Monday, March 16, 2020

A Coronavirus Update: the Astrology of Interconnectedness

“’The fact that we are connected through space and time,” evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis observed of the interconnectedness of the universe, ‘shows that life is a unitary phenomenon, no matter how we express that fact.’

—Maria Popova,

One massive wake-up call that stands out from what is now known as the COVID-19 pandemic is its passive ability to infiltrate communities by way of asymptomatic and mostly unaware infected individuals. The situation today in the U.S. (and in many nations)—is marked by a rising tide of social distancing shut-downs (sports, schools, etc.) and a general halting of the wheels of everyday life. 

The eerie sculpture installations in Jason Decaires Taylor’s Underwater Museum (MUSA) come to mind in times like these (see above): as a society, the U.S.—and other impacted nations—are entering an almost literal state of suspended animation.

In the absence of protective masks, people will get creative!
The big question now is, how can we best respond to our current reality? It’s tougher than we might think—Neptune can undermine our capacity for clear thinking and it can zap our motivation to do the right thing. We might accept responsibility for being part of the solution instead of the problem, but the overall reality of a new viral pandemic is beyond any one person’s control, and that can work on a lot of our minds. For those rugged individuals among us, this can be especially difficult; as all Neptunian challenges require that we must work together for the sake of all.  

This can manifest in a number of ways, from volunteering to keep local food pantries stocked for families who find themselves out of work, to providing child care for kids whose parents have no choice but to work during this time of closed schools, to leaving that extra package of toilet paper on the shelves because someone else might need it more than you do. 

Perhaps the best contribution any of us can make to our neighbors and local communities, however, is to practice the CDC’s recommended hygiene and social-distancing protocols—willingly and persistently.

Split-screen responses have only confused people; we need to hear from experts only.
Ideally we would have helpful, coherent leadership at the top, but if that’s not to be, at least our local states and municipalities seem to be stepping up, giving us clear facts and making the difficult decisions. In Neptunian times, the “big picture” is often cloudy, distorted and overwhelming; better to break that down into manageable, relatable pieces where taking action might make a difference.  

In fact, we’ve seen a relentless parade of leadership failings by those at the top, but let’s not dwell on the blame game here. Let’s celebrate those who are getting this right and do whatever we can to see that they get all the help they need to do their jobs.  

As for the astrological puzzle for today, it’s a topic that’s difficult to pin down to a single chart or planetary cycle and more about exploring ways in which the Cosmos and Nature (in our Earth realm) work together—quite a relevant topic, given the pandemic we’re dealing with. We don’t always view our mundane analyses through the lens of natural systems, but I’ve long thought we need to incorporate more of this perspective—certainly for today’s situation, but also for the sake of more deeply understanding the astrology of climate change.  The difficulties we’re experiencing coming to grips with both these phenomena has to do with us, not with Nature, despite how elusive and frankly threatening it feels at the moment.

For instance, consider for a moment the amazing Neptunian dynamics driving this pandemic: water and water-based fluids (including cough-and-sneeze-borne mist) are perfect solvents, and since fluids, like oceans, are always in motion, substances that find their way into these waters are almost instantly dissolved and dispersed throughout.

The science of water can tell us a lot about viral epidemics.
That’s why scientists testing water samples in one small part of a lake can assume that what they’re seeing in those samples exists throughout that body of water. Not only that, but the same substances dissolved in those waters will show up in the tissues of any resident flora and fauna, from the largest fish down to the smallest plant life and microbes. Molecular transmission such as this needs no overt force to drive it; it simply happens because this is what the nature of the water medium provides for. This is why we can assume that if the COVID-19 virus is present anywhere in our environment, it may very well be everywhere. The sooner we operate on that assumption, the sooner we will “flatten the epidemic curve,” as the experts are saying. 

So the astrology of the situation—the long tradition that says Neptune rules epidemic transmission of disease—must have been derived from observing these dynamics in Nature. What we’re experiencing today is Neptune on steroids, of course—it’s about mid-way in its transit of home sign Pisces, which clearly amplifies its basic dynamics considerably.  Has every pandemic in history happened under a Pisces Neptune? Of course not, but there was an abnormally high number of such events during Neptune’s last tour of this sign between 1848-1861.  

