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Archive for August 4th 2006

Astrology Secrets Revealed: Eric Francis Answers Your Questions
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The Chart of Israel

Dear Friends, Near and Far:

This is a good moment to take advantage of a very handy property of astrology: the cool detachment that it allows; and the perspective that it grants.

It finally occurred to me to check the chart of Israel last night, so I pulled my copy of the Book of World Horoscopes by Nick Campion off the shelf (this is the definitive book, if you're looking for charts of countries and big events in world history, and it was recently revised and re-released), and learned that the time of Israeli independence is known to the minute: A meeting chaired by Ben Gurion that began when he struck his gavel promptly at 4 pm in Tel Aviv, on May 14, 1948. I don't have a lot to say about this chart at this point, but mainly what I want to point out is there can be no doubt this is indeed the chart of Israel, and that it's very active right now. Indeed, it's all too rich for words. Have a look:

Israel Chart

Look up to and the to left: the 10th/11th house, which is covered by Cancer and Leo. We have four planets up there: the Moon, Pluto, Saturn and Mars in Leo. The 10th house, and the 11th, are the house where you make your impression on the world. I would say that a Leo Moon, a Pluto- Saturn conjunction, plus Mars, all make quite the impression. The Moon is the ruler of the Cancer 10th house cusp but does not stray far from the cusp, showing up a few degrees later in the very next sign.

It is the Leo Moon that characterizes the outer personality of Israel: a child, needing to do the work of an adult, but needing all the attention of a child.

Sliding over just a little bit, we have the Saturn-Pluto conjunction. I could have guessed that Israel has this conjunction: it's nature is intense, authoritarian, conservative and driven. We saw the result of another Saturn-Pluto contact in the events of Sept. 11, 2001 -- that time, it was the opposition. Conjunctions and oppositions of Saturn and Pluto don't happen often. The related opposition to this conjunction occurred in the 1960s. So the 'new' and 'full' phases occur once every 20 years or so -- pretty rare. The exact dates of this particular conjunction was Aug. 11, 1947 (one time, not three). The next conjunction was Nov. 8, 1982. Unfortunately, these direct aspects of Saturn and Pluto are almost always associated with the rise of arch-conservatism of some kind; with philosophies of orthodoxy and purism; and with a lot of destruction.

The ascendant is revealing. Libra is rising. No matter what you do, things look good. You could take a big, moody scorpion born with Libra rising and everyone would want it for a pet.

Israel has this charmed quality -- one of the most striking things about this little country is how well it's able to maintain its image of righteousness even amidst the most horrid situations, and no matter who is right or wrong. Israel always makes an excellent, reasoned case -- that is Libra at work.

However, behind the scenes is Neptune in the 12th house. It is close to the ascendant, in Libra as well. It is rising, so it dominates the chart in a way, but because it's Neptune and because it's in the 12th house, it has that "it's there but it's not" property that works so beautifully for both Neptune and the 12th. What is the implication? Hmmm, Neptune has several qualities: one is an illusory nature; Neptune grants and shape-shifting quality, enhancing that image-making nature of the Libra ascendant. The other is a kind of 'magical' quality that allows it to project its image of itself outward, and then it takes over your brain. With Neptune, you just may find yourself believing what someone else believes, no matter how off-the-beam it is: for example, we all know the way to happiness, truth and enlightenment is Coca-Cola. Advertising is a Neptune critter.

One other feature in this chart worth writing about is the 8th house Taurus Sun. The 8th house grants an affinity for crisis. This is, after all, the house of death and sex, and it can translate to the house of "all is fair in love and war." But whatever may be fair or not, if you have an 8th house Sun, you don't have a boring life -- at whatever cost that comes. It's better to state your price, and state your goals, so you don't get too carried away. Israel has stated its goals, but not its price. That the Taurus Sun makes a square to all of those Leo planets tells you something about Israel, and about the extremely, internally tense nature of squares. Especially when they are set off by transits, as this chart is, to put it mildly.

