TMA This Week

Just in time – October Full Moon

By Mary Plumb | October 28, 2020

Although nothing in the outer world is especially soothing/comforting these days — an understatement as we are seeing a global surge in coronavirus cases and on the verge of the U.S. election that has rendered many of us all but unrecognizable to the rest of us — to find a moment of unity seems far away.

But, let’s never forget Venus — to the Romans she was, among her many correspondences, a goddess of victory.

She is in Libra until November 21.

Victory! Yes, indeed, but over what?

With so many raging moods, arguments, uncertainties and distrust amongst us, I’m personally attempting to reawaken the gifts that this strange time — born within lockdowns and seclusion and accompanied by the ever-present masked faces — has offered. Isolation has created a chamber for which some of us (those, perhaps, in the most fortunate circumstances) have been able to use well.

Venusian qualities of grace and relatedness are here for our benefit: What if everything is unfolding perfectly and in complete harmony, right now?

We can potentize the equanimity of Venus in Libra and we know it will change. It will move, it will tip over into bedlam or chaos or anxiety, and yet there is a timeless moment of equipoise within reach. The inward-dwelling-ness of the pandemic may have ripened our souls to respond to such an opportunity.

Full Taurus Moon
Oct 31, 2020
7:49 a.m PDT
Grass Valley CA (39n02, 1221w04)

Consciousness studies, meditation masters and physicists tell us that we are always participating in a wildly, grandly, heretofore unseen future. A massive creative experiment is upon us now: the Full Moon on October 31 is at 8°38’ Taurus/Scorpio, with Uranus eagerly, boldly, and exactly there with the Sun and Moon. Our interior experience (and the public life) are longing to be upgraded — we are taking another big step towards a new version of ourselves and our world. Let’s include whatever ghosts — or demons or unrequited loves or hatreds or aching resentments or terrors — the Scorpio season may be showing us. Scorpio understands that welcoming and embracing our whole selves is the surest way to disarm our most shameful or toxic habits.

Have a blessed All Hallows’ Eve, Taurus Full Moon and All Souls Day (November 2), one and all.

See you on the other side.

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“Why be Vulnerable?”

By Kate Plumb | October 15, 2020

I find it often difficult to write these days as there is so much to write about and so little time to put thoughts into words. I start a blog one week, and it is irrelevant the next. However, I recently read a piece in the New York Times that revealed a perfect and timeless solution to our current anxiety and fear as we watch the dance that Mars is making through the end of the year.

Siraad Dirshe’s article was titled “Bravely Choosing to Be Vulnerable.” (1) The author explains that the word “vulnerable” came into mainstream conversations through Brene Brown’s research, and her widely watched 2010 TED Talk. (2) Dr. Brown’s research focused on hundreds of interviews with individuals who felt a strong sense of belonging to a greater community. She concluded that all those interviewees had one thing in common — they all had made a choice to be vulnerable.

In Dirshe’s article she explores, what does being “vulnerable” mean? She cites writer Rachael Elizabeth Cargle, a public academic and lecturer who says that being “vulnerable” means allowing others to see what you are ashamed of.

There are many situations — especially these days — that may lead us to feeling vulnerable: being homeless; being unable to pay rent; the loss of a loved one, or a job; financial insecurity or experiencing unrequited love; feeling lost or afraid, or feeling a pervasive sense of loss for whatever we used to have, and no longer do (including our precious environment.) Most of these experiences illicit shame. It is this shame and not speaking about it that prevents us from being vulnerable. Although these admissions can be quite terrifying, the article concludes that it is to our benefit us to let down our walls, which are exhausting to maintain.

“Bravely,” the first word in the article’s title, caught my attention. Bravely relates to Mars. If you have a strong Mars in your natal chart, you are likely inherently brave. Mars entered Aries, where he is especially forceful and headstrong, on June 29th and will not leave Aries until January 7, 2021. Mars usually spends six weeks in a sign — this year he is spending six months!

Although Mars does a retrograde loop every two years, the retrograde has not occurred in Aries since between July 1988 and January 1989. If you have any memories of that time, you may see similarities between then and now. (I keep a journal: I burned my foot on the coals of a forgotten beach fire that August, and was laid up in bed with my foot in ice water for many days.)

Mars burns, incites and ignites. Placed in the fire sign Aries, this tendency of Mars doubles down. Mars in Aries can also indicate accidents if we are moving too quickly without a clear direction. Acting rashly can have negative consequences with Mars retrograde. Using this retrograde time (through November 13) to slow down, turn inwards and choose to bravely become vulnerable.

Looking back to Mars’s most recent retrograde in Aries: Summer and fall in 1988 brought forest fires (750,000 acres in Yellowstone burned); a severe drought across the Midwest produced heat waves that cost lives; riots in Tompkins Square Park, NYC when police enforced a curfew; a major earthquake across the Nepal/India border; two big oil rig explosions in the North Sea; a major cyclone in Bangladesh; Hurricane Gilbert in the Caribbean (the second most intense tropical cyclone in history); Pan Am Flight 103 (the Lockerbie bombing), and a major railroad accident in Paris. The U.S. Presidential election was between Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush. Dukakis was ahead when the Bush campaign created its famous Willie Horton ad focusing the voters on the fear of black violence.

The time prior to 1988 when Mars retrograde was in Aries was 1973. The Watergate Scandal was unfolding in August 1973; Mars was in Aries and turned retrograde in mid-September. (The break-in had occurred June 1972.) Forty-eight government officials, including members of the Committee to Re-elect President Nixon, were eventually convicted of wrongdoing in the attempt to obtain inside information by burglarizing the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate building.

By July 1973 it was revealed that Nixon had tapes of his meetings in the Oval Office. When Nixon was finally forced to release the tapes, it was apparent the tapes had been edited, as there were gaps in the conversation. (Vice President Agnew resigned in October 1973 over a matter unrelated to the Watergate scandal.)

On November 17, 1973 (with Mars retrograde in the same area it was in September of this year) Nixon made his famous statement, “People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.” On August 9, 1974 Nixon resigned.

I guess the lesson here is be careful of what you say or what actions you take during a Mars retrograde period in Aries. It might just come back to bite you. Remember it is not what you say that counts in astrology but WHEN you say it….

What is a solution? Do not make Nixon’s mistake, but rather turn inward and bravely choose to be vulnerable. Face and admit what you are ashamed of; let it move out of your system. Tell someone you love them, share your feelings.

Mars rules actions — it is spending so much time going back and forth in one area of the zodiac and actions taken in the outer world will get you nowhere, fast. Plans can instead be re-worked, redrawn or withdrawn. Use the remainder of this retrograde time most wisely by turning inward. Use the time to free yourself from the shame and blame that are carryovers from the past. Choose to be brave by becoming vulnerable.

