TMA This Week

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




4 Comments - click to read them or write one | Permalink

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

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

30 Comments - click to read them or write one | Permalink

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

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.



6 Comments - click to read them or write one | Permalink

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

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.

1 Comment - click to read it or write one | Permalink

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

Jordan Peterson and the Saturn-South Node Conjunction: A Vedic Perspective

By Gary O'Toole | May 21, 2019

“Why do dragons hoard gold? Because the things you most need are always to be found where you least want to look.”

— from Jordan Peterson’s podcast “Slaying the Dragon Within Us”

Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. (1) His book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, has become a bestseller and his speaking tours and YouTube channel have made him a celebrity psychologist.  He has a Saturn–South Node (Ketu) conjunction in his birth chart, placed in sidereal Capricorn when he was born in 1962. (2) This conjunction occurs again in 2019 — this time, in sidereal Sagittarius.

The Saturn–Ketu conjunction was almost exact at the time of his birth on June 12, 1962. In 2019, Saturn and Ketu are conjunct for much of the period between May and October — just as they were between May and October 1962.

Saturn is particularly strong in Capricorn in Jordan Peterson’s chart, but Saturn in Sagittarius is less sure of itself. Saturn represents reality and truth. The strength of Saturn in Capricorn is shown in Peterson’s conviction, his discussions about living a responsible life, and what seems to be his relentless search for truth. In Sagittarius, truth is more subjective, while the combination of Saturn and Ketu challenges us not to get caught up in dogma and radical ideologies.

Ketu is seen by many Vedic astrologers to be exalted in Sagittarius. Although Ketu’s conjunction with Saturn in Sagittarius shows other complex dynamics, it is generally tipped in favour of wild abandon and ideological fervour. Not a particularly responsible indication!

But this does not mean that truth cannot be discerned within Sagittarius. In some sense, truth can only be discovered within each of us, as a subjective truth, at least initially. But we must eventually move beyond our points of view to a more objective appraisal, just as Capricorn follows Sagittarius in zodiacal order.

Jordan Peterson’s Saturn Cycle

Peterson’s work output — lecturing, writing books, and touring constantly in recent years — seems to have increased since he commenced a Saturn planetary cycle, or dasa, in 2005. (3) Saturn is a hard taskmaster, and Capricorn is the most ambitious of signs. Although the task for Capricorn is to reach a summit (Capricorn is symbolized by a mountain goat), the moment-to-moment, lived experience should be the focus, especially when Ketu is involved. Otherwise, we may struggle with achieving a goal which seems to be at odds with where we find ourselves. Even if we achieve our goals, Ketu points to something beyond any worldly experience, and its influence can feel disappointing, as nothing in a worldly sense can satisfy our spiritual longings. If we are not rooted in something beyond this life, we are at a loss no matter how much we achieve.

Saturn enters sidereal Capricorn again in 2020, so Jordan Peterson is leading the way regarding the themes involved. (4)

Saturn in Capricorn in his natal chart reflects his need to do and say the responsible thing, but with Ketu close by, the opposite may also be true. Along these lines, Peterson has referred to his wild youth in interviews. Saturn’s responsible approach must be negotiated alongside Ketu’s unruly side during their conjunction, which may mean that someone with this combination has experienced so much wild abandon that it sends them in the opposite direction at some point, e.g., they become even more responsible. Saturn is quite demanding,  however, and doesn’t make this easy. Saturn cycles frequently require some sweat and toil.

The 1962 Conjunction

Ketu adds an element of secrecy alongside Saturn, whether one is working in secret or toiling over a problem in private. In 1962, there was the Cuban missile crisis during the period between April and October, when Cuban and Soviet governments secretly began to build missile bases, bringing the world to the brink of war.

Marilyn Monroe is a good example of an individual struggling with this configuration. She was found dead during Saturn and Ketu’s conjunction in 1962, while it strongly impacted her Moon in Capricorn. The conjunction began in exact opposition to her Ascendant degree (20° Cancer) compounding issues during a particularly challenging dasa in her life. Not everyone experiences this conjunction as a crisis, of course, but if your Ascendant or planets are between 19° and 26° of sidereal Gemini or Sagittarius, and you also experience a challenging dasa between April and October 2019, then this needs your careful attention.

