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Phobos, the ancient Greek god of fear, was the son of Ares and Aphrodite. Known for little in Hellenistic mythology besides being one of the attendants in his father’s chariot, today his name is used by astronomers for the faster and more damaged moon of the planet Mars. His season, the ten days associated with the second decan of Aquarius, begins 29 January 2021, at 11:43 AM EST.
Fear is, of course, a complicated emotion. It’s strongly connected to the fight-flight-mate response, as a biology textbook famously referred to the Three F’s — a once-famous meme of about 2010 now merely a legend or a myth. Fear is activated by the autonomic nervous system rather than through conscious choice — a combination of revulsion and panic, coupled with a sense of dream that survival is not guaranteed. In the winter, of course, fear takes the form of cold — the dry cold that cracks skin and freezes fingertips, and the wet cold that sucks heat from the core and chills our innards. Survival is not guaranteed in this environment. At the same time, winter is a terrific time for small parties of raiders or bandits to strike at isolated homesteads, or for tax collectors to claim their share of a family’s meager portion: all the food, all the household goods, are gathered in one place; the family’s animals are tucked in barns, with their provender in the lofts above; what animals cannot be fed through winter, have been turned into brined beef, salt pork, sausages and jerky — there is no plenty but there is plenty to take, and there is no hiding it from the ravenous or the avaricious. Late January marks the turning point, too, where we can look at our stores and imagine that there is enough… but perhaps we are wrong, or perhaps spring will be delayed, or maybe there will be a raid by our neighbors, or maybe the lambs will come early, or the hired hand wintering over with us is a monster, or … the worries of this time of year are endless in a rural place, and there is no easy solution until the first crocuses pop through the snow, and the first daffodils bloom. The worry and the fear are real enough, even if the event we guard against never truly comes to pass.
Austin Coppock in 36 Faces, his book about the decans, called this part of the sky Heaven and Earth — a place where the divine light or some spiritual insight helps inform our day-to-day decision-making. Or perhaps it’s a place where our practical and everyday decisions inform our spirituality, and change our perceptions of what is good and holy based on our own habitual practices. It’s a tricky set of relationships, really — do we define what is holy based on what we ourselves do? Or is our holiness the cause of our actions in the everyday world? The tarot card assigned to this decan, the Six of Swords, shows what seems to be a family rowing toward a distant shore — leaving behind what was, but potentially prepared for violence in the future. We dare not go abroad without such preparations, but we surely cannot stay where we are. Fear rules both decisions, does it not? It is not a fight-or-flight response, but a fight and flight response: do what must be done to run away, but then — run away.
The four duodecimas or twelfth-parts of Aquarius that are assigned to the middle decan tell this story too. Resonating with the energies of Gemini, Cancer, Leo, and Virgo, they tell a story of intelligently discerning and dividing the real from the phantasmic, understanding our connection to our feelings and getting chills, performing brilliantly in the face of danger and getting hot under the collar — before returning to a cooler and more analytical frame of mind. Is this not the experience of fear? First we experience being of a divided mind, partly intellectual and partly ‘out of our head’ with fright; then becoming emotionally turbulent (that’s the Cancerian energy talking), becoming leonine and hot to take risks, and then calming down and able to make practical and intellectually-guided decisions again. A good horror filmmaker can walk us through these four steps and leave us on the edge of our seats for two hours — and then still give us enough of ourselves to drive home again in the dark, but a little antsy or agitated about every shadow and startled rabbit on the road.
Finally, the Sun is in fall in Aquarius generally — a state of play described as being like “a man under house arrest in the house of a sick man.” Unable to take care of himself, and unable to ask his host for help, the Sun is likely in some fear of his life — an impending court case and potential judgement, as well as a lack of food in the pantry, and a contagious illness all threatening him at the same time. Yet the Sun’s host in this case is Saturn, present in the house with him — the elderly man stooped with age, too proud or uncaring of food to stock his larder, too miserly to feed his guests, too disdainful of his guests’ legal troubles to care for his needs, too weary of the world to speak or act on behalf of his visitor. Surrounded by lawyers, elders, experts, women, and creditors demanding repayment, the Sun is in a bit of a bind at the moment — unable to put himself to work on our behalf, and unable to fulfill his responsibilities in anything more than a half-assed way. This is a man who gets up, puts in his minimum hours, and goes to bed: a man so terrified of the future that he can barely meet the present.
