Current Transits for July 2006

Here's some of the important astrological news this month ...


Fourth of July, 7-4
Mercury Retrograde, 7-4 to 7-28
Jupiter Direct Station at 8Sc48, 7-6
Full Moon at 18Cp42, 7-10
Mars enters Virgo, 7-22
Jupiter Octile Pluto, 7-24
New Moon at 2Le07, 7-24
Saturn Quincunx Uranus, 7-31

An online ephemeris for the month is available.

General Outlook for the Month

After the doldrums of April, May and June, the energies of July may come as a bit of a shock to our systems. I'm not saying this spring was uneventful, it's just that the planets never seemed to come together and cooperate to any degree. July is different. Most of the month consists of mid to high energy storm patterns with very little down time for us. Much of the action this month revolves around the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto, as was the case in late June as well. Jupiter is a pleasant enough fellow, but those other two characters are rarely much fun, not to mention the aspects between these planets are all difficult ones. July could be a month of challenges and setbacks, a time when your plans are tested and their weaknesses exposed. Particularly during the middle of the month, all your thoughts and actions seem to tap into this deeper layer of reality where the usual rules don't seem to work well. You don't have to scratch the surface very hard before running into these more demanding issues. Throw in Mercury retrograde most of the month, which turns the thinking brain to mush, and it's starting to look like July is going to be pretty tough to navigate at times. So get ready for a long ride -- strong, organized energies are back in town finally. We may be out of practice...

There are a number of items to talk about in July. First of all, there's the entire retrograde period of Mercury going on, plus the direct station of Jupiter. Mars moves into Virgo on the 22nd. There are also two "big aspects" to consider this month, both of them the final passes in sets of three contacts, indicating these aspects are wrapping up their influence on us and moving on. This opens up the door to new influences coming our way by September.

Given the uncertainty as to what constitutes "the" birthchart of the USA (astrologers have debated this topic practically since the country was founded), it's hard to tell exactly when the solar return is (probably the 5th, actually), but the planetary positions on our birthday still have something to say to us about the coming year. They also have something to say about George Bush personally, since his birthday is on the 6th. The first item that I noticed was the Mercury retrograde station today. Screwed up thinking, confusing communications, plans going awry -- I'd say we're ready for the coming elections this fall! Despite the fact that there's a political fight going on for the soul of the country these days, especially with approval ratings for the current administration hitting all time lows, it seems like there will (once again) be very little soul in the coming campaign, but much to distract the country from a higher calling. Another big theme in the chart is the troublesome fan-shaped pattern of Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto. Saturn's been crisscrossing the US North Node the past year, a clear indication that we are dealing with old national karma, situations now that resulted from bad decisions in the past. Saturn has also been going back and forth over Bush's Ascendent, Mercury and Pluto (in fact, Saturn is going over his Pluto for the last time today), an influence that kicked in last September right after Katrina. These harsh influences may be lightening up soon, but we're still not through the worst of it. Finally, Uranus is trining the US/Bush Sun much of the coming year. Barring some "bolt from the blue" that clears up all our problems, I'd expect this aspect to introduce some highly disruptive, chaotic situations for Bush and company to handle. Washington may become increasingly polarized and disjoint, mired in problems and phony debates that defy conventional solutions. It may be a rough year coming up.

