Monday, October 31, 2016

An Underworld quest & our national trail of tears: the North Dakota pipeline protests

I think it’s fair to say that by birth or naturalization, Americans have been cornered into a twisted karmic relationship with Native Americans—those peoples who inhabited these expansive lands from sea to shining sea long before any of us landed. 

Our native populations have been run over roughshod ever since—robbed of their lands and marginalized in American society. Despite efforts to “memorialize” them in a national museum and to write them off with a few meager benefits, however, they are still very present on the lands that remain to them, and they remain focused on living there in a way that accords with Nature instead of against it.

As a matter of principle and culture, Native peoples have been the guardians (if not the source) of whatever earth-consciousness we possess in our national discourse. Which makes the attack on native protestors in North Dakota this past week, calling for “No Dakota Access Pipeline,” especially troubling. This protest aims to protect the Missouri River (the 1200 mile Dakota Access, or Bakken pipeline would run beneath it) from oil pollution, only 10 miles from the only water source available to them, and to protect their sacred burial grounds from destruction.

This months-long protest began on April 1st 2016, when Standing Rock Sioux tribal elder Ladonna Bravebull Allard founded the Sacred Stone Camp on her private property, providing space for the gatherings to come. When police forces from 5 states amassed on October 27th to drive protestors away from the pipeline construction areas, Allard spoke out:

"My people stand for the water, and they attack us. My people stand up for the graves of our people, and they attack us. My people stand up for our sacred places, and they attack us. My people pray, and they stop us, dragging us from our prayer, and throw us in the dirt. I know this is America- this is the history of my people. America has always walked though the blood of my people.
How can we stand in the face of violence? Because I was born to this land, because the roots grow out of my feet, because I love this land and I honor the water. Have we not learned from history? I pray for each of the people who stand up. We cannot live like this anymore. It has to stop- my grandchildren have a right to live. The world has a right to live. The water, the life blood of the world? has a right to live. Mni Wiconi, Water of Life. Pray for the water, pray for the people. Stop Dakota Access- killer of the world."

Mythic underpinnings

Mythology and astrology work like hand-in-glove, so not surprisingly, there’s an interesting astrological story to tell about all this, and as we’ll see, it opens in the U.S. Sibly chart’s 8th house.
In his fine study about the mysteries of the 8th house in astrology, The Gate of Rebirth, Astrologer Haydn Paul says that “the Mystery of the 8th house concerns the reconciliation of Self and Others.” 

It is this concern, he suggests, that energizes the Scorpionic “Underworld quest” represented by this house (Scorpio being the natural ruler of the 8th). He cites the Sumerian myth of Ereshkigal, “the Lady of the Great Place Below” and Inanna, “the Queen of Heaven” as the model for this quest:

Inanna descended into Ereshkigal’s world, and was ‘brought naked and bowed low’ according to the accepted laws and initiatory rites for all those wishing to enter the secret kingdom. Inanna’s fine clothing and regalia, the signs of her power and status, were ritually stripped away as she progressed gradually losing her dignity, pride, identity, and certainties in deference to her accepted surrender to something greater than herself. This divestment was enacted at each of the Seven Gates to the Underworld where sat Ereshkigal at the center of her Mystery, attended by her servants, the Fates.[2]

Paul reminds us that the realm Below was revered by ancient matriarchal cultures as the province of the “life-bearing goddess-womb”—a key reason such cultures were so inextricably bound to Earth-centered wisdom.  As the Queen of this Underworld, Ereshkigal was a “chtonic earth Mother,” ruling over the prosperity and fertility of the land.

Those who think of the 8th house as the province of Pluto (ruler of Scorpio) are not mistaken, but that’s not the entire story. Pluto (Hades in Greek mythology) was originally conceived as ruling the Underworld and all its resources (fertility, minerals, oil, subterranean waters) hand-in-hand with Persephone, his feminine “better half.” Scorpio is indeed considered a feminine archetype because of its deep, chtonic connection with Nature.

As we see above, to be whole, even a “Queen of Heaven” must eventually submit to the primal power of the Earth. Survival—wholeness—is not, in the end, a cerebral or abstract (i.e., “heavenly”) phenomenon—it’s gritty and a gift of the Underworld—where “the roots grow out of [our] feet.” Ancient cultures—including today’s tribal forebears—knew that reconciling with the “Others” in their midst was required for harmony in Nature (and by implication, prosperity for all). They kept up their end of the bargain by ceding vast tracts of land to their invaders in exchange for treaties (rarely honored by the U.S. government).

