Monday, January 9, 2023

Cosmic bells: the outer-planetary cycles in action 




"The universe is the only text without a context. Every particular mode of being is universe-referent, and its meaning is established only within this comprehensive setting." -- Thomas Berry, Evening Thoughts


We are poised at a moment in U.S. and global society that is particularly challenging for mundane astrology: for starters, practitioners are charged with making sense of the social and political dynamics we observe and explore every day, and this is no mean task when chaos seems to reign in so many quarters, such as in the toxic days-long slog to elect a Speaker that we just witnessed in the U.S. House of Representatives. And in the attempts this past week of right-wing Brazilians to very nearly emulate the attack on the U.S. Congress of January 6th, 2021, only this time on behalf of Trump-supporter Jair Bolsanaro. The crowds waved blue and green flags this time as they parroted Trump's worn-out "rigged election" call to action. Would-be autocrats losing badly is getting old.

Yet, nothing happens in a vacuum: every topic on our radar screens reveals, in one way or another, that the past, present and future are like a trio of cosmic "bells" that call out to each other, and these days, that chorus often feels both deafening and discordant. Between Russia's heinous actions against Ukraine, the violent repression of women and their supporters in Iran and Afghanistan, the resurgence of hate crimes, white supremacy and antisemitism across the U.S. and elsewhere, the accumulated crimes of and against Humanity--both inherited and contemporary--seem to be engaged in a "danse macabre" at the moment, perhaps challenging us to prove our worth in the cosmic scheme of things. It is that kind of moment, socially, geopolitically, environmentally and astrologically, so we may be wise to listen to those "bells" a bit more closely.

In a nutshell, the past knows what we're made of--the Earth has suffered the consequences of our greed and enmity and hostility towards each other for as long as we have roamed its fair surface; the present sees our struggles to overcome tragic, repressed, but never healed tendencies, and the future is eyeing us with trepidation. The stakes have rarely been higher. 


What can we mundane astrologers do to help? For starters, we could help humankind cultivate the "as above, so below" mindset that is so badly needed to address climate change and environmental destruction; to destroy any part of Creation is to destroy ourselves. We can also speak truth to toxic power and to this century's already demonstrated addiction to conflict and war. We can be cosmic "bellringers" when need be.

As for approaching this higher potential of our art, I'm reminded that achievement of higher ideals usually requires honing one's basic skills, so that's our purpose here.  


The bells of Our Lady of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

Ring those bells

Key among these skills is a deeper understanding of the ten outer planetary cycles that fuel and reflect the unfolding of human history and must inform mundane analyses. Grasping the evolution of individual societies--a natural extension of our discipline--requires a broader view of cultures and civilizations. The numinous and the historical collude in this project: “As above, so below.”

What follows, then, is my attempt to provide a helpful, streamlined context for further study into the outer planetary cycles. Not a "cookbook," but an effort to demystify some basics and provide tools for further exploration. As always, your feedback is deeply appreciated! Let's begin.

Cosmic rhythms at work

Comprehending outer-planetary rhythms, their interweavings and their individual and combined influences is the goal here. Applying such dynamics in practice can become a mental juggling act, but one that becomes less daunting and more intuitive over time, as we cultivate both long and short views of the subjects we study. These views allow us to see how the various cycles have manifested, which then becomes a leaping off point for future expectations. History doesn't repeat, as the saying goes, but it sure does rhyme.

Holding the short view requires keen observation of everyday life in the news and through experience, as it unfolds in our own communities, nations and environments; holding the long view pushes us to go beyond the news, to become attentive to patterns, and to explore the all-encompassing contexts of ideologies, cultures and technologies within which societies evolve. This cosmic "ground," if you will, helps shape and define the collective characteristics of societies over long stretches of time, and yes, genetics--thought to be ruled by Pluto--can figure into this.

So this broader context--the Uranus-Neptune-Pluto level of civilizations and their animating archetypes -- may seem overly abstract and remote, but in fact, societies are heavily influenced by every cycle involving these three planets in their various permutations (UR-NE, UR-PL, NE-PL) and in their individual combinations with Jupiter and Saturn (JU-UR, JU-NE, JU-PL, SA-UR, SA-NE, SA-PL). In short, context and connectedness are everything.

As above, so below!

Relatedly, once we become familiar with how Uranus, Neptune and Pluto interact with each other and the remaining outer planets, we can better understand why astrology and its foundational premises evolved within the contexts of world mythologies, Creation stories and religions: for that well-worn mantra to be meaningful, our forebears had to embrace the Earth and the Sky as one indivisible reality--a cosmology that has underpinned most belief systems in human history.  Unfortunately, that cosmology has been lost or suppressed over the centuries  for many, to the detriment of humanity and the natural world. 

