free universities

so many of us have been concerned about what the coming years will bring, focusing on the potential disruption/destruction/end-of-life-as-we-know-it-ness of it all. while undoubtedly there will be many profound and likely disturbing changes, there will also be wonderful new things coming up that we cannot now imagine. change and transformation can also be a positive experience.

one of these changes is already on the horizon and continues the amazing democratization of information that the internet provides. now, in addition to wikipedia, (which you know is my new drug) we have greatly expanded accessibility to university courses on-line. Yale, MIT, Johns Hopkins, and many many other private and public institutions are offering complete materials and a full experience of their courses with video, transcripts, notes, readings and reading lists, and study sheets for a wide variety of subjects. now, you can listen to a lecture or take a semester-long course from your laptop. check out some of these links; they may restore your sense of balance about the impending future:

Johns Hopkins


happy solstice!

early this morning (US west) marked the winter solstice - the annual standing still of the sun; the astronomical new year. this uttermost point of the annual cycle of the sun has been a time of celebration and awe for us humans, as the life-giving warmth and light begins its return journey in the sky.

astrologically, we can use the chart of exact entry of the sun into capricorn as an event chart - a harbinger of the year to come. it can suggest the areas where this new beginning will occur for you as an individual. (you can use either your birthplace to cast the chart, or where you live now. the rising sign and house placement depend on your latitude, but the planetary contacts and signs will be the same.)

the chart suggests this is a year of new beginnings and old conflicts; jupiter and mercury have just entered new signs, the lunar nodes have shifted to aquarius/leo, and pluto is in the last degree of sag. old conflicts are represented here by the retrograde mars in cancer opposing the sun/jupiter/mercury stellium in cap.

cap is the sign of wisdom, judgment, maturity and authority. it rules government, punishment, social forms and norms. it is how societies organize themselves, the laws and limits they impose on the individual. it is a "collective" sign and as such, can indicate how an individual will interact with and succeed in the larger world. the sun in cap is about creating those forms and norms in our own life -- where we feel most authoritative, what we have mastered, how we express ourselves and what we strive for. for some solar capricorns, this comes off as overly ambitious, social climbing, or cold and judgmental. evolved caps are hard workers, seek social justice and are experts in their field; puissant is one word to describe this enlightened soul.

jupiter expands, explores, seeks meaning from new ideas and experiences. the giant planet rules philosophy, travel, higher education, religion, business and social interactions beyond one's significant other. in cap, there is inherent conflict for jupiter as its expansive nature is confronted with cap's sense of limit and boundaries. a positive expression of this is "practical solutions that result from thinking out of the box". you must work within the given limits, but go far afield in your thinking.

mercury in cap gives logical organization to your thought processes and can help you work through problems systematically. it can give you the objectivity and dispassion you might need with a knotty issue. it can also be a rush to judgment however, so let jupiter into the discussion.

mars is opposing all three of these, retro in cancer. kind of like a kid throwing a temper tantrum when compared to all these mature cap placements. but the purpose of this mars contact is to remember that our deepest security needs are real and we have to take care of the individual if the collective is to function in a healthy manner. the cold, dispassionate forms that most appeal to saturn can be very harsh on living organisms. so mars is there to bring the warmth, the care and attention, and the outrage, if needed, to ensure that the new forms and norms that this ingress suggests are ones that actually meet our needs. the opposition represents the inherent conflict between these two, and can indicate a back-and-forth approach where we overdo one end of the opposition, then flip back and go too far in the opposite direction. the purpose, however, is to integrate the two ends, to balance our need for nurturance and security with the requirements of natural limits, authority and maturity.

next post: new nodal axis.


shout outs

astrotabletalk has just done two outstanding bits on the significance of pluto in cap for all the signs (and a great one on the "death ray black hole today);

a truly great astrologer, Bill Herbst, has been having some health issues and is offline for a bit. his articles are archived, however, and you might want to go visit;

lynn hayes has some great historical stuff on pluto's previous forays into cap here;

and here is a nice little bit on today's shift of the nodal axis into leo/aquarius from tom jacobs.


cri·sis (krī′sis)

