TMA This Week

Venus and Mars are alright tonight

By Mary Plumb | May 5, 2014

On May 11 Venus and Mars will be in opposition at 9°30’ Aries/ Libra. If the skies are clear, both will be visible — Venus, the morning star in the east rising ahead of the Sun, and Mars visible all night.

Venus and Mars are conjunct about every two years. The most recent conjunction, on April 6, 2013, was at 19°57’ Aries. Venus always travels close to the Sun and Mars is always direct at his conjunction with Venus.

But, Mars is always retrograde (or near his station) at his opposition to Venus. (Again, just visualize that Venus is always near the Sun while Mars goes retrograde when nearing opposition to the Sun.)

We know that Mars is completing his retrograde phase on May 19 at 9° Libra. A planet moves slowly at its station and the degree has staying power. Mars is at 9° Libra from May 7 to June 1: Take note as upcoming transits visit that degree.

At the opposition, planets are 180° apart, as far apart as they can be; their contours, functions, qualities, assets, and essence are directly recognizing and mirroring each other.

Although the 180° aspect highlights polarity and the outer world is enticing or demanding, or certainly interesting, polarities exist within our own natures as well. In many traditions, the awareness of opposites is a powerful portal for growth.

This Venus-Mars opposition is especially curious since the planets are in one another’s signs — Venus in Mars-ruled Aries and Mars in Venus-ruled Libra.

In a well-known mythological tale of Venus and Mars, Venus, although married to Vulcan, is enamored with Mars. Vulcan, the god of blacksmiths in Roman lore (his Greek counterpart is Hephaestus), manipulates fire and forges metal. He makes an invisible net to catch the lovers; in some renderings, this is for the amusement of the gods.

Another layer of interpretation, preferred by the alchemist Paracelsus and his followers, describes the net as being of a particular substance that was thought to be an important step in the path of the Great Work. They spoke of the melding of opposites as an important process in one’s inner life.

Iron (Mars) and Copper (Venus) are known as the King and Queen of the metals. Copper is eager to combine with other metals, while Iron is hard, rigid, and capable of great resistance. “On average, women have about 20% higher copper serum than men and for iron it is the other way round, with men having a one-third higher iron level than women in their blood.” (1)

“Iron, or Mars, is the minor malefic, furnishing man with energy, courage, resistance, aggressiveness, and forcefulness. …But iron has the distinction of itself, either permanently or temporarily, becoming magnetic. It thus exhibits an independence and force not possessed by other metals.” (2)

“Copper is a metal of reddish color — soft, pliable, yielding, and a good conductor of heat and electricity. It is an even better conductor of electric force than iron, but is incapable of retaining that force and itself becoming energetic. Iron is a harsh, forceful metal, but copper is mild and gentle….It is truly the metal of union, for it is always more contented when alloyed with another. It thus entirely lacks that independence of character that distinguishes iron, and must ever have a stronger companion upon which to lean.” (3)

Copper, like Venus, has the power of attraction; it combines with other elements to form alloys and transforms other substances into complex salts; because of this versatility in transforming and combining, “the alchemists called copper meretrix metallorum, the harlot of the metals.” (4)

The opposition is a moment of perfect equipoise. If we attend to it, we may be gifted with maximum awareness of the energy at hand. With Venus and Mars surrounding the earth on either side, the opposition can be a time of enormous self-awareness, observation and balance. We know from the law of correspondences that a seemingly simple adjustment (i.e., do I need a little more – or less – chocolate or berries – Venus? or garlic or ginger – Mars?) can impact the intricate and subtle functions of the endocrine glands and their hormones.

Here is an essay by homeopath Peter Morrell on The Healing Power of Metals. It introduces the qualities of the metals with simple suggestions on how to notice their harmony or imbalance in our own bodies and psyches. Remember, both Venus and Mars are needed; they work together, always uniquely calibrated for maximum accomplishment.

(1) Quote from an extract from Nick Kollerstrom’s book, The Metal-Planet Relationship. Skyscript
(2) Brotherhood of Light
(3) ibid.
(4) Borderland Research
Quote from: The Secrets of Metals, Wilhelm Pelikan, Anthroposophic Press, N.Y., 1973.

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Sun-Mars opposition on Tuesday

By Mary Plumb | April 7, 2014

I’m sitting in longed-for sunshine on Sunday afternoon. I know the weather has been rough and it has been a long, long winter in many parts of the country; I hope that many of you are beginning to feel a kinder spring.

Using that word “kinder” is probably an antidote to my current thoughts, which have been moving today towards Mars as a key point for this week’s blog.

The Mars-Sun opposition, the midway point in its synodic cycle, is on Tuesday with the Sun at 18°56’ Aries and Mars retrograde at 18°56’ Libra. The synodic cycle of Mars and the Sun is the period between two consecutive conjunctions of these planets. (1) The cycle begins at the superior conjunction when Mars is in direct motion and conjunct the Sun. The cycle reaches the halfway point at the opposition between the Sun and retrograde Mars. The current cycle began on April 17, 2013 at 28°08’ Aries. (2)

Mars is tangling mightily with the other planets in the cardinal cross and is now is carrying his spurs and sharp knife point right out into the open, visible to all, just as his opposition to the Sun is his greatest visibility in the sky. (3)

It is easy to see the mess out there, not to mention how badly everyone is behaving, but what about the mess in here?

This is a perfect and precise moment to have a face-to-face encounter with whatever is bothering or irritating us, (or more strongly, with whatever feels threatening, frightening or challenging).

Sometimes just noticing what is irritating us can bring a slight adjustment and Mars’s potential for trouble or rage is diffused before we become frantic (Uranus), or caught in a cycle of obsession (Pluto) or grandiosity (Jupiter) in these next weeks as the infamous cardinal cross lights up our world.

At the opposition, maybe we can turn towards what is difficult or painful and carry on with a revelation that will assist as we go forward. We can take this as a shock point in self-awareness — and invite whatever is obstructing our well being to come into view.

