Varuna New Moon

Varuna New Moon

Silently in the distant heavens behind the July 5-6 Cancer New Moon is the planet Varuna. One of several named bodies orbiting our Sun beyond Pluto, Varuna was discovered in 2000 and given the honor of minor planet catalogue number 20,000, an indication of how important it was considered by astronomers at the time of the discovery.

Next week’s Cancer New Moon, at 14 degrees of Cancer and 31 arc minutes, is less than a degree away from Varuna, which will be at about 15 degrees and 22 arc minutes.

Varuna has a slow orbit, taking about 283 years to make it once around the Sun (please see this week’s Q & A column on Jonathan’s site for a detailed discussion of the Varuna orbit). Pluto takes about 248 years, so we have something considerably slower. In astrology, slow means strong.

Though Varuna has had the benefit of exceedingly little discussion in the astrological community, people who are into theology really dig this particular god, whose name still evokes reverence from the faithful in those lands where, in ancient times, he had an influence.

One astrologer who has done some interesting work with Varuna is Juan Revilla of Costa Rica. In an email conversation a few years ago, Juan explained to me his interpretation that Varuna is quite literally “behind everything” — a potent and ominous force lingering in the background of our lives. Among the many deities who have had planets and asteroids named for them, Varuna’s energy seems closest to what we think of as God, the all-knowing entity that exists silently behind consciousness and events.

His placement with this New Moon evokes that feeling nicely.

Varuna is one of a pair of deities whose influence was felt in ancient empires including Iran, Syria and Babylon (among many others), dating to the second millennium before Jesus. Varuna’s twin is Mithra. They are a kind of yin-yang pair, akin to Artemis and Apollo. Mithra is the deity of light, or yang; Varuna is the supreme god of the primal cosmos, with more of a yin feeling. But he is not passive by any means. Yin energy is potent and oceanic (think of waves, currents, riptides and the tsunami), and at times Varuna does have a feeling akin to that of Neptune, but cranked up a bit.

Neptune also has a “behind it all” sense, as well as sharing with Varuna the quality of being lord of the waters.

Explaining Varuna’s place in history, Afshin Afshari writes on of the ancient Aryan tribes 4,000 years ago. “Each class had its own God(s). The religious class, which combined spirituality, law and administration, was symbolized by the Mithra/Varuna couple. While Varuna represented the magic, forceful, terrible, somewhat demonic aspects of the function, Mithra, the God of contracts, presented a gentler, more reassuring face.”

It’s always interesting to see how ancient cultures sorted out the aspects of thought that they attributed to divinity, or the sources of power behind consciousness. What we can see here mainly is that Varuna is an aspect of a polarity (a dual system) and his counterpart, Mithra was, in early times, never considered separately. The friendly face, the face of good faith, was Mithra; the menacing one, the face of reckoning, was Varuna.

Virasp Mehta writes on, “Mithra was an ancient Aryan deity, closely associated with the Supreme Being — Asura Varuna. Varuna implied the all-embracing Heavens and Mithra was the Heavenly Light, and so Mithra was invoked together with the all-embracing Father of All, Varuna. Both in the Zoroastrian Avesta and in the Hindu Vedic Hymns, Mithra is invoked as the Lord of Heavenly Light. He is the Light, not the Sun; the Sun is his physical vehicle.”

As lord of the heavens and the opposite of the Sun, we can infer that the planet Varuna has a night-like, lunar and intuitive feeling. We just don’t generally think of the Moon as being aggressive or evoking fear. But we do have an applicable concept in the Western mythology known as psychology — called shadow. We could think of this energy as the silent sense of separation, loss, guilt, fear and so on driving so much of consciousness forward. You might say that this is Varuna working in a negative (shadow) aspect.

In some astrological discussions, Varuna has been attributed the enforcement of contracts and the keeping of promises. Remember that these gods have their roots in regions, such as Iran, where the laws, and ideas of right and wrong, were arbitrary and strictly enforced. The contractual, promise keeping and truth-telling aspects of Varuna appear to be contained in the Mithra aspect. Mithra’s name was invoked in the making of oaths and agreements. It was the more frightful Varuna who took care of the heavy-handed enforcement, should that time come.

It’s worth considering that we do have the other aspect of the deity to work with and in the name of maintaining balance, we would do well to do so. To my knowledge, no planetary body has been named for Mithra.

