TMA This Week

A Golden Heart

By Fern Mercier | February 3, 2014

(Our blog author, whilst marveling at the literary establishment that ignores astrological arcana, digs for golden nuggets while unravelling the mysteries of the silver threads at the heart of the recent novel, The Luminaries.)

Since reading Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, I have searched for reviews to supplement my understanding of the book, but have found very few that mention astrology, and then only fleetingly. As the very architecture of the book, not to mention its contents, is informed and infused with astrological wisdom, this may illustrate how fundamentally marginalised astrology is from the mainstream gatekeepers of our cultural practices. One particularly obnoxious New Zealand reviewer states: “a five finger exercise webbed together by the dubious dinosaur cement of astrology.” This quote, despite coming from a nasty, misogynistic review, seems to sum up the overall underlying attitude toward astrology of the English-speaking world’s top reviewers — The Guardian, NY Times, Telegraph, The Listener, etc. — although their reviews of the book itself are much kinder, wiser, and more insightful than our sour-grapes resident Kiwi.

And, of course, the Man Booker judges saw fit to give Catton the prize from a field of first-class world writers. (1) This speaks of the vivid power of her writing, the intricacy of her plot, and the marvelous mis-en-scene she creates in the Wild West gold digging town of Hokitika during the mid-1860s.

I found the book hard to put down — it is a lively murder mystery that lured me in with a cliff-hanger at the end of every chapter. Every sentence led me on, or doubled me back to fit a puzzle that was challenging to de-code, but fun to try. I’m not sure if the style of writing, which reminds me of Charles Dickens, was meant to be a parody or a tribute to the great 19th-century Victorian novels. The compelling setting, the intricate descriptions, the multiple story-lines, the old-time chapter headings, the melodrama, the confessions and revelations from realistic characters — all of these combine into a classic confabulation that turns back into itself, ending at its beginning. Extraordinary!

And then there is the astrology. The first page gives us a Character Chart where the 20 main characters are identified as signs and planets, with places identified as astrological Houses. The dead man, Crosbie Wells, is classified under the heading of Terra Firma, and orbiting around him are seven characters who represent the Planets. There are also another 12 male characters who are grouped as Stellar, and who symbolise the zodiac signs as identified in the astrological charts that Catton provides at the beginning of each Part. Each chapter within each Part is set on the day of that chart. Each chapter has a heading that tells of the astrological influences at work, e.g., under Mercury in Sagittarius, we are introduced to Walter Moody, who is identified as Mercury in the Character Chart and moves under the force of Reason.

The book is long, but has an unusual structure. The first Part has 360 pages! (360° in the zodiac wheel). There are 12 Parts, with each part having exactly half the word count of the one that came before it, so the book curls in on itself — a sphere within a sphere.

This is complex, cunning, mind-bending wit, and yet you don’t have to know astrology to enjoy the experience of reading this intrigue. The astrology enhances the experience, yet not knowing it obviously doesn’t diminish the engrossing tale, as most of the reviewers testify.

I find Catton’s knowledge breathtaking, and her structural and writing achievement marvelous. I quibble over one of her characters using the tarot cards, as they weren’t part of the English-speaking world’s experience until the very late 19th century. Yet her overall historical reconstruction is absorbing. I do find disconcerting her traditional astrology’s patriarchal bias that gives form to a cast of all male characters (except for the feminine Moon and Venus). Although I grudgingly acknowledge the overwhelmingly masculine presence in that neck of the woods at that historical time, the lack of women among the “12 good men and true” of the zodiac still jars a feminist perspective. And indeed, Margaret Shepherd — playing Moon to her husband’s tyrannical Saturn — has a significant role in the plot despite her absence from the Character Chart. Perhaps she didn’t quite fit Catton’s schema? (The 13th sign?)

However, I love the author’s unique and thoughtful astrological interpretations. And I love the very thought of a major book that utilises astrology in such an intellectual, genius way as a poke in the eye to the chattering classes, who, in general, despise the very notion of astrology.

Having poured over Catton’s sunrise horoscope (Libra Sun with combust Mercury and retrograde Jupiter and Moon in Aquarius), I laugh at the reviewers critiquing her “cool” and “detached” style. (2) I guess it takes all that elemental airy elegance, combined with the sting in the tail of Saturn in Scorpio, to ruffle the feathers of the establishment.

Kirsty Gunn in the Guardian states:
“But it is also a massive shaggy dog story; a great empty bag; an enormous, wicked, gleeful cheat. For nothing in this enormous book, with its exotic and varied cast of characters whose lives all affect each other and whose fates are intricately entwined, amounts to anything like the moral and emotional weight one would expect of it. That’s the point, in the end, I think, of The Luminaries. It’s not about story at all. It’s about what happens to us when we read novels — what we think we want from them — and from novels of this size, in particular. Is it worthwhile to spend so much time with a story that in the end isn’t invested in its characters? Or is thinking about why we should care about them in the first place the really interesting thing? Making us consider so carefully whether we want a story with emotion and heart or an intellectual idea about the novel in the disguise of historical fiction… There lies the real triumph of Catton’s remarkable book.” (3)

I suspect Gunn is right in one way — the book is like a shaggy dog story. The whole shebang revolves around a dead body. Indeed I am still struggling to understand why Catton designated Terra Firma — our planet Earth — as a dead man. In astrology’s metaphysical wisdom, the cosmos, with all its planets, is alive and singing. I admit that the distillation of astrology’s symbolism into each character and scene creates a strangely detached puzzle that may appear ultimately to be without heart — for indeed lying at the centre is a dead man whose heart does not beat. So on one level the story indeed becomes “a great empty bag; an enormous, wicked, gleeful cheat.”

Yet if Terra Firma is symbolised as a dead body, then this idea does carry a moral and emotional weight. Earth, the dead centre, is exploited and murdered by Venus and Mars, and ignored by Jupiter and Saturn, who are engrossed in their own worldly squabbles of ambition and power. Maybe the author wants us to resuscitate the dead, empty centre, to rethink our attitudes toward our planet. She revives the Romance of the 19th century in style and substance, she re-animates our history in our quest for gold and greenstone, and reveals Crosbie Wells’ heart-breaking pleas for his brother to show some love (e.g., humanity). She carefully embeds an ancient, yet reviled, metaphysical knowledge that is at the heart of most Western cultural traditions into the foundations of her book and demands we read the story through its lens.

Is Catton intimating that perhaps our modern materialist version of Earth is a dead idea and needs to be restored? Reclaim the past to better re-view the future?

I don’t agree with Gunn that the story has no emotion or heart. The love story of the two luminaries, which ends and begins with the Old Moon in the Young Moon’s arms, is a heartfelt, even romantic, tale that is both old and new — and so worth reading!

(1) Man Booker Prize

(2) Eleanor Catton, September 24, 1985; London, Ontario, Canada.

(3) The Guardian

Bio: Fern Mercier is a professional Reader, teacher, consultant, writer, and educator in Astrology and Tarot. Auckland City, New Zealand is her home base. She has been practicing Astrology and Tarot for nearly 40 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in history and English from Otago University (1968). Fern discovered Tarot in the early 1970s; her first deck of cards was a 16th-century woodcut reprint from the British Museum. She has taught at several national and international conferences and her writing has appeared in numerous publications. She is also a frequent guest on radio and TV. She presented “Tricks of the Trade – Lifting the Veil of the High Priestess” at the LETS Symposium in Sante Fe on the Day of the Dead in 2010. This was the first Tarot gathering to be available worldwide through a live-stream video webcast program. (If you’re interested in oracles, sibyls, and the history of the High Priestess, you can download her presentation here.)

She can be found on the web at: or email:Fern Mercier

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

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

The Rhadamanthus Station Retrograde

By Alex Miller | January 27, 2014

Rhadamanthus is a TNO, a Trans-Neptunian Object, in the region of the Kuiper Belt, near Pluto. With an orbital period of 245 years, Rhadamanthus moves extremely slowly, covering just a few degrees per year. This might be a good time to assert Longfellow’s dictum that “the mills of god grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small,” as Rhadamanthus scours whatever it touches, intent upon finding indiscretion, malfeasance, and illegality, and making the perpetrator pay for it.

Rhadamanthus is named for a figure in Greek myth, a human king who was so noted for his scrupulous honesty, integrity, and impartial judgment that after his death, Zeus made him a judge of the dead in Hades (as Zeus’ son by Europa, there may have been a bit of nepotism involved as well). Despite his sense of fairness, he was also known to mete out extremely harsh punishments; none of that plea bargain guff for Rhadamanthus! You commit the crime, you do the time.

Astrologically, Rhadamanthus can evoke legal troubles and excessively harsh penalties. It’s a very discerning, discriminating energy, one not likely to be fooled or appeased, and it cuts right to the root of the matter, with a very long memory and a karmic undertow that never lets go once it latches on. Whatever transgression, however seemingly small or insubstantial, Rhadamanthus will bring it to light and issue whatever it considers an appropriate sentence.

It’s also of note that Rhadamanthus’ involvement begins only after it’s too late to course-correct. Mythically, this is represented by his status as judge of the dead — no more action can be taken, it’s time to look at the sum total of your life and own that. You’ve made your choices, and now you have to live with them and their ramifications; what’s done cannot be undone, it’s time to pay the piper and reap the consequences.

TNO Rhadamanthus came to my attention during the first bloodless Egyptian coup that overthrew President Hosne Mubarak in 2011. At the time, Rhadamanthus was locked in a protracted conjunction with the country’s close Saturn-Neptune pairing, and his temperament certainly seemed to reflect the times, with Mubarak’s policies and actions over his 30-year administration being painstakingly examined and judged by the populace he ruled. Found wanting, Mubarak was gone in a matter of weeks, bringing a typically legal-based Rhadamanthine manifestation of the potential for “dissolved government” conferred by Egypt’s natal Saturn-Neptune.

On Thursday, January 23rd, Rhadamanthus turned retrograde at 24° Libra, so it seemed a good time to look for what he’s currently up to, filling out the TNO’s resume, as it were. It turns out he has indeed been busy!

Two major stories emerged this past week, one on Tuesday and the other on the day of the station itself. The first was a political fall from grace, the indictment of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell. He was charged with illegally accepting, and failing to disclose, gifts, trips, and loans from businessman Jonnie Williams. The case is particularly unusual in that McDonnell has broken no laws in Virginia, notoriously lax in its treatment of “favors” to politicians, and is being pursued under relatively ancient federal statutes, and also because his wife Maureen has been indicted as well.  

