Scratch Some Virgo, Find Some Pisces

Dear Friend and Reader:

The late, great horoscope writer Patric Walker once wrote, “Scratch a Pisces and you’ll find a Virgo under their skin.” Though this was a cute one-liner that I read in The New York Post, Patric was alluding to a real astrological principle: the ‘opposite’ signs contain one another. In a sense, they’re not even really opposite; they are aspects of the same thing, and in this way a polarity of two signs — any two signs — works as one entity.

Daybreak at Gale Crater on Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

When signs on both sides of the polarity have planets or notable events in them, this is especially noticeable — and that’s what’s happening these days with Virgo and Pisces.

Mars is currently in Virgo, making an extremely rare eight-month visit that includes an approximately 11-week retrograde. (The retrograde extends between Jan. 23 and April 13.) That’s placing an unusual emphasis on Virgo, since Mars does not usually move that slowly, and because (particularly when retrograde) it’s not considered the best fit for Virgo. If you have this placement in your chart, however, you’re likely to have a sharp mind, a passion for technology and a drive to make things right. You might have a lawyer-like mind and be a kind of martial artist at argument. Yet you also might need to ‘step down’ your voltage so you don’t blow out your transistors, or those of the people around you.

On the other side of the sky, Chiron is currently in Pisces, where it will be into 2019. Neptune is due to arrive on Feb. 3, and it will remain there until 2025. These are slow-movers that will change the shape of the world, our perception of the world and our experience of existence.

Such events, taken together, qualify as the full activation of the Virgo-Pisces axis — what I will call the axis of practical imagination. Virgo expresses the technical side of nearly anything, based on its tendency toward integrated or applied knowledge. Pisces expresses the imaginative side of the psyche, which can often inspire the more practical modes of expression.

The two have to work together in order for much of anything worthwhile to happen. Think of the circuit board and all the ingenuity required to create it as an expression of Virgo. Think of the concept ‘Macintosh’ as an expression of Pisces. To do anything innovative, it’s necessary to have both ends of the polarity working, which is the challenge that both artists and technicians face every day. Usually someone is oriented toward one side or the other — they like the creative end but not the practical end — or vice versa.

Mars in Virgo: The Mind on Fire

Let’s start with a careful look at the Virgo side of the polarity and come back to Pisces. Mars in Virgo is the mind on fire. This placement can represent a drive for integrity, impeccability or even perfection. Healing and self-improvement can become obsessions. There is the drive to fix things. If Mars in this sign turns on itself, the result can be a painful and even tortured neurosis. Casting Mars retrograde in Virgo in the best light, I see an inquiry of some kind, a questioning of conventional values, and an intellectual quest that continually questions itself.

This is what you look like when you have Mars in Virgo conjunct Uranus and Pluto. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails was not born with Mars retrograde, but he experienced it as a fetal American. He’s seen here during one of his last NIN performances at The Music Box, Hollywood, CA on Sept. 8, 2009. Photo: Mykal Burns/Wikipedia.

This is not going to be so comfortable for everyone, however. If Socrates was right about an unexamined life not being worth living, a good few people may be getting the message that it’s time to do things differently. The self-critical attribute of Virgo is famous. Add to that Mars retrograde and it may be time to open an astrological support hotline.

On the other hand, this will be excellent astrology for those who are in therapy, doing spiritual counseling or who are devoted to their healing — as long as they convert judgment into compassion and perfectionism into the intention of gradual improvement. In Reality Check, my 2012 annual edition, I interpreted Mars retrograde through the signs as a systems check for the astonishing events of late May through late June 2012. Mars retrograde in Virgo will help us clear our mental blocks, preconceived ideas and useless information from our minds before the energy turns up exponentially.

For retrograde hunters, the last time Mars was retrograde in Virgo was in 1997, but part of that cycle happened in Libra, so we did not get the full effect. Mars did something similar in 1950, splitting a retrograde between Virgo and Libra. Mars spent a little piece of its 1995 retrograde in Virgo as well.

The last all-Virgo Mars retrograde was the famous one that took place in early 1965, famous in my mind, anyway, because Mars passed through the Uranus-Pluto conjunction. Doing so, it stirred up a lot of collective energy, helping spark what we think of as the 1960s. That conjunction, which happens less than once per century, combined the revolutionary power of Uranus with the evolutionary power of Pluto and set many things in motion.

In January, Pres. Lyndon Johnson made his “Great Society” speech. This was the era of “guns and butter.” Two months later, he sent the first combat troops to Vietnam. The Civil Rights movement was on fire in Alabama, where James J. Reeb, a Unitarian Universalist minister, was beaten to death — one of several members of the clergy to be killed by the KKK. In April, the first anti-Vietnam War march, organized by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), drew 25,000 people (and that was just the first of many impressive antiwar protests that year).

