Another Photography-Assisted

Given the rapaciousness of the forest-fires here in Colorado, with today’s air thick with soot, these may be the last photos of the Moon taken for quite some time.

You can see these planets in the sky these days. If youdon’t live in smoke-infested Colorado (or, I assume, vast tracts of California), you can see Mars in the eastern sky around midnight, with Jupiter and Saturn farther to the west– along with the far-more-distant Pluto that you can’t see with the naked eye – all quite bright. As I write, Jupiter and Saturn remain in retrograde motion; Mars will turn retrograde in a few days. Thus you can see them. Why? During their retrograde periods, the planets from Mars on out go through opposition to the Sun – as seen from Earth, of course. Thus those planets get, as seen from Earth, increased light from the Sun. Thus you can see ‘em.

These facts seem to me astrologically suggestive. Consider these reasons:

  1. We can see the planets as part of the cosmos that seems separate from us (i.e. up in the night sky). This seems to suggest that though many astrologers describe retrograde planets as “unconscious,” they appear, as do many (maybe most, maybe even all) projections, in the world around us. We can see them clearly there; the planets in the night sky shine more brightly then than at any other point in their orbit.
  2. Yet we see ‘em in the night sky: we see them visibly as projections precisely because they remain unconscious (symbolized by the night sky). I find this delightfully paradoxical, like many other  things I encounter in life.
  3. People often experience more conflict with others during Mars’ retrograde period. Why? Probably at such times because we project Mars into the world more consistently — or more brightly. The Sun-Mars opposition (during the retrograde period) suggests projection, as do most oppositions in astrology. We generally play the role of the planet closest to the Sun – in this case, the Sun itself! We project out the planet further from the Sun: Mars, obviously. Thus we run into conflict with a Mars that seems external to ourselves.
  4. But #2 suggests that we can have greater awareness of the factors involved – the delightful paradox.
  5. Oppositions symbolize objective awareness – interesting phrase! It suggests, among other things, that we can develop greater awareness by dealing with the objects of the world. We can get feedback from the objects (with people, here, considered as objects) of the world. Thus the world arises as a teacher.
  6. But we have to delve into the unconscious to find the roots of the problem – if we want to call it a “problem.”
  7. Then there’s this matter of the enjoyment we can get by seeing planets in the night sky. Air pollution – or fire smoke – may make this difficult. In my grandiose moments, I announce, to anyone who’ll listen, “See, when we get too civilized, we lose sight of unconscious forces!”
    7a. We apparently enjoy engaging with the world. This often — maybe always? — means working with our projections.
    7a. Yours truly considers Pluto — out there and invisible to the naked eye — as closely connected to what Jung called “the projection-making factor per se.” We can discuss that at another time — though I discuss it in my book on projection (Your Hidden Face: Projection in the Horoscope).
  8. Finally, as I said in an earlier installment, the upcoming retrogradation of Mars will take it through squares to the US Mercury-Pluto opposition, the aspect I’ve talked about in several previous installments and that has a clear connection to the effect of the pandemic on the United States.
    8a. Remember that the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of last January tells us about the world-wide pandemic per se, while the transits of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto to planets in the US horoscope tell us about how that pandemic will play itself out in the United States.
    8b. The omens do not seem propitious, to put the matter mildly. But more on this later.

That will do for now.

September 6, 2020. Boulder, CO



Alert readers have probably noticed that I began this blog-installment with a photo. Note the Moon, resplendent in the Colorado sky about a week ago, when it (the Moon, that is) made its passage through late Aries. Because of the not-exactly-high-quality of my android phone-camera, and perhaps also because of the #$%^&* streetlights of Boulder CO (and perhaps, let’s be honest, because your vision, gentle reader, is not what it used to be), you can’t see Mars, right up there beside the waning lunar crescent. You’ll have to take my word for it that Mars appeared to the naked eye, at least In Colorado.[1]

Why see any of the above as important? With the Sun in Leo and Mars in Aries, we found ourselves, at the time of the photo, approaching the Sun-Mars trine. That trine preceded Mars’ retrograde station, which will occur on September 9 at 28Aries09. Are you with me so far? Are you asking what such developments have to do with the purported subject of this blog-series (astrology, politics, and history, for those of you with short memories)? Cool. Let’s look.

As he moves through Aries, ever more slowly as he approaches the retrograde station, transiting (TR) Mars makes challenging aspects to the planetary positions I have discussed on previous installments: the Mercury-Pluto opposition, from 24 Cancer (Mercury) to 27 Capricorn (Pluto) in the US natal horoscope, the opposition currently besieged (so to speak) by TR Saturn and TR Pluto. Because of the retrograde, TR Mars will make three contacts (in direct motion, retrograde, and direct again) with both natal (N) Mercury and N Pluto – and, of course, with TR Saturn and TR Pluto. Earlier, TR Mars squared (from Aries) the US Venus, Jupiter, and Sun. (See the dates below.)

These developments – TR Mars in Aries squaring so many important planets in the US horoscope – seem connected to the unwise (symbolized by the afflictive aspects) impulsiveness (Aries) on the part of the USA (the natal planets) in connection with COVID19. When we recall that the US N Mars squares N Neptune – an aspect suggesting deceptive and ill-considered actions related to a deceptive national ideology (N Neptune in the 9th) related to projection (Mars in 7th, the house of ‘open enemies’) and phobias regarding things-foreign (9th house again) – we probably shouldn’t feel surprised.

