Synchrony of Mars and Saturn

L'Enigme_de_Gustave_Doré

L’Enigme (1870) by Gustave Dore

L’Enigme by Gustave Dore is a famous representation of profound despair over the destruction wrought by humanity, an apocalyptic atmosphere brought on by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.  Dore has been said to have been inspired by the Victor Hugo verse, “What a spectacle! Thus dies everything that man creates! A past such as this is a deep abyss for the soul!”  When the war in 1870 between France and Prussia began, there was an opposition between Mars in Gemini and Saturn in Sagittarius.  In 2016 we have been experiencing an extended period of time heavily influenced by Mars and Saturn that has coincided with numerous collective events inducing fear and terror.

Every night in recent months  we have been able to watch the red planet Mars aglow in a triangular formation with Saturn and the fixed star Antares.  Ever since Mars stationed retrograde in mid-April at nine degrees of Sagittarius conjoining the fixed star Antares, with Saturn co-present at sixteen degrees of Sagittarius, Mars has been destined to return to Sagittarius in August 2016 and come into conjunction with both Saturn and Antares.  Mars and Saturn will exactly conjoin on August 24 at ten degrees of Sagittarius, but for most of August and September they will be co-present in Sagittarius and especially close between the middle of August and beginning of September.  What has made this period of Mars and Saturn even more difficult is the simultaneous square formed between Neptune in Pisces and Saturn, a square that will become activated to new levels in August when Mars joins with Saturn in tension to Neptune.

Mars and Saturn are categorized as malefic planets in traditional astrology because they are said to cause trouble and signify difficult experiences.  Yet, it is also not true that Mars and Saturn always signify negative experiences by transit, no more than do the benefic planets Venus and Jupiter always signify positive experiences by transit.  The crucial aspect is what condition these planets find themselves in the natal chart when analyzing one’s individual experience.  There are also of course positive ways to work with both Saturn and Mars.

An excellent source for the origins of these views on Mars and Saturn is Vettius Valens, a second century Hellenistic astrologer from modern day Turkey who traveled extensively, including through Egypt, in search of astrological knowledge.  A working astrologer, Valens in his Anthologies gave lists for the significations of Saturn and Mars which reveal their malefic nature.  For Saturn, Valens noted it is the “Star of Nemesis” and included such descriptions as malignant, petty, self-deprecating, solitary, deceitful, strict, miserable, humblings, sluggishness, obstacles and subversions in business, griefs, tears, and bereavement, yet also “puts into one’s hands great ranks and distinguished positions.”  For Mars, Valens wrote it “controls the hard and abrupt” and gave descriptions including force, wars, violence, banishment, exile, lies, vain hopes, looting, anger, fighting, lawsuits, wandering, quarrels, yet also both love affairs and marriages, craftwork, masonry, campaigns and leadership, and actions involving fire or iron.

Across time in astrology there has been developed ways of working with Mars and Saturn that focus on positive outcomes that can come from their union, such as welding the passionate, burning energy of Mars to the disciplined, determined focus of Saturn.  Yet even when put into positive terminology, Mars and Saturn correlate with overcoming challenges, working hard, and persisting with commitment rather than anything to do with luxuriating in soft comforts of pleasure.  And indeed, Mars and Saturn can correlate with incredibly difficult, traumatic situations of loss and suffering that lay souls bare.  In combination with the square between Neptune and Saturn, the difficult experiences of this time can provoke profound disillusionment and despair.  In such circumstances in which external sources of stability are shaken, one must turn within in order to nurture one’s ability to find meaning and security or risk falling into despondency.  In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the brooding prince suffering from the murder of his father famously gave the following speech that voices disenchantment with the world of humanity:

“I have of late, -but wherefore I know not,- lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,- why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor woman neither . . . “

Though Hamlet has been interpreted as struggling with inaction in his story, and Saturn can be a constrictive influence on Mars, typically Mars and Saturn correspond with the types of challenges that necessitate action in order to stabilize or survive.  Interestingly, in late September 1604 Shakespeare would have experienced a transit of Mars conjoining Saturn at ten degrees of Sagittarius- this would have been a couple of years after Hamlet had been written and performed, and may have coincided with his writing of Othello which was performed in November 1604.

Unlike Hamlet in the above quote, recent experiences may have brought one to find greater sustenance in the radiance of the natural world as mediation for personal difficulties, or solace in relationships involving deep, loyal bonds- yet disillusionment and catharsis regarding past desires or beliefs is likely.  The influence of Neptune in square to Saturn during this period of Mars-Saturn challenges was described brilliantly by Richard Tarnas in his essay The Ideal and the Real about hard aspects between Saturn and Neptune:  archetypes which bring up issues of “matter versus spirit, the concretely empirical and literal versus the imaginative and the ideal, the finite and temporal versus the infinite and eternal.”  Analyzing the work of William Blake, Oscar Wilde, and James Hillman (individuals who were all born with Saturn and Neptune in hard aspect), Tarnas wrote “in all three of these individuals, one can also recognize a definite impulse towards deconstructive skepticism, a passion to strip away illusions and hypocrisies, as well as emphatically critical attitudes toward conventional philosophical and religious beliefs expressed in work after work.”  As Hamlet remarked to his good friend Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Adding Mars into the mix of the square between Saturn and Neptune influences the revelation of illusions and hypocrisies that will come about in August and September to involve archetypal themes of Mars such as strife, separation, conflict, and burning passions.  Neptune and Saturn will form their third and final exact square in this series on 10 September 2016 at ten degrees of Sagittarius and Pisces, with Mars occupying twenty degrees of Sagittarius at that time.  Previously, when Saturn and Neptune formed a square on 17 June 2016, Mars was retrograde in Scorpio.  At the first square between Saturn and Neptune on 26 November 2015 at seven degrees of Pisces and Sagittarius, Mars was at eight degrees of Libra and so forming a sextile to Saturn but not creating a catalytic influence as it will in the month ahead.

Bonatti-Saturn

from Guido Bonatti’s Decem Tractatus Astronomiae (1491)

This year’s conjunction between Mars and Saturn stands out for a few reasons:  the extended period of time due to Mars retrograde that Saturn and Mars engage with one another, the square with Neptune in Pisces, and the additional conjunction of Mars and Saturn with the fixed star Antares. Antares is named for being the “rival of Mars” because it is a giant binary star that glows red in our night sky. Considered to be the heart of the Scorpion constellation, Antares is one of the four ancient royal stars of Persia that were utilized in the past by sky watchers to anchor the seasons, with Antares holding down the season of Fall.  Ptolemy linked Antares with Mars and Jupiter, Vivian Robson portrayed Antares as destructive and obstinate, and while Reinhold Ebertin deduced Antares can give mental sharpness and courage, if combined with Mars Ebertin believed the bravery of Antares would become reckless and dangerous.  There is a long tradition of warning about the dangers of hubris combined with headstrong martial force in connection to Antares, yet the clearly forceful and determined correspondences of Antares could also be put to thoughtful use.

The current presidential election in the United States of America fits well with these traditional themes of Mars, Saturn, and Antares as the two candidates are despised by the majority of the population in part for their hubris, dishonesty, and corruption.  It is a unique election in which neither candidate is seen as being likable, and as a result both campaigns will likely be even more aggressive in attacks against one another than normal.  Furthermore, the recent Republican Convention was dominated by chaos and conflict, with political rival Ted Cruz becoming booed off stage for refusing to endorse Donald Trump, and numerous speakers calling for opponent Hilary Clinton to be locked up in prison, Ben Carson going as far as to link her with Lucifer. Then, there was the acceptance speech given by Donald Trump that not only was the longest in recorded convention history but also had the unique presentation of having almost every word shouted with anger.  Continuing the trend of disastrous conflict, as the Democratic Convention prepared to open a political scandal erupted confirming that the Democratic National Committee had been conspiring against the candidacy of Bernie Sanders during the primary elections.

In Europe and the Middle East, the refugee crisis has been a longstanding issue that links more with the timing of the square between Saturn and Neptune than the influence of Mars and Saturn.  However, the use of fear over refugees helped fuel the shocking Brexit vote in which the United Kingdom separated from the European Union, a Mars shockwave of strife that will have far reaching influence and now needs to be dealt with in Saturn-like fashion.  There has also been a string of mass murders that have caused terror in recent months in both the United States and Europe, as well as increases in violence in the wars that were already waging.  In addition, the protests by Black Lives Matter and other activists in the United States against the killing of African Americans by law enforcement have risen to amplified levels of conflict in the past month following the killing of law enforcement officers by lone renegade gunmen.  These are just some of the collective conflicts that will be feeding into the challenges being worked out in correspondence with the conjunction between Mars, Saturn, and Antares in the next month.

