The Age of Aquarian Panic or Passion

Dear Friend and Reader:

When I get into a habit of staying in my photo studio, I’m isolated from television (and surrounded by art), and somehow my life is different. Besides not being blasted with advertising, I am relieved of the burden of a non-stop barrage of that which is supposed to scare me, for example, how many jobs were lost this week. I still hear about it; but I only read about it five times instead of being blasted with it the usual 275 times via television.

An Aquarian Gorilla. Image by Rachel Asher.

I wonder what good this kind of “news” does for those who don’t think they have something meaningful and productive to occupy their mind and their hands, besides terrorize them. The thing about our particular economy is that so much of it is based on confidence. This includes banks lending to one another, and my tab at Dominick’s Cafe across the street.

What we get hurled at us so often seems to be fear for its own sake; a kind of substance that absorbs any remaining traces of creative energy, confidence and awareness, making sure we get as plastered into unreality as is possible. In our time, one question of Aquarius is, how stuck do you want to be? And do you recognize fear as the agent of that stuckness? Do we recognize that fear eats creativity, it distracts us from love and it derails erotic energy — the source of all abundance?

Besides all the companies that are dumping employees so the corporation itself can survive the recession, the zeitgeist piece we all love to hate is the one about the Suleman octuplets; that is, the lady in California who had eight more kids after already having six, no job, and not a dad but a sperm donor. The latest eight were born during Aquarius, the sign of groups, which is kind of like when twins are born during Gemini.

Except for the Aquarius part, I agree that the story is outrageous, but it’s just one example in a world of madness, extreme energy drinks, extreme sports and extremely large SUVs. In our particular world, it’s reasonable to wonder if she did it for the publicity (she is on food stamps, but has a spokesperson), if she was obsessed with her reproductive power (clearly) or if she’s the reincarnation of the old woman who lived in a shoe. This is a folk tale that has been around for a while, and as you can read in Wikipedia, it has several historical interpretations.

Front page of Nadya Suleman’s website.

At least this was a planned pregnancy; perhaps a bit too planned, but not an accident. We have to give Nadya Suleman that much. It’s the millions of people whose pregnancies are not even vaguely thought through, the ones that “just happen” to people who don’t use any birth control and are surprised that they got pregnant, or those who have a second or third kid when they can’t afford the first one or two, who really get me going.

My friend Karen Pardini, a midwife, yesterday was demonstrating how a woman gets pregnant while “watching a parade.” I don’t know if this is an old joke, but it was an extremely funny one-woman skit.

Nadya is reflecting something back to us, maybe something about population. It’s just as ridiculous to have 14 children in one house as it is to have a planet with seven billion people on it. What exactly are we doing about that? We can critique Nadya Suleman for having her enormous family that she cannot afford, then becoming Joe the Plumber of child-rearing, but when was the last time you saw a public service advertisement on TV encouraging responsible sex or population control? Unplugging your cell phone charger when you’re not using it is not enough.

The Age of Aquarius?

Speaking of octuplets, the sky is still mobbed with Aquarius planets. If you’re wondering what it is you experienced this past week, we had a lunar eclipse across Aquarius/Leo (that was Monday, just five days ago) mingled with the Sun making conjunctions to Nessus, Chiron and Neptune. Neptune was the last conjunction of the series

What we just bounced through — this patch of rattling celestial movement where so much happened to so many people — was the Earth and Sun aligning with each of these planets in turn. There was plenty more going on at the same time, notably Uranus and Saturn still in a tight opposition, which is like bouncing reality on an Aquarian trampoline.

Now Mars is moving through Aquarius at about three-quarters of a degree per day, a bit slower than the Sun. It, too, will make conjunctions to Jupiter, Juno, the North Node, Nessus, Chiron and Neptune before entering Pisces on March 14. While that’s going on, Mercury (done with its recent retrograde) will move back into Aquarius, making an even faster series of conjunctions to the same planets.

