Here's some of the important astrological news this month ...
Pluto Retrograde Station at 3Cp17, 4-4
Juno enters Pisces, 4-4
Pallas enters Cancer, 4-6
Full Moon at 19Li53, 4-9
Vesta enters Gemini, 4-9
Neptune Return, 4-11
Ceres Direct Station at 0Vi24, 4-12
Venus Direct Station at 29Pi11, 4-17
Mars enters Aries, 4-22
New Moon at 5Ta03, 4-24
An online ephemeris for the month is available.
If I had to pick two planets that dominate the month of April, it would have to be Neptune and Pluto , with Venus a close third. Pluto, of course, is at his retrograde station on the 4th, although he's hardly been moving all of March and now April. While not as dramatic as the direct station, events in our lives take a turn for the worse when Pluto goes into reverse gear. Situations that seemed tolerable and workable slowly start falling apart and demanding more of our attention. There's a gradually dawning realization that some changes and overhauls are long overdue and can no longer be put off. And when the universe gets in one of these moods, she becomes extremely persistent, leaving us no escape routes except to go through the required changes. As for Neptune, we are in some uncharted territory here. For the first time since its discovery back in 1846, Neptune is back to the position in the zodiac where it was first seen, a "Neptune return" for humanity. In addition, we are building to a triple conjunction of Jupiter, Chiron and Neptune that dominates the coming year, plus a semisextile of Uranus and Neptune (starting in June) that is their first aspect since the conjunction of 1993. Neptune is a slippery character, perhaps the most difficult of all the planetary energies to understand. It is deeply connected with the workings of the unconscious mind within each of us, particularly with how this deeper layer of the psyche manages to weave the patterns and stories in our outer lives that mirror the subtle currents of the soul within. During the first Neptune cycle since its discovery, we've mainly stumbled around, barely aware of these powerful psychic abilities. As we start the second cycle, we no longer have the luxury of being so unaware and unfocused. Neptune is "big" for the next year or two, and most of us have a lot to learn very quickly. Other than this inner turmoil, April is relatively quiet and disorganized, giving us a chance to be safely distracted by the changes within. Most people still operate on an autopilot level, hardly aware or reflective of their true motivations and actions. Awareness is now the keyword. You can't approach the unconscious blindly and expect good results to happen. It's time to stop in your tracks and awaken from your trance. It beats the alternative...
Most of the major activity this month consists of sign changes and planets at their stations. Mars and 3 of the asteroids move from one zodiac sign to the next, while Pluto, Ceres and Venus stand still at various times. There are no "big aspects" now. And then there's the Neptune return phenomenon, which we'll discuss in detail.
Pluto is standing still at 3Cp17 on the 4th, about to start 5 months of retrograde motion. It will be backing up until Sep 11, when it goes direct again at 0Cp39. To my thinking, the Pluto retrograde cycle is one of the most spectacular astrological phenomena we humans can experience. These cycles are times when the Dark Lord performs his work on us, namely stripping us down to basics and getting us in touch with who we were meant to be. People enjoy the good life. In theory, there's nothing wrong with that, but having a life that's too comfortable seems to distract us from the spiritual aspects of living. We get into ruts and forget who we really are deep down. At times like that, Pluto comes along to remind us of our true nature. Unfortunately, part of this process involves separating a person from those things that make life too easy and such separations are usually experienced as quite painful. He doesn't so much kick you out of your comfortable rut as simply make such attachments disappear, leaving you to pick up the pieces later. At the beginning of the cycle (the retrograde station), Pluto's message is hardly a whisper and is easily overlooked. However, as the cycle progresses over the next 5 months, his voice becomes more and more insistent. Whatever you are hanging onto becomes ever harder to hold in your grasp. This area of your life literally falls apart in your hands and can't be put back together. By the direct station (in this case, Sep 11), it's impossible to resist Pluto's order to let go. As you will undoubtedly find out, Pluto never takes "no" for an answer. Whatever it was that you centered your life around is gone, leaving you to discover that the only true center to your life is your own soul and its dictates. Life gets down to basics. Even if all this letting go hurts and needs to be grieved, Pluto shows he is a true and honest friend. He sees who you really are, not the false front or mask that you present to the world. Listen to him early in this cycle, not later -- it makes the transition easier if you cooperate with Pluto's plans for your life instead of fighting him.