Bonatti-Mars

From Guido Bonatti’s Decem Tractatus Astronomiae (1491) 

Typically when Mars and Saturn conjoin it is a short-term transit.  Mars conjoined Saturn in Sagittarius the last time in February 1986 at nine degrees, and by the end of the following March the red planet had already left Sagittarius.  The last time there was extended interplay between Mars and Saturn was in 1984, when Mars conjoined Saturn in Scorpio in February 1984 at seventeen degrees.  In April 1984, Mars stationed retrograde at the end of Scorpio and moved back to come very close to conjoining Saturn again in June 1984 when it stationed direct at 12 degrees with Saturn retrograde at 11 degrees.  During this time period in 1984 there were numerous collective conflicts such as Iran accusing Iraq of using chemical weapons in their war.  It was also the period of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and it was at this time that the Soviet Union announced it would boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles, California.

Athletics and other arenas of competition will be appropriate outlets to unleash the force of Mars and Saturn, and so the 2016 Summer Olympics that will occur during the conjunction of Mars and Saturn will no doubt feature incredible drama.    In one’s personal life during August as Mars and Saturn come into conjunction, it will be an opportune time to diligently prepare and work hard.  It will be enlivening to have a meaningful personal project to invest energy into, as well as maintain physical exercise and spiritual practices that release stress and foster balance.  While Mars and Saturn can coincide with conflicts and difficulties, they are also vital catalyzers in the creation of great works, the building of supportive life structures, and the taking of ambitious initiative.  As Saturn can have a restrictive influence on Mars, their union in Sagittarius (home of Jupiter) will reveal in personal experience how structure and containment can lead to expansion of wisdom and creativity in the end.

bookred.54

Image 54 by Carl Jung from The Red Book

Currently Mars is finishing its pass through the sign of Scorpio that has dominated 2016 so far, as Mars will re-enter Sagittarius on 2 August 2016.  Mars entered Scorpio on 3 January 2016 where it remained until March 5 when Mars entered Sagittarius.  Mars re-entered Scorpio on 27 May 2016 while retrograde where it has remained since, meaning that for the vast majority of the year so far Mars has been in Scorpio.  Mars dug up deep material in need of purging while retrograde in Scorpio, and although Mars stationed direct in Scorpio on June 29, the slow forward momentum of Mars through Scorpio has continued to be cathartic.  The transit of Mars through Scorpio is additionally karmic due to the previous pass of Saturn through Scorpio from 6 October 2012 until 23 December 2014, and then again from June 14 until September 17, 2015.  In the third decan of Scorpio where Mars has moved backward and forward in the past few months, Saturn in Scorpio previously transited from 29 December 2013 through 12 May 2014, 26 September through 23 December 2014, and from 14 June through 17 September 2015.  The karma of events that occurred during these previous transits of Saturn through the third face of Scorpio likely have resurfaced to be processed and dealt with during the retrograde and stationing direct of Mars in the past couple of months.

From a traditional astrological standpoint, Mars in Scorpio and Saturn in Sagittarius have not been able to see each other by aspect during this time since the end of May, and so through their aversion have been operating independently of one another.  Yet since Mars originally stationed retrograde in range of a very wide conjunction to Saturn, there is a way in which they have remained bound, especially visibly in the night sky.  Scorpio is the home of Mars and yet Mars has been moving incredibly slow, leading to the past few months being potent in frustrating ways that have required patience.  As Mars moved retrograde in Scorpio it kept peeling and then peeling even further deeper into the core of internal desires and complexes, bringing up agonizing experiences for those dealing with grief and loss, and shaking the foundations of identity for others.  As Mars stood still and began moving direct again, the pain for many continued without the old desires and attachments fully burning off, or the new developing presence embodied.  Now as Mars nears the end of its pass through Scorpio, I have been getting the sense that those who have been engaged actively with internal work will begin to feel a palpable shift in releasing the past and embracing the new.

Once Mars re-enters Sagittarius in August, the combined influence of Mars and Saturn working together will become more apparent.  The last time that Mars and Saturn conjoined was in August 2014 in the sign of Scorpio, a month that was notable for upsetting events.  This was the period of ISIL capturing cities while creating terror in global media, and the launching of air strikes by the USA in response.  It was also the time of the suicide of Robin Williams, an event that evoked widespread collective mourning.  Important with regard to recent current events in the USA, the shooting of Michael Brown on 9 August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement and led to widespread protests.  Again, despite distressing collective events on a personal level it is entirely possible that productive actions and developments can occur as Mars and Saturn come together this next month in August.  One thing I have noticed in my work is that projects initiated during a conjunction between Mars and Saturn can be long lasting and have tremendous staying power, but often are very slow to develop and may not manifest desired results until much later.

Finally, it is worth noting that during the calamitous square between Pluto in Capricorn and Uranus in Aries that has dominated astrology since 2011, Pluto has been in the home of Saturn and Uranus has been in the home of Mars.  It has been so easy to become caught up in the dynamics between Pluto and Uranus and their wrecking ball impact, we can forget that both have been under the influence of Mars and Saturn the entire time. Recently there has been a quincunx formed between Uranus with Mars as it stationed direct that added to the atmosphere of frustration (the quincunx was most exact from mid June through mid July).  Issues that have come up with the quincunx between Uranus and Mars will shift dramatically once Mars enters Sagittarius and both Saturn and Mars will be in a sign that forms a trine to Aries where Uranus is residing.  Ideally, out of the difficulties corresponding with Mars and Saturn will arise some liberation from past restraints via Uranus.  Mars will form a trine with Uranus in mid September.

14 Temperance (Art)

XIV Art by Lady Frieda Harris

The XIV Art arcanum in tarot, traditionally known as Temperance, is associated with the alchemical mixture of Fire and Water and the astrological sign of Sagittarius. My brilliant friend  Pamela Coeur Norris who is an ingenious practitioner of tarot, recently made a comment on my Full Moon in Capricorn article on social media that the XIV Art card is the arcanum that truly addresses the intent to blend the powers of Fire and Water, in addition to being associated with Sagittarius.  I asked her if she would share any insights she has about XIV Art in relation to Mars finishing up its time in Scorpio in order to enter Sagittarius and a union with Saturn.  I’ve paraphrased her response in the following paragraph, with a minor inclusion of my own.

The Alchemist, XIV, is the mediator between XIII Death (Scorpio ruled by Mars) and XV Devil (Capricorn ruled by Saturn). This is a tumultuous meeting, and an arbitrator might be necessary. Sagittarius is the perfect spot—particularly since Jupiter’s “not home” and is instead in the mediating, Mercurial sign of Virgo.  Who will dominate this meeting? Mars certainly has the fire power, yet Saturn has the staying power, and most likely the last word. The Alchemist must ascertain just how much Martian gunpowder to load into the Saturnian cannon. We must take into account that Mars is XVI Tower energy—the eye of Shiva (let’s destroy the world) and Saturn is XXI Universe energy—Karma king (let’s use our fire wisely to burn off only whats dead and complete).  Sagittarius is the liberator here, the focus that creates the path for Mars and Saturn to aim toward freedom.  When Mars and Saturn work together in the right measure we can let go of our drama and loosen the bondages of attachment.

The overt alchemical image of XIV Art in the Thoth deck is a modification of the traditional XIV Temperance card that also involves alchemical imagery and concepts.  As the etymology of the word Temperance involves roots of “restraint” and “moderation,” there is a further compelling link with the fact that Saturn can have a restraining, moderating impact upon Mars.  On a psychological level, this can relate to being accountable and responsible, with Saturn bringing integrity to the will-force of Mars in Sagittarius, a sign comfortable with living from an ethical philosophy.  In alchemy, the work we could link to the XIV Temperance arcanum is about freeing the being of Light contained within our earthy, fleshy, incarnate form.  This is why Carl Jung found resonance between the symbols of alchemy with his concept of individuation and the symbols produced by those he helped individuate.  Even within surrounding external conflicts, it is possible to use the structure of Saturn to seal oneself from outside toxicity, containing and guiding the volatile Mars to bring about essential growth that will ultimately have a positive impact in the greater collective.

Temperance arcanum

XIV Temperance by Pamela Colman smith

 

References

Tarnas, Richard. (2009). The Ideal and the Real: Saturn-Neptune. Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology. Vol. 1, No. 1.