Meditators, energy workers, martial artists and yogis have a direct channel for using this currently deeply impassioned Mars constructively. Uranus at best gives a breath of view, someone mentioned to me today that they try to “rise above” the current difficulties, which may be Uranus speaking. That strategy may work for some and at some moments, but in the circles I travel in the notion of “dropping down” or “waking down” into difficulties has taken hold. This is more the realm of the messy, lower chakra, Pluto stuff, wherein we stumble in an eternal moment of obsession or we are coerced by the grip of a demon from the deepest dark.

Mars is fierce, but in Libra can also be more subtle, skillful and nuanced than usual.

Some days it seems we need all the skills and tools and remedies we know of to manage the intensity of the energy that is building, and releasing and building again. The cardinal emphasis brings ongoing choice points to step into the current moment. No time to look back, what is important is what we do now.


(1) The synodic cycle with Mars is not totally consistent, but somewhere around 25-26 months. The actual length will be between 762 – 819 days, with an average length of 779 days. (As noted in Astrology, A Language of Life, Vol. V: Holographic Transits, by Robert P. Blaschke, Earthwalk School of Astrology, 2006.)

(2) I wrote several blogs about that conjunction: Meeting Mars: Inside and Out and Sun-Mars, Part Two.
From the April 22, 2013 blog: “The marathon bombing was on Monday the 15th and, like some of us, I was riveted to the news.
Although that horror dominated the headlines, on April 16, the Constitution Project, a nonpartisan legal research and advocacy group, issued a report that concluded: “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” in the years after 9/11.
On Wednesday the 17th, the explosion at the fertilizer plant, in West, Texas, killed at least 14 people.”

(3) Bonus feature: the skies were clear and I got up early (5 a.m. PT) this morning to see Mars in his glory. Spica was there too, to the left and below Mars, both in the constellation of Virgo as she lays close to the horizon in the west. A few moments later, Venus appeared between the rooftops as she rose in the east. Now, that’s a nice way to start the day — I hope you get a chance to see the planets in the morning sky too.

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January 11th’s Venus/Sun Conjunction

By Kate Plumb | January 13, 2014

Saturday morning marked the midway point of the Venus retrograde cycle, when Venus conjoined the Sun. She has left the evening sky, setting after the Sun, where she was so beautifully bright. Venus moved closer to the Sun until the morning of the 11th, when they conjoined at 21° Capricorn. We will not see her again until Venus rises ahead of the Sun in the morning sky next month. Venus has gone retrograde or “underground.”

What does a retrograde cycle, or “going underground,” mean? For a period of time a planet is turning away from its regular path around the Sun and into a different mode of operation. This celestial occurrence coincides with a time when a reflective person has an opportunity to consider what has been assumed, and orient himself/herself away from the past, or what is expected, toward a more personal and unique approach to whatever that planet signifies.

Since it is Venus that is retrograde, we are reformulating our values, our desires, our feelings, what we are attracting to ourselves, what satisfies us, our relationship to money, our relationship to others, our motives, what we want from love, the price we pay, our relationship to our women friends, our ability to weigh, compare, and balance, how we look, how we get the “sweetness” of life, how loving we are, and the value we place on love. 

Venus’s retrograde began on December 21st at 28°58’Capricorn, the beginning of this time of questioning. Some of the above mentioned aspects of life might not feel as effective or personally satisfying as in the past. We might be undermining ourselves (or another), or under or overvaluing ourselves (or another) or some material item. The retrograde cycle demands we turn inward, reflect, and ask, “Why did I do that?” or “How did I get myself into this situation?” “Is this what I want?”

The reevaluation process might have been occurring in our unconscious, without our being aware of it. The conjunction of Venus and the Sun marks the moment when we become acutely aware that something has been unsatisfying in our emotional life. The Sun represents our self, our life purpose, our intention, and the direction of our life. When Venus meets the Sun, our purpose (Sun) shines through Venus (love, money, values), and through that connection only what is truly authentic to us can survive. If what we have been feeling/loving/valuing is not truly an expression of our innermost selves, it will be noticed by the Sun, giving us an opportunity to reevaluate.

Using whole sign houses, this conjunction occurs for everyone in the house with Capricorn on the cusp. Those people with planets or angles at 21° Capricorn (or 21° Cancer, Libra, and Aries) may be especially impacted. This time period will also be important for those with Venus as chart ruler, i.e., those with Libra or Taurus rising. 

We have from now until January 31st to integrate this new understanding. Venus will then move forward in direction, staying in Capricorn all through February until March 6th, when she will enter Aquarius and move into new territory. During this time period, we can deepen our commitment to whatever we hold dear and precious. It is the beginning of a new round of experience in our love life and the values we live by. The next Venus/Sun retrograde conjunction will occur on August 15, 2015, this time in Leo, offering our next opportunity to reorient ourselves in our feeling life away from the usual and toward what is more unique to us. Here are three stories — one historical example, one current event, and one personal experience — to illustrate the Venus retrograde principle.

Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11, 1755, with Venus retrograde conjunct the Sun. Venus is the ruler of his Taurus rising chart. (1) Hamilton’s life contained every conceivable aberration in the areas of love and money that could possibly be imagined. From his obscure and impoverished childhood (born out of wedlock and orphaned), through the rest of the many facets of his life — from working as a clerk at age 11 for the outpost of a New York trading company in St.Croix, where he reconciled currencies from all over the world, to the pinnacle of his career with the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and becoming Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury — he encapsulated a Venus retrograde phenomena. 

Hamilton envisioned, and through sheer persuasion, founded the modern nation state with its emphasis on a strong financial footing, a budget, a funded debt, a tax system, a central bank, a customs service, and the beginnings of a stock market and speculation. He understood the value of funded debt, that is, in order for this new country to be deemed viable in the world’s eyes, the U.S. had to borrow and pay back money with interest. He went against the norms of the time; before his efforts, the Continental Army had been severely undersupplied with food, clothes, shoes, and ammunition because Congress had no authority to collect taxes to pay for supplies.

