TMA This Week

The Roles of Pallas Athene and Mercury in the Cardinal Grand Cross

By Gary P. Caton | March 31, 2014

“Be realistic, demand the impossible.”

Anonymous graffiti, Paris, May 1968 (1)

April 21, 2014 will be the fifth of seven squares between Uranus and Pluto during the current decade. Because Mars and Jupiter are joining the action and creating a “cardinal grand cross,” a lot of people in the astrology world seem to think that this square (i.e., the fifth in the series) is going to be different, perhaps more like what we were expecting — a return of the widespread revolutionary fervor of the 1960s. I happen to agree, but for different, additional reasons.

Chart: April 21, 2014, Washington, D.C., 2:15:28 p.m.  Geocentric, tropical, whole sign houses

The first reason I see this square as potentially more active than the first four is that the asteroid Pallas Athene has recently stationed near the far midpoint of Uranus-Pluto. I wrote an article for the print edition of TMA in 2012 about the historical impact of this asteroid stationing on each side of the separating Uranus-Pluto conjunction in the cultural revolutions of May 1968, in France and elsewhere around the world. (2) It seems obvious to this astrologer that the nature of this asteroid had a re-vivifying effect upon this conjunction that was beginning to separate significantly. In a word, the nature of Pallas Athene is hot — in the sense of the Aristotelian qualities.

Because of this hot or active nature, I believe that Pallas can be seen as an octave transformer between Mercury, Jupiter, and Uranus. Also, all these archetypes are associated with somewhat unbounded mental creative principles, so we could say that these four bodies constitute a sort of “archetypal complex.” Since Air is a volatile, yang element, the phenomenology of the experiences related to all these archetypes is likely to be characterized by the experience of release, creative breakthrough, and unexpected emergence into new possibilities. We can see in the horoscope for the fifth Uranus-Pluto square (above), that Pallas Athene is making a trine to Mercury, a semisquare to Jupiter, and a sesquisquare to Uranus. So these archetypally-related bodies are also related via aspect. This chart appears to have the potential for a tremendous release of pent-up mental or social energy.

Along with the connection between Pallas Athene and Uranus-Pluto, there is another interesting tie to the year 1968 that is active throughout 2014. This is related to a phenomenon I call the Mercury Elemental Year. All three of the Mercury retrogrades in 2014 will happen in Air signs, just as they did in 1968. Furthermore, because it has been 46 years, Mercury will trace almost exactly the same path through the sky as in 1968. (3) Every single Mercury synodic event — be it his stations, conjunctions with the Sun, or elongations — will happen within a degree of where it did in 1968.

The preceding tables are from a 51-page report I compiled in the winter of 2012. This e-book report contains 125 years of ephemerides for the Mercury Elemental Year, along with theory and instructions on how to use these cycles for personal transformation. (The report is for sale via my website for ten dollars.) (4)

The basic idea is that since, each year, Mercury spends about as much time in one single Elemental triplicity as the other three elements combined, this single element represents themes that reverberate and echo most deeply throughout the collective discourse. Thus, this year, the most profound themes communicated socially will be Airy ones. In addition, we have a series of aspects between three or four Airy planets in the chart for the fifth Uranus-Pluto square. So, what can we expect all this Airy energy to look like?

First, let’s go back a few years to see how this pattern has played out recently. Just before the first exact Uranus-Pluto square, we were under a Mercury Elemental Year of Fire, and within one day of an inferior conjunction of Mercury Rx, with the Sun at 29° Sagittarius, a street vendor in Tunisia practiced self immolation, setting himself on fire in protest and beginning what became known as the Arab Spring.

In late 2012, as the Mercury Elemental Year was about to move into Water, I wrote a blog for TMA suggesting that in 2013 a protest movement could gain the kind of mass cohesion (water) we saw via the Summer of Love movement in 1967, 46 years earlier. (5) Sure enough, in Brazil that year, we saw a mass movement, with not just hundreds of thousands but millions of people taking to the streets; there were an estimated one million people out in the streets of various cities on June 20 alone. (6) These were not only the biggest, but also the most successful protests — from the point of view of the protesters — thus far in the current Epoch of Revolution, with many protester demands being met by the government. (7)

So now we have a worldwide protest movement that is maturing and gaining cohesion. It is time for the protesters to get smart and use what they have learned. Looking back, we can see that the May 1968 movement in France was in large part an intellectual revolution, as it was inspired by the artistic sensibilities of groups like the Situationists. (8) An important event leading up to May 1968 was the Strasbourg scandal. (9) A group of students managed to use public funds to publish a pamphlet, which circulated thousands of copies and helped to make the Situationists well known throughout the non-communist left. (10) Although it is thought that some of the core revolutionary events of 1968 may have been the brainchildren of as few as one or two dozen people,  ultimately the general strike would involve 11 million — more than 20% of the population of France. (11) (12)

In 2014 we have another chance to see a repeat of the energy of the fabled 1960s. Just like the Mercury Elemental Year of Water in 2013 helped to bring and hold millions of people together in Brazil, the Mercury Elemental Year of Air should find the People united and activated around powerful ideas. The alchemical symbol for Air involves an upward-pointing triangle, symbolizing volatility. As a yang or masculine element, it is the nature of air to move up and out. And the lessons of Mercury and Pallas seem clear — small planets and small people matter. Sometimes they seem to make all the difference.

