“What about this year? It has been a struggle so far. Any ideas?”
I recently received this question on Facebook. At first I laughed because it is such a broad and big question, and I am far from having any answers. But if together we take a look at your chart and your life, we may see how the current planets and aspects are reflecting your experience, and that can be so helpful for finding the answers within…
I can offer a brief sketch of some general astrological themes for this year: The revolutionary energies of radical change and wrenching transformation that began a few years ago during the epic Uranus/Pluto square are getting triggered off this year by Jupiter in Libra. Additionally there is an emphasis on FIRE, and air feeding fire this year (with Saturn in Sagittarius, Uranus in Aries, Jupiter in Libra, the Nodes of the Moon preparing to enter Leo and Aquarius, with our first Leo eclipse tomorrow on Feb 10, and Venus and Mars both in Aries right now as well). So it makes sense that collectively we are seeing and feeling instantaneous flare-ups of high-spirited passion and energy, manifesting in all kinds of different ways.
I have a lot of fire and air in my natal chart so I am used to intense energies within myself zooming to the surface for expression. For balance I look to and learn from my more earth and water friends. They are not instantaneous in their reactions. When I am able to slow down my responses, and try to really listen, and pause before speaking — it is miraculous. Taking it a step further is listening for the feelings and needs underneath whatever we are hearing or seeing, that might seem irritating, disturbing, frightening, or enraging… When we can bring mindfulness, inquiry, empathy, understanding, compassion, and presence to whatever is arising within or around us — it is a nourishing tonic for this fiery year, with the potential to offer deep and healing solace. I am needing to review my Non-Violent Communication books and I am loving listening to Tara Brach’s podcasts. She continually reminds people to ask, “What is it like to be you?” When we ask this we automatically become an ally, especially to marginalized and vulnerable others (“What is it like to be you?”), or especially to people with whom we vehemently disagree (“What is it like to be you?”), and often most importantly to ourselves (“What is it like to be me, in this moment?”).
An Eclectic Approach ~ Modern and Ancient Astrology
There are countless ways to practice astrology and within Western astrology alone there are a huge variety of systems, paradigms, and techniques from which to choose. Throughout the years of my own study and practice I have found that it serves me to remain open to all the different paradigms that I encounter, while also remaining focused and not overly diffused with too many different techniques at once. My biggest learning is always through direct observation, so when it comes to where I put my attention within the wide variety of approaches, my eclectic approach is based on personal experience of the usefulness and relevance of a particular concept or system.
When I began studying and practicing astrology, I was mostly exposed to Modern Astrology and Evolutionary Astrology. This is mainly what is out there nowadays, has many merits, and no doubt still forms the foundation of my understanding of astrology. As time went on, however, I began to encounter more Ancient or Traditional Astrology and I found these frameworks to be equally valuable. For instance, I certainly honor the modern practice of paying close attention to the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, as well as Chiron), as I and many people and clients I know experience monumental internal or external events in our lives that correspond with the transits from these planets. The Uranus/Pluto square from 2012 to 2015 is a palpable example of this, being unfathomably intense for many especially those whose charts were directly lined up with the degrees of this life-changing, era-defining square (By the way, the last exact pass of this square is on March 16th, 2015).
On the other hand, I found that shifting to the Whole Sign house system (the oldest house system known); using the antiquated classification of planets in dignity, exaltation, detriment, or fall; and looking to the ancient rulers vs. the modern rulers, for example — are all undeniably useful to me when I analyze a chart. I didn’t necessarily want to adopt these older techniques, especially ones that appear on the surface to imply a value judgement, but when I investigated them I couldn’t help but notice their definite relevance. Through contemplation I realized that instead of seeing a planet that is in detriment or fall as a “bad” placement, for instance, the classification is rather a tool to acknowledge when an aspect of one’s self or one’s life (as symbolized by the planet) is experienced as inherently more challenging or uncomfortable than other planets that are more “favorably” placed. These challenges are of course not “bad,” just as squares and oppositions (aspects known to be associated with more challenges) are not “bad,” but a planet in detriment, for example, may represent a part of one’s life where one undergoes more suffering and requires more work or adjustment. I view this type of inner work or challenge as part of the divine intelligence within all of Reality, reflected perfectly in the birth chart, and for the purpose of learning and spiritual growth for the individual.