(1) New York Times, print edition, August 16, 2020.
Why Be Vulnerable? is the title of the digital version.

(2) Dr. Brown’s 20-minute talk, The Power of Vulnerability, as been viewed over 50 million times and it one of the 25 Most Popular Ted Talks of all time.

© 2020 Kate Plumb – all rights reserved

Bio: Kate Plumb, “cycles scientist,” is a certified NCGR counseling astrologer who teaches at various locations in New York, and sees clients in her home office. She is also certified in Astro*Carto*Graphy. Website: Kate can be reached at or (631) 725-9133.

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An Important Message From Saturn

By Saturn Speaks | August 5, 2020

For a long time now I’ve been aware of a number of misdeeds happening on planet Earth. A great number of humans have been ignoring my rules and regulations.

The problem got so bad that in 2008 I enlisted the help of Pluto who came on board. He had the task of implementing my agenda and was happy to help. Since then he’s been pointing out to humans that their survival and the survival of the Earth is at stake, but even this life and death message hasn’t changed things. It seems that it’s going to take a bunch of us up here in the heavens, working together to sort out this mess.

January 12, 2020: The Sun, Ceres, Pluto, Saturn, Mercury alignment

So in January this year Mercury facilitated a meeting between myself and Pluto. And since Pluto and Ceres have been on speaking terms now for a few years, I thought it was a good idea to invite her along too. After all, this concerns the Earth and she knows quite a lot about
that topic.

Sol was there to oversee proceedings as a neutral observer, shining a direct spotlight on the Earth which really helped me in particular, but we’ll get to that part of the story a bit later.

At our special gathering in January, when massive bushfires swept across Australia, Ceres let us all know that she no longer has any control over the flora and fauna systems of planet Earth, which is a matter of grave concern to her and indeed to all of us up here. Even the seasons on Earth are out of kilter, so we could see how worried Ceres had become.

I’ve known for some time that time is running out down there on Earth. Many of you will be aware that I know quite a lot about time, as I have been in charge of it for as long as I can remember. I’ve orbited the Sun once every 29 Earth years more times than I can count. I still have plenty of time up my sleeve, but I could see that the Earth and its human population was in dire need of intervention, so I decided to recruit some assistance and that’s where Sol really helped out.

Sol helped me to look much more closely at the issues on planet Earth, and as I examined all the problems I happened to notice a very small, quite tiny virus that inhabits the micro level of creation. It immediately caught my attention. On closer inspection I realised that this virus, that they have called COVID-19, and I spoke the same language.

Thanks to Sol’s shining light, I could see that COVID-19 has exactly 29 proteins, so I knew right away that we shared the same physical structure and values.(1) He’s a mini version of me! I knew that he could be relied upon to get to the core of the problem on Earth and really help to get my message across.

My new buddy set about the task at hand. He’s been doing a really fantastic job. I am really so impressed at how efficiently he’s gone about it. A lot of people are behaving responsibly and are conserving the Earth’s resources. Ceres is happier too, because there’s less pollution and a lot of people are growing vegetables and planting more trees.

People on the Earth are starting to learn how to be more responsible and self-disciplined and beginning to think long term. Oh I know, there is a lot of fear and anxiety, but that’s an essential part of my plan. It makes people more cautious and thoughtful. They become more sincere and ethical too. I’ve used suffering and hardship before to educate people on Earth.

It seems that this is the only way to get my message across. But even now there are some people who think that my reality is an illusion. What concerns me the most are the irresponsible people on Earth who won’t face up to the reality of the limitations of the Earth’s resources. Unfortunately, there are some people who still aren’t getting my message, so it will be a while yet before my work is done.

So COVID and I will keep working hard to do what we must do, to put in place some obstacles, hardships, restrictions, limits and boundaries that will teach people how to be responsible and disciplined and recognise the limitations of earthly reality. Once this lesson
is learned I’ll get to work rebuilding.

As I said before, I have plenty of time, but sadly the Earth doesn’t. All of us up here have been really worried about the Earth. For eons, we’ve looked upon her vast array of beautiful and unique life forms. Only the Earth has these wonderful plants and amazing living
creatures. It’s unique and special and it must be preserved.

We all love the beautiful view we see every time the Earth passes by and we look forward to it, but we’ve noticed how much has been lost on Earth in such a short time. When Ceres let me know the full extent of the problem, I knew that it was time I took some drastic action.


(1) Researchers have discovered that COVID-19 has 29 proteins. Four are structural and 25 allow the virus to sneak in and invade the body. Chemical & Engineering News

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Sheltering together

By Mary Plumb | July 29, 2020

Every one of these days has felt crowded to me, complete unto itself, like a long chapter of a novel whose denouement seems to move farther and farther into the distance somewhere.

The physical and quantifiable evidence of these strange and stressful times — global pandemic, financial chaos, joblessness, borders closed to travelers ­— is everywhere, as is the immeasurable impact on our health and well-being.

The great difficulties of these last months that have kept us enthralled can be encapsulated by the current bundle of Capricorn planets. (1) Although we are all living through the same skies and the same planetary archetypes, our outer situations vary enormously, as does our access to resources, both within ourselves and in our environment.

But for everyone, losses are piling up — loss of lives, jobs, businesses, health, homes, gatherings, ceremonies — and a dark and foreboding grief is not hard for many of us to sense. We can also move from the weight of the current events, and join the unleashing of the enormous creativity and cultural liberation arising, as we align with the actors and impulses taking a seat at the new collective table that is forming.

Whatever life situations existed for us before the lockdown have not gone away, but rather have increased in magnitude and intensity. This current pressure cooker of conditions is something we are all living with, and what we are experiencing in our interior lives and how we are coping is an inquiry I am immensely curious about.

Like many of you, my circumstances require that I am often alone these days. Sometimes the quiet and solitude is a calm and restful cocoon, a blissful mix of sacred space and retreat. At other (random and suddenly changed) moments, what was snug and safe feels dense and oppressive. The contracting qualities in my mind can become claustrophobic and nearly panic-inducing. In conversations with friends and clients, I hear different versions, but the experience of extreme emotions and mental states are common nowadays.

I know I’m not alone in this; there are countless reports of a world-wide increase in depression and anxiety. In a study I heard about that seems relevant, the subjects were given a test, and when it was completed, they walked down a hallway to get the results. On the way, they passed two tables, one with a plate of cookies, the other with a healthy snack. If they had been given a very difficult test, the person would take a cookie (or two), while those who had taken the easier test chose the healthy snack. The interpretation was that taking the hard test depleted their resources to the point that a quick fix was needed, but after an easier test, subjects felt good and were able to make a better choice for themselves.

