TMA This Week

The 79-Year Cycles of Mercury and Mars in the USA Horoscope

By Gary P. Caton | July 21, 2013

“The right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon . . . has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.”
-James Madison in The Virginia Resolution of 1798 (1)

This has been quite a Mercury retrograde period (June 26 to July 20). We have had further revelations of U.S. spying (which appears to this author to extend to nearly the whole world); abortion restrictions being enacted in North Carolina and Texas; and the acquittal of George Zimmerman in Florida for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. All are examples of challenging information revealed in the public sphere. The kind of chaos we have seen during this Mercury retrograde reminds me of what many astrologers were expecting from the 2012 presidential election (which occurred on the day of a retrograde station). But looking at synodic cycles, there is a good reason why there is so much chaos now and not last year. (2)

Due to a convergence of sidereal and synodic cycles, Mercury will repeat its position near the same zodiacal degree every 46 or 79 years. (3) If we assume that the U.S. was born on July 4, 1776, we can see that the 79-year period comes into play in 2013. (This is because 79 x 3 = 237 and 1776 + 237 = 2013.) Therefore, this is a year in which Mercury will trace close to the same path through the zodiac as in 1776.

On a practical level, this means that the U.S. experiences a Mercury return close to the same time as its solar return in 2013. Mercurial natal themes are brought to the fore this year, much more prominently than in other years. We should expect this particular year (especially the period when Mercury is retrograde in Cancer) to be especially significant, as the nation was born with Mercury retrograde in Cancer.

The July 4, 1776 chart has Mercury retrograde in Cancer making a sextile aspect to Neptune in Virgo, as well as an opposition to Pluto in Capricorn. The need to re-think and re-visit issues, especially Cancerian issues such as “family values” and childbirth, is ingrained in our national blueprint. However, this need for introspective thinking is also affected by the idealistic and religious nature of Neptune, which is facilitated by the ease of its sextile aspect. At the same time, there is a standoff with a very powerful figure represented by the opposition to Pluto in Capricorn. These aspects are clearly reflective of the fact that in 1776 we were engaged in a seditious information campaign (in the name of ideals such as liberty and democracy) against what we saw as a tyrannical authority.

If you look at the bi-wheel above, you will see that solar return Mars (24° Gemini) is very close to the U.S. natal Mars (21°23’ Gemini). Like Mercury, Mars has a 79-year cycle. (3) Since 237 years is a multiple of 79, the 2013 solar return for the U.S. is also a Mars return. This means that Mars themes from the July 4, 1776 horoscope are also being re-activated. The presence of Mars explains the surgical and weapons-related themes that have surfaced. The over-the-top and rogue way that these themes have expressed themselves is a reflection of the fact that Mars is out-of-bounds currently, as it is in the U.S. nativity. The hidden, nebulous nature of much of this information, and the idealism/disillusionment that many feel about these issues, is a reflection of the natal square between Mars and Neptune in the July 4 chart.

The supreme irony is that while internal contradictions in the U.S. psyche, represented by the natal Mercury opposition to Pluto (both retrograde) and the natal square of Mars to Neptune, tend to resurface every 79 years, we seldom recognize them as such collectively.

As another example: The year 1855 — a 79-year cycle after the U.S.inception (1776 + 79 =1855) — saw the escalation of a border war concerning the issue of whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state, with “border ruffians” from Missouri influencing the early process. One cycle later, in 1934 (1855 + 79 = 1934), there was a crime wave of unprecedented proportions, as desperation from the Great Depression brought figures like John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and the Barkers to the fore. This resulted in the concept of “Public Enemy #1” being invented by the FBI and the subsequent empowerment of that organization. It should come as no surprise that “rogues and ruffians” like Snowden, Zimmerman, the NSA, and even the North Carolina legislature are the big news of 2013. (4) The real question is: will we ever collectively wake up to recognize these figures for what they really are?

“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ -all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness – that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then? As a rule, the Christian’s attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us “Raca,” and condemn and rage against ourselves. (5) We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves.” – C.G. Jung in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (6)

I do not think it is melodramatic to posit that our future may very well depend on our current ability to embrace these lowly parts of our national character and heal these internal contradictions. I’m certainly not the first astrologer to note that the last three transits of Uranus through Aries brought events that eventually led to major conflicts for our nation during Uranus in Gemini (i.e., the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and WWII). This trend is clearly evident to non-astrological historians as well. (6) While the recent SCOTUS decision to strike down DOMA was a victory for human rights, it was also a victory for state’s rights. And it appears clear to this astrologer that the blue states are getting bluer and the red states redder. Will it take another full-blown conflict for these divisions to come together? Or can we choose another path? Much still needs to be decided, but it seems pretty obvious to me that a “Cold War II” environment where the U.S. government is spying on everyone and their brother is not optimal for the free examination and communication that James Madison saw as necessary for securing all our other precious liberties. (Editors note: See the quote at the beginning of this post.) Perhaps in this sense, Edward Snowden is indeed just the “devil” that we need at this moment in our history. (7)

References and recommended reading:

(1) The Virginia Resolution was authored by Madison in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts.

(2) GlobalPost

(3) The planetary synodic periods were well known to Mesopotamian astrologers and later Ptolemy used them in his Almagest. Alexander Ruperti, Michael Munkasey, and Robert Blaschke are the modern astrologers who have researched these cycles in depth.
Alexander Ruperti, Cycles of Becoming: The Planetary Pattern of Growth. Previously published in 1978 by CRCS Vancouver, WA, and re-published in 2005 by EarthWalk School of Astrology Publishing, Port Townsend, WA.

Michael Munkasey, “Station Cycles,” an as yet unpublished research article shared with interested members of the community.

Robert P. Blaschke, Astrology: A Language of Life: Volume 5 – Holographic Transits, EarthWalk School of Astrology Publishing, Port Townsend, WA, 2006.

(4) New York Times

(5) “Raca, a Biblical term of Aramaic origin used in Matthew 5:22. See Aramaic of Jesus or Expounding of the Law. Its meaning is ‘worthless,’ ‘vain,’ ‘empty.’ Is a word of contempt towards an object that is depised.” Wikipedia

(6) GoodReads

(6) I’m referring to the work of William Strauss and Neil Howe in their books Generations and The Fourth Turning. See here: Wikipedia
and here Life Course

(7) In my last installment for this blog I mentioned that perhaps we need some “devils” to shake things up a bit; it happens that the Yods in the chart of the prior Sun-Venus conjunction, which I used to make this prediction, point precisely at the Ascendant and Moon in Edward Snowden’s birth chart.

Bio: Gary P. Caton is an eclectic Astrologer who embraces an organic, process-oriented approach of spiritual exploration via the Living Sky. Gary has studied Spirituality for over 24 years. After exploring Shamanism and the Tarot, in 1993 his life was changed by a magnificent Dream where he was shown planetary alignments and became an Astrologer. Gary earned a degree in Counseling with highest honors and has developed a unique multi-discipline path to practicing Astrology over 20 years. Visit Gary at his website: Dream Astrologer

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An early summer sky…

By Mary Plumb | June 10, 2013

On Saturday night the skies were clear and dark; the New Moon is optimal for stargazing, and I went for the first time to the local astronomer’s group. In a large field with good views of the horizon, there was not a bad seat in the house. (Although I did arrive early, I was so excited to be there; clouds had obscured other planned events.)

What a glorious night! Right after sunset in the western sky, we could see Venus (Jupiter and Mars are too close to the Sun), and a bit later, Mercury.