References & Recommended reading:


(2) “The Synergy of Pallas Athene with Uranus-Pluto,” TMA June/July 2012 issue. Online readers can find a link to the article here.

(3) Mercury synodic events (Stations, Maximum Elongations from and Conjunctions with the Sun) recur near or in the same zodiacal degree every 46, 79, or 125 years.
The planetary synodic periods were well known to Mesopotamian astrologers and indeed made possible the birth of ephemerides and horoscopic astrology. Later, Ptolemy used them in his Almagest. The modern astrologers Ruperti, Munkasey, and Blaschke have done in-depth research on these cycles.

Alexander Ruperti, 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.
Michael Munkasey, “Station Cycles” — an as yet unpublished research article shared with interested members of the community.
Robert P. Blaschke, Astrology: A Language of Life: Volume 5 – Holographic Transits, EarthWalk School of Astrology Publishing, Port Townsend, WA, 2006.

(4) Dream Astrologer

(5) The Mercury Elemental Year 2013

(6) Wikipedia and Reuters

(7) Wikipedia

(8) Wikipedia

(9) Wikipedia

(10) Library Nothingness

(11) Wikipedia

(12) Wikipedia

Bio: Gary P. Caton is an eclectic Astrologer who embraces an organic process-oriented approach of spiritual exploration, personal growth, and transformation via the Living Sky. Gary has studied and practiced 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 Astrology practice over the last 20 years. Visit Gary at his website Dream Astrologer

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The Ukraine in Crisis

By Alex Miller | March 24, 2014

As above, so below. It’s the guiding dictum of astrology — what’s going on up there in the heavens has a reflection and reference down here on planet Earth. But to what, exactly, does this apply? The ancients who devised this maxim only knew of seven moving lights in the sky. Today we’re aware that almost two million bodies are out there circling our sun – do they all evoke manifestations on this terrestrial plane, or does astrology only apply to objects of a certain size or venerability in our collective consciousness? And if it applies to everything, then how do the movements of these lesser bodies express themselves in the world around us?

When everyone and everything, from individual to nation state, is undergoing the same general transit, as for instance, Uranus square Pluto, why do some people and places stand out more than others? What draws this energy to specific entities who act as proxies for the stimuli we all receive? It may well be these previously ignored “minor” bodies, as the story of the Ukraine’s struggle illustrates.

What has been described by William Hague, the U.K.’s First Secretary of State, as “certainly the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st Century,” has been playing out in the Eastern European state of the Ukraine. (1) Protests against the administration’s pro-Russian policies and trade agreements began in November 2013, and escalated to the point of bloodshed in late February 2014, when the administration enacted a law making it legal to use live ammunition on protestors, resulting in more than 70 deaths. Within days, President Viktor Yanukovych had been impeached by parliament, fled the capital, and sought refuge in Russia, holding a press conference where he termed his ouster a “bandit coup,” while Russia denied the legitimacy of the interim government, which scheduled new elections for May.

Less than a week after that, Russian troops effectively occupied Crimea, a semi-autonomous region of Ukraine on the Black Sea, which houses a major Russian naval port and is predominantly ethnic Russian in population. Russian President Vladimir Putin asserted these facts as justification for the occupation. U.S. President Barack Obama issued harsh statements denouncing the action and threatened economic sanctions, but Western European nations are heavily dependent on Russian natural resources, and their cooperation in any punitive action is uncertain. In early March the Crimean parliament voted to unite with Russia, scheduling a public referendum vote for March 16th, to endorse or overrule that decision.

The Ukraine is yet another nation state currently under the gun of the Uranus-Pluto square, that defining aspect of our times, signaling the clash of the old order of entrenched power (Pluto in Capricorn) and the forces of individuation, freedom, and revolution (Uranus in Aries). Born in the aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet Union, whose member state it once was, the Ukraine gained its independence on August 24, 1991 (5:31p.m. Local Time, Kiev).

The current crisis is part of its normal “growing pains”: with its revolutionary, freedom-loving natal Uranus at 10° Capricorn, Ukraine is facing its first Uranus square, analogous to an individual assuming adult status and responsibility at age 21. But with transit Pluto currently in conjunction to that natal Uranus, these growing pains have taken a bloody and violent turn.

Such is the general celestial backdrop of the turmoil, but we can probe deeper to understand why this region in particular has been so volatile of late. Lots of countries are receiving hard aspects from the Uranus-Pluto square, so why does the Ukraine in particular stand out?

