Friday, April 29, 2016

Eclipses, Mars Retrograde & Brazil’s Zika Crisis

...the “gestation” period for the Brazil Zika outbreak was marked by two potent eclipses: the first, a total annular eclipse on 3 November 2013, 25% visible in northeastern Brazil; the second, on 29 April, 2014, a rare annular, non-central solar eclipse with a path that spanned Antarctica and parts of Australia, its upper edge clipping Indonesia, a known affected area as well. This transpired just months before the first cases were identified in Brazil in late 2014.  

Recounting a long list of challenges to Brazil’s embattled president, Dilma Rousseff, ended a recent report by saying: “It would seem she wants to ride the storm rather than be drowned in it.” The “storm” includes the April 18th lower house of Congress vote to impeach her over corruption charges, an economy in serious recession and an explosive level of division among Brazilian citizens over all of the above. Perhaps the most troubling challenge of all, however—and the one I’d like to explore today—is the disastrous spread of the Zika virus among pregnant Brazilian women, resulting at last count in approximately 4,000 cases (reported numbers vary—it’s difficult to say precisely) of microcephaly and related neurological birth defects.

Rousseff’s prescient remark may be an astrological clue—for example, could Neptune, ruling the metaphorical storm waves, be involved in this perfect storm of challenges to Brazil? Neptune has a well-documented association in astrology with epidemics and contagion, so its fingerprints are all over the spread of Zika, but Neptune never unleashes its worst in a vacuum, so we must wonder what other factors have contributed.

Among those factors are two potent eclipses that preceded the outbreak and Mars' recent turn retrograde—we’ll consider those in greater detail. First, however, here’s a timeline of key steps towards the present Zika crisis. The following background facts are reported in a February 9, 2016 Bulletin of the World Health Organization:[1]

- The virus was first identified in the Zika forests of Uganda in 1947 in an afflicted rhesus monkey;
- 1948 the virus was isolated to its mosquito carrier
- It would then take until 1964 for tests to confirm a human case of the infection.
- Cases remained isolated and few until 2007, when the virus migrated from Africa to Asia and then to the Pacific Island of Yap, where the first cluster of 185 human cases surfaced. “No deaths, hospitalizations or neurological complications are reported.”

Unfortunately, the situation deteriorated rapidly: by 2013-14, cases in other Pacific Islands—where the virus had spread by this time—do turn out to be connected to “congenital malformations and severe neurological and autoimmune complications.” This same year tests demonstrate that the virus can be spread via blood (i.e., transfusions) and placental fluids (in the womb). It was a short trip for the Zika mosquito from the Pacific Islands to Brazil, where the following milestones will help us make sense of the astrological picture. Again, from the WHO report:

December 2014: Zika cases are first identified in Pernambuco, Brazil.

2 March 2015: Brazil’s national lab notified WHO of cases of a rash-producing illness that turns out to be Zika. Seven thousand mild cases are documented between February and April that year—no reported deaths. 

7 May 2015: the national lab confirms that Zika is circulating in Brazil—“the first report of locally acquired Zika disease in the Americas.”

July-1 December 2015: reported cases of neurological disorders, including microcephaly are tracked and eventually linked to prior Zika infections; on December 1st, the “Pan American Health Organization and WHO issue an alert to the association of Zika virus infection with neurological syndrome and congenital malformations in the Americas.”

1 February 2016: In response to a growing body of evidence that Zika infections are associated with “clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders,” the WHO declares a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

2 February 2016: The United States reports a case of sexual transmission of Zika infection in Texas. The infected man had traveled outside the U.S. and apparently transmitted the disease to his sexual partner after return to the U.S. The WHO considered this case a “rare event” at this time; it is no longer considered rare.

March-April 2016: The CDC now reports that male sexual partners can transmit the virus and has issued comprehensive, updated guidelines for pregnant women and travelers related to this issue.

