The Coronavirus Pandemic

Greetings, and welcome back to Journeys! This month there can really be only one topic of discussion – the global coronavirus pandemic and its potential consequences.

Rod of Asclepius

This equinox we came to a truly significant crossroads between darkness and light and our choices now will impact the future of everyone and everything for years to come. As I write these words in late March much of the world is under quarantine, lock-down or extreme restrictions as we attempt to blunt the spike of infections by the Covid-19 coronavirus. If we fail individually and collectively to deal with this pandemic not only will many people die or suffer unnecessarily but we will also overwhelm the medical and financial systems we depend upon and enter a protracted period of economic, political and social turmoil that will probably be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. World order is already on the verge of collapse, with consequences for everyone to come.

Many people understand this now, scary as that is to let sink in, but people who have been paying attention to astrology will have been more prepared. What is less widely understood or accepted at this point but which is beginning to grow in our awareness is that this is also an opportunity to change the rules and the attitudes of our societies, the traditions and principles which guide our collective awareness and the way it operates. That change is coming whether we like it or not and we need to be ready to define what the future should be. If we do not make the necessary changes a far greater disaster will inevitably arise in the near future, so it is imperative that we do something to change the path we are all on. I don’t claim to have those answers because they are things that we must discover and agree upon together. My hope is that many of you are using some of your extra time at home to reflect upon what our future together should be like after this crisis passes, as all crises eventually do. Returning to the way things used to be is, I feel, a major failure to learn anything meaningful from this time.

For starters before diving any deeper into this topic I would like to say a few words to those who have already been infected or are infected now, but also for those who may be infected in the future. I understand if you are frightened. This virus has already infected three people within my family and just last night I learned that one of my friends may now be infected. Although I have had no physical contact with these people and am myself in no danger from their condition it is a concern for me at this time. This is a nasty virus even for a young otherwise healthy person to experience, but the majority of people – I have read 80% – recover from it. Know that you will recover from this virus. The will to live and survive is both a powerful defence and a weapon against it. Part of what it feeds on is our fear. If you are sick try not to waste your precious energy on resenting or fearing the fact that you are unwell and just accept it so that you can redirect your energy onto recovery and fighting the infection. Spend whatever time you can on imagining yourself in full health again because it is a mental and emotional instruction to your body to fight.

If you are currently physically well and healthy but are one of the billions who are confined to your homes, either alone or with others, please remember that you must not only guard against physical infection during this pandemic but also the effects of isolation and quarantine on your mental and emotional body. Loneliness has been shown to have a biological effect which weakens your constitution, but loneliness is not alone in this. In truth there are all kinds of mental and emotional conditions which we must guard against in order to stay truly healthy. If you have a daily meditation practice it is currently more important than ever. If you don’t, now would be a good time to start. Additionally make sure you have something to do with your time that is meaningful to you. Try not to let your days become empty. Lastly, while observing the limitation of social distancing, do not underestimate the healing power of community. Learn to give the gift of your full attention to others again in your wireless communications. Reach out from a distance to those who may be feeling more alone or vulnerable than you are. One of the easiest ways to dispel feelings of loneliness and the sense that your day is without meaning is to do something for someone else, and this magic works on them even more. Any reminder of our common humanity in this time is helpful to everyone. It is not the time to assign any blame or to compare one against the other, instead it is a time for compassion and unity. It is my personal view that this nightmare also offers us an opportunity to rewrite the rulebook as I have said, and we should not let that just happen to us, so it is time to communicate together over what the new rules or the emergent new society should be. I repeat that ignoring these questions and hoping to just go back to the way things were, is, in my view, a deeply foolish thing to do that will have even more dire consequences within a short period of time.

Okay with that out of the way if, as any observant astrologer will tell you, it was easy to forecast that something serious and dire would be transpiring at this time (a Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto conjunction in Capricorn was our biggest red alert), then what can astrology say about it now and in the future? This question is magnitudes more complex and difficult to answer. Astrology makes it laughably easy for astrologers to forecast that something global and breathtaking is going to occur as well as when it will emerge and it also makes it somewhat easy to describe its approximate shape and nature, but it makes it much harder to pinpoint exactly what form it will take, where in the world it will apply or how it will impact individual lives. In essence the focus of the camera is blurred to the details – like weather forecasters we can tell with surety that the big swirling shape over there is a giant hurricane, but we can’t tell you exactly where it will hit the coast or where the first drop of rain will fall in an oncoming storm. Some mysteries just protect themselves.

On the question of events which take place and unfold over a period of time, in other words in answering questions like “how long will this last?”, astrology as a tool is somewhere in the middle of making it neither easy nor difficult, just tricky. Part of what makes this tricky is that the things that happen can have consequences that far outlast the actual events, and these shadows can also be part of the ‘many years’ that some patterns indicate. Another thing that makes this question tricky is that in order to answer it the astrologer has to solve a puzzle. The key way in which astrologers answer this kind of question is by identifying the planet or configuration which is symbolic of what is happening and then determining when that influence will abate. A disruption in trade which has its root in a Mercury retrograde and nothing much else going on in the sky at the time will probably end in a few weeks, but one which seems to be connected to an alignment between the slower moving planets like Neptune or Pluto can go on and on for months or even years in some cases. Sometimes it is just planets moving into new signs which initiate things which then unfold for a number of years while that slow-moving planet remains in that sign, but most of the time the things which happen to us on a global scale have their expression in aspects formed between the slowest moving planets, and more often a clustering of them in a short time span. In some cases these patterns can dissolve after only some weeks or a couple of months. In others they will last longer and even reform after discontinuing, possibly more than once (because of retrogradations). This is the kind of pattern we would expect in a pandemic with multiple waves, for example. All patterns ultimately pass, however, just like all things.

In Western astrology these assessments are often called predictions but I prefer forecasts because it puts them in the same bracket as economic or weather forecasts – they are assessments of probabilities, calculations based on solid data and a lot of not so solid interpretation. In short these things are not destined to happen, they are simply likely or reasonable to expect. As I have said many times in my writing, the raw astrological potential is shaped by our intention and our actions as well as by what is necessary or consequential. You behave or respond in a certain way, you reap a certain result. The choices we make now will determine the form that these patterns ultimately lead to. The form the patterns are taking now arise from our previous choices, individual and collective.

In this months message I want to concentrate on the question of identifying the astrological influences which seem to me to be symbolic of this pandemic along with some thoughts on its teaching and meaning. Because the answer to this question is far more complicated than a Saturn/Pluto conjunction, this will be enough information to present for now but I will be making further posts on this topic in the future, probably next month depending on my research and events in our world. In this message I will set out the findings of the research I have been doing, leading into deeper and deeper layers of the astrology behind this pandemic and outlining some of the things and people that are likely to be directly impacted by this crisis as well as offering you a forecast of the path ahead, in both the short term and the long.

Neptune and Mars: Outbreak

We will start with the major background influence. Neptune has been drifting slowly through Pisces for almost a decade now and has about 4 or 5 more years before it reaches Aries for the first time. As modern astrology has held for decades now, Neptune in Pisces carries with it the danger of global pandemics – Neptune is the invisible in all its manifestations, and Pisces resonates with that too (Virgo is tiny microbes and its polarity Pisces is intangible things). Neptune is not only viral (not exclusively, but it is a strong signification) but also any kind of mysterious illness or ailment, and Pisces is connected with transferable infections and things which transmit through water droplets. For these reasons many modern astrologers have been expecting a pandemic in the period between 2011 and 2025.

Covid-19 is that pandemic. It is this generations version (in terms of experience, not virology) of the more individually dangerous 2003/4 SARS coronavirus which infected 29 countries and 8,000 people. About 800 of them died. Those of you who were witnesses may remember that China and Hong Kong were completely at its mercy. Toronto was also at the centre of a serious outbreak, but nothing like today. At that time Neptune was in Aquarius. The SARS outbreak subsided and since 2004 there have been no new cases but it was never considered eliminated, instead it was assumed to exist in an animal reservoir from which it could conceivably re-emerge. In December of 2017 researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China, published their discovery of a remote cave of bats in Yunnan province where they found a strain of coronavirus with all the genetic building blocks of SARS. Appropriate lessons were not learned from this time, which brings us to todays far more consequential pandemic.

At the beginning of this year, as China and the rest of the world were beginning to wake up to the existence of this outbreak, Mars entered Sagittarius and began approaching a square to Neptune in Pisces. This square symbolised the news of the rapid growth of the pandemic across international borders throughout January, as Mars did not reach the exact square until the end of the month. Once it reached the exact square Italy was declaring a national emergency and the WHO was categorizing the outbreak as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”. This aspect therefore symbolises the rapid spread of the virus and the escalation of paranoia, panic and emergency actions as people began to wake up to the hidden threat.

