Tuesday, March 21, 2017

An Astrological Interlude: Aries Ingress 2017

As mentioned several times in previous months, this month’s post here on The Well of Galabes is going to be devoted to a bit of practical astrology. Regular readers will recall that alongside natal or, to give it its fine old name, genethliacal astrology—the astrology of the birth chart—there are also several other branches of the astrological art, and that one of those is mundane astrology, the astrology of politics and public affairs. There are various ways to gauge astrological influences on a nation, say, but the most traditional and widely practiced is the ingress chart—a chart cast for one of certain significant moments for the location of the nation’s capital. That’s what we’ll be doing here.

The astrological year begins at the moment of the spring equinox, when the Sun as seen from Earth crosses the celestial equator on its way into the northern half of the heavens. In astrological terms, that point in the sky is the first point of Aries—the zodiacal sign Aries, not the constellation. (If you have trouble understanding the difference between those, please reread this post.) According to the theory of mundane astrology, the position of the luminaries (Sun and Moon) and the planets (Mercury through Neptune)* as seen from the capital city of a given nation at that moment predicts certain things about the way the politics of that nation will unfold for a certain period of time thereafter.

(*Yes, I know this doesn’t include Pluto. It also doesn’t include Sedna, Eris, or any of the other Kuiper belt objects; nor does it include Ceres, Pallas, or any of the other asteroid belt objects. More on this in an upcoming post.)

Other points in the astrological year, the autumn equinox and the summer and winter solstices, are also influential, but they’re secondary. Depending on the details of the spring equinox ingress chart, as we’ll see, the conditions covered by that chart may remain in place for three months, six months, or a year. There are also minor ingress charts cast for the new moon each lunar month, and much larger-scale charts cast for conjunctions of the outer planets that have effects reaching over decades, but the spring ingress chart is the bread and butter of mundane astrology, the tool that tracks political moods and their expressions in events most closely.

Why? Nobody knows. That’s the first thing that has to be grasped about astrology, and more generally about most of the occult sciences. We don’t know the causative mechanisms that underlie them. In some cases there are theories, more or less far-fetched, but by and large what we know is that they work, not why they work. That’s a valid kind of knowledge; Isaac Newton was able to explain precisely how gravity functions, even though he had no idea why—and in fact people had been perfectly well aware that rocks fall when dropped for countless millennia before Newton figured out how to say the same thing in numbers. (I like to imagine an early skeptic, circa one million BCE, who insisted to his fellow hominins that it was irrational to claim that rocks always fall when dropped unless they could tell him the reason why they fell, and kept insisting that until he was brained one day by a falling rock.)

In astrology, we’ve gotten beyond the falling-rock level of knowledge to something like the Newtonian level: a detailed quantitative model that allows us to predict certain regularities in phenomena.  That’s the level at which we’ll be working with the mundane chart shown here.

Those of my readers who don’t know their way around an astrological chart may benefit from some pointers. The chart is an abstract representation of the belt of sky through which the luminaries and planets move, as seen from a certain spot on the surface of the earth. The horizontal lines represent the points where that belt crosses the horizon; the one on the left is the ascendant, the section of the eastern horizon over which luminaries and planets rise, and the one on the right is the descendant, the section of the western horizon below which they set.

The not-quite-vertical line with an arrowhead on top connects the zenith, the point of the belt that rises highest above the southern horizon, with the nadir, the point of the belt that drops furthest below the northern horizon. (It’s not vertical for complex reasons having to do with the relationship of the ecliptic to the Earth’s curved surface.) The other dividing lines are the cusps (boundaries) of the twelve houses, which are divisions of the sky that relate to specific areas of human individual and collective life. The little symbols around the wheel are the luminaries and planets

Got it? Now let’s get into specifics.

In a mundane chart, as in any other chart, the two luminaries and the ascendant—the point of the zodiac that’s on the eastern horizon at the moment for which the chart is cast—are the most important features. These have different meanings in a mundane chart than they do in a natal chart, though. In a mundane chart, the Sun represents the person at the head of the government—the president, in this case—while the Moon represents the people of the nation, and in particular the more articulate and politically influential sector of the people. Their positions in the heavens and their relationships with one another and with the planets tell you a great deal about the way that the political leadership of a country will relate to the people and vice versa.

It will come as no news to anyone who’s been watching the US political scene that the relationship in question is one of intractable conflict. In this chart, the Moon and the Sun are in an applying square aspect. The square aspect is an angle of 90 degrees from the perspective of Earth; an aspect is applying when it’s close enough to have effect (“within orb” is the astrological jargon for this) but has not yet become exact, while it’s separating when it’s already passed the exact angle but is still within orb. The applying square aspect means that the two things thus indicated are at loggerheads, and it’s just going to get worse over the six months to come.