This man who was responsible for the founding of a modern, functioning nation also left his widow impoverished at his death. Gouverneur Morris, a U.S. Founding Father and its first millionaire, organized a secret subscription service among Hamilton’s friends to provide for his widow and children.

Another example of the aberrations and unusual circumstances encountered by a natal Venus retrograde person is the fact that the married Hamilton — his wife was from a prominent New York family — had an affair and, rather than keeping quiet about it, published a 90-page pamphlet explaining and defending himself.

The second example of a Venus retrograde story is the case of Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, which appeared on the front page of the New York Times on January 11th. Arrested on December 12th for visa fraud and for making false statements about her treatment of her domestic worker, she was also apparently strip-searched. The diplomatic crisis between the world’s two major democracies highlighted the cultural discrepancies between the two countries. As was written in the Times: “While Americans reflexively came to the defense of a maid who the authorities said was subjected to abuse, Indians reflexively sympathized with the diplomat.” A cultural abyss opened up between the U.S. and India — a clash of values (Venus). The diplomat was expelled from this country while her husband and two young daughters, all U.S. citizens, remained in New York. Khobragade, like Venus, is now alone on an inward journey, in retreat, because of cultural differences in value systems.

The third example is my personal story. Having just had my birthday on December 23rd, I have Venus retrograde in my Solar Return chart for the year; in fact, it is on the Ascendant. I expect to have experiences this year that will help me clarify what is important to me. Working on a friendship with my ex-partner, whom I had not communicated with (except through lawyers) for eight years, I feel there is still some chemistry between us. But instead of being the aggressor and going after what I want (how the relationship began 40 years ago), I am taking a different tack. I am exploring my more feminine side (Venus), being more the seductress than the seducer (Mars). We will see how it turns out. I feel the change inside me: valuing myself more and not being so needy for an external fulfillment.

In summary, the Venus retrograde cycle gives us a span of time where some fundamental change in our feelings and values can occur. Whether conscious or unconscious, Venus’s retrograde cycle takes us on an inward journey where what we like and dislike, what we attract or push away, can be more clearly defined. Retrograde cycles are very special but the outcomes might not be evident right away. I suggest waiting until March 6th, when Venus leaves Capricorn, before making any definitive pronouncements on the matter.

(1) This birth time for Hamilton is rectified using medieval techniques by Regulus Astrology. Alexander Hamilton; January 11, 1755 NS; 1:23:37 p.m.; Charlestown, St. Kitts-Nevis. (17N08 062W37).
Regulus Astrology

Bio: Kate Plumb is an NCGR, Level IV astrologer. She is on Facebook and is available for astrological consultations. Please visit her at Kate Plumb Astrology, email;or phone (631)725-9133 if you are interested in making an appointment.

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The 2014 Conjunction of the Sun and Venus in Capricorn

By Gary P. Caton | January 6, 2014

“Chronos is time at her worst. …Chronos is the world’s time.
Kairos is time at her best. …Kairos is Spirit’s time.
We exist in Chronos. We long for Kairos. That’s our duality.”
Sarah Ban Breathnach (1)

In the course of the 19-month visual (or synodic) cycle of Venus with the Sun, Venus makes two conjunctions with the Sun. The conjunction of Venus with the Sun while Venus is in retrograde motion is known as the interior, or inferior, conjunction, as Venus passes between the Earth and the Sun. The conjunction of Venus with the Sun while Venus is in direct motion is known as the exterior, or superior, conjunction, as Venus passes on the other side of the Sun from the Earth. These two conjunctions happen about nine-and-a-half months apart.

The charts for these conjunctions are quite revealing when applied to a personal horoscope. The natal sign and house where any transit Sun-Venus conjunction occurs is often a clear focus of Venusian activity for the subsequent nine months. I have also found that when a transit Sun-Venus conjunction conjoins a natal planet, the nature of the person’s experience of that planet undergoes a profound shift. Finally, I’ve noticed that it is valuable to look at the whole chart of the conjunction to discern the contributions from the rest of the planetary pantheon on the conjunction itself.

Rather than a fleeting transit of a day or two in duration, when viewed through a synodic lens the influence of this Sun-Venus conjunction can be seen to last for nine months, until the next conjunction of the Sun and Venus. In this way, the Sun-Venus conjunction chart also functions as a mundane forecasting tool. For instance, in my blog for TMA last April, I diagnosed the chart of the Sun-Venus-Uranus conjunction in Aries to be largely about polarity, showing the need for “devils to tear down the ivory tower of Plutocracy, but also to rebuild a new world.” I also pointed out that the two yods in the chart for the conjunction were the most significant features. (2) A few months later, along comes Edward Snowden, a young man to whom these “fingers of God” were clearly pointing, with their apex points being conjunct his Ascendant and Moon.

So what do the next nine months have in store for us, in terms of the awareness (Sun) of Venusian qualities, like our ethics, aesthetics, and social ties? Or, as Alexander Ruperti wrote, what does this chart tell us about the necessary examination of “the cost of ones desires and all previously assumed values” that it portends? (3) Here is the chart of the Sun-Venus conjunction of January 11, 2014 (drawn below for the U.S. capital).

With the Sun-Venus conjunction rising over Washington D.C., I believe this indicates that our nation needs to do the soul searching and self-examination that Ruperti tells us is the real gift of this alignment. This is not a big surprise, given the shock waves of the massive spying efforts that were revealed under the previous conjunction. Still, it is a hopeful sign that the evaluation of “the cost of ones desires and all previously assumed values” may actually happen.

What will this examination/evaluation look like? The other notable aspects in this chart are a very close sextile of an 11th-house Saturn to Sun-Venus-ASC and a very close square of Vesta in the 10th to Sun-Venus-ASC. Let’s take a look at these separately and then see what they may mean together.

