Astrologers often match world events to astrological developments. For instance, it lines up pretty well to suggest that the recent spikes in violence and terrorism could be manifestations of the passage of the war-Planet, Mars, through the dark and intense Sign of Scorpio.
Also relevant: Mars is now forming a configuration known as a Grand Water Trine with the Sun (in Cancer) and the planetoid known as Chiron (in Pisces). Generally, a Grand Trine is seen as a happy phenomenon, allowing the Planetary energies involved to merge easily and well. The Water-centric version has to do with the realm of the emotional. The optimistic take is that the configuration might allow for some constructive processing of all that sometimes dire Mars-in-Scorpio energy. We might find that during the Trine, positive emotions come to the forefront, and are more likely to be expressed in helpful ways. Also, even negative emotions may be dealt with in more mature and beneficial fashion.
But as in life, nothing in Astrology happens in a vacuum. Off to one side of that Trine configuration, rebellious Uranus is zapping the Sun from what’s known as a Square position. Uranus can bring sudden, unexpected changes. These can be terrific things, such as innovation and epiphanies, or they can be tough things, such as spasms or upheavals.
Think of the Trine as something like a ceiling fan cooling us off, or the rotor blades of a helicopter enabling us to fly on our emotional currents…but Uranus is an odd, largely unreadable character who keeps trying to stick a long metal pole into the blades of that fan or rotor. Maybe that Uranian input will rob us of the effects of the Trine…or maybe it will force us to focus harder on what we’re trying to accomplish, spurring us on to greater performance and higher ideals. Uranus is highly unpredictable.
So maybe do your best for now to channel your emotions into healing yourself and others, and know that the unexpected odd influence may be wanting to zap things every now and then like a lightning bolt. These conditions will hold until around the 19th, when the Sun wanders on out of range…
Last week, I made a long drive to North Carolina to attend a four-day seminar given by the great astrologer, Steven Forrest. Steve has written nearly a dozen books on Astrology, and they’re about the most accessible and helpful texts that I’ve read on the overall subject. This was my third intensive seminar of Steve’s that I’ve experienced, which qualifies me as an official Forrest Apprentice.
On top of the certification-style advancement, though, it was also a very illuminating session! The topic was “Sex, Death, and the Occult,” and we took a long look at where and how these concepts appear in a person’s birth-chart. Mainly, we were studying Pluto the Planet, the Sign of Scorpio, and the Eighth House, with a dash of Mars thrown in, too.
Of the three named concepts, we probably leaned on death the hardest, then sex (only in the sense of people bonding in intimate ways, though – nobody got graphic or porn-y or anything!), and we probably spent the least amount of time on the occult. We did, however, spend an interval discussing the differences between being a magician versus being a mystic, and this part of the lecture really got my wheels spinning! I’m considering maybe doing a future post or two to expand on these notions…
Meanwhile, I’m again convinced that just as the Tarot deck serves as a microcosm of our entire existence…so, too, does the birth-chart. The specific symbols aren’t identical or interchangeable, but the depth and richness are certainly there in both fields, and I believe that whatever you might be seeking to examine in your life or out in the Universe, you can find a corresponding marker of that concept in either a Tarot deck or in your own birth-chart!
Another Tarot Toolkit homework exercise. We handed out the Golden Dawn correspondences, and encouraged the students to look up the card that’s linked to their Zodiac Sun Sign, and to look for the possible presence of that card’s energies within themselves.
I like to consider the other Signs that also play host to a lot of Planetary placements in my chart, too. Most populated for me are Scorpio, Virgo, and Pisces, so according to the GD, I must have in me a lot of the energies of the Death, Hermit, and Moon cards. And I mostly can’t disagree… How about you – what are your Zodiac cards?
The 1970s gave rise to a lot of very distinctive phenomena: this was a decade that spawned consumer fads such as mood rings and Pet Rocks, new music styles like punk rock and disco, and fashion crazes that included bell bottoms, leisure suits, sideburns, and polyester.
This same decade also brought the Citizens Band (“CB”) radio into the collective consciousness, where it gained a position of some prominence for a while, before later fading away in favor of other emerging technologies. As shown in popular examples of late-70s entertainment such as the film Smokey and the Bandit, or TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard, the CB radio was a device used at first mainly by truckers, and later by a much greater segment of the general population, and its main function was providing motorists with a means of inter-vehicle communication while driving.
