Friday, July 3, 2020

Kindness & Sorrow: Life in the Saturn/Neptune waning 3Q

Angel of Sorrow

“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness….”

Naomi Shihab Nye, an excerpt from “Kindness,” Word Under Words:
Selected Poems

Nobody likes rules and regulations. Nobody likes to be told they “must” do something, or “must not” do something else. Yet, welcome to the real world—even when we think we’re not guided by rules or norms—we are, because over time we have internalized and adopted certain standards of behavior and habits of the heart and mind as our own. Our characters have, through the influence of our parents, guardians and families, our teachers, friends and community members, been cultivated and refined so that over time, we understand in our guts the lines between right and wrong, between desirable and undesirable behavior.

This Saturnian process—which makes life in civil society possible—is called socialization, and it helps explain why Saturn has always been considered exalted in the sociable sign of Libra. 

Thankfully, however, many people not only integrate Saturn’s “best practices” into their daily routine (could this be why we attribute “integrity” to such people?), but they take their personal development even further—beyond that Saturnian social realm of obligations and rules to cultivate habits of the spirit in themselves that transcend rules to become virtues and ways of being.

A person who treats a difficult customer politely because the boss is watching over their shoulder is following the norms of polite behavior and good corporate conduct; a person who goes above and beyond to help a stranger when no one is looking (as a wonderful woman did recently when my bicycle tire hit a rut and threw me over) is displaying transcendent character. 

Probably without even realizing how revolutionary they are being, such individuals burst the earthly, social bounds of Saturn and touch the collective sky—Uranus’s realm of freedom and liberation from boundaries (including those of self-interest); Neptune’s realm of oceanic compassion and at-one-ment; and Pluto’s realm of chthonic transformation, without which humanity would have never evolved beyond dog-eat-dog survivalism.

Context matters here:  while worthy of praise, a person who feeds family members during hard times is fulfilling primal obligations that probably rattle around in their DNA; those who feel and react to the needs of people far different from themselves and connected by nothing but the human condition are exercising compassion—Neptune’s highest expression.

Hearts must be open for compassion to flower.

It is at times like these, when so many painful challenges have converged on the heads of ordinary families at the same time, when so many have simply been put through too much to remain silent, that we are faced with a fateful cosmic fork in the road. Do we hew to the “rules” and accept that “some people” were somehow born to disproportionately bear society’s burdens, or do we cut through that cruel Saturn-Neptune illusion, which does so much to enable a tired status-quo, to say, “enough is enough!”    

We’ve discussed several planetary cycles on this site over the past months—especially the new, Saturn-Pluto, Jupiter-Pluto and Jupiter-Saturn cycles, but I’ve paid considerably less attention to this elusive Saturn-Neptune cycle which—having launched in March 1989 at 11°+Capricorn—is now well into its waning 3rd quarter and is clearly wielding outsized influence in our current social and health crises.

We don’t have to look at many charts from current events to realize that the key signs impacting the dragged out, exhausting nature of it all are Capricorn and Pisces. Our cosmic “heavies” are basically deployed in these two signs, and even with Saturn having stepped away from its earthy home sign into its more liberated airy one, Aquarius, it still rules Capricorn (where Jupiter and Pluto are) and besides, it has already re-entered Capricorn by retrograde motion.

Pulling strings and calling shots.

So bottom line, if We the People can be pictured as a marionette, the two “strings” being pulled from on-high to make us dance are labeled Saturn (Capricorn) and Neptune (Pisces).

This means it is long past time that we dive deeply into this cycle and its importance for the road ahead, and we’ll start with some facts (key with this often confusing cycle) about the basic impulses of these odd cosmic “bedfellows.” See Table 1 below.