Wikipedia documents the history of such events and the list is quite startling during that pre-Civil War era. I’ve reproduced the list of events that reached North America in Table 1 below. Other mass disease events were happening around the globe, as well, including a third cholera pandemic between 1846-60.

Table 1. Infectious disease mass events in No. America during 1847-1861.
Infectious Event
Typhoid fever
Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever
Bubonic Plague

Notice that after beginning a new cycle in April, 1846 at 27°+Aquarius (conjunct Sibly Moon),  Saturn and Neptune transited Pisces together from February, 1848 to November, 1848, and then again from December, 1848 to April, 1849. These were key months in the wave of revolutions that swept across Europe in 1848—yes, Neptune is thought to rule such mass movements, and Saturn’s weak position in Neptune’s home sign would have undermined national governments and their “immunity” against mass uprisings.  It should be said that hard economic times also compromise societies in a number of disruptive ways.

Deep divisions seem to be a hallmark of Pisces Neptune.
Here in the U.S., for instance, 1846 saw one of the first major events leading into the U.S. Civil War—the Wilmot Proviso. Congress careened from one impossible plan to another between then and our disintegration into two halves in December 1860, followed quickly by the Civil War in April 1861, the very month that Neptune entered bellicose Aries. 

 The fact that all this was transpiring under a new 1850 Uranus-Pluto cycle in late Aries only reinforced the volatility and the Neptunian dynamics then fueling the South’s uprising.  Is it any wonder that our current times, which bear certain resemblances astrologically (Pisces Neptune, 3rd Q Uranus-Pluto square, from Aries-Capricorn), are marked by the deepest, most destructive polarization that we’ve seen since the 1850s? 

Too far off to spend any time on right now, but still a future concern, Saturn and Neptune will again be transiting Pisces together in the years leading into their new 2026 cycle, which will launch at 0° Aries.  This will be a time period to watch for its parallels to the 1848-49 period.
Returning to the issue of epidemics, however, because of its association with fluids and tides, we must also look to the Moon for her contribution to disease transmission: in medical astrology, the Moon is thought to rule a long list of issues. 

From expert Jane Ridder Patrick[1]:

·         “The limbic system
·         Circadian rhythms and body cycles in general
·         The menstrual cycle
·         Fertility, pregnancy and lactation
·         Feeding patterns
·         Habits
·         The right eye of a woman, the left of a man
·         Lymphatic system
·         Body fluids”

Ridder-Patrick attributes the character of our general health to our Moon placements, and not surprisingly, there’s a “fluid” connection. As she reminds us, the Moon’s “…sign and aspects show the flow of vital force rather than its quality. A disturbed flow will cause fluctuations in vitality and therefore ill health. The Moon shows instinctive, reflex actions, the quality of response to the body’s needs and how the body adjusts to everyday challenges and stresses.”[2]

All of this works together to influence our emotional lives.
The limbic system (“a complex set of structures in the brain which appears to be primarily responsible for the emotional life”)[3] is a big part of how the body adjust to stresses because it works through the hypothalamus (in concert with Jupiter) to regulate important emotional responses, and these responses can either enhance or weaken the all-important factor of immunity

All of this applies on both the personal and the mundane levels of society, of course, where intense periods of toxic, heightened emotions can undermine any society’s “immune system”—those institutional defenses that keep systems functioning with at least some stability and effectiveness. We’ve witnessed this exact situation for several years now, which is why it’s so important for our response to the COVID-19 virus that we get beyond divisive emotions and start acting as a coherent, interconnected body politic.  