Also this: TR Mar, in Aries and in the US 11th house, forms a t-cross (t-square) composed of natal and transiting planets. Mars becomes the focal planet of that t-square. Thus, among other developments, the anger (Mars) emerging from group-enterprises (US 11th house): think of Black Lives Matter (a group enterprise) and its (or their) reactions (Mars) against long-standing government-imposed restrictions and national projections (e.g. the projection of Pluto onto black people, among others, matters discussed in previous installments[2]).

I took the photo late on August 8th, not long before the Sun-Mars trine (on 8/16). Unlike the planets outside his orbit, Mars makes his trine with the Sun before his retrograde (not during, as is the case with the others). This suggests what many people experience with Mars’ retrograde: that things seem, when left unexamined, to go forward swimmingly and wonderfully in the period leading up to the retrograde (unless other, longer-lasting, transits bring a different message), but that once Mars turns retrograde, we often feel as if we’ve gotten clocked upside the cranium by events. Apply these remarks to the country as a whole. Do not expect wonderful results.

Note, though, that, because of matters discussed briefly below, we can expect worse results for nations than for individuals.

Note #1: Individuals can use the retrograde period to get more objective understanding of initiatives taken in the weeks or months leading up to the retrograde. The “objective understanding” part comes from the Sun-Mars opposition that takes place midway through the retrograde period, as oppositions arise, often enough, through splitting, with one end arising in the extensional world – in other words, as a projection. Once we understand how objects can represent elements of mind, we develop awareness. The Sun-Mars opposition offers opportunities for us to investigate such developments. We can make best use of the period not by plunging blindly forward, but by looking within, by finding the motives that led us into certain patterns of actions. Individuals can reflect, of course, in ways that nations cannot seem to do. Thus we can expect worse results on a national scale than will necessarily occur for individuals. However, individuals can expect some restrictions on action (Mars), as the retrograde suggests that Mars turns inward, bringing challenges to the externalization of impulse.

Note #2. The USA presently has secondary progressed Mars retrograde. This began formally on July 19, 2006, but as Mars slowed toward the retrograde station in the years leading up to that date, frustrations increased (e.g. the US had less and less success in its attacks on other nations). I and many other astrologers (I can’t remember who, though) suggested – or, if you prefer, predicted – that we would see Mars turned inward, with aggression directed increasingly against US citizens, with many problems projected onto citizen groups instead of, as has been the national custom, apparently-external enemies (Mars in the 7th). Thus the militarization of police, among other developments.


Transits from Mars to positions in the US natal horoscope:

Series 1 (from a bit earlier): TR Mars to N Venus, Jupiter, and Sun:

Mars square Venus              7/3/2020
Mars square Jupiter             7/7
Mars square Sun                 7/21
Mars opposite Saturn          7/24

The transits from Mars to the Sun and Saturn gave another t-cross, this time with the N Sun in Cancer as the focal planet.

Series 2: TR Mars to the N (US) Mercury-Pluto opposition:

Mars square Mercury          8/16
Mars square Pluto               8/31 
Mars square Pluto               9/18 (with Mars now retrograde)
Mars square Mercury          10/3
Mars square Mercury          12/24 (with Mars now in direct motion again)
Mars square Pluto               1/1/2021

Mars’ transits to transiting (TR) Saturn and Pluto:

TR Mars square Pluto          8/13
TR Mars square Saturn        8/24
TR Mars square Saturn        9/29 (with Mars now retrograde)
TR Mars square Pluto          10/9
TR Mars square Pluto          12/23 (with Mars again in direct motion)
TR Mars square Saturn        1/13/2021

[1] Your correspondent cannot speak to its visibility in, say, Los Angeles, NYC, or cloudy Seattle, hard by the sea. He has heard, though, that, due to the Covid19 quarantines, semi-quarantines, and so forth, the air-pollution in places like LA and NYC has markedly reduced. Also note: the author took the photo before wildfire-related smoke drifted over Boulder.

[2] And in my Your Hidden Face: Projection in the Horoscope.





Transiting (TR) Pluto, now moving very slowly retrograde at 24+ Capricorn, precisely opposite the US Mercury, symbolizes, among other possibilities, not only the ongoing national obsessions and projections about COVID19, but about other matters as well, race included, as well as the economy, related subjects (discussed below). The natal (N) Mercury-Pluto opposition (as distinguished from the present transit) symbolizes the projection of “dark” qualities onto people of color, starting with Native Americans and extending to the current situation. The present transit, reiterating the natal Mercury-Pluto aspect, brings the natal material into full view; we can see once again that Americans for the most part like to think of themselves (Mercury) as homeowners and family-folk seeking security above all (Cancer), tendencies reiterated by the other three N planets in Cancer.[1] Playing the role of Mercury throughout the nation’s history, the people have tended to project Pluto onto others – or, at least, people considered as “other,” even if they qualify as American citizens (e.g. millions of people of color), attributing to those people qualities or tendencies that they either don’t have or don’t have to the extent often imagined, qualities and tendencies that rightly belong to the projector.[2]

By referring to obsessions and projections, I don’t mean that the country doesn’t face real problems, whether about viruses, race, or other matters, but only that those problems arise as projections of something unregenerate in the national psyche. We might recall the words of James Baldwin about the “negro problem” as intimately connected with a sickness – perhaps we could even say a virus – in the soul of the country.[3] The natal (N) Mercury-Pluto opposition suggests that Americans will too often ignore the problem, thus ensuring that it gets projected out, for oppositions often split, with one end experienced as part of the self and the other experienced via projected energies. Thus, for many decades, arose the “negro problem,” as if the problem arose in black people, not in the nation’s (so to speak) soul.