On a side note, it may be interesting to some that Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings was known to the elves as Mithrandir. Tolkien, with his incomparable knowledge of language and mythology, could not have done this by accident. (The root “mith” in Sindarin and Noldoran Elvish refers to the color gray, including the incredibly precious metal mithril, of which Frodo’s protective chainmail vest is made, and Mithlond, the Gray Havens, from where the elves depart Middle Earth for the undying lands.)

Varuna is depicted in many ancient illustrations as being driven on a cart, bearing a hangman’s noose in his hand, though his face is not particularly menacing. This is a rich image, evoking a bit of Pluto, a bit of the Hanged Man, a bit of The Chariot and a little Shiva for good measure. The thing to remember is that Varuna is older than all of these other gods and symbols, and was for a brief eternity considered THE supreme dude beyond it all — the very Heavens Himself. Yet Varuna (unlike Pluto or Shiva) is, in his essence, a creation deity. His function is to create, initiate and renew life with his divine waters.

His counterpart, Mithra, worked to actively hold society together by being the lord of agreements and contracts, which are so important to human coexistence. Mithra seems to be a kind of Dharmic figure, focusing on right action rather than the consequences of bad faith. Varuna seems a bit more karmic, concerned with what we have done.

In later centuries under different empires, Varuna was kept in the pantheon, but was “downgraded” to the status of a kind of cult figure, and given reign over a quarter of the skies. For this reason, he is also considered by some astrologers a kind of planetary significator for demotion, though I prefer to think of him, noose and all, as the great equalizer: as the one who can keep things in balance.

And we meet him next week in the form of the Cancer New Moon, at a potent time in history. There are those moments when a planet making a close conjunction to a lunation can evoke the feeling of that planet in a palpable, even overwhelming way. The nature of the planet reveals itself before our eyes.

On a personal level and really on a collective one, we have the question of how far we will go, and what we will do to others, in order to feel “safe.” We do so much in the name of alleged security; I speak to personal conduct as well as to cultural. This is a major theme of the long passage of Varuna through Cancer, which lasts through — get this — December 2012.

Interesting to note that the coming New Moon occurs quite close to the natal Sun of the United States (using the Sibley chart, or July 4), as well as the natal Sun of George W. Bush (who was born July 6).

Varuna has been crossing back and forth over W’s Sun for several years, though this particular New Moon conjunction is still a poignant astrological image. It is extremely personal in his chart.

Bush is also in the thick of his second Saturn return, and in a few weeks is about to experience Saturn crossing his natal Leo ascendant. If we can say one thing about the man currently occupying the White House, it’s that rare was the day when he opened his mouth and told the truth. If he has told the truth, it’s been for the purpose of obscuring a deeper lie. It is rare that he has kept a promise or agreement with the American people.

Yet Bush does not stand alone in a world where it seems that the rich get richer and where the powerful only grow more mighty, where the truth seems to bear no currency, and in an era of history when this is considered the normal way things are. Part of that is caused by our sense of overwhelm, which is both intentionally inflicted, and also an aspect of living in a world that is slowly consuming itself.

Our ideas of justice are pretty skewed, but rare is it that we can look to the powerful for a good example. Mithra and Varuna have clear ideas about justice, and they rule over the great and mighty as well as the meek and ordinary. Perhaps events that surround the Cancer New Moon will give us an opportunity to drink from the waters of life, let the light of good faith shine, and renew our faith that what is true and fair really makes a difference. It’s the most secure place to rest our tired minds. ++

Varuna Sign Change Table

More on Mithra and Varuna

More on Worlds Beyond Neptune

And — This Week on

This week’s Q & A column on includes a detailed discussion of the chart of Sir Bob Geldof, as well as a look at the astrology of NASA’s attempt to blow up Comet Tempel 1 on Sunday night. Plus, there’s a response about the orbit of Varuna and the definition of a trans-Neptunian planet, and an entry about the void-of-course Moon.

That link is here:


In last week’s edition, I spelled Toronto-based astrologer (and full-on grassroots astrology organizer) Ursula Fugger’s name in correctly. This is the correct spelling.

For a number of issues, I’ve posted the incorrect URL for the technical support service of my friend Jay Wade Michaelis, who helps Planet Waves computers running in scattered parts of the planet. The correct URL is

Planet Waves by Eric Francis
Friday, July 1, 2005 – Weekly Horoscope #565

Happy Birthday Cancer!

