Here's some of the important astrological news this month ...
Jupiter Quintile Uranus, 1-2
New Moon at 17Cp33, 1-8
Jupiter Octile Neptune, 1-12
Jupiter Trine Saturn, 1-21
Full Moon at 1Le54, 1-22
Chiron Octile Pluto, 1-25
Pluto enters Capricorn, 1-25
Mercury Retrograde Station at 23Aq52, 1-28
Mars Direct Station at 24Gm04, 1-30
An online ephemeris for the month is available.
Happy New Year! 2008 starts out on a rather subdued note, not really building up considerable energy until about the last week of the month. Up until around the 24th, it seems the planets are mostly scattered and not working well together. We get a little kick in energy now and then, but it generally quiets back down rather quickly. The last week is a different story entirely. A well defined planetary storm of moderate strength checks in while most of the important aspects and stations for January take place. The big story for the month is the passage of Pluto from Sagittarius into Capricorn late on the 25th, a tale that will take most of the year to play out completely. In a nutshell, when Pluto changes zodiac signs, the key issues that people deal with (both personally and collectively) change drastically as well. Pluto drags our attention to areas of our lives that need attention and overhaul, areas that we either obsess about or try to ignore. While Sagittarius tends to have strong religious or ideological overtones (not that that has been a topic of conversation the last 12 years!), Capricorn has a more button down, practical and business like approach. The big question coming up is how to make our world actually work out on a very down to earth level. I'm intrigued that this passage is happening during the 2008 election cycle, since the ideological issues of the past are pretty much irrelevant to the future problems we are facing. People want things to change, but mostly they want our political system to work and play a constructive role finally. My biggest concern is that the major candidates will already be chosen (given the heavily front-loaded primary schedule this year) before the change in energy takes place. We may be stuck with candidates that are suited to the past, not the future. Anyway, I have a lot to say on this passage shortly. Mercury has a retrograde station on the 28th and Mars goes direct on the 30th, two more events that herald a change in direction for us. So gear up slowly for the month, but be ready to move by the 24th.
There are 4 "big aspects" going off during January. Mercury and Mars both have stations towards the end of the month and the only major sign change is Pluto's entrance into Capricorn.
Jupiter is quintile Uranus on the 2nd for a quick, single pass aspect. Except for brightening up the mood at new years, this aspect is not likely to have a long lasting effect on us, since it passes so quickly. It's supportive of mental work of a creative or original kind, since both planets stimulate the intellect. Jupiter is good at seeing the big picture and capturing the main flavor of a new idea or image, although he's notorious for spacing out the details. Uranus works at a more intuitive or inspired level, allowing you to see past the conventional wisdom and grasp the significance of a totally new perspective. As for the quintile aspect, it's a rather quirky type of connection. Not falling into either the good or bad aspect categories, it seems to operate by allowing you to rise above your current situation and see things from a new angle that simply turns a problem into a non-issue. This is a good aspect for following your muse and seeing where she takes you. The results can be surprising and amusing (Uranus loves a good surprise!). And if you're not so deeply inspired, at least these planets make for a happy, upbeat mood.
This is a very unbalanced chart. On one side are Saturn, Mars and Ceres; on the other side are 12 bodies crammed into 4 zodiac signs (roughly a square, actually). This gives extra prominence to Saturn and Mars, which is hardly good news since these guys are generally difficult planets to deal with. In the big bunch, Uranus is particularly powerful (in sextile to the new moon), along with Jupiter and Pluto.
It seems there are a lot of big plans and promises going around (this is primary season, afterall), but the big picture is often lacking in details and follow-through. It's easy to throw around ideas that pay big benefits to people, but the part that is left unspoken is often "how will this work in practice?" and "how will we pay for it?" Capricorn lunations can often focus our minds on those annoying details. It's important to face issues head on instead of finding a scapegoat to take the blame, since creating new enemies only sows the seeds for future anger and conflict. Actual results during the coming month may seem meager or limited, since Saturn clamps a heavy lid down on our actions. Current problems demand new approaches, so progress is dependent on going through an attitude adjustment first. If you hit a brick wall with your plans, it's probably an indication that the time isn't right yet to see these issues in the proper light (Pluto is still in Sag). Overall, this new moon looks like some unripe fruit -- it's just not ready for picking yet. Be patient while the situation firms up before going off on a tangent.
Jupiter is octile Neptune on the 12th, also a single pass aspect. This is also a "follow your muse" contact, although the results are more mixed. Neptune is a Dreamer and an Idealist, though his view of the world is prone to distortion or impracticality if you aren't careful. Besides the stressful nature of the octile itself, one of the problems here is that Jupiter and Neptune operate on such different levels that something is apt to go off the tracks here. Jupiter is more in touch with the everyday world we all know and live in, while Neptune is on another plane entirely. Idealism needs to be tempered with a practical approach, grounded in the existing realities of the moment, to avoid leading us to actions that inadvertently cause more harm than good. Perhaps the best approach (for now) is to confine your actions to a more mental or artistic level that has limited effects on the physical plane. At least Jupiter is in Capricorn these days, which helps ground the energies some. I'm making this all sound worse than it's likely to be. As long as you stay aware of the possible downsides of this aspect, it should actually feel pretty good, even if you can't put your finger on what's happening.