The N opposition appears continuously in our history via the rhetoric (Mercury) emerging from a press (Mercury) under plutocratic (Pluto) control. Thus the similarity in the descriptions of, say, Native Americans, African-Americans, Cubans, Middle-Easterners of all sorts, and even Russians – and, these days, the Chinese.

Because Pluto made a station (on April 25) precisely opposite the US natal (N) Mercury at 24+ Cancer, things seem pretty much stuck – as do economic matters, for the TR opposition takes place in the “money houses” of the nation’s horoscope: from N Mercury in the 8th to TR Pluto in the 2nd. And, of course, the US N Pluto also falls in the N 2nd house, so the present situation mirrors and reiterates a set of economic questions, the answers to which seem vital to the nation’s health, both literally and figuratively. It’s almost as if Baldwin had studied the US horoscope.[4] (See the attached two-wheeler.)

The astrological information goes a long way to explaining why the United States has made such a mess of the “race problem,” not to mention the current situation with the virus.

The house positions related to the present transit and natal position of the relevant planets (Mercury and Pluto) point to the importance of economic factors and other matters swept under whatever rugs seem at the ready: the 2nd, 8th and 12th. The 2nd and 8th both deal with money, symbolizing the nation’s finances (2nd) and its financial or value-oriented relations with other nations or groups (8th). The US Sun and Mercury in the 8th, with Venus and Jupiter on the cusp (rulers of the midheaven and ascendant respectively) suggest the way this country has established its security (Cancer) by taking the resources, including the people, from other people and places. The nation began by stealing land from the indigenous people of this continent, largely for economic reasons; not much later began the stealing of people from Africa in a process that had clear economic motivations, for slavery generally proves a good business practice – as does “wage slavery.”

The present transits of Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto through the US 2nd house point, obviously enough, to the present economic upheaval, and the transit of Pluto to N Pluto, already somewhat in effect but not exact until 2022, marks the end of an economic cycle that began with the birth of the nation in 1776. The 2022 transit may bring the economy to its knees (Capricorn)[5] – or worse. The present transit (TR Pluto opposite N Mercury) points to the obvious obsessions and projections mentioned above, obsessions and projections encouraged by the Plutonic (plutocratic, if you prefer) press (N Mercury opposing N Pluto) and including the Black Lives Matter movement. It also tells us (via the houses involved) that economic problems play at least as important a role as racially-motivated ones. After all, even as some (not all, obviously) overt racism has dissipated, economic disparities remain and, according to some sources, keep getting worse. Some studies offer the following figures regarding average family wealth: $139,300 for non-Hispanic whites; $12, 920 for blacks – a more-than ten-to-one disparity even after decades of desegregation and over a century and a half after the end of slavery.

              The 12th house enters the picture because the racial and financial problems too often remain hidden, even if in plain sight. The 12th symbolizes that which the nation prefers to ignore; with Pluto as the ruler of its 12th, this country prefers to ignore the Pluto-related matters discussed above, but the current transit has brought all manner of 12th house matters to the surface (including, for example, problems related to hospitals and confinement). Thus we have seen, in recent years, not only Black Lives Matter, but also Occupy Wall Street (related to plutocratic finances), plus #MeToo (Pluto as the mythological rapist and abductor) and other problems related to sex and power.

              The plutocratic hierarchy (Pluto in Capricorn) finds itself under threat, but we should remember that the press plays a major role in fomenting upheaval and in controlling thought (the natal Mercury-Pluto aspect). Furthermore, Pluto can induce an obsessive and compulsive state of mind (Mercury) throughout the nation, driven by long-inheld (12th) rage that, however justified, may not think strategically, but only in terms of destroying the old, with Pluto symbolizing, as Dane Rudhyar said many decades ago, death and the possibility – not the guarantee – of rebirth. The plutonium bomb destroys, and its main creation is harmful radiation. We must all, therefore include in our thinking a reference to fundamental values, considering not only what must die, but also what new life might arise from that death, what values will endure, and how we will all relate to earth – phrases that might remind us of problems related to climate change, an ongoing process that will likely bring death to many people and institutions, even if we solve the problems discussed above.[6]

ERRATA: A few months back, I claimed, erroneously, that the previous Saturn-Pluto conjunction in Capricorn took place in 549 CE and coincided with the Plague of Justinian, a bubonic epidemic that did so much to speed the final collapse of the Roman Empire. I hold to most of what I said, but I would say “a previous” instead of “the previous.” There have been a few other such conjunctions in Capricorn, with perhaps the most notable taking place in 1518 at 4+ Capricorn and connected to the first transmission of smallpox to the New World mainland in 1820 (i.e. according to one source; another source mentions a 1516 smallpox epidemic in the Yucatan). Though the disease had appeared as early as 1509 in the Caribbean Islands, it apparently did not get to the mainland until almost a decade later. According to some sources, the disease eventually wiped out at least half of the population and obviously facilitated the Spanish conquest. (The Aztec’s repulsed Cortez’ first attack, but the second (1821) took place after the disease had ravaged the army and the general population, the people having contracted the condition from Cortez’ army.) The Aztec empire collapsed quickly.

ADDENDA: I feel indebted to my old friend Antero Alli for spurring me into an investigation of Eris and pointing out that that very distant planet (or, if you prefer, celestial object, or perhaps” dwarf planet”) presently hovers at 24+ Aries, precisely square the US Mercury even as TR Pluto opposes it, making Eris the focal planet of a t-square formed by transit. Though I have been studying Eris via Henry Seltzer’s excellent book on the subject (The Tenth Planet: Revelations from the Astrological Eris) I don’t feel ready to make specific statements (partly because of Eris’ astronomical and, it seems, behavioral similarities with Pluto) about how it manifests, beyond the following, which comes from Mr. Seltzer but which accords with my observations so far: “The astrology of Eris seems to be related to the no-holds-barred fight for continued existence that is fundamental to all natural processes, and for making a stand for what one believes, even if violence is involved.” That plus a strong connection to women’s warriorship, as Mr. Seltzer notes.

