Pluto Retrograde

Pluto is the Lord of the Underworld…and when Pluto gets active, all of the hidden, buried things come crawling up to the surface…

It’s been some season of retrograde activity lately here on Planet Earth. For a moment there, we were toiling under no less than four Planets that, from our ground-bound perspective, looked to be traveling backwards through space. A few days ago, on the 15th, Venus halted her retrograde ways and returned to more standard direct (= “forward”) motion, but that still leaves us with Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn all seeming to backtrack along their usual orbital pathways.

And two days from now, on the 20th of April, cold, dark Pluto will join them.

So what does it mean when a Planet named for the Lord of the Underworld seems to cease its creeping progress around the Sun and then roll backwards…?

As you may know, astrologers generally tend to describe retrograde periods as times when the energies symbolized by the Planet in question will be more likely to manifest in our inner worlds rather than as concrete developments out in our external consensus reality as they normally might.

In the case of Pluto, we’re often talking about deep, often long-buried psychological material emerging into the light. This can be a terrifying sort of occurrence, but it can also ultimately be very healing and empowering. Keeping a secret can often enslave us to that secrecy, and it can be profoundly liberating to expose such hidden material. Doing so then frees up all of the bandwidth that had been dedicated to preserving the secrecy.

And it’s important to note that when Pluto gets active, the secrets in question can be of the deliberately and consciously kept variety, or they might be things that are hidden even from the person doing the hiding. Humans can display astonishing powers of denial and suppression. Sometimes this happens due to concerns revolving around self-protection: for example, someone might suppress memories of traumatic experiences simply so they can continue to function in the wake of the trauma. At other times, people can bury thoughts, emotions, and memories in the depths of their psyches due to triggering pressures such as guilt, fear, shame, or doubt. Might it not be better in the long run, though, to deal with such issues in a conscious manner rather than letting them fester in the darkness, where hidden things tend to patiently bide their time, while growing in potency and influence…?

It’s very often true that when we don’t deal with our issues…our issues deal with us. And when they do, at times and places of their choosing, it’s a pretty safe bet that we won’t enjoy the results.

In addition to “hidden stuff” in general, Pluto can also symbolize intense power dynamics, transformation, intensity, issues in the realm of sexuality, and at times, great wealth.

So when Pluto turns retrograde, we enter intervals of time during which all of these themes may turn inward. We may be invited to descend into our own internal Underworlds, and confront our own inner demons. We may have to face parts of ourselves that we fear or despise. We may need to identify self-imposed blockages and other unhelpful programming that we’ve taken on over the years. We might have to come to terms with certain threads of darkness that lie within us. It’s also possible that this is an opportunity to acknowledge and embrace aspects of our own power that we’ve been denying or avoiding. In some cases, this might even be a chance to bring about some remarkable transformation within ourselves.

But whether the overall effect is one we might label “positive” or “negative,” Plutonian events are generally going to feel heavy, stark, intense, and often frightening. Taking an active hand in their development, or at least recognizing their approach and bracing for them, can be helpful techniques in dealing with them.

And as always, it’s a good idea to see where the event is occurring as related to your own birth-chart. This Pluto retrograde will be happening at about 19 degrees into Capricorn. Do you have anything at or near that location in your chart? Or do you have anything at around the 19 degree mark in any of the other Cardinal Signs (= Aries, Cancer, Libra)? These are the places where this particular event will deliver its strongest impact. Also, if Pluto is naturally strong in your chart, this retrograde may make itself felt in your life.

Pluto moves very slowly as compared with the other Planets in our solar system, so its retrograde periods last for some time. This one will remain in effect until September 28th. Until then, it may be good policy to tune in to your own internal worlds. Meditation, recording your dreams, various forms of therapy, shamanic practices, and naked honesty with yourself about yourself may all prove to be helpful tools in navigating this particular retrograde period.

It’s not always possible to avoid being caught in the darkness…so maybe view this interval as an opportunity for gaining some skill at navigating within it.

The Four Elements in Astrology

I tend to preach a fair amount about the classical Four Elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. I think it’s a really important system in metaphysics that can be extremely helpful in getting a handle on various other symbols.