The concerns are real—the Brazil Zika outbreak’s “pre-natal” eclipses
Unfortunately, the “international concern” part of this declaration is real: as of April 18th, the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported that 41 countries spanning Central and South America and the Oceania/Pacific Islands are now reporting active cases of the virus. For the purposes of this exploration, however, let’s return to Brazil. While it’s not possible to examine affected women’s charts (or their babies’ charts) here, we can focus on the broad impact this public health emergency is likely to have on Brazil itself.

As mentioned earlier, the “gestation” period for the Brazil Zika outbreak was marked by two potent eclipses: the first, a total annular eclipse on 3 November 2013, 25% visible in northeastern Brazil; the second, on 29 April, 2014, a rare annular, non-central solar eclipse with a path that spanned Antarctica and parts of Australia, its upper edge clipping Indonesia, a known affected area as well. This transpired just months before the first cases were identified in Brazil in late 2014.  

This notion of a gestation period may be key: the Zika virus doesn’t cause neurological damage in the person bitten by the mosquito—that horror is reserved for the unborn babies of women who were pregnant when infected by the Zika carrying mosquito. 

To my knowledge, we don’t yet know how long such women (or their sexual partners, for that matter) remain able to transmit the virus to a fetus.

These women and their families are of course deeply impacted by the life-changing damage done to these babies. Astrologically, this tells us that the lunar cycle and Pluto (ruling fertility and gestation, respectively) are significant factors to watch for. Between the transmission of the virus and the most pernicious consequences of Zika infections, virtually the entire solar system is involved, as we’ll see in the charts below.

Let’s examine a biwheel for the first eclipse against a chart for Brazil’s first identified cases (in Pernambuco) in December 2014. No specific date for identification is mentioned, so I’ve cast the chart for mid-month. The November 2013 eclipse seems to correlate with the general timeframe scientists estimate for the virus’s arrival in Brazil, as cited here in a March 24, 2016 article:

“A study published in Science, which developed a "molecular clock" based on the count of virus mutations in a relatively small sample, suggested Zika virus arrived in the Americas (most likely in Brazil) from French Polynesia between May and December 2013…”
Biwheel 1: (inner wheel) Solar eclipse, November 3, 2013, 9:50 a.m. ST, Pernambuco, Brazil; (outer wheel) Zika Cases Identified, December 15, 2014, 12:00 p.m. ST, (time unknown), Pernambuco, Brazil. Note: because the timing for Identification is imprecise, we won’t be dwelling on Moon- or house/angle-related aspects for the Identification chart.

The Eclipse point at 11°16’ Scorpio is part of 6-part stellium, including Sun-Moon, Saturn, MC, Mercury and Node; the stellium sextiles Eclipse Mars (Virgo) and trines Eclipse Chiron (Pisces); Eclipse Mars opposes Eclipse Chiron. According to eclipse expert Celeste Teal, a Scorpio eclipse is “passionate, magnetic and concerned with reproduction.”[2] This may explain the central role of reproduction in this crisis. Scorpio also rules “venereal epidemics,” which speaks to the sexual transmission issue raised in the timeline above. This amazing “wedge” sextile/trine/opposition configuration enables the wounding (Saturn-Chiron) energies of this powerful Scorpio stellium to travel (Mercury) and to manifest (10th house) vigorously (Mars) in the world.

The Mars-Chiron opposition (8th-2nd houses), especially in these signs, points to deadly health (Virgo) threats of epidemic (Pisces) proportions and the Node’s involvement suggests an evolutionary potential being carried (Mercury). The family and social ramifications of the most severe Zika infections can be seen in Saturn’s close proximity to the 10th house Eclipse point.

A “dragon’s head” eclipse (North Node near the eclipse point), puts something new out into the world; unfortunately, “new” isn’t always a positive. Already quite potent in Brazil because of its visibility, this particular eclipse point is made even more so by the Node’s proximity. A Scorpio eclipse is co-ruled by Mars and Pluto—signs naturally associated with power and influence (often expressed violently and/or covertly), but let’s consider their associations in medical astrology. Most relevant here, Mars is said to rule the immune system, white blood cells and the inflammatory response; Pluto rules tissue formation (therefore gestation), waste elimination, birth and death. What role, if any, Mars’ inflammatory response plays in damaging fetal brains would be good to know. Pluto is clearly playing a role in the Zika crisis.