A previous client with this conjunction in her birth chart was quite the wild child in her youth and very happy to remain so — that is, until she became the mother of an autistic child who required a lot of care and attention. This sent her life in a different direction than she had initially wanted, but because this conjunction was, just like Jordan Peterson’s, placed in Capricorn, she fulfilled her responsibilities. Although her yearning to be wild has not disappeared, she has now found a way to express this in a more focused and responsible way, to help release her from the pressures she feels.

Without discipline, the conjunction of Saturn and Ketu can challenge us in what can otherwise be a productive outlet. On the one hand, Saturn represents form, structure, and limitation: Limitations are necessary when we face reality. On the other hand, Ketu represents formlessness: who we really are at our core from a spiritual perspective, the part of us that is beyond definition. Together, Saturn and Ketu can be used to focus on what is truly important, but they could just as easily create confusion as to where our attention should lie.

 What Goes Around …

If there’s one thing that Saturn and Ketu have in common, it’s the lesson that we all get back what we put in. This is not to suggest that “we get what we deserve,” as this is a childish reaction to an inevitable result of past actions.

Ketu is seen as the headless part of the serpent in Vedic myth, i.e., the tail end of the mythological serpent, representing our past (even past lives), including all our mistakes. The poisons we dish out must eventually be reabsorbed. Ketu’s conjunction with Saturn solidifies the results of these past mistakes now. But it also brings back the efforts of our hard work. Whatever we have set in motion comes around again. So, it really depends on what you put out.

We may try to bury our heads in the sand if we feel unable to deal with the reality of what is happening, and wish to run and hide from our responsibilities, especially because of Ketu’s strength in sidereal Sagittarius. Ketu’s impulse to avoid things is one of the big themes of 2019, and is in stark contrast to Saturn, which shows a need to face the music.

This will likely be expressed in political, social, economic, and environmental tensions throughout the year — a tug of war between what we need to do and our reluctance to do it. We each go through this struggle in our own way, and more often in private. It challenges us to change now before it is too late, although it is unlikely that any real steps will be taken until Saturn moves into sidereal Capricorn in January 2020. One example of this call to change are the more and more extreme weather events forcing the environmental issue to be addressed. In 2019, this conjunction at least helps us to get where we need to be, even if we are dragged there kicking and screaming!

The Saturn–Ketu conjunction could be summed up in two words: do and be. Whatever you do, make sure to give yourself time to simply be — to tap into your spiritual essence, beyond all doing as a human being.


(1) Wikipedia: Jordan Peterson

(2) Jordan Peterson, June 12, 1962; 2:49 a.m.; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (53°N33’, 113°W28’); AA: Data collector Steven Stuckey obtained a copy of his birth announcement directly from Jordan Peterson.

(3) A dasa or “planetary cycle” is a predictive technique used in Vedic astrology. The most popular is called vimsottari (literally, “120”) and is calculated from the natal Moon. An ideal life span of 120 years is divided up between the Sun (6 years) and Moon (10 years), the North Node (18 years) and the South Node (7 years), and the five visible planets: Mercury (17 years), Venus (20 years), Mars (7 years), Jupiter (16 years), and Saturn (19 years).

(4) As an example of Jordan Peterson’s natal Saturn placement — his 1999 book (which he wrote over 13 years) Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief  — offered “a comprehensive theory for how people construct meaning.”
Wikipedia: Maps of Meaning

© 2019 Gary O’Toole – all rights reserved

Bio: Gary O’Toole has studied astrology since 1996. He is the author of Cosmic Bodies: The Ayurvedic Astrology Guide to Health & Well-Being, and lectures at the British Association of Vedic Astrology. His readings impart an empowered view of life’s cycles, patterns, and trends, offered online and in Galway, Ireland. To learn more and to order your personal reading, visit



