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Pope Signals

In case you have not heard, please let me be the first to tell you there's a new pope. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, of Marktl, Germany (Bavaria in particular, which is reputed for its eccentric types), became Pope Benedict XVI Tuesday at 5:50 p.m. European time. That's when the little puff of magic white smoke came from the special chimney erected above St. Peter's Basilica. This provides chart data for the beginning of the papacy, which I will get into in a moment. The 5:50 chart is, in essence, the coronation, vitally important in the life of a nation. And it has a lot to say -- though it offers more questions than answers at this point.

First, since everyone is wondering, and astrologers all over the world are emailing one another feverishly, let's take a look at the great man himself. Pope Benedict XVI has an interesting natal chart, given his new role. Here is the chart.

Joseph Ratzinger chart

He has Pisces rising, with Jupiter in the ascendant. If he has one 'born to be pope' aspect, this is the one. Jupiter is the harbinger of all things spiritual. (Particularly in Pisces, it can be quite a natural spiritual adept. But oddly, this placement also has a taste for wine, women and song -- but since I've never partied with the guy, I cannot personally confirm this. I can only tell you what the astrology says.) But by anybody's measure, particularly a medieval astrologer, I can tell you that his Jupiter is a sight to behold: exactly in the ascendant, in its ruling sign. He is extremely lucky. He would probably survive the Sun going nova.

The new pope has an Aries Sun and the Moon in Libra. This means he was born at the Full Moon, in fact, right before the Full Moon, a moment filled with maximum tension, polarity and dualism. It is fair to say he has no one particular way of looking at the world, which is affirmed by his Pisces rising, and confirmed a second time by his Mercury in Pisces, which is late in Pisces, to be exact.

Such a Mercury placement, in traditional astrology, is nearly as weak as Jupiter is strong. He is described as a great intellect, and sometimes what Mercury does when it needs support is that it becomes extraordinarily powerful. In the case of Ratzinger, that power seems to take form in his love of dogma.

I think that if we want a pontiff who pontificates, we've got the guy.

While he's a confident man on some levels, such strong Pisces assures that he's also quite mutable (changeable, potentially stubborn, potentially aggressive and ultimately swayable), quite subject to environmental influences, and like any Pisces, he wants to give the world what he thinks it needs. But he is a person of extremes, not of moderation. At the same time, he views himself a benefactor.

As Pope Benedict, he is one who 'speaks well' -- but remember that the Latin root of 'dict' (the second half of bene-dict) is the same as for addict, dictator, and diktat, all of which are about control. His name really means 'benevolent dictator', which is honest enough: that's the pope's actual role. That big Pisces Jupiter rising certainly supports his choice of names. And it could certainly cast a kind of psychic cushion over his real ambitions and his true identity.

However, his natal chart really starts to get interesting when we have a look at those lunar nodes in Cancer and Capricorn. On a closely related subject, scan back through my introductions and you'll see that I have written quite a bit about the Aries point the past few months -- the very first degree of Aries. The Aries point is associated with enormous energy, incidents that affect millions of people, and a location in the horoscope where the personal and the political intersect.

By extension, the first degree of any cardinal sign (Aries, Cancer, Libra or Capricorn) carries these properties. And as it works out, Pope Benedict has all four of these points covered. This man has the power to affect a lot of people, and to do so radically. And yet he also walks on a kind of razor's edge from a karmic standpoint. There is something he's supposed to get right in this lifetime, and he now has his chance. But that never stopped anyone from not getting it right.

Notice the nodes of the Moon, those little horseshoes in Cancer and Capricorn at the top and bottom of the chart. The South Node in Capricorn in the 10th house tells us he has a lot of experience (South Node) with things of a governmental nature (10th and Capricorn). He is used to being the Big Big Boss and he plays the role well. Heck, he got to be the pope; that is a very small club. It is fair enough to say that we have a past life signature in this chart of one who was obsessed with power.