Charles Émile Auguste Durband, Hêbê, oil on canvas, 1874, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lille.

One highlight happens over the next few days, and is in full force is this weekend — Mars is making a conjunction to Juno and Jupiter. This is a cosmic parody on Valentine’s Day. Juno and Jupiter are the divine consorts. Add Mars and you have a threesome. Personally I like to take a counter-romantic view of this ridiculous “holiday,” and how the sky is doing it for me. If you’re in a couple and want to try something a little kinky, maybe post your fantasy to Craig’s List and see who shows up in your inbox.

Last night, a journalist contacted me, asking if I thought this meant the Age of Aquarius was beginning. He quoted the song by James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot, and performed by the Fifth Dimension. It’s the one which begins, “When the Mooooon is in the 7th house…” (which it is for about two hours every day) and Jupiter aligns with Mars (which it does once every four months, for about a week). By that reckoning, the Age of Aquarius has begun several hundred times since 2000. No wonder we never seem to get there.

The people who wrote this song did not know anything about astrology, that I can tell. But they were experts in groovy. The Age of Aquarius is not reckoned by planets, and certainly not by fast-movers like Jupiter and Mars. It’s generally counted by the movement of the sidereal vernal point through the constellations, in an approximately 26,000-year cycle. This is called the precession of the equinox. By this calculation, the Age of Aquarius would not begin for another 300 to 400 years.

I do believe we are at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, but not because of Jupiter and Mars, and not because of precessional movement. The proliferation of technology is one way you can tell that we are living in Aquarian times, and we have still not figured out how to boycott media which do nothing but pump out fear.

The other product of our Aquarian media is conformity, which is a growing medium where fear proliferates generously. For most people, this manifests as an obsessive drive to conform to what others are doing, with the presumed punishment of being banned from the tribe if you do not.

Aquarius crystallizes patterns, and one of the reasons we are having a variety of breakdowns at this point in history seems to be designed to break down some of the more dangerous patterns that have come to grip our society. If we’re going to experience brotherly love, we need to recognize one another as individuals and not as parts in a machine or a crowd to conform to. We need to claim our freedom as individuals before we claim our freedom as a society.

The Sun enters Pisces the morning of Feb. 18 (afternoon in the UK), but the Aquarius adventure continues all through the spring.

Here are the upcoming highlights. Note, this is a very incomplete list, covering the big stuff; note all the other planets currently in Aquarius, listed at right, positions accurate as of Thursday night. Note that everyone born in the mid-1960s has extra natal points in Aquarius, such as Pholus, Chariklo and 1992 QB1. So you are getting extra transits to whatever planets you may know about in Aquarius.

One things stands out of this long list: Tantalus is conjunct Chiron. This is the sense of vulnerability associated with not getting who or what we want the very most. The Buddhists are right, desire itself is a big part of the problem, especially in a society that is driven by desire. But check out the extent to which we hold out on one another, or take someone wanting something that we have as an opportunity to have power over that person. We’re so hungry for power that yes, we usually take all we can get.

Feb. 14 – Mercury re-enters Aquarius. It went retrograde there Jan. 12. The Moon enters Scorpio about an hour ahead of Mercury making its move, so this happens during a Moon-Mercury square.

Courtesy of

Feb. 17 – Mars conjunct Jupiter (and Juno). If you’re married or in a monogamous relationship, raise your hand if your sex life could be hotter. This aspect will help, I think; it’s the image of heating up your erotic reality with some “intellectual stimulation.” The added factor is Mars, that is, yang or male energy. Juno is famous for how allegedly faithful she is and Jupiter for how allegedly philandering. Now we have some kind of really exciting threesome unthinkably consisting of two guys and a chick. On this day, Venus (slow and powerful, about to station retrograde) in Aries sextiles Jupiter.

Feb. 18 – Sun enters Pisces. Venus sextiles Mars, while Mars is still within one degree of Jupiter.