[1] The Sun, Jupiter, and Venus. Jupiter rules the Sagittarius Ascendant; Venus rules the Libra Midheaven. The N Moon in Aquarius in the 3rd adds to the Cancer emphasis that of Aquarius: the people, even as they seek security, prefer to see themselves as progressives, reflecting Uranus (one of Aquarius’ rulers), though with a hidden affinity with authority (Saturn, the other ruler). And this: N Uranus lies near the Descendant, suggesting the projection of Uranus’ progressive rebelliousness onto other nations and peoples so that they appear as enemies, another pattern traceable in the nation’s history.

[2] For recent projections of Pluto, consider the ongoing relations of the United States with all sorts of Middle Eastern people. The situation with Iraq seems particularly noteworthy, as the US kept claiming that Iraq had stashes of “weapons of mass destruction” even as our military sat atop piles and piles of such weapons. Michael Paul Rogin’s Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian gives extensive treatment of the national projection onto native peoples, though Rogin uses different terminology (and doesn’t use astrology). See also my Your Hidden Face: Projection in the Horoscope (AFA, 2014).

[3] Do not consider this an exact quote. I offer it from memory. I don’t remember whether it comes from one of Mr. Baldwin’s books, from his essays, or from his speeches.

[4] As I have said before, I use the “Rudhyar Chart” for the country.

[5] The transit takes place in Capricorn, ruler of the knees.

[6] The symbolism of Taurus, the polar opposite of Scorpio. As Marc Edmund Jones pointed out many decades ago, and as Antero Ali did more recently, we can work more effectively with outer planet transits by emphasizing the energies of the sign opposite the one ruled by the planet-in-question.




In previous installments, I have discussed the recent Saturn-Pluto conjunction in itself; in other words, astrologically speaking, I discussed it largely in reference to the whole planet, for planet-to-planet transits – in this case, transiting (TR) Saturn to TR Pluto – carry a symbolism relevant to everyone. By contrast, transit-to-natal situations have relevance only to the entity with the birth-horoscope under examination. In a person-to-person natal reading, the astrologer looks largely at transit-to-natal symbolism (in addition to progressed-to-natal and directions-to-natal indications), which would include looking at how any transit-to-transit aspects connect to the natal horoscope. In this installment, I will look at TR Saturn and TR Pluto in reference to the United States natal horoscope.[1]

Perhaps most obviously, the Saturn-Pluto conjunction took place closely opposite the US Mercury in Cancer; as I write, Pluto is precisely opposite that Mercury, having recently turned retrograde. The US N Mercury opposes the US N Pluto, and the US will have its Pluto return within the next few years, a matter for discussion in a future installment related to the U.S. economy. Finally, the US has N Mercury in the 8th house and N Pluto in the 2nd – the so-called “money houses” of a horoscope, with Mercury in Cancer and Pluto in Capricorn.

The natal Mercury-Pluto aspect depicts both the control of the nation’s press by plutocratic interests and, at least as importantly, the tendency of the US to project Pluto onto others. This latter tendency has characterized myriad developments in this country’s history, as we see the projected Pluto in Capricorn arising through people attempting to live in their traditional ways (Capricorn) getting depicted, in the nation’s press and in the minds of millions of citizens (Mercury) as brutal savages (Pluto). In my book on projection (Your Hidden Face: Projection in the Horoscope), I put it this way:

The pattern appeared even before the United States declared itself a nation, as the invading Europeans saw the native people as dark, savage primitive, and cruel, despite the sophistication of many native civilizations and the marked primitive savagery – characterized by historian Michael Rogin as a drive for “primitive accumulation” – of the Europeans. Later, with the institution of the slave trade, African slaves served nicely as a [further] hook for the United States’ projection. Later still, the Soviet Union did yeoman service in that role…. (278)

Thus we see that the “descriptions” in the national press (including many so-called reputable history books) of the indigenous people of this continent look a lot like the “descriptions” of, say, imported black slaves, Iraqis, Vietnamese, Russians, Iranians – and now the Chinese – any group or nation that US leaders, often with millions of citizens following suit, choose as a period’s designated enemy.[2] Because Pluto also has much to do with the nation’s capacity for change and transformation, these projections seem to hinder possibly-fruitful change.

The current viral pandemic seems, on the one hand, like a very serious external matter – and oppositions indicate, above all, a relationship with an internal factor with an apparently external one – and, on the other, a projection of the nation’s need, at this point in its history, for fundamental change and realignment, not merely a change in presidential regime, but a transformation of the                         basic economic “realities” that so often seem to afflict milliions even as they hold the capacity for creatively envisioned transformation.