The second story involves the arrest of pop culture icon Justin Bieber for DUI and drag racing, which occurred on the day of the station itself, in Miami Beach, Florida. Bieber’s behavior of late has been less than sterling, with an ongoing investigation that he also egged a neighbor’s house, costing $20,000 in damages, and an incident in November where he trashed a Brazilian hotel room with graffiti.

Both stories show direct involvement by Rhadamanthus, noted for evoking legal issues, as well as a plethora of PNA (Personal-Named Asteroid) activity pertinent to the facts of each case.

McDonnell is receiving a double whammy of Rhadamanthus energy, with his natal TNO at 10° Cancer and currently embroiled in the ongoing Uranus-Pluto square, with Uranus in square from 9° Aries and Pluto opposed from 11° Capricorn. A June 2013 Washington Post article turned up the heat by delineating the extent of the perks received by the couple from Williams, including a Rolex watch, vacation trips, $15,000 to cover a catering tab for their daughter’s wedding, nearly $150,000 in clothes and electronics, and a $50,000 loan. When that story first ran, Pluto at 10° Capricorn was exactly opposed McDonnell’s Rhadamanthus, exposing the scandal and potential corruption.

The second celestial body-blow came with the indictment, handed down on January 21st, when Rhadamanthus was just two days away from its station exactly atop the former Virginia governor’s natal asteroid McDonnell (#9159), bringing its focus very directly and personally to him. At the time, asteroid Williams (#1763, for Jonnie Williams) was exactly conjunct Saturn at 21° Scorpio, with the pair in close square to Damocles at 20° Aquarius, identifying Williams as an agent of Saturnine restriction or penalty, and a potential doom hanging over McDonnell’s head (Damocles). Asteroid Achilles, representing a weak spot or vulnerability (as in “Achilles heel”), at 16° Libra, was square a combination of Venus (ruling both wives and gifts) and asteroid Maury (#3780, for Maureen McDonnell) at 15° and 19° Capricorn. Further setting the seal on the ramifications of this acquaintance with Williams and his closeness to the governor is a combination of asteroids:  Johney (#90308, for Jonnie Williams) and McDonnell at 13° and 14° Gemini, with TNO Chaos nearby at 16° Gemini, showing the pair operating hand-in-glove and describing the likely outcome of their association.

Natally, McDonnell’s chart is primed for legal difficulties arising from this connection, as defined by points allied to Rhadamanthus. (1) An exact pairing of natal Jupiter with asteroid Karma at 4° Cancer is within orb of natal Rhadamanthus at 10° Cancer; Jupiter-Karma makes it very unlikely that McDonnell can get away with much politically, especially in the fields of excess and largesse, Jovian specialties — his actions always come back to haunt him. Into this mix we add asteroids Williams, Johney, and even Johnny (#3252, another variant of Williams’ first name), at 6°, 9°, and 13° Cancer, clustered about Rhadamanthus, a quite stupendous cosmic overload of PNA energies very precisely defining from which quarter the legal damage might come.

Other transits in 2013 exposed McDonnell’s soft underbelly, priming him for Rhadamanthus’ retributive glance. Saturn’s direct station in July at 4° Scorpio was just a degree shy of its return degree at 3° Scorpio. This reinforced a natal opposition to asteroid Nemesis at 0° Taurus, indicating the potential for undoing based in career matters (this polarity highlighted by a Lunar Eclipse in April at 5° Scorpio). The Saturn station was also exactly trine that natal Jupiter-Karma conjunction, granting an ease of access to the latent possibilities for comeuppance and debt-paying implied by that combination. Also in July, Uranus’ station retrograde at 12° Aries was closely square to  Johnny, with its backhand station direct in December at 8° Aries, closely squared Williams, providing opportunities for the Jonnie Williams connection to shake up and disrupt the governor’s world. Finally, Neptune’s direct station in November at 2° Pisces sat precisely on an exact natal conjunction of asteroids Icarus and Pandora at that degree, suggesting a potential for rash, reckless acts or choices (Icarus) that unleash negative consequences resulting in disaster (Pandora). All of this led up to Rhadamanthus’ station retrograde exactly on McDonnell’s McDonnell, an unmistakable signature of personally accounting for past deeds if ever there was one.

Moving on to Justin Bieber, we find a similar activation by Rhadamanthus, evoking another legal contretemps. At approximately 4:00 a.m. on January 23rd, within hours of Rhadamanthus’ station, Miami Beach police pulled over Justin Bieber, who was driving a yellow Lamborghini at high speeds in a 30 mph residential district while racing a red Ferrari driven by his friend, rapper Khalil Sharieff. Bieber was belligerent with police and failed a field sobriety test (though his blood alcohol level later tested under Florida’s limit). Amidst a plethora of F-bombs, an uncooperative Bieber asserted that he’d only had a beer and had been “smoking weed all day.” He was arrested at 4:13 a.m. EST for DUI, drag racing, driving on an expired license, and resisting arrest without violence. He made a $2500 bail later that day and was released.

Rhadamanthus made its station that day exactly atop Bieber’s natal Moon at 24° Libra, with the transit Moon at 23° Libra about to make its monthly return, reinforcing the lunar issues in the chart. (1) These are substantial, including an exact square to Uranus at 24° Capricorn, then in the throes of its conjunction with Neptune, which also squares the Moon from 22° Capricorn.  

Moon square Uranus tends to act out emotional issues in a volatile, sometimes violent way, and Neptune’s involvement indicates escapist tendencies, as suggested by the alcohol and drug use admitted by Bieber. Whatever Bieber’s leftover childhood issues may be (his parents never married and his mother, 17 when she became pregnant, raised him alone), the Rhadamanthus contact is likely to bring them very visibly to the forefront in the ensuing months. At a minimum, the reckless disregard for his life, typical of Moon-Uranus aspects, is evident in the drag racing, and the addiction issues represented by Moon-Neptune are also palpable in the incident. Moon-Neptune uses intoxicants as a way of avoiding emotional pain, but we can only speculate as to the root of that pain.

Exactly opposing the natal Moon and transit Rhadamanthus that day was asteroid Justinto (#26666, for Justin) at 24° Aries, further highlighting the natal Moon-Uranus square. Asteroid Justiniano (#17115, another variant of Justin) at 5° Sagittarius was conjoined an exact pairing of asteroids Karma and Bacchus at 9°  Sagittarius, suggesting a fated or predestined moment (Karma) involving intoxication (Bacchus, Roman god of wine and revelry). These square Bieber’s natal Sun at 10° Pisces, currently transited by Chiron, which had just moved on to 11° Pisces, still within orb. The accent on wounding and maverick behaviors provided by transit Chiron is underscored by a natal opposition of the Sun to Chiron at 5° Virgo, squared exactly by transit Justiniano at the time of Bieber’s arrest.

Natally, Justinto at 8° Cancer conjoins asteroid Hybris at 9° Cancer, a point from which we derive our word “hubris,” which is high level arrogance of the type Bieber has portrayed in his actions of late, something he’s more susceptible to due to his celestial counterpart being in close proximity to Hybris. These points are also directly under the gun of the Uranus-Pluto square, further ramping up their effects and bringing natal potential to the fore in volatile, destructive ways. Natal Justiniano at 0° Sagittarius is closely conjoined Bieber’s 29° Scorpio Ascendant, perhaps the impetus for his mother choosing that name for her son.  

The 19° Sagittarius Ascendant for the arrest is appropriately conjoined asteroid Orpheus at 18° Sagittarius, named for perhaps the most famous Greek mythic singer, reflecting Bieber’s occupation. Even more striking is a string of points in Scorpio that day, which neatly encapsulates the story. Beginning with asteroid Miames (#27519, for Miami Beach, the venue) at 3° Scorpio (exactly square the 3° Aquarius Sun, highlighting that locale in the day’s events), we proceed to asteroid Sharaf (#5543, for Khalil Sharieff, the friend he was racing) at 11° Scorpio, then asteroid Ferrari (#4122, the car Sharieff was driving) at 17° Scorpio, and finally Saturn (the police, Bieber’s arrest and detention) at 22° Scorpio. While not all points are conjunct, they do provide a logical progression of events in celestial cipher, and are strung out across Bieber’s natal Jupiter at 14° Scorpio, ruling publicity and reputation. Additionally, Saturn is square Bieber’s natal Mercury-Mars conjunction at 23° and 25° Aquarius, suggesting the verbal (Mercury) abuse (Mars) heaped on police (Saturn) at the time.

The 3° Aquarius Sun for the arrest falls in the thick of a natal stellium of Icarus (rash, reckless actions heedless of the consequences), Karma (fated events based in character flaws), Askalaphus (tale-bearing, bringing secrets to light), and Damocles (the doom hanging unseen overhead) at 2°, 3°, and 4° Aquarius. An exact natal conjunction of Sharaf and Miames at 22° Sagittarius falls snugly upon the 19° Sagittarius Ascendant of the arrest, and establishes the venue and his companion, while the tenor of the experience may perhaps be defined by a natal combination of Nemesis (undoing), Bacchus (intoxication), and Ferrari (Sharieff’s car) at 2°, 4°, and 8° Capricorn, opposing Justinto/Hybris. Finally, transit Neptune at 3° Pisces made an exact conjunction with Bieber’s natal Saturn, bringing together the elements of substance abuse and law enforcement as the overarching themes of the event, with PNAs providing the specifics of how that manifested. 

Admittedly, this is not an incident from which Rhadamanthus will be able to extract much retribution, but it’s an important milestone for the pop singer nonetheless, his first in what may become a series of similar or more serious arrests, if he doesn’t heed Rhadamanthus’ admonition to straighten up and fly right.

(1) Bob McDonnell, June 15,1954. Source: Wikipedia 

(2) Justin Bieber, March 1,1994, 12:56 a.m. local time, London, Ontario, Canada. Rodden Rating B. Source: Astro-Databank

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

Editor’s note: Do not miss Alex Miller’s article, A Tour of Personal-Named Asteroids, in the current (Feb/Mar 2014) issue of TMA. The article introduces asteroids in the lives of famous people and shows how to begin working with them in personal charts. 

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

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

Mars in Libra in the U.S. chart

By Kate Plumb | December 16, 2013

(Editor’s note: See info on TMA‘s Gift Subscription Sale below.)

Having set aside Friday afternoons for writing, I find myself with so many threads of ideas that it’s hard to coalesce the various pieces into a whole. I often rely on my first impressions upon waking, as I find these carryovers from sleep life to be extremely valuable. This morning’s impression was about the planet Mars.

