The Rites of Spring

Dear Friend and Reader:

Since Mars stationed retrograde on March 1, there’s been a run of truly strange and outrageous news stories, beginning with the disappearance of a commercial jetliner without a trace. Events reached a series of peaks with the lunar eclipse, the grand cross and the solar eclipse earlier this week, and closer to the station direct on May 19, I’ll do some kind of recap.

Photo by Christine Marsh.

Among them all, two events this week stand out, among many associated with Tuesday’s solar eclipse.

On Sunday, Jorge Bergoglio, also known as Pope Francis, canonized two of his predecessors, Angelo Roncalli (John XXIII) and Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II). That is, they are now allegedly saints, declared such in a mass ritual, internationally televised, with the grand cross still in tight alignment and two days before the annular solar eclipse in Taurus.

Though Bergoglio has been a popular figure and has captivated the public imagination with his charm and seemingly liberal views, I have refused to invest any spiritual energy into him. There’s been something I have not trusted, apart from the fact that he’s head of one of the most corrupt institutions on Earth. Everything about his presentation has seemed like corporate public relations.

Now he’s sainted two men who presided over the church’s child sex trafficking scandal, in effect, completing the cover-up. [I covered the events and astrology surrounding the former pope Ratzinger’s resignation and Bergoglio’s election at the time they happened.]

The church did not invent hypocrisy, but it may as well get the credit since it’s perfected the concept so artfully. The church has been involved in a nearly 16-century cover-up of its priests having sexually abused children. The Vatican’s files include incriminating documents dating to the 4th century, according to the documentary Mea Maxima Culpa, which exposed the molestation of deaf children by Catholic clergy, and the subsequent cover-up. All the while, the church has preached sexual purity and in the process done what it could to regulate and crush human love, empathy and contact, selling for money its version of spirituality — and notably, also selling indulgences or sex licenses for a fee.

Every pope since then has been involved in the child sex abuse cover-up, though it was Wojtyla who presided at the most critical times — as most of the lawsuits were being brought by survivors and then settled before trial, costing the church more than $3 billion. Roncalli for his part was uniquely situated to do something about it; apparently the reforms of Vatican Council II, which modernized the church during a rare moment of opening in society (the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the 1960s) did not involve considering the actual ethics of priests.

Photo by Eric Francis.

Naming two of his predecessors saint was more than Pope Bergoglio’s “Ford Pardons Nixon” moment. The church has again buried one of the most horrendous atrocities of our time, and now tens of thousands of people a day will visit the saintly relics of men who took many of its worst secrets to their crypts.

Many years ago I had an astrology client whose mother grew up in a remote part of Greece. She advised her son to never, ever trust the church, and she told him a story to demonstrate why. When she was a child, she lived in a town with a convent, and one day workers came to dig up the dirt road in front of the place, and pave it. When they did, they discovered an infant mass grave right outside where all the nuns lived.

Not only were the supposedly celibate nuns either sexually active or subject to sexual abuse, someone involved was killing and burying the resulting babies in the yard. In this light, combined with what we know about child sex abuse worldwide, every bit of church dogma and doctrine on the topic of sex deserves to be presumed fraudulent, and there is plenty going around.

It is not limited to the Catholics. In her 2006 book Kingdom Coming, author Michelle Goldberg explains the rise of Christian nationalism in the United States.

Michael Farris is one of its founders. According to the author, he is the man who did most of the work lobbying for home schooling in all 50 states, in order to allow fundamentalist Christians to get their kids out of godless public schools. I’ve only recently become aware that this is the purpose of most home schooling.

Farris explains American politics as follows. “There are two worldviews that are very much in conflict right now, especially in Washington, DC,” he is quoted as saying, the first being Judeo-Christian. “It starts with God as the creator, but then it also protects life, it’s about traditional marriage, one man one woman. On the other side, you have secular humanism, which starts with man as the center of things. There are no absolute standards, it’s all morally relative, anything goes as long as it has to do with sex.”

