On Venus and Neptune in Pisces

Psyche disobeys by William Blake

Eros and Psyche by William Blake

“The lover carves into his soul the model of the beloved. In that way, the soul of the lover becomes the mirror in which the image of the loved one is reflected”

— Marsilio Ficino from De amore

Neptune was not known to Marsilio Ficino during the Renaissance in which he was translating ancient texts and formulating his magical astrology, except perhaps in his imagination. During 20th century astrology a concept of higher octave planets was invented in which Neptune became known as a higher octave of Venus (with Uranus as higher octave of Mercury and Pluto as higher octave of Mars). In part this has to do with Neptune signifying unconditional love as well as relating with the living soul of our greater world, feeling the interconnectedness underlying our shared field of reality. Whereas Venus places us in the pleasure of sensual reception in taste, touch, smell, colors, music, and aesthetics, her focus is centered in unifying the material of our present reality. In contrast Neptune has been linked with vaster realities such as the collective unconscious and dimensions beyond our senses and normal perceptions of time and space.

In 20th century astrology Neptune also became celebrated as a ruler of Pisces by many astrologers, to such an extent that by the end of the century it was the favored ruler among popular forms of astrology. Just as Neptune has an affinity for Pisces, Venus has been said to have her exaltation in Pisces since the most ancient days of astrology. Dorotheus of Sidon, one of the most influential Hellenistic astrologers who lived in the first century AD, wrote that planets in their exaltations “make them very illustrious and remarkable,” becoming an “authoritative figure” who can be entrusted with noble works as well as dwell with and enjoy the profits of regal endeavors. During the transit of Venus in Pisces its exalted status brings enhanced opportunities for luxuriating in sensual pleasures, soothing inner needs, and enjoying arts of all forms. When Venus and Neptune unite in Pisces, desires and reception of pleasures become amplified and otherworldly.

Since April 2011 when Neptune entered Pisces, we have been living in an interesting time period hosting unions between Venus and Neptune in Pisces. Currently they are applying toward a conjunction that will complete on April 10, 2019. Previously since Neptune entered Pisces in 2011, Venus formed a conjunction with Neptune in Pisces on 28 February 2013, 11 April 2014, 1 February 2015, 20 March 2016, 12 January 2017, and 21 February 2018. They will continue forming unions in Pisces until the final one on 27 March 2025. Amazingly, they will form their final conjunction at the very very end of Pisces at 29º53′ with Venus retrograde in 2025. Now that we have been through six of their conjunctions and are approaching the seventh, it’s worthwhile to think back upon each of these past periods of Venus and Neptune forming unions in Pisces to note what changes and realizations occurred for you within your relationships with others as well as your relationship with yourself.

The combination of Venus and Neptune in Pisces is incredibly dreamy, imaginative, and numinous. Its combination corresponds with romantic love being exalted in popular culture as the most magical of experiences. I once heard Rick Tarnas give a talk on the connections between astrology and romance in which he commented that since astrology and synchronicity are not openly acknowledged in consensus society, we end up with a heightened desire for romantic love in mainstream culture. In the materialistic consensus worldview, romantic love carries the entire magical sense of a communion between souls opening up a new universe, an opening that goes beyond the compressed isolation of the Cartesian ego toward awareness of the world soul.  Notably, Tarnas pointed out that astrology, synchronicity and romantic love all (1) have great potential for profound significance, (2) are extremely susceptible to a skeptical negation, and (3) are also susceptible to both projection and illusion.  The potential for illusion in love we find in the union between Venus and Neptune also veils the truth that if one is carrying the divine inside, it is possible for a communion of divinities to occur through romantic love in which reciprocal recognition of divinity occurs.

Tarnas noted we can further find these ideas within Carl Jung’s conception of the Self due to it being constellated by a profound romantic love involving the marriage of opposites, the cosmic marriage of the inner and the outer, the conscious and unconscious. Jung’s ideas also connect to another phenomenon associated with the combination of Venus and Neptune in astrology: projecting unconscious content into our relationships so that both relational partners become enmeshed within exchanging projections.  The book Eros and Magic in the Renaissance by Ioan Couliano described how Jung’s idea that we fall in love with our own unconscious image projected into relationships has similarities to ideas developed by Marsilio Ficino.

According to Couliano, Ficino believed in the necessity of spirit grasping external images in order for the soul to contemplate them, like bodies reflected in a mirror. The love inducing arrows shot by Eros to Ficino are like internal fire emitted through the eyes at its object of interest with a force of fascination. Ficino saw this fiery fascination as penetrating and transfiguring the object of affection, while also creating a phantasm of the beloved that takes on its own existence in the eye of the beholder, potentially leading to possession and obsession. Couliano wrote:

“Interestingly, the love object plays a secondary role in the process of establishing the phantasm: it is only a pretext, not a real presence. The true object, omnipresent, of Eros is the phantasm, which has taken permanent possession of the spiritual mirror. Now, this phantasm represents a perceived image that has gone beyond the threshold of consciousness, but the reason it has assumed such obsessional dimensions lies in the deepest part of the individual unconscious. We do not love another object, a stranger to ourselves, Ficino thinks (Amore, VI, 6) thus anticipating the analystic psychology of Carl Jung. We are enamored of an unconscious image.

Eros and Magic in the Renaissance by Ioan Couliano

Complexly, Couliano commented that the subject can graft itself onto the phantasmic image of the beloved so that the subject becomes changed into the object of their love while the object of their affection is simultaneously impacted by their projection.  When both relational partners are engaged in this process, they each end up transfigured by their reflection in the mirror of the other.  Dramatically, Couliano noted that when the object of love removes themselves from the relationship, when they remove their mirror the loss of reflection feels like a death to the subject. Couliano concluded, “after knocking hopelessly at the door of the other’s eyes, this Narcissus will die through lack of access to the glossy surface of a spirit on which (or on whom) he can be reflected.” This of course links with the long lineage of romantic tragedies that have captivated popular imagination for ages.

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Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian

These ideas connect to the transformative feelings of love that come with transits of Neptune and Venus, as well as destructive feelings of disillusionment that can awaken self realization. Projections in relationships can be most harmful when they do not have authentic resonance with one’s soul but instead have been conditioned by societal forces. These external conditioning influences are often wrapped up in systematic oppression, necessitating a need to shed the way they impact our gender, sexual, and other personal identities. The more we are able to take responsibility for this work, similar to Jung’s concept of individuation, the better we can gain self acceptance for the authentic desires of our soul. As we do so, we can attract partners who genuinely resonate with our inner life, drawing us into a deepening of the lessons we need on a soul level. We also can gain a healthier relationship with ourselves so that we can foster recovery and restoration when a relationship ends.

It’s not really possible to prevent our unconscious from shaping the relational dynamics we form with others, and this is a gift in terms of the creativity and growth cultivated by the commingling of unconscious fields. We can at least gain awareness that the phenomenon is happening and open to the actual presence and needs of a partner instead of confining them to our own projection. The numinous, intermingling perceptions and projections between lovers is so full of magical potency that it has given birth to countless epics of artistry that have endured the tests of time and will continue to do so. Most importantly, it can enrich our life when not causing damaging delusion. As Venus and Neptune begin a new cycle together, as well as during subsequent aspects between them (especially when forming a square or opposition), we can claim the opportunity to reflect upon our unconscious projections. It’s essential that once becoming aware we do not bury the realization in denial but instead sustain contemplation so that it’s pattern may mutate and we may receive insight.

Neptune brings longing for the ideal and sustaining divine connection, yet can also bring debilitating pain once a shattering experience breaks us free from an illusion. After we suffer the agony of betrayal or abandonment, the ensuing underworld process of descending to our solitary depths ultimately gives rise to essential rebirth and expansion of consciousness. Like Persephone arising from her hidden kingdom into our upper world of blooming flowers, like Aphrodite arising from the depths of the ocean to fertilize new ground, we can restore our capacity for sharing and receiving love. When relationships dissolve in disappointing disillusionment, in reflection we can realize the vital, irreplaceable experiences and realizations we received through its reciprocal projections. In fact, we can realize that all of it was necessary in order to become who we are meant to become.

So as Venus and Neptune come together once more in the mutable, watery sign of Pisces, be mindful of living in a time in which you are navigating their waves of communion within the most oceanic sign of the zodiac. Their unions in Pisces can enhance awareness for how our projections are disconnecting us from reality, can lead us to love based upon resonant bonds of connectivity, and can facilitate the nurturance of self love and acceptance. Like Maya spinning a constantly changing stream of illusions, the cycle of Venus and Neptune flows through our reality with the mystical, seductive melodies of its watery stream. While musing within its current, we can enjoy its imaginal activation while maintaining practices of staying grounded and focused within earthly matters and responsibilities. As a result we may retrieve glistening jewels of wisdom from its tides rather than becoming lost at sea.

References

Couliano, Ion. (1987). Eros and Magic in the Renaissance. The University of Chicago Press.

Dykes, Benjamin (2017 translation). Dorotheus of Sidon: Carmen Astrologicum, the Umar al-Tabari Translation. The Cazimi Press.

Mercury Retrograde in Leo

Mercury from Hermetic child of Sun and Moon

from Hermetic Child of Sun and Moon (1752)

Mercury Retrograde in Leo

Flower-muscle, slowly pulling open / the anemone’s vast meadow morning, / until the loud sky’s polyphonic light / comes pouring down into its womb,

muscle of infinite reception / flexed in the quiet flower star, / sometimes so overwhelmed by fullness / that the sunset’s call to rest

is scarcely able to give you back / the wide-sprung petal edges: you, / resolve and strength of how many worlds!

We violent ones, we last longer. / But when, in which of all these lives, / are we finally open and receivers?

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

When Mercury stations retrograde its best to honor the stillness of the quicksilver messenger, bringing focused presence to our day and open receptivity to the multiplicity of night. Being ever watchful as Mercury stations helps direct awareness toward opportunities appearing on the horizon as well as previously unnoticed matters on the edge of disarray that need remediation. Mercury is always powerful when stationing and typically dominates the astrological discourse when it does; however, when Mercury stationed retrograde on July 26 it was overshadowed by Mars  being opposite the Sun at the heart of its retrograde phase, as well as the anticipation of a Total Lunar Eclipse in Aquarius climaxing the next day. Being in the middle of eclipses, with a partial solar eclipse in Leo coming on August 11, we can expect more than the usual amount of change in coming weeks. Mercury twinkling in the cooling of sunset, standing still by zodiacal degree, offers us the gift of potent awareness.