Table 1. Basic planetary impulses, Saturn v. Neptune
Earth “god” in mythology
God of the Sea in mythology (Poseidon)
Restricts and limits
Erodes boundaries and limits (water “seeks its level”)
Establishes order
Dissolves individuals into collective forces (as water dissolves other substances into itself); dissolves rationality into manic or hysterical thinking
Consolidates influence
Overwhelms with mass outpouring (at best, peaceful protest; at worst, hysteria and “lynch mobs”)
Conserves status quo; obstructs change
Erodes status quo; promotes instability, chaos; efforts to adapt produce change over long time frames
Promotes conformity with structured bureaucracies
Undermines structures and confidence; inspires fear and suspicion and can be passively complicit with destructive forces
Enforces existing laws and regulations
Undermines laws and norms with inertia and corruption; uses deception and passivity to subvert clear thinking and authority
Counsels moderation
Enables excesses and escapism, abuse of mind-altering substances and cultish behavior
Celebrates heritage and traditional mores
Confuses and blurs cultural boundaries and “truths”—at best, to promote compassion and a sense of common cause; at worst, to dilute and undermine any collective effort towards change.
Promotes “realistic” (often change averse) viewpoints
Promotes distorted, “fantasy” narratives and at worst, delusionary, conspiracy-laced viewpoints
Frames arguments with pessimistic viewpoint and “law-and-order” rigidity
Promotes addictive, “victim” mentality,” obfuscates and denies observable facts.
Dampens public enthusiasm
Weakens immunity (in individuals and societies); debilitates critical thinking
Rewards responsible behavior
Rewards creative vision, imaginative thinking; at worst. avoids responsibility with “what-about-ism” defenses and denial
Reinforces authority by punishing change agents
Subverts authority, enabling chaotic feeling change; gains power via passive techniques like gaslighting and creating “alternative” realities 
Seeks well-worn, rational solutions to problems
Takes passive approach to problems—“ignore them and they’ll go away”

The verbs used in both columns in this table kind of say it all—Saturn structures, conserves, restrains, limits, consolidates and reinforces, while Neptune wields its power in almost diametrically opposed ways: it erodes, enables, undermines, weakens, subverts, distorts and dilutes. Saturn takes a mostly pro-active approach; Neptune often relies on the power of passivity and inaction, but its approach is no less purposefulit may appear to be doing nothing in the face of circumstances, but is, in the process, achieving some nebulous aim. 

Along these lines, with his natal Mercury-Neptune square (Cancer-Libra), Mercury disposing his Gemini points and Pisces Neptune now transiting square his Gemini-Sagittarius axis, Trump (chart not shown)[1] is showing us how this purposeful madness works in real time by passively enabling the pandemic (among other issues), continuing to pretend it’s just going to “disappear,” while he’s holding rallies and the numbers are spiking all around us. 

So we can see the “method to the madness” that transpires between these two, nearly oppositional planetary energies: in his mundane classic, Planetary Cycles: Mundane Astrology, André Barbault associates the Saturn-Neptune cycle with the withdrawn, nocturnal character of the IC where “misfortune and poverty” reside. 