What he is saying is that the main thing that Christian political activists must attack in order to concentrate their power, first and foremost, are sexpositive attitudes. This is only news because he is so influential and put it into such vivid language.

A Human Sacrifice Ritual

Next, two days after the sainting of the two former popes, just hours after the annular eclipse, the state of Oklahoma attempted to execute a man named Clayton Lockett. Lockett had been convicted of participating in a particularly heinous rape and murder, and sentenced to death. This week Oklahoma decided move ahead with his execution despite a significant controversy.

Photo by Eric Francis.

There is a shortage of the drugs normally used to conduct lethal injections. Oklahoma has killed so many people that it has run out.

European drug companies refuse to provide the drugs to the United States; all of Europe has banned the death penalty. American drug companies will only sell the substances to governments anonymously, afraid of political backlash. They are obviously aware that sooner or later, someone within the company will tweet about it.

So the states are using an alternative blend of drugs, ones not actually studied or approved for human executions. Aware of this, “The Oklahoma Supreme Court tried to stop it last week, concerned that the state refused to reveal the origin of the deadly cocktail. But several lawmakers threatened to impeach the justices, and Gov. Mary Fallin blindly ignored the warning signs and ordered the execution to proceed,” The New York Times said in an editorial Wednesday.

The attempted execution proceeded; all three drugs had been injected into him, including one to stop his heart and another to dull the pain of that drug. He was declared unconscious. Then according to press reports, about 16 minutes into the procedure, observers said that Lockett began twitching and convulsing. He raised his head and shoulders and said, “Man” and “I’m not.” Prison officials closed the curtain, blocking official observers from seeing anything else.

After a series of phone calls, the execution was stopped by order of the director of the Department of Corrections, who was present at the scene. By one account, prison officials considered taking him to the hospital. He died of a heart attack about 45 minutes after the execution began.

I consider it an atrocity and a blight on our national conscience that we still have state-sponsored murder in the United States. Murder is the only crime for which the state sets an example of committing the same offense on the convict, in effect endorsing killing. Were the government to rape rapists or burn down the homes of arsonists, the public would be outraged.

It is well established that the death penalty does not deter crime, and that it may have a brutalizing effect (that is, lead to more violence in the days following a widely-publicized execution).

Then there is the exculpation problem — people who have been tried and convicted and exhausted all their appeals, who are then found to be innocent and set free. Many other people go to their deaths declaring their innocence. Many are guilty of what they’ve been convicted of.

Photo by Eric Francis.

You can be sure that some are innocent of any crime. [Also see Planet Waves coverage of Troy Anthony Davis.] Anyone who thinks it’s okay to continue executing people even if a bunch of innocent people are put to death needs to meditate on their concept of ethics.

Then there is the cost — 20 years ago, capital trials and executions cost four times the expense of life imprisonment. Today that number is eight times the cost of life imprisonment.

We are left with one reason for the death penalty, which is blood lust. With Vesta rising to the degree, the chart for Clayton Lockett’s botched execution says that his killing was a human sacrifice. This is my theory of why capital punishment persists: it’s a remnant of a very old and dark ritual, perpetuated by those intent on maintaining power. The message of the executioner is that he has the power to kill us.

Year by year, state by state, the balance gradually tips against capital punishment. Oklahoma has been particularly stubborn (about the death penalty and many other things — currently, it’s the most reactionary state). The Clayton Lockett incident will focus some attention on death penalty states and the problem they have. Gradually the legal system is waking up. Much of the population still seems to be confused, with many people cheering and wanting to see prisoners fried till they glow, confusing retribution with justice.

In the United States of America, we are not supposed to be governed by the Code of Hammurabi. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, and capital punishment turns us all into killers. If you want to align your energy and take a moral or ethical stance in relation to anything the power structure is up to — war or other forms of injustice — then it helps to have made up your mind about what you feel in your heart is right and what is wrong, and why. Participation in any death cult is optional.