For example, if you know that two Signs of the Zodiac are both Fire Signs, and you know the basics of what Fire is all about, symbolically-speaking, then you’ll understand that these Fire Signs will share some common traits. They’ll also have their definite differences – Aries is not the same thing as Leo, and neither is interchangeable with Sagittarius – but it’s a fair bet that these Fire Signs will be concerned with the energetic level of existence, and they’ll share themes of a Fire-y nature, such as passion, will, adventure, charisma, possibly anger issues, maybe lust issues of some kind, and the management of life-force itself.

Elemental associations for the Signs are pretty well-known, sometimes even to non-astrologers (they may not know exactly what these associations mean, but it’s not uncommon for a non-astrologer to at least be able to report the fact that their natal Sun lies in, say, a Water Sign…).

Here’s how those associations play out along the Zodiac:

Sign

Element

Aries

Fire

Taurus

Earth

Gemini

Air

Cancer

Water

Leo

Fire

Virgo

Earth

Libra

Air

Scorpio

Water

Sagittarius

Fire

Capricorn

Earth

Aquarius

Air

Pisces

Water

As is usually the case, though, the Houses are less acknowledged and understood. Just like the Signs of the Zodiac, the 12 Houses are also assigned associations with the Four Elements. You might notice a pattern developing here:

House

Element

First

Fire

Second

Earth

Third

Air

Fourth

Water

Fifth

Fire

Sixth

Earth

Seventh

Air

Eighth

Water

Ninth

Fire

Tenth

Earth

Eleventh

Air

Twelfth

Water

The same sequence of Elements that repeats itself three times over as it runs alongside the Signs – Fire, Earth, Air, Water – does the same exact thing next to the Houses. If you can memorize that F-E-A-W sequence, you’ll have a handy mnemonic device for keeping all of these Elemental associations pinned down…and you’ll also then have a pretty great wellspring of basic meanings to draw from as you do your chart interpretations.

It can be really informative to get a sense of which Elements are emphasized in a given person’s chart, versus which ones are kind of thinly represented.

Heavy emphasis on an Element can indicate great skill with the business of that Element…but it might also flag the possibility of over-reliance on that Element. If you have a platoon of Planets placed in Water Signs and Houses, you might be terrific at the stuff of Water, such as emotions and romance and mystic/psychic phenomena…but you might also tend to be a dreamer, a space cadet, an addictive or escapist type, or a slave to your feelings. And you might have a tendency to try to force everything into a Water-y context, even when that’s not an especially helpful thing to do.

On the flip-side, when an Element is underrepresented in a chart, it can signal a decided unfamiliarity with that layer of life, a discomfort with it, and maybe blind-spots in your ongoing experience of the world. A person with few Water placements at all may have trouble understanding their own emotions or dealing with the emotions of others. This person might also be clueless about romance, or they might lack imagination.

Here’s a simple exercise you can try out so as to see if Elemental analysis resonates for you as a valid technique… Look at your own chart. Make a table, and then tally up your own Planetary placements one at a time. For each Planet you’re tracking, tally its Sign and House Elements. For example, if you have your natal Venus in Cancer in your Eleventh House, then this Planet is in a Water Sign and an Air House. Run through the Planets and record each result. When you’re done, take a look at:

  1. What’s the Elemental breakdown for the Signs in your chart?
  2. What’s the Elemental breakdown for the Houses in your chart?
  3. What’s the Elemental breakdown when you add them all together?
  4. Do the results feel like they map accurately onto the you that you know?

For that last question, just take an honest look at yourself. Say that through this exercise, you discover that your chart shows that you have a preponderance of Air energy and maybe very little Water. A breakdown like that could easily translate to you being very intellectual in your approach to life, while possibly being a bit emotionally detached (that is, you lead with your brain, not your heart). So you’d then need to really examine the question of whether or not that description does accurately apply to you…

You shouldn’t feel pressured to make this the cornerstone of your practice or anything…but working with the Four Elements can add a lot to chart analysis. It can also be especially helpful when you’re in the beginning stages of learning: Astrology is complex, and getting a lock on four symbols (the Elements) is much easier than learning 12 (the Signs), another 12 (the Houses), or all 24 of those at one go.

