TMA This Week

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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Another personal story…

By Mary Plumb | September 30, 2013

Hello friends and TMA readers. I want to thank all the truly wonderful and generous colleagues who wrote TMA’s blogs for the last few months.

I had a minor car accident that had some more significant consequences than appeared at first. But, I am well and happy to be back with you all.

For the curious, here are some basic astrological factors. The accident happened on August 1, a few hours after Mars squared Uranus (an aspect in my natal chart). Mars had just opposed Pluto and was in the last days of its out-of-bounds period.

I had had a few hints in the previous days that I might want to slow down.

In what now seems a (painful) demonstration of “coming events cast their shadow before them,” on July 28 I made a comment to Tem’s post about the (then) current transits: “I almost got a speeding ticket – twice.” (1)

I happened to be sitting still at a light in my car when I was rear-ended, and I am grateful that the added stress of driving too fast was not part of the immediate situation.

But, sitting still is part of the story. With Scorpio ascending in the natal, Mars is the ruler at 9° Libra and retrograde at birth. It is now stationary by progression and about to go direct. (2) Maybe I am stopping to get my bearings before moving on. I don’t have a clear perspective on it all yet, but am moving carefully and (hopefully) thoughtfully forward.

To catch up on other writers, here are some interesting blogs to enjoy:

In case you missed Tem’s post on Facebook, here’s Barb Hindley’s true story about following Chris Brennan’s electional advice and winning a trip to Hawaii.

Lyn Dalebout, astrologer at EarthSky Oracle, calls herself an Earth Listener. She uses the sidereal zodiac and tracks the daily planetary weather. She also has some posts on Uranus-Pluto: “I have often described the influence of Pluto as being akin to a Cosmic Backhoe. It shows up one day, out of the blue, unannounced, unasked for, and begins to dig up your yard, your life, your psyche. And Uranus, as the Great Awakener, functions often as sudden accidents, being struck by lightning, major anxiety or panic attacks, kundalini awakenings. And genius.”

Peter James Clark’s Classical Astrologer Weblog is an elegantly designed website (many graphics) with articles on a range of subjects, particularly under “the confluence of magic, science and religion.”

For some samples, he includes the complete text of Timaeus.

He writes on the fixed stars, e.g., The Stars of Orion. “The right shoulder is Betelgeuse, a massive reddish star. He is synonymous with great strength. A planet or luminary rising, culminating, setting, or conjunct Betelgeuse will be considered a powerful companion. He is the one who must have the strength to metaphorically ‘flex the bow.’

On the left shoulder is Bellatrix, a star of the deep power of the undefeated Feminine. She is the Amazon warrior. In Tibetan Buddhism, the left hand is related to Compassion and the Right to Skillful Means, being feminine and masculine, respectively. The symbol for these is the bell and the dorje.”

The mundane articles include Global Uprising, wherein he looks at the last Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in May 2000 in Taurus and ahead to the next one in 2020.

“Most of us are unlikely to shed tears over the passing of the twenty year period heralded by the last conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. It’s fixed Earth and the material world. The predictions I made almost a decade ago have come to pass, with massive economic collapse, the banking crisis and extreme social polarity and violence.

I think when we stop waiting for a better tomorrow and work with what we have today, a new kind of humanity, not one guided by fear, can and will start to realize a world without the atrocities that all too often pass for normal.”

Just a Kiss Away, an interpretation of Mick Jagger’s horoscope.

And a piece on Hermes: Magician & Psychopomp

Have a good week, everyone. The Sun opposes Uranus and squares Pluto in the next few days – keep lively!


(1) Read Ray Grasse’s article The Voice of Divination: Omens, Oracles, and the Symbolist Worldview.

(2) Natal Mars is 9°36 Libra; transiting Pluto on August 1 was at 9°33’ Capricorn. Although there are lots of variables, I do expect to have assimilated the accident more fully by the end of November when Pluto moves into the 11th degree of Capricorn.

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Saturn, Venus and The Dragon’s Head

By Melanie Reinhart | September 23, 2013

A warm hello to TMA readers, and grateful thanks to Mary Plumb for offering me the opportunity to write a piece for this blog …

Currently, there is a triple conjunction of Saturn, Venus, and the North Node in Scorpio, and as you may already be aware, relationship themes are in the astrological view-finder! (Saturn-Node is exact on September 25, 2013 at 12:58 p.m. GMT, in 9°25′ Scorpio.) This is my cue to mention that Mary and I have been friends and “fellow travellers” for more than 20 years — a lovely metalogue of Saturn-Node-Venus, which amply signifies deep, long-term soul-connections between people. Thank you, Mary.

“Metalogue” is one of my favourite words. It means “that which we are speaking about is also arising.” (1) In astrology, we also do the reverse – we speak about that which is arising. Although astrology may reveal striking answers to our questions about life, I like to think that the Universe is also asking questions of us! Not requiring “correct answers,”  but open-ended and exploratory questions which invite personal enquiry into the nature of experience. So, taking this approach, I begin to muse on some of this week’s “presenting questions”.

Firstly, an equinoctial pause in honour of the Libra Equinox yesterday (September 22, 2013; 20:44 GMT). Equinoxes occur twice annually when the tilt of the Earth towards the Sun levels up to vertical and begins to shift the other way. These are good times to let go of the pressure to “make decisions” and attune to the feeling of pause, hiatus, and space, while we ourselves are perhaps being re-balanced. Click here for a truly extraordinary video — BALANCE as you’ve never seen it! The link was sent yesterday by a friend with Jupiter in Libra. Another metalogue!

Venus: Of Love and Loss

The Venus-Saturn combination sometimes gets bad press, so let’s “unpack it” a little. Venus is the “goddess of Love,” a general significator of “relationships” in the horoscope, and shows what or who we value or attract, or attracts us. Aphrodite’s son by Ares (a Mars figure!) was Eros, whose name has become synonymous with desire, the active aspect of astrological Venus. Perhaps this Saturn-Venus conjunction (exact last week, on September 19 at 20:53 GMT) has already reminded us how, where, and when the pathway of certain desires may have been “limited” (Saturn), putting fulfilment out of reach to help us find Love and Value inside ourselves (Venus). Saturn-Venus transits may also help us unhook from addictive or co-dependent patterns in relationships, or enable us to see that the arc of a relationship is indeed over. Saturn invites us to mature in the area of life it touches, so this combination lends us the “substance” (Saturn) to deepen existing relationships (Venus) or to invite further commitment (Saturn). Indeed, Saturn-Venus aspects are often seen in the astrology around significant meetings and marriages.

