Woodstock at 38: The Spirit, and the Charts

Max Yasgur, who allowed the Woodstock festival to happen on his dairy farm in Bethel, NY, greets the crowd on the third day of the festival. Photo © by Elliott Landy.

“If you smile at me I will understand, that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language.”

      — from the song “Wooden Ships,”
performed at Woodstock


Dear Friend and Reader:

THIS WEEK is the 38th anniversary of Woodstock festival that occurred the summer of 1969. At the peak of the Vietnam War, nearly a year into the Nixon administration and with the “summer of love” a faded memory, something genuinely unique in Western history occurred: nearly half a million young people gathered on an alfalfa field in upstate New York and created an event, a community and a watershed in American history.

Mother Theresa is reputed to have remarked that she had no interest in antiwar protests, but if there were ever a demonstration for peace held somewhere, she would be there. That was Woodstock.

In my view, Woodstock signaled to the world that humans can, if they want, coexist peacefully, and that war is stupid, unnecessary and not inherently part of human nature. While the Vietnam War did indeed get much worse before it got better (and left a legacy that included genocide in Cambodia and generations of dioxin-created birth defects), I believe it was Woodstock that turned the tide of America’s national conscience in that era.

I have nearly no nostalgia for the event, only reverence for the mutual respect, spontaneity and sense of adventure that created it. Woodstock as we witnessed it was all but unplanned; its promoters, whatever their motivations, seem to have had little concept of what would actually happen, or at least no way to prepare for it or control it. It started when two young guys, Joel Rosenman and John Roberts, were looking for something interesting to do; Roberts was heir to a drugstore fortune and had a fairly large trust fund.

Their lives up to that point were “an office comedy about two pals with more money than brains and a thirst for adventure,” Rosenman once remarked. “Every week they would get into a different business venture in some nutty scheme. And every week they would be rescued in the nick of time from their fate. ”

In March 1968, they placed a classified ad in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times: “Young Men With Unlimited Capital looking for interesting, legitimate investment opportunities and business propositions.” That was the seed of Woodstock.

Eighteen months later, the event came off. No crowd that size had ever gathered in known history — 450,000 people — and one can make the case none has ever gathered since with as few problems or as friendly a spirit. The astrology was truly astonishing, facilitating a summer that not only included the festival but also the astronauts making it to the Moon and back just a few weeks earlier. The setup included a conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus in Libra, opposed by (as-yet undiscovered) Chiron in Aries [see related article below].

Today we are perhaps impressed by Burning Man. But it’s worth noting the Woodstock crowd was about 20 times the size of the community that gathers in the Nevada desert every year, where everyone is well versed in what to do, plans for many months before making the trip and spends a small fortune to get there with water, dust masks and a ticket. Those who attended Woodstock endured three or four days with little food and water, a lot of rain and mud, and no shelter except one another. They abandoned their cars on the New York Thruway and walked the rest of the way through a scene more reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Stand than anybody’s idea of a party.

Max Yasgur, the dairy farmer on whose land the event was held, took the biggest chance of all. Only 40,000 people were expected, and long-haired hippies were not so well liked in conservative Sullivan County [see related article below]. More than that showed up, his farm was nearly destroyed, and he had to face the wrath of his neighbors. But he understood what was happening perhaps better than anyone at the time.

Here is what he told the soaked crowd on Sunday afternoon, right before the Joe Cocker set: “I’m a farmer…[interrupted by a cheer from the audience]…I don’t know how to speak to twenty people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world — not only to the Town of Bethel, or Sullivan County, or New York State; you’ve proven something to the world. This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. We had no idea that there would be this size group, and because of that you’ve had quite a few inconveniences as far as water, food, and so forth…the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that a half a million kids — and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you are — a half million young people can get together and have nothing but fun and music, and may God Bless You for it!”

IN AN EARLIER series of articles called Born in the Sixties, I wrote about how the Woodstock generation was comprised of people with inherently self-centered astrology (Pluto in Leo) living through a highly unusual time of intellectual awareness, social conscience and revolution (the Uranus-Pluto conjunction in Virgo). Pluto in Leo provided a sense of individuality sufficient for young people to get together, and respond together, to the astrology they were experiencing as an external factor. Many other external factors existed, including the birth control pill that suddenly opened the bottle of sexual possibilities.