Venus remains as the visible evening star throughout most of this year, but Mercury is fleeting. Mercury is slowing down before turning retrograde on June 26. I also saw Mercury through a telescope for the first time: you could see a slight crescent shape as he is in the gibbous phase, i.e., not quite full. (1)

(As the evening came on, Castor and Pollux, the twins in the constellation Gemini, stood out too, but that’s another story.)

Part of Mercury’s mythos is as the god of crossroads, thresholds, in-between states, and the one who accompanies travelers. As I spent time with him in the sky, that meaning came more viscerally alive.

Now, Mercury is in the sky at dusk, the twilight, the transitional time between day and night. His visibility is relatively brief; he quickly disappears as he sets behind the Sun. He moves quickly (only 88 days to go around the Sun) but never goes too far from the Sun. Even with perfect weather and horizon conditions, we can only see Mercury at a maximum of two months out of a year.

If you can find a good view of the horizon and a clear evening, do go out and commune with Mercury yourself. He is slowing down, getting to the edge of his distance from the source of life, soon to turn and move back to the light of the Sun. (2) We can actually see the guide between worlds now. Feed your intuition and seize the moment!

Hermes, the Greek god identified with the Roman Mercury, is the protector on the journey as well as the guide between the worlds. The age-old practice of leaving an offering at points along the road beckons back to Hermes as guardian of travelers.

In the last few years, in the places where people walk a lot around Ashland (e.g., mountain trails, in Lithia Park, around the lake) there are offerings of rock formations, flowers, and leaves, etc., little altars built along the way. They are always changing, added to, fall down, and reappear somewhere else.

This ritual, conducted by random invisible walkers (I’ve never seen a person actually placing a stone or adding to the pile), is recreating our ancestors’ practice of adding stones to the piles along the way and leaving food as a petition to Hermes for blessing us with a safe journey. (The name Hermes derives from herma, a stone, roadside shrine or boundary marker.)

In the northern sky, I was completely thrilled to see Cygnus the Swan, gliding southward. This is a huge constellation, visible all summer in the Northern Hemisphere, that I had only seen in pictures. Although this constellation is easy to find, I had never really seen the swan before. And there he was, gliding across the sky right across the Milky Way. What a beautiful sight! The Alpha star in Cygnus is Deneb, at the swan’s tail, is an exceptionally bright star, very easy to find with the eye. It is a super-giant star, more than 100 times the diameter of the Sun. “Its name comes from dhanab, the Arabic word for ‘tail’.” (3)

Cygnus the Swan
But we looked through the telescope, and I really flipped. The star at the swan’s head is called Albireo (the etymology of which is convoluted, and by the accounts I read, meaningless). It is apparently faintly visible to the eye (I couldn’t see it), but through the telescope you see a brilliant sapphire blue star and a gold star right next to it. There are two stars in Albireo; they looked like two eyes. (4)

There are many myths about the swan in the sky, but I am now most moved by a story told by Ovid. Cygnus was Phaeton’s friend, the son of Helios who drove his chariot too close to the Sun and fell into the river Eridanus. Cygnus lamented the loss of his friend and traveled the river unexhaustedly looking for his friend’s body. The gods were moved by his grief and transformed him into a swan whose long neck allowed him to dive deeply into the water on his search. (4)

Seeing those dazzlingly bright blue and yellow stars on Cygnus’s head gives me a new image for the deep diving into the emotional realms that the current planetary emphasis on the water signs seems to be bringing. (I had calls from two friends this weekend, essentially saying the same thing: What is going on? I am crying all the time!)

Have a good week, everyone. Enjoy the skies overhead.


(1) I don’t understand the astronomy well enough to explain it (but I did see it). Here’s an explanation: Free Astronomy Lesson by Dr. Jamie Love.

(2) Gary P. Caton wrote a great blog for TMA: The Mercury Elemental Year 2013in which he describes Mercury’s pattern: The degree of the greatest elongation is very close to the degree of the interior conjunction, and the degree of the maximum longitude in the morning sky when he will be visible in the morning sky again. (This summer, the maximum elongation on June 12 is 17° Cancer. Mercury, while still visible — weather and horizon line permitting — turns retrograde on June 26. The interior conjunction with the Sun is on July 9 at 18° Cancer and the Mercury’s appearance as the morning star will be around July 30 at 19° Cancer.)

(3) Star Tales: Cygnus

(4) Apparently this absolute wonder at Albireo’s beauty is a common experience among stargazers. “Albireo, designated Beta Cygni, is a celebrated binary star among amateur astronomers for its contrasting hues.”

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Geography & the Uranus-Pluto Square

By Alex Miller | May 27, 2013

When major news stories flash across our screens, it’s often relatively easy to sense which planetary energies are prompting them. This is especially true of the ongoing Uranus-Pluto square, the defining aspect of our times, which elicits volatile, destructive energies that carve a big, bold statement as they manifest on earth.
But why do these events play out where they do? Is there some celestial connection between the major planetary energies being unleashed and the terrestrial locales they highlight? If we look more closely at some recent Uranus-Pluto related events, the answer seems a resounding, “Yes!”

Take the recent tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013, the very day of the third exact square between Uranus and Pluto. The tornado was perhaps the strongest ever recorded, an EF5 with winds of up to 200-210 mph, with a wedge as much as a mile wide and cutting a 20-mile-long pathway through Oklahoman farmland and suburban developments, a meteorological behemoth worthy of the square. (1) Pluto’s effect is seen here in the total destruction wreaked, with Uranus supplying the explosive power and the relative rapidity of the event. (Although the twister was on the ground for 50 minutes, that’s a mere fraction of the time it took to build all the infrastructure it annihilated, let alone how long it will take to rebuild). The propensity of this particular square to elicit major weather events might be foreshadowed by the presence of TNO (Trans-Neptunian Object) Typhon at 9° Libra, closely t-squaring Uranus and Pluto. Typhon, from whom we derive our word “typhoon,” was a mythical Greek Titan responsible for massive storms, and although his natural element is water, Typhon the mythic monster also had the power to control the winds. The eponymous TNO shows up often in charts of all types of weather-related disasters.

There was, therefore, a strong predisposition for some disastrous weather to manifest somewhere, but why Oklahoma? When the tornado hit, asteroids Oklahoma (#13688) and Storm (#12182), at 3° and 5° Capricorn, were moving in on Pluto at 11° Capricorn, within orb of conjunction. Moore is in Cleveland County, and asteroid Cleveland (#6296) at 12° Cancer was even more closely tapped into the Uranus-Pluto square; along with Typhon, this created a Grand Cross. There is also an asteroid Moore (#2602), and while it was not aspected directly to the square, at 27° Pisces it was highlighted on the Descendant, which moved from 23° Pisces through 29° Pisces during the period from 3:01 PM to 3:35 PM (CDT) when the tornado was destroying Moore.

Speaking of Cleveland, another Uranus-Pluto related story broke on May 6th, with the release of three young women from a decade-long captivity in Cleveland, Ohio. Ariel Castro had allegedly abducted Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus, repeatedly raping and beating them, and holding them hostage in his house for ten years. The elements of abduction, rape, and abuse are represented by Pluto, who equates to the Greek god Hades, famous for his abduction and rape of Persephone, while Uranus’s role is seen in the release and freedom of the captives.