We see, too, a nationwide control (Pluto) and limitation (Saturn) initiated by the hierarchy (Capricorn) on the Mercury-related movements of citizens, Mercury here having to do with the various ways we weave ourselves into our neighborhoods and families, the most ordinary and habitual set of communications (with that term broadly understood) through which we come to terms with our lives and with ourselves. That TR Saturn and TR Pluto make their transits from the 2nd house of the US horoscope tells us that the restrictions and necessary transformations in communication have a close connection to financial matters; Capricorn on the 2nd house cusp suggests – particularly with Saturn, ruler of Capricorn, in the 10th – an unusually close relationship between a plutocratic financial system and governmental hierarchies. Pluto’s movement toward N Pluto – this country’s “Pluto Return,” a transit that nations can have but that individual people other than Methuselah cannot – suggests a transformation of the nation’s economic system, a transformation that will also involve the various ways the US’s security (Cancer) depends on the US tendency to take the money and resources of other nations or groups (8th), a tendency evident throughout the nation’s history but perhaps most evident in the slaughter of this continent’s indigenous people and the stealing of their land, the importing of slaves from Africa, and ongoing crises in the Middle East, etc.
As I write, Saturn has moved into Aquarius but will return to Capricorn on 7/1 and will make a station on 9/29 about 1.5 degrees from another precise opposition to the US N Mercury (i.e. well within orb) and then through a second and third conjunctions with N Pluto. TR Pluto remains precisely (within a degree) opposed to the same Mercury through early July. The aspect suggests control (Pluto) over people’s movements (Mercury), among other possibilities. As Pluto retrogrades away from that opposition, we will perhaps see less restriction and control, particularly as Saturn will leave Aquarius, a sign closely connected to group interactions and one-to-many relations, with TR Saturn bringing restriction to such relations. However, both astrological factors will return (i.e. Pluto will oppose Mercury again; Saturn will return to Aquarius), so we should not assume that we have gotten ourselves out of the virus-infested woods quite yet. The TR Pluto-N Mercury opposition will occur three times: now; December 2020 into January 2021; August through September 2020, when Pluto will again make a station precisely opposed to N Mercury. Admittedly, sometimes the energy of a triple transit expends itself (so to speak) in one of the three phrases, and, admittedly, too, sometimes that one phase will see an outer planet stationing precisely at the trigger point, as in Pluto’s present station in April and May 2020. On the other hand, sometimes we see a three-phase sequence of thesis-antithesis-synthesis coinciding with the three phases of the triple-transit – and, of course, the August-September 2021 period will see Pluto again stationing opposite that N Mercury.[3]

TR Pluto opposing Mercury also implicates the media of the country, ruled in part by Mercury. The N Mercury- N Pluto opposition points to the control (Pluto) of media (Mercury) by plutocrats (Pluto) in ways connected to “national security,” a phrase which might induce us to remember Mr. Chomsky’s remarks about how governments often consider the people as the major entity in need of government control. We can probably agree with Donald Trump on at least one thing: many media outlets promulgate “false news,” Trump himself, along with his minions, serving as Purveyor in Chief, though other organizations differ in degree and not kind. In theory, TR Pluto can transform the citizens’ connection to the media, but nation states generally make the worst possible use of transits!

Astrologers generally “read a transit back to the natal chart,” a phrase meaning that the interpretation of any transiting planet depends to a great degree on that planet’s signification in the natal horoscope. The US N Pluto falls in the 2nd house, suggesting money; thus, I have said here that N Mercury-N Pluto suggests control of media by moneyed interests – and Pluto, no matter where located, often points in a nation’s chart to plutocratic and/or other hidden control-measures. The US N Saturn lies at the US midheaven, suggesting a government bent on preserving order, both at home and abroad.

In the present situation, the astrological material suggests that we must distinguish clearly between arbitrary government control ,on the one hand, and restrictions demanded (so to speak) by the virus, on the other. In other words, to prevent complete catastrophe, we probably do need to restrict our movements – and even our breathing (e.g. via masks), which Mercury also has significant rulership over.[4] Notably, millions of Americans have participated in this without having the government enforce its authority. However, Saturn rules restrictive authority and Pluto has a lot to do with totalitarian initiatives; historically, the conjunctions between TR Saturn and TR Pluto have coincided with right-wing turns, sometimes severe, in government policy.[5] The danger – for everyone on earth, though more acutely in the USA because of the horoscope factors under discussion – has to do with the development of restrictive authority (Saturn moving through his two dignities[6]) developing out of the viral pandemic (Pluto) resulting in the increasing influence of plutonic elements with clear connections to totalitarian tendencies.[7] Consider this a warning.

On the other hand, Saturn-Pluto suggests highly organized and powerful movements arising from what seem initially as small sources but that, through a chain-reaction, result in enormous organizational changes. Though we do well to keep on the lookout for plutonic-government shenanigans, we should also realize that Pluto arises in each person as the potential to bring about change and that Saturn arises through personal discipline.

Charts: Triple-wheeler: Inner wheel: USA natal horoscope (Rudhyar chart); middle wheel: the Saturn-Pluto conjunction; outer wheel: transits for May 8, 2020.

Note: readers seeking a more complete interpretation of the projection-tendencies suggested by the U.S. horoscope can consult my Your Hidden Face: Projection in the Horoscope, available from the publisher (American Federation of Astrologers), me (timlyons1106@gmail.com), or (probably) Amazon.

[1] I use the so-called Rudhyar horoscope for the United States: July 4, 1776 at 5.13 pm LMT in Philadelphia. I use this one because a) its symbolism seems to me appropriate to the major characteristics of this nation seems to fit in with US history, and b) it responds very precisely to transits, directions, and progressions.

[2] Other natal configurations suggest other projection-patterns, but the Mercury-Pluto opposition always plays a major role, not only in the natal horoscope, but as measured by solar arc directions and other factors.

[3] Notes: 1. I have stolen “trigger point” from, I think, Steven Forrest. 2. The triple transits have a direct phrase, a retrograde phase, and another direct phase. They occur because of the retrogradation of the planets, an earth-based phenomenon resulting from the relative movements of the Earth, the planet, and the more distant fixed stars. 3. Saturn will return to Aquarius in 12/2020 and remain there until 3/2023.