In a mundane chart, the 11th house is primarily about Congress and legislation. By extension, it also represents friends of the nation, i.e., other nations with which Congress forms treaties. Deborah Houlding says that Saturn in a mundane chart represents “public sorrow and disappointment.” (4) Again, there are no surprises here, as Congressional approval has recently hit all-time lows, plummeting into the single digits. (5) However, Saturn is also traditionally associated with elders and authority figures, so Saturn in the 11th could signify congressional leaders and/or the leaders of foreign countries whom we consider our allies. Being a sextile, this could suggest that pressure (Saturn) from Congress and/or foreign dignitaries (11th) could be helpful in producing tangible action and results.

Saturn in the 11th sextile the Ascendant could also signify historic legislation. On my public Facebook page for my Goddess Astrology podcast, I recently mentioned that Venus stationed retrograde on the day of the winter solstice. (6) The last time Venus did this was in 1762. The following year saw the Treaty of Paris, signed on February 10, 1763, just after Venus stationed direct on February 1. This was a major international treaty that not only ended the French and Indian/Seven Years War but saw France cede Canada (New France) to Great Britain. Possible correlates in the current Gestalt are the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as perhaps a ground-breaking treaty putting limits on new technologies, such as drones, spying, and data-mining.

In this chart Saturn is actually the helpful news, with the challenge being the square to Saturn from Vesta, Goddess of the sacred flame. Vesta represents the principles of focus and sacred-making. In the Thema Mundi, the square is given the nature of Mars, that is to say, separative or “dry,” in the Aristotelian sense of the word. (7) So, the square from Vesta represents a challenge to separate the wheat from the chaff and bring into focus that which really matters, that which is essential to life. Remember, the shelf life of this chart is only nine months, and only so much can be accomplished in that time. What is most important? Will we deal with the real issues and make them a priority or continue to be distracted by the “sacred cows” of various minority groups?

On a personal level, I think the challenge this conjunction brings for each of us over the next nine months is to find a way to experience Sacred (Vesta) Time (Saturn). Kairos is the Greek word for the concept of sacred time. While Chronos is quantitative, the sense of how much time we have, Kairos is qualitative, the sense of a sacred or special experience of time. Simply put, Kairos is quality time. So this chart begs each of us to examine the question: when, how, where, and how much are we “doing time” in our lives versus experiencing quality time? If there is an imbalance, it is our responsibility to reduce the excessive and increase the deficient. If we can first hold the tension of these opposites without being reactive, we can gradually bring them together over the next nine months. Like the master in Verse 77 of the Tao, we can thus “string the bow of our lives.” (8) By bringing our lives into accord with the Way of Heaven, we can make them capable of great things.

This may sound very idealistic, but a big part of my practice involves providing people with the practical tools to manifest the ideal into reality. One of these tools is the free Goddess Astrology Podcast. (9) On the next show, I’ll be talking quite a bit more about this Sun-Venus conjunction chart from a personal standpoint. Judging from the reviews on iTunes, many people find it quite helpful. TMA readers are invited to tune in for free! Also, I provide my subscribers with many more tools, including monthly special reports and extended podcasts on the progress of the Venus cycle via the lunar conjunctions. These reports provide astronomical, mythological, and sociological metaphors with which to understand the current alignments, as well as journaling questions designed to provoke insight into how the processes are manifesting in your life. (10) No matter how one may decide to personally engage with it, my experience has shown me that many people find great value in, and transformative experience through, following the Sun-Venus cycle. May the next nine months provide the sincere seeker with the experience of Kairos and all the quality time they deserve!

(1) Goodreads

(2) The Conjunction of the Sun, Venus and Uranus in Aries

(3) Alexander Ruperti, Cycles of Becoming: The Planetary Pattern of Growth. Previously published in 1978 by CRCS, Vancouver, WA. Re-published in 2005 by EarthWalk School of Astrology Publishing, Port Townsend, WA

(4) Skyscript

(5) Gallup

(6) Goddess Astrology

(7) Wikipedia


(9) listen via iTunes Goddess Astrology

(10) Interested readers can check out all the reports and podcasts for the previous nine-month cycle at the link below to see if a subscription may be of interest. Venus Aries ES 2013

Recommended Reading:

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

Arielle Guttman, Venus Star Rising: A New Cosmology for the 21st Century, Sophia Venus Productions, Sante Fe, NM, 2010.

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

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January 1, 2014

By Mary Plumb | December 30, 2013

Sometimes, I become very aware of the complexity and subtlety in the ways we astrologers inhabit this world. This can happen when a non-astrologer friend makes a comment or asks a simple question that somehow requires an intricate response — or, at least, evokes in me a chain of thinking about how to begin to talk about the way I see the planets’ movements and geometries at any particular moment or about any particular subject.

There is, of course, immense variability in how astrologers practice: the methods and techniques we use, the personal philosophies and beliefs that inform our approach, and how we apply our art — that is, to what end are we working? But essentially, we astrologers are living in a shared world of watching and listening to the motions in the celestial sphere, in that charming and olden-times phrase, the vault of the heavens. We know that something is being conveyed or signified by the motions of the planets.

So, we have embarked on this glorious and timeless journey of uncovering meaning (and inspiration, poetry, fascination, justification, explanation, beauty, distraction, amusement, understanding, solace, etc.) as a guide to our days.

The calendar year 2014 begins with a New Moon on January 1. It’s not often that the calendar year starts precisely with a New Moon — a celestial omen for the reunion of body and soul, mind and matter, will and desire. The Roman deity Janus, the god of thresholds, passages, and doorways, gives his name to the month. This year, his look ahead on January 1 carries the richness of a New Moon potentized by Pluto’s lumbering walk in the hidden darkness and Uranus’s magnificent and immediate grasp of the greatest possible view, with Mars striking at both. (Pluto conjoins the Sun and Moon; Uranus and Mars are opposite one another, and both square the Sun and Moon.)

Saturn in Scorpio and Jupiter in Cancer are holding a trine (which was exact in July and December 2013, and will be again in May 2014) in the water element. Our inner resources, our intimacy with self and others, and our faith in the flow of life itself provide a gentle container these days. The emotional bonds of personal connections are perhaps most obvious in households that are welcoming new babies now, or those guiding family members at the end of their life, but we are all moving along in the cycles of birth and death.