There was also grievous conflict, a violent clash of values in a divided nation (pro vs. anti-war) and divided world (USSR vs. USA/NATO). There was an enormous sense of loss, particularly of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, spokesmen for peace who were both assassinated the year before (all represented by the Saturn-Pluto opposition of 1965 and 1966, which as we know from our own era, has lasting effects). All of these factors seemed to spur the idealism that fueled Woodstock and what it represented.

Today we face a similar urgency, indeed, far more significant because we are aware of the environmental crisis, climate change and an impending food crisis when the oil runs low (most of what we eat in the Western world comes from petroleum). I would ask: where is the Pluto in Leo generation now? Surely the millions who participated in counterculture, in the ecology movement, antiwar protests and the sexual revolution remember some trace of their idealism and boldness earlier in their lives.

It is an old cliché that the hippies of yesterday became the business leaders of today. Okay, so be it. And now what? Is this the end of existence? Does being a business leader automatically make you an executive dork, or are there other possibilities out there somewhere? Obviously there are.

Four years into the Iraq war, six years into an administration that makes Nixon and his men look like the Mickey Mouse Club, and with the polar ice caps melting faster than the media is letting on, the world is curiously nearly silent of audible concern. Going to see “An Inconvenient Truth” is a good start, but it does not count for action. Unless it compels you to take action, a movie is entertainment. Can the Woodstock generation be summed up by the last gig listed on the Wiki page of the event’s co-creator, Michael Lang — a concert he promoted for Heineken in 2005?

Scene from Woodstock, courtesy of Woodstock69.com

We could also ask where young people are, but that’s an easier question to answer. Many children and grandchildren of the Woodstock generation have been raised on Ritalin, antidepressants, sugar and soaked in technology that seems to vacuum in more creativity than it facilitates expression of.

Quite a few have spent more time in daycare than anywhere else. They have not been cultured in a field of wide-open possibilities and rebellion, but rather raised in a world where image, cynicism and obsession with ideology are the social and astrological themes (represented today by Neptune in Aquarius and Pluto in Sagittarius).

What is perhaps most frightening is that young people today are growing up in a world where they perceive the many terrifying problems we face, but see the adults around them standing helplessly by as they only grow worse. Is this the example we want to be setting?

Lest I leave out the Pluto in Virgo generation, who are coming of age as full adults in these very years, I have this to say. We are so obsessed by service that most of us do not stop to see who we are serving. But I will get to that next week.

We may be starting to wake up from these dreams, maybe, but the prevailing drugs (with the possible exception of the Internet) are no longer things that even vaguely promise to open one’s mind a little. Rather, they are designed to shut us down: fundamentalist religion, mood stabilizers, obsessive work for multinational corporations, alcohol and anti-sex campaigns. When I hear someone say, “Well, it was fun, but I wouldn’t want my kids doing that,” I truly want to wretch.

This is parallel to and equivalent of, “I would love to help with that social issue, but I’m too busy taking care of my garden and my business.” Or, “I have to find inner peace before I work for peace in the world.”

Not everyone takes this viewpoint, but it it’s the prevailing one of our times, it’s considered legitimate and it’s a comfort zone the size of the Bahamas. An extreme minority of people are allowing themselves to vocalize their concern or step up to the challenges that the world is presenting all of us right now, but most people just care and leave it at that. Caring is good, but it’s not enough. There are plenty of people who don’t have time to care, who barely make it through the day, and for whom actual economic and medical stress make it very difficult for them to think beyond the immediate boundaries of their lives. And it is impressive how many of them find the time not only to care, to help others, and to speak up, just because that’s what is right.

THOSE WHO look back at the Sixties as a time of irresponsible experimentation, unrealistic ideals and an urge to have sex they just can’t comprehend today would do well to survey the spiritual and emotional landscape of the world we now know, and consider how they feel living their lives. Does all this control and seeming certainty lead to fulfillment?

Often we are taught to seek solace in building security and taking care of ourselves; the Pluto in Leo generation tends to do this exceptionally well. We may believe that a higher order of reality exists when we shift our focus to spiritual pursuits, yoga, seeking inner peace and acquiring wisdom. I think that on one level, seeking security, happiness and spiritual growth possesses some meaning. But are we really happy doing just that?

Have we counted what is missing? Perhaps it is a sense of participation, of making a contribution, and of working together — with all the growth and exploration that brings. These are not things one “gets” — they are things one does, takes a risk doing, and enters with a contribution from the heart. They are things one gives, and gives from within. And they are investments that don’t come with a warranty, a guarantee or a service contract.