Initially, 23 channels were available to CB users, and this was later expanded to 40. Users selected a channel, and could then only interact with others within range who were tuned to the same channel, sort of like a semi-primitive, audio-only chat room experience (and if things got boring or otherwise disagreeable, changing to a new channel was as simple as turning a dial). Radio operators who were on the same channel could speak freely with each other in real time, although some care had to be exercised so as to avoid situations where too many participants all talked at once, with the whole thing devolving into meaningless cacophony. Still, as protocols developed and then caught on, the CB for a time offered an excellent mechanism by which users could provide one another with up-to-the-minute traffic reports in different areas, could warn others of road hazards, bad weather, and speed traps, and could recommend spots that offered low gas prices or good food.
So what does this cultural relic have to do with Astrology, and Aspects…?
Let’s take a look at the Aspect known as a Trine. With this Aspect, we’re looking at a division of the circle of the chart by 3:
360° / 3 = 120°
In other words, the Trine is an Aspect that exists when two Planets are 120° apart from each other. As the chart above shows, the Trine is generally held by modern Astrology to be an “easy” Aspect. This is in marked contrast to, say, the Opposition, a “hard” Aspect which is greatly characterized by an ongoing sense of tension, and which can take something of a toll on anyone whose chart boasts one or more of them. The Trine is a different beast: it’s believed to be a very user-friendly feature. It can feel very pleasant when activated, and it can seem to bring good luck.
In fact, the two Planets in a Trine relationship can act much like two highway motorists tuned to the same channel on their respective CB radios! Each one can provide the other with valuable information. Each one can help the other: warning of trouble, making recommendations, lending know-how.
Imagine two drivers, a mile apart, both driving in the same direction on a major road. The first passes a highway patrol car that’s idling in the roadway’s median, just licking its metaphorical chops in anticipation of catching some unwary motorist exceeding the applicable speed limit. The first driver then broadcasts into the CB radio that this patrol car is primed and waiting, and furnishes anyone on the channel with the officer’s exact position. Now say that the second driver is the only other person in range who both has a CB radio and is tuned to the first driver’s channel. This second driver, forewarned and forearmed with knowledge of the lurking cop-car, can now pull into the slow lane and cut velocity down to just below the maximum speed permitted by law, and avoid getting a ticket. Other drivers, though, lacking CB radios, or not tuned to the right channel at the right time so as to catch that first driver’s warning, may get popped for speeding violations. And furthermore, they might watch that second driver – the one who does have a CB, and who does have it tuned to the first driver’s channel – sail on by unmolested, and might glare after that driver in resentment, thinking something like, “That lucky so-and-so…”
But it wasn’t exactly “luck,” as such, that saved the second driver from a ticket and a fine. It was the fact that this driver was tuned in to the same frequency as the first one. There was a conduit of information flowing freely between those two drivers that managed to save the second driver some measure of headache.
And Planets in Trine can help each other out in much the same way. The chart of Abraham Lincoln can illustrate this Aspect in action. Lincoln’s chart features no less than five fairly tight Trines, but for simplicity’s sake, we can just focus on one. Let’s zero in on Lincoln’s Mercury-Uranus Trine.
First, we can spot Honest Abe’s Mercury in the Sign of Pisces in his First House. This tells us that Lincoln was probably plugged pretty directly into the greater societal consciousness (Pisces), and that communication (the stuff of the Mercury function) was an integral part in defining the man’s very identity (H1 business). That is, Lincoln was a communicator and a thinker, and he invariably aimed these things at helping humanity as a whole.
Next, we can locate his Uranus in Scorpio in his Eighth House. Uranus describes our drive to be new, original, genius, innovative, revolutionary, individualist…and Lincoln’s Uranus expressed itself in the deep, dark, intense manner of Scorpio, and it manifested especially in ways that had to do with death and other people’s property (which things are both within the province of typical H8 affairs…and if we allow for the fact that many people in Lincoln’s time viewed many other people back then as their “property,” this placement alone seems to describe the basics of the Civil War!).