Mars is the first planet outside Earth’s orbit around the Sun; it circles the Sun in approximately 2-1/2 years, compared to Earth’s cycle of 365-1/4 days. Last Saturday, December 7th at 3:41 p.m. EST, Mars changed signs and moved into 0° Libra, in the area of the sky where Libra, the sign of the scales, resides. Mars was last in Libra from July 30 until September 15, 2010, a normal passage of six weeks. (If you have kept a diary, going back to those dates will give you a clue as to what the issues will be for you this time.) This time, however, Mars is going to be in Libra until July 27, 2014 – more than six months! This is when the study of planetary cycles can be so helpful. By becoming aware of the possible repercussions of this long transit of volatile Mars, we can pro-actively use it, rather than be used by it.

In order to understand the entire transit of Mars in Libra, we must investigate the parts. “Mars is the principle of energetic force, the impulse and capacity to assert, to act and move energetically and forcefully, to have an impact, to press forward and against, to defend and offend, to act with sharpness and ardor; the tendency to experience aggressiveness, anger, conflict, harm, violence, forceful physical energy; to be combative, competitive, courageous and vigorous.” (1)

Libra is the sign of the scales, where we weigh and balance things. Justice, who holds the scale, wears a blindfold. Libra is a cardinal air sign, initiating the season of fall; it has to do with building one-on-one relationships, where, like the scales, there is equality, balanced communication, and, potentially, peace. Libra loves Universal Harmony, Ideal Relationships, the marriage of Spirit and Matter. There is an urge to cooperate, to seek compromise, with an ability to make adjustments that encourage a more harmonious experience. (The Congressional budget compromise last week comes to mind as a manifestation of the change of Mars moving into the sign of Libra.)

If combining these two vastly different energies, Mars and Libra, brings a disconnect in your mind, you are not alone. This combative energetic force (Mars) must be used for peaceful, humanitarian purposes (Libra) or it is bound to bring trouble. Mars passing through Libra, Venus’s domain, brings battles for just social causes or stalemates where one cannot decide which side to take. Mars is out of place in this gentle, peaceful sign, preferring a cause to rally and fight for or defend against. (Although Librans do make good generals, as they instinctively need to know what the other side is doing; they can see both sides, and thus be prepared.)

So, just how can you use this transit and not be used by it? First, you can recognize that when Mars went into Libra last Saturday, he entered a new department of life in your natal birth chart. It is impossible to pinpoint which area of life that is without knowing your birth chart. But you should have gotten clues this week as your energy, assertiveness, and focus went in a different direction than before December 7th. (You can also go back to the time period listed above, when Mars was last in Libra, for clues.)

Secondly, keep in mind that Mars will be in this department of your life for six months, not the usual six weeks that flies by so fast one hardly notices. But during a six-month Mars transit, you are bound to notice the shift in focus — your energies, drive, direction, and often work, will be different in August 2014 than it is now. Even if you stay in the same profession or job, something about the situation and your direction or purpose therein will have shifted.

Two more ideas come to mind. When Mars went into Libra, the planet passed into 0° Libra, which connects directly with its opposite, 0° Aries, the beginning of the zodiac. We all have that point someplace in our natal chart. It is where we connect with the general public and what we will be known for after we die. Some of us have that point more strongly connected to our personal life than others. We had a huge demonstration of the impact of Mars entering cardinal sign Libra this week with the death of Nelson Mandela. This event was brought to and mourned by the whole world. Rightly so, as Mandela is such a strong example of a person energetically working, struggling, and fighting (Mars) for social justice (Libra).

The study of planetary cycles enables us, like Janus, the Roman god, to look both backwards and forwards. By looking into the historical cycles in U.S. history, which are fairly well documented, we can get a sense of what is ahead for the country. (Your personal life can be managed this way as well, if you are a reflective person.) We are exploring Mars at 0° Libra; it has happened before and will happen again as Mars revolves around the Sun over and over.

In the natal chart for the U.S. (July 4, 1776), planet Mars is in Gemini, but it progressed into 0° Libra on September 15, 1940, as we were vacillating about entering the European conflict. FDR signed “The Selective Training and Service Act” the next day. This was the first time in U.S. history that we had a peacetime draft. Early Americans considered a permanent standing army a form of tyranny; militias were called up and disbanded repeatedly after a crisis. (We have come a long way from those founding perspectives.)

On July 20, 2006, three years into the Iraq War, progressed Mars in the U.S. chart (in Libra since September 1940) appeared to stall. Although it is just an optical illusion, it is illustrative and useful in understanding cycles in history. Thus began an 80-year period when the planet of forceful action (Mars) was no longer speeding ahead but slowly, from earth’s vantage point, appeared to be moving from one side of the Sun to the other, “retrograding.” During these months in 2006, a Congressional Iraq Study Group (ISG) was meeting, and they concluded in December that “U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end.” (2) The U.S. Mars went retrograde in Libra; we can infer that the U.S. should be retreating (Mars retrograde) from the use of military force to resolve conflicts.

In keeping with our Janus theme of looking backwards and forwards, the first time transiting Mars moved into 0° Libra after the birth of the country was December 16, 1776. Congress had abandoned the capital, Philadelphia, amidst fears that British General Howe, already in control of New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, was ready to seize it. To forestall an attack on Philadelphia, and “to serve as a tonic to his dejected compatriots” before enlistments in the army expired at the end of the year, General Washington “began to think creatively” and “awakened from the mental torpor that had shadowed his footsteps since the Long Island disaster.” (3) Just as Mars changed signs, moving to 0° of Libra, the Continental Army crossed the Delaware and entered New Jersey, striking a blow against the Hussein mercenaries in Trenton and then Princeton. “The consecutive victories exalted George Washington to a new pinnacle of renown…..The battle’s repercussions were world wide, overturning the presumption that amateur volunteers could never defeat a well-trained European army. Even Frederick the Great added his congratulations.” (4) This was a huge victory for Washington. This was Mars in Libra fighting for social justice, in this case for the colonialists to have the same rights as Englishmen.

As we have said, in studying planetary cycles we look both backwards and forwards because we are caught in our circular or elliptical solar system. All the planets moving around the Sun return to a position against the backdrop of the zodiac repeatedly. Looking ahead, on March 28, 2086, the U.S. progressed Mars will end its retrograde motion and move forward. This will be at 0° Libra, where it was on September 15, 1940, when FDR called up the first ever peacetime draft. Thus the events of this last week during Mars’ ingress into Libra, and everytime Mars has done that or will do that in the future, foreshadow the events in 2086. (Although we are talking specifically about the U.S. chart here, the same principle can be applied to your personal life.)

Although March 28, 2086 is way beyond our lifetime, the study of historical planetary cycles — what happened the last time and when — is illuminating. Hopefully, we will have learned some hard fought lessons in the 146 years since the cycle began in September 1940 about our use of force (Mars) to make peace (Libra). Will it be necessary to call up an army again? Will we have abandoned our standing military by then and directed the money into social justice causes? Or will we need an army to fight for a just cause and have learned nothing? The point is that the U.S. will have a second chance to redo our position on the use of force. Habits begun and perpetuated since 1940 began to be questioned in 2006, and should be completely overhauled by 2086. That is the value of observing a planet’s very long retrograde time period. And if you really want your mind blown, the U.S. progressed Mars will not leave Libra until March 2, 2170!! Surely we should be working on peace and harmony by then.


(1) Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas, Plume, 2006.

(2) Washington Post

(3) Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow, Penguin, 2010.

(4) Ibid.

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.

Dear Readers: If you have friends, family, or colleagues who are into astrology, here is a chance to turn them on to TMA for under $20.

We currently have a gift subscription sale at a special half-year price, and as always, print subscriptions include digital access free.

To give a half-year of TMA for $19.50 (additional cost for foreign delivery), go here. Be sure to choose the issue you want it to start with — then, on the check-out screen there is space to type in your gift message.

To give a 1-year gift subscription to TMA, go here to see prices and options.

If you have any questions, contact us:

Or, call Linda at (800) 287-4828 or (530) 477-8839 from overseas.

Happy Holidays!

P.S.: Coming in Apr/May 2014 is a theme issue on Music and Astrology.

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

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

Some thoughts on the astrology of twins

By Anne Whitaker | December 9, 2013

… and an interesting experiment

In a TMA blog post earlier this year, I wrote about some of the most common questions I’ve been asked over many years as an astrologer and astrology teacher. Continuing with that theme, this week’s topic is twins, a perennial favorite for generating tricky questions for astrologers to answer. A classic question from students is: If twins are born so close together that they have almost the same chart, and the same angles, how can astrology account for the very marked differences which one can often notice between them?

It is important at this point to emphasize to readers who are familiar only with Sun signs that to get “beyond the Sun signs” requires an individual’s horoscope to be drawn up for the date, place, and time of birth. Human beings are complex and contradictory. It’s not possible to approach any satisfying symbolic exploration of that complexity through the Sun sign alone.

A number of years ago, I decided to address the above twins question via a tutorial class I ran for my more advanced students, all of whom had a good grasp of the basics of astrology, and some of whom were already practitioners in their own right.

Introducing the twins experiment

One student — let’s call her Anna — was the devoted aunt to a set of twins in their mid teens, a boy and a girl — let’s call them Angus and Miriam. These two had been born less than fifteen minutes apart and had almost identical horoscopes.

I obtained permission via Anna from Angus and Miriam’s parents, as well as the twins themselves, to calculate their horoscopes and discuss them anonymously in class. This was a great opportunity to test out an impression I had formed regarding how individual differences in twins come about, and how they manifest.

My method was to put up on the board only one horoscope, since there was so little difference between the twins’ birth charts. I then asked the students to take an hour to prepare along with me a basic outline of the core characteristics revealed by this one horoscope. We did the preparation as though we were preparing a birth chart for just one person.

Neither I nor the class knew anything about either of the twins. I asked Anna to observe us, but not to make any comments at all. Once we had written up the outline, we spent the next hour discussing our findings with Anna, who knew her nephew and niece well.

What was the outcome?

I am writing this after a gap of about 20 years and no longer have the notes for detailed reference, so can only summarize the essence of what emerged from our discussion.

Anna found our summary from the one horoscope of the basic characteristics of both her nephew and niece to be very accurate. It was clear that certain traits were held in common, but that the rest were, as it were, divided up between the twins. To put it very simply, looking at a range of traits: 1, 2, 3, and 4 were recognizable in both; Miriam manifested traits 5, 6, and 10 whilst Angus lived out traits 7, 8, and 9.

