In December 1987, I packed up my car and moved to Boston, mainly because it was the home base for one of my favorite new rock bands, Throwing Muses. That chapter of my life was dark and tumultuous, and the band’s chaotic music resonated with the disjointed angst permeating my own psyche. Flash forward 23 years, and I find myself standing in Powell’s Books in Portland, when I see the lead singer’s name on a new book entitled Rat Girl, a memoir comprised of diary entries written by Kristin Hersh between 1985 and 1986, just before Throwing Muses released their first record. As I began reading the book, I was instantly captivated by nostalgia (but not longing!) for that formative time in both of our lives.
Hersh is a gifted writer, and Rat Girl offers a poetic insider-account of a young woman coming to terms with a self-described “soul sickness.” This was a kind of body–mind–spirit mania that overwhelmed her in the midst of a creative wellspring that included the genesis of one of the most unique and influential independent rock bands of its time and the birth of her first child — all before she had even turned 19.
In more clinical terms, Hersh was facing challenging mental–emotional issues that are hard to pin down with one term because they were given multiple labels by her health care providers over the years: manic depression, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even schizophrenia.  Her symptoms included manic energy, total exhaustion, suicidal ideation, and near-hallucinatory visions.
The 2016 Academy Awards nominees announcement on January 14 met some controversy over the stunningly all-white ballot. And there was at least one surprise entry - the nomination for Mad Max: Fury Road as best picture. The announcement and its cultural impact coincides with the Saturn-Neptune square currently in range throughout most of 2016. We can see the Saturn-Neptune signature of disillusionment among the countless black actors and film industry workers who were once again snubbed by the Academy’s predominantly white male voters. Headlines such as “The Oscars' Racist Refusal to Honor Modern Black Heroes” and “Oscar Nominations 2016 Diversity: No Black Actors” reveal the disconnect between a public that is ready to embrace and honor diversity and the white establishment blocking progress.
The overt racism here is especially painful in the context of growing public awareness of systemic racism in our culture after a series of especially brutal and well-publicized race-related deaths of men at the hands of law enforcement officers. With Saturn square Neptune for much of 2015 and 2016, this is an astrological season in which disillusionment can serve to strengthen our resolve to make changes for the better. The trick is to not be so bogged down in disappointment that we sulk in unproductive despair and give up to immobilizing inertia.
Seeing the Mad Max sequel in the list of best picture nominees was a shocker, especially because I wasn’t aware that many Hollywood bloggers had already been rallying for its nomination in the weeks before. The public sentiment seems to be that this is a film whose artistic merit warrants a nomination, even though it is a classic action-packed summer blockbuster – a genre that historically almost never gains best picture nods. So I watched the film, and though I don’t agree that it should be in the running for best picture, I understand how this particular Mad Max installment is timed perfectly for this moment.
Mad Max: Fury Road was released May 15, 2015, under two very strong transits: an exact Mars opposite Saturn in addition to Moon conjunct Uranus square Pluto. The combined energy of these transits are visible in the film’s main storyline – a high-octane battle thrill ride of a battle between the reigning warlord and a tiny band of freedom-seeking liberators.
As we approach the end of 2015, we’ll start to feel the influence of the Saturn square Neptune transit, which will remain in effect for about a year. This is the “closing square,” which means it is the last hard aspect marking the denouement of the longer Saturn-Neptune cycle that began with the conjunction in 1989, marked dramatically by the fall of the Berlin wall. This longer cycle renews at the beginning of 2026 (probably with a bang, as both Saturn and Neptune move into Aries). So let’s think about some of the ways these two energies might influence each other, and how that could be a good thing in the year ahead.
