to say, that faith is being shaken. There are external factors doing this (for example, the constant attack on various social safety nets, and some politicians who make a career out of convincing others that some people don’t deserve medical care).

Yet much closer to home, our ideas about intimacy are being shaken up. Family structure has been in a gradual decline since the end of World War II. There are still some solid families and some extended families left, but more and more we live with the feeling that we’re on our own. It is a fact that many more people are being left out in the cold, and that translates on the inner level to the fear that you may be left out in the cold. Everyone knows everyone deserves food and a safe place to sleep; to convince oneself otherwise is only weakening.

Going deeper, Pluto in Capricorn represents a shattering of or disconnect from tradition, so vital to humans. Looked at another way, it’s about a reactionary response to ground-in tradition. This is part of what is inspiring many people to be so viciously against same-sex couples getting married.

The war to defend tradition, be it heterosexuality or the subjugation of women, is motivated by a deep, inner and very personal response to the fear that there is no more tradition, or that the changes in society are running out of control.

I think that it’s essential in times like we’re living in to return to healthy experiences that you might think of as human traditions. This could take many forms, all of them cooling off our cultural obsession with the concept of ‘new’. That includes older ways of doing things, eating foods that are more closely harmonized with our ancestral heritage. Heck, eating actual food rather than junk food and processed food would feel a lot better. A few years back I wrote an article with some ideas about this called Everything Old is New Again.

When traditions change, some people resist violently. Reactionary movement is often the result of the feeling of instability that comes with change. In this photo, students are kissing in front of protesters from Westboro Baptist Church at Oberlin College, May 2000.

Actually getting together with people would help ground the feeling of inevitable and inescapable change. Honoring friendship, looking up old friends, and taking necessary time to build friendship, would all help grant a feeling of stability and belonging.

If family is changing so fast as to be disappearing in many places, making a point of collecting a family of choice would be helpful — something that many people do naturally and that others have never considered.

Pluto in Capricorn is not just about the death of old traditions; it can just as much be about their healthy revival. And as my teacher, the late Arthur Joseph Kushner, was fond of reminding me, any tradition that does not change is not alive. Tradition is not about nostalgia or doing things the way they were done in the past in the spirit of purism. Adapting old traditions to current times can be productive, healthy and fun.

What remains constant is that humans need traditions. We need to honor the passage of time. We need to experience a sense of belonging on the planet. That includes a sense of place, a relationship to the landscape around us, and a relationship to the environment that reminds us we are indeed supported by our environment.

I think that each of us, personally, needs a code to live by. In a world where both ethics and morals are becoming meaningless, it’s necessary to have an inner commitment to doing what is right. Yes, that includes doing what is right for you, but what I am talking about here is doing what is right as a member of society.

The Oso, Washington, Mountainside Collapse

When the relationship to the environment goes out of balance, the results can be catastrophic. It’s true that humans have always lived in dangerous places — on seashores subject to tsunamis, at the bases of volcanoes, in earthquake zones and other places where nature acts up.

Here is the chart for the Oso landslide. Note the green glyph on the far right — that is Pholus, the second centaur. Nessus, the first centaur, is just to the left of the diagonal dark line, right into the 10th house. This is a chart signature that reminds me of a mass shooting-type incident. Also note that the chart is Gemini rising. Mercury, the ruler of the ascendant, is about to complete a conjunction to Neptune in Pisces — the image of something subject to change (Gemini, Mercury) about to experience the effects of a lot of water. But this was not an accident.

I realized just how passionately people are devoted to where they live during a volcanic eruption in Sicily a few years ago that led to a mass evacuation. On a car window in the evacuation zone, written with someone’s finger in volcanic ash, someone wrote, “We love you Etna” — addressed to the volcano that was erupting.”

Sometimes it’s human activity that makes a place dangerous. This past Saturday, there was a massive landslide in an unincorporated area about 4 miles east of the town of Oso in Snohomish County, Wash. A portion of a hillside collapsed, sending mud and debris across the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, taking many homes and their inhabitants with it. As of Thursday, there have been 25 confirmed deaths and 90 more people are reported missing and presumed dead.

When I cast the chart soon after the event, my first thought was: this looks like the chart of a mass shooting. One marker I’ve noticed for when someone seems to lose control but was really acting with intent are the centaurs Pholus and Nessus on the angles of the chart. Pholus is right on the western horizon and Nessus is on the midheaven, high overhead. (The ‘angles’ in a chart are the horizon and the meridian; the angular houses are the 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th).

