Sunday, December 19, 2021

On finding Joy and Wisdom in challenging times: the Sun enters Capricorn



"Relationships are like farming; if you don't plant the seeds, you'll have no crop to harvest."--Rumi



How appropriate it is that Rumi's advice (above) is for a season so blessed with special Venus activity, a season that this year challenges us to turn inward with her to cultivate and deepen our relationships--be they personal, neighborly, more collectively-oriented for today's challenges, or as Native Americans often put it, for "the seven generations" to come.  From our geocentric perspective, Venus slows to a stop in the next few days, does a graceful about face and begins retracing her steps for about 40 days. 

You may have noticed that this 40-day period rings a bell with other 40-day sojourns in our collective memory: indeed, the number 40 is significant within all major faith traditions--take your pick--and interestingly, there seems to be pretty universal agreement that it is a number suited to significant, reflective times during which the faithful work to purify themselves through fasting and meditation for an important new chapter of life. 

For instance, Christian accounts claim that Christ spent 40 days and nights in the desert, fasting and rebuffing the Devil's temptations before being tried and crucified, and according to Acts 1:3, 40 days ensued between his resurrection from the dead and his ascension into Heaven. From this derives some funerary customs based on the belief that a deceased person's spirit hovers in this earth plane for 40 days, at which time the prayers of loved ones can release it. 

In Judaic tradition, God's anger with humankind caused the rains to fall for 40 days and nights and to destroy all but Noah and those on his ark, after which God made a covenant with Noah's people for all time. For his part, Moses is purported to have spent 40 days on Mount Sinai, where he then received the Ten Commandments from God. 

In Islamic tradition, Muhammad was 40 years old when the Angel Gabriel delivered God's revelations to him, but interestingly, Islamic tradition also says Masih ad-Daijal--a FALSE messiah--will roam the earth for 40 days before God's "day of reckoning."

And there are others, but clearly, even those who follow no religious tradition at all can see a theme taking shape here with the number 40: Humanity's perennial need for reflection and repentence--a change of heart that aligns us more fully and deeply with the responsibilities that accompany those precious relationships that Rumi celebrates.

How appropriate it is that this 40-day sojourn of Venus's should happen as the hardship caused by the pandemic drags out into yet another chapter and variant.

How appropriate also that Venus is embarking on this cleansing journey mostly conjunct Pluto in Saturn-ruled Capricorn. It strikes me that that Sr. Joan Chittister, a very wise woman and spiritual leader, is responding to these cosmic realities when she says:

"In every beating heart is a silent undercurrent that calls each of us to the more of ourselves. Like a magnet it draws a person to a place unknown, to the vision of a wiser life, to the desire to become what I feel I must be—but cannot name....Sometime or other in every life comes the raw awareness that to live in a world ever clamoring, seldom settled, always in flux, it is only the depth of the spiritual well in us that can save us from the fear of our own frailty."1

Clearly this is a message for the tumultuous, mutable ride we've been on with Neptune and the pandemic. And, I would offer, for this walk in the Capricorn desert that we will soon take with Venus in the midst of that chaos. Venus speaks to our values, to our judgments about what is worth keeping in our lives and in Capricorn, she speaks to what needs to be (easily or not) pruned away. 

"We need depth of heart....stolidity of soul."

Consider Rep. Liz Cheney's latest pronouncements as co-chair of the January 6 House Committee investigation, for instance: flying in the face of her own party, she embodies the value judgments that many fear to make these days. For the sake of safeguarding our U.S. democracy, she has decided it is more important for her to speak truth than it is to avoid political fallout. In fact, she's already suffered very real costs at her Trump-driven party's hands. 


 Chittister captures the importance of such value judgments precisely when she says: "We need depth of heart. We need stolidity of soul. We need what the forays of time cannot take away."

Those "forays of time" certainly struck the state of Kentucky like a torrent of daggers this past week: I was particularly struck by individuals standing over their tornado-destroyed homes and saying in one way or another that "this was our life; it's all gone." During these already uncertain, uneasy times, those piles of rubble were once their bulwark against disaster, and now that sense of shelter and "home" has been brutally stolen and crushed. It takes a great deal of courage to find the inner strength one needs at such times, but people do--usually with the help of "neighbors" on all levels, both local and far-flung.