Mercury reaches its retrograde station of 1Le22 on the 4th. It backs up until the 28th, when it goes direct again at 21Cn03. Mercury is the thinking and symbol using part of the psyche, the part that tries to figure things out and make sense of the world for its own purposes. Generally speaking, Mercury is very good at this process, assuming of course that it doesn't start with false assumptions about life that lead it down the wrong alley. His greatest tool is language, the ability to weave stories of "how things work" that act as shorthand reminders of what to do when in order to get by. In a distant second place is so-called rationality, thinking per se, a trait most often associated with Mercury. However, the dirty secret about our stories, one the Mercury mind conveniently forgets about all the time, is that life is much bigger and more complex than our stories will ever be. No matter how clever and perceptive we are when we make our stories, we always leave something out or fail to perceive some important connection that makes a big difference in some situations. Our stories are not reality, not by a long shot. Usually our minds are operating with "good enough" efficiency to make our lives work well, but sometimes the chasm between reality and our version of it becomes so glaring that the world ceases to make sense. Life becomes "crazy", the property that Mercury fears most. When Mercury is backing up in the zodiac during one of its retrograde periods like this, the thinking mind is most likely to stumble and fall on its face. Our thoughts, ideas and ideologies fail to represent the world adequately, so circumstances appear irrational, nonsensical and chaotic. Communications between people (the way we share stories with each other through language) also seem to break down, leading to misunderstandings and mixed messages. This can be a time of accidents or mishaps, since the nervous system (the control and communications part of the body) is also acting in a haphazard manner. It can be very frustrating at times. This is a symptom that you "just don't get it" in the affected areas of your life, that your operating assumptions in this area are so far off base that you need to do a thorough housecleaning here. Dust off the stories you tell yourself, look at the details you've glossed over, examine the "logic" that holds all the pieces together. If you're at all honest with yourself, it may be embarassing how slipshod your thoughts can be, how you lull yourself into believing a story that is simply not true. Stories need to be constantly updated if they're going to remain fresh, vital and useful, and Mercury retrograde is the universe's way of reminding us to give them a look. Mercury is actually much more effective at dealing with the world when he starts with the assumption that stories can never capture reality perfectly, but that you need to try anyway. I find it interesting that the retrograde station falls on the 4th, the nation's birthday and solar return. It's as though this mental fog was meant to permeate the entire next year for this country, including the coming elections which could be so pivotal for us. It may also be a subtle clue that we need to debug our national mythology some, sweeping out the cobwebs and false dreams that cloud our vision and make us unable to see the world clearly. That would be a wonderful outcome, though I expect such a hope will disappear once the first attack ad is broadcast. Anyway, if your mind is in mothballs all month, this is one of the major causes.

Jupiter is at its direct station of 8Sc48 on the 6th, about to wrap up 4 months of reverse motion. It originally went retrograde at 18Sc51 on Mar 4. Jupiter is a social planet, one of the planets that rules over how we interact with others. His particular specialty is expanding our boundaries and revealing the spirit of give and take with others that enriches and enlarges all our lives. He's the goodies that reward our cooperation with other people, the gifts that make us see that civilized interaction is better than a "me first" or "dog eat dog" approach to people. The rewards are not just material or monetary (although that's a big part of Jupiter's appeal for many people), but also more subtle forms such as optimism, wisdom and understanding, allowing us to touch the subtle world that transcends the physical realm. He makes us bigger people. During those months each year when Jupiter is in reverse gear, these typical outgoing and optimistic qualities of his seem to lose steam. We become a little colder and more protective, we operate from a sense of scarcity and lack that makes us hoard our resources, our minds close to new ideas and points of view. In short, we withdraw some of the energy and attention we spend on the outer world and redirect it inward. Introspection is not a highly valued character trait in our culture, a world that is geared towards the pioneering extrovert that steps out into the world boldly. We need to go within sometimes, however, if we are ever to master the spiritual path that draws us into cooperation with the world of the spirit. Mastering the material world alone is a distortion of the Jupiter energies in our lives which want to expand on all levels, just as inner contemplation alone is a distortion of our need to connect with others and the world at large. One major theme of Jupiter is business and commerce, the exchange of goods, services and money to enhance each other's lives. The retrograde cycle of Jupiter can be a frustrating time for the small business person, because this drawing inward on the part of customers translates into a temporary downturn of business and income. With people hanging onto their purse strings fearfully, they are less likely to be in a spending mood for your services. These can be lean months when you need to cut back and husband your resources carefully. If you realize that money will be tight awhile and adjust your goals accordingly, or put in some extra effort to keep things going, you'll get by easily and be in a much stronger position later on. (If you don't plan ahead, things could be pretty rough by the direct station.) Keep your eyes open for how you can improve your operations and be more productive. As we approach the direct station, this sense of privation is coming to a resolution point, soon to improve. Examine the last few months and see how well you've learned the lessons of this period -- these lessons will make future retrograde periods easier to weather. People are slowly coming out of their shells -- it's time to connect up again.

