|Portrait by Jet Baker, Austin, TX|
“Law is not some kind of abstract exercise…it affects real people.”
-- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, cited in MSNBC interview, 9/21/2020
If any year has taught us that the
Cosmos can be cruel in transitional times, the addition of Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg to this year’s casualty list has put 2020 in a class of its own...
It would have been bad enough to lose a Justice of her stature and importance to so many in any normal year, but RBG’s passing in this already vicious election year, of all years, is like having a wild carnivore rip one’s heart out for its next meal.
At the very least, it leaves a hole in the heart of anyone in this nation who cares about women’s rights, civil rights and affordable health care coverage because—if Trump gets to appoint another super-right winger to the Court—potentially ALL of that will be up for grabs.
You’ve read or seen the many tributes to our 87-year old Supreme Court warrior, who fought so valiantly to outlive this presidency because she knew what would be at stake if she didn’t. Alert to the needs of our constitutional democracy to the end, however, RBG dictated her final wishes to her granddaughter: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."
In a bald-faced power grab, however, Trump has made clear that he has no intention of respecting her wish and waiting, even though Republicans coalesced in 2016 (when it benefited them) around a policy of no new Supreme Court appointments during an Election year.
Ginsburg wasn’t even afforded the dignity of a full day of mourning before Trump and sidekick Mitch McConnell announced their intentions to move full speed ahead to nominate a replacement. Trump’s been standing poised like a vulture with his list of Court picks for weeks, and McConnell’s explanation for the unjust hypocrisy he’s embracing over election year appointments? In essence, that was then, this is now.
So not only does precedent cease to matter in Senate proceedings, the plan appears to be to simply make it up as they go along, depending upon who stands to gain. One Senator, pontificating on today’s Meet the Press, even tried to pin what they’re doing on some obscure “Biden rule.” We’ve seen other instances of rank Senate malfeasance these past few years, but this one radiates a sinister chill. This is what happens when “winning by any means necessary” is all that matters. RBG deeply feared that the Court would succumb to these vicious gladiator games, and her fears were, as we see, well-founded.
This is not democracy at work, folks – far from it. This is a no-holds barred quest for absolute, unchallengeable power that has been unleashed on all of us in the past 4 years, and if there’s any hope to roll back this toxic Neptune-Pluto tide, we need to be able to distinguish between what’s going on in D.C. and the way in which a working democracy should actually function.
|Ginsburg used a soft, but firm touch to fight our fights.|
The astrology: RBG the ladylike warrior
In a wonderful article, entitled “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Great Equalizer,” The New Yorker sums up her career and the broader picture of her historical importance very nicely:
“Born the year Eleanor Roosevelt became First Lady, Ginsburg bore witness to, argued for, and helped to constitutionalize the most hard-fought and least-appreciated revolution in modern American history: the emancipation of women. Aside from Thurgood Marshall, no single American has so wholly advanced the cause of equality under the law.”
We forget at our peril how much women have to lose if Ginsburg is replaced with a right-wing extremist, woman or not. If reproductive rights are rolled back to pre-Roe v. Wade, working outside the home will become an even more difficult proposition than it already is: do we really want to go back to those “good old days?” Do we think a rational family leave policy will ever prevail under a packed, conservative Court? The patriarchal system will slam the “cage disguised as a pedestal” (as RBG liked to call it) tight once again, making it very difficult to build a career and provide the incredible role models for tomorrow’s girls that today’s girls enjoy.
We really shouldn’t put anything—including rolling back women’s suffrage itself—beyond the radical players that are now salivating over Ginsburg’s seat. Believe it or not, having a voice separate from the men in one’s life is an achingly recent phenomenon for women in this nation—we enjoy a multitude of hidden benefits (like being able to apply for a credit card without a man’s signature, like having the right to expect equal treatment in our careers) as a consequence of her work.
|RBG is the first Jew and first woman to lie in state in the Capitol.|
The New Yorker article describes RBG’s first case in front of the Supreme Court (before she joined the Court), which was in1971, under a president Nixon who not only refused to have women on his Cabinet, but didn’t even think women should vote because he didn’t want to have to rely on their voting bloc. Meanwhile, RBG wrote the brief for and argued a case known as Reed v. Reed that’s worth an extended excerpt:
“Reed v. Reed, in 1971, involved an Idaho statute that gave preference to men—‘males must be preferred to females’—in executing estates. The Court, following Ginsburg’s brief, ruled for the first time that discrimination on the basis of sex violated the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Writing for the majority, Burger used language that had been introduced by Ginsburg: “To give a mandatory preference to members of either sex over members of the other, merely to accomplish the elimination of hearings on the merits, is to make the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and whatever may be said as to the positive values of avoiding intrafamily controversy, the choice in this context may not lawfully be mandated solely on the basis of sex.” Just a few years later, Ginsburg was arguing her own cases before the Court, and the Chief Justice was stumbling over how to address her. “Mrs. Bader? Mrs. Ginsburg?”