A view of devastation caused by rare December quad-state tornado.
Having to depend upon the kindness of strangers is sometimes the most difficult, off-putting thing a person can experience, yet there is great wisdom for all of us in that lesson, whether we're on the receiving or the giving end of it. Astrology teaches that Venus is exalted in Neptunian Pisces; clearly this signals that we need to value all our relations, across all time and space--all of Creation, in fact. In Pisces, Venusian love takes a dip in the immersiveness of Spirit, where the meta-value of Compassion can take flight, as it must. 

We needn't wait for Venus to reach Pisces before embracing her higher "angels," of course. As we'll see in Chart 1 below, she is currently our best hope for bridging Pluto's harsh earth-realm realities and Neptune's deeply undermining disruptions. It may sound trite and nostalgic to say "Love is all we need," but when disaster dogs our steps, Love is everything

Kentucky was the hardest hit, with 70+ dead.

Love, relationship and responsibility 

Here's where the dimension of responsibility implied by Venus's retrograde sojourn in Capricorn is coming into sharp focus these days, especially with the added factor of the Sun's Capricorn ingress a mere two days after Venus takes her about face on December 19th. We considered the chart for that retrograde turn conjunct Pluto in the November 22 post here we'll examine the Capricorn ingress (aka winter solstice) chart below (Chart 1), and as we'll see, Venus is a key player in that chart as well.

One key point stands out in my view: we don't exist in isolation, even if it feels that way at times; in fact, if the COVID pandemic has taught us anything, it's that any sense of separateness that we may think we enjoy (as in, what I do or don't do really doesn't matter because it's a personal choice only) is fragile and illusory. What we do or don't do can matter very much, indeed, but this doesn't condemn us to being cookie-cutter copies of each other. 

If anything, Venus promotes the delicious unity within diversity that well-functioning pluralistic and free societies aspire to because she's all about creativity in all its dimensions. Nothing worthwhile is created in a relationship-free vacuum, whether personal, social or more broadly collective. Importantly, and certainly heralded by this week's convergence of significant Venus activity with the Sun's Capricorn ingress, the relationships that cultivate and nurture healthy societies must respect the integrity of Being in all its forms. This implicates our relationship to the Earth and all that can be considered the "natural world."

With Venus in Capricorn (square Venus's home sign of Libra), especially conjunct Pluto, we might want to revisit our relationships with the consumer systems in which we participate and to which we are often psychologically attached; as we're learning more and more every day, the health of these relationships is not defined just by whether we use plastic bags or not! The systems that work to extract, commodify and privatize the Earth and her resources are especially destructive because they threaten Nature's delicate balancing (Libra) act, and we absolutely play a role in that destruction. 

Gandhi's pronouncement decades ago was clearly more than prescient; in fact today, it sounds a bit naive: “The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed.” This is a Venus-Pluto issue that warrants reflection and focus during this upcoming retrograde period. 

So what do we do with Gandhi's wisdom in our "greed is good" culture today? I think the restraint Venus is modeling in both her retrograde state and in her extended tour of Saturn's realm of Capricorn may have some answers for us. As any one who's been through temporary hard times, or who has ever experimented with voluntarily simplifying their lives knows, we can find ways around the conventional consumer economy to provide for ourselves and our families with minimal hardship. Communities do this together all the time when hard times prevail; retrograde in Capricorn, Venus will hopefully inspire renewed appreciation for and more conscious use of the Earth's resources for what really matters. 

"Shop 'til we drop" is no path for the way forward, in other words; it's a toxic, dead-end role that we've been playing, perhaps thinking we're doing "our part" for the nation's economy.  With Venus hovering so near Pluto during her retrograde sojourn, we can hopefully begin to purge ourselves of such compulsions and to transform our relationships with that consumer economy.

Of course, the capitalist paradigm that underlies and energizes that consumer economy won't be easily transformed, but through supply-chain disruptions (including even a cream cheese hacking!), crumbling transportation infrastructures and too few truck drivers we are all now experiencing how vulnerable the many interdependent systems we call the consumer economy can be. And life goes on, we celebrate the holidays one way or another and we find ways to reach out to each other anyway. I don't doubt that there are some unfortunate hardships being suffered because ships full of cargo are stranded off our shores; yes, and there's a lot of hardship being suffered by the people of Mayfield, Kentucky whose homes were blown to bits by the longest-enduring tornado of our times.  

Cargo stranded off the shore of So. California.