When we look to the planets’ positions in the horoscope of 29 January at seventeen minutes before noon, we see these themes of fear and disorder playing out on the stage of the sky. A series of squares join the first house with the tenth, and creating conflict between the recent conjunction of Uranus and Mars in Taurus, and the gathering of the heavenly rulers in Aquarius, where the Sun prepares to hold council with all his nobles — Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn have all already arrived, while Venus (currently in Capricorn’s last decan The Throne, coming off a conjunction with Pluto on 28 January) will join them in a few days.
It’s hard to know what to say about these preliminary assemblies. If we look to politics in the USA, it’s hard not to see Joe Biden as acting like the Sun: relatively weak but threading his way through the obstacles and challenges of the first few days in a presidency, moving in the direction of heeding the expertise of Mercury, and not waiting for others to catch up. Despite the limitations of his office, The Sun has a pretty good sense of what to do and who to listen to. However, behind him and moving much more slowly are the relatively generous Jupiter of his own party, who believes in a responsibility to share power and listen to many voices; and Saturn who listens to no one but makes croaking warnings and pronouncements about what will happen he he’s not heeded, heard and obeyed. Behind them all comes Venus, ready to skip and play and dance her way through the meetings, glad-hand everyone, and bring people around to the boss’s perspective and make things right. Is Kamala Harris playing the Venus role here? It’s hard to say for sure.
All of the visible planets except Mars the warrior will attend this council. The Moon, being the swiftest of the planets, will join last of all in about two weeks during the time that the Sun is in Aquarius III, The Knot. She is presently in Leo, just past full, and in the the Mansion called “The Mane” — which is associated with charisma, awe, and the prestige of leadership. This Fourteenth Mansion is a place of great benefit and grace for the Moon, yet she stands in a place of opposition to all the other rulers. In the United States, it is hard not to compare the Moon in Leo to a false Sun, standing in lonely opposition to all the other powers — claiming an undemonstrated expertise, demanding unearned respect, and advancing the banner of a lost cause. The purpose of this council of all the obvious ruling powers appears to be to bring this vain and attention-hogging Moon around and shroud her in darkness. Then will her glorious face be hidden behind the Sun’s own restrained and bounded greatness; then she will be accorded due respect only when she takes her proper place as one of seven visible rulers, and not as a great and powerful queen.
The upstarts are doing their own thing. Increasingly in my mind, I think of the seven visible planets — the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — as being something like the constitutionally-authorized officers of the government of the sky. They hold named and recognized offices that have their place among the princes of the heavens, and various duties and responsibilities within the constraints of astrology’s framing of stellar events. However, the three planets visible only by telescope and instrumentation — Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto — are the upstarts, rather like people that have power for cultural or economic or social or influence-peddling reasons, rather than for reasons authorized by long-standing tradition or general legal frameworks. They have no official role in the sky, and yet they influence events nonetheless.
Neptune indicates that all of us are in a complicated position vis-a-vis our friends and associates. Neptune holds the middle decan of Pisces, a place called The Net, where most of us are caught in a glittering prison of our own making. Some see only the shining diamonds and jewel-like lures, unaware of the hooks that seek to catch us; others see the rough-woven hemp or jute or nylon, intent on constraining and constricting our action and preventing our escape. Just as some people cannot see the forest for all the trees in the way, and others see only forest where the lumberjack sees board-feet and bonuses — we all have different perspectives on the events that have brought us to this moment. Some see a crushed rebellion, others see sedition or treason, some see a mob that was allowed to have its way, some see popular discontent given visible form… however we choose to view the past, it now begins to play out among our friends: “are they on the same side as me? Are we on the right side? Are we on the winning side? Is my side winning? Are we going to keep winning? Are present circumstances a temporary setback? Are they a fatal blow to the cause? What is the cause, anyway?” Paranoia is itself a kind of fear — and a genuinely healthy kind of fear if they really are after you, and Neptune speaks to that kind of terror loosed across our social media networks and physically-close friends.
