Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Gift You Truly Are: Full Moon in Virgo 2016

A silhouetted man facing the Sun in Israel;
image from PikiWiki-Israel free image project.

Full Moon @ 3 Virgo 34'
February 22, 2016
1:20 PM Eastern
10:20 AM Pacific

As the current lunar cycle comes to its full expression in the tropical sign of Virgo, the Sun has just transitioned into Pisces and approaches the planet Neptune. Thus, this Full Moon is in opposition to Neptune, the nebulous and mysterious planet residing in its home sign, the mystical Piscean sea. As always with a Full Moon, there is a sense of building energy and potential within the collective psyche. Full Moons are symbolic moments of blossoming and culmination. What we have intended and set into motion at the New Moon begins to manifest. The power of this Full Moon highlights, first and foremost, the archetype of Virgo.

Virgo is a symbol of service and the humble contribution of one’s talent and competence to the greater community. In the western world, this is something that we strive to do, but greatly under value. Our western, cultural conditioning places achievement and “success” over the value of service.  We value more the result of our service than we do the service itself. Success in the western world often equates to making a lot of money or achieving a notable status or prestige. But true service requires an attitudinal shift that places helpfulness and competence over the fruits of one’s labor.

When we truly help another person, when we are effective at what we do, there are rewards that transcend anything material. When we give in the spirit of heart centered giving, of truly desiring to be helpful, we create something far more meaningful than the acquisition of personal, material wealth. This is the highest expression and potential of Virgo: to be useful and practically helpful. And always with Virgo, there is an emphasis on constant improvement. To become good at what we do, we need to constantly be mindful of how we can get better.

This Full Moon highlights these ideals. The dark side is striving for the unrealistic goal of perfection along with obsessive fault finding. Also, be mindful of the trap of presenting yourself as some unrealistic, puritanical symbol that no human being can entirely embody. Neptune’s opposition and the Sun’s presence in Pisces are reminding us that behind appearances lies a deeper meaning, a higher purpose to what you seek to do and become. It’s possible that what you put out into the world comes back to you on another plane of existence—one that you do not see in your normal waking life.

I think that the western world has reached the apex of existentialism. So many people live, unwittingly, in an existential universe where life is ultimately meaningless. Such an attitude has resulted in the pandemic of planetary exploitation and mass escapism. When life has no meaning, the best we can do is live for the moment (YOLO: You only live once) and distract ourselves until we die. That sounds depressing. I think there is another alternative. Maybe we have to utilize our will to make something of our life, but I think that our purpose already exists. The template of your potential awaits your conscious activation of it. Astrology proves that to me daily.

I don’t live in an existential universe. I live in a magical universe, endowed with incomprehensible intelligence and creativity. All it takes is a shift in perception and an openness to allowing life to reveal its playful and magical side. When you invoke this intelligence, it will begin to communicate and reveal to you a larger plan through the unfolding of each moment. I think, when we’re ready, that all we need is humility and an ability to surrender to the genius of the cosmic mind. You are more than a number, a statistic or a commodity. You are a servant of the universe, and your purpose is to be who you are and shine. As you shine, you bring wholeness and blessings to your community. What a gift you truly are. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Building Momentum: Mars Retrograde 2016

Archers in East Timor; author unknown via Wikimedia Commons. 

Mars Retrograde in Sagittarius/Scorpio 2016

Feb 17      23 Scorpio 03'       Enters Shadow
April 17    08 Sagittarius 54'  Stationary Retrograde
June 29     23 Scorpio 03'       Stationary Direct
Aug. 22    08 Sagittarius 54'   Leaves Shadow

On the days surrounding April 17, the planet Mars will appear to completely stop, turn backward for a little over two months, and then stop again to resume its normal west to east direction on June 29. This is known as a Mars retrograde cycle, and it happens roughly every two years. Unlike Mercury retrograde (occuring three times a year) Mars retrograde is a rare retrograde event, the rarest of all. The last Mars retrograde occurred from March through mid-May 2014 in the tropical sign of Libra. This year, Mars will backtrack through two signs: Sagittarius and Scorpio. That gives us two distinctly different archetypal themes through which Mars retrograde will find expression.