Additionally, Mercury has been in Pisces since January at this stage, taking a long retrograde tour of the sign. Pisces is a sign that confuses Mercury and clouds clear analysis and thinking. An aggravating issue here has been the co-presence of Neptune which further undermines the sharpness and clarity that Mercury needs. The result of this is an uncertain, confused, chaotic assessment of the situation that could even be described as delusional. We have heard stories of people drinking bleach, avoiding Chinese food, gathering on beaches in rebellious parties, drinking lots of water and claiming that a sauna will kill the virus, among others, and there have been often dangerous claims that this or that will be an effective treatment or that a vaccine is ready or will be very soon, even that the outbreak will miraculously disappear. Critical emails about ventilators were lost in spam folders, tests and other vital products were in short supply and the shipping and travel industry ground to a halt or an extreme crawl (remember also that in the beginning the outbreak involved cruise ships). While Mercury was retrograde the WHO dithered, only declaring a pandemic when Mercury stationed direct on March 9th, effectively ending uncertainty over the seriousness. None of this has been helpful and Mercury will remain in Pisces until April 10th, making a final conjunction with Neptune on April 3rd. It seems we are not out of this ‘wet, fuzzy thinking’ period until mid April, and the first half of April will likely contain further confusion, misinformed opinion and possibly even intentional deception or spin. Once Mercury enters Aries our heads will clear of a lot of this nonsense and thinking will hopefully become drier, crisper and more directly focused on actionable advice. However, Mercury has another powerful partner to dance with in Aries, an extremely important matter which I will come to.

Saturn/Pluto: The Existential Threat

At the same time as all of the above the world experienced the conjunction between Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn. This was the core of the super-villain team up that is the heart of this emergency – the Doctor Doom/Thanos duet, if you like. Saturn/Pluto conjunctions occur once every 35 to 40 years, but what made this one special was that Saturn was in a sign of its rulership and was joined by Jupiter in Capricorn, a sign that is his Fall (a place where he has weak essential dignity) and also the South Node or Dragons Tail (which in mundane astrology tends to stir up bad situations into worse ones). This is an important part of what made the conjunction worse, as Jupiter was unable to provide a silver lining. The symbolism here is of the people and institutions that could provide assistance being unable to do so – essentially, the medical and health care system, industry and the financial institutions – businesses and stocks began a breathtaking decline as cessations in Chinese productivity and pandemic fears closed in on the markets. Thor, the potential hero on the scene, to continue the metaphor, was totally outgunned by Mars, Saturn, Pluto and their backup. In many ways the Fall of Jupiter is a problem of globalization, the placing of all eggs in one collective basket.

Backing up a bit it is important to understand this Saturn-Pluto conjunction in the context of the Saturn-Pluto cycle. Prior to this there was the Saturn-Pluto square of 2009 (Saturn in Libra, Pluto in Capricorn) during which global economic activity was crippled after massive financial bailouts of the banks were made. However this was also the time of the so-called swine flu or H1N1 epidemic. Prior to this there was the Saturn–Pluto opposition of 2001/2 (Saturn in Gemini, Pluto in Sagittarius), the time of the 9-11 attacks which changed the landscape of our lives and also the dot.com financial crisis. Yet, again, this was also the time of the outbreak of ‘foot and mouth’ disease in the UK and the beginning of the SARS virus outbreak mentioned previously. The previous square to this opposition was in 1993 just prior to an epidemic of bubonic plague and pneumonia in India (thankfully quashed) but following the break up of the Soviet Union, while the previous conjunction to the current one was in Libra in 1982 and came to symbolize the outbreak of the HIV epidemic which changed sexual practices forever (it is perhaps hard to believe but going to get tested for STDs was much more shameful before then than it is now). So there can really be no question now that hard Saturn and Pluto interactions like this one are connected with outbreaks of life-threatening diseases that bring threat escalated changes to society. On January 11th 2020, that overdue threat came due with the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto at 22° of Capricorn. On this day the Chinese government announced the first death and a couple of days later the Covid-19 genetic information was published and the first death outside of China occurred in Thailand.

This means that the Saturn/Pluto conjunction is connected to the potential death toll. There is cheering news here as this will be the only exact conjunction that they make out of a potential 3 – although Saturn is now in Aquarius (more on this below) it will retrograde back into Capricorn on July 1st and creep back to within 3° of Pluto before stationing direct on September 28th and then moving into Aquarius full time just before Christmas this year. The end of September seems to be critical because by the end of September Mars will also be in late Aries in a square with Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn. The fact that Saturn does not retrograde all the way back to Pluto for a second conjunction and then a third after turning direct is definitely a reason to feel a little relief. It seems likely that the threat will return in September/October but it will not reach the same intensity (perhaps because of preparedness). However, this news does not mean that the death toll will be small – I think it will actually be very grim – but it seems it wont be as bad as it could be, as serious as all the worst projections.

In fact the Capricorn sign suggests that instead the coronavirus event is simply a precursor to a more destructive financial and political event that will take years and indeed lives to bite through. As regular readers of this journal will know, the first 5 years of this decade have been repeatedly forecast as bringing about the potential for economic Depression and the rise of dictatorships, along with the rapid decline of US hegemony and potentially also the other superpowers. Whatever the outcome of this crisis, nobody in the world is currently looking to Washington for a solution. Election season is looming and questions remain as to whether or not it can take place. Beneath the sudden storm of the pandemic, all the divisions and ruptures in US society remain. The same applies in the UK over Brexit and other situations in the world. The pandemic has just poured accelerant all over these fires, but our attention is currently occupied with dealing with the outbreak. It will eventually return to these issues, and there are likely to be consequences for China.

Saturn is, however, now out of Capricorn and in Aquarius. This takes him temporarily out of the team up in Capricorn but it leads us into new potential problems. The Pluto in Leo people with us are clearly among the most vulnerable over the next two to three year period. Social care of the elderly is more important than ever. Frugality and social distancing have immediately become the new rules, so large gatherings and wastefulness are out. People are using the internet more heavily than ever before. The internet itself is having its first Saturn return, a coming of age. All of this raises a certain concern in the mind of the astrologer – are we about to break the internet? Measures have already been taken to account for the massive demand, but what if this goes on? Whether there are partial or complete collapses, restrictions are placed on our usage or there are no such problems, it seems that in the short term we will all have to be more responsible with our use of time online, and take care that we do not spread ‘bad vibes’ or ‘fake news’. For the next 2 to 3 years we can expect massive investment in and buildup of the structure of the internet, probably involving VR and definitely involving 5G as well as other developments like robotic labour forces, as this pandemic will be used as a justification for robust and powerful changes to the WWW. It has finally arrived in its adult form, and we are now set to see that growth over the coming years. There are also likely to be many new laws regarding the web, further establishment of the internet as an inescapable reality of our lives, and a justifiable increase in fears over surveillance. Prototype quantum computers may arrive. We should in my view push for our privacy to be protected by law and through technology in any way that we can so that the rights of future generations will be protected. Taking the cynical view that the laws will be useless is missing the point Saturn always makes – what matters is not success or failure, what matters is trying. We have Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius squares with Uranus in Taurus to face over 2021-22, and given the financial dark clouds this may also mean a transition to electronic currencies (especially if reports surface that the virus was transmitted via cash). The battle lines over control of a new economic and technological reality seem about to be drawn.

Aside from this Saturn in Aquarius can bring about important scientific and technological developments of all kinds, a potential leap in the trans-human direction, and with all the focused activity on developing vaccines it seems likely that some unintentional discoveries will take place in the medical sciences. Perhaps we will soon discover some of us are immune to this virus. We may be about to understand something new and important about how our world works, something that has a typical Aquarian twist, surprise or innovation to it. Scientific rules in general are due for a major overhaul and revision in this period. Saturn in Aquarius may also herald more determined efforts to spread humanity into space as a consequence of this pandemic. In amongst all of this astrology itself may mature in some way. At the very least, all of the above should help make it clear that Saturn is still in a rulership position in Aquarius and is in no way deposed by Uranus.

In the coming year, Saturn will retrograde back into Capricorn on July 1st, move all the way back to within 3° of Pluto before stationing direct on September 28th, and then leave Capricorn for Aquarius on December 17th. This means that as far as the trouble in Capricorn is concerned, things are already better but that around the beginning of July of this year they will start to look bad again. The fear that is abroad and about us now will make a threat of return, either because the pandemic threat is actually returning or because of the consequences of the current situation, for example we could be looking at a time of severe economic turmoil beginning in that month. Whatever the manifestation turns out to be it is set to continue to worsen until it reaches a peak in September/October. This may well indicate a further shutdown. However, slowly but surely, after October the situation will decrease in threat, but then as I have said in 2021 and 2022 we have to contend with Saturn square Uranus, and so the difficult times stretch on in typical Saturn fashion. This crisis is an endurance marathon, not a sprint.