So to tie this all back to the CB radio metaphor, we can theorize that Lincoln’s Piscean Mercury in H1 was rather permanently tuned in to the same channel as his Scorpionic Uranus in H8. And notice how both Planets lie in Water Signs (Pisces and Scorpio – along with Cancer – make up the Zodiac’s full complement of Water Signs). Most of the time, with Trines, the Element involved (Earth, Air, Fire, or Water) serves sort of like the “channel” that the two Planets are tuned to in the Trine connection. If you look at a chart, you’ll see that Signs of the same Element are 120° apart from each other.
So in Lincoln’s case, his Mercury and Uranus could constantly help each other throughout his life. His Mercury allowed him to effectively communicate things that were polarizing and arguably radical (= Uranian) in such a way that he was still able to attract enormous numbers of people to his cause. Meanwhile, his Uranus lent a unique and brilliant quality to his communications (Mercury stuff), such that we still quote and revere such works as his Gettysburg Address more than a century and a half later.
To put it more simply, the Trine we’re looking at enabled Lincoln to successfully radicalize his communication, and to just as successfully communicate his radicalness… And this all probably came very naturally to him, without the kind of struggle that those of us who don’t have such a Trine in our charts might encounter if attempting to pull off similar feats.
Now, this isn’t to say that Trines are unqualifiedly wonderful in every way, all the time. The biggest knock on having too powerful a Trine, or too many Trines in a chart, is that the chart-holder will become too accustomed to things just seeming to work out well for them without them ever even needing to contribute much in the way of effort. Laziness and complacency can set in. This can become a problem whenever occasions do arise, though, in which the Trines don’t take care of business automatically for the person in question. The person may then be called upon to make use of skills that they haven’t been cultivating, and so such occasions can lead to instances of frustration and failure.
Consider a young, beautiful model who receives all manner of favors and gifts and attention due to their beauty, to the point that the model doesn’t even bother to practice social skills, because why bother? There doesn’t seem to be any need for them…
But what happens when the model suddenly stumbles into a situation in which their beauty won’t help them? What if their well-being suddenly depends on charming someone who is immune to their beauty, or who can’t even perceive it? The point is that just as Oppositions aren’t 100% “bad,” Trines aren’t 100% “good.” They may generally feel like more pleasant presences in the lives of the chart-holder than Oppositions will, but for any Aspect, it’s best to consider all possible manifestations of them, both positive and negative.
Last time around, we walked through a meet-and-greet with the first six of the 12 Signs of the Zodiac. In this post, we’ll say hello to the back half of that hallowed group. First, I’ll again supply that chart that lists all of them here (along with the Glyph, Polarity, Mode, and Element for each one), for easy reference:
Libra. Yang/Cardinal/Air. Extroverted and active, Libra is generally considered one of the most attractive and sociable of the Signs. Libra seems to be most at ease in the world when experiencing life in the context of a strong one-to-one pairing. It’s through working in a duo that Libra can best experience itself. Libra is definitely not built for either long-term solitude or extended stays in large crowds – it’s that middle ground of the twosome that Libra craves. As an Air Sign, though, there may be an element of Libra wanting those pairings to retain some sense of being light and breezy, without the kinds of emotional depths that, say, the Water Signs might seek out for themselves. This is a Sign that can probably bear up under almost any set of circumstances in moderation, as the Sign of the Scales requires balance rather than any extremism. Libra also has the ability to see both sides of an argument, and will generally strive for both peace and equality in its interactions with others. At its worst, Libra can be indecisive, fickle, detached, and too bent on sticking to the middle ground. At its finest, though, Libra can be fair, open-minded, inclusive, thoughtful, and a sensational social facilitator. Libra might be accurately described by the archetype of The Moderator.