There are countless potentials for how we will individually experience the turning of the year. One clue is to be proactive: You can look at Capricorn in your natal chart and infuse that area of your life with a fierce invitation, a tender willingness, and a resounding openness to be changed by the events on the horizon.

What a time we are privileged to be alive in!

Much love and respect to all my astrology friends, near and far, known and unknown, for being my dear and hearty companions on the way.

Happy New Year!

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ISON…once more

By Mary Plumb | December 2, 2013

Melanie Reinhart’s Comet ISON blog from last week generated a record response: 198 “likes” and 91 “shares” on TMA’s Facebook page.

Please do read her beautiful analysis if you missed it last week.

It’s not just astrologers who have been fascinated. Astronomers have been watching ISON since its discovery in September 2012 and “knew they had a special opportunity to watch a pristine comet come in from the very edge of the solar system and make its first (and apparently only) swing around the sun.“ (1)

Referring to ISON’s unusual trajectory since its discovery, and especially its startling appearance close to the Sun (i.e., perihelion) on November 28, Karl Battams of CIOC (NASA Comet Observing Campaign) wrote: “We’ve had a crazy year, an even crazier past few months, and a truly insane couple of days. But everything we get out of this will make it more than worth it, and for me it’s just a privilege to have played a part in this unprecedented and extraordinary event.” (2)

(Here’s an awesome video of ISON’s perihelion. Remember, aside from its current trivialized usage, the word “awesome” is connected to a capacity to feel awe. “Genuine awe is when something is beyond our capacity to rationalize it; it is incredible and we only experience it at the level of our soul.”) (3)

And here is Melanie’s graphic from last week for November 28.
ISON perihelion

As Melanie noted, the mystic Rudolf Steiner wrote provocatively about comets. One of his ideas is that comets all have a specific purpose and arrive in our solar system at the cosmically ordained time. (4) Many are millions of years old; they travel into the inner solar system from the Oort cloud, or, as recently discovered, from the asteroid belt. (5)

Steiner sometimes referred to comets as connected to the astral body, i.e., a subtle realm connected in many energy systems to the emotional body.

This view of comets coming into our solar system and collecting astral/emotional debris has long appealed to me. (With natal Sun, Moon, and Ascendant in water signs, I seem to cling to emotional debris.)

In the spirit of recording immediate impressions of such a magnificent and mysterious celestial omen, I have a few personal stories.

On November 25, I caught a glimpse of someone with whom I have a rich (and incomplete) emotional history, someone that I hadn’t spoken to (or even seen) in several years. I asked for a meeting, which was a surprise; he said I was very brave (I was). The conversation played out over the evening and was so, so helpful — soothing, forgiving, honest. I left feeling so refreshed, as if a stubborn scar had been truly, surprisingly, magically transformed.

On Thanksgiving Day, I had dinner with a few family members, with whom there had also been awkwardness and unspoken regret and recrimination strongly in the air in the past years. We spent three days together and it was also an amazingly comfortable and easeful time. At first, I was thinking rather ordinarily that time really does heal wounds, and I did notice planetary symbolism that spoke to the happiness and graciousness we all felt. (6)

But then I remembered the comet! And had a whole new view of how this happened — the collecting of emotional residue and clearing the energy felt absolutely true. I also believe in the possibility that our simple actions and experiences can be magnified and offered for the good of the whole. Hail ISON!

I spoke with my sister Kate, an astrologer in New York (I’m in Oregon). She had a similar experience on Thanksgiving Day. She spent part of the day with long known friends, connections that had also previously been colored by the hint of remorse that also disappeared; the emotional air was cleared and fresh and new for them as well.  (See Footnote for another astrological detail.) (7)

As Melanie Reinhart wrote last week: “If we can allow our imaginations to sense and feel the meaning of the images suggested here, we participate in a deeply personal way with these energies. ‘Our’ meaning is unique to ‘our’ journey, and we do not need to impress it on anyone else, as it is not ‘the ultimate truth.’ The experience of meaning is sufficient unto itself.”

We’d love to hear your ISON stories.


(1) NBC News

(2) ISON Campaign

(3) The Path of Awe

(4) “Slightly later, on 18 April 1910, Steiner discussed these points again, more briefly and from a slightly different angle: ‘Just as the movements of the planets circling the sun correspond to the regular events in the evolution of humanity, so the appearance of a comet corresponds to an influence that runs counter to the regular events. Rosicrucian research has demonstrated that every comet exerts a particular influence on human evolution.’”
RS Archive

(5) From an article dated August 2, 2013: “PARIS: Astronomers on Friday said a vast cemetery of comets lies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, some revived by a nudge from the Sun after millions of years of dormancy, a finding that would overturn conventional thinking about these wanderers of the Solar System.
‘We found a graveyard of comets,’ said Ignacio Ferrín of the University of Anitoquia in Medellin, Colombia. ‘Imagine all these asteroids going around the Sun for aeons, with no hint of activity. We have found that some of these are not dead rocks after all, but are dormant comets that may yet come back to life if the energy that they receive from the Sun increases by a few percent.’ ”
Science Tech Daily

(6) As for the day itself, you may remember that Jupiter in Cancer, dispositor of the Sun in Sagittarius was opposite Venus in Capricorn that day (of ISON’s perihelion).

As for the personal charts: I have late Scorpio ascending; the visiting son has early Scorpio ascending. His progressed Ascendant has come to the degree of my natal Ascendant. His progressed MC degree has also come to my natal MC degree. His father (my former husband) has Taurus Ascending natally; progressed Venus has come to 6° Virgo, my natal and our son’s progressed MC. (Progressions move slowly and, when precise, have a significant impact.)

(7) Interestingly, in this case, her friend’s progressed Venus has also arrived at her natal Ascendant degree — a story, as in my case, of progressed planets in one chart coming to a natal angle in the other’s chart.

