(This is part 2 of a 3 part series. Read part 1 here)
Welcome to part two, wherein we take a technical turn toward me trying to teach you some of this language we call astrology. Let’s imagine we’re a surfer. We love to surf. There is no day like the days we can get out into the water and no weather big enough, flat enough, good enough or bad enough to keep us out. So, you love waves even if they crush you; even if they pin you to the bottom long enough to make you forget your name, because the other side of that is the blissful thrill of riding, floating, being carried by something –– within something –– that’s bigger and more creative than you could ever attempt to understand. This is life!
Let’s think of our solar system: it’s roughly a plane of circling planetary bodies –– a flat circle if you like, kind of a fried egg with a sun-yolk at the center. The farther out to the edge you go, the longer it takes to make the full circle; thus, Pluto, which is the farthest takes about 250 years to make the trip (it’s a little wobbly so let’s not get too caught on particulars just now). The next closest is Neptune at about 165 years, then Uranus at 84, and Saturn with just about a 29 year orbit. These four planets are what I will refer to as the “outer planets,” because apart from Saturn they exist beyond the edge of what a person can see with the naked eye. Because these planets take so long to go around the Sun, when they come into an angular alignment with one another it tends to last a long time –– long enough for us to really feel it.
Right now, we are in the middle of an alignment between Saturn and Pluto. They are conjunct, which is astrology for at the same spot in the sky from where we’re looking. This conjunction lasts for about three years according to the calculations I have been taught within my lineage. (Warning: we’re getting techy) Some astrologers calculate transits with a 1 or 2 degree orb, meaning that they’d say this Saturn-Pluto conjunction is lasting only a couple of months, but in my lineage we calculate world transits with a wider orb because many years of data suggest that the archetypal field of events which correlate to the signatures of these planetary archetypes are experienced from a wider berth than just the tightest part. So, we’re right at the crest of a Saturn-Pluto wave that has been building for about two years and will continue to plow and settle for the rest of 2020 and into 2021, roughly. To give you a little perspective, the last time Saturn and Pluto were conjunct was 1980-84; when they were last opposite was 2000-2004, the era of 9/11.
The exact conjunction of Saturn and Pluto was on January 12th this year. It’s mid-April now and January 12th already feels like a year ago. I don’t know about you, but this winter was hard for me. From about mid-December through the end of January I dealt with some severe depression and anxiety within a range of topics from the very personal to the collective: I felt like I was getting so much older so quickly, like the climate crisis was nearing collapse (remember the Australian wildfires? Yep, that was just happening); I felt the weight of countless limits, regrets, losses, and increasingly impossible dreams pressing down on my unprepared, fragile humanity. That was January. I don’t need to make a list for you about what we’re dealing with now, in the time of Covid-19.
When these big world transits swell we experience them both personally and collectively. They take their shape and space in our inner lives, relationally, in dreamtime and non ordinary states, and in our outer lives socially, culturally, politically, and globally. It is my opinion that one of the best ways to use astrology is as a cypher for the past to decode ways to live with more depth, lucidity, and integrity within the present. I once heard the Bolivian sociologist Sylvia Rivera Cusiqanqui describe a non-Western relationship to past and future as orienting with one’s face toward the past, standing in the present, and stepping backwards into the future. As historical and counseling astrologers we are pattern trackers, sitting and examining a weaving of archetypal bumps and grooves which works itself on a loom as old as time itself. By studying the patterns of the past we can turn our backs to the future, but with a readiness that is only feigned by facing forward. Each new thread can be played, woven, pressed into the pattern with care, or at least with some deeper awareness.
In the next and final part of this series I will describe in more detail the archetypal signatures of Saturn and Pluto, and I’ll weave in a couple other planets who have joined the alignment over this winter: Mars, Jupiter, and Uranus. I will also try my best to offer a few constructive insights into how to be with these archetypal energies and not be totally consumed by fear, anxiety, or dread, because I know how these things can worm their way into those regions of our minds sometimes, and part of the duty of translation is to offer a full spectrum rather than a skewed half-word.
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If you are really itching to skip ahead and read about the planetary archetypes you might like the essay written by my teacher Rick Tarnas, An Introduction to Archetypal Astrology.
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Join me this Thursday evening at 7:00 pm Pacific time for an astrological conversation with Rick Tarnas, Chad Harris, Laura Michetti, and myself. For more information visit the Facebook event page: Gimme Shelter: Reflections and Strategies for our Current World Transits