From the view here on earth, we find ourselves once again nearing the time when Mercury appears to retrace its steps in the sky for a roughly 3-week period we call Mercury Retrograde. This next period occurs from March 30 through April 23, 2011. We astrologers often speak as if every Mercury Retrograde period is the same – as if the same advice holds true for every retrograde period. And yet, the sky patterns are never the same! All of the planets are in constant, engaged, moving, changing relationship with each other, never repeating a story the same way twice. And that includes Mercury.
So what makes this Mercury Retrograde period special? For starters, it occurs during a time of a huge changing-of-the-guards moment among the slower outer planets. These larger planets set the tone for longer periods of time. When we think of “the 70s” or “the 60s,” an image is evoked of a period of time – a slice of life in which certain defining themes held sway over the whole world. We find ourselves now at the beginning of one of these new phases as both Uranus and Neptune change signs.
Edgy Uranus has finally settled into its next long stint in the edgy sign of Aries. And in April, Neptune begins a new phase of enlightenment as it moves into its comfortable home in Pisces. Moments like these represent great shifts in global consciousness – times when we can perceive a collective movement into specific modes of expression.
Yesterday, December 3, 2010, Amazon pulled the plug on the controversial website Wikileaks, triggering a challenging public discourse and opportunity for deep thinking about censorship, ownership of information, and the security of the internet. In my last post about airport security, I pointed out the current planetary alignment of Pluto conjunct the North Node, both in Capricorn and opposite the South Node in Cancer. This signals that the issues on the table concern deep truths that make us squeamish, uncomfortably mixed with our attachment to security and our fears of losing just that. Since then Mercury has joined the party. And right on time, we see the Wikileaks story break.
Mercury, often described as the fickle witty androgyne with no attention span, also has a very important and less mentioned function - that of the psychopomp. Mercury was the only god allowed access in and out of the underworld, and carried messages back and forth. Mercury's impartiality makes him the perfect companion to Pluto in some ways, who has a love for brutal truth and soul-shaking honesty. Mercury is the one god who can take in Pluto's message and remain unphased - it's just information after all, he thinks. As an underworld messenger, and currently in Capricorn, the messages Mercury delivers us have a sober darkness, a cold utilitarianism, and speak of unveiled truths concerning power, authority, death and domination.
The fact that Mercury just now begins to station retrograde while conjunct Pluto (Mercury will officially go retrograde on December 10, while still conjunct Pluto), alerts us to the fact that this Wikileaks information, and the conflict arising from it, is not only a brutal truth unearthed from the underworld, but one which can eventually lead us to a transformational processing of our deepest subconscious material. It has often been said that this long cycle of Pluto in Capricorn will lead to much unveiling of the shady behind-the-scenes and even criminal practices of governments, corporations and figures of authority. But perhaps not mentioned enough, is the extreme discomfort, pain, and catharsis such information will cause both globally and individually. One look around will confirm that many people are feeling this.
It takes profound fear for a culture to think up nightmare solutions to nightmare problems. Just how scared are we? If the recent hubub about airport body scans and invasive pat downs are any indication, we are in fact VERY scared. Astrologically this recent drama shows up in the skies via the moon's South Node in Cancer, currently opposite Pluto, which is in tight conjunction to the moon's North Node. This transit will stay in aspect through December 2010.
This current astrological configuration points to the idea that our fears about security, home and nation (Cancer) are no longer serving us (S. Node). And it suggests that we can't get out of this one by sticking our heads in the sand even further. We are in fact, in this moment, facing some of our deepest Plutonian nightmares, some of which include bombs on airplanes hidden next to (or in) private parts. But the antidote to the fear isn't through increased security. Since the S. Node is representing security, homeland and family here, and the S. Node is the place we are coming from, the place we are vulnerable to mistakes, and in some schools of thought, our "undoing" - an attachment to security right now is going to get us into trouble.
As I update this entry on Thanksgiving Day, with the moon in Cancer (and conjoined with the S. Node), our hearts sensitive and attuned to home and family, we have to stay attuned to the spiritual high ground, which in this case, is symbolized by the N. Node. Today seems to be a peak moment energetically in this transit, as our emotions could get the better of us. The way forward (N. Node in Capricorn) points to increased maturity. We need to face the fact that our homeland IS vulnerable and insecure, and then work towards the healing of that fear with a sober and adult approach.
Because Pluto is right now sitting in the place of our evolutionary direction, we're being called on in this moment to direct the deep xray eyes of Pluto internally, to be willing to face the darkest possibilities within ourselves. If we don't we might project the energy of Pluto externally. If we face the inner work, we can then move forward into a new future with planning, precision, and patience. It is time to sober up from the inside out, individually, one by one. But what happens if we don't? Perhaps more hysteria, more fear, and more invasion of privacy.
The TSA is representing the dark side of Pluto in this drama. Many astrologers have observed that if we don't own and take responsibility of the planetary energies at play in our lives, those energies take control of us in the form of external events. Because sometimes we need to see the thing in front of us to be inspired to take concrete action. The TSA's new body scan policy is one example of what we project externally if we aren't doing our job with our deep conscious work. Another way of thinking about it though, is that we are just now ready to face this darkness that is welling up in the collective unconscious. And we need a concrete manifestation of our fear in order to respond.
The TSA tells us that their "pat-down policy...is informed by the latest intelligence." And that the procedures "may challenge our social norms."* Pluto has no time for pretense, nor social norms or comfortable solutions. So the TSA is pointing to one sobering "adult" way forward, but the motivation is misplaced, because it stems from those deep south node fears.
While on a road trip recently, it struck me that there might be another way to approach relationship questions in the birth chart other than looking at basic compatibility. We often consult astrologers in order to find out if we're going to get along with a potential mate, business partner or friend. We might even try to understand our partner's motivations, desires, or personality traits - all with an eye on how "perfect" they might be for US. But consider the possibility that the new Leo in your life might be there for another reason. In the short list below, I'll describe the ways in which certain archetypal patterns show up via other people at different times in your life, and what they might be there to teach you.
I see life as an evolutionary journey. Maybe you've heard the metaphor that life is like a school. I think that's a good starting image. But much of life has to do with what we might call "karma" and also with what we might call "healing". Our lessons aren't always easily learned and the image of a "life school" can start to seem a little too simple. But one thing is certain - we aren't here to do this alone.
I like to believe that as we heal ourselves we are also healing the greater organism, in the same way that one little white blood cell in your body is fast at work, chomping away at harmful pathogens that, in the moment, may be overwhelming the system. But after some diligent work, many times our amazing immune systems triumph, and homeostasis is once again achieved. White blood cells work in partnership with a vast and complex array of other cells. And you can think of the people in your life in the same way. Paying attention, working together, listening, communicating - all of these skills are needed to decipher life's messages and to grow.
This list is a starting point for thinking about the ways in which the people in your life help you to achieve internal homeostasis and also growth. The people you're connected to in life can stimulate you to ask the question "What is now awakening in you that needs outside input in order for you to discover?"
This article is also a good starting point for a discussion. If you have insights to add to the list, join the discussion in the comments area. And with that, we'll dive in.
Why has this new person shown up in your life?
Aries: If an Aries has plowed his way into your life, part of you is ready for action. Not sure what you're ready for? No problem, the Aries says. Just go for it! Aries likes to dive in head first, kicking butt and taking names. An Aries can help you ignite a new project, muster up the energy you need for a new physical routine or sport, and remind you that inertia is not a virtue. Sure you might disagree about things from time to time, but sparring is part of the fun with Aries. And in that playful back and forth, a part of each of you gets stronger. So what part of you is ready to develop the courage to face life head-on?
Venus just went retrograde October 8, but you may have been feeling those graceful energies slow down in your life all of last week. As Venus comes to a halt, signaling a redirect of those energies inward, you may notice this period is marked by a re-working of your values about relating, love, beauty, and diplomacy. This is in service of reminding you about something forgotten, possibly something suppressed, that will need to be extracted from your own dark places, and transformed into conscious action by the time Venus returns to forward motion. Venus is in the sign of deep, internal Scorpio. This suggests that what we need to look at now may not be comfortable, it could be profound and even hidden, and it could frighten us. However this is no time to shy away from such material.
If you do a search online for Venus retrograde, you'll find articles that suggest not starting up new relationships, or launching new products during this cycle. And that might be good advice right now. But I predict that if a new opportunity does come along in the near future (Venus will remain in this cycle for 6 weeks), it's going to be especially difficult to say no. That's because Mars, the planet of action and um, hot sex, is in the sign of Scorpio, the sign of um, steamy sex. If you're in a relationship, you may not be communicating well, but the acts in the bedroom might start to have a rather Olympic quality :) Mars is no fan of romance. Picture raw sexual energy without the sweet connection. I predict that the small talk and foreplay is tossed out the window during this time as instinct overrules reason. If you're not in a relationship, someone especially hot could come along. And she or he will likely not sweep you off your feet, but throw you into the bedroom, grunting and panting all the way. What I'm saying is that because this experience taps into our primal instincts, it may be hard to resist.