This is a good segue to the last example I will mention, regarding what I resonate with from Evolutionary Astrology. Evolutionary Astrology suggests that the birth chart is a reflection of what is needed for the soul for spiritual growth in this lifetime. My view is that the birth chart is a perfect illustration of one’s karma (the results of past impressions and actions) in this lifetime. The birth chart is literally a blueprint for how one is fulfilling one’s spiritual purpose and direction in this incarnation. Yet it is an illustration made up of symbols and full of moving parts, not a black and white, simplistic, or static depiction. Therefore it requires on-going exploration and can manifest in a multitude of ways, which will also invariably change over time as a person’s consciousness expands. I am always delighted to learn how people are living their charts. it is always more perfect then I could have imagined by looking at the chart alone.
To have astrological knowledge does not confer the ability to avoid challenges or lessons that must be learned in life. From the ego perspective challenges or unpleasant situations are always unwanted, but from a spiritual perspective the trials and tribulations in life are often exactly what is necessary to create the learning or shifts in consciousness that are required for the soul. Although attempting to live in sync with the rhythms of planetary influences is certainly beneficial, it is not only undesirable to try to avoid or prevent life lessons from happening or to try to control life through careful study or adherence to astrological interpretations, but it is impossible to do so. Life and learning cannot be avoided or stopped. Experiences will happen, suffering may happen, and learning and growth never ends. What astrology can offer is insight into the perfection of it all. By seeing and understanding the planetary correlations and synchronicities, astrology can contribute to one’s peace, patience, acceptance, endurance, hope, and trust in the divine intelligence behind it all.
Mercury retrograde in Libra, Lunar eclipse in Aries
We’re past the halfway point of this Mercury retrograde (Sep 17-Oct 9), and so I have a few observations (The deepest learning of astrology comes through observation). Like all Mercury retrograde cycles this one is providing opportunities to revisit and reconnect with projects and relationships from the past, review misunderstandings or mistakes, and move towards resolving old issues. Since this Mercury retrograde takes place fully in the sign of Libra, the revisits may revolve around Libran values, such as interpersonal relating, empathy, and understanding the feelings and needs of both sides of any difference or conflict. Depending on the house of your birth chart where you have Libra will determine more specifically the types of things you may be reworking during this Mercury retrograde period.
Meanwhile the Lunar eclipse on Sep 27th was an interesting counterbalance occurring in the opposite sign of Aries. A Full Moon is always the peak, climax, or crisis point of the lunar month, but the addition of an eclipse takes it to a more intense level. Even though the deeper significations of an eclipse take place over a period of months (before and after the exact date of the eclipse), the day of the eclipse itself can certainly be telling too. I knew of three people who had this eclipse tightly conjunct one of their Aries planets, and they were all sick during the few days around the eclipse. Since this was an eclipse occurring near the South node of the Moon, it suggests a time of letting go. For those who were sick, I’m interpreting this as a detoxification process. But more generally this eclipse could be seen as a detoxification process for all of us in whatever part of our natal chart where we have Aries. I have Aries in my 7th house of one-to-one relationships, and right around the time of the eclipse, I had fleeting but important differences to attend to with a few people I connect with in a one-to-one way. Each one involved letting go of old thought forms or patterns. The fact that it was a Full Moon, an eclipse, and being in the fiery, impulsive, assertive sign of Aries added a higher degree of emotionality than might otherwise be present.
How did this eclipse play out for you? It’s always fruitful to note these things, in the same way it is fruitful to remember and explore the meanings of one’s dreams. These practices help us along the path towards greater self-knowledge and self-mastery.
