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But what then happened was -- they didn't. And nobody in the law enforcement crew did something basic like, er, maybe, perhaps, record the barcode on the bag that was used for the little experiment. Hey, how about it guys?? So it got onto any one of 90 flights, to anywhere. The explosives were never found. Fortunately, they are “harmless” without the proper detonation device, so somebody just ended up getting a really cool souvenir from their trip to France.
This has Mercury retrograde written all over it. And now somebody is the proud owner of five ounces of plastic explosives, for which he easily could have been arrested had a different country's dogs sniffed it out, or made him go through a routine customs check.
(This is an argument for using little plastic tabs to seal your baggage; locks are now illegal, but at least you'll know whether your bag has been opened, and you can bring this to the attention of customs officials if you are checked.)
However, what was demonstrated in the process is how easy it is to move this chemical around the world. So for everything that goes wrong with Mercury retrograde, something is revealed: a weakness in the system, and at times, shocking information that would have remained in hiding, save for some interesting turn of events that led to its discovery. Look for the same in your own life.
Mercury retrograde often has that feeling of what happens when the mind meets technology and things go weird. True, sometimes it's all about technology; but more often than not, human error is involved, such as the situation where a friend in Paris brought his computer in to have the operating system reinstalled. The technician then erased his entire hard drive without asking, and said, "Oh, I thought you had a backup." About half the data could be recovered by a computer lab, though not his email and address book.
With human error so prominent in Mercury retrograde debacles, I suggest you take the time to do it right. Worry about what matters; when in doubt, make a backup, or make the follow-up call yourself. I strongly advise making major computer changes during this phase, and don't buy what you don't absolutely need.
In other astrological news, we are heading into the New Moon in about five days, a powerful lunation that occurs, conjunct the meaningful and potent planet Pluto, in Sagittarius. Not that world events have failed to be interesting (if heart-rending), but this particular New Moon, on Dec. 12, will bring with it a wave of intrigue and news that will in some way change the world noticeably. And wherever you happen to have Sagittarius in your chart, you will be granted a sense of renewal and an opportunity to begin over.
Mercury goes direct on Dec. 20, and the Sun enters Capricorn (Winter Solstice) the next day, Dec. 21. From then on, the days get longer here in the Northern Hemisphere, shorter in the Southern.
Much more in information on this subject is at Planet Waves Weekly, my subscriber e-journal. This is a truly worthwhile astrological investment, with a weekly horoscope each week, a birthday report and many detailed essays each month, as well as an extra horoscope each Monday, and an extended annual horoscope for subscribers. My essays give a truly personal slant on the news, and helps us orient ourselves on how to respond at this rather intense and critical point in history. Have a look -- I think you'll like it a lot.
Learn more at:
And here is a Postcard from Paris:
Here are some meditations on your questions this week.
Let's go back through a little history. When Pluto was discovered in 1930, it was called the "ninth planet."
However, more than a century before, Ceres had been discovered (in 1801) and according to Melanie Reinhart, the Chiron pioneer, its discovery was announced as the eighth planet (after Uranus, the seventh, which was discovered in 1781). Then at some point not so long after the discovery, scientists went back on their original classification of Ceres as a planet and created a new designation, asteroid. This is precisely when things get dicey; from this point on, nobody can seem to get straight what is and what is not a planet, and to this day there is no agreed upon definition.
Neither astronomers nor astrologers can agree on the definition of a planet. At least most astronomers (that is, stargazing scientists) know that all this stuff is out there, and the discoveries are causing great interest, particularly because these little worlds are seen as artifacts from the beginnings of the solar system.
As for what a ‘planet’ is, I think this is purely a semantic discussion (which one of the new planet discoveries gets into below). It's a matter of definition, and that definition is arbitrary. In Greek, it means 'wanderer' so I say if it wanders, it's a planet. Astrologers don't need to take the lead of scientists on what to use and not use in their charts. However, you can be sure if one day scientists come around and say that Ceres, Varuna and Quaoar are officially planets (the three most likely candidates to be added to the official list) then astrologers will go scrambling to get aboard.
At this point, most astrologers (people who read charts, write horoscopes, make predictions, etc.) generally deal with the phenomenon of new discoveries by ignoring them, or considering them irrelevant to what they do each day. This is understandable -- to a point. For one thing, it seems crazy to consider the possibility of thousands of new objects to include in a chart. Most astrologers think that nine is enough. Also, who is to say what they mean? What book can you look them up in? How do you know they have effects?
Well, you can't look them up in books for the most part, and what they mean can seem rather arbitrary, and is based on a wide variety of factors, from the mythology to the chart for the discovery. And there are a lot of these kids to consider, but there are also a lot of brands of dish soap to choose from. As it works out, new planetary discoveries are a specialty in astrology. They require research into science and mythology, many discussions with our astrological colleagues, and a willingness to test out the new discoveries in the charts of our clients. Not everyone is interested. Not everyone has the resources. And not everyone's clients are interested (I have found that my clients are very interested and willing to hear what these planets have to say -- which is how I have learned so much).
New planets give us something else, which is the ability to name psychological and spiritual processes that have always existed, or that are emerging into awareness and need to be identified now. The nature of astrology is to connect planetary cycles to human events, feelings and developments. In astrology directed at the unfolding of the consciousness (spiritual or psychological astrology) rather than personal events (mundane astrology), these new planets have an enormous amount of wisdom to offer us. And in the charts of major historical events, they almost always appear in interesting places, giving astrologers a look behind the scenes.
In my view as an astrologer who works with new planets every day, Sedna and Quaoar are two of the more significant discoveries since Chiron was sighted in 1977. Let's go over them briefly.
Quaoar was discovered March 15, 2002, by a team headed by astronomer Mike Brown of Caltech University. It takes about 285 years to go around the Sun, and is about 800 miles across (compared to Pluto, which is about 1,200 miles across). It was given the provisional designation 2002 LM60, and then, because the discovery was considered so significant, it was then placed in the permanent minor planet catalogue with the honor of number 50,000.
As for the name, according to the official naming scheme, it had to be chosen from among gods and goddesses of creation and resurrection; and according to the official Quauar web page, “The Tongva people (sometimes called the San Gabrielino Native Americans) inhabited the Los Angeles area before the arrival of the Spanish and other European people.” The name 'Quaoar' (pronounced kwah-o-wahr) comes from their creation mythology. In the words of Mark Acuña, Tongva scholar, dancer and tribal elder:
"'Quaoar', the great force of creation, sings and dances the high ones (Deities) into existence. While Quaoar has no form or gender he is usually referred to with the male pronoun. He dances and sings first 'Weywot' who becomes Sky Father; they sing and dance 'Chehooit' Earth Mother into existence. The trio sing 'Tamit' Grandfather Sun to life. As each divine one joins the singing and dancing, the song becomes more complex and the dance more complicated. In turn 'Moar', Grandmother Moon (a very complex deity), 'Pamit' the Goddess of the sea, 'Manit' the Lord of dreams and visions, 'Manisar' the bringer of food and harvests, 'Tukupar Itar' the Sky Coyote (who is also our major hero), and 'Tolmalok' the Goddess of Shishongna (the underworld) join in the singing, dancing and creating. And finally the great seven giants who hold up the worlds are created. The High Ones in turn are aided by 'Eagle, Duck, Bear, and Frog' in a grand earth diving story. Frog brings up soil out of the deep dark sea, and the four animals dance it flat and wide. The 'Gods and Goddesses' then furnish the world 'Tovangar' with hills, mountains, trees, rivers, etc. 'Tobohar' (first man) and 'Pahavit' (first woman) are also part of this great 'Creation song and dance cycle'."
Okay, so, what does it mean?
As far as I can tell, it's about family patterns. We have a god who sings and dances the other gods and goddesses into existence. This dance of creation reminds me of how families are created, and the metaphor from the myth is indeed that the gods and goddesses are a family. It does not take a Ph.D. in psychology to see the relationship to the development of the family pattern and how an individual might respond to that. This is certainly a bit of information we need in this day and age, as we are finally starting to become aware of the damage and gifts offered to us by our families.
It immediately reminded me of a therapy process called Integrated Family Systems (IFS), with which I have had very good results, and which I was doing at the time of the discovery.
While you could get family information from the 4th house, the Moon or the sign Cancer (for example), Quaoar seems to offer something different, particularly when you study its aspects carefully. It describes in very specific ways the specifics of how the family pattern has worked into the psyche and the life experience; it reveals something hidden and difficult to see otherwise (as does Chiron, by the way).
I have put Quaoar into just about every chart I've looked at for two years (both those of clients and the charts I used to write the horoscopes), and it always seems to be connected to the psychological history of the family in a way that is useful, obvious and very helpful to the client when considering their different life situations. People who are working on healing their family patterns would do well to place this planet into their charts and see if they can deduce any messages, themes and other information. Space and time don't permit example charts today, but I'll get to one soon.
Currently, Quaoar is right around the middle degrees of Sagittarius.
As for Sedna.
Sedna was discovered Nov. 14, 2003, and given the provisional designation 2003 VB12. Note that it was discovered just after the Harmonic Concordance lunar eclipse. It has an orbit of 10,500 years, and is about 800-1,200 miles across. Discovered by Mike Brown from Caltech, along with scientists from Gemini Observatory and Yale University, this team had hit on another major discovery. According to the official website, Sedna is "the coldest, most distant object known to orbit the Sun.” The object was found at a distance 90 times greater than that from the sun to the earth -- about 3 times further than Pluto, the most distant known planet. The discovery was made on the Samuel Oschin Telescope at the Palomar Observatory, just east of San Diego.
In an interview, Mike Brown, the discoverer, addressed the question of the definition of a planet. "Indeed, if Sedna had been larger than Pluto," he said, "most would have hailed it as a 10th planet. This definition -- like the previous -- is historically consistent, but -- like the previous -- still fails the scientific test. Why is Pluto the cutoff size? Is there really a big enough difference in size between Pluto and Sedna and Quaoar that one should be called a planet while the others are not? The scientific answer remains a resounding no."
I am less experienced with Sedna than I am with Quaoar. But I am fascinated by certain collective issues that I see in Sedna; for example, the last time it was in its current position, we had an ice age.
It was named for a creation deity of the icy waters, a goddess who created seals, whales and dolphins, and is considered the supreme deity of the oceans by the Inuit people (Eskimos, who kiss by rubbing noses). The myth involves Sedna being kidnapped, and ultimately falling into the icy waters of the Arctic and having her fingers, arms and legs fall off and create these sea creatures.
Whales and dolphins are certainly in trouble right now. And I give Mike Brown and his team a lot of credit for their bold and controversial choice of names, which at the time caused quite a stir (links at the Sedna website below).
I wrote to Melanie Reinhart and asked her if she had anything interesting on Sedna (silly question), and this is what she sent back, in part based on a reading of its mythology and discovery time:
"Even in the face of unrelenting trauma and suffering, we can, indeed must, beat our drum and sing to life. This is not a plea for escapism, but rather an acknowledgement that the Work is about keeping our heart open in hell. Sedna’s story is about acknowledging just how bad things really feel, and starting from there. Radical acceptance is demanded. Allowing love and harmony into our lives (symbolized by the Star of David, or the Harmonic Concordance) may mean opening to the frozen places inside where we are conflicted and feel unloving. To try and manufacture joy is to metaphorically cut off our own fingers."
She adds, "As Carl G. Jung noted, synchronicity often accompanies something emerging into consciousness. Within a week of Sedna’s discovery, there was the biggest seal hunt in about 50 years. Hundreds of thousands of seals were killed, and, citing 'indigenous customs', the exploiters scored a legal victory over animal rights protesters. The supreme irony of this needs no comment, but indeed raises some important questions."
And on a final, somber note: "On May 9, 2004, the Sun was conjunct Sedna for the first time since her discovery, bringing light to her story. The international press was dominated by revelations of brutality and torture perpetrated by the occupying forces in Iraq. Truly the submerged suffering of the tortured victims surfaced in an ocean of obfuscation, outrage, confusion, denial, blame and shame. The repercussions have yet to fully unfold. However, these events have opened the secret world of war. When individuals tell their stories, the healing is contagious, and others are encouraged to do likewise. The Sedna story, like any major epic, has been told and re-told down the ages, and we may always listen afresh."
Currently, Sedna is in mid-Taurus.
To learn more about Sedna, see:
To learn more about Quaoar, see:
I have an article that covers some of the discoveries beyond Neptune:
And here is my article on Sedna:
Can you help, please?
You do indeed have a grand cross -- and many similar aspects besides. A grand cross (also called a grand square) is an aspect that involves at least four planets arranged at approximately 90-degree angles -- in the shape of a cross. There are many ways to think about this, but I am reluctant to say that it means any one thing, explains anything in particular, or that there is any one best way to work with it, except for applying the one quality that astrology rewards the most generously: Awareness.
Astrology is largely a study in oppositions and crosses. Each sign is closely related to its opposite sign, and to those located 90 degrees away. There are three crosses in the astrological wheel: the cardinal cross (consisting of Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn), the fixed cross (consisting of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius) and the mutable cross (consisting of Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces). Each sign in a particular cross has much in common with its cousins on that particular cross.
The grand cross in your chart involves the Moon in Aries, Jupiter in Cancer, Mars in Libra, and the Sun and Mercury conjunct in Capricorn. These are the four cardinal signs.
Now, most astrologers will tell you how challenging grand crosses are, but I don't think they're inherently more or less challenging than ordinary oppositions or grand trines. They are just challenging in different ways. But what grand crosses do is, in most cases, activate an entire cross of the zodiac. So you in your chart, have all the cardinal signs involved. This suggests a high degree of initiative; there is the feeling of a pioneering spirit from these placements.
But to really understand what is happening, we would need to first look at the aspects separately, then put the whole thing together. The two I would be the most curious about are your opposition between the Moon in Aries and Mars in Libra. I would be curious about what your mother taught you about men, and what her experience with men was, both as a child and an adult. I am one of those astrologers who feels strongly that aspects point to family history, and family history points to how we experience the aspects.
The other curious entity is Jupiter in the last degree of Cancer, retrograde. I would check some transits to that Jupiter, looking at when Chiron was in the neighborhood, for example, and I would want to know about how you relate to the idea of protection. This is to say, my hunch is that you may at times feel like your ‘protection’ is on vacation or lunch break. In fact, you may have very little experience feeling protected from the various dangers of life, particularly emotional ones, and it would probably do you good to tune into just what this whole concept is about.
Meanwhile, there is a far more compelling aspect than your grand cross, which is a T-square, located in the mutable signs. Have a look. It begins with Ceres, the blue question mark, in Gemini; continues with the Pluto-Uranus conjunction in Virgo and concludes with the conjunction of Chiron and Saturn in Pisces.
I think this aspect is more compelling because the planets are in a much tighter configuration. That does not automatically say anything except that when a planet makes an aspect to one part of the T-square within a very close time, usually the same day or week, it will aspect the whole thing. This is true for parts of your grand cross, though actually it's somewhat less closely aligned, so that when a slow-moving planet comes through the aspect (that is, makes a conjunction to any one point), it will take a while to reach some of the later degree points. This can be helpful; in the case of a Pluto transit, for example, it spreads out the work of the transit.
With your T-Square, when a planet reaches around 20 or 21 degrees of a mutable sign, the whole thing goes off at once. And this is the case with Pluto right now. Pluto is now transiting in Sagittarius, exactly opposite your Ceres (which is like a very powerful version of the Moon, signifying many things about your mother, mothering and being a daughter), and it's square Pluto, Uranus, Chiron and Saturn. You are IN this transit now, and you will be for another two years or so.
In addition, your T-square is partly in two of the angular houses (4th and 10th), which we tend to feel a lot more acutely than the others.
Were we doing astrological work now, this Pluto transit would be a major focus of what we covered. While I cannot tell you what subject matter would arise -- that would be up to you, and your experience -- I can tell you that whatever is happening now is related to the events of 1994 through late 1995, when Chiron came through your 10th house and eventually your entire T-square, stirring up many changes which you are, in all likelihood, first getting a handle on today. Or, you are making changes that either began in the mid 90s, or which you decided were necessary then, but could not quite act on. In any case, there is a close relationship between these two eras of history despite their being separated by 10 years.
Astrology is the study of time. If you want to know your chart, know your life. One thing I suggest would reveal much about your entire life story and the nature of your natal chart is the history of your marriages, and the whole idea of marriage, particularly going back to your perception of your mother as a wife. I say this, speaking of squares, because the asteroid Juno (which is associated with marriage history) is square the lunar nodes and Vesta (associated with service, see previous, lengthy write-up on Vesta on this page, or my earlier article, "Goddesses of Astrology," at Google), opposite Venus. That is another grand cross.