As I wrote in Steven Forrest’s newsletter this month, Saturn-Neptune times are good for sobering up. A more responsible approach to our inner landscape can clear up foggy, unclear behavior. Discerning Saturn energy can help reveal delusions we’ve bought into, cutting through our mental haze to reveal what’s real. This applies both personally and collectively. If you have planets in the middle degrees of Virgo, Gemini, Pisces or Sagittarius, you’ll notice this transit more than others. And if not, you can witness it in the news…
During Saturn-Neptune times, skeptics and critics get to have their say, as spin doctors don’t seem to be able to work their magic quite as well as usual. Boy, could we use some more of that! Masters of satirical social criticism like John Stewart (who has a wide Saturn-Neptune square natally) take center stage during Saturn-Neptune times. Stewart could speak volumes just by raising an eyebrow at the right moment of a deceptive pundit’s performance. With the internet in full swing, we are exposed to more truth – and more lies – than ever. It takes work to discern what is real from what has been constructed artificially to suit someone’s agenda. Skillful critics and skeptics who we trust to be honest, can help us sort through the mess and uncover what’s real.
Skepticism and criticism often get a bad rap. When used properly – to discern the truth – they can be a great asset. One of America’s most revered skeptics and critics of organized religion was Mark Twain, who had natal Saturn in Scorpio square Neptune in Aquarius. He wrote, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” (1) When my best friend gave me a copy of Twain’s Letters from the Earth when I was 14, it shook my foundations with a perspective on Christianity I hadn’t yet been exposed to, freeing me from a lot of limiting (and ungrounded) beliefs.
This week Jimmy Fallon mentioned a new music video that was going viral like crazy, so I checked it out. The video is "Love Myself" by Hailee Steinfeld, who you may remember as the awesome young actress from the Coen Brothers film True Grit. Although I don't love the song or video (maybe I'm just a little too old!), the astrological correlations for its release are striking. The song was released August 7, 2015, and the video a week later on August 14. As of today (Oct. 9, 2015), the video has 19 million views! We'll look at the release chart for the video. We don't have a time, so I'll just look at the aspects, and ignore the houses and Ascendant.
To start, the chart has Venus conjunct the Sun and Moon - all in Leo. That's a powerhouse of love for the self! And the sentiment behind "Love Myself" is a perfect anthem to express this energy. In addition, that tight Leo conjunction is trine Uranus in Aries. In the chorus, Hailee repeats the phrase "Gonna love myself, no, I don't need anybody else," adding the Uranian and Arian impulse of freedom, liberation and self-actualization to the Leo vibe.
Watching the video, we see young women admiring themselves in the mirror, taking pleasure in their appearance and self-expression, a positive expression of the Leo energy in this particular conjunction. But a closer listen to the lyrics reveal that this is mainly an anthem glorifying masturbation (see "Love Myself" lyrics from Google Play). Ah, youth!
Sense8 is a new Netflix original series directed by the Wachowskis, famous for The Matrix trilogy. Sense8 is a sci-fi drama featuring eight lead characters – strangers who suddenly find their lives inextricably connected. And not just in the interweaving storyline kind of way like Short Cuts or Traffic. These characters are literally connected. Called “sensates,” they sense each other – they can feel each other’s feelings, share each other’s thoughts, and even see and touch each other though they are miles apart. Marking an evolution in human development, sensates are born in the same moment into a “pod” of eight separate, but connected, beings.
All of that is cool, but a TV series isn’t complete without some drama to compel it. There is a dark force at work trying to kill and/or control all sensates. Meanwhile, the sensates discover they can support each other and pool their resources to face each conflict that unfolds.
Critics have complained about how slowly the series begins, and how confusing the first episode is. Hearing this, I began to suspect Neptune at work, and ran the release chart, which for a digitally-streaming Netflix show is very precise: June 5, 2015 at 12:00am Pacific Time, Los Gatos, CA. The chart features Neptune in Pisces in the first house (using either Placidus or Equal houses) squaring Mercury in Gemini – already a perfect aspect for the show’s title and subject matter. Neptune is about the dissolution of boundary, and Mercury is about how we perceive things. Pisces, a water sign, relates to feelings and emotions, and Gemini is often said to relate more to information, data, and thoughts.
The Neptune vibe permeates the first episode, which for a TV show, relates to the Ascendant and first house. With so many storylines to weave together, it does take a while to become oriented logically – there’s the square feeling with Mercury. It’s not easy to figure out at first. But once you adjust to the pacing and exercise some patience, the hypnotic vibe reveals its rewards. The characters get under your skin and are hard to shake even hours or days after viewing.