As physicist Brian Swimme and geologist/theologian Thomas Berry put it in their masterwork, The Universe Story, "To tell the full story of a single particle we must tell the story of the universe, for each particle is in some way intimately present to every other particle in the universe." [1]  

As you might imagine, this has implications that go beyond the scope of this post, but for now, let's focus on how the outer planetary cycles speak to this integral cosmic "story."   



An invitation to the "dance"

By definition, the 10 distinct outer planetary cycles we study have their individual rhythms, but as we study those rhythms more deeply, we discern that there's an entire cosmic "dance" playing out in the skies, complete with retrograde/direct dosey-does and what sky gazers might view as interweaving, syncopated "reels." How these energies manifest in human life is endlessly creative, but in general, harmony prevails until it doesn't, and discord has a way of making its point and blending back into the dance. One way or another, the "dance" goes on, signaling to us that we, too, can carry on.    

Importantly, the one cycle missing in the two lists above is the one Jupiter and Saturn form with each other, and this cycle is perhaps the key to our understanding how all the cycles work together. Notice above that, including their own interactions, Jupiter and/or Saturn play key roles in seven of the ten outer planetary cycles, which speaks to why classic mundane astrology has long considered these two "social" planets the "Great Chronocrators" or timekeepers of our solar system. [2] 

With their reliable, near-exact 20-year cycle that beats out in neat 5-year phases, Jupiter and Saturn are society's cosmic engineers, influencing and shaping near-term developments and dynamics, but always "in relationship" with the longer-term planetary dynamics that they help to weave into the rhythms of our everyday life. In my 2020 study entitled A Silver Lining in Aquarius: Engineering the Future with the 2020 Jupiter-Saturn Cycle, I characterized this cycle as follows: 

"The Jupiter-Saturn cycle functions as a system within and dynamically related to the broader solar system. Systems analyst Donella Meadows notes that “behavior is latent within the structure”— and that systems therefore cause their own behaviors! In other words, the environment of ideas, philosophies and ideologies (Jupiter) around which a society structures itself (Saturn)— beginning with its short- or long-term focus— will determine its behavior (Jupiter) and by extension, who benefits, expands and grows, and who lives with constant obstacles and limitations."  [3]

This cycle repeats in a roughly 200-year long series comprised of 20-year increments, and it does so, with only occasional anomalous cycles, almost entirely in signs of the same element. For instance, in December, 2020 we completed a long series of Earth-sign Jupiter-Saturn cycles, interrupted only by the 1981 cycle in early Libra. This longer synod of individual cycles is known as the Trigonalis cycle, and as it gradually unfolds, societies coalesce around recognizable agendas, cultural characteristics and "themes."  

In fact, America’s revolutionary spirit and early “theme” were forged in the 1603-1802 Trigonalis series (synod) in fire signs that was, at the time of our final rupture with Great Britain, fast giving way to the earth series, (the first cycle in the series launched in Virgo in July, 1802). We only recently emerged from this earth synod in December 2020, with the new Jupiter-Saturn cycle in Aquarius.  

So, is it any wonder that one of the animating principles of American society from day one was its entrepreneurial, always-on-the-hunt-for-riches spirit? Where else in the world do billionaires start their businesses as teenagers in the family garage? Kurt Andersen provides some fascinating background for this foundational trait in his long view of America’s evolution, entitled Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: 

"But when the word entered English in the 1800s, entrepreneur was a synonym for showman or impresario, a creator and promoter of spectacles. Right around the time Tocqueville arrived and the Gold Rush happened, its meaning expanded to encompass people starting every sort of business. 'I know of no country where the love of money has taken stronger hold on the affections of men,' Tocqueville observed. 'Love of money is either the chief or secondary motive in everything Americans do.'" [4]

Importantly, Alexis de Tocqueville was a French aristocrat, a great friend of America's founding fathers, and in his 1835 study, Democracy in America, an astute observer of our revolutionary times and the society our founding generation undertook to build, so our fundamental "love" of money was not only a curiosity for him; it was likely a trait he admiredEven before the 1849 California Gold Rush he refers to in this quote, speculators looking to sponsor treasure-seeking migrants had spun America’s reputation abroad for being the "land of opportunity," with streets "paved in gold.” In fact, the true treasure to be easily acquired in America (perhaps overly-so) was land, which was a scarce commodity for most Europeans, so the incredible expanse of North America’s land mass truly was a “fantasyland” for ambitious working people.  