But first, let’s learn a little bit about Mars. Mars is associated, in Roman mythology, with the God of War. To the Greeks, it was known as Ares. But the Roman perception of Mars was more than just a war god; Mars was a source of virility; it was a life-sustaining impulse needed to bring crops to fruition. From the Roman perspective, Mars was also an agricultural guardian. The planet's bright, red color evokes a sense of passion, lust, desire, stamina, assertion, competitiveness, and very often anger, hostility, and violence. If we view the solar system as an archetypal depiction of the structure of the human psyche (the basis of astrology applied psychologically), then Mars, as an inner planet (that is to say, within the bounds of the asteroid belt, preceding the gas giants and other outer planets), it is symbolic of an archetypal construct that is close to the ego and individual identity.

But where Mars differs (from Venus and Mercury), is its ability to travel further away in the zodiac from the Sun’s position at any given time. Venus and Mercury are never too far away and are incapable of forming certain aspects or geometric relationships (such as a 90 degrees square or  180 degrees opposition) to the Sun—the symbolic core of personal identity. As an archetype, Mars has the ability to challenge the Sun, the center of gravity and heartbeat of the solar system. Mars is the first archetypal symbol of tension and confrontation. This corroborates with its ancient association with the warrior archetype and its relation (in its entropic expression) with violent or hostile compulsions.

But ultimately, Mars symbolizes our ability to defend ourselves and our right to existence. Mars embodies a philosophy that we must act, with courage and intention, to get what we want from life and to defend our right to live. From Mars’ perspective, actions are the path to freedom and the attainment of desire. But Mars is equally a source of passion and life force. Mars symbolizes vitality and vigorous life force that animates all sentient beings. For whatever lives, desires to do so, and desires to defend its right to existence. When a planet turns retrograde, first, we experience a change in the flow of archetypal energy related to that planet. In the case of Mars, our ability to defend ourselves, fight for what we want, to attain our desires, and to cultivate the will to exist goes through a shift or change of direction.

Mars is also associated with physical exercise, stamina, libido, sexual lust and the building of strength to enhance one’s capability and confidence to withstand challenges. My view of Mars retrograde is to imagine that throughout the duration of the retrograde, it’s as if you are building momentum that will, once the planet turns direct, catapult you onto a new path of decisive action. That path or direction will have the flavor of Mars and will be seasoned by the sign(s) which it retrogrades through. Throughout this process, we must step up to a new challenge and rediscover strength, courage, and stamina that we didn’t know we had. Mars retrograde can also work to renew our life force energy and our desire to exist. We may discover the passion for something we left behind or something we have pushed aside. The house placement of Mars in your natal horoscope will provide a deeper understanding of where this process is likely to take place and the sign it is in will flavor it.

Imagine yourself as an arrow placed against the string of a bow, and as Mars turns retrograde, that string is getting pulled back, further and further, until it reaches its point of maximum tension. And when the planet turns direct, if we have worked cooperatively and consciously with this process, we are flung forward and our efforts throughout the retrograde will carry us far into the future. This is the most practical understanding of this cycle and one that you will find most useful. Many astrologers would caution you to reconsider launching major projects or pushing forward with the initiation of anything you deem important.

I think the reasoning is that Mars retrograde is a time to build momentum and that the launching pad will ideally be when Mars has turned direct. Consider that when a planet is in retrograde, its archetypal function is going through a revision process. But the mistake is to suggest that we will not have the energy, drive or desire to push forward with important matters, and that is simply not the case. Mars is Mars, retrograde or direct. Its retrograde cycle highlights the reality that the archetypal current associated with Mars is undergoing a change in its expression, and for Mars, that expression is always related to actions. However, consider that Mars, depending on where it is in your chart, may relate to actions taken outwardly or inwardly. It takes courage to face your inner demons just as it does to face the “demons” in the outer world.