That story begins with the movements of asteroid Ukraina (#1709), named for the country. When the anti-government protests began on November 20, 2013, transit Ukraina was in late Aquarius, simultaneously squaring Saturn and approaching a conjunction with Neptune, and exactly conjunct the Black Hole at 28° Aquarius. The square to Saturn indicates the discontent with the government’s policies; the approaching conjunction to Neptune signals a period of confusion, and upcoming turmoil and chaos, while the Black Hole contact adds the potential for the situation to mushroom out of control and result in an unexpected reversal of the status quo, a dramatic turn of events that completely destroys the current reality.

By late January 2014, Ukraina had moved on to Aries and its conjunction with Uranus (exact on February 8), which remained in effect until February 28th when Russia invaded the Crimea. The intervening period coincided with the protests escalating to full-scale rebellion, then revolution (both Uranus-ruled) with the ouster of the unpopular Yanukovych and the establishment of an interim government.

The saga continues with the placement of Ukraine’s natal asteroid Kiev (#2171), named for the Ukrainian capital, which, at 10° Cancer, exactly opposes the nation’s Uranus. Any revolutionary movement is more than likely to originate here, a pattern already established in 2004 with the “Orange Revolution,” a bloodless coup based in civil disobedience and centered on Kiev, which prevented a rigged presidential election from going into effect. So, it’s not just the Ukraine’s Uranus that is being jostled by the Uranus-Pluto square; this is forming a t-square with the national capital’s celestial namesake. Adding fuel to that fire was transit Jupiter, planet of inflation, excess, and over-reaction, which came to conjoin Kiev and oppose natal Uranus in mid-February 2014, just as things began to heat up. Within days the government’s overreach had killed over 100 people, and Jupiter fanned the Uranian flames of rebellion in Kiev to topple the administration.

But Jupiter hasn’t been traveling alone. Right beside him in the heavens has been another namesake asteroid, Moskva (#787), the Russian name for Moscow, indicating Russia’s involvement in the crisis. Moscow’s importance in the Ukraine’s future is well established by the presence of its natal asteroid Moskva at 22° Scorpio, on the Ukraine’s Midheaven at 27° Scorpio, representing its government, which is to some extent under Russian domination with this placement, all the more so given its additional conjunction with the nation’s Pluto, representing power, control, and manipulation, at 17° Scorpio, and Damocles, that sword of doom hanging unseen overhead, at 19° Scorpio.

On February 27th, Moskva came to its direct station, a period where it is stationary in the sky and packing considerably more punch than normal, at 9°55’ Cancer. The next day, Russian troops occupied Crimea, as Jupiter evoked an inflated, outsized response to the crisis from the Russian capital.

Crimea has its own place in the saga, with its eponymous asteroid (#1140) coming to retrograde station on February 1st at 10° Libra, filling in the gap in the natal Uranus-Kiev, transit Pluto-Uranus-Moskva-Jupiter t-square to form a perfect Cardinal Grand Cross. When the first anti-Russian-policy protests broke out on November 21, 2013, transit asteroid Russia was at 10° Libra, exactly squared natal Kiev, exactly squared natal Uranus, and exactly where transit Crimea would station in little over two months’ time.

Astute Ukrainian astrologers might have intuited Crimea’s topical importance by the pair of Lunar Eclipses that conjoined its natal degree in the Ukraine chart. At 20° Libra, Ukraine’s asteroid Crimea was hit by the Lunar Eclipse of October 18, 2013 at 25° Aries, and will be again at the upcoming Lunar Eclipse at 25° Libra on April 15th. Russia’s involvement in the crisis is prefigured by a pair of Solar Eclipses, one at 5° Scorpio last May in opposition to the Ukraine’s natal asteroid Russia (#232) at 4° Taurus, which will be conjoined by the next Solar Eclipse on April 29th at 8° Taurus.

Major planetary stations had an effect as well. On March 6th, the very day the Crimean parliament voted for union with Russia, transit Jupiter (ruling politicians and foreign policy) stationed at 10° Cancer, exactly hitting the Ukraine’s Kiev-Uranus opposition. Transit Moskva was still conjoined Jupiter, and the two were still square to transit Crimea, then at 6° Libra. Transit Russia was at 22° Scorpio, close by transit Saturn, which had just come to its retrograde station at 23° Scorpio four days prior, with both points closely squared the Ukraine natal Moon (its people), at 22° Aquarius, and forming a t-square with its exact Mercury-Jupiter conjunction at 25° Leo. This is a combination representing political rhetoric and voting. Saturn is harsh crackdowns and repression, but also borders, which Russia violated in its occupation of Crimea.

The referendum in Crimea on March 16th went as expected. With a long history of Russian domination, a majority ethnic Russian population, Russian troops in the streets, and no spot on the ballot for maintaining the union with Ukraine, it’s not surprising to see an estimated 95% vote in favor of secession.

