TMA This Week

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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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



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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.

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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.


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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

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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

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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.

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The Mercury Elemental Year of Fire 2017–18

By Gary P. Caton | December 4, 2017

“The Cosmos … ever was, and is, and will be:
everliving fire, kindling in measures and being quenched in measures.”
— Heraclitus of Ephesus, circa 500 BCE (1)

In the Western philosophical tradition there is a group of pre-Socratic philosophers collectively known as “monists” (from the Greek monos, meaning “single” or “one”), whose common interest was determining which of the four elements was the primary source from whence all other things emanate. For Heraclitus, the primary substance of the universe was fire — the Sun and Moon were huge celestial bowls of fire. Though it turns out that a bowl of fire remains an apt description of the Sun, it is overly simplistic to think that Heraclitus only thought literally, that everything was physically made of fire. Fire, rather, was the best metaphor for the Heraclitean doctrine of eternal flux. The philosopher thought that the basic universal principle (i.e., kosmos or world-order) was constant change. To demonstrate this, he used the metaphor of the elements in a constant state of flow, and through what he called “turnings of fire,” changing from fire, to water, to air (i.e., a “fireburst,” a kind of fiery wind) and earth.

There is an astrological parallel to the Heraclitean cosmology. Over the course of 6 to 7 years, the Mercury retrogrades move through the four elements in reverse zodiacal order, from the fire signs, to water signs, to air signs, to earth signs. I first became aware of this phenomenon through Erin Sullivan’s seminal work, Retrograde Planets. (2) I have spent the last five years studying this topic, resulting in my own tome: Hermetica Triptycha Volume One: The Mercury Elemental Year. (3) In chapter five of my book, I note that this same reverse zodiacal sequence of elements is referenced in The Emerald Tablet, the mystical Hermetic document widely interpreted as a formula for creating the “philosopher’s stone” — a microcosm of the universal principle, encapsulating the primordial creative power of the monad or original substance. (4) When understood in these contexts, Mercury’s cycle of retrogrades through the four elements is recapitulating both a cosmic world-ordering principle and a magic formula for the re-creation, materialization, and containment of this primordial creative power!

If it seems bizarre that ordering the elements in reverse to the normal zodiacal order should be seen as primordial and creative, we must remember that across diverse cultures, from the Greek Hermes to the Native American Coyote, the Trickster archetype has often been seen as inherently creative. (5) Without the Trickster archetype to shake things up, our cultures become static and unable to change and grow. Similarly, to use Joseph Campbell’s metaphor, without the “forest adventure” of becoming the hero/ine discovering our own unique path, we are lulled into a sleepy kind of awareness by the rules and restrictions of the village. (6)

Going further, it is important to note that it is not only the back and forth, or east/west longitude that signifies the alchemy and magic of Mercury retrograde cycles. As I wrote in TMA earlier this year, retrograde motion is far more wonderfully complex than is usually portrayed. (7) It consists of not only the aforementioned east/west variation in direct/retrograde motion of celestial longitude, but also dramatic changes in the north/south dimension of celestial latitude that produce a kind of looping motion. Moreover, if we understand the phenomenon of Mercury retrograde visually, during a very short span of time Mercury makes appearances above the western horizon, then dips below the threshold of visibility and finally re-emerges above the eastern horizon. (8) Lastly, from a geocentric point of view, during retrograde motion Mercury is coming from a space behind (e.g., exterior) to the Sun and penetrating the very heart-space of our solar system — the space between the Sun and Earth, a space so central, basic, and fundamental to our system that it is commonly referred to as the Astronomical Unit (AU).

Therefore, we have at least four different kinds of “mixing” occurring during Mercury retrograde. The mixing of east/west direct/retrograde currents can be seen as an exchange between the currently accepted socio-cultural norms and the newer counter-cultural challenges to those norms. The mixing of north/south latitudinal currents can be seen as an exchange between the personal and social aspects of life. The mixing of above/below with respect to the horizon and Mercury’s cycle of visibility can be seen as an exchange between the conscious and unconscious dimensions. And finally, the mixing between the interior and exterior spaces of our solar system can be seen as an exchange between the microcosm and macrocosm. All this primordial mixing produces an alchemy that is quite literally capable of changing, or re-birthing, the world.