In May, 40 men burned their draft cards at the University of California at Berkeley, and marched a coffin to the local Draft Board. Good thing, too. By July, Johnson nearly doubled both the ground troop count in Vietnam and the number of men drafted. (He also signed the Social Security Act of 1965, which provided for Medicaid and Medicare). In other words, the historical era that we actually think of as the Sixties emerges during the Mars retrograde of 1965.

Births from this specific era of 1965 include Trent Reznor, Robert Downey, Jr., Eric Cantor and Sarah Jessica Parker. A piece of timeless artwork that manifested in this moment was the recording A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. The Beatles recorded “Ticket to Ride,” a song about abortion. (Later in the year, they went full-on psychedelic, with “Day Tripper,” “Nowhere Man” and “Norwegian Wood.”)

And This is Now

We are now having another all-Virgo Mars retrograde, the very first since then. What’s interesting is that we are once again in a potent Uranus-Pluto phase — the square. This is the first Uranus-Pluto quadrature (90-degree type) aspect since the ’60s, and it’s pretty easy to feel the resonance between our era and that one. This Mars retrograde will awaken Uranus and Pluto in the natal charts of many people born in the ’60s. It’s fair to say that for a while, the world will feel a little more like home to ’60s babies — though this isn’t just about Virgo.

A Love Supreme was recorded by John Coltrane’s quartet in December 1964 and was released February 1965 — right at the peak of Mars retrograde in Virgo. It remains one of the most memorable and enduring recordings of that era, which is saying a lot.

Our current Mars retrograde also arrives with a Pisces awakening. At the moment, Venus and Chiron are in Pisces. The Sun arrives for a month in late February. And most significantly, Neptune is about to arrive, which will shift the story of the world, and allow the realm of imagination to be more tangible and accessible. When the question is one of method, we find a counterpart in purpose in its counterpart energy, Pisces. When it’s one of proof (in Virgo) we have a matter of faith (in Pisces). Looked at another way, our problems are never solved by technology alone. They are solved by the creative use of creative technology.

What our era has in common with the mid-’60s (indeed, nearly the whole decade) is once again the presence of Chiron in Pisces — something that blended the focusing power of Virgo with the softer light of Pisces. I think of Chiron in Pisces as being the side of the ’60s that was about love, peace and beauty. This was a spirit represented, among other manifestations, by The Beatles, who provided a soundtrack and embodied a peace-loving, creative ethos available beneath all the turmoil of the era. Their musical repertoire also tracks the speed with which the era progressed. (It was just 15 months from “A Hard Day’s Night” to “Yesterday,” though it seems like a lot longer.

We’re now entering a time of history that will make the ’60s seem like a day at the shore. The Uranus-Pluto square that fully takes hold in June describes an extended phase of awakening, creative expression and surges forward in many necessary aspects of life. Yet this radically progressive astrology is forming in a world where the human spirit has been all but moralized or legislated out of existence, or worse, subsumed in advertising. Still, we have the strength to wage ideological battles and attempt to prove our points either intellectually or with intellectual bullying.

Beneath the hashing out of supposed right and wrong, of evidence and proof, of bombastic rhetoric, there is a softer reality. Amidst the chaos we’re witnessing and indeed about to witness, there is a calm voice speaking and asking reasonable questions, if anyone is willing to listen.

Of course, there are always those who want us to believe what defies reason and rationality, and plenty are ready to do so, thinking it’s much easier. I think we needed to take notice when Karl Rove made his famous comments making fun of the ‘reality-based community’ — that is, everyone who did not worship at the altar of his delusions. We live in a culture that already extols image above substance and there’s hardly a day when we can get that going in the right order.

Twenty-twelve or Bust! Okay — we got there. This Sixties-styled bus is reminiscent of the highly organized psychedelic vibe that has its roots in the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of 1965-1966. Photo: Johannes Aubele/Wikipedia.

Mars retrograde in Virgo is a reminder to check the facts, to check your logic and to test your perceptions against some other metric. Yet the thing to remember is that all the facts in the world don’t add up to the truth. All the proof in the world does not tally up to something that makes sense. The final gesture of bestowing something with the blessing of ‘being real’ comes from each of us. Let’s consider the rational/irrational spectrum a bit differently, with a physical metaphor.

During 14 years that have led to Neptune ingressing Pisces, we’ve had Neptune in Aquarius (between 1998 and early 2012). Much like Virgo, the realm of Aquarius describes patterns of information, and studying those patterns could help us establish some basis by which we can assess what we perceive, that is, determine what’s real and what’s not.