When the votes were cast, the Sun at 25° Pisces was squared asteroid Simferopol (#2141), named for the Crimean capital, at 27° Gemini, which was exactly opposed the Galactic Center at 27° Sagittarius, indicating something of global import or attention. Mercury, ruling the voting process itself, was at 28° Aquarius, on the same Black Hole that asteroid Ukraina had occupied when the anti-Russian protests first erupted. Mercury was trine Simferopol, indicating the dramatic support for the Crimean government’s decision to secede. Asteroid Ukraina, now at 29° Aries, was conjoined asteroid Phaeton at 26° Aries, a point noted for ill-considered decisions and choices leading to disaster.

Asteroid Moskva had returned with Jupiter to sit directly atop the Ukraine’s natal asteroid Kiev at 10° Cancer (exactly opposing its Uranus), with transit Kiev at 4° Pisces closely conjoined both Neptune, ruling secession, and asteroid Pandora, noted for the unleashing of unexpected, dire consequences, at 5° and 3° Pisces. Asteroid Russia, at 24° Scorpio, was prominent in the drama as well, as it conjoined Saturn, ruling governments, as well as repression, at 23° Scorpio, with both trine the Sun and square the Ukraine’s natal Moon (the people) at 22° Aquarius. Asteroid Crimea at 4° Libra opposed asteroid Icarus, noted for rash, reckless actions heedless of the consequences, at 6° Aries, and more broadly opposed Uranus, ruling both revolution and independence, at 11° Aries.

On Friday, March 21, Vladimir Putin signed a treaty accepting Crimea into the Russian Federation. All that remains now is to see what response, if any, will come from the West.


(1) The News

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

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House guest

By Mary Plumb | March 17, 2014

Saturn’s station on March 2 at 23° Scorpio is within a degree of my natal Ascendant. There is nothing like the grim reaper so close by to bring death to the doorstep.

I know several people who have passed over this week, not just an older friend, but also a few heartbreaking endings for two people in their youth.
Censoring myself, a worthy Saturn trait, I thought I cannot write about death again for the blog.
Happily, the perfect antidote arrived — astrologer Don Cerow, who is in Ashland as part of an extended tour. He is the guest speaker at our NCGR meeting tonight.
I was on the phone with a family member (experiencing both a sudden, devastating loss and a very surprising and hopeful turn in his life) when Don showed up, handing me a pink flower-laden blossom from the cherry tree. It was a beautiful gesture of the rebirth and renewal that always comes, that will come, after death.
The Moon had just entered Libra when we looked at the chart of the moment to begin orienting ourselves to the current picture.
The Moon moving through Libra will be triggering the cardinal square today: Moon squares Jupiter at 2:03 p.m., opposes Uranus at 3:49 p.m., and squares Pluto at 7:12 p.m. (All times PDT)
Although the necessity and immediacy of the surprising changes inherent in the symbolism of the cardinal signs is in sharp focus today, Don talked about this celestial pattern forming as a step, a shock point, one of many, as we move towards the future.
Don has a long view. His book, When the Dragon Wore the Crown, is the basis for the presentations he is giving on the tour. (1) For 40 years he has studied two ways to orient ourselves against the backdrop of the heavens (what he refers to as the Center and the Circle): the slowly changing North Star and the Vernal Equinox point moving over time, i.e. the precession of the equinoxes.
Precession is allowing the Spring Equinox point to drift back through the constellations, giving us the different ages, i.e., Gemini, Taurus, Aries, Pisces, Aquarius, etc. His work traces cultures (beginning in 5000 BC) and includes Chinese, Sumerian, Babylonian, Phoenician, Hindu, Norse, Native American, and Mayan myths, artifacts, archeological pieces, and natural phenomena. He sees the constellations as they are echoed on Earth via the records of history and as they are concurrently marked in the stars at different epochs of time. When we went out to see the (cloudy) sky, Don said that with clear skies you could see 7000 years of history across the night sky. Now, that’s a view that can put things in a different perspective.
For thousands of years the astronomical marker of the North Celestial Pole was Theban, a star in Draco the Dragon. The Dragon (also drawn as a snake in constellation maps) crawls between the Great Bear and the Little Bear (the big and little dippers) in the northern sky. Theban is not a bright star; its location as the place in the sky aligned with the North Celestial Pole is its significance. The heart of the Dragon is the star location that directed us northwards for at least a thousand years. 
At our current point in time, the North Star, the star around which all the other stars seem to rotate, is Polaris in Ursa Minor (the Little Bear). According to Don’s research, Polaris is still moving towards exact alignment with the North Celestial Pole; that will occur in 2100 AD. We talked about the North Celestial Pole being connected to the crown chakra in the human being. Don feels that, as a species, we are moving towards that perfect alignment with Source, a heavenly marker that he connects with the long cherished notion of the Aquarian Age.

As I say prayers for the dear departing souls whom I know, I am also trying to understand what is happening in the Ukraine and Venezuela, and remembering the poor souls on the plane from Malaysia that disappeared; the bitterly impoverished victims of drought in southern Pakistan; the thousands of refugees in Syria; the victims of violence in the Central African Republic and the South Sudan; the many thousands in Haiti and the Philippines still suffering from the effects of the 2010 earth quake and 2013 typhoon. A friend appearing at the door with a flower in hand can be the most welcomed sight in the world.