Feb. 21 – Mercury shadow phase ends. Now you can buy one of these and it will work perfectly (this takes you to The Onion. Profanity warning, if you are at work).

Feb 24 – Pisces New Moon, at 7 degrees of that sign. Mercury is conjunct Jupiter, the same accenting the Pisces theme, and also the theme of how we experience our relationships in the context of the larger groups that surround them. Most couples solve the problem of ‘the rest of the world’ by isolating themselves from anyone but other people involved in couples.

Feb. 26 – Mercury sextiles Venus, as well as makes parallels to both Jupiter and Pluto. A parallel is like a conjunction, only different; but the emphasis here is on dialing in the difficult to communicate about. With Jupiter and Pluto involved, it sounds like a dangerous liaison in a library.

March 1 – Mercury conjunct Mars. This sounds like a bright idea, just make sure you think about it for longer than a Google search takes before you decide.

March 5 – Mars conjunct Chiron. This happens every two years, and it’s an aspect that favors the underdog. The two planets most endowed with warrior energy get together, with Mars energizing Chiron and Chiron adding a spiritual dimension to Mars. We also learn something about the struggle of men in our culture, particularly their sexual struggle, which is usually presumed not to exist.

March 6 – Venus stations retrograde in Aries. Retrograde least of all the planets, Venus is retrograde for about six weeks every 18 months. The station direct is in the last degree of Pisces on April 17. This is a study in the self-obsession with which our society is so secretly enamored, thinking it’s lost in obsessing about someone else.

March 8 – Mars conjunct Neptune. This is great for poets, musicians, artists and social visionaries, and bad for drug addicts, liars, control freaks and people possessed by entities. Some great ideas will come out of this conjunction, and so will a few Kamikaze missions, overdoses and spectacular lies to the public. This may be kept in check a little by the Sun’s opposition to Saturn. Or it may provide the feeling of needing to escape by one or more of the above methods. Mercury also enters Pisces, beginning a whole new story.

March 12 – Sun conjunct Uranus. This, after a recent opposition to Saturn, will provide a feeling of freedom and creative expression. Sun-Uranus is the conjunction we’ve all been waiting for. Well, except for when Jupiter, Chiron and Neptune align this spring.

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis

Train Wreck 500 Miles Over Siberia

On Tuesday, Feb. 10, and for the first time, two intact satellites collided in orbit. The wreck created a “massive” debris field 491 miles over Siberia and 270 miles over the NASA international space station.

An Iridium commercial communications satellite, launched in 1997 and weighing 1,235 pounds, collided with a one-ton 1993 Russian Kosmos 2251 military satellite which appeared to be out of control.

NASA believes it will take several weeks before they have a full assessment of the damage.

“We knew this was going to happen eventually,” said Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist at Johnson Space Center in Houston, in an interview with the Associate Press.

Litter in orbit is now a greater hazard to space shuttle flights than lift-off or re-entry. However, The Washington Post reports a NASA memo stating the risk to a planned Feb. 22 shuttle launch as “elevated” but “very small and within acceptable limits.”

According to Nicholas Johnson, we should probably worry more about the Hubble Telescope. Johnson, an orbital debris expert at the Houston space center, said the risk of damage from Tuesday’s collision is greater for the Hubble Space Telescope and Earth-observing satellites, which are in higher orbit and nearer the debris field.

NASA estimates that of the 6,000 satellites launched since 1957, approximately half remain in operation. In addition, about 18,000 pieces of man-made objects orbit the earth as space litter. Most are the result of old satellites breaking up, long after they ceased to function.

And who is counting these floating bits? The military, says The Washington Post:

The military can track space debris as small as a baseball. The U.S. Strategic Command monitors 18,000 distinct pieces of debris, according to Reggie Winchester, spokeswoman for the command. That number will jump by at least 600, the preliminary estimate for the number of pieces from Tuesday’s collision.