We may feel we don’t have time, energy or money for any of this. I assure you we do — this is all a matter of values, not of time and resources. It is a matter of coming out of the comfort zone and encountering the unknown.

At this stage, it may seem like all that’s left is either to enjoy what we’ve earned, to give up all hope, or to start the boring (and potentially impossible) cleanup from the big capitalist party we’ve gone to here in the Western world for the past century or so. That is not true, and it’s not going to work. If we don’t have fun going through this next stage of our society’s growth, we’re not going to get very far. But there’s only so much fun one can have in one’s own house alone with their toys; and only so much fun one can have in the midst of an abject crisis that threatens their survival. Somewhere in between, we can and must begin the process of building a new world.

Cheers to Woodstock, a weekend in 1969 when people decided not to be scared of one another, when they knew they were nobody’s slaves, and when they decided more was possible today than it was yesterday.

As Joni Mitchell said so beautifully,

Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe its the time of man
I don’t know who l am
But you know life is for learning.

Yours and truly,
Eric Francis

Cardinal Points: Max Yasgur and Woodstock

THE HOROSCOPE for the Woodstock festival is a stunning and beautiful example of 1960s astrology. It predicts the influence of Chiron, which is one of the most prominent planets in the chart, and reveals how two unprecedented events — the Moon landing and the most famous rock concert in history — can occur within weeks of one another.

The time of the chart, 5:07 pm, is for when Richie Havens began his set early Friday evening, Aug. 15, 1969, and is reported by multiple sources and confirmed by Nick Dagan Best, the authority in rock music astrology.

When an event is unprecedented, it makes sense to allow the chart to explain astrology as much as you use astrology to explain the event. Here is an example. Woodstock was billed as an “Aquarian Exposition.” But only one [major] planet was in Aquarius that day (really, an asteroid): Ceres. For those wondering the influence of Ceres, we might want to start with Woodstock, where she occupies the first degree of the sign. Take that as you will; she is the Earth Mother, in the sign of groups and the individuality that makes groups possible.

Capricorn is rising. This emphasizes the primarily corporate nature of the event. It was billed as counterculture and ended up a counterculture phenomenon, but it was created by businessmen. Saturn in Taurus (the ruler of the ascendant) is the focus of a yod pattern with Mars and Jupiter/Uranus. As a result of the festival, the name “Woodstock” became one of the most recognized, and valuable, brands in the world.

Capricorn is a cardinal sign — a sign of initiative, action and high energy. The cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn) appear over and over in the Woodstock charts, speaking about the groundbreaking quality of the event.

Detail of the southwestern quadrant of the Woodstock Festival chart. Note the Venus-Vesta conjunction in a water sign. Also note the Sun at 22+ degrees of a fire sign, exactly trine the Sun at 22+ of a fire sign in the Max Yasgur’s chart.

Looking in the southwestern quadrant, that is, the top right of the chart — we see some of the most interesting action. The Moon, Pluto and the South Node make a focused conjunction in Virgo, amplifying the astrology of the Pluto in Virgo era. As we’ll see in a moment, this conjunction makes some strong aspects to the natal horoscope of Max Yasgur, the owner of the land where the concert happened.

The presence of the South Node near a Moon-Pluto conjunction seems to indicate that something is coming in from the deep or distant past, as if this event was the fulfillment of a promise made long ago.

Moon-Pluto, with its lonely and even resentful feeling, is revealed as an aspect that gives depth to an experience that was as much about individuality as it was about a group event of some kind. The South Node is about releasing that sense of isolation in place of an experience that propels the soul forward on its long-appointed path. Indeed, many people felt an evolutionary calling as a result of participating in Woodstock, or witnessing it even from a distance.

The backbone of the chart is a structure early in the cardinal signs involving Chiron in Aries, and a conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus in Libra. This began the part of the Sixties where aesthetics (represented by Libra, the sign of beauty and balance) was beginning to take over after a period dominated by ideology and obsession with service (represented by Virgo).

An astrologer looking at this chart in 1969 would have missed Chiron (which was discovered eight years later and not widely known to astrologers for well over a decade after that). So one would be left wondering how the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction — which is always exciting and arrives with breakthroughs — could have yielded a summer with both the Moon landing and Woodstock.