Confucius is credited with influencing China's collectivist culture.
It’s often been said that eastern cultures like the Chinese are more “collectively” oriented—more focused on the well being of the whole, as opposed to the needs or desires of each individual. On the flip side, American culture is deeply individualistic and skeptical of anything that smacks of collectivism (Bernie Sanders is finding this out as deep-rooted biases against “socialism” surface against his campaign). Trouble is, this narrow focus renders us incapable of thinking collectively when we really need to—like now. Is it really so hard to leave a little toilet paper on the shelves for the next customer? The mindset driving that inconsiderate hoarding behavior is going to endanger our overall COVID-19 response if we let it. 

In Neptunian times, it helps to think and behave with the collective’s well-being at heart—if we can do that, our own well-being will be assured as well, but this calls for empathy, compassion, cooperation and as much loving kindness as we can muster.

Onlooker, or connected?
Along these lines, it’s not difficult to see how what happens in that Neptunian ocean we considered earlier also happens in epidemics—we humans are but “fish” swimming in a global web of inter-connectedness—a fact that facilitates virus transmission, even when we’re extremely careful. Of course, the silent, invisible breaking down of defense barriers (including those provided by our immune systems, since this is a “novel” coronavirus) and the seemingly uncontrollable nature of such transmission are big factors in stoking panic—another Neptunian phenomenon. We humans tend to feel more secure with some sense of boundaries and structure (Saturn), and Neptune works to erode both.

Notice that there’s a subtle difference between Neptune’s facility for spreading an epidemic and that other Neptunian “superpower,” sabotage. Indeed, Foreign Policy put all this into perspective in an article titled “Trump has sabotaged America’s Coronavirus response.” An extended excerpt is warranted here:

 “For the United States, the answers are especially worrying because the government has intentionally rendered itself incapable. In 2018, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure. In numerous phone calls and emails with key agencies across the U.S. government, the only consistent response I encountered was distressed confusion. If the United States still has a clear chain of command for pandemic response, the White House urgently needs to clarify what it is—not just for the public but for the government itself, which largely finds itself in the dark.”
The fact is, even though some measures the administration has made are starting to make more sense, Trump created the chaos that has squandered the time we had to prepare for this pandemic. He did this by dismantling the bureaucracy that was charged with making our response work seamlessly and transparently. Was Trump simply oblivious to the challenges posed by several epidemic-level threats in the recent past, or did he simply not care? Foreign again:

In the spring of 2018, the White House pushed Congress to cut funding for Obama-era disease security programs, proposing to eliminate $252 million in previously committed resources for rebuilding health systems in Ebola-ravaged Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Under fire from both sides of the aisle, President Donald Trump dropped the proposal to eliminate Ebola funds a month later. But other White House efforts included reducing $15 billion in national health spending and cutting the global disease-fighting operational budgets of the CDC, NSC, DHS, and HHS. And the government’s $30 million Complex Crises Fund was eliminated.
In his Rose Garden emergency declaration this past Friday (finally!), Trump denied knowing anything about these cuts and he called a question that was asked about them “nasty,” as if it wasn’t exactly the right question to ask at the time. Yes, the facts matter here—and since no one else could have made those cuts, which indeed did happen, who else can be responsible? Bottom line, his raging against the media for reporting the facts is irresponsible and is going to hurt all of us.
Perhaps the bigger question is whether Trump made these cuts to help fund his precious border wall, or just because many of the programs he was targeting were Obama programs? Either way, the blind arrogance it takes to destroy programs that could mean the difference between life and death for the American people so he could put that money towards anything else is simply gob-smacking. 

Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro meeting with Trump, et al at Mar-o-Lago.
As for the cost of the administration’s “make-it-up-as-we-go-along” response, how could it not cost all of what he tried to cut from health programs and more? Prevention is always less expensive than playing catch-up, and it’s also more responsible. But then, to be responsible, one must be able to respond to others’ needs, and that may just be asking for too much. 
Foreign Policy also reported that Trump himself may have been exposed to the virus, yet he spent days being evasive about whether he would be tested or not. Finally, on Saturday, his White House physician announced that he was tested and was deemed negative. Considering all the hands he continues to shake, despite all kinds of advice to the contrary, this is good news for a lot of people. Unfortunately, several individuals who attended a gathering with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro at Mar-o-Lago were exposed to Bolsonaro’s press secretary, who did test positive, but they have at least taken the initiative to self-quarantine. 