This very interesting and enlightening experiment does not, of course, constitute any kind of scientific proof. However, it bore out my impression from a range of sources: reading and watching television programs about the similarities and differences in the lives of twins; observations of twins I had come across; and the few horoscope readings I had done for individuals who were twins.

My impression

What was this impression? Using the analogy of the horoscope revealing the characters poised on life’s stage, waiting for the moment of birth to kick start the action of the play, it seemed to me that twins unconsciously chose which characters on their joint stage they were going to live out jointly and which they were going to live out separately. The mechanism by which these choices were made is unknowable. However, time and time again, one sees in the lives of twins the same broad pattern as was revealed in our class experiment.

After writing this piece, I Googled “astrology and twins” and was pleased to find on one of my favorite astrology sites, Astrodienst, that other astrologers, including Dr. Liz Greene, had come to much the same conclusion.

To read much more detail on this fascinating and complex topic, do go over to master astrologer Donna Cunningham’s blog, Sky Writer, where she has an excellent piece on the astrology of twins.

Then come back and let me know what you think! I’d be especially interested in hearing from you if you are a twin, or have twin siblings, or have a life partner who is a twin, or indeed any direct experience of observing twins in whatever context. In a short article like this, I can only explore one facet of a fascinating topic, so feedback which might extend and deepen our understanding as astrologers — and members of the public— would be most welcome.


Bio: Anne Whitaker is a writer and astrologer based in Glasgow, Scotland. She holds the Diploma from the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London,UK. Anne blogs at Writing from the Twelfth House and She returned to her astrological practice in May 2012 after a very long sabbatical.



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

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

Elizabeth Smart’s story

By Mary Plumb | November 11, 2013

Elizabeth Smart was abducted on June 5, 2002 when she was 14. She was held prisoner and sexually abused every day for nine months.

She is very forthcoming about her “nine months in hell” in her newly published memoir, My Story (October 2013). (1)

Smart said in a recent CNN interview: “I wanted it to be really what happened and what it was like every single day I was there, because I don’t think I’m doing anyone any favors by sugarcoating it.” (2)

She has become a highly visible activist for children who have been abducted and sexually abused. “Her goal as a public figure is to make ‘talking about rape and abuse not such a taboo.'” (3)

Elizabeth Smart was born on November 3, 1987. The Scorpio Sun that day was newly infused by its conjunction to Pluto the day before. (4) The Moon was in Aries the entire day she was born, and Venus moved from 29° Scorpio into Sagittarius in the afternoon of her birth.

Elizabeth Smart natal sunrise

Elizabeth Smart was raised in a close Mormon family. Transiting Neptune at 10° Aquarius squared her natal Sun five times between April 2002 and November 2003. Aside from disappearing from her life in the middle of the night, another image of that combination is her abductor’s claim to be obeying God’s orders in taking her and raping her. She knew differently. “My parents have always raised me believing in a kind and loving God who cares about each of his children here on earth,” she said in an interview. “When I was kidnapped and being told that all of these things were done because God commanded it — it made my personal faith stronger, because I knew God would never demand these things.” She said her belief in God was never swayed or negatively impacted by the experience, a different testament to Neptune. (5)

She was abducted on June 5, 2002. There was a solar eclipse on June 10 at 19°54’ Gemini. Saturn was at 18°34’ Gemini, conjunct the eclipse and about to make the (only) opposition to natal Saturn at 18°48’ Sag, exact on June 11. The transiting south node was on natal Saturn in the 2nd house (solar chart); the eclipse triggered a staggering loss (SN) of her security and physical safety.

bi-wheel: E Smart natal, solar eclipse June 10, 2002

Elizabeth Smart was born very close to Mercury stationing direct. Retrograde at birth (28° Libra), Mercury turned direct on November 6; by secondary progression she would have been about 3 years old.

Mercury ingressed into Scorpio on November 12, 1987 — by secondary progression, she was about age 9 years old, sometime close to the fateful moment of the half-nodal return. The bearer of messages and traveler between worlds left the land of beauty and balance (Libra) and joined the Sun and Pluto in the land of a sometimes gruesome underworld. Her inner resources were deepening.

While she was held by her captors, transiting Pluto began to conjoin natal Saturn. Although that certainly took her to the hell realms, it also showed her tremendous fortitude — the first passage was in January 2003. In interviews, she speaks about the fear that kept her from trying to escape. She is adamant about not judging: “You can never judge a child or a victim of any crime on what they should have done, because you weren’t there and you don’t know and you have no right just to sit in your armchair at home and say ‘Well, why didn’t you escape? Why didn’t you do this?’ I mean, they just don’t know.” (6)

She was recognized and freed on March 12, 2003, the day after Uranus’s ingress into Pisces — what an answer to prayer that must have felt like to the deeply religious girl and her family. Transiting Mars (dispositor of natal Sun and Moon) was at 5° Capricorn, conjoining natal Neptune 5°49’ Capricorn: Mars severed the entrapment (Neptune).

Scorpio has continued in her story. Since her rescue (when she was 15), progressed Mercury conjoined natal and progressed Pluto in 2004 and 2005 (she was 17 or 18). She also had a progressed New Moon at 28°24’ Scorpio sometime between October 2004 and October 2005. (Working with a sunrise chart, I can’t be more specific about the time.) Significantly, the themes of healing, rebirth, darkness, and the taboo of sexuality are generating this relatively new 30-year cycle of her life. Mars, dispositor of the Scorpio Sun and Aries Moon, was in Libra at her birth. Mars also ingressed into Scorpio in May 2008.

She was married on February 18, 2012. (The transiting Sun was on her natal Juno at 24° Aquarius.) In the New Yorker interview she said: “There’s a huge difference between rape and sex. Having experienced both, I know it’s not the same thing.”

Transiting Saturn has been on natal Pluto and the Sun throughout 2013; the last exact passage was in October. Saturn has escorted her harrowing and redemptive story into form.

Her book was published in the month before last week’s solar eclipse, which happened on her birthday, November 3, 2013. The eclipse was at 11°15’ Scorpio. (The Sun on the day she was born traveled between 10°19’ and 11°19’ Scorpio.)

Margaret Talbot, author of the New Yorker article, writes: “Smart presents herself as a pure girl who emerged from degradation purer still – stronger but somehow still innocent.” (7)

Many happy returns to Elizabeth Smart.


(1) Huffington Post

(2) CNN

(3) Gone Girl: The extraordinary resilience of Elizabeth Smart
New Yorker

(4) November 3, 1987; Salt Lake City, Utah; time unknown Source: Wikipedia

(5) The Blaze

(6) The Blaze

(7) Scorpio’s obvious presence aside, her prenatal Sun-Mars conjunction was part of a stellium in Virgo: Sun and Mars at 1°34 Virgo, Venus at 2°, Mercury at 6°, and the Moon at 10°.

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

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

The Miseducation of Miley Cyrus?

By Frank Clifford | October 28, 2013

So often, successful people in control of their business and/or influencing their generation have Pluto prominent (in particular, conjunctions or hard aspects to the Moon or Mercury). In addition, publicly successful people often have Ascendant and MC complexes in dialogue (e.g. MC ruler conjunct Ascendant or its ruler), or making repetitive statements, (e.g. MC ruler in major aspect to the MC).

These signatures are present in the chart of controversial actress-singer-songwriter Miley Cyrus. Miley has the Moon and Mercury conjunct Pluto in Scorpio. Her MC in Aquarius conjuncts co-ruler Saturn, and Ascendant ruler Venus conjuncts MC co-ruler Uranus (along with Neptune). (Chart below)

Before recent events, Cyrus was best known to fans of her show Hannah Montana and established herself as one of the most successful teen idols of her generation. She was named “Destiny Hope” because her parents believed she would accomplish great things, and was later nicknamed “Smiley.” All three names “speak” her chart with the Sun in Sagittarius and Jupiter in the 5th house exactly trine her MC. When a parent has notable achievements of their own, or has a belief that the child will be accomplished, or those parental expectations are perceived as burdensome, we often see natal Saturn–MC aspects; this is also a signature for those who tend to be judged according to the accepted values of the day. Miley is the daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus (whose line dancing song Achy Breaky Heart was a smash hit the year she was born), godchild of Dolly Parton, and granddaughter of Republican politician Ronald Ray Cyrus.

At eight, she decided to become an actress and soon won a role on her father’s TV series Doc. By 11, she had auditioned for the lead in Hannah Montana, a Disney show about a schoolgirl who leads a double life as a teen pop star. The show aired on March 26, 2006 and became, along with its star, a sensational study in mass marketing and a $1 billion franchising and merchandising phenomenon (including clothing, jewelry, dolls – you name it). A 3D concert film of her tour, a further TV series, and a handful of films followed, making her (at the time) the richest teen celebrity in the world.

When Neptune transited across her Equal 10th house cusp (28° Aquarius) in 2010, savvy Cyrus began to break free of her wholesome figure — for so long crafted with care by Disney — and received much attention and criticism for her new-found risqué sexual image. Adopting the Scorpio emphasis in her chart and the provocative/scandalous mix of Uranus–Neptune conjunct her chart ruler Venus, Cyrus shed the last vestiges of her wholesome image in 2012, a year she also changed labels and manager. This willfulness peaked in 2013 with a controversial performance writhing around with Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards on August 25 — just days after the Full Moon at 28° Aquarius made a conjunction to her Equal 10th house cusp.

When Sinéad O’Connor (born December 8, 1966) wrote an open letter to Cyrus (on October 2, 2013) asking her to reject the music industry’s attempts to make a prostitute of her, Cyrus responded by mocking O’Connor’s recent struggles with suicidal depression and mental ill health. This led to further open letters (and the threat of legal action) from O’Connor on her website. Their synastry is apt, with Scorpio planets conjunct each other, and Cyrus’s solar arc directed Scorpio–Sagittarius planets crossing over Sinead’s Sun and Venus in outspoken Sagittarius. (Text continues after these two charts.)

O'Conner sunrise

Perhaps O’Connor’s mistake is in thinking that Cyrus is being manipulated by the industry, when in fact (and more in line with her chart) she may be expressing her generation’s overtly sexual Pluto signature.