For the next year, after occurring in the earth signs, Mercury retrogrades are happening in the fire signs. The last time Mercury’s retrograde moved from earth signs to fire signs occurred in late 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi lit the spark for the Tunisian Revolution, a conflagration that quickly spread into a regional uprising throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East in what became known as the Arab Spring. I think that part of the reason this particular transition seems to have so much power can be seen from the relative density of the elements. Any child knows that when you throw a stone into water, it sinks — therefore, earth is denser than water. And, of course, steam rises and water evaporates into air, demonstrating that the air element is less dense than water. Finally, smoke rises even into the thin air, showing that fire is the least dense of all elements. So, when Mercury’s retrogrades in the densest of elements (earth) give ways to retrogrades in the least dense of elements (fire), this represents an extremely dramatic transition, as the volatile fiery currents liberate all the fixed potential energy stored in the denser earth. Here is a pop culture example of this particular transition from my new book:

“The four founding members of the Eagles signed with David Geffen in September of 1971, during the last part of a Mercury elemental year of earth (and as the Mercury elemental year was transitioning from earth to fire) … By the time their first greatest hits album was released, the Mercury elemental year had moved through fire, water, and air, and was about to return to earth. This six-to-seven-year return to the Mercury elemental year of birth represents what I call the ‘long form’ of Mercury’s transformative dance, and usually indicates some kind of completion. Like all completions, it can signify a return to one’s roots, on the one hand, or the beginning of a brand new era, on the other. In the case of the Eagles, it was the latter. As their sound was moving from a mostly country (earth) influence to more rock and roll (fire), founding member Bernie Leadon left the group (December 1975). Leadon’s solid multi-instrumental talent (earth) was replaced by the volatility of Joe Walsh (fire), and the first album featuring Walsh in the line-up, Hotel California, became not only the band’s best-selling studio album, but also a rock and roll classic. Through capturing the transformative power of Mercury … the Eagles were able to transform themselves from country-rock pioneers into pure rock and roll legends.” (9)

You can read an extended excerpt from my book at my publisher’s website and listen my latest Hermetic Astrology Podcast where I speak at length about this particular retrograde cycle. It is my fervent hope that this new work will help to re-frame Mercury’s “backward trickster medicine dance” (retrogrades) from simply an occasional annoying experience, or an outright malefic influence to be studiously avoided, toward the profound transformational and magical opportunity which I feel it truly represents. May the Trickster be with you!

References and recommended reading:

(1) All references to Heraclitus from:
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

You may also enjoy: The History of Philosophy podcast.

(2) Sullivan, Erin. Retrograde Planets: Traversing the Inner Landscape. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 2000, pp. 67–76.

(3) Now available via Rubedo Press (and also on Amazon.)

(4) See, for instance: Hauck, Dennis. The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy For Personal Transformation. New York: Penguin, 1999.

(5) See, for instance: Hyde, Lewis. Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1998.

(6) I am referring to Joseph Campbell’s work, nicely summarized near the end of his life in a series of interviews with Bill Moyers, called The Power of Myth.

(7) Caton, Gary, “An Astronomical View of Venus Retrograde,” TMA, April/May 2017.
Also: Caton, Gary, “Toward a Multi-Dimensional View of Retrograde Motion,” NCGR Geocosmic Journal, Winter 2017.
“An Updated Three-Dimensional Model of Planetary Motion,” a series of lectures for Sky Astrology Conference, available for download from my website.

(8) I outlined the Sky Astrology view of Mercury retrograde for the TMA blog in 2015.

(9) Caton, Gary. Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year. Auckland, New Zealand: Rubedo Press, 2017, pp. 133–134.

Gary P. Caton is a trans-disciplinary astrologer who embraces an organic, process-oriented approach to spiritual growth and transformation via engagement with the living sky. Initiated into astrology via a dream in 1993, he has since devoted his entire life to refining his vision. An accomplished stargazer and astro-photographer, Gary possesses the unique ability to combine the experiential power and dynamic images of the living sky with classic horoscopy and metaphysics — an alchemical blend of bleeding-edge modern research and pioneering technique. You can catch Gary online via the popular Hermetic Astrology Podcast, or live on one of his frequent lecture tours across the U.S. and abroad.

