In countries and regions that have access to clean water, we are all washing our hands many times a day, doing what is necessary for immediate hygiene. (The asteroid Hygeia, in fact, features strongly in some charts of the start of the pandemic.) (1)
On another level, I can’t help but think that in this necessary and yet fetish-like compulsive behavior, we are collectively participating in some form of ritual purification on a massive scale. Ablutions, or ritual cleansing of the hands, mouth, or body are part of religious or ceremonial traditions across cultures — Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu monks and practitioners wash before prayers; Baptism in its many forms is essentially a cleansing in water, and priests and clergy in Christian churches wash their hands before handling the vestments or implements used in Mass.
With that image as my starting place, I need to say that I personally find our current situation overwhelming, complicated, and immensely significant in so many undetermined ways, but astrology helps me make sense of things and offers a respite of objectivity. As a quick synopsis, we know we are in the epoch-changing times of Saturn conjunct Pluto in Capricorn, accompanied now by Jupiter, as we end a 200-year cycle of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions in earth signs, and look ahead to the societal changes promised by the pair moving into air signs with the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Aquarius at the end of the year on December 21.
For now, I’m going to track a few planetary threads in the current timeline. First, as we all know, Capricorn is the sign where the most trouble and the most renewal is happening. In deference to that sign’s most obvious significations, it is noteworthy that the two largest organizations now mandating public health are intimately connected to the current planetary storyline. The first is the World Health Organization, which was established on April 7, 1948, when Mars, Saturn, and Pluto were in Leo. (2) (More on the WHO to follow)
The other is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was founded on July 1, 1946 in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s not my intention to single out the CDC — other branches of government are also involved — but they are the main agency responsible for providing the tests that virologists agree are imperative to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. A current transit speaks to the matter of testing, and is stark and easy to interpret. The CDC chart has Saturn at 25°52’ Cancer. February 7, 2020 was the first of three oppositions by transiting Saturn to the CDC natal Saturn.
CDC Inner wheel: sunrise chart; outer wheel: transits for Feb. 7, 2020
July 1, 1946
Atlanta, GA (33N34 84W23)
You can follow the tragic cascade of mistakes made at the CDC in many places, including these two articles whose headlines could hardly be more direct:
“The coronavirus test that wasn’t: How federal health officials misled state scientists and derailed the best chance at containment,” (4) and “The Lost Month: How a Failure to Test Blinded the U.S. to Covid-19.” The caption reads: ‘Aggressive screening might have helped contain the coronavirus in the United States. But technical flaws, regulatory hurdles, and lapses in leadership let it spread undetected for weeks.’ (5)
We can also look at Mercury in these past few months, as news of the coronavirus became the story of our time.
Looking back, researchers trace what is now known as the first case of COVID-19 to November 17, 2019, when Mercury was retrograde at 12° Scorpio. (6) True to Scorpio symbolism, the illness was not immediately recognized, was described as “cunning,” and apparently spread invisibly for months. It wasn’t until December 31 that dozens of cases of an unnamed illness were reported in Wuhan, China. Mercury came to 0° Capricorn on December 28 — 0° of the cardinal signs are known as the World Axis and bring the capacity to spread far and wide, i.e., global implications. Mercury was conjunct Jupiter at 7° Capricorn (and the South node at 8°) on January 2: Big (Jupiter) news (Mercury) of a difficult nature (Jupiter in detriment), and suggesting loss (South Node).
On January 11, the first known death of the virus was reported, a 61-year-old man in Wuhan, China. Mercury was at 22° Capricorn, the degree of the Saturn–Pluto conjunction, exact on the January 12.
I will fast forward to Mercury’s entry into Pisces on February 3, where he stationed retrograde on the 16th at 12°53’ within orb of Neptune at 17°37’ Pisces. Mercury moved into direct motion on March 9 at 28° Aquarius. That retrograde period brought some classic examples of wishful thinking, including Trump’s declaration that a vaccine would soon be available, and that the coronavirus “is going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” (7)
As mentioned above, Mercury stationed direct at 28° Aquarius on March 9. March 11 was a turning point in public awareness of the disease: For the first time, the WHO identified COVID-19 as a pandemic. Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and Pluto were all in Capricorn, echoing three of those planets’ presence in the WHO inception chart. In the U.S., the announcement came on the day that Tom Hanks and his wife reported that they had contracted the virus, and an NBA basketball player tested positive. These two events brought the virus into public awareness for the first time. Tellingly, the U.S. Moon, signifying the public, is 27°10’ Aquarius. It’s as if Mercury came back to awaken the U.S. populace to what is at hand. On March 12, the U.S. declared a national health emergency.
On April 3, Mercury in Pisces finally caught up with Neptune and formed their conjunction at 19° Pisces. On April 10, Mercury moves into Aries (again crossing the World Axis). Hopefully, we will be getting news and information that is not quite so trapped in the obscurations, fog, and multiple conflicting narratives of Mercury entangled with Neptune.
Meanwhile, we are living with the collapse of systems in every way imaginable. I may have an especially emotional group of friends and family members, but everyday I, and many people I know, are crying, enraged, frightened, bewildered, and confused by the enormity of what we are now living. It is surreal and disorienting. I’d like to write about managing all of this, but, for now, we know we are all in this together. And perhaps we can have compassion for the unredeemed parts of ourselves that may be rearing up as we sit together in the containment of our shared solitude.
I will close with a bit of timely music: Musician Bill Withers passed away on March 30, 2020 (not related to the coronavirus). He was born on July 4, 1938 — talk about a U.S. national treasure — with Sun, Mars, Mercury, and Pluto in Cancer. (8) Transiting Jupiter and Pluto were at 24° Capricorn exactly opposite his natal Mercury at 24° Cancer when he died. Maybe he has something to say as he leaves the world stage. Please enjoy his deeply soothing voice.
Bill Withers Inner wheel: natal, sunrise; outer wheel: transits for March 30, 2020
July 4, 1938
Slab Fork, West Virginia (37N30 81W20)
(1) See Arielle Guttman’s blog and Alex Miller’s article.
(2) Wikipedia: World Health Organization
(3) Wikipedia: CDC
(4) USA Today
(5) NY Times
(6) Live Science
(7) Vox: Trump’s 7 worst statements on the coronavirus outbreak