Valens, Vettius.   Anthologies, Book One.  Translated by Mark Riley.

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Mars Retrograde 2016

Hilma af Klint

by Hilma af Klint

Mars Retrograde in Sagittarius & Scorpio

The Mars retrograde that begins April 17 at 8°54′ Sagittarius and ends June 29 at 23°4′ Scorpio promises to generate intense, life altering events.  Mars retrograde periods correspond symbolically with extreme inner heat that amplifies the potential for complete transformation of life circumstances, and this particular Mars retrograde coincides with last quarter squares between Jupiter and Saturn as well as Saturn and Neptune, in addition to a Mercury retrograde phase and the superior conjunction of Venus with the Sun.  Mars goes retrograde the least often, only once every 26 months or so, for about a period of three months.  Mars is closest in its orbit to Earth when it is retrograde, signifying an intensification of all things Mars, while its apparent retrograde motion signifies an inward turn to the normally outwardly directed force of Mars.  In collective events, the ramping up of Mars through the constraint of its stationing will correspond with explosions of conflict and martial forces in need of mediating.

Traditionally, Mars has been associated for millennia with separating and dividing, catalyzing movement, conflict, and eruptions of symbolic and literal heat.  Mars also has a tradition of corresponding with courage and those who will protect, guard, defend, and serve others unconditionally, embodying the highest ideals of a warrior protector.  In the alchemical process of separation and union, Mars can be associated with the power and strength of the flame that effects change through separating and purifying component parts in its fiery heat.  During Mars retrograde our inner fire combusts and from a centered place of alchemical fire we melt the chains of our past and regenerate our sense of willful purpose in life. With the Mars retrograde turning the separating and dividing function of Mars inward, a core process ensues of realigning ourselves toward our most deeply felt desire and purpose in the moment. By embracing the corresponding constriction upon external martial flow and the magnification of inner fire, during Mars retrograde we enter a period of dramatic shifts, changes, endings, and beginnings occurring in our myriad relationships with the world around us.

Some people seem to be more profoundly impacted by Mars retrograde periods than others, and some people also seem to be more strongly impacted by Mars retrograde in certain signs than in other signs.  As a general rule, Mars retrograde periods can be one of those magical astrological vortexes in which significant encounters and experiences carry a destined feeling of gravity.  A great way to get a feel for how Mars retrograde periods impact you is to reflect upon your experiences during the past Mars retrograde periods.  Below is a list of the Mars retrogrades periods that have happened since 1999- note that from May through June of 2001 there was a Mars retrograde that also occurred in Sagittarius, though a completely different section of Sagittarius than the current one:

  • March 1 – May 19, 2014: stationed retrograde at 28 Libra, stationed direct at 10 Libra.
  • January 24 – April 14, 2012: stationed retrograde at 24 Virgo, stationed direct at 4 Virgo.
  • December 20, 2009 – March 10, 2010: stationed retrograde at 20 Leo, stationed direct at 1 Leo.
  • November 15, 2007 – January 30, 2008: stationed retrograde at 13 Cancer, stationed direct at 25 Gemini.
  • October 1 – December 10, 2005: stationed retrograde at 24 Taurus, stationed direct at 9 Taurus.
  • July 29 – September 27, 2003: stationed retrograde at 11 Pisces, stationed direct at 1 Pisces.
  • May 11 – July 19, 2001: stationed retrograde at 30 Sagittarius, stationed direct at 16 Sagittarius.
  • March 18 – June 4, 1999: stationed retrograde at 13 Scorpio, stationed direct at 25 Libra.
Ernst mundus est fabula

Mundus est Fabula (1959) by Max Ernst

Astrology like other meaning we discover in life is rooted in the personal story of our experiences.  In the interface between one’s personal narrative and the collective narrative, the complex web of interrelationships shifts and mutates across time.  The meaning of our past experiences and how it impacts our choices in the moment can change radically in the split second of an epiphany.  We tell our life story to others, and the narrative telling of our life changes:  how we describe our life story today is vastly different from how we would have told it in the past, or how we will tell it in the future.  Sagittarius where Mars is stationing is the home of outwardly directed Jupiter and an archetypal place of discovering personal truth in life experiences, a knowledge that goes beyond belief.  With Mars stationing in range of a square to Neptune in Pisces, as Pluto stations retrograde the following day, and Saturn is co-present with Mars in Sagittarius, a restructuring and regeneration of our meaning and purpose in life is underway.

In times of strife, demanding tasks and difficulties, we come to a deeper understanding of our personal truth as well as discover new sources of strength inside.  Since Pluto stations retrograde in Capricorn, the home of Saturn, a day after Mars stations retrograde, and since Mars is stationing for the entirety of April while being co-present with Saturn in Sagittarius, there is a strong element of Saturn bringing karmic tests or challenges requiring disciplined perseverance during this Mars retrograde.  In experiences of melancholy corresponding with Saturn, we can also tap into the vast suffering of the collective.  Most vitally, the binding of Saturn combined with the catalyzing of Mars can be put to the creation of great works if the necessary focused effort and determination is applied. While contemplating Mars retrograde recently, the theme of “the wand chooses the wizard” from the Harry Potter stories came to me.  By this I mean that a destined calling could arise in this period deeply bound to the fabric of one’s nature.  It will work best not to willfully demand certain choices but rather to accept and align with the mission, project, relationships, or journey that has chosen us to be a vital player in.

Graves bird with void

Bird with Void by Morris Graves

Mars and Pluto

The simultaneous stationing retrograde of both Mars and Pluto is fascinating from the perspective of the Evolutionary Astrology system developed by Jeff Green, as here the relationship between Mars and Pluto reveals the leading edge of desires emanating from the Soul.  In Evolutionary Astrology, Mars moving direct corresponds with desire for unrestricted freedom that can be both impulsive and instinctual.  When Mars moves retrograde, however, the inward direction of Mars ignites our inner energy field and we become drawn into taking greater consideration of our Soul.  Astrologers view Mars retrograde periods as times in which Mars is untethered from conditioned constraints and more of a maverick force, yet Evolutionary Astrology points to the possibility of using Mars retrograde to access greater consideration in action and less impulsiveness.

There is an interesting connection between the meaning of Mars retrograde in Evolutionary Astrology and the heliocentric nodes of Mars, with the South Node of Mars being Scorpio and the North Node  of Mars being Taurus.  The South Node of Mars being Scorpio connects perfectly with Scorpio being the home of Mars, a sign where Mars is most comfortable and natural.  In Evolutionary Astrology, the South Node of Mars being Scorpio also connects with Pluto sourcing the desires set in motion through Mars.  The Scorpio South Node reveals the evolutionary arc of Mars coming from a desire to merge with external sources, whether that be sexual merging with a lover, spiritual merging with a belief system, or any other act of merging with any external source.  The North Node of Mars being Taurus reveals an evolution of Mars into the inner, self-reliant realm of Taurus that is centered within an inner source that is not dependent upon, or conditioned by external sources.

Though Mars retrograde is a completely different concept than the heliocentric nodes of Mars, the opportunity to utilize the Mars retrograde  for centering does have some resonance with the Taurus North Node meaning.  Since Pluto stations retrograde in Capricorn the day after Mars stations retrograde, in correspondence there is an opportunity to go deep within our inner recesses and explore what from within is informing our external action. As a result, the period of Mars retrograde can help our personality align to a greater extent with our Soul’s intention and purpose. To achieve this requires listening inwardly and reflecting before launching into impulsively egocentric action.

K15.1Kheiron

Chiron from Greek vase

Sagittarius Symbolism

The mutable, yang, and fiery nature of Sagittarius is paramount to take into account regarding this Mars retrograde.  Mars will spend all of April stationing in Sagittarius, and will continue to be retrograde in Sagittarius for all of May save about four days.  Sagittarius is a double-bodied sign symbolized in the image of the centaur, half human and half horse.  The half horse aspect of the centaur is connected to the instinctual, survival based realm of the lower torso, while the half human part contains the chest, heart, throat, mind, dexterous hands, and other instruments of human consciousness.  Sagittarius is a sign of creative manifestation, of mediating spiritual forces in the body through the mindful focus of an archer locked on a target.  Sagittarius feels the inexorable magnetism of the eternal horizon and the undiscovered, full of desire to experience adventure and the fullness of life.