Trouble is, like the pandemic that has evolved to become more a feature of our times than an anomaly, extreme weather events and disruption to systems we've long taken for granted may be our "new normal." Simply put, life on Earth has been thrown off balance by climate change and we continue to perpetuate the problem instead of clamoring for solutions. I think perhaps Venus (and Pluto) will be reminding us of this in the coming days. Bottom line, we helped produce the situation and we can help solve it, but it will take focus. Vague sentimental love for the Earth and her future as our home won't cut it going forward; it's time to engage in the intense, compulsive Love that only an existential crisis (and Venus-0-Pluto) can inspire.

Perhaps rather than bemoaning longer delivery times, this is our opportunity to find creative, local ways of fulfilling the needs and desires we've been trying to address with our shopping lists. Legislators have been coming up with some ideas, but they can't fix the problem entirely on their own.

Clearly, the fact that this Venus retrograde sojourn coincides pretty closely with the Sun's seasonal ingress into Capricorn--countered by the Earth's entrance into Cancer directly opposite--is key here. These may very well be just the cardinal energies we need right now to generate creative, caring solutions. To get a better look at this, we'll examine this ingress (aka the winter soltice) chart, cast for Washington, D.C. below. Clearly the concerns we're discussing here are global in nature, but for better or worse, the U.S. still heavily influences world affairs and the success (or failure) of climate change mitigation, so this perspective remains useful. 


Amazing, but vulnerable systems connect the world's ports.

The astrology



Chart 1. Sun enters Capricorn, December 21, 2021, 10:59:08 a.m., Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts are cast on Kepler 8.0 and courtesy of Cosmic Patterns Software.

It's hard to miss that basically everything in this chart is concentrated in the eastern hemisphere, houses 1-3 and 10-12, except the 5th house Cancer Moon. Quite a suggestive visual for the bottlenecked supply chains plaguing our steps these days! This Moon represents the basic physical and emotional needs of "We the People" and falls opposite that powerful Venus Rx-Pluto conjunction we've been discussing. If the focus on the 1st and 4th quadrants wasn't enough to get the message across, this Moon reinforces that the ways in which We project our values and desires out into the collective level of public policy, behavior and trends (10th-11th houses) matters greatly.

Our consumer behavior is key here, of course--we all need to consume, but we can do so from the perspective of deep respect for the Earth, and that will make a difference. That respect will take different forms depending upon circumstances, but the attitude is key--it will help when inevitable disruptions occur (Eris t-squares the Moon's opposition to Venus Rx-Pluto from Aries), and it will help ground us in gratitude for all that the Earth provides. Corporations don't ultimately provide; the Earth does. From the 5th house, this lovely Cancer Moon also evokes the hopes and needs of future generations; no matter what challenges we're experiencing now, it's simply time to put our focus there.

Sun (Capricorn) conjoins Mars/Pluto (0+Capricorn) and Venus Rx/Mars (1+ Capricorn). This amazing convergence of a major world point cardinal ingress (0 degrees of any cardinal sign) with such powerful planetary midpoints only reinforces the weightiness of this Solstice season. Positive, balanced leadership (Sun = Venus Rx/Mars) that honors the needs represented by that Cancer Moon will be key; finding balance in polarized times, in the midst of potentially toxic, aggressive and deep-pocketed efforts to control (Sun = Mars/Pluto) Humanity's instincts for nurturing change seems to be the other challenge represented here. Of course, well-balanced leaders know when to employ aggression and control mechanisms and when to err on the side of more diplomatic solutions; we are likely to confront challenges that require both in the months ahead.

Jupiter/Uranus Rx (midpoint, Aries) opposes Moon/Mars (midpoint, Libra); this axis squares Sun-opposite-Earth (Capricorn-Cancer). Michael Munkasey highlights both the positive and the not-so positive potentials of this midpoint duel--the Jupiter/Uranus implications are especially potent, given our times:

"Thesis (+): The application of legal methods against breakdowns in order, revolutions or strikes; growth following periods of reform; opportunities for modernization which accompany new labor-saving inventions.

Anti-thesis (-): Reform which originates in religious principles; government where no expansion   due to modern principles is allowed; civil war or unrest due to a legal or religious system which stifles justice for common people."2

These possibilities are squaring off against the always precarious balance between Leadership (SUN) and the needs of the Earth (and Humanity, by extension). Several current issues come to mind that could be impacted by all this and interestingly, the Supreme Court figures heavily into all of them: the imposition of  ideological control over women's reproductive rights (as contained in Roe v. Wade); the precarious nature of voting rights in this nation; the full-court press against our democratic (small "d") institutions.  