As far as the next month (April 2020) is concerned we have a very difficult period in the first half during which Mars exits Capricorn and joins with Saturn in Aquarius while both of them are in a square with Uranus, all under a Libra Full Moon. There will probably be some bad news and some freaking out in this period. This is very likely connected to the situation in the United States and the UK where the spread of the virus has not been properly contained. Additionally in this period we have the muddled problems with Mercury in Pisces conjunct Neptune which I mentioned above. So we need to brace ourselves for a rough couple of weeks ahead. The co-presence of Mars and Saturn in Aquarius continues until the middle of May when Mars enters Pisces, which may well be a mercy in the form of isolation being lifted in many territories. However, we have an extremely long period of Venus in Gemini in play which will not change until August, indicating people are going to get a bad case of cabin fever and suggesting isolation may be a feature of life until mid to late summer. Jupiter in Capricorn will be less besieged in the months ahead as a result of the exit of Mars, but once Saturn re-enters the sign his troubles are really beginning again. His conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn has proved to be timed with massive bailouts and relief packages (the last one was 12 years ago).

We could stop here. We have enough of an idea of the astrological picture. Yet that would be a mistake because there are other powerful factors involved , and one of them we ignore now at our peril. I suggested that astrology itself may change during Saturn in Aquarius, and if I were a betting man my money would be on one candidate.

Image is artists impression from Wikipedia

Our Dramatic Introduction to Eris

Bottom line up front: Eris, a planet probably larger than Pluto and only discovered in 2005, has been in late Aries throughout this crisis forming a square with everything in Capricorn. It’s time to accept that she is a thing. I am not the only astrologer pointing this out right now.

I’ve been writing about the astrology of Eris since 2010. In ‘The 26 Keys’ I explained my position at the time:

“Eris is the one who finally overturned the centuries old apple cart of classical astronomy enough to force its revision and a reclassification of the word ‘planet’. She is acting among us as a restorer of the active and dynamic (as opposed to passive) power of the feminine. As the more recently arrived goddess in the solar system she sees the treatment of the feminine in humanity and she is not going to take it lying down like Venus might (and has, in the view of Eris). She also highlights the discord we are creating in the balance of life on the planet. Eris is an initiator into the deeper feminine mysteries and the re-empowerment of the feminine in all of us, the magic beyond the trite ‘who is the fairest of them all’ syndrome it has been bound by. She introduces discord as a measurement of harmony so that any false harmony is revealed. The truth is, we have to get a little bit crazy and break out of our chronic rut of complacency before we are empowered enough to face the challenges of these do-or-die times. So Eris also signifies strife, she brings about discord such as the economic crises we are facing today, but such strife is merely a struggle to introduce something which is not unsustainable or too ossified and orderly.”

Make no mistake, Eris is terrifying – in her darkest forms she has a destructive nature that delights in our wails of despair, she can be devastatingly destructive like any force of nature, but even more so when she is disrespected or provoked, yet she can spur change and destroy things that are violations of good sense or things that are symbols of hubris and arrogance. She has no patience for excuses, she does not bluff, she gives no second chances, she just escalates. She is a celestial wrecking ball and we must come to terms with her on her own terms. To be blunt, this crisis is a blow to the gut that will be followed up with a knock-out punch if we do not let go of the old order and start to focus on a new one, right now. We may well be facing that sooner than we would like.

Eris will be a big issue in the problems of this September and October as she will be present in Aries to square Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn. In addition Mars will be in conjunction with Eris in late Aries, throwing the same squares to Capricorn, and in early October the Moon will join Mars and Eris. This is an extremely tense moment and with events developing so rapidly hour by hour at this point it is very hard to forecast what it signifies. Involvement of a strong Mars in Aries suggests a new threat. It is sobering and humbling as well as horrifying to imagine what would happen were humanity to be suddenly confronted by a new problem this year, such as a volcanic eruption or a major earthquake, or a war. We can all feel our entire civilisation hanging by a thread, vulnerable to all kinds of apocalyptic complications in this time, from the medical to the political and economic, the social and ecological. Eris is really trying to make it clear to us here! We need to wake up! The message is that WE are the discordant notes, not her, and I think Mars is set to help her drive this home come October. Seen from this perspective, Eris is a positive evolutionary force of nature, the inevitable chaos we encounter when we venture far enough out of harmony with the world, a chaos that either removes the problem or forces it onto an entirely new track, for good or ill.

From that point on the latter part of this year leads us out of the current situation very slowly as Jupiter and Saturn move forward into Aquarius and leave Pluto behind, alone in Capricorn. By January 2021 both Jupiter and Saturn are in Aquarius and the new situation involving squares with Uranus in Taurus begins, like a new chapter in the events. It is reasonable to interpret this as meaning that at that time the coronavirus pandemic will have passed, but its consequences will linger and the potential for it to make a return is still there. Saturn in Aquarius (from now until March 2023) could easily signify an endurance test of multiple periods of isolation or social distancing. The big picture with Neptune in Pisces goes on for about another 5 years and during that time other pandemics may emerge, as Neptune can be deceptive and illusory. This crisis may well pass only for us to have to literally rinse and repeat at a later date. Our strategies need to take this into account. And of course, just because Neptune moves into a different sign it does not remove the threat of pandemics, it is more that it describes a general mutation or shift in the viruses. And then, of course, there is Eris and Pluto, who are going to remain in a square until Pluto enters Aquarius in 2023/4. This means that the late degrees of the Cardinal/Active signs are challenged by the Pluto/Eris square for the next 3-4 years. The key strategy with this is to accept the need for radical transformation and even disruption in order to embrace a new order of being, probably without even knowing what that new order of being even looks like. Old rules are being irrevocably shredded in the late degrees of these signs, so it is a place of renewal for anyone brave enough.

It is worth taking a moment here to run these degrees through some significant charts to show how they are each affected:

  • The New York Stock Exchange and the 1801 UK Act of Union have Eris in the latter part of Capricorn.
  • The Euro and the Australian Dollar have Venus in the latter part of Capricorn.
  • The Japanese yen has the Moon rising in the latter part of Capricorn.
  • The USA has Pluto in the latter part of Capricorn (it is having its Pluto return) as well as Chiron in the latter part of Aries.
  • Saudi Arabia has its Sun, Jupiter and Saturn all rising on the ascendant in the latter part of Capricorn.
  • Russia has a chart which is relatively untouched but Saturn conjunct Pluto is on the cusp of the 6th temple, signifying national health-care and the medical workers being directly and seriously hit.
  • Italy has Venus and Saturn in latter parts of Cancer and Jupiter in the latter parts of Libra.
  • Donald Trump has Venus and Saturn in the latter part of Cancer.
  • Vladimir Putin has Mercury, Saturn and Neptune in the latter parts of Libra.
  • Boris Johnson has a Moon in early Scorpio in out of sign squares with Saturn/Pluto and an out of sign opposition with Eris.

In the long run there is also a ticking clock, as by 2048 (when the children being born under the astrology of this crisis are having their first Saturn returns) Eris will enter Taurus, and at that point history strongly suggests that we will no longer have a choice, as I wrote in 2011:

“It has been noted by many astrologers that the 80-100 years of Eris in Taurus has a pattern involving the collapse or destruction of long established civilizations – first with the ending of ancient Egyptian culture under Cleopatra with the arrival of the Romans (the decades prior to and surrounding the switch from BC to 1CE), then with the fall of Western Rome itself (late 5th century through to early 6th), then with the final collapse of the Maya and the beginning of the decline of the Byzantine Empire (late 10th century), followed by the annihilation of the Aztec and other aboriginal cultures and the Fall of Constantinople in the 1500s. Given this pattern and the problems our civilisation faces in the 22nd century, the signs from Eris are that it will at least go into decline and that we must all prepare ourselves and our children for exceptionally difficult times. These times, while carrying notes of great strife, discord and an intercession of the scheduled programme, all serve a purpose, as the history of the pattern shows”.

By engaging now in a conscious co-operation with Eris we can create a new world rather than be eventually forced to rebuild everything.

There is one more layer of the astrology surrounding this pandemic that I would like to draw your attention to, the stars in parans with the outer planets, because not only is this a very powerful part of the picture but they also help us to see why certain territories have been hit longer and harder than others.

A Rising Tide

If you don’t know what parans are they are relationships that can exist between planets (or planets and other objects in the sky) that bind them together. There are four sensitive places in the sky wherever you are on the surface of the Earth – the horizon in the East where objects rise and the horizon in the West where they set, the point above in the sky where they reach the point where they as high as the Sun climbs that day and the opposite point below the Earth where they reach the point that the Sun is when it is at its lowest. When any two objects occupy any of these places at the same time, they are in a paran. This usually lasts only a few minutes, but it characterizes events in that location for each day that it continues to occur, a length of time that is determined by the speed of the faster of the two objects in paran. The Moon for example has parans that last only a single day while Pluto lasts months, however a Moon/Pluto paran will still only last a day. However, fast moving objects like the Moon can quickly reform parans just by moving on two or three signs of the zodiac. In this way, Moon/Pluto parans appear for a day and then reappear a few days later, just slightly differently because the Moon has moved to a new phase and sign.