But like anything in astrology, we have free will. A Mars retrograde cycle will not force itself upon you. Often, during these times, we are responding to an inner need to change something. But the choice is yours to make. When we fail to respond to a Mars moment, it is often because we allow fear to keep us from moving forward. What scares you the most is usually something that could greatly strengthen you. Often, this cycle will reveal an opportunity or will generate a desire to accomplish something challenging, or to finally step up to something or someone you fear. It is simply the season for this to happen, and if you take this time to build up strength and a strong foundation; you’ll be tougher and more resilient in the future.

The Changing Face of Mars

This brings us to another layer of a retrograde process. Interestingly, all classical planets that turn retrograde (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), have dual sign associations. Traditionally, they are said to “rule” two signs. In modern, evolutionary language, we prefer to say that these planets have a resonance or archetypal association with these signs. In the case of Mars, it is associated with Aries and Scorpio. Aries is Mars’ extroverted function, and Scorpio is its introverted function. When a planet turns retrograde, its archetypal face often reverses. We are going from Mars’ introverted expression to its extroverted function, or vice versa.

However, this does mean that the initiation of action is hindered in some way. As I said, Mars is Mars, retrograde or direct. It is simply changing the way that it expresses itself. The Aries side of Mars places an emphasis on outward action; Aries relates to the optimum expression of willpower to initiate change, to push forward, to face stress and challenge, ideally, in healthy ways to build the strength we need to assert ourselves. The Aries side of Mars seeks new adventures outwardly in the world. The Scorpio side of Mars places emphasis on the acquisition of courage to face the inner dimensions of our own psyche and intimate lives.

As I said, it takes courage to face our inner demons. Scorpio is a sign that also relates to deep intimacy and connection with another soul—certain individuals whom we can be vulnerable enough to share ourselves with fully, to reveal parts of ourselves that we do not share with those we do not trust as deeply. This takes courage and bravery to do. It takes courage to be vulnerable and real with someone as well as ourselves. And it takes the ability to assert our will to enter that kind of deeply intimate space. Intimate relationships can be a battle ground, just as the outer world can be.

If we have been primarily outward prior to Mars turning retrograde—seeking new, external stress and adventures, fighting for freedom and independence, then Mars retrograde can indicate a time where we may need to turn inward and channel our Mars energy into the intimate chasms of our personal lives. Conversely, if we’ve been in that deeply intimate space prior to the retrograde, we may find ourselves switching to a focus upon challenges and stress seeking in the outer world. The retrograde will change the face of that Mars function. And as we build momentum throughout the retrograde, we will be placed on to the pathway of a new phase of Mars’ expression as it transits the zodiac.

Karma and Serendipity

There is a curious association with Mars and Venus retrograde cycles relating to profound shifts and turning points in our personal lives and relationships. The rule of thumb here, however, is that often this is most notable when the retrograde planet stations on an angle of our chart, or a significant planet or focal point. The station is the degree of the zodiac where that planet will stop and change direction (either move from direct to retrograde or retrograde to direct). In the case of this particular Mars retrograde cycle, Mars will station and turn retrograde at 8 degrees of Sagittarius. It will station and move direct at 23 degrees of Scorpio.

Look to those areas of your chart. If an angle (the first, fourth, seventh, or tenth house cusps), or if a significant planet is placed there (or in the general vicinity, within 1 to 2 degrees, possibly more), then this particular cycle will likely be more pronounced for you. Also, if the retrograde happens to take place in an angular house (first, fourth, seventh, or tenth), it may also be more meaningful. Venus retrograde can often correlate with a period of serendipitous encounters with individuals that end up having a major impact on our lives. We often look back on these people as having profoundly inspired us in some way or were involved in a major shifting of our values and priorities.

Sometimes, these relationships last a long time and develop in complexity. This is, of course, because Venus is the most potent astrological symbol for relationships. Mars retrograde, however, carries a different archetypal function, due to its ability to challenge and break free of the Sun, which carries an association with relationships. In its Scorpionic face, Mars connects us to experiences of deep intimacy. Thus, we associate Mars with life force, libido, and sexual energy. Mars’ sexual expression is related solely to the act of intercourse, typically related to the release of primal, sexual energy. Put simply, Mars is our desire for coitus—but not particularly lovemaking in the romanticized sense.