Juno moves from Aquarius into Pisces on the 4th for a 3 month stay. She will remain in this sign until July 2, when she shifts into Aries, although due to an upcoming retrograde cycle, she'll reenter Pisces for 3 more months in the fall (starting Sep 14). Juno is the Queen of Relationships. The ideal she strives for is a partnership of equals based on mutual love and respect. However, she can be very vengeful if the relationship falls short of such a perfect ideal. Juno in Pisces romanticizes love to an extreme degree, reaching spiritual levels that are difficult to attain. Obviously, this degree of "being in love with love" can play out in several different ways. If the partnership is genuinely a healthy, loving bond, Lady Juno will feel like she's in heaven now -- love experienced as bliss. More than likely, however, the relationship will fall short in some manner. Pisces is prone to victim-y states, where a person feels dishonored and taken advantage of somehow. There's often an unhealthy codependency going on. Such a lack of perfection makes Juno seethe inside until she breaks out in rage or bitterness. Given that this placement is part of a retrograde cycle, I'd say there are important lessons to experience for most of us. The whole notion of devoted love needs to be pursued to a new level, without losing your sense of self along the way. Part of the work is purely internal, but much also depends on the strength of the relationship itself. All these competing demands make for a challenging balancing act. We've got the rest of 2009 to figure this one out.
Pallas switches from Gemini to Cancer on the 6th. She will be in this sign until Jun 3, when she moves into Leo. Pallas is the part of the psyche that excels at strategic and visionary planning. She sizes up a situation in a glance and intuitively knows how to get from point A to point B. Unlike most of the feminine planetary bodies, however, she's typically known for being "in her head" and cut off from her feelings. Her placement in Cancer modifies this quite a bit. Cancer is all about feelings and emotions. This means that when Pallas decides on a course of action, it has to feel right in her bones, not just in her head. The emotions act as a counterweight to the mental realm, judging our plans by a set of standards that act outside of thought. The trouble with "rational thinking" is that if you start from shaky or unsound assumptions (and most of them are), it's possible to flawlessly reason away to unquestionable conclusions that are utterly baseless. Bringing in feelings and intuitions adds a reality check to our thinking that grounds our more flighty thoughts, as well as gives us a "second opinion" on life. If you have an artistic streak, this placement also primes your creative juices. It's a subtle, but useful influence.
The full moon with the Moon in Libra and the Sun in Aries often turns into a tug-o-war match between yourself and other people -- it's just the nature of the zodiac signs involved. This particular chart seems to break down into two main groups. The stronger group is centered around 19 degrees of numerous zodiac signs and includes the Sun, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. There's not only a tension between self and others, but also between the individual and society at large, with the individual feeling hemmed in and restricted. The other group (centered around 0 degrees) consists of Venus, Mercury, Vesta, Pallas, Ceres,Pluto and Juno in an incredibly complicated pattern. Curiously, most of the bodies in this second pack are considered feminine influences (including all 4 asteroids), as opposed to the masculine tilt in the 19 degree pattern. Another polarity to tussle with! I just get the impression that all actions lead to complications due to the way it impacts others, that people are invariably tripping over each other. It's tough to keep in mind that cooperation is also a viable option. Do your thing, but stay mindful of how it fits in with the larger picture. Other people matter...