    1. the turning point of a disease for better or worse, esp. a sudden recovery
    2. an intensely painful attack of a disease; paroxysm
  1. a turning point in the course of anything; decisive or crucial time, stage, or event
  2. a time of great danger or trouble, often one which threatens to result in unpleasant consequences an economic crisis

Etymology: L <krisis < krinein, to separate, discern <(s)krei-, to sift, separate <(s)ker-, to cut > shear, L cernere, to separate, Ger rein, pure

as we approach tomorrow’s conjunction of pluto and jupiter, it is worth considering the above word crisis. (the definitions are from two online dictionaries). most people are used to thinking of crises as definition #3 – times of great danger or trouble, often confusing a crisis with disasters and unexpected misfortunes. but for astrology, I prefer definition #2 – a crucial stage or event, a turning point, in a natural process. this can be a fulfillment of an organic process, when something becomes fully itself, or when something reaches some “point of no return”. we experience a process as going along a certain, expected path, and then suddenly, it seems, something “changes” and voila, we are confronted with a crisis. the current sub-prime mortgage situation is a perfect example. for most of us, we didn’t have an inkling. but those who were paying attention, who were familiar with the economics of the situation, knew that this situation could not last, that there was a “point of no return” coming soon.

what often makes a crisis so unfortunate is that the moment of the turning point can initiate a whole new set of problems, as the course of events is changed by the crisis. the culmination, conjunction or event, of the crisis then affects the subsequent energies and events (e.g. the credit crunch that has resulted from all those foreclosures).

on an individual level, crisis can be a time when one’s resistance to a natural process of change reaches a point that can no longer be sustained; one is finally, suddenly, forced to acknowledge, change or re-direct their energies. this is the purpose of crisis in evolutionary astrology terms, to make you move forward, be more conscious, to improve your interactions with the universe. a health crisis leads to improved self-care; a relationship crisis leads to counseling, better communication, redistribution of household chores; a financial crisis leads to better budgeting, more savings, etc.

unfortunately, crisis can bring uncontrollable turning points; the heart attack that kills you, the divorce, the bankruptcy. If you resist the necessary changes in your life, if you fail to act responsibly or make the improvements you know are needed in your life; if you blame “the other guy” for all your problems, crisis, when it comes, may have unpleasant consequences, indeed.

with pluto and jupiter conjunct in sag tomorrow, the crisis is about power and beliefs and all the combinations of the two: the power of your beliefs; the power struggles around your truth; your need to be freely who you are; how you need to be right, and whether you allow others to be right; tolerance. Or, it can be about opening yourself to the power of intuition, to own your psychic energy, to find the truth, even if it’s deeply buried. this aspect is the culmination, the peak of the pluto in sag transit - my hopes are for the end of religious wars and greater tolerance for all belief systems. (see astrotabletalk.blogspot.com for Dharmaruci's comments on this.)


can't keep up

so I'm struggling with what the true nature of this blog should be. I really don't want it to become one of those personal, gossipy blah blahs about my life, that only my family will ever read. but the amount of research I'm trying to do so that I'm writing an informative, entertaining and clear astrology blog is overwhelming.

in the past 10 days, i have started to write about Dennis Quaid's twins and the whole Heparin fiasco (saturn on the south node + natal cancer going retrograde and forming an exact square with transiting venus); Comet Holmes, and my favorite athletes. here's as far as I got on the sports topic:

athletic ability can be signified by mars and jupiter, their contacts, and any reinforcing placements in the chart. now all three of these incredible athletes have such contacts. Tiger has a mars/jupiter sextile, with mars in the 9th house (ruled by jupiter) close to the midheaven, (signifying not only talent, but exceptional talent as the midheaven is the pinnacle of the chart). his jupiter is in aries, ruled by mars, so in effect he has a triple signature by contact, house and signs. Johnny also has a mars/jupiter sextile, with his jupiter and mars also contacting his natal sun by opposition and trine, respectively. this contact, along with mars in scorpio in the 5th house, signifies that he expresses his whole being through his talent, and it is a flamboyant and overtly sexual expression (imho). Federer, by contrast, has absolutely no mars/jupiter contacts in his chart, either by aspect, house position or sign. rather, he has jupiter trine his midheaven and mars sextile his ascendant, indicating the power of aspects to the angles of the chart.