Scorpio. Yin/Fixed/Water. As you start to study the Signs more in-depth, you’re almost guaranteed to stumble across the idea that “Scorpio is sexy!” As someone with a whole lot of Scorpio in my own chart, I don’t exactly object to that notion, either…but it’s a little misleading. For one thing, every one of the Signs intersects with sexuality in its own unique way…and for another, Scorpio is about much more than just sex. In fact, sex is simply a subset of the overall Scorpio vibe of being focused on plumbing the depths of the human experience. Scorpio is a Water Sign, and it’s the one most drawn to the deepest, darkest parts of the watery, emotional realm. Scorpio is fascinated by truth, by secrets and mysteries, by taboo, by intensity, by transformation, by power… Scorpio will choose soul-baring over small talk anytime, although, just like fellow Water Sign, Cancer, the Scorpion has sturdy emotional armor to insulate it from most of the world, plus that sharp, poisonous stinger, which can come into play should Scorpio feel threatened or wronged. In its darker modes, Scorpio runs the risk of being jealous, possessive, vindictive, destructive, tyrannical…but in its more positive manifestations, Scorpio energy can be highly intuitive, fabulous at detective work, terrific in a crisis, magnetic, and yes, gangbusters in the boudoir. An excellent archetype for Scorpio would be that of The Shaman.
Sagittarius. Yang/Mutable/Fire. Sagittarius is the Sign of the Archer…but a very handy device for understanding this particular Sign is to focus not so much on the Archer as on the Arrow. Whenever it gets utilized, the Arrow is sent hurtling far outward into new territory at high speeds, capable of staking out new terrain faster than even the quick-footed Archer could have dreamed of doing. This is the core of the Sagittarian approach to life: go forth into uncharted realms, and collect up new experiences. This actually applies in both the literal sense (Sagittarius will always benefit from physical travel to new lands) and the metaphorical sense (the Archer is highly philosophical, and finds it greatly energizing to sail off into new and complex fields of thought, including not just philosophy, but also things like the law and religion). Like its opposite number, Gemini, Sagittarius requires a constant influx of fresh experience, except that unlike Gemini with its local focus, Sagittarius is more global in its outlook. At its worst, Sagittarian energy can be flighty, distant, preachy, dogmatic, and never quite present…but at its best, this Sign can be friendly, faithful, optimistic, generous, fun, and surprisingly complex. An outstanding archetype for Sagittarius is The Explorer.
Capricorn. Yin/Cardinal/Earth. Capricorn is sometimes referred to as “the CEO of the Zodiac.” Often playing its cards close to the vest in the finest Yin fashion, Capricorn gets things done, achieving results that are rarely difficult to notice once accomplished (picture the Goat that symbolizes this Sign, reaching the very apex of a mountain, to stand silhouetted against the sky…). The epitome of “earthy” in some ways, this Earth Sign is very much about the practical, the tangible, that which can be measured and weighed and assessed. Capricorn doesn’t have much use for the theoretical if it can’t be boiled down into practice, and ideas don’t mean much if they won’t lead to some manifestation on the material plane. Don’t tell Capricorn about the garden you intend to plant – just plant it, cultivate it, and then show it to Capricorn when it’s already booming (preferably while handing over some giant vegetables…). This Sign has a real affinity for business and for getting things built. Capricorn can be condemned at times for being too results-oriented, too focused on money, unimaginative outside of the latest financial scheme, workaholic, and overly serious…but Capricorn energy can also be brilliant, unafraid to stand alone, phenomenal at providing, determined, supportive, and far more caring than it may at first let on. Capricorn might be captured well in the archetype of The Overseer.
Aquarius. Yang/Fixed/Air. Aquarius fits in well with that Air Sign trend of needing to socialize in some way with others in order to better define itself. But where Gemini fares best when able to ricochet off a multitude of people in its vicinity, and Libra prefers to work in more pronounced partnerships, Aquarius is most suited to examine itself against the backdrop of an entire society. Aquarius is symbolized by the Water-Bearer. Water, in any metaphysical system such as Astrology, can stand for emotions, dreams, and love…and Aquarius’ mission is to carry these things forth to its people. One of the main ideas behind this Sign’s focus is Carl Jung’s notion of individuation: Aquarius wants to be an intensely unique individual, not fitting into any standard description or role…and the Water-Bearer wants everyone else on Earth to be able to do the same. Aquarius has a great natural distaste for conformity, repression, and any other homogenizing forces that might render people more identical and interchangeable. Aquarius wants everyone’s freak flags flying, all the time. This is the Sign of the genius and the revolutionary. At the more negative end of its expression-spectrum, Aquarius can be overly eccentric, demanding, shaming, accusatory, rebellious for the sake of rebellion, and even downright bizarre. At its finest, though, Aquarian energy is altruistic, peace-loving, welcoming, forgiving, original, progressive, and innovative. Aquarius can be embodied in the archetype of The Visionary.
