Astrology Secrets Revealed: Eric Francis Answers Your Questions
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Dear Friends, Far and Near:
THIS week's turn of events at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) conference in Prague is original if nothing else -- based on news reports Wednesday, it would appear that Pluto, Ceres, Xena (technically known as 2003 UB313) and Pluto's moon Charon (not to be confused with Chiron, which does not factor into this discussion), will next week be accepted into a new class of "dwarf planets." This development has plenty of implications for astrology, and it will be very interesting to see what astrologers, most of whom ignore asteroids, say or do in response to this news.
We now have new term for minor planets (the dwarf planets), though the IAU says that this is a descriptive term and not an actual classification. Everyone is on notice that this class of planets may soon grow to include other members, many of which have already been discovered and named. Many of these will be counted in a new sub-class of minor planets, the "plutons."
To sum up, Pluto, Charon, Ceres and Xena are indeed being considered official, scientifically sanctioned planets, albeit it described as dwarf planets. As of next week the solar system, as taught to little kids in school, will have 12 members. Of course, this is still something of a cosmic joke, since as of April there were 320,000 known bodies orbiting our Sun.
What is not a joke is that three new planets have been designated, directly or indirectly, for female figures. One is the goddess Ceres, whose domain includes food and nourishment, and who is something of the patron saint of mothers. A second -- as will be discussed later in this article -- is the former moon of Pluto, Charon, who has been described eloquently by one astrologer as representing Minerva, the goddess of Wisdom and storytelling. In one respect, Charon, as Minerva, is the feminine aspect of Pluto.
The third, though an unofficial name, is Xena (the discoverers have yet to announce their proposed official name, but Xena appears to be the one that will stick). Xena derives from the name of a character on an American TV series played by Lucy Lawless. The series is based on a mixture of Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology, and ran from 1995 to 2001. She was an irreverent, overtly sexual, reformed warlord. Xena was bisexual -- sexually involved with several men in her army, but loyal to one woman, Gabrielle. Her Wikipedia entry, depicting this far-out goddess figure who could show up anywhere, at anytime, and who could draw the blood of gods, is worth reading.
Astrology Secrets Revealed reader Sherry writes, "I find it very interesting that at a time when I feel our world really needs strong female warrior energy, Xena comes to the rescue. I'm thrilled to have the girls included as planets. It's another subtle shift in perception that strengthens the Divine Feminine."
So, this is a big day for Goddess energy. It's interesting that this all occurs in the mids of the Saturn-Neptune opposition -- an image of the dissolving of the old order (Saturn) by something new (Neptune in the sign of science, Aquarius). Next week, when this is finalized by astronomers, we can look at the chart for the actual vote, if we can get hold of the time.
Let's look at the current revelations, as I currently understand them. Remember, this is a developing story. Thanks to Melanie Andrews, Paloma Todd and Kirsi Melto for their assistance and research.
1. Scientists appear ready to make a decision over an issue that has divided the astronomical community, and plagued Scorpios, for some years: is Pluto really a planet? Beginning in 1992 with the discovery of 1992 QB1, we have come to know that Pluto is a member of the previously-theorized Kuiper Belt. QB1 proved that the Kuiper Belt existed (note, QB1 was discovered when it was exactly occupying the Aries Point, the first degree of Aries). To some scientists, these objects (including Pluto) seemed too small to be planets, but were not really asteroids either. The proposal seems to reach a compromise, neither demoting Pluto to a "non-planet," nor counting it among the "classical planets."
2. Ceres is being upgraded from an asteroid. Once thought of as a planet, it was relegated to the asteroid belt when astronomers discovered that such existed in the first decade of the 1800s. It, too, will now be considered a dwarf planet.
3. One far-flung thing, 2003 UB 313, unofficially called Xena (pronounced "zena" or "zahnna" depending on who you ask), will be included among the dwarf planets, because it's bigger than Pluto, round and meets certain other requirements. Most have not heard of Xena, so here are the basics. It orbits the Sun every 558 years and nine months. Its orbit crosses the orbit of Pluto, so at times, it appears to move faster than Pluto through the zodiac (Pluto orbits the Sun once very 248 years).
Xena was discovered when it was at about 20 degrees of Aries. Its current position, some three years later, is a little more than 21 degrees of Aries. Last year, Xena was confirmed to have a satellite. Including Xena means that many other bits on the distant edge may qualify as dwarf planets. Press reports are saying that others will be included when their orbits are confirmed, but this is a little odd since by the time objects are officially named and given catalog numbers (such as Quaoar and Varuna), their orbits are known and accepted as documented.
4. A satellite of a planet -- Pluto's first moon Charon -- will be granted status of a dwarf planet. This is despite the fact that the rule for being a minor planet includes the statement that it does not orbit another planet. The astronomers seem to be making a rule and breaking it in the same gesture, and frankly I'm a bit confused. The implication seems to be that they are considering Charon not a moon of Pluto but rather a part of a binary planet system.
In an interview this week, Michael E. Brown, discoverer of Xena and many other objects -- up to eight of which may someday be included as dwarf planets -- raised the point that if Charon is included, the Earth's Moon, too, should be considered a planet.
Brown has come up with the term "cultural planet" to classify objects like Pluto, which may have some kind of technical dual status in the solar system, but which are understood by the culture to be planets.
"(1) Draw the line at Pluto and say there are no more planets; or (2) Draw the line at Pluto and say only things bigger are planets. Both would be culturally acceptable, but to me only the second makes sense for what I think we mean when we say the word planet. In addition, the second continues to allow the possibility that exploration will find a few more planets, which is a much more exciting prospect than that suggested by the first possibility. We don't think the number of planets found by the current generation of researchers will be large. Maybe one or two more. But we think that letting future generations still have a shot at planet-finding is nice."
There were a number of possible criteria for which to make the determination between planet and something else. These included roundness, roundness plus gravity making them round, historically being considered a planet, and those which have been historically considered a planet plus those new ones which meet certain criteria. Every definition has problems from a scientific standpoint, as underscored by including what has been considered a satellite as a planet when the definition says that it shall not orbit another planet.
Implications for Astrology
Let's set the official astronomy aside for a moment and consider the implications on astrology. As astrologers, we don't need to listen to what scientists say about what is and is not a planet. We have our own ways of doing things, and all astrologers approach the subject differently. However, what scientists say does indeed have an impact on culture, and astrologers (as strange of a lot as we are) are surely part of the culture.
It's worth mentioning that it took Pluto a very long time to be recognized by astrology -- this despite many profound historical events that surrounded the discovery in 1930, so obviously in tune with the theme of the god of the underworld. As late as the mid-1970s, Pluto was not included in the main planetary tables of Raphael's Ephemeris. It took nearly 45 years to be included! Till then, it was stuck in a little table in the back of the book.
Pluto is mentioned many times by Aleister Crowley in the Book of Thoth, a book about his tarot deck written in the 1940s. This book is actually a good source of information on Pluto. But it was not until 1973 that a small book was issued on this planet, by Isabel Hickey, titled Pluto or Minerva: The Choice is Yours. A major book did not appear until around 1985, when Jeff Green published Pluto: Evolutionary Journey of the Soul and pretty much assigned Pluto the meaning that it has today in poplar astrology, something associated with spiritual evolution.
This week's developments will compel astrologers to deal with the following facts, at minimum:
1. Ceres, something previously thought of as an asteroid and ignored by almost all astrologers, will be in the same class as what is widely considered to be the most powerful planet: Pluto. This is going to be a stretch for a lot of people. Whether Pluto is called a dwarf planet or not, it is considered a planet on a cultural level. At the same time, the door is being opened to considering the value of the other "major asteroids," Pallas, Juno and Vesta.
2. Pluto and Xena are being put on the same plane of reality -- which will pretty much start a Xena movement, as we now must accept the fact that this is a planet as well.
3. Pluto, a dwarf planet, is considered to have rulership of an astrological sign. This will raise the obvious questions of what signs Ceres and Xena are associated with. Xena is a recent discovery, but astrologers who work with asteroids have been speculating for years about what sign Ceres is associated with. There is no definite answer, but Virgo seems to be one intuitive choice.
4. Something previously thought of as a satellite, Charon, is now a planet. It is particularly compelling that it's a satellite of Pluto. The suggestion here is that a planet (Pluto) previously thought of as one thing (whatever people think it means) is now a complex system of thought with at least two major interpretations.