 It’s very significant, then, that this latest abuse of power against the “NoDPL” protests pits government-backed financial power against survival-minded guardians of water, as well. Scorpio is a fixed water sign and the importance of water for the sake of survival falls squarely in its domain.
On the other hand, Pluto and thus, Scorpio, also likes to turn a corporate profit, so there are deep, dark choices to make. In fact, the balance between financial interests and environmental health is always a matter of reconciling two opposing priorities—“Self & Other,” in psycho-social terms. How does this Underworld quest work on the social level?

In fact, citing renowned astrologer/philosopher, Dane Rudhyar, Paul seems to be saying that personal and social choices on this journey are inextricable: 

‘It is in terms of eighth house types of experience that a person has to make perhaps his or her deepest and most vital choices. These choices will affect not only the individual but society as a whole. In that sense, the Existential philosophers are right in saying that every man is responsible for the whole of mankind.’[3]
Perhaps it’s no accident that our Sibly Sun—the luminary Self of our nation—falls in the social 3rd quadrant of the chart, in the 8th house? We have, from day one, built this nation on a tortured, exploitative relationship with Others, from our indigenous tribes to the unwilling Africans we brought ashore.

Choices were made in regards to both groups, and power abuses for the sake of profit, land and resources resulted. The 8th house is also a financial domain, pertaining to the resources one receives from others—quite appropriate when viewed from the Native perspective. These choices have been driven by irreconciliable perspectives, it seems: land as Sacred Life (the Native perspective) v. land as Resource (Government).

In a perverse twist on the Native belief that people are part of nature, not apart from or above nature (the “Sky goddess” perspective), the slave trade merely extended this “land as Resource” viewpoint to people—bought and sold as essential tools for extracting wealth from the land.

Whereas reconciling Self and Others creates an indivisible whole (Inanna utterly surrendered and became one with the Underworld), Scorpio consolidates (fixed sign) two entities around a power-relationship—again, its nature is a matter of choice. These choices can be made consciously or unconsciously—the 8th house is also where we process unconscious material. On the personal level this process evolves into interpersonal intimacy; on the social/collective level it often smacks of an imperfect assimilation with uneven benefits.

Native peoples have been expected to play the surrendering role of Inanna, but the role wasn’t freely chosen. They became part of something “greater than themselves” by force, and not much has changed. Astrologically, it’s high time we get this relationship right, for the sake of our collective health going forward. To do this, we need to process the unconscious, 8th house material that seems to be erupting to the surface these days—more on this to come.

To their everlasting credit, Food & Water Watch sheds light on what the power relationship is behind this “Underworld quest” by revealing the financial interests supporting the pipeline’s construction. Suffice to say here that a long list of international banks and corporations, another 8th house-related reality, are involved. Interestingly, the horrendous attack on pipeline protestors hasn’t been deemed front-page material in the mainstream media yet, but alternative outlets like NPR,  Facebook Live and Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now podcast are covering the story to varying degrees.

Sowing karmic blowback

The official reports about militarized police forces descending upon the protestors on October 27th are horrendous enough, but some of the earlier personal stories from protestors surfacing on are even more chilling:
As of mid-October there have been over 140 arrests. Some protesters arrested for minor misdemeanors and taken to the Morton County jail have reported what they considered harsh and unusual treatment. Sara Jumping Eagle, a physician on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, was required to remove all of her clothing and "squat and cough" when she was arrested for disorderly conduct. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, who founded Sacred Stone Camp, said that when her daughter was arrested and taken into custody she was "strip-searched in front of multiple male officers, then left for hours in her cell, naked and freezing."
Allard said her daughter was repeatedly asked by guards, "Who is your mother?" Cody Hall from Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota also reported being strip-searched and required to "squat and cough". He was held for four days without bail or bond and then charged with two misdemeanors.[53] Tribal chief David Archambault II was also strip-searched. When asked if strip searches were common during arrests for disorderly conduct he replied that he didn't know since he had never before been arrested. He said that jail officials searched his hair braid for weapons, which he found to be odd since he doesn't have a very thick braid.[54]
Actress Shailene Woodley, arrested on October 10 along with 27 others, also said she was strip-searched, adding, "Never did it cross my mind that while trying to protect clean water, trying to ensure a future where our children have access to an element essential for human survival, would I be strip-searched. I was just shocked."[55]

As with Inanna, Natives are being stripped once again not just of their regalia, but of their “dignity, pride, identity and certainties…,” and the U.S. is literally processing its 8th house nightmare on the backs of its Natives. Scorpio may tolerate power imbalances and demand total surrender for the good of the collective, but when the purpose served is antithetical to sustainable life and the respect the Self of this nation owes its Others, there will be karmic blowback.