Venus describes the process of learning about loving … what happens when the honeymoon is over and we need to process irritation, disappointment, and a range of other feelings which bring romance down to earth, sometimes with a resounding c-r-a-s-h!! Unfortunately, our education does not equip us very well for these rites of passage. So it becomes Saturn’s job, congruent with his exaltation in Libra, ruled by Venus. We must find our own way — another time-honoured Saturn theme!

As the goddess of ”love, harmony, and beauty,” Venus also presides over how we react when we lose the things and people which reflect these precious, valuable qualities. What are our own “default defences” against the painful feelings around this kind of loss? Do we immediately move on, defiantly deciding to “go elsewhere” (Venus in Sagittarius)? Do we lose confidence (Venus in Capricorn)? Become vulnerable and clingy (Venus in Cancer)? Buy something we can’t really afford (Venus in Leo)? And what might Venus-Saturn in Scorpio be asking, or drawing our attention to? Unprocessed hurts? Incomplete mourning? Rage, resentment? Appreciation of those who’ve stood by us in hard times?

Most importantly, Venus is about how we relate to ourselves, and concerns the inner, personal quality of VALUE, and the “values” and priorities that flow from this essential feeling. Externally, Venus refers to our “valuables,” what (or who) we have “invested” in, and what “returns” we hope for.

Can you “locate” and feel the quality of Value inside yourself? Just as it is? Or does it depend on someone or something? Like getting approval? Like being wealthy, or being considered beautiful? To me, the symbol of Venus is a hand-mirror inviting us to truly see the “face” of our own soul, as a reflection of the preciousness of existence. Is it really possible to love what we do not value? Perhaps the lack of this feeling leads us to try and import Value through getting, having, and owning “stuff,” including other people?

Scorpio: Warrior of the Depths

In case you hadn’t noticed, the paragraphs above are somewhat Scorpionic in approach! This sign invites us to journey into the depths of our own experience, thus rendering it more transparent to consciousness. Although we may meet our “dragons” along the way, we faithfully pursue the truth of our personal existence, and beyond. The goal is transcendence, but the path may take us through realms of great density, emotionally and mentally. Scorpio is a fixed water sign, and “holds” areas of feeling yet to be processed and released, and which therefore call us back to attend to them. The Scorpio way is not to “skip over” these things, but to go down with them into the dark places of soul and to later emerge transformed.

Saturn: Time, Heritage, and Substance

As “Lord of Boundaries and Limits,” Saturn may bring the challenge of passing through the portal presided over by “The Guardian of the Threshold.” This figure traditionally represents an accumulation of unconscious fears, forebodings, toxic emotions, and negative judgements of ourselves and others, arising with such intensity that the only way through is a radical shift of consciousness. Saturn’s process reveals the root cause of suffering: the thoughts we are “possessed” by, and the flack that results from believing and acting upon them. When we truly see this “dragon,” the “Guardian of the Threshold,” we are allowed to pass.

Indeed, the “Guardian” may be revealed as the “Wise Old Man or Woman” in disguise. Here, I think of Jupiter, Saturn, and Chiron communing in their ongoing watery trine, a prominent theme of the year — read Mary’s July 28 blog. Faith and feeling rule the day, as we see that deep inner work proceeds on a “need to know” basis. We can rest assured that we do not have to “understand everything” in order to allow healing or awakening.

The Nodal Axis: Interweaving the Opposites

The transiting Nodal Axis, or “Axis of Destiny,” locates where eclipses occur. Each “eclipse season” contains at least two eclipses, one Solar and one Lunar, at the New and Full Moons, respectively. The “season” starts about a week before the first eclipse, ending about a week after the last one, offering twice each year an auspicious time for quiet reflection, a time to withdraw like the light of the Sun or Moon “withdraws.” Karmic issues are magnified, as are the benefits of meditation and inner work. In psychological terms, our contact with the unconscious is heightened, and we benefit from being willing to meet whatever arises with compassion and in a spirit of enquiry. Startling insights may come, freeing us from entanglements that have finally run their karmic course.

Eclipses do indeed bring endings, which range from subtle to really obvious. If we approach their seasons with a willingness to do whatever it takes to help us accept and let go, the strength of renewal that follows can be profound. Contracting our sphere of activity and emotional involvement with others can be useful at these times. The next eclipse season is coming up soon, lasting from about October 11th until November 10th, and the current Saturn-Venus-Node interactions lead into it.

The current Saturn-Node conjunction may reveal “forces of destiny” strongly at work. Pay attention to synchronicity, watch your dreams, let yourself be guided, and commit to take action where it is indicated. Things take shape and form where Saturn is involved, and we are invited to “make real” that which “matters” to us, moving from the realm of theory into the world of practicalities, shape, and form. In other words, to “walk our talk”! Check out the date list below and see what Saturn-Node brought into your life during its previous conjunctions.  What entered to shape your destiny? And now? What is ‘showing the way’ or asking to be given form?

Venus-Saturn-Node: Receiving the Energy

With this triple conjunction as a curtain-raiser for the forthcoming eclipse season, contemplate, expect, or perhaps even cultivate some of the following:

Insight about relationships, past and present (and perhaps future?)
Rich, deep feelings, passion and desire. Develop the capacity to “hold” and savour these experiences, rather than suppressing them or being at their mercy.
Deep letting go — “something” is ending
Tender melancholy, joyful solemnity
Quiet, internal rejuvenation
Recognition and release of negative judgements about self and others
Meetings with people significant to your destiny, “fellow-travellers”
Moving beyond mourning into appreciation of those who are no longer part of your physical life, due to death or separation
Appreciation of long-term connections with people who are in your life now
Connection with the soul’s deepest sense of Value and values
Awareness of where and how discipline is needed
Being given the “task list” for the next phase of your life

And finally …

Let’s not be afraid of melancholy. In Medieval times, this experience was respected and understood to generate deep philosophic insights. Now, however, the merest hint of it risks being pathologised and medicated out of existence. Current propaganda encourages us to be “up, bright, and shiny” all the time, but perhaps the soul-movement of the current Saturn-Venus will allow us to revalue, appreciate, and perhaps even enjoy (Venus) our own melancholy moods (Saturn). Try letting yourself feel like a melancholy but happy Hermit, while in the midst of “it all.” Saturn-Node-Venus will love this sadhana!(3)

Footnotes and references:

(1) From Gregory Bateson: Mind and Nature – A Necessary Unity, Bantam Books, NY, 1982.

(2) Click here for an article on Melanie’s website, with more detailed suggestions about honouring Saturn.

(3) Sadhana is an activity consecrated to worship, for devotion or spiritual development.