Now for the pivot to an antidote: A toast to the resources of the sign of Leo, where the Sun reigns until August 22. At its most positive and regal, Leo symbolizes our sovereignty, our true nature, our heart essence, and the still point within — wherever/however we have a taste of eternity, of being off the grid, and out of the matrix of our thoughts and concepts.

We all have unique ways of opening to and experiencing this timeless nourishment of the soul — something to be heralded and remembered often these days. With practice, as the yogis have shown, this beneficial state can be accessed with a few deep, slow breaths, and an emphasis on the exhale.

Joy is carried in this magical between-the-worlds state, familiar to many, including artists, musicians, and practitioners of esoteric and devotional arts. If we draw on the interplay between mysticism and science, some physicists believe that 93% to 95% of the matter that makes up the universe is “dark matter” or “dark energy,” essentially what can’t be seen or understood. (2) This is the realm of the truly creative, unseen forces that guide our world.

This state of deep relaxation, or access to what can be called our true nature, has a direct parallel in the physical body. There is the sympathetic nervous system that provokes anxiety and is triggered during stress or perceived danger, while the parasympathetic nervous system restores the body to calm.

There are clearly many difficulties in everyday life now.  The Covid-19 virus and our digitally-enhanced lives can generate fear and anxiety, which is unpleasant but also hard on the immune system. Our collective moment requires a lot from us: Befriending Saturn by noticing our edges of fear and changing the tone, or coming back into balance, can be very helpful in cultivating patience and in taking the long view necessary for the road we seem to be on.

I hope these simple thoughts are helpful. How is everybody doing? Please share your stories/comments below.


(1) For those interested in a recap, Saturn and Pluto began a new 35.6–year synodic cycle on January 12, 2020 at 22°46’ Capricorn. We’re midway through the series of three Jupiter–Pluto conjunctions in their 12.46–year synodic cycle. The first conjunction was on April 4, 2020 at 24°53’ Capricorn, then on June 29 at 24°06’, and, lastly, the one on November 12 at 22°51’ Capricorn.

Saturn–Jupiter are still in the Balsamic phase of their 19.8–year synodic cycle, as we trudge through these ending days of their 200 years in the earth element. They have been conjoining in earth signs since 1802 — the beginning of the Industrial Revolution — and the year 2000 was the last conjunction in earth signs. The next conjunction, December 20, 2020 at 0°29’ Aquarius, begins a 200-year period of conjunctions in air signs.

(2) Physicist David Bohm, who had extensive dialogues with Krishnamurti, the Dalai Lama and other spiritual masters, developed a complex theory about the nature of reality and existence. His ideas, including the implicate and explicate orders, are discussed by William Keepin, Ph.D. in TMA article Astrology and the New Physics: Integrating Sacred and Secular Sciences. Dr. Keepin’s article was originally published in TMA, Aug/Sep 1995, and reprinted in TMA Oct/Nov 2009.

Thanks to TMA Publisher Kate Sholly for recommending this recent interview by Krista Tippet with Pauline Boss, author of the 2000 book, Ambiguous Loss.

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At Home with Hestia: a return to center

By Brian Clark | May 5, 2020

Our world changed in a heartbeat — anxiety frequently accompanies sudden and unexpected change. And when the anxiety of change is elevated, the instinct to imagine often turns to visions of ruin or doom; hence, telling mythic stories during this time can be of assistance. Myths turn our imaginative eye to the symbols and archetypes that sustain our humanness. They support us in the process of seeing through the literal world. How might we see through, or find a way of thinking about, the viral symptoms that are capturing our day-to-day headlines?

Symptoms are signposts to the soul. Soul does not consign the Coronavirus exclusively to an exterior reality or an event, but also identifies its inner dimension. An unwelcome visitor has been brought to the doorstep of our global village. What do we do? What would Hestia do?

I find it extraordinary that around the world the governments’ guidelines are directing us to stay home, to seek the shelter of our home-place! We are all called home to Hestia’s hearth to regain our focus, to relocate our center, to realign our values, to reflect upon, and to recover what’s been lost — and we have time to be contemplative and creative. [*]

Worldwide, we are advised to return to Hestia, the divine image of stillness and quiet. In her presence we may get a glimpse of what this time means to us, whether with personal reflections on family life, our rituals, our values, or collectively in terms of our humanness and greater humanity. The first stage in any profound transition is to go quiet — in this stillness we can feel Hestia’s embrace.

Hestia was the first-born child of Cronus and Rhea. She was the first of the Olympians, the first to be devoured by Cronus, and the last of his five children to be disgorged from his belly. The god Zeus escaped this fate, yet he always acknowledged his sister Hestia as the first goddess and the one to whom appropriate sacrifices must be made before family meals.

Hestia is first- and last-born. Being centered and focused on the inner world, she remains untainted by the world outside. Hestia is not found on the outer rim of the wheel, but is situated at its center, carrying qualities of stillness, discretion, centering, quietness, and stability. While uncomplicated by the world, she is not indifferent or unmoved by its suffering. Her spirit pervades places of sanctuary, refuge, and asylum. In the still atmosphere of the central hearth she creates the space for images to gather around. She is host to both guests and ghosts, providing the psychic room and nurturing space within which inner images can breathe. (1) Hestia is hospitable to all who arrive at her door.

Hestia welcomed the uninvited visitor as guest. The goddess knew that the voice of the divine spoke in many tongues, through many vessels, and in many ways; therefore, whoever arrived on the doorstep was welcomed. Even the diseased were offered hospice, as this was her way of healing. I am reminded of Rumi’s beautiful poem The Guest House, always appropriate, but ever so in the climate of today. (2)

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

As a goddess of hospitality, her presence is invoked in the guest chambers of the hospices and hospitals through rest, quiet, and stillness. She is the balm carried on our prayers and healing images for those in hospices and hospitals.

Few myths, statues, or temples remain of Hestia; she is rarely personified, yet before life became focused away from the home, she was the most honored goddess, worshipped at the center of every household. By Classical times Hestia was not included as one of the twelve Olympians, having been replaced by Dionysus. Hestia and her brother Hades are the only two siblings who remain separate from Olympian family dramas. Their places are internal, interior, introverted.

Few images or altars survive to remind us of their worship or importance. As gods of place, both Hestia and Hades have been re-placed and dis-placed, potent clues as to what we have culturally and psychologically done with these archetypes, these essential aspects of instinctual life. In a modern context Hestia’s hearth has become displaced onto the hustle and hurry of life, the lack of time and busyness of the outer world. As an image of the center, Hestia is not personified nor remembered by outer images and icons. In many ways she is missing, lost in the unconscious, yet ironically the governmental decree to shelter-at-home invites us to honor the goddess once again, to revive her presence and authority at the center of our lives.

