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The Shuttle Launch
For this week's news chart, I'd like to take a look at the launch of the Space Shuttle, which had many technical problems during the countdown. Yes, I think they are a little nuts to do the first Shuttle launch after the Columbia burned up on Feb. 1, 2003 with Mercury retrograde (as I am sure most of you noticed was the case!), and if anyone is high up in NASA, please pass along that I would be happy to help them time their missions.
It was not encouraging that pieces of debris were seen falling off the Shuttle as it launched this week, once again demonstrating that this technology has seen better days. But it would appear from the chart that this mission is safe (remembering, of course, that space travel is dangerous). And it's not such a bad chart for the re-commencement of the Shuttle program itself. There is just one aspect in the chart that bothers me, and I will point it out.
One interesting note is that there were no Shuttle launches during Saturn in Cancer. The remaining fleet of three orbiters was grounded for this entire time, and flights resumed shortly after Saturn entered Leo. That seems fitting; take care of safety and security first, work on your structure, and then go back up there.
Perhaps the most interesting astrological fact about the NASA program is that any time there has been a loss of life aboard a U.S. space vehicle, it has occurred within the same week of the year. There have been three events with fatalities in U.S. space history. The Columbia disintegrated during landing on Feb. 1, 2003. The Challenger was lost on liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986. And three astronauts of Apollo 1 died in a launch pad fire on Jan. 1, 1967.
I am not that into statistics, but the probability of this occurring is incredibly low. It would seem to be astronomically low: that the Sun is within several degrees for each of these three events, and they are the only three events of their kind.
So we could look to astrology for some information. But because these events are separated by 19 years, it's unlikely that any kind of a planet is involved, because planets (even the slow moving ones) move too fast to be within six degrees of arc for two decades. Therefore we're talking about the Sun being conjunct a fixed star or deep space object at this time of year, and I've not found one. This does not mean that something won't be discovered, that I've missed something important, or that one of you won't write in with an object in that range of tropical Aquarius; but nothing I know of has been discovered yet.
NASA is getting much better at PR. Here is a great quote, after the launch, from the NASA chief. "I'll keep my opening remarks brief, but I want to use them to ask you all to take note of what you saw here today," said NASA administrator Michael Griffin at a news conference yesterday. "The power and majesty of the launch, of course, but also the competence and professionalism, the sheer gall, the pluckiness and grittiness of this team that pulled this program out of the depths of despair 2 1/2 years ago and made it fly."
We have a pretty solid chart here, with Virgo rising. That points us right to Mercury, as Mercury rules the ascendant -- appropriate enough for a flight of some kind. Mercury would represent the Shuttle itself and the question of safety. Mercury in Leo in the 11th house, on the cusp of the 12th, is a fitting image; the 11th is public and the 12th is like the abyss, and Shuttle launches certainly walk that line. It's in Leo -- nice and dramatic, like Mike Griffin's quote above.
But what are we to make of the fact that Mercury is retrograde? Besides telling them to back up their computers, of course. Hmm. This is an old program. Technology moves fast, and the Shuttle was news when I was a high school junior in 1980, er, I admit, a quarter century ago. It was big news then, a true moment of glory. Here is a brief glimpse of the Shuttle in its earliest days. Today, it is kind of a retrograde program. The equipment is old -- and it's environmentally disastrous, blasting a big hole in the ozone every time it goes up.
But the Shuttle is a Taurus, and they don't go away easily. It's probably going to be around for a while, particularly given that there's nothing to replace it, and there's a new International Space Station (ISS) to take care of.
Note that there is plenty of activity on the cusp of this chart's 8th house, death and transformation. The Moon is there, and the North Node, and Mars (which rules that house, so it's happy enough in its own sign). This to me is a picture of the death-defying aspect of space travel. There seems to be no way to get into space except for going through the 8th house, and those astronauts sitting on top of thousands of pounds of fuel must go through quite a transformation as that thing goes up.
Vesta on the 10th house cusp is an interesting image of sacrifice. That little red symbol is a chevron -- a burning pot of oil, and it's the astrological symbol of selfless service, of giving oneself totally to a cause. True enough -- for the astronauts, that is, who actually put their bodies in the space craft.
What is troubling about this chart is that Mars is in the very last degree of Aries, and also that it's in a close T-square with Chiron and Saturn. That is, it is square both Chiron and Saturn. This is a lot of tension, though because Mars is lurking in the last degree of Aries, it's as if the tension is behind the scenes and invisible. But the good news is that Mercury, the ascendant ruler, is NOT in aspect to Mars. So the two significator of the Shuttle itself, and the significator of some dangerous or deadly agent, basically cannot harm one another, and it would appear that the mission is safe.
I hope I'm right, anyway.
Do you have any observations about this chart? If so, please let me know. Now, here are a few of your questions for this week -- and I'll see you over at Planet Waves!
Yods and Writer's Block
First let me express how deeply I am touched when I read your words. You demonstrate such kindness, wisdom and light that I smile and shed a tear at the same time. So thank you for sharing yourself with us all.
I am writing because I have been told that my chart contains a YOD yet I don't really understand what that implies. Should I expect something good? Bad?
In addition, I had an astrologer state that I have a negative complex around my writing. My current work is as a psychotherapist but I am a writer at heart. Clearly any 'writers block' I experience now is fueled by those words. Is professional writing in my destiny?
Thanks for your kind and compassionate feedback.
First I feel a need to take a different approach to astrology than you are taking. Struggling with expectations of something good vs. bad, as a given -- particularly from a natal aspect -- is basically just scaring yourself. Aspects are in a chart for us to work with. In astrology, in life, we use the resources we have, and we can develop them into more advanced ones as we go through life. Looking at the chart from the standpoint of destiny is pretty much the same thing as scaring yourself, because if you want something and it's not your destiny, then what?
As for the astrologer who said you have a negative complex around your writing, we don't need your chart to see that -- we can just read about your struggle. I'm going to take the opportunity to introduce you to a book you may have heard of, called "The Artist's Way," which is basically a project in getting past creative blocks. It's not a book you just read; it's a workbook that you do, which can get to the core of creative energy. (This book, by Julia Cameron, is readily available.)
It addresses to some extent the plight of people in helping roles, such as therapists, who put all their energy into assisting others and then have no creative energy for themselves. As one who works with people, and also who does a lot of astrology writing, I know all about this; I have my own ongoing quest to be more actively a fiction writer. And I have three yods in my chart! I certainly don't suffer from writer's block so often, but that's partly the result of working with the ideas in "The Artist's Way," which teaches creative people to be more like artisans or craftspeople and less driven by emotions and inspiration.
Now, personally, it would never occur to me to look to a yod for information about writing, or a writer's block, unless the 3rd house were somehow involved. Which, in your case, it is. But you're not yet a practicing writer, so we can't really say you're blocked. But what we can say is that you're having difficulty getting going.
One kind of yod, the kind you have, consists of planets at three points, which include two quincunxes (150 degree aspects) and a sextile (a 60 degree aspect). So it makes an arrow, as you can see in the chart itself. (There are many kinds of yods, actually, including several that use "minor" aspects like quintiles and septiles, all of which are rather interesting.)
This yod aspect in your chart brings together the affairs of three houses: the 3rd, which is the house of ideas and writing; the 5th, which is the house of creativity; and the 10th, which is the house of profession. So, you could say that things originate in the houses of ideas; writing and art and point to the house of profession. That much is clear.
What they point to is the Moon in Pisces -- which is a rather creative placement. So far so good.
While plenty of people have made an impact on the world with a 10th house Moon (Among them, George Lucas of Star Wars fame), the Moon in Pisces is not exactly what you would call a secure placement, and in the 10th house, it's going to be expected to act in very un-Piscean ways -- with gusto and determination and self-definition and all of that; Pisces Moon would rather just go with the flow rather than push the world to respond. Or push yourself for that matter.
But push you must, because, Catherine, as you seem to say, it ain't happenin' by itself. One of the issues of the Pisces Moon (and sometimes Pisces in other forms) is that it's too willing to be what other people think it should be, or what it perceives other people think it should be. To work with that Moon, you need to set some boundaries (which you will learn about in "The Artist's Way").
Let's look at the rest of the aspect. Pluto in Leo in the 3rd house of writing and ideas is certainly useful for this process. That talks about an obsession with ideas and creativity, though the retrograde tells me that there may have been a childhood issue you need to deal with where being a verbal, creative or idea-driven person was concerned. This is something you'll need to investigate yourself. Note also the North Node in the 9th house, with the South Node in the 3rd house: this is shorthand for "get your ideas out there."
Returning to the yod, Saturn-Neptune in the 5th house is certainly meaningful, and while it doesn't bring confidence, it does present a challenge that you would certainly benefit from rising to the occasion of. Saturn and Neptune present two very different energies: one that solidifies, and one that dissolves. I have seen this aspect be rather troubling for people who are always thinking about getting something going, but never quite do. You MUST rise to the occasion.
Saturn-Neptune also where water meets land, and we know how active and alive seashores are, and how affected by storms, and how much they change. Think of all those metaphors; think of a lighthouse, the ultimate statement of where the two elements meet. All these factors seem to work together in nature, and they seem to work together in your chart as well. But in a sense, you have to brave the storms and the ravages of the sea (Neptune) on your fixed mental constructs (Saturn) if you want to tap into your real creative power.
No look at a chart is complete without working with traditional rulerships, and in your case we have two easy things to check. The first involves the fact that you're Gemini rising -- which puts emphasis on Mercury, the planet of communication. Mercury in nearly every chart tells THE story where writing and communication are concerned. You can skip the bells and whistles and get right to the point with this one planet.
And what have we got? Let's see. Hmm. Retrograde in Sagittarius in the 6th house. Sagittarius can overwhelm Mercury, which can be very helpful to a writer because it forces a confrontation with discipline. In a sense, this will sort out the Girl Scouts from the Brownies. However, you have a particular challenge with retrograde in the 6th -- and it's obvious to me how you would wind up assisting others in direct service, with ideas and process, instead of actively working your Mercury in a disciplined way. Retrograde in the 6th add "introverted" and "selfless" to this equation.
Writing is a very self-driven, at times, self-obsessed thing. There are those times you just have to stop answering email and ignore the phone and kick out the cat if she's walking on your keyboard (then give her some tuna, please).
So you have some challenges there, but that could tell us as much about what kinds of things you write about, and the inward focus of Mercury retrograde can be very helpful.
Last: the ruler of your 3rd house, which is the Sun. I say this because Leo is on the 3rd cusp so that means the Sun rules this house, and it's in Sagittarius, in the 6th -- more dedication to service. You need to apply that same dedication to the service of your own ideas. They will help people, and you will grow; but it will take time, because the 6th house always takes time.
Or let me put it this way. You need to start small. I remember the words of my fiction professor at SUNY Buffalo, Dr. Carlene Polite. They are proving to be helpful now. She said to the class the first day, "How much writing is enough for one day?"
Students gave a number of different responses. A page. A thousand words. A sentence. A paragraph.
No, Carlene said.
So, at the end of the day, when I've written my weekly horoscopes for you (please subscribe, because that's how I get paid for my writing!) and written so much in the Q & A column that my hands hurt, I sit down and open up one of my fiction projects and write one word. Of course it turns into a few more than that.
The 6th house
I just finished reading your article on empty houses. I have five planets in Virgo in the 6th house. I am worried, as Virgos do, about Pluto in Sagittarius squaring my Sun at 29 degrees in the 6th house, in another couple of years. Could a difficult health problem occur at this time? What might I expect since Saturn will also be transiting my 6th house as well. Doesn't seem like it's going to be a picnic now does it? Thanks so much for your time.
First off, I suggest you put aside your Virgo worry, and live for the day. Pluto will not conjunct your Sun-Mars conjunction until December 28, 2007. However, if you're concerned about squares from Pluto to Virgo planets in your 6th house, I would ask about the story of your life between 1996 and 2003. During that time, you experienced your Pluto square Pluto aspect; and then some time later -- peaking in 2001-2002 -- Pluto and Saturn squared your Mercury and Moon.
So, you're not a beginner to Pluto squares, and in truth, you've just come out of a very long phase. What have you experienced, in the way of changes, developments, progress at work, and the general state of your health? Are you taking any better care of yourself than you were 10 years ago?
But it's true, you're working your way toward a kind of grand finale, though trust me -- there will be plenty going on in the world to match the intensity of Pluto squaring your Sun-Mars as Pluto makes its way out of Sagittarius through 2008.
Your Sun is in what's called the Aneretic degree of Virgo, which really means it's in one of the final two degrees of that sign. Some call this the "void of course Sun" and others use the more fancy term; the point is that the placement holds a lot of intensity.
The exact conjunction to Mars is interpreted by modern astrologers as a plus and ancient astrologers as a weakness; to me what it signifies is your own attempts to get control of your sense of direction, your will, and your drive. I would imagine that a lot of your creative and sexual energy gets invested into fear and anxiety, and/or is challenged mentally. You allude to this in your question, but I think your situation is a bit more intense than you're letting on.
Among the many themes of the 6th (health, work, the workplace, service, thought processes, uncles and aunts) is the sense of wellbeing (thank you, Sally Brompton, for that key). In your case, the sense of wellbeing has much more to do with your mental state than your physical. In a sense, the only thing that can really hurt you is your mind, by self-criticism, fear and over-obsessing on mental issues rather than taking action and expressing your energy.
You will feel better when you express yourself, when you help others and when you take care of yourself; you will have things to do besides worry; and most of all you will get to BE you in a direct and real way.
Here's an article I wrote recently that approaches the question of when the Sun or important planet is in the last two degrees of a sign. It's a little bit down in the article, which dates back to early last winter when Mercury was also retrograde in a fire sign (Sagittarius).
Saturn and Life Stages (or Pluto square Pluto)
Your latest column states that "Jackie Robinson suffered from diabetes, which is often about a lot Love your column -- very educational. You mentioned in your article on Saturn and Leo that at 35 you experience Saturn square. What exactly is this and what can it mean for the likes of me who has just entered their 35th year?
Hope to hear from you.
Hi Back Lorraine,
At about 35 years old, transiting Saturn makes a square to its natal position. That's to say, it takes Saturn 29 years to go around the zodiac, so at 29-30 (as copiously detailed in many replies) there is the Saturn return. Then after about seven more years, it's a quarter of the way around the second time; you get a kind of "first quarter" aspect called the Saturn square (properly, "Saturn square Saturn").
You had this when you were seven years old, and it was, at that time, one of the most important aspects of your life. That's when little kids seem more like big kids, when adult teeth start coming in, and when certain mental patterns of adulthood begin to become apparent. You might want to check in with that earlier time in your life.
When it happens again at 35, it's not usually the most profound transit in the world, but of course, if your chart has many planets around that range of degrees, then you will have more transits. But the Saturn aspects, which occur in approximately seven year intervals, are at least meaningful and useful and sometimes quite challenging. None, however, rivals the first Saturn return at 29 for impact or productivity.
However, around the age of 35, something else happens, called the Pluto square Pluto aspect. Called the "Pluto square" by most astrologers, it's a transit that astrology takes for granted now without understanding quite as fully as it might, and this one comes with a major evolutionary shift -- it's often a time of getting a lot of personal work done, or a time of intense personal crisis. To say the least, it's a time of awakening, and of cleaning up what's left from the growth work of the Saturn return.
The simultaneous occurrence of the Saturn square and the Pluto square is a really good example of multiple transits, which I addressed a few weeks ago. Important transits almost always seem to come in groups, providing resources and opportunities to work things out on multiple levels.
In a sense, the Pluto square one of the first major life passages after full adulthood is reached at the Saturn return, and it has a fairly deep sense of ending and beginning. Remember that it's the first and usually only stressful aspect that Pluto makes to its own position, since we would not have our Pluto opposite Pluto aspect till we were well past 100 years old. (Typically, we feel the aspects on the 90-degree harmonic a lot more than the others; but that's why we have astrology -- to show us when times are good, so we can do something with them, and to point out the benefits of the stressful times as well.)