He says, 

“But when hunger brings the wolf out of the forest, human need increases the collective demands of a frustrated population which has no hope. So this conjunction is about popular insurrections that are usually fired by ideological beliefs.”[2]  
This description bears out with stunning accuracy as Barbault traces the history of the conjunction periods of this cycle from 1773, the cycle that inspired the great democratic revolutions of the 18th century (including our own American Revolution). In fact, this cycle launched conjunct our Sibly Neptune (Virgo), seeding the hardship-based turmoil that followed. And yes, the revolutions of that time were all “fired by ideological beliefs,” as were the revolutions in the late 1980s-early 90s that crumbled the Berlin Wall and brought the Soviet Union down, liberating its satellite nations. 
The scene on the Berlin Wall in 1989.
All this happened under the 1989 cycle mentioned above, that we are, in fact, still living through.
Knowing this, perhaps it’s no longer a mystery why Russia is working so hard to undermine U.S. democracy these days—to the point of not only interfering in our elections but offering bounties on American soldiers’ heads in Afghanistan. Simply put, they are effectively leveraging the waning dregs of this cycle. 
In fact, this cycle is certainly being good to Vladimir Putin—he just managed to secure his power over Russia through 2036 and was confident enough that the votes would be there (cynicism is appropriate here) that the results were announced five hours before the polls closed! So why wouldn’t he try fulfilling a revenge fantasy against the U.S. while he’s on such a roll?
Why not, indeed: he has a U.S. president in tow who slumps over and makes himself look smaller whenever he’s in Putin’s “Napoleonesque” short-statured presence, and no surprise, Trump’s response to the allegations about Russian bounties are similarly deferential—steering well clear of criticizing Putin and basically making excuses for him—“it’s a hoax…it’s fake news…the intelligence was unconfirmed…he wasn’t briefed,” and so on. And not saying one word to the American families whose loved ones were likely killed overseas as a consequence! Neptune’s purposeful passivity at work!
It’s difficult to make responsibility stick under the best of circumstances with politicos at these lofty heights, but watching how they coordinate their messaging (as in that infamous Helsinki debacle), there’s no conclusion but to say that Trump and Putin play off each other to make sure neither ever takes responsibility—the dark-side of Saturn-Neptune in a nutshell.
So in the process of shielding himself from responsibility, Trump has basically forced the U.S. to stoop over in obeisance to Putin right along with him! This isn’t even about politics anymore…and it certainly isn’t about party. It’s about our troops and their families being betrayed; it’s about the one man, who is supposed to place the country’s interests above all else (including himself), selling our national dignity and soul down the river; it’s about having to wonder what else is being done behind our backs to endanger our national security.
And all this has been taking place under the cover of dual, Saturn-Neptune-style crises: the COVID pandemic (by definition, a Neptunian phenomenon) which at this writing has killed nearly 130,000 Americans, crushed our economy and produced enough hardship to fuel the other turmoil we’re seeing in our streets with the enduring outpouring of protest and support for the Black Lives Matter movement and its call for fundamental systemic change.
Trump lost interest in the first crisis pretty quickly (or simply switched into passive aggressive mode), preferring to pressure states into opening back up and rebooting their economies for election year—meanwhile, with his indifference to the human lives being lost, creating chaos and division between his followers (who on his cue became “anti-mask” and averse to social distancing) and the governors trying to manage their own states’ needs and navigate the COVID ups and downs. 
The results are seen all around us, of course – to the point of the EU banning U.S. travelers because of our continuing high infection numbers. As Joe Biden just put it, stating the obvious: Trump has transformed the U.S. “into a global health risk.”
Yet, somehow, in the midst of all this, with election looming in November, Trump found time and enthusiasm for several friendly interactions with Putin, including:
April 1 – U.S. buys Russian medical supplies; a public relations coup for Putin.
April 25 – Trump and Putin sign a joint “statement of trust” between U.S. and Russia.
May 21 – Trump sends $5.6 million in humanitarian aid (including 50 ventilators) to Moscow to combat coronavirus.
June 1 – “Friendly” phone call between Trump and Putin alarms advisers.
June 15 – U.S. plans to withdraw troops supporting NATO (specifically, Germany) against Russia.   

With Putin’s well-established willingness to interfere in our elections, just how should we take this information? 

Trump and Putin in Helsinki in 2017.
I would suggest that first, we take it very seriously: Trump is likely courting Putin for some kind of favor (that seems a given with his transactional approach to everything), so if it’s going to benefit him, why wouldn’t he revel in Russia’s renewed assistance?  
Second, let’s not be naïve: this final quarter of the 1989 Saturn-Neptune cycle has opened quite a Pandora’s Box of geopolitical peril, and unless all our states and municipalities harden their defenses and prepare for the worst, more election interference is almost guaranteed. Undermining the right to vote, not to mention casting doubt on whether our votes will actually count in the end are Neptunian tactics for deep-sixing the exercise of our sovereignty (Saturn), and no surprise, Trump has been working to disable voters’ rights since the first time he claimed the 2016 election would be “rigged against him.”
By making that claim he opened the door for clamping down, controlling (Saturn) and twisting (Neptune) any processes or protocols so that they maximize his own advantage. We’ve seen the results: some states have closed down far too many polling places (often in minority districts) while Trump paints mail-in voting as a plot to commit fraud, and they all keep hammering on that message (filing law suits even) until officials feel cowed into advantaging him over voters’ rights. Legal challenges to their plans abound, but results are spotty. As Wisconsin found out the hard way, in a pandemic, making voting as inaccessible and inconvenient as possible is a snap. 
Pres. Lyndon Johnson signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
So beyond the ever-tricky dynamics of the Saturn-Neptune cycle in general, how does all this look astrologically in one significant moment in time?  Since so much about our present quandary has to do with voting, I thought we’d examine where that precious right to vote was codified by the Johnson administration during the Civil Rights era in 1965—namely, with the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. Before we proceed, a quick summary of this momentous event:
“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting.[7][8] It was signed into law by U.S President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the civil rights movement on August 6, 1965, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections.[7] Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Act secured the right to vote for racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Act is considered to be the most effective piece of federal civil rights legislation ever enacted in the country.[9]
We’ll examine Chart 1 below on its own first and then, against a chart for the significant June 21st eclipse we discussed in the last post here. The energies of this eclipse will still hold sway this November, so I suspect the exercise will draw out some important points about the November election. The main focus in both instances will be on the Saturn-Neptune dynamics and a few key highlights that expand upon the story.