(4) See also Saturn: Time, Heritage and Substance, Starwalker Press, UK, 2013. The Kindle edition should shortly be on special offer from your usual Amazon site, once their “MatchBook” promotions have been rolled out. Ebook edition: for a 50% discount (until November 17th, 2013); enter the code BH64S when you check it out here.

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 Journey, Chiron, Saturn and the Centaurs, Incarnation, 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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Asteroid Notebook:  Achilles

By Alex Miller | September 9, 2013

Asteroid Achilles is named for a mythic Greek warrior, one of the heroes of Homer’s Iliad, a chronicle of the Trojan War. Son of a mortal king and a divine nymph, Achilles’ mother attempted to cheat Fate of a prophecy that her infant son would die young by dipping him in the waters of the river Styx in Hades to render him invulnerable. In this, she was largely successful, but she had to hold on to him by something, and so Achilles’ only weak spot was the heel her hand covered as she immersed him in the river. In due course, Achilles grew to manhood and gained a reputation as a fierce, unconquerable warrior of the invading Greek army, who caused the Trojans to quail at the sight of him. Eventually he was killed by the hapless Paris, who had started all the trouble by eloping with Helen; his poisoned arrow was guided to Achilles’ one weak spot by Apollo. Our term “Achilles Heel,” a point of vulnerability, weakness, and potential undoing, stems from this mythological incident.
Astrologically, asteroid Achilles (#588) shows prominently in the charts of famed military men, such as Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, as one might expect, given Achilles’ mytho-poetic identification with war. But it also serves as a marker of where we are vulnerable, susceptible to congenital weaknesses and character flaws that have the potential to unseat us despite our best efforts and overall competence or strength. It is the chink in our armor that brings disaster, often self-inflicted.
A number of scandals and downfalls this summer have reflected Achilles’ tendency to bring low the high and mighty, exposing their vulnerable underbellies and bringing to the fore character traits that have proved to be their undoing. 
One of the more visible, and portentous, activations of the astrological Achilles heel was the case of Mohamed Morsi, erstwhile president of Egypt, and its first democratically elected leader.  Just inaugurated on June 30, 2012, barely a year later his many missteps and abuses of power brought the largest mass protests in Egyptian history into the streets. On July 3, 2013, Morsi was deposed by the military, and now Egypt faces further turmoil and strife, with a possible escalation into all-out civil war, as Islamist supporters of the Morsi regime clash with secular elements of the society and the military grows increasingly abusive in the display of its authority. 
Morsi, born August 20, 1951, has natal Achilles at 5° Gemini, which had been hit repeatedly by transits in the period leading to his downfall. (1) Neptune came to its retrograde station at 5° Pisces, in exact square to natal Achilles, less than a month earlier, and was still at that degree when Morsi was deposed. This transit eroded support and focused attention on the religious zealotry and bigotry that had begun to characterize his administration. Saturn had just formed an exact inconjunct from 5° Scorpio in the prior two weeks and was coming to station at 4° Scorpio, still within orb, just five days later, indicating Morsi’s vulnerability in career matters and imperiling his status as Egypt’s chief executive. A lunar eclipse on May 24 at 4° Sagittarius opposed natal Achilles, setting the stage and softening the ground for transit Achilles, which, at 8° Virgo for Morsi’s fall, was fresh from squaring its natal degree in late June.
Also of note were two political sex scandals that flared across the summer sky. San Diego mayor Bob Filner and “sexting” New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner both broke new scandal ground in late July, when, on July 22nd, a sexual harassment suit was filed against Filner, and on the 23rd, Weiner held a press conference to fess up to the latest allegations that he had sent nude photos of himself online. (An earlier, similar scandal had forced him to resign his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011.)  
Filner’s troubles eventually mushroomed into more than 20 women accusing him of improper sexual conduct, advances, and harassment (including two women, both survivors of sexual abuse, that he hit on at a conference where they were presenting their stories). After a week-long hiatus to receive counseling, Filner was eventually forced to resign as San Diego’s mayor, effective August 30th. Weiner attempted to plough through his latest sexting revelations, continuing his campaign for New York mayor with a frank mea culpa and yet more promises not to re-offend, but his support disintegrated, and he went from leading contender to single digits in the polls. He remains on the ballot for New York’s September 10th primary, but this second round of scandal has likely sunk his political aspirations for good.
Incredibly, both men share a birth date, September 4th – Filner in 1942 and Weiner in 1964. So both men were receiving an exact conjunction from transit Achilles at 11° Virgo to their natal Suns when their respective scandals broke, evoking their vulnerability to inherent personality defects. Additionally, both men sport powerful natal Achilles placements that highlight the nature of their indiscretions. Filner’s natal Achilles at 14° Virgo straddles the gap between his Sun at 11° Virgo and Mars at 21° Virgo, emphasizing both the fundamental centrality (Sun) of this character flaw to his nature, and also honing in on the sexual component, via Mars. During the period of his discomfiture, Filner also experienced an Achilles return, with the transit asteroid ending up at 20° Virgo, conjunct natal Mars, when he resigned after just nine months in office.  Weiner’s natal Achilles is even more indicative of his issues; it exactly conjoins natal Mars at 23° Cancer and is also conjunct natal Venus at 26° Cancer, showing him to be particularly vulnerable to self-undoing via areas of sexuality and intimacy. 
Another political collapse came in the form of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s fall from grace. Previously regarded by his constituency as an honorable straight shooter, a Washington Post expose in mid-June 2013 revealed a pattern of poor judgment regarding the acceptance of gifts from political supporters and campaign donors. In particular, McDonnell was confirmed to have accepted more than $145,000 in gifts and another $120,000 in loans from Star Scientific executive Jonnie Williams, allegedly given in exchange for the governor’s support of a dietary supplement marketed by his company. McDonnell repaid the loans after the Washington Post story broke, and has been working to return or reimburse Williams for the value of the gifts, but his popular support has eroded significantly and, far from helping elect his successor, fellow Republican Ken Cuccinelli, he is now a drag on that candidacy.
When the Washington Post story was published on June 16, 2013, transit Achilles at 5° Virgo was exactly opposed Neptune, ruling bribery and the disappointment or disillusion felt by McDonnell’s supporters. It had just returned to its natal degree of 1° Virgo, reactivating the inherent weakness of character and potential for self-undoing that it represents. (McDonnell was born on June 15, 1954.) Asteroid Achilles was also exactly semisquare transit Venus at 16° Cancer, ruling gifts, which was itself exactly conjunct natal Mercury, ruling the Press. This is an indication that McDonnell is naturally vulnerable to the media, and particularly that day, on the themes of cash, donations, and gifts (all Venus-ruled). Also conjunct natal Achilles is asteroid Virginia at 6° Virgo, named for the state McDonnell governs (conjoined also by transit Achilles when the story broke), suggesting that any public service or official position in Virginia is likely to prove problematic in terms of activating that latent potential for loss via character flaw.
Character flaws of another type were on display August 5, 2013, when New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received a whopping 211 game suspension for his use of PEDs, performance enhancing drugs, to gain an edge in his pro sports career. Rodriguez, too, was experiencing a major contact between natal and transit Achilles, with Achilles in the sky at 14° Virgo forming its waxing square to its natal degree of 16° Gemini (born July 27, 1975). Natally, Achilles is semisquare the 3° Leo Sun, but also forms a broad opposition to Neptune, generally ruling drugs, at 9°  Sagittarius, and a tight sextile to asteroid Panacea, named for the goddess of medications and ruling pharmaceuticals, at 15° Aries. Both contacts indicate that drug use can be a major character flaw, potentially imperiling Rodriguez’ life or position. When the suspension was handed down, transit Panacea at 15° Gemini was conjunct natal Achilles and square transit Achilles, which was also sextile transit Mars, ruling athletes and professional sports, at 15° Cancer. 
Lastly, let’s consider the ongoing effect of his natal Achilles on the presidency of Barack Obama. One of the major critiques of Obama has been his lack of experience in military matters, from the infamous “3 a.m. phone call” campaign ad in 2008 to assertions of a timorous attitude toward the use of power in his “leading from behind” stance during the Libyan rebellion that unseated Qadaffi and led directly to the attack on the Benghazi consulate, resulting in the death of the U.S. ambassador in 2012. This ambivalent attitude toward things military has been seen as a major weakness, a point of political vulnerability that Obama overcame in his first presidential run due to the American population’s war-weariness after the Bush years.
Now Obama is embroiled in the Syrian civil war, needing to respond to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people, which Obama described a year ago as a “red line” that Assad could not cross without retaliation. After waiting for U.N. inspector reports, and decrying Assad as a “thug and murderer” via the surrogacy of the Vice President, Obama stepped back from the brink of armed reprisal for the chemical attacks when he postponed a decision on action until consulting with Congress, which was still in recess for ten days when the delay was announced on August 31st. Political opponents at home and Syrian authorities abroad both characterized the delay as a sign of weakness, an Achilles keyword.
Why this should be a weak spot for Obama is easy to see in his natal chart, with Achilles at 24° Pisces opposing Mars at 22° Virgo (born August 4,1961). Involvement with military matters is naturally a vulnerability with this placement, something exacerbated by this polarity’s meshing with the U.S.A.’s natal square between Neptune at 22° Virgo and Mars at 21° Gemini, forming a t-square with Obama’s points. In particular, the exact conjunction of Obama’s Mars with the nation’s Neptune renders his military actions and decisions in a potentially poor light, appearing dilatory, confused, and indecisive, all of which can be turned against him and constitute a political Achilles heel for the administration. At the point when Obama deferred his decision, transit Achilles at 20° Virgo was perfectly poised to activate the synastric t-square, in square to the U.S. Mars, conjoining the U.S. Neptune and Obama’s Mars, and coming to oppose its own natal degree in Obama’s chart and psyche. Achilles’ exact conjunction to the U.S. Neptune/Obama Mars pairing occurs September 7-10, just as Congress returns to take up the issue as job #1.
Achilles functions as this identifier of vulnerability and weakness in the birth charts of ordinary mortals, too. In my own nativity, Achilles at 21° Aquarius makes a close opposition to Uranus at 20° Leo, and technology has always been a particular bête noire of mine. Things technological tend to go haywire, with frequent problems, glitches, and breakdowns. Upgrading systems is a nightmare, and my lack of technical aplomb has certainly dented my bank account, as I have no recourse but to call in professional help when these problems arise. It has also been a limiting factor in career development. Granted, all this is exacerbated by Uranus’ conjunction with asteroids Nemesis (harm, ruin, undoing), Pelion (steep uphill climb), and Sisyphus (repetitive, nonproductive actions), plus squares from Karma (fated circumstance) and Mars (anger, conflict, lesser malefic), but Achilles definitely has a role to play in my tech woes.
One client of mine has Achilles in exact conjunction with Juno and semisquare Venus and finds himself bedeviled by partnerships, both romantic and business. They frequently end badly and leave him holding the bag when the partner splits, often fracturing or imperiling financial interests. Another with Achilles square Jupiter has difficulty finishing academic courses of study and has twice failed to certify in disciplines that she has a working command of, as well as encountering unusually adverse circumstances when engaged in international travel (all Jupiter arenas). A third with Achilles opposed Moon has lifelong health issues of a chronic, weakening nature, some stemming from physical abuse by her mother when an infant. 
All these examples confirm Achilles’ tendency to project and magnify weakness, and vulnerability or susceptibility to loss, either through character flaws and failings or congenital factors. Their repetitive nature indicates that Achilles continues to impact our lives wherever its natal or transiting placements expose a soft underbelly, an inherent feebleness or fault, which it exploits to our detriment.
(To find out where your own Achilles raises its ugly heel, check out the asteroid ephemeris generator at Serennu.)