[4] Traditionally, Mercury has, through its dignity in Gemini, had a connection to the lungs. We “breathe” socially via social interaction; we interact with the external world primarily through our breathing, for it makes possible all other interactions and involves constant exchange.

[5] I am drawing, here, on Richard Tarnas’ research. See Cosmos and Psyche.

[6] Capricorn and Aquarius.

[7] Pluto’s discovery closely coincided with Hitler’s rise to power, among other developments.


In the previous installment, I discussed the Saturn-Pluto cycle in general and looked at the previous such conjunction in Capricorn: the conjunction of 549 CE associated with the Plague of Justinian that spread through Europe, even as far as the British Isles, during that period. That example should alert us to some possible ramifications of the present conjunction, again in Capricorn, for Capricorn has much to do with hierarchies, particularly of the governmental sort. And, as we have seen, Pluto rules viruses and other rapidly mutating organisms that can cause disease in humans. The 549 AD conjunction had much to do with the dissolving of the remains of the Roman Empire, certainly the weakening of it. As I said in previous installments, William H. McNeil has detailed (in Plagues and Peoples) the influence of microparasites on the well-being and sustainability of human societies, particularly when we join our understanding of microparasites with and understanding of their varied interrelationships with macroparasites such as armies of conquest and, indeed, many long-standing social hierarchies in which elite groups have a parasitic relationship with much larger non-elite groups. In this installment, we will look at the most recent Saturn-Pluto conjunction.

As I said before, transiting (TR) Saturn conjoined (TR) Pluto conjoined on January 12, 2020. Let’s look at some particulars related to that event:

A. The conjunction took place in Capricorn.
B.  More specifically, it took place in the 23rd degree (22+) of Capricorn.
C. Saturn will move – and has, as I write this, already moved, though he will return to Capricorn for a bit before returning – into Aquarius.


A. That the conjunction took place in Capricorn suggests, among other possibilities, that Saturnian elements can influence Plutonic ones, at least for a while. According to astrological tradition, Saturn rules both Capricorn and Aquarius, two signs having much to do with public life. Thus we would expect Saturn to have great influence in this conjunction, though the example of 549 CE surely suggests that Pluto, the outermost planet of the pair, will eventually have his or her say.[1] At first, status quo forces will attempt to control the virus and/or the death-rebirth pattern; after all, TR Saturn rules Capricorn. Watch for government forces to further their restrictive purposes.[2] However, though the current aspect can certainly suggest an empowerment (Pluto) of status quo arrangements (Capricorn), it can also suggest a necessary transformation (Pluto) of hierarchies (Saturn and Capricorn), quite possibly forcing those hierarchies to go through metaphorical or literal death-and-rebirth processes. This remark has particular relevance for hegemonic situations.

All of this sounds dire, and I see it as such, though I hold out the possibility that those hierarchies could transform in helpful ways. We can already see signs of this more positive result, as millions of people have shown great resiliency and commitment as they took upon themselves the necessary disciplines (Saturn) to deal with the virus (Pluto), showing the possibility, in the process, of bringing about a necessary transformation. After all, as various city and state governments announced regulations of all sorts, millions of people voluntarily cooperated, bringing about the results we see, in places like New York (city and state).Though many people have died, we have also seen, despite the interference of some obdurate leaders, a transformation (Pluto) of social forms and social orderings (Saturn), though the processes remain in fledgling form at this time. Saturn-Pluto symbolizes concentrated energy that after small, sometimes hidden, germination, can bring about enormous changes, a statement that obviously applies to viruses, but that also applies to individuals as they, through a multitude of decisions that seem small in themselves, can transform situations that had seemed completely entrenched and immovable. Pluto works through chain-reactions that begin with something very small but that bring about enormous change, a statement that applies to viruses and to powers lurking in the hearts of people. Thus we see a potential transformation not only of our societies and institutions, but also of ourselves.

BTW #1: In your horoscope, look to the house in which the conjunction occurs, along with any aspects to natal planets and/or angles, to understand the effect (so to speak) of the conjunction on you.
BTW #2: If any government, whether of a city, a state, or a nation, attempts to go back to “business as usual” after the conjunction, that government will make the worst mess of things. Pluto insists on change. It sets up the conditions to make transformation possible, and it sets the process in motion with inexorable force. Saturn and Capricorn symbolize, in different ways, traditional structures – the entities that must change.

B. The conjunction took place in the 23rd degree of Capricorn, a degree that has the following for its Sabian symbol (according to Marc Edmund Jones):

Two awards for bravery in war…a symbol of man’s resourcefulness in developing new areas of experience on the practical side of life, and of his genius for dramatizing a broad-minded self-expenditure…The keyword is RECOGNITION. When positive, the degree is the social stewardship which demands a continual self-dedication, and when negative, strutting self-exploitation.   —    M.E. Jones: The Sabian Symbols in Astrology


The degree points to the need for all people, “on the practical side of life,” to act with broadmindedness, and the “when negative” part certainly will encourage many of us to think of a certain Donald Trump. “Recognition” certainly suggests that everyone (for the conjunction has world-wide relevance) must recognize the problem, seeing it accurately in order to participate in solutions. In other words, the symbol points to a demand, not just on Trump or other government officials, but on all of us, to see problems accurately and to respond with a sense of social responsibility “on the practical side of life.” That the conjunction took place in this degree suggests that the symbolism will arise in various ways throughout the phases of the current cycle. Saturn-Pluto can certainly manifest as empowered social responsibility, but it will not do so automatically.