Chart 1. Voting Rights Act (VRA), 1965. August 6, 1965, 12:00 p.m. DST (noon, no time known), Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

VRA Saturn (Pisces) trines VRA Neptune (Scorpio); Saturn opposes Uranus-Venus-Pluto conjunct in Virgo. This Pisces-Scorpio aspect represents the waxing trine of the Saturn-Neptune cycle that launched at 22°+Libra in November, 1952. This cycle covered the entire scope of the 1950s-60s Civil Rights movement (not to mention anti-Vietnam war protests, the “War against Poverty,” the Kent State killings and other initiatives), so the “insurrectionist” connotation of this cycle as Barbault describes it was definitely upheld. 

In other words, this happened between the 1st and 2nd quarters of that cycle, the 120° point in the cycle that Barbault associates with “an expansive, productive phase of association or cooperation, a bringer of gains and successes.”[3]
The Act was a monumental success, doing a lot over the years to protect voters’ rights in southern states where minority votes were historically suppressed or even flatly outlawed. Unfortunately, that changed at the waning trine of this cycle in 2013, when the Supreme Court (in Shelby County v. Holder) rolled back important safeguards built into the Act and allowed states to re-legislate voter suppression laws (whether targeting minorities or not) with impunity. 

There is a “Sisyphus” feel to this whole cycle which comes through so clearly here—after long effort, the people pushing the boulder of injustice and voicelessness up the proverbial mountain, finally achieved something precious and magnificent, only to have the boulder roll back down over their backs and crush everything in 2013. As one commentator put it this morning, (I’m paraphrasing), “Georgia is literally unable to guarantee a free and fair election anymore.” 

"One for sorrow, two for joy..."

Minority voters have been forced to learn, as Naomi Shihab Nye put so eloquently at the top of this post, just “how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness…”

Notice that Pisces Saturn is actually disposed by Neptune here, adding a somewhat “laissez-faire” dimension to the oppositions it makes to Uranus-Venus-Pluto in Virgo. As you might recall, a new Virgo Uranus-Pluto cycle was unleashed on the world in 1965, which accounts for the widespread social discontent and turmoil of that period, among other important developments. 

Yet, tangible results and benefits did emerge from that turmoil (Venus is sandwiched between Uranus-Pluto) —above all, because the time was right. Saturn was also conjunct Chiron (Pisces) here, however, reflecting both the pain and suffering it took to roll that boulder up the hill, but also portending more pain and sorrow over the Act’s coming demise. 

Again, Naomi Shihab Nye perfectly captured the sense of that 2013 loss:

 “Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth….”

So let’s now examine this same chart against the June 21, 2020 eclipse chart. We’ll be focusing primarily on how the Saturn-Neptune dynamics are likely to play out during the next couple years (roughly the period this eclipse will influence). 

Biwheel 1: (inner wheel) Voting Rights Act (VRA), 1965. August 6, 1965, 12:00 p.m. DST (noon, no time known), Washington, D.C.; (outer wheel) Solar Eclipse, June 21, 2020, 2:40:46 a.m. DST, Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

It’s worth noting first that, while Eclipse Saturn and Neptune form no traditional major aspects, and even though they look fairly close together, considering their cycle’s waning status, they are actually 309°43’ degrees apart, within 51° of completing their 360° round. This matters because, as we’ve considered elsewhere, this puts them in the “heavy” sector of this already somewhat heavy cycle. Here’s where loss and unfathomable betrayal and deception are unfortunate possibilities. The eclipse chart is hopeful, however, in that a nice fresh-faced 0°+Cancer Eclipse Point dominates, closely conjunct that chart’s North Node (Gemini). 