Central to our psychic life, Hestia is the sacred center — the goddess who honors sacred space and protects sacred images. Hestia is hospitable, welcoming guests and ghosts to gather around her hearth, as here, with focus and attention, we tell and hear the stories of life.

As the hearth, Hestia is the center and focus of the home, the curator of family life, offering a place where our circle of ancestors can gather. As custodian of the hearth, she personifies the fire burning at the heart of life, the fireplace of the home, and the flame lit in the city center. She is the Olympic flame that will burn even though the games cannot be played. She sustains the inner world, but has been forgotten in the stampede of outer life. Formerly consigned to the unconscious, she has reappeared in the center of this pandemic.

The myth reveals that the instinct for centering ourselves, personified by Hestia, is the first divine child consumed by Cronus, the Titan god of time. Saturn, Cronus’s successor, is characterized by authority, organization, management, and control of the outer world; along with time, this all devours the presence of mind needed to be centered at the hearth of our inner world. Hestia personifies the last qualities to be released by the cartel of Cronus. We are called back to the hearth to contemplate the creative act of centering.

Has Cronus, as we’ve known him, finally released enough control to reset our human priorities, values, ethics, and integrity?

When we do not honor Hestia, we dishonor an archetypal pathway that connects us to our center, our stillness, our inner life. We risk being drawn out before we have fully repaired our relationship to Hestia. She invites us back to the hearth to reset and re-center the world that forgot her, a world brave enough to be still. A world still enough to heal.

[*] Editor’s note: Vesta is the Roman name for the Greek goddess Hestia. Asteroid Vesta is the brightest asteroid in the sky and has an orbit of 3.63 years.


(1) Barbara Kirksey, “Hestia: A Background of Psychological Focusing,” from Facing the Gods, edited by James Hillman, Spring Publications, Inc. University of Dallas, Irving, TX, 1980, p.110. The author explores the etymological connections between hospitality, host, hospital, ghost, and guest.

(2) See Rumi, The Guest House.

Bio: Brian Clark is the creator of the Astro*Synthesis distance learning program which has been shaped from his experience as an astrological educator and counsellor over the past 40 years ( Brian has his BA (Hons) and MA in Classics and Archaeology from the University of Melbourne, and has been honoured with lifetime membership from the state, national, and professional astrological organizations in Australia. His books and articles have been translated into numerous languages. His newest book, Soul, Symbol and Imagination: The Artistry of Astrology, is a reflection on his vocational path in astrology. Brian now lives in Tasmania with his wife Glennys and dog Rufus.



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Pan and the Pandemic: Love in the Time of Capricorn

By Brian Clark | April 14, 2020

Our word pandemic arises from the Greek pandemos, formed from the two ancient words pan, meaning “all,” and demos, meaning “people.” Pandemic implies all people. It was first used in the mid 17th century as an adjective suggesting of, or belonging to, all people — the public; its use as a noun was recorded in 1853. (1) Today, in the atmosphere of 2020, it is a well-worn word. When used, it reminds us that we are all the same, all on the same journey, and all susceptible to the same forces.

Coronavirus is a pandemic disease; the very sound of the word evokes anxiety as it threatens our world. Lives and livelihoods are at risk. We are gripped by the instinct to panic.

It was the great god Pan who lent his name to our word pan-ic, as when someone was frightened by his presence, a state of fear and anxiety was evoked. Imagining his exceptionally loud voice or the mere sight of the goat-footed god alarmed the ancients. Imagining the presence of the god could invoke panic. What was imaginal became physiological. Pan personified the archetypal constellation of pagan power and Nature in all its beauty and in all its savagery. Honouring Pan, being pantheistic, acknowledges the gods who dwell in the natural world.

Pan is the only Greek god I know of who was reported to have died. In the 1st century C.E., Plutarch gave an account of a sailor, Thamus, hearing a mysterious voice shouting out a message as he steered his ship along the western coast of Greece. As instructed, Thamus proclaimed that the great god Pan was dead, and the news spread fast throughout Tiberius’s Roman Empire. The Christians interpreted this to mean an end to the pagan era, the demise of all pagan and Nature gods. Under the new regime, Pan’s image was used to characterize the Devil. “Great Pan is dead” has come to symbolize institutional collapse, the nadir of a cycle, or the end of an era — more on that later. For now, let’s meet Pan the god animated in our instinctual responses to fear.

In Greek myth, we will find numerous genealogies for Pan: fathered by Zeus, Apollo, Dionysus, Odysseus, even Penelope’s suitors; mothered by Penelope or a variety of nymphs. There are many Pans. (2)

Of the many, perhaps Pan’s most commonly known DNA is from the union of Hermes and Dryope, as told in the Homeric Hymn to Pan. Dryope, after giving birth to her “goat-hooved, two-horned son,” panicked. As soon as she saw his fierce face “covered with beard,” she fled, abandoning her son. Proud of his son, Hermes clasped the newborn in his arms and carried him to Olympus to show the other gods, who were all pleased and, hence, named him Pan: “And Pan was the name they gave him for pleasing the hearts of them all.” (3) The immortals welcomed Pan as part of their divine family. As god, as archetype, Pan is ensouled on our psychic terrain. But by prohibiting this god from our natural terrain, the divine Pan is dishonoured every time we plunder the forests, every time we maltreat an animal, every time we pollute the natural environs.

At the end of Phaedrus, Socrates offers up a prayer to the local deities: “Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and the inward man be at one.” (4) It is a wise prayer resonant today, since our outwardness seems so out of kilter with our inwardness.

Pan and the Pandemic
What might Pan have to do with pandemic? Well, probably not a lot, except that myth and its inhabitants loosen a way of thinking, allowing symbols to take us to new ways of imagining and perceiving. With alternate ways to think of Pan, we may be less terrified of his booming voice or not as repulsed by his face. The presence of symbol is not to clarify or to explain, but to engage us in mystery.

For instance, “The Homeric Hymn to Pan” is Hymn 19, the same serial number as COVID-19! It has been reported that the transfer of the virus from animal to human may have been passed from bat to pangolin to human. Ironic that “Pan” (even though the word pangolin originates in Malay) shows up again, but even more poignant is that the endangered animal is sought for its medicinal properties. I make no meaning of this except to recognize that, when researching the symbolic world, synchronicities abound, as we enter through a portal to a world where linearity and literality no longer form timelines nor causal relationships. They reveal through images, thoughts, senses, feelings — not statistics or facts. We are in mystery, the sacred space revered by gods, but which often causes panic in the secular world, such as the stock market roller-coaster ride, panic buying, doomsday, or naive predictions.