Identification (ID) Neptune conjoins Eclipse Neptune; ID Neptune trines Eclipse Scorpio points and opposes Eclipse Mars (Virgo). Neptune trines tend to unleash whatever energies are in play; here, we see Neptune adding circulation and reach to Scorpio’s epidemic potentials. This also speaks to how the disease confused the medical establishment and spread undetected in its early days. Outbreaks happening before this eclipse were notable for their seemingly mild symptoms and outcomes (i.e., Zika infections were considered a lot less severe than dengue fever in many places). This subterfuge is typical of both Scorpio and Neptune and allowed the epidemic to pick up strength and momentum as it built its virulent capacity (Mars opposition).

Medically, Neptune transits tend to breach the body’s defenses, weakening immunity; we’ll just have to wonder if Neptune also breaches and undermines fetal brain development. Needless to say, Neptune’s proximity to Chiron in both charts only deepens the problem.

ID Mars (Aquarius) squares Eclipse Scorpio points; Uranus in Aries (both charts) disposes Mars, squaring 12th house Pluto (Capricorn) in both charts. Mars’ malefic influence in the Zika crisis is certainly highlighted here, especially with Zika’s shocking (Uranus) life-changing effects on babies. Mars and Pluto also play a role in the crisis through men, who we now know can transmit the infection sexually to their partners, “when the man has symptoms, before symptoms start and after symptoms end.” Power dynamics between sexual partners (another Mars-Pluto issue) will affect the outcomes of this crisis.

The Uranus-Pluto square also reflects the radical social changes an epidemic can impose, and Brazil seems to be caught up in that process already, for more than one reason. Miscarriages and still births are other ways Pluto’s 12th house influence here manifests. Eclipse Uranus’s 3rd house placement suggests that this emergency will trigger serious grass-roots change, especially in communities with high concentrations of microcephaly and other Zika-related afflictions. What transpires unseen, in the womb (12th), has very real consequences for families, neighborhoods and communities (3rd).

ID Venus (Capricorn) conjoins ID/Eclipse Pluto; Saturn disposes both and from Scorpio, falls in mutual reception with Pluto (both charts). Venus is associated with venereal disease and hormonal function, so the Zika virus has taken advantage of her usual charms (especially when combined with Pluto) to manifest. Venus may also impact the development of other organs in the infected babies, such as kidneys.

Saturn’s role here is troubling—most visibly in the smaller than normal size of infected infants’ skulls. The bony human skull normally protects the growing brain, but if the brain is impaired in the womb, the skull doesn’t grow to normal size, leaving little room for that brain to expand and restricting other developmental processes. It’s easy to see how Saturn’s mutual reception with Pluto reflects the relationship between Zika infections (transmitted by a Plutonian “vampire,” the bloodsucking mosquito) and congenital malformations (Saturn).

ID Jupiter (Leo) trines ID Sun-Mercury and Eclipse Venus (all Sagittarius); ID Sun and Jupiter are in mutual reception; ID Sun-Mercury conjoin Eclipse Venus and semi-sextile ID Saturn. Jupiter also disposes ID Mercury, and even though this whole configuration would normally seem innocuous, if not downright optimistic, there’s a sober underlying message (ID Sun-Mercury overlay Eclipse 12th house), as well. The Cosmos doesn’t pick sides or serve only human purposes, so “positive” is a relative term when one sector of Nature (i.e., the Zika virus) is competing with another (Human wellbeing). Here, Jupiter in Leo illuminates our awareness (trine Sun-Mercury) of the virus, but Mercury is also associated with the transmission of information, and viruses are essentially bundles of genetic information, so Jupiter could have also stimulated transmission. Identifying the cases in 2014 was a sign of things to come. ID Mercury’s conjunction to Eclipse Venus reinforces the potential for sexual transmission of the virus, while the semi-sextile to Eclipse Saturn brings all its troubling implications into the mix.  