Mid-Spring Holiday: Beltane

Next up in our procession of many interesting astrological developments, we arrive at Beltane, an annual event — the celebration of rebirth, of love and of abundance. This is our background contrast to what you’ve read about above. Beltane is when the Sun reaches the midpoint of the Aries equinox and the Cancer solstice. It is a balancing point and an energy center of the solar year. Because the Sun is between two of the quarter days (equinox and solstice), it is in aspect to the Aries Point, which funnels energy and emphasis into the current zone of the zodiac.

The dark themes we’ve been seeing with this year’s Beltane are not just the result of the current astrology. In November, at Samhain (pronounced sah-wen) and Days of the Dead, we experienced an unusual solar eclipse conjunct Saturn in Scorpio.

Eclipses intersecting Taurus and Scorpio place an emphasis on the relationship that these two ancient festivals are designed to remind us of, the cycle of nature that involves death/surrender/transformation and sex/rebirth/union of male and female polarities.

Photo by Eric Francis.

It is not surprising that we are seeing and feeling reverberations of last November’s eclipse in our present moment. Even without eclipses to add gravitas to both seasons, they offer a deeply influential polarity that is being given extra emphasis and momentum by exact Sun-Moon alignments.

This may make it challenging to bring yourself into the present and focus on the current season, but then again it can also fill you with determination to be here now.

Beltane is a way of thanking the Goddess for the truth that all wealth comes from the Earth. Far from being a theoretical idea, I consider this a basic, well-demonstrated fact of nature.

Last week I described a diversity of sexual crises our culture is wrapped up in, particularly the notion that all sex must have a victim, and what is becoming a serious crisis around the concepts of yes, no and maybe.

I am not sure it’s occurred to anyone that the struggles our society faces around the issue of wealth and abundance (both ‘the economy’ and the issues of individuals), and our crisis of being able to express our sexuality with a clear conscience, may be aspects of the same scenario.

The energy center where they meet is Beltane — the nexus of sexual expression and acceptance of natural wealth. The ancient ritual is simple — sex outside, with the intent of gratitude. I don’t consider this sex magic. I consider it a natural way to celebrate life and the Earth, affirming something that is, if you look, plainly true: we are supported entirely by the Earth, and we are created by procreation. If not for sex, nothing made by human hands would exist, because there would not be anyone to make it. Sex and money involve the same basic gesture of opening up to the flow of existence.

If outside is not practical, then improvise. The spirit of the gesture is what counts, as is the shared intentions of the people involved — and connecting with the season. Be aware that what is called Hieros Gamos, which translates to the union of god and goddess, is one of the most potent and profound rituals there is; be respectful and go slowly. Work with the real meaning of consent, which is to feel together.

In contemporary times, another message of Beltane has emerged: that of selflove and self-given sex. Back in the 1990s, May was declared Masturbation Month by the Good Vibrations toy store, and among many sexpositive people, the idea caught on. Taurus is imbued with this message, and the combination of the Sun-Moon event, plus Juno, describes self-marriage.

If we live in times where the lines of sexual consent are blurred and where nearly all sex is perceived to have a victim, masturbation is the first form of sex we can be sure is fully consensual. It’s worth mentioning that old-timey (and many modern) opponents of masturbation describe it as self-abuse (as in self-rape) but that, I perceive, is just more fraud perpetuated by hucksters of the death cult who would seek to divide us from ourselves.

Photo by Eric Francis.

The association of May with masturbation would suggest that a new way to look at Beltane is the meeting of the male and female polarities within us. I would propose that is where sexual healing begins.

I am reluctant to present anything as a panacea, but I will go so far as to say that masturbation, by which I mean consciously seeking understanding of selfsexuality, is a workable first approach to nearly any sexual question, problem or challenge. In our era when the lines of identity between partners are often blurred, selfsex says ‘I am me, and you are you’. In our era of cultivated codependency, masturbation is a uniquely independent sexual experience. Amidst much insistence of sexual identity (and related politics), masturbation is the one thing that all sexes, genders and sexual orientations have in common.