How might we think of Pan in midst of the pandemic? Pan is Nature, both beautiful and treacherous. With Pan dead, so too is Nature. Gods do not die, but they can be dislocated, denied, and silenced. With Pan dead, so too is our relationship to Nature — to all forms of Nature, to Nature’s pantheon. While trees, animals, rocks, hilltops, and valleys may be assigned to a god, they are Nature’s deities and speak through all the spirits of nature, whether embodied by dryads, devas, elementals, nymphs, or satyrs. Nature is not just godlike, it is God.

In his beautiful tribute to Pan, D. H. Lawrence speaks of the death of Pan as if the mechanistic world has replaced Nature, a world now mastered by humans who locate the god in the machine. Our pantheon no longer includes our Nature spirits, but is pervaded by mechanistic gods. Lawrence poignantly pleads:

“A conquered world is no good to man. He sits stupefied with boredom upon his conquest. We need the universe to live again, so that we can live with it.” (5)

Nature is Pan, all the trees, all the animals, all the stones — all of us. Gods do not die, yet they can be repressed. As James Hillman emphasized, Pan still lives. He exists “in the repressed which returns in the psychopathologies of instinct,” and it is these psychopathologies that assert themselves in panic. (6) Let’s remember that at the heart of this big word psychopathology is the invitation to study the soul’s suffering. Without Pan the soul suffers, the mind is anxious. A hybrid, a goat-man, Pan is an imaginal figure who is instinctual, not civilized.

Pandemic returns us to Nature. Planes are not flying, air pollution is decreasing, birds are singing. Pandemic also isolates us, inviting us to return to quiet and stillness, having been lost in our mechanistic, nature-less world without Pan.

Pan, Capricorn, and the Devil
No doubt Capricorn is an “old goat,” as the zodiacal constellation of either a horned goat or a sea-goat was recognised as early as the second millennium B.C.E. While known as a goat to the Persians, Syrians, and Hindus, this constellation was identified by the Babylonians as a goat-fish. It may have been the Assyrians who first superimposed the image of the goat-fish onto the constellation about mid 7th century B.C.E., around the same time that the Arcadian shepherds told stories of their god Pan.

The Greeks found a correlation to the stellar image in their myths of the horned goat-god Pan who, when frightened by the monster Typhon, jumped into the sea and transformed himself into a sea-goat, identified as the goat-fish god Aigipan, one of the many Pans. The Greeks made another mythic connection to the constellation through Amaltheia, Pan’s sister. Amaltheia was the goat-nymph who nursed the young Zeus when he was concealed from his father Cronus, the Titan king. Grateful, Zeus immortalized Amaltheia in the heavens as the constellation of Capricorn. Zeus took one of her horns and filled it with the fruits of the harvest. This plentiful symbol was the Cornucopia, the Horn of Plenty, an emblem reminding us of the abundant resources underpinning this sign. As a bountiful mother substitute, Amaltheia constellates the polar opposite to Cronus, the devouring father. Cronus is the predecessor of Saturn, the deity who astrologically rules Capricorn.

The oppressive side of Saturn, ruler of Capricorn, exposes the rigidity and anxiety of the authority complex that underscores the myth of this constellation. In Capricorn, we are confronted with the split between Pan’s instinctual drives and Saturn’s devouring and controlling aspects that attempt to exert power over what feels compulsive and unknown. An obsession for perfection has no room for Pan. Capricorn is vulnerable to striving for perfection. But success, excellence, and accomplishment are too often measured in terms of consensus and corporate directives, not the soul. In the split between the public need for perfection and the private sense of failure, we see that anxiety and pan-ic can become constellated. Pan returns us to “All.” What are our communal responsibilities and objectives for caretaking our natural world? The Capricornian myth reminds us that this search for sovereignty and control of our lives can be nurtured by an ancient wellspring in the guise of Amaltheia, the soror mystica of Pan. (7)

In the myth, we are reminded that Cronus, as the regent of the old order, and his son Zeus, the light-bringer and leading god of the new era, are adversaries. In Capricorn, a collision between these two ways often occurs: the way of the father versus the way of the son, or the way of the leader versus the way of the people, perhaps the public life versus the private life. Capricorn is a symbol of autonomy and self-reliance won through the confrontation, perhaps battle, with the authoritative ruler of the old way, who controls through fear and uncertainty. In the Tarot, the old order is the Devil, symbolizing the fearful and limited patterns that enslave the individual. Without hope or reason, the individual is bound by a limited reality constructed out of the Devil’s concrete world of materialism and desire. Fearful of progress and change, the Devil imprisons his own creativity and potentialities in a world that offers no possibilities or choices. “Better the Devil we know” — perhaps pandemic reminds us to acknowledge Pan and the devils we deny. (8)

As the astrological ambassadors of Cronus and Zeus, respectively, Saturn and Jupiter symbolize this mythic template. Together they rule the last four signs of the zodiac, and during the pandemic they pass through Capricorn to meet at the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice. They conjoin in the first degree of Aquarius, the midpoint of their four transpersonal signs. While Aquarius’s mythos calls forth other gods, Saturn still rules the sign.

In the tropical zodiac, Capricorn heralds the winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere, the nadir of the solar cycle. The beginning of Capricorn marks the turning of the Sun; the darkest moment has passed, and the light-bringer, the new torchbearer, emerges. In the Roman calendar, this was marked by the Saturnalia. At this time, Christians celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ, the antithesis of Pan. This marks the ending of the year, the old order. About one-third of the way through Capricorn, the New Year is born. Like great god Pan, Capricorn heralds the end of an era, the bottom of the cycle. At the darkest point in the journey, another round begins. As we approach the nadir, sanctions and limits are often introduced to remain in control and ensure that the situation remains static and unchanging. Similar to the work of the Devil, life can be locked up in a state of fear and homeostasis, leading to depression and powerlessness. Tradition and the past need to be honoured in Capricorn, yet not to the extent of imprisoning the new order which wants to emerge. Fearful of progress and change, the Devil imprisons his own creativity and potentialities in a world that offers no possibilities or choices.

Enchanted by the sweet sound of the wind blowing through the reeds, Pan tied them together to make his beautiful instrument of the panpipes. From Nature, music arises. During the pandemic, Pan is alive in the music that has poured out of the windows and balconies onto the streets again, in the banging and making noise to appreciate the work being done, and in the anxiety we all are feeling. Pan’s music is the natural and instinctual creativity embedded in our being. The Devil arises when it is not allowed expression, devoured by our fear, enclosed by fixed beliefs and self-interested values. Imprisoning creativity locks us in a two-dimensional materialistic world where power is derived through status and possessions. Imprisoned in this world, panic arises, driving us into a compulsive round of satisfying physical desires. Creativity inspires the imagination, which brings the freedom to fertilize a new way of being. But first we must acknowledge the end of the cycle. Pandemic is the nadir of the cycle.