Charon shows up in the same place in astrological charts as does Pluto, making it the first binary planet to be considered by astrology. It will not have a different position from one's natal or transiting Pluto. So it will have the same sign placement and all the same aspects. But now we are being asked to acknowledge that there are two things occupying that same place, where previously we thought of it as one. (Many have asked what implication the moons of Saturn, for example, have on astrology, and this is the first time we are really being asked to consider a question like this.)
In 1973, the American astrologer Isabel Hickey (1903-1980) suggested that, based on her own research, there were two decidedly different dimensions to Pluto. One is what you might think of as the dark side, the lord of the underworld, and the other, the wisdom aspect of Pluto. She called this wisdom aspect Minerva. According to Wikipedia, Minerva was one name proposed for newly discovered Pluto by The New York Times.
Note: At the time Hickey came up with her idea that there are two aspects to Pluto, Pluto's first moon had not been discovered. It was discovered in 1978, two years before Hickey died. Now that this "moon" has been determined to be a planet in its own right, we surely have reason to reconsider our established ideas surrounding Pluto.
In her 1973 pamphlet, she wrote what is perhaps the first tangible delineation of Pluto in the English language: "The energy in us which is unknown on the surface but which works in the depths of our being. It rules the underworld in us as well as the highest part of us. In its lowest aspect it can be working silently within and unknown under the surface and then erupt with violence."
But she said there was a distinctly different side as well. "The highest aspect of Pluto (Minerva, goddess of wisdom), works in a different fashion. It changes the individual from within and comes imperceptibly like the dawn of a new day. It changes the individual so he is never again in the same state of consciousness. Purged of the dross, he is refined and regenerated."
More recently, Richard Tarnas, in his book Cosmos and Psyche, has suggested that the alternate dimension of Pluto is about Bacchus, the god of wine, revelry and divine madness. Tarnas notes that in historical eras where Pluto is prominent, we see either the emancipation of the Bacchus archetype in sexual revolution, experimentation with drugs, or some form of widespread celebration of life (such as when in aspect to Uranus); or the suppression of these things (such as when in aspect to Saturn).
Charon, the official name of what was long considered Pluto's first moon, is named for the mythological ferryman who took souls across the River Styx. So we get an image of the "soul being transported to another dimension," which is certainly in harmony with these ideas. He seems to be the one who guides the vehicle of transformation.
From Wikipedia: "In Greek mythology, Charon (Greek ?????, fierce brightness) was the ferryman of Hades. (Etruscan equivalent: Charun) He took the newly dead from one side of the river Acheron to the other if they had an obolus (coin) to pay for the ride. Corpses in ancient Greece were always buried with a coin underneath their tongue to pay Charon. Those who could not pay had to wander the banks of the Acheron for one hundred years. No soul is ever ferried the other way, the sole exceptions being Persephone, Orpheus, and Psyche."
Charon is not the only thing in the neighborhood associated with money -- the word "plutocracy" means government by the wealthy, which happens to be our current situation. The money aspect of Pluto is rarely mentioned, though it has an obvious connection to Scorpio, the sign which rules dowry and inheritance.
All in all, these developments provide us with a lot to think about. I'll keep you posted as news develops. And I'll be back next week with more of your questions and answers. Right now I need to get busy developing this news for Planet Waves Weekly, which is looking deeper into the minor planet themes of the convention of astronomers in Prague -- and deeper into Pluto. Planet Waves Weekly is my weekly astrology journal, which includes a horoscope, and which has been a favorite of Cainer.com readers for years. Astrology Secrets Revealed is sponsored by your subscriptions to Planet Waves Weekly, so please sign up soon.
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Catch you soon!
Yours & truly,
Planet Waves Weekly is the only place online to get the weekly horoscope of Eric Francis, both emailed and posted to the Web on a subscriber homepage each Friday. Eric is now writing Parallel Worlds, the 2006 annual edition of Planet Waves with the year-ahead forecasts, available to all subscribers. As a subscriber, you can keep up with Eric's essays on astrological developments, chart reading techniques, Tarot cards, and world affairs. Experience Eric's unique perspective as an astrologer-investigative reporter. Read more than three years of archives of essays and horoscopes. We invite you to look around and become one of many satisfied readers of Eric's daring and innovative astrology journal.
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