(1) Editor’s note: All birth dates are from Wikipedia

Bio: Alex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of “The Galactic Calendar,” and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society. His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. His work with deep space points and asteroids appears monthly at DayKeeper Journal. Alex can be reached for comment or services at

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The 79-Year Cycles of Mercury and Mars in the USA Horoscope

By Gary P. Caton | July 21, 2013

“The right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon . . . has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.”
-James Madison in The Virginia Resolution of 1798 (1)

This has been quite a Mercury retrograde period (June 26 to July 20). We have had further revelations of U.S. spying (which appears to this author to extend to nearly the whole world); abortion restrictions being enacted in North Carolina and Texas; and the acquittal of George Zimmerman in Florida for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. All are examples of challenging information revealed in the public sphere. The kind of chaos we have seen during this Mercury retrograde reminds me of what many astrologers were expecting from the 2012 presidential election (which occurred on the day of a retrograde station). But looking at synodic cycles, there is a good reason why there is so much chaos now and not last year. (2)

Due to a convergence of sidereal and synodic cycles, Mercury will repeat its position near the same zodiacal degree every 46 or 79 years. (3) If we assume that the U.S. was born on July 4, 1776, we can see that the 79-year period comes into play in 2013. (This is because 79 x 3 = 237 and 1776 + 237 = 2013.) Therefore, this is a year in which Mercury will trace close to the same path through the zodiac as in 1776.