C. After completing his sojourn in Capricorn, Saturn will move into Aquarius, where he will spend over two years. He has arrived there as I write this, but, as noted above, he will soon retrograde back into Capricorn before returning to Aquarius some months down the line.[3] Saturn rules both signs, sharing rulership in Aquarius with Uranus. Thus we find Saturn, ruler of structures and with a close connection to status-quo realities whether considered as idea-structures of quasi-cemented social structures, in a position of strength.

Aquarius has to do with groups, with one-to-many relationships of various kinds, particularly in the public sphere. We can expect some restriction on such social dynamic, and though we can also expect some release of pressure after Saturn turns retrograde in May and returns to Capricorn, he will return to Aquarius later in the year, suggesting a return of the social restrictions we have witnessed with his initial foray into Aquarius. (Note that Saturn’s entry into Aquarius in late March coincided with increased restrictions on such relationships.[4]) Because Saturn will spend another two-plus years in Aquarius, we should consider it a reasonable concern that authority regimes (Saturn) will demand increased restrictions on Aquarian matters (e.g. socially-defined hopes; group involvements; the need for progressive change in the way we work with groups – or, or course, countries). Saturn also has to do with useful action, so it seems that we’ll have to make our social interactions useful, not merely pleasurable.

Human beings at present apparently have a tendency to project Saturn onto authority systems and authority figures. As I have argued in at least two of my astrology books, we end up with restrictive systems of authority at least partly because so many people “negativize” Saturn: thus they relegate him to the unconscious (Saturn functioning as ruler of Tartarus, one of the underworlds) and experience him as a projection. However, recent and current events suggest that people can make conscious use of Saturn through necessary and helpful personal disciplines. In other words, we can withdraw our projections from problematic authority figures as we take on more personal responsibility.[5] Thus we can see some hope arising in the present penumbras; the hope can increase if we can all “own” our own Saturn-capacities by governing our own lives. Thus we can see ourselves as the agents of transformation, we can take responsibility (Saturn) for our relations with others and with society as a whole – and not merely in our periodic visits to voting booths. We can help to build social forms that respond to the need for the transformation (Pluto) of hierarchies; we can move from “strutting self-exploitation,” to a “social stewardship which demands a continual self-dedication.” Perhaps the viral pandemic can serve as a catalyst in this process as people see the inadequacy of governments in such matters.

A final thought: In my book on the Mayan Long Count – The Machine Stops: The Mayan Long Count Through a Western Lens – I suggested that the new Long Count (the 5125 year period that started in 2012) will find humans moving toward smaller, independent societies instead of the huge states, empires, and trans-national corporations characteristic of the previous Long Count. Among the many factors influencing viral spreads, we can certainly number globalization and nation-state rivalries. We can all probably remember our teachers telling us, in schools that developed in lockstep with capitalistic development, about the wonders of trade. Perhaps we took those statements as generally-valid truths, but many purportedly valid truths function as collective deceptions. After all, for many centuries, viruses and other disease organisms have found it convenient to travel along trade routes. Thus the spread of microparasitism; those same routes also had a close connection to macroparasitic patterns.[6]

Next: What About Les Etats Unis?


[1] Pluto seems to transcend gender-distinctions. Perhaps we should use Timothy Leary’s convenient little gender-unifying pronoun: hir.

[2] See Naomi Klein’s writings, particularly The Shock Doctrine and Disaster Capitalism.

[3] Saturn left Capricorn on March 22; he will return to Capricorn on July 1 and re-enter Aquarius on December 17.

[4] Remember, in considering this, that signs have no definite boundaries. As Saturn moved through the final degrees of Capricorn – in, say, late February and early March – we could all discern the need for restriction in these areas.

[5] Relevant reading: Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority.

[6] I have borrowed these terms from William H. McNeill’s Plagues and Peoples.

The Saturn-Pluto Cycle: In General

ASTROLOGY, POLITICS, AND HISTORY – Tim Lyons – April 16, 2020

The Saturn-Pluto Cycle: In General

  1. In General
  2. In Particular

In this installment, we will discuss the Saturn-Pluto conjunctions and cycle in a mostly-general way; in the next installment, we look more closely at the current Saturn-Pluto conjunction.

In general, the Saturn-Pluto cycle symbolizes the development of form and structure out of Plutonic matters – matters like viruses, on the one hand, and psychological complexes, on the other. Consider those as images of the dark side, and the dark side generally appears dominant, at least on a collective level, during Saturn-Pluto conjunctions. However, the aspect also suggests a drive to transform our view of the world in and around us and thus to effect, through personal power and organization, transformative change in the collective – for though Pluto transforms, the transformations begin in the mind. Pluto takes us beyond many boundaries, particularly the one between inner world and outer world; thus the connection between inner work – work on the intensional world (the mind)– and extensional change. This may seem strange, or even ridiculously idealistic; however, remember what I said in an earlier installment about the Pluto-dynamic: that enormous changes can grow, via chain reactions, from very small beginnings. Witness the current pandemic.

