Thursday, September 16, 2021

"Let them rest..." Twenty years after 9/11 & the Neptune-Pluto-Chiron road ahead

"Full of tears is this day of dread"...Verdi's Requiem 

The terrorist attacks on New York City's World Trade Center and other sites on September 11, 2001 happened almost literally “out of the blue”...

 ...on a gorgeous, clear Tuesday morning in September, at the beginning of a normal work day. 

Whereas some forecasted a kind of dystopian apocalypse before the turn-of-the-millennium (it didn't happen), the relatively unremarkable 11th day of September roughly twenty-one months later (and well into that new millennium) snuck up on the American people and actually did change the nation in important ways over the past 20 years. We were attacked from outside our borders by extremists who used suicide bombers to crash airplanes filled with innocent people into symbolically important U.S. targets: it was a shocking, traumatizing and forever tragic event, and not just for those who lost loved ones in the downed World Trade Center towers, in the Pentagon and on the field in Shackleford, PA —but for all those whose family members heroically rushed in to help people as best they could and were never seen alive again.  

We all remember where we were and what we were doing on that haunting September morning, and yes, we rightly mourn and remember its victims every year at this time, but there’s always something missing in those memorials, somehow. To my mind, what's missing is the assurance that we learned anything of lasting value that day. 

For starters, almost immediately after the attacks and out of legitimately intense fear, we relinquished key civil and privacy rights protections in return for the illusion of security, and by doing so we enabled the erosion of some important responsibilities, as well, like the basic due process rights our government owed even prisoners of war, despite the “Us v. Them” rhetoric of the day. It became all too easy to look the other way as some of these individuals were tortured and caged in special facilities built in Guantanamo Bay and other centers, always purposely situated outside our U.S. borders with their presumed guarantee of “equal justice for all.” 

It became all too easy to ignore how Muslim-Americans were targeted for “patriotic” hate crimes. 

It became all too easy to buy into Bush’s “good v. evil” narrative, which validated such xenophobia for some. 

Pres. Bush mustered support for war with a dark "axis of evil" speech.
In retrospect, we know that many Bush officials had reservations about, or flatly disagreed with that framing of events, but few spoke out at the time. It's heartening that many are speaking out now, but has that restored the critical rights we lost and made amends for the damage that was done in the name of fighting "evil?" With few exceptions, the damage has been done, and "Gitmo" (a forever stain on our national reputation and Soul) remains open.

Looking back, it seems that our leaders, as well-meaning as they may have been, responded to the 9/11 attacks by launching wars with no real clarity of purpose—a purpose that would have done better justice to the loyalty and support of the allies who stood by us all the way.  No, we embarked on a poorly-defined, borderless (and therefore, "forever") “War on Terror” that in retrospect feels arrogant and misguided. Some now call it pointless: I wouldn't go that far because we owe those who took that fight on a great debt of gratitude, but I take the naysayers' point. 

Still, it seems that as a nation we got caught up in a disastrous “sole super-power" hubris, a Neptune-Pluto trap that was basically laid for us when the Soviet Union imploded in 1991. As Gorbachev would predict at that time, we would come to regret not having an “enemy.” Is Power-writ-Large merely an empty “bell” without an Enemy to ring it? These are Neptune-Pluto questions that can’t help but haunt us at this juncture.  

True, any nation is entitled to defend itself; Neptune and Pluto would have no quarrel with that. Unfortunately, over time, however, the concepts of defense and offense became as entangled and murky as all of the rest: this experience, also tapping into Neptune-Pluto energies, should tell us something about how conflicts escalate and how opposite impulses feed off each other to the detriment of all. Yet, nations belligerently pursue fixed agendas in pursuit of some illusory geopolitical "order." As you might already be imagining, Saturn and Uranus have played enormous roles in all of this as well; more on all this in a bit. 

As the years have ticked by since 9/11/2001, we’ve seen what a Faustian bargain we made in responding to it: we enabled the erosion of our homegrown trust in government, with too many these days seeming disenchanted with democracy itself. We've become far too tolerant of obvious misinformation, demagoguery and worse.  Hubris creates its own reality, as the saying goes, and we’ve seen plenty of that as well. 


Defiance, despite receiving hospital treatment for COVID.

Consider our early response to COVID: Trump deliberately sowed division in our collective response to this crisis--even when he contracted the disease himself--which has made it absurdly impossible to unify around the basic aim of saving lives. This is not how a healthy body politic functions, but despite heroic efforts on the part of health professionals and epidemiologists, we seem incapable of anything better. Things have improved considerably with Biden at the helm, but 650,000 dead and counting when we've had vaccines available for many months now is nothing to crow about. 