Vesta shifts from Taurus into Gemini on the 9th. She'll be here until Jun 19, when she moves into Cancer. This is a placement that begs us to take a break from our hectic, over stimulated lives and get reacquainted with our inner selves. Gemini is normally a sign of mental connections and communication, an incessant flow of information and ideas. Vesta can handle this flow to a point, but when she feels drained, she tends to retire and go within. That's because Vesta finds her strength in her own being, not in the world around her. Turn off your TV, cellphone, computer, Blackberry... and feel what genuine silence is for awhile. You need to shut down all the distractions of life and let the echos of the day die out before the soul even has a chance of being heard. It's amazing to me how people seem determined to avoid knowing themselves, filling up every waking moment with external stimulation, but pretty much every spiritual tradition on the planet insists that embracing this silence is the first step on the path. If you have one of those days where you just need to get away from it all, by all means do so. Let life fill you up from the inside out.
On the 11th, Neptune does something humanity has never consciously experienced before: it returns to the same zodiacal position (25Aq52) as when it was first discovered back on 1846-9-23. This "Neptune return" repeats two more times in the coming 10 months, on 2009-7-17 and 2010-2-7. I've been mulling this one over a long time now, because it feels like such an important milestone in humanity's development. Neptune is often described as a Dreamer, Mystic and Visionary, an uncompromising Idealist about the way the world should be. On the down side, he's also the disillusioned dreamer that was disappointed by life, the person who lives in his imagination instead of the real world, the confused, the drunk or drug addict running from life, the bum sleeping in the dumpster. In short, Neptune ranges from the most sublime experiences in life to the most degrading, so it's hard to pin down what this planet "means" astrologically.
In recent years, I've picked up on some other themes with Neptune. First a little history. Before the discovery of Neptune, western civilization lived in the clockwork universe of Issac Newton and the early industrial revolution. By the 1840's, as the energies of Neptune were becoming conscious for the first time, the Romantic Period emerged as a counterpoint to this mechanical world, especially in the arts and sciences. Marx and Engels were inventing a new politics of the masses, what became communism and socialism eventually. After mastering the rudiments of chemistry and the physics of matter, scientists were exploring electromagnetism and playing with the notion of "energy fields" as opposed to material atoms. In time, psychology started up as a scientific discipline. In short, a new vision of reality was emerging that challenged the assumptions of the Newtonian universe. It's interesting that halfway through Neptune's first circuit around the zodiac (when it reached 25Le52) coincides with the period from 1926-1927. During the mid 1920's, physicists were laying down the foundations of quantum mechanics, a totally new view of the universe that completey overturns the world of Newton. This is a crazy, Alice in Wonderland world with all sorts of hidden connections between "separate objects" -- even the physicists don't understand this new vision. Concepts like entanglement and nonlocality and the famous Uncertainty Principle rule here, making a mockery of how "common sense" understands things. In the quantum world, things are inherently connected, including the psyche and the material world -- there is no real boundary between the inner and outer worlds anymore. Things started getting weird at an experiential level following the Uranus-Neptune conjunctions of 1993, when it felt like reality itself was morphing every few hours. Since then, I've often noticed how Neptune transits coincide with times when the unconscious reaches out to the material world and shapes a mirror "out there" to reflect what's happening "in here". In other words, changes start in the subtle energy realms (which we subjectively experience as "psyche") and trickle down to the material plane. The Jungians call this kind of connection synchronicity, but the ancient and traditional name for it is magic. One writer commented that all people are magicians, creating the world in the image of their own beliefs, albeit unconsciously, and that most of us would be better off if we did less magic, especially given how insane most people's inner worlds can be.
I have a feeling that with Neptune's return the coming year, we are being forced to take the next step, begin a new cycle, and learn how to use this magic in a more conscious and sane manner. It starts with recognizing the inner world and its powers over the ego self (I'm amazed that the notion of the unconscious hasn't been internalized after 150 years or so), and learning to take responsibility for our own creations. It's a more conscious approach to living than we are used to so far. The first cycle of a new planet is often marked by a lot of stumbling around, trying to figure out the new energies, tapping into the negative expressions of the energy before finally mastering the more positive ones. By the second cycle, we have no more excuses. We need to learn about Neptune at a whole new level. That involves a spiritual revolution of sorts, an illumination from within that gradually spreads through the culture, ushering us from the Newtonian world into a land of infinite, subtle connections. It defies common sense, which we'll eventually see is nothing but limited misunderstandings. Get used to the craziness -- that's the world we actually live in. The consequences of such a change are far-reaching, even though it is hard to imagine such transformations with our limited imaginations. That's what makes this return so exciting!