Uranus, separating from conjunction with Mars in Taurus and the first house, points to this same kind of uncertainty. Some of the readers of this column who are in touch with me privately report a fair number of upheavals and conflicts in their lives that promise changes to their material circumstances. These include impending transcontinental moves for work, potential evictions, breakups of longstanding relationships, fire damage at their offices, upcoming surprise surgeries, and similar stories. These upheavals are another kind of fear, a fear that the normal changes of life carry greater and more terrible weight in the midst of a pandemic, and bring with them a deeper level of uncertainty than before. Mars’s presence heightens the conflict, while Uranus carries a component of technological surprise as well as confusion and upheaval.
Even as I write this column, I feel this myself —I’m surrounded by boxes and bags, stacks of books to be packed and fabric to be moved, and furniture covered with clothes. I’m in the midst of a move from the house I thought was going to be my long-term home, to a NEW house that I hope is going to be my long-term home. In the midst of telling all of you about the uncertainties and terrors of the present moment’s upheavals, I am in my own such upheaval.
Pluto is just coming out of Thursday’s (28 January) conjunction with Venus — who are less than a pinky’s width apart in the sky! — and offering his own painful lessons on the expense and trouble of accumulation. Some of my readers may be aware of the GameStop fiscal crisis, where a bunch of semi-amateur day traders and private investors correctly guessed that a group of major hedge funds were shorting a bricks-and-mortar chain of videogame stores, and planning to make a few billion dollars off the difference. Instead, the day traders pushed the price of the store’s stock to stratospheric levels, so high that GameStop will likely be unable to meet its first-quarter dividend promises, and at least one if not two or more hedge funds will go bankrupt and take a chunk of a billionaire’s fortune with them. Newly empowered, the day traders are apparently going after a couple of other hedge funds with short-stock positions; and the sovereign wealth fund of Norway apparently funded its teachers’ pensions for the next twenty years with the GameStop fiasco in the last week (this may be an exaggeration, and should not be regarded as financial advice). It’s a classic Venus-Pluto play, really — the coherence of the many coming up with a beautiful story of the little guys banding together against the wealthy and powerful, and shattering their toxic behaviors — lone beauty temporarily overpowering the great with a “first time for everything” takedown of a mercantile house by a bunch of amateur day traders.
The last piece of the chart is the placement of the axis between North Node and South Node, with the hungering mouth of the Dragon’s Head placed in Gemini in the house of our material possessions and wealth; and the Tail, where the shit comes out, being in Sagittarius in the 8th house where our debts and liabilities tend to accumulate. This feels significant, that both Nodes are in placements where we are asked to consider our humanity, and our humaneness: the North Node is in The Hermaphrodite, where we must consider our ownership of objects and possessions that help us integrate our identity — while the South Node is in The Bridle, where we attempt to throw off the reins and the rider who tries to steer us to ethical decision making over our responsibilities to others. It is in those very relationships of ethics and morals that we’ll make our best decisions, though, when we choose obligations and relationships over possessive isolation. Our responsibility to others is where our luckiness will be found in the days ahead.
Rising Sign Horoscopes
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I use iPhemeris for my charting software, and screenshot it to make charts. I want to thank the team that develops iPhemeris for the addition of Terms and Decans to their charts, appearing here for the first time!
I use Christopher Warnock‘s The Mansions of the Moon as the basis of my Moon placement delineations, and Austin Coppock‘s 36 Faces as the basis of much of my planetary delineations. Neither gentleman endorses me. My own book, A Full Volume of Splendour and Starlight, is now available as PDF download from my Etsy website.
Any errors in these columns are my own.
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If you want to read some of my other astrologically-oriented poetry, To the Mansions of the Moon is a collection of hymns to the angels of the Mansions mentioned in these columns. For the Behenian Stars is a collection of hymns to the first/brightest sixteen stars. The Sun’s Paces are hymns to the thirty-six Hellenistic-era deities and ascended souls of the Greco-Egyptian Decans-calendar. While not astrological, Festae contains hymns to some of the older Roman gods and spirits from the calendar created by Numa Pompilius, the second ancient King of Rome