However, in Mr. Ratzinger, we also have a likely case of a reincarnated pope. Some day when the files are opened, we will find out that there were only about a dozen popes who kept coming back and doing the job over and over again. In any event, he is a long-standing bureaucrat in the Vatican hierarchy, having advised Pope John Paul II for more than two decades. So this longtime builder/survivor thing is working in this lifetime too. Here, I am reading that Capricorn South Node, the South Node being the point in any chart that talks about experience and tendencies.

His North Node in Cancer and the 4th house places current lifetime emphasis on values which are close to the hearth and home; which are oriented on security; and which are personal rather than political. His job in this lifetime is to be a good dad or mayor, not a big emperor. His job is not to accumulate and use power for its own sake, but rather for the sake of his family or spiritual family. The thing is, does what he feel is good for the rest of us work for the rest of us? Where the pope is concerned, does it ever? And, will he be able to deal with the various temptations of office, and the temptation to be a big man in a very big world in a really big moment in history? We will find out soon enough.

With such strong Cancer placement in his chart (on the 4th house; with the North Node), the Moon takes on special significance; here we find it in the sign of Virgo the Virgin, who has been given an honored place in modern Catholicism by John Paul II -- which the new pope shares. We can hope and pray that the new pope offers the same blessing and generosity to mortal women as well, which would be a very big change in Church policy.

Now, herein lies the catch to this natal chart: Uranus is in the first degree of Aries (symbolizing big-time innovation, rebirth). But it's exactly square (at a right angle to) the lunar nodes. When any planet is square the lunar nodes, it's as if that planet sits squarely ON the nodes, and the evolutionary process represented by the nodes cannot happen without doing the work of that planet first. Remember this when you're reading the chart of someone who is struggling to get ahead. Is anything square the nodes? That's usually the planet to work on first -- particularly so if it's associated with one of the signs that the lunar nodes occupy.

Uranus in the first degree of Aries is the shocking originator, the inventor, the one who is (in theory) not afraid of anything. It is ON the Aries Point. This man feels it's his destiny to change the world. Given the rest of his chart, he has likely wanted to be pope for a long, long time. The problem is that this quality of innovation has to get past that Capricorn South Node, which is deeply conservative and rooted in the past. And he just may. I realize there is nothing in this pope's biography that supports the idea that he may be a shocking originator, and in the end, the story is told by the choices that a person makes. His papacy has just begun and we have yet to see him make any decisions as pope (though he's said quite a lot before becoming pope that you can read about).

The last point he has covering what are called the cardinal points (appropriate enough) is the Part of Fortune in the first degree of Libra. So he has a grand cross in the cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn), in the angular houses (1st, 4th, 7th and 10th), which is ridiculously powerful. Ridiculously. If he can make this aspect work, he can really cash in and get a lot of good things done. If he can't, we are in for one heck of a wild ride.

Now, for the election chart. Here you have it:

Pope Benedict Elected

Ratzinger was chosen pope with the Sun in the very last degree of Aries, a condition sometimes called 'void of course'. This is rarely used by modern astrologers, who usually stick to the void of course Moon or the void of course career. I am recently told by the eminent psychological astrologer Lynn Bell that when a planet is exalted (Sun in Aries, for example) it cannot be void of course. I had not heard that rule, but she makes a good point when she says that, as far as the Sun is concerned, when it is in late Aries like that, the course is set and that nothing can really change it.

But what course is that? If stability is what we are seeking, it's unlikely to happen now. Much discussion has gone into Ratzinger's choice of names (popes traditionally name themselves). The last Benedict was the Peace Pope during World War I. But I would like to briefly mention the number: XVI, or 16, which is the number of the Tarot card The Tower. This is the one where lightning hits a tower and the two people fall out. It's also called La Maison Dieu, or house of God. It's the number of a shakeup. Or liberation. Or release. Certainly some kind of big change. We are in for some surprises.