And so the honorable RBG began her quest to slowly but surely make the lucid arguments on the Court that would pry open the concept of equal protection before the law to all Americans, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or health status (i.e., in regards to pre-existing conditions). Why in the world would even the most conservative zealots want to roll all that back? Just to prove they win? What kind of “win” is that?
So, let’s take all this as background for a look at a noon chart for Justice Ginsburg’s birth on March 15, 1933 (no time known). Ginsburg’s life is bracketed by two tumultuous periods of time, of course—the Depression, followed by WWII in her early years and the chaos of a pandemic and social turmoil in her final years. Astrologically these two periods echo in many interesting ways, so we’ll keep that in mind as we consider the charts.
Since we have no firm time for Ginsburg’s nativity, we can’t really say much about her Moon placement and her chart angles and houses – quite a shame, considering the subject, but this is what we have to work with.
Natal Sun (Pisces) trine Pluto (Rx, Cancer); Pisces co-rulers Jupiter and Neptune (Rx, Virgo) oppose natal Venus (Pisces). These placements suggest that Ginsburg was born to wield power with great idealism—not surprisingly, on behalf of women (Venus) and other victimized individuals (Pisces). Ginsburg’s Venus also sextiles her powerful Aquarius Saturn, which reflects the authoritative position she held as a Supreme Court justice and the means through which she accomplished her life’s work. We can’t say where her MC would fall here, but given what we know about the trails she blazed in her career, the placements we see here—MC conjunct her Sun and close to her key Venus placement—seem to fit pretty well. Historian Jon Meacham described her “devotion to the American experiment” as a “redemptive” moment for the nation—a comment that fits quite nicely with the positive Neptune energy we see coursing through her chart, from her Part-of-Fortune to her Sun later in the sign. Bracketed within those two are her No. Node, Ceres, Venus and possibly, her MC.
The redemptive possibilities didn’t just happen with her, courtesy of a strong Neptune influence—it was the strong oppositions with Virgo Mars, So. Node, Neptune and Jupiter (all Rx, Virgo) that reveals the long path of meticulous, hard work and service that created those possibilities.
Natal Neptune (Rx, Virgo) conjunct Mars-So. Node (Rx, Virgo). Again, this only confirms why Ginsburg was well-known for being super-meticulous and careful about her written opinions on the Court—hence her reputation for expressing herself with great precision. This Mars also quincunxes her natal Mercury (Rx, Aries), so it’s very likely she wrote and rewrote repeatedly to edit out any impulsive remarks (Aries) that might confuse or cloud her intent or messages. One former clerk in her chambers said in an interview that Ginsburg was rare in the sense that she personally wrote most of her opinions, mainly asking her clerks for help with research.
She was also known for taking a very respectful tone with her colleagues and for building bridges (all those oppositions helped) between the ideological camps on the Court—this was best illustrated by her long friendship with fellow opera-buff, the late Justice Antonin Scalia—a very staunch conservative. She stood her ground with respect, even in her rare dissenting opinions.
Progressions tell a story
Just for the sake of information, here’s the run-down on when Ginsburg’s several retrograde natal planets turned direct by progression: Pluto in 1953; Mercury in 1954; Mars in 1960, Jupiter in 1989 and Neptune in 1997. To my eye this gradual accumulation of direct energies probably signals that she found more and more openings for making a difference as time went by. She was finishing her pre-Law degree in the 1950s, getting married and starting her Harvard Law degree in 1956, a year after giving birth to her daughter. After graduating first in her class, in 1960, Justice Felix Frankfurter rejected her application to be his clerk on the basis of her gender, an experience that galvanized her for the long fight ahead.
A whole lot transpired in her career between Mars going direct by progression in her chart in 1960, and her Jupiter following suit in 1989, but perhaps one of the most clear signs that she intended to focus long-term on gender rights occurred in the 1970s, after the Reed v. Reed case noted earlier. Consider the following from Wikipedia:
“In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and in 1973, she became the Project's general counsel. The Women's Rights Project and related ACLU projects participated in more than 300 gender discrimination cases by 1974. As the director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, she argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976, winning five. Rather than asking the Court to end all gender discrimination at once, Ginsburg charted a strategic course, taking aim at specific discriminatory statutes and building on each successive victory. She chose plaintiffs carefully, at times picking male plaintiffs to demonstrate that gender discrimination was harmful to both men and women. The laws Ginsburg targeted included those that on the surface appeared beneficial to women, but in fact reinforced the notion that women needed to be dependent on men. Her strategic advocacy extended to word choice, favoring the use of "gender" instead of "sex", after her secretary suggested the word "sex" would serve as a distraction to judges. She attained a reputation as a skilled oral advocate, and her work led directly to the end of gender discrimination in many areas of the law.