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Comet ISON

By Melanie Reinhart | November 25, 2013

Picture Credit: NASA

On November 28th, the comet ISON will reach perihelion, or closest point to the Sun, as it loops around the Sun on its journey to and from the Oort Cloud, the hypothetical “home” of the long-orbit comets that visit the Solar System from time to time. Its visibility will depend on whether it breaks up on this part of its journey, and predictions range from cynical to sensational. However, the best viewing time (GMT) is probably around 7:00 a.m., before the Sun rises, in the eastern sky.

See an article with stunning images

It is still only visible with binoculars, but the pictures below show ISON’s constellational journey. Even if you don’t see it, you can “entrain” to it, feeling its movement through the Solar System, if you choose to. Comets have long been considered harbingers of disaster, accompanying important historical events. However, in the writing of Rudolf Steiner, he describes comets acting as agents of healing; as they swoop in toward the Sun, they accrue to themselves all manner of “astral debris” which is collected and flung outwards on its exit path, away from harm. (See below for notes on Ophiucus, too.)

The picture sequence below starts with a panoramic view of the overall area of the sky where comet ISON is active. Then there is a sequence of dates, which go through until December 7th.

Follow the journey, enjoy the story, and allow it to nourish your imagination …

In the pictures below, the label of ISON is in red, and most of the pictures also show its tail.  Look for Mercury and Saturn, making the third of their three exact conjunctions on November 26th, 2013. The ecliptic is shown as a green line.

Below: November 23

Below: November 28

Below: November 29….see ISON now on the left hand side of the Sun, having looped around it and passed perihelion

Below: December 1

Below: December 7

If we can allow our imaginations to sense and feel the meaning of the images suggested here, we participate in a deeply personal way with these energies. “Our” meaning is unique to “our” journey, and we do not need to impress it on anyone else, as it is not “the ultimate truth.” The experience of meaning is sufficient unto itself.

Here are some thoughts that came to me as I contemplated this imaginal journey…

The trajectory looks like an arrow or a spear piercing our Solar System, whose nearly circular, or elliptical, orbits weave their way around the Sun. A spindle, a distaff … a comet-sperm … penetrating the Solar egg. Dane Rudhyar spoke in terms of the “cosmic fecundation” which comets represent, as they cross over the orbits of the classical planets en route to the Sun and out again. See how the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun), the green line in the images, goes straight through the centre of the Scales. Here, charmingly, each pan of the Scales has a symbol … one is the Sun and one is the Moon. Libra, the “halfway” sign is the place where the soul is challenged to strive for, or allow, BALANCE.

Often our notions of what this would look like cause us heartache and stress as we endeavour to “live up to” our airy ideals. Libra is the only man-made symbol in the Zodiac, and shows where our movement towards “Mind” and “Civilization” becomes juxtaposed with our deeper feelings, soul intimations, and desires, and we must balance these energies. Uranus is the “esoteric” ruler of Libra, and as the planet of Awakening, it sheds light on where and how our “scales” are true and “justified.” This word refers to the correct calibration of weighing-scales, and also to the theme of “justice.” Listening to the news, one hears multiple injustices almost becoming “normalized” through a kind of “double-speak.” But here, comet ISON goes “straight down the middle,” nudging us on to the Middle Way? We may be feeling a strange kind of stasis, almost a frozenness, poised between our own internal opposites.

The claws of the Scorpion reach upwards to the central pillar of the Scales, here almost seeming to graph the Sun, as if reaching for something delicious, precious, and desirable. Reaching for the Light, accommodating a deeper level of inner balance, usually means an encounter with dense, dark and shadowy aspects of our experience (or the “world out there”) and reaching a place where we learn the difference between re-action and action. Re-action does not bring true clarity of momentum, and action results not so much from decisions, but rather arises from inner alignment.

After perihelion on November 28th, comet ISON makes its way upward, away from the ecliptic, along the snake Serpens, towards its head. It is held by the left hand of the figure in the constellation of Ophiucus, the infamous “13th sign.” This large constellation is often associated with Asklepios, pupil of Chiron, and famously called the “Father of Medicine.” The constellation is associated with plagues, and the healing thereof, as well as oracular activities and divinations. Passing by the Mercury-Saturn conjunction on November 23rd, it will perhaps reveal the negative thoughts that “plague” us, their origins and ultimate ephemerality. Healing is offered here … can we receive it graciously?

All images created with the program “Starry Night” 6.4.3., Simulation Curriculum Corp

Bio:  Melanie Reinhart has been a professional astrologer since 1975, and is a prize-winning Diploma-holder of the Faculty of Astrological Studies, of whom she is also a patron. She received the Charles Harvey award in 2004, for “exceptional service to astrology,” and has taught for leading astrology schools in the UK and abroad. She runs a thriving practice offering individual readings to an international clientele. Books include: Chiron and the Healing JourneyChiron, Saturn and the CentaursIncarnation, and a contribution to the anthology The Mars Quartet. Visit her website for articles, useful resources, and a calendar of her workshops and lectures.

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The Luminaries

By Brian Clark | November 4, 2013

How do we keep an imaginal perspective on astrology alive in a culture whose attention has shifted to computer, smartphone, and TV screens, and no longer the screen of heaven? Sometimes it takes a voice from outside the system to remind us of the imaginative and infinite sky.

Eleanor Catton’s novel The Luminaries has won this year’s Man Booker prize, acknowledged by writers as the most luminous of the literary prizes. As the title suggests, astrological imagery is at the heart of her story. The twelve zodiac signs and seven traditional planets form the narrative’s architecture, while each successive chapter is in a number sequence and half the length of its predecessor. (Editor’s note: Scroll down for Eleanor Catton’s sunrise chart.)

Her beginning note to readers describes the precession difference in zodiacs and ends with the endorsement that astrological imagery “affirms our faith in the vast and knowing influence of the infinite sky.” The author’s dedication is:

“for Pop, who sees the stars
and Jude, who hears their music”

The music of the stars is a longstanding image of the poetry of the heavens. Plato once described astronomy and music as “twinned” studies because both required the understanding of numerical proportions and scales. Both studies were sensual: astronomy for the eyes; music for the ears. In this way astrology is as much a song of the soul as it is poetry of the heavens. It requires eyes and ears, but more so the third eye and third ear to imagine and hear its melodies.