Ratzinger is being touted as a man who will continue the conservative doctrine of his predecessor. His record as far as gay rights, women's rights, and so forth, is, according to everything recently being stuffed into my inbox, rather dismal. But any continuity between the papacies is temporary. Based on what is perhaps the most traditional method of prediction (solar arc direction), there will be some big change either to the Church or with this papacy within four months from now, when that late Aries Sun becomes a Taurus Sun.

That would be in August. Somebody please remember I said that. What direction will things go? We will have to see. This is not a situation where we have much power -- but we can pray. He did ask us to.

Also occupying the very last degree of Aries is Persephone, an asteroid named for the Greek goddess of growth, the daughter of Demeter. Persephone is about extremes of dark and light; what is done to young women; and the grief of mothers. She is the one who was kidnapped by Hades and taken down to hell, where she lived (or lives) half the year, accounting for why it's warm in the summer and cold in the winter. Given that the Sun (a rather male figure) is conjunct Persephone, there is a commentary on women and the treatment of women in this chart. And women are THE big issue in the church, as the pews of Europe and the USA slowly go empty; as fewer men want to be priests because they cannot marry; and as the lacking role of women is becoming obviously obvious.

Generally, when the Sun is exactly conjunct a planet, it takes on the nature of that planet in a significant way. He may identify with the plight of women more than he lets on. But that does not mean he will act on his perceptions, and he may be coming from a place where he personally feels victimized. Like many young men, he may have joined the priesthood because he feared he was gay (Natally, he has Mars in the last degree of Gemini, which could get anyone to question their masculinity).

There is much more about women in this chart. Venus (who represents women, the Goddess and from the Church's perspective, the Virgin) was in an exact square (90-degree aspect) to Chiron as the papal conclave began, suggesting that she just sustained a loss of some kind. Venus represents values; sensuality; pleasure; love; abundance; feminine strength of any kind. Venus occupies the degree exactly opposite the position of Sunday's eclipse of the Moon -- which brings up what is perhaps the most significant fact of all.

It is strange and unsettling that this election was concluded so close to an eclipse of the Moon, particularly in Scorpio, the sign where power is often wheeled and dealed. This is yet another sign that says some great change is imminent.

For those of us who were not involved in the papal election, you know, who didn't vote, this eclipse is something to watch carefully, and to factor both into our plans and experiences. It is happening Sunday but in reality, it is happening NOW.

This eclipse has a lot of people feeling emotionally edgy, jumpy and just plain unsettled. Eclipses always come with pressure. There are always people who thrive on eclipse energy, and the world we live in would get nowhere without them. Yet most people cannot handle the intensity gracefully.

Not surprisingly, world financial markets are shaky -- I say not surprisingly because Scorpio always addresses the issue of shared resources.

So, given all this, please keep your cool. There is a lot of tension in the air, and it's about to give way to something entirely new.

We are also still working out the Mercury retrograde from a few weeks ago. And the world is, in general, in its usual sorry state of affairs. We are very fortunate to live in a time where individual choices are possible, because that means most of us have the ability to take care of ourselves, to seek help if we need it, and to at least attempt to plot our own destiny. It does not mean we'll get there, but there are great rewards for making an honest effort.

More news at Planet Waves and Planet Waves Weekly, sponsors of this Q and A feature. We've got great new photos, almost daily blogging, new May horoscopes, and lots of fun features for subscribers. Here are some of your questions this week.

The Moon and the Stars

Dear Eric,

Last night, April 15, at about 11:30 pm CST, I saw something I have never seen before. The Moon appeared to be surrounded by three stars that formed a right triangle around it. Is there any astrological significance to this formation? If it helps, I watch the sky in Texas. Thank you, have a good day.


Hi Rob

What you saw was a conjunction of the planet Saturn (the dimmest of the visible planets) conjunct the Moon. This was in Cancer. This occurred near the fixed stars Castor and Pollux, the famous brothers of Greek mythology which are known to be the leading actors of the constellation Gemini.

Notice: I said note Cancer and Gemini in the same place. This is because the tropical sign Cancer (used in the Western zodiac) is located in the sidereal or star sign Gemini (used in the Indian or Vedic zodiac). The two overlap.

As for significance, that would be personal. Certainly the conjunction of the Moon and Saturn (which occurs once a month) is a kind of turning point, and you can be sure just about all horoscope writers will make some comment on it whether they mention what they're talking about or not. Add the fixed stars Castor and Pollux and you can make up your own story. Are there any situations in your life involving three men and a lady? Or mother, father and a couple of brothers?

What were you doing at the time you saw the constellation? Is there any poetry to the connection?

That's kind of how astrology works on this level.

Eclipse on My Birthday

Hi Eric

Next Sunday, April 24th there is a lunar eclipse. April 24th is my birthday, and I would like to ask please if this is beneficial for me. I have been struggling with many changes both financially and emotionally for many months and I would be interested to know if this is going to get any easier.

Many thanks,

Dear Annette:

If you know enough astrology to notice an event and ask if it's significant, then you know enough to work with the imagery and help make the significance real for you.

So let's play that game. It's not an exact science; it's more a visualization exercise, and you can work with those visualizations till you find one that works for you.

Since the eclipse is on your Sun, we know your Sun is in Taurus. Taurus is the sign that people say is absolutely solid, but it's more like the Earth, with a hot, molten core where everything is always changing.

The eclipse happens in your opposite sign, Scorpio. We could say many things about Scorpio without even seeing the chart. For example, even dogs and gerbils would agree that this is a mysterious sign, and that people with strong Scorpio in their charts are intense, passionate and can feel a little dangerous -- because they often incite us to a level of passion and compel us to change and grow.

Scorpio is an interesting brew of the past, present and future. It's this churning heap of cosmic matter into which anything goes and anything may emerge. This is perhaps the deepest feeling sign of the zodiac, it involves the mysteries of death and reproduction, and this accounts for the highly unusual potentials associated with this sign. (Scorpios, how am I doing here?)

Along comes a lunar eclipse. That means for you personally: the transiting Sun has reached your natal Sun. Then the Moon comes along and right when it's exactly opposite your natal Sun, it falls into the Earth's shadow.

The Moon represents needs, the past, women, children, emotions and anything cyclical. An eclipse of any kind is a break from the past. Eclipses make an opening. They can represent a release point. They can help us forget. They can create so much pressure we finally deal with our problems.

At the very least, this makes the eclipse highly significant for you personally. That's because the Sun is such a personal point in one's chart; it's something we think of as ME in the biggest sense of the world. The Moon going out opposite your natal Sun has a strong feeling of renewal in personal relationships, of giving you space to express yourself, and of taking a new role in your relationships. There is also a strong image of breaking a deadlock or stalemate in a relationship.

But the somewhat less polyanna (or psychologically supportive) way to say this is that you're facing big changes. So you may as well get with the program, because the program has got with you.

Because this aspect falls on your birthday, it will be included in what is called your Solar Return chart. That's another way of saying it will hold themes that last for a whole year. Eclipses always do anyway -- but the events and developments surrounding this eclipse are something that you can, and in essence must, use to guide you through the coming four seasons. There are many silver linings, there are many changes and it is true that you are under enormous pressure to resolve certain very deep issues of identity, perhaps as cultivated by your father.

As an astrological exercise, I suggest you tell your father's story and decide what parts you want to keep, and what parts you would like to pass on.

Void of Course Moon on My Birthday

Hi Eric,

You have recently been talking about this void Moon. Is the void Moon a good thing? As I think you said it lasts till 3:50 pm on Saturday April, 9th. It is my birthday that day and I was born at 2:02 pm so would this void Moon affect me in a major way?


