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.