We often get caught up in the literality of astrological signs rather than seeing through them into the imagery of their symbols. While astrological learning is filled with theories and techniques that help us find meaning in the horoscope, the weight of all this information risks suppressing the metaphors and images that the astrological symbols are revealing. Evocative images or heartfelt stories might be lost beneath prosaic sentences and literal explanations.

I was delighted to see that the imagination of astrology had inspired literature, as, to me, astrology is a creative art, a narrative, whether that is the story of the times, an account of an event, or an individual tale. It turns events into experiences by assigning meaning, context, and consideration to the facts of life.

Eleanor Catton’s creative tools were aroused by the right-brain hemisphere of the heavens. Its skyful of myths, images, and symbols helped her imagine the plot of her narrative, just as I feel astrologers do when reading the horoscope. The age-old adage of the music of the spheres could be a metaphor for how we might hear the muse in our astrological work; the tenor of celestial sounds being physically imperceptible to the human ear, but nonetheless there. What songs might you imagine the planets singing?

The music of the spheres describes the synchronous levels of vibration in the cosmos, not a literal sound. While synchronously we do often experience our astrological images literally, it is the metaphor that allows us to see through to other layers of meaning that lie beneath the factual.

It’s not necessarily an easy task to allow meaning to reveal itself through the animation of astrological images with symbols, stories, myths, metaphors, dreams, synchronies, moods, and reactions. It might seem more reliable when we have formulas and facts or an “expert’s opinion” to help us feel certain. An imaginative perspective is never certain, yet is essential for the creative act of soul-making at the heart of our lives.

Bio: Brian Clark is the co-founder of the Chiron Center, now located in WellBeing, a wing of the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne, dedicated to alternative healing therapies. As a consultant astrologer for over 30 years, he is deeply interested in astrology’s resonance with the soul. Having taught a successful four-year program in astrology for over 25 years, Brian has redeveloped the syllabus as a distance learning program ( leading to the Diploma in Applied Astrology. He has his BA (Hons) and MA in Classics and Archaeology from University of Melbourne. As a Philhellene, he feels blessed to have led so many tours to the sanctuaries of ancient Greece with hopefully more to come. Brian has been honoured with a Life Membership from the Federation of Australian Astrologers (FAA).

Mary’s note:
I’ve added a few links about the author and her work for those who might be curious.
(1) A review of The Luminaries.
NY Times Book Reviews
(2) An interview with Eleanor Catton: “Money doesn’t transform you – only love can.” Eleanor Catton, the youngest ever winner of the Man Booker prize, talks about how her novel The Luminaries was plotted in the stars.
(3) Eleanor Catton’s sunrise chart; born Sept. 4, 1985; London, Ontario, Canada. (The Moon was in Aquarius all day.)
Source: Wikipedia

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Thoughts on a few fixed stars…

By Mary Plumb | October 14, 2013

I have always thought of the fixed stars in natal astrology as operating at a deep stratum in the psyche. That impression was in part formed by experiences of people in my life with Menkar, the brightest star in the constellation Cetus the Whale, in a prominent place. The early myths of this constellation connect it to a massive sea monster that is destructive and all-powerful. He arises from the depths of the sea, unannounced and terrible. We understand that the sea is a symbol of the unconscious. Of Menkar, Bernadette Brady writes: “The unconscious becoming conscious. The sudden emergence of deep unconscious issues.” (1)  

I have seen Menkar (13°37’ Taurus) conjunct the Sun in the radix of someone who suffered from devastating mental illness and someone else who is an astute psychological astrologer. Another person has Menkar conjunct Jupiter (the Ascendant ruler); this is the nativity of a psychologist who focuses on bringing the unconscious into consciousness in quite dramatic ways. 

I heard John Frawley say once that the fixed stars influence the body, not the soul (except in rare situations). 

I was inspired by Serbian astrologer Aleksandar Imsiragic’s talk at UAC 2012 on the fixed stars. He articulated the idea that the fixed stars operate at the unconscious level; they speak of qualities that are deeply embedded in our psyche, which he also related to our biology and physiology. They are parts of ourselves that we don’t understand, the deepest part of ourselves. This is a view I currently am exploring.

Fomalhaut, from the Arabic for “fish’s mouth,” is in the constellation of the Southern Fish, i.e., Piscis Australis, near the constellation Aquarius. (It is one of the Royal Stars of Persia, the Watcher of the South opposite Regulus, now at 0° Virgo, after 2,160 years in Leo.)

The Four Royal Stars of Persia are often seen as the most important stars in the sky, with rich mythological histories. They confer charisma and a special gift or task when pronounced in a chart. Fomalhaut (at 3°52’ Pisces) is connected to creativity, musical talent, and idealism. 

I know five people very well with Fomalhaut on the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant. The idea that a fixed star is not easily understood, but has a powerful pull on the psyche, holds true in all of these cases. 

My friend has the Moon and North Node at 3° Pisces conjunct Fomalhaut. He has always had a profoundly sensitive and idealistic nature that has confused and bedeviled him all of his life. He struggled early in life with periods of feeling very strange and unable to make any sense of himself. It was quite an odd experience for this man, who is athletic, practical, and has a very discriminating intellect; he was often overwhelmed by states of tremendous confusion. He found his way into a very suitable career as an exquisitely sensitive body worker, directing the gifts of the star to help others. Talking to him recently about the presence of Fomalhaut in his horoscope was deeply moving for us both. 

Another friend with the Sun at 3° Pisces is a metaphysician, a musician, and a poet, who has had a hard time with the material demands in life.