Even a very small object packs tremendous kinetic energy at orbital velocities, which are on the order of 17,500 mph. Humphries said the space station has “bumpers” designed to shatter an object into tiny pieces before it can penetrate the pressurized interior.

Said Humphries: “It gets down to probabilities. Space being very big, these pieces of debris being very small, the odds are very high that they’re not going to collide.”

A Light Show of Magnetic Proportions

A bursting display of x-rays and gamma-rays have been spotted by NASA’s Swift satellite and Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Loredana Vetere, who oversees the Swift observations in Penn State, explains: “At times, this remarkable object has erupted with more than 100 flares in as little as 20 minutes.”

Gamma-ray flares from SGR J1550-5418 may arise when the magnetar’s surface suddenly cracks, releasing energy stored in its powerful magnetic field. Image courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab.

The object is called a gamma ray repeater, which is a type of magnetar — a neutron star with the most powerful magnetic field in the universe. They are fairly uncommon; thus far, only six have been discovered.

According to galactic astrology specialist Philip Sedgwick, this particular SGR object is located at 8+ Sagittarius, and it’s clustered with several other similar points in Sagittarius and Capricorn.

The soft-gamma-ray repeater, given the catchy name “SGR J1550-5418,” is about 30,000 light-years from Earth. It appears to originate from the constellation Norma, which lies in the path of the Milky Way. The first bursts from SGR J1550-5418 were noted on Oct. 3, 2008. After a quiet patch, the soft-gamma-ray repeater sprung back into action on Jan. 22.

Just over four years ago, on Dec. 27, 2004, the most powerful burst from a soft-gamma-repeater was recorded, which was 50,000 light years away and emitted a burst strong enough to ionize Earth’s upper atmosphere. “Previously, SGR emanations have disrupted satellite and cell phone service,” Sedgwick said.

How and why gamma-ray-repeaters occur is still in the theory stages. What is known is that the observed curved and twisted flares occur due to levels of high magnetic fields. On the Sun, for example, events like solar flares and coronal loops — when the flare forms an arch instead of shooting directly outwards — occur around strong magnetic fields. The gamma-ray and x-ray flares around SGR J1550-5418 behave similarly due to the magnetic activity.

An Astronaut’s Autopsy: NASA Innovation, D.O.A

“Dead On Arrival” ought to be the title of Andrew Thomas’s Law & Order styled 10-minute homemade film which premiered at the NASA leadership retreat last month. Thomas, a NASA astronaut who participated in several Mir Space Station flights through the late 1990s, wanted to show his co-workers at the agency that, despite policy changes after the 2003 Columbia disaster, barriers to innovation and inclusion still dominate the culture at NASA.

Still from the NASA innovation video.

A hybrid of The Office and a live-action Dilbert cartoon, the film features a young engineer’s demoralizing experience as she tangles with an impersonal bureaucracy intent on following administrative protocols. We follow her along as her ideas and enthusiasm for her work are killed off in a slow death of defeating encounters with managers and directors obsessed with process and conformity.

“The point about the video is it’s not fiction,” Thomas told “I think it is something that does need to be addressed because we don’t want to have another accident,” said Thomas, whose last spaceflight was NASA’s first shuttle flight following the Columbia tragedy. “And in our business, that’s what happens when you have that kind of culture.”

NASA’s response to the video was surprisingly broadminded. “I found it extraordinarily funny and not at all funny,” NASA’s former shuttle program manager Wayne Hale wrote in a NASA blog entry last week. Hale posted the video to his YouTube account where it’s caught the attention of viewers well outside the NASA culture.

The video, which was first posted on Jan. 27 (the day after the extraordinary Aquarian annular solar eclipse) has been seen over 30,000 times.

“It has really been resonating with people,” Thomas said. “I’m enormously surprised.”