Pisces. Yin/Mutable/Water. We’re back at water again: Pisces is symbolized by the Fish, because Pisces is designed to swim through the waters of consciousness. Not built for structure or rigidity, Piscean energy wants nothing more than to be able to flow. Pisces is tuned in to the cosmic pulse, the universal rhythms. This is a Sign that’s about spirituality and transcendence, and it also at times has an affinity for notions of sacrifice. Piscean energy can bring about a very active dream life, intense imagination and creativity, and even psychic experiences. At its worst, Pisces can be unfocused, wishy-washy, scattered, and so impressionable that it loses its sense of its own self…while at its best, Pisces can be comforting, meditative, in touch with the Divine, calming, understanding, and even able to serve as a channel or medium. Pisces might best be signified by the archetype of The Mystic.
And that wraps up this quick set of 12 handshakes with the members of the Zodiac. Please take this two-part article as a starting point for your understanding of the Signs, and not as the sum total of all you’ll ever need to know! The more you work with the main symbol-sets of Astrology – the Planets, Signs, and Houses – the more their personalities will crystallize for you, and the greater your skills in reading charts will become!
Next time, before we move on to the Houses, I think it will be helpful to dig first into some examples of interpreting placements of Planets in Signs. Learning what each one of these symbols means in a vacuum is a necessary first step, but then there’s always the next equally critical step of getting a feel for how they interact within a chart…
More than a century ago, a group of brilliant occultists came together in the British Isles to generate a body of work that still informs modern metaphysics today. This small secret society called themselves The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (often referred to today as simply, “The Golden Dawn,” or abbreviated as “GD”). Nowhere is their influence more apparent than in the realm of Tarot.
While today’s Tarot landscape bristles with hundreds of decks, two of these stand out as the most popular and acclaimed by far: the Rider-Waite-Smith deck (“RWS”) and the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck (“Thoth”)…and as it happens, the creators of these two decks were members of the Golden Dawn. Their work reverberates through virtually every deck published to this day, and their systems of correspondences have been so widely accepted that Tarot readers often seem to adopt them without the slightest question. One such system attempts to map the essentials of Astrology onto Tarot.
Now, whether the Golden Dawn astrological correspondences are flawless in their conception or not is a valid question…but whatever your own answer to that question may be, it’s still extremely valuable to learn the GD system, as it gives the Tarot practitioner some common ground for discussion when interacting with other readers and students. And then there’s also that commonly held notion that it’s best to understand the existing rules of any discipline before attempting to break them…
So with all of that in mind, here, then, is a handy breakdown of which Planets, Signs, and Elements from Astrology – according to the Golden Dawn – correspond with which Major Arcana cards in Tarot (and please note – this table uses the RWS template; the Thoth correspondences are essentially the same, though, allowing for Aleister Crowley’s renaming of various cards, and his swapping of his versions of the Strength and Justice cards in the numerical sequence):
Major Arcana Card
0 or XXII – The Fool
Air (modern Tarot assigns Uranus here)
I – The Magician
II – The High Priestess
III – The Empress
IV – The Emperor
V – The Hierophant
VI – The Lovers
VII – The Chariot
VIII – Strength
IX – The Hermit
X – The Wheel of Fortune
XI – Justice
XII – The Hanged Man
Water (Neptune in today’s Tarot world)
XIII – Death
XIV – Temperance
XV – The Devil
XVI – The Tower
XVII – The Star
XVIII – The Moon
XIX – The Sun
XX – Judgment
Fire (Pluto for modern Tarot users)
XXI – The World
So once you have these associations all committed to memory, the next big question is: what do you do with them?
Well, if you already know your Astrology, and you like the GD correspondences, then they can really add a lot of depth to your readings. For example, take a look at The Devil: the Jungian “shadow” is one of the first concepts that pops into my own mind whenever I see this particular card, and I see Tarot’s Devil as primarily a psychological and metaphysical archetype. The Golden Dawn, however, chose to link it to the earthy Sign of Capricorn. If you’re familiar with some basic Astrology, you’ll know that Capricorn is less concerned with the subconscious mind, and more focused on the physical side of reality. And in line with that idea, The Devil is also quite often about the hardships inherent in being a physical creature: limitations, weaknesses, vices. It sometimes helps me, then, to keep these astrological correspondences in mind, so that I don’t fall into deep interpretive ruts – they can remind me about those aspects of a card that don’t stick as firmly in my head as others tend to do.