Parans are ideally suited to working with stars, most of which live off of the ecliptic and so do not really form aspects with planets. By looking at the parans of slow moving planets with the stars in the sky we can see influences which symbolize mundane events. Additionally, we can see clues which indicate where on the planet those events will accrue or manifest. Paran lines always manifest as horizontal rings which circle the globe like the equator, but they gradually move north and south of the equator like oscillating rings between it and the poles. They always come in two pairs of two, two rings which are north of the equator and two rings which are south of the equator. As time passes these two pairs of rings either

A) Move gradually further away from the equator, kind of floating back and forth until they expire as the planet moves away from being in paran with the star or the paran rings reach the poles, at which point they collapse

or

B) Do the opposite, starting near the poles and moving towards the equator.

Visually, then, parans are like dual tides floating in the northern and southern hemispheres. Take a look at this image of the globe, which shows the paran lines for a paran between Pluto and Vindemiatrix (of Virgo) on November 1st 2020:

Notice the position of the yellow rings, this is the paran between Pluto and Vindemiatrix. Notice that it manifests on both sides of the equator in a pair of rings. Notice also that each ring extends directly east and west around the globe. Now compare it to the image below which shows the same paran on April 1, 2020:

Notice that both sets of rings have distanced themselves from the equator, one set going north and another going south. They move like a bobbing level of water, rising and then sinking back but always gradually moving towards the poles. Take a look at the same paran in Dec 2024:

This is just before the outermost rings reach the poles and are nullified. The lowermost rings will follow some time later.

The Light of Vindemiatrix (its astra-mental resonance) expresses the principle of sympathy and antipathy, the flow of attraction and repulsion. It has a power that can both pull things in closer towards and push them farther away from each other. It can both introduce spaces (quarantine) and close them off (borders) at the same time. It teaches us to be sympathetic to one another and other things and also to develop antipathy towards unpleasant and unhealthy ways. The Pluto/Vindemiatrix paran has the qualities of a vortex of energy which sweeps things up into it like a tornado. It is symbolic of major disruptions and natural forces which we cannot control. Because Vindemiatrix is a Virgo star this affects the medical world and behaviour regarding hygiene. Vindemiatrix also means ‘grape gatherer’ indicating it is connected to social gathering and celebration as well as harvesting food.

When we look at the same paran line – Pluto/Vindemiatrix – at the start of this month (March) but instead of looking at it on a globe we look at it on a rectangular world map we begin to see the relevance of what I said about where things manifest (all images on this site enlarge with a mouse click):

You can see that in the more populous northern hemisphere the upper paran line is now passing through Italy, Spain, New York and Chicago. Japan, Greece and southern Europe are also being covered. It is also just north of San Francisco and Iran, which it passed through in February. Mexico and Cuba, Florida, Saudi Arabia, India and northern Africa are bisected by the lower paran of the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa are bisected.

As the month moved on, this paran continued moving towards the poles in both directions. It continues to move towards the poles and the paran does not cease to exist entirely until the late 2030s. The two lines closest to the poles fade out in 2024. Throughout the period 2025 – 2035 the lower paran is still present throughout northern Europe, the UK, Russia and Canada. It is extremely long lived and its long shelf life means that we are dealing with its consequences somewhere in the world for the next 20 years. Its power will ebb and wane, rise and fall, throughout that period. Note that this paran is not necessarily symbolic of the actual coronavirus but instead the presence of ‘out of control’ tornado like situations of some kind. But this paran line is worrying for the current pandemic situation in New York because it is an indication that NYC was being infected at about the same time as Italy was.

Uranus has also been in paran with Hamal, the head of Aries, while Neptune has been in paran with El Nath, one of the long, sharp horns of Taurus. This has lent the situation a thrusting momentum and a puncturing, piercing quality – it is something we have to get out of the way of, like a charge from both of these animals at the same time. Both Hamal and El Nath are connected with the Fluids, Hamal with enlivening them and El Nath with balancing the active and passive forces through the Air Element. It often manifests as acts of nature. Neither paran helps with calming the situation as Uranus/Hamal creates major disruptions, it is pushing, forcing, leaving no choice but the hard and challenging path, honing independence and self sufficiency, crises which call for bravery and collective action on multiple fronts, while Neptune/El Nath brings a sense of hopelessness, loss of control and sacrifice in the face of acts of nature. Eris has also been in paran with Vindemiatrix and El Nath, amplifying the threat.

SUMMARY

The astrological picture is complex but the core is a Mars/Jupiter/Saturn/Pluto stellium in late Capricorn, square to Eris in late Aries. The first half of April heralds bad news and some rash actions, and most places will not be emerging until May at the earliest. Yet starting in July the fearful clouds are gathering again, leading to a new peak of bad news in September/October. After this, the current situation gradually changes into a different one that challenges us throughout 2021 and into 2022. Overall it looks like there is a brief respite from the crisis but either a return to isolation, hard consequences from the period we are in now or a new threat emerging in October. After this there is some kind of battle over what the new rules should be and a period of ‘on again off again’ while Saturn is in Aquarius.

I will be 50 years of age this year. Looking back, it is clear to my mind that this is the most tumultuous time I have witnessed so far. My heart on the other hand tells me there is much more to come. Looking within me, I perceive within my soul two distinct groups of feeling as I reflect on this, one is anxious concern, love and empathy for other human beings in this collective trial, for those helping others and those needing their help, the other is an immense relief for everything that is not part of the human collective, the rivers, clouds, trees and animals, etc. In perceiving these two very different states present in my soul at the same time, I also perceive that there is a way to reconcile them by bringing that sense of relief to the human world. Ultimately, it is not only possible to bring relief to the human collective temporarily in this way but also permanently. So it truly is a crossroads between light and dark this equinox. We are presented with a golden opportunity to change direction. If we do so, we will evaluate this time very differently in the decades and centuries to come.

I truly love you all. I send my love out to surround and protect you, and through this screen it reaches your mind from mine. Together, but apart, we grow stronger. Please remember that staying healthy is more than just being responsible with your physical body. It is also about nurturing your emotional and mental well being, which means thinking positive thoughts and not letting fear get the upper hand in your heart. Be good to one another, and just as good to yourselves. Exercise your power – whether you believe it or not, you have it in a vast supply. Bring it home, send it out into the world where it is most needed, and instruct it to lead us all out of the darkness.

We are in the crucible of transformation, let us push life towards a saner reality for all life.

The Harkening: on Retrograde

Greetings, and welcome back to Journeys! This month I have some thoughts about planets in retrograde motion as natal, progressed or transiting influences.

For The Traveller

It is something we are all familiar with – you are planning a holiday, but your car tire blows a week before the trip. After fixing it the flight is then delayed by several hours, leaving you waiting. There is a weird problem with you at customs. Then your luggage is sent to the wrong destination, and you spend the rest of the trip trying to track it down from an overbooked hotel you had to tussle with to get a room – just not the one with a view that you booked. Later you are delayed again on the way back, and something else is wrong with the car when you return. Something like that, anyway.

Or how about this one – they broke your heart, but in the kindest way. You suffered terribly from unrequited love, struggling to keep a friendship alive. Things got easier when they went away. But then they came back and just when you thought you were over it all you find yourself ,more deeply and hopelessly lost than before. Or maybe you were the one who went away, thinking that would solve things. 

If you are nodding your head, you have been touched by the power of a retrograde planet.

For those not encountering this term before, retrograde is an apparent reversal of the normal motion of a planet through the longitude (degrees) of the zodiac. What was moving forward now moves backward. Long, long ago, our ancient ancestors were watching the sky at night where the planets appear like glittering stars, only they observed that these lights were different because they moved, and not only that, sometimes they seemed to stop, reverse direction, then stop and go back again, performing loops and wheels in the sky.

As far back as the Hellenistic era (two thousand years ago), where records of modern western astrology essentially begin, astrologers have a familiarity with retrograde. Texts refer to it as ‘anapodosmos’ (‘walking backward’, but some confusion arises because this was a term also given to descriptions of Mercury, the most frequently retrograding planet) or ‘hupopodizontes’ (‘retracing their steps’). Surviving texts do not tell us much about how it was viewed but there seems to be some flexibility over how to interpret it with a general consensus on basic principles.

In even earlier times they did not have the understanding of planetary orbits that we have, viewing the worlds in the sky as living entities roaming the heavens, and so they could not have realised that these movements were astronomical mirages (this was a secret taught in some advanced Mystery Schools, however), but they could still predict retrograde planets since there is a mathematical way to do so, given enough observation and record keeping, which they were excellent at.