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Chakrapani Ullal

By Edith Hathaway | November 6, 2017

Chakrapani Ullal has been called the “father of Vedic astrology in the Western world.” A great Vedic astrologer who came to the U.S. from South India in 1979, he previously studied law and business in India, having learned Vedic astrology from a young age at the feet of his father and grandfather. He first became widely known internationally as the astrologer for Swami Muktananda, who invited him to come to the U.S. in 1979.  His service to so many clients in his busy astrological practice over the decades, and the knowledge he shared with so many students and practitioners will be treasured for many years to come.

Chakrapani died on Saturday, October 28, 2017 at 3:10 a.m. Pacific time, Beverly Hills, CA. He had been suffering since August with the return of a leukemia-like condition, and in the hospital since early September. I received a message that morning, but because I was involved all day in a memorial service and various family events for my sister-in-law in the San Francisco area, I did not pick up the message until 6:30 p.m.

Chakrapani’s passing is indeed a moment of great magnitude for me.  I was concerned for his health this year, as many of us were. It was also 29 years (a full Saturn return) since my first-ever contact with him. He provided my first serious introduction to Vedic astrology and was a decisive catalyst.  He has been a great friend and mentor to me ever since, especially from the early 1990s onward, when we collaborated on various astrological research projects. We spoke often by phone, and fortunately we had a chance to have a wonderful evening together in Los Angeles in early June.  He had some back pain but was otherwise in excellent spirits.

My partner Jim and I were in Oakland, CA for five days from Thursday, October 26th, staying with Jim’s son and daughter-in-law, Galen and Casey. We were there especially for my sister-in-law’s memorial service Saturday morning, preceded by a tour of the new sanctuary. She was a Sufi, and very involved in that organization for decades.  She died on August 26th. The service and reception were at the Sanctuary for Sufism Reoriented in Walnut Creek, CA, founded originally by the Indian-born spiritual master Meher Baba.

Just a few hours after Chakrapani passed (which I did not know about yet), we were at this magnificent sacred building full of light and images depicting the evolution of consciousness. It was completed in March 2017 after five years construction, and built in a circular design in all white Cararra marble intended to last for 700 years. Here is how the Sufi Murchida (their living teacher) Carol Connor describes it:

“In all spiritual traditions, the design of a sanctuary strives to be an outward expression, in material form, of the still, sacred space at the center of the human heart where man is joined with and can know God. It therefore aspires, first, to be the most beautiful form its creators can envision.

The sanctuary’s curvilinear design is based on the form of the circle. Like God, the circle has no beginning and no end. This expresses eternity, the eternal life in God the Infinite. The circle is also recognized as a symbol of unity since all points on the circle are equidistant from the center, as all beings are in relation to God. This symbol embodies the essential unity of Creation and the Universal Love at the heart of all life.”

The whole day and previous evening were spent in this mode, followed by a dinner for 12 at Galen and Casey’s house in Oakland, an event they call “Friendsgiving” and a preview to Thanksgiving. At the end of the meal, each person at the table spoke for a few minutes about what they were grateful for, and I told them about my extraordinary day so full of confluences, and the passing of a man earlier that morning who has been an extraordinary influence in my life: my mentor and great good friend, Chakrapani.

Bio: Edith Hathaway is an international consultant in practice since 1980, author, teacher, and lecturer of Vedic astrology. Among her many awards and certifications are NCGR’s Level IV (Consulting Astrologer, 1989), Jim Lewis’s Master AstroCartoGrapher, 1988, plus numerous awards from Vedic astrology organizations, U.S. and India. From 1992 she served as faculty and board member of the American Council and American College of Vedic Astrology. Her audio course The Vedic Chart: An Expert Guide Through the Twelve Ascendants(2002) was re-released in 2015 on mp3s with PDFs, and her latest book was published in 2012: In Search of Destiny: History, Biography & Culture As Told Through Vedic Astrology. For her articles, audio course and lectures on mp3s, please see: Edith Hathaway. Email:


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