Pandora's Box

The official justification for this pipeline is to transport oil across country “to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.” This phrase, of course, masks an unsustainable national energy policy, based on destructive extraction for the sake of outsized financial gain—a real Scorpionic Pandora’s Box. If we open this box and unleash “all the evils of the world,” as the myth goes, we run serious risk of environmental disasters that will cost us far more than the banks plan to make on this pipeline.

But how will we do anything different, if we keep prioritizing the finance sector above the environment? The North Dakota situation represents a much broader imperative, and we might find that Native protestors are doing us a real service.  Let’s examine the relevant charts.

Biwheel 1: (inner wheel) Sacred Stone Camp (Dakota Pipeline protest begins), April 1, 2016, 6:44 a.m. DST (sunrise chart), Standing Rock Reservation, ND; (outer wheel) NDPipeline Protest Attack, Octobr 27, 2016, 12:00 p.m. DST, (noon, no exact time known), Cannon Ball, ND. Tropical Equal houses, True Node.

Protest Camp Sun (Aries) widely conjoins Camp ASC and trines Camp Mars/Saturn (Sagittarius). An Aries Sun can often be impetuous and rash; here, these passionate impulses are reined in and placed in a spiritual context by elder Ladonna Bravebull Allard’s decision (trine to Mars/Saturn) to establish (ASC) the physical home for the protests to come. Also in keeping with the Mars/Saturn midpoint, Allard encourages action and models determination.

Attack Sun-Mercury (Scorpio) trines Attack Neptune (Pisces). We’ve considered the importance of Scorpio and its mythic Underworld quest is to all this, so the timing of this attack is no surprise. The Neptune trine reflects the spiritual idealism expressed in the protest, especially in its concern for the life force contained in healthy water (Neptune). As we’ll see ahead, the protest’s founder was motivated by collective, existential (Neptunian) concerns.

Protest Uranus-Mercury (Aries) conjoins Protest ASC trines Protest Saturn (Sagittarius) and squares Protest Moon (Capricorn). In founding this protest, Allard articulates (Mercury-Uranus) the tribe’s position, goals (Mars/Saturn) and deep emotional longings (Moon), which are better expressed in her eloquent words:

Of the 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of them are right here at the confluence of these two rivers. It is a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne.

The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is that simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history. If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide? [5] 
The Protest Moon in earthy Capricorn evokes the Natives’ long, emotional history of loss as Others in American society, particularly of land and dignity (Saturn rules Capricorn); elevated in the chart (10th house), this Moon speaks to the significant timing of this protest effort. There’s an existential threat contained in the Moon-Uranus square, as well: Not only are the land and its resources at stake (Capricorn), but everything the land signifies for Native culture and history is in jeopardy.

More broadly, the manner in which this protest is resolved will impact the nation’s environmental future relationship. This, at a time when we really need to be healing our relationship with the environment for what Natives call “the seven generations.” Depleting our lands of resources for the sake of investor interests (Pluto falls in the Sibly 2nd house of finances, shown in Biwheel 2 below), even if there’s short-term economic gain to go around, is simply the road to nowhere.

In fact, this road to nowhere is the trap that many developing countries have fallen into as a consequence of the debts they owe the IMF and World Bank. In astrological terms, an extraction-based economy is a Faustian bargain with Pluto, and Pluto always wins in the end.

A Capricorn Moon seems very fitting here: like the Native protestors, it is brave, determined and persistent, taking its knocks and getting back up for another round. Perhaps the square to Protest Uranus-Mercury will stimulate more mainstream media coverage and support.

Attack Mars-Pluto (Capricorn) conjoin Protest Moon and square Attack Uranus-Protest Uranus-Mercury-ASC (Aries). Mainstream media coverage of the protest and the October 27 police attack has been scant, but high profile politicians such as Bernie Sanders have come out to support Native efforts. His efforts are powerfully countered by the corporate and banking heavyweights (Capricorn Pluto), however, who are equally determined to fight the protest and clear it away (Capricorn Mars). The reported brutality of the attack is reflected in this duo’s assault on the Protest Moon and in the violent means used (square to Uranus in Aries).