While some commonalities exist, planetary cycles tend to manifest differently in individual societies because a radix, or founding, chart establishes a nation’s unique relationship potential, if you will, with the Cosmos, and therefore, with the outer planets. This happened very clearly with the U.S. radix Sibly chart, for example: Jupiter rules our Sagittarius ascendant from the 7th house conjunct Venus in Cancer, the sign of Jupiter's exaltation, and Jupiter-co-ruled Pisces rules our "grass roots" 4th house, which captures our deeper essence as a People.  


Chart 1. The U.S. (Sibly) chart  


All of this together ensures that the U.S. Sibly chart reflects our long-standing character as an ambitious, optimistic, perhaps even “magical thinking” nation that basically built its society around the concept of unlimited growth, for better or worse. As a nation we resonate to an extraordinary degree with Jupiter's comings and goings, so any cycle involving Jupiter seems to wield outsized influence.  

On the other hand, we’ve always had a vigorous love/hate relationship with Saturn and its tendency to  exact Justice, and to insist upon structured checks and balances between our centers of power. We find out with Saturn that exceeding limits can’t be the basis for a sane, healthy society—and indeed, for our relationship to the Earth itself—there must be limits and laws and accountability that apply to all.  



Saturn, exalted in Libra, squares our Sibly Sun (the Executive, the Nation), but it also disposes our treasure-hoarding, corporate-leaning Pluto in Capricorn. The relationship of people’s security needs (Cancer) to our stern Wall Street “greed is good” economic engine is captured in the tense Sibly Mercury-Pluto opposition around which so much of American politics has evolved. Cancer Mercury is disposed by our Aquarius Moon, which Saturn co-disposes with Uranus. The People have, since day one, been subject to Wall Street’s roller-coaster rides (Sibly Moon semi-sextiles this Pluto and is the focal planet of a tense Yod with Sibly Mercury and our idealistic Sibly Neptune).  

Bottom line, Jupiter and Saturn energies are central to the rhythms of Capitalism, and thus, to American life, because our daily lives are forever in the balance. Or, as Clinton strategist James Carville so famously put it when asked what drives the American voter, “It’s the economy, stupid.”   

Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland also teases out the deeper historical hold that (in astrological terms) Jupiter and Saturn wield on the American character, as follows:   

“Our moxie always came in the two basic types. We possessed the unexciting virtues embodied by the Puritans and their secular descendants like Ben Franklin: steady hard work, frugality, sobriety, and common sense. And then there’s our wilder, faster, and looser side, that packet of attributes that also makes us American: impatient, overexcited gamblers with a weakness for stories too good to be true.”[5]

Importantly, both sides of our nature have their value, but we wouldn’t appreciate that fact without plumbing the depths of our history. To avoid this perspective is to risk falling into the extreme polarization we see around us today.  



Cosmic fuel for American development 

As for the role of specific Jupiter-Saturn cycles in American development, a quick consideration of the first few early cycles, their launch degrees and their Sibly connections provides a simple illustration: 

Table 1. Jupiter-Saturn cycles and their Sibly connections, 1802-1940 

Cycle launch dates 




Cycle-Sibly aspects*              




60-Jup-Ven; 90-Ura 


24°+Ari (anomalous) 


30-Moon; 60-Mars; 90-Plu & Merc; 150-Nep 





90-Sat; 150-Ura; 180-Jup-Ven & Sun 




0-Nep; 90-Mars & Asc 




60-Jup-Ven & Moon; 90-Plu & Merc; 150-MC 




90-Sat; 120-Nep; 180-Sun 




0-Nep; 60-Merc; 90-Mars; 120-Plu; 150-Moon 




60-Sun; 120-Nep; 150-Sat & Asc 

* I’ve used traditional Ptolemaic orb allowances in this column.  

It doesn’t take much to see that each of the Jupiter-Saturn cycle launches listed in Table 1 corresponds with an important juncture in our physical, social and character formation as a nation. Three quick examples: 

  • 1802 was marked by important foundational developments such as the establishment of the federal court system and the military academy at West Point, but as the aspects to Sibly Jupiter and Venus suggest, this period witnessed the Louisiana Purchase, America’s acquisition of territories stretching from present day Louisiana to Montana (encompassing some 828,000 sq miles). The squares of Jupiter and Saturn to Sibly Uranus reflected early growing pains and the breathtaking pace of change in the nationFrom day one, the nation was divided between southern agricultural states where slavery was legal, and northern states and territories where it was not.  