so why weren't these posted? well, for example one, the news moved so fast, that by the time I did the natal charts (without birthtimes), researched the potential rulers for blood (venus) and IV's (mars), and did the transits, it was old old news.

as for Comet Holmes, I got completely distracted by the "oohs" and "aahs" of its magical explosion. did you know that when it was first observed in 1892 it did the exact same thing?? o yes, it has a 6.9 year periodicity, which makes it a jupiterian comet, rather than an oort cloud comet. I so totally love wikipedia!!

on the whole mars/jupiter thing, I was going to do the transits/progressions for tiger's slump, but as usual, got totally enthralled by wikipedia, and didn't get everything lined out until this tuesday (i try to post on sundays). and what is the "sunday posting" thing all about? this whole experience of not being a buck-an-hour-bucaneer is really taking some getting used to. I can post any time, any day, on any topic I want - that's what blogs are all about!

I'll post again soon, as soon as I get another idea...



one of the more fascinating things about astrology is that there are so many different techniques to improve one’s knowledge (and eventually, interpretation) of astrological charts. I have been spending some time with midpoints. midpoints are the locations, or points, in a chart midway between two planets. any object in a chart can have a midpoint, but there are several major ones: Sun/Moon, Venus/Mars, Jupiter/Saturn.

the sun/moon midpoint can be thought of as the “sum of you” – where your life force (sun) meets your emotional body (moon). It is also the yin/yang point, where masculine and feminine meet in your chart. depending on the house and sign, you can learn a lot about where you are most completely yourself, where your desire to implement meets your inner sense of surety.

the venus/mars midpoint deals with relationships. in synastry, (comparing two separate charts) any conjunction with your venus or mars can indicate interest (if not outright compatibility) with another person, but if there is a contact with this midpoint it can also signify potential relationship. depending on where this point falls in your chart, it can also indicate specific areas in your life where relationships will be important (if it falls in your 10th house, it may be your work buddies that are your greatest friends – a whole universe of TV sitcoms are premised on this idea).

the jupiter/saturn midpoint is where the two “societal” planets meet; jupiter as the ruler of philosophies and belief systems, saturn as the ruler of collective norms and forms. this can be your point of greatest strength and authority in society – where you can contribute the most, be a leader, and gain the greatest sense of satisfaction. it can, however, be the point of greatest conflict if not well integrated. the expansive properties of jupiter constantly rub up against the constraints of saturn, leading to either a sense of great frustration if one’s dreams cannot be realized, or feeling like a wet blanket when everyone else is having fun.

midpoints work in your chart, in synastry, or by transit. If you’re having a hard time, but nothing seems to be actively contacting any planets or angles in your chart, check out your midpoints. The outer planets especially move very slowly and they may either be contacting one of your midpoints, or the transiting midpoint of a planetary pair may be contacting one of your planets.

my second saturn return in virgo has just occurred; also, I have numerous midpoints in virgo that transiting saturn will be contacting over the next year or so. this is presenting me with all the usual saturnian issues: health issues and the need to create some discipline around my daily life forms, a sense of isolation and even a fair amount of dread. As it approaches my uranus/sun midpoint, I find myself actively engaging in meditation again for the first time in years and generally trying to re-invent myself, now that I’m retired. other points coming up include venus/pluto midpoint (please please please let me win the lottery!) and neptune/pluto, a point of understanding the limits of power, among other things. as a scorpio, all these pluto midpoints are especially salient to me.


Being in the world

I went to my local Shambhala Center this morning to meditate - actually to receive some instruction on meditation as it has been years since I've practiced this. There was a lot of history and background on the center provided, and then questions from my fellow instructees that our meditation teacher answered, and then we went into one of the shrine spaces and sat meditation for about 30 minutes or so.

well, call me crazy, but it was after this brief meditation that I began to think about what it means to be in this world. to be alive in this universe, as this type of creature. I kept thinking, "I'm not a squirrel". it's not like I have a role in the ecosystem, like a particular plant or animal. I don't behave instinctually. theoretically, I have something called consciousness, and possibly even Free Will. What does it mean for me to be in this world? do I have purpose, or is it completely random that I am here in this space and time?

it was a pretty weighty question to arise from a mere 10-15 minutes of meditation, let me tell you!

so what does this have to do with astrology, you're wondering? well, I'm not sure, but there seems to be some connection with the basic question I've posed above and the human need for systems-of-meaning, of which astrology is one (for me anyway). given that I am not a squirrel, my consciousness requires some kind of meaningful context within which to live; something in between instinct and... enlightenment, I guess. astrology provides this grounding: it is both practical and useful (like instinct) but also is a portal to the infinite connectedness of all things in our universe. I find this both satisfying and comforting.