During this era, the Internet has manifested as a way to give many people access to knowledge and factual information, but for the most part, it has a different purpose. During those 14 years of Neptune in Aquarius, the Internet went from something that existed in relatively few households to something that everyone carries in their pocket. What started as the realm of academic research, repositories of information and a foundation of knowledge has transformed into a realm dominated by fantasy, shopping, games and entertainment.

The Internet has also manifested in everyday life as a communication medium, replacing everything from leaflets to mail to the telephone to shortwave radio.

I would offer two early thoughts about Neptune in Pisces. Consider that the emergence of the Internet as we currently know it — a kind of fantasy shopping dimension — is more about the lack of imagination than too much of the stuff. Neptune in Aquarius encouraged us to use imagination a certain way, basically, the most effective way to either make money or spread propaganda. There is relatively little beauty for its own sake on the Internet. Neptune in Pisces is a reminder to honor precisely that: beauty and truth for their own sake.

Second, we have learned something about communicating over a nonlocal network, by which we’re linked through wires, fiber optics cables and wireless portals. It’s time to move away from this metaphor and recognize that we’re all connected, and we all influence one another, without all the gadgets.

Eric Francis

Friday, Jan. 20, 2012. Weekly Horoscope #888. | Eric’s Zodiac Sign Descriptions

Aries (March 20-April 19) — In truth, it’s all a family affair. The ridiculous standards we put on our happiness, our mental habits, our eating habits — all have their origins in our family. When you strive to change any of these things, you’re actually going against your ancestral pattern. Remember this as you improve many aspects of your everyday life. Remember, too, that as you change seemingly personal things, like what you eat, you’re engaging with a deeper emotional layer, and making the changes might come with the feeling of ‘betraying’ the people who gave you the habits you’re trying so diligently to change — and as the Bible tells us in one of its more astute moments, you cannot serve two masters. I suggest you be ready to engage with the patterns underlying whatever ordinary kinds of things you want to change. What you eat or going to the gym in that case could amount to authentic therapy.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — One of the most deeply ingrained patterns involves sex and — more significantly — how we think about sex. Mars making its retrograde in the angle of your chart associated with pleasure and experimentation is also involved in the Virgo dimension. If you’re looking for why, so often, you have to think about whether you’re going to think about something, rather than just trying it as an experiment — look no further. There’s something for you in Mars retrograde about being comfortable with taking risks, and most of those risks involve how you think of yourself as a sexual being. Many people spend their lives seemingly trying to impress others with their purity, which is another way of saying with their hangups. There’s an old expression: free your ass and your mind will follow. Or is it really free your mind and your ass will follow? Actually, you can do both at once.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — The issue of whether you feel safe on the planet is the essence of the forthcoming Mars retrograde for you. In our time of history, when it’s impossible to feel too threatened and when there’s no such thing as a long enough password, and when (as The Onion put it recently) 98% of Americans are afraid of 98% of Americans, feeling safe is an act of faith. Fortunately, that’s the very door that’s opening for you right now. Ultimately, all the reasons you can give yourself for not thinking you have enough, or contemplating all that could go wrong if you take action, or all the seemingly external pressure you’re under, add up to very little. You will end up trusting your situation because you don’t have any other choice. Now, if you can work backwards from there, you will see that you have more reasons to trust what is actually true than to trust your anxiety, which only misleads you.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You may be concerned that if you want to renegotiate a partnership situation, you’ll be giving up the whole thing. Whether this is true, or whether it’s an idea you have, amounts to the same thing — a feeling you have that could influence how you make an important choice in a partnership. I suggest you look at your history and see if you can find parallel moments, or one parallel moment, where you encountered a loss because you wanted to make a change, that would be helpful. Yet there seems to be something else going on: your need to let the past go. That this is easier said than done is not news to anyone, but discovering why it’s so challenging would qualify as an actual breakthrough. Here is a clue: What we call letting the past go involves two parts: one is reckoning with what happened, and the second part is embarking on something else. Which is harder for you?