In its easiest to understand form, this mirage – it’s only an apparent reversal of normal motion´- is the same phenomenon that occurs when you are sitting on a fast moving train that passes a slower moving one. Although the slower train is in forward motion, it appears to be moving backwards. With planets, however, the effect is not generated by relative speed but by angular relationships formed from the position of the Sun, Earth and the retrograde planet, and the scale of the orbits involved. It is about trains moving on circular tracks, all arranged as smaller rings within bigger rings. Since the objects in our solar system all orbit the Sun circling in the same direction (counterclockwise when viewed from above the Suns north pole) but are vast distances apart and thus have different orbital periods, it can sometimes happen that as we are looking out they appear to sometimes move backwards through the sky as if reversing their orbit. This can happen with any object orbiting the Sun – the Sun itself and the Moon, which orbits Earth, are never able to retrograde.

It’s also worth noting at this point that the opposite of retrograde is prograde, and that both of these terms refer to whichever direction the object at the centre of the orbit/s is turning (i.e. upon the axis of rotation of the primary physical body in the system). For example, the objects in our solar system all have prograde orbits – they orbit the Sun in the same direction that the Sun itself is rotating on its axis. It’s also worth noting that in our solar system all except two planets have prograde axial rotations (they rotate in the same direction the Sun rotates). The two exceptions are Venus and Uranus, which have retrograde rotations, but still have prograde orbits.

BAD NEWS?

Let’s get this out of the way early, because modern notions of retrograde planets are largely caught up with Mercury retrograde which typically is said to bring unwelcome news, delays and travel jams, and the ancient view is typically negative as well, especially on Mars and Saturn retrograde. Some sources, stemming back to ancient times, state that the nature of the planet itself is important, with Mars and Saturn retrograde being very bad.

Is retrograde in general bad news? No, it isn’t. It very much depends on the circumstances and who you are, and how you feel about the current momentum of things symbolised by that planet. The fact that this momentum is going to reach a halt for some reason and then recheck ground just covered holds the future in a state of suspension, which is generally not welcome, but the real factor here is who or what gets to be postponed, delayed, rendered dormant or discontinued, and who will cop the worst effects of that loss of momentum and the need for revisiting. The effect may just be a temporary one where things resume in the normal manner fairly soon, once the retrograde activity is over, but by then a lot of damage can have been done – plans may have been canceled, major policies reversed, journeys prevented, old flames foolishly reignited by temptation. Or, seemingly impending disasters and tense situations could be averted, dodged, defused, miraculously prevented by a last minute save. Retrograde is a turning back, but a turning back that offers us not just a second but a third chance at things. It also offers us an opportunity to dig deeper into things that matter to us. Retrogrades have a bad rep because typically we only remember the ones that sting. 

So the entire question of whether retrograde is good or bad is problematic because it is so circumstantial. One thing that seems clear to me is that the person to cop it wont normally be the person with that planet in retrograde motion in their natal chart, as they seem to thrive under retrograde transits of that planet, but also to have to make more of an effort during direct motion periods of that planet (i.e. most of the time). It’s like finally things are going their way after long periods of struggle. In this way, slow moving retrograde planets (from Jupiter out) seem to be more problematic than fast moving planets (from Mars in), but ultimately more rewarding as their payoff for sustained effort is bigger when it comes due. I say now to those people as someone born under Saturn retrograde – don’t give up! Just learn the right timing for when things will go more the way you want them to, and at a much quicker pace, and when the wind is blowing in the other direction again push even harder into it towards the next shift when things will swing your way again. Just learning this rhythm and accepting it will take you a long way.

The better question with a clearer answer than ‘is it bad news?’, then, is if it can be used pro-actively, and the answer to that is a definite yes, and it’s where we will focus on here. First, we need to have some understanding of the various stages of a retrograde, as it is not a single event but an extended period, and each part of the period has a different significance and potential. This means it is best for us to start with looking at transiting retrograde planets (and by inference progressed ones), so we can understand a natal retrograde planet in the context of this period.

RETROGRADE TRANSITS

As stated above all planets in the solar system can go retrograde in the zodiac, only the Lights cannot  (or, as my mum often said, “life goes ever on”). They will all do so on a fairly regular basis, and sometimes there can be a number of retrograde planets at the same time. Mercury and Venus if retrograde will be relatively near to the position of the Sun (but can also be in direct motion while conjunct the Sun, it depends on whether they are on the far side or near side of the Sun relative to Earth), while the other planets will be retrograde when they are relatively near to an opposition with the Sun (and not when they are near to it). This means that Mercury and Venus can sometimes be retrograde as well as combust, under the sunbeams or cazimi, but the other planets cannot ever be both. This also means that if you know the zodiac position of the Sun and the other planets in the solar system you can often work out roughly when the retrograde periods are going to be for that year, but Venus and especially Mercury are trickier, and the further out a planet is from the Sun the longer its retrograde periods last (meaning they can be a few signs away from an exact opposition with the Sun, so it really is a rough rule).

Our calendar does not measure celestial cycles well, but in general:

  • Mercury has 3 retrograde periods per year. They are spread about 4 months apart and last about 3 weeks each.
  • Venus has 1 retrograde per year. They are spread about 7 months apart and last about 6 weeks each.
  • Mars has one retrograde every 2 years (plus a month or two) and they last 8-12 weeks.
  • Jupiter has one retrograde per year lasting 4 months.
  • Saturn has one retrograde per year lasting 4 and a half months.
  • Chiron has one retrograde per year lasting 5 months.
  • Uranus has one retrograde per year lasting 7 months.
  • Neptune has one retrograde per year lasting 5 months.
  • Pluto has one retrograde per year lasting 5 months.

Because planetary orbits are not perfect circles but instead elliptical they can be close (at one of the sides of the ellipse) or far away from the Sun (at one of the sharper curves at the ends). This accounts for why Neptune and Pluto currently have a shorter retrograde period than Uranus even though they are further away from the Sun in terms of orbital position. The length of the retrograde period of these planets can change from those I have given but these figures are good for a few decades from now.

There are also very interesting patterns to these retrograde patterns in terms of their appearance in zodiac signs. These patterns are sometimes disrupted by things like when retrogrades occur at the boundary (beginning or the end) of a particular zodiac sign, but they are still continuing in the same way, these are just anomalies that arise during special transitional periods, and they serve to give extra emphasis to something:

Mercury retrogrades appear in clusters following a sequence of the Elements in the order of Fire, Water, Air, Earth. Each of the 4 Elements will normally have at least one Mercury retrograde in each of its 3 signs, with some signs often receiving more than one retrograde, before the Mercury retrograde sequence moves on to the next Element. For example in 2020 we are in the period where Mercury will turn retrograde while in each of the 3 Water signs. In 2021, he will retrograde in each of the three Air signs, and so on, following the order of the Elements given above. However in 2022 he will repeat the Air signs before moving on to Earth.

Venus is all over the place in terms of the Elements (she is not, she is actually following a grander beat but is still visibly following a pattern through the modes of Cardinal/Active, Fixed/Stable and Mutable/Reactive signs. This year for example her retrograde is in the Mutable/Reactive Air sign of Gemini, next time it will be in the Cardinal/Active Earth sign Capricorn. This pattern is strongly affected by irregularities like those from sign boundaries as explained above.

Mars retrogrades in a steady march through all 12 zodiac signs, but he sometimes skips over one or even two impatiently. For example this year he will retrograde in Aries but next time instead of retrograding in Taurus he will retrograde in Gemini instead and then he will skip Cancer as well and retrograde in Leo before returning to the order and continuing with Virgo, Libra and Scorpio. Then he will skip Sagittarius and retrograde next in Capricorn, then he will skip Aquarius and do it with Pisces, then he will skip two signs and retrograde in Gemini. Basically he does what he wants, but he has to keep going forwards.

Jupiter retrogrades like Mars, in zodiacal order with sometimes a skip of a sign, but not so rushed that he skips two. It’s worth noting that with Jupiter the steadier pattern also follows a march of being in a different Element, visiting each of the Four Elements in turn like Mercury, but again he sometimes breaks the pattern. For example this year Jupiter will retrograde in the Earth sign of Capricorn, the next time he will retrograde in the Water sign Pisces, then in the Fire sign Aries and then the Earth sign Taurus again before retrograding in an Air sign, Gemini. Unlike Mercury however he generally follows the zodiacal order of the Elements – Fire, Earth, Air, Water. When he skips an Element he always then just continues with it wherever he lands, so if after an Earth sign he skips an Air sign and retrogrades instead in a Water sign, the next time he will retrograde in Fire. Mars does not have this attunement to following the Elements in turn, as he breaks the pattern of following the zodiac more often.

Saturn also proceeds in an orderly fashion through the zodiac, but he never skips a sign. Instead he sometimes lingers in one for an extra long visit before moving on to the next sign.

Chiron retrogrades also proceed in an orderly fashion through the zodiac, but because Chiron has great eccentricities in its orbit it lingers in some signs for longer than in others, which means retrogrades in those signs occur more often and over longer periods of time. For example he is currently in Aries and over the course of his remaining time there he will retrograde 6 times, once a year until 2026, but he will then move onto Taurus and retrograde slightly less often in each of the following signs until he eventually reaches Scorpio where he will only go retrograde once. Things will then start to pick up again in terms of the number of retrogrades in a sign.