So how is the recent scandal seen in her natal chart? Although the current secondary progressions are unspectacular, her solar arc directed Neptune has reached 8° Aquarius, exactly on her natal MC (Uranus will follow suit in 2015). Also, this year and next, transiting Uranus and Pluto activate natal Venus at 12° Capricorn, and transiting Saturn travels through Scorpio. In her lecture at the UK’s Astrological Association Conference in September 2013, Darby Costello likened Saturn in Scorpio to the story of Medusa and how she is depicted pictorially with a protruding tongue. It’s a pose Cyrus has adopted recently on stage and in a set of sexually explicit photographs published in October 2013.

What do you make of Miley’s talent, her current image and behaviour as seen in her natal chart and transits, directions and progressions?

Miley Cyrus, born November 23, 1992 at 16:19 CST (+6), Nashville, Tennessee, USA (36n10, 86w47). Source: Frank Clifford quotes a note from the Tennessee vital registry office, copy on file (Destiny Hope Cyrus). RR: AA.
Sinéad O’Connor, born December 8, 1966, Dublin, Ireland, sunrise chart. Source: Wikipedia

Bio: Frank Clifford writes the Horoscope Detective column in The Mountain Astrologer and recently acted as Guest Editor for its Interpretation issue (June-July 2013). Frank’s dozen books include Getting to the Heart of Your Chart (on chart synthesis and interpretation). A data collector and researcher, he compiled the Clifford Data Compendium for Solar Fire in 1997. His websites are and London School of Astrology

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

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

Forensic Mercury: Retrograde in Scorpio

By Melanie Reinhart | October 20, 2013

October 1 – November 27, 2013

The final Mercury retrograde cycle of 2013 covers the zone from 2°-19° Scorpio, entering on October 1st, 2013 and leaving on November 27, 2013. Here are the dates for the full arc of the cycle, from the day on which Mercury passes the degree where it will later turn direct, through until the next Superior (or Exterior) conjunction.

1) October 1 – Mercury at 2°29′ Scorpio, the degree of later SD (November 10)

2) October 21 – Mercury turns retrograde at 18°24′ Scorpio

3) November 1 – Mercury Rx conjunct the Sun at 9°34′ Scorpio

4) November 10 – Mercury turns direct at 2°29′ Scorpio

5) November 20 – Mercury passes the degree of recent conjunction (November 1)

6) November 27 – Mercury passes the degree of the recent SRx, October 21

7) December 29 – Mercury direct conjunct the Sun at 7°41′ Capricorn

It might surprise you to see the extended period of time mentioned above, as usually we only pay attention when Mercury is actually retrograde, and only for about 21 days, covering about 16°-18° of the zodiac. However, being aware of the whole arc of Mercury’s movement gives us some very useful information, hints on “pacing,” a good basis for decision-making, an opportunity to review things, plus a way of understanding and wisely managing the ebb and flow of situations in our lives.

This particular arc of Mercury is a very interesting one, as it takes in the conjunction of Saturn and the North Node. Indeed, over a few days around the beginning of November, there is a multiple conjunction in the sign of Scorpio, with Sun, Moon, Node, Saturn, and Mercury! This period also sees a solar eclipse (November 3) and the fourth exact square (seven total) of Uranus and Pluto, this one being important because it’s the middle of the sequence.

So the overall Mercury cycle has a tone of heightened intensity. During these times of culmination, escalation, intensification, exaggeration, and proliferation, it is to the “inner planets” that we can perhaps most usefully turn. Astronomically, there are only TWO “proper” inner planets — Mercury and Venus — and, as such, they partake of a profound symbolism, offering us “ways in” to our own inner world when all around seems to be buffeting us about. Paying wise attention to our thoughts (Mercury) can go a long way to offsetting some of the pressures of the collective process.

Here is a short list of all the main conjunctions that occur during this time. (All times are in GMT.)

Below are graphics of this period: one section for each month, October to December. Mercury is the purple line — see it weaving through the other lines (Node, Saturn, Sun, and the Moon sweeping diagonally through) and notice how bunched up they are.

Scorpio, ruled by Mars and Pluto, is a sign with uncompromising dedication to truth, especially as regards what has been previously hidden from sight. The underside is revealed — of ourselves, others, and situations — and we are given the courage to encompass the “dark view.” This leads to a release of bound energy (Scorpio is a fixed sign), and transformation can occur. We may see “through the glass darkly” at this time, and it is important to recognise, Scorpio style, that this is not the whole of reality. The eagle is often associated with Scorpio, and is also the bird of Zeus/Jupiter, ruler of the next sign, Sagittarius. The eagle represents the precise, penetrating, and “forensic” view of the Scorpion, as fresh intuition arises refreshed from seeing and feeling the “dark truth” that enables us to move on.

Mercury’s conjunction with Saturn and the North Node suggests “messages” about our destiny and the capacity to see through the collective delusions that assail us, especially from the media. We focus, forensic style, on the details of what we need to deal withand eliminate the rest, Scorpio style. We are executive rather than speculative, sober rather than over-excited, spare with words rather than talkative, disciplined rather than self-indulgent, narrow rather than broad in our focus. We recognise the power of our choices, not only about external situations, but, crucially, about how we approach our own experience. We get a sense of how it is to be profoundly engaged while remaining detached, feeling deeply without drowning.

Let’s “take it from the top” and explore the seven stages of Mercury’s Rx cycle

1. October 1, 2013 – Mercury at 2°29′ Scorpio, the degree where it will later SD, on November 10.

We enter the “field” of Mercury’s retrograde cycle.


If you work regularly with these cycles, you will be able to feel when Mercury enters the “sensitive zone” of the zodiac where its forthcoming retrogradation will occur. Indeed, it makes sense to prepare for this journey.

Hermes, the Greek equivalent of the Roman god Mercury after whom the planet is named, was the only one of the Olympian gods who had free right of passage through all realms — from the depths of the Underworld, domain of Pluto/Hades, right up to the snowy heights of Mount Olympus, presided over by Zeus.

The picture below shows a mix of light and dark, the hallmark of Mercury’s nature.

By noticing the zodiac sign of Mercury, and any aspects it makes to transiting planets, plus locating its trajectory in our own natal charts, we can get some idea of what kind of territory Mercury will be asking us to travel, and prepare accordingly. For he is the “Guide of Souls,” and if we follow his prompts, we can be sure of an “interesting journey” that may result in profound insights, new connections, quirky, annoying, or amusing events and surprises, welcome or unwelcome, or indeed both!

Remember: Mercury prefers questions to answers, so ask yourself the important questions at this time. And get a sense of what is being asked of you.

Mercury is the weaver between the opposites, like the snakes that wind around the healing staff or caduceus.

His job is to assist travellers on the path of awareness, and to keep the energy moving so that situations develop to fruition, ideas are generated, and important communications are facilitated, both inwardly and outwardly. Also, we may be tripped up with glitches — computers crash, we lose our cell phone or it’s stolen, emails don’t arrive, we are clumsy verbally and cause offence, we jump to wrong conclusions and have to back down and admit we were wrong, we miss meetings, plans go awry, travel arrangements scramble.

You will find plenty of “warnings” about this kind of thing, leading to the Mercury Rx cycle generally getting “bad press”!

However, let’s take a different view here …

Each Mercury Rx cycle is a unique opportunity to shift level, to undergo an inner journey that will enrich our understanding, to free up energy and create momentum in our lives in the particular area of our own horoscope where it is active. So it will focus on and “implant” a set of qualities, as described by the sign(s) of the zodiac in which it’s located.

Rule of thumb …

If you are experiencing a Mercury Rx cycle through a flurry of glitches and things misfiring in general, just STOP your momentum, as in the phrase “Don’t just do something, sit there”! Very often, these Mercurial “signals” are prompts to slow down (as Mercury does when turning), change gear, turn around (as he does) and be reflective rather than active for a while.

The “Re”- words…

Many words that have the prefix “re” describe the processes of Mercury’s Rx cycle, and also give us clues as to how we can best engage with these energies. Here is a list of such words and perhaps you can have some (Mercurial!) fun finding more. Do post them in the comments below!!

Re-flect — Re-examine — Re-view — Re-consider — Re-turn — Re-cognize — Re-do — Re-think — Re-spect — Re-value — Re-vamp — Re-capitulate — Re-model — Re-start — Re-finish — Re-cycle — Re-member — Re-jig — Re-fashion — Re-imagine — Re-cover — Re-habilitate — Re-join — Re-ignite — Re-kindle — Re-form — Re-quire — Re-make — Re-flect — Re-examine — Re-view — Re-make —Re-consider — Re-turn — Re-cognize — Re-do — Re-think — Re-spect — Re-value — Re-vamp — Re-capitulate — Re-model — Re-start — Re-finish — Re-cycle — Re-member — Re-jig — Re-fashion — Re-furbish — Re-cover — Re-join — Re-ignite — Re-kindle — Re-form — Re-quire —Re-veal — Re-solve — Re-design — Re-act — Re-collect — Re-gurgitate — Re-boot — Re-search — Re-move — Re-locate — Re-establish — Re-negotiate — Re-lease — Re-connaissance — Regard — Re-capitalize — Re-wire — Re-birth — Re-set — Re-enter — Re-present — Re-post — Re-cap — Re-enforce — Re-evaluate — Re-build — Re-apply — Re-store — Re-read — Re-generate — Re-new — Re-open — Re-define — Re-align ———  etc!


With thanks to the many people who sent in words when this article was first posted on my website! Here are lots more of those “Re” words with the countries they arrived from.

  Re-solve, Re-design
  Re-act — Re-collect — Re-gurgitate  — Re-boot — Re-search
  Re-move — Re-locate — Re-establish — Re-negotiate — Re-lease —?Re-connaissance — Re-gard — Re-capitalize —
  Re-wire — Re-birth —
  Re-set —
  Re-enter — Re-present — Re-post — Re-cap — Re-enforce — Re-open — Re-evaluate — Re-build — Re-apply — Re-store — Re-read — Re-new — Re-generate — Re-define — Re-align
  Re-transmit — Re-connect — Re-ask — Re-hear — Re-play — Re-studyRe-explain — Re-explore — Re-bound — Re-concile — Re-ceive —Re-understand — Re-discern — Re-analyze — Re-observe —Re-stimulate —


(If you think of more “Re” words do post them in the comments below, and let us know which country you’re writing from so yours can be added.)



As Mercury is the “traveller between the worlds” and can move everywhere “sans frontiers,” getting a sense of where he is going in terms of your own chart is useful. Look up the house where Scorpio is located. For example, if Mercury is crossing your Midheaven, you may be re-thinking various things about your professional life. Decisions mature, opportunities arise, situations clarify, you bring nagging concerns fully into view and deal with them. Things may turn “upside-down.” If Mercury is crossing your IC, you might action a long-standing wish to re-decorate your home, or to put some energy into family relationships you’ve neglected.