On a practical level, this means that the U.S. experiences a Mercury return close to the same time as its solar return in 2013. Mercurial natal themes are brought to the fore this year, much more prominently than in other years. We should expect this particular year (especially the period when Mercury is retrograde in Cancer) to be especially significant, as the nation was born with Mercury retrograde in Cancer.

The July 4, 1776 chart has Mercury retrograde in Cancer making a sextile aspect to Neptune in Virgo, as well as an opposition to Pluto in Capricorn. The need to re-think and re-visit issues, especially Cancerian issues such as “family values” and childbirth, is ingrained in our national blueprint. However, this need for introspective thinking is also affected by the idealistic and religious nature of Neptune, which is facilitated by the ease of its sextile aspect. At the same time, there is a standoff with a very powerful figure represented by the opposition to Pluto in Capricorn. These aspects are clearly reflective of the fact that in 1776 we were engaged in a seditious information campaign (in the name of ideals such as liberty and democracy) against what we saw as a tyrannical authority.

If you look at the bi-wheel above, you will see that solar return Mars (24° Gemini) is very close to the U.S. natal Mars (21°23’ Gemini). Like Mercury, Mars has a 79-year cycle. (3) Since 237 years is a multiple of 79, the 2013 solar return for the U.S. is also a Mars return. This means that Mars themes from the July 4, 1776 horoscope are also being re-activated. The presence of Mars explains the surgical and weapons-related themes that have surfaced. The over-the-top and rogue way that these themes have expressed themselves is a reflection of the fact that Mars is out-of-bounds currently, as it is in the U.S. nativity. The hidden, nebulous nature of much of this information, and the idealism/disillusionment that many feel about these issues, is a reflection of the natal square between Mars and Neptune in the July 4 chart.

The supreme irony is that while internal contradictions in the U.S. psyche, represented by the natal Mercury opposition to Pluto (both retrograde) and the natal square of Mars to Neptune, tend to resurface every 79 years, we seldom recognize them as such collectively.

As another example: The year 1855 — a 79-year cycle after the U.S.inception (1776 + 79 =1855) — saw the escalation of a border war concerning the issue of whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state, with “border ruffians” from Missouri influencing the early process. One cycle later, in 1934 (1855 + 79 = 1934), there was a crime wave of unprecedented proportions, as desperation from the Great Depression brought figures like John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and the Barkers to the fore. This resulted in the concept of “Public Enemy #1” being invented by the FBI and the subsequent empowerment of that organization. It should come as no surprise that “rogues and ruffians” like Snowden, Zimmerman, the NSA, and even the North Carolina legislature are the big news of 2013. (4) The real question is: will we ever collectively wake up to recognize these figures for what they really are?

“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ -all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness – that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then? As a rule, the Christian’s attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us “Raca,” and condemn and rage against ourselves. (5) We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves.” – C.G. Jung in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (6)

I do not think it is melodramatic to posit that our future may very well depend on our current ability to embrace these lowly parts of our national character and heal these internal contradictions. I’m certainly not the first astrologer to note that the last three transits of Uranus through Aries brought events that eventually led to major conflicts for our nation during Uranus in Gemini (i.e., the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and WWII). This trend is clearly evident to non-astrological historians as well. (6) While the recent SCOTUS decision to strike down DOMA was a victory for human rights, it was also a victory for state’s rights. And it appears clear to this astrologer that the blue states are getting bluer and the red states redder. Will it take another full-blown conflict for these divisions to come together? Or can we choose another path? Much still needs to be decided, but it seems pretty obvious to me that a “Cold War II” environment where the U.S. government is spying on everyone and their brother is not optimal for the free examination and communication that James Madison saw as necessary for securing all our other precious liberties. (Editors note: See the quote at the beginning of this post.) Perhaps in this sense, Edward Snowden is indeed just the “devil” that we need at this moment in our history. (7)

References and recommended reading:

(1) The Virginia Resolution was authored by Madison in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts.

(2) GlobalPost

(3) The planetary synodic periods were well known to Mesopotamian astrologers and later Ptolemy used them in his Almagest. Alexander Ruperti, Michael Munkasey, and Robert Blaschke are the modern astrologers who have researched these cycles in depth.
Alexander Ruperti, Cycles of Becoming: The Planetary Pattern of Growth. Previously published in 1978 by CRCS Vancouver, WA, and re-published in 2005 by EarthWalk School of Astrology Publishing, Port Townsend, WA.

Michael Munkasey, “Station Cycles,” an as yet unpublished research article shared with interested members of the community.

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

(4) New York Times

(5) “Raca, a Biblical term of Aramaic origin used in Matthew 5:22. See Aramaic of Jesus or Expounding of the Law. Its meaning is ‘worthless,’ ‘vain,’ ‘empty.’ Is a word of contempt towards an object that is depised.” Wikipedia

(6) GoodReads

(6) I’m referring to the work of William Strauss and Neil Howe in their books Generations and The Fourth Turning. See here: Wikipedia
and here Life Course

(7) In my last installment for this blog I mentioned that perhaps we need some “devils” to shake things up a bit; it happens that the Yods in the chart of the prior Sun-Venus conjunction, which I used to make this prediction, point precisely at the Ascendant and Moon in Edward Snowden’s birth chart.

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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An early summer sky…

By Mary Plumb | June 10, 2013

On Saturday night the skies were clear and dark; the New Moon is optimal for stargazing, and I went for the first time to the local astronomer’s group. In a large field with good views of the horizon, there was not a bad seat in the house. (Although I did arrive early, I was so excited to be there; clouds had obscured other planned events.)

What a glorious night! Right after sunset in the western sky, we could see Venus (Jupiter and Mars are too close to the Sun), and a bit later, Mercury.

Venus remains as the visible evening star throughout most of this year, but Mercury is fleeting. Mercury is slowing down before turning retrograde on June 26. I also saw Mercury through a telescope for the first time: you could see a slight crescent shape as he is in the gibbous phase, i.e., not quite full. (1)

(As the evening came on, Castor and Pollux, the twins in the constellation Gemini, stood out too, but that’s another story.)

Part of Mercury’s mythos is as the god of crossroads, thresholds, in-between states, and the one who accompanies travelers. As I spent time with him in the sky, that meaning came more viscerally alive.

Now, Mercury is in the sky at dusk, the twilight, the transitional time between day and night. His visibility is relatively brief; he quickly disappears as he sets behind the Sun. He moves quickly (only 88 days to go around the Sun) but never goes too far from the Sun. Even with perfect weather and horizon conditions, we can only see Mercury at a maximum of two months out of a year.

If you can find a good view of the horizon and a clear evening, do go out and commune with Mercury yourself. He is slowing down, getting to the edge of his distance from the source of life, soon to turn and move back to the light of the Sun. (2) We can actually see the guide between worlds now. Feed your intuition and seize the moment!

