Several people have asked me whether I knew, astrologically speaking, that a pandemic was coming. The answer is “no.” A tiny number of astrologers claim they predicted this pandemic. But someone I respect studied these claims and found that they were off on their timing, and that these are astrologers who make constant dire predictions. They are like someone who throws a fistful of darts and occasionally hits a target.
Astrology is not fortune telling. Astrology is the study of cycles of time. One can make a forecast of themes and tendencies. Predicting events is dicey at best. The astrological symbols are described as multivalent: they carry multiple potentials.
Natal astrology is about the line-up of planetary bodies at the moment of a birth. The “chart” cast for that moment is a symbolic map for us to study and understand our fate and freedom, what we are given and what we do with what we are given.
There’s another whole field called mundane astrology, from the Latin word mundus, which means world. Mundane astrologers study long cycles of time: not what’s going to happen next week, but, rather, the alignments, called transits, between slow-moving outer planets and how these cycles correlate synchronistically with world-turning events. The best scholarship in mundane astrology is a tome called Cosmos and Psyche (2006) by Richard Tarnas, who is an historian, Jungian psychologist, and astrologer. This book is almost unfathomable in its vastness and depth. Tarnas traces the cycles of world history, correlating major turning points with outer planet (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) transits. Historically, there have been epidemics and pandemics associated with the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto—a transit we are in now—most recently, the polio epidemic of the late 1940s/early 1950s and the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, when Saturn and Pluto last conjoined.
When Saturn entered the sign of Capricorn in late 2017, it began moving toward Pluto, already there. Saturn has to do with structures, systems, maturity, hard work and effort, what is dying before something else can be born. Pluto, named for Hades, lord of the underworld, is about power and about destruction for the purpose of rebirth, similar to the Hindu goddess Kali, who takes no prisoners. Saturn and Pluto meet up about every 37 years, but they had not done so in the sign of Capricorn since 1518, the time of the Protestant Reformation. Those were not fun times, either. (In 1518, there was a plague, called the “dancing plague” in which people lost their minds and danced.)
Over these last few years, astrologers have known that something heavy was coming with the 2020 Saturn/Pluto conjunction. Some thought it might have to do with the government, the economy, religion. I thought there might be an environmental disaster or a world war—about nine days before the conjunction was exact on January 12, 2020, the U.S. assassinated a top Iranian general. Or, I thought, there might be a domestic right-wing terrorist incident. I’m trained in political sociology and social movements theory, and I anticipate mundane events through these lenses.
What we have now is a health crisis that has unleashed a global financial crisis, exacerbated by a political-economy that fails to serve and protect living beings.
The roots of the word “pandemic” are “pan,” which means all, and “dem” which has to do with ‘”the people.” Pan is the Greek god of Nature. Whatever we conclude eventually about its origins, this pandemic is about people’s unhealthy relationship with the All, with Nature. The pandemic is plutonian in its destructive force. It is democratic in that it respects no Saturnian boundaries of nations, generations, classes and races, while it is undemocratic in that it harms disproportionately the aged, the non-white, and the poor. It teaches us this: that your health is my health. And, it teaches that our neglected and abused Earth is a sacred, unified being. To paraphrase Chief Seattle, “The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.” Will enough of us learn these lessons, in time?
Each of the astrological cycles is layered with others. There is always so much going on in the sky that one cannot write about it all at once. We are in the throes of the Saturn/Pluto conjunction all this year, and we also, this year, have Jupiter in Capricorn making three exact conjunctions to Pluto. Jupiter expands and magnifies everything, for better or worse. Saturn has briefly moved into the sign of Aquarius, will retrograde back to Capricorn in July, for a few months, before it enters Aquarius on December 17, 2020 for the next several years.
By early 2021, Saturn will make a square aspect with the outer planet Uranus, which is in Taurus. Aquarius is fixed air. Taurus is fixed earth. These signs don’t like to budge. There is a tightening of forces. A square is an approximately 90-degree angle, an aspect of dynamic tension. The friction of a square, which many of us have in our natal charts, is not a bad thing; it urges us on to change.
Uranus is a force of unexpected change, even shock and chaos. Its very discovery, the first of the planets to be seen with the technology of telescopes, correlated with the timing of the American and French revolutions. Uranus is about freedom, rebellion, awakening, and innovation. Saturn is quite distinct. It signifies building and sober effort but also repression to preserve the status quo. Aquarius is depicted mythologically as the Water Bearer and, in modern astrology, Aquarius is deemed to be co-ruled by Uranus. Saturn’s ingress into Aquarius invites the opening of minds to new innovations for the sake of humanity.
What might happen when Uranian rebelliousness is squared off by Saturn, representing the “system,” the “establishment?” No one can credibly predict, but this will not be an easy transit.
All the while, we proceed with our daily lives under some gentler, shorter transits. On April 22 at 7:26 p.m. on the west coast, we will have a New Moon in Taurus, conjoined with Uranus. It is in Taurus that the Moon is said to be “exalted,” like an honored guest. That is because the Moon (water) flows naturally toward and feeds the earth. Taurus embodies lunar qualities of sensuality, fertility, and nurturing, simple pleasures.
Under the Taurus New Moon, and all through this month since the Sun entered Taurus on April 19, this is a time to take particular care of one’s body, to seek out wholesome means of comfort, to hold oneself tight, for the times we are in.
Earth Day and New Moon blessings.