Watery Underworld — The Door  Photo: M. Reinhart, 2012

Wherever Mercury travels, be aware that depths may open up. Prepare yourself and your life so that you can benefit from and bring healing to yourself and others through this knowledge.

2. October 21 – Mercury turns Retrograde at 18°24′ Scorpio 

Turning within, towards the darkness …

During the period where Mercury is actually Rx, we can experiment with keeping 80% or more of our attention focused inwardly, on our own field of experience. We may discover, to our surprise, that most of what we do in our lives can be achieved by engaging the remaining 20%. Habitually, we live with those percentages reversed, with 80% or more of our attention going ‘out’, so we become seduced, lost, stretched out, exhausted, embroiled in the outer world. Especially during the ‘interesting times’ we are living through, the media exerts a direct and compelling influence over our state of mind, if we allow it to.

Switch it off …

Get curious — have a “technology fast.” Just switch it off. Experiment with silent days, computer-free days, iPhone free days, put your email account on auto-reply. Go further if you feel like a (Scorpio!) challenge … don’t speak, read, or write for an hour, a day, a week. Whatever makes sense for your lifestyle.

Even if you live a really busy life, fully engaged with family, friends, and work, with a little forward planning and ingenuity you will find small “windows,” places and times, to “switch off the world” and commune with your soul.

Even better … practice doing this in the midst of “it all.”

Be “online” inwardly and notice how your world and your life seem from this “Underworld” perspective.

Listen, and Hear …

Hermetic Silence – Bocchuis 1574

Try being “in the world but not of it” rather than being “of the world, but not in it”!

Befriending …

Look for the dark, stuck places in the soul and hang out there. Get a sense of the qualities, somatic location, tone, and frequency of these hidden areas. There’s no need to “do anything,” just acknowledge your own perceptions and reactions. These “tucked away corners” will just love to be receiving your kindly attention and may yield unexpected blessings and surprises, basking in some warmth after being shut away in the icy wastelands of “frozen Scorpio.”

Here, the purpose is not about “getting rid of” anything, although this may be our habitual attitude when sensing these dark and unfamiliar places. We approach these parts of the soul as we would a frightened kitten — quietly, soothingly, with open and friendly intent, and perhaps a saucer of milk. We listen for the silent language of this “unknown other” and make ourselves available in good heart.

3. November 1 – Mercury Rx conjunct the Sun at 9°34′ Scorpio 


The conjunction with Mercury and the Sun is a precious time of “seeding.” Notice with precision and care what “crosses your path” around this date. Who comes into your life like the “Messenger” of Mercury, who is, after all, the “Messenger of the Gods”? What situations present? Most importantly, pay attention to dreams, reveries, and intuitions. And journal this bit, as it might bring fleeting impressions that are difficult to “catch by the tail.” However, you’ll delight in seeing how the ingredients of this time are reflected at the forthcoming Superior Conjunction on December 29, 2013.

For example, someone struggling with the application forms for a course around the Inferior Conjunction was notified that her application had been successful at around the Superior Conjunction. Or, at the Inferior Conjunction we give up on something that clearly isn’t working, and something else, new and unconsidered, presents itself at the Superior Conjunction. You get the picture!

4. November 10 – Mercury turns direct at 2°29′ Scorpio 


What gift will we take with us from the previous 21 days of Mercury being retrograde? The Universe is always ready to bestow its gifts, only asking that we are willing to receive them. With Mercury in Scorpio, the image of “buried treasure” comes to mind. The “treasure” may have been located at the Inferior Conjunction (November 1) and we’ve been carrying it up from the Underworld since then.

5. November 20 – Mercury passes the Inferior Conjunction degree (Nov 1) 


We see the direction of things, accept the Guidance, start planning, get curious about the outcomes. We are still “in the journey.” Reflect on the notion, found in many mystical traditions, that “the Traveller, the Road, and the Destination” are One. What does this mean to you? And where, actually, are we going, really, truly? If anywhere?

6. November 27 – Mercury passes the degree of recent SRx (Oct. 21)


We marvel at the interior “seeding” that has taken place, and the magical process of how life events and experiences are unfolding. What or who is it that makes all this occur?

7. December 29 – Mercury direct conjunct the Sun at 7°41′ Capricorn. 


We notice fruition and gives thanks for what “works” in our lives, as well as accepting “what doesn’t work”! This conjunction is in Saturn’s sign, and near to transiting Pluto, so take care not to distort your view of things to include only the “half empty glass”! And understand that it’s largely a matter of our definition anyway … we can always train ourselves to re-focus the lens, without lapsing into denial of the “other.”


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.

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

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

The Uranus-Pluto Squares: Serving the Needs of an Epoch

By Gary P. Caton | September 16, 2013

“The essential task of astrologers should be to
interpret human life in terms of the needs of the epoch.”
 – Alexander Ruperti (1)

In my last post on TMA’s blog, I predicted “the triggers for the Syrian crisis could very likely be transiting Sun, Mercury, and/or Mars to the charts of Obama and/or the July 4, 1776 charts. One time in particular to watch will be the period around September 12, as Mercury moves ahead of the Sun by 15 degrees. Hellenistic astrologers called this ‘phasis,’ or an appearance, as Mercury returns to visibility around this time.” (1) On September 9, just a few days before Mercury’s official appearance, a perspicacious remark by a news reporter (Mercury) changed everything about the direction of the Syrian crisis, turning it from an imminent military strike into a diplomatic discussion. (2) This change in direction happened as Mercury crossed 0° Libra, the autumnal equinox point, part of the World, or Mundane, axis. The tropical zodiac is based on the seasonal “turning points” of the equinoxes and solstices. “Tropical” probably derives from the Greek word tropos, meaning to spin or turn. Because the cardinal points mark the places of the turning of the seasons, world events often seem to turn in accord with planets crossing these foundational places in the tropical zodiac. For instance, the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened in March 2011 as Mercury crossed the vernal point (i.e., 0° Aries) in conjunction with transiting Uranus.
Chart: bi-wheel: U.S. chart, July 4, 1776, sunrise and transits for September 9, 2013
(The Uranus-Pluto conjunction at 16° Virgo on June 30, 1966 is also noted.)

In the transit chart for September 9 (outer wheel), we see the Sun crossing the degrees of the most recent Uranus-Pluto conjunctions, which were in 1965-1966 at 17°-18° Virgo. This signifies world leaders (Sun) being forced to confront some of the collective issues of our times (Uranus-Pluto). We can also see that transit Mercury is square natal Venus in the chart of the U.S. cast for July 4, 1776 (sunrise). Venus symbolizes diplomacy in a mundane chart and the U.S. natal Venus at 2° Cancer is also on the cardinal or World axis. Transit Venus is in her own sign of Libra, thereby transferring some of her natural dignity to Mercury upon his ingress into Libra (a concept known as co-presence in Hellenistic astrology). Although it is more than any of us may have expected, or even hoped for, the significations for this event are therefore clearly stated in the transits to the July 4, 1776 chart.
Also, since transiting Mercury is 13° ahead of the transit Sun, Mercury is approaching a crucial turning point in its cycle. In Hellenistic astrology, if a planet will make the 15° separation from the Sun within a week, it is considered to be in “phasis,” or making an appearance, and the chart is seen to be saturated with the significations of that planet. Both the July 4, 1776 chart for the U.S. and the chart for September 9, 2013 meet these requirements: Mercury was 15° from the Sun on July 1, 1776 and on September 12, 2013 – both less than seven days from the events of the Declaration of Independence and the turning point in the Syrian crisis. Therefore, Mercury has overwhelmed and saturated an issue that had previously been considered only a Mars matter (a military strike as the only option) with Mercury’s signification of communication.

This coming together via communication is also a signification of what I call the Mercury Elemental Year of Water. (4) Because all three Mercury retrogrades are happening in water signs this year, Mercury spends much more time in water signs than the other signs. One of the primary qualities of water is moistness and cohesiveness. This also happens to be true of the year 1776. Both years represented opportunities for messages and messengers to find new levels of cohesion.

Furthermore, with the most recent Uranus-Pluto conjunctions moving from Aries (1850-1851) to Virgo (1965-1966), we can see that the choice of communication over belligerence is clearly in alignment with the needs of our epoch. The day after Mercury reached 15° of separation from the Sun, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reached agreement on a framework for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons. (5)

I use a chart for Russia similar to the one used by Adrian Ross Duncan (6), for December 25, 1991 at 7:32 p.m., the moment the new flag was raised over the Kremlin in Moscow. (7) The following chart shows this horoscope for the “new” Russia on the inside; the July 4, 1776 chart for the U.S. next; the previous Uranus-Pluto conjunctions in the third ring, and finally, in the outer ring, the transits for September 14, 2013, the day of the proposal agreement.
Chart: Inner: “new” Russia; 2nd: U.S. July 4, 1776; 3rd: Uranus-Pluto conjunction; outer: transits for September 14, 2013.

We can see in the outer wheel that transiting Mercury in Libra, still in “phasis,” or in the process of making a dramatic appearance out from under the Sun’s beams, is also in a t-square with the epochal Uranus-Pluto squares. This transit t-square is also in alignment with the nodal axis of the horoscope for Russia. Russia’s nodes are located at 9° Capricorn/Cancer; Mercury in the transit chart for the agreement is at the South Bending of Russia’s natal nodal axis. Perhaps this means we are finally leaving behind the belligerence of the previous epoch — the period between the Uranus-Pluto conjunctions in Aries/1850-1851 and Virgo/1965-1966) — which saw two World Wars. Another hopeful sign that this may be true is the Venus/North Node/Saturn conjunction in Scorpio happening at the North Bending of the U.S. natal nodal axis at 6° Leo/Aquarius. Perhaps we’re seeing a defining moment of a new direction for the U.S. I have often said that alignments with/to the nodes represent opportunities for us to “renegotiate our sacred contracts.” (8)

Please, make no mistake, this author is far from naïve or unaware of the many hidden undercurrents and possibilities this alignment in Scorpio represents. There are numerous reasons to believe that this agreement may not be what it appears to be; the real issue here may have more to do with U.S. and Russian interests regarding oil and/or the dollar as the default currency for oil sales, aka the “petrodollar.” (9) Recently I have stated in at least two different public forums that I’m afraid political issues often serve as a veil that keeps us from seeing the incredibly simple and profound primary need of our epoch.