During Mercury’s apparent travel backwards, at the midpoint of the retrograde phase, is a special moment when Mercury meets up with the Sun. This occurred on Sep 30th. It can be thought of as Mercury’s New Moon so to speak, the beginning point of a new Mercury cycle. Things are sown, either consciously or unconsciously, at this conjunction, so you can note what occurred on that day — ideas, discussions, events, or flashes or urges for a new and different way. It is an inception point, though it may not be clear just how those things will grow up and expand until after Mercury goes direct.
The Sun and Venus have been traveling close together for the last month or so, bringing some ease to relationships and generally encouraging the enjoyment of life, during an otherwise potentially tense time. Together they (and we) are moving through the sign of Scorpio. While in Scorpio we are destined to plunge into the depths and wade through a mire of swampy darkness if need be, in search of truth, authenticity, and connection with what is real in self and other, whether it is pretty or not. This is not always comfortable for Venus as she prefers the pleasantries and niceties of life. However, since this dive into the unknown is in the service of intimacy, she tolerates being out of her comfort zone while in Scorpio, because she knows that deep down she too craves real intimacy, which requires this type of journeying. Read more...
After getting used to the new environment, Sun and Venus together encounter both Jupiter and Saturn. Though meetings with Jupiter tend to be grand and fun, especially while he is in Leo, as he is now, this meeting is somewhat challenging, as the Sun and Venus were square to Jupiter from their position in Scorpio. (Venus squared Jupiter on Nov 9, and the Sun squared Jupiter on Nov 13.) Jupiter can spout beautiful promises of adventure, triumph, and opulence, and it is certainly tempting. But even while listening to Jupiter’s glorious visions, Sun and Venus see Saturn just ahead on their path and pause with trepidation. Before taking Jupiter’s extravagant leap of faith, we are meant to have a dose of reality checking, thanks to our elder Saturn’s time-tested wisdom. (Venus was conjunct Saturn on Nov 12, and the Sun will be conjunct Saturn on Nov 18.) Saturn knows what he’s talking about. He has seen it all before and is here to remind us of the mistakes, risks, and dangers we could run into if we do not proceed with caution. He means well and wants us to succeed in our endeavors, but he is stern sometimes… We are fortunate to have this balanced perspective right now as we go forth on the path.
A tense square forms between Jupiter and Saturn a few times between 2014 and 2016. Ever since Jupiter entered Leo in July of 2014, it has been squaring Saturn in Scorpio by sign, but this morning the aspect reached a climax (at 28º Leo and 28º Scorpio). Regarding one area of life (where you have Leo in your chart, Jupiter is transiting) you may be feeling expansive, joyful, and even triumphant. Things have worked out well over the past year. There have been some amazing shifts and gains. You have reason to feel optimistic as you progress. But even as you are celebrating that within yourself, your mind may gravitate to another area of life (where you have Scorpio in your chart, Saturn is transiting) where you may be feeling fearful or needing to face a harsh reality. Here you may need to reign yourself in, accept certain failures, losses, or difficulties, and move forward with caution. The contrast between these two areas of life has been present for awhile, but today it is stark!
As I reflect on this, I am feeling just as grateful for the hardship associated with Saturn as I am for the good luck associated with Jupiter. Although Jupiter may have a great time, for awhile — without Saturn’s sobering down-to-earth self-command, eventually the potential for foolishness, naivete, or arrogance unchecked can cost a heavy price. Saturn takes the long view and in his own way is a great protector. It may seem a bit pessimistic compared to Jupiter’s supreme confidence. But realistic Saturn is looking out for present pitfalls and future dangers — urging us to prepare and work harder with an ever present awareness of the fragility of life and our inevitable mortality. During the square between Jupiter and Saturn we are asked to embrace both optimism and caution at the same time. The friction between the expansive Jupitarian archetype and the contractive Saturnian archetype generates a powerful force pushing us towards greater wholeness. The combination is a blessing conferring circumstances in which we learn wise action and balanced growth.