2 Comments - click to read them or write one | Permalink

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

Astrology – Mother of Sciences and Religions

By Gahl Sasson | October 8, 2018

Editor’s Note: The following is a brief except from Gahl Sasson’s newest book, The Astrology of 2019: Birthing Your Inner Child. The author is a well-traveled astrology teacher who weaves numerology, the Chinese zodiac, and mystical traditions into his work. Along with overall guidelines for the year, the author includes specific dates for initiating projects, the most significant aspects for each planet for the year, detailed forecasts for each zodiac sign (with particularly useful insights on eclipses), and much more. As a hint of what’s to come, 2019 is the Year of the Pig in the Chinese zodiac (from February 4, 2019 to January 25, 2020). Sasson writes: “The year of the pig is also the year of the boar and in many traditions, the boar represents defensiveness, protectionism, and warlike tendencies. With all the trade wars and the rise of nationalism, one can only hope that 2019 is a piglet year rather than a boar.” Gahl Sasson is uplifting, empowering, and practical. The current book is much longer than the author’s 2018 version, which I reviewed here. The book is available on Amazon: e-book: $6.42; print: $12.

Astrology is dubbed the mother of sciences. The act of measuring, calculating, and tracking the heavenly bodies helped transform the early stargazers into prototype empirical scientists. It is believed that the scientific fields of geometry and algebra developed to better understand and predict the cycles of the planets. It is not surprising that Kepler, the father of astronomy, was an avid astrologer. But astrology is not only the mother of sciences. She is also the mother of science’s older sister, religion.

I believe that when our hominid ancestors started walking on two legs, their field of vision changed, shifting their focus from the earth to the skies. In addition, due to climate changes, hominid environment morphed from thick jungles where the skies were covered by jungle canopy, into open fields, savannas where the starry skies could be viewed with no obstruction. Our ancestors were exposed to the vastness of space and could bear witness in awe to the movement of the planets through the backdrop of the fixed stars, the constellations. First there was astrology, then came religion to give ritualistic stories to the movement of the cosmic bodies and the seasons.

Astrology’s DNA is found in countless religions and traditions around the globe. The Mayans, Aztecs, druids, and ancient Egyptians aligned their pyramids or rock formations in reference to cosmology. In Islam, the Ramadan, a commemoration of the first revelation of the Koran, is celebrated according to the Moon and always falls on the 9th lunar month. The Buddhists celebrate the Buddha’s birthday on the Full Moon in the month of Vesakha (which usually falls on the Full Moon in Taurus). Christmas is a Christianized celebration of the pagan winter solstice, placing Jesus’ birthday on the solstice along with Mithras, Attis, Apollo, Artemis, and Horus to name a few.

Passover is the celebration of equinox (which falls on the first Full Moon after the equinox). Easter is celebrated according to an astrological formula: the first Sunday (the day of the Sun) after the first Full Moon (Sun-Moon opposition) after the spring equinox (the first day of Aries). The Chinese, Islamic, Tibetan, and Jewish New Years, fall on a New Moon. The Persian New Year, Nawruz, is celebrated on the spring equinox, the first day of Aries, which is also the astrological New Year’s. Halloween is celebrated during Scorpio, the sign of death. Earth Day is commemorated during Taurus, a fixed earth sign that is associated with Mother Nature. Labor Day (in the US) is celebrated during Virgo, the sign of work and service. The International Cat Day is celebrated August 8, the 8 of the 8, double happiness, smack in the middle of Leo, the feline sign. Your birthday, too, is an astrological holiday. It is the day when your natal Sun is conjunct the transiting Sun. It is a day when you are exposed to two Suns. No wonder that on your birthday you are emotional, overly sensitive, and in need of extra attention and gifts.

Astrology is not a fortune-telling art. She was created and still functions as a tool to help us survive. I trace the origin of astrology to a woman or a group of women in our early human evolution that realized the connection between intercourse and pregnancy. There was a period in our evolution when the main cause of death for women was giving birth. Because of bipedalism, the combination of a shift in the pelvis and the growing diameter of the fetus’ head, childbearing became a deadly activity. There had to be a woman, arguably, the most important scientist in human history, who discovered that intercourse leads to pregnancy and that somehow these two are linked to the menstruation cycles. Now all she needed was to find a way to trace the cycles and measure them to determine when intercourse will not result in pregnancy. She needed a contraceptive. Looking up at the Moon gave her what she sought, a cosmic clock. This intuitive woman, the first astrologer, managed to find a connection between the Moon cycles and ovulation: as above so below, the birth of astrology. The wisdom of the stars, astrology, helped us survive as a species and ensured our ability to overcome the death that overshadowed birth.