(1) Don Cerow’s West coast tour continues through April. Check his schedule here.

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Time with Venus…

By Mary Plumb | March 10, 2014

Just thinking about blog subjects is a creative venture.

Like everyone else, I’ve been watching (anxiously) as Mars retrogrades, heading back to perfect the cardinal cross in April, not to mention the April 14 lunar eclipse, the day of Pluto’s station retrograde.

Volatility and abrupt, upsetting, and precarious moves are obvious everywhere we look. This week alone I know of six people who have suddenly decided to move.  (1)

However, amidst the intermittent chaos of the cardinal energy, I wanted to write about something else: Venus, now reaching her maximum brightness as a jewel in the morning sky. (Do get up and see her when you have clear skies.) It was only after I started writing about Venus that I realized that Sunday was my Venus return.

Venus conjoined the Sun on January 11 at 21°11’ Capricorn in her retrograde phase. (2) That degree will remain highly sensitive for awhile, at least until the next conjunction. (3) If you have 21°- 22° Capricorn on an angle, or with the Sun, Moon, or other important placement in the birth horoscope (or solar return), all matters of Venus significations will be pronounced. (4)

On January 11 at the conjunction with the Sun, Venus was invisible, of course. She started to appear in the morning sky before dawn around January 17 and made her direct station on January 31 while conjunct Pluto at 12° Capricorn.

The Morning Star, or Venus Lucifer (“the light bearer” to the Greeks) Venus will move to her farthest point from the Sun (maximum elongation) — and rising well before the Sun — on March 22. Look in the early morning sky, as the waning Moon will pass by her on March 26-28.

I remember Arielle Guttman’s work on the Venus Star Point (VSP), her terminology for the degree of the conjunction of Venus with the Sun prior to an individual’s birth. The degree of the prenatal conjunction, in which Venus can be either in retrograde or direct motion, is predictable and easy to calculate. Guttman wrote about that point as symbolizing “the manner in which we reach inside of ourselves to reflect the love, beauty, and heart-felt self-expression we innately possess and share with others.” She also suggests that the Venus Star is reflecting the concept of Eros, “a deeply moving, creative life force.” (5) (It is clearly an evocative point; the conjunction occurs when we are in the womb.)

There is a five-pointed star pattern formed by Venus’s orbit in relationship to the Earth, and the Venus conjunctions occur in only one of five signs. We are all born as part of a particular star pattern, with all five points forming to create one full star. (6)

Whether we consider the inferior or superior conjunction of Venus with the Sun as the beginning of the cycle, Venus has a very regular eight-year cycle that creates a pentagram, or five-pointed star, in the sky. Just click below for a graphic showing the perfect geometry in her orbit around the Sun:

Venus synodic cycle

If we could see from above the earth (located at the center of this diagram), the pattern looks like this – the Venus rose pattern:

Venus rose pattern

If you want to keep it simple, just take note of your pre-natal Sun-Venus conjunction and look for connections with people in your life.  I had a lovely friend whose VSP (the degree of her prenatal Sun-Venus conjunction) is at 23° Scorpio, the degree of my Ascendant. She is someone I have greatly admired and loved. She passed away suddenly with Saturn stationing on and transiting that degree. I will never forget her.

On a happier note, my first husband’s VSP is within 2° of my natal Moon; my VSP is is within 2° of his Moon and is also on our son’s Ascendant and our granddaughter’s Mercury. Today is also his birthday – Happy Solar Return, Christopher.

Here’s to remembering all of Venus’s gifts as we learn to cherish our world and each other in all ways.


(1) As I was beginning to write today, I got a call from an astrologer and her niece passing through Ashland, checking out the area for a possible relocation. I did not know them before today, and I met them for tea, as ever curious about the timing — and always open to a distraction when I’m about to focus. They both have planets (e.g., the Moon and Mars) at 13° Aries; their stories could be the subject of a whole blog, but back to my topic.

(2) See Gary P. Caton’s blog for much more on this conjunction. (Here’s a link to his podcast on this conjunction.)

(3) Although most modern astrologers (i.e., Robert Blaschke, Gary Caton, Adam Gainsburg, Daniel Giamario) consider the start of the Venus cycle at the inferior conjunction, Deborah Houlding’s article, The Beauty of the Venus Cycle in TMA Feb/Mar 2010, considers the start of the Venus cycle to be the superior conjunction. It is important to remember that Venus has an “enduring symmetry.” No matter where one considers the start of the Venus cycle (i.e, at heliacal rise, at the inferior conjunction, or the superior conjunction), Venus will always make the five-pointed star in her eight-year journey with the Sun and the Earth.

(4) Robert Blaschke’s research showed that the Venus cazimi (i.e., “the heart of the Sun”) degree in a prominent place in the natal horoscope would bring an important relationship into the life during the time of that transit.

(5) Quotes from Venus Star Rising: A New Cosmology for the 21st Century by Arielle Guttman, Sophia Venus Productions, 2010.