Consider that when Mars turns retrograde, we are revising the way that we assert ourselves, and how we go about getting what we want—attaining our desires. Mars turning retrograde in a sensitive zone of your personal horoscope can indicate a time where you must defend yourself against someone or a situation, break free of situations that limit your boundaries, or finally recover the courage to take action and make some much-needed change in your life. This can often involve serendipitous encounters with others, or circumstances that involve you shifting in such a way to catalyze the initiation of action. These can be significant moments in our lives where we can forge new pathways and set ourselves on a new course of action.

Retrogrades also take us back to situations or experiences from the past. We often encounter individuals that we’ve met before in this lifetime. From the evolutionary viewpoint and hypothesis, most, if not everything in life, is the result of our karma. Thus, many encounters may, in fact be the residue of some past experience from a previous lifetime. With Mars retrograde, we may be brought back to a situation where we must defend ourselves or muster the courage to overcome it or to finally take some action we didn’t take before. And this may be particularly significant if Mars retrograde is hitting you in a personal way.


From April 17 to May 27, Mars will retrograde through Sagittarius. Signs flavor or add a certain texture to anything placed inside of them. During this portion of Mars retrograde, there will be an accentuation of the things in your life that have become too predictable and habitual. Mars may ask that you take a risk and stretch yourself beyond what is too familiar. Sagittarius seeks adventure and exotic, foreign experiences. It deals with adventures in the real world as well as adventures in the mind. There is also a philosophical, spiritual or ideological nature to Sagittarius. The momentum that you build during this cycle will likely correlate with these themes.

Perhaps you will find yourself thinking in much larger or abstract ways. Maybe you decide to travel somewhere that seems extremely familiar—a foreign place you may have been before (in another lifetime?). During this portion of the cycle, you are rediscovering the courage and strength needed to make your life more interesting and inclusive of perspectives that challenge your current worldview. It’s time to face your fear of the unfamiliar. However, try to remain practical and mindful of reality. Don’t confuse your need for new adventure with the need to throw all safety and caution to the wind. Don’t leap without looking first. Healthy reality testing is needed!

From May 27 to June 29, Mars retrograde will enter Scorpio. As I said before, it takes courage to face our inner darkness. During this phase of the cycle, you are gathering the momentum needed to make meaningful connections. You are finding the strength to step up to new challenges surrounding intimacy and honesty. Scorpio is an archetype that deals with everything we culturally subjugate or attempt to deny—often by making fun of it. Death is one of those things, and so is sex. Imagine that throughout this portion of the cycle, you need to rediscover your ability to step into that dark morass of repressed subject matter. Whatever new challenges you take on, will likely feel uncomfortable and may ask you to reach beyond certain boundaries.

But if you take on the challenge, you will be set on a new course of deeper self-knowledge. You’ll find that from here on out, you’ll have strengthened your capacity to be honest with yourself and with others. There may be intense experiences and encounters you avoided in the past but need to face now. There may be particularly “karmic” situations with individuals coming into your life. There may be a need to release pent-up or repressed desires. But try not to lose perspective. Don’t get too caught up in your own issues or inner darkness that it makes you moody and depressed. Come up for some air when you need to. But if you keep up the momentum, this will be a highly transformative cycle. 

In conclusion, don't confuse a retrograde for a time of inaction. It's simply not true! And when it comes to Mars, inaction is the last thing you should consider. A retrograde cycle is a time of transition and often an opportunity to make some kind of breakthrough. It may not be the most significant moment of your life (it happens every two years), but if it triggers a potent portion of your horoscope, it just might be. This is time to build new strength and momentum. It's like positioning yourself before a great wave of immense force. But you have to be willing do this by responding to your desires for change. As always within the paradigm of astrology that I practice, trust and follow those impulses and desires for positive change. If you do, you'll find yourself stronger and readier for the what lies before you. 