Eclipse Jupiter (Cancer) widely trines Eclipse Saturn (Scorpio) and widely opposes ID Pluto (Capricorn). This dignified Jupiter may also backfire on the medical establishment’s efforts to contain the epidemic. Although the aspects are quite loose, a 6th house Jupiter is bound to impact how the epidemic manifests (10th house Eclipse Saturn) in terms of public health, perhaps, as we’ve seen, amplifying the numbers. Disposed by the Eclipse Moon in Scorpio and opposite Scorpio’s ruler Pluto, Jupiter’s usual benefits may not materialize during the Eclipse period, but they may reflect how many Zika-affected families are coping with the new challenges, drawing on their own faith and optimism.

We can also be assured that—as Pluto transits into opposition orb with Eclipse Jupiter (it’s at roughly 17°Rx today)—the medical and finance establishments are positioning themselves to capitalize on the Zika emergency. A vaccine is currently in the works; whether or not that helps to contain the epidemic will probably reflect Pluto’s mutual reception with Saturn. A point to revisit as efforts unfold.

An added note about transits to the Eclipse chart
Eclipse experts point to the importance of Mars and Saturn transits to an eclipse chart in the 2-3 year period after the event; these transits act to reactivate the potentials of the eclipse. In the case of this November 2013 eclipse, Mars transited over the Eclipse point at 11°+Scorpio towards the end of January, 2016—a critical period for assessing the challenge posed by the epidemic—in Brazil and elsewhere. This period directly preceded the WHO’s declaration that Zika’s association with microcephaly and other neurological disorders constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.” So Mars raised its “red flag” of danger.

Mars’ retrograde station at 8°+Sagittarius on April 17 also kept the drama going, squaring this Eclipse Mars (Virgo) and trining Eclipse Uranus (Aries). The astrolocality map for the retrograde chart also hit Brazil’s national chart descendant—a volatile brew. Mars also reactivated the April 29, 2014 Eclipse point (Taurus) with an exact inconjunct aspect—more on that eclipse chart ahead.

Brazil in the crosshairs
At this point we can examine how Brazil’s national chart has been affected by the course of the Zika emergency. The biwheel below explores that issue by overlaying the second, even more volatile eclipse chart referenced earlier, with the 1822 national chart. I am indebted to astrologer Jorge Mele for confirming the preferred national chart for this purpose.

Biwheel 2: (inner wheel) Natal, Brazil Independence, September 7, 1822, 04:08 p.m. LMT, Sao Paulo, Brazil; (outer wheel) Solar Eclipse (annular non-central), April 29, 2014, 3:14:14 a.m. ST, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

First, a quick note about this rare eclipse: its duration was over 6 minutes, pointing to an unusually long period of influence. While precise timeframes are unpredictable, it’s probably safe to assume we’re looking at 4-6 years (from 2014-2020). Being a rare type of eclipse to begin with adds to its potency, as well. Finally, as a “Dragon’s Tail” eclipse (South node nearest the Eclipse point), the overall message of the eclipse is that it’s time to address and heal existing situations—as Teal puts it, it’s “time to balance the ledger.”[3] The analysis below suggests several critical areas that may need to be rebalanced.

Eclipse Point (8°+Taurus) and Eclipse Mercury (Taurus) conjoin Brazil Saturn (Rx, Taurus), opposes Brazil Mars (Scorpio) and trines Brazil Sun and Uranus-Neptune (Rx, Capricorn); Eclipse Venus (Pisces) disposes Eclipse Point. In the 3rd house, Brazil’s natal Saturn—ruling its legislative structures—depends heavily on grass-roots approval. The Eclipse point conjunct this point certainly speaks to the chaos that has built within Brazil’s government from 2014 to the present. Brazil’s legislature has been walking on shaky ground for the past few years, due to the ongoing Petrobras scandal, linking high government officials in the Dilma Rousseff administration with corrupt practices. That scandal came to a head on April 18th (just after Mars' retrograde station in Brazil's national 10th house--more about that ahead) with impeachment proceedings against Rousseff and legal proceedings against the other implicated officials.