Fire, Earth, Air, Water…Fire, Earth, Air, Water…Fire, Earth, Air, Water…

How to Tell if a Retrograde Event Will Affect You Personally…

Yesterday, as you may already know, Mercury went into retrograde (“Rx”) motion. It joined Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn, which had already been in retrograde-mode.

As I tend to do whenever a Planet turns retrograde, I began urging people to not just make blanket assumptions about a given Rx event, but to hold each one of these events up to their own birth-charts to see if the event would have any direct impact on anything in those charts. Since several people asked me how exactly you’d go about connecting these dots, I decided to create a post that would set out some of the basics…

The following is slightly oversimplified, but it should get you started on a helpful interpretive path. These are the steps I recommend following in order to see if a given Rx might be personally meaningful for you:

  1. Get a copy of your birth-chart. If you don’t have one, you can generate your chart for free at sites such as Astro.com and Astromatrix.org. I wrote an earlier post on how you go about doing this – that post can be found HERE.
  2. Determine exactly where in the sky the Rx that interests you is happening. You can obtain this info easily enough by simply punching the phrase “Mercury retrograde” (or whichever other Planet has caught your attention if not Mercury) into your favorite search engine, and then look at the date listings provided in any of the resulting hits to find the one you’re seeking. You’ll generally also be able to find the location in the sky of that Rx. As an example, take a look at the accompanying image: it’s showing yesterday’s Mercury Rx as it applies to my own birth-chart. The yellow-colored belt around the outside of the chart is the Zodiac, and each of the subsections of it represents one of the 12 Signs. The little symbols rendered in blank ink around the inside of the belt are the Planets as they were arrayed at the moment of my birth. The same symbols are also rendered around the outside of the Zodiac belt in green ink – these represent the locations of the Planets as they were yesterday (April 9, 2017). The birth-Planets are often referred to as natal Planets, while the ones happening in the present time are called transiting Planets. I circled transiting Mercury for ease of reference, and marked it with the Mercury symbol () and the symbol for “retrograde” (Rx). Mercury stationed retrograde yesterday just a bit before it would have reached the 5-degree mark in Taurus.
  3. Check to see if you have anything placed in your chart at or near the degree where the Rx is taking place. I don’t have much in the way of Taurus placements in my chart, and nothing at or near the 5-degree mark, so at this point, it doesn’t yet appear that this particular Rx will have a ton of personal impact in my world.
  4. Next, it can be informative to see if you have any placements directly opposite the point of the Rx station. In this case, that means that we need to check the chart for any placements at about 5 degrees into Scorpio. Suddenly, this Rx just got personal for me, as my natal Sun () lies extremely close to that position, and my natal Venus () is only a couple of degrees away – I circled these in Scorpio. Oppositional placements like this – when the Planets involved are 180° apart (give or take a few degrees) – can result in some real tension, so this Rx could conceivably lead to challenges to my own sense of self and my vitality (Sun business), and to my relationships, romantic affairs, and serenity (Venus concepts).
  5. In addition to oppositions, checking for square relationships can be illuminating, too. Squares occur when Planets are 90° apart (or thereabouts). We again strike paydirt with respect to yesterday’s Rx hitting my chart, as transiting Mercury was square my natal Jupiter when it stationed retrograde. Squares tend to come infused with a certain amount of friction when they manifest, so they’re often not so enjoyable or user-friendly. Here, I might be looking at a retrograde period in which my attempts at communication, logic, and clarity (Mercury stuff) will tend to frustrate and foil my attempts at growing (Jupiter affairs), and vice versa. I circled Jupiter () in Leo. You want to check for squares in both directions, so look from Taurus to both Leo and Aquarius. As it turns out, I have no placements in Aquarius in my chart, so there are no additional squares for me to worry about with this particular Rx (I circled the empty section of Aquarius just to highlight its emptiness).
  6. You can also take into account questions such as whether Mercury itself is a powerful influence in your own birth-chart – in which case, Mercury Rx occurrences might be more significant for you even when they don’t make direct contact with anything in your chart based solely on position. My own Mercury is in my First House, which placement tends to raise the prominence of a Planet in a chart. I also have a lot of placements in Virgo, which is one of the Signs that Mercury is said to rule, so this further beefs up Mercury’s profile in my chart. I’ve noticed over time that I personally do not feel every Mercury Rx event, though, so this factor may vary in effect from one person to the next (and from one Rx to the next)…although it’s still worth tracking to get a sense of how much it might apply to you and your own chart.