In my experience, the deepest and most meaningful learning about astrology comes from experiential observation and involvement. Book learning is essential of course, but for instance, to truly understand the intensity of a transit from a slow moving planet to your birth chart, living through it or watching someone close to you live through it, is entirely different than reading about it. The theory you studied suddenly becomes tangible and is clearly manifesting before your eyes, and yet at the same time it is infinitely more complex and varied in its expression than you could have imagined. The same goes for truly understanding another human being, let alone yourself. It is a lifetime study. As an astrological counselor, I can study a natal chart for hours and hours, days, and weeks, but it would still take time to truly and comprehensively know the native (the owner of the chart). I may be able to quickly speculate about trends in character, predispositions, challenges, gifts, themes of the past and future, and various timelines of various archetypal influences affecting the individual, etc. And all of this can be immensely helpful for people in terms of inspiring self-understanding, self-permission to be who one is, as well as to give encouragement, patience, and strength with one’s life situation. Read more...
However, to really know a person, in a deep sense, and what it means to have a combination of particular planets in particular signs and houses with particular aspects, it takes time and keen observation. That is why I like working with people for a series of sessions over a period of time. We can go so much deeper into personality, life, or relationship dynamics, all of which the chart will illustrate in perfect fashion. Yet it takes time to unravel those mysteries written in a symbolic language. Like any relationship, it takes time and participation with someone to get to know them beyond the surface appearances or presentation. The same is true in a relationship between a counselor and a client and between an astrologer and a chart.
Things are heating up as Mars is getting ready to set off the long-term and life-changing Uranus/Pluto square (active from 2012-2015). When there is a trigger from a faster moving planet such as Mars, it can mark a pivotal point within the larger transformational process that is happening. The current waxing Moon in Aries is giving a preview of the flammable energies that are building. On Nov 10th, Mars will conjoin Pluto and on Nov 12th, Mars will square Uranus. When Mars is making hard connections such as these with Pluto and Uranus, there is a potential for aggression, power struggles, shocks, or accidents, etc. However, these aspects can be utilized consciously and productively… Pluto forces us, for the purpose of deeper healing and awareness, to unearth buried wounds or parts of ourselves that may be manifesting unconsciously in the form of external circumstances or unhealthy behaviors and relationships… Uranus brings change — wanted and unwanted — to push us towards living more in alignment with our inner truths and greater potentials. The trigger from Mars to Pluto and Uranus will provide plenty of energy, motivation, and opportunity to go after our own healing and spiritual development and to confront internal or external conditions that are impinging on desired freedoms. Read more...
Today Mars triggers the long-term aspect of Uranus square Pluto, which could put some volatility in the air. Uranus square Pluto is happening over the next 3 years. We had the exact square on June 24th and will have 6 more passes of it through 2015. This aspect marks the first significant turning point since the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto back in the 1960’s, which was associated with ubiquitous cultural revolution. Dane Rudhyar calls the first waxing square a “crisis in action.” Tensions have been building… Big changes and all-embracing transformations in the collective as well as the personal sphere are called for during this period.
Before the Sun leaves Cancer and enters Leo tonight, I want to be with the Cancer archetype a little. Some images associated with Cancer, such as the turtle (who carries its home on its back) and the great mother — are all about the nurturing, safety, and comfort we associate with the sweetness of feeling at home. Having a place to call home — where we don’t have to be “on,” where we can gently remove any personas and just be — is so utterly important and basic to a solid sense of well-being that sometimes we take it for granted. Any success “out there” is dependent on having a place to come from and return to for rest and rejuvenation. A given sign of the zodiac follows the sign before it and grows out of it, is its fulfillment and completion in a sense, and produces a wholeness-making circle of the 12 signs. So Leo, which follows Cancer, is able to walk out all shiny and ready for creative self-expression after Cancer has taken care of basic needs and created a stable home from which to emerge.
“I feel for myself that being at home happens whenever I enter into the vibration of feeling completely, 100% invited to be what I am, to feel what I am, to abide in the sense of safety and wholeness in whatever is being experienced. An unconditional acceptance that I belong, I am loved. I am held.” ~Ari Moshe