This theme carried throughout her career on the highest Court, which was
made official on August 10, 1993, when she took the Oath with Bill Clinton at
her side. We’ll consider her nativity set against this 1993 chart just ahead.
In terms of the progressed turn-abouts, however, Ginsburg expanded her influence
in 1996 (close to Jupiter’s direct turn by progression) by writing the Court’s
opinion for the so-called “VMI” case, which forced the Virginia Military
Institute to admit women after a long history of males-only.
It’s interesting then that if we progress her chart to September 18, 2020, the date of her death, it shows only one major retrograde point—Saturn, which turned Rx in 2005. This would have been close to the time she became the solitary female Justice on the Court (Sandra Day O’Connor resigned in 2006). This changed with Obama’s two later appointments (Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan), but there was what RBG called a “lonely” period in between. This may have been a period during which she was battling health issues, as well. On the up side, the years 2006-7 are described as the years in which she “found her voice and used it.”
One final subtle, but relevant note here—Ginsburg’s early work with the ACLU Women’s Rights project, leading into her appointment to the Federal bench in 1980 would have been pursued during Pluto’s transit through Libra—the sign empowering the “Athena” dimension of Venus—the diplomat and intellectual “goddess of Harmony” who knows when a good fight is necessary to restore balance.
|Ginsburg, at her 1993 Senate confirmation hearings.|
Ginsburg joins the Supreme Court
Much has been made of the fact that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton brought Ginsburg to her husband’s attention when an opening on the Court presented itself, but seeing the following two charts together suggests that Ginsburg would have found a way to grasp her destiny one way or another. Let’s give her installation as Supreme Court Justice on August 10, 1993 a look:
Biwheel #1 (inner wheel) Ruth Bader Ginsburg, March 15, 1933, 12:00 p.m. ST (no time known), Brooklyn NYC, NY; (outer wheel) RBG sworn onto Supreme Court, August 10, 1993, 12 p.m. DST, Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts cast, courtesy of Kepler 8.0 Cosmic Patterns software.
Interchart Grand Trine: Court Pluto (Scorpio) trines Ginsburg Sun-Venus (Pisces) trines Ginsburg Pluto (Rx, Cancer). With great power comes great responsibility—Court Saturn (Rx, Aquarius) also squares Court Pluto. This means that Ginsburg’s Court appointment launched during the first, waxing square of the 1982 Saturn-Pluto cycle (launched at 27+Libra), which makes it all the more ironic that she’s passed on just months after (since January, that is) the new Saturn-Pluto cycle began square that 1982 Libra inception point in late Capricorn. Obviously what matters here is not some abstract cycle information, however—what matters are the changes Ginsburg’s career brought into being in our social order over the course of that Saturn-Pluto cycle.
It’s absolutely key here, as well, that Court Uranus and Neptune (both Rx, Capricorn) were still in the very early days of their new February, 1993 cycle—here, in fact, they are retrograding back over the same 19th degree that launched the cycle. This Uranus-Neptune conjunction trines Ginsburg Jupiter (Rx, Virgo), sextiles her Venus (Pisces) and opposes her Pluto (Rx, Cancer). In other words, the expansion of her career (Jupiter, with Uranus resonating with her Aquarius Saturn) was destined to provide unique, almost revolutionary opportunities for women (Venus), among others.
Ginsburg’s record speaks to the quality of empathy she brought to her work—both her natal and Court Neptunes resonated strongly with her significant Pisces points. Suffice to say here, the Court was never the same after she joined it because she was able to catch the “wave” of this important society-changing cycle and ride it for all it was worth. Case by case, she re-imagined the nation’s justice system as though equal protection under the Law really was “for all,” and she did what she could to manifest the same.
Court Venus (Cancer) trines Ginsburg Venus-Ceres (Pisces); Court Pallas-Vesta (Rx, conjunct in Pisces) conjoins Ginsburg No. Node (Pisces), opposes Ginsburg Mars-So. Node-Neptune (Rx, Virgo) and semi-sextiles Ginsburg Mercury (Rx, Aries). The “goddesses” are out in full force to support Ginsburg’s path forward, it seems. Supremely relevant for a life in the highest halls of Justice, of course, are all the Pallas connections—she and Court Vesta basically affirm Ginsburg’s life path with their conjunction to Ginsburg’s North Node.