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — In a few days there will be a New Moon in your opposite sign Aquarius. This event is a reminder that you need to include more of you in your life. If you follow the teachings of Jell-o pudding, you can declare it “me o’clock” and have “time to yourself.” Yet the actual challenge seems to be about seeing every aspect of your life as something where you not only should be included but to which you are in fact integral. At the moment, however, this involves a lot of other people. When you’ve integrated yourself in that integral way, you may wonder what is left: what time, what space, what freedom to choose. I can tell you one thing from your astrology — you’re looking at the world with a blind spot in your vision. When that shifts, which it’s about to do, you will see that your involvements hold the key to your freedom. There will be an art to seeing just how that works.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Mars stations retrograde in Virgo on Monday, which is a somewhat famous event in the astrology of our lifetimes. There hasn’t been an all-Virgo Mars retrograde since 1965, and it was an extremely eventful time in history. For you this phase, lasting through April, is a review of how you handle your will; said another way, it’s a question of what you do with your strength. One thing this retrograde seems poised to teach you about is the ways in which you use your power against yourself (and what to do about it). Another turning point involves how you might go about correcting something within yourself that you’ve identified as having outdone its use. One thing I would suggest is that you’re not alone. One mode of self-improvement is the “fix yourself” model. Another is the “look to a trusted example” method. Exemplars are never 100% pure positive examples; often they present a mix of what you want and what you don’t want. But there is someone in your life who understands your situation better than you do, mainly due to their experience and perspective.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — It’s time to notice the relationship between vulnerability and anxiety. For many people who strive to be whole, loving and authentic, this is the very thing they stumble over. Currently the planets are arranged in such a way to illustrate a certain point — that point being that anxiety is one thing and vulnerability is another. They seem to be more closely related than they are, and if there is a relationship, it’s not cause and effect. More often it’s circumstantial: fear and openness happen in similar times and places, though for different reasons. Try to see each of these things as its own entity. You will learn about your fear if you consider the nature and causes of that emotion; you will learn about how to be open, and how to handle yourself when you’re vulnerable, by exploring that sensation. If you confuse them or think of them as one experience, you’re likely to miss learning benefits — and the pleasure that comes with a bit of emotional freedom.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You think people are a lot harsher toward you than they actually are. I mean, I’m not there; I’m just reading your astrology, and I’ve known a few Scorpios here and there. It seems that you might project a certain ‘critical factor’ onto your friends, assuming that you’re being judged or scrutinized when this is not true. I suggest you test the theory in a somewhat oblique way, which is to be encouraging of everyone around you. Affirm what they want, what they do and what they accomplish. You don’t have to be sugary about this — saying yes, and taking opportunities to lend your actual, physical, material support, will teach you a lot. I am suggesting that you personally take action to reverse the dynamic that you may perceive in your environment. Notice when you give support or affirmation and when you withhold it. Notice the role that jealousy plays in your interactions with others. Most of all, notice how good it feels to say yes.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Does it matter what the boss thinks? No — if you set your own standard of excellence. Speaking as a boss, I can tell you that’s the one thing I’m looking for in the people who work for me: self-regulated quality control, and clear internal motivation to grow and improve. If you fire up those qualities in yourself, and find your own reasons for being motivated to do good work, you will set yourself free from a whole bunch of external bossiness in your life. Pay attention to the details of what you’re doing, and notice the implications of decisions you make and you will find yourself enjoying some actual autonomy. Unless, that is, you work for a petty tyrant — in which case you might just need to cut yourself loose from that situation sometime during the next three months. One thing I suggest you not do during that time is attempt to be in charge of anyone but yourself. That comes later.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Many religions feel that if you’re a good person, God rewards you with wealth. I’m wondering how you feel about that theory, and related issues, like how many patently evil people have so much. My theory is that financial success involves two things: one is how you feel about yourself, and the other is motivation. Now, many people feel positively horrid about themselves and make a lot of cash — I don’t count that as success. Your astrology is encouraging you to work out a meaning of success that includes faith in yourself and faith in something beyond yourself. However, I suggest you take them in that order, and do everything you can to withdraw energy from the expectations of others — especially your parents. In case you’re in a religious mood, every time you think of the concept God or spirit, insert your parents into the equation and see how it adds up.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Monday’s New Moon in your birth sign commences the Year of the Dragon. More specifically, it’s the year of the Water Dragon, a yin manifestation of bold, brash (and lucky) Dragon energy. This is the perfect image of Aquarius, the sign of the water-bearer. Yours is a masculine sign associated with a feminine substance. The blend for you is about asserting yourself, and taking chances, and depending on your popularity, and pushing your luck — in that distinctly Dragon way. Yet the way to do this best, with the Water Dragon as your mascot this year, is to hold feminine energy at your core. This is possible for both men and women — this is a matter of energy and not of sex. No matter how bold or cocky you are, stay open and receptive. No matter how lucky you are, be grateful. No matter how much you want someone or something, be open to it wanting you.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Most of the action in the sky right now (most, not all) involves your sign and your opposite sign Virgo. This is a study in you and your relationships. Mars in your opposite sign is turning up the contrast in your experiences. Lately everything has seemed to be in greater relief, with brighter light and darker shadows. At the same time, Venus and Chiron are in your sign, heightening your self-awareness. For the next few months you get to work out the details of your relationships. You get to see where the tense points are, and better still, you will have the opportunity — and the skill — to do something about them. The key will be seeing the origin of any relationship experience as being the extension of an inner dynamic. I am not saying ‘blame yourself’ but rather notice how you might contribute, or how a personality you have might lead you to respond a certain way. You will see the solutions within yourself — and benefit greatly from that discovery.

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