Richard Tarnas, author of Cosmos and Psyche, described the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction as an aspect of great meetings, and here we can see why.

The conjunction is in the early degrees of Libra, meaning that it is opposing the Aries Point and conjunct a massive galaxy called M87. The Aries Point is the point that says “the personal is political” — and this is an excellent example of how astrologers came up with that idea.

When we add Chiron to the chart, a dimension opens: Chiron is close to the Aries point, exactly opposing Jupiter and Uranus. The opposition brings together the group aspect of Uranus, the protection of Jupiter, the relationship and beauty aspect of Libra, and the raging individualism and self-searching of Chiron in Aries.

Detail of the southwestern quadrant of Max Yasgur’s natal chart, set for noon. Note the Venus-Vesta conjunction in a water sign. Also note the Sun at 22+ degrees of a fire sign, exactly trine the Sun at 22+ of a fire sign in the festival chart.

The festival chart is joined to the personal horoscope of Max Yasgur by several aspects — most notably, an exact Sun to Sun trine. Note the Sun at 22+ Leo in the festival chart, trine Yasgur’s natal Sun at 22+ Sagittarius. The trine seems to open the flow between the the two charts.

Yasgur, perhaps an unwitting visionary, has his natal Sun placed midway between the Great Attractor and the Galactic Core. Both of these points are associated with effects that far exceed anyone’s expectations or ability to perceive them; with things so sweeping and large it is difficult to give them names.

The charts are also joined by Chiron on the Aries Point. The Woodstock festival marked Yasgur’s Chiron return, falling just a few months short of his 50th birthday. Note that the connection of the Aries Point and Chiron creates a Chiron return with a mass public connection. While this would obviously not happen in every instance of an Aries Chiron return, the chart imagery is fitting.

Yasgur was an advocate of the hippies and their quest for community and individuality. He could relate to  their inherently fiery nature, and was having significant Pluto transits at the time of the event. For example, transiting Pluto was tightly square his natal Sun at the time of the festival.

Yasgur’s chart completes a cardinal grand cross with the festival chart. His Aries Chiron matches that of the festival; his Pluto in Cancer aspects the festival’s Jupiter-Uranus conjunction and gives him a powerful Chiron-Pluto contact natally; and his Moon-Mars conjunction in Libra fits right into the configuration. The festival chart’s Capricorn ascendant completes the grand cross. With this astrology, it is clear that something new was going to happen. And it’s clear that Max Yasgur offered a lot more than his land: his soul was making a stellar contribution to an event that would define a generation and be a rare, beautiful turning point in American history.

An interesting similarity shared by both charts is a conjunction of Venus and Vesta in water signs. While this conjunction happens for a few weeks once a year, it is still an interesting synchronicity. The energy of Vesta is about giving oneself selflessly, and in service of society; and Venus is about giving from the heart, or from one’s deepest values. Both planets share erotic overtones reminiscent of the free love feeling of the Woodstock festival.