The Eclipse point’s trine to Brazil’s Uranus-Neptune suggests that Brazil’s robust growth as an economy (probably related to Pluto’s transit over these Capricorn points between 2009 and 2015) has hit a wall. We’re seeing this in the current recession, perhaps triggered by the recent plunge in oil prices (also related to Pluto). While there may be no direct connection between economic factors and the Zika emergency, such factors seem to have created some of Brazil’s internal turmoil, and these in turn may have facilitated Zika’s spread. 

Brazilian citizens are deeply divided over these issues (Brazil Mars opposite Eclipse), threatening further instability. This is the social/political context into which the Zika virus has sprung: importantly, Eclipse Venus in Pisces disposes the Eclipse-Point (conjunct Brazil’s Saturn), highlighting this connection between Brazil’s challenges with both government and the epidemic (Pisces). Both challenges demand a tight focus of political will (Brazil Mars-opposite-Saturn) for solutions. With the Olympic Games coming up in Rio de Janeiro this summer, and a government to impeach, such focus could be difficult.

Brazil 7th house Sun (Virgo) opposes Eclipse Neptune/Chiron (midpoint in Pisces).Brazil Sun inconjoins Brazil Node (Aquarius). Significantly, the erosive force of Neptune and the wounding/healing energies of Chiron are traveling partners in Brazil’s 1st house, opposite Brazil’s pragmatic Virgo Sun. This suggests that broad systemic wounds may underlie the situation, and that solutions may remain out of reach until those dynamics are healed (Sun inconjunct Node). Only Brazilians can say what these systemic wounds might be—between their crisis in government and the spread of Zika virus, the time for radical healing seems to be ripe.

Eclipse Saturn (Rx Scorpio) conjoins Brazil MC, squares Brazil Venus (Leo). Brazil Venus is sesquiquadrate Brazil Pluto (Aries); Eclipse Saturn trines Eclipse Chiron. With Eclipse Saturn at Brazil’s 10th house cusp (Equal houses) and Chiron in Brazil’s 1st house, frustrating pressure has been applied since 2014 to Brazil’s government and image in the world, as well as its economy. Covering up debt is a contentious issue with Dilma Rousseff’s administration, implicating Venus-Pluto. The sesquiquadrate suggests that Brazil’s resource-based economy (oil is key-Pluto), doesn’t always live within its means (Venus in exuberant Leo), and the inevitable compromises depend upon a set of values (2nd house Pluto) that may or—based on the current unrest—may not be working for the people of Brazil.

Eclipse Neptune squares Brazil Jupiter-Moon (Gemini). Neither Jupiter nor the Moon is entirely comfortable in air sign Gemini, but this conjunction still speaks to the expansive emotions and ingenuity of the Brazilian people, and to the cultural diversity of the nation. These are all important qualities for overcoming an epidemic. Medically, there are reasons for concern, however: the Moon rules bodily fluids, so the square from Neptune reflects how those fluids have become pathways for transmission of the virus. Jupiter rules the brain’s cerebrum and its many functions in normal brain development, so Neptune square this point reflects the damage being done to infant brains developing in the womb (Moon).

Finally, yet another sobering thought: the Moon and Jupiter (along with Saturn) also speak to fertility and population demographics; Neptune’s square to these points highlights how the Zika virus attacks the viability and reproductive capacity of future generations. Unless contained quickly, Neptune’s erosive force could diminish those populations in alarming ways. If this epidemic is like most, it will hurt the most vulnerable to the greatest degree, so compassionate (Neptune) choices made in the near term will certainly affect how these troubling scenarios play out.