Protest Chiron-Venus-South Node (Pisces) sextile Protest Moon-Attack Mars (Capricorn) and oppose Protest Jupiter-North Node (Virgo). The opposition aspects to Jupiter are a bit wide here, but the proximity of the nodal axis suggests they are still important. We can see that, with the help of significant relationships (Venus), Natives are revisiting the historical “trail of tears” they’ve walked before (south node-Chiron), hopefully this time to heal those wounds (Chiron-Venus). The sextile aspect speaks to the protest’s opportune timing and to the emotional support the protestors are receiving from tribes around the nation, from social media and the environmental movement.

Protest & Attack Chiron-Venus-South Node squares Protest Saturn-Attack Saturn (Sagittarius); Protest & Attack Neptunes square Protest Mars-Saturn (Sagittarius) & Attack Venus-Saturn (Sagittarius). It’s easy to imagine from this complex configuration that both sides of the Dakota pipeline dispute perceive the other side as a wounding, chaos-producing force; the odds that these two sides will be able to see eye-to-eye on anything are very low, but distortion and obfuscation of the facts are very likely. Attack Venus-Saturn (Sagittarius) also trine Protest Sun-Uranus (Aries), so legal assistance for the protestors may be forthcoming.

Interchart T-square: Attack Jupiter (Libra) disposes the Sagittarian points and opposes Protest Sun (Aries); this axis squares Protest Pluto (Capricorn). Attack Jupiter (in mutual reception with Attack Venus) also sextiles Protest Mars/Saturn & Attack Mars-Saturn (all Sagittarius). All of this suggests that the protestors may enjoy some legal leverage in this situation, although any progress will be a frustrating, confusing uphill battle. The scope of this challenge will be more clear when we consider how all this interacts with the Sibly chart. Suffice to say here that  this story is likely to touch a national nerve once it’s more widely known.

Our national 8th house journey

Will this protest be resolved with anything resembling fairness and respect for Native priorities? Can the U.S. finally resolve its long, tortured relationship with these Others living in its midst? In fact, the Sibly Sun (Cancer) has been experiencing a long transiting opposition from Capricorn Pluto since its first exact hit in March, 2014. This was the first of five exact hits (2 of them retrograde), so there’s been a deep fundamental transformation going on in the nation itself, the presidency and in the “Washington establishment” (this opposition forms a t-square when Sibly Saturn in Libra is factored in)—a larger story for another day. We’ve certainly been seeing some of these changes in Election 2016!

The question here is how the nation’s relationship with its Native population will be impacted by this transformation. To appreciate the challenge involved, let’s briefly consider how the Attack chart interacts with the U.S. Sibly chart.

Biwheel #2: (inner wheel) USA Sibly chart, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m. LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) NDPipeline Protest Attack, Octobr 27, 2016, 12:00 p.m. DST, (noon, no exact time known), Cannon Ball, ND. Tropical Equal houses, True Node.

Attack Sun-Mercury (Scorpio) squares Sibly Nodal axis (Leo-Aquarius). It’s interesting that the Scorpio points also oppose the Taurus Pluto-Saturn-Uranus conjunction in Taurus featured in the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux  (chart not shown) between then-Minnesota territory Sioux Natives and the U.S. Government, a treaty that Allard says pertains to this new struggle. Westward expansion into Native lands was in full swing in 1851, and this belligerent fixed Taurus stellium spoke to the government’s quest for land.

Attack Sun and Mercury opposing these historical points summons those old ghosts of broken treaties past, while squaring the Sibly nodal axis; of course, the 1851 Taurus stellium also squared that same nodal axis, suggesting that the land grabs of the 1850s were soul-destroying for the nation, despite the excuses we’ve made for them over the centuries. The current Attack square to our nodal axis again cuts deep, but it presents an opportunity to right some wrongs.

Attack Venus-Saturn (Sagittarius) straddles Sibly ASC (Sagittarius), opposes Sibly Mars/Uranus (midpoint, Gemini). In Jupiter-ruled Sagittarius, Venus-Saturn at the Sibly ASC evokes a sense that a “just cause” is being revealed to the nation for liberating action (Mars-Uranus). That action may be somewhat restrained (Saturn), but with Mars-Uranus energy afoot, there could be violence nevertheless. 

America’s working class (Sibly 6th house Uranus disposes Aquarius Moon) is implicated here, and their economic priorities (the price at the gas pump) are often used to prioritize short-term profits over long-term clean energy plans. The North Dakota protest raises these issues in a tangential way, but public reaction to the protest will be colored by economic anxieties that have been over-inflamed already this election season.