(6) See Arielle Guttmans’s work for more on this. Here is her comment from an earlier blog:
“Our friends, families and special relationships — the important people that populate our lives – fill in the other four points of the Star. Together, then, when all five points are activated within our own special group, the group is empowered by the full star of Venus — something very powerful, magnetic, enduring, creative, and transformative in our unfolding spiral evolution. Check out the relationships on the star of Venus. I have found it quite a profound way to look at the heart and soul of how we connect and with whom we connect on our journey.”
Venus: Enduring Symmetry

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Philip Seymour Hoffman: A Life & Death

By Alex Miller | February 17, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the more talented character actors of his generation; versatile and empathetic, he added interest and verve to many supporting roles, but had the stamina and range to pull off lead parts as well. A four-time Academy Award nominee, he won the Oscar for Best Actor in 2006, for his brilliant performance in the biopic Capote. Also a stage performer, Hoffman garnered three Tony Award nominations for his work on Broadway, most notably Death of a Salesman in 2012.

But as is often the case, with great talent comes great challenge. Hoffman struggled with addiction from an early age, first checking himself into rehab at age 22. In a 2006 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft, Hoffman recalled that era, replying when asked if the problem was drugs or alcohol, “It was all that stuff, yeah, anything I could get my hands on … I liked it all.” Hoffman continued to battle alcohol throughout his life, and had at least one drug relapse in the intervening years, again checking himself into rehab in May 2013 for heroin and prescription medication abuse.

Hoffman’s return to drug use spurred a recent separation from his longtime partner Mimi O’Donnell and their three children, and he was living in an apartment attached to his Greenwich Village office when a friend found him lying on the bathroom floor on February 2, 2014. A needle still in his arm, Hoffman had died from an apparent overdose; police found upwards of 50 bags of heroin and several bottles of prescription drugs in the apartment. On February 5th the lights of Broadway were dimmed for a minute in his honor, and his death rated a front-page obituary in The New York Times.

Born on July 23, 1967, Hoffman’s talent and his issues with addiction are both apparent. (1) Neptune rules both dramatic arts and substance abuse or escapist behaviors, and at 21° Scorpio in the natal chart, it’s a potent presence. Trine the Sun and square the Moon, Neptune is a dominating factor, providing creativity, sensitivity, and the amorphous quality needed for an actor to convincingly portray varied characters, stepping out of himself into an alternate persona. (2) The square to the Moon hints at an emotional conflict as the basis for Hoffman’s issues with addiction and substance abuse, perhaps originating in early childhood.

Several minor bodies colluded to push Hoffman along the path to drug use. Tightly conjoined Neptune is asteroid Bacchus at 20° Scorpio, and in tight square is asteroid Dionysos at 20° Leo. These are essentially the same deity, the Roman and Greek versions, respectively, of the god ruling intoxicants and inebriation, altered states of consciousness divorced from harsh reality. Asteroid Panacea, named for a daughter of the healer Asclepius, whose focus was medicinal cures, conjoins the 9° Virgo Venus from 7° Virgo, indicating the strong attachment Hoffman had for drugs. The word “panacea” of course has also come to mean a quick-fix cure for all problems or ills, much in the way Hoffman used intoxicants to dull or erase whatever pain he felt.

An exact square from Saturn at 12° Aries to Mercury at 12° Cancer tells more of the tale of Hoffman’s success; this combination indicates a career in some media-related venue, and also promotes a retentive memory, vital to any actor in retaining pages of dialogue, especially on stage, where there are no second takes. It also hints at the substantial vocal (Mercury) control (Saturn) that enabled him to slip seemingly effortlessly into the Truman Capote character, with a stunning and eerily perfect portrayal of the famed writer’s verbal eccentricities. The fact that Hoffman could believably portray real-life persons, as well as fictional characters, is a testament to his versatility. (Uranus’ station retrograde at 16° Aries last July, exactly conjunct his natal Saturn, may have been a contributory cause of his sudden, unexpected [both Uranus] death [Saturn].)

The Academy rewarded his bravura performance as Capote with the best actor Oscar on March 5, 2006, and the skies reflected his success that night. Asteroid Hoffman (#1662) at 21° Taurus was squared asteroid Oskar at 24° Aquarius, while an exact opposition from asteroid Philippa (#977, for Philip) at 5° Aquarius to Saturn (career, success, public recognition) at 5° Leo was shored up by Philippa’s conjunction with transit Venus (popularity, actors, entertainment, the Lesser Benefic) at 0° Aquarius. This transiting opposition was anchored to Hoffman’s natal chart by an exact t-square with natal asteroid Hoffman at 5° Scorpio, a point that was hit exactly by the Lunar Eclipse of April 2013, just before Hoffman checked himself into rehab.