Eclipse Grand Trine: Jupiter (Cancer) trines Chiron (Pisces) trines Saturn (Scorpio). Eclipse Jupiter is dignified and fairly powerful in mid-Cancer; the unleashed quality of the grand trine here foreshadowed that a lot would happen in a short time, and between 2014 and the present (April 2016) it certainly has. Focusing just on the Zika crisis, the virus—and the associated pain (Chiron)—has spread with the ease and flow of a grand trine since that time. As noted in the introduction, more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly related to Zika infections are now acknowledged, with numbers steadily rising. Hopefully more current numbers will be published soon.

Saturn in Scorpio is disposed by a tense Mars-Pluto square (Libra-Capricorn) in this biwheel, suggesting that a power struggle in progress during this eclipse’s period of influence may be undermining efforts to focus on the Zika outbreak going forward. If the eclipse’s unusual duration of over 6 minutes is any indication, Brazil’s severe challenge with this epidemic may take at least 4 more years to overcome. Even then, the lifelong (and intergenerational) consequences of microcephaly will remain. Clearly, Brazil needs help now from the international community!

Eclipse T-Square: Mars (Libra) opposite Uranus (Aries), all square Eclipse Pluto (Capricorn). Brazil’s Chiron (Aries) conjoins Eclipse Uranus. The tense Mars-Pluto square mentioned above is actually part of an even more tense T-square, which reflects Brazil’s internal turmoil, political stand-offs and otherwise. The convergence of Brazil’s Chiron with this T-square points to the national “Achilles’ heel” that has inspired the turmoil. Resource issues, values and the economy (2nd house) appear to be the focus.

Eclipse Jupiter (Cancer) inconjoins Brazil Node (Aquarius), while Eclipse Uranus (Aries) sextiles the same point; Eclipse Jupiter squares Eclipse Uranus, trines Eclipse Saturn (Rx, Scorpio)-Brazil MC and Eclipse Chiron (Pisces). Brazil has clearly been caught up in the dynamics of social change illustrated so well by this configuration. This change has not been unfolding as a neat logical process, however—it’s been explosive and driven by both chaos and necessity—perhaps the roots of the corruption challenges being experienced as well. Clearly, the Zika virus will continue to thrive in an atmosphere of chaos (Neptune), so the sooner Brazil is able to restabilize its government and any critical institutions (Saturn-Jupiter), the better. Growth and security (Eclipse Jupiter in Cancer) going forward will depend upon addressing social and economic wounds (trine Brazil’s 2nd house Chiron).  

Final thoughts…
So, this article doesn’t address whether Dilma Rousseff “rides the storm” or is “drowned” in her impeachment dilemma after all—Mars’ retrograde transit in Brazil’s 10th house in the coming months (turning direct at the end of June conjunct the nation’s Scorpio MC)will probably tell the story. More importantly, how will the people of Brazil fare in their nation’s complicated set of crises? These are incredibly complex charts, and there is undoubtedly more to say astrologically. 

At this point, however, we might want to consider Nature’s evolutionary perspective. Are we human beings the enemy of the natural world? If so, what better way to get rid of us than to undermine our reproductive success with an epidemic that guarantees problems for generations? Panic will get us nowhere, but to reverse the course of any crisis, the answer is usually to stop enabling the conditions for the crisis. Those potentials also reside in these charts. Food for thought in Brazil and everywhere else!

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former university English instructor. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years. Raye can be contacted by comment here, or at: 

© Raye Robertson 2016. All rights reserved. 

[1] Kindhauser MK, Allen T, Frank V, Santhana RS & Dye C. Zika: the origin and spread
of a mosquito-borne virus [Submitted]. Bull World Health Organ E-pub: 9 Feb 2016. PDF available at link.
[2] Celeste Teal, Eclipses: Predicting World Events & Personal Transformation, Llewelyn Publications, 2006, p. 19.
[3] Teal, p. 11.

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