When they were discovered and released on May 6th, asteroid Cleveland, at 5° Cancer, squared Uranus at 10° Aries and opposed Pluto at 11° Capricorn, accompanied by asteroid Ohio (#439) at 12° Capricorn, identifying the state where the horrific events occurred.

Two other stories emerged in April of 2013 with direct ties to the celestial geography making contact with Uranus and Pluto. When the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly set off two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15th, asteroid Massachusetts (#4547) at 11° Aries was conjoined Uranus at 9° Aries and exactly squared Pluto at 11° Capricorn, which had turned retrograde just days before. Pluto rules terrorist acts and deaths, and Uranus rules explosives of all kinds, from the pop of a handgun to the detonation of a nuclear warhead. (There is also an asteroid Marathon, which, at the time of the explosions, appears just three degrees off the Midheaven, the focus of all eyes.)

Just two days later, on April 17th, a massive explosion in a fertilizer plant rocked the town of West, Texas, killing 15 and obliterating dozens of homes in a five-block radius. Again, Pluto here generally represents devastation, but, more specifically, also rules fertilizers, with Uranus once more providing the spark of explosives. When the plant blew, asteroid West (#2022) was at 9° Cancer, opposed Pluto at 11° Capricorn and exactly squared Uranus at 9° Aries. The difference in magnitude of the two explosions (those at the Boston Marathon were relatively small blasts, as explosions go) may be due to the difference in specificity of the asteroids involved (one representing an entire state as opposed to a specific community), and also the fact that asteroid Massachusetts, while in a close conjunction with explosion-ruling Uranus, was not in exact aspect to it, as was asteroid West.

Mass shootings seem to be another predominant theme of the Uranus-Pluto square, with numerous incidents since their first exact aspect in June of 2012. Uranus rules shootings, Pluto rules murder, and the pair together has ramped up the carnage considerably. One of the first and most publicized of these atrocities was the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012. James Holmes, dressed in SWAT team garb, with several semiautomatic weapons and hair dyed fire engine red, shot up the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 and wounding 58.

At the time, asteroid Aurora (#94) at 17° Capricorn was just within orb of conjunction to Pluto, at 7° Capricorn, but also just four degrees off the Midheaven for the shooting. But the real focus on Aurora from Uranus and Pluto can be seen in the chart of the shooter. Born December 13, 1987, James Holmes’ nativity shows Aurora at 9° Libra, squared by Pluto at the shooting and tightly opposed by Uranus at 8° Aries. (Transit asteroid Holmes (#5477) and planet Mars were also exactly conjunct natal Aurora when he opened fire in the theater.)

Another example of the transiting Uranus-Pluto square impacting natal asteroids of a geographic nature is the case of Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius, who shot his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, to death on Valentine’s Day 2013 in his home in Pretoria, South Africa. Asteroid Praetorius (#4889), here standing in for Pretoria, appears at 12° Capricorn in Pistorius’ birth chart (born November 22, 1986), with transit Pluto at 10° Capricorn for the shooting (along with asteroid Oskar (#750) at 9° Capricorn), and squared by Uranus at 6° Aries.

These few examples seem to confirm the importance, in the old real estate dictum, of “location, location, location” when looking for clues to where the Uranus-Pluto square will manifest next. There are four more exact squares to the cycle, extending into 2015, likely giving us many more opportunities to test the theory.

Editor’s note:

(1) EF5 (Enhanced Fujita Scale) is the scale for rating the strength of tornados.

Bio: Alex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of “The Galactic Calendar,” and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society. His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. His work with deep space points and asteroids appears monthly at DayKeeper Journal. Alex can be reached for comment or services at

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Ideas from eclipse season

By Mary Plumb | May 13, 2013

Three eclipses mark this spring: There was a lunar eclipse on April 25 (6° Taurus/Scorpio), a solar eclipse on May 9 (20° Taurus), and a second lunar eclipse on May 24 (5° Gemini/Sag).
The May 9 eclipse was angular in my birth chart. I had a surprising and strong emotional reaction to a seemingly simple event that opened a chasm of memories and associations that I am still winding through. I maybe could have seen it coming (but didn’t). This eclipse brought an experience that can be typical — something sneaks up on us (Bill Meridian’s phrase) and takes us by surprise. I intentionally keep my schedule a bit open around eclipses to be able to respond to the turns and upsets in peoples’ lives (which definitely happened this time). I did not see that it would also be me who needed a bit of care and attention.
My experience also had the quality described below about this Saros series (in Bernadette Brady’s words): “This series is about release of tension.”
(Funnily enough, early Monday morning, as I was writing this intro part to today’s blog, I uncharacteristically neglected to save the file, Word crashed and I had to start again. Even writing about the eclipse has a way of sneaking up on me. It also shows that events and insights are in transition and still settling down. I’m also relating to the south node symbolism with the solar eclipse: letting go, again and again; not held captive by the past.)
First of all, for any newcomers to using eclipses in natal chart work, Celeste Teal, Moon Valley Astrologer, has a wonderful article explaining how to understand the nature of eclipses and how to apply them in the personal horoscope. “In a general way you can track the transiting North Node through your chart to find the areas to focus your attention and energy that will result in some good coming to you. This is an area of opportunity, where rewards, good fortune and happiness can be found. By directing your efforts there, rewards easily come forth. The house occupied by the transiting South Node indicates an area of potential vulnerability, where you may be working through an issue, and where you might experience some loss or make a sacrifice. Sometimes it means you have a gift to share and the Universe expects something from you.”
Peter Stockinger’s blog (at Traditional Astrology Weblog) on the includes Lilly’s suggestion to consider the decanate of the eclipse; the eclipse path of angularity, and the ruler of the eclipse, i.e., Venus, who “is conjunct the fixed star Alcyone, the brightest star of the Pleiades.” He surmises: “I would propose that the general theme of this solar eclipse is the renewed effort of women to make their voices heard, highlighting their struggle towards equality and independence.”

Peter describes the upcoming lunar eclipse with similar methods here.
Of the May 25 lunar eclipse, he writes: “On the mundane level, this eclipse should be of immediate effect throughout parts of Canada, as can be seen from the world map below. The line of angularity also shows that the eclipsed Moon will be on the Descendant throughout Ireland, France, Libya and other parts of Africa. In these places the effects of the lunar eclipse will be noticeable by the end of this year, lasting into 2014.”

Lorna Bevan at Daykeeper Journal has an article called Tracking the Trail of the May Eclipses. She explains the Saros cycles. (The May 9 solar eclipse is the same Saros Series as May 1995 which brought the Oklahoma City bombings and the Unabomber.) Bevan quotes Bernadette Brady on this Saros: “This series is about release of tension. A situation which has been lingering will suddenly clear. In the clearing of the problem there is also a sense of grief or loss, which is not so much personal but belonging to the collective.”

Of the May 25 lunar eclipse, Bevan notes: “This penumbral eclipse is the last of the mutable Gemini/Sagittarius eclipses which began in March 2012, not to return until 2028. For those of you who are solar Pisces/Gemini/Virgo/Sagittarius between 2-6 degrees of the sign, this is the last ripple of the big personal upheavals until 2021.”
Genevieve Vierling, The Blue Light Lady, wrote Three Eclipses in a Row. She concludes: “May each of you be blessed as you consciously work with these eclipses. No one of them is particularly powerful in and of itself this time because the Lunar ones are considered ‘shallow’ and the Solar is not a total eclipse, but together in sequence they create a field wherein we can each accomplish a great deal of spiritual momentum in our lives.”