With Mars stationing at a standstill in Sagittarius for so long, while we will no doubt feel a call to adventure of one sort or another, the astrological fact Mars is basically not moving for over a month creates great astrological constriction.  While we can experience expansion within this containment and associated experiences, the expansion is likely to come from inner pressure creating bursts of expression or release.   For example, I recently participated in a stimulating webinar entitled The Alchemy of Colour by Dr. Aaron Cheak, in which Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s color theory that a boundary is necessary to produce colors was explored.  Though creation does come from chaos, the co-presence of Saturn with Mars retrograde in Sagittarius will reveal how structure and containment leads to expansion of wisdom and creativity.  As Sagittarius is the home of Jupiter, this Mars retrograde will bring opportunities to discover a deepening of philosophical awareness and associated ethics to live from, rooted in visceral understanding through experience.

The intuitive knowing and self confidence of Sagittarius can also lead to dogmatism and a crusading mentality that creates violence and terrorism based around belief systems such as religion, politics, and philosophy.  Unfortunately in world events, as there are already innumerable conflicts rooted in these Sagittarius themes, greater violence, warfare, and human suffering is likely to occur during this Mars retrograde.  Activists also become crusaders around desire to end oppression and uphold principles of social justice, and so the timeless debate of how direct and violent this sort of actions needs to be to effect change will once again dominate.  There can also be a crusading mentality rooted in peace and nonviolence, that utilizes the creative visioning of Sagittarius to manifest complex acts of direct action and protest aimed at shutting down oppressive power structures without creating collateral casualties in the process.  With Uranus in Aries, the home of Mars, there is likely to be a great resurgence of protest movements arising with reinvigorated force.

Scorpio by Bayer

Antares in the heart of the Scorpion from Uranometria by Johannes Bayer

Antares

A crucial, unique aspect of this Mars retrograde is that Mars stations while conjoining the fixed star Antares.  Antares is named for being the “rival of Mars” because it is a giant binary star that glows red in our night sky.  Antares is one of the four ancient royal stars of Persia that were utilized in the past by sky watchers to anchor the seasons, with Antares holding down the season of Fall in the heart of the Scorpion constellation.  Though the four royal stars no longer line up with the seasons in the tropical zodiac utilized in western astrology, they still carry ancient symbolic significance: Aldebaran (opposite to Antares in Gemini now, and connected with Spring Equinox), Fomalhaut (located at about four degrees Pisces now and connected with Winter Solstice), and Regulus (located at the beginning of Virgo now and connected with Summer Solstice). If you remember, the Venus retrograde that occurred last July and August 2015 began with Venus stationing retrograde while conjoining Regulus, and so this further deepens the meaning of us now experiencing Mars stationing retrograde while conjoining Antares.

Ptolemy famously linked Antares with Mars and Jupiter, and Vivian Robson portrayed Antares as causing “malevolence, destructiveness, liberality” and making “natives rash, ravenous, headstrong, and destructive to themselves by their own obstinacy” (p. 137).  Reinhold Ebertin deduced “Antares makes people tough, belligerent and pugnacious” and though could be connected with “mental alertness, strategic ability, and courage . . . If associated with Mars, courage is said to become foolhardiness, leading to increased dangers” (p. 70-1).  There is a long tradition of warning about the dangers of hubris yoked to headstrong martial force in connection to Antares, yet the clearly forceful and determined correspondences of Antares could also be put to thoughtful use.  It seems the positive interpretation of Antares bound to the beginning of this Mars retrograde is to strengthen the resolve of one’s inner warrior and resiliency, as long as consideration is taken to not be overly self righteous, stubborn, and egotistical. An aspect of Sagittarius that leads to difficulties comes from impulsive action lacking foresight, and so finding disciplined practices to utilize for centering and mindfulness will be especially helpful.

wands08

8 of Wands by Pamela Colman Smith

Sagittarius 1 Decan

The first face of Sagittarius where Mars stations retrograde is ruled by Mercury and associated with speed of movement, as the image of the corresponding Eight of Wands card in tarot displays.  Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces wrote this face “entails the swift emergence of a motivating vision and the attainment of a vehicle to move one toward the pictured goal” (p. 194).  Mercury connecting to this Mars retrograde bridges the swiftness of our mind and imagination to the martial transformation at hand. At the time Mars stations retrograde, Mercury will be in the middle of Taurus in its Evening Star phase.  Mars stationing in a face ruled by Mercury brings up interesting connections, as similar to Sagittarius, Mercury also is a lover of the road, finding its home in the “in between place” between the beginning of the journey and the destination.  As Mars is known for conflict, so is Mercury known for contrariness, and so this resonance further amplifies the level of heated exchanges that will commence.   From the flames of conflict the inessential will be burned off to reveal primal, authentic passion and purpose.

Mars entered Sagittarius on March 5, and will be retrograde in the first face of Sagittarius from April 17 – May 27, 2016.  After stationing direct in Scorpio at the end of June, Mars will return to the first decan of Sagittarius at the time of a New Moon in Leo on 2 August 2016, eventually entering the second decan of Sagittarius around August 22 when the Sun enters Virgo.  Mars will not leave Sagittarius and enter Capricorn until 27 September 2016, a day after Pluto stations direct in Capricorn.

As a result, from April through May we are introduced to the vision and goals that will be signified by Mars retrograde, yet associated challenges will limit the ability to fully accelerate to the finish line.  Vitally, the heart of the Mars retrograde phase when Mars becomes exactly opposite the Sun will occur on May 22 with Mars at two degrees of Sagittarius and the Sun at two degrees of Gemini- this binds the visionary meaning of the first face of Sagittarius even more strongly to this Mars retrograde phase.  Then later in August, during a crucial period in which Mars will be conjoining Saturn in Sagittarius, Mars will return to the first face of Sagittarius and we will have uncovered a deeper sense of purpose and emboldened will-force with which to act from and respond.  In between, Mars will retrograde and then station direct in its home of Scorpio where we will be dipped into a boiling cauldron of transformation.

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7 of Cups by Pamela Colman Smith

Scorpio 3 Decan

Mars will retrograde back into the third face of Scorpio on May 27, station direct on June 29, and eventually leave Scorpio to return to Sagittarius on August 2 during the darkest of a Dark Moon.  The 7 of Cups illustrated above by Pamela Colman Smith is associated with the third decan of Scorpio, and inside the image are seven chalices holding visions of human desires such as fame, wealth, and power. Yet the cynosure of this assembly is a veiled figure with open arms emerging from the center cup. The meaning includes being overcome by the illusions of our desires, with the possibility of discerning the one choice that will bring clarity and increased opportunities for true desires.  Austin Coppock in 36 Faces analyzed this decan as being “ultimately a face of wrestling with one’s own desire nature, for it leads one inevitably back to confrontation with the nature of desire itself” (p. 187).  Coppock suggested that the illusions surrounding our desires and the loss of being separated from the object of our desire takes us into a destruction and regeneration process that liberates us through “laying our desires to rest, returning them to pure energy” so that new desires can grow from their putrefaction (p. 188).

Venus is a fitting ruler of this decan as she could be interpreted as our inner source of desired visions emanating above our horizon.  Potently, Venus will be purified within the rays of the Sun at her superior conjunction while Mars is retrograde in Scorpio, creating a direct confrontation with one’s desire nature.  Mars is at home in Scorpio, and so this period of the retrograde from the end of May through the end of June will be full-on Mars, with the flames of surrounding conflicts and drama rising.  On personal levels, there is potential for some to lose control in a frenzy of fixation on desires on the one hand, while on the other hand there is also potential to purify and regenerate one’s  desire nature, shedding and then intensifying purposeful will-force.

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Emblem 33 of Atalanta Fugiens by Michael Maier

Mercury Retrograde in Taurus

There is incredible synchronicity in the timing of this Mars retrograde and the Mercury retrograde in Taurus in April and May.  To begin with, on 28 April 2016 Mercury will station retrograde at 24 degrees of Taurus, which is exactly opposite the degree of Scorpio where Mars will eventually station direct on June 29, 2016.  Additionally, on 22 May 2016 when Mercury stations direct, Mars will be exactly opposite the Sun at the heart of its retrograde phase on the same day.  Mercury when retrograde corresponds with the Hermes Psychopomp of myth who guided Souls and had the ability to descend into the underworld and reascend into the upper world.  This means that our Mercurial functions and perceptions will be regenerated and reborn in the buildup to Mars reaching full opposition with our Solar Light.  While Mercury will be in between Earth and the Sun in orbit, Mars will be as close to Earth as it gets on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun and Mercury.  Fascinatingly, the degree at which Mercury stations direct is fairly close to the degree in Taurus of the heliocentric North Node of Mars.  There is a clear omen here of our Mercurial perception, discernment, and expression being recalibrated in synchronous timing with our Mars will-force and desire nature.