You can also use the correspondences “in reverse,” so to speak. That is, if you look at your own astrological birth-chart, you can figure out which Signs and Planets are the big movers and shakers in your own individual make-up…and then you can translate that into Tarot terms to determine which Major Arcana cards would ride along with those astrological symbols. For instance, using the more modern approach to Astrology that I tend to favor, the heaviest hitters in my own birth-chart are the Signs of Scorpio and Virgo, and the Planets Neptune and Pluto. You can double-check the table above to see that if the GD correspondences are on-point, then the Majors that serve as the most primary contributors of energies to my own unique character would be Death, The Hermit, The Hanged Man, and Judgment. And to be honest, that’s probably not very far off the mark as far as describing the essential me (although I’m a little more fun at parties than that line-up of cards might have you believe…).
So as even these quick examples show, using correspondences to link Astrology and Tarot together can both enhance your Tarot readings and illuminate a person’s psychological make-up for you. Of course, while the Golden Dawn system is very widely employed, that doesn’t mean it’s the only possible way of doing things. Once you have a firm grasp on it, you can then start to question it, and even begin to modify it to suit your own understandings. The GD way is a terrific starting point, though, in combining the two great disciplines of Tarot and Astrology…
This past weekend, my dear friend, Vickie, and I made the drive from Los Angeles into the desert proper to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Vickie is a fantastically talented Tarot reader, a prodigious metaphysical scholar, and one of the finest all-around people I know.
Given our mutual love of the arcane, it was only natural that I should tell her about my first-ever trip to “JT,” in which I’d lamented to a different friend about how the various businesses along the highway seemed to have all manner of desert animal symbols adorning their signage and whatnot, except for a decided lack of the Scorpion. As a card-carrying Scorpio, this was not sitting especially well with me… But then almost immediately after I’d said that, this other friend and I had discovered this giant metal sculpture of a Scorpion that someone had made and set up permanently in a roadside spot near the inn where we were staying. I started to think that something a bit beyond the normal was happening in this “Joshua Tree” locale I’d heard so much about…
So fast-forward about a year and a half, and Vickie and I hit JT for a fun weekend getaway jaunt…and as we were leaving yesterday, Vickie brought up the metal Scorpion. I managed to find it again, and Vickie was kind enough to snap a couple of photos of me standing alongside my slightly rusty arachnoid friend.
Then not two minutes later as we were preparing to roll out of town and head back to LA, guess what Joshua Tree offered up to us? I’ll give you a clue: Vickie is an Aries…
Kind of uncanny! Now, to be transparent here, it’s obvious that there’s some metalworking artisan in the area who cranks out some of these pieces, because there were a few others scattered around the area, as well — I did note a horse, a few dinosaurs, and a couple of free-form abstract metal shapes. No other western Zodiac figures were on display, though…but will there be next time…?
See. I believe that places can have power. This can happen in two ways, too: in one variation of this concept, a place has a lot of mojo no matter who goes there, no matter when, no matter what else is happening…and in the other variety of this, a place can have power for a specific person, even if no one else seems to get the same magical experiences out of it. Given its reputation, I tend to suspect that Joshua Tree is the former, and it just has power, period. I know I’m not alone in thinking that it’s a special site. Maybe other people have even found huge metal renditions of their own Zodiac Sun Signs, too, and I, myself, just haven’t yet stumbled upon the big iron Crab or the enormous oxidizing Lion. Then again, maybe the Zodiac thing is just for me and my close friends… But anyway, the point is that Joshua Tree is one of those places in my own mental logbook that I’ve noted as having an almost eerily present (but benevolent) supernatural vibe about it (I’ve been privileged to add a few other such places to that logbook this past year, too, including Teotihuacan in Mexico and the Amazon Rainforest in Peru).
What do you think? Do you believe places can have power? If so, what are some of your own personal power-sites…?