The Uranus-Pluto conjunctions in Virgo in 1965-1966 were the first conjunctions of this pair not to occur in fire signs for more than 700 years. (10) Shortly after this long reign of fire was ended by conjunctions in an earth sign, we humans saw the entire Earth from space for the first time. (11) The first photograph of a “full” Earth, known as the “Blue Marble Shot,” which became the inspiration for Earth Day, holds the secret to the most fundamental — dare I say elemental — need of our epoch. Virgo is the sign of proper stewardship of resources and of efficiency, order, and cleanliness being next to godliness. The gross excesses of the fiery Industrial Age must now be controlled and cleaned up if we are to have any hope of living harmoniously in alignment with the needs of our epoch and our planet.

In fact, when you look at the entire cycle of the Uranus-Pluto conjunctions through the four elements, an interesting economic pattern emerges. The last time the conjunctions occurred in earth signs (approximately 800 BC to 181 BC), as they are now, was when coinage of precious metals became the dominant currency. Copper, silver, and gold formed three tiers of coins for common, business, and state transactions. This system lasted through the air period that followed (from 181 BC to 582 AD). Many of the economic innovations that define our modern economy were introduced in the medieval Islamic world between the 7th and 12th centuries AD. (12) This period was defined by Uranus-Pluto conjunctions in water signs (from 582-1201 AD). It wasn’t until the 17th century that paper money entered Europe during the fire period (from 1343 until 1965).
After the earth conjunctions began in 1965, the U.S. abandoned the gold standard, which tied its currency to precious metal deposits, and instead negotiated an alliance via Saudi Arabia where the U.S. dollar would be tied to oil. Enter the petrodollar. Of course, this is in alignment with the July 4, 1776 horoscope for the U.S., which has Neptune at 22° Virgo conjunct the previous Uranus-Pluto conjunctions. Although an economy based on the burning of fossil fuels is not in alignment with the epoch defined by conjunctions in earth signs, this author is hopeful that the U.S. will continue to take the first baby steps under these waxing Uranus-Pluto squares away from the belligerence, waste, and pollution of the previous fire period toward a more sustainable future defined by alternative energies and the power of the pen over the sword. Perhaps then the fruits of the current cycle, which we are destined to reap at the waning squares (2064–2065), will be somewhat less bitter than those of the previous waning square cycle (1932-1934).

References & Recommended reading:

(1) Bell, Lynn, “A Conversation with Alexander Ruperti,”
TMA Dec/Jan 1997/98 #76 –pg 34.

(2) The Uranus Pluto Squares: A Crisis in Action
(3) Mediaite

(4) The Mercury Elemental Year 2013
(5) Washington Post
(6) World of Wisdom
(7) NY Times
(8) Tuning into the Subtler Signals in the Sky
(9) See Eric Francis Coppolino’s excellent and well researched astro-reporting from the last two issues of Planet Waves.
Planet Waves
Planet Waves
(10) Jenkins, Palden
Astrological Cycles in History

Uranus-Pluto cycles and the storms of history
(11) The Atlantic

(12) Wikipedia
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

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

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

The Uranus/Pluto Squares: A “Crisis in Action”

By Gary P. Caton | September 2, 2013

“The essential task of astrologers should be to
interpret human life in terms of the needs of the epoch.”

-Alexander Ruperti (1)

In my lecture tours criss-crossing the country over the last few years, one of the mainstays has been a series on the often overlooked, under-valued, and misunderstood planet, Mercury. (2) One of the best received lectures in this series has been “The Importance of Mercury to our Epoch.” I think people like it because I outline Mercury’s contribution within a framework they are more familiar with: the cycles of the outer planets. In this way, the lecture makes for an excellent introduction to the deeper mysteries of the Trickster planet.

One of the primary ways we define an epoch in astrology is via the outer planets. They are also called “generational planets” because their long, slow movements tie together collective themes. There are three fundamental outer-planet cycles we can follow: Neptune-Pluto, Uranus-Neptune, and Uranus-Pluto. Interestingly, two of these three cycles are currently anchored in signs ruled by Mercury. The most recent Neptune-Pluto conjunction was in 1891-92 at 8° – 9° Gemini, and the most recent Uranus-Pluto conjunction was in 1965-66 at 17° – 18° degrees of Virgo.

When interpreting the needs of our epoch, we should be talking about the sign Virgo and its ruler, Mercury, as much as (if not more than) Aries and Capricorn, the signs of the current Uranus-Pluto squares. Since this Uranus-Pluto cycle began with conjunctions in Virgo, if we want to understand the deeper energies and issues of our times, we should look back to where the squares have come from.

(Editor’s note: This chart shows the Uranus-Pluto conjunction in Virgo, their current positions in Aries and Capricorn and their midpoint in Aquarius)

A perfect case study of this principle is President Barack Obama, with his natal Mars conjunct the previous Uranus-Pluto conjunction degrees. He was elected in 2008, in part because he promised to end the wars in which we were engaged. And yet with his natal Mars conjunct the previous Uranus-Pluto conjunctions, during the current Uranus-Pluto squares he has been faced twice (previously in Libya) with the need to initiate military actions of his own. On August 21, as the transiting Sun and Mercury (25° – 27° Leo) moved through the midpoint of the transiting Uranus-Pluto square (26° Aquarius), there was a horrible chemical weapons attack in Syria, killing more than a thousand people, including hundreds of children. The transit Sun-Mercury of the attack was also on President Obama’s natal Uranus/North Node conjunction (26° Leo). Since then, the Obama administration has responded boldly with frank accusations. Secretary of State Kerry called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “a thug and murderer,” unequivocally blaming him for the attack and adding that “history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction.” (3) It seems clear from his statements that President Obama feels strongly that we, as a nation, must respond with force to the use of chemical weapons, whether or not there is international support for such an action.

As I write this (August 31), transit Mercury is rapidly moving in on the previous Uranus-Pluto conjunction degrees in mid-Virgo, and President Obama has announced he will seek Congressional approval for military force. As synchronicity displays itself, Congress is scheduled to return to session on September 9, just as the Sun crosses the degrees of the previous Uranus-Pluto conjunctions. Yesterday, news arrived that Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending warships into the Mediterranean where U.S. ships have already been staged. (4) This is not terribly surprising, given that Russia is Syria’s most powerful ally, but it seems to this astrologer that perhaps Putin did not get enough satisfaction from foiling Obama’s pursuit of Snowden and is still happy to be the fly in Obama’s ointment. This may be mainly symbolic and say more about the ongoing relationship with our Cold War enemy “heating up” rather than being an iminent danger. But there are fears that a U.S. attack on Syria will be answered with attacks on Israel. (5) In such a volatile region, it certainly seems possible that even a limited U.S. attack could have unintended consequences, probably far-reaching ones.

So, what does the astrology say about how this very touchy situation will play out? A look at President Obama’s chart is not reassuring. Transit Mars is conjunct Obama’s Mercury and in a few days transit Mercury will be conjunct Obama’s Mars (exact on September 4). Even though these transits reflect the fact that he has clearly stated his intention and readiness to strike, it seems hopeful, under such rapidly moving triggers, that the President has taken the considered measure of seeking approval from Congress. What is more troubling is that the midpoint of the transiting Uranus-Pluto squares is precisely on Obama’s natal Uranus (25°16 Leo). This is exact on September 8 and is reflected by the sesquisquares of collective planets, Uranus and Pluto, to Obama’s natal Uranus/North Node. The additional aspects from transiting North Node/Saturn (now conjunct) and Pluto (sextile) to Obama’s natal Neptune do not inspire confidence against the possibility of unintended consequences from President Obama’s well-intentioned military plans.

Chart: Barak Obama natal and transits for August 31, 2013.
(The Uranus-Pluto conjunction at 16° Virgo on June 30, 1966 is also noted.)

Cause for further unease can be found when consulting any national chart for the U.S. cast for July 4, 1776. We see that the U.S. natal Neptune was transited by the 1960’s Uranus-Pluto conjunctions. Since this is also activating the U.S. natal Mars-Neptune square, perhaps this sheds light on our continuous propensity to get involved in military quagmires during and since that time period. At the time of the chemical weapons attack in Syria on August 21, transit Mars was conjunct the natal Mercury of the July 4, 1776 chart. Since our President has previously stated publicly that there is a “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons, this foreign attack is personal. Now transit Mars in Leo is applying to the U.S. natal North Node.

Chart: U.S. Sibly and transits for August 31, 2013.

The avid reader of this blog may remember my previous post pointing out that Mercury and Mars are very active during the next year in the solar return for any July 4, 1776 charts, and the historical propensity for enemies to surface under these alignments. (6) From this, one naturally suspects two things. First, the triggers for the Syrian crisis could very likely be transiting Sun, Mercury, and/or Mars to the charts of Obama and/or the July 4, 1776 charts. One time to watch out for is around September 12, as Mercury moves ahead of the Sun by 15 degrees. Hellenistic astrologers called this “phasis,” or an appearance, as Mercury returns to visibility around this time. Shortly thereafter, on September 16, transit Mars makes a conjunction to President Obama’s Sun. Second, even if the U.S. does not attack and manages to steer clear of a quagmire in Syria, the presence of figures like Assad and Putin on the horizon are still very troubling in the long-term. After all, it was during the previous occurrence of the 79-year Mercury/Mars synodic return cycle to the 1776 charts (the same cycle occurring again this year) that Hitler first came to power, and we eventually had to deal with him personally during our national Uranus return to its 1776 natal placement in Gemini.

(1) Bell, Lynn. “A Conversation with Alexander Ruperti,”
TMA Dec/Jan 1997/98, pg. 34.

(2) Recording of these talks can be purchased here

(3) Huffington Post

(4) HuffingtonPost

(5) Time

(6) The 79-Year Cycles of Mercury and Mars in the USA Horoscope by Gary P. Caton

A video of the author’s presentation on themes similar to this article (i.e., the 79-year Mercury/Mars cycle and the Uranus-Pluto squares) can be purchased here

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

Jenkins, Palden, Astrological Cycles in History

Uranus-Pluto cycles and the storms of history

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

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

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer

Some thoughts on prediction and a personal story..

By Anne Whitaker | August 26, 2013

The question of whether it is possible to foretell the future is one which has preoccupied humans ever since we evolved into self-conscious beings and began to conceptualise past, present, and future — now thought to be around 80,000 years ago. Prediction has been around for a long time. Economists do it. Weather forecasters do it. Politicians do it. Physicists do it. Futurologists do it. 