So, to tally that all up, you have two grand crosses and a T-square: quite a chart, and the picture of a true woman of character.
My son was born on December 21, 1988 in Bergen, Norway. So on my birthday the day gets darker until his birthday, and on his it gets lighter, or vice versa if we're in the southern hemisphere, and we're both born on winter solstice. although on the opposite sides of the year and the globe.
Does this one in a trillion chance mean anything?
Does it mean anything? It all depends on what you mean by mean. As I sit here patiently writing my 2,000 word replies to the many questions of my beloved readers, I do my best to guide us away from the kind of astrology that says, "This means you need new spark plugs."
Technically, the Sun in your chart is opposite the Sun in your son's chart. At the very least, that's a dynamic setup, and suggests the meeting of two very different, but somehow closely related points of view on life. Yet despite the opposition, you are both born at the extreme dark of the year. That suggests something deeply in common.
To me, the meaning of this arrangement is more poetic than it is literal. Changing seasons are always poignant moments. The solstices are the extreme points of the year -- the turning points. So it's fair to say that the story of your lives is a story of turning points, some of them momentous.
We could look at astrological theory and study the relationship between Cancer and Capricorn. Both of these are signs related to parental situations and energies, of nurturing and protecting life, of taking authority, of being the progenitor of life. In the Esoteric school of astrology, Cancer and Capricorn are considered the two gateways to life ("the doors to the zodiac"), signs closely associated with reincarnation, the Christ story, self-preservation and immortality.
In this respect, it's pretty spiritual stuff you've got going on; I would hesitate to say more without hearing your story in your own words.
"I cringe at the mere discussion of grades. I attended a grade-free high school called John Dewey High School in New York City, a public school. We all got into very good colleges and we did well there, no worries, and we were able to utterly dispense with the whole sham of grades. We learned, we loved our teachers, we loved what we were doing, we taught one another, we ran the school. We were treated as adults. At the core was the complete absence of grades. You passed, or you failed. If you failed, you were given many chances to make up for this; there was also independent study.
"There is a book, and I suggest you read it before it's too late. It's called ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE: AN INQUIRY INTO VALUES by R.M. Pirsig. It was the first of the Zen and the Art of books (the rest were copies of his title), and it's about neither Zen nor Harleys, it's about a cross country trip by a writing teacher and his son and a BIG theme of the book is learning and grades and why some people learn and why some do not. Better to let him make the point; the book is a testament to his having survived severe multiple personality syndromes, shock therapy and so on. But what he gets at is that grades are a total sham, and he proves it. Some of the very best, brightest students cannot get the grades because they cannot play that game, which is really a game designed to conceal the lack of teaching and the lack of learning in schools.
The emphasis on grades breaks people's spirits.
It is a radical position but he makes his points very carefully and takes you through the whole experience of teaching writing, and what happened when he started to withhold grades."
To me, this has less to do with astrological theory than it does with divination. Divination is a way of asking for information, and having it come to you in an intelligible form.
You may think, well, each sign only gets 100 words a day. So I better get all the information I can. But you might want to consider it the other way: the fewer words there are, the more you want to make sure you have the right 100 words.
So if you're a Cancer and you have a daily appointment with whatever comes up in the write-up for Cancer, you know where to look. This is particularly important if you are actually using a horoscope column for guidance, and don't want potentially conflicting or confusing information.
Now, as for your chart. Using the data you give me, I get Cancer Sun and Moon, and Leo rising. There are a couple of ways by which your astrologer may have got Neptune as the ruler of your chart, but that would not, to me, suggest that you should be reading the Pisces horoscope. With such strong emphasis on Cancer, I would really stick to that.
However, if you're studying astrology at any depth beyond the horoscope column, Neptune would be a good planet for you to study. This involves a mysterious connection between the sign Cancer and that planet, which most astrologers will look at you in a strange manner if you mention. Just read all you can about Neptune and its effects, and know that deep down it has a lot to do with the sign Cancer, on what you might call the highest spiritual level.
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