Andrew Smith, Agent EI at Cosmic Intelligence Agency, has a look at the May solar eclipse with good graphics and an interpretation of this eclipse’s relationship to the parent eclipse in its Saros cycle. For this eclipse, he writes: “The process of stepping away from the busyness of life to take time to reflect and start afresh is given a greater emphasis at the time of a solar eclipse, since the radiance of our Source energy is obscured and the focus is upon any unresolved needs, which are given a portal of light through which to escape from their imprisonment within the dark of your unconscious, resurfacing so as to be released and better understood in the light of your current awareness and consciousness.”
Carl Broudeau’s Astrology of May 2013 – High Voltage Politics starts with a recap of April’s events and aspects before a look at the key planetary aspects in May (with graphics). He is particularly sensitive to planetary patterns, not just discrete aspects. He concludes: “May’s eclipses tell us that we will cross a political and economic point of no return. The error of our old ways will become painfully obvious enough to spur genuine change. Attitudes will shift even more strongly in favor of immediate social and economic reform. However, as will all the other events we have discussed in recent months, this process will not take place overnight. It will be yet another long-term transformative process among others now unfolding.”

Peter Sher at Sher Astrology writes The Spring Eclipses 2013. “My view of eclipses is that they change the momentum of things and demand a change be made in some area of our life, whether we like it or not. In other words, they change the inertia of our lives. When there are three back-to-back eclipses, the cycle of changes lasts much longer and the shifts that occur can be deeper and more extensive. This becomes especially true if the location of these eclipses affects our personal chart.”

Jamie Partridge’s Astrology King site has this article: Lunar Eclipse May 2013. “This ongoing theme of toxicity I have been noticing, from the solar eclipse, Pluto retrograde, and potentially from comet ISON, is supported once again in the chart for the May 25 Lunar Eclipse.”
You can also read Jamie’s article on the May solar eclipse.
Cathy Pagano, writing at Wisdom of Astrology, includes Sabian symbols and reference to Adam Gainsburg’s work on Venus’ cycle in
The Cosmic Story: Taurus New Moon Solar Eclipse, May 2013
. “At this solar eclipse, Venus is still hidden within the rays of the Sun and she is on the far side of the Sun, the furthest away from Earth (apogee). Traveling at her fastest speed, she will soon emerge from the rays of the Sun to begin the Re-birth phase with her Evening Star appearance. The Transmutation Phase is a time when we can see what’s missing from our Feminine Self, a time to go within and re-discover our Inner Light and Beauty.”

Have a good week everyone, and thanks to all of these writers for helping us sort it all out.

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Pluto unannounced

By Mary Plumb | May 6, 2013

I hadn’t planned on writing about Pluto this week. I was thinking more about Thursday’s solar eclipse with the Sun and Moon conjunct Pallas Athena and the fine ability to recognize patterns.
But, I spent time this week with several people who had a current and exact Pluto aspect, and I was moved in a different direction. In the Greek pantheon, Hades, who we associate with the planet Pluto, wore a helmet of invisibility. He appears unannounced.
We know that the square between Uranus and Pluto is precise again this month, on May 20, with the planets at 11°14’ Aries and Capricorn. Uranus is direct now and Pluto is retrograde.
One friend has transiting Pluto exactly on the natal Sun (in the 8th house). She has been in an ongoing process with a shamanic healer serving as guide to the underworld. Many memories have surfaced and she is in a passageway in life that is exhausting and rigorous. But at that moment, as I happened by, with Pluto to the minute of arc on the Sun, she was raw, completely untethered from the life she had always known. On the outside, everything in her life looks completely normal and could not be better. Pluto rules the invisible process of soul growth.
When transiting Pluto was opposite my natal Moon (2° Cancer), I worked with this therapist/healer/shaman for more than a year, so I am familiar with the process she is in the middle of. Part of this particular method of journey is to retrieve lost parts of ourselves that are disowned through trauma or the rough and tumble of life. (There are many therapeutic approaches to address the lost, disowned, or unintegrated parts of ourselves. Yogic traditions, for example, teach many methods to purify the toxins in the body and the poisons of the mind.)
The view into the landscape of Hades, as described by the Greeks, is evocative. Just as the brothers Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades drew lots to see who would have dominion over which parts of the earth, maybe it’s not everyone’s lot to have this kind of call. But when it happens, it is unmistakable. Events can occur in the visible world and have an obvious impact, but the alchemy occurs in the interior life.
Brian Clark describes the different regions of Hades in his beautiful essay Hades as Place: The Underworld in Myth and Antiquity. (1)
Tartarus is the darkest, deepest, bleakest sphere of Hades. “Tartarus is reminiscent of the place in all of us that feels futile, repetitive, stuck and unresolvable. This is the aspect of Hades that has been most repressed and denied. It is a place of despair, depression, compulsion and rage: aspects of the psyche that are denied the light, yet need to be honored and recognized.”
Erebus is a middle region of Hades, where the souls of the dead, the “shades,” roam.
The third region, Elysium, the Elysian Fields, is for the heroes or those chosen by the gods. Clark says: “…in contrast to Tartarus or Erebus, it represents the outcome of a more conscious relationship with Hades and death.”
Clark describes The Rivers in Hades, which “carry the flow of feeling through our psychic underworld.” There are five different rivers: the hateful, the woeful, the wailing, the burning, and Lethe, the river of forgetting. Souls cross Lethe when entering or leaving the underworld: “the experiences of the world before were lost to conscious memory.”
We cross the river of forgetting and leave well enough alone until the next time Pluto suddenly appears; its unannounced quality is especially strong now with Uranus pressing in, with all its brilliance and promise.
As I see it, we are taking turns traveling in the realms of Hades these days. Maybe we’re getting better at it and can help each other along. Astrology is such an amazing guide for walking thorough life. Thanks to all of you for being present for each other.
Have a good week everyone. May the eclipse bring just the right amount of agitation and insight.
(1) My quotes are from a printed version, Hades as Place: The Underworld in Myth and Antiquity, Astro*Synthesis, The Chiron Centre, 407 Johnston Street, Abbotsford Victoria 3067 Australia, 1998.
There is a free download of a 2001 version of the essay at: 

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Venus cazimi

By Mary Plumb | March 18, 2013

Venus disappeared from the morning sky (Venus Lucifer, “the light bearer” to the Greeks) on February 16. She will reappear in the evening sky on May 16, when she will be low and faint in the sky after sunset. This begins her reign as Venus Hesperus, i.e., “setting in the West.”

Venus is invisible now; she is rising with the Sun.  (The Maya astrologers and many other traditions understood her disappearance to be her descent into the underworld.) On March 28, still invisible to us, she will make her superior conjunction with the Sun. She is on the other side of the Sun, farthest from the earth, at the superior conjunction, as she aligns with the Sun at 8º Aries.

Here’s a graphic that Robert Blaschke designed, from an earlier TMA blog (the superior conjunction is #6): (1)
Venus synodic cycle - Blaschke
Most modern astrologers think of the inferior conjunction (retrograde) as the beginning of the synodic cycle. The current cycle began on June 5, 2012  with the Venus transit, that rare (every 120-year) eclipse of Venus crossing the face of the Sun. This inferior conjunction of Venus with the Sun was at 15º44’ Gemini.