We can see we have a chart that describes the condition and the personality of Israel, but what is more impressive is how much Leo there is in the sky right now, at what may turn out to be the decisive moment in Israel's history so far. As we all know, Saturn is in Leo right now, so Israel is heading not only for a Saturn return (its second) but also Saturn conjunct Pluto. Plus, Neptune in Aquarius is and has been opposing Israel's natal Pluto and Saturn for quite a while, which does not exactly lend itself to a realistic perspective.

The entire Pluto in Leo generation (1937-1957, which includes some pre-war babies, and then the Baby Boom) is having Saturn transit over its natal Pluto right now, though only those born around the first eight years or so have experienced the transit directly; for the rest, it will arrive over the next year or so. This, by the way, is a point worth developing in an article, and I'm currently brewing a Planet Waves Weekly essay on the subject; we will look for a question here that highlights the theme as well.

Let's just say that transiting Saturn conjunct natal Pluto is not bringing out the more liberal and life-affirming properties of Leo; just like the conjunction in a natal chart, it's likely to be associated with a hard-line attitude, but what we're going to see, I think, is how far this attitude goes before it goes too far. The discovery will likely be that it's all gone too far. (On this topic, I nearly fell off my chair Wednesday, when I saw a copy of the London Times in the cafť where I was writing this column, and noticed that Tony Blair gave a speech in Los Angeles of all places saying that we had gone a little too far on the military part of the "War on Terror" and that maybe a more moderate approach would be a good idea. I guess better late than never, but how much better is a good question.)

As regards this Leo collection of planets in the Israel chart, the August 9 Full Moon chart is pretty much the kicker, so I'll include it. Here you go. Keep a squirt bottle nearby, you will need to douse yourself off.

Aquarius Full Moon Chart

The Full Moon can go off like, well, like a lunatic, and this event is all over Israel's chart. Note that Saturn is one degree away from exact return; it's closely conjunct Pluto; and then along comes the Sun and lights up the whole thing. Then, in the other direction, we have a conjunction of the Moon in Aquarius, with Neptune in Aquarius (retrograde) conjunct Ceres retrograde. Let's just put it this way. The script writers in Tel Aviv and Washington DC need to do a little work on the script if they want a happy ending. I suggest we all keep our awareness turned up to 11 and keep the light on the situation.

This Full Moon leads promptly into the exact opposition of Saturn and Neptune (Aug. 31), then in to a series of eclipses, one of which (solar) opposes Israel's natal Mars to about one degree of exactitude. Ah yes, if I ruled the world, politicians would all be sent to an island with a lot of video games. For good behavior, they would get a chess set.

Today's Astrology Secrets Revealed looks at a variety of questions, most of them fairly personal, but before we get there, I'd like to invite you over to Planet Waves, where we have a daily photo and blog, lots of articles, and two new August horoscopes posted. The ASR (Astrology Secrets Revealed) project is sponsored by your subscriptions to Planet Waves Weekly, so please check out that excellent horoscope and astrology service, and please do sign up. It's guaranteed and it's very highly regarded by our readers.

Today's edition of ASR was prepared with the help of Paloma Todd, Arwynne O'Neill and Rachael Stillman at Planet Waves, and Vanessa Lawton and Deirdre Ahern, our web producers at Thank you all. Thanks for reading!

Yours & truly,
Eric signature

Astrology help in this edition from Arwynne O'Neill and Paloma Todd. Editorial assistant: Rachael Stillman.

Shadows or Echoes?

Dear Eric,
Hello! It would be wonderful if you could give us some insight into the shadow phase of retrograde planets.

-- Yuko K.

Dear Yuko:
First let's cover the technical side. The term "shadow phase" refers to the degrees of the zodiac occupied by planets before and after they are retrograde, but which cover the same degrees the planet is in when it's retrograde.

Retrograde motion is when a planet appears to be moving backwards. Why it does so is another question. But, let's say Mercury is going to station retrograde at 15 degrees of Aries and retrograde back to 5 degrees.

When Mercury reaches the 5 degree mark before the retrograde, that is when the shadow phase begins. This is because in a few weeks it will be retrograde in that degree range. Then the retrograde begins at 15 degrees, Mercury goes back to 5 degrees and stations direct again.

After the retrograde, Mercury re-covers the same 10 degrees where it was just retrograde. That is also considered the shadow phase.

So here is a one-sentence definition: When an inner planet is moving in direct motion in the degrees where it is about to be retrograde, or was just retrograde, that is the shadow phase. Here is another: the few weeks [or months] before and after an inner planet retrograde are the shadow phase.

Now, as for WHAT is the shadow phase as an actual effect: it would seem, from much observation, that while a planet is occupying the degrees of the retrograde, even if it's moving direct, you get some of the effects of the retrograde. What are those? That, too, is another discussion. But whatever you think they are, or say they are, or experience them to be, is what you're probably going to experience. Since Mercury is currently in the shadow phase, I've saved this document 445 times since starting.

I do wonder about the term "shadow phase," which is not entirely descriptive. Nothing is casting a shadow, or being shadowy. It would seem that the term "echo phase" works better, since you get an echo of the events of the retrograde during this phase. In the first echo phase, you get an echo of the retrograde-yet-to-come. In the second echo phase, you get an echo of the retrograde that's just happened.

Then, the planet enters new territory. As a horoscope writer, that's what I call it in my columns -- I don't say "shadow phase has ended," rather, I say, "Mercury [or whatever] enters new territory next week."

Anyone who has paid attention to retrogrades has noticed that there is indeed an echo effect before and after the retrograde. Note that the term only applies to inner planets. Outer planets for the most part are always in the echo phase, because they almost always cross and re-cross the same degrees of the zodiac three times. This counts for Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and any trans-Neptunian object. Depending on the phase of their cycle, centaurs such as Chiron cross all their degrees of motion several times, though at other times they behave more like inner planets, and are part of the time in either all new territory or the echo phase.

Saturn and Jupiter do a bit of both as well.

Here is a question I've never seen asked or answered: when Mercury is covering the degrees of a long-prior retrograde, is there an echo effect? Let's say for instance Mercury is in the degrees of a retrograde from 2000. Is there an echo back to that time period? It's worth studying. Simple chronologies of news or personal events would be enough to give a clue.

We have a good opportunity right now. Mercury retrogrades in water signs are pretty rare in these centuries of history. There was a water cycle similar to the one we're in now in 2000. Mercury recently covered the degrees of a retrograde in Cancer in the summer of 2000. And a little later in the year it will cover (and be retrograde close to) the degrees of a very special retrograde from October and November 2000 -- in the thick of the presidential election that put George Bush into office, an event that has impacted every person on Earth.

Let's listen for the echo, or look for the shadow.

Yours truly,
Eric signature

Balancing Outer Planet Cycles

Dear Eric,
My first Saturn return is happening right now but stuck inside I still feel what feels like a void between my previous life and what's to come. Could this be due to Jupiter still being in my 12th house and, if so, is it more appropriate to make changes after it has moved into the first house?

Or should I just try harder to move on? I'm struggling with how to meet the challenges of my Saturn return appropriately within what feels more like true emptiness of direction than lack of motivation. I am not clear about how to balance the significant Pluto, Saturn, Jupiter and Uranus transits I am experiencing either. Thank you!


Dear Leisa:
Thanks for writing. I get the feeling from your chart that this whole theme you're discussing comes down to self-confidence, and moreover, having a tangible sense of self: a self that can live in the world, choose and experience. This takes feeling solid in your heart and soul, or embarking on a journey to get there, which is pretty much inevitable in life. Often that means letting go of your old expectations and beliefs about yourself and, in your particular situation, using your imagination.

You have so many transits happening; the only reasonable astrological advice is to come all the way from your core and really, merely, as directly as you can, be yourself every moment. If you're not sure who that is, experiment. The world is not exactly tailored for people to do this, and there are all kinds of factors that can make it difficult, but you have the moxie to do it. For you, with Venus in Aquarius, I would definitely say that life is about doing rather than thinking, though Venus can keep you in mental mode when what you really want to do is take action.

However, as much as all the lore and legends of astrology say that Saturn returns are a time of enormous change and progress, ultimately we have to be patient with the process. It is true that there are some transits where it's possible to accurately predict an effect to the day. There are circumstances when I've seen Saturn transits be rather astonishingly precise.

Generally, though with transits of Saturn, Chiron and other slow-movers, you need to think in terms of the seasons and years of the transit, and those around it, and not any one day, week or month. Saturn is a planet whose themes include long phases of time, and time itself. Saturn always rewards patience. But when Saturn says it's time to make a move, it most certainly is time, seemingly all at once.

The Saturn return is one of those before and after kinds of transits. When working with a client who's gone through it a long time ago, I will often make the discussion easy and ask, using the year of the transit's main focus, what was your life like before and after? They will think for a moment, and then the story will be interesting. Hearing several of these stories help me understand the ways in which a client tends to relate to their transits. I find this to be useful in counseling current transits.

It's a bit different working with someone in the midst of the Saturn return. After checking some recent transits, what I would want to hear about is what are the situations and choices you're facing right now. Often we don't see the most obvious ones. In terms of counseling technique, it's also reasonable to start with this approach. However, the journey of the past seven years (since the Saturn square) counts for a lot in the discussion of the Saturn return. It's also sensible to look at the events surrounding age 14 for clues.

As for what you state about your life in general: I think that 'stuck' can be a pretty good descriptive term, but then we would need to slowly parse out the particulars. These would involve your specific relationships, your current work as it relates to your larger plan, and how you feel about your current location on the planet. These are generally the big themes.

More than "expecting something to happen," I would propose that the Saturn return is a time to reconsider everything, and make decisions where you see choices. If you don't see choices, the quest then becomes one for those. These may be as much about what you opt against as much as what you opt for. With the Saturn return, there can be a phase of undoing that is followed by a phase of effort, after which the results gradually rise above their foundations.

Let's take a look at your chart and see what we learn.

Leisa's chart

The very first thing I notice when I see this chart is that you've been having a Pluto transit the past couple of years. I am sure these are among the transits you're referring to. You have the Sun and Moon in an exact square from Virgo to Sagittarius (readers may note the close degrees of the Sun and the Moon). Pluto has been working these degrees since around February 2004. While the transit is technically over and Pluto has moved on to a few degrees later in Sagittarius, I would say that this transit is still very much in progress. Because the Sun and Moon speak so intimately to one's sense of self, one's sense of presence in the world, I truly wonder what you've experienced since early 2004. So -- please do drop a note and let me know, and I'll key your response back to this discussion now.

While we're awaiting your response, I feel pretty confident offering some interpretations. You mention Jupiter transiting your 12th. I would propose that this would have you feeling pretty gosh darned restless. I say this because you have Uranus in the 12th house natally. If I could sit and listen to you for an hour or two, I would be extremely interested to hear the ways in which you live your life pushing the envelope of reality -- or the ways you want to.

The suggestion here -- my interpretation, as is all of this -- is that you will be happiest leading an edgy, daring life, staying on the move and making very large changes with shocking spontaneity. This is the astrology of someone on a bold experiment. Jupiter going over Uranus is only going to magnify that effect, though the reaction may be delayed until Jupiter crosses your ascendant next year.

Now let's talk about Saturn. Saturn in the 9th house can put some blinders around your ability to see the wider possibilities. The 9th house is the one that covers long range plans and visions, great distances and all matters of faith. Saturn is a little like having a rock garden in that house instead of a flower garden. It's fair to say that you have a little struggle with faith going on. I initially called it a self-confidence theme, but I would revise that to say that it comes down to faith in yourself.

Since Saturn is returning in this house, that's the thing that I think, above all, is going to budge, come unstuck, or start rolling like a boulder: faith in yourself. Start a project to get some. List all your achievements. Collect 10 letters of reference from people you've worked for. Make a list of all the times you've summoned courage and guts and gone against the odds.

I assure you: as one born in the year of the Red Dragon, there will be no shortage of accomplishments or people willing to vouch for you, in detail, with gusto.

Stage two is to start to make deeper contact with not only what you want to do in life, but what you must do. Let yourself dream, and see if you can climb up on top of that 9th house Saturn and see how far you can see. There is a bold mission in that Saturn, one that is uniquely yours and yours alone. Get out your binoculars and look in the approximate direction of 40 years old. While you're at it, I strongly suggest you get a set of paints and start playing with color, literally. Your mind plays a trick on you: it convinces you that you're going to have a boring career. Forget it. There is nothing boring about you.

Deep in there, you're something of a demented, inspired, daring genius who has the strength to stop at nothing. But you have the discipline to turn it into something, anything, you want: art, cinema, writing and a perfectly outrageous -- and beautiful -- marriage to somebody as strange, outrageous and bold as you.

Thanks again for writing.
Eric signature

World on Fire?

Hi Eric,
I have been following Planet Waves as well as Jonathan Cainer's website for some time. I find your style of writing so informative and I would like to commend you for your efforts. For the past year and a half, the whole world seems to be on fire. Everyone around me seems to be going through, or has gone through, a major personal crisis in which their lives have been turned upside down. For me, it hasn't stopped with one episode. It has been quite a rippled effect; once one situation is handled, another comes along to test my strength. I am constantly putting out fires all around me. I am typically very optimistic and proactive and I try to surround myself with positive energy. Does Saturn have anything to do with this negative energy and when will it all lighten up?

Thank you my friend.
-- Shelley D.

Dear Shelley:
Ya... well... the world IS on fire, or plenty of it is. Wars are erupting pretty often and the planet is heating up quickly. The Amazon is getting dryer and the ice is melting. Old glaciers are disappearing. The thing is, most people don't really feel it, they kind of notice, they have heard about it, but for most people, planetary consciousness is lurking in the dim, distant background of awareness.

However, speaking of on fire, I think you are what is doing the most burning. There is fire coming in from every angle of your chart, from your ascendant (Leo) through your 12th house (Pallas, Mercury and Mars), as well as your hot Aries Moon and laser-beam Aries Chiron in the 9th house, and Neptune glowing like cosmic fire in Sagittarius. This adapts you excellently to handling crisis, while at the same time, the fact that three exceptionally potent planets -- Mars, Mercury and Pallas -- are in your 12th house may keep them hidden from your view or easy access for creative use.

The result could be that you're investing a lot of your creative energy into solving problems rather than applying yourself to some generative process. It's very difficult to be an innovator when all you're doing is solving problems (putting out fires rather than getting them going). You may need to make some radical turns in your life in order to get a handle on things -- that is, to take control of your energy and put it to work for you.

You have an extremely interesting ascendant -- 19+ Leo, which is just one degree away from an infamous total solar eclipse that happened seven years ago this summer, on Aug. 11, 1999. I would be curious if you note that date or season as a demarcation point in your life in any way. We are now at the seven year point of that eclipse, which is a natural cycle by itself.

You don't mention what you're doing in Qatar, but the environment in your region of the world is most definitely subsumed in the heat and fire of warfare. Whether you find this appealing or not (I doubt you do), there is definitely an affinity with your chart, in that you are quite acclimated to this kind of energy. But again I wonder whether there is not a more constructive use of your vital force.

Shelley, you need art, passion and adventure -- not crisis.
Eric signature

Reader Comment

Hi Eric:
I don't often disagree with an expert in his own field -- but today I'm compelled to say something about the advice youíve given to Michelle in regards to her natal chart.

It would appear contradictory to advise Michelle to 'own' her projections and whatnot, while at the same time telling her that, basically, early childhood conditioning is to blame for her current condition. How can one own that which does not come from them?

One of the things I love about astrology is it gives me an idea of the kind of 'filter' through which I view the world -- one which often defines me, sometimes undermines me, but which is fundamentally my way of being in and through the world. Itís my Acorn.

Anyone's experience of childhood is precisely that, an individual's experience -- and 'conditioning' cannot be anything but a child's way of reacting to events that occurred in the course of my growing up -- through my 'filter'.

That which causes emotional trauma to one child may be a big adventure to another. Yes, a motherís love or lack thereof is a huge influence upon the development of a child's psyche -- but not necessarily one needing value judgments, in hindsight, for the purposes of becoming a responsible-for-self human being. If you had children, Eric (sure you won't be offended by this) you might have the perspective to find the entire idea a lot more freeing than the 'cause and effect' model of psychology and astrology.

In other words -- shouldn't you question, at least, the trend toward finding causes in childhood -- why not find a filter right here and now in your SELF.

I am a great advocate of psychoanalysis, and would wholeheartedly recommend a soul-based therapy for Michelle, one which will teach her to recognise her own role in creating her life, from infancy.