Since most of our sexual problems involve lack of self-knowledge and self-awareness, fear of the other, the hyper-polarization of the sexes, projection of both desire and blame onto the opposite sex, and dependency on others, selfsex is a fantastic place to start the healing process. Other sexual crises we face include homophobia and paranoia about sexual diseases. Selfsex allows a reprieve from these things.

There are many young people who, if they were told about masturbation in a friendly way, and were told that it’s really OK, would not be so driven to get off on others before they’ve figured themselves out some.

One way to help a teenage girl stay focused on herself is to give her a vibrator or sex toy as a gift. The reason I say this is because most boys don’t need much in the way of supplies to masturbate, but most girls will benefit from a sex toy. In my opinion this is a fully appropriate ‘rite of passage’ gift from a mother to a teenage girl. Be creative and you can come up with something comparable for boys in your household.

Note, I am not proposing masturbation as a substitute for partnersex or for comprehensive sex education — to the contrary. It is an essential element of both. I am, in this commentary, proposing it as an option that is fully appropriate for young people who are still learning about themselves and not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of partnersex.

Photo by Eric Francis.

One mistake adults may make is assuming that young people will figure it all out on their own. Most people will feel some guilt about masturbation and need to be told it’s OK. They may have been given exactly the opposite message in Abstinence Indoctrination class in school or in church.

The best rite-of-passage gift you can give to a young person is information. The book Our Bodies, Ourselves belongs in every household, library and cafe bookshelf. Another dependable book that helped spark sexual consciousness is Sex for One. There are other essential books, including The Joy of Sex and Sexual Secrets. There is also a fantastic website called Scarleteen that I recommend.

Note, I do not recommend most books or other materials on ‘tantra’ as they conflate spirituality with sex, which I believe is confusing and can be misleading. What we need are clear, factual and open-minded materials about sex that do not include dogma or moralism of any kind.

Meanwhile, returning to the topic of masturbation, there are many older people who need a rest from constant attempts at or involvement in sexual relationship who would benefit from a phase of devoted self-exploration.

One great thing about selfsex is that it’s something you can do outside of a ‘committed relationship’, whether alone or with others. There are some friendships that will accommodate it nicely. I don’t mean touching one another, by the way — that is partnersex. I mean witnessed or shared selfsex.

Many people in partnerships (whether interesting or sexually stagnant) could light their erotic lives on fire by exploring selfsex together. It’s a great way to open up, stoke your curiosity and do that exhibitionist/voyeuristic thing that humans just love to do. Part of that ritual can involve the open sharing of fantasies, a great way to get compersion going. Before you look that up, I define the term as sexual empathy.

I have written more about this in the series It’s Not About Sex, It’s About Self, which is available free to anyone and is suitable for teens. And there is plenty in Book of Blue (my own ongoing project), which is available by request.

In any event, ’tis the season to raise energy and praise the goddess of love and abundance — however you choose to do it. One last thing — Beltane is also known as The May. This weekend is a focal point, but the season lasts a little while. So choose your moments and have fun.