Saturn-Pluto aspects, particularly the ones that take place in Capricorn, can set in motion cycles of development that can transform the structures of the extensional realm. The previous conjunction in this series (i.e. the conjunctions in Capricorn[1]) took place in 549 AD. The Plague of Justinian broke out during that period, transforming the Roman Empire. Justinian himself contracted the disease in 541, and it spread to the British Isles by 547. After long struggle, Rome, weakened by the plague, which ravaged port cities far more seriously than others (apparently because the rats who carried the bacillus travelled by boat), fell to Totila and the Ostrogoths in 546. William McNeill writes:

…the failure of Justinian’s efforts to restore imperial unity to the Mediterranean can be attributed in good part to the diminution of imperials resources stemming from the plague. Equally, the failure of Roman and Persian forces to offer more than token resistance to the Moslem armies that swarmed out of Arabia so suddenly in 634 becomes easier to understand in the light of the demographic disasters that repeatedly visited the Mediterranean coastlands from 542 onward, and accompanied the Moslems in the first critical stage of their imperial expansion. More generally, the perceptible shift away from the Mediterranean as the preeminent center of European civilization and the increase in importance of more northerly lands…was powerfully assisted by the long series of plagues, which confined their ravages almost entirely to territories within easy reach of Mediterranean ports.[2]

Justinian, recovered from plague and struggling with external enemies, did not make conditions any easier for afflicted citizens of the empire: he extracted taxes ruthlessly, sometimes demanding of the living taxes owed by those who had died.[3] But the Empire had weakened greatly, so invasions from the north followed shortly thereafter. These lessons of that period for our own time seem clear, both as regards government hierarchies and the problems related to trade (as in “globalization”); the pattern accords well with those described by William H. McNeill (Plagues and Peoples) regarding the relations between micro- and macro-parasites (e.g. viruses and military/hegemonic machines respectively).[4]

Saturn-Pluto interactions suggest a transformation of and/or empowerment of Saturn’s structures; however, on a collective level, the latter generally gain at least temporary ascendancy. Thus we see, at present, government incursions into citizens’ lives and even, as in Venezuela, attempts to increase imperial dominance under the cover of the pandemic. However, because government hierarchies will often resist the required changes, they may eventually suffer great defeats, often with catastrophic consequences for those who live under the hierarchies’ hegemonic sway. (See previous paragraphs.).

In a period of collective structural transformation, we should note the presence in our world of two types of structure, one of which resists change and one of which thrives on it. [5] In the former category, put all government structures as well as humankind’s various feats of engineering; most such structures result from changes, often brought about by humans. The latter category – the sub-lunar realm – contains the forms of the organic world, forms that consist of changes even as they can effect changes in their environment. In the former, we find suspension bridges, buildings, and highways; in the latter, we find viruses, bacteria, trees, and spinach. The things in the latter category thrive on transformation, as they don’t survive unless they transform constantly – for example, viruses. In humankind’s engineering feats, by contrast, change generally indicates either the end of function or problems related to it. Think of Galloping Gerty – or even rust and rot, examples of second-category things involving themselves with first-category items The former come under the rulership of Saturn; the latter come under the rulership of the Moon. In the natural world – the “sub-lunar realm” – structure and form consist of operations instead of solid “things” – or we might say, operations play the defining role. Saturnian structures, by contrast, generally result from operations; though they may serve a function, they generally do so effectively to the extent that they do not change form on a macroscopic level.[6]

In the previous paragraph, I offered rust and rot as examples of 2nd-category processes affecting 1st category “things” – also processes, of course, though Saturn, functioning as a trickster, would convince us otherwise. Viruses, another 2nd-category process, can obviously affect Saturn’s “structures”: though viruses do not seem to effect buildings and bridges, they can wreak havoc with social structures of all sorts, as the historical record clearly shows. Astrologically, Pluto will affect – force a transformation in – Saturn’s structures.

The Saturn-Pluto conjunction can also symbolize the development of social restriction (Saturn) from unconscious complexes and phobias related to control (Pluto). Viewed more hopefully, the cycle developing from the conjunction can symbolize the development of transformed social structures from people’s sense of shared value (Pluto as the natural ruler of the 8th house) and from a sense, developed or developing in the collective, of the need for a transformation of delusions (Neptune), social responsibility (Saturn), and even human inventiveness (Uranus) – the recognition of the need for inventiveness to further goals that benefit people, not just the structures themselves[7], for social structures to do similarly, and to move from delusion to compassion. We can see all of the above in the present situation, at least in seed form.

[1] Though the Saturn-Pluto conjunctions take place roughly every three and a half decades, with the variation resulting from Pluto’s changing speed, the ones in Capricorn take place much less often, and in no pattern that I can discern. Remember, too, in this discussion, the evidence accumulated by Richard Tarnas that the conjunction’s energies appear for many years to either side of the year of the precise aspect.

[2] William H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples, pp. 141-2.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plague_of_Justinian.

[4] File Justinian’s come under Mr. McNeill’s “macroparasitism”; file the plague bacillus under “microparasitism.”

[5] Saturn rules some organic structures, though, with the skeleton as a prime example. The boundaries between rigidity and flexibility seem – well, flexible! I sometimes say that Saturn’s structures tend toward rigidity while the Moon’s tend toward flexibility and change. I prefer to say not, as in the traditional astrological writings, and even many today, that the skeleton “is ruled by Saturn”, or even that Saturn “rules” the skeleton, pure and simple, but to say, rather, that Saturn rules the skeleton insofar as the skeleton qualifies as “rigid.” Similarly with discussions of other astrological “ruler” designations.

[6] The apparent stability of such structures deludes us, of course; Saturn often functions as a trickster. A steel bridge will eventually collapse even if well-constructed; nothing lasts forever. Nevertheless, the function of the structure depends on some degree of stability. With Saturnian structures, proper function depends on some degree of unchangingness, whereas with lunar structures, unchangingness generally indicates ill-health or death.

[7] From an astrological perspective, the huge surveillance industry shows Saturn coopting Uranus, a process with strong mythic roots.