Two people with 3° Pisces on the Ascendant are both charismatic healers and physically attractive. Both are gifted seers, and have found their abilities to often be misunderstood by others, or misapplied by themselves. (Brady makes the point that the Royal Stars are hard to manage; she says that especially those with Fomalhaut strong must stay very attentive to their motives. “If the ideal is a noble cause, the person will find personal happiness or success for the benefit of the collective. However, if the ideals or dreams are corrupt in any way, then the downfall is total.”) (2)  

Traditionally, the fixed stars are used with a very small orb and are used primarily when conjunct a planet or angle in the horoscope (although the opposition and parallel are also important).

Working with parans is an additional method. Basically, any planets on any angle (i.e., rising, culminating, setting, and nadir) at the same time a star crosses any angle links the two bodies in a paran, “rising side by side.” Some sources believe it is the most ancient way of working with fixed stars, and Bernadette Brady explains it in her opus, Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars. What is especially interesting is that the stars become activated at different stages of life. It’s a bit too complicated for this blog, but definitely something to investigate if you haven’t already. (When I first looked at the parans in my natal chart that were active in childhood, I had to put it away for a while; it was too scarily accurate. And, I had the distinct sense that unconscious memories were being awakened.)
The fixed stars are potent and evocative, telling stories within the fabric of the horoscope. I am thinking of someone else I know well with Canopus (14°43′ Cancer) conjunct Mercury. Canopus is the brightest star in the very large southern hemisphere constellation Argo, the Ship. The Egyptians saw Argo as the vessel that carried one on mysterious journeys to far lands. It is noted in writer’s and actor’s horoscopes, as well as conferring a sense of being on a long trip before arriving at the destination. I certainly more fully recognize and appreciate the inner world of this gentleman by remembering the stories of Argo and its navigator and guide, the great star Canopus.


(1) Bernadette Brady, Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars, Samuel Weiser, 1998, pg. 32.

(2) Ibid, pg. 197.


Here is a wonderful 319-page thesis on The Use of Fixed Stars in Astrology by Anthony Writer. He compiles the history and use of the fixed stars, and offers very detailed case studies. 

Marina Partridge at DarkStar Astrology has a detailed look at Fixed Star Fomalhaut.

Deborah Houlding writes on Cetus: the Whale and Argo: the Ship.

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Epic starry night

By Mary Plumb | October 7, 2013

I have had times lately of being (uncharacteristically) blue, keeping to myself more than usual, but Saturday night was a party I could not miss: the Southern Oregon Starwatchers gathering at the summer site in the mountains, about 15 miles out of town. Planned at the dark of the Moon for maximum viewing, the night further gifted us with the clearest skies.
We got to the site at dusk. I’d never been before and didn’t want to get lost. (Insert Pisces jokes here.) It was a small group drawn to be together on the mountain under the night sky.
The quiet mauve sky at dusk began gently to darken. Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, was the first to show against the not-even-dark sky. Associated by astrologers with magic and charisma, Vega is considered by astronomers to be the most important star in the sky (after the Sun). Vega was the northern Pole Star around 12,000 BCE and will be so again around the year 13,700. (More on the Pole Star coming up.)
I saw Arcturus and Capella next, on opposite sides of the horizon. Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation Boötes, was low in the northwestern sky. Nearly across the horizon was Capella, the brightest star in Auriga, the Charioteer.
Vega, Capella, and Arcturus are the brightest stars in the northern sky and far distant (in viewing range) from one another, but with these superb viewing conditions, we saw them all at once.
Soon we could easily spot the Summer Triangle, a triangle drawn between the brightest stars in the three constellations of Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra (i.e., Altair, Deneb, and Vega).
No planets were visible to the eye, but the stars continued! Way beyond grasping or counting or cataloging: just a massive expanse — a nearly 360° view of the horizon with only a few trees in the way.
We saw the Andromeda galaxy (known as M31), the farthest object from earth that can be seen without a telescope. It is one of the closest galaxies to earth — 2.54 million light years away. The light we saw on Saturday night took 2 1/2 million years to become visible on earth.  It looked like a soft fuzzy light, but through the telescope you could see its spiral shape.
A local and humble astronomer was masterful at showing the constellations, including the zodiac: he pointed out Sagittarius, Capricorn, and the large faint stars of Aquarius and Pisces.
I was getting dizzy — in part from looking up for so long, but also from drinking in so much; I had gone from being confined in my own head to this glorious, out-of-this-world display. 
We turned to look north, finding Polaris, the North Star, here in Ashland at 42°N. (If you get lost in the woods, providing you can see the sky, find the Great Bear (i.e., Big Dipper) and follow the lower edge to Polaris, which is at the end of the handle of the Little Bear (i.e., the Little Dipper), always due north and always at the latitude of where you are. It’s always there, night after night. There’s more to it than this if you get lost in the woods, but this is as much as I understand so far.)
I could see how the stars were used for navigation for eons. The North Star points due north — the center point of the circumpolar stars, the still point around which everything turns. The circumpolar stars never rise or set but just revolve around the Pole Star.

Due to precession, the Pole Star shifts every 6000 years or so. We saw Thuban, a faint star in the constellation Draco the dragon, who weaves between the Great and Little Bear. Thuban was the Pole Star in about 2800 BCE. And then looking way overhead and a bow to Vega again, our long ago Pole Star, and to whence we are being drawn again.
There was something deeply restorative about staying for as long as we could in full view of the wide, clear sky and watching the Great Bear and Cassiopeia beginning to turn counterclockwise around Polaris; seeing the constellations begin to appear and move across the sky as the earth turned. As my companion said, we might as well say we are looking down at the stars rather than up.
The night also made me think about looking closely at the fixed stars in nativities of those born at the dark of the Moon; I have four or five people close to me born within a few days of the New Moon, when there is no moonlight in the sky and the stars are at their most brilliant.
I also appreciate anew the various metaphors and internal practices born from the image of the still point around which all revolves.
In these chaotic and creative times, wherein every day we experience the forces of change taking us all on a spin out to the fringes of what is possible, the timeless, steady magnetism of the North Star was a gorgeous anchor point that night. 
I thought of you all there with me, my star-loving community, far and wide. Nothing like a night under the magnificent and massive sky to set oneself back on track.
Have a good week everyone.

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