Bio: To contact Gahl Sasson, visit his website Cosmic Navigator, and subscribe to his Newsletter here.

Comments Off on Astrology – Mother of Sciences and Religions | Permalink

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

The Queen of Soul Travels On …

By Mary Plumb | August 20, 2018

Aretha Franklin was born with 15°46’ Scorpio on the Ascendant — the middle degrees of the fixed signs are the place of maximum strength in the zodiac. Midway between the equinox and the solstice, 15° of the fixed signs carry the concentration, endurance, and focus of their respective season. In mid Scorpio, the life-sustaining presence (and emotional depth) of water is greatly potentized. (1)

Aretha Franklin, natal
March 25, 1942
10:30 p.m. CWT
Memphis, TN, USA  (35°N09’, 90°W03’)
Porphyry houses; True node
(chart created by Graphic Astrology, IO edition)

She knew the turbulence of the Scorpio Ascendant in her personal life (which she did not like to talk about), and she was sturdy and reserved.

In a tribute in The Guardian, Dorian Lynskey writes that “… she liked to downplay her own exceptionalism and say that she felt the same pain that everybody did — it’s just that she could sing that pain better than anyone else … This daughter of the church was always moving on up, always overcoming. She might bend but she would never break.” (2)

I am reminded of Isabel Hickey’s memorable words: “No unevolved soul is born with a Scorpio Ascendant. The razor-edged path that can only be tread when there is strength and power enough to do so.” (3)

The Queen of Soul has both luminaries dignified in the natal horoscope: The Sun, ruler of the Leo Midheaven, is at 4°50’ Aries, the sign of its exaltation. And the Moon, ruler of the 9th house of religion, is in its home sign of Cancer.

As Aretha was born at night at the First Quarter, the Moon is gaining in light and the power to manifest.

I did not know anything about her personal life, and the commentators I heard after her passing spoke of her dedication to her family (she had four sons, the first born when she was 12). (4) Her father was minister of the New Bethel Baptist Church, and her mother was the choir mistress during Aretha’s earliest years. She had two sisters who were both singers and songwriters (and sometimes her backup singers). Both preceded her in death.

The traditional ruler of Scorpio, Mars, is in Gemini conjunct Jupiter; her dexterous musical gifts are part of her biography. She was from a musical family and learned to play piano by ear as a child. She was also an arranger and recorded her first album when she was 14.

It is her voice and the enormous feeling it carried that moved the world. Describing her voice on that first album, her producer Jerry Wexler explained that it “was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic hierophant.” (5)

Venus, traditional ruler of the voice, is in Aquarius, square to Saturn in Taurus (and in mutual reception). In the Guardian article noted above, the author writes: “In fact, her voice’s perfect alloy of pleasure and pain, suffering and endurance, sex and spirituality, virtually constituted a scientific formula. ‘This is a voice that has not only sound but a smell and a depth,’ said poet Nikki Giovanni. ‘A taste. You hear Aretha, but you also lick your lips.’”

Using traditional rulers, Mercury in Pisces is in mutual reception with Jupiter in Gemini and in square aspect, strengthening the capacity of those planets to interact. Mercury rules the natal 8th house (the occult) and the 11th house (hopes and aspirations) — the swift-footed messenger travels naturally in those dimensions. In the Guardian article about Aretha,  singer Mary J. Blige is quoted as  saying: “When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her.”

Mercury in Pisces is also tightly conjunct the South Node — a voice from the depths of the ages.

Aretha Franklin passed away on at her home in Detroit, MI on August 16 at 9:50 a.m., surrounded by friends and family. (6) Transiting Jupiter was at 15° Scorpio conjunct the Ascendant, and the Sun was at 23°39’ Leo, on the MC. (Although not shown here, the progressed Sun was at 19° Gemini, just into the natal 8th house.)