Friday, February 5, 2016

The Aquarian New Year: New Moon in Aquarius 2016

Lightning within the cloud illuminates the entire cloud blanket
 over the Mojave Desert during an electrical rain storm; photo by
Jessie Eastland.

New Moon @ 19 Aquarius 16'
February 8, 2016
9:39 AM Eastern
6:39 AM Pacific

When the Moon reaches its conjunction with the Sun each month, there’s a sense of something falling away and yet something unknown stirring in the darkness. Your energy may feel lower than usual, or you may find yourself feeling introspective and reflective. A New Moon is often perceived to be the monthly moment of new beginnings, and that’s pretty much true, but it’s also a time to recharge and reset yourself for the new cycle to develop. From the remnants of what has fallen away, emerges a new potential—a potential that is unseen, invisible and imbued with mystery.

Every beginning feels this way. The energy has yet to fully manifest; there may be hesitation and caution as well as an uncertainty regarding what lies ahead. A New Moon is filled with anticipation, however subtly you experience this. This month’s New Moon in tropical Aquarius may feel like the official start of the New Year, considering Mercury’s retrograde cycle occurring at the beginning of January. To the Chinese, each year, the Aquarian New Moon is actually the official start of the Chinese New Year (this year, the year of the Monkey).

Perhaps this year, we should join them in celebrating this New Moon and focusing our intention upon it as the start of something new. With Mercury direct and several “harmonious” aspects occurring between planets this month, February appears to be a good time for new beginnings in myriad shapes and forms, a time of opportunity and creative potential. Aquarius is an interesting sign because, in western astrology, we associate it with two planets of a very different archetypal nature: classically, Saturn and the modern outer planet Uranus.

What’s interesting is that these two planets are completely antithetical archetypes. Saturn encourages conformity while Uranus is inclined towards rebellion. Thus, Aquarius is a sign wrought with inner tension with intentions that are seemingly at cross purposes. We also associate Aquarius with the scientific paradigm on one end, which encourages peer collaboration. There’s a need within Aquarius to “get along” and follow the accepted procedure to maintain social harmony and cohesion. On the other end, Aquarius can also express itself as a revolutionary requiring the full, authentic expression of its eccentricity and innate genius.

The Saturnian side of Aquarius requires an acceptance of social rules and collective agreements. The Uranian side of Aquarius requires one to break those rules to forge new pathways. But when we reflect on this process, we come to an understanding that Aquarius isn’t necessarily a contradiction, but an essential process representing two ends of a spectrum needed to sustain human evolution. So, maybe you feel that way with this New Moon, that there’s a need for freedom and a need to embrace your individuality, alongside a need to conform to something to get along in the context of a community or group of individuals.

On the Uranian side, Aquarius may impulse you towards the start of a new pathway. Change is in the air with this lunation, and if you're conscious of this, you can begin taking steps in the direction of increased freedom and autonomy, but know that whatever steps you do take, will require some immense challenges. The planet Mars falls in a 90 degrees (square) aspect to this lunation from the sign of Scorpio. Whenever Mars enters the picture, you may be impulsed to face your fears, muster up some courage, and prepare for a battle. But a square is also symbolic of a much-needed push to generate the momentum.

In Scorpio, that battle is a challenge to integrate yourself communally and socially while maintaining a need to be truly authentic, as well as the need to cultivate honesty. The problem with certain social agreements is that they often overshadow the authentic dimensions of human experience and subjugate the expression of primal human needs. And then, sometimes, when we’re too focused on being completely authentic and real we’re unable to peacefully function in many social environments. So, this lunation presents the need for compromise and asks whether you can find space for both of these areas of life experience without one dominating the other.

Consider this New Moon as a time to step up to a subtle challenge to successfully integrate yourself within a community in a way that's not overtly threatening or too intense, but also in a way that doesn’t completely abolish your right to be human, your right to be yourself.  Consider also, that this New Moon falls on the midpoint of Venus and Chiron which speaks about shifting attitudes in our relationships. Aquarian relationships are often surface level and require a cordial demeanor or approach. Scorpionic relationships are far more intimate and “dirty”. How do we meet both needs within the context of our relationships? That appears to be the challenge this month, a challenge that will require a change of perception, as well as a change of heart. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Facing What Scares You: Venus and the Uranus/Pluto Square

Transverse of a ledge in a Canadian/Polish attempt to climb Khunyang Chhish,
Pakistan; photo by Raphael Slawinski, June 2006.