Tragically, the toxic resistance to masking and vaccines in the name of “freedom” has violated common sense as much as it’s killed and harmed people, making a mockery of civic spirit and cooperation, keeping us all in thrall and stoking intense anger (even shock-jock Howard Stern has had it with anti-vaxxers, apparently). We could have done much better. 

Finally, this past week, Biden felt compelled to impose vaccine mandates and recommendations on companies and institutions that answer to the federal government, after avoiding that sort of top-down measure for months, waiting for people to act rationally, it seems. Predictably, the anti-vaxxers are now crying “foul," preparing to sue and/or rebel. Biden was responding, he noted, to the growing “anger” in the nation that Howard Stern is voicing: at least Biden can say he's doing what his Executive power allows him to do. 

At the risk of sounding like a disenchanted Boomer, I will say the obvious out loud: if we had responded in this disjointed, uncooperative way to Hitler’s ambitions in the 1940s, we would have lost that war, plain and simple. There are some crises for which collective action and solidarity are the only way out—Neptune was in Virgo in the late 1930s-early 1940s, passing over our Sibly Neptune and fortifying our collective resolve in the Sibly 10th; Neptune is now opposite, in our Pisces 4th, which can either be our downfall (through misinformation, the erosion of trust, inability to coalesce around a purpose, etc.) or it can be our saving grace, evoking compassion and service to the collective well-being. 

Our healthcare workers have carried this burden for all of us, it seems, with far too little cooperation from many communities, now suffering from unavailable ICU beds and all the horrors that go along with that.  

And yet, we keep on keeping on, and as I write this, another September 11th has come and gone in our nation. 


The astrology

I've written about the charts for 9/11/2001 in isolation several times over the years, so my focus here will be on exploring the broader, deeper astrological story and context for those attacks. It’s glaringly clear that nothing about America has been quite the same since 9/11/2001, but astrologically speaking, how did we get there?...and 20 years later, how did we get here, wondering if all hell will break loose at the U.S. Capitol again this coming week? What are some astrological threads that tie all this together?
Uranus plays a predictable role in sudden attacks of this magnitude, of course; from home sign Aquarius it shockingly opposed chart ruler Venus (Leo) at the same time it conjoined Sibly Moon (the People) on that September morning (Biwheel #1 below); yet, as we'll see, there was also a much more complicated geopolitical context at work.

Biwheel #1. (inner wheel) USA (Sibly) chart, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m. LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel). Attack on World Trade Center, September 11, 2001, 8:46 a.m. DST (news reports), New York, New York. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts cast on Kepler 8.0, courtesy of Cosmic Patterns Software. 

Not surprisingly then, the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th featured more Uranus-led drama: a Mars-Uranus (Aries-Taurus) conjunction was rising in the 12th of the 12:45 p.m. chart for the January 6th Capitol insurrection (Chart #2 below), square Saturn-Jupiter-Pallas conjunct in Aquarius; these aspects reflect the social turmoil of that day and the shocking assault on an election-related congressional process that we took totally for granted  before that. If that particular assault hadn't happened that day, some other shocking event probably would have! 

Chart #2. U.S. Capitol Assault, January 6, 2021, 12:45 p.m. ST (news reports), Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts cast on Kepler 8.0, courtesy of Cosmic Patterns Software.

Then there were the indications of deeper, broader contexts in both of these events--the machinations and dynamics going on behind the scenes, in other words. The Pluto-Chiron cycle (yes, I believe it's a cycle we need to pay serious attention to) was in new phase when the September 11th attacks happened (Biwheel #1 above), having launched anew in December 1999 at 11+Sagittarius, conjunct the Sibly ASC! Looking back, the "turning" of apocalyptic proportions that many were expecting at the new millennium didn't fizzle quite the way it seemed; we just didn't know what it would look and feel like!

In 2006, I published a pamphlet (that has since been re-issued in Kindle E-book form) about the long, historical importance of this Pluto-Chiron cycle to the U.S.. Consider how that 11+Sagittarius cycle point ties into Biwheel #1, conjunct the Saturn-Pluto opposition (that cycle's culmination) stretched across the Sibly horizon. This convergence likely energized the existential crisis we've been engaged in ever since, living out the waning, second half of that same Saturn-Pluto cycle. 

WTC Neptune (Rx, Aquarius) also conjoined Sibly So. Node (Aquarius) and trined Sibly Uranus (Gemini), reinforcing this dire message and pointing to how the military would be so quickly unleashed to address the  terrorist "chaos." 