Hermes, the Greek god identified with the Roman Mercury, is the protector on the journey as well as the guide between the worlds. The age-old practice of leaving an offering at points along the road beckons back to Hermes as guardian of travelers.

In the last few years, in the places where people walk a lot around Ashland (e.g., mountain trails, in Lithia Park, around the lake) there are offerings of rock formations, flowers, and leaves, etc., little altars built along the way. They are always changing, added to, fall down, and reappear somewhere else.

This ritual, conducted by random invisible walkers (I’ve never seen a person actually placing a stone or adding to the pile), is recreating our ancestors’ practice of adding stones to the piles along the way and leaving food as a petition to Hermes for blessing us with a safe journey. (The name Hermes derives from herma, a stone, roadside shrine or boundary marker.)

In the northern sky, I was completely thrilled to see Cygnus the Swan, gliding southward. This is a huge constellation, visible all summer in the Northern Hemisphere, that I had only seen in pictures. Although this constellation is easy to find, I had never really seen the swan before. And there he was, gliding across the sky right across the Milky Way. What a beautiful sight! The Alpha star in Cygnus is Deneb, at the swan’s tail, is an exceptionally bright star, very easy to find with the eye. It is a super-giant star, more than 100 times the diameter of the Sun. “Its name comes from dhanab, the Arabic word for ‘tail’.” (3)

Cygnus the Swan
But we looked through the telescope, and I really flipped. The star at the swan’s head is called Albireo (the etymology of which is convoluted, and by the accounts I read, meaningless). It is apparently faintly visible to the eye (I couldn’t see it), but through the telescope you see a brilliant sapphire blue star and a gold star right next to it. There are two stars in Albireo; they looked like two eyes. (4)

There are many myths about the swan in the sky, but I am now most moved by a story told by Ovid. Cygnus was Phaeton’s friend, the son of Helios who drove his chariot too close to the Sun and fell into the river Eridanus. Cygnus lamented the loss of his friend and traveled the river unexhaustedly looking for his friend’s body. The gods were moved by his grief and transformed him into a swan whose long neck allowed him to dive deeply into the water on his search. (4)

Seeing those dazzlingly bright blue and yellow stars on Cygnus’s head gives me a new image for the deep diving into the emotional realms that the current planetary emphasis on the water signs seems to be bringing. (I had calls from two friends this weekend, essentially saying the same thing: What is going on? I am crying all the time!)

Have a good week, everyone. Enjoy the skies overhead.


(1) I don’t understand the astronomy well enough to explain it (but I did see it). Here’s an explanation: Free Astronomy Lesson by Dr. Jamie Love.

(2) Gary P. Caton wrote a great blog for TMA: The Mercury Elemental Year 2013in which he describes Mercury’s pattern: The degree of the greatest elongation is very close to the degree of the interior conjunction, and the degree of the maximum longitude in the morning sky when he will be visible in the morning sky again. (This summer, the maximum elongation on June 12 is 17° Cancer. Mercury, while still visible — weather and horizon line permitting — turns retrograde on June 26. The interior conjunction with the Sun is on July 9 at 18° Cancer and the Mercury’s appearance as the morning star will be around July 30 at 19° Cancer.)

(3) Star Tales: Cygnus

(4) Apparently this absolute wonder at Albireo’s beauty is a common experience among stargazers. “Albireo, designated Beta Cygni, is a celebrated binary star among amateur astronomers for its contrasting hues.”

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Geography & the Uranus-Pluto Square

By Alex Miller | May 27, 2013

When major news stories flash across our screens, it’s often relatively easy to sense which planetary energies are prompting them. This is especially true of the ongoing Uranus-Pluto square, the defining aspect of our times, which elicits volatile, destructive energies that carve a big, bold statement as they manifest on earth.
But why do these events play out where they do? Is there some celestial connection between the major planetary energies being unleashed and the terrestrial locales they highlight? If we look more closely at some recent Uranus-Pluto related events, the answer seems a resounding, “Yes!”

Take the recent tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013, the very day of the third exact square between Uranus and Pluto. The tornado was perhaps the strongest ever recorded, an EF5 with winds of up to 200-210 mph, with a wedge as much as a mile wide and cutting a 20-mile-long pathway through Oklahoman farmland and suburban developments, a meteorological behemoth worthy of the square. (1) Pluto’s effect is seen here in the total destruction wreaked, with Uranus supplying the explosive power and the relative rapidity of the event. (Although the twister was on the ground for 50 minutes, that’s a mere fraction of the time it took to build all the infrastructure it annihilated, let alone how long it will take to rebuild). The propensity of this particular square to elicit major weather events might be foreshadowed by the presence of TNO (Trans-Neptunian Object) Typhon at 9° Libra, closely t-squaring Uranus and Pluto. Typhon, from whom we derive our word “typhoon,” was a mythical Greek Titan responsible for massive storms, and although his natural element is water, Typhon the mythic monster also had the power to control the winds. The eponymous TNO shows up often in charts of all types of weather-related disasters.

There was, therefore, a strong predisposition for some disastrous weather to manifest somewhere, but why Oklahoma? When the tornado hit, asteroids Oklahoma (#13688) and Storm (#12182), at 3° and 5° Capricorn, were moving in on Pluto at 11° Capricorn, within orb of conjunction. Moore is in Cleveland County, and asteroid Cleveland (#6296) at 12° Cancer was even more closely tapped into the Uranus-Pluto square; along with Typhon, this created a Grand Cross. There is also an asteroid Moore (#2602), and while it was not aspected directly to the square, at 27° Pisces it was highlighted on the Descendant, which moved from 23° Pisces through 29° Pisces during the period from 3:01 PM to 3:35 PM (CDT) when the tornado was destroying Moore.

Speaking of Cleveland, another Uranus-Pluto related story broke on May 6th, with the release of three young women from a decade-long captivity in Cleveland, Ohio. Ariel Castro had allegedly abducted Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus, repeatedly raping and beating them, and holding them hostage in his house for ten years. The elements of abduction, rape, and abuse are represented by Pluto, who equates to the Greek god Hades, famous for his abduction and rape of Persephone, while Uranus’s role is seen in the release and freedom of the captives.

When they were discovered and released on May 6th, asteroid Cleveland, at 5° Cancer, squared Uranus at 10° Aries and opposed Pluto at 11° Capricorn, accompanied by asteroid Ohio (#439) at 12° Capricorn, identifying the state where the horrific events occurred.