When Hoffman was found dead in his Greenwich Village apartment on February 2nd, the sky again portrayed the scene, with asteroid Hoffman at 12° Aquarius closely conjoined the Sun at 13° Aquarius, signaling that a Hoffman would be big news that day. Also within orb is asteroid Greenwich (#2830) at 5° Aquarius, exactly squared natal Hoffman, with that transiting Hoffman/Saturn conjunction squaring his natal Greenwich at 16° Taurus, reiterating the importance of that location both to the day’s events and in Hoffman’s biography. Asteroids Philippa and Panacea conjoined at 10° and 16° Gemini, united Hoffman personally with the agent of his death. With the addition of the conjunction of natal asteroid Sisyphus at 18° Gemini squared natal Pluto at 18° Virgo, there is a sense of a repeating, futile pattern (Sisyphus) resulting in death or destruction (Pluto). Philippa/Panacea also opposed an exact pairing of transit Bacchus and Karma at 12° Sagittarius, suggesting a fated or inescapable destiny (Karma) ensuing from the use of intoxicants (Bacchus).

Hoffman’s talent will be sorely missed; we can only speculate at the future roles this actor, now in his prime, would have brought to life for the world to share and enjoy. When Broadway dimmed its lights in his honor at 7:45 p.m. EST on February 5, 2014, asteroid Philippa had just crested the 14° Gemini Midheaven, a fitting celestial tribute to the passing of one of our brightest stars.


(1) Source: Wikipedia

(2) Author’s note: no time of birth is available, but the Sun changed from 29° Cancer to 0° Leo that day, both in trine to Neptune, and the Moon passed from 16° to 29° Aquarius, any degree of which would be in square, if loosely.

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

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Stars of the Silver Screen

By Jan de Prosse | February 10, 2014

[Introductory note from blog editor, Mary Plumb:

On Saturday I was driving to a neighboring town to hear local acupuncturist and Chinese scholar, Ken Bendat, speak on the Wood Horse Year (also known as the Cloud Horse). Our local NCGR group hosted Ken at our last meeting and I was rather taken with his talk: his discussion of the symbolism and the quite different view from Chinese astrology to the Western approach. For me, Ken’s talk was a provocative introduction to a different mythological view.

It started pouring rain, much needed in this southern Oregon valley. I was happy and relaxed and enjoying the drive through the vineyards and farms to Jacksonville. The rain made me a bit disoriented for a moment and a thought formed in my mind: “I have no idea where I am, I’m just following the road.” What caught my attention was how relaxed I was, with none of the familiar anxious thoughts that tend to whip through my mind: i.e, I’m lost!, I’ll be late!, Yikes, I don’t know where I am!, etc. It was just a lovely moment where my short road trip was basking in the deep, ongoing, ever-present grace of the unknown; just keep on moving. For a moment, no edge or challenge from Uranus or Pluto or Mars or Saturn, just a delightful balm in the heart (and a display of Mercury retrograde in Pisces conjunct Neptune). Sometimes we really don’t know where we’re going, just keep on following the road.

TMA Managing Editor Jan de Prosse offers this week’s blog. We are in a series of Jupiter-Pluto oppositions (exact on August 7, 2013; January 31 and April 20, 2014). Her article finds Jupiter-Pluto hard aspects as a marker in the horoscopes of three very famous actors.

I so appreciate all the recent blog writers; my marbles are not quite all settled into place since my bump-on-the-head incident last summer. Getting there, for sure, and in the mean time, I am completely enjoying others’ contributions to TMA’s blog. Thank you, one and all.]

Stars of the Silver Screen
by Jan de Prosse

Many thanks to my dear friend Kate Sholly for her invaluable assistance with this article.

I wondered: Why do some people succeed beyond all expectation in the movie business? What might I find in the birth charts of hugely popular 20th-century movie stars? I considered three charts — male matinee idols from my parents’ generation. (I also fell under their spells growing up.) I evaluated the charts in terms of the significators of film stardom in the realm of Hollywood. All three of these extraordinary lives were marked by a Neptune–Uranus aspect (Neptune rules film), a challenging Jupiter–Pluto aspect, prominent Aquarius/Leo, and a strong Venus placement. Remember, too, that whenever any of the outer planets are involved, the successful manifestation of gifts depends on grounding in Saturn.

Neptune–Uranus aspects indicate people who dream of a better world. Stressful Jupiter–Pluto aspects (like the square and opposition found in these three charts) mark people who challenge lofty ideas. These men were trailblazers in their chosen field of endeavor. According to Stephen Arroyo, Jupiter–Pluto bestows “tremendous unconquerable courage,” which would certainly be necessary to make a mark in a competitive profession. This aspect also conveys “innate abilities to determine the motivations for people’s behavior,” a talent that would definitely come in handy in the acting profession. (1)