Uniting American Families Act Introduced to Congress

GLBT Americans with foreign partners may find some relief from legal struggle this year. The Uniting American Families Act, which will expand immigration law to include same-sex partners, was introduced to the House of Representatives and the Senate on Thursday, Feb. 12. The bill has now been introduced to the House six times in the House and four times in the Senate since 2000, and a combination of increased conservatism and Homeland Security have made immigration to the US nearly impossible for gay and lesbian “love migrants.” Over 40,000 binational same-sex couples reside in the US, relying on tourist, student and temporary work visas to keep their families together, while thousands more have chosen to emigrate. A 218-vote majority is needed to pass the bill in the House, the first step towards becoming law: so far, there are 75 co-sponsors.




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, February 13, 2009, #753 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
By now you may have decided that you need to be more careful who you call a friend. Lately they seem to be arriving in every flavor, and only occasionally what could be properly called friendly. As for this other thing called love, I doubt you’ve been left with the feeling that your luck is running high right now. The paradox of your astrology is about you possessing a distinct magnetism at the same time you’re feeling like you may need to retreat into yourself for a while — which would be a good idea, though not especially easy. You need, at the least, some nights alone and time to consider the many things you feel but which you cannot say. If you’re struggling with anyone, decide whether you want them to be part of your fantasy or part of your reality — or neither.

Taurus (April 19- May 20)
If you live with the feeling that you’re always looking for yourself but can never quite find yourself, you’re now in a rare moment when you can get a new sense of your inner territory. This will be a long story, lasting well through spring; the astrology theme is Venus retrograde in Aries. This may highlight a struggle that smothers you from time to time, which is the difficulty you have connecting with your sense of drive. I would propose that the infamous Taurean stubbornness is more a story about not being able to connect with your motivation, literally, your psychic motor. It’s as if the engine is hot and running, but too often not connected to the wheels. Now is the time to look for the missing link. You will find it if you do.

Gemini (May 20- June 21)
You need to think bigger over the next few days. Most horoscopes are written like the author is talking into a mouse hole. I am writing this one broadcasting from a satellite. Don’t take the “next step” — jump one order of magnitude at least. Take your 10-year plan and turn it into a one-year plan. Let your mind leap to the distant future and see what is happening then, what is necessary and what the culture is going to be doing — and see where you fit in. You have this kind of foresight. The future — and your future — are arriving faster than you might imagine. You have recently been through a spell of seeing what it’s like to be stuck in agreements that no longer serve you. Now you can get the feeling for what you can do when you’re free.

Cancer (June 21- July 22)
We are taught to turn sex into a power trip. The fact that our society blends economic sustenance, security, relationships and sexuality into one mix entrenches the problem to the point where it seems impossible to even recognize. If we want sexual freedom, our supposed economic security is threatened. If we want financial freedom, issues of sex and gender are among the first to arise. If we want emotional freedom, we can threaten every structure of our lives, unless we keep unusually enlightened company. This whole complex of issues is about to explode in your awareness. You’re about to see the light of day, particularly on the one issue: where the demand for social conformity plays into the situation. You are about to see what you would do, if you were free to have your own opinion.

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
If you are feeling a powerful pull into a relationship or a significant new opportunity, I suggest you go with it. Any associated discomfort you may feel is about letting go of an old idea of yourself that does not connect with the potentials that you see in the world. The astrological image is one of outgrowing your ego structure, and stretching into something much larger: an entirely new world of circumstances. This is one of those moments when what you perceive externally or in another person far outpaces what you might be feeling as a potential within yourself. That sounds like an opportunity for action; an opportunity to engage with the world and to see not only what you learn, but who you become as a result.

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
You’ve been pacing around one particular bit of psychic territory, wondering why you’re still there. Suddenly, it seems you’re not there anymore, and with that, you’re facing the challenges of a new purpose that may feel so overwhelming that you don’t know where to begin. All you can really do is dive in, which is another way of saying: there is a lot of the past that you need to let go of, and that’s convenient given that the world around you has so much to offer. Get used to the feeling that you will never live up to your potential in the way you used to think of it. What you are embracing is an entirely different concept of potential, and how it relates to something much deeper, your relationship to yourself. Think of it this way. Potential is not about the future. It’s about right now.

Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
You have energy; it is a question of where you apply it. It’s clear that you are almost entirely focused on a romantic partnership issue, and that you are holding it out as a kind of ideal. I would caution you against investing in that as your single most important priority. That situation has a life of its own; it is what it is, and it’s pretty good. There is what you could call karmic magnetism that will draw the whole situation forward. It is more challenging on this planet to invest your energy into your own sense of aliveness, passion and creative purpose. Part of why it’s more difficult is because the world is so heavily geared to guide us into doing everything else. You now have the power to break free from a certain mentality that has only held you down. Make sure that your relationship or relationships support this purpose.

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
You seem emotionally overrun, like a room full of computers midsummer without any air conditioning. However, it looks like you’ve calculated your way through one delusion that was blocking you from getting the emotional data that you need. It’s true that one particular decision you are making seems to be taking forever. The stars point to an obsession with balancing different factors that you know will never actually come into equilibrium. There is a factor that you are not seeing, however, and you need to press gently on the situation, and your attitude toward it, and do that gradually until you have the revelation that shifts your whole point of view. Let’s put it this way. You will solve this in a way different than your parents would.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
I suggest you slow down and let your intuition do the work. You are trying to pump a lot of information through and out of your mind, but I think you’re doing it the hard way. The problem is that the answer you’re coming up with intuitively is unlikely to be the one that the people around you agree with, so therefore you’re likely to want to cook the books, revise the report or edit the data; that is, in some way violate what you know to be true. The real question is why you would do that. And there is an answer, but you may not like it; indeed, it would violate your freewheeling, independent self-image. You would not be the first Sagittarian to believe what your PR department is saying about you, but that’s not going to help you live your truth. In fact, you might want to get a new publicist.

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
There is a complex dance going on between your personality-level growth process and your awareness on some other level of reality: a level you may just be discovering for the first time. You are waking up to yourself, and this is a lot like waking up in the morning: you’re not always willing, but you do it anyway. Here’s how it looks on my Google Maps version of your psyche, known as astrology. You are beginning to experience emotions as receptive, rather than as expressive. In a sense, you are beginning to learn how you feel about how you feel. This is no small development: because what we’re talking about is the emergence of the Inner Witness. Once you learn to observe yourself, anything is possible, in particular, making decisions for yourself that you actually agree with.

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Chiron and Neptune have worked together this week to accelerate a healing process, wherein you have come to an understanding of the importance of self-acceptance. That would be self-acceptance no matter what anyone else thinks. Or, for that matter, what you think they think. Human beings drag around tons of fear, but the most toxic of all is the fear of oneself; because it is very directly the fear of existence itself. And, at the beginning of the day, at lunch and at the end of the day, all we have is our existence. I trust that you’ve seen you relieve a lot of tension when you’re honest with yourself, and when you then are honest — down to the last word — with every person around you who you say matters. If you find that you’re not, start asking questions; you’ve passed the point in your personal growth where any discrepancy is safe.

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
With the Sun about to enter Pisces, you’re reaching the end of your solar year, and quite an end it has been. Indeed, quite a year it has been. I am sure you’re left with the feeling that there is a huge story that is still lurking behind the scenes of your awareness. This is true, but you of all the signs are skilled at going back there and bringing the unmanifest into the manifest world. In physics, this is called the implicit order and the explicit order; that which is veiled and exists in potential, and that which is expressed and becomes tangible. Finding the relationship between the two is your learning goal for the next 12 months. Lesson one is mastering fear. The psychic/energetic realm I am talking about is, for most people, entirely dominated by anxiety. That is why most people run in circles their whole lives, and why you are set to run the marathon.

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