Bi-wheel: inner: natal, outer: transits to her death in Detroit, MI

Rest in Peace to the “voice that gave America its heart and soul.”


(1) Aretha Franklin, March 25, 1942; 10:30 p.m. CWT; Memphis, TN, USA (35°N09’, 90°W03’); AA rating:

(2) A voice that gave America its heart and soul: Aretha Franklin The Guardian

(3) Isabel M. Hickey, Astrology: A Cosmic Science, Altieri Press, 1970, p. 78.

(4) Biographical material and quotes (unless otherwise stated) are from Wikipedia.

(5) “A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.” Wikipedia.

The Hierophant is also a card of the Major Arcana in the Tarot.


2 Comments - click to read them or write one | Permalink

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

The Philosophy of Astrology: The Relationship Between the Two

By Oscar West | May 28, 2018

Astrology is a complicated subject that has underlying relationships with other bodies of knowledge, including philosophy.

In astrology, you are deriving meaning as to how the movement of planets, stars, and other celestial objects influences your moods, behavior, or destiny.

As a discipline, astrology is deemed philosophical and theoretical in nature, and even though there is no unified paradigm of astrology, many people continue to turn to it as a way to study and discover the universe and its significance in our everyday life. (1)

Early philosophers used astrology to help them lay the foundation of ancient branches of knowledge. Galileo Galilei, Ptolemy, Pythagoras, and other scientists and mathematicians embraced astrology as something that held an important place in pre-modern civilization. (2)

The Western philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome is also deeply rooted in astrology. (3) Plato and his student Aristotle, for example, believed that the creation and the structure of the universe had divine origins. Plato compared the perfect cycle of the sun and the moon to the idea that we have a perfect, unchanging God who created the entire universe.

How Philosophy and Astrology Relate to One Another

Along with the analogy of perfection between God and the universe, Plato asserted that souls descended through the stars. Moreover, the Greek philosopher said that each soul could choose its own life, which relates to free will, a concept that is well associated with philosophy.

Free will is the idea that you are able to make choices based on your desires, beliefs, or values—thanks to your rational nature as a human being.

Using your free will means you are not allowing any external forces or factors in nature or your environment to control or affect your thoughts or decisions.

Meanwhile, the predictive nature of astrology points to the idea that there’s a mysterious, special relationship between you and the universe.

Specifically, it suggests that astrological events and conditions during the day or time of your birth can help determine the kind of person you will be or the kind of life you will have. In other words, your fate or destiny is pre-determined.

Astrologers are quick to point out that fatalism, the philosophical view that you are powerless to change the inevitable, has no place in astrology.

They also say that the role that astrology plays in your life is to point you to a pre-determined destination. (4) How soon or how close you get to that destination will depend on which direction you take—reflecting the importance of free will in the practice of astrology.

Last, but not least, astrology’s ties with philosophy lie in the aim of both disciplines to shed light on the meaning of life. Just as philosophy means “love of wisdom,” astrology likewise focuses on the wisdom that you gain when you have full knowledge or understanding of how your existence is significant in the society, the world, and the universe. (5)

Unfortunately, there are a number of contentions against astrology and philosophy, including the view that the ideas they promote about life, the world, or the universe may be reasonable but have no scientific basis.

It may be true that neither astrology nor philosophy is considered a science, but at the end of the day, people develop an appreciation toward these fields for providing them with a sense of purpose or direction in life.


(1) As an example of a paradigm of modern astrology, here is a paper, A Philosophy of Astrology, written by Anil Chawla. He writes:
“In my humble attempt of penning A Philosophy of Astrology, I have attempted to lay the first stone for building a paradigm of modern astrology. I shall consider my efforts successful if it inspires some other thinkers, astrologers, philosophers and psychologists to move further in this direction.”
A Philosophy of Astrology (pdf)

(2) Encyclopedia: Philosophy and Religion

(3) See, for example: History of Astrology: Greek Philosophy and Astrology

(4) Encyclopedia: Philosophy and Religion
An excerpt:
“The role of astrology, so say the astrologers, is comparable to a ship’s compass. The compass points the way to a predetermined destination, but it does not establish that destination. “