  • 1861 was the year that Civil War hostilities broke out between the North and South over the issue of slavery, among other tensions. This bloody clash of ideologies certainly reflected the cycle’s conjunction with Sibly Neptune, which in turn, triggered our radix Mars-Neptune square: America seems uniquely given to ideological crises that risk confrontation, violent and otherwise.  

  • 1921 was a time of recovering from both the devastations of WWI to our population and the horribly lethal Spanish Flu epidemic that soldiers brought home with them, but the 20 years ahead would mark a true tug-of-war between Jupiterian licentiousness and Saturnian prohibition and poverty. The sale and transport of alcohol within the U.S. was against the law between 1920 and 1933; the nation’s reaction to this sparked the so-called Roaring Twenties, a socio-economic bubble that burst with the 1929 Great Depression and a more powerful role for law enforcement (the cycle launch squared Sibly Mars). This cycle also unleashed years of heightened gangster-related violence—liquor smuggling was big business, which reflects the cycle launch’s trine with Sibly Pluto.  

And so on: the Jupiter-Saturn cycle’s importance to societies is easily tracked because navigating the expansions and contractions and the highs and the lows on behalf of their people is a central role for governments. Importantly, these expansions and contractions can be related to the waxing and waning status of cycles, as well. Jupiter, for instance, is always on a quest to thrust forward or expand into untapped resources and unexplored opportunities, so the times can feel vibrant, exciting and optimistic when Jupiter's leading the charge in waxing cycles with even a couple of its planetary partners (Saturn, Uranus, Neptune or Pluto).  

On the other hand, when Jupiter's trailing behind some or all of these cycle partners in waning cycles—as it is now with Uranus—forward movement and growth can feel stymied and sluggish, if not completely obstructed or undermined. If those times are accompanied by particularly demanding Saturn cycles, the results can be oppressive, frustrating and/or volatile, depending upon the circumstances. We’ll see a quantified illustration of how this is working today in Table 2 below.  

Indeed, when Saturn dominates the forward-moving cycles at any given time, structural considerations tend to be privileged over the pursuit of new horizons: stabilizing existing regimes and preserving the status quo in national institutions—not to mention curtailing people’s freedoms—can become a dominant focus, though the more repressive the tactics used to achieve these aims become, the more Saturn cycles may also inspire resistance. 

Saturn has been waxing relative to Pluto since April, 2020, just shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic was revealed as the threat it's been, and the more governments have attempted to rein in the spread of the virus with control measures like mask mandates, the greater the backlashes have been against those authorities. The more the Supreme Court and American states try to roll back women’s reproductive rights, the more women will resist and work around the restrictions.  

As I write this, the Jupiter-Saturn and Saturn-Pluto cycles are both waxing, having recently launched anew (Jupiter-Saturn in December 2020 and Saturn-Pluto in April 2020), but the Jupiter-Uranus, Saturn-Uranus and Saturn-Neptune cycles, all three well within their “heavier” 3Q phases, will remain waning for some time yet, which produces a “drag” on societies that is felt in their economies, in public sentiment and in the ability to accomplish major goals. In worst-case scenarios, societies can almost literally fall apart under these heavy phases, which might explain the peril our democratic system of elections experienced over the past few years.  


Russian president, Vladimir Putin

These same dynamics may also be what we’re seeing happen in Russia, where news reports show thousands of men trying to flee Putin’s mass mobilization for his war against Ukraine, sparking speculation that Putin’s hold on power in the Kremlin may be slipping.  

Putin’s nativity--assuming it’s accurate [6]--features a Saturn-Neptune conjunction and a waxing Saturn-Uranus square, so at his recent solar return (outer wheel, biwheel below), he was very sensitive to the current waning dynamics. Saturn was transiting conjunct his No. Node and square his natal Taurus Jupiter, while Uranus passed over that same point: challenges abound, but between the nuclear threats he’s casually dropped into his speeches and his proven willingness to weaponize Ukraine’s brutal winter against that nation’s civilians and their energy infrastructure that we can’t count him out yet. His SR Neptune in Pisces squared his natal Mars in Sagittarius and SR Saturn opposed his Leo Pluto (as it still does today). 

Adding to the Saturnian grief, SR Capricorn Pluto squared his Libra Neptune-Mercury and these aspects also persist, as the world tries to figure out if his various threats are real. Actions speak louder than words, as always, and given the aggressive waxing nature of the current Saturn-Pluto cycle, I wouldn’t take anything for granted.  


Biwheel 1. Vladimir Putin natal and 2022 solar return charts. 