I was able to see Venus crossing the sun here in Ashland; I had the special glasses and the afternoon sky was clear. I had my own solo experience, although there were many gatherings and rituals worldwide for the event, and astronomers were delighted at the data they could collect. That rare and potent moment was the beginning of this synodic cycle. Venus is now at the midway point in her 584-day cycle around the Sun — another peak time for her symbolism to be noted and her inspiration to be felt. I can readily remember and conjure anew what I felt at the occultation. Maybe you can, too?

I love the perspective from traditional philosophy and earlier astrologers who understood the superior conjunction (from Latin: superus, “higher”) as being related to the planet’s most elevated position from the earth, and therefore closer to the refined energy from the heavenly spheres. Deborah Houlding wrote in The Beauty of the Venus Cycle (TMA Feb/Mar 2010): “As the planets culminate within their own spheres, they rise towards the purer, rarified regions of heaven and become spiritual and soul-like in quality and effect.” (2)

Another image to contemplate is Venus cazimi. At both the inferior and superior conjunctions, Venus is cazimi, in the heart of the Sun. In Lilly’s time, a planet in cazimi was seen as trusted advisor to the king, was taken into his deepest confidence and inner circle. We all have an inner king, a place of radiance and connection to the source of life. What are we holding there in closest confidence?

On March 28 Venus is in the heart of the Sun and at her farthest distance from earth. We can have a re-enchanted and renewed perspective on all that we cherish. This is a time for infusing beauty, harmony, and contentment into our very cells. 

Venus is cohesive and magnetic. Love — from amorous to universal — keeps us in relationship to all that is holding the world together. (3)

We may find that attraction, desire, and beauty come alive under the magnificent presence and immeasurable power of the Sun. Our personal aspirations and creative visions of the world are magnified. Cooperation is unlimited.

Remember Venus’s perfect and enduring symmetry, whereby she moves across the skies and creates a five-pointed star pattern every eight years. (4) No matter where one considers the start of the Venus cycle (i.e., at heliacal rise, at the inferior conjunction, or the superior conjunction), Venus will always make the five-pointed star in her eight-year journey with the Sun and the earth. On March 28, we are at one of the five points on a star.

Here’s a graphic showing the geometry of her orbit around the Sun:

Venus synodic cycle

Uranus was at 8º Aries at the Venus occultation that so auspiciously began this synodic cycle in June 2012. Uranus is back at 8º with the Sun and Venus for the superior conjunction.

Unexpected meetings and encounters carry an extraordinary promise; insights into the puzzles of our passions and loves fall into place; a different appreciation of solitude and companionship dawns upon us; the uninvited, the unprecedented, the perplexing, and the astonishing walk right into our intimate experience. Our appreciation for the maddening, terrifying, and gorgeous artistry of our lives is unbounded.

What is over the edge and just out of view has great magnetism now. The way forward toward greater love and cooperation carries Uranus’s radicalism. We are at the end of convention in some significant way inside of ourselves. (Look to the house with Aries on the cusp for the greatest punch.)

Onward, friends, into heightened sensitivities for all that is good in this world.


(1) Venus: Enduring Symmetry

(2) Deborah Houlding’s article, The Beauty of the Venus Cycle in TMA Feb/Mar 2010, considers the start of the Venus cycle to be the superior conjunction.

(3) I do well know her other possible expressions, i.e., jealousy, envy, greed, but for now, I’m staying in the heavenly spheres.

(4) Venus: Enduring Symmetry
Further resources:

(1) For an extensive description of the Venus synodic cycle and the rose pattern she forms as viewed from above the earth, see Nick Kollerstrom’s article Venus, the Rose and the Heart

(2) Here is my review of Anne Massey’s book, Venus: Her Cycles, Symbols & Myths.

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A Heavenly Deluge: Notes on the Planetary Line-Up in Pisces

By Ray Grasse | March 11, 2013

One of the more interesting celestial events taking place right now is a celestial line-up in the tropical sign of Pisces that involves Neptune, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Chiron, and Mars — with that group now being joined by the Moon as well (throughout most of Sunday, March 10th and Monday, March 11th). With Uranus hovering nearby in adjoining Aries, this makes for a truly interesting meeting of the planetary minds!

Pisces line-up

Line-ups like this (also called “stelliums”) not only indicate a heightened emphasis on the zodiacal sign involved, but more broadly serve as celestial “engines of change,” marking important periods of transition in society, as well as in our personal lives. Think of the term “revolution,” which is essentially astronomical in origin. When a planet makes a full circuit around the solar system to a given starting point, we say it’s come full circle, it’s made a full revolution. So when we see an entire group of planets coming together, it conveys the sense of one chapter closing off and a new one opening up.

This is something poets and filmmakers have long intuited. In Stanley Kubrick’s movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example, each of the major evolutionary leaps the film depicts are shown accompanied by skyward shots of planetary line-ups. Likewise, in the movie Dark Crystal, a similar planetary line-up is shown accompanying the shift in consciousness that occurs in the film’s climax.

However the full effects of any line-up aren’t always obvious right away, and can take months or even years to fully materialize. This makes perfect sense when you think of the symbolism of a conjunction, which has a “New Moon” quality — in contrast to the opposition, which symbolizes fulfillment. Like the old saying goes, “What the New Moon promises, the Full Moon delivers.” In that spirit, you might well describe a stellium as an industrial strength, super-duper New Moon! Unlike a typical New Moon, which reveals most of its effects in just a few weeks, the seeds planted by a stellium are far more dramatic and last vastly longer.

For example, prior to the year 1524, some European astrologers were predicting that the world would be destroyed in a great flood because of a large planetary line-up about to occur in the sign of Pisces. As it turned out, those fears were unfounded — in any literal way, that is. In the years which followed, a great flood did sweep over the world, but a more symbolic one, and it involved a revolution in the Christian world, with the rise of Luther and the Protestant reformation. Just as Copernicus decentralized humanity’s view of the universe by displacing the Earth as the hub of the world, so Luther “decentralized” European culture by challenging the supreme authority of the Catholic Church.

As it turns out, we find ourselves once again in the midst of another major line-up in the sign Pisces — and lo and behold, what do we see taking place in the religious world? A historic shake-up in the Catholic Church, not only with the shocking resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, but as a result of growing publicity about scandals involving the church itself.

On a more personal level, look to see where these planets are falling in your own horoscope for a sense of what areas in your own life are being affected. Is it in the 6th house? If so, then perhaps it involves health or work. Or the 2nd house? Probably money or resources. The 4th house? Home or family — and so on.

A few more thoughts. It was Manly Palmer Hall who first pointed out the correlation between planetary line-ups and major wars or conflicts on the global stage. For example, both World Wars, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and many others, began in tandem with major stelliums. Does this mean we might see a major conflict take shape in the coming days, weeks or months, in the wake of this current line-up? It’s worth noting that North Korea’s current leader has been engaged in some major saber-rattling lately, to the point of threatening the United States with his nuclear weapons. The Middle East has been heating up notably in recent days as well. One can only hope this connection fails to materialize this time around; after all, the mega-line-up of early 1962 didn’t give rise to an actual war so much as the serious threat of one, in the form of the Cuban Missile Crisis. (1)

On a more positive note, Pisces has long been associated with fantasy and imagination, so it’s probably only fitting that the big-budget reboot of the The Wizard of Oz, Sam Raimi’s film Oz the Great and Powerful is hitting theaters precisely in conjunction with this line-up in Pisces. In a subtle way, this may be telling us this is a time when we have easier access to the contents of our imagination and to the collective unconscious, as the veil separating the conscious and unconscious grows more diaphanous now. Or for those who are more spiritually inclined, it’s likely that meditation or contemplation could yield important insights and benefits during this period. And if nothing else, this is sure a time to watch your dreams!