Of course, Mercury shifting retrograde really means that Mercury is passing in between our Earth and its orbit with the Sun. Since Mercury becomes closest to us in orbit when retrograde, the star of Hermes becomes a more dominant force to contend with amongst the daily transits. Though Mercury retrograde has taken on overly negative projections in popular culture that are false exagerrations, it is true that there is a cunning, elusive quality of Mercury that can be difficult for many to negotiate with. The star of Hermes becomes a crafty, artful leader in life when retrograde, with a wily and procreative quality that was deftly teased by Karl Kerenyi in the following passage:

With Hermes as leader in life- so the classical tradition teaches us- the world receives a special nuance, the Hermetic accent as we have become acquainted with it. This Hermetic aspect is thoroughly empirical, and it remains within the realm of a natural experience of the world. The sum total of pathways as Hermes’ playground; the accidental “falling into your lap” as the Hermetic material; its transformation through finding-thieving- the Hermetic event- into a Hermetic work of art, which is also always something of a tricky optical illusion, into wealth, love, poetry, and every sort of evasion from the restrictions and confinement imposed by laws, circumstances, destinies- how could these be mere psychic realities? They are the world and they are one world, namely, that world which Hermes opens to us.

The reality of the Hermes world proves at least the presence of a standpoint from which it is revealed; more than that, it testifies to something active that is not merely revealing itself from that standpoint, but that is ever again suddenly present and drives the world to give concrete expression to the Hermetic works of art and illusion. The source of this experience and configuration of the world … is Hermes himself. It must possess the complete Hermetic breadth, from the phallic to …  the guidance of souls, an activity that stretches even beyond life.

— Karl Kerenyi, Hermes: Guide of Souls

Though people often curse blunders, mistakes, and the falling apart of possessions linked in the mind with Mercury retrograde, its worth considering the realm opened by Mercury retrograde is not an anomaly but rather something already there, awaiting activation. Indeed, Mercury stations retrograde at least three times a year for three weeks or so, and so the guidance it offers when retrograde is intrinsic to its nature. It’s what makes Mercury, Mercury.  In fact when retrograde Mercury brings an amplified, penetrating focus to research, inner exploration, and the changing of habitual patterns.

Visually, Mercury transitions from being an Evening Star visible at sunset into an invisible phase in which it descends below the horizon, too close to the Sun to be seen. This oracular disappearance from light is called the heliacal setting of Mercury, and will occur on July 30. From this day until Mercury eventually reemerges again into visibility on August 19 as a Morning Star at dawn, Mercury will be taking on its underworld role as a guide of souls, or psychopomp. Mercury is less the fleet footed, super curious social networker in this phase, becoming more plodding, penetrative, intuitive, and facile with symbolic interpretation of the signs we encounter in life. As Marsilio Ficino wrote in Opera:

Mercury has the power to put souls to sleep or waken them with his staff; that is, in some way or another by putting himself into a certain shape, he can dull or sharpen the mind, or weaken or strengthen it, or upset or calm it.

The tricks of changing mind we can feel while Mercury is retrograde may feel frustrating, but if we can stand back and contemplate the bigger picture we will begin to sense an insight we actually needed to bring into our awareness. Dane Rudhyar in The Astrology of Transformation wrote that Mercury “gives mental formulation to the solar will,” seeking “to impersonalize and provide a conceptual foundation- a raison d’etre – for the often unclear (because emotional) urge the would-be individual experiences to live his or her own life.” With Mercury retrograde in the home of the Sun, during a time in which the Leo Sun will become partially eclipsed (August 11), and Mars retrograde will continue to deeply stir desires, the capacity of Mercury to help us discover a purpose within the tumult will be needed medicine.

crowning-39-calcinatio

from The Crowning of Nature

Though the world change swiftly / as the forms in clouds, / all perfected things fall back / to age-old ground.

Over what changes and passes, / wider and freer, / your deep song still hovers, / O god with the lyre.

Pain has not been understood, / love has not been learned,  / and what in death removes us

remains undisclosed. / Alone over the land / song hallows and heals.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

Mercury retrograde in Leo is the second of three retrograde phases in fire signs we will experience in 2018. Previously we experienced Mercury retrograde in Aries from March 22 through April 15, and later in the year Mercury will station retrograde in Sagittarius on November 16. Within a year of regenerating our relationship with the fire signs (consider what houses the fire signs occupy in your chart and related topics), the retrograde of Mercury in Leo is not only at the dead center of the process, but occurs during the most volatile period in astrology this year.  As a result, Mercury retrograde can facilitate breaking down and releasing whatever aspects of our life need clearing to create more space for new growth to take root. The purgation that can come with this Mercury retrograde is amplified due to it occurring in Leo, the sign of the upcoming eclipse as well as the sign forming a polarity to Aquarius, the sign of the recent Lunar Eclipse and the place Mars is currently retrograde in.

One of the advantages Mercury retrograde periods bring is increased capacity to look at things from a new perspective, helping us gain insight toward old issues and realize what aspects of life need support and attention.  The combined influences of Mars retrograde with eclipses makes it more likely than normal that storylines are changing dramatically, and so the extra stirring provided by Mercury retrograde brings to mind the delight Mercury takes in the twist that moves the plot in a surprising direction and creates needed change. Thomas Moore in his book about the Italian Renaissance astrologer Marsilio Ficino brilliantly summarized Ficino’s perspective toward the protean imagination intermixed by Mercury:

Mercury reveals an inner realm of things without depriving them of their concreteness… The most common mode of interpretation, in some circles the only way, is to dissect and analyze, freezing the components of an insight into brittle pieces which are then easy to manipulate. But the crafty sleight-of-hand of Mercury interprets without killing, transforming our view of one image through another…  Since interpretation consists chiefly in discovering new images among the old, the surprise Mercury brings is a new image or a new idea, a gift from the cunning god who knows how to stir the soul…

In Mercury, words are like crystals whose facets are revealed in their turning, in the various perspectives brought upon them. Whatever keeps our ideas and fantasies turning and shifting, eluding our rational grasp and defying conclusive definition, is Mercurial. When we are the deft, interpretive, eloquent secretaries of our own actions and ideas, then we are Mercury; for then we interpret our own minds.

— Thomas Moore, Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino

With Mercury retrograde in the fixed fire sign of Leo, opposite the sign of Aquarius where Mars is retrograde, we are journeying into the subconscious shadow of however we have been creatively self actualizing. Have we been holding back on going after what we want, or have we been taking on too much? What lies at the heart of our ambition, is it a need for attention or power? Or are we passionately in service to an ideal or message we wish to share with others, without need of extrinsic reward or recognition? What sacrifices on behalf of our ideals and community are we willing to make, and how will this impact our personal relationships? How much attention needs to be directed into our intimate relationships, personal space, and private creativity, rather than expressed through mediums into the collective?

In the end all of the challenges faced during Mercury retrograde in Leo will help us not only refine the vision we have of a healthy and fulfilling life, but begin enacting the modifications needed to rebalance whatever has been imbalanced. Whatever inauthentic patterns we have been engaging in will become obvious, opening the opportunity to separate from what we no longer want to engage, realigning in a direction resonant with our core values.

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Transfiguration of Thoth [Squaring the Circle] by Marlene Seven Bremner (2018)

Into the Heart

Here, among the vanishing, be, in the realm of decline  ⁄  be a ringing glass that shatters even as it rings.  ⁄  Be—and know as well the terms of nonbeing,  ⁄  the infinite ground of your inmost vibration,  ⁄  so that, this once, you may wholly fulfill them.

–Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

Mercury will be reborn through its union with the Sun on August 8 at 16º27′ Leo. At this moment of regeneration within Mercury’s synodic cycle, efforts made in contemplation can be rewarded with clarifying insight. Mercury within a degree of the Sun was described by the ancient astrologer Rhetorius the Egyptian as being in the heart of the Sun, and this became known as moment in which Mercury is seated upon the solar throne, strengthened in all things mercurial. Typically we get can get a boost with our Mercury work at this time, or powerful realizations through inner reflection, but overall this is a time to emerge with a purified perspective from all the putrefaction of mind we’ve been experiencing since Mercury stationed retrograde on July 26. This particular inferior conjunction of Mercury is especially powerful and volatile, due to it occurring in between eclipses with Uranus in Taurus stationing retrograde a day before on August 7, and Mercury applying to a square with Jupiter in Scorpio that will perfect a couple days later on August 10.

As Mercury is a mutable planet that takes on the qualities of its aspects in astrology, Mercury near the Sun in Leo likewise takes on the potent heating, drying, clarifying, and inspiring qualities of the Leo Sun. Yet the current Mercury retrograde finds it in the strange climate of eclipses occurring during the Sun’s time in Leo. More significantly, Mercury will unite with the Sun for its fiery rebirth only three days before the Sun is partially eclipsed by the Moon. The shadow that will partially fall across our great solar light is therefore transmitted directly by the quicksilver messenger, just as Mercury is at a “newborn” phase of its cycle more susceptible than normal to other influences.

Marsilio Ficino in Three Books on Life wrote that as the Moon “receives a life-giving power” from the Sun each time it forms a union, “she receives from Mercury in the same place [Mercury is always near the Sun] a force which blends her moistures,” since Mercury has “the virtue of his own transformation into all other planets and by virtue of his many revolutions.” At the time of the inferior conjunction of Mercury, the Moon will be at home in Cancer within the closing, balsamic phase of its synodic cycle.  On August 10/11 the Moon will conjoin Mercury only six hours before the Moon then partially eclipses the Sun on August 11. This brings the regenerated Mercury into deep, stirring contact with whatever hidden material is emerging from the opening and closing of the eclipse gates, including the Total Lunar Eclipse of July 27.

As Mercury moves from 17º Leo where it unites with the Sun back to 12º Leo where it stations direct on August 18, Hermes will be playing its role of alchemical mystic with pleasure, diverting and then refocusing perception on a multiplicity of images and messages to help us sort through the insights revealed by the eclipses. An extra shift coming in the wake of the Leo Eclipse on August 11 will occur when Mars retrograde transitions from Aquarius into Capricorn on August 12. Mars retrograde leaving a whole sign opposition with Mercury retrograde will not make things easy all of a sudden, but it will lower the levels of volatility to a degree. With Mars retrograde in Capricorn while Mercury finishes the final week of its retrograde, we can begin taking action in accordance with whatever insights arose with the rebirth of Mercury.

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El Trovador by Remedios Varo

Mercury Stations Direct

And their feet move  /  Rhythmically, as tender  /  feet of Cretan girls  /  danced once around an  /  altar of love, crushing  /  a circle in the soft  /  smooth flowering grass

— Sappho, translated by Mary Barnard

Mercury stations direct on August 18 or 19, depending upon your time zone, at 11º32′ Leo. Not long after Mercury stations direct, we will also experience the heliacal rising of Mercury on August 19 when it becomes visible again at dawn as a Morning Star. Since ancient times in astrology this has been seen as an oracular moment of Mercury transmitting a message for us to receive. Fittingly for such an ancient spiritual context, Mercury will be stationing direct in Leo closely conjoining the North Node of Neptune.

The planetary nodes of Neptune began shifting back and forth from Cancer (North) and Capricorn (South) into Leo (North) and Aquarius (South) by the 10th century, but by the time of the 1100s they began stabilizing in Leo and Aquarius where they remain today. I was recently watching Joseph Campbell interviewed in The Power of Myth television series, and realized when he waxed poetic about the significance of the shift to the age of the troubadour that he was also speaking about the shift of the North Node of Neptune moving into Leo. Campbell said that the shift that came about in the age of the troubadour was monumental in terms of creating a human ideal for pursuing an authentic life rather than one dictated by the dogmatic authority of church, family, and culture. With the troubadours came the ideal of person to person love that continues into the modern era. Instead of conforming to the dictates of arranged marriage, the sway of the troubadours inspired the ideal of being seized by the soul’s counterpart in a romantic other. People became willing to risk literally burning in the fires of hell, as they were told they would do by authorities, in order to be with their beloved.

With Mercury stationing direct on the North Node of Neptune, the message we receive will involve an essence to embody in our creative actualization. We may feel inspired to sing a new song of heart centered inspiration. We will need to begin finding ways to work with the fecund creative potency emerging from within, integrating it into our identity and relationships. Sweetly, Venus will be at home in Libra and passing through a sextile with Mercury as our valiant messenger finally completes its underworld voyage. Moreover, not only Venus by sextile, but the Moon in Sagittarius by trine will be there to bolster reception of a new creative spirit as Mercury stations direct.

As Mercury resumes forward motion through zodiacal degrees again, Mars will begin stationing direct in Capricorn. Mercury reaches maximum elongation as a Morning Star on August 26 at 16 degrees of Leo, a point in its synodic cycle that Gary Caton in his book Hermetica Triptycha demarcated as an ending to the alchemical retrograde process of Mercury that began on July 11 when Mercury was at maximum elongation as an Evening Star at 17 degrees of Leo. Mars then stations direct two days later on August 28, and as Mars begins to generate some forward momentum, Mercury will leave the “shadow zone” of the degrees it formed its retrograde within on September 2 when it crosses over 24 degrees of Leo.

This means at the end of August we will be wrapping up both the Mercury and Mars retrograde periods, with awareness needed that we will still be dealing with the aftermath of Mars retrograde into October as it makes its way back toward the degree it originally stationed at. When we look back at these months in future years and decades, we are likely to remember it as a time of significant turning. Bear this in mind if things become overheated and rough, for you will have found new strength and realization on the other side of these transits. As a fragment of Sappho, who wrote in the 6th century B.C., still sings:

You may forget but

Let me tell you / that someone in / some future time / will think of us

-Sappho, translated by Mary Barnard

References

Barnard, Mary. (1958). Sappho: A New Translation. U of California Press.

Ficino, Marsilio. (1998). Three Books on Life: A Critical Edition and Translation with Introduction and Notes by Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clark. Tempe: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies.

Kerenyi, Karl. (1976). Hermes: Guide of Souls. Spring Publications.

Moore, Thomas. (1990). The Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino. Lindisfarne Press.

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

Rudhyar, Dane. (1980). The Astrology of Transformation. A Quest Book.

Dionysus and Pisces

Dionysus on the pirate ship

The Dionysus asteroid #3671 recently moved through Pisces in the last month, leading me to explore the connection between Dionysus and Pisces that has been previously established by numerous astrologers.  Writing about a connection between Dionysus and Pisces seems to be prevalent among astrologers influenced by Carl Jung and Depth Psychology, such as Liz Greene in her book The Astrology of Fate, and Kathleen Burt in Archetypes of the Zodiac.  Other astrologers have connected Dionysus to the archetype of Neptune, such as Ariel Guttman and Kenneth Johnson in their book Mythic Astrology.  As the Sun has now entered Pisces, with both Neptune and Chiron in Pisces as we experience a Mercury retrograde cycle initiated by a conjunction between Mercury and Neptune in Pisces, Dionysus is an interesting guide to the Mystery of life for us to consider.

Dionysus is the sub-terranean Zeus and to me he is an interesting lens to focus on how Jupiter ruling Pisces differs from Jupiter ruling Sagittarius.  I do not find fault with astrologers using Neptune as the ruler of Pisces, however, as I have seen skilled astrologers use Neptune with precision in this way.  My personal philosophy regarding astrology rulers is that thoroughly learning a specific school of astrology can reveal significant insight into the connection between the above and the below, but that the subject matter of astrology is so vast that any one frame of astrological reference is unlikely to reveal the complete, ultimate understanding.  Along these lines, I feel Dionysus is a marvelous window into Pisces because his archetype connects with the Pisces traditional ruler of Jupiter, the modern ruler of Neptune, the esoteric ruler of Pluto, and the consideration that Venus is exalted in the sign of Pisces.  In  The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, Roberto Calasso described Dionysus with an air of similarity to Pisces, the last sign of the zodiac that contains all other signs and is the source of all twelve signs:

Dionysus’s line is more obscure . . . only rarely does it emerge from the shadow.  Since he is both snake and bull, all history before Zeus is recalled in him and begins again in him.

–Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, p. 208

In Dionysus we find the mystical and material participation of Pisces with nature, a full engagement and presence with the soul of the world.  In his destruction of form, we see the dissolving and death of Pisces necessary to prepare for the equinox birth of the cardinal sign Aries, the first of the zodiac.  As Joseph Campbell has said, “Dionysus represents sudden inspiration, the energy of life pouring through time and throwing off old forms to make new life . . . the thrust of time that destroys all things and brings forth all things . . . the generative power, thrust out of darkness” (Goddesses, p. 215-216).  Planets in Pisces in a chart can be similar receivers of impulsive and intuitive illumination, and people with ample Pisces energy in their chart can often seem hell-bent on their own self-destruction.  As a Pisces I am used to hearing a polarity of labels from astrologers analyzing my Sun sign, ranging from the profane to the sacred, from critical barbs to accolades.  We are told that Pisces is a sign of genius and madness, and when we aren’t being told we are divine visionaries we are told we are crazy, obsessive, narcissistic, possessed, irrational, deranged, and self-proclaimed martyrs who self-sabotage themselves.  Dionysus embodies all of this and more.

Liz Greene in The Astrology of Fate gave one of the most lucid analyses of the connection between Pisces and Dionysus.  She began by tracing the line of the Great Mother to her Divine Son that connects to the sign of Pisces  across cultures.  Most of us are familiar with the story of Aphrodite and her son Eros escaping from Typhon to become the fish that became the constellation of Pisces, but Greene goes farther back to Phoenicia and the fish cult of the Great Goddess Atargatis who had a fish son Ichtys, who later evolved into the Babylonian fish god Ea.  We can connect these stories of the great mother and her ritually sacrificed divine son to the sign of Pisces through the silvery cord of the Pisces symbol that forever bounds the personality and the soul, the material fish and the spiritual fish.  The soul born out of chaos and the great mother is bound to its source in Pisces, and through the image of the sacrificed divine son we can sense how Pisces is more of a fertilizer of the zodiac than the end of the zodiac, a fecund source embodying aspects of all twelve signs within.

As the son of Zeus it is clear that Dionysus is of divine origins, but his lineage through Zeus is the only constant in the multiple versions of his birth found in myth.  In the most popular version of his story he was the divine son of the mortal Semele by Zeus, others have him as Demeter’s offspring, while many accounts also reveal him as the son of Persephone with her father Zeus.  In The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, Roberto Calasso reveals a spiral conception of Dionysus in which Zeus mates with Persephone and Semele at different times to birth Dionysus, both times in the form of a snake, the form of Goddess.  Calasso wrote that as Zeus, transformed into a snake, pressed his lips against Semele’s, intoxicating her with nectar, that “vine leaves were sprouting up on the bed and there was a sound of drums beating in the darkness” as the “earth laughed” at the moment of his conception (p. 47).  Semele, however, is not your ordinary mortal:  she is the daughter of Cadmus, the hero who brought the alphabet to Greece, and of Harmony, a goddess of concord who some say was the daughter of Aphrodite and Ares.

Semele_Gustave_Moreau_004

This lineage between Semele and Cadmus, the source of the Greek alphabet, is of great importance to the thesis behind The Alphabet Versus the Goddess by Leonard Shlain.  Shlain theorized that Dionysus arose in prominence in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. in Greece in response to the impact of the alphabet on the collective psyche, as rational thought and intellectual theory became elevated in eminence along with the rise of patriarchal gods into positions formerly held by matriarchal goddesses.  A need arose for an irrational god of dance, drunkenness, sex, ecstasy, revelry, madness, tragedy, and dismemberment according to Shlain, who further revealed a connection between Dionysus and another divine son of a mortal woman, Jesus Christ:

For five thousand years following the advent of agriculture, people ardently believed that the Great Mother revitalized the earth, just as she resurrected her beloved son/ lover/ brother each spring.  It is the story of Inanna and Dumuzi, Isis and Osiris, Ishtar and Tammuz, and Aphrodite and Adonis.  In the most sacred ancient rite of the hiero gamos- the sacred marriage- the man was a mortal and the woman was a goddess.  But in Classical Greece, a god arose who had the power to resurrect himself and the earth without the agency of the all-important mother.  The son- a god- resurrected his mother who was merely mortal.  A thousand years after Dionysus, this elemental myth was once again revised.  Mary, the mortal mother of Christ, helplessly witnessed the death of her son in springtime.  Now, only the Father could resurrect His Son.  Dionysus is the crucial link between the myth of Osiris and the story of Christ.

— Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, p. 144

Although the message of Jesus and his portrayal in the Bible differs from some of the images of Dionysus found in myth, Shlain noted that “both Christ and Dionysus were outcast charismatic leaders accompanied by scruffy followers,” that they each “represented the mystic side of human nature,” and that both of them “triumphed over conventional rationality and pragmatism” (p. 147).  Astrologers have also connected both Dionysus and Jesus Christ to the sign of Pisces, some believing that Dionysus was a significant precursor to the Age of Pisces ushered in by Jesus Christ, who some also believe was a Pisces Sun sign with a lot of additional Pisces energy.  For example, there is all of the fish symbolism associated with Jesus and his disciples, and his last meal in which Jesus has his followers drink his blood as wine, and eat his body as bread, is ripe with Dionysian overtones.  In Archetypes of the Zodiac, Kathleen Burt found that both Dionysus and Jesus Christ traveled through the same geographic region and “preached many of the same lessons- humility, resignation, surrender to grace and God’s will, receptivity, honoring the Divine” and that the “issue of dualism which developed during the Age of Pisces with the Dionysius cult is even more strongly apparent in Christianity” (p. 498).   Liz Greene in The Astrology of Fate wrote that “Dionsysos is a sort of shadow-Christ, a Christ with a phallus, for he himself, like Christ, is both victim and redeemer.”   In addition, just as Jesus Christ’s birth became an event celebrated through widespread religious ritual, so was Dionysus the divine son revealed and honored in widespread ancient rituals, including the Eleusis Mystery ritual.  Indeed, in these sacred mysteries Dionysus was a genuine epiphany, a divine revelation initiating participants into “the grounds of existence, that source of consciousness and energy of which we are all manifestations” (Campbell, p. 191).

To me, the story of Dionysus being born from his father, Zeus, connects with the dominant theme of “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” that arose in the Age of Pisces.  This strange birth occurred after a jealous Hera tricked a pregnant Semele into becoming burned to ashes by Zeus, resulting in the fetus of Dionysus becoming salvaged and sewn into the thigh of Zeus.  Since Dionysus was born from both his mother’s womb and his father’s thigh, he became known as the “twice-born” and a symbol of male spiritual initiation.  Joseph Campbell has described the male initiation associated with Zeus birthing Dionysus as “that you get your physical life from your mother, while you get your spiritual culture life, your life as it shall be lived in your society, from your father” (Goddesses, p. 214).  This description by Joseph Campbell of a societal role of spirit and culture aligns with the astrological meaning of the planet Jupiter, and when we focus on the meaning behind Jupiter ruling the sign of Pisces through the lens of Dionysus, we gain a sense of a heart rendering initiation as part of this process.  In ancient times, the Dionysian Mysteries such as at Eleusis were known as an initiation onto the philosophic path, as Plato recorded that Socrates took part in the rituals at Eleusis and found them to be “one of the most illuminating experiences of his career” (Campbell, p. 197; wikipedia).

Many writers have also theorized that there is an initiation lineage going from Jesus back to Dionysus and then to Osiris, as all three figures experience resurrection following dismemberment or crucifixion.  The mystical rebirth from death of Dionysus is central to his role in the mystery traditions that brought an immanent sense of epiphany to participants in the ritual.  This initiation through dismemberment, like the crucifixion of Christ, links Dionysus to the meaning in esoteric astrology behind Pluto as the ruler of Pisces.  In esoteric astrology, Pluto is a first ray planet of destruction like Shiva, bringing freedom to us through a death of form.  Pisces as a sign of duality, a sign in which the personality and soul are separated while bound together, can burn through the flames of Pluto into a soul-centered sense of unity.  Alan Oken through esoteric astrology has taught about the personality of Pisces trying to separate from its deep sense of connection to soul through hedonism, drugs, addictions, and fantasies to no avail, as no more can the Pisces personality escape its soul than can the soul of Pisces break free from its incarnation in human flesh.  There can be a premonition of fear in Pisces of an impending dismemberment or destruction of a cherished hope or ideal that can coincide with cycles of self-destruction and self-sabotage that baffle others.  And yet it can be through the burning ground of these experiences that Pisces experiences a heart opening through the Plutonic destruction of old forms that create a regenerated sense of self.

The many layers of duality found in Pisces can also be found in Dionysus, as Liz Greene and others have noted how he embodies concepts such as redeemer/victim, savior/devourer, yin/yang, intuition/reason, sacred/profane, creative genius/madness, and passionate love/passionate anger.  Yet instead of trying to rationalize this duality, separate the concepts into a bi-polar analysis, we can remember that Dionysus is whole and embodies these concepts integrated together within his holistic self, not separated.  To Liz Greene, the idea that Dionysus embodies an “ecstatic unity with natural, undying life” and a “seeking of union with the divine” that paradoxically mixes “the holy with the vicious and sadistic,” can be explained through his connection to Pisces because in the sign of the fish “these two opposites live side by side” and “each generates the other,” much like the interplay between good and evil.   Joseph Campbell, in noting how the spiritual initiation of Dionysus links him with the divine feminine and leads the initiate into a dissolving of duality, said “this is the condition of the dreamer, and roundabout we see the way of initiation, the way to get past it, to realize your androgyny in the metaphysical sense, and your immortality along with your mortality” (Goddesses, p. 223).

This notion of a metaphysical androgyny connects with Pisces, whose natives often have an integrated sense of their “masculine” and “feminine” sides, and also with Dionysus, who was an androgynous god.  In order to protect the young Dionysus from another dismembering attack from Titans orchestrated by Hera, Dionysus was dressed in female attire and raised as a woman by nymphs.  He grew into a figure that brought women, groups of women, into rapturous states of spiritual ecstasy, and many of his sacred rituals were only open to participation from women.  In an age of gods in which patriarchal figures overtook roles previously given to goddesses, Dionysus emerged as a bearer of the divine feminine and so by connecting him into the sign of Pisces we can add an extra layer of meaning into the exaltation of Venus in Pisces.  The orgiastic sexual release and drunken debauchery that have been associated with some of these rites also connect to the lustful hedonism of Venus and delight in the carnal sense of the body that houses the soul, and the ability of Venus to harmonize euphoria from discord.  The more malificent image of frenzied women ripping apart flesh and limbs into dismemberment aligns with the more destructive side of Venus and the divine feminine, often called a “Dark Goddess” energy like Kali of cutting away, a death in preparation for a birth, a shattering of structure giving space to generate a new form.

However, the connection between Dionysus and Pisces, and the exaltation of Venus in Pisces, has significance beyond the link between the divine feminine and Dionysus:  art, in particular the dramatic arts.  Dionysus was a god of the theater at at time when the theater was a sacred space of religious significance.  Those who still feel this divine passion for the theater in our modern times can be said to be swept up in the spirit of Dionysus, for both the tragic and the comedic masks were sacred to him, and he was associated with a cathartic theater experience:

Drama, the art form combining poetry, music, gesture, and spectacle, arose from Dionysian ritual and is best appreciated by the right brain.  The art of tragedy expresses the irrational nature of Dionysus.  Plays like “Antigone” and “Hamlet” end with the stage littered with corpses, yet tragedy is a most exhilarating form of entertainment.  Why do audiences feel ennobled after witnessing the anguished destinies of “Medea,” “Oedipus,” or “King Lear?”  Why does the hero’s or heroine’s despair transmute into the audience’s exultation? This paradox is at the heart of the Dionysian enigma.

–Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet versus the Goddess, p. 138

Kathleen Burt in Archetypes of the Zodiac made an insightful allusion to Pisces through the shape-shifting nature of Dionysus that took on forms beyond human such as the bull, the lion, and the serpent in the way in which Pisces “is the sign of the actor or the chameleon who can play any role in any stage setting or environment of life” (p. 492).  Burt also noted that her Pisces clients often would appear to her as if they were wearing a tragic mask they would perform through during her sessions with them, with their soul energy present in an underworld beyond the time and space of the meeting place.  Pisces is more apt to reveal and express their soul energy in a safe and sacred space of artistic creation where they will face the darkest depth of their being, for as Liz Greene wrote in The Astrology of Fate “even in artistic creation the experience of death and dismemberment, for Pisces, is an integral part.”  Through art and music a Pisces, or planets in Pisces, can merge the personality with the soul into a channeled release that can imbibe the manifested form with tremendous life force that can inspire an audience into ecstatic depths of joy and agony, into a Dionysian experience.

Dionysus with Maenad and Satyr

The Dionysus Asteroid #3671

  • The asteroid Dionysus #3671 was in Pisces from January 10 –  February 14, 2014.  Dionysus is in Aries from February 15 – April 1, 2014.
  • Dionysus was conjunct Neptune in Pisces from January 11 – 16, 2014
  • Dionysus was conjunct Chiron in Pisces from January 19-24, 2014
  • Dionysus is conjunct Uranus in Aries from February 23 – March 7, 2014.
    • Dionysus will be square both Jupiter in Cancer and Pluto in Capricorn from February 23 – March 12, 2014.
  • The Dionysus asteroid is an “Amor asteroid,” most of which orbit between the Earth and Mars.  Other well known Amor asteroids are Eros #433, Amor #1221, and Nyx #3908.
  • Dionysus asteroid #3671 was discovered on May 27, 1984 by Carolyn and Gene Shoemaker at Palomar observatory.  The Sun was tightly conjunct the North Node of the Moon in Gemini on this day of discovery, and also conjunct Venus at the beginning of Gemini.  Uranus was conjunct the South Node of the Moon in Sagittarius.  Dionysus was retrograde in Scorpio at 2°39′ on its day of discovery.

The meaning of the Dionysus asteroid carries the full archetypal meaning of the mythic Dionysus, so is not limited by an association with Pisces.  However, as Dionysus is a regenerating figure, the fertilizing sign of Pisces which transitions the end of the zodiac to the beginning is a fitting guide into the astrological meaning of the Dionysus asteroid.  Yet the astrological impact of the Dionysus asteroid will shape-shift just like the Dionysus of myth depending upon the astrological sign it transits (for example, Aries at the moment) and aspects it makes (for example, currently becoming conjunct with Uranus and in square to Jupiter and Pluto).  The fact that the Dionysus asteroid was discovered at a time of a Gemini Sun and Venus conjunct the North Node of the Moon in Gemini, with a Sagitarius Uranus conjunct the South Node of the Moon, is certainly another factor to prioritize in analysis, along with Dionysus being retrograde at the beginning of Scorpio when discovered.

There is also an archetypal association between Pluto and Dionysus found in the seminal work Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas, with a different implication than the connection of Dionysus with Pluto through its esoteric rulership of Pisces.  Tarnas in this work tracked outer planet cycles across centuries, and so interpreted mundane events and themes from history through a Dionysian influence during periods of Pluto being conjunct, square, or in opposition to Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and/or Jupiter.  Tarnas discerned a clear “Plutonic-Dionysian archetype” that mixes with other archetypes such as the “Prometheus archetype of rebellion and freedom, creativity, innovation, and sudden radical change” he associated with the Uranus archetype during periods like today with our Pluto and Uranus square, or at other times of a conjunction between Pluto and Uranus like in the 1960s.  Tarnas through extensive historical research across time found that “the Plutonic-Dionysian principle appears to act by compelling, empowering, and intensifying what it touches, with profoundly transformative and sometimes overwhelming destructive consequences” (p. 166).  While I do not mean to suggest we should apply the entire meaning of large Pluto cycles to the Dionysus asteroid, I do think this description of a Dionysus archetype developed by Tarnas can be applied to the transit of the Dionysus asteroid-  since the Dionysus asteroid moves fairly quickly, only taking about a month or so to move through a sign, it will have much more frequent and brief movement and aspects through our natal chart than the plodding Pluto.

Since the interplay of Pluto and Uranus in esoteric astrology has to do with the destruction of old archetypes and the birth of new archetypes, it is interesting to me that the transit of Uranus in Pisces (remember, esoterically ruled by Pluto) that was followed by the current square between Uranus and Pluto has coincided with widespread attention given to trans-gender, gender questioning, and other identities beyond binary definitions of male and female.  While Dionysus is not the most fitting archetype to be the “face” so to speak for such a shift, he is an androgynous and effeminate god whose thrusting, generative impact on collective events does connect with an eruption of intense events unraveling around a shattering of antiquated definitions concerning gender identity.  Since the Dionysus asteroid is moving through Aries this month and will soon be conjunct Uranus and in square to Pluto as well as Jupiter, it will interesting to see what events develop.  One clearly developing story at this time around these issues is Pussy Riot, who have been attempting to stage protests near the Olympic Games in Russia in part to protest homophobic laws and have been on the receiving end of arrests and sadistic beatings by Cossacks while refusing to back down from their protests.  The name Pussy Riot certainly conjures Dionysian images, and their assertive, initiating activism goes well with the application of the Dionysus asteroid to the sign of Aries and a transit to Uranus.

Of course, when writing any article on Dionysus it seems a necessity to at least mention the enormously influential work The Birth of Tragedy in which Friedrich Nietzshce created a compelling contrast between Apollonian and Dionysian impulses and principles in part through an exploration of the dramatic art of tragedy that was sacred to ancient Greek culture.   In contrast to viewing Apollo as a representation of order, harmony, clarity, and reason, Nietzsche described Dionysus as representing chaos, passion, ecstasy, and intoxication.  Along these lines Dionysus is a liberator and a loosener of instinct who dissolves boundaries:  a necessary counterbalance to the Apollo impulse in order to create great art like the Greek tragedy.  Finding the middle way between Dionysus and Apollo is the path toward great art, according to Nietzsche-  in the great tragedies the hero attempts to create an Apollonian order out of the Dionysian chaos, gaining a Dionysian sense that it is impossible to make choices that will change the ultimate balance of the world.  In this way the character of Hamlet, who ultimately chooses non-action in response to his realization of the futility of changing the tragic nature of his scenario, is a Dionysus character to Nietzsche, and it is the great art of such tragedies that gives the audience greater realization into the Dionysian nature of the world (wikipedia).

In lectures Joseph Campbell has analyzed this dichotomy of Nietzsche’s in the sense that while the “Apollonian represents the fascination with that which is in the poignant, passing moment . . . the Dionysian represents identification with the energy that is shattering and bringing forth new forms” (p. 127).  In this way Campbell explained art can take us to a Dionysian state beyond duality, “filled with awe and terror and fascination,” with both “the fear of god” and “the love of god,” because you will not catch “the sense of the mystery, how shattering it is to your whole system and your ideas and everything else, unless you get both senses” (p. 128).

Ever up for a good argument, James Hillman in Mythic Figures asserted that this influential work by Nietschze actually led many astray to a degree, because Hillman believed that Nietzsche was too much under the influence of the Germanic Wotan in his analysis and evocation of Dionysus.  Hillman believed that in both psychiatry and scholarship the Apollonian concepts of “light, order and distance” had been favored over the “emotional involvement” of Dionysus.  Hillman thought that as a result there had been a repression of the Dionysian, and a distorted sense of regarding Dionysus as “inferior, hysterical, effeminate, unbridled, and dangerous,” instead of viewing Dionysus as the “lord of souls,” a status Hillman saw as more fitting for this mythic figure.  Hillman significantly cited Heraclitus as back-up:

Heraclitus pointed out in regard to the obscene Lenean rites of the Dionysian cult that they must be understood in the light of the unity of Hades and Dionysus.  They may not be taken on the literal level of concrete enactment, but have an invisible meaning for the soul in terms of its underworld psychic life. –James Hillman, Mythic Figures

Hillman linked Jung’s exploration of alchemy to the dismemberment of Dionysus, that through a process of “beheading or dissolving the central control of the old king” we enter a state of “activating the pneuma that is distributed throughout the materializations of our complexes,” meaning  that this “dismemberment of central control is at the same time the resurrection of the natural light of archetypal consciousness distributed in each of the organs.”  Thus along these lines it can be possible to add an alchemical dimension to the Dionysus archetype, that according to Hillman is “an initiation into the archetypal consciousness of the body” that makes dismemberment “necessary for awakening the consciousness of the body.”  Hillman saw this alchemical dismemberment as an awareness that can cut through the “habitual ways we have ‘grown up’ and ‘grown together,'” by making us aware of the light found within each distinct part of our body- so it is not really a process, and “not a movement from integreation to dis-integration to re-integration.”  It is more of a loosening that “results in the activation of the psychic life of the organs.”

Centuries before Nietzsche analyzed the dichotomy of Apollo and Dionysus, the 15th Century Renaissance astrologer and philosopher Marsilio Ficino saw Bacchus (Dionysus) and Apollo as the two elements of soul, with Bacchus associated with “Wine” and the “Aroma of Wine,” and Apollo associated with “Music” and “Light” (Moore, p. 77).  In The Planets Within Thomas Moore analyzed Ficino’s elements of psyche through Dionysus:

Dionysos is the god of being-torn-apart; or, put in another way, to be torn apart is to experience the god Dionysos.  Dionysos is the grape crushed and fermented to resurrect as wine, and wine is the god taken into the body, affecting the soul.  Profound paradox can be found in the nature of most deities, but in Dionysos paradox is of the essence . . . Touched by a Dionysian spirit, ego feels the stupor of drunkenness and the pain of dismemberment, but these are only phases in the process of the reestablishment of life . . . Wine, therefore, as an image, is the answer to the hard defensiveness of the narcissistic ego . . . in the psychic realm, one’s base has to be fluid like wine, and it has to support, not stability and security, but multiplicity and movement . . . Ficino makes it clear that Bacchic insanity and illogic are fundamental to the psyche. — Thomas Moore, The Planets Within, p. 80

Drawing from the Platonic tradition, Ficino believed that there is a necessary madness involved in awakening the soul, a certain level of insanity and instability in comparison to what is considered to be normal and sane.  According to Thomas Moore, Ficino saw that “in order to transcend ego concerns and materialistic unconsciousness,” we require “inner figures” that represent specific types of irrational consciousness:  “poet, priest, prophet, and lover” (p.  97).  For example with regards to poetic madness in the Platonic tradition, Moore quoted Ficino as writing that, “many poets compose in madness and afterwards do not know what they have said, as if God had used them as musical instruments” (p. 98).  Dionysus is specifically associated with priestly madness to Ficino, representing the necessity of departing from “logical, literal, normal, reasonable, and linear patterns of thought” in order “to gain  entry to the mysteries of the soul” (p. 103).  Since the soul and psyche does not work through a logic aligned with our “rational” and “reasoning mind,” in order to come to an understanding of the true mysteries of the soul, according to Ficino “it is necessary to move away from ordinary activities and patterns of thought” (p. 104).

According to Moore, Ficino and his friends were fascinated by the secretive nature of the Mystery initiations and the knowledge known only to initiates, and so a necessary priestly madness to Ficino aligned with the concept that the “mysteries revealed through Dionysian, priestly consciousness are the eternal patterns of the psyche, the side of the soul that is godlike rather than human, though through ritual a connection  is established between personal consciousness and a cyclic pattern” (p. 105). In all, to wrap up this summary of various approaches to the Dionysus archetype, all of these concepts can potentially be applied to the meaning of the Dionysus asteroid in transit or the application of Dionysus to the Pisces archetype.  If we notice a time of intensity is aligning with these themes, either through a transit of the Dionysus asteroid or a significant Pisces transit, such as the current transit of the Sun across the placements of both Neptune and Chiron in Pisces, we can  gain a realization that the experience is necessary if we wish to increase awareness of our soul.

Dionysos with Ariadne

From out of the Underworld

An earthy, fertilizing, regenerative sort of god, Dionysus has the ability to descend and ascend from the underworld like only a few other mythic figures (Persephone, Hermes/Mercury, Psyche, Orpheus, Venus as Ishtar/Inanna), in both the role of guiding his mother Semele out of the underworld as well as in a constant role of a god united with the presence of Hades.  This is interesting at this time because on February 15, 2014 the Dionysus asteroid crossed the cardinal axis and Aries point on a significant day of Hermes being in the underworld, as the inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde and the Sun occurred.  In addition, during the time that Venus went into the underworld at the time of her inferior conjunction with the Sun on January 11, 2014, the Dionysus asteroid was significantly conjunct Neptune in Pisces.  After Venus arose from the underworld as the Morning Star around January 17, the Dionysus asteroid entered a conjunction with Chiron in Pisces.  I believe we can also gain insight into the transit of Neptune and Chiron in Pisces through considering how the Dionysus archetype could be involved in our experiences, especially since Chiron in Pisces will be coming into another grand water trine with Jupiter in Cancer and Saturn in Scorpio.  With each of the personal planets taking turns going into an underworld retrograde journey, first Venus and now Mercury, and very soon Mars will take its turn- this plays up the theme of Dionysus being a guide to our soul and an archetypal figure who can take us into the underworld and guide us back out regenerated.

In order to give some natal chart examples using the Dionysus asteroid, I am going to begin by focusing on the link between Pisces and Dionysus through two Pisces Sun sign musical figures who I have thought for a long time embody the link between Dionysus and Pisces:   Lou Reed (who I previously wrote about  here) and Kurt Cobain (who I previously wrote about  here). There is an androgynous side to each in how they projected themselves into our culture, and each had a shattering impact on popular culture in a Dionysian manner.  Although Lou did not have an immediate impact as far as huge amounts of financial success goes, he influenced countless individuals who eventually created the Punk Rock movement of the 1970s that correspondingly influenced the musical development of Kurt Cobain.  Kurt Cobain, however, had a true Dionysian impact on popular culture in an immediate, immanent manner, completely dismantling the structure and form of commercial, popular music at the beginning of the 1990s during a conjunction between, of course, Uranus and Neptune.  Does the Dionysus asteroid show up as significant in their birth charts?  Yes:

  • Kurt Cobain had Dionysus retrograde in Cancer at 24 degrees conjunct Jupiter retrograde in Cancer at 26 degrees, in trine to his Venus, Saturn, and Chiron in Pisces and also in trine to his Neptune in Scorpio, creating a Grand Water Trine.
  • Lou Reed had Dionysus in Pisces at 27 degrees opposite his Neptune retrograde in Virgo at 29 degrees.  His Dionysus was sextile his Taurus stellium of Saturn, Uranus, Mars, and the true node of Black Moon Lilith.

Kurt Cobain had a meteoric rise to fame after experiencing many challenging experiences in the first twenty or so years of his life, at times surrounded by madness and required to survive on his own just like Dionysus.  His Dionysian love of art and excesses with intoxication at times has been well-documented, as well as his tragic ending in dismemberment.  The Dionysus asteroid was active in Kurt’s chart at the time of his passing, as on the day of his death it was transiting the end of Aquarius conjunct his Sun- this means that in the aftermath of his death with the extraordinary public outcry that followed, the Dionysus asteroid would have been conjunct his Pisces Sun.  There is a thrusting, generative power to Kurt’s voice and guitar playing, an immanent presence of power that magnetized youth not only across the United States of Amercia, but around the world.  He was difficult for some to understand, a seeming paradox of personality traits that make perfect sense through the lens of Dionysus.  He was also deeply understood by many, including many youth still to this day, not unlike a Dionysian cult he could incite to heights of ecstasy through his music.  There was also a Dionysian element in his tradition of destroying the material elements of his performances:

Lou Reed had his own shocking experiences associated with gender and sexual identity, as he was given electroshock treatment to “cure” his homosexual longings as a teenager, and he later had a relationship with a trans-sexual woman that was shocking to mainstream American culture.  Everything about the way in which Lou thrust himself into the national music scene of the 1960s was shattering, from the abrasive sound of his guitar and feedback, to his lyrics detailing the lives of inner city inhabitants defined as “sordid” by the mainstream perspective.  Moreover, through his initially strong association with Andy Warhol, he found himself writing beautiful lyrics for the Germanic chanteuse Nico and performing on stage in a Dionysian production of throbbing lights, projected cinema, and dancers jumping and prancing around in revelry, some cracking whips.  There was also a paradoxical duality to Lou’s music that he transcended into the unity of his own personal style, that could veer between screeching blasts of guitar with a soul dance beat, to melodious harmonies of tender and intimate lyricism.  During the time of the Dionysus-themed events documented by Richard Tarnas in Cosmos and Psyche in the late 1960s when Pluto was conjunct Uranus in Virgo and Lou Reed’s music and presence was gaining greater notoriety on the national stage, Pluto and Uranus would have been opposite his Dionysus asteroid in Pisces and conjunct his Neptune in Virgo.  A true Dionysian activation, indeed.

Two other figures that came to my mind in connection with making a Dionysian impact on popular culture during the 1960s who are not Pisces Sun signs, are Bob Dylan and John Lennon.  In the time leading up to the conjunction between Pluto and Uranus in the 1960s, Bob Dylan and John Lennon developed a rivalry of sorts as to who was the voice of their generation, as each had a shattering impact on the collective psyche in a different way, but in a manner in each case that was Dionysian.  Neither was the most skilled musician or in possession of the most melodious voice- instead there was a primal power that each channeled through their voice and guitar, along with a lyrical sense that struck audiences around the world on a soul level.  Is the Dionysus asteroid significant in the charts of Bob Dylan and John Lennon?  Of course.  They also have a connection of both having Dionysus conjunct Pluto, the esoteric ruler of Pisces:

  • Bob Dylan, or Robert Zimmerman as he was born, has his Dionysus asteroid closely conjunct his Chiron at 28 degrees of Cancer, also conjunct his Pluto at 3 degrees of Leo.
  • John Lennon  had a 3-4 degree Leo Dionysus that is conjunct his Pluto at 4-5 degrees in Leo, and exactly opposite his Aquarius Moon at 3-4 degrees (all square to his Scorpio Mercury at 8-9 degrees).

Again, the idea that Dylan was not the most talented musician in the world but was able to channel extraordinary energy and power into his performances, combined with lyrics that connected with a generation on a deep soul level, aligns him with the Dionysus archetype, doubly so since he had a conjunction between his Dionysus asteroid and his Pluto.  After his rise to stardom as a folk star, Dylan shape-shifted in a Dionysian manner into a new electric persona that brought him even greater fame and an intense touring schedule that led him into excessive drug use and an exhausted mind-frame that seemed to be focused at times on his own self-destruction.  In the video below, I’ve included footage from the movie I’m Not There, because the director Todd Oldham made the brilliant choice to cast actress Cate Blanchett as the Dylan of this electric, drug-infused time period, giving an air of androgyny to the character that re-inforces the Dionysian quality.  After an excerpt from the movie, the video below then shifts into actual footage of the real Dylan being interviewed in December of 1965 at the heart of the conjunction between Uranus and Pluto in Virgo, a time of Dionysus.  A number of Dionysian themes reveal themselves in these exchanges:

This “incarnation” of Dylan ended in a motorcycle accident in which he ultimately re-birthed himself again into pop culture with a different identity and presence.  On the day of the crash, July 29, 1966, the transiting Dionysus asteroid was closely conjunct transiting Jupiter in Cancer (Dionysus at 17º31′ and Jupiter at 18º20′ Cancer), both widely conjunct his natal Dionysus and Chiron conjunct in Cancer at 28 degrees.   Interestingly, this also happened to be the time of an inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde and the Sun that was also conjunct Dylan’s Pluto- this transit of course sticks out more so to astrologers, but it is still nonetheless fascinating that the Dionysus asteroid was also part of this.  It also means that Hermes, the more “rational” guide of souls in the underworld was working with Dionysus, the more “irrational” guide of souls in the underworld at this time, archetypally.   In the aftermath of this accident, Dylan would have had his Dionysus return through asteroid transit.  Ultimately, in pop culture he also had a Dionysus return into a new form, first appearing with the more Biblical inspired John Wesley Harding and then a few years later as practically a country music star doing duets with Johnny Cash.  The song “All Along the Watchtower” was recorded on the first album he released following his motorcycle crash- it contains the lyrics, “Businessman, he drinks my wine / ploughman digs my earth” that evokes a sense of Dionysus.

In contrast to the solitary figure of Bob Dylan,  John Lennon was seen as the leader of  The Beatles when they first came to America.  Recently American pop culture was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the night The Beatles played live on The Ed Sullivan Show, an event that to everyone who was alive at the time seems indescribable in the excitement and impact created by John Lennon and his mates.  In these early days of their impact upon American culture, The Beatles embodied Dionysian themes in part through driving women into a frenzy, practically needing security protection at points to keep mobs of women from devouring them.   In American public performances they were usually not even able to hear one another on stage because of the loud female screaming.  In his natal chart, the opposition between John’s natal Pluto in Leo and Moon in Aquarius usually generates attention from astrologers, but adding in the fact that the Dionysus asteroid is so tightly opposite his Moon and conjunct his Pluto adds an interesting dimension to this aspect.  Like Bob Dylan, the fact Lennon came into prominence during a Dionysian time of a Pluto and Uranus conjunction reinforces the Dionysian theme of him having the Dionysus asteroid conjunct his Pluto.  Being opposite his Aquarius Moon, I feel the Dionysus asteroid also adds in some meaning to how Lennon’s physical appearance shape-shifted over time, beginning with him becoming a star whose hair was judged as “too long” and “effeminate” to a star who truly grew his hair long in the end, by the end of the 1960s appearing with a look evoking traditional images of Jesus Christ, another Dionysian figure.  In addition, John  Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono at this time was also categorized by some as a sort of Great Mother/Divine Son dynamic.

In conclusion, whether you have the Dionysus asteroid in a prominent place in your natal chart or not, exploring the Dionysus archetype can still shed illuminating light on current experiences, particularly from the perspective of Richard Tarnas that aligns Dionysus with Pluto-  we are in a square between Pluto and Uranus, an opposition between Pluto and Jupiter, and in another month we will have a cardinal grand cross involving Pluto, Uranus, Jupiter, and Mars.  In addition, through the link between Dionysus and Pisces we can consider how his themes could be informing the current transits of Neptune and Chiron through Pisces.  On an even grander scale, although there is a lot of talk of the Age of Aquarius, we are still in the Age of Pisces, and the archetype of Dionysus is deeply connected to this age, in fact in many ways it could be called an Age of Dionysus.  Exploring Dionysus to a deeper level, as he is a deeply complex archetype I have barely begun to address through this post, will help all of us gain greater insight into the Age of Pisces we are living through in these intense times.

Dionysus statue

References:

Burt, Kathleen. (1996). Archetypes of the Zodiac. Llewellyn.

Calasso, Roberto. (1993). The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony.  Knopf.

Campbell, Joseph. (2013).  Goddesses: Mysteries of  the Feminine Divine. Edited by Safron Rossi, PhD. New World Library.

Greene, Liz. (1984).  The Astrology of Fate. Weiser Books.

Guttman, A. & Johnson, K. (1993). Mythic Astrology:  Archetypal Powers in the Horoscope.

Hillman, James. (2007). Mythic Figures. Spring Publications, Inc.

Shlain, Leonard.  (1998).  The Alphabet versus the Goddess:  the conflict between Word and Image.  Viking.

Tarnas, Richard. (2007). Cosmos and Psyche. Plume.

Mercury Retrograde at the Gate of Neptune

water nymph by John Collier

Mercury stations conjunct Neptune in Pisces

  • Mercury stations retrograde on February 6, 2014 at 3º20′ conjunct Neptune in Pisces (Neptune will be at 4°25′) at 1:43 pm PST.

  • Mercury returns to Aquarius on February 12 having been between zero and four degrees of Pisces from January 31 – February 11 (take note people with planets between 0 – 4 degrees of Mutable signs).

  • Inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde and the Sun on February 15, 2014 at 27º4′ of Aquarius.  This inferior conjunction will be square Saturn in Scorpio and in trine to Mars in Libra.

    • Full Moon the day before the Inferior Conjunction at 26°13′ of Aquarius and Leo.

  • Mercury stations direct on February 28, 2014 at 18º9′ of Aquarius.

  • Mercury leaves its retrograde shadow zone on the Equinox of March 20, and will be exactly conjunct Neptune at 6°02′ of Pisces on March 22, 2014.

“The Water Nymph” painting above is by an artist, John Collier, with an interesting connection to this astrological moment- he was born in 1850, the last time Neptune was in Pisces at its current area of Pisces, and he also was born with an Aquarius Mercury in the same place as the upcoming inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde and the Sun.  To me, the “nymph” in the image is completely absorbed into nature, her natural surroundings, the Soul of the world, opening her to a direct connection with Spirit.  While this connects with Mercury conjunct Neptune in Pisces, so does her gazing at her reflection in the water connect with a Mercury retrograde cycle beginning in Pisces.  During Mercury retrograde we have the opportunity to reflect upon our perceptions, imaginings, and just exactly where are thoughts are coming from.  This can be an internal experience, but we will most likely get a sense of how our inner dynamics are operating through our relationship to the outer world and interactions with others, including conflicts.  There are astrological signs we will experience challenges in the external world at this time, as calming as Mercury stationing retrograde conjunct Neptune in Pisces may sound.  This is because Mercury stationing retrograde happens at a first quarter Moon of Taurus at 19 degrees that is especially intense, as the Aquarius Sun and Taurus Moon forms a t-square with Saturn in Scorpio at 23 degrees.  This is happening simultaneous to the other big t-square of Cancer Jupiter opposite Venus and Pluto in Capricorn, all in square to Uranus in Aries.  Beginning on February 6, we will be facing these challenges with Mercury descended to the underworld, acting as the Psychopomp guide of our souls.

The Sabian symbols as interpreted by Dane Rudhyar give us a clear warning for this upcoming Mercury retrograde- desires and thoughts not aligned with Soul and Spirit, or Source (or Gods, Goddesses, God, what have you) will not only crash on a wave of disillusionment but may bring significant karmic repercussions to not just ourselves but the wider collective of our world.  The Sabian symbol for Mercury stationing retrograde is “heavy car traffic on a narrow isthmus linking two seashore resorts,” while the symbol for Neptune at this time is “a church bazaar.” Huh? Well, Rudhyar explains the isthmus traffic jam as a relic of the fact that the Sabian symbol transmissions went down in the San Diego, California area where such structures exist.  Since traffic jams are an astrological stereotype connected to Mercury retrograde periods, this may make sense, but the meaning of this symbol is much deeper.  Part of the meaning is a “traffic jam” of thoughts and information, as anyone who has been on social media is familiar with.  Thoughts have always been viral, with any thought carrying the potential to become swept up into the whirlwind of the collective zeitgeist and infecting multitudes, with many not even aware of how their previous thoughts have been shifted by the new viral thought pattern.  However, social media and things like facebook have made this phenomenon more extreme- facebook in particular being problematic as its feedback mechanism circulates posts from people you have “liked,” so the tendency is a feedback loop of people with similar perspectives or interests.  Rudhyar notes in the symbol that the sea surrounding the isthmus of traffic “stresses the collective nature of social experiences and of what may appear to be ‘individual’ achievements” (p. 271).

Rudhyar also highlights words such as “commerce and social interactions in a new form,” and “the need to establish unceasing dynamic relationships between all aspects and functions of the social life” (p. 270-1).  There is a danger in establishing new forms of interactions and relationships if we are not discerning, however, as the “church bazaar” symbol for Neptune connects with the social fabric of religions, the Church, or any group coming together for a spiritual purpose, from the New Age to the old.  The Neptune/Mercury/Pisces danger is that these social groups create a code of being that “justifies human behavior by blessing it with a divine Revelation of what is good and valuable” (Rudhyar, p. 271).  Spiritual doctrine guiding “right human relations” is valuable, however, there is also a Neptune trap of individuals justifying or rationalizing their behavior because of a belief it is of divine origin, or what God wants them to do, when in actuality it is more about their own selfish desire at the bottom line.  This is an important aspect of the Neptune archetype developed by Jeff Green in his soul-focused Evolutionary Astrology:  that while Neptune can help us spiritualize our life and connect with a timeless sense of ultimate meaning, we can also project delusional beliefs concerning ultimate meaning and can deceive ourselves and others that our selfish, separating desires are connected to Divine Will.

I see this connecting to the Sabian symbol for where Mercury is stationing direct at 19 Aquarius, “a forest fire is being subdued by the use of water, chemicals, and sheer muscular energy.”  As Rudhyar analyzed, forest fires can often be caused by humans and their modern inventions of technology, the tools of commerce and communication referenced in the Sabian symbol for where Mercury stationed retrograde.  And yet, at the same time the dynamic capacity humans have for communication and ingenuity can help us recover from disasters and come to the aid of life in danger of eradication.  Along these lines, the dynamic modes of communication indicated by the stationing symbol could also relate to us coming into contact with like-minded people, groups of people, on a global level, using technology to connect with others across great distances.  However, as Rudhyar noted in his analysis, the stationing degree symbol for Mercury indicates we will have our “strength, ingenuity or emotional stability” tested at this time, and that with faith we will have to draw from every resource available- “emotional, mental, physical” (p. 261).  Thus, whatever collective calamities will be arising that many of us are partially responsible for, we can use this Mercury retrograde cycle to re-formulate ourselves and prepare for the challenging times ahead, connecting with others who will be mutually benefit supports with us.  The Sabian symbol for the inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun is aligned with this idea:  “a tree felled and sawed to ensure a supply of wood for the winter.”  I feel this line of analysis from Rudhyar is very pertinent for now:  “In meeting the hardships inherent in an existence close to nature, strength, efficiency and intelligence are needed, but they are incorporated in a life in which every act can be part of a harmonic and beautiful ritual permeated with deep significance” (p. 266).  The more we can use this Mercury retrograde to go within, to question and discern our thoughts and perceptions and their source, the better.  The more we can sense and feel the soul of everything, everyone, everywhere we go in our daily experiences, the more we can connect with the correct current of Neptune for us to float down during this retrograde.  Neptune transits can be confusing, and so a Mercury retrograde cycle initiated by Neptune in Pisces sounds like perhaps the most disorienting of all: yet while these Sabian symbols and the deeper meaning of the astrology do suggest we need to be discerning in navigating through a Pisces fog, there is at the same time a tremendous inner resource available for us to cultivate with work that will help us persevere through the challenging times ahead on the horizon.

Mercury is traditionally not seen as operating smoothly in Pisces, since Pisces is the opposite sign of Virgo that is ruled by Mercury.  While Virgo embodies incredible tools and techniques for smooth, clear, and effective communication, Pisces still carries its own unique gifts into Mercury.  However, keeping the “viral” idea of thoughts in mind is important for Pisces, a sign that can be overly sensitive to its environment (and why Pisces people usually sense on their own when they need to take some time to themselves away from the thoughts of others).  Spending time going within is key now- reflecting, meditating, whatever will help us re-center and realize whether or not our desires are coming from an authentic affinity for soul and spirit or if instead they are being manipulated by outside sources or overly selfish desires. Mercury in Pisces is more intuitive and poetic than it is in other signs, perhaps open to misinterpretation but capable of expressing incredible emotion, perceiving and communicating the essence of the soul embedded in every aspect of our environment.  Looking at a list of people with Mercury in Pisces is a look at genius in a variety of fields:  Dane Rudhyar, Rudolph Steiner, Charles Darwin, Copernicus, Gallileo, Bach, Houdini, James Joyce, Stephane Mallarme, Charles Baudelaire, Milan Kundera, Roberto Assagioli, Kurt Cobain, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Harry Belafonte, Auguste Renoir, and Piet Mondrian.  Creating a structure or form for Mercury in Pisces is absolutely vital, however, so that there is a way to communicate the insights a Pisces Mercury can perceive in a form other people can understand.  This Mercury retrograde will be an opportune time to create a daily practice of some form where we can process our experience.  This sort of practice can be even more beneficial given that Venus has recently stationed direct and is now moving forward back across her retrograde shadow zone.  In fact, on the same day of Mercury’s Inferior Conjunction with the Sun-  February 15, 2014-  Venus will be shining at her peak level of brightness as the Morning Star.

Botticelli-primavera

The Botticelli painting above, commonly called “La Primavera” or “Allegory of Spring,” contains two pivotal archetypal figures of this astrological time, Mercury on the far left pointing toward the celestial heavens, and Venus honored in the center.  The Botticelli painting above is also fitting for this Mercury retrograde because Mercury will not leave its retrograde shadow zone until the Northern Hemisphere’s Spring Equinox of March 20, 2014 (the Autumn Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere- but Botticelli lived in the Northern Hemisphere).  In his extraordinary book The Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino, Thomas Moore analyzed this work through the soul-focused perspective of Marsilio Ficino, a Renaissance astrologer and philosopher who had an enormous influence over Bottitcelli.  Moore wrote that Mercury “looks to the clouds, not because he has no place in the scene or is not interested in life’s graces, but because it is his office and function to see behind the facade of things, to find the significance and value which lay hidden in the folds of ordinary existence” (p. 142).  Moore also elaborated at depth on how this image embodies the perspective of Ficino that Venus is both an earthly and celestial goddess, concluding that “Venus leads the soul into the body and through the body to spirit.  From spirit, to body, back to spirit” (p. 142).  Ficino saw spirit as being like the “fire of the stars,” and intrinsically connected to soul, emphasizing the importance of imagination in finding our path and calling in the world (p. 49).  Moore wrote that Ficino valued imagination because it “allows of a vision that penetrates the surface of things and grasps those factors that have significance for the psyche” (p. 50).  With Mercury retrograde descended to the underworld at this time, our imagination will be an important skill to use in our daily life because Mercury in this soul-guide role will open us to perceiving information in dreams, omens, synchronicity, and other signs we will pass on a daily basis.

Although there is potential for us to find our path through allowing ourselves to be guided by soul during this Mercury retrograde, Ficino like many other spirit guides from history emphasized the importance of self-awareness and getting to know one’s self on a deep level:

Whoever discovers his own genius through the means we have stated will thus find his own natural work, and at the same time he will find his own star and daimon.  Following these beginnings he will do well and live happily.  Otherwise, he will experience misfortune and feel the enmity of heaven.

–Marsilio Ficino, The Planets

Mercury retrograde in Pisces conjunct Neptune at this time, with Venus slowly moving direct conjunct Pluto in Capricorn, are two celestial configurations to draw from in opening our perception to the Soul of our surroundings and a connection with Spirit.  Venus in particular can help us get into touch with our soul through our body and physical surroundings at this time, as she is still close to Pluto after her long retrograde journey.  However, both being personal planets that are highly charged at the moment, they are also both pivotal archetypes to utilize at this time for deep internal reflection and gaining a deeper awareness for what is going on in our inner relationship with our Self.  Indeed, Venus is opposite Jupiter in Cancer at this time, and Jupiter is the traditional ruler of Pisces where Mercury is stationing retrograde.  Jupiter in Cancer is also retrograde in a Water sign like Mercury, so going into our emotions at this time can be very fruitful and revealing.  We will want a practice of some sort to access this information- it can be contemplative like taking some time to simply breathe or meditate, or it can be more active like playing music, creating art, or writing.

Venus is a potent ingredient to this Mercury retrograde not just because she is currently conjunct Pluto and opposite Jupiter, however, but also because at the beginning of the Mercury retrograde she is ruling the transiting South Node in Taurus.  Significantly, in the days leading up to Mercury stationing direct, the lunar nodes will switch signs with the South Node becoming Aries, and the North Node becoming Libra. As a result, when Mercury stations direct Venus will have become the ruler of the transiting North Node of the Moon.  This is another sign of an important bridge at this time between our own individual experience with the wider collective experience-  take the responsibility to create the life you want to live, instead of wasting energy through complaining about what other people are doing.

Rudolf Steiner pencil sketch

Aquarius Alchemical Vessel

The inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde and the Sun will be at 28 degrees of Aquarius on February 15, but will still carry overtones from the retrograde initiation of Mercury conjunct Neptune in Pisces.  The above pencil sketch was drawn by astrologer and philosopher Rudolph Steiner, who was born with Mercury conjunct Neptune in Pisces and is a good example of the sort of limitless perception a Pisces Mercury-Neptune combination is capable of embodying.  Relevant to the meaning of Mercury retrograde, Steiner once said,  “Thinking … is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear.  Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.”  He also wrote Mystery plays with titles fitting to this Mercury retrograde:  The Portal of InitiationThe Souls’ ProbationThe Guardian of the Threshold and The Soul’s Awakening.  The upcoming inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun will be in Aquarius, however, a sign with a very different energy than Pisces.   Aquarius is the water bearer, but the water borne by Aquarius is illuminating and purifying, more of a cleansing energy than the fertile waters of Pisces that can get us rather muddy.   The inferior conjunction is like the New Moon for Mercury and the Sun, a new point of conception for our Mercury function and archetype in the world.   In contrast, the time leading up to this inferior conjunction, from February 6-14, will be more like a Balsamic Moon for Mercury, a time of releasing old thought forms, patterns, and embedded concepts in preparation for the new Aquarius vision to come after February 15.  We can feel confused at this time if we are insisting on being overly logical or rational, because the more “irrational” or unconscious mode of perception will be open to a greater extent, with information arising around us in dreams, signs, and symbols.

The inferior conjunction happening in Aquarius is perfect for a new vision, and the fact Mercury will re-enter Aquarius a few days before will help us objectify and detach from old thought forms in order to clear them for good.  Saturn is the traditional ruler of Aquarius, and Saturn in Scorpio will be very significant in this time period as the inferior conjunction will be in square to Saturn in Scorpio, and when Mercury finally stations direct on February 28, Saturn will be stationing to turn retrograde a few days later on March 3.  In addition, during the Mercury retrograde there will be a lunar occultation of Saturn in Scorpio on February 21.   Saturn has correlations in astrology to the alchemical process in association to the lead or base of conscisousness, a darkness that paradoxically contains its own light and gold.  This is the Jungian idea that by going into our darkness and shadow, we can alchemize and heat up our inner spark of gold- in this case events associated with transiting Saturn in Scorpio.  Aquarius will lend it’s penetrating insight to this inferior conjunction of Mercury as well as Mercury’s eventual stationing direct at the end of February, a perceptual awareness that can detach from emotional compulsions and can facilitate us liberating ourselves from habitual patterns of thought that have been limiting us.  We can use Aquarian insight to help us structure our own alchemical vessel within, mindful of the concept in verse 10 of the Tao Te Ching in which Lao Tzu states that “Clay is moulded to form a vessel, but it is the emptiness inside that gives the vessel its use.”   If you prefer to use Uranus as the ruler of Aquarius like most modern astrologers, then you don’t need to look farther than Uranus in Aries being in a t-square to Cancer Jupiter and Capricorn Pluto/Venus at this time for the star fire to heat your alchemical vessel.  No matter what your rulership perspective is, however, there is more than enough star fire going around in various transits to heat  your experiences into greater clarification.

While a square from Saturn in Scorpio to the Sun and Mercury in Aquarius may sound intense, there is also a tradition that there is sympathy in the square between Aquarius and Scorpio because they “see” one another as a result of being signs of equal power.  I recently watched an excellent webinar by Seattle astrologer Kate Petty called “Reflections Across the Cardinal Axis” that is available from Kepler College in which she very clearly illustrated this ancient concept if anyone is interested in learning more about this (basically it has to do with the fact that Scorpio and Aquarius are equi-distant signs from the Solstice, or Capricorn/Cancer axis).  In addition, since Saturn is the traditional ruler of Aquarius there is an affinity here, and with Saturn being in Scorpio we can add in a soul-focus to this affinity that connects to the humanitarianism of Aquarius.  There will also be a trine from Mars in Libra to the inferior conjunction in Aquarius of Mercury and the Sun, which will give us an opportunity to link our new vision into social justice concerns and issues, or into the development of new relationships.  Mars will be stationing retrograde in Libra immediately following Mercury stationing direct in Aquarius, and so this trine between Mars and the Mercury inferior conjunction is a powerful omen of an auspicious link between the two cycles to take advantage of for an increased self-awareness that will ultimately help us face oppressive conditions and other issues related to social justice in the collective global community.

Saturn in Scorpio is a karmic placement not unlike the deities Kali and Mahakala, and Saturn will suffer no fools at this time.  As a result, if we are operating from some delusional beliefs or selfish desires we will no doubt have something loudly and boldly thrown in our face, so to speak, or experience profound disillusionment from within.  If our imagination becomes activated, we will no doubt face tests of whether we are perceiving true or fabricated imaginal thought; likewise, if we feel a spiritualization occurring we will face tests of whether we are perceiving a true or fabricated connection to spirit.  Avoid clinging to denial out of defensiveness at this time and be open to questioning any beliefs or thoughts you have been operating from.  As Scorpio and Aquarius are both fixed signs, if we are unwilling to shift or flow with the current of our life we will add fuel to the fire of conflict arising around us.

Moon pamela colman

Leo Full Moon squares Scorpio Saturn

Prior to the inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun we will have a huge build up of energy with a  Leo Full Moon occurring on the previous day, in square to Saturn in Scorpio.  If you haven’t been paying attention, that means Feburuary 14, the traditional “Valentine’s Day” of romantic fantasy and illusion in our culture.  Perfect, right.  Remember that as we approach this build of energy that Mercury is in the underworld guiding our soul experiences and so we will want to attune to and align with the signs arising around us indicating the path forward.  This is a powerful lunar cycle:  the New Moon began the day before Venus stationed direct conjunct Pluto and opposite Jupiter, and then the Full Moon happens the day before the inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun, all in square to Saturn in Scorpio.  I feel having some strong Leo lunar energy at this time will be a true blessing of the goddess, as we will be saturated so much in Aquarius and Scorpio energy.  This will be an important time for self-love and to pamper yourself like you would a lover; if you are lucky enough to have a true lover in your life, this can of course be a mutual experience.  Just don’t get caught up in the blown-up romantic expectations of our cultural Valentine’s Day driven by selfish corporations who want you to purchase their ethically questionable chocolate.  If we have been behaving in an overly selfish manner, or projecting our opinions and desires in an unbalanced way into our environment in order to over-compensate for inner wounding or lack of true confidence, the Leo Full Moon may illuminate these issues strongly through the  square from Saturn in Scorpio.

7th Harmonic

7th Harmonic in February

Finally, I briefly want to comment upon how a 7th Harmonic could possibly be affecting your natal chart at this time.  The above diagram was drawn by Olympia astrologer Rosie Finn, who has taught my information concerning the 7th Harmonic.  The seven pointed star you can see above is activated in February by Mercury stationing with Neptune in Pisces, Venus stationing with Pluto in Capricorn, and Saturn in Scorpio- the other missing points are 26 Aries, 17.5 Gemini, 9 Leo, and 0.5 Libra.  You can look for transits to these points, or perhaps they are active in your natal chart through an aspect of some manner.

The 7th Harmonic is a strange harmonic, made up of septiles (51.5 degrees), bi-septiles (103 degrees), and tri-septiles (154.5 degrees).  I’ve learned from Rosie that these septiles can involve magical creativity and vision, a mystical sense of information descending from another realm, or a transfiguration.  They have an energy similar to the dissolving of boundaries and transcendence of “normal” reality that we often associate with Neptune and a Mercury retrograde period initiated by a conjunction of Mercury and Neptune in Pisces.  The 7th Harmonic can be highly creative and spiritual, can appear weirdly anomalous and difficult to occur naturally.  In a class one time Rosie gave Beethoven as an example of someone with a strong 7th Harmonic who created highly spiritual art yet also had to persist through the pain and suffering of being deaf (in contrast to Mozart who had a strong 5th Harmonic).  The bi-septile and tri-septile aspects of the 7th Harmonic stress the importance of integrating creativity into our purpose and process and making the necessary adjustments to manifest the inner revelations of this process and purpose back out into the external world. As the 7th Harmonic is a strange one, this isn’t exactly easily done.  However, anyone having experiences resonating with this description will be able to draw upon this Mercury retrograde process at this time to make the inner adjustments necessary to ultimately express whatever epiphany is being experienced within.

References

Moore, Thomas. (1990). The Planets Within: the astrological psychology of Marsilio Ficino. Lindisfarne Press.

Rudhyar, Dane. (1973). An Astrological Mandala: the cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases.  Vintage.