Lunar calendars, Samhain and Happy Halowe’en

Early societies confronted the need to correlate the various natural cycles with human needs. Day and Night provided the most basic separation, each with its own “light”. As humanity began to order and give meaning to existence, the Moon became associated with the feminine, variable, hidden aspects of all life. Her growth, fullness and diminishment became synonymous with all cycles that waxed and waned; special significance was given to those human cycles that seemed to most closely mimic her: female menarche, pregnancy, and menopause. The Moon became synonymous with the miraculous and the mysterious. Agriculture, tides, fertility of animals, an association with blood, and the darkness and death that follows all growth, became her domain.

We think of time in familiar terms of minutes, hours, weeks and months, but these are just the familiar patterns particular to our 24-hour-a-day global business cycle. Earlier societies used movements of the sun and moon to keep them in sync with the organic cycles of mother earth. (Donna Cunningham wrote a marvelous book, The Moon in Your Life, a classic addition to astrology of the moon, as well as a philosophical musing on what it means to be a “lunar” personality in our “solar” world. )

The Celts’ starting place was the dark-of-moon, a lunar calendar that broke the year into “dark” and “bright” halves, adjusting the number of lunar months as needed, and marking lunar cross-quarter days in between the solar equinoxes and solstices.

Samhain is such a day, when the summer has ended and the “dark” half of the year begins. The old Coligny calendar, dating from 800 BC, marks this cross quarter day, along with Imbolc (February) Beltane (May), and Lughnasadh (August), ordering the agricultural cycle of harvest, birth of new livestock, seed planting, and ripening. These were not specific days, but rather nights, celebrated with Lunar rites of bonfires and purifications. These celebrations have come down to us as Hallowe’en, Oidhche Shamhna, El Dia del Muerte and Samhain.

The recognition of, much less celebration of the dark, goes against our more modern sensibilities. Instead of welcoming the night, with its opportunity for rest and relief from stimulation, we fill it with light, night shifts of workers, 24-hour everything. We resist the innate knowledge that things never stay the same, that old things must die before new things can begin, that there is no such thing as unlimited growth. But in doing so, we submerge and ingest the darkness itself. The darkness dwells in the 15 million depressed Americans, in the physical, emotional and sexual abuse in our families, in the anxiety and despair of citizens watching the richest country in the world spending its wealth on war and destruction instead of building a better world for everyone. But the cycles are the ultimate truth. Things do change. Diminishment and death are inevitable precursors to initiation and growth.

As you celebrate this Hallowe’en, you may want to reflect (such a lovely Moon word) on what you’re holding onto past its needfulness. What darkness are you trying to hide that would benefit from a bonfire or other form of purification? And what relaxing welcoming night are you sacrificing to too much work?


Mount Kelud, NEA Apophis and other earth catastrophes: the problem of prediction

astrology is an amazing body of knowledge; rich, meaningful and applicable to all aspects of life. however, its very richness leads to problems with interpretation of meaning. for example, let’s take mercury in scorpio (where he currently is). he’s flying backward, about to return to libra, before going direct on nov 1 and eventually returning to scorpio nov 11. (he’s the messenger of the gods remember – think of it as shuttle diplomacy like in the 70s). everyone has experienced some retrograde mercury problems – important papers that didn’t arrive, the fender bender, the breakdown of a usually reliable piece of machinery, the problem with the neighbor, the old flame suddenly showing back up in your life. on this trip, old MOTG is trying to tell you about some unfinished business, some old power trips you thought were over, some deep psychological truths you’ve been tying to avoid, a legacy you were expecting that suddenly disappeared (don’t worry, once he goes direct it will probably get cleared up).