Astrologically and metaphorically, we are in the tropics of Capricorn. In 2020, a host of planets are at a crossroads in Capricorn, as if the heavens repeat the theme of the ending of institutional, governmental, and corporate control, as Pan and his pandemic return the establishment’s focus back to the health of the people. Governments introduce new rules; treasuries release more resources — the qualities of Capricorn are brought into focus. But the health of the populace depends on Nature, not corporate cartels. Pan is Nature in all its manifestations. We are no longer — actually never were — able to control the natural world; it’s just that, before, Pan had not shouted loud enough for us to panic. Perhaps now? And will we remember this after the pandemonium (Pan-Demon-ium) has passed?

Love in the Time of Capricorn
How sad I feel, as I walk down the empty streets and look in the vacant shops and stay a metre-and-a half away from any other human being with whom I might cross paths. Yet the sky is a beautiful bright blue, the birds are singing, and my garden is profuse. Within a heartbeat, our familiar world is no longer out there, at work, on the streets, in the cafes or pubs. It is home, a return to Hestia’s hearth; we have been called inside, for our outward nature to be more still.

It is a time of Capricorn — of social distance and self-isolation. The world has changed; it’s no longer business as usual. Like any time of great upheaval, there is a possibility of initiation; Capricorn initiation suggests the descent into the fears of loss of purpose, of instability, of control, of economic collapse. The first stage of any initiatory transition is generally recognized as separation, either a physical and/or a psychic separation from the community and conventional life. We are in the separation phase: quarantine and closed boundaries. Forced into an unknown situation, the initiation takes place through encountering in ourselves and others what is repressed and needs healing and liberation. Then we are able to return to a more integrated world with appropriate boundaries and integrity. At least, that is the theory: Capricorn implies hard work, focus, integrity, respect. Capricorn’s soul-making process is authenticity which is inside, not out.

How do we love and relate in a time of Capricorn? Authentically, I feel. We make room for it All — especially what we fear. We return to Pan and find a way for our instincts and pagan self to be acknowledged in ways that suit our nature, not damage it. We form relationship to our professional self, that self we profess to be, not the one we make up to win favour and reward. We respect the other, not because they have things but because of who they are. We honour boundaries so that others can be who they are, not what we desire them to be. Love in the time of Capricorn allows us to bring quality, integrity, and sincerity back into our relationships through returning to that in ourselves.

Astrologically, Capricorn has that in-built paradox of being a trans-personal sign, yet sensitive to feelings of aloneness and rejection — feelings often denied in the pursuit of outer rewards. The pandemic brings this paradox to light; loneliness, depression, and sadness are felt in our isolation as we pass through this time. But this is a feeling, not a reality; negative feelings are feelings, too, not realities, unless we make it so — another Capricorn paradox. Perhaps we are being called to reach out through these feelings to find our authentic humanness.

How Will It All Pan Out?
Pan, as a pagan god of Capricorn, must feel so displaced to see his landscape desecrated by mines, logged to death, crowded with animals raised to slaughter. But our inner landscapes are crowded, too, with acts against the Self. We start here.

How will it all Pan out? I don’t know. I do know that in times of uncertainty, we want to know and often seek the assurance of oracles and diviners; hence, astrological predictions will abound during this time. And astrology is very assuring because at its heart is the reality of the cyclical process, so evident in 2020. But perhaps we need not to know the outcome at this juncture so that another knowing can emerge out of our being present and participating in the process that involves us All.

I return to another Pan, a heroine who emerged at another time of great transition when the natural world was ceding to the civilized one, when Prometheus stole the fire and gave it to humans, and when the Goddess was trampled by the heroic cults.

Her name is Pandora, which means “All Gifts.” In her urn was a pandemic of disease, and when the lid was taken off all these viruses were released amongst the entire human race. (9) But left at the bottom of the urn was Hope, the great gift that the Goddess passes on in times of pandemic. It is not wish fulfilment, nor expectation or optimism, not even prophecy. It is the deep knowing embedded in every human being, underneath the fear, the disease, and the desires. Hope is the human quality passed on in times of pandemic that guides and motivates us all when all seems to be lost.

Another Pan goddess is Panacea, the daughter of Asclepius, the god of healing, who also lends her name to herbs and medicines. Her name derives from the ancient Greek pan and akos, which means “remedy”; hence, panacea is the cure-all. Modern scientists in our labs across the world are researching and formulating the panacea for our pandemic. Alchemists sought to formulate the panacea in their laboratories; therefore, like them, it is critical to remember that our pandemic disease is not cured solely by a physical vaccine, but also through the healing of our relationship to the Self and the World.


(1) Merriam-Webster Dictionary

(2) For reference to the many Pans, see Timothy Gantz, Early Greek Myth, Volume 1, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 1993, pp. 110–111. See

(3) “The Homeric Hymn to Pan (Hymn 19)” from The Homeric Hymns, translated by Michael Crudden, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001.

(4) “Plato, Phaedrus” from The Essential Plato, translated by Benjamin Jowett, The Softback Preview, 1999, p. 851.

(5) D. H. Lawrence, “Pan in America,” Southwest Review, Vol. 11, no. 2, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas (January, 1926), p. 113.

(6) James Hillman, Pan and the Nightmare, Spring Publications, New York, NY, 2007, p. 27.

(7) The soror mystica is an alchemical reference meaning “mystical sister,” the anima or equal partner to the alchemist. In this image, Amaltheia is Pan’s partner in Nature, the nurturing and caring sides of our natural world.

(8) Of interest, a beloved childhood character, Peter Pan, took the goat god’s name. Disney’s characterization excluded the darker tones that underlay the original character created by James Matthew Barrie.

(9) I am reminded of the mythic theme that Melanie Reinhart so aptly amplifies with Pholus, another hybrid on the margins of the civilized world. See Melanie Reinhart, “Pholus: ‘The Lid Comes Off,’” from Saturn, Chiron and the Centaurs, Starwalker Press, London, 2011, pp. 215–234.

Bio: Brian Clark is the creator of the Astro*Synthesis distance learning program which has been shaped from his experience as an astrological educator and counsellor over the past 40 years ( Brian has his BA (Hons) & MA in Classics and Archaeology from the University of Melbourne and has been honoured with lifetime membership from the state, national and professional astrological organizations in Australia. His books and articles have been translated into numerous languages. His newest book Soul, Symbol and Imagination: the Artistry of Astrology is a reflection on his vocational path in astrology. Brian now lives in Tasmania with his wife Glennys and dog Rufus.