Weekly Horoscope for Friday, May 2, 2014, #997 | By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You will only feel abundant if you share who you are and what you have. If your plan involves doing something other than that, I suggest you come up with a better one. You have plenty to share, and though it may sound like a contradiction, you’re more likely to feel that way if you actually extend yourself and offer yourself to others. The easiest way to unravel the challenges you face in your relationships — which all seem to involve an exchange, be it of emotions, of resources or of trust — is to take the first step. Don’t expect things to go perfectly — be grateful if you learn something about yourself, or about someone else, or about life. Learning requires more than drawing a conclusion from one event or experience. Authentic learning is about gathering information and putting it into context, seeing contrasts and making an ongoing evaluation. Remember that idea — to evaluate is to determine what is really valuable.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Be aware that you may have a blind spot where certain personal matters are concerned. Most of the time that would be like looking directly at something and not seeing it. This blind spot is more like feeling something and not noticing you’re feeling it. Or it might be existing with a certainty of who you are, and not noticing that you may be having your doubts. You will learn more as you feel out the territory, which will happen as you rub against certain people and discover information that you did not know before. You might discover something you were not told; you may have a response that keys you in to what is appropriate and what is not; you may get a clue about an old relationship question that you’ve long puzzled over. There are moments when this feels like pure intuition at work. Yet it’s likely to be based on factual information that you are perceiving. Therefore, if you ‘sense’ something, seek the facts, ask the relevant questions, and use the information wisely.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You must mind your politics and your manners even if you have no specific reason to do so. Be impeccable with your words and be mindful what you express to others. You may be inclined to reveal secrets about yourself, and while I might normally advise transparency, for the moment I suggest you practice restraint, especially in work-related environments. In determining what to say to whom, I suggest you use the ‘need to know’ basis — do you need someone to know some particular bit of information about you? Why do you think so? If you have a solid reason, then reveal what you have on your mind. In truth, there is little that most others really need to know about you. Part of this scenario involves some discoveries you’re about to make about yourself. Anticipating those revelations, and wanting to know more, is what might incline you to reveal more than you should, or more than you need to. Therefore, I suggest you take your time, make your inner discoveries and then make statements to others only when they feel absolutely right.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You may feel like you’re under less pressure than you’ve been under all year, and if you don’t, I suggest you take steps to open up your time and lighten your burden. That may take some collaboration, but mostly it will involve taking a little space for yourself. I can imagine you feel hesitant to do that, as if you’re feeling some emotional resistance. That hesitancy would be described by Mars still moving retrograde through one of the most sensitive angles of your chart. I am using that as a timing factor. When Mars stations direct on May 19, the pace of your life will increase, along with your confidence level. That is why I am suggesting you take the opportunity to be a little more introspective, and disengage as best you can, while you can. Mars retrograde is rich with information about self-confidence, whether and why you might feel insecure at certain times, and in particular, your fears of abandonment. The knowledge will be forthcoming, though to receive it you will need to listen.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — You don’t need to hold up the sky. You only need to keep your feet on the ground. If you can do that, you will know which way is up, and you will feel the Earth supporting you where you stand, and as you walk. Keeping a connection to the ground will help you keep your perception in your senses rather than in the more abstract parts of your mind. Time will slow down a little. You will be able to feel more clearly, and as a result, have clearer ideas about what to do when you feel you must take action of some kind. This weekend’s astrology is offering you a chance to gradually find your center. From there, all the swirling will seem to be going on around you rather than within you. Your own stability is central to your success; your ability to hold to a steady course, to lead by example and to be proactive on the issue of fairness. Yes, I can see that at times you may be experiencing some profound emotional insecurity, but that is what can happen when you choose to remove the past as a basis for what happens in the future.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — This is a blessed moment for you. You may not fully trust that unless you try it out, and experiment with your ideas in a way that you have not done before. This looks and feels like a continually moving impulse, a little different every day and maybe every hour. It’s essential that you stretch your vision. If you perceive a need, expand your concept of what is possible to fulfill it. If you have something to say, be bold enough to say it. Eventually you’ll reach that angle where you know it’s time to take authority over something larger than just your life. Along the way, there’s a fine line between what serves you and what serves others; ideally there is a synergy between the two, where what is profitable for you immediately expands to the benefit of those you care about the most. It’s the hot fulcrum where selflove meets love. The beauty of this kind of symbiotic (plus-plus) relationship is that there is always enough.