Uranus gives 6 sometimes 7 retrogrades for each sign, gradually marching through the zodiac in order.

Neptune gives 12 sometimes 13 retrogrades for each sign, gradually marching through the zodiac in order.

Pluto has eccentricities in its orbit similar to Chiron and so spends a varying amount of time in the different signs as I’ve explained in a previous article – he lingers for an extremely long time in Aries, Taurus and Gemini (about 30 years each) but zips through Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius (only about a dozen each). He is currently on an ascending scale which will peak when he enters Taurus. This sign will see him perform 32 retrogrades (this period starts in 2095 and marks the transition into the 22nd century), while Scorpio will only get a casual 12 (but they will be mega-intense due to the affinity between Scorpio and Pluto). Some signs just need more retrograding over than others in his eyes. This fact allows us to pick out areas in history which are intensively transformative, such as the transition into the 22nd century mentioned above.

As can hopefully be seen, observance of these retrograde patterns may have given the visible planets some of their ancient identification with deities and their traits. Mars is willful and Saturn is slow and orderly but sometimes extra strict, and so on. Also note that after Jupiter, the planets are strictly tied to retrograding in arcs that follow the zodiac signs. This is a manifestation of the order imposed by Saturn. 

image from wikimedia commons showing how Mars appears to move retrograde.

LIFE OF A RETROGRADE

A situation in which a planet is going to retrograde will be composed of two stations, points at which it appears to be stationary in the sky from one night to the next before changing directions, and these two stations generate five phases for that retrograde.

In the course of the retrograde cycle the prograde planet will first begin to steeply slow down as it approaches its first station, whereupon as I said it will appear to be motionless, after which it will reverse direction and become retrograde. This motion will generally be slow, but it will grow even slower as the planet approaches the second station. At that point it will be motionless again, and then it will turn direct and begin its prograde motion once more. Thus, the two stations are points of vast energies held in abeyance, similar to the energy in a pendulum when it reaches the extreme end of its arc and swings backwards, but involving planetary scale momentum.

The five phases are formed from these two stations and the two mirrors of those points in which the prograde motion encounters them. For example if Mars goes retrograde at 15° Virgo and then turns direct when he has retreated to 26° of Leo, then the two stations are 26° of Leo and 15° of Virgo, and the two other important parts in the cycle are when Mars first passes 26° of Leo in direct motion before the first station, and then when he passes 15° of Virgo in direct motion after the second:

Example Using Mars

  • Phase One: Begins when it enters the arc in direct motion at 26° Leo
  • Phase Two: Stations and turns retrograde at 15° Virgo
  • Phase Three: Travels in retrograde motion back through the arc.
  • Phase Four: Stations and resumes direct motion at 26° Leo
  • Phase Five: Continues until it leaves the arc at 15° Virgo

Phases 2 and 4 (the stations) are short events that last only a day or two, while the remaining phases have varying lengths measured in days, weeks or months, depending on the planet.

This delineates an area of the zodiac which will be highlighted by the retrograde movement, in the example above with Mars an area between 26° of Leo and 15° of Virgo. In my practice I think of this area as “the arc of harkening”, a zone which harkens us to revisit it, to consider it again, intensifying its significance by more deeply etching it into our lives or forcing us to look at it very deeply. During any planets individual orbit around the Sun the degrees of the zodiac which it will harken us back to will be different to the degrees it harkened us back to during its previous orbit. In this way we can see the individuality that each planets orbit around the Sun has through how it brings a stronger emphasis to certain degrees of the zodiac.

The phases each have a slightly different significance.

When the planet first enters the arc of the harkening (i.e. when it first crosses the stationary point at which it will later finish retrograde motion and turn direct), we can justifiably consider this as the beginning of the slowdown period approaching the first station, but a more accurate view is that whatever occurs or emerges from the planet at this time will become something we are drawn back to at a later point.

As a planet moves further into the arc it decelerates rapidly, much like the way a pendulum decelerates as it approaches the zenith of its swing. The energy within the planet is gradually being held in abeyance, away from motion and towards suspension.

When a planet reaches its first station (the point at which it turns retrograde), all of its energy is in abeyance, but has reached the point at which it has to now expend that energy by swinging backwards. It is the point of realisation that we can no longer proceed as we have been, but must now revisit things before we can move forwards again.

The retrograde period that follows is a revisiting of those things. It is an expenditure of pent-up energy. The retrograde planet is now in the business of underlining things, giving them emphasis and raising their importance. There is also a feeling of familiarity in this stage as the planet is revisiting places it has recently passed through.

Yet at some point in this process a realisation is made, which is that things have to go forward again somehow. The energies begin to be held in abeyance again as we realise there is only so much that can be undone or redone, that we have to accept the consequences of prior actions before we can move forward. These are the characteristics of the second station, the point at which the planet will begin to move in direct motion again.

Now the energy of the direct motion is different to the previous two times it has revisited the degrees of the arc, because this time it is deeply familiar with them and is trying to finish up whatever it has had to redo or revisit. This process will lead towards a resolution and a true moving on which occurs at the fifth phase, when the planet passes over the degree at which it turned retrograde and leaves it behind. This part of the cycle has the significance of tying things up and bringing them to some kind of closure, even if it is not completely satisfying.

Simply put, we experience all this in the following way:

  • From entering the arc to the retrograde station: the planets lessons are placed before us. The situation is set up.
  • From station to station in retrograde motion: the lessons are reviewed or revised. The delays or returns become unavoidably apparent.
  • From station to station in direct motion, to leaving the arc: the final tests are presented to see if we have mastered the lessons.

NASA imagery showing the dancing path of Mars retrograde in 2014 and 2016

In the case of very slow moving objects (Chiron, Uranus, Neptune or Pluto) an entire year can pass and then the retrograde happens again further along in the zodiac but not so far along that some degrees also fall within the arc of harkening again, receiving two further visits by the planet for a total of 5 activations of that degree over the course of a year. These degrees, sitting in the overlap between two successive arcs, receive an even more intense emphasis. This and indeed all the degrees emphasised by retrograde motion during a planets orbit are significant in evocation magic, but that is not the topic for this post.

Note also regarding phase 3 that for Mercury and Venus the point at which they are retrograde and precisely conjunct the Sun (i.e. cazimi) is the heart of the retrograde movement, while for other planets it is always the exact opposition with the Sun that is at the centre of the retrograde movement. We can also include the mirrors of that degree in phases 1 and 5. For example, if in the above example the exact opposition between the Sun and Mars will occur at 4° of Virgo, then that degree will become a sensitive point in phases 1, 3 and 5. This will relate to the crux of the matters at hand. Another important consideration that often causes matters of that retrograde cycle to become clear is a parallel or contra-parellel between the Sun and the retrograde planet.

A key word here for the entire cycle is concentration. At the stations when planetary motion is held in abeyance its energy is not gone, it is instead having its direction refocused and concentrated on that process. Concentration is also a keyword for the zone of harkening itself because we need to concentrate on whatever is emerging as we initially enter it so that when events transpire to bring it back to our attention we have not forgotten what we have already learned, and in the final pass we have to concentrate on getting everything right this time. Retrograde planets are therefore about training our attention through concentration and redirecting and reorienting ourselves.

An important point and a practical one to keep in mind here is that the concentration of these energies away from motion at the stations does not banish them, nor does the slowing make them ineffective, it just changes the path to manifestation. Even though you cannot see the pendulum moving any more, its astral state is still in motion and filled with the energy that will force it to return to movement. So the reality is that at the stations a planets power is not gone, it is instead withdrawn from making measurable progress with its agenda and instead invested in redirecting its energy, and in human terms this equates with our internal conviction with redefining and improving ourselves. Saturn in direct motion and at normal speed is a builder. Saturn retrograde is an architect. Venus direct is more likely to be looking for a lover, while Venus retrograde might be seeking a muse. Yet at some point as I have said stationary energy will be forced to return to movement, which means that the internal experience of these people as they work at improving themselves must eventually seek an external focus again. In some cases this may take more than a single lifetime. This is indicated in astrology by that planet always being in a retrograde state by progression, but it is not 100% the case.

RETROGRADE PROGRESSIONS

As I’ve indicated above, these can be very informative and important. If a planet in your natal chart is retrograde, then the time in your life when it turns direct by progression (if any) will signify a major turning point in your relationship with that planet. Similarly if a planet that is direct in your natal chart turns retrograde by progression, that too will be an important turning point. The stations of progressed planets are significant.