Jupiter is trine Saturn on the 21st, the third of 5 such contacts. The previous contacts were on 2007-3-16 and 2007-5-6, while the remaining ones are on 2008-9-8 and 2008-11-21. Jupiter and Saturn are both "social planets" that operate most naturally on the broader social stage. They are the benefits and responsibilities, respectively, of our associations with the other people around us. Since this is a trine aspect, it may seem as if things are going pretty good right now, as trines make the issues they affect flow smoothly and effortlessly. There is a downside to this ease, however. People tend to get lazy under a trine, not putting in the effort to improve their situation when good results are easier to attain. Later on, when the aspects in this cycle turn more difficult (which they will inevitably do), you'll have few reserves to fall back on. This 2 year period is especially helpful for business and financial matters, as long as you use your current good luck to build a foundation for future growth and avoid squandering the benefits you're seeing now in a fruitless way. Saturn, in particular, is not going to be forgiving later on of a lack of planning and discipline now. On the larger world stage, this Jupiter-Saturn cycle (which started with a conjunction on the Israeli Sun back on 2000-5-28) has repeatedly shown connections with the situation in the Middle East. The contacts last spring coincided with a shooting war between rival Palestinian factions, resulting in a de facto partition of Palestine into separate Gaza Strip (Hamas) and West Bank (Fatah) areas of influence. A more hopeful sign is the resumption of talks between Israel and the West Bank amid great fanfare in Annapolis last November. Hopefully some progress will be made here, even if it is only baby steps, because there aren't many helpful aspects in this cycle for many years to come if they blow this opportunity. Good will is easy to throw away in this part of the world.
The full moon chart is about as polarized as the new moon was, with the Moon joining Mars and Saturn in opposition to the rest of the sky. Such polarization sometimes comes through as fights just waiting to happen, at least in extreme situations. Mercury is conjunct Neptune later in the day, so critical thinking is distorted by thick rose-colored glasses. This may hide some very volatile emotions under the surface (Venus conjunct Pluto, exact on the 24th). Stay away from ego games and power plays if you value your peace. Remember that the unconscious mind is undergoing a massive shift in coming days, so any turmoil seen on the surface is just the tip of the iceberg. It will take a long time to sort all this confusion out. Take the Aquarian high road, if you can...
Chiron is octile Pluto on the 25th for the last of 3 contacts, just before Pluto moves into Capricorn. The earlier contacts in this series happened on 2007-3-24 (just before Pluto's retrograde station last year) and 2007-9-9 (right after Pluto's direct station). This contact is earlier in the day of when Pluto moves into Capricorn and is, in fact, the last contact Pluto has before leaving Sagittarius. Obviously, Chiron has been in a helper role for us as we try to assimilate the powerful Pluto energies last year and this. The 70 year long cycle of Chiron and Pluto seems to trigger times that are useful for doing "shadow work" in the psyche, reclaiming parts of your personality that are suppressed by feelings of shame and guilt or that meet with disapproval from others. (In fact, I used their conjunction of 1999-12-30 to create a remedy called "Shadow Master" that seems to help people with this work.) We all have areas of our lives that we tend to hide away, afraid to let other people see. Many times, these hidden traits are some of the best gifts we have to offer the world, if we only felt people could accept them. For whatever reason, we tend to sabotage the inner spirit represented by Pluto, afraid to let others see who we truly are (not to mention fooling ourselves in the process). This aspect has been a time to face some of these hurts and sabotage patterns, although it doesn't make the process easy or pleasurable. Nobody likes to spend time feeling their pain and hurt feelings, so it's easy to avoid this work, especially if there are no simple answers in sight. This is one of those cases where it's better to face the music than avoid it. If you can enter the next phase of life (Pluto in Cap) without dragging all these chains behind you, it makes your job much simpler. Lighten up on yourself! Most of these hurt emotions are more self-inflicted than real.