As mentioned above, this post is oversimplifying things a bit simply due to space constraints, but the above guidelines should be enough to get a beginner started on determining whether outright panic is a justifiable response in the face of any given retrograde event. And this month has been offering a wealth of opportunities for practicing exactly this kind of analysis – good luck with the process, and with this heaping helping of Rx activities!

April Is the Retrograde-iest Month…

Venus recently drifted backwards from Aries into Pisces…but what does this mean for us here on Earth…?

…or it feels like it is this year, anyway.

When we crossed the monthly threshold from March into April last week, both Venus and Jupiter were already moving in a fashion we call “retrograde.” And to thicken that plot a bit, no less than three additional Planets will also turn retrograde before the month is out.

“Retrograde” (or “Rx”) in this context means that from our POV here on Planet Earth, it often seems to us that one of the other Planets in our solar system will halt in its forward motion, and then even begin to travel backwards along its own orbital track. This apparent backwards motion is really just an optical illusion, though. We are, after all, hurtling through space while riding atop a rotating sphere, and that sphere’s orbital track is nestled in and among the orbital tracks of other rotating and revolving bodies. Clarity does take the occasional body blow when you’re part of a cosmic kaleidoscope…

So what does all of this retrograde business actually mean…?

The vague consensus among astrologers out there is the idea that when a Planet turns retrograde, its energies and themes will tend to be felt by a given citizen in more of an internal fashion than in the usual external one.

That is, during a Venus retrograde period, for example, all of the people and events that might arguably be coaxed forth into contact with you in the more standard Venus-direct phases, will now simply fail to appear, and most of your work in the areas of relationships and love and beauty will instead be more likely directed at yourself.

So, during Venus Rx, you might be less likely to meet your soul-mate out in the world, and more likely to work on loving your own self, healing your relationship with yourself, finding beauty in yourself… These are the probable tests and opportunities that might be available to you during such a period, anyway – what you do with them is always up to you.

From our spinning, hurtling POV, multiple Planets will appear to turn Rx this month…

The rest of those retrograde moments this month:

  • Yesterday, April 6, Saturn turned Rx in Sagittarius.
  • On April 9, Mercury follows suit, and will appear to do an about-face in Taurus.
  • Just shy of a week later, on April 15, Venus will “station direct” (= “stop being retrograde/start moving forward again”) in Pisces.
  • And on 4/20, Pluto, the Lord of the Underworld, will turn retrograde in the middle of Capricorn.

That’s a lot of retrograde action! Rx intervals don’t need to be viewed as “bad,” though, despite the kind of unhappy clamor that wells up across the internet whenever Mercury turns retrograde. Maybe try instead to view the coming weeks as chances to do some strong and restorative inner work.

Love yourself, help yourself to grow, talk to and listen to your core self, do some hard work on yourself with an eye toward honing and streamlining and bettering, and do some deep digging into your own psyche so you can bring forth some of your buried shadow-material, look at it in the light, and transmute it into something positive.

You might also brace yourself for unexpected visits by people and situations from out of the past, as these do have a habit of reappearing during Rx periods. Sometimes you’re afforded chances to fix things that you didn’t ace the first time they came around. April doesn’t have to be the cruelest month – use the retrogrades to your advantage this year, and it can be transformed into a launching pad for greater happiness and fulfillment for the remainder of 2017!

Quintiles Questionnaire Query

addison.qOne of the more important concepts in Astrology is the Aspect. These are special geometric relationships that can form between two or more Planets or Points in a chart. They operate sort of like electric circuits, transmitting energy from one end of the circuit to the other, and lighting up anything else that might also be connected.

Just like cards in a Tarot deck, these Aspects get grouped into the two categories of “major” and “minor.” Most astrologers agree that the Conjunction, the Opposition, the Trine, the Square, and the Sextile are the Aspects most deserving of being called major (although some would argue that the Sextile really shouldn’t make this particular cut).