With Mercury still and stationing as Mars reaches the heart of its retrograde cycle, there is a clear message from the universe to create space and structure in life to quiet and center the mind during this Mars retrograde period.  Mercury stationing direct midway through Taurus also points toward cultivating patient and grounded processes as well as being self-reliant in terms of sourcing our motivation and action, instead of losing our sense of self in external relationship or trying to force issues that simply are not happening.  If you have significant astrological placements in the third decan of Fixed, Earth, or Water signs, it will be worth the time to contemplate the fact that Mercury will station retrograde at the end of April at 24 degrees of Taurus, and Mars will station direct at the end of June at 24 degrees of Scorpio.

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Emblem 34 of Atalanta Fugiens by Michael Maier

Mars and Venus

Mars retrograde periods often coincide with ruptures and new beginnings in relationship, and this particular Mars retrograde promises to be especially potent in the realm of relationship as Venus and Mars have compelling aspects in their cycle to consider.  As astrological tradition ascribes separation to Mars and union to Venus, the changing state of becoming that will coincide with this Mars retrograde will bring realization of the ancient idea of Heraclitus that separation is union, and that union is separation.  Venus will be under the beams of the Sun (using the orb of 15°) for the entirety of the time Mars is  retrograde, meaning that as we experience the inner heat of Mars retrograde we will also experience Venus in a process of being purified in the regenerative rays of the Sun.  As arguments and strife in relationship are likely to occur repeatedly during this Mars retrograde, patience will be required as well as focus on mediating and resolving conflict.

On June 6 Venus will merge into the heart of the Sun as enflamed passions seek effusion and emanation.  Leading up to this pivotal moment in the synodic cycle of Venus, Mars retrograde will form an exact opposition with Venus at the first degree of Sagittarius and Gemini on May 24, 2016.  Oppositions in astrology are known to create conflict and difficulties, but in the polarization of energies can also spark expansive growth.  In the case of Venus and Mars being opposite, there will be a fiery force within their polarity that can be expressed through artistic creation, sexuality, determined work, and innumerable other outlets that allow for an outpouring of passionate desire.  After Venus separates from her face-off with Mars, she will turn to chase after and unite with the Sun.  Mars retrograde will stoke the flames burning off Venusian dross, and as the old patterns of Venus combust we will simultaneously experience a rebirth of Venus on inner as well as outer levels.  While some relationships will end at this time, the relationships created or deepened will catalyze and nurture the essential elements of our nature being revealed.

The following quotes are all from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters on Life translated by Ulrich Baer and touch on some of the pertinent themes of this Mars retrograde:

Freedom should be recommended only to someone who knows what boundless responsibility is.

It is possible in art to stay always with “what one already knows,” and by staying within that sphere of knowledge and experience, it expands and always again leads beyond the self. The “ultimate premonitions and insights” become reachable only for the individual who resides in and remains at work, and whoever contemplates from a distance will not gain control over them.

To be close to another person who holds opposing views while being a deep, committed friend can be a wonderful, shaping influence. For as long as one remains forced to consider (as one is primarily in one’s relation to one’s parents and other older people) anything other as something false, bad, hostile instead of plainly other, one will not enter into an unforced and just relation with the world where all things are meant to have a place: part and counterpart; I and the one who is most different from me. And only when such a complete world is admitted to and considered possible will one succeed in arranging one’s own interiority with its internal contrasts and contradictions generously, spaciously, and with sufficient air to breathe.

For love is the actual climate of fate: no matter how far it stretches its path through the heavens along its milky way composed of millions of stars of blood, the land beneath those heavens lies pregnant with disaster. Not even the gods in the metamorphoses of their passion were sufficiently powerful to liberate from the entanglements of this fertile soil the startled, fleeing beloved on our earth.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Life translated by Ulrich Baer

References

Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.

Ebertin, Reinhold. (1971). Fixed Stars and their Interpretation. Ebertin-Verlag.

Robson, Vivian. (1969).  The Fixed Stars & Constellations in Astrology. The Aquarian Press.

New Moon in Aquarius

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Greek water jar (490 B.C.) with Triptolemos bringing wheat to humanity in his winged chariot

Aquarius New Moon

The New Moon in Aquarius on February 8, 2016 ushers in the Year of the Fire Monkey in Chinese culture, and similarly holds an array of aspects facilitating bursting forth with new endeavors.  Mercury remains in its retrograde shadow zone, yet has separated from triggering the Pluto and Uranus square.  Venus is close behind Mercury in Capricorn, and also separating from its conjunction with Pluto and square to Uranus in Aries that occurred in the Dark Moon preceding this New Moon.  While January and the first week of February this year contained heavy, chthonic, cathartic astrological aspects, a New Moon in Aquarius brings a moment to detach from feelings in order to objectify and envision pioneering intentions.  Aquarius is the sign of the purifying idealist who can bridge diverse worlds, crossing intellectual boundaries such as time and space, finding the future through exploration of the old.  Aquarius is a fixed sign of yang energy that can help foster the setting and achievement of goals that will bring stability.  However, since this particular Aquarius New Moon is in square to Mars in Scorpio, we will also need to beware of a shadow side of self-righteousness.

This New Moon is in the home of Saturn, and the transiting Sagittarius Saturn is in sextile to this Aquarius New Moon.  In addition, the modern ruler of Aquarius, Uranus, is also in sextile to the New Moon as well as in trine to Saturn in Sagittarius.  These aspects highlight the innovative nature of Aquarius that can not only brainstorm progressive ideas and solutions, but also create the necessary structure to bring inventive concepts into material manifestation.  In the past month collectively we have passed through intense astrological transits that brought up core issues, fears, and desires.  In the dark of this Aquarius New Moon we can  begin to separate from past compulsions and enter a more objective mental space. Here in the cool, airy mentality of Aquarius we will not be completely free of the feelings we have been overly fixated upon, but the influence of these gripping, irresistible desires can be less restrictive on our vision going forward.

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Inner Forces (1939) by Paul Klee

Mars holds significant influence over this New Moon as it is in a superior square to the lunation as well as fully fulfilled in its own domicile of Scorpio.  The New Moon arrives following a crashing wave of Mars, as the Sun will have formed a square with Mars a day before the New Moon, and the Moon itself will square Mars about an hour before the exact timing of the lunation.  This can bring a more righteous, fervent quality to the intentions and goals we are envisioning, and also signifies that incredible effort and determination will be needed in achieving them.  While anger over what appears to be in the way of goals could come up, the activated Mars embedded in this New Moon contains the impetus necessary to launch bold ventures.  As we simultaneously enter the Year of the Fire Monkey, this New Moon evokes the feeling of fireworks traditionally associated with the dawning of a New Year.

In the next seven months Mars will become one of the most significant planets in transit, as it will be retrograde from April 17 through June 28.  About a week after the New Moon, Mars will enter the shadow zone of its upcoming retrograde, and so this New Moon in square to Mars opens a window to the torrential storm of Mars brewing outside.  As the upcoming Mars retrograde will begin with Mars conjoining the red star Antares, found in the heart of the Scorpion constellation, we will experience another Royal Star retrograde activation such as we did last July when Venus stationed retrograde conjoining Regulus.  Mars retrograde periods tend to bring pivotal twists of fate, and so beginning with this New Moon it will be worthwhile to begin intuiting what could be coming in tandem with the approaching retrograde of Mars.

Mars has been conjoining Juno over the past couple weeks, and though still in range of a conjunction at this New Moon, Mars has now separated from Juno.  At the same time Mars and Juno are both in sextile to Venus and Pluto in Capricorn.  Altogether, these aspects suggest that Mars and Venus are stirring up the core relationship desires that we will be needing to focus on and process over the next seven months.

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Paul Klee (1925) May Picture

Venus in Capricorn like the New Moon is in a sign of Saturn, though in Capricorn more focused upon initiating from an inner sense of value.  The Aquarius New Moon arrives at a harmonious time in the transiting cycle of Venus and Mars, as Venus will have entered into a Crescent, waxing sextile with Mars.  In 2015 we experienced three conjunctions between Venus and Mars, meaning that it took most of the year in order to fully initiate their new cycle.  Now in a Crescent sextile, Venus in Capricorn can facilitate the structuring of the deep Scorpio Mars desires in order to help lay down solid roots to bolster new growth and resist the pull of past patterns no longer serving our developing purpose.  There is tremendous potency between transiting Venus and Mars at this New Moon, as Venus is carrying the tumultuous energy from its conjunction with Pluto and square with Uranus into the formation of its sextile with Mars.