you get the picture right? but which picture is the right one? they can’t all be right, can they? well, yes, they can, depending on who you are or what we’re talking about. and that’s the problem with astrological prediction. these planets and signs and their myriad interactions are supposed to cover a universe of events, developments and relationships. the marvel is that they do. the nightmare is that the astrologer is supposed to be able to apply the correct interpretation to any singular, particular relationship with a person, situation or global event. tricky, huh?!

now, being a pluto in leo child (perennially!) I live on drama, especially catastrophes. they appeal to my need to live life to the fullest, adrenaline-pumping anxiety possible (scorpio w/double capricorn as well, am I). thus my interest in global warming, pandemics, cosmic collisions and volcanic eruptions. the last two are of particular interest to me today: Mt. Kelud, a volcano in Indonesia, is rumbling again. Apophis, the asteroid that was supposed to hit us in 2029, but may now only graze us, caught my eye this past week. It could return in 2036 and/or ‘37 for more potential cosmic rounds of “you’re it” (very old tag game we used to play). here is one possible chart for the first approach:

so what can we say about this? at the time I’ve chosen, we’re got signatures for “battling for survival” (sun/neptune in aries in 12) and “destruction of humanity” (pluto in aquarius at the MC) squaring “loss of security” (moon in scorpio). Looks grim, you say? But it could also be interpreted as “enlightenment regarding the human community” combined with “expansion of resources for all” in order to “improve our sense of security and meet our growing needs” (pluto in 9 in a T-square with jupiter in taurus in 12, opposing moon in 6th). This could be a time when, near-earth-asteroids aside, we finally begin to make the enlightened transformations needed to meet everyone’s needs and apply critical thinking to our endless desires for more, more, more. it's unlikely that I'll be around to witness which (or whatever) it really is, but it's always fun to speculate.

For those who are interested, here is the chart for the next pass, exactly one year later… what do you see?


pluto in sag and school violence

As pluto ends its stay in sagittarius, where it has been continually since november ‘95 (it made a brief sortie into sag at 0° 36’ stationing retrograde the previous march), I have been reflecting on its impacts other than wars and violence around belief systems (religion).

the sagittarius/gemini axis also rules education.
through gemini we learn how to integrate into our environment, how to name and orient ourselves to the tangible objects that surround us. thus, the Twins rule communication, transportation, and other forms of elementary, concrete learning. the Centaur, meanwhile, takes on the intangibles and the abstract, the intuitive mental processes that can lead us to truth, philosophy, and considerations about how other people and cultures do things, away from our own direct experience (thus its rulership of foreign travel).

so how does this relate to school violence? pluto is the planet of power and transformation, but it also relates to feelings of powerlessness – that terrible feeling of being at the mercy of something larger than oneself. In sag, that something can be your school – the place where you are required to take in and fit into the teachings of your society. and those feelings of powerlessness can lead to explosive violence.

according to the website infoplease.com, there have been over 45 school shooting incidents worldwide since feb, 1996 (pluto at 2°sag) resulting in 129 students and 33 school administrators dead with 178 left wounded, not including the shooters who committed suicide after taking out their victims. almost without exception, these crimes were committed by fellow students who had been bullied, scorned or who felt like pariahs among their peers*. from a peak of 7 incidents worldwide in 2001 (pluto halfway through sag) they have tailed off; but, as often happens towards the end of a planet’s stay in a sign, there can be a single, major event that encapsulates the signature of the placement. for me, this was the Virginia Tech massacre, the deadliest school shooting in US history.

none of these crimes are justified. yet many of these kids were known to be struggling with depression or other behavioral problems, or the schools later admitted to an atmosphere of bullying among the student body.

so, what have we learned from this, to carry forward into pluto in capricorn (coming to your neighborhood this December)? capricorn rules institutions, law, social reputation and stability (among other things). it is concerned with what works, and what makes us secure. does this mean that future plutonic transformations will find our schools locked down, with security guards, retinal scans and metal detectors? or will we choose the less Draconian strategies of school uniforms, lessons in equality and tolerance, and vigilant school administrations that mix compassion with control? the true lesson of pluto is that it can be felt both as power and the loss (as well as misuse) of power. we need to be conscious of these, no matter the sign it occupies.

* these numbers do not include the other “school located” massacres such as the Beslan, Russia crisis of September, 2004. that event was also perpetrated by cultural “outcasts”, Chechan rebels.