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, August 17, 2007, #676 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
You need to push, though not too hard. Your current creative process requires effort, yet you need to balance it with an attitude of letting the ideas do the work, as much as possible. The odd part is you may be feeling a great deal of passion and artistic lust boiling deep inside, but it may not have a way to the surface. More than you think is trying to find its way out of your fiery depths and to the accessible layers of awareness. The key is not giving up, and remembering what you want. Few would intuitively associate sexual passion with discipline, though most would associate artistic talent with it. For most purposes, particularly in your life now, the two are one.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
There comes a time in the life of everyone who succeeds at maturing into a self-actualized person when we let others stop telling us who we are. Rather, in a journey of true discovery, we may go with others on the way to discovering; we may use others to reveal ourselves and therefore discover ourselves; we may look to others as an example or as proof that something is possible. Yet always, no matter who is in front of you as your witness, your guide or your example, the journey is inward. You will know that’s the direction you’re headed because it’s scarier than the other one. Keep going.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Mars moving slowly across your birth sign is a great image for the kind of progress you are working to make in the world. Your existence is not about being conservative or holding back, but rather burning through the sheets of reality and unreality with laser-like action. You possess at times a tendency to be brutally honest with others while playing cat and mouse with yourself. Now is the time to be extraordinarily direct with yourself, and just a little more tactful than you think you need to be with others. Trust one thing, you have impact. What you are striving for is self-awareness. Let the two work together.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
You may be questioning whether you can trust your feelings or your intuition at this moment, but I suggest you go a little deeper and take your own counsel. Among the many changes in the air are a series of turning points that will infuse you with confidence in yourself like few events or developments in your life. These are likely to come through some kind of trial, test or process of questioning that involves an endeavor in the outer world. In other words, events are not merely proceeding inside your literal or symbolic four walls, but rather appear to be spread out to the four corners of the world. Listen to your doubts, long enough for something deep and aware inside you to answer them.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
Doors seem to be opening and closing all around you. The closed doors are not all locked, and the open doors are not all places you want to go. This is a time calling for discernment and maturity, and putting to work all that you’ve learned during the last two years of your life. Think back over all the tests you’ve been through, and all the situations you’ve been called upon to find faith in the midst of adversity. Think of the many times you’ve come up with a solution at the last moment when there seemed to be no possibility for success. What is the one lesson you’ve taken away from all of that experience? Use it now.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
Our most vivid goals, desires or dreams sometimes tease us forward. You are familiar with the process of transposing from an idea or image into reality, and the process of being coaxed or seduced there gently, and sometimes desperately. You don’t, at this point, want your dreams to come true: you want to work with them, refine them, develop them, and indeed, design them, until you create the strength to make them come true. Accept the invitation to become the one who shapes your vision of your life. Let your dreams guide you, but do your part to shape them, as well.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
If Venus retrograde in one of the friendliest angles of your chart is not putting you in contact with people from your past you valued deeply, I suggest you go looking for them. I have not figured out the reticence of humanity to connect with people who were once so important to us; it may involve the reasons we tend to grow apart, but it may involve a tendency to avoid being reminded of who we were in the past. I would propose that those you seek out have a valuable message about what you once aspired to. They will not only remind you of who you were, but of the ideals that you held so dearly. Don’t let cynicism stop you from remembering.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
You now have little choice but to become the authority you are seeking to contend with. You are in a position not only to make a profound impression on the people around you, and to claim your territory, but also to untangle yourself from a common scenario in human history. That scenario involves people who refuse to claim and own their power being confronted by the shadow of that power in some external form. Scorpio is noted for its obsession with control, but you fall under the general heading of “humanity” in that like all living things on this planet, there is little control that you actually have. But that is different than authority — consciously being the author of your life, and being your own boss before anybody else gets half a chance to pretend.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
You are well versed in the trick of belief; if you believe something, you can make it real, and you know that what you believe and how well you believe it are things you do with your mind. What, then, is the stumbling block now? You seem to be holding two contradictory beliefs at the moment, which is rare enough for you. If you look more closely, you will see that one of those involves a journey back to investigating a past belief or value that you once lived by. This moment in history is the occasion to pause and ask whether you need to re-adopt that value, or let it go. That may take a little time, but here is a clue: it involves the issue of whether you need to live more consciously in a way that is acceptable to others.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
Shared finances, commitments or resources that have played out a saga in your life are now up for some kind of final resolution. You figured out a long time ago that you were not counting yourself for the benefits of the arrangements; you always (or frequently) seemed to be on the losing end of the deal. Events of the next few days promise to demonstrate that when you look for, seek and if necessary, insist on the benefits to you, you will soon enough find them, and have access to them. I suggest, however, that you be more generous with yourself than you perceived others as being with you.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
Long-awaited factors are lighting up the way in a key intimate relationship, which may also include a significant business partnership as well. From one year to the next, you have held out for something better: improved conditions, greater insight, and conscious acknowledgement of commitment. Forget that you waited so long, forget that you struggled so hard, and give up the sense of limitation that you’ve been dragging around: those days are over. What remains is for you to give yourself permission to be yourself. Do it over and over, and encrypt it in reality with actions and choices that remind you of this very basic truth of your life.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
Your work environment is changing, and it will continue to do so in a series of rapid progressions that will tend to both shift and solidify your relationships and partnerships. Yet the firm ground you must stand on is that of your own soul. You came into this life with a mission, and that mission involves the things you naturally do every day — even if you cannot understand why you do them. The lack of understanding is a kind of lubricant that allows you the freedom from rationalizing who you are. In actual fact, you exist, and you exist as a phenomenon of your present activities and life, not those of the past. This is another way of saying trust your strength and it will never fail you.

Leave a Comment