Venus is also in range of a conjunction with Mercury in Capricorn, following the blazed trail formed by Mercury’s back and forth movement in retrograde.  In the predawn sky we can now glimpse both Mercury and Venus as brilliant Morning Stars, in addition to the morning appearance of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  Mercury and Venus will remain within five degrees of one another over the next couple of weeks as the Moon waxes Full in Virgo on February 22.  Venus following in the footsteps of Mercury means that much of what was stirred up by the Mercury retrograde in January will be revisited within our emotional body and Venusian passions, ultimately helping to clarify the associated issues.

While most of the pivotal aspects formed by this New Moon are “after effects,” meaning aspects that perfected before the time of the New Moon, Venus in Capricorn is applying toward a trine with Jupiter in Virgo.  This means that the trine between Venus and Jupiter is intensifying at the New Moon, whereas most of the other major aspects discussed here will have already occurred.  For example, Mercury in Capricorn is also in range of a trine with Jupiter, only separating.  Mercury and Venus coming into range of a trine with Jupiter and the North Node of the Moon, following their conjunction with Pluto and square with Uranus, means that out of the recent cathartic transits there is now an opportunity to seize and integrate the myriad material dredged up into a regenerated vision.  This New Moon supports being resolute in pursuit of new opportunities and growth leading into the unknown future, rather than relying upon the old and familiar ways of being.

Redon Upon walking

Upon Walking, I Saw the Goddess of the Intelligible, with Her Severe and Hard Profile (1885) by Odilon Redon

The conjunction of Jupiter with the North Node of the Moon in Virgo is also becoming tighter in opposition to the conjunction of Chiron with the South Node in Pisces, and the opposition between Jupiter and Chiron will continue to build with intensity in the coming lunar cycle.  While Jupiter conjoining the North Node clearly signifies opportunities to develop new belief systems and philosophies to live from, the opposition with Chiron implies we will be arriving at our new vision through a process of old wounds re-emerging not to hold us back, but rather to provide circumstances for us to have breakthrough experiences that liberate us from past restrictive beliefs.

A powerful aspect of the Aquarius New Moon supporting this process is Ceres in Pisces applying to a conjunction with Neptune.  The day after the New Moon, the Moon will pass over both Ceres and Neptune, and every day as the Moon waxes Full in the coming cycle Ceres will get closer to Neptune.  At the coming Full Moon in Virgo on February 22, Ceres will have culminated in her conjunction with Neptune.  Ceres is in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and among other things signifies how we nourish and manage our willful, sometimes angry, desires of Mars into the Jupiter vision of life we live from. Neptune will dissolve whatever we have been carrying in our emotional and physical bodies that needs to be released as Ceres  approaches Neptune.  Our imagination will be activated, and Ceres can use imaginal forces most effectively when we are willing to enter into our full range of feelings without taking Neptune escape routes such as addictions and delusions.  The book The Eyes of the Skin contains a lucid description of the interplay between mind and body:

In The Book of Tea, Kakuzo Okakura gives a subtle description of the multi-sensory imagery evoked by the simple situation of the tea ceremony: ‘Quiet reigns with nothing to break the silence save the note of the boiling water in the iron kettle. The kettle sings well, for pieces of iron are so arranged in the bottom as to produce a peculiar melody in which one may hear the echoes of a cataract muffled by clouds, of a distant sea breaking among the rocks, a rainstorm sweeping through a bamboo forest, or of the soughing of pines on some faraway hill.’ In Oksakura’s description the present and the absent, the near and the distant, the sensed and the imagined fuse together. The body is not a mere physical entity; it is enriched by both memory and dream, past and future. Edward S Casey even argues that our capacity of memory would be impossible without a body memory. The world is reflected in the body, and the body is projected onto the world. We remember through our bodies as much as through our nervous system and brain.

— Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin, p. 45

Ceres is often interpreted in astrology through her mythic associations, an apt association as the planetary body was discovered in a lab near the site of Persephone’s abduction.  The Ceres of myth holds symbols we can associate with the astrology of Ceres: grains (the stabilizing gift of agriculture), opium poppies (solace from grief), and snakes (regeneration). I saw Demetra George lecture about the meaning of Ceres in astrology through connection with her myth, and one of the most powerful moments to me was when Demetra described the ability of Ceres to heal herself and regenerate within the waters of the Ladon river. The capacity of Ceres to heal herself, purifying her anger and rage in the ceaseless currents of water, correlates with the potential Self-nourishment which is available at this New Moon.

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6 0f Swords by Pamela Colman Smith

Aquarius II Decan

The New Moon falls in the second face of Aquarius associated with the 6 of Swords card illustrated above by Pamela Colman Smith.  The Swords in the image are anchored, suggesting firm resolve and grounding, yet staked into a boat journeying through watery, liminal space. There is a vision behind the image, a bold determination to follow foresight into foreign territory, with the ferryman in a role of guidance not unlike the psychopomp Mercury.  The destination on the far shore is not capable of being reached by the passengers without the utility of the boat and the labor of the ferryman, and so there is a letting go in needing to be along for the ride.

The second face of Aquarius is ruled by Mercury, seen in the image of the 6 of Swords as the ferryman creating a network between shores.  Austin Coppock in his book 36 Faces ascribed the image of “Heaven and Earth” to this face, writing that it connects multiple territories with a sense of “principled but fierce wisdom” and independence:

Once again we see Mercury as ruler of this decan, for the swift planet’s sacred space is every road but no place. Mercury is lord of dualities and the space between them. Unlike the other decans which emphasize dualities, this one, being the middle decan of a fixed sign, is usually fixed, and stabilizes commerce between heaven and earth…

This face is one of independence, of living and becoming according to one’s principles. There is thus a certain royalty to this decan, for its residents connect worlds without becoming beholden to them. There is great benefit to plying these waters between, for they allow the connection of the orthodox and the unorthodox, the known and the unknown. The steady commerce between heaven and earth is maintained by a figure standing between them, mediating.

–Austin Coppock, 36 Faces, p. 233 -234

Mercury, the ruler of the second decan of Aquarius is separating from a trine with Jupiter, traveling a few degrees ahead of Venus, and also separating from its square to Uranus and conjunction with Pluto at the time of the Aquarius New Moon.  The recent exact trine in which Mercury in Capricorn received Jupiter conjoining the North Node of the Moon in Virgo serves as a fitting symbol for the ability of this face to bridge divides, as Mercury entered the trine with Jupiter after triggering the square between Pluto and Uranus, and being in sextile with Mars in Scorpio.  As a result this Aquarius New Moon supports striking out from a place of empowerment and principle, capable of independently acting when necessary to weave together divisions.  This is the final New Moon before we enter the eclipse season of March, and so a time to come to clarity and prepare for the unknown to come.

References

Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.

Pallasmaa, Juhani. (2005). The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. John Wiley & Sons.

Mercury Retrograde in Saturn’s Home

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Illustration for The Raven by Gustave Dore

Hermes I call, whom Fate decrees to dwell in the dire path which leads to deepest hell

O Bacchic Hermes, progeny divine of Dionysius, parent of the vine,
And of celestial Aphrodite Paphian queen, dark eye-lash’d Goddess of a lovely mien:
Who constant wand’rest thro’ the sacred feats
where hell’s dread empress, Persephone, retreats;
To wretched souls the leader of the way when Fate decrees, to regions void of day:
Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly, or lulls to slumb’rous rest the weary eye;
For Persephone’s thro’ Tart’rus dark and wide gave thee forever flowing souls to guide.
Come, blessed pow’r the sacrifice attend, and grant our mystic works a happy end.

— Hermes Chthonian from The Orphic Hymns

Mercury Retrograde

When Mercury shifts retrograde our angelic trickster slips into his role as psychopomp, the guide of souls who can journey into the underworld and back again. On a personal level this coincides with a turn within toward awareness not as readily available when Mercury is moving direct, a process that can birth new presence and shed old habits as Mercury reemerges on the other side (Mercury will station direct on January 25 and leave the retrograde shadow zone on February 17).  Mercury retrograde is not a time to fear but rather an opening to symbolic perception that can divine messages within the darkness of our dreams as well as in the signs that appear during our sunlit daily journeying.  The Mercury retrograde that begins on January 5, 2016 initiates at the first degree of Aquarius, but spends the majority of the time in the second half of Capricorn.  Aquarius and Capricorn are both the homes of Saturn, and so this Mercury retrograde will be deeply linked with the significations we associate with that old devil, Saturn.  The link to Saturn is further intensified by Mercury crossing the South Node of Saturn while retrograde,and then returning to conjoin the South Node of Saturn again once moving direct.