So the editors of Foreign Policy called upon Trump to follow the precedent set by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has quarantined himself after his wife, Sophie contracted the virus overseas. Perhaps that’s why Trump finally agreed to the test (let’s hope he and his doctor wouldn’t lie about this)—there was a growing chorus of people calling his behavior irresponsible. 

What we can do
Psychologists concerned with minimizing public stress levels (high stress and anxiety levels wear down immune systems) are suggesting that we impose structures on our own lives while we’re stuck at home, and this makes perfect astrological sense—Saturnian measures always help to maintain a bit of control during Neptunian times. Schedules, goals and reasonable limits on immersive Neptunian screen time will help. Exercise and competitive activities (especially as the weather warms up) will help keep minds and bodies (and emotional wellbeing) going, and there’s no reason to fall out of contact with key people in our lives—we just may not be doing as much face-to-face communicating for a while. 

Parents are challenged to step in where teachers have been forced to step away, and as long as Congress provides some relief for lost incomes, perhaps everyone can find constructive uses for this increased family time. Nothing will go entirely to plan, of course, but we can strive to be as intentional as possible about forced isolation. Again, the more structure and purpose we can build into our days, the less we’ll suffer from “cabin fever” and general boredom and malaise. 

For those whose families have flown the nest, we can catch up on reading and spring cleaning, learn something new that’s been collecting dust on our “bucket lists,” write letters to the powers that be, participate in phone canvassing for causes we care about—the possibilities are out there and we might as well enjoy the “gift” of the slower-paced period of time we’ve been given! Whatever adds to our enjoyment and wellbeing, whatever makes us part of the solution instead of the problem, sounds like fair game to me.

One thought nags at me about how the powers-that-be in D.C. handled this crisis early on: China began its fight against the COVID-19 crisis in December, which should have given us ample time to prepare our response. Instead, our leaders chose to enable (Neptune) the crisis rather than lead a coherent response to it. IMHO, we’re within our rights to wonder what Trump’s aims were in taking this approach. Was he just trying to calm down the stock market, seeing that a strong market has been his claim to political fame? Or did he passively enable a crisis so that he could then look like the “hero” saving the day?  Does he simply assume that American lives (not to mention others!) are his to jerk around as he likes? Where are the official programs for responding to the virus in institutional settings, like prisons and the military? Will returning soldiers be quarantined for a period to avoid the tragic mistakes of 2018-9 (more on that ahead)?

We need to raise these questions and keep at them until there are answers, because Neptunian inertia is clearly the default mode in D.C.

These levels of irresponsibility and inertia seem frankly inconceivable, but did Trump really think that deny-deny-deny and lie-lie-lie would work for this particular challenge? It didn’t work in 1918 when the so-called Spanish Influenza pandemic hit the U.S. like a sledge hammer, and it won’t work now. Trump tried to claim that he didn’t know that flu could kill people, when in fact, that 1918 epidemic killed his own paternal grandfather

In fact, that 1918-1920 event is a precedent worth considering in more depth. From Wikipedia:
“The Spanish flu infected 500 million people around the world,[2] or about 27% of the then world population of between 1.8 and 1.9 billion, including people on isolated Pacific islands and in the Arctic. The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million[3] to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest epidemics in human history.[4][5]
Infectious diseases already limited life expectancy in the early 20th century, but life expectancy in the United States dropped by about 12 years in the first year of the pandemic.[6][7][8] Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill the very young and the very old, with a higher survival rate for those in between, but the Spanish flu pandemic resulted in a higher than expected mortality rate for young adults.[9]
To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States.[10][11]

Unfortunately, minimizing the true dangers of the Spanish flu did nothing to save thousands of soldiers—military camps were hit especially hard, and returning soldiers were often inadvertent carries of the disease, as well: 500,00 to 675,000 Americans died in that event. To understand a bit better, let’s take a quick look at a chart for this pandemic, set for January 1, 1918 in Washington, D.C.. The dates are given as January 1, 1918 to December, 1920, so this is about as exact as we can be. 