(5) “Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of existence, being and the world. Arguably, metaphysics is the foundation of philosophy: Aristotle calls it ‘first philosophy (or sometimes just ‘wisdom’), and says it is the subject that deals with ‘first causes and the principles of things.'”
Philosophy Basics: Metaphysics

Oscar pic

Bio: Oscar West is an astrology geek and (self-proclaimed) cool dad who likes sharing his passion in philosophy and astrology. Aside from writing blog posts about everything under the sun, he also does social media consulting for small businesses and tries to learn how to code in his free time. When he’s not contemplating about the meaning of life, you can usually find him roughhousing with his kids or indulging on his favorite ube-flavored ice cream.
Contact him at and his website

2 Comments - click to read them or write one | Permalink

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

The Dark of the Moon in Taurus

By Mary Plumb | May 14, 2018

We are in a brief moment with the transiting Sun and Moon in Taurus, the Balsamic phase, i.e., dark of the Moon, lasting until Tuesday morning (4:47 a.m. PDT) when the luminaries come back together again for the New Moon at 24°36’.

On Saturday, while contemplating a subject for this blog, I wanted to take a break from the obvious (and fascinating and troubling) national and global power plays, the shifting alliances, and the surplus of agitated situations and grandiose public figures apparent in life now. (1) I was also very aware of the dark of the Moon; after weeks of struggle with a particularly demanding Saturn issue that required perseverance and persistence, I longed to rest my mind.

A temporary quandary — how to meet a deadline and rest my mind — resolved itself as soon as I decided to try and capture a bit of the peaceful, yielding, accepting qualities inherent in the Taurus season. I knew that time in nature on Sunday would be restorative, and the beauty of this particular spring in Oregon made it easy for me to heed the call.

Here in southern Oregon, we are having a spectacular spring! One of many images of the vibrant natural world are the rolling hills covered now with almost–peak-season purple vetch, which creates a bluish lavender haze across the rich green of the hills, with the mountains just a bit farther away. We had late snow here, too, so the mountains have only recently surrendered their white helmets to the warmer days.

The dark of the Moon (the Balsamic Moon) is the quietest time in the monthly cycle. The Queen of the Night Sky has carried this cycle’s message, received at the last New Moon, all around the wheel: from her tender first appearance, to the Crescent phase, to the stimulations and activity of her First Quarter, to the ripeness and revelations of her Full phase, and to the waning Last Quarter, whereupon she soon disappeared from view. She has temporarily retreated — not needing our admiration or attention — into the invisible world.

Sunday and today are the last days, i.e., the darkest days, of this lunation cycle and are carrying the images of Taurus, the sign of fixed earth. Throughout time, countless myths have developed about the Earth; in early traditions, the Earth is considered the mother of all. “Earth Mother, in ancient and modern nonliterate religions, an eternally fruitful source of everything … She is simply the mother; there is nothing separate from her. All things come from her, return to her, and are her.” (2)

In the 1980s, I had the great good fortune to attend teachings with Vajrayana master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. He was an imposing man — he was physically large and moved slowly. When I sat in front of him, I felt the depth and strength and presence of a massive and still mountain.

Years later, another Lama recounted a story to me about Khyentse Rinpoche: A student asked him, “Rinpoche, if you were to choose your next incarnation, how would you like to come back?” Khyentse Rinpoche did not hesitate: “I would come back as the Earth so that I could uphold everything.” I never forgot Khyentse Rinpoche’s great presence, and I remember his words now on this temporary, glorious, abundantly beautiful spring day.

I hope that we all have a chance today to find the simple, elegant, and sustaining support that resides in all of us, all of the time.