Court Eris (Rx, Aries) squares Ginsburg Pluto (Rx, Cancer). The goddess theme persists—here quite appropriately for the “warrior” work of disrupting the status quo that Ginsburg would go on to accomplish.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg Represented ‘The Best Of A Devotion To The American Experiment’”—Historian Jon Meacham
In the end
Speaking of disruption, Ginsburg’s death felt like nothing short of cataclysmic, given its timing during a particularly dicey period in our ongoing pandemic and made even more dangerous by the treacheries afoot in our upcoming election. Nevertheless, more than one hundred of Ginsburg’s former law clerks (all women) lined up on the Supreme Court steps this morning (9/23) to greet her coffin and usher it up the steps of the Court to lie in state. That’s a tribute any leader would envy, but few would deserve like Ruth Bader Ginsburg does.
|Awaiting her coffin, at the Court this morning.|
With that said, let’s take a final look at her chart, this time next to a chart for the earliest announcement of her September 18th evening death that I could find.
Biwheel #2: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, March 15, 1933, 12:00 p.m. ST (no time known), Brooklyn NYC, NY; (outer wheel) RBG death announcement, September 18, 2020, 7:55:46 p.m. DST, Washington, D.C.. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts cast, courtesy of Kepler 8.0 Cosmic Patterns software.
Announcement Saturn-Pluto-Jupiter (Capricorn) sextile Ginsburg Sun (Pisces), oppose Ginsburg Pluto (Rx, Cancer) and thus t-square Ginsburg Uranus (Aries). Saturn and Pluto are both Rx here, which may have allowed the pancreatic cancer Ginsburg succumbed to to have its way. It’s somehow not surprising that this happened during a break in the Court’s schedule—being the fighter she was, Ginsburg just kept on working till the very end, but a break provided the space for a serious downturn. We wouldn’t normally expect sextiles to be negative, but perhaps we outsiders looking in shouldn’t try to judge what was “negative” in this situation. Maybe these sextiles (which have been long-term, while these planets have done their retrograde dances) simply signaled it was just time for Justice Ginsburg to enjoy the ultimate break.
The t-squares to Ginsburg Uranus (Aries) reflect the shock and harsh awakening that has accompanied her passing, but they also suggest that she was caught between the forces of Nature and circumstance, and they simply overwhelmed her strength, as Death does. She undoubtedly knew the end was near, but she maintained amazing devotion to her work (and the nation) til the end, leaving her final wishes with her granddaughter, saying “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Anything else we want to know about her final thoughts we can see in her work.
Announcement Neptune (Rx, Pisces) conjoins her Sun-Venus (Pisces) and opposes her Jupiter (Rx, Virgo); Announcement Nodal Axis t-squares Announcement Neptune-Ginsburg Sun. It’s my observation that significant Neptune transits often accompany a person’s (especially an elderly person’s) gradual demise, often through pneumonia that overtakes patients who have been too immobile for too long, which is in turn often followed by other organ failures. Neptune has a cascading impact on a person’s immune system and so on—not to mention it supports the rampant communicability of diseases like COVID (we can see this collective trend with the Nodal Axis t-square Neptune and her Sun). So Ginsburg was basically caught in a perfect storm of forces larger than herself, and despite her history of accomplishing superhuman tasks, she was in the end, quite human. So she succumbed, and those who appreciate her devotion to this nation’s wellbeing are simply crushed by the prospect of some faint shadow of her competence and dedication replacing her in haste, against her final wishes.
|Ginsburg fiercely protected the Court's collegiality.|
If we were living in a functional democracy at this moment, Ginsburg would not be replaced in haste, against her final wishes. The party in control of the process would defer to her wishes out of respect and gratitude instead of rushing forward in an effort to further solidify their hold on the reins of national power. So, I can’t think of a better tribute to the “Notorious”-and much appreciated—RBG than to describe in more detail what’s wrong with this picture. To do so, we need to consider what a working democracy looks like, as concisely as possible. Bear with me if you will; I’ll be as brief as possible.
For one thing, democracy is not, in its essence, a partisan affair—there must be some core infrastructure and set of best practices and norms that are recognized and honored by citizens as our common heritage. These structures and practices should emerge from solid values and principles that supersede any partisan overlays that follow. The Court has always been seen as the final arbiter and guardian of these important non-partisan underpinnings of our democracy, and no surprise, the Court is at its best when the cases it agrees to hear inspire healthy debate and accommodation between perspectives.