There are also plenty of minor Aspects, and it’s here where the Astro-community seems more likely to disagree about which ones should carry real importance in chart analysis versus which can be safely ignored. The minor Aspects tend to have extra eggheaded-sounding names, such as the Sesquiquadrate, the Semisextile, and the Quincunx.

Interestingly, even free Astrology programs available on the internet seem to include most Aspects from both groups by default when generating charts, even going so far as to render them all — minor Aspects included — graphically in the chart itself, as well as logging entries for them in the accompanying tables.

Except for…the Quintile. While this Aspect does get added to the tallies in those tables, it never seems to get represented by visible lines in the center of the chart along with the rest of the Aspects.

This has never sat well with me. All of the major Aspects can be arrived at by dividing the 360 degrees of the chart-circle by a whole number:

360/1 = 360…two Planets or Points that are 360 degrees apart are actually also 0 degrees apart, which gives us a Conjunction.

360/2 = 180…a 180-degree distance gives us an Opposition.

360/3 = 120…this is the Trine.

360/4 = 90…the Square is a distance of 90 degrees.

360/6 = 60…this is the Sextile.

But wait…what about dividing by 5?

360/5 = 72…this is the Quintile. Dividing by the nice whole number of 5 gives us the equally nice whole number of 72. It doesn’t end neatly in a 0, as the major Aspects’ math results all do, but it also doesn’t have a weird little clump of fractional digits hanging off of its decimal point like a vestigial tail. So why do people not use it?

Contrast with some of the more well-known minor Aspects, which see more play than the Quintile… To arrive at the 150-degree distance embodied by the Quincunx, we have to divide the 360-degree circle by 2.4. How does that make sense? The Sesquiquadrate — a 135-degree distance — requires division of the circle by 2 2/3, and feels less like its own Aspect to me, and more like “a square-and-a-half” (the 90 degrees of a square + the 45 degrees that would comprise half of another Square = 135 degrees).

None of these so-called minor aspects feel as potentially important to me as the Quintile. Why is the Quintile so discounted and under-utilized? Why is it so under the collective radar? I feel certain that it has a lot to tell us…

And so I’m doing a small study on it. If you have some Astrology knowledge (or if you don’t, but you’re brave about very field-specific jargon), and you have one or more tight Quintiles in your chart, then I’ve cooked up a brief questionnaire about Aspects and the Quintile that I’d love to have you fill out! When I ask for “tight” Quintiles, I’m thinking of any that are within about, say, three degrees or so of the exact 72-degree distance that defines what the Quintile is (in other words, if you have a Quintile that’s anywhere from 69 degrees to 75 degrees or thereabouts, then I’d value your responses to the questionnaire).

If you meet that very brief list of qualifications, and you’d like to take part, please amble on over to my CONTACT page, and then drop me a line at the email address there to request a copy of the questionnaire.

Full disclosure: what I do with all of this will be in some part dependent on the volume and quality of the responses I get…

Neptune Disconnected…

IMG_6396It’s pretty popular in the Astrology world to talk about what’s happening among the Planets out there in our solar system. The idea is that the Planets are very visible indicators of certain invisible forces making themselves felt in our reality. If we can unravel the gist of what’s happening “up there,” then we can also transfer that analysis to the personal level “down here” to make some educated guesses at how these developments might also manifest here on the human scale.

For example, you’ll often hear about which Planets are retrograde, or which ones are moving into new Signs. Some astrologers write excellent columns about the various relationships that materialize and then fade away as the Planets continue making their forever circuits around the Sun, and what these ever-changing connections might mean for us in our daily lives.

And while it can be incredibly beneficial to get some solid astrological evaluation about what’s happening around us on the planetary level, it can also at times prove equally beneficial to take a look at what’s not happening.

Which brings me to Neptune… Named for the Roman God of the Sea, Neptune symbolizes our drives toward the mystical, the cosmic, and the spiritual. Neptune is about consciousness and transcendence, and our relationship with whatever it is that each of us might privately label “The Divine.”