(1) Editor’s note: There were six planets in Aquarius in early February 1962.

Ray Grasse is associate editor of The Mountain Astrologer, and his website is

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Ask an astrologer a question…..

By Anne Whitaker | February 18, 2013

Astrologers are always being asked questions — by clients, by students, by interviewers for various media outlets, by open-minded members of the public, by closed-minded-members of the public, by one’s friends and family. The list is endless, the questions multifarious, the answers….? Well, that depends . . . .

I thought it might be interesting, and fun, to share with TMA blog readers my own answers to a few typical questions I have been asked over the years. Perhaps you might feel like responding with examples of your own!

What is your most memorable personal experience with astrological symbolism?
I remember how gripped and excited I was early on in my work as an astrologer and teacher by the revelatory power of progressions. (I always found Naibod Secondary progressions to work best.) In the early 1990s I was doing a great deal of exploring of my own family horoscopes; an advantage of practising astrology in Scotland is that birth times are written on the birth certificate.

My Midheaven is 29º Taurus and the Ascendant is 9º Virgo. One day, I decided to take the horoscopes of my paternal grandmother and my maternal grandfather, the grandparents with whom I identify most, and progress them to the day of my birth. To my amazement, BOTH of their progressed Midheavens were 29º Taurus and their progressed Ascendants were 9º Virgo.

I remember being so stunned by this that I had to go out and clear my head with a walk in our local park. What I felt at the time, and still feel about this, remains beyond words to express adequately. It’s as though the wing of a great mystery fleetingly brushed my spirit, mystery shot through with a profound sense of the vast underlying ground of interconnectedness from which all life arises, to which it all returns — of which we humans are privileged to be a part.

It is perhaps unavoidable that, as astrology teachers and practitioners, we become a bit blase and matter-of-fact about our working world from day to day, as everyone does to a greater or lesser extent. But I have found — and I’m sure I’m not alone in this — that every now and then something so profound, so shocking, happens that we are reminded of the power with which we are engaging, and we are knocked sideways by it, just as I was that day.

Your training is in psychological astrology. Are you less interested in the way astrological symbolism can manifest concretely because of this?
No, not at all! In fact, the examples which immediately spring to mind in response to this question are concrete rather than psychological! No surprise that they mostly involve Saturn.

During the 1980s, the last time Saturn was transiting Scorpio, there was a year-long square of Saturn to my natal Moon. No doubt there were serious and profound psychological challenges involving both my own life and clients’ lives at the time. However, most vivid in memory is my lovely, heavy, bright silver neck chain, which, unaccountably, turned black early on in the Saturn/Moon transit. Rather upset by this, I took the chain to two reputable jewelers to be cleaned. Neither of them had any success. It remained a dull black. I almost threw it out, but in the end I stuck it at the back of my jewelry box and forgot about it.

Not long after transiting Saturn had moved away from the square to my Moon, I had occasion, whilst looking for another piece of jewelry, to rummage around at the back of the box. I pulled out that abandoned silver chain and could not believe my eyes. There it was, shining as brightly as ever.

(If the topic of planet/metal affinities interests you, the book to obtain is Nick Kollerstrom’s Astrochemistry: A Study of Metal-planet Affinities.)

The second example comes from a period in the late 1980s/early 1990s, when I was particularly interested in how planets conjunct the Ascendant can tell a very literal story of the circumstances of a person’s birth. I was doing a horoscope reading for a young man who had a 1st-house Saturn very closely conjunct his Sagittarian Ascendant. “Were there restrictive circumstances of a physical or practical nature at the time of your birth?” I asked. “Oh yes!” he replied. “My mother broke her leg not long before I was born and gave birth to me whilst wearing a plaster cast.” But let’s not leave Neptune out, shall we? A friend with Neptune conjunct his Libran Ascendant was born in a fake castle.

What transit always shows up for you in surprising ways?
They all do, especially the long lasting ones. The deep challenges that force our growth lurk, unknown to us, in the realms of the unconscious, just waiting to hitch a ride on the nearest really tough transit. For example, I didn’t think that a ten-year period of constant Neptune transits was going to involve a serious family crisis, total burnout on my part, and an enforced descent into the Underworld for much of that period! However, the good news is that I have now emerged, much improved (unless you ask my husband!).

What advice would you give to someone learning how to read their own chart?
One, there are dozens of ways to evade personal responsibility, so resolve at the outset never to do so by blaming your horoscope or your transits for your difficulties in life.
Two, realise that objectivity is something to be aspired to and can never be achieved by mere human beings. This being the case, try to recognise that you can be most objective, and therefore most helpful, by reading the horoscopes of strangers, provided you have appropriate training and supervision. When approaching your own horoscope, or those of your loved ones, you will inevitably colour the planetary picture before you with your own hopes and fears.
Three, the illuminating light, which is gradually cast as your understanding of the symbols in your chart grows, will be wonderfully helpful in shedding light on your gifts, pains, motivations, and aspirations. But bear in mind that possessing astrological knowledge has a shadow side; for example, I have never known anyone, including myself, who didn’t look at upcoming transits, especially of Saturn and Pluto, without a certain amount of fear.

To help my astrology students with this, I used to point out that 99.9% of the human race, from the beginning of time, has managed to stagger through life without the aid of personal astrology! So, enjoy the fascination of deciphering the astrological map of your life, but don’t get too precious about it. And be aware that this wonderful knowledge has a double edge.

What astrology books do you re-read or use the most?
The two astrologers who have most inspired and educated me have been Liz Greene and the late Charles Harvey, with both of whom I was fortunate to study — unofficially from the mid-1980s and formally between 1995 and 1998. As reference books for my interest in mundane astrology, my three favourites are: The Outer Planets and their Cycles by Liz Greene; Anima Mundi – The Astrology of the Individual and the Collective by Charles Harvey, and Mundane Astrology by Michael Baigent, Nicholas Campion, and Charles Harvey.

My copy of Steven Arroyo’s Astrology, Karma and Transformation, that wonderful in-depth companion on the “stormy journey of the soul,” is now so well-thumbed that it is starting to fall to bits. And when I feel like reading some outrageous, light-hearted, funny, but deadly accurate astrological analysis, I turn to Debbi Kempton-Smith’s Secrets from a Stargazer’s Notebook.

However, accompanying re-engagement with work as an astrologer and teacher, I am now moving into re-framing my relationship with astrology in keeping with the “new paradigm…. emerging in Western civilisation, led by transpersonal psychology, chaos and general evolution theories, and the human potential movement . . . ,” in the words of Armand Diaz, a fine writer and the author of Integral Astrology, which I have recently reviewed. I have also greatly enjoyed reading Bernadette Brady’s book Astrology – a Place in Chaos, which also re-contextualises astrology for the contemporary world. And, having been given The Archetypal Cosmos, by Keiron Le Grice, for Christmas, I am really looking forward to finding the time to read it!

Bio: Anne Whitaker is a writer and astrologer based in Glasgow, Scotland. She resumed her astrology practice part-time in May 2012 after a very long sabbatical. An extensive archive of her astrology articles can be found on Writing from the Twelfth House in the section Not the Astrology Column.
She can be contacted at

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Pisces takes over

By Mary Plumb | February 11, 2013

This morning there are four planets (and Chiron) in Pisces. The Sun enters Pisces on February 18, and Venus on the 25th. On March 9 the Moon will enter Pisces, when Mars is at 28º of the sign, so for two days there will be six planets (i.e., Moon, Neptune, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Sun) and Chiron clustered in the part of the sky we call tropical Pisces. We might just as well all volunteer to get lost and to cultivate that far-away look in our eyes these days.