Bottom line, the Court was never intended to be a “winner-take-all” institution—constitutional scholar Danielle Allen (a key person behind “Our Common Purpose,” as we’ll see ahead) says it well:
“Novelist Ralph Ellison argued that democracy should be governed by an ethic of ‘winner take nothing.’ That is surely too much to ask, but neither can democracy be sustained by McConnell’s mantra, ‘Winners make policy; losers go home.’ After all, there are always winners and losers in democratic politics. Democracies work only if both winners and losers have reasons to stay in the game.”
In other words, we’re not supposed to approach politics like a WWE wrestling match. Such things have their place in entertainment, but not in national government, with people’s lives at stake. Or, as Ginsburg herself has put it in her career:
"Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."
Far from creating a better, stronger Court, a packed Court—one laden with an overwhelming majority of one perspective or another—guarantees that healthy debate will atrophy or be overwhelmed by political expectations. This may serve some narrow purpose the “packers” cling to, but it doesn’t serve the nation overall. In fact, it’s not supposed to be this way, at all, and the Justices know this. Justice is, by definition, supposed to be balanced and inclusive.
In fact, the Court’s independence from political pressure is meant to be absolute—it’s impossible to save Congress and the Executive from such biases because both bodies are more directly beholden to the People, but the Court is supposed to be above that fray so it can do the hard work of deciding cases with some kind of objectivity and sensitivity to not only the past precedents raised by cases, but to the long-term implications of their decisions. Justices are not meant to be political operatives; they’re meant to shield our Constitution from attempts to corrupt its focus on justice for all.
From a key statement made by the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, in their “Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century” project:
“A healthy constitutional democracy depends on a virtuous cycle in which responsible political institutions foster a healthy civic culture of participation and responsibility, while a healthy civic culture—a combination of values, norms, and narratives—keeps our political institutions responsive and inclusive.”
This document—free to the public and well worth the read—offers an amazing array of strategies and recommendations for improving upon what has never quite been the “perfect union” Abraham Lincoln envisioned in his Gettysburg Address. He shepherded the nation through a cataclysmic civil war that could very well have split us in two for all time, but he was at least able to lean on a set of government institutions that supported healing at that time. As is only too obvious these days, that healing was also imperfect—the demons that drove us apart in the 1850s and 60s have been all too easily resurrected and exploited by both domestic and international players—for their own power interests—in the 21st century.
So maybe it’s time to rebuild the institutions within our constitutional framework that have failed us. A quick list of the strategies suggested by “Our Common Purpose” provides, to my mind, a very good starting place:
Strategy One: Achieve Equality of Voice and Representation (8 practical recommendations follow).
Strategy Two: Empower Voters (7 concrete recommendations follow).
Strategy Three: Ensure the Responsiveness of Government Institutions (4 recommendations follow).
Strategy Four: Dramatically Expand Civic Bridging Capacity (2 recommendations)
Strategy Five: Build Civic Information Architecture that Supports Common Purpose (5 recommendations).
Strategy Six: Inspire a Culture of Commitment to American Constitutional Democracy and One Another (5 recommendation).
Obviously, some of the above strategies sound very technical and “wonky,” but those areas of the report highlight the reality that democratic societies don’t just happen—they are intentionally “engineered” by those who are dedicated to designing workable infrastructures that we can then collaborate within, build on and perpetuate for the future. The more we stand by and just “let things happen” in DC and our state capitals, the weaker democracy becomes. The more power we allow concentrated in the hands of any one person or branch of government, the more we’ll be battered and bruised by the corrupt consequences.
Finally, we saw clearly during the controversial confirmation hearings in September, 2018 for Justice Kavanaugh what happens when women’s voices are systematically squashed, and entitled frat boys are allowed to get by with throwing aggrieved tantrums that disrespected all concerned. It will be surprising if we don’t get another episode of that same reality show with whoever Trump nominates next. He’s said this nominee will be a woman—a cynical choice for a man whose misogyny is constantly on display, especially since he clearly intends to pick a woman who will work to undermine most of what Ginsburg (who he pretends to respect) worked for.
But then, why should this be different? Let’s end on an uplifting note—from The Atlantic:
“Ginsburg will lie in repose at the Supreme Court today and tomorrow, then will be taken to the U.S. Capitol on Friday, where she will lie in state, becoming the first woman [my emphasis] so honored.”
Fare thee well, RBG—you will be truly missed!
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; see the "Publications" tab on the home page for her two most recent publications, now available as e-books on Amazon.
For information about individual chart readings, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Raye Robertson 2020. All rights reserved.