© 2020 Brian Clark – all rights reserved

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Thoughts about the days we are in…

By Mary Plumb | April 7, 2020

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

(8) Wikipedia: Bill Withers




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Reflections on Coronavirus and the Saturn-Pluto Conjunction

By Ray Grasse | March 20, 2020

This ain’t no party
This ain’t no disco
This ain’t no fooling around
“Life during Wartime” — The Talking Heads

To understand something about the astrology of the coronavirus pandemic, not to mention its impact on our world economy, it’s useful to consider the influence of the Saturn-Pluto conjunction that’s affecting our world right now. Although that aspect technically completed on January 12 of this year, an aspect of this magnitude exerts a long-term influence, months or even years beyond its exact completion. As an example, think back to the last Saturn-Pluto conjunction of the early 1980s, and how that led to such long-term developments as the AIDS crisis and the “Reagan Revolution,” among other things.

As astrologers such as Richard Tarnas have pointed out, hard aspects between Saturn and Pluto have historically been associated with dramatic world events and crises, from wars and political upheavals to famines or even plagues. But what I’d like to call attention to here is something a little different from what some others have been focusing on lately, and that has to do with what I’d call the “mood” of Saturn-Pluto.

Whenever these two planets have joined up throughout history, there inevitably seems to emerge a mood of deep seriousness — perhaps even “dread.” If you want a good cinematic expression of what I’m talking about, just check out the original movie Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, which premiered in February of 1931 literally within days of an exact Saturn-Pluto opposition. That film conveys a powerful sense of Saturn-Pluto dread and foreboding as well as any I’ve seen — which, of course, was a mood definitely in the air throughout society at the time, as a result of the Great Depression. (Incidentally, Lugosi himself was born under a Saturn-Pluto conjunction, so he seems right out of central astro-casting to have played that part!) (See charts below.)

For a more real-world expression of that same sense of dread, though, just think back to when those two planets were in opposition in 2001. Like me, you may remember the mood in the air immediately after 9/11, when there was an almost “end of the world” sense of heaviness permeating the air, a feeling of great uncertainty and fear. Were we all about to be obliterated in some act of nuclear terrorism? I remember just a few days after the Twin Towers came crashing down, I was walking in a local park with a friend when a loud boom echoed through the atmosphere; everyone in the park stopped what they were doing to look up because we all seriously feared that a nuclear device might have just gone off somewhere, most likely in nearby Chicago. In fact, it turned out to be a fighter jet triggering a sonic boom when it scrambled overhead to deal with the possible threat of a passenger jet that had mistakenly wandered off its scheduled flight path (it all turned out to be a false alarm). I also remember how the mood in supermarkets at the time was noticeably different, too — Were the vegetables in the produce section now poisoned by random terrorists using hypodermic needles? It seems all a bit insane now in retrospect, but it was a palpable fear at the time, and it was all very Saturn-Pluto in vibe.

I’m noticing much the same general feeling now, just in a different guise. I went to the supermarket this morning, and while there wasn’t a concern over produce poisoned by terrorists, there was a similar sense of concern among shoppers. Was there going to be a food shortage? Were we about to face a killer pandemic? Is the economy about to crash? When Saturn-Pluto makes the rounds, it’s as though we’re all enlisted to act out the mythic drama of Persephone en masse, as we’re collectively pulled down into the “underworld” to confront life’s darker side.

But as bleak as all that might seem on its surface, there is actually a silver lining to it that we need to remember. To explain what I mean, think back to that time right after 911. As heavy as it was, the seriousness of it also had the effect of shocking many of us out of our superficial concerns into a deeper reflection on life itself. We were suddenly jolted into a solemn awareness of the fragility of life, and perhaps even the importance of community, with a feeling that “we were all in this together.” I’d even say there was a spiritual quality about it in some ways, and I remember how our local classical music station devoted several days to playing recordings of great seriousness, but also of great beauty, like Samuel Barber’s “Addagio For Strings,” Bach’s “Mass in B Minor,” and Mozart’s “Requiem.” As difficult as that period was, there was also an unexpected perception of beauty in that “underworld” that so many of us found ourselves suddenly thrust into.

Of course, not everyone reacted that way, but then that seems to be part of the extremism that accompanies this planetary combo. When Saturn-Pluto comes around, it compels some of us to dig deeper, to be more contemplative and sensitive to life’s presence, and to reach out and be more compassionate toward others, while others are compelled to become more closed off and guarded, more selfish or paranoid. You even see that same extremism in the charts of many people born under strong Saturn-Pluto aspects, where that sense of heaviness and darkness can lead to similarly different extremes, from profound spiritual or creative depths on the one hand, to more constrictive feelings of fear or pessimism on the other.

It goes without saying that each of us has that same choice now — whether to respond to these Saturn-Pluto energies with fear, pessimism, and paranoia, or with compassion and kindness, and a commitment to using that sense of seriousness to dig deeper and draw upon those treasures of the underworld.

But it’s good to remember that while the alignment of these two planets can indeed evoke that “end of the world” feeling, the world has never actually ended any of these times, and somehow we’re still here to tell of it — most of us, anyway. Life continues on after Saturn and Pluto have their time on the dance floor, and it will carry on this time as well.


(Charts with Placidus houses, True node)

(1) Bela Lugosi, October 20, 1882, 3:30 p.m. LMT, Lugos, Romania (45N2 21E54) AA data;
AstroDatabank: Bela Lugosi

(2) premiere Dracula, February 12 1931, Manhattan, NY (40N35 73W59)

Ray Grasse is associate editor of The Mountain Astrologer, and author of several books, including The Waking Dream, Signs of the Times, Urban Mystic, An Infinity of Gods, and Under a Sacred Sky. His website: Ray

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One Day in February

By Mary Plumb | February 12, 2020

As I look at the transits for February, I see several motifs overlapping: the concentration of activity in Capricorn, the last earth sign, and Pisces, the last water sign.

We can understand the elements — Fire, Earth, Air, and Water — as developing through the seasons, their qualities having some sort of maturity or flowering in the last sign of their respective genre. Capricorn represents earth in its fullest, most complex expression; likewise, Pisces is water at its most refined.

During Capricorn season, the Winter Solstice (in the northern hemisphere), the daylight is short due to the Sun’s maximum southern declination. Then begins the steady climb back to days and nights of equal length at the Spring Equinox, gradually followed by more light-filled days toward the maximum northern declination of Cancer’s season, the Summer Solstice.

The current stellium of Capricorn planets suggests the ongoing climb out of the dark into more light. The imagery of awareness of and traveling in dark places runs through worldwide culture now in countless ways. Storylines of all sorts that have kept us in the dark, both individually and collectively, are being re-written and re-imagined. The integration of personal darkness, the unconscious, and the shadow has become a feature in contemporary psychological and spiritual systems. The retrieval of the wisdom of indigenous peoples — whose contributions have been massively overridden, if not obliterated, by the rise of materialism in the dominant culture — and the exposure of the devastating societal effects on everyone when people are oppressed or overruled has been creatively and culturally liberating.