There’s a wrinkle to the conflict, though, and it has to do with the houses. In mundane astrology, the first house—the house immediately below the ascendant—is assigned to the people, and the tenth house—the house immediately to the left of the zenith—is assigned to the government. In this chart, though, the Sun is in the first house and the Moon is in the tenth! This means that the president speaks for, and is supported by, a significant though otherwise relatively inarticulate fraction of the population, while the institutions of government are allied with the more articulate and influential sector of the population and opposed to the president. Here again, this isn’t exactly a surprise, but it’s intriguing to see it expressed so clearly in the chart.

The ascendant is something else again. To begin with, it tells you how long the conditions covered by the mundane chart will remain in place. In this chart, Pisces is rising, and since Pisces is classified as a mutable sign—the signs of the Zodiac are categorized as cardinal, fixed, and mutable—this chart is good for six months, until the autumn equinox. Pisces, though, also has a character of its own: changeable, sensitive, idealistic, easily confused and deceived, drawn in conflicting directions. That character is going to pervade the next six months. Thus, at least for now, we’re not going to see a clean conflict fought out straightforwardly over the issues that matter; instead, confusion, deception, loudly proclaimed ideals poorly anchored to everyday reality, and the kind of intractable conflict where no one is ever quite clear about what they’re fighting for, or against, will be the order of the day.

This is squared, cubed, and in spades because of another factor in the chart: Neptune rising conjunct the ascendant. Neptune, to my mind, is underrated by many contemporary astrologers; the Lord of the Great Deep and the outermost of the planets, it is the planet of unity, ruling the highest aspects of human possibility—but when you bring so elevated an influence down into the grubby realities of everyday life on Earth, the experience of being one with everything can all too easily turn into a blur where everything is muddled together with everything else, and fantasy and outright hallucination supplant reality. It’s going to be a very confused and murky time.

Neptune, though, also has a traditional connection with popular movements—the unity of the masses as distinct from the focused interests of particular groups. Neptune rising predicts that the masses will have much more influence than usual over politics and the national life. Mass movements for change can be expected as the people seek power over their soi-disant betters in both parties; it will not be a pleasant six months for either Democratic or Republican party leaders, as the movers and shakers find themselves moved and shaken by the people they thought they could lead. The confusion inseparable from Pisces rising will make it difficult to see exactly what’s happening, but massive realignments will be taking place below the surface.

Let’s move on. The Sun and the Moon both have aspects with planets, and from these much can be understood. The most important of these is the relationship of both luminaries with Saturn, who is square the Sun and in very close conjunction (four minutes of arc) to the Moon. Sun square Saturn in a mundane chart predicts quarrels within the government, conflict between the administration and the civil service, and an endless string of obstacles, hindrances, and delays with which the president and his administration must contend. The Sun is benefited, on the other hand, by a distant but still effective applying conjunction with Venus. Sun conjunct Venus in a mundane chart predicts that the president and his administration will have relatively good relations with foreign countries. This aspect is particularly beneficial for the head of state, and predicts some notable success for him.

Moon conjunct Saturn is an even less promising aspect than Sun square Saturn.  It’s unfortunate for tax revenues and trade, and predicts disorder and economic contraction. An economic crisis of greater or lesser extent normally follows the appearance of this aspect in a mundane chart. The Moon and Saturn both get some benefit from their joint trine aspect with Uranus—a trine is an aspect of 120 degrees, and as favorable as a square is unfavorable—which predicts important reforms and changes in political life that will ultimately benefit the nation; both these aspects, though, traditionally bring increased power and popularity to the party in power, which will not be at all welcome to the groups signified by the Moon and Saturn.

Saturn in the tenth house generally is considered a dire omen, predicting crises and misfortunes for the nation. Its precise conjunction with the Moon, though, suggests that the largest share of these troubles will fall on the institutions of government and their supporters among the articulate classes, rather than on the administration or the head of state. One way or another, though, there will be serious difficulties, discord, and misfortune enough to go around.

Each of the other planets also has its story to tell. Mercury in the first house predicts that the next six months will be a time of ongoing political debates, witih meetings, rallies, political speeches and essays receiving much more attention than usual. The media will be full of discontent and recrimination. Mercury conjunct Venus is a favorable aspect predicting that all this excitement will lead to the settling of longstanding grievances. Mercury opposite Jupiter—opposition is an unfavorable aspect of 180 degrees—predicts serious trouble for the education industry, and much more public discord and division among religious bodies than usual.

Venus in the first house is a strong favorable influence, favorable for prosperity. Notice that this indication seems to contradict the ones given already. That’s common in astrology, and of course it’s just as common in everyday experience, in which different sectors of society benefit differentially from changes, and an economic crisis that brings serious trouble to one class can actually benefit another. The indication here is that the broader economic crisis predicted by Moon conjunct Saturn in the tenth house may actively benefit a significant fraction of the populace. (For example—and this is just an example, not a prediction—a serious real estate crash, which would batter the financial economy and cost a great many affluent people heavily, could benefit a great many people outside the circles of the affluent by forcing rents down from their current sky-high levels.)