If you live part of your life with a planet in retrograde by progression, then that part of your life is about deeply intenalising your experience with that planet and probably involves revisiting something connected to your history with it, and any stations by progressions will be very intense moments with that planet. Those degrees of the zodiac that lie within the harkening of progressed planets can be during and forever after seeded with the events that are planted there, they may flower and bloom again when later transits or other progressions occur there. It may be something you have experienced in this lifetime but it may not and may instead be something from a former incarnation. After events are still fresh following a traumatic retrograde progression, for example, the need to process and continually review the events can become unconsciously conducted by the Moon, leading to the formation of habits and an inability to easily let things go. They then come back like hauntings every month when the transiting Moon passes through the harkening of the traumatic progression. More powerful hauntings then occur when other planets move through that area. If we face these things and work through it these hauntings become healings that eventually allow us to finally move onward with greater power and experience. Our mastery of the progressed planets retrograde lessons then becomes something that can truly help others.

One more important note about progressions in retrograde is that sometimes this means a progressed planet will move into a new sign by progression and then go back into the previous sign, probably the natal sign. This can happen with the temples and their cusps as well. For example you may have Mercury in Aries progress into Taurus. Your natural direct and pushy way of thinking about things may then slow down. Perhaps you learn something here about proceeding with caution after several encounters with a lack of preparedness. But then a couple of years later your progressed Mercury starts really slowing down and then stations and goes retrograde, fleeing all the way back into the familiar safety of Aries. However, as it comes to station in Aries and then turn to direct motion again, you finally learn what you need to about your Mercury and how to integrate it with the new way of thinking that progressed Mercury in Taurus brings, just as Mercury progresses into Taurus again. This is level up time for your Mercury, which was once just Mercury in Aries but is now Mercury in Aries with a practical and realizable plan, or maybe just some new ideas.

When you combine all of this with the progressed Moon phase as outlined in The 26 Keys, you can gain a very detailed and powerful guide to the lessons that the soul has chosen deeper initiation into and the degrees of the zodiac which correspond to those lessons, as well as the times in your life when those lessons will be presented. Transits also offer these insights, but compared to progressions these are much less personal and specific and are more to do with how we adapt to our environment as a result of experiences rather than how we ourselves go through internal character shifts as a result of our experience. A planet that goes retrograde by transit over a part of the natal chart offers us an extended period in which to explore a particular experience we are having at that time and the relationship we have with those planets, while a planet that goes retrograde by progression over a part of the natal chart indicates an inevitable evolution of our character, often manifesting as an internal dialog that causes changes to our environment rather than the other way around.

Illustration by Kepler of Mars retrograde cycles

NATAL RETROGRADE PLANETS

Now that we understand transiting and progressed retrograde planets it’s much easier for us to extrapolate the information and apply it to our natal retrograde planets. A natal retro planet is not just retrograde, it is either at or near one of the stations and also in one of the phases that I have outlined. As far as the initial and final stages are concerned, the stages where the planet is in direct motion but either slowing down or moving slowly and picking up speed, you will have to check the ephemeris to see if any of your natal planets were recently or would soon be retrograde in order to identify them as being in a part of a retrograde cycle. Once you have identified for yourself where a planet lies in the arc of the retrograde you can combine this with its sign and planetary qualities and its temple and aspects to arrive at your interpretation.

Generally we seek to externalise our experience and connection to the planets – with Mercury, we go out and enrol in coarses, browse libraries, talk to people. With Venus, we seek to relate to others and to be affected by art, etc. With retrograde planets, this default externalisation of a planets energy is reversed and we instead internalise it, seeking it within us rather than in the external. We are more committed to grasping that planet within us than with doing something out there with it. Consequently, the looking within turns us into a magnetic attractor for that planets energy and it begins to concentrate itself around us. Eventually, we can throb with its power. 

The key thing I would say that will help you the most of all is understanding what I have said earlier about things going much more easily your way once the planet that is retrograde in your birth chart goes retrograde by transit. As I have said, this will happen regularly – 3 times a year for Mercury, 1 or 2 for Venus, once for everything else, but slower moving planets will stay retrograde for much longer. Learn this tidal rhythm and build your activities and agenda with the retrograde planet around it. Below I offer some guidance on the potential of retrograde planets in a natal chart, but they are also useful for transits or progressions.

Mercury retrograde
Reassessment of options, rewrites, reversals of trade agreements or decline of stocks, editing, feedback in communication studies, revision, deeper topical study, return to the scene, analysis of clues, undoing errors in calculations, understanding news cycles, revisiting choices, developing social media profiles, creating backups of data, mental and intellectual development. Internalising the connection with Mercury.

Venus retrograde
That old feeling comes back, understanding repeating patterns in relationships, gaining closure in relationships, deep study of an art form, reigniting old flames, overcoming temptations, exploring sex appeal and the sexual urge to be conquered, clearing emotional blockages, making peace with bad feelings, all kinds of emotional development. Internalising the connection with Venus. 
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Mars retrograde
The army tactically retreats, lessening of tension, abatement of conflict, truces and pauses in battles, definition of individual difference, laying down of swords, reconsideration of rash action, strengthening of the willpower, male bonding ritual, marathon or endurance based athletic activity, fitness routines, mastery of desires and the sexual urge to conquer. Internalising the connection with Mars. 

Jupiter retrograde
The momentum of belief falters and considers its integrity, probing of truth and assumptions, deepening of faith and virtue, pruning of exaggerations, assessment of our fortunes, philosophical or religious studies, examination of growth potentials, consolidation of gains, reviewing of spiritual doctrines, all kinds of development of the awareness of natural spiritual laws. Internalising the connection with Jupiter.

Saturn retrograde
The rules are redesigned, stretching of resources, tightening of schedules or plans, dealing with authority figures or institutions with official status, understanding our limitations, developing self-discipline and patience, increasing concentration, assessment of resources, re-evaluation of failure, rethink of major goals, drafting of boundaries, comprehension of karma, mastery of the most challenging lessons of the physical plane. Internalising the connection with Saturn.

Chiron retrograde
Physician heal thyself, creation of concentrated healing, retracing steps through the wilderness, extended repair work or renovation, deep studies of nature and its medicine, the healing of wounds and scar tissue, emphasising a particular teaching or lesson, feeling the pain that has been denied expression. Internalising the connection with Chiron.

Uranus retrograde
Adapting to outcomes that are twisting and uncertain, finally breaking free of something, learning that true freedom comes from within, instilling rebellions, overcoming contrariness, facing the chaos in your life, connecting with old groups or networks, developing a collective, exploring advanced or abstract metaphysical matters (for example kabbalah), catching up with the technology curve, understanding how we stand out and/or fit in. Internalising the connection with Uranus.

Neptune retrograde
The deception or the enlightenment?, assessment of the visions which guide us, deep contact with a muse, keeping a dream journal, psychotherapy, decryption or encryption via symbols, exploration of a mystery, training of psychic faculties, working through denial and delusion, deepening all kinds of meditation practice (especially trance states), connecting empathetically with anything, mysticism, drug rehabilitation, development of relationship with spirit world, all kinds of transcendence. Internalising the connection with Neptune.

Pluto retrograde
Rituals of rebirth, intense transformative magic, acceptance of both mortality and immortality, uncovering buried treasure (archaeological digs, psychic excavations), exposing corruption or criminal activity, grieving and burial rites, deep tissue regeneration, facing compulsive behaviour, dealing with the self destruct button, building an immune system, clearing out and recycling, cleansing of toxicity, deep letting go, reclaiming of power, understanding the multiplication power of decomposition and death, any kind of occult work. Internalising the connection with Pluto.

Retrograde cyles over time form beautiful geometrically balanced mandalas

RETROGRADES OF THE NEXT 5 YEARS

To finish with here are the details for all the retrogrades that will take place over the next five years. R is stationary and turning retrograde, D is stationary and turning direct. Dates use GMT and may push the event into an adjacent calendar day based on your time zone, but this will be uncommon.