-- Dan

Hey Dan:
Note to readers, this pertains to a question from last week's edition.

Client situations are not easy topics to take up in an essay. The subject of projection is difficult and complicated and it's subject to interpretation and one's definition of what the mind is.

You ask: "It would appear contradictory to advise Michelle to 'own' her projections and whatnot, while at the same time telling her that, basically, early childhood conditioning is to blame for her current condition. How can one own that which does not come from them?"

Well, if someone gives you something, and you take it, whether you realize it or not, it's yours. So, that's how someone can own something that does not come from them. If you inherit, you own it. What I am saying in my response is that Michelle was given things... influenced in specific ways, patterns were taken on, and one of those patterns involves whatever situation I described.

The problem with astrology done in essay format is that it's not actually possible to work with someone. So I try to come from a human place of common sense and empathy, as well as from what I have learned, and whatever interpretive skills I can offer. My guide rule is that of the Tao Te Ching's advice to diviners: be sincere.

In terms of "creating her own role in creating her life, from infancy," we depart ideas 10,000 percent. I recognize there is a school of thought that says we choose our parents. Whatever the causes of our parents in our lives may be, I start the discussion of childhood with the grounding that initially, our parents happened to us. We also happen to them, and that, too, happens to us, as we pick up their reactions to us. But we enter their environment.

I pointed Michelle to a book that is about the neurology of emotion, childhood impact and therapy. The main point of the book, called A General Theory of Love, is that due to the limitations on the size of the human pelvis, a child's brain is gestating until at least two years old. In terms of our brains, we are a fetus till age two. During this time, the limbic system is forming -- the part of the brain that deals with both emotion and memory. It is forming within the environment that surrounds it, and the authors explain that we become tuned to the emotional pitch and tenor of our family of origin. In this process, limbic pathways are formed, which carry our neurological messages -- feelings and memories -- in a very specific pattern, much like those of the people around us.

I have no doubt that this whole scenario is influenced by karma, whatever that may be, but I feel that physical and scientific models can be useful if we apply them with awareness -- and this seems to be a very useful one. It helped me, at least, to understand there was an environmental and neurological factor involved in the patterning process. This helps account for why people are so attuned to their families, and why people's families can push their buttons so easily. It also helps account for why we tend to have relationships that so closely mimic those we have with parents -- we are neurologically tuned to that pitch; indeed, we are often deaf to any other.

The issue of choosing our parents and our life circumstances based on a concept of the soul is a kind of religious belief (currently enshrined in New Age religion, among others), but as an active factor, this is very much outside the gestalt of anything discussed so far in this situation. The problem with this belief is that kids tend to take on responsibility for everything around them, they tend to blame themselves for everything, and I think that what productive therapy does is help us sort out who is responsible for what. And I believe that parents are 1. Responsible for what they do and 2. In our culture, at least traditionally and to a great extent today, extremely reluctant to accept any responsibility at all.

Then along comes somebody with what is a kind of intellectual construction (even if it came from India, it lands in the West as an intellectual idea): we "choose our parents" and, whether true or not, we suddenly have yet another reason to take responsibility (usually in the form of fault and blame) for their stuff, their actions, their choices, and the conditions of their lives at the time of our infancy. So I try not to touch this concept, ever. If the client brings up the subject of having chosen his or her parents, that's another story -- in this case, she did not. But generally to me this is a signal that the person is taking on the blame for what their parents did to them, which can be extremely paralyzing, and usually the idea is swallowed whole.

In terms of suggesting she not only seek therapy, but also in introducing her to the best book I've ever read about therapy -- neurologically grounded and loving -- I feel like I am in safe, at worst, benign territory. But I will say: in doing astrology in writing, where therapy is called for, there is no right answer. Interpretation is always a risk, and always violates the ethics of therapy; as does advice.

I just do my best, stick to my experience and training as honestly as I can, listen to the client, and read the chart. And while I do not advocate that others embark on a "spiritual path," I follow my inner guidance in these answers and respond in harmony with the information I am getting.

Usually, this will include some form of the message that you can help yourself, and since you're sitting here asking for help, it would seem that you're ready.

Thanks for writing, Dan.
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