Such a strong emphasis on a zodiac sign is not common:

For two days in February 1962, all seven visible planets were in Aquarius. (This includes Saturn and Jupiter, whose conjunction every 20 years is an astrological marker of a great new cycle of time.)

Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune formed ongoing triple conjunctions in 1988-89, and for several months in each year, five or six planets were in Capricorn.

And, on May 2, 2000, seven planets were in Taurus, including Saturn and Jupiter. (1)

The glyphs for the signs have somewhat mysterious origins, but the one for Pisces looks like two fish swimming one way and another. The paradox and ambiguity often experienced through the archetype of the fish is an echo of the vastness of the sea and the extremes to which the fish are drawn. It is not a moderate sign, but longs to experience wider possibility in every realm, e.g., sensation, purpose, meaning. Fish can only live in water; fish can only survive when part of something larger than themselves.

Pisces gives the ability to sacrifice a personal reference point and has a predilection for being absorbed in some ineffable thing. The sign brings the experience of being both pulled and held by the longing for greater inclusivity.

Some have seen the glyph as representing the two sides of the brain. In the physical brain, there are different pathways and connecting mechanisms that join the right and left sides. A primary one is the bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum, one of the parts of the brain that has been shown to benefit from meditation. (2) This reminds me that the main star in the Pisces constellation is a binary star, Al Rischa — the Arabic word for knot, which binds the fish together. (3)

Years ago, when my sister, New York astrologer Kate Plumb, was studying with Zoltan Mason, she told me something he said that has always stayed with me: the so-called higher octave (i.e., modern) ruler of the planet cannot function well unless the traditional ruler is in good stead. With Pisces we always have to consider Jupiter before hoping for the best from Neptune. Maybe we can take this to mean that as Jupiter — who the Romans saw as the one who puts the cosmos in order — sets our direction and aspiration to grow along lofty lines, we can more purposefully surrender to the labyrinth of sensation, empathy, chaos, imagination, introspection, dissolution, divine allurement, and all the magical and delicate decoys that may prevail at this time.

(Jupiter is visible in the night sky now and will be especially easy to spot on the 15th, 16th, and 17th when he is near the Moon.)

I wrote last night to my editor Kate that the words for this blog kept slipping away and I wouldn’t have it finished until morning. (With Chiron making its final passage over my natal Sun, I seem to be especially prone to Chiron’s suggestion of being outside of ordinary time.) Mars, Mercury, Chiron, and the Moon are closely together as I finish writing this morning.

For something more concrete, I’m remembering a few conversations with various people in my life in the past 24 hours that display the Piscean quality of renunciation. These calls announced: (1) a 40-day break from alcohol, (2) a 3-day silent retreat and fast, (3) a week-long retreat from ordinary business to devote to art and music, and (4) the beginning of a 10-day Master Cleanse. These people are all naturally attuning to the opportunity to clear the inner channels and doors of perception to recognize the refined states that Pisces may bring. (It is eminently malleable; after all, if we don’t like the feel of where we’re heading, we can always change course.)


(1) These are the ones I remember without doing any additional research, and there may be others. I will check with “the human ephemeris,” Nick Dagan Best, when he comes to Ashland in March for our local NCGR meeting.

(2) “The corpus callosum….connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres and facilitates interhemispheric communication.”

“UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues used a type of brain imaging known as diffusion tensor imaging, or DTI, a relatively new imaging mode that provides insights into the structural connectivity of the brain. They found that the differences between meditators and controls are not confined to a particular core region of the brain but involve large-scale networks that include the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes, and the anterior corpus callosum, as well as limbic structures and the brain stem.”
Science Daily

(3) You may enjoy this article:The Corpus Callosum, Buddha’s Enlightenment and the Neurological Basis for Creativity, by Jeffrey M. Levine, M.D.
“It occurred to me that connecting the left and right brain is very similar to prayer and meditation, marked by the physical gesture of bringing together the left and right hands. This union of the two sides of the body is a universally recognized symbol that transcends religious boundaries.”

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Asteroid Nancy and the Sandy Hook Massacre

By Alex Miller | January 14, 2013

We’ve had some time now to recover from the shock and horror of Adam Lanza’s actions on December 14, 2012, when he shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 26 people before taking his own life. Twenty of the dead were six and seven years old — sweet, innocent boys and girls dreaming of what Santa might bring them at Christmas. The others were teachers, administrators, and staff at the school, most of them dying in an attempt to stop the gunman or shield their students.

But there was a 27th victim that day, one whose role is more complicated and uncertain. Before he left for the school on his mission of utter evil, Adam Lanza first shot his own mother, Nancy, as she lay sleeping in her bed in their home.

Nancy Lanza was perhaps less innocent than her son’s other victims, though certainly undeserving of her fate. But it was Nancy who removed her troubled son from the public education system and home schooled him, thus increasing the isolation he experienced due to his diagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, a mental condition on the autism spectrum. It was Nancy who became a gun enthusiast, who legally bought and registered the firearms Adam used to kill both her and the others. It was Nancy who regularly took Adam to local shooting ranges to teach him to shoot, thinking this would encourage his “responsibility.” It was Nancy who, according to her ex-sister-in-law, had become increasingly isolated herself, a “prepper” stockpiling guns, ammo, and staples, concerned about the possible effects on society of the imminent financial collapse she saw coming.

And it is Nancy whose pivotal role in the tragedy is stunningly represented by a planetary station of a minor body that shares her name, asteroid Nancy (#2056), which turned retrograde the very afternoon before Adam Lanza’s killing spree.

Whenever I encounter a news story, I look to personal named asteroids to fill in the gaps in the planetary picture. The major bodies of our system can provide the outlines of the story, the broad-brush strokes that set the tone for the event. But alongside these, sometimes in the background but often prominent in the foreground, we find asteroids that match or approximate the proper names of the people and places in these events, giving stunning detail to the picture.

In the case of the Sandy Hook shooting, no less than 45 asteroids are present and active in describing the place, the shooter, his victims, even the make of the guns he used. This level of detail is impossible to convey in one short article, so I will focus on just two celestial phenomena and how these underpinned the tragedy.

I’m going to digress from asteroid Nancy and discuss the other factor first. This involves a rare occultation of Pluto by the Moon, something I’ve written about previously for The Mountain Astrologer.

I say “rare,” and it truly is, though if you’re looking at an ephemeris right now, you may not think so. That’s because this event, literally a “hiding” of Pluto by the Moon, had not occurred in 80 years until the current sequence began in April 2012. For 19 consecutive months, until August 2013, the Moon will be occulting Pluto every time they make their monthly conjunction. Like any other type of eclipse, an occultation highlights and energizes the hidden planet, activating latent potentials and generally stirring the pot in the affairs it governs.  

And with Pluto involved, this is a veritable treasure trove of hot-button issues — sexuality, taboos, spies and secrets, vast amounts of money, destructive, degenerative processes, death and decay, and murder. The Moon as the occulting body brings out Pluto’s issues in a very public, yet also intimately personal, way. Within hours of the first occultation in April 2012, an event occurred in Colombia that led to the exposure of a sex scandal involving prostitutes and the Secret Service. On the day of the May occultation, President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage. June’s occultation saw the congressional brouhaha over CIA leaks, and when the Moon occulted Pluto in July, the LIBOR rate-rigging scandal broke and Barclay’s CEO resigned. I lost track of the pattern after that, as late July brought the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings, the Sikh temple shootings, the Empire State Building shootings, the Wisconsin day spa shootings, and the Oregon shopping mall shootings (just three days before Sandy Hook).