Most of the foregoing predictors direct scorn and derision at the people who have done it for longer than anyone else: astrologers.

There is several thousand years’ worth of recorded empirical evidence — much of it stored on clay tablets, as yet undeciphered, in the basements of museums across the world — demonstrating that the movements of  the planets in our solar system correlate with particular shifts in “the affairs of men” (Shakespeare’s term, not mine!). 

This empirical observation continues into the present day in the consulting rooms of astrologers across the world. For example, a number of politicians and economists consult astrologers regularly. They are mostly unwilling to admit it, though we astrologers know who they are!

What we can, and cannot, do

Both astrologers and astronomers, via planetary observation, can look at and correctly plot the unfolding pattern of energies through space-time. After that, astrologers step into a different realm than that of observation of the external, material, planetary world. By looking at a section of any points or moments of the past, present, or future via a horoscope, they can examine the essence of that moment in terms of its meaning, and speculate with moderate accuracy about what some of the branches manifesting in the wider world, or in individuals’ lives, may be.

What they can’t do, (with some notable exceptions, which I hope readers of this blog may offer!), is to see exactly, and with consistency, how those branches are going to manifest. Historically, our track record on hindsight is much better than it is on foresight!

There have been some spectacularly accurate predictions made by astrologers in the public realm over the centuries; a famous one was made by Luc Gauricus in 1555 to the effect that King Henry II of France (then aged thirty-seven) was in danger of death in his forty-second year, by a head injury incurred in single combat in an enclosed space. And five years later Henry duly died of a lance splinter which entered his eyes and pierced his brain.

There have also been some spectacular failures, e.g., to predict that the Munich agreement of 1938 would lead to World War II. 

A new model slowly emerging

We do much better at describing the essence of a pattern, but identifying the exact branches is much more hit and miss. Personally this cheers me, since it appears to suggest a creative balance between fate and free will in the universe; chaos theory in contemporary physics also has strong parallels with the astrological paradigm. Both the language of astrology and the language of quantum physics tells us that not everything  is pinned down.

Indeed, a view and a model are slowly emerging, despite considerable resistance from the diehard defenders of reductionism, which can demonstrate convincingly that the lenses of astrology and quantum physics are focusing on the same underlying, all encompassing Reality.  

The perspectives offered by contemporary writers, astrologers, depth psychologists, and scientists, such as Richard Tarnas, Liz Greene, the late Charles Harvey, Stanislav Grof, Brian Swimme, Rupert Sheldrake, and others — including very recent books by astrologers Armand Diaz and Kieron Le Grice — have been of inestimable value to me in the last few years. I urge any readers of this blog who are keen to expand their own perspectives to explore their work.

Consciousness holds the key

My view, based on my personal experiences and those of clients and students over 30 years, as well as extensive reading and study, is that the key dimension in determining how a particular planetary pattern will play out in a person’s life is the level of consciousness at which they are operating at the time the inevitable challenges of life come their way. 

Most astrologers have had the humbling experience of looking at the horoscope of a client which looks so difficult that the impending consultation feels very stressful, but upon encountering the client, they meet someone who has faced, dealt with, and grown through hard experiences that would have flattened a less aware person. We can never predict the level of awareness of a client we have never met, although we can have a pretty good idea that, e.g., Mars conjunct Saturn conjunct Pluto square the Moon is going to be no walk in the park.

I am personally very hesitant about both the accuracy and the wisdom of predicting at all, especially for individuals, in any more than a “describing the core and speculating about the branches” kind of way. Predicting that a specific branch will manifest may well close down possibilities rather than open them up, which also takes us into the realm of self-fulfilling prophecy.

For example, when Uranus was about to cross my Pisces Descendant in 2005, beginning its seven or so years’ traverse of my 7th house, I became concerned about what this might mean for my marriage. The rather problematic implications of Uranus’ impact on the relationship realm that practising astrologers see every day in their students’ and clients’ lives, as well as their own, worried me.

However, a profound, totally unexpected spiritual experience on my husband’s part linked both our spiritual journeys into walking the same path at the same time. This has had a supportive, deepening effect on our marriage and not one I could possibly have envisaged before Uranus crossed my Descendant. 

My personal prediction story

Having just made what I hope is a coherent case for specific prediction being a practice of dubious merit and only intermittent accuracy, here is my own striking experience of being on the receiving end of a specific prediction I never asked for, at a time when I was a typical astrology dismisser, i.e, I considered that astrology was rubbish without ever having taken the trouble to study it.

Bath, Somerset, England, June 1974: I was engrossed in the Sunday evening chore of doing washing in the launderette on the London Road, near where I lived. It was a liminal time in my life. After having resigned from a lecturing job, I was preparing to leave Bath, and a return to the Outer Hebrides was imminent. 
A strange looking couple came in, accompanied by a little girl of about five years old. The woman was tall, slender, with long dark hair, a very scruffy Afghan coat, and a distinct look of Cher (of Sonny and Cher fame). The man was smaller than her, slight, with unruly greying hair and a mischievous face. 

I carried on with my laundry. The little girl was chatty; soon, she was putting money into the dryer for me, I was telling her stories, and we had become great friends. I met her parents. They were both artists and astrologers. (Editor’s note: “Seamus” and “Gloria” are fictitious names.)

“Not the kind who do that stuff you see in the papers,” said Seamus scornfully, having noted the fleeting look of disdain which crossed my face at the mention of the word astrology. (I had given one of my mature students a very hard time a couple of years before for her public devotion to what seemed to me a subject unworthy of someone of her intelligence.) Seamus said, “We are the real thing.”

Twenty minutes later, I was sitting in their cramped basement kitchen, drinking tea, and being charmed by Seamus. His combination of erudition, intensity, conviction, humour, and blarney was irresistible. 

An unsuspecting client . . .

“Do you know your birth time?” he asked. “Yes, 7:35 a.m.,” I replied. “Why are you interested in that?”
“Because I am going to draw up your horoscope”, he replied. Whether I wanted such a procedure embarked upon or not was of no consequence to him. So slain was I by his charm that I didn’t offer any resistance. 

As I watched, interested in spite of myself, Gloria and Seamus assembled a hefty tome, a slim pamphlet, blank sheets of paper, a calculator, a fountain pen, and a newly sharpened pencil. The tome was an ephemeris, they informed me —  a list of the planets’ placements everyday at noon for the whole of the 20th century. 

Seamus took a blank sheet, carefully drawing a circle freehand in its centre. He then proceeded with great rapidity and fluency to insert squiggles — “Planets!” — and numbers around the inner edge of the circle. He then drew lines within a smaller inner circle — “Aspects, or links between the planets at the time you were born.” He and Gloria then sat back, gazing with silent preoccupation at the image they had created.

The chart from 1974:

Anne Whitaker, natal 1974

I can still recall very, very clearly what followed.

Seamus, looking at his drawing and only briefly at me, gave an astonishingly accurate description of my father’s complex, domineering, idiosyncratic and wayward character. That was bad enough, not least because it reminded me of certain aspects of myself! Worse was to follow. 

“You are a person rich with creative gifts,” he said. “But you need to know and face more clearly the more difficult facets of your own nature. It’s time to do that, since you are approaching 30 and your Saturn Return.” With that, he forensically summed up those parts of myself which I knew were there, but had tried very hard to avoid facing or admitting to anyone — a very common and human failing that Saturn transits expose and challenge on a cyclic basis throughout our lives. I was feeling by this time as though I’d been hit on the side of the head with a sock full of sand.

Then, with true rhetorical skill, he delivered the punch line. “You tell me you are a total sceptic now,” he said. “But stop fooling yourself. You have a deeply spiritual nature, which needs to find meaning and connection with something greater than yourself. Until you manage that, you will be driven by the same restlessness that still drives your father, and you will not find inner peace.”

There was a long pause.

“And I can see, from where the planets will be in about seven years’ time, that the Big Picture is going to come seriously calling at your door. In your early thirties, you’re going to end up either doing what I’m doing now, or something very like it.”

I was utterly shocked. I had known those people for less than an hour, most of which had been spent walking back from the launderette to their flat and organising cups of tea. They knew nothing about me of any significance. How could they produce such specific and accurate material from marks on a piece of paper? I couldn’t even begin to get my head round the prediction. It seemed beyond absurd.

Slowly, I carried my laundry home. There was no way I could find to make sense of the experience I had just had. There was no file inside my head into which it could fit. 

Seven years later

Seven years later, a friend gave me a copy of Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology. I had no idea why, but had enough respect for that friend and his opinions to begin reading. About three pages in, I had the strangest sensation of someone pulling me into the book, saying “Come here, you’re for me…” I still have this battered old copy with my signature on it — February 1981. 

And my transits at the time? The Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Libra exactly conjunct natal 2nd-house Neptune and exactly sextile natal 11th-house Mercury (my ruling planet); Uranus crossing the natal IC; Neptune beginning a long opposition to the natal 10th-house Uranus-Mars conjunction, and trine to the natal 12th-house Sun; Pluto trine natal Uranus and sextile natal Sun; North Node conjunct natal Mercury. A summons, pretty much . . .
In February 1981, that prediction, (which I had never quite forgotten), and the feeling of fascination, compulsion, and exhilaration which Alan Oken’s book triggered in me came together in a way that has profoundly shaped the whole of my subsequent life.

Concluding thoughts

It’s good for us all — especially people like me, with seven planets in fixed signs! — to get jolted out of our positions now and then by experiences that don’t fit our frames of reference. Hopefully, the jolt will have the effect of breaking down some of our old defences and letting new experience and new knowledge enter our lives.

I re-interpreted Seamus’ prediction in the light of my own subsequent astrological knowledge; it was pretty obvious by then how he had got there, as was the timing of it.

I still think about the encounter with him, his child, and partner nearly 40 years later. Did his prediction, at some subliminal level, point my life in a direction that it would not otherwise have gone? I will never know. But I do know, as a result of our encounter, that whatever my reservations are about the wisdom of offering such specific outcomes to people, astrologers sometimes have the power to do just that.

Whether they should do it is another issue altogether!

Bio: Anne Whitaker is a writer and astrologer based in Glasgow, Scotland. She holds the Diploma from the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London, UK. Anne blogs at Writing from the Twelfth House at  and returned to her astrological practice in May 2012 after a very long sabbatical. 

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

Like what you see?   Subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer