We will have a New Moon at 12° Aquarius on January 31 at 9:45 p.m. on the West Coast.
It is the middle of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. During Aquarius season, the first few days of February mark a mid-point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Who knows how much more of the cold and the wet is in store? Maybe the Groundhog will tell.
Readers may notice that in these lunation essays, I don’t mention the astrological houses. That’s because houses—the mathematically calculated 12-part divisions of the sky, and there are dozens of systems for doing this—differ based on location. Two people born at the same time in Hong Kong or Los Angeles will have different birth charts, with planets in different houses, representing different realms of life and different realms of the psyche.
In a generic chart that is cast for any time zone, what’s consistent are the zodiacal signs. There are 12. They act as modifiers of planetary energies, like adjectives in an astrological grammar. Each sign has a dispositor, a planet or luminary that is said to “rule” or guide it. For millennia, astrologers worked only with the Sun and the Moon and five visible planets, so that each of the 12 signs is ruled by one of these seven. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn each rule two signs.
In modern times, the invention of telescopes led to the discovery of the outer planets. Astrologers started connecting the signs of Aquarius, Pisces, and Scorpio, respectively, with the newly discovered planets of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
Then, in the 1990s, scholars began to translate ancient Greek astrological texts, and some astrologers started applying them to the study of Hellenistic-era astrology, which uses only traditional planetary rulerships.
In ancient astrology, Aquarius is ruled by Saturn. Modern astrologers assigned Aquarius to Uranus, which was not discovered until 1781.
My preference is to view Aquarius as a modifier for both Saturn and Uranus, two planets with very different symbolic themes.
Key words for Saturn include preservation of established structures and systems, hard work and effort, limits, caution, respect for tradition. Key words for Uranus include innovation, individuation, freedom, rebellion, unexpected and sudden change, disruption, technological advances, out with the old and in with the new.
The energies of Saturn and Uranus seem incompatible. In 2021, and continuing somewhat in 2022, the major world transit has been the harsh square formed by Saturn and Uranus, both residing at this time in fixed signs. This square has been showing up all over the place with intractable conflicts between past and future, restraints versus freedom.
Aquarius is like a crossroads. It is both old and new, the dead of winter and the vision of a coming spring. Aquarian individuals can be staunch advocates for tradition and/or forward-looking and egalitarian. They are idealists, and they are enigmatic.
A New Moon is a time to contemplate intentions. At this January 31 Aquarius New Moon, Saturn and Uranus, together, hold keys. You might be thinking about how to work in a way that is both more sustainable and more conducive to your personal freedom, offering something that breaks the mold, and then lasts.
Aquarius is our fixed air sign, but its glyph is, oddly, a pair of waves, and its image is the Water Bearer. An air sign that references water, how does that make sense?
Though the signs no longer correlate with fixed star constellations due to an astronomical phenomenon called precession, when western astrology was formulated millennia ago, the signs were named for corresponding constellations and the creatures they look like. Aqua-rius was named for the Water Bearer, honoring the mythology of Zeus, who poured pure water from the heavens onto the Earth.
Professional water bearers—before societies had centralized water systems—would carry water in urns from rivers and wells to people’s homes. Aquarius, the Water Bearer, brings what is necessary for life to all of humanity. That’s radical and egalitarian like the symbolism of Uranus. It is also sustaining and protective, like Saturn.
The January 31 Aquarius New Moon comes a day before Imbolc, the old and still observed Celtic pagan holy day, also now called St. Brigid’s Day. Imbolc is a time to honor the truth that winter is harsh, and that down below, the earth is percolating with new life, soon to burst forth. It is a time of nascent fertility.
This year’s Imbolc follows a recent shift in the signs of the Moon’s nodes. The lunar nodes are the invisible points where the path of the Moon intersects with the Sun’s path, called the ecliptic. The sign of the descending/south node represents our personal and collective past, and the opposite sign of the ascending/north node points to ways forward. At 18-month intervals, the pair of lunar nodal signs changes, moving backwards, giving a new focus with each shift. On January 18, the lunar nodes moved from Sagittarius and Gemini to Scorpio and Taurus. The coming eclipses will be in these two signs.
Scorpio correlates with underworld journeys that prepare one for inner rebirths. Late fall, when the Sun is in Scorpio, is a season of decay. Leaves rot and land appears to be dormant, though, again, there is life brewing under the surface. Taurus, the second of the signs, following after Aries and the March equinox, is when spring has sprung, and it is time to revel in life’s creature comforts.
For the next 18 months, we might contemplate, metaphorically, how to turn the muddy wet compost of our lives into the fruit and flowers that spell life and joy. It was the beloved and recently departed Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh who said it with such pith: No mud, no lotus.
May we feel into the January 31 New Moon as a harbinger of spring on its way.
Blessings for the New Moon in Aquarius!