To me, when I see this kind of placement, whatever happened looks like an intentional act. But we’re talking about a landslide here. That’s supposed to be a natural disaster.

The chart definitely looks like what happened. One feature is the conjunction of Mercury and Neptune in Pisces. That is a lot of water; it was rainwater that precipitated the event. Another feature is Pluto in Capricorn in the 8th house, the one that tells us the nature and cause of death. As I described above, Pluto in Capricorn is about the sense of the ground moving beneath us, and in the literal sense of things, that is exactly what happened to the people of Oso.

Finally, there is an exact square between the Moon and Chiron — a very, very exact square. You might think of that as representing what happens when belief, or denial, meets reality. It also looks like something happening to people’s homes (the Moon).

Google Earth image of Oso, Wash., hillside before the land flaked off.

But the concept of intent coming from Pholus and Nessus was irking me. So, our environmental research team looked into the issue of what was known about this hillside in advance. I figured that this kind of event did not just come out of nowhere, but I was stunned at the depth and extent of prior knowledge about this very problem in this very place.

Lawyers will be sorting out exactly who knew what, when they knew it, and what they represented to others. There will be all kinds of insurance-related questions. But one thing is clear: the community and the government knew bout this issue and did nothing about it. Even as evidence of a problem mounted over the decades, development was allowed to proceed, as was the cutting of timber that only made the problem worse.

For example, after landslides in 1949 and 1951, the state commissioned a report on the situation. Maybe that’s why the place was known as Slide Hill. There was another catastrophic landslide that damaged many cabins in 1967. But still, extensive development was permitted in the area.

In an article published Monday, March 24The Yakima Herald described a 1969 State Department of Natural Resources memorandum. The author of the memo, Gerald Torsen, wrote, “Aerial photographs taken as far back as 1932 show the river has cut at this clay bank for many years,” thereby destabilizing the hillside.

So, short of figuring out what the local Indians knew before Lewis and Clark arrived, knowledge of a potential problem goes back at least 82 years.

Image of Oso hillside after the land gave way. This was not a mudslide, as TV people are calling it. It was the collapse of a mountainside. Photo by Ted Warren.

In 1997, a geomorphologist named Daniel Miller wrote a report for the Washington Department of Ecology and the local Tulalip Tribes, describing the hill’s potential risk for landslides. He has collected memos, slides, maps, models, drawings and reports as far back as the 1950s showing the hill’s potential risk for a landslide.

Then in 1999, the Army Corps of Engineers assessed the hillside and warned of “the potential for a large catastrophic failure.” But the state allowed building to continue — and also clearcutting of forests, including into restricted areas that were holding the mountain together.

In 2006, yet another landslide occurred, plugging the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River and creating a new channel that threatened the homes on Steelhead Drive. Instead of people being evacuated from their homes, contractors were allowed to build new ones. Miller, the geomorphologist, said, “Frankly, I was shocked that the county permitted any building across from the river. We’ve known that it’s been failing.”

Even with all of this foreknowledge, developers were finishing luxury homes as late as this year — that is, in 2014.

After the landslide happened Saturday, John Pennington, who currently heads the county emergency management agency where this happened, said that the hillside “was considered very safe. This was a completely unforeseen slide. This came out of nowhere.”

Yes, just like the “grandmother quote” in just about every newspaper story about a murder — “my grandson is a very nice boy.”

Photo from Zillow listing for home at 31325 E. Steelhead Dr. in Arlington, Wash., just a few feet from the river — no doubt one of the homes that was taken by the mountainside collapse. The luxury home just sold for $179,000 less than two weeks ago.

Does all of this rise to the level of intent? I define intent not as desire for an outcome but as “knew or should have known” about a likely outcome. Clearly, a lot of people knew or should have known about this. And that, I believe, is why this chart looked like the chart of a mass shooting. There is an element of intent — apparently, a significant one.

So, this leads us to another question: what do you know, and what do you bother to find out? What do you do with what you know? Many people consciously avoid information, just so they don’t have to know.

Many others choose to ignore what they know. I for one remain shocked at the number of people who still smoke cigarettes, contaminating every cell in their bodies with carcinogens even in the midst of the cancer and cancer-phobia epidemic.

We are now in a time when we have to use what we know, because the consequences of doing so are real and present. Yes, they always were — but we know so much more than we did in the past, and it matters so much more.