You can definitely find plenty to talk about in a chart cast for this particular moment in time – several retrogrades are happening, and there are some interesting Aspects and configurations out there, like that Jupiter/Uranus/Pluto T-Square that’s been raining down power surges and bursts of weirdness for weeks now. You may also notice, though, that behind all that oddness and intensity, Neptune is pretty well detached from the planetary mix right about now. It’s not lined up in any kind of noteworthy way with a single other Planet in the system. It’s diving deep into the waters of Pisces, the Sign that most shares its dreamy, contemplative vibe, and the rest of the Planets seem content to let it submerge there as it will without any interference.

Now, this kind of occurrence, this “Planet in the penalty box” deal, isn’t so rare a thing that we all need to quit our jobs and prepare for a Rapture-level event…but it’s worth pondering for a minute or three. All Planets do go through periods like this, when the peculiarities of differing orbital velocities take one of them into a “time out” sort of moment in some semi-disconnected patch of sky…but what do these periods mean? The presences of strong Aspects generate the overwhelming majority of astrological discussions, it seems. But what do their absences say…?

In this case, I have to wonder if the message might be that we’re moving through an interval during which our access to our own spiritualities might have fallen into a bit of a blind spot. More than usual, we may be required to make a conscious effort to connect with our inner mystics, to remember that there’s more to life than what occurs on the material plane, and that our relationships with “something Higher” are as important as the ones we maintain with other physical beings down here below in consensus reality. More than ever, this might be a terrific time for putting energy into meditation or that yoga practice or working on that dream journal. Being in the here/now moment, and reminding ourselves to keep putting that intuitive right-brain to work could be in order.

All things of course must pass, and if you just wait a few days, some of the quicker Planets will change location enough to forge new energy-bridges with Neptune. Until then, though, life may tend to take on a decidedly unspiritual tone…unless you step in and actively lend it a helpful nudge back toward the mystical. If ever a round of willful navel-gazing seemed in order, this might be that time…

ASTROLOGY TIP: Start with the Planets

If you haven’t started really studying Astrology yet…or if you have, and you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of weird symbols, and you need something to anchor yourself to…start with the Planets.

It’s easy to get all caught up in the Signs first, because for some reason, it’s the Signs that have found their way into our culture (no one at a party ever uttered a seductive, “Hey, baby, what’s your House…?”). So the Signs just naturally seem like The Thing To Do at first.

But yeah, no – start with the Planets. The Planets represent active forces. They drive the engines. The Signs modify the actions of the Planets (and other things). In an admittedly oversimplified but not horribly inaccurate analogy, the Planets are like people, and the Signs are like jackets that the people can wear. The Houses are the rooms that the people hang out in once they’ve chosen a jacket to wear and put it on.

And because Astrology isn’t complicated enough, I’ll add another wrinkle for you right here… The Signs and the Houses? You can pretty much find a consensus out there that there are 12 members in each of those two sets. You can even find a decent consensus out there as to what each Sign and each House should be called and what they each generally mean.

Wait…Ceres?

But with the Planets, it’s different. In Astrology, the Sun and the Moon are included as “Planets.” So is Pluto, unlike for the astronomers. Well…that’s true if you’re into Modern Astrology. The modern school accepts the “Outer Planets” (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and depending on the individual astrologer, maybe many more orbital bodies out there, too) as having vital astrological impact on the system. The traditional Astrologer, though, only tracks the seven Planets that are visible to the naked eye from Earth: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

 

Gas_giants_in_the_solar_system
Virtually all astrologers let Jupiter and Saturn into the party…but where do you stand on Uranus and Neptune…?

The point is…unlike with the Signs and the Houses, there’s no ultimate consensus among astrologers as to exactly which Planets are to be considered essential components of a chart. To some extent, it’ll be on you to decide that.

So, sorry for that added bit of complication and responsibility… But yes, start with the Planets! Start especially with the visible seven (at least everyone seems to agree that those seven are crucial to the mix – it’s out beyond those seven that things get scattered). I also highly recommend looking into the Outer Planets, and if you feel like that’s still not enough to fully keep you busy, explore some of the Asteroid Belt asteroids and some of the Trans-Neptunian Objects way, way out there in the dark.

But whichever ones you decide should be considered Planets…start with the Planets.