On Feb 5 through 6, the planet Venus, accompanied by the Moon, will pass through the slowly fading wake of the Pluto/Uranus square. The 90 degrees aspect between Uranus and Pluto is still active in the collective psyche, slowly dissipating, but still within approximately one degree of separation. Look back at the past several years since this cycle began. Uranus and Pluto came into exact contact in 2012, but the energy was building a year or so before then. To gain some perspective of what happens collectively when Uranus and Pluto come together, reflect upon the late 1960’s and the dynamic cultural and political reformation that was birthed from these powerful outer planets aligning in conjunction.

Uranus seeks to liberate and accentuate authentic, individual expression. Pluto seeks to accentuate the shadowy chasm of the collective psyche, bringing to consciousness suppressed, psychological elements to ultimately transform the personal self and collective identity. We could say that Pluto seeks to annihilate/transform the very ego Uranus seeks to bring to apotheosis. In other words, in times such as these, we each undergo deep personal transformation which is mirrored in the outer world as a rapid cultural and societal restructuring.

Pluto reveals the content that has been subjugated and ignored by our society (or the personal self/ego), and Uranus seeks to integrate those elements to ultimately reform the current, established order, but both planets work on each other.We could say that what Uranus seeks to innovate or liberate, Pluto attempts to provide with a greater purpose and application beyond the personal self. What that might feel like on an individual level, given the nature of the square, is the call to bring your individuality to some greater service beyond your own self- interests through hard work and the overcoming of immense obstacles.

And Pluto always demands deep, inner work. It demands, often, a dark night of the soul. Needless to say, this has been a tumultuous period of time, especially for those of us with significant planets in Aries, Cancer, Libra, or Capricorn. On Feb 5, the planet Venus will conjoin Pluto in Capricorn. With the Moon, Mercury, Venus and Pluto clustering in Capricorn, you may find yourself feeling a bit more determined, focused, disciplined, and self-reflective. This is a brief moment in time where you have an opportunity to align your priorities and to transcend those habits or behaviors you may feel are holding you back from some greater purpose or mission.

But remember that you have free will. That means that you can always stay where you are. But if you do that, you’re likely to experience Pluto’s often frightening and uncomfortable dark night of the soul. You’re likely to feel, perhaps, a fleeting moment of meaninglessness and depression. Such feelings arise from within the body as a message from the soul: “You are capable of more than what you currently perceive yourself to be.” Venus, on one end, is a “social” impulse. It seeks to extend outward to build bridges of social exchange. On another end, Venus symbolizes what we project value upon. Either way, Venus is about projection.

As Venus conjoins with Pluto, you may find that over the next few days you have an opportunity to see deeper into your projections. What lies at the root of your current desires? Is what you desire really for your greater good? Will it lead to liberation, change, and transformation, or are you projecting value upon something unaware of what you’re actually after? But, here’s the trick. Pluto will always get you. No matter what you go after, you can’t avoid the shadowy void of the unconscious. Whether in your dreams/nightmares, what have you, these next few days will lead you to a potential realization of your bigger purpose, mission, or destiny, if only a glimpse. Maybe you learn that the easy way, by willingly facing what scares you.

Or maybe you learn the hard way, choosing to ignore uncomfortable truths, but finding it anyway through external conflict or fleeting existential angst. In Capricorn, it’s time to get serious and choose to consciously liberate yourself from suppressive circumstances. That may not require direct action. It may merely require your willingness to look deeper at what impulses you right now and what you’re trying to avoid. Look soberly into your frustration. It’s trying to tell you something. It’s trying to bring awareness to those issues that have been ignored. And when you do that, when you bring light to the darkness, you’ll have a clearer strategy and a readiness to charge ahead.