One message of the astrology of spring 2014 is to pay attention. Many factors will be moving quickly, and the only thing standing between you and something you don’t want to happen may be your own awareness, and what you do with it.


Weekly Horoscope for Friday, March 28, 2014, #992 | By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19) — The beauty of your astrology right now is that it allows you to see yourself in others and to feel them within you. Another perspective on the same aspects illustrates you self-actualizing through your relationships. This concept used to be understood a lot better than it is now in our era when the prevailing theory of relationships is to use people. Self-actualizing through an intimate bond is a special, subtle kind of using. It is perhaps the most humane kind there is, because the idea is about becoming increasingly aware of yourself as you interrelate with others. I would take the concept of ‘others’ and extend it to your whole environment. Consider that you are part of your environment and it is part of you. Feel how you influence your surroundings with your feelings, and how you can pick up feelings and experience influences just by being in a place or around others. The moral of the story is you are part of the world and the world is part of you.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You’re not in as tight of a corner as it may seem. In fact to the extent that you feel you’re under someone’s shadow, under their thumb or under their authority, you have the ability to focus and turn this into a productive situation. The main quality that’s being demanded of you is integrity. Such would include sincerity, the use of logic, and making sure that all of the basic minimums for which you may be responsible are covered. You can add to that consulting with those who are influenced by your movements and your choices, making sure they have a clue what to expect from you next. Take the time to enter a dialog and leave behind any reticence you may have to commit to a position by saying anything at all. You’re in a position of much greater influence than you may imagine, by which I mean the potential to effect positive change. Step out of the shadow and you will see that.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Stick to the truth and admit when you find yourself believing something that may not be true, or that is not true. Notice when you ‘believe’ something because someone in a position of authority ‘believes’ it; notice if you bend things a bit to focus your own authority. In short, your solar chart right now is a study in the power of false belief and deception for the purpose of gaining power. That could include power gained over you, which is the main reason why I suggest you be vigilant. It’s the main reason why I suggest you make no compromises about the nature of reality. The best way to handle any situation where you’re lacking knowledge is to admit at least that much. If you’re in a position where you have to conduct yourself a certain way for political purposes (such as getting ahead), admit at least that much. Do everything you can to eliminate deception from your life in any form, and happily forfeit the power of denial in place of the greater power of truth.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Leave your insecurity behind you and strive to do your best work. Your fears of inadequacy can indeed be behind you, in the past, if you want them to be. The only way you will establish that is to actually live as if it’s true. That may seem bold, but it’s not as bold as you might think. I will tell you that it’s probably a lot braver than your parents were; it’s gutsier than most of your friends or associates would likely be; it will take more courage than downloading a new app for your Droid. Those are not particularly meaningful comparisons because the standard is a lot lower than actual achievement — and lower than your actual potential. The main thing you’re likely to struggle with is your own consistency, though you have more influence over this than you might think. And even if you’re not exactly consistent, now is the time to focus your mind and reach for one particular goal, no matter how ‘impossible’ it may have seemed in the past.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — There’s no such thing as perfect faith, but there is such a thing as very powerful old-fashioned ordinary faith. And that, you have plenty of. Here is the thing: Faith might work so well that it would shock you. It might compel you to reorganize your whole belief system around what is actually possible that you didn’t think was possible. Note that you may find yourself in some kind of dialog or interchange with someone close to you about whether something is possible. The image glaring out of your chart is of you doing what is right for you no matter what anyone else believes or refuses to believe. So you don’t need to lose any sleep over that small matter, nor do you need to distract yourself with anyone else’s doubts. Nor do you need to convince anyone of anything — just act on the best intuition that you have. Then when your environment starts to provide feedback, adjust your beliefs accordingly. Then be ready to adjust them again.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — It’s necessary that you keep a handle on who you are, what you want and what you’re doing. I say this because of the vast amount of activity in your relationship angle (Aquarius, Pisces and Aries) and so little happening in your own sign. Your ruling planet Mercury is deep in the mix of your relationship stuff, which may be describing a real challenge finding yourself in the midst of lots of movement and excitement in your environment. The planets are describing no specific or direct way to do this, that I can see. The best idea I can offer you is to know what you think, despite what anyone else might think. It would be supremely easy to lose yourself in the viewpoint of others, so if you are aware of and strive to focus your own point of view, you have the easiest possible means of tracking who you are. So yes: the path to individuality starts with knowing your own opinion. (It always did.)