Mercury retrograde 2020 – 2025
At the time of writing (February 2020) Mercury is retrograde in Pisces and will move all the way back to 28° of Aquarius before turning direct again on March 10th. This is coinciding with travel plans and trading all being affected by the Covid 19 outbreak and quarantines. After this, the next Mercury retrogrades are as follows:

2020: Water retrogrades (as of today)
R Jun 18 2020 14°Cn45′ (Leaves arc: July 26)
D Jul 12 2020 05°Cn29′ (First enters arc: June 2)
R Oct 14 2020 11°Sc40′ (Leaves arc: November 19)
D Nov 3 2020 25°Li53′ (First enters arc: September 23)

2021: Air retrogrades
R Jan 30 2021 26°Aq29′ (Leaves arc: March 13)
D Feb 21 2021 11°Aq01′ (First enters arc: January 15)
R May 29 2021 24°Ge43′ (Leaves arc: July 7)
D Jun 22 2021 16°Ge07′ (First enters arc: May 15)
R Sep 27 2021 25°Li28′ (Leaves arc: November 3)
D Oct 18 2021 10°Li07′ (First enters arc: September 6)

2022; Air retrogrades
R Jan 14 2022 10°Aq20′ (Leaves arc: February 24th)
D Feb 4 2022 24°Cp22′ (First enters arc: December 29, 2021)
R May 10 2022 04°Ge51′ (Leaves arc: June 19)
D Jun 3 2022 26°Ta05′ (First enters arc: April 26)
R Sep 10 2022 08°Li55′ (Leaves arc: October 17)
D Oct 2 2022 24°Vi11′ (First enters arc: August 20)

2023: Earth retrogrades
R Dec 29 2022 24°Cp21′ (Leaves arc: February 7, 2023)
D Jan 18 2023 08°Cp08′ (First enters arc: December 12, 2022)
R Apr 21 2023 15°Ta37′ (Leaves arc: May 31)
D May 15 2023 05°Ta50′ (First enters arc: April 7)
R Aug 23 2023 21°Vi51′ (Leaves arc: September 30)
D Sep 15 2023 08°Vi00′ (First enters arc: August 4)

2024: Earth/Fire retrogrades
R Dec 13 2023 08°Cp29′ (Leaves arc: January 21, 2024)
D Jan 2 2024 22°Sg10′ (First enters arc: November 25, 2023)
R Apr 1 2024 27°Ar13′ (Leaves arc: May 13)
D Apr 25 2024 15°Ar58′ (First enters arc: March 19)
R Aug 5 2024 04°Vi06′ (Leaves arc: September 12)
D Aug 28 2024 21°Le24′ (First enters arc: July 17)
R Nov 26 2024 22°Sg40′ (Leaves arc: January 3, 2025)
D Dec 15 2024 06°Sg23′ (First enters arc: November 7)

Venus retrograde 2020 – 2025
Venus gives us one station retrograde in Gemini, one in Capricorn and one in Leo:

R May 13 2020 21°Ge50′ (Leaves arc: July 29)
D Jun 25 2020 05°Ge20′ (First enters arc: April 10)
R Dec 19 2021 26°Cp29′ (Leaves arc: March 2, 2022)
D Jan 29 2022 11°Cp04′ (First enters arc: November 17, 2021)
R Jul 23 2023 28°Le36′ (Leaves arc: October 7)
D Sep 4 2023 12°Le12′ (First enters arc: June 19)

After these, the next is in March 2025 at Aries 10°

Mars retrograde 2020 – 2025
Mars will station retrograde three times, once in Aries, missing out Taurus (probably a relief for all of us, given the transit of Uranus through Taurus), then once in Gemini and once in Leo:

R Sep 9 2020 28°Ar08′ (Leaves arc: January 2, 2021)
D Nov 14 2020 15°Ar13′ (First enters arc: July 25, 2020)
R Oct 30 2022 25°Ge36′ (Leaves arc: March 16, 2023)
D Jan 12 2023 08°Ge07′ (First enters arc: September 4)
R Dec 6 2024 06°Le10′ (Leaves arc: May 2, 2025)
D Feb 24 2025 17°Cn00′ (First enters arc: October 5, 2024)

Jupiter retrograde 2020 – 2025
The 5 Jupiter station retrogrades move from Capricorn to Gemini but skip Aquarius and are as follows:

R May 14 2020 27°Cp14′ (Leaves arc: December 6, 2020)
D Sep 13 2020 17°Cp24′ (First enters arc: February 19, 2020)
R Jun 20 2021 02°Pi11′ (Leaves arc: January 9, 2022)
D Oct 18 2021 22°Aq19′ (First enters arc: March 27, 2021)
R Jul 28 2022 08°Ar43′ (Leaves arc: February 14, 2023)
D Nov 23 2022 28°Pi47′ (First enters arc: May 5, 2022)
R Sep 4 2023 15°Ta34′ (Leaves arc: March 23, 2024)
D Dec 31 2023 05°Ta34′ (First enters arc: June 11, 2023)
R Oct 9 2024 21°Ge20′ (Leaves arc: April 30, 2025)
D Feb 4 2025 11°Ge16′ (First enters arc: July 15, 2024)

Saturn retrograde 2020 – 2025
Saturn stations retrograde 3 times in Aquarius and twice in Pisces, beginning in May or June:

R May 11 2020 01°Aq57′ (Leaves arc: January 4, 2021)
D Sep 29 2020 25°Cp20′ (First enters arc: February 3, 2020)
R May 23 2021 13°Aq31′ (Leaves arc: January 15, 2022)
D Oct 11 2021 06°Aq52′ (First enters arc: February 14, 2021)
R Jun 4 2022 25°Aq15′ (Leaves arc: January 27, 2023)
D Oct 23 2022 18°Aq35′ (First enters arc: February 27, 2022)
R Jun 17 2023 07°Pi12′ (Leaves arc: February 7 2024)
D Nov 4 2023 00°Pi30′ (First enters arc: March 12, 2023)
R Jun 29 2024 19°Pi25′ (Leaves arc: February 18, 2025)
D Nov 15 2024 12°Pi41′ (First enters arc: March 24, 2024)

Chiron retrograde 2020 – 2025
Chiron stations retrograde five times in Aries, always beginning in July:

R Jul 11 2020 09°Ar26′ (Leaves arc: April 8, 2021)
D Dec 15 2020 04°Ar56′ (First enters arc: March 18, 2020)
R Jul 15 2021 12°Ar55′ (Leaves arc: April 12, 2022)
D Dec 19 2021 08°Ar26′ (First enters arc: March 22, 2021)
R Jul 19 2022 16°Ar26′ (Leaves arc: April 15, 2023)
D Dec 23 2022 11°Ar56′ (First enters arc: May 28, 2021)
R Jul 23 2023 19°Ar57′ (Leaves arc: April 18, 2024)
D Dec 27 2023 15°Ar27′ (First enters arc: June 1, 2022)
R Jul 26 2024 23°Ar32′ (Leaves arc: April 22, 2025)
D Dec 29 2024 19°Ar00′ (First enters arc: June 5, 2023)

Uranus retrograde 2020 – 2025
Uranus will station retrograde five times in Taurus, mostly beginning in mid to late August.

R Aug 15 2020 10°Ta41′ (Leaves arc: May 1, 2021)
D Jan 14 2021 06°Ta43′ (First enters arc: April 28, 2020)
R Aug 20 2021 14°Ta47′ (Leaves arc: May 5, 2022)
D Jan 18 2022 10°Ta49′ (First enters arc: May 3, 2021)
R Aug 24 2022 18°Ta55′ (Leaves arc: May 9, 2023)
D Jan 22 2023 14°Ta56′ (First enters arc: May 8, 2022)
R Aug 29 2023 23°Ta04′ (Leaves arc: May 13, 2024)
D Jan 27 2024 19°Ta05′ (First enters arc: May 12, 2023)
R Sep 1 2024 27°Ta15′ (Leaves arc: May 17, 2025)
D Jan 30 2025 23°Ta15′ (First enters arc: May 16, 2024)

Neptune retrograde 2020 – 2025
Neptune will station retrograde five times in late Pisces beginning in late June until the last retrograde which you will occur in early July.

R Jun 23 2020 20°Pi57′ (Leaves arc: March 19, 2021)
D Nov 29 2020 18°Pi09′ (First enters arc: May 6, 2019)
R Jun 25 2021 23°Pi11′ (Leaves arc: March 22, 2022)
D Dec 1 2021 20°Pi24′ (First enters arc: May 9, 2020)
R Jun 28 2022 25°Pi26′ (Leaves arc: March 24, 2023)
D Dec 4 2022 22°Pi38′ (First enters arc: March 7, 2022)
R Jun 30 2023 27°Pi41′ (Leaves arc: March 26, 2024)
D Dec 6 2023 24°Pi53′ (First enters arc: May 14, 2022)
R Jul 2 2024 29°Pi55′ (Leaves arc: March 28, 2025)
D Dec 8 2024 27°Pi07′ (First enters arc: May 16, 2023)

Pluto retrograde 2020 – 2025
Pluto will station retrograde in April/May four times in Capricorn before making his first retrograde in Aquarius:

R Apr 25 2020 24°Cp59′ (Leaves arc: January 25, 2021)
D Oct 4 2020 22°Cp29′ (First enters arc: March 3, 2019)
R Apr 27 2021 26°Cp48′ (Leaves arc:January 27, 2022)
D Oct 6 2021 24°Cp18′ (First enters arc: March 3, 2020)
R Apr 29 2022 28°Cp35′ (Leaves arc: January 30, 2023)
D Oct 8 2022 26°Cp06′ (First enters arc: March 4, 2021)
R May 1 2023 00°Aq21′ (Leaves arc: February 1, 2024)
D Oct 11 2023 27°Cp53′ (First enters arc: March 6, 2022)
R May 2 2024 02°Aq06′ (Leaves arc: February 3, 2025)
D Oct 12 2024 29°Cp38′ (First enters arc: March 7, 2023)

That’s all for this month, if you enjoyed this post please support the site through its Patreon page, also feel free to join in with comments or questions below, if you wish, and don’t forget to love each other!

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