The overarching energy driving all these stories is the ongoing square between Uranus and Pluto, which dominates our times. Violent, unpredictable, and destructive, this aspect has been further energized and aggravated by these monthly occultations, the latest of which occurred at 6:29 a.m. (EST) the day of Adam Lanza’s rampage.

It began when Adam Lanza murdered his mother by shooting her in the face as she lay sleeping in their home. Authorities are still uncertain about the timing of that first murder, but it must have been within hours of the occultation, as Lanza left for the school less than three hours later. The Moon/Pluto signature is all over the subsequent tragedy, with Pluto’s destruction and death being visited on various lunar-ruled entities, from the mother, to the early childhood period from which most of the victims came, to the preponderance of female victims, to the public space symbolized by the school. But we see the genesis of the atrocities most clearly in that first fateful act, depicted so simply by astrological keywords for the two planets involved in the occultation — the death (Pluto) of a mother (Moon), the hiding/occulting or extinguishing of her light forever.

The astrological story doesn’t end there. Nancy Lanza’s murder occurred the day after the asteroid Nancy made a station (this was at 1:11 p.m. EST). Stations are major turning points in the action of planetary energies, and they occur when a planet appears to slow down, come to halt, and change direction in the sky. The stationing planet spends much longer than usual at a particular degree, suffusing it with its vibration and focusing its energies on one specific area of the zodiac. Planets at station are emphasized in their effects and can attain a far greater prominence than their usual impact, becoming, in effect, the still point upon which all else revolves during the two-to-three-day period governed by the station.

When asteroid Nancy turned retrograde on December 13 at 17° Leo, it formed a grand trine composed of an exact trine to asteroid Lachesis at 17° Aries, and a second trine to a rare triple conjunction of Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO) Ixion, centaur Pholus, and asteroid Tantalus, all at 19° Sagittarius. These points are extraordinarily apt in light of subsequent events.

Lachesis is named for the mythic Greek Fate, who determines the span of a life; in the station chart set for Newtown, Lachesis was closely conjoined the Ascendant at 21° Aries, further heightening its effects. And indeed, it was under the station’s fateful aegis that Nancy Lanza’s lifespan was decided. TNO Ixion is named for the first murderer in Greek mythology, and centaur Pholus’ mythic tale is linked with mass deaths in a violent context, while also indicating the death of an innocent bystander. Tantalus’ story also involves murder and the commission of heinous, unforgivable acts, specifically against children. These three points were within orb of the Sun at 23° Sagittarius, giving them further strength and prominence; the pattern held through the following morning’s massacre, as all the celestial factors maintained the same degrees.

Nancy made two other exact aspects at the station, both of which tell about the tragedy. The first was an inconjunct to asteroid Nemesis at 17° Capricorn, which conjoined transit Mars at 20° Capricorn, also within orb of the inconjunct to Nancy. Nemesis is named for the Greek goddess of vengeance, retribution, and undoing, a force without mercy or pity, bent upon its goal of due enactment of karmic balance without regard to the cost, and oblivious to the fairness of her actions, or the lack thereof. Mars rules violence, attacks, and guns, as well as violent deaths.

The second aspect is an exact sesquiquadrate (135° degrees) to the asteroid Child at 2° Aries, itself conjoined transit Uranus at 4° Aries. Child, of course, needs no complicated interpretation of its role in the story, and in the conjunction to Uranus, which rules shootings, mental aberrations, and shocking, unexpected outcomes, we see the clear potential for disaster connected to youths. The linkage between asteroids Nancy and Child clearly speaks to the connection between Nancy Lanza and her offspring’s actions.

Pluto, the modern ruler of death, was at 8° Capricorn, very near the 11° Capricorn Midheaven of asteroid Nancy’s station chart, and about to receive the lunar occultation the next morning. Asteroid Lucifer, named for Christianity’s representation of ultimate evil, was at 10° Capricorn (also with Pluto), and was conjoined by the Moon exactly when Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary. A second triple conjunction was forming with Pluto; asteroids Osiris at 5° Capricorn, with Requiem and Sandra at 6° Capricorn, would become exact the next morning. Osiris is named for the ancient Egyptian god of the dead, Requiem for the funeral mass for the dead, and Sandra represents Sandy Hook, here intricately bound with not one, not two, but three indicators of death, and a symbol of irredeemable evil.

Moreover, 11° Capricorn, the degree of the asteroid’s station Midheaven, is repeated exactly in Nancy Lanza’s birth chart (September 6 ,1960); it is the degree of her natal Saturn, ancient lord of death, from where it opposes her natal Lucifer at 10° Cancer. Nancy’s natal Uranus, ruling shootings, was at 22° Leo, highlighted not only by asteroid Nancy’s station at 17° Leo, but also a close trine from the Sun at 23° Sagittarius and another trine from the station’s Newtown Ascendant at 21° Aries.  

Asteroid Nancy’s station had a powerful impact in Nancy Lanza’s chart, but for her son it was a revelation. In Adam Lanza’s nativity (April 22, 1992), it exactly opposed Saturn, ancient lord of death, at 17° Aquarius, bringing out a natal square from Saturn to a combination of asteroid Tantalus and TNO Chaos at 16° and 17° Taurus, creating a temporary t-square.  We have already seen Tantalus’ connections with heinous acts against children; Chaos is a point that acts much as its name suggests, as a vortex for chaotic, senseless situations that spiral out of control and leave devastation in their wake (although it also has connections, in its more positive manifestations, with the infinite creativity of the Void).

The asteroid Nancy’s station is also closely trine a spectacular cluster of points in Adam’s chart, including Venus and natal Nancy at 18° Aries (conjoined by transit Lachesis from 17° Aries at the murders); asteroids Phaeton and Busch at 19° Aries, and natal Sandra at 22° Aries. Venus, as general ruler of women (all seven adults killed were female, as were 12 of the 20 children), and Nancy as descriptive of the most important woman in Lanza’s life are self-explanatory. Phaeton indicates a stupendous self-created explosion or implosion, an all-consuming “blaze of glory” that threatens to take out everything in the immediate vicinity with it, while Busch is useful in identifying the Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle, which Adam Lanza used as the means of his destructive rampage. Sandra, in its guise as Sandy Hook Elementary, identifies the venue for his atrocities. Further, the Descendant for the station chart at 21° Libra falls just one degree off Adam Lanza’s natal Lucifer at 20° Libra, which closely opposes all the points in the Aries cluster, signaling his capacity to wreak evil upon or with the symbols represented.

There is so much more to this story (and interested parties may read a broader account in the January 2013 issue of Daykeeper Journal), but these two primary factors are sufficient for our astrological understanding of what happened that awful day in Connecticut. The added emphasis of the Moon’s occultation of Pluto brought out the worst manifestation yet of the Uranus square, while asteroid Nancy’s stationary stance in resonance to contributing factors of death and violence focused these energies on a small, seemingly exempt place and populace, which, until December 14, could not conceive of such tragedy and horror in their midst.

There are eight more Moon/Pluto occultations and another two years plus of the Uranus/Pluto square. We will see what happens next.

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