At the time of the full moon, the big storm is just getting organized. In fact, most of the planets active now are quiet during the coming Koz Alert and vice versa, so the full moon is a rather transitional influence. Too bad, because this pattern active at the full moon has a delightful feeling to it.

The Sun and Moon are backed up by a Venus-Neptune trine, with an assist from the asteroids Juno and Vesta. What a beautiful collection of lovely feminine energy! The mood is simultaneously soft and dreamy, but very crisp and focused. If you have an artistic bone in your body, this is definitely an inspiration. Your eyes may be more on the future than the present, which is more productive than it sounds. Dreaming is Neptune's way of bringing the future into existence, of drawing down the vision of the psyche to the level of the physical. Unfortunately, it's a magic that's hard to harness, since so much of the process is unconscious, but the more you work with this power and cooperate with it, the stronger your power to affect the world. Emerging from the background is the other major pattern in the sky, the one that makes the Alerts in a few days. There's Saturn, Jupiter and Chiron (all in a T-square), with Pluto dominating the pack. It feels like something old and powerful is being stretched to the breaking point because it can't adapt to changing circumstances. People are carried away by forces bigger than the mere individual, often in directions that blindly cause trouble that could be avoided given a more enlightened point of view. People need to learn their lessons the hard way sometimes. Get ready for a wild week...

Mars moves from Leo into Virgo on the 22nd. It will stay in this sign until Sep 7, when it shifts into Libra. While Mars really enjoys the flashiness of Leo, he seems to calm down and become more sedate when he moves into Virgo. He may not like the downshifting this sign requires, but in the long run, this is actually helpful to Mars. He's basically a warrior, the application of strength and force to get the job done. The lowly soldier is not a general, that is, he doesn't necessarily think before acting or plan ahead. He's more likely to simply barge ahead and do what "needs" to be done. That's not Virgo's way, however. She prefers to think things through, to practice her skills and hone her techniques. She likes to master her craft, not just bungle through. Mars usually thrives under such discipline, as he learns to work smarter and more effectively, relying more on cunning and insight than brute force. As I've remarked once before, it's the difference between a bar room brawler and a martial arts master. The best examples of Mars in our world have all taken on this path of discipline and mastery. It's a path worth pursuing.

Jupiter is octile Pluto on the 24th for the last of 3 such contacts. The previous contacts in this series were on 2005-12-7 and 2006-5-31. This is a rather backward looking aspect. We are nearing the end of the current Jupiter-Pluto cycle which began with their conjunction on 1994-12-2 (at 28Sc26) and extends to their next conjunction on 2007-12-11 (at 28Sa23). The final aspects of a cycle are a time to assess how well we've done so far, which lessons we've learned and how to do things better next time around. It's a time to gather all the fruits of this cycle together, distill them down, make changes and bring them forward to the next cycle. Octiles tend to bring out a subtle discord or conflict between the planets involved, though sometimes they can just be annoying without triggering our desire to fix the problem consciously. So what do Jupiter and Pluto have to quarrel about? We've talked about the goodies side of Jupiter already, but we haven't mentioned the shadow side of this planet. Yes, Jupiter motivates us to step outside ourselves and engage the world, but at what price? There are typically few, if any, relationships in a person's life where they can be totally open and honest. We go through the "commerce of living together" by putting on a mask (what Jungians call "the persona", from an old Greek word for the masks actors wore in the theater), a simplified version of ourselves that makes it easier for others to interact with us. By adopting this simpler way of behaving, people know what to expect of each other (mostly) and can conduct their Jupiter commerce more easily. It "greases the wheels" between people, as I like to say. But after years and decades of this behavior that goes through the appropriate motions at the right time, most people tend to become their mask, losing track of who they really are in their full complexity. That's where Pluto enters the picture. Pluto wants to release the authentic self from all restrictions, regardless of the price. There are few situations where the Dark Lord lets you get by without being yourself honestly (big power play and manipulation situations seem to be exempt). He accepts no excuses for being anything less. This honesty is very scary for Jupiter, hanging out in Scorpio, the sign of ego issues and emotional hangups (among other things). Remember that the cycle started in late Scorpio (quickly moving into a Sagittarius mood), so there's always been an underlying feeling of emotional vulnerability and defensiveness about the last 12 years. Pluto is challenging us to let down our guard and let our true inner nature peek through the mask. Over time, as enough people make baby steps in this direction, the nature of human interaction can change to a more heart-centered approach. Yes, it's a gamble and a challenge, but when Pluto is active, it hurts more to resist than to give in. You ultimately have no choice but to be yourself. I'm sure Pluto is more than eager to remind you of that.