Here is an interesting fact about the Pluto square that I have not read anywhere else. If you were born (for example) on Jan. 1, 1930, you would not have your Pluto square until the fall of 1978, at the age of 48, and it would continue until the age of 50. As the decades after the 1930s progressed, the Pluto square happened earlier and earlier, because Pluto's speed through the zodiac increased. Now it happens about as young as is possible, in relatively young adulthood.
From a spiritual standpoint, this means that we are dealing with the effects of Pluto, a planet that puts us in contact with our deepest motives, growth needs and evolutionary process, much earlier. Of course, Pluto was discovered in 1930 and the energy did not have a name, astrologically, and it took a long time for it to sink into the astrological community how meaningful Pluto was.
Fair to say that people born in the 30s and 40s don't necessarily have an idea of what it means to be young now, at least from the standpoint of Pluto, because they had their Pluto square so much later.
This is a very similar effect as Chiron, where for some generations a particular transit (such as the Chiron square) can occur at seven years old, and for others, at 22 years old. It's a little less dramatic with Pluto, but there is most definitely a generational effect and it is certainly era-defining in terms of what people of a similar age group go through at a given time.
Battle of the Orbs
When you look at aspects between planets/asteroids, what orbs of influence do you use? Are there differences between those used for a birth chart as opposed to a transit or progression? What about transits from outer planets – they move so slowly!
This is a good time for my orbs rant.
For those new to the discussion, the issue of "orbs" is about how close an aspect needs to be in order to have an effect. In prior editions, I've discussed aspects, so if you want to know about that subject I suggest you scan through the archives.
There are a lot of theories of orbs. Throughout astrological history, many have attempted to make up specific arbitrary rules. Here are some samples. I am not saying I agree with any of these. I am just pointing out conventional thinking.
These are four examples. The thing that each of the rules misses is context. In astrology, context is very nearly everything. And context comes from examples. There are times when, despite a habit of using close orbs, you'll notice that something is working as an aspect even though it seems really wide.
People in the habit of using really wide orbs may find themselves looking at close aspects because that's what the situation calls for. I could go through 100 examples and still not make the point, but remember that there are times when you need to use wide orbs and times when you need to use tight ones. Neither is right or wrong. Sometimes you can measure things with a ruler and sometimes you need a micrometer.
It's a little like the question, "When is the Full Moon?" Some say the Moon is full when it looks big and round. That works most of the time. But let's say you're planning a ritual. Then you need to know the exact time -- so you look it up.
When looking at a chart, notice which aspects are closer and which are further apart. You will learn a lot just from doing that. The closer aspects can certainly work as triggers, particularly when there are three planets involved. This is in part because a transit that affects one of them will affect all three at the same time.
This is to say: when a transiting planet makes an aspect to one side of a structure (say, a square in your natal chart) it's also aspecting the other side. To give an example, let's say you're born with the Sun in Leo and the Moon in Scorpio. Let's say as well that Neptune in Aquarius is making an opposition to your Sun. If the Sun and Moon are in a square (which they probably would be) it's also making a square to your Moon.
The closer the aspect between your Sun and Moon, the closer in time that Neptune will make an aspect to both. If the square of the Sun and Moon is exact, say, to two degrees, Neptune will aspect both at nearly the same time, and for a long time. If the Sun-Moon square is separated by 10 degrees (which the rules say you can do) then the timing between transiting Neptune opposing the natal Sun and transiting Neptune opposing the natal Moon may be different by five years.
But let's say you're talking about a transit from Mercury, which can move 10 degrees in a week. Then the Sun and Moon are going to get the transit at very nearly the same time, even if it's 10 degrees wide. Transits from any of the inner planets could move rather quickly, and the Moon could make aspects to both in a day.
So for these reasons, it's important to know your context. And I think it makes sense to study the closest aspects in any chart to see what they are doing.
Here are a few open-ended guidelines I would offer.
See you over at Planet Waves. New readers to this column will find my near-daily blog, much writing about astrology and a really cool photo gallery with many pictures from Europe and North America.
Additional research and ideas: Michelle Perrin
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