Ceres reaches her direct station of 0Vi24 on the 12th, ending 3 months of retrograde motion. She's been backing up since Jan 11, when she went retrograde at 13Vi35. Ceres is about the ties that bind all living beings, how we support, nourish and love each other. Virgo is the sign of developing practical skills that make life more pleasant. Part of this placement is simply health related, learning how to better take care of ourselves at a physical level. This includes simple things like cleaning up your diet and going out for a long walk. As we branch out to others, there are many simple ways to make our relationships more caring and supportive. Getting along with others is not always easy -- the path of friendship needs to be practiced and perfected. On an even wider scale, our actions impact the entire world around us, though most of us remain blissfully unaware of how big a footprint we have. I'm not expecting everyone to "get it" because of this direct station (it's an event that's easy to overlook), but it's a chance to grasp just a little bit more of the endless connections between all living beings. Every little "aha!" helps...
Venus is at her direct station of 29Pi11 on the 17th, ending her 6 week retrograde period. She started backing up on Mar 6, when she hit her retrograde station of 15Ar27. For all the love and beauty, flowers and chocolate that surround the symbolism of Venus, her role in the psyche is pretty straightforward. She's the instinct we have to want to get close to things that attract us and run away from things that are repugnant. She represents our gut level feelings of likes and dislikes. When Venus is backing up, it seems like this instinctive urge to follow your attractions goes a bit waywire. Normally our instincts serve us admirably, allowing us to breeze through life quickly without having to laboriously think over every situation we encounter in a day. Now however, following your instincts can lead to some serious bouts of bad judgment. Whether buying some pretty thing you saw at the store or falling in "love" with someone you just met, it seems you're just attracted to things you normally wouldn't find all that interesting. And in a few weeks, as Venus starts moving again, you'll come to your senses and fall out of love. It's best to use this time to examine your attractions and bring your sense of beauty and comfort to a more mature level -- we all get stuck in ruts from time to time. Just don't make any long term commitments until you're back in your right mind. It can be a fun fling -- don't get stuck there, however...
Mars moves into his home sign of Aries on the 22nd, where he'll stay until shifting into Taurus on May 31. Thank goodness! Mars is out of Pisces finally and on his home turf. Mars is about expressing your ego and will-power, so the selfless qualities of Pisces make a terrible match for our Warrior God. The action and bluster of Aries, but especially the "me first!" attitude of this sign, are much better suited to his temperment. It's time to go out there and do your thing, swash some buckles and raise a little cain. Mars is ready to let loose and have some fun. Just make sure you don't step all over other people's toes in the process -- Mars in Aries is not known for his sensitivity. Make the most of the next 5 weeks. It's a great time to get things done.
The new moon is an unusual synthesis of all the various themes this month. Both Neptune and Pluto (and their respective entourages of planets) are highly active at the same time, although they can hardly be described as working harmoniously with each other. In fact, the only major planet not in the picture is Saturn, which makes us a little more up-mood, but less grounded. The sizzling romanticism of Pluto with Venus and Mars in Aries and the new moon in Taurus is still much in evidence. There's a lot of earth-sign energy here, which helps ground this influence some. Further, Mercury is triggering the Jupiter, Chiron, Neptune, Uranus bunch into action again. It's an exciting time if you're into new ideas and outlooks on life, as the mind is wide open to inspirations from the higher planes. If you're willing to set your own assumptions aside for a time and let the world speak to you, some new perspectives might suddenly appear to be true. This Neptune crowd is growing in strength and becoming more focused during the coming lunar month, reaching a crescendo by late May. It's an exciting looking chart -- which may not be what you want to hear if you need some R&R. It's just difficult to tell which detour is yours ahead of time...