Modern astrology gives the rulership of Aquarius to Uranus, and one result of this is to associate Aquarius with future-oriented, liberated forms of thought.  Yet this same meaning can be found through Aquarius being the diurnal home of Saturn, a place where Saturn detaches from the conditioned thought forms of consensus culture to develop systems of thought that break free from the constraints of the status quo.  Mercury free from other influences stationing retrograde in Aquarius would support reception of a message beyond self-centered subjectivity, in an objective and clarified mind frame detached from passions and able to rationalize feelings.  Yet instead the stationing of Mercury is painted in bold, impassioned colors by Mars in Scorpio forming an exact square at the time Mercury stations retrograde.  As Mars in Scorpio heats the emotional climate of Mercury stationing retrograde, our feelings could override our ability to be objective or communicate with restraint.  The eruption of cathartic feelings at the dawn of this retrograde will be borne by Mercury into our underworld for deep processing and purification.

The movement of Mercury from Aquarius back into Capricorn is united by both signs being the home of Saturn.  Mercury in the territory of Saturn can readily focus on systems and structures in our life, including rumination upon time and space.  Mercury stationing retrograde while bearing the water of Aquarius holds the promise of illumination that transcends our everyday conception of time, saturating our direct perception of the moment with lucidity.  As Mercury moves backward into Capricorn, goat horns protrude through the messenger’s head as the role of water bearer is released in order to invest fully into the surrounding material realm with its lusty nature.  In Capricorn, where Mercury spends the majority of its time this retrograde, Mercury shifts our focus toward achievement and ambition as well as the degree of determination and discipline that will be needed for manifestation.

In addition to entering the heart of the Sun while retrograde in Capricorn, Mercury will also form conjunctions with Pallas Athene and Pluto, and in fact will station direct conjoining Pluto.  Around the recent solstice Mercury was first conjunct Pallas Athene, and in the first week of its retrograde movement Mercury will again become conjunct with Pallas Athene in Capricorn.  Here the creative visioning of Pallas Athene combines with the symbolic perception of Mercury retrograde for penetrating perception into the structural and systematic foundations surrounding us.  In her classic Asteroid Goddesses Demetra George wrote:

Aesthetically, Pallas Athene is very strong in Capricorn representing the ability to formulate precise structures (molds) into which raw creative energy can coalesce.  Instant manifestation is often possible and can be seen as a magical process. Here, Pallas excels in the arts of architecture, drafting, and sculpture.  Capricorn’s association with time connects Pallas Athene with the art of timing- being in the right place at the right time.  Politically, this is a defender of law and order. There is a strong power drive for authority over others in political and social institutions.  The wisdom of Pallas in Capricorn is the wisdom of order- putting things in their proper sequence (p. 105).

The Sun in Capricorn is applying closely to a conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn and square to Uranus in Aries when Mercury stations retrograde, and then in the weeks ahead after Mercury passes back across the face of the Sun, Mercury will eventually come into a square with Uranus in Aries and then will station direct in conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn.  As a result, this Mercury retrograde activates and re-triggers the first quarter square between Pluto and Uranus that has been dominating our astrological landscape for the past seven years, most exactly in the past four years.  As predicted the Pluto-Uranus square has correlated with seismic shifts around our planet, and so this Mercury retrograde is profound for reflecting upon the immensity of change that has passed through our lives.  Furthermore, it’s a potent period for reorienting our plans and structures in greater harmony with the insights we receive for how our world has been altered and continues to change.

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Illustration for Dante’s Inferno by Gustave Dore

Does it really exist, Time the Destroyer?
When, on the peaceful mountain, does it crush the fortress?
And this heart, always the gods’ possession,
when does the Demiurge pillage it?

Are we really so anxiously brittle
as Fate would have us believe?
Is childhood, so deep, so rich with promise,
in the roots- later on- stilled?

Ah, the spectre of transience,
through the guilelessly receptive
it passes like wisps of smoke.

And we, with our driving, our striving,-
the abiding Strengths assume
that the gods have some need for us.

— Rainer Maria Rilke from Sonnets to Orpheus

Mercury Stations Retrograde

Hermes is a god of boundaries, with a tradition of demarcating divisions between profane and sacred territory, between rural and urban landscapes, between the graveyards of the dead and the playgrounds of the living.  When Mercury stations retrograde, this normally swift planet gives off the appearance of putting down roots into solid stillness, and as it disappears with a flash of light at sunset there is a cosmic message transmitted.  As Mercury moves retrograde under the beams of the Sun it is not visible, and being in between our planet Earth and our fiery Sun it is symbolically considered to be journeying through our underworld.  Demetra George has connected Mercury retrograde with the work by Jungian Murray Stein on the borderline spaces we inhabit during transitions and gaps between conscious realities.  As Hermes is a god of thresholds and passages between realms, Demetra George has taught that the stationing of Mercury retrograde marks a liminal time in which we are separated from a clear sense of where we are, as Hermes guides us through a transition of an old identity dying and the emergence of a new sense of Self.

This Mercury retrograde primarily occurring in Capricorn introduces the Mercurial theme of the earth element in 2016, as the following two Mercury retrograde periods this year will also occur in the earth signs of Taurus and Virgo.  This brings to mind the unconscious symbolism of the forest as well as other oracular associations with soulful matter such as rocks, plants, and other elements of our natural world.  Capricorn is distinguished in part from the other earth signs through it being the home of Saturn, and the transiting Saturn in Sagittarius is fittingly forming some of the most significant astrological aspects during this Mercury retrograde.  Transiting Saturn being in Sagittarius colors Mercury’s time in Capricorn with a more strident, visionary vibration.  The last quarter square between Saturn in Sagittarius and Neptune in Pisces that has been an intense astrological factor over the past couple of months continues to be so during this Mercury retrograde, and in fact becomes all the more dramatic with the passage of Venus triggering their dynamic.

As Mercury stations retrograde, Venus is applying tightly to a square with Neptune, within minutes.  Venus is also four degrees away from Saturn in Sagittarius as Mercury stations, and as Mercury moves retrograde over the following week Venus will conjoin Saturn on January 8 at a Dark Moon in Capricorn.  The square between Venus and Neptune portends a crisis in our relationships, and as Venus is overcoming Neptune in the square while also approaching Saturn, the dreamy unconditional side of our feelings can be overcome by the conditions of circumstance in front of our face, what we feel are the cold hard facts of reality.  However, the square of Neptune in Pisces to Venus and Saturn combining in Sagittarius also reveals that there is a deeper and more far reaching truth to discern, such as the fact that what we are perceiving to be our reality is based more upon our current beliefs than actual reality.  While Saturn can bring up feelings of wanting to cut something off and separate, it is also true that Venus can soften up the old ringed devil for reconciliation.  At a higher potential, we can utilize these aspects during the Mercury retrograde to penetrate into our subjective feelings and perceptions and unveil a vaster conception of personal truth.

At the outset of Mercury stationing retrograde, with Mars in Scorpio in square to Mercury in Aquarius, we will want to keep in mind that disillusionment and feelings of disorientation are likely to come up in our relationships and that this amplified aspect between Mars and Mercury can erupt easily into bitter conflict.  While Mercury is in Aquarius, there is a risk that the detached side of Aquarius could combine with the fury of Mars at full force in Scorpio, resulting in explosive fights.  Yet the anger coming out in conflicts at this time has a source within, and it will be the task of this Mercury retrograde to journey within and explore the full ramifications of where these feelings are coming from.  It is important to realize that the feelings and thoughts dislodged at the beginning of this Mercury retrograde by Mars square Mercury, Venus and Saturn square Neptune among other things, is not the end of the story but merely the beginning.  Mercury will be journeying in the retrograde all the way back to unite with Pluto in Capricorn, and so there will be a vital message for us to receive about ourselves connected to the impassioned feelings provoked at the outset of this Mercury retrograde.