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — You may feel like you live in the hall of mirrors. But if you look closely at what seems to be your reflection, you might notice that it doesn’t vaguely resemble who you know yourself to be. Indeed, the whole mirroring thing seems to be an illusion that is only real to the extent that you believe it. Your solar chart describes where you will find yourself — in the zone of consciousness where you’re willing to take a risk. Where you feel the potential, the calling or the need to dare, that is where you’re the most likely to find yourself, as in discover something new about yourself. You will know you’re in that space because it feels distinctly different than the mirror chamber or echo chamber that you were in before. You will know you’re there because it has the distinct sensation of something to gain and something to lose. Note that your ruling planet Venus is in Aquarius. That is a reminder to be yourself and not buckle under the pressure or low standards of any group in which you’re involved.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You may be having panic attacks over some potential change in your work environment or work assignment. That kind of response is not exactly the key to success. I suggest you remove from your thinking any need to ‘feel appreciated’ and replace it with the need to focus your mind, your efforts and your intentions on what actually matters. Focus on the nature of commitments being made to you, and asked of you. Once the changes you’re going through gather actual momentum, there will be the moment where you have to give up control over the outcome. But that does not mean giving up awareness of where you are at any moment, or the words that come out of your mouth, or listening and hearing the words that are said to you. Said another way, lack of control over the outcome is a thing apart from maintaining your presence and awareness and using what you know to make moment-to-moment assessments and decisions.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — If you subtract the drama from the sex, the sex will be a lot more interesting. I know that for most people this is like decaffeinated instant coffee with Splenda and Cremora, or trying to get drunk on a Shirley Temple. There exists a kind of conditioned association between drama and sex, in particular, drama based on insecurity. I would propose that you don’t need that. I also suggest you subtract the “does he/she love me?” question from your erotic encounters, along with “what will happen to us in the future?” and “will we do this again?” Let basic trust and being turned on be enough for now. Have your experiences in the moment you’re having them, giving and receiving love in real time. The insecurity factor to me looks like a ruse. By ruse, I mean to use a polite word for bullshit. You might try treating it as such, just for an experiment. The other part of the experiment will involve not treating anyone else’s insecurity as if it’s valid for you.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — If you’re going to rebel, focus on what makes no sense, and then wage the rebellion by making sense. Rather than object to what is ridiculous, propose the alternative. The posture of rebellion I am suggesting is not waged in the negative but rather in the affirmative. That leaves a lot more room for creativity, actual innovation and sense of humor. It also disguises the rebellion as something else, such as an invention or a party or art or something that is just interesting. There are a lot of stupid customs in the world, ridiculous beliefs, pointless social rituals and absurd expectations. You seem to be aware of this now more than ever, and determined to do something about it. As the next few days unfold, that may grow to the point of having revolution in your heart. So be it — and Remember The Onion.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — You may be in an emotional dilemma, going back and forth about what you really believe, or what course of action is correct. This is compounded by the potential feeling that you have to do something, or make a decision, before time runs out. The problem is that each potential choice is so compelling you don’t know which is more valid. If this describes some aspect of your life, I have two ideas. One is: consider the potential that both are true at once, no matter how different they may seem (they are more closely related than they seem by the way). Then work out the math and figure out how the situation would seem in that case. Two is: consider the possibility that you’re dealing with a false dilemma. (I have a personal philosophy to consider the potential for any dilemma being a false dilemma). A false dilemma, in case you’re not familiar with the concept, is a pair of options, choices, potentials or outcomes where neither of the two is actually valid or meaningful. The solution to that is simple — come up with more possibilities.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Claim your genius with money. I mean take hold of it, take ownership and put it to work. Get your mind going, and start sketching out possibilities. Remember that your most valuable resource is what you know. In our economy, you have the options to sell your time, your labor or your knowledge, and you probably proffer a mix of these options. But the most valuable one is your knowledge. It’s also one of the most challenging to convert into actual cash value, though you can apply your knowledge to that puzzle. The only thing that stands in your way is a particular kind of self-esteem crisis that might, in the past, have left you feeling like nobody cares about you. That’s not true, but I would remind you that for this particular project, you don’t need anyone to care about you — you need to care about yourself, and you need to take advantage of the self-interest of others. Ultimately what you’re doing has nothing at all to do with self-interest; that is a means to a much larger and more meaningful goal.

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