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Rare is the moment when you can encounter your perfect match, but you may be there. It’s an ‘opposites attract’ kind of thing, but the question is, what kind of opposites? Inverse, converse, reverse or obverse? They all have one thing in common, which is the root verse, which means to turn — therefore, much will depend on which way you turn. I suggest you turn toward who you desire, and face them. Speak if you want, though what will get their attention is your magnetism. Note, it may take a little while; during that time I suggest you be patient, friendly and take care of yourself. The most significant direction you can turn toward is awareness of your own existence, and your freedom to choose. That you may have considered this perilous in the past, and that you may have your concerns now, should not stop you. The path through life is guided by decision, though too often we ascribe that power to fate.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Take your time working out an emotional issue, and remember, this is about how you feel rather than being about a relationship. It may seem for all the world and in your imagination like the subject matter is partnership or involvement with someone else. That’s a kind of mirage. Here’s a way to think about it: As in dream interpretation, every aspect of the dream is an aspect of yourself. Given that you may be in a phase of increased unusual dream activity, that’s a good thing to keep in mind. Dreams are deeply personal and situation-specific. There are no stock interpretations for dream symbols. If you remember that all aspects of the dream are facets of your own psyche, and your own state of mind, it will be much easier to discern what messages you’re receiving from yourself. The same can be said of any thoughts involving a relationship. I’m not saying that other people involved don’t have volition or intent — rather, I am saying that your experience is your experience, and that is the place to start.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — This can be a brilliantly productive time for you with work-related contracts and collaborations. You are in an unusually opportune moment, and I suggest you do two things. One is to take advantage of it in a conscious way. You have some options open, therefore you can afford to have some criteria. The most significant of them is to make sure that in any work, collaboration or contractual situation, you are treated as human, and that your human needs are recognized. Gravitate not just toward the money but also toward the places where there is food, water and a comfortable environment. The second factor involves discipline. All the talent and opportunity in the world are worthless without commitment, honoring time structure and working within the needs of the larger organization or community in which you are participating. There are really two skill-sets described in that statement: one is the discipline aspect and the other is the political aspect. Be alert, ready to grow and prepared to do your best work — right now.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You may be allowing your mood or emotional state to hang in the balance on how someone else feels. You know well how you feel, though you may not be thrilled about it all the time. It would be better to address that basic fact of your reality than to pass the issue to someone else. My impression is that there is a commitment issue on your part. Were you to fully commit to the situation, you would have to do two things — pluck up some real self-esteem, and truly offer yourself. The two are related, more closely than is usually acknowledged. One way to reality check this is to consider the ways you hold back on the excuse that you’re not really valued. Were you to not hold back, you would have to put that theory to the test. You would need to find out, in reality, how much someone cares, and how they care. Then you would have to respond to that information. At the moment you seem to be in a state of limbo, waiting for someone else to take action. Very soon it will be your move — within about three weeks.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Your chart describes a self-portrait or autobiography. As a living metaphor or ‘psychomagic act’, you might want to give that a try. I don’t mean a selfie. I mean an actual self-portrait of your mind. Meanwhile, remember that you project or insert yourself into everything you say, do, write or otherwise create. Be aware of this, and make sure you do it in a refined, conscious way, utilizing the art of understatement. If you’re doing something that is not intended to be a personal statement, such as business writing, or any professional activity, do it your own way, with some finesse, but don’t go out of your way to put your personal mark on the work. One other bit. You may be in ‘if you want a job done right, do it yourself’ mode. That may be true, but only after you seek input from everyone else, to get better ideas and to propagate a sense of involvement (and therefore investment). The larger theme of your life at this time is leadership, and this is a subtle art indeed.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — You have made considerable progress in the two months since your birthday, and one of the ways you’ve done it is by taking matters into your own hands. One theme of Mars retrograde is being able to exert your will and fulfill your own intentions without relying on the motivation of others to get you going. You are learning to do things under your own steam, and learning to trust your ideas and perceptions. Your astrology indicates that if this is not going well, there’s still time to get with the program and, for example, stop waiting for anyone to act or to get out of your way, and then to decide what it’s time to do and get your ass in gear. In any event, the planets are leaning strongly in your favor through the weekend and indeed for the remainder of the season. You will maintain your momentum if you remember not to give your steam or your passion away to those who resist. At the moment, you are capable of letting go of nearly all your resistance, and there are some people around you who have the same idea.

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