Two other stories emerged in April of 2013 with direct ties to the celestial geography making contact with Uranus and Pluto. When the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly set off two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15th, asteroid Massachusetts (#4547) at 11° Aries was conjoined Uranus at 9° Aries and exactly squared Pluto at 11° Capricorn, which had turned retrograde just days before. Pluto rules terrorist acts and deaths, and Uranus rules explosives of all kinds, from the pop of a handgun to the detonation of a nuclear warhead. (There is also an asteroid Marathon, which, at the time of the explosions, appears just three degrees off the Midheaven, the focus of all eyes.)

Just two days later, on April 17th, a massive explosion in a fertilizer plant rocked the town of West, Texas, killing 15 and obliterating dozens of homes in a five-block radius. Again, Pluto here generally represents devastation, but, more specifically, also rules fertilizers, with Uranus once more providing the spark of explosives. When the plant blew, asteroid West (#2022) was at 9° Cancer, opposed Pluto at 11° Capricorn and exactly squared Uranus at 9° Aries. The difference in magnitude of the two explosions (those at the Boston Marathon were relatively small blasts, as explosions go) may be due to the difference in specificity of the asteroids involved (one representing an entire state as opposed to a specific community), and also the fact that asteroid Massachusetts, while in a close conjunction with explosion-ruling Uranus, was not in exact aspect to it, as was asteroid West.

Mass shootings seem to be another predominant theme of the Uranus-Pluto square, with numerous incidents since their first exact aspect in June of 2012. Uranus rules shootings, Pluto rules murder, and the pair together has ramped up the carnage considerably. One of the first and most publicized of these atrocities was the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012. James Holmes, dressed in SWAT team garb, with several semiautomatic weapons and hair dyed fire engine red, shot up the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 and wounding 58.

At the time, asteroid Aurora (#94) at 17° Capricorn was just within orb of conjunction to Pluto, at 7° Capricorn, but also just four degrees off the Midheaven for the shooting. But the real focus on Aurora from Uranus and Pluto can be seen in the chart of the shooter. Born December 13, 1987, James Holmes’ nativity shows Aurora at 9° Libra, squared by Pluto at the shooting and tightly opposed by Uranus at 8° Aries. (Transit asteroid Holmes (#5477) and planet Mars were also exactly conjunct natal Aurora when he opened fire in the theater.)

Another example of the transiting Uranus-Pluto square impacting natal asteroids of a geographic nature is the case of Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius, who shot his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, to death on Valentine’s Day 2013 in his home in Pretoria, South Africa. Asteroid Praetorius (#4889), here standing in for Pretoria, appears at 12° Capricorn in Pistorius’ birth chart (born November 22, 1986), with transit Pluto at 10° Capricorn for the shooting (along with asteroid Oskar (#750) at 9° Capricorn), and squared by Uranus at 6° Aries.

These few examples seem to confirm the importance, in the old real estate dictum, of “location, location, location” when looking for clues to where the Uranus-Pluto square will manifest next. There are four more exact squares to the cycle, extending into 2015, likely giving us many more opportunities to test the theory.

Editor’s note:

(1) EF5 (Enhanced Fujita Scale) is the scale for rating the strength of tornados.

Bio: Alex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of “The Galactic Calendar,” and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society. His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. His work with deep space points and asteroids appears monthly at DayKeeper Journal. Alex can be reached for comment or services at

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Ideas from eclipse season

By Mary Plumb | May 13, 2013

Three eclipses mark this spring: There was a lunar eclipse on April 25 (6° Taurus/Scorpio), a solar eclipse on May 9 (20° Taurus), and a second lunar eclipse on May 24 (5° Gemini/Sag).
The May 9 eclipse was angular in my birth chart. I had a surprising and strong emotional reaction to a seemingly simple event that opened a chasm of memories and associations that I am still winding through. I maybe could have seen it coming (but didn’t). This eclipse brought an experience that can be typical — something sneaks up on us (Bill Meridian’s phrase) and takes us by surprise. I intentionally keep my schedule a bit open around eclipses to be able to respond to the turns and upsets in peoples’ lives (which definitely happened this time). I did not see that it would also be me who needed a bit of care and attention.
My experience also had the quality described below about this Saros series (in Bernadette Brady’s words): “This series is about release of tension.”
(Funnily enough, early Monday morning, as I was writing this intro part to today’s blog, I uncharacteristically neglected to save the file, Word crashed and I had to start again. Even writing about the eclipse has a way of sneaking up on me. It also shows that events and insights are in transition and still settling down. I’m also relating to the south node symbolism with the solar eclipse: letting go, again and again; not held captive by the past.)
First of all, for any newcomers to using eclipses in natal chart work, Celeste Teal, Moon Valley Astrologer, has a wonderful article explaining how to understand the nature of eclipses and how to apply them in the personal horoscope. “In a general way you can track the transiting North Node through your chart to find the areas to focus your attention and energy that will result in some good coming to you. This is an area of opportunity, where rewards, good fortune and happiness can be found. By directing your efforts there, rewards easily come forth. The house occupied by the transiting South Node indicates an area of potential vulnerability, where you may be working through an issue, and where you might experience some loss or make a sacrifice. Sometimes it means you have a gift to share and the Universe expects something from you.”
Peter Stockinger’s blog (at Traditional Astrology Weblog) on the includes Lilly’s suggestion to consider the decanate of the eclipse; the eclipse path of angularity, and the ruler of the eclipse, i.e., Venus, who “is conjunct the fixed star Alcyone, the brightest star of the Pleiades.” He surmises: “I would propose that the general theme of this solar eclipse is the renewed effort of women to make their voices heard, highlighting their struggle towards equality and independence.”

Peter describes the upcoming lunar eclipse with similar methods here.
Of the May 25 lunar eclipse, he writes: “On the mundane level, this eclipse should be of immediate effect throughout parts of Canada, as can be seen from the world map below. The line of angularity also shows that the eclipsed Moon will be on the Descendant throughout Ireland, France, Libya and other parts of Africa. In these places the effects of the lunar eclipse will be noticeable by the end of this year, lasting into 2014.”

Lorna Bevan at Daykeeper Journal has an article called Tracking the Trail of the May Eclipses. She explains the Saros cycles. (The May 9 solar eclipse is the same Saros Series as May 1995 which brought the Oklahoma City bombings and the Unabomber.) Bevan quotes Bernadette Brady on this Saros: “This series is about release of tension. A situation which has been lingering will suddenly clear. In the clearing of the problem there is also a sense of grief or loss, which is not so much personal but belonging to the collective.”