Of course, the current three cycles that are now in 3Q phase can manifest differently, depending upon circumstances. For instance, the same energies underlying the disintegrative forces that have been at work in American politics since 2000 may be serving the survival interests of the Ukrainian people at this moment because those energies are undermining Russia's ability to wage its genocidal war against them. The Biden administration’s willingness to send Ukraine the Patriot missile system can be seen as a Saturn-Pluto development that isn’t likely to serve Putin’s purposes: the Saturn-Pluto cycle is clearly tapping into the “survival/victory at all costs” imperative that is “alive and kicking” in Ukraine, as President Zelensky put it in his recent speech to the U.S. Congress. Even so, nothing's over ‘til it’s over.   



Crunching the numbers 

As I hope will become clear in Table 2 below, the movements of Jupiter and Saturn also heavily influence what Mundane Astrology, the classic text written by Baigent, Campion and Harvey (and the work of André Barbault before them), calls the “cyclic index”--a quantifiable “barometer,” if you will, of the state of geopolitical tensions and the well being of societies. I will defer to them for an explanation: 

“It is simply the grand total of the exact angular separations, in rounded degrees, for each of the ten pairs of the outer five planets...Through construction graphs for earlier periods, he [Barbault} soon became convinced that though a technique could not be expected to mark out every detail of world history, by and large it did show the main trends of global tension, of growth and decay...” [7]

Following up on this approach, Claude Ganeau (in 1947, after the ravages of WWII) worked to ensure that the index accurately reflected the waxing and waning natures of the cycles at any given moment. He proposed a “Law of the Rhythms of Time” that the authors of Mundane Astrology also cite: 

“The stability or instability of the world is directly related to the difference in the sum of the phases of all waxing cycles of the five outer planets, and the sum of the phases of waning cycles of planets. Whilst the resultant figure remains positive, the earth will tend to experience relative stability and a period of evolution: when the resultant figure is negative, the earth enters a period of crisis and involution.” [8]

We have just experienced this year’s Capricorn ingress (aka Winter Solstice), which—set for DC—is a useful signifier for the Cyclic Index’s measure of today’s “stability or instability” of the U.S., if not the world,” so let’s take a quick look at Table 2 below, based on the ten outer planetary cycles’ angular relationships at that ingress moment. 


Table 2. Cyclic index for December 21, 2022.  


Waxing angular separations 

Waning angular separations (-) 

Cyclic Index Total* 

























































*Minutes are calculated separately from whole degrees and results are rounded to nearest degrees. The differences between waxing and waning totals constitute the cyclic index total.  


Final thoughts

I’m sure most observers of global affairs would agree that the world is going through what Ganeau called a “period of crisis and involution”--the deeply negative numbers in the table above certainly speak to that and will continue to create a drag on distinct concerns within societies for the next few years. This drag manifests in the inertia that plagues the developed world's climate change mitigation efforts, the uphill struggle that Ukraine faces against Russian aggression, and the seemingly endless vitriol characterizing our U.S. national politics. Progress is being made, but very slowly, even in the midst of startling revelations about the January 6th insurrection, the stunning possibility that we may live to see a former U.S. president indicted for crimes related to that insurrection, and more.

No doubt, the “trends of growth and decay” that Barbault and others delineated are forever cycling on in the grand scheme of things, which gives us a good reason to keep both history and the numinous in our sites. The cyclic index can be a powerful tool for cutting through media hype and distortions and for understanding the power inherent in the "dance" of waxing and waning cycles. The integrity of our cosmic "art" demands nothing less.  


[1] Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme. The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era, HarperCollins paperback, 1st edition, 1992, New York, NY, p. 29.  

[2] Michael Baigent, Nicholas Campion and Charles Harvey. Mundane Astrology: An Introduction to the Astrology of Nations and Groups, Thorsons, London, UK, 1995 ed., p. 184.

[3] Raye A. Robertson. A Silver Lining in Aquarius: Engineering the future with the 2020 Jupiter-Saturn cycle, KDP Direct Publishing, Kindle Edition, Loc. 199/1534. 

[4] Kurt Andersen. Fantasyland, Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, p. 84.

[5] Ibid, Kurt Andersen, p. 86. 

[6] Natal, Vladimir Putin, October 7, 1952, 9:30 a.m., St. Petersburg, USSR. Rated DD: conflicting/unverified.

[7] Michael Baigent, Nicholas Campion and Charles Harvey. Mundane Astrology: An Introduction to the Astrology of Nations and Groups, Thorsons, London, UK, 1995 ed., p. 171.

[8] Ibid. Baigent, Campion and Harvey, p. 174.




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 e-books now available on, and articles on these topics have appeared in several key astrology journals over the years, on this blog ( and most recently, the TMA blog. For information about individual chart readings, contact: 

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