There is also the potential that we can rekindle passion from the Mars square in order to then harness corresponding desire to determined effort going forward.  Mercury retrograde in the home of Saturn will reward hard work and effort, and so the square from Mars to Mercury can jolt us into awareness of where we need to concentrate and work with full force.  This square between Mercury and Mars is even more intense as it is the second one to occur within the same week.  The first square in this cycle was on December 29, 2015 with Mercury at its maximum elongation as an Evening Star at 28° of Capricorn, and Mars at the same degree of Libra.  There is something hugely significant to find within this square between Mercury and Mars that will fuel our work in the year ahead.  Mars and Mercury will form their third square in the beginning of March 2016 with Mercury at the very end of Aquarius and Mars and the very end of Scorpio.  It may take until this later time a few months from now to fully come to terms with the work that will be involving this intense aspect between Mercury and Mars, and in the meantime we will need to persevere in the face of any daunting obstacles.

The other major astrological aspect occurring as Mercury stations retrograde is that a couple of days after Mercury stations retrograde, Jupiter in Virgo will also station retrograde closely conjoining the North Node of the Moon in Virgo.  There is a powerful connection here with Mercury as the conjunction between Jupiter and the North Node of the Moon is occurring in Virgo. In fact, as Mercury moves retrograde into Capricorn this connection will intensify as Mercury will be receiving Jupiter through a trine.  With Mercury in the home of Saturn, Saturn in the home of Jupiter, and Jupiter in the home of Mercury during this retrograde, despite some of the otherwise challenging aspects there also appears to be a confluence of forces supporting us finding a vision for our life that will bring us a fulfilling sense of purpose.  Jupiter moving retrograde also brings an inner visioning in terms of reorienting toward a more authentic personal truth.  Jupiter was previously retrograde in Leo between early December 2014 and early April 2015 if you want to contemplate events associated with the prior Jupiter retrograde.  Jupiter will remain retrograde until the beginning of May 2016, at which time it will station direct in range of an opposition to Neptune in Pisces and a square with Saturn in Sagittarius.

mercury passing in front of the sun

Mercury Passing in Front of the Sun by Giacomo Balla (1914)

Only he who has also raised
his lyre among shadows
may find his way back
to infinite praise.

Only he who has eaten with the dead
from their stores of poppy
will never again lose
the softest chord.

And though the pool’s reflection
often blurs before us:
Know the image.

Only in the double realm
do the voices become
eternal and mild.

–Rainer Maria Rile from Sonnets to Orpheus

Mercury into the Sun

Mercury’s inferior conjunction occurs when Mercury retrograde reaches the same zodiac degree as the Sun, and as Mercury during its retrograde is passing between our Earth and Sun, I am part of the astrological community who interprets this as being similar to a New Mercury.  This is a moment of cazimi, in which Mercury is reborn in the radiance of our solar light, regenerated and purified within the golden rays of the fiery Sun.  On a personal level, this is a moment of new conception regarding the significations of Mercury within our life, and a powerful moment within to attune to an oracular message we may receive.  In Pacific standard time, this magical Mercury moment occurs at 6:05 am on January 14, 2016, while in the Central European time zone this will occur at 3:05 pm on January 14.

Mercury and the Sun will be at 23º50′ tightly in trine with Jupiter in Virgo at 23º10′ and the true North Node of the Moon in Virgo at 23º30′.  Amazingly, the waxing crescent Moon at the moment of Mercury cazimi is at 22º30′ of Pisces, closely applying to a conjunction with the South Node of the Moon, a sextile with the Mercury and Sun conjunction, and an opposition to Jupiter in Virgo.   These aspects are remarkably suggestive of the interpretation that Dane Rudhyar gave to the Crescent Moon as fighting off the ghosts of the past, as there is an activation of past patterns of awareness at the same time we sense new choices and opportunities linked to a reborn vision of meaning.  While we may feel a pull back toward the normalcy of old patterns, we can consciously with determination propel ourselves into the unknown with faith despite the fears arising that we will not have what we need to be successful in the new direction.  The close trine between Mercury conjoining the Sun and Jupiter conjoining the North Node of the Moon indicates that we will in fact be able to access the resources we need to successfully transition in the new, unfamiliar direction.

In addition, the inferior conjunction of Mercury will be almost exactly conjunct the geocentric South Node of Saturn, and a few degrees away from a conjunction with the geocentric South Node of Pluto.  This intensifies the connection of this Mercury retrograde cycle with the full archetypal arcs of both Saturn and Pluto.  In evolutionary astrology, Jeff Green teaches that the South Nodes of Saturn and Pluto being in Capricorn symbolizes the vast shadow cast by the patriarchal paradigm that seized power from a matriarchal collective ages ago.  Mercury retrograde united with the Sun at the South Node of Saturn suggests penetrating insight into the foundation of the structural systems surrounding us will be available.  It also portends we can discern how our behavior in the moment has been conditioned by the vast history of hierarchical power structures vying for power, control, and dominance.

Finally, there are additional indications that Venus is demanding attention from us during this Mercury retrograde, and that the retrograde commencing with a tight square between Venus and Neptune is a sign that we have a deep message regarding our Venusian nature to uncover.  At the time of Mercury’s inferior conjunction, Venus in Sagittarius is separating from a trine with Uranus in Aries and applying to a square with Jupiter and the North Node of the Moon in Virgo, as well as a square with the Moon in Pisces and the South Node of the Moon.  Well, we’re always focused on Venus and looking for messages about her, right?  Nonetheless, Venus is holding aspects suggestive of being at a crossroads at the time of this Mercury inferior conjunction, and as she will be received by Jupiter it is yet another sign of the Jupiter conjunction with the North Node of the Moon in Virgo being a beacon of light leading us out of the Mercurial underworld.

Dore Gustave Inferno_Canto_1_spirit_guide

Virgil leads Dante by Gustave Dore, from the Divine Comedy

We puzzle over flower, vine-leaf, fruit.
They speak not just the language of the year.
A thing of succor rises from the dark
and its hues may gleam with the jealousy

of the dead, those who strengthen the earth.
What do we know of their share in it?
It has long been their practice to enrich
the loam with their own free marrow.

The question is: do they do it willingly? . . .
Does this fruit, a work of sullen slaves,
push through clenched to us, to their masters?

Or are they the masters, sleeping among
the roots and granting us from their profusion
this hybrid of mute strength and kisses?

— Rainer Maria Rilke from Sonnets to Orpheus

Mercury Stations Direct

Mercury ultimately will station direct on January 25, 2016 at 14º55′ of Capricorn, closely conjoining Pluto at 15º54′ of Capricorn.  As Mercury appears to stand still when stationing, this means we will have an extended period of Mercury and Pluto being a degree apart (roughly January 21 – February 1, 2016).  On January 20 when the Sun ingresses into Aquarius, Mercury retrograde will also form an exact square with Uranus in Aries, and Mercury will still be in range of a square to Uranus when it finally stations direct.  There is deep reckoning to be found in this stationing direct of Mercury, much more so than normal as it is intimately bound to the influence of the Pluto-Uranus square.  This may or may not be a pleasant time depending upon your circumstances, but there is no doubt that an aspect of your ineffable soul will be available to perceive.  Whether you are able to schedule some downtime for yourself or whether you will be forced to be engaged in numerous intense activities, there is immense catharsis found in these aspects surrounding Mercury stationing direct.  There is also a harmonious sextile formed between Mars in Scorpio with the stationing Mercury in Capricorn, suggesting that a level of resolution could be reached concerning whatever was stirred up by Mars being square to Mercury at the beginning of the retrograde.

Adding to the vast depth of this time is that Mercury will be stationing direct closely conjoining the geocentric South Node of Jupiter, and also a couple of degrees away from a conjunction with its own geocentric South Node of Mercury.  This is yet another potent activation of the Jupiter archetype during this Mercury retrograde, and points toward Jupiter taking on the role of a guiding shepherd.  As Mercury begins to move direct again as an explorative Morning Star, it will once again begin applying to a trine with Jupiter and the North Node of the Moon in Virgo.  Those who have been working hard with due diligence and determination during the Mercury retrograde will be rewarded during this final period of Jupiter in Virgo receiving Mercury in Capricorn through a trine.  By willingly descending into underworld darkness during the Mercury retrograde, we will reascend nourished by a regenerated vision of life focused upon our essential fulfillment.

References

George, Demetra with Bloch, Douglas. (1986). Asteroid Goddesses. ACS.

Rilke, Rainer Maria. (2004). Sonnets to Orpheus. Translated by Edward Snow. North Point Press.