Mars is in the second house of wealth and the national economy, and this is not a good indicator at all; combined with Saturn in the tenth conjunct Moon, it’s a pretty safe bet that the next six months are going to see some fairly sharp economic troubles. Mars in the second house is associated with declines in stock markets and bank failures, but also with high national expenditures and popular discontent over extravagant government spending. Mars’ only aspect is a minor one, a semisextile (30 degrees) with Mercury, and this reinforces the indication of a time of strong feelings and public excitement over political issues, with debate and discussion on public affairs taking center stage in society.

Jupiter stands all by itself late in the seventh house, predicting favorable relations with foreign powers and high-profile meetings with other heads of state. Jupiter is also within orb of the cusp of the eighth house, where it predicts the kind of celebrity death that produces widespread public reaction and stirs up a furor in the media. His only aspects are oppositions to Mercury and Uranus. We’ve already discussed the first of these; the second warns that new legislation will spend a long time bogged down in Congress and that foreign powers will gain in strength and influence relative to the United States.

Uranus, finally, stands at the very end of the first house, within orb of the cusp of the second. In the first house it predicts reforms and changes in political life, but also riots, strikes, and general discontent with the political order. Applying hard to the second, it provides another indication of economic turmoil and disruption. All of Uranus’ aspects have already been discussed.

That’s what the chart has to say. How should it be summed up?

To begin with, we’re facing six months of protracted political conflict out of which there will be no clear winner. The indications affecting the Sun are somewhat better than those affecting the Moon, so the eager predictions by Democrats of a prompt implosion on the part of the Trump administration are wishful thinking; if anything, the conjunction between the Moon and Saturn in the tenth house suggests that the Democratic party and the Washington bureaucracies will come out second best in the struggle. Even so, the Trump administration can expect to see much of its domestic legislative agenda stalled in Congress and tied up in the courts, and the conflict between the new administration and its opponents isn’t going away any time soon.

In foreign affairs, though, the next six months promise to be relatively calm; there will be at least one really high-profile summit meeting, from which it’s likely that some important agreement will proceed.
By contrast, the economic news for the next six months is going to be pretty dismal, with crisis and contraction on the agenda. Banks and the financial industry generally are likely to fare poorly. By contrast, significant groups among the general population who’ve been shut out of the narrowing circle of prosperity produced by recent “jobless recoveries” can expect to see their economic lot improve to a certain extent.

The big story of the next six months will be the spread of political debate, agitation, and activism among the American people. This won’t be limited to one set of agendas, or one end of the political spectrum, nor will it necessarily move in directions that make sense in terms of the political alignments of the recent past. Broad dissatisfactions rather than specific, narrowly defined issues will be central to the rising tide of political unrest, and a great deal of confusion and vagueness can be expected—though the extravagance of federal expenditures seems likely to turn into a lightning rod that will attract a great deal of attention.  Where will it end? That’s not something an ingress chart can predict.

That last point is worth expanding on a little. As already mentioned, the chart I’ve just delineated is good for six months, and six months only. In September, we’ll have another ingress to deal with, and a sharply different set of astrological conditions will shape the political climate for three months afterward. (In that chart Capricorn, a cardinal sign, is rising, and cardinal signs only rule for three months.) In December, in turn, conditions will have shifted again; two placements we’ve discussed—Neptune conjunct the ascendant and Uranus conjunct the second house cusp—which aren’t in the Libra ingress in September are active again in December’s Capricorn ingress, but this time it’s the Sun that’s conjunct Saturn in the tenth house, while the Moon flounders on the cusp of the dismal twelfth house and applies to a square with Mars in Scorpio. After that—why, it’s time for another Aries ingress chart.

That’s the thing about mundane astrology. No matter how hard you try to make it foretell the end of the world, or the arrival of Utopia, or any of the other elements of folk mythology that play so large and unhelpful a role in the historical imagination of our age, it won’t cooperate. Those of my readers who took the time to cast a chart for December 21, 2012—the supposed end-date of the Mayan calendar, and the focus for a giddy rehash of all the usual fantasies—knew in advance that it was going to be a perfectly ordinary day, as in fact it was.

In the same way, according to all the rules of mundane astrology, the next six months are going to be an ordinarily troubled period in the national life of the United States of America, with bitter partisan conflict, economic dysfunction, and an unusual level of political engagement on the part of the masses filling roles that will be perfectly familiar to those who know their way around the ordinary processes of American history. That’s what the chart says, at least; is that what’s going to happen? Stay tuned and we’ll see...

By now I think all my readers will probably be aware that The Archdruid Report, my weekly blog on current affairs and the future of industrial society, has wound up its eleven-year run. The Well of Galabes will continue as is for another two months. Thereafter—time not yet settled, but it won’t be too dreadfully far in the future—I’ll be launching a new blog (probably monthly) on a different platform, with a somewhat different theme, and also going to a slightly less formal social media platform for more frequent and less formal commentary and announcement. As the details get settled, I’ll be posting announcements here and on The Archdruid Report. See you soon on the new blog!