Of the May 25 lunar eclipse, Bevan notes: “This penumbral eclipse is the last of the mutable Gemini/Sagittarius eclipses which began in March 2012, not to return until 2028. For those of you who are solar Pisces/Gemini/Virgo/Sagittarius between 2-6 degrees of the sign, this is the last ripple of the big personal upheavals until 2021.”
Genevieve Vierling, The Blue Light Lady, wrote Three Eclipses in a Row. She concludes: “May each of you be blessed as you consciously work with these eclipses. No one of them is particularly powerful in and of itself this time because the Lunar ones are considered ‘shallow’ and the Solar is not a total eclipse, but together in sequence they create a field wherein we can each accomplish a great deal of spiritual momentum in our lives.”

Andrew Smith, Agent EI at Cosmic Intelligence Agency, has a look at the May solar eclipse with good graphics and an interpretation of this eclipse’s relationship to the parent eclipse in its Saros cycle. For this eclipse, he writes: “The process of stepping away from the busyness of life to take time to reflect and start afresh is given a greater emphasis at the time of a solar eclipse, since the radiance of our Source energy is obscured and the focus is upon any unresolved needs, which are given a portal of light through which to escape from their imprisonment within the dark of your unconscious, resurfacing so as to be released and better understood in the light of your current awareness and consciousness.”
Carl Broudeau’s Astrology of May 2013 – High Voltage Politics starts with a recap of April’s events and aspects before a look at the key planetary aspects in May (with graphics). He is particularly sensitive to planetary patterns, not just discrete aspects. He concludes: “May’s eclipses tell us that we will cross a political and economic point of no return. The error of our old ways will become painfully obvious enough to spur genuine change. Attitudes will shift even more strongly in favor of immediate social and economic reform. However, as will all the other events we have discussed in recent months, this process will not take place overnight. It will be yet another long-term transformative process among others now unfolding.”

Peter Sher at Sher Astrology writes The Spring Eclipses 2013. “My view of eclipses is that they change the momentum of things and demand a change be made in some area of our life, whether we like it or not. In other words, they change the inertia of our lives. When there are three back-to-back eclipses, the cycle of changes lasts much longer and the shifts that occur can be deeper and more extensive. This becomes especially true if the location of these eclipses affects our personal chart.”

Jamie Partridge’s Astrology King site has this article: Lunar Eclipse May 2013. “This ongoing theme of toxicity I have been noticing, from the solar eclipse, Pluto retrograde, and potentially from comet ISON, is supported once again in the chart for the May 25 Lunar Eclipse.”
You can also read Jamie’s article on the May solar eclipse.
Cathy Pagano, writing at Wisdom of Astrology, includes Sabian symbols and reference to Adam Gainsburg’s work on Venus’ cycle in
The Cosmic Story: Taurus New Moon Solar Eclipse, May 2013
. “At this solar eclipse, Venus is still hidden within the rays of the Sun and she is on the far side of the Sun, the furthest away from Earth (apogee). Traveling at her fastest speed, she will soon emerge from the rays of the Sun to begin the Re-birth phase with her Evening Star appearance. The Transmutation Phase is a time when we can see what’s missing from our Feminine Self, a time to go within and re-discover our Inner Light and Beauty.”

Have a good week everyone, and thanks to all of these writers for helping us sort it all out.

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Pluto unannounced

By Mary Plumb | May 6, 2013

I hadn’t planned on writing about Pluto this week. I was thinking more about Thursday’s solar eclipse with the Sun and Moon conjunct Pallas Athena and the fine ability to recognize patterns.
But, I spent time this week with several people who had a current and exact Pluto aspect, and I was moved in a different direction. In the Greek pantheon, Hades, who we associate with the planet Pluto, wore a helmet of invisibility. He appears unannounced.
We know that the square between Uranus and Pluto is precise again this month, on May 20, with the planets at 11°14’ Aries and Capricorn. Uranus is direct now and Pluto is retrograde.
One friend has transiting Pluto exactly on the natal Sun (in the 8th house). She has been in an ongoing process with a shamanic healer serving as guide to the underworld. Many memories have surfaced and she is in a passageway in life that is exhausting and rigorous. But at that moment, as I happened by, with Pluto to the minute of arc on the Sun, she was raw, completely untethered from the life she had always known. On the outside, everything in her life looks completely normal and could not be better. Pluto rules the invisible process of soul growth.
When transiting Pluto was opposite my natal Moon (2° Cancer), I worked with this therapist/healer/shaman for more than a year, so I am familiar with the process she is in the middle of. Part of this particular method of journey is to retrieve lost parts of ourselves that are disowned through trauma or the rough and tumble of life. (There are many therapeutic approaches to address the lost, disowned, or unintegrated parts of ourselves. Yogic traditions, for example, teach many methods to purify the toxins in the body and the poisons of the mind.)
The view into the landscape of Hades, as described by the Greeks, is evocative. Just as the brothers Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades drew lots to see who would have dominion over which parts of the earth, maybe it’s not everyone’s lot to have this kind of call. But when it happens, it is unmistakable. Events can occur in the visible world and have an obvious impact, but the alchemy occurs in the interior life.
Brian Clark describes the different regions of Hades in his beautiful essay Hades as Place: The Underworld in Myth and Antiquity. (1)
Tartarus is the darkest, deepest, bleakest sphere of Hades. “Tartarus is reminiscent of the place in all of us that feels futile, repetitive, stuck and unresolvable. This is the aspect of Hades that has been most repressed and denied. It is a place of despair, depression, compulsion and rage: aspects of the psyche that are denied the light, yet need to be honored and recognized.”
Erebus is a middle region of Hades, where the souls of the dead, the “shades,” roam.
The third region, Elysium, the Elysian Fields, is for the heroes or those chosen by the gods. Clark says: “…in contrast to Tartarus or Erebus, it represents the outcome of a more conscious relationship with Hades and death.”
Clark describes The Rivers in Hades, which “carry the flow of feeling through our psychic underworld.” There are five different rivers: the hateful, the woeful, the wailing, the burning, and Lethe, the river of forgetting. Souls cross Lethe when entering or leaving the underworld: “the experiences of the world before were lost to conscious memory.”
We cross the river of forgetting and leave well enough alone until the next time Pluto suddenly appears; its unannounced quality is especially strong now with Uranus pressing in, with all its brilliance and promise.
As I see it, we are taking turns traveling in the realms of Hades these days. Maybe we’re getting better at it and can help each other along. Astrology is such an amazing guide for walking thorough life. Thanks to all of you for being present for each other.
Have a good week everyone. May the eclipse bring just the right amount of agitation and insight.
(1) My quotes are from a printed version, Hades as Place: The Underworld in Myth and Antiquity, Astro*Synthesis, The Chiron Centre, 407 Johnston Street, Abbotsford Victoria 3067 Australia, 1998.
There is a free download of a 2001 version of the essay at: 

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