That Eclipse Nodal Axis (Gemini-Sagittarius) in fact, squares Eclipse Mars-Neptune (Pisces), which would be troubling enough, considering Mars-Neptune’s potential for amping the spread of the virus and for spreading misinformation and distortion that could undermine our election. But Eclipse Mars-Neptune also conjoin VRA Saturn-Chiron (Pisces), widely oppose VRA Uranus-Venus-Pluto (Virgo) and square VRA Jupiter-Vesta (Gemini), so the potential for instability and unrest (not to mention more police violence) throughout this eclipse season—reinforced by a struggle to regain what has been lost since 1965 (square to VRA Jupiter-Vesta)—is very real.

It’s difficult to say whether this struggle will pay off in the short, however—with both Saturn-Neptune and Saturn-Uranus cycles waning, social progress is more likely to get bogged down in bureaucracy and obfuscation (i.e., the way Congress is stalled with its Police Reform bills because one version says a lot but sets virtually no action in motion) or in divisiveness and turmoil.

The odd vigilante incidents we’ve been seeing lately in which irrationally fearful white people call the police claiming that black people just going about their business are attacking them, also fit with that fear-and-delusion prone Eclipse Mars-Neptune. Tensions are running too high and need to be defused by calm, responsible leadership—unfortunately, not what we have at the moment.

At a crossroads

Final thoughts

I often look to midpoints for deeper insights into the “inner life” of planetary dynamics, and the interpretations that expert Michael Munkasey attributes to the Saturn-Neptune midpoint in geopolitical situations are particularly relevant to our discussion. They are:
(+ positively): “Delusions among the real leadership; long lived programs which have no real purpose; policies which restrict spies; misusing law officers; inefficient use of capable expert advice; mistaken religious leaders.”
(- negatively): “Leaders deceive about the exercise of control; deficient business practices exposed; respected persons involved in questionable practices; reliable equipment failures; a leader capitulates.”[4]
It’s also worth noting that Trump’s natal Saturn/Neptune (midpoint) falls at 29°+Leo (see Note #1 for data), tightly conjunct his bombastic Mars-ASC, so clearly a key to his character, personality and expression. Again, Munkasey offers an appropriate interpretation:

“Caution, pessimism and rigidity meet evasion, dreaminess and inefficiency in themes which allow you to fool others with delusions of personal integrity…These motifs mirror neglect which has persisted over long periods, confusion or denials about responsibility for present conditions, and disappointment over a general lack of accountability…”[5]

There may be some hope for accountability for someone these days, however: on July 2nd, Jeffrey Epstein’s “madam,” Ghislaine Maxwell was apprehended and charged with enticing (Neptune) minors for his heinous abuse (Saturn) and trafficking of under-age girls. If the birthdate cited on Wikipedia is accurate (12/25/1961), her Saturn/Neptune midpoint would fall at 20°+Sagittarius, about 5 degrees from her female-related Venus (25°+ Sagittarius). Time will tell what all this means, but for now, it appears that she is having a particularly difficult second Saturn return (Saturn is conjunct from Aquarius and is retrograding back for another pass at her 28°+Capricorn position). 

So there are signs that this waning 3Q will continue with that theme of accountability, despite the cycle's overall slippery nature. The Supreme Court may finally require that Trump's tax returns be made available to Congress--now we have to wonder if there's some connection between those returns and Trump's shenanigans with Putin. Another court sided with Simon & Schuster's release of Mary Trump's "tell-all" book at the end of the month. Will Trump's human fortress Bill Barr finally have to step down?

Bottom line, much more can be said about this cycle and the role it’s played in nearly every super-tense or corrupt moment in U.S. history, but for now, let’s end on a hopeful note by finishing Nye’s courageous, but ultimately redemptive poem:

“…Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”

In other words, we can make a difference for each other during this difficult period, and that’s a foundation on which we can build and heal.  
better times ahead!

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. 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. Her two new e-book publications (see sidebar for more info) can be found here and here.   

Raye is also available to read individual charts—contact her at:

© Raye Robertson 2020. All rights reserved. 

[1]Birth data: June 14, 1946, 10:54 a.m. DST, Jamaica, NY. Rated AA: BC/Br.
[2]André Barbault, Planetary Cycles: Mundane Astrology, The Astrological Association, London, 2014, p. 85.
[3]Ibid, p. 13.
[4]Michael Munkasey, Midpoints: Unleashing the Power of the Planets, ACS Publications, 1991, San Diego, CA, p. 292.

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