Pluto moves from Sagittarius into Capricorn on the 25th. In the long run, this opens up a new phase of life for all of us that stretches to 2023, so dig in for the long haul. In a more medium term sense, this passage is part of a year long reorientation of our values and efforts to new goals that weren't important before this. The movement of a slower planet from one zodiac sign to the next is rarely a quick process. Due to the retrograde cycles of these planets, they move into the new sign for awhile ("dipping their toes in the new water", as it were), then back up into the old sign to clean up any old business lingering over your head, and finally reenter the new sign for good. Pluto is entering Cap now, but it backs into Sag on Jun 13 for the clean up phase before taking up permanent residence in Cap again on Nov 26. So what is this new placement likely to bring? For starters, Sag is about ideas and visions, while Cap is about concrete results. We all believe the world "should" be a certain way and such beliefs can blind us to how insane we act when we put these beliefs into action. Pluto in Sag (1995 to 2008) has seen more than its share of fanaticism, particularly when religion and politics get involved. Of course, since Pluto brings out the dark side of this golden vision as well as the positive side, we are seeing results in our world that totally mock both good religion and good governance. Killing in the name of god is not enlightened spirituality, politics as usual produces bitter infighting and little tangible progress, "bringing democracy to the people" (or whatever the idealistic slogan of the day may be) destroys the countries we came to save (including our own). As Pluto moves into Capricorn, the futility of such efforts becomes quite apparent. Capricorn is an earth sign, which means that tangible results on the physical plane really matter now. With an issue like global warming or the economy, the test is not what you believe about it, but what you are going to do about it. Pretty much all of the issues on the political radar are like this -- people are tired of all the talking and fighting and want to see positive results. This is one reason why the current elections in our country are so important, because the political conversation is going to change so radically very soon. The danger is that we will make our decisions about who is going to lead us into the coming decades before Pluto makes his move. Due to the stampede of states that have moved their primaries into early January, the nominations may be locked up while Sag is still active. Further, the elections in November are also under Pluto in Sag. If you look at the birthchart for the United States, the story gets even more intriguing. The US chart has a lot of planets in Cancer, so Pluto will be opposing them all in coming years, forcing us to strip down to basics and rediscovery what we stand for as a nation. Pluto is also in late Capricorn in this chart, so we are slowly building towards our Pluto return. The next decade or so is time to look anew at how we use our power and financial clout in the world, whether we use it wisely or not. These transits also put our economy under great strain in coming years, particularly given our government's spending spree lately. As these problems start emerging, we will be forced to finally deal with them in a more honest fashion. Capricorn is also connected with business, so we may see a round of corporate shake outs soon. It's probably a good idea to get your personal finances in order as well.
In the shortest term, it's interesting to note the details of how Pluto changes signs, based on an analogy to the "void of course Moon" idea. These sign changes are not like an on/off switch. The slower planets seem to close up shop in one sign as they finish all their aspects there, then glide into the next sign under the radar, only making their presence known after making aspects in the new placement. Venus is the last planet to pass through the "keyhole" (between Pluto and the GC), forming a conjunction with Pluto on the 24th. Later on, the Moon trines Pluto and the Chiron-Pluto octile goes off. Pluto should go quiet about then, his influence feeling strangely muted until after he enters Capricorn. The first aspect on the other side is a square from the Moon again on the 26th, at which point we can start to feel his influence once more. Pluto's not fully open for business until Feb 4, when the first non-lunar aspect, an octile from the Sun, takes place. Watch for this quiet spot around the 25th. It's almost like falling asleep and waking up somewhere else. The effect is subtle, but quite remarkable.
Mercury is standing still at 23Aq52 on the 28th, preparing to go into reverse gear. It will retrograde until Feb 18, when it goes direct at 8Aq19. Mercury retrograde is always tough on the thinking mind, but doubly so when in a mental air sign like Aquarius. Mercury is the part of the psyche that puts the world into simple mental "boxes" that allow us to understand the world and operate effectively in it. When Mercury is backing up, this process of comprehending the world seems to break down. Partly this is because the universe is much more complex than the human mind can possibly grasp, so no set of boxes can tame the world for us. Under Aquarius, there's also a problem of having the wrong set of boxes -- our mental assumptions of "the way things are" can be hopelessly mismatched to the way things really are. Between fighting with these false beliefs, overlooking important details, misreading the clues about other people's intentions, communicating our ideas in a way that distorts the message, etc., we can wind up acting pretty stupid and the world can look rather crazy. If you recognize that your mind is missing a few cylinders, as are everyone else's minds, it's easier to give people some slack and make allowances for our screwups. It's also an object lesson in not taking your own thoughts, beliefs and assumptions too seriously. The Mercury mind, for all its usefulness, is a poor substitute for compassion and wisdom and it's rarely a good source of truth. This is especially a problem when we put Rationality up on a pedestal and denigrate the psyche's other ways of experiencing the universe. By the way, Mercury retrograde in Aquarius is often hell on electronic devices. It's a good time to back up your computer hard drive! Anyway, give the thinking mind a rest in coming weeks. Don't make any decisions you can't change later, when your view of the world is clearer.
Mars is standing still at his direct station of 24Gm04 on the 30th, about to resume normal motion. He's been backing up since his retrograde station at 12Cn27 back on 2007-11-15. Basically, Mars retrograde is a study in how you shoot yourself in the foot. Mars is will-power, the ability of the psyche to reach out and mold the physical world in its own image. He's that make-it-happen guy that is simultaneously admired and vilified in our culture. When he's in reverse gear, it seems all the limitations and mental blocks that get in the way of expressing your will trip you up. Often, the zodiac signs that he's backing through (his retrograde zone) describe some of these sabotage patterns. He started out in Cancer, so problems relating to others and balancing your needs and desires with theirs can hamper your effectiveness. Now that he's in Gemini, problems involving lack of knowledge, skills or the ability to communicate with people you need to work with can be the limiting factors. As we approach the direct station, hopefully you've figured out some of the ways you undermine your own ability to get-it-done and have worked around them. Such lessons are invaluable in the future. At any rate, it becomes easier to get your work done as Mars starts to move forward once more. Time to get moving again!