It's worth noting here that up until January, 2020, all of this unfolded during the second half of that 1982 Saturn-Pluto cycle that launched in November of that year at 27+Libra; not surprisingly, the new cycle that launched in January, 2020 in late Capricorn hasn't done much to cure that crisis yet: it launched square the 1982 cycle point and tied in closely with our ongoing Sibly Pluto return, due to perfect in February, 2022. It's rearranged a few "deck chairs on the Titanic," including cutting short the Trump presidency, but it's not quite safe yet to feel that the "voyage" will end well. 

Life boats were more useful than deck chairs then, as now.
For starters, what Trump represented in our politics didn't go away with Biden's victory; Trump's "ism" is alive and well in the GOP, which is doing everything it can at the moment to undermine and sow mistrust in our institutions going forward. Equating "freedom" with refusing to use life-saving vaccines to curtail the COVID crisis simply makes no sense, however: it kills people (their own people, ironically) and tears communities apart. As U.S. Naval War College professor Tom Nichols put it so well in his book by this name, we've become "our own worst enemies." 

"Never, ever accept responsibility" could be the mantra of this Neptunian brand of politics; Neptune (Pisces) has been transiting opposite Sibly Neptune (Virgo) for a while, now (this was the case on January 6th, 2021 as well), and the two of them are t-squaring Sibly Mars (Gemini). Even the institution of American health care isn't safe from this arrogance, it seems, as its mission of saving lives and serving all our legitimate medical needs has been severely undermined by toxic misinformation and politics. 

Sometimes I wonder if our implied social contract (the same one that every nation and People are founded on), to protect each other, has been fatally undermined: far too many seem to be alright with endangering even their own children (never mind their communities' children) for the sake of making a political point and pouting about not knowing "whom to trust." Passive aggression is aggression, nonetheless. People take leaps of faith and calculated risks all the time in life; why should taking a COVID vaccine be any worse? This might sound harsh, but isn't there a point at which willful ignorance stops being an excuse?  


Another image imprinted forever on our national Soul.


Meanwhile....we can see how insidiously this dilemma played out in the January 6th Capitol assault chart (Chart #2 above). 

Neptune, Saturn and Pluto also played key roles in the January 6th insurrection, of course: Neptune (Pisces) tightly t-squaring the event's Nodal axis (Gemini-Sagittarius), reflecting the sea of misinformation and the so-called "Big Lie" that instigated the assault and have dogged our steps ever since,  and  a Saturn-disposed 9th house Mercury-Pluto-MC conjunction (Capricorn) t-squaring Aries Mars (widely conjunct Uranus in Taurus) opposite the day’s Libra Moon (the People), stretched across the 12-6 axis. Under the pretext of rebelling against a harm that never happened ("Stop the Steal"), violent, sabotaging intentions (12th house Mars-Uranus) against the nation and many of its People (6th house Moon) were at work that day.  

To my eye, there were moments when the insurrection felt like a strangely made-for-television Civil War re-enactment, in fact: it provided just the kind of optics that Trump and right wing media and candidates could take to the bank--Mercury-Pluto's involvement confirms this possibility. The fund-raising being done on the basis of the "Big Lie" is still breaking all kinds of records, I understand. Meanwhile, the violence has been all too real. With January 6th Mars-Uranus at the ASC, square that heavy Capricorn and Aquarius energy (Uranus squared Saturn, disposing Capricorn) at the top,  violent intimidation suited for "prime time" appears to have been the point. 


A "Camp Auschwitz" t-shirt? 
 We have no reason to believe that these violent intentions have played themselves out yet, either--according to the FBI, the threats of domestic terrorism and of further misinformation-based violent confrontations such as January 6th are still very real. In 2001 the terrorist threat was external; today, it seems to be rooted within. Our external adversaries and rivals must be so pleased, although I understand from previews of a new book written by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, entitled Peril, that they've also been rattled by recent events, such as the one on January 6th. They, too, have a stake in the stability of our democracy, even though they may not want to admit as much. 


A thousand cuts

The infamous "death by a thousand cuts" (a particularly heinous form of torture) comes to mind in our present astrological situation--it's fair to say that since the 9/11/2001 attacks, we've been experiencing a long continuum of assaults on our very Being as a nation, and they probably aren't over yet. We've become familiar with the Sibly Pluto return, which has been inching forward for years now; I suspect once Pluto crossed over the Sibly horizon around the time of the 9/11 attacks, that return process took on a much more serious character, transforming our national identity and image while transiting the Sibly 1st house, and our national values and attitudes about resources and the economy, and all that has entailed over these past 20 years in national policy-making, etc.  The deliberate privileging of corporations over workers (i.e., with globalization-supporting policies) and the extreme widening of the wealth inequality gap didn't just happen--they were facilitated by Pluto's transit of our 2nd house, in the same house of its eventual return. 