The new moon checks in after the big storm has fallen apart. As you can tell from a glance at the waveform, there's hardly any structure in this chart worth mentioning. It's a lazy, aimless mood that's in effect now. Curiously, there are a large number of bodies in fixed signs (9 planets and asteroids), including 5 in Leo alone. While this is good for enjoying life and kicking back, it does make people more than a bit stubborn and inflexible. Avoid situations that could lead to ego clashes, because you can be sure that people will cross swords at the drop of a hat. Egos aren't that important in the long run. Jupiter is the strongest planet in this chart, especially since the octile with Pluto is going on now, so open up to others more than you typically do and drop your pretenses. You can't enjoy yourself behind a mask.

Saturn is quincunx Uranus on the 31st for the third of 3 such contacts. The preceding contacts were on 2005-9-20 and 2006-1-19. It's hard to imagine two planets that are more different than these two. Saturn is slow and stodgy, plodding away in a determined fashion through all of life's challenges. He's quiet, solid, disciplined, responsible and frequently dull or boring. Uranus is more of an anarchist, the guy who's into change for change's sake, who never saw a status quo he didn't want to blow up. He's quick, active, intuitive and impatient. While Saturn takes things slow and steady, step by step, Uranus just wants to skip right to the punchline and not worry about the details. With a quincunx between them, these two planets seem to be talking right past each other. In particular, Saturn in Leo has been trying to establish a firm foundation in life based on deepening your sense of self and identity, creating a healthy ego to handle your day to day activities in the world. Meanwhile, Uranus in Pisces, the most selfless and impersonal of all the zodiac signs, is zipping right past this "healthy ego" business and wanting to set up shop in the realm of spirit and transcendence. He sees ego as a trap or at best a detour on the path to outgrow as soon as possible. As always, there's a question of balance here. Yes, you need a healthy sense of self, but if you stop there, you stop growing. Yes, touching the spiritual realms is important, but if you aren't strong enough to relate to spirit from your own well-defined center, you become lost and tossed about by forces that overwhelm you. The balance point between these extremes must be discovered and claimed anew every single day, as you make the choices that define who you are. Stability and chaos are both necessary, though neither of them dominates the other exclusively. We are entering the final stages of this aspect -- where are you coming down today?

I've talked about the current Jupiter-Saturn cycle and it's relation to the Middle East situation so much, you'd think I'd run out of material. Somehow, these planets keep coming up with surprises. The latest square aspect between them was Jun 22. It was about that time that Hamas commandos captured an Israeli soldier and ran off with him to the Gaza strip. The situation is slowly spinning out of control, with the Israeli army ratcheting up the military pressure on the Palestinians, even to the point of arresting a number of Hamas parliament members. The squares in a cycle are always some of the most difficult parts of a cycle -- this one seems to certainly live up to that reputation.

More recently -- during the big planetary storm that began July 9th, in fact -- the fighting spilled over to the northern front when Hezbollah joined in the conflict, much to the detriment of Lebanon as a whole.

As for the flooding on the east coast in late June, I'm still mulling this one over. I do find it amusing that we're celebrating the Fourth of July with many of the federal government buildings flooded out. It sounds like an omen of some kind, although what it's telling us, I don't know yet...