Interchart T-Square: Attack Pluto-Mars (Capricorn) oppose Sibly Sun (Cancer); this axis squares Sibly Saturn (Libra). The opposition here cuts across the Sibly 2nd-8th house axis, reflecting that “Underworld quest” we need to pursue, to resolve the deep disparities between what we say we’re about (freedom, equality, opportunity) and the reality on full display in North Dakota these days. The 2nd-8th is the axis that rules personal-collective values, and these seem to need some serious reconsideration.

As mentioned above, Pluto has been transiting the Sibly chart in this tense relationship for years now, and we have been seeing the resurgence of troubling forces: neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements (let’s go back to the “good old days” of segregation and slavery?), not to mention anti-government militias such as the one acquitted in Oregon the same day that Natives were attacked in North Dakota. Cosmic irony is working overtime here.

Certainly connected, if not a direct consequence of all this negativity, we’ve been living through the most degenerate political times since the Watergate crisis—and not because of a batch of misplaced emails. The venomous will to destroy the Other (minorities, immigrants, the government, opposing candidates, etc.) has characterized this election year like none I can remember. But what do we do when the Others are also “Us?” Pluto loves to throw down an existential challenge, and these issues just might be that.

We’ve been down this road in the 1860s, and it wasn’t pretty. We can’t “free the slaves” again; we can’t give lands that have long been developed back to the Natives; we can’t put minerals and resources back into the earth; we can’t undo centuries of discrimination. So where do we go from here to resolve these karmic relationships and make ourselves whole once again? As Inanna knew, future prosperity depends upon surrendering differences to this greater purpose.

For now, the question is, how will this play out in North Dakota?

Attack Jupiter (Libra) conjoins Sibly Saturn (Libra). As Jupiter perfects this aspect it also falls into place in the tense T-square just discussed above. This is likely to raise the stakes for all players in the North Dakota dilemma—encouraging the prevailing power structures (Saturn-Pluto) and financial interests (Pluto opposed Sibly Sun). Jupiter will be transiting square Sibly Pluto (Capricorn) for much of the coming year, opposing Uranus (Aries), however, and this could open space for a deeper social awareness of needed changes and a path to get there.

This transit could be helpful, but true resolution of this dilemma may have to wait for transiting Pluto’s return to Sibly Pluto in early 2022. The return of all these repressed Other-related issues suggests that change will be forced upon us whether we’re ready or not. The choices (as with all Underworld quests) will probably range between a deeply cathartic resolution (supporting wholeness), or a karmic comeuppance (supporting division). Who, or what sets the priorities of this nation, and do those priorities serve the right purposes? We will need to resolve this question before our relationships with Others can be resolved.

A sobering footnote

One last thought about the Plutonian 8th house “quest” we are caught up in as Americans. Our collective Cancer 8th is ruled by the Sibly Moon in Aquarius, so our current dis-ease with each other always has the potential to spill over into serious disruption. Happily, Jupiter will be transiting trine that Moon for most of the coming year, but it will also oppose transiting Uranus in Aries, itself sextile Sibly Moon, so while the consciousness-raising efforts of Jupiter-Uranus may be positive, the potential for a volatile backlash (Uranus in Mars-ruled Aries) will remain.

Unfortunately, we may see more violence out of North Dakota before this is over. I hope I’m wrong, but from what I’ve seen thus far, the gathered police forces really seemed to relish what they were doing on October 27th.  An NPR radio journalist reported the eerie scene of police choppers chasing down Indians on horseback, like something out of another century. Perhaps that’s the problem here—Natives have been consigned to the dustbin of our collective memory, and they are not taken seriously as stakeholders in American democracy. Trouble is, they are not frozen in amber somewhere; their needs are as present today as anybody’s.

That same NPR program pointed out that the Sioux tribe wasn’t even consulted when the pipeline project was planned; its route through their watershed and ancient burial grounds wasn’t considered worthy of discussion. The Natives simply had no voice, but they want one now, and they don’t show signs of simply disappearing into the landscape again with no satisfaction.  They fully embrace their role as the guardians of the environment, and it’s high time to make our collective peace with them.

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] Haydn Paul, Gate of Rebirth: Astrology, Regeneration and 8th House Mysteries, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, ME, 1993, p. 15.
[2] Paul, p. 15.
[3] Paul (p. 19) cites Rudhyar’s The Astrological Houses, p. 110.