(1) Recent and ongoing transits include Pluto stationing retrograde on April 22; transiting Mars then conjoined stationary Pluto at 21° Capricorn on April 26, fueling the Red Planet for its entry into Aquarius on May 15 and its square to Uranus, newly in Taurus, a few hours later, just after midnight on May 16. In addition, Mars, Saturn, and Pluto are now parallel in declination: Mars at 22 S 09, Saturn at 22 S 16, and Pluto at 21 S 30.
One startling and unfolding story is on the Big Island in Hawaii, where the Kilauea volcano erupted on May 3, and lava ribbons are bursting out of the earth in apparently impossible-to-predict waves of red fury. CNN: Kilauea Volcano

(2) Earth Mother

2 Comments - click to read them or write one | Permalink

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

Book Review: The Archetypal Universe

By Mary Plumb | April 30, 2018

Renn Butler is an astrologer with 35 years in practice and a parallel interest in non-ordinary states of consciousness. The author studied with Richard Tarnas and Stanislav Grof at Esalen, where he lived for several years, and is a Holotropic Breathwork practitioner as well as astrologer.

This work, published in 2017, is informed in part by Grof’s articulation of the four stages of the Basic Perinatal Matrices – four distinct phases in the birth process, which he and Tarnas found, in their pioneering and influential work, to be connected to different planets. Both men researched for decades, with Tarnas studying the natal charts and transits of cultural figures and historical cycles, culminating in his seminal work, Cosmos and Psyche. (For readers unfamiliar with Grof’s work, Renn Butler’s short introductory material lays a good foundation. In essence this application of archetypal astrology considers that the experiences of the birth process will be recapitulated throughout life for further healing and deeper integration of the psyche.)

The book’s full title, The Archetypal Universe: Astrological Patterns in Human Culture, Thought, Emotion and Dreams, well describes its range. Renn Butler researched his book between 1993 and 2017. Along with Holotropic Breathwork, Butler draws upon important research in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and plant-medicines. He has collected images from people’s dreams – along with extensive study of the birth charts of musicians, filmmakers, actors, and artists – to observe the planetary alignments concurrent with creative or other unusual breakthroughs.

Although Butler’s interest in non-ordinary states informs the research, The Archetypal Universe is an encyclopedic astrological book that will be of great use to astrologers of many persuasions. Formatted like Reinhold Ebertin’s The Combination of Stellar Influences, Butler’s book describes 45 planetary pairs, (e.g., Sun-Moon, Sun-Mercury, Sun-Venus). For each pair, he includes the Principles, Character and Themes, and Shadow Qualities, as well as how the pair is on display in Nature and the Arts, Spirituality, Dream Images, and Deep Self-Exploration. He also includes each planet connected to the Ascendant and Midheaven.

While the author follows Ebertin’s basic formatting, his descriptions are far more expanded – there are three or four pages for each pair of planets. He suggests themes that can emerge in people’s lives when that pair is activated. In discussing the archetypal possibilities, he is not just inferring or imagining but, as mentioned above, the work is based on decades-long research into the astrological charts of filmmakers, artists, musicians, along with guiding others in breath work and dream analysis.

He next writes on the 120 planetary triads (Sun-Moon-Mercury, Sun-Moon-Venus, etc.), with a succinct formatting of Principles, followed by possible positive and negative expressions.

The insights about the planetary pairs and triads can be applied using virtually any technique – i.e., transits, solar arcs, progressions, relationship analysis, etc. – and there is a cornucopia of fresh ideas throughout. (One example, for the Moon connected to Uranus: “An emotional resonance with the magic of the night, ‘And thence we came forth, to see again the stars.'” The author is quoting Dante, who had the Moon trine Uranus).

There are occasional specific findings from Grof and Tarnas’s work connecting planetary archetypes to the birth processes – mostly, it seems at first reading, in the sections involving Pluto. (“Tarnas recognized that the dynamic stage of birth labor, with the propulsion down the birth canal and arousal of intense driving energies, is an important manifestation of the Pluto archetype in human life.”)

This book is a massive and extensive handbook, which benefits from its clear organization and language. Butler also includes a Quotes Index and a Dream Index for easy reference.

Although the book is comprised of the author’s specific distinctions and delineations, the underlying motif of the planetary cycles infusing all of life is recorded clearly as well. “As people learn to perceive the synchronicities unfolding in the universe within and around them, they develop the sense of a higher cosmic consciousness aware of the most intimate details of their lives, and interacting with them in deeply subtle and complex ways.”

If blog readers are interested in ordering The Archetypal Universe, please see the author’s website: Renn Butler.

Comments Off on Book Review: The Archetypal Universe | Permalink

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer