Saturday, September 27, 2014

Reestablishing Trust and Equilibrium: Mercury Retrograde in Scorpio/Libra

"Mercury with caduceus" on ceiling mural
Allegory of the Planets & Continents (1752)
by Tiepolo (1696-1770),
Würzburg Residence, Germany

Every three months the planet Mercury turns retrograde—that is to say, that Mercury appears to move backwards from our point of view. This optical illusion happens with all the planets and objects used in astrology, with the exception of the Sun and Moon. The reasons for this are quite technical, but have to do with the disparity in the speed and distance of two moving objects as they meet at a certain point along their designated paths. Imagine the perceptual illusion created when looking out from a fast moving car or train; objects moving at a relative speed yet slightly slower appear to float backwards in relation to the objects (telephone poles and trees) racing by in the background.

The perception is quite convincing but not quite accurate to reality. Then again, what is reality but an illusion itself—an agreement made within consciousness about how things should or shouldn’t work? We could get rather philosophical with all this, but my point here is that time itself is relative to motion; all matter is energy in motion. You catch my drift? “Truths are illusions about which it has been forgotten that they are illusions,” said Freidrich Nietzsche. In a sense, Mercury retrograde is an illusion within an illusion. While not what it appears to be, it still has a profound effect on consciousness, as does everything else.

Mercury retrograde is probably one of the most well-known of astrological phenomena. Even the conservative home maker next door is probably aware of it, and likely has something to say about it. With anything that reaches a level of consensus understanding, it’s plagued with myths and misunderstandings. Mercury retrograde has reached the status of a cursed deity, the ubiquitous symbol of everything that’s going wrong in our daily affairs.

Yet, with every stereotyped consensus perception, there’s still a modicum of truth. For good reason, Mercury retrograde is known for its correlation with a higher incidence of “unfortunate” happenings—most usually involving something technical, mechanical or dealing with communications (in all its varied manifestations). Did your computer crash? Oh, it’s Mercury retrograde! Your car is having trouble? That e-mail didn’t get delivered? Well, you know, it’s probably that damn retrograde.

This is all quite true, but not entirely true. For instance, lots of cars break down and computers crash when Mercury isn’t retrograde. So how do we explain this? The key is in the fact that I stated above: Mercury retrograde seems to correlate with a higher incidence of “unfortunate” happenings. Can we prove this statistically? No. Do I care to? Not really. I do believe there have been studies on this in some shape or form, all of which were pretty inconclusive. That usually happens when you put astrology under the scientific ringer. It doesn’t work out too well for astrology’s reputation.

So what is happening when Mercury is retrograde? Well, on one end (and highly subjectively I might add), things do get a little wonky, especially electronics and machinery. This is most noticeable during Mercury’s stations—that is when Mercury is slowing down to change directions, coming to a standstill. For our purposes, this happens on the days of and surrounding Oct. 4 and Oct. 24. At least in my experience, this has been a consistent observation. Of course, the whole period of Mercury’s retrograde is wrought with “unfortunate mishaps”, as well as its shadow periods (Sept 29- Oct 4 and Oct 24- Nov 10).

The truth is, Mercury retrogrades will not affect everyone the same, nor is there any way (that I’m aware of) to predict whether this one is really going to nail you or not. Maybe if Mercury were to hit a planet or sensitive area in your chart, it might be more significant, but then again, maybe not. How I view Mercury retrograde is this: Hermes, the Greek representation of Mercury, is a trickster. The trickster is notorious for throwing a wrench in our plans and expectations; not because he’s out to get us like some psychopath (though maybe Hermes was a little sociopathic), but because he’s like the cosmic wild card. Not even the “Gods” are immune to the trickster’s antics.

When Mercury is retrograde, its trickster side seems to come out to play more than usual (though let us not forget that all planetary archetypes do have a trickster side to their expression, regardless of whether they’re stationary or direct). A bi-density/bipolar being, the trickster doesn’t take sides. He can fly from this world to the next with the greatest of ease, poise and elegance. But his “curses” can also be blessings in disguise. Like the illusion of a planet moving backwards in the sky, it’s all a matter of how you choose to view it. Lewis Hyde, in Trickster Makes This World, says of Hermes:

“Accidents break the surface of our lives to reveal hidden purpose or design. The carefully interwoven structures of thought and social practice provide stability and structure, but they bring a kind of blindness and stupidity, too. Gifts of Hermes tear little holes in those fabrics to offer us brief intelligence of other realms”.

To quote Meister Eckhart, “We are made perfect by what happens to us rather than by what we do”. As I’ve often written, Mercury retrograde helps us to see outside the suffocating bind of beliefs. If you really take a look, beyond all the “accidental mishaps” that may or may not surround you at these times (which, as we have just learned may be helping us break free of our perceptual prisons); you will see what you have refused to see before.

If Mercury retrograde does one thing consistently, its challenge our perceptions of the world and our beliefs about what is or isn’t truth. Still, your computer might crash, light bulbs burn out, or a rock might bless your windshield while driving on the freeway (yes, that happened to me a few retrogrades ago). But maybe, just maybe, that really annoying and seemingly meaningless mishap is trying to tell us something, trying to break us free of our blindness or stupidity. Maybe, like Carl Jung said, “When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate," Mercury’s retrograde foibles reveal deeper layers of the psyche, bringing to the surface those artifacts clogging up the mental septic tank.

We need order and structure to survive, but the trickster’s purpose is to keep our structures loose and flexible, free from becoming either too rigid or oppressive. When taking a look at the world around us, consider it a blessing that Mercury turns retrograde every three months; it keeps our minds and the structures they create open, fresh and alive. Astrology is often blind to the trickster. I think that on some level, our attraction to astrology is/was a way to gain more control of the chaos inherent to the world—and by extension the cosmos itself.

When we include the trickster in our pantheon of astrological symbolism, we open to an entirely new perceptual field, one that reveals the ever changing nature of life predicated on the unexpected. Hyde’s brilliant book is chock full of ingenious insights that can help us to understand this process. I highly recommend it. Often, the most rewarding things in life come to us from out of the blue, when we aren’t expecting them. This is often what can happen during a Mercury retrograde cycle. As with any retrograde, its purpose is to redirect consciousness from some rigid path or expectation, to reveal a broader field of possibility, and to help us step back and do things differently.

While it’s probably best to stick with some of the usual advice, to avoid signing major contracts, purchasing expensive equipment, executing some big project, coming to a critical, conclusive decision or to be more clear and redundant in your communications while Mercury is retrograde, we can’t forget that sometimes the unexpected turn of events are actually blessings from the gods. To appreciate these “accidents” and “mishaps”, we need to remain open to the unexpected. To quote Hyde once more, “The agile mind is pleased to find what it was not looking for”.

So, rather than pushing against life, trying to force our will and exceptions onto reality, Mercury retrograde is a time to step back and see things differently—to not look, but rather allow the unfolding to reveal “brief intelligence of other realms”. We shouldn’t fear this pertinent astrological cycle, hiding out in our house until it’s all over; and we certainly shouldn’t follow some rigid rules that tell us to put everything on hold until Mercury is direct and moving forward. Some of those rules are helpful, and can assist us to simply see that there may be holes in our game plan that we aren’t quite aware of; but Mercury, the trickster, is always lurking in the shadows, waiting to remind us that rules are meant to be broken.

Mercury Retrograde in Scorpio/Libra

Sept 14, 2014: Mercury enters retrograde shadow 
Oct 4, 2014: Mercury stationary retrograde (retrograde begins)
Oct 25, 2014: Mercury stationary direct (retrograde ends)
Nov 10, 2014: Mercury leaves retrograde shadow 

Mercury’s retrograde cycle occurs just beyond the equinox transition and the New Moon in Libra. These two events bring a dramatic yet subtle shift in collective focus and priorities. As with all Mercury retrograde cycles in 2014, two signs are involved, both water and air signs. While spending more time in air signs with these cycles, the slight dip into the proceeding water sign has a certain symbolic significance.

Mercury will retrograde through Scorpio from Oct. 4 to Oct. 10—just under a week. It then dips back into Libra for the remainder of the retrograde. In the zodiacal cycle, Scorpio symbolizes a certain kind of relationship—one that takes commitment to a whole new level. The Scorpionic relationship is imbued with a kind of intensity and passion that takes a little bit of time to get used to. When consciousness reaches Scorpio, it’s ready to take the plunge and go really deep. That Mercury backtracks into Libra, a sign that favors social niceties and the seeking of common ground, indicates that this cycle alludes to that fact that we may, collectively and individually speaking, need to backtrack and get more acquainted with certain formalities before we take a leap and get really dirty. This could apply to a whole host of things. Relationships might be one of them, but there are many variations of this.

In order to merge deeply with something or someone, we need to have a certain level of trust established first. That’s what Libra is all about—gaining trust in another human being or what have you. If we can’t trust someone, we can’t let down our guard and release certain barriers to allow for the free exchange of energy and resources. So we may find ourselves needing to test the waters, to talk things out, re-negotiate or re-communicate our intentions so that everyone is clear about where the other truly stands. 

The fact that things aren’t moving as quickly as you may like them to may have much to do with this process that needs to happen first. There may be a sense of restlessness with other commitments or attachments made previously, as if we feel stifled or too co-dependent. Again, this retrograde process allows us to see the holes in the current framework so that we can reestablish our commitments or our point of view. Keep the trickster in mind. Let the unexpected do its thing. New relationships may pop up or old commitments may fall apart. Let the chaos work its magic; embrace the contingencies. Mercury retrograde in Scorpio/Libra can help us see those dynamics within our interactions (personal, intimate or otherwise) that we were blind to before.  

Beyond the symbolism of the signs involved in this retrograde cycle, Mercury retrograde is a time to go back and review those things we’ve been working on to gather more information, to look for loose ends, and to return to things we’ve forgotten about or have left behind. The past often plays a significant role at these times. With Scorpio/Libra, that may involve past relationships and the karmic dynamics generated between the individuals involved. Keep your eyes peeled, your ears receptive and your mind loose and flexible. When Mercury changes gears, we need to be agile and prepared in case things go awry. When we go with the flow and trust the process that presents itself to us, we’re less likely to experience the many frustrations so prevalent at these times. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Beyond Ambivalence: New Moon in Libra and the Equinox

Astrologer observing the Equniox and a scene of the parting of Adonis and Venus; by Domenicus van Wijnen; circa 1680.

New Moon @ 1 Libra 08’
September 23, 2014
11:14 PM Pacific
September 24, 2014
2:14 AM Eastern

September’s New Moon follows the equinox transition, initiating autumn in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern hemisphere. For those of us just above the equator, the onset of the autumnal season heralds the beginning of shorter days. Whichever end of the globe you reside, the Sun’s entrance into Libra is a balancing and integration point within the Sun’s annual cycle. The equinox is literally such—a balancing of day and night, where each are of equal length. Both hemispheres experience this same effect.

The symmetrical equinox occurs when the Sun enters Aries, balanced by two solstice points in between. There are various symbolic interpretations of each equinox transition, primarily influenced by cultural and geographical differences. Less sunlight is a blessing to some, while unsettling to others. Here in the Southern California desert, autumn is usually perceived as a welcome relief from the intense, dry heat, and our winters are fairly mild compared to more northern locales.

Psychologically speaking, the Sun’s descent mirrors a process of turning inwardly and intimately. This makes perfect sense, seeing that less sunlight and colder weather reduces an emphasis on outer activities. The upper signs of the tropical zodiac—Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces—lend more emphasis to intimate relationships and ideological, political, communal and spiritual constructs.

There is not one universal interpretation of the equinox transition, as this will vary depending on where you live; but we can all agree that the sign of Libra deals with balance, at the very root of the archetype. Western astrology obtained its symbolism from ancient, northern dwellers and their agricultural activities. Virgo, the harvest, comes to an end at Libra. The bounty (or lack thereof) of the growing season must be sorted and prioritized to prepare for the darker, colder months ahead.

This is a time to take stock. For most of us living in modern society, obtaining most of our food from grocery stores or the labors of local farmers need not worry about rationing our food supply for the approaching winter season; though, we will find ourselves, perhaps instinctively, taking stock of our personal lives in some way. This New Moon occurs in the sign of Libra since it happens to coincide with the equinox transition. At first glance, not much seems to be happening with this lunation.

There are no striking Ptolemaic aspects from other planets to consider (aside from a rather wide conjunction with Venus in Virgo and a quincunx from Neptune in Pisces), but it would be a mistake to say that this is an irrelevant New Moon. For one thing, this month’s lunation hits the “Aries Point”, which is a potent position for any planet or object situated at or around (generally within a degree) zero degrees of all cardinal signs.

The Aries Point itself is actually located at zero degrees of Aries, but any planet occupying the very formative degrees of Cancer, Libra or Capricorn are by effect in aspect to this point. In mundane astrology, there is enough evidence to know that any event touching the Aries Point has truly global ramifications; its symbolism often jumps dramatically onto the world stage, in some shape or form.

Just reflect back to the spring of 2011 when Uranus hit the Aries point itself. An earthquake and tsunami led to the world’s worst nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, the consequences of which the world will be dealing with for hundreds and thousands of years in the future (I am not predicting anything of this magnitude, as I don’t make predictions here; I’m just pointing out the significance and potential of this zodiac hot spot).

Without getting too much into the political events currently on the table (ongoing war in the Middle East--business as usual), I will just say that this lunation is a symbolic and rather significant marking point in the current political narrative. If we stretch our orbs quite a bit, or if we approach things from a more classical astrological perspective, Pluto (which moved direct roughly two hours before the equinox) makes a square to this New Moon from Capricorn—adding heavy negotiations and the dealing of karmic consequences.

At the heart, this lunation could symbolize some deep transformation and or death of certain ties we’ve established in the past, but with every death/transformation comes something new and different. With Libra, we are making new connections, sorting out past relationships and re-establishing equilibrium in our personal and intimate lives. There may be a need to commit ourselves more fully to something, a need to move on to better things, or an ambivalence that requires us to wait things out before making any drastic decisions.

That Libra deals with relationships is true, but it misses the very heart of this sign, for many signs also emphasize relationships, just in different ways. Libra symbolizes those bonds where we must be conscious of an equal playing field; open communication, honesty, and objective awareness are needed for things to work harmoniously or productively.

The key to Libra is commitment—commitment to ourselves, to others and to certain goals or objectives. There’s not much fence sitting with Libra; this sign requires decisive action (though Libra’s are known be indecisive in their more shadowy expression). There can be a lot of conflict and complexity in this process. This point of integration is a meeting place of personal and shared objectives and the awareness that what one side does deeply effects the other.

An understanding of chemistry makes clear the Libran process of balance. At the microscopic level, the very particles that construct our reality are in a process of constant, split second negotiations we cannot fully fathom, less so when looked at through a quantum lens. So, sit with that and see how it comes up in your life over the next several weeks, as the Sun chugs along in Libra.

What needs harmonizing and balance? What balancing act are you in the midst of? What seemingly disparate pieces need to be brought together for clarity, sanity and peace of mind? If we are to feel confident of our ability to survive the darker, colder months ahead (symbolically and literally speaking), we need to make sure we have what we need, that loose ends are effectively dealt with—which will be critical as we're in the midst of Mercury’s retrograde shadow period.

Mercury will turn retrograde Oct. 4 through 25. So, whatever you’ve been on the fence about, putting off or procrastinating needs to be dealt with now, or it should probably wait until the end of October to fully address. This primarily involves the signing of contracts, important paperwork filings, major purchases/financial transactions or anything to do with beginning long-range or large-scale projects. 

As I mentioned above, Neptune does in fact quincunx this New Moon. That doesn’t lend well to making critical decisions at this point, or actually committing ourselves with full conscious awareness. Neptune here may not so much cloud our judgment (though that is a possibility), but it seems that our intuition or certain psychic impressions are telling us one thing and our logical sensibilities another. That is, no doubt, frustrating to deal with. To resolve it and move forward, we must simply acknowledge that while we need to have clear intentions to proceed with our lives, we need to remain open to the reality that often, life, the unfolding, has plans of its own.

I always get annoyed when someone asks me questions like, “Where do you see yourself in such and such amount of time?” Yea, I have an idea, but I’m also wise to the reality that at the root of it, I have no clue, because life often just does its thing. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t set goals, or commit ourselves to something, but that we’re open to the possibility that everything could change at any moment.

If you’re feeling that way, just take note. Do what you have to do, but know that as Mercury stations retrograde we may have a change of heart and mind about certain things we’re dealing with right now. Mercury’s retrograde cycle is a natural time to step back and reassess our journey—in Libra, we’re likely to reconsider certain commitments and relationship dynamics.

Jupiter makes a trine to Uranus on Sept. 25—bringing some heat back into the picture. This is a potentially stimulating transit, creatively speaking. It also invites us to take the lead in an unconventional leadership capacity. Coinciding with the onset of Mercury’s retrograde cycle, Jupiter and Uranus invite us to creatively experiment and embrace more unconventional ideas or tactics.

This new lunar cycle culminates in a dynamic and powerful Full Moon/Lunar Eclipse conjunct Uranus on Oct. 8. That means that we’re also making our transition into Eclipse season as every Lunar Eclipse is either preceded or followed by a Solar Eclipse. This emphasizes the fact that very deep, profound changes within ourselves are forthcoming—changes that often have the power to catalyze us into new directions or territories, if so choose to release our attachments to past patterns.

Do what you can to bring about a harmonization of elements in your current process. Take care of some important matters before the month is over. Settle in and get ready to see things from a renewed perspective in the coming weeks. Above all, open your mind to alternate perceptions, especially provided by those you interact with most personally or intimately. As the season comes to its inevitable transition, a new phase of growth and development is upon us—asking us to possibly change gears and consider directions we weren’t likely anticipating. Such is the natural flow of life. We can either flow with it or against it. I highly recommend the former. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pushing Through the Light: Full Moon in Pisces 2014

Inside view of the pantheon in Rome, Italy with the typical light
 beam glaring from the occulus in its rooftop; via Wikimedia Commons.

Full Moon @ 16 Pisces 19'
September 8, 2014
6:38 PM Pacific
3:38 PM Eastern

This month’s lunar cycle culminates in the sign of Pisces—the symbolic end of the tropical zodiac. There is always a sense of nebulous dissipation with Pisces, as the world of form meets a point of transcendence, an apotheosis.

The summation of biological and ideological evolution must, at some point, dissolve—at least from our point of reference; though the dissipation is merely an illusion. We know that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, that it can only change form.

The next stage of the journey is hidden from us; it has expanded beyond our perceptual reach; but that does not mean its presence evades more subtle faculties. Thus there are things just outside our visual perspective that not only exist, but that have tremendous power over us.

Symbols are potent and dynamic forces that can shape entire cultures. They can spur humanity into an emotional and psychic hysteria—creating movements which have the longevity to endure several thousands of years.

It’s funny, comical really, how the current western paradigm downplays the significance of anything that doesn’t fit into a Newtonian framework of reality. The world of the “supernatural” is often disparaged as a silly, childlike belief--something akin to fantasy and make-believe.

Discarnate entities, aliens, or UFOs are likened to mythologies—which to the vast majority of modern peoples are merely stories relegated to a form of entertainment. Yet, the past reveals something truly incredible (and equally frightening) about the power of myths, symbols and archetypes.

Christianity, Nazism, Scientology and many facets of new age fundamentalism are powerful movements which have little scientific or rational basis; yet, it’s obvious their addictive power to lure the masses into activities that seem to defy all logical sensibilities.

The holocaust is a grim example of how a symbol can warp and contort basic human instincts. In the wake of such atrocities, we’re left to wonder whether such things are truly human….or the byproduct of something else.

For me, that something else is hard to describe, for it resides in a realm we cannot fully comprehend in a human body. Try explaining Einstein’s theory of Relativity and all its flaws to a cockroach and you get what I mean.  Yet, when we take a step back, and really look at things from a much vaster vantage point, it becomes obvious that human evolution is guided by profoundly intelligent agents.

Who or what they are can only be speculation. The more asleep and unconscious we are as a society, the more prone we are to truly disturbing behaviors and compulsions. The path of entropy is the path of least resistance.

As Carl Jung once said, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” Most of us would rather avoid the pain. Most of us would rather stay asleep and feel good and comfortable most of the time. That’s all fine and well, and probably best for most people.

But truth and beauty arise only from unbearable struggle. Take a look at the natural world. Really notice the most beautiful flora and fauna that surround you. They are masters of evolution; they have painstakingly chiseled away, rising from the abysmal void to take on a form all their own.

I’m running into a tangent here, I know. Bear with me. The point I’m trying to make stems from a centaur object that is obscured by the brightness of this Full Moon. Chiron has confounded astrologers ever since its discovery in 1977.

No one seems to quite agree on its meaning. We know Chiron as the “wounded healer”. Yes, mythically, that’s what he was. Chiron was a centaur—half man and half beast; he was also quite astute in the healing arts and was immortal. Therefore, Chiron was likened to a god.

Yet, as the story goes, Chiron was not immune to pain and suffering. Like everything else in the universe (or everything confined to the illusion of separation from oneness), Chiron was vulnerable. In a nutshell, Chiron was struck, accidently, by an arrow shot by one of his inebriated students, Heracles.

You see, a bunch of centaurs had a bit of wine. In their drunkenness (which we could say symbolizes a state of unconsciousness), an arrow had struck Chiron, who was not participating in the raucous. In a way, Chiron was a helpless victim.  

The arrow contained a poison from the Hydra. Since he could not die, Chiron was left to endure unbearable pain for eternity. To relieve his suffering, Chiron chose to die. He took the place of Prometheus, who was bound to a rock and tortured by an eagle that relentlessly pecked at his liver for bringing fire to humanity.

 "The Centaur of Tymfi". Centaur skeleton prepared and articulated by
Skulls Unlimited International as a work for hire commissioned by Bill Willers.

Chiron transcended his physical vehicle and became a constellation in the sky--what we now know as the archer, or Sagittarius (but not to be confused with the tropical sign of Sagittarius used in western astrology). Chiron reached an apotheosis and moved beyond the world of form and structure to become a symbol, which still haunts humanity to this day.

What’s the moral of the story? I suppose, like any myth, it all depends on how you look at it. What does Chiron mean? I have the same answer: it’s a matter of the perception you choose to view it. One thing I think we can all agree on is that Chiron represents a wound—something deep that festers within us.

But that wound really reveals something about humanity. It reveals the struggle to find reconciliation between our innate, primal (or lower) tendencies and the painstaking struggle to evolve beyond them. The irony is that we can’t escape what we are; we can only strive for something more.

Pisces symbolizes that “something more” we all fight to achieve. We probably shouldn’t give up, but we should equally not beat ourselves up for not being perfect, and then, at some point, we see the futility of it all.

Sometimes that realization leads to nihilism. At other times it brings about an acceptance of our inevitable human fate and imperfection. In the end, all forms reach a state of dissipation—from either transcendence or annihilation (which is actually a form of recycling).

In Buddhism, the objective is to reach a point of joyful participation in the sorrows of the world. We need not escape reality, but rather awaken and return and become a part of it, yet not attached to the illusion it truly is (to detach ourselves from eternal suffering).

As this Full Moon culminates in the sky, conjoined Chiron, we are faced with the opportunity to awaken from some deep sleep that has come upon us—individually and collectively. That bright and luminous Moon irradiates the placid and mysterious Piscean sea.

Two weeks ago, the New Moon in Virgo redirected our awareness back to a path more suitable for our evolution. That was accentuated by Saturn’s conjunction with Mars. With the now fading cavalcade in Leo, that lunation brought in some rain clouds that may have put a damper on some things—that is, if we refused to focus ourselves intentionally.

Saturn is easing the pressure with this Full Moon. Mars is moving on into Sagittarius and progressing slowly out of orb of that conjunction. If we choose to awaken, to clear the fog that has blinded us from certain truths, Saturn’s trine to the Moon and Chiron helps to bring what was once intangible into some concreteness.

In other words, we can make some real progress here, but that only comes about in a Piscean sort of way: through a meditative observation of reality the way that it actually is. That means allowing the light to clear away all wishful thinking. With Chiron, the wound has the potential to become an asset of some kind, if we choose to accept what is inherently inevitable about us.

As human beings, we’re vulnerable. That much is true. No amount of scientific progress will ever negate that truth. Our woundedness is a part of the deal, no one escapes it; but our woundedness can teach us truly valuable things--like humility, compassion and the attainment of awe.

In the end, all wounds stem from the original wound: our perception is limited; what we see is merely a shadow, an after image of something we couldn't possibly perceive in its entirety. In a nutshell, we are caught up in an illusion—the world of Maya.

It can take a soul thousands of lifetimes before it realizes that. Why is this significant now? Well, because it seems that we are on an interesting course—collectively speaking. It’s a lunation like this that can quench our spiritual and perceptual thirst.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide what that would look like. As you go about your daily affairs, look deeper into the events and sequences of your life. See beyond the appearances to what they actually symbolize. Yes, the universe speaks through symbols.

When we finally grasp that, we gain the opportunity to transcend cycles of seemingly endless pain and suffering. When we awaken, the light is blinding; it hurts our eyes. If we endure and keep pushing through the light, resisting the temptation to retreat, we find ourselves transformed and adjusted to a new perceptual framework.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Getting Back on Track: New Moon in Virgo 2014

A supercell thunderstorm forms over Chaparral, NM April 2004;
Photo by Greg Lundeen.
New Moon @ 2 Virgo 19'
August 25, 2014
7:13 AM Pacific
4:13 AM Eastern

This month presented some conflict of interest. At its genesis, August contained some rather “light-hearted” astrology as several planets congregated in tropical Leo. One of those planets, Jupiter, will be there for an entire year; but the rest will move on to other signs and this New Moon appears to break up the party—at least for now.

The conflict arises between the need for spontaneous, creative playtime which comes up against the need to address some heavy responsibilities and “karmic duties”. Saturn and Mars conjoin in Scorpio just after the exact conjunction of the Sun and Moon—heralding a change of focus to a more structured and pragmatic gaze.

At its best, the now fading surge of Leonian energy catalyzed new creative directions. Now, as Mars and Saturn conjoin in Scorpio, we’re challenged to see how far that creative juice will carry us.

Leo and Scorpio are naturally in conflict. For Leo, life is to be enjoyed, everything is possible—with Jupiter, optimism abounds and knows no limitations. But limitation is what this Mars and Saturn conjunction is all about.

In Scorpio, that limitation may be the reality of the mortality of all creative progeny. Some things may sound great in the realm of what could be, but can they hold up to the tests and challenges of reality? Can they be funneled into something more compact and realistic?

Cutting away all the fluff and streamlining the baroque is the role of Virgo, the sign holding space for this encroaching New Moon. If we go along and play by the rules, this lunation can help bring about a change of focus, to assist us to structure and channel our enthusiasm more productively.

Mars and Saturn conjoining in Scorpio can help us rid ourselves of procrastination, time-wasting and self-sabotage. As these two rather intimidating planets come together in one of the most intense signs of the tropical zodiac, we have to face the reality of our current path with honesty and humility.

Mars and Saturn conjunctions are inherently intense. They tend to produce tremendous pressure and sometimes aggressive tendencies. Mars meeting Saturn can represent the need to crystallize our will in some way. If we work with it we can use this intense focus to bring solidification and manifestation of our efforts. Perhaps something we've been chiseling away at finally comes into focus. 

While Leo tends to outshine everything else around it, we must look beyond the glamour and into the heart of what we really want to achieve right now. Take the time to check in with yourself and your priorities. Are your activities conducive to the manifestation of your goals and objectives? If not, it’s time to clean up and toss out whatever is getting in the way.

Neptune, one of the most intangible of archetypal constructs, makes a wide opposition to this New Moon. On the one end, Neptune may invite us to face some delusions surrounding our capabilities. On the other end, Neptune stands as a beacon of inspiration—a dream on a faraway cloud that we must work hard to reach.

Mercury, which rules the New Moon, stands powerfully in one of its (two) home signs. Just beyond exact opposition to Chiron, Mercury brings our focus to a higher calling, our responsibility to ourselves and to the larger, global community.

All talent and creativity must ultimately find its way toward humble service. Our gifts are meant to be shared. When our passion or bliss is lost, we often succumb to addictive undercurrents that work as a surrogate creative process.

Whatever stands in your way toward the accomplishment of your divine mission must be dealt with, or else it will consume you, left to manifest as demons that taunt until you awaken to what you’re really here to do. If that sounds a little scary, then you’re getting the message. Saturn and Mars take center stage; sometimes we need a good kick in the ass to get ourselves back on track.

Once you’re back in the swing of things and moving to a steady rhythm and beat, you’ll be unstoppable. Trust that a little hard work pays off in the end. Okay, make that a lot of hard work. But that feeling of accomplishment goes deeper than the ego; it nourishes your soul and acknowledges its greater purpose. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mars Meets Saturn: Inwardly Focused, Outwardly Sensitized

Woman doing Yoga; Photo by Robert
Benjil; March 6, 2011.
By Elizabeth Michaud

Structure is sometimes a difficult concept to embrace in our lives, coming as it does with rules and regulations. Many of us feel frustration or resistance when we confront boundaries, especially if we are driven by inner purpose or passion. Limitation is often accompanied by a deflating sense of powerlessness, and we tend to miss the beneficial lessons of being restricted or reigned in.

Mars (the planet of action) and Saturn (the planet of form) will conjoin in Scorpio on August 25, proceeding the New Moon, making this aspect influential now through the end of the month. What we have is an opportunity to actively manifest our desires, but that may not be what it feels like to many. 

Saturn's gifts do not come easy; we have to work for it. It is in the effort and struggle that we learn, we grow humble, and we strengthen our resilience and our competence.

As astrologer Liz Greene wrote, "The frustrating experiences which are connected with Saturn are obviously necessary as they are educational in a practical as well as a psychological sense. Whether we use psychological or esoteric terminology, the basic fact remains the same: human beings do not earn free will except through self-discovery, and they do not attempt self-discovery until things become so painful that they have no other choice."

Mars in Scorpio is focused and driven by passion. There's a depth of intensity in the astrological atmosphere as Mars transits this fixed water sign, a potential to dig deep into previously feared or avoided areas of our life. 

Willpower is a potent tool right now, making it a great time to set goals or quit bad habits. So much can be healed when brought to the light, and Mars in Scorpio suggests a fearless (and sometimes ruthless) ability to face our shadow material.

But fear and anger may seem to loom as Mars, the forceful warrior, meets Saturn. When we are overly assertive, we inevitably encounter confrontation. Saturn is reminding us of our structure -- the organized civilization we are a functioning part of, the larger environment in which we play a role. 

When we act purely on our own desires, without consideration for others, we create a ripple effect of selfishness. If you feel like you are meeting unnecessary obstacles, ask yourself what good is served by the current course you are on. Saturn wants us to succeed, and this transit is a clue in to where work needs to be done.

The key to using this astrology wisely is to look at what you want to fix in your little world. Mars and Saturn want a project to work on, a problem to solve or a wound to heal. Instincts and precision are major tools at our disposal. 

During a recent yoga class, one of my teachers reminded us to stay "inwardly focused; outwardly sensitized." That seems to be a message of this Mars-Saturn conjunction. How can we contribute to building a healthier structure and releasing toxic baggage? How can we act in integrity, for the greater good?

Elizabeth Michaud is a writer and astrologer based on the New England coast. She is a contributing writer and editor at Planet, and has been studying astrological cycles for 15 years. 

Elizabeth is available for personal readings and can be reached at

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Containing The Vision: Full Moon in Aquarius 2014

Two Perseid meteors visible over the thrones of Kokino,
Aug 12, 2013. Photo by Algorit007, via Wikimedia
Full Moon @ 18 Aquarius 02'
August 10, 2014
11:09 AM Pacific
8:09 AM Eastern

This month’s lunar cycle culminates in tropical Aquarius Sunday August 10. The Sun, naturally in opposition to any Full Moon, is joined by Mercury and the dark Moon Lilith in Leo. Additionally, Saturn in Scorpio makes a square to the Full Moon axis.

Aquarius, ruled by Saturn and Uranus, seeks to establish and revolutionize social structures; but above anything, this sign desires independence and the road less traveled. The Full Moon culminating here brings about a collective desire to question authority, to go one’s own way, and to think outside the paradigmatic box of culture.

However, Saturn’s square to the Full Moon axis tempers this transient, revolutionary streak. In other words, every rebel needs a cause and a deeper sense of purpose. Eccentricity must find its footing within established traditions.

A surge of creativity and a sense of confidence emanates through the Sun, Mercury and Jupiter in Leo. Saturn urges us to use discipline, focus and hard work to bring our creativity forward into tangible forms and to balance confidence with humility and perspective.

This Full Moon may bring to light a creative vision that challenges the status quo without toppling the whole structure. If you’re in need of an answer to any creative frustrations, this Full Moon helps to get things moving in a practical direction—as long as we make the effort and do the work to get there.

In many ways, Saturn’s square to the Full Moon axis brings about a sense of restriction that can feel like a stranglehold on our need for free and uncensored expression. To resolve this, we have to be honest with ourselves and our limitations.

While sometimes uncomfortable, Saturn’s influence assists us in gaining real results from our efforts. Working with Saturn requires integrity and pragmatism. Saturn in Scorpio suggests that the only way for that creative vision to solidify, is to get dirty and work with the process.

We have to dig deep, see what we’re made of and burn away any self-sabotaging behaviors. Check in and attempt to look at what’s holding you back from the successful execution of your goals; it’s probably stemming from within yourself, from fears you may not be aware of.

With the Moon at perigee—it’s closest approach to the Earth, this lunation is also considered a Supermoon. This Aquarian Full Moon will be the largest Supermoon of the year; the Moon appears just slightly larger in the sky than it normally does. That subtle perceptual shift is just enough to amplify the Moon’s power in our personal and collective lives.

When the Moon is extenuated via its perigee, feelings and emotional undercurrents have more prominence and expression.  If the Full Moon touches a sensitive zone in our natal charts, its effects are always magnified, indicating an eruption of awareness from the unconscious realms.

Venus is about to enter Leo on Aug 12 as it teeters on the edge of Cancer.  For three days, until Aug 15, when Mercury enters Virgo, four major planets will be in Leo. This adds more weight and gravitas to ego needs and desires.

We may feel more confident than usual, more generous, playful and care-free. Leo’s childlike nature invites us to play and experiment with our creativity. But with Jupiter in Leo, we must expand consciously without exaggerating or inflating self-importance.

The Full Moon’s square from Saturn, however, reminds us to find a balance between work and play—breaking and following the rules. Too much of one thing and we wind up in trouble and important matters go neglected. Don’t fall into that trap. Let loose and allow yourself some playtime, but don’t lose sight of your responsibilities and larger purpose (destiny).

Also, we must be conscious that this fun Leo energy will be rather short lived this month, as Mars and Saturn team up in Scorpio as the month comes to close. Don’t let that rain on your parade, but keep at least one foot in reality, grounded and aware, prepared for the final exam as the month comes to a close. 

Enthusiasm is helpful; it catalyzes us into places we're usually more cautious to venture into, but enthusiasm without a plan or a strategy is just wasted energy. Saturn and Mars conjoining in Scorpio require a structure to contain our creative vision if it has any chance of lasting beyond a fleeting moment of inspiration.

One final note: the famous Perseids meteor shower will peak on Aug 12-13, just as Venus enters Leo and the Full Moon begins to wane. Unfortunately, that waning Full Moon is still bright enough to outshine much of the show; but the Persieds are well known for spontaneous bursts and explosions that could truly rival the Moon’s encompassing glow. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Confidence Tempered by Humility: New Moon in Leo 2014

One of the Louvre Museum lions from the famous glazed bricks friezes found in the apadana (Darius the Great's palace) in Susa (Shush). Pavillon Sully at the Louvre museum, Paris, France, July 2008. Photo by Patrick C., Wikimedia Commons.

New Moon @ 3 Leo 52'
July 26, 2014
6:52 PM Eastern
3:52 PM Pacific

The Sun and Moon conjoin in Leo this month, renewing the Lunar cycle alongside the most gaseous of gas giants, Jupiter. Yes, Jupiter has moved into Leo as of July 16. Its journey through Cancer amplified a collective emphasis on healing, nourishing, nurturing and introspection—connecting to our roots and establishing ourselves somewhere.

Jupiter’s elevated expression guides us with optimism toward a higher path and pulls us out of some precarious sinkholes. Through Jupiter’s expansion we are guided to opportunities for the advancement of destiny; we see something new on the horizon, some hope for a better set of circumstances.

Now, Jupiter moves into Leo, changing things quite a bit. This New Moon is an announcement of Jupiter’s latest journey since it sits within a degree of conjunction to this lunation. Mercury’s retrograde cycle is now in the past, putting an end to the lengthy chain of inner planet retrogrades we experienced at the start of the year.

First, take a look back at the past six months to see how far you’ve come. How has your life path changed? If you have but a modicum of conscious self-awareness then you’ve probably come pretty far. Now that things are direct and “forward flowing”, this lunation provides the gusto and momentum to make a statement.

Leo is the most ostentatious sign of the zodiac. After all that inward reflection, nurturing and healing, we’re ready to take a break, let loose and play a little bit. Jupiter, associated with fire sign Sagittarius, finds ample room in Leo for showcasing the ego’s greatest talents and abilities. Jupiter’s transit through Leo can help us all acquire more confidence to tackle our destiny head on.

As the Sun and Moon conjoin in fiery Leo, sink down and feel that reservoir of inner strength within you. Notice the life force that permeates all living things. The Sun, ruler of Leo, is the most primal symbol of this life force that enlivens all sentient beings. Connect to that sense of natural, inner joy that is every human’s right.

The creative impulse that animates our cells is pure joy and bliss. It is a wellspring of endless energy and enthusiasm for life. It flows through each and every one of us. Think about that. What keeps you going, exactly? What motivates you to do what you do each and every day?

When things seem bleak, difficult or challenging, just remember that the creative life force is within you and it’s always guiding you toward a higher path. Jupiter, the cosmic helping hand, coming into Leo can assist in pulling us up and out of any rut to rejuvenate our creativity and our thirst for life experience.

This New Moon can act as a powerful launching pad to put ourselves out there in some way. The seed is being planted now, kicking off Jupiter’s latest journey. It’s time to explore the inner creative realms, to grasp opportunities for self-expression and to rediscover joy in our every-day lives.

Also, sometimes a giant tub of ice cream and a funny movie can be just as healing as psychotherapy and a tissue box. Sometimes simple laughter can bring us back to a point of integration and sanity like nothing else. That’s Jupiter in Leo. If you’re feeling it, let yourself indulge in playfulness for a bit. Get in touch with your inner child in some way.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games. This Jupiter/Leo combo can also amplify the ego and its drama like no other astrological fusion. Keep that in mind. Confidence must be tempered with humility and perspective. Without that, we end up looking like fools, jumping off every precipice, throwing all caution to the wind.

Also, since Jupiter was exalted in Cancer and trine Saturn, events on the world stage have been relatively mild--politically and economically speaking. But Jupiter's movement through Leo is likely to heat things up quite a bit, quite possibly in some dramatic way. 

Mars recently moved into Scorpio July 25, the day before the New MoonMars has been in Libra since Dec. 2013 due to its most infrequent retrograde cycle. There’s been a particular emphasis on relationships with this transit—redefining ourselves within that context.

Mars’ retrograde cycle through Libra also helped us to break out of certain molds or expectations placed on us from other people. We may have experienced a process of redefining ourselves in some drastic way—breaking out of the box, so to speak.

Mars in Scorpio makes a square aspect to this New Moon, applying some tension to this otherwise joyful, expressive, and enthusiastic lunation; but I think this square is the perfect aspect to temper the fiery passion and optimism inherent to this lunation.

Scorpio brings up depth and perspective; it also reminds us of our impermanence. We’re challenged by this aspect to showcase ourselves honestly—to be true to ourselves and realistic about what we’re really capable of. If we fail to do so, we may be in for a rude reminder of our limitations.

The catch is that all this energy is urging us to take a risk of some kind; but to do so in a way that doesn’t lead to overreaching or exaggerating our capabilities. Saturn, now moving direct as of July 20, also occupies Scorpio and so emphasizes the fact that there are no shortcuts to success. All the talent in the world is useless without the proper discipline and focus.

Mars in Scorpio square this lunation gives us the focus and perspective needed to attain what we desire. Saturn’s distant influence can help mold and direct that wild, creative impetus bubbling up beneath us in some practical and realistic way. So, needless to say, this New Moon is quite conducive to taking action.

If you feel the creative impetus emerging from within you, you’re not alone. Whatever’s been holding you back for the past several months is likely losing its grip, clearing the way for a fresh, new start that’s bound for success if we really believe in ourselves and our ability to make it happen. If you’re in need of a confidence boost, look no further than this New Moon and Jupiter’s transit through Leo.

If you’ve inflated yourself beyond realistic capabilities, look to see how you can temper that over-confidence so that it fits neatly with reality the way it actually is.

SolarScopes July-August 2014

Yes, I’m trying something new this month. Maybe it’s Jupiter conjunct the New Moon in Leo. Well, truthfully, it isn’t entirely new. I’ve experimented with Sun sign horoscopes in the past, on this blog actually; but it’s always been a rather unnerving process—a love hate relationship of sorts. Anyway, the muse struck just prior to this lunation, and this is where she led me. I hope you enjoy and benefit from these oracular messages from the tropical zodiac.

This may or may not become a consistent, monthly addition to my New Moon readings, so don’t get too attached. I’m a Gemini. I’m allowed to change my mind, right? These are probably more accurate if read from the perspective of your tropical zodiac Sun sign; but further insights could be obtained from reading your Moon or even Ascendant signs. Hey, this isn’t a science; it’s astrology for God’s sake. See what resonates for you. (Btw, tropical is just your Sun sign as you likely know it; unless you’re into Jyotish or something like that; but I doubt you would be reading my blog)


The heat is off, for now, despite the fiery energy inherent to this New Moon. It may have felt like you were shoved into a pressure cooker there for a while. Take a deep breath, and embrace this period of momentary relief from tension. You’ve earned it. Look around for opportunities to use your talents in some way. Indulge your creative side, explore and experiment. Laughter will be your medicine the next year or so, but especially right now in this moment. Yes, laughter is sometimes a mask for pain, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the best way for you to relieve tension and stress right now.


Awareness is often the greatest gift. The more you know about yourself and the world around you, the better equipped you are to take on life’s challenges; and the less vulnerable you are too. The more awareness we have, the more we seem to grow and evolve through life experience. You are being blessed with the gift of awareness; embrace it and use it wisely and constructively toward creating the resolution you now seek within yourself and with your environment. Doors are now opening, allowing you to enter a more intimate as well as psychic space. Sink in, get comfortable and play with it.


The greatest ideas can’t shine unless we share them in some way. Also, sometimes, the greatest ideas aren’t as great as we thought they once were. Where are you on that spectrum? It’s time to figure it out. There’s a fine line between too much confidence and not enough. Ideally, we find the middle ground somewhere. Ideally, we step back and assess what it is realistically. But, now, you’re feeling the need to let it out and to be heard. The only way to find out how “great” those ideas really are, is to put them out there or into motion somehow. The universe will provide you with valuable feedback.


You may be feeling the urge to prove yourself in some way. But I invite you to ask yourself to whom are you proving yourself to? Often we find ourselves trying to make a statement to appease someone else’s expectation or ideal; but have you really assessed your own? What do you expect from yourself? No, really. Think about that for a moment, what do YOU expect from yourself? That might be harder to do than it sounds. When you figure it out, you might realize that the only person you have to prove your worth to is yourself. It’s that simple and it’s that complex.


If there ever was a moment to shine, this would be it! But, uh, don’t let that go to your head. I mean, really, we know how you are sometimes. Jupiter entering your sign for the next 12 months is an exciting prospect and one that you would do well to utilize consciously and responsibly. I throw those words out there because it’s the smart thing to do. But seriously, there are opportunities that beckon, in whatever shape or form. There is a wellspring of confidence emerging into the light. Do you see it? You may feel bigger and brighter than usual. It’s time to expand your personal horizon; lead with confidence but know your limitations.


The creative muse is emerging from behind the scenes, whispering inspiration when you least expect it. True creative energy is something transient—emerging from realms we neither see nor fully understand. When the muse strikes us, we know it based on a bodily sensation, an adrenalin rush of sorts. You may be gifted with unasked for inspiration. Chances are that it takes the form of something you need to communicate truthfully and honestly. Forget about offending anyone—that’s likely inevitable. Not everyone will understand your vision as you do. Let it take whatever form it desires, even if that pushes someone else’s buttons, or worse, goes against their beliefs about reality.


You may have reinvented yourself over the past several months. That’s perfect. But now you’re getting used to this new you, taking it out for a test drive to see how the world responds. What you seek now is something a little deeper than physical appearances. You may want the world to not only accept the façade, but the deeper values that lie beneath it. Sometimes, we have to take a risk to stay true to ourselves. That’s a little scary for some of us, and it may be for you now too. The only way to know what you really believe in is to see it stand up to criticism or, if necessary, scrutiny.


The heat is on and it’s burning with fiery passion! There is this energy in the air it seems, motivating you to take on your destiny in some direct and dynamic way. Perhaps it’s a small step, but they add up over time until you realize you’ve built a mountain through the sheer power of your will. Your will is strong now; it cuts deeply into reality. It may take some work to see anything tangible emerge now, but Saturn in your sign has been teaching you those hard lessons for the past two years. Like a warrior, you have the ability to take on giants. Have confidence, but be wary of overdoing it. Small steps can build mountains, but all in due time.


Our cultural conditioning has convinced us that we should have some rigid plan for our future. Those that really believe that usually end up disappointed, or soon realize that it’s not entirely how life actually works. Some of us never quite shed that belief. When I was seven I wanted to be an actor. That probably would have worked out; but life unfolded unexpectedly, and well, I couldn’t have imagined doing what I actually do now. Life, when given full expression, unfolds creatively. We start somewhere and end up some place completely unexpected. Embrace this wisdom. Trust the creative impulse urging you to break out of the template and explore something you never thought you would.


Western culture has such a perverse perspective of death—and equally, sex too. In astrology those two things are intimately related in an archetypal sense. For all of us, death is inevitable. Sex, well, optional. Neither has to be so shrouded in taboo. Both experiences bring humans together in an intimate way. In death or orgasm we glimpse beyond the veil; for a moment we sense something larger than ourselves. You’re invited now to play with other worlds beyond the palpable reality. Things that were too scary to look at now seem much friendlier than before, inviting you to touch the depths of human experience with confidence and a light-hearted attitude.


Commitment might not be too appealing right now. You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive first, would you? Don’t beat yourself up just because you aren’t more decisive. What you need now is a more playful attitude. Sample the dynamics that emerge between you and another. How does it taste? How do you feel after certain interactions? Most of all, whatever comes up, let it unfold naturally. You might be looking more for playmates as opposed to soul-mates. That’s okay, go with it. You need people around you now that feed you joy—that bring laughter into your life.


Fad diets and their marketing strategists have us all convinced that a healthy lifestyle equates to gnawing on raw vegetables and cutting our caloric intake until we’re left with saltine cracker crumbs. Sometimes, that might be helpful; but is it healthful? A healthy lifestyle requires that we nourish ourselves—body, mind and soul. Nourishment takes on many different forms. Sometimes laughter is nourishing, sometimes ice cream. What everyone tends to believe about health, usually the opposite is true. You need to find a way to bring more joy into how you choose to improve yourself. Get creative with it! Expand your definition of self-improvement; it can really be fun!