This return process  has coincided not just with the Pluto-Chiron cycle, but with that cycle's waxing first quarter and square, which will be first exact in the final  days of the 2020s. Collective action as a nation regarding our primal "wounds" will be essential between now and then, and we're seeing why that's so critical all around us. As we speak, there's a suit finding its way to the Supreme Court that could end up redefining Native Americans as just members of another racial category, as opposed to members of a sovereign tribal nation with certain treaty-defined territory and resource use rights. 


The 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act is endangered as we speak.
If successful, the suit (which originated with a contentious adoption case that the ultra-conservative Goldwater Institute latched onto) would eliminate the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), putting Native children in danger of being torn from their families and cultural groups when well-heeled white families vie for them. Insidiously, it could also clear the way for corporations, etc., to take over or misuse Native lands and resources for profit. Native lands are some of the few remaining places on this continent that haven't been terminally used and abused for proft--IMHO, this would be a shockingly backwards step to take at this time, in the face of climate change. We owe our Native tribes in ways we'll never be able to repay; the least we can do is to support the dignity of their sovereignty as agreed to much earlier in our history. 

As for the Chiron connection, our primal "wounds" pertain to more than racism and slavery; they include the way our capitalist system has exploited both of those ancestral crimes, at the expense of both People and the Earth (Sibly Chiron squares Sibly Pluto from Aries-Capricorn). This certainly fits the situation with Native Americans at the moment; hopefully we find a way to resolve these issues in respectful, mutually-satisfactory, earth-sustaining ways. This is one to keep our eyes on. 

We're also approaching the nation's Chiron return, which will perfect in April 2024, exactly as Jupiter conjoins Uranus for a new Taurus cycle. How the ICWA case described above is decided could definitely influence how that earthy cycle unfolds, and who stands to benefit or be disadvantaged by it. Globalization may have fallen out of favor abroad, for its imperialistic tendencies, but that doesn't mean its ruthless tactics and ambitions should be employed here at home! It's really time to rethink the relationship between our economy and the responsibilities we have for protecting the Earth. We can't do our part to preserve life on this planet for coming generations without transforming the systemic ways in which we are kept trapped in the status quo. Snipping off the "low hanging fruit" here will simply fall short.

All of this dredging up of Chironic wounds, especially in combination with Pluto (and in concert with the Pluto return process), will continue re-invigorating long-standing resentments and seeking to heal generations of injustice: to ignore this necessary transformation process is to invite a return to the very ancestral crimes and power dynamics that brought us to this moment. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks the activities of over eight hundred hate/white supremacist groups across the nation--many of them are armed militias and many are affiliated with various churches. Is it any wonder we're having difficulty cooperating towards worthwhile goals?



20 years hence and final thoughts

So what did we learn on that unspeakably tragic September day 20 years ago? And how did that fateful day bring us to today's difficult juncture, anticipating yet another potentially violent assault on the U.S. Capitol? As best I can tell, the planned protests on September 18th (yet this week) purport to seek "justice" for the January 6th insurrectionists who have been either indicted, prosecuted or imprisoned for their violent or conspiratorial actions on that startling day, but I suspect we'll also see the backlash that's been brewing on right-wing media against Biden's new federal mandates regarding vaccines and the brouhaha surrounding our military withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

No doubt, there are legitimate concerns and confusions to iron out regarding both these issues, but the House Committee investigating the Afghanistan withdrawal this past week has done more to sow confusion and to provide a platform for grandstanding than to clear the air. 

From where I'm sitting, the timing of all this grandstanding during this sensitive season of every American year since 2001 is not only deliberate, but a key part of the story. Consider the not-so-subtle way Trump tried to co-opt the loaded symbolic weight of September 11th for his "boxing match" commentary; surely he had the same audience he always does, perhaps the same individuals we'll be seeing on the streets protesting on September 18th, doing what they can to keep Trump's "Big Lie" alive in the spirit of January 6th. We probably shouldn't be surprised if we start hearing some in the fringe media trying to connect the stories of September 11 and January 6 somehow; there's power in controlling the narrative.

As for September 18th, the Capitol will be better prepared this time around, thankfully (the fence is going back up), but time will tell what actually transpires. Our next post here will probably have more to say about this. thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to all those who have been grieving lost loved ones every September 11th since 2001:  may Verdi's luminous tribute pay eternal homage to the many, many victims of that day and to all those who have fallen this twenty years hence. 


Verdi's magnificent Requiem captures our national trauma for a new generation.


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, U.S. history, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. She’s published articles on these topics in several key astrology journals over the years, including most recently, the TMA blog. For information about individual chart readings, contact:

© Raye Robertson 2021. All rights reserved.

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