It’s most auspicious to have a New Moon around your birthday. New Moons are moments of completion, beginning and seeding the future. We could all use a little bit of that, and for Cancer, it’s coming on strong and solid for you this year. I’ll focus on these themes, which to some extent apply to everyone born under Cancer as well. And because Cancer, the sign of the Moon, is one of those signs that really applies to everyone in a big way, we all can look for clues, signposts and resources in this chart as well.

For added clarity, those with birthdays before the lunation can focus on the closure aspect primarily, those with birthdays after on the beginning aspect and those very close to the lunation both aspects. However, it’s not always so clear, as the New phase can have all of these properties in the week or so that it’s in effect. For example, the last days before the New Moon are quite useful for planting seeds. But they are also a time when wrapping things up and getting ready to move along is generally a lot easier.

So hang loose with interpretations and feel how we’re at this moment of a whole cycle renewing itself.

For many reasons, this New Moon represents a particularly strong turning point. For example, it’s positioned in a square aspect to the lunar nodes, which represents a rather significant reassessment of your direction in life. There are strong markers along the lunar nodes for both profession and your location and the quality of your home. But what they both have in common is a quality of breaking free of your past influences of family, heritage and particular your parents.

You are — it is true — positioned to do better, to think bigger and to live more securely than they do.

It is true that with Mars currently so well placed in your solar chart, you have considerable energy for climbing the mountain of life, and Jupiter says you’ve got a good reason for feeling a secure base beneath you.

But the real key to activating both is — in capital letters — BEING YOURSELF.

Part of BEING YOURSELF involves unhitching yourself from the influences of what everyone else wants you to become. And part involves being daring about pushing your best qualities out in the world, working or walking through the fear that often arises when creativity is activated, and developing yourself into the person you know you are inside. It’s important to see the ways the past holds us back, and it’s important to catch up with ourselves, find the present and take a few bold steps — soon.

Now, how could you go about BEING YOURSELF more effectively? There is a powerful shortcut suggested in the meaningful conjunction of Venus and Mercury in your 2nd solar house — the house of self-esteem, selflove, what you’re worth and your most valuable personal resources. What you need to remember all the time is that you have plenty, you are plenty and you give people many good reasons to both work with you and support you.

I don’t suggest you take these for granted; rather, I suggest you really meditate on them in a cognitive way and get clear about the emotions that might be holding you back from aligning with your self-worth. Learn something from your doubt. Learn why you don’t always listen when you hear that your doubts are unfounded.

Later in the year there will be a time of reassessment of your personal stocks, so I suggest you begin an inner resources inventory now. You need to assess what you have within you, how it’s used, what you feel is most valuable about you, and how you apply these resources. It would be reasonable to make this an ongoing project for the entire year, starting now. If you can do this, I think you’ll make a series of discoveries and breakthroughs that will enhance your life in personal and economic ways, but more to the point, give you many reasons to feel good about who you are.

It’s also a time to keep a little more for yourself rather than giving everything away so generously.

Saturn’s change of signs in a few weeks will come with a genuine sense of pressure-drop and a sense of added freedom. Saturn has changed you, and you would be wise to assess the ways in which that is true. This is particularly true in your most personal relationships. The time has arrived to base those encounters on one thing only — a real meeting on the level of values. This and this above all things will restore a sense of balance to your life.

One last note related to the essay above. Varuna is prominent in your birthday chart this year, and prominent in your life over a period of several important years. The Sun and Moon making an exact conjunction on Varuna, near your Sun, offers you a chance to strengthen your ability to make and keep commitments. You have a chance to be the equal of others who once seemed so powerful.

There is a promise of balancing out your ability, somewhat unique for a Cancer, to be both receptive and assertive; to give and to receive; to service in your environment as an activating factor, and as one who is counted on to be available and in the background. You are both — but then, you do very well at being many things to many people.