Dear Joy:

If you want to work with astrology, you need to stay calm. And you need to remember that every event has its place and its role. And aspects that are experienced by some people one way will be experienced by others another way.

A 'void of course' moon is another way of saying that the Moon is changing signs. We don't have your data so we can't cast your exact solar return chart; it could have been in either sign.

But what is more significant is that your birthday fell around a solar eclipse, indeed, the day after a solar eclipse. And that means that you're likely to be making major decisions about who you are, what you want, and what you do.

If you have not picked up this rhythm, why not try it? A solar eclipse on your birthday represents a true and rare opportunity to grow, and to let go of something about yourself that you've long been wanting to let go of. We humans tend to do a lot of self-clinging and it really slows down the process of getting on with life.

You have been dealt a wild-card by the cosmos. Play it any way you like.

Eclipse Time Frames

Dear Eric:

Yasmin (and Jonathan) have stated that I as a Cancer experienced a New Moon eclipse on April 8th in my career sector. Not surprisingly (to you anyway) I am desperately seeking new employment as my current position is unbearable. However, since the 8th I've been 'knocked back' for two jobs I had applied for. Can you please advise me how long it takes for the effect of an eclipse to 'kick in'?

Kind regards,
In Australia

Dear In Australia:

Most astrologers will tell you that an eclipse is a valid predictive or spiritual tool for six months to two years, though some last much longer. However, you're also assuming that the experiences of getting bumped out of these two jobs you applied for are really setbacks. I suggest you take a more positive, self-affirming view and experiment with the idea that something more is in store for you -- perhaps more appropriate work, a better opportunity, or a larger change than you are currently experimenting with.

There is a not-so-subtle difference between the two approaches; I am suggesting that you be more active and take much higher initiative; that you evaluate and set goals; and that you learn as much as you can from whatever happened with these past two job application experiences.

Also, remember that eclipses come in pairs, and the next eclipse (of the Moon, on Sunday) seems to have quite a bit more impact in your chart. You are likely to experience it more directly -- and remember that the Full Moon usually represents the expression of whatever happened at the prior New Moon.

There seem to be things going on in your workplace that are foggy or unclear. Pay attention to what is going on around you. If you are careful and use restraint and awareness in your current situation, you will be able to make a more precise, planned and well-executed career move.

A series of helpful aspects are on their way, but they will only have real meaning if you make sure you're the one who is at the steering wheel of your life, that you make moves that are well timed and that really feel appropriate. And it would be really a fine idea if you paid close attention to all your communications -- letters, calls, emails -- and make sure they are written well and say exactly what you mean.

Both Eclipses Hit My Chart

Dear Eric:

These eclipses you are talking about, on April 8th (my birthday), plus on April 25th in Scorpio (my ascendant) fill me with questions. I can sense this will have an impact on my life. What should I be prepared for? Will this bring me closer to what I want most: a partner for life?

Needless to say I thoroughly enjoy and value your writing!


Dear Emma:

It is always a little curious when the first thing on someone's agenda is something that does not exactly involve them personally. A partner is outside yourself. I recognize that every force in the whole of Western culture and most of Eastern culture makes us go on this quest for the one right partner. And there are exceedingly few influences that set us on a quest for our own inner self. I recognize that there are aspects in your chart that say that you are someone who identifies closely with the role of someone else's partner -- and these influences may be working unconsciously to keep you thinking this is your true mission in life. But is it? I suggest you widen this inquiry to larger questions about why you are here in this lifetime, why you are here at this time in history, and what you need to learn about who you are. Is it not possible that you have far more to live and experience than you currently have on your agenda? Meanwhile, there is a great deal to learn about relationships and about relating. Much in your chart suggests that you need to question all the assumptions of our culture, particularly what your mother taught you about your role as a woman. I don't say these things to throw you off the path of a wholesome relationship, but rather to help guide you a little closer to the real you, and thus the real person who can live in a fulfilled say and, as part of that process, relate to someone you love -- or to the many people you love.

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