We might also see the global rise of authoritarian regimes and white supremacist ideologies as a more dangerous side of our collective travel in the winter signs.

Rising up through what is dense and dark, there appears to be an overarching mythic theme, but the threads in our personal Capricorn storylines are in different stages of telling, as I recently experienced firsthand. (1) As we well know, transiting Jupiter, South Node, Saturn, and Pluto are in Capricorn and will be joined on February 16th by Mars. The contracting, condensing, squeezing qualities of the last earth sign are working with each of us, sometimes most directly through the themes carried in the particular house of our natal chart where Capricorn dwells. We’re all climbing, falling to our knees, getting back on our feet, building strength in our bones (and flexibility in our knees) as we chisel away at what we perceive to be immoveable and solid, while simultaneously designing and welcoming a new version of ourselves.

Perhaps we are fine-tuning our sense of being on the threshold, wherein both endings and beginnings, the past and future, the inner and outer, are converging.

For a year (as of December 2019), Jupiter will be in Capricorn, and there are slight but perfectly useful openings in our perceptions or situations, or cracks in what has felt like an impenetrable wall of obstruction or darkness. Commanding Mars activates the whole last-earth-sign picture on February 16th when he enters Capricorn (until March 30).

But, enough of Capricorn for now. At the moment, I’m placing my chips in the watery world of Mercury’s station retrograde at 12°53’ Pisces, also on February 16th, and close to Neptune at 17°37 Pisces.

As much as Capricorn can signify materialism at its most dense, Pisces beckons the imaginal, the formless, and the great Beyond. The last water sign offers an easy entry to the reality that transcends what we see, feel, hear, taste,  and touch. Physicists now generally agree that 93% to 95% of the matter that makes up the universe is “dark matter” or “dark energy,” essentially what can’t be seen or understood. I think of it as the fertile, creative, and ever-present field that our experience of can be enhanced through meditation, devotion, ritual, plant medicine, the arts, and countless other portals. It is the realm of magic, intention, grace, and all unseen forces that guide our world. (2)

Which takes me back to why I chose to highlight February 16th in this blog. On this day, the exaggerated weight and urgency of the earth element (Mars joining the Capricorn planets) and the bottomless surrender and bliss of the invisible worlds (Mercury stationing retrograde in Pisces) are each strongly marked in the sky. Let’s enjoy the highest mountain views and the deepest waters we can find.

Have a good week, everyone.


(1) I spent time recently with someone in a harrowing situation, who has Sun, Mercury, and Venus in late Capricorn and Mars in late Pisces. Steadiness, calm control, and surefootedness were palpable qualities in the room, as was the sense of being in an initiatory experience. Since then, I have a new felt experience of the mastery inherent in the sign of the sea-goat. The sense of being on a mountaintop with a broad perspective was quite literal, as this person offered a deeply honest and realistic assessment of his life story. This happened to be a liberating moment in this gentleman’s life: when accomplishments were clearly realized, and there was no regret or self-recrimination, just a glorious acceptance of the finite nature of time in the physical body. I could also feel the presence of the ancient symbolism of the mountain goat who is half-fish, informed powerfully by the depths of the sea-goat’s tail, adept in the realm of emotions and undercurrents, and just emerging from some deep inner knowing. This was a precious peak experience, a culminating moment in a life story.

(2) This is the realm of shamanism and healing practices in many different lineages. This field is also perceived by Rudolph Steiner, and many others, as a land of invisible beings who thrive on human fear and anxiety while exacerbating spiritual distress and illness.



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Mars Reappears in the Morning Sky

By Mary Plumb | October 14, 2019

Around October 17, Mars will make his first appearance in the morning sky, invigorated and revitalized after being invisible for three months. Mars has been behind the Sun and out of our view since mid July. Various factors (including atmospheric conditions, latitude, view of the horizon) are at play when a planet is first visible again after its time in the Underworld; however, the planet needs to be at least 15° from the Sun (which happens on October 16, with Mars at 8° Libra and the Sun at 23° Libra).

A planet’s heliacal rise — its first appearance in the morning sky — is seen as having special significance. For example, Demetra George looks back to the Babylonians, who saw the planets as manifestations of the gods: “When a planet made a heliacal morning appearance after a time of absence from the skies, it was as if the planetary god was coming out of seclusion to make an announcement to humanity concerning its intentions.” (1)

Although the concept of detriment was not clearly defined until much later in astrological tradition, this current heliacal rise of Mars is in tropical Libra, the sign of his detriment. (2) This would not be a cheerful indication of what announcement he may have for us regarding mundane affairs, but my thoughts are moving in a different direction.

I’m thinking about the notion of Mars in exile, another term for detriment. (3) A planet in its place of exile is far from home and in an unfamiliar land, without comfort or a sense of certainty. I think of a somewhat extreme example — someone I know with four natal planets in their signs of exile, whose (outer) life story is marked by isolation, awkwardness, and uneasy situations.

However, in my observation, a natal planet in exile can also (over time) become supremely resourceful and creative, born from the necessity to figure itself out under adverse conditions.

Mars in Libra as a sky marker suggests that we might engage the metaphor of exile now. When conditions are harsh or unfamiliar, it is possible to find new external routes (“Where am I going?”) or new passageways in the brain and nervous system, all jolting us away from the habitual diversions and distractions that overrun us.

Being profoundly uncomfortable can be an antidote to complacency or sleepiness. Mars can bring a jarring stimulus that awakens us to parts of ourselves heretofore unknown and replete with meaning. Each of the planets in each of the signs is part of the planetary sphere; each planetary combination may bring experiences that can be integrated into a deeper or broader sense of who we are and what we are capable of.

Mars signifies action — in Libra, the motivation behind actions may be more refined or more illusive than the usual, familiar way of operating.

Sometimes in life, we may choose a period of exile for a particular exercise or practice that cannot bring results without a quality of isolation. Sometimes, life events (which might be brutal or upsetting) require us to be enveloped in a certain starkness or solitude, before the magic inherent in retreat or exile can begin to unfold.

As someone with natal Mars in Libra (and a somewhat introverted disposition), I’ve tried to find words to describe Mars in exile from the inside out. Now, as the god is coming “out of seclusion,” I am keen to notice what messages he is bringing. (I’d love to hear from you, dear readers, if this blog has resonated with you.)

And for all of us, may Mars’s heliacal rise bring a message — which we can hear — to inspire and motivate our activities for this next chapter in time.


(1) Demetra George, Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice, Rubedo Press, 2019, p. 286.

(2) Chris Brennan, Hellenistic Astrology, Amor Fati Publications, 2017, p. 249.

(3) Either term refers to the planet being in the sign opposite to its ruler, or home. Libra, of course, is Venus’s sign.

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