Paul Newman
This marvelous man has a Jupiter–Pluto opposition conjunct his Ascendant–Descendant axis and Saturn (in the 10th house of career) trine Pluto. The Jupiter–Pluto aspect relates to power and opportunities, and there were plenty of both in this man’s life. Paul has Pluto on the Descendant opposed a stellium of Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus straddling his Ascendant. Besides his stellar career in the cinema, in midlife Paul and a partner started a business selling his own salad dressing recipe, branched out into popcorn and spaghetti sauce, parlayed that into a money-making enterprise, and donated all the profits to charity. By the time Paul died, millions had been given away to all sorts of worthy causes. Another sideline, summer camps for children with life-threatening illnesses, had gone international. This was a man with a huge destiny, an important role to play in this life. Jupiter in his chart made him bigger than life, lent him confidence and optimism, and along with his Moon in Pisces and Sun in Aquarius, accounted for his philanthropic ideals. (2)

Saturn trine Pluto added a stabilizing influence, allowing Paul to be constructive and to be seen as a hard worker. A prominent Saturn also gives the native the discipline to do what is necessary to reach his goals and can lead to genuinely earned and long-lasting success. (A person can’t bypass Saturn on the road to success.) In Paul’s case, Saturn square his Aquarius Sun adds humility to the mix. Paul felt lucky and wanted to help those less fortunate.

One of Paul’s best known roles was opposite Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Neptune in Leo in the 7th house trine Mars and Chiron suggests a glamorous fantasy career. Astrologer Priscilla Costello says that Neptune uses the imagination but is controlled and focused. Having Neptune conjunct the North Node lends a fated quality to the fame and fortune that Paul enjoyed.

Jack Lemmon
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for another Aquarian, a gifted comic actor who was an excellent dramatic actor as well. (Comedy is harder to pull off.) He played an extremely convincing alcoholic in one of his finest roles, in the movie Days of Wine and Roses.

Like Paul Newman, Jack also has a Jupiter–Pluto opposition conjoining the Ascendant–Descendant. Priscilla Costello says this about Jupiter–Pluto: “Luck blends with ambition and determination to create material success.” He has a Sun in Aquarius–Moon in Leo opposition and the Sun square Saturn. (3) The latter generally indicates pressure to succeed from one’s parents, making the native insecure and thus propelling him forward. In other words, this aspect gives a person the motivation to strive toward his goals. Jack fulfilled his dream: He had a prolific career, starring in dozens of movies. His Neptune aspects gave him the ability to do well in any creative field, and his Mercury–Venus conjunction square Mars lent him the charisma he needed.

Cary Grant
This silver-screen heartthrob was known for his suave demeanor. His leading-man roles were mostly light comedies, like the classic Arsenic and Old Lace. He never seemed to take himself too seriously. In this man’s chart, we find Jupiter square Pluto. (Both Paul Newman and Jack Lemmon have the opposition.) We can expect the square to manifest similarly to the opposition, granting power and fame. Venus, Pluto, and Jupiter form a t-square in this chart, and Libra on the Ascendant adds to the Venusian energy that made Cary seem so smooth, sexy, and approachable. Cary’s Venus–Pluto opposition might suggest that he was a controlling person — but compelling and passionate as well. Women were definitely attracted to him. Jupiter in Pisces in the 5th (Leo’s house of creative endeavors, such as acting) lightens the energy of the t-square. He also has Leo on the cusp of the 10th house of career. (4)

Cary has a Moon–Saturn conjunction in Aquarius straddling the IC; the Moon is also in an out-of-sign conjunction to his Sun in Capricorn. Saturn near the IC means there was probably a taskmaster in his early life, a parental figure who pushed him to excel. His Venus–Pluto opposition suggests the need to work out anger toward loved ones, perhaps the demanding parent.

The common elements in these three horoscopes are indeed striking. Looking at their charts, it would be hard to imagine any of them leading mediocre lives outside of the spotlight, but that might have happened if any of them had failed to live up to his immense potential.

Notes and References

1. Stephen Arroyo, Exploring Jupiter: The Astrological Key to Progress, Prosperity & Potential (1996, C.R.C.S. Publications).

2. According to Priscilla Costello, The Weiser Concise Guide to Practical Astrology, Weiser, 2008, Jupiter is the great benefactor who “generously bestows wealth, success, honors, gifts, and graces … He oversees growth and expansion on every level.” Pluto, on the other hand, “has to do with increasing your wealth … and possibly … distributing it with the intention of improving society. Pluto can evolve from a drive to amass material things to a detachment that enables you to dispense with them.”

3. Although the accuracy of Jack’s birth data is in question, the Moon in Leo seems to fit a famous actor’s chart. In this case, the Moon is in mid Leo with the questionable 2:00 p.m. birth time, so it is fairly safe to assume that the Moon was in Leo all day. The Moon conjunct Neptune would also be an indicator of a career in the film industry, and the North Node, as part of that conjunction, gives Jack’s entire movie career a fated quality, as it does in Paul Newman’s chart.

4. In Practical Astrology, Priscilla Costello lists these qualities of people with Venus–Pluto aspects: “erotic magnetism … boundless creativity … can generate and regenerate resources/money.”

Bio: Jan de Prosse is Managing Editor of The Mountain Astrologer magazine.

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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

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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. 

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Mars in Libra in the U.S. chart

By Kate Plumb | December 16, 2013

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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.

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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.



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