Improving human infrastructure is key.
On the more positive side, we are at an inflection moment when it comes to infrastructure modernization and the use of innovative technology for all kinds of positive Earth-friendly goals. Improvements to our human support systems, such as affordable child care and community college education would help prevent or correct breakdowns in our labor forces and other systems (no surprise here that this bill is also bottlenecked for now!). I have to say, it's almost startling to see how clearly today's super-critical issues are reflected here!

Tighter orbs are usually considered more accurate for Chiron aspects, so I haven't included that point in the above cardinal configuration, but that significant Jupiter/Uranus Rx midpoint is more closely conjunct Chiron (Aries), which suggests that all the drama contained in the cardinal stand-off just discussed is transpiring against a background of turmoil and woundedness in the nation's identity (Aries), values (2nd house) and aspirations (Chiron and Jupiter/Uranus Rx also trine Mars in Sagittarius). These are truly transformational times, on all levels, and we're challenged to figure out what is worth preserving and what needs to be let go of as we navigate those times. 

We might also want to pay attention to the potential for extremism in those trines involving Mars. Mars is powerful in this chart, elevated in the 10th conjunct the So. Node (Sagittarius) and widely square Jupiter in late Aquarius. There's been a considerable spike in violent crime in this country recently (the horrific school shooting in Oxford, Michigan comes to mind, but that's only one incident of many); I fear we will see more of the same in the coming quarter, although that's only one possibility for these energies. I suspect we'll also continue hearing provocative rhetoric coming out of Russia and China (Mars rules 9th here), which will test Biden's foreign policy skills. 

As for the potential for domestic unrest and/or extremism, my eye is drawn to the Mercury-Uranus trine (Capricorn-Taurus) and to the Jupiter-Moon inconjunct (Aquarius-Cancer). The election year will probably get off to a tumultuous start, given the new wave of COVID we're told to expect; with Mars also widely trine that Moon, I fear that those who have been hard-at-work whipping people up with lies and misinformation will still find fertile ground for their efforts. 

Given that we're being told to expect a new wave of COVID infections in the coming months, and the likelihood that restrictions will once again need to be imposed (Saturn sits in the 12th, square Uranus Rx), it won't be surprising if we see a deepening of public anger and resentment, and the possibility of more unrest. Critical institutions like hospitals (12th) are already sounding alarms about being stretched to their limits; unfortunately, this Saturn-Uranus Rx placement suggests that things could get worse before they get better. This cycle and the Saturn-Neptune cycle, which seems to be deeply tied to the pandemic, are both in their waning 3Q phase (Saturn-Neptune is actually in the balsamic phase).

We'll look more deeply at the road ahead with both these cycles in future posts. For now, however, this harsh Saturn energy sitting in the 12th and ruling the Capricorn quarter ahead certainly evokes that "desert" sojourn we discussed earlier. It could also explain why Biden decided to take a more stark approach to his COVID messaging today:

"'For the unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated -- for themselves, their families and the hospitals they'll soon overwhelm. But there's good news: If you're vaccinated and you have your booster shot, you're protected from severe illness and death,' the President said."

 Final thoughts

You might recall that earlier I cited a wise woman's advice that "it is only the depth of the spiritual well in us that can save us from the fear of our own frailty."1 Yes, anything we can do to nourish ourselves spiritually, as well as to protect ourselves physically (vaccinations work!) during the 12th house Saturn times ahead will help. 

Without a doubt, 'tis the season for cutting loose, gathering together and pushing caution aside, but it's also a (Capricorn) season for getting "real" and facing our responsibilities. Finding a balance that honors "all our relations" is the challenge. We will definitely need each other to weather the harsh conditions that may lie ahead, so those who can bring both Joy and Wisdom to their relationships this season will be treasures indeed. 

Let me end this post by wishing everyone a joyful, healthy and wise holiday celebration and year ahead. See you in the New Year!!

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.

1 Joan Chittister. The Monastic Heart, The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, pp. xiii-xiv.
2 Michael Munkasey, Midpoints: Unleashing the Power of the Planets, ACS Publications, San Diego, CA, 1991, p. 264.

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