Aries (March 20-April 19)
You may still have reservations about what is obviously an excellent opportunity to express yourself. You may be yearning for some kind of artistic indulgence, with the feeling that you’re finally in a position to do something about it. If the situation involves an amorous involvement, you may want to cast your fears aside and take a chance. Things may not work out as you planned; they may work out better than you planned. I don’t suggest you worry about the outcome, but rather, focus on what is truly a gift being offered to you. It’s not a gift if you don’t receive it.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
By this time, I trust that you’re fully in touch with the benefits of the changes you’re anticipating. It really is a situation where bigger is better, in terms of how daring you can be in aspects of your life involving finance, your geographic location and finding a new level of independence from your family. On this last matter, I don’t suggest you underestimate the influences of parents or other relatives, even though you seem relatively old to be under anyone’s thumb. But you won’t know how it feels to be free until you’re actually free.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
There are three ways to make money: with our labor, with our time and with our ideas. To some extent, you rely on all three, though your ideas are where your true economic treasure resides at the moment. It takes some bravery to sell a concept, to offer yourself as a problem-solving consultant, or even to pitch an article to an editor. But perhaps this will illustrate the point: whatever someone may pay you for your thoughts on a particular situation, they’re worth ten times more to the one writing the check.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
By now it should be obvious how much benefit has come from what previously seemed like an endless challenge, or something too complicated to be bothered with. But you’ve yet to see the real results, or reach the most crucial point of decision. For now, I suggest you keep your mind involved in an exercise of accounting for what is most important to you, as well as making another list of what you have focused on in the past that really should be a reduced priority or no priority at all. You need to focus to succeed, and you need to free your energy for what really counts the most.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
You may be wondering when the bubble is going to burst, and from the look of your solar chart, it’s not a bubble at all; it looks more like a 777. I understand that you may be feeling uneasy with Saturn approaching your birth sign in just a few weeks, but I daresay Saturn is an energy you can handle, precisely because you can handle responsibility. You just need to keep believing in yourself, which few people would ever guess is something that Leos struggle with. Don’t get too lost in the details; you can’t measure love, anyway.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
Gradually, I see you making peace with an inner process that you cannot, in truth, share with another person. But you don’t need to share the process — you need to share yourself. But from the look of your solar chart, you’re not quite there yet. There is still a great mystery brewing in your heart and you’re not, for the most part, sure how you feel about it, or what the extent of it is. When you get the first calling that it’s time to offer yourself, it’s going to seem like something small and simple that you share; but this isn’t true.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
You are making quite a splash in the world, which may feel a bit bewildering if you believe the old legend of how meek and mild you are. I don’t claim to have the truth about you, but I don’t think that you’re actually the retreating type, and I don’t think that Libra is all about finding inner balance. You are here, in part, to correct an imbalance in the world; to add something that nobody else can offer; to make the world a better place. You’re doing a fine job of it, but you can have a lot more fun, and you know it.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
Isn’t it great what a little faith can do? Okay, so you had to struggle to get there, and you had to take some kind of risk that turned out to be no risk at all. You’ve learned some lessons about how to take authority in your own life, which always involves establishing some accentuated level of trust in yourself — and then trust in the people around you. Remember, they believe in you. They are committed to you. You have a calling. Everyone is going to make it real, together. But at the end of the day it will be your effort and initiative that moved the world.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
Something is starting to shift in a situation that has some kind of international flavor. You may be summoned on a long trip, or you may find yourself involved with people who seem, at first, quite unlike yourself. You don’t need to be like them and they don’t need to be like you. Everyone just has to be who he or she is and everything is going to work out magnificently. You must not, however, be discouraged by delays in what seems like the most important aspect of the endeavor. And you must not rush what simply cannot be rushed. Hang loose. Not tight — loose.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
You’re the long-term investment type, and there comes a time when those investments finally pay off. And that time is soon. I hate to speak of emotional reality in such businesslike terms, but the metaphor works well enough. Much of what you’re going through is the experience of learning that you are equal to the world around you and that you are worthy of its love and attention. However, you’re going to pick up a few more spectacular hints than that, as long as you pay attention. And while there are no guarantees of success, I can offer you something pretty darned close.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
You are breaking free, finally and at long last. Um, free from what, though? That IS the question. And you might want to answer that question so you don’t get yourself caught up in whatever held you down before. In actual fact, you have just as much responsibility on your shoulders. What you’re doing differently is thinking of it differently. Correct? And if that alone is responsible for shifting your entire sense of burden and allowing you the feeling that this is your life, which you are free to live, then for the love of Venus — learn to think differently.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
What recently seemed like an insurmountable problem has finally been resolved, and there’s a golden lining to go along with it. And while things are looking up, I want to add a word of caution about anxiety, which is very much the silent purview of Pisces. In both medical and spiritual terms, fear is a killer. Fear has its sources, but when all is said, and all is done, love is the only antidote. It is true that you face certain adversities, but it’s also true that you have every reason to have faith in the course of your existence. So have faith, and pass it on.

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