Chart #1: The Spanish Flu Epidemic, January 1, 1918, 12:00 p.m. ST, (no exact time known), Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. 

Sun (Capricorn) conjoins Mercury (Capricorn) and inconjoins Saturn/Neptune (midpoint, Leo). Communications surfaced, revealing “delusions among the leadership…Leaders deceive about the exercise of control…respected persons in questionable practices…a leader capitulates.”[4] Attempts to squelch information about the Spanish flu for the sake of wartime “morale?” Whose morale, we have to wonder? 

T-Square: Pluto conjoins So. Node (Cancer) and opposes No. Node (Capricorn); this axis squares Vesta (Aries). This fits stories I’ve heard that nearly every American household was hit with loss during the 1918 pandemic—another reason we need to avoid complacency today, with Nodal axis again transiting Capricorn-Cancer. Thankfully, Pluto has transited well beyond the So. Node in Capricorn today, but there’s also too much Capricorn energy afloat today to let down our guard.
Mars (Virgo) opposes Chiron-Eris (Pisces). This configuration demanded purposeful, health-centered action in a time of disruptive, collective suffering—certainly a good fit for the situation in 1918, as Europe’s most bloody war was winding down.

The Women's suffrage battle was being waged in the midst of the Spanish flu!

Uranus conjoins Venus-Juno (Aquarius) square Pallas (Scorpio). The U.S. was one short year away from finally giving the vote to women at this point, so we can see the impetus for that cause here. It looks here that the suffragettes’ message was framed as a call for justice (Pallas) for wives (Juno-many widowed by the war), and it’s possible that it resonated more strongly during this terrible period of suffering and disruption. Uranus was strong in its home sign Aquarius, which may also have been a winning factor. Notice that this aspect may have “radicalized” women somewhat – the Roaring Twenties were right around the corner!    

Final thoughts

We started this post by talking about the passive nature of our response to the COVID-19 crisis thus far, and I would only add that there’s been an aggressive edge to that passivity as well. Willfully confusing people, sabotaging the needed response by stoking turf wars between agencies and issuing testing protocols that only make sense if you’re trying to stop testing are Passive Aggression 101, and we might even call it a type of passive tyranny because the American people were basically left hanging, with little control over our own destinies. Exactly the opposite of what we need right now. 

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has passed an emergency relief package that should help working families get through this crisis while workplaces and schools are shut down—that’s if our passive aggressive Senate can be coerced into cooperating and moving the bill along! The Washington Post offers the best list of details about how this will work that I've seen--click here for more. Also late-breaking news, the Fed has cut interest rates to Zero, to head off the dangers of a recession. Investors don't seem to like the idea (the Market's tanking again today), but at least families or businesses that need to borrow money to make ends meet will have an interest-free lifeline. 

So life will be far from normal for the foreseeable future, but every individual who takes prudent, considerate action gives us reason for hope. Let’s not forget the power of cultivating a positive, loving collective mindset in Neptunian times like these. I’m reminded of the following potent words from the Buddhist practice of Metta (loving-kindness)[5]:

“May all beings’ minds be filled with the thought of loving-friendliness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. May they be generous. May they be gentle. May they be grateful. May they be relaxed. May they be happy and peaceful. May they be healthy. May their hearts become soft. May their words be pleasing to others.”
What more can we ask for? – stay safe everyone!

We'll get through this!

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.

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

© Raye Robertson 2020. All rights reserved. 

[1]Jane Ridder Patrick, A Handbook of Medical Astrology, 2nd ed., CrabApple Press, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2006, p. 68.
[2]Ibid, p. 48.
[3]Ibid, p. 48.
[4]Michael Munkasey, Midpoints: Unleashing the Power of the Planets, ACS Publications, San Diego, CA, 1991, pp. 292-93.
[5]Bhante Gunaratana, Loving-Kindness in Plain English: the Practice of Metta. Wisdom Publications, Somerville, MA, 2017, p. 17.