At Christmastime in Alpine Europe, tradition tells of a demonic goat-horned figure called Krampus, who carries chains and a bundle of switches, and punishes children who have misbehaved. He plays companion in a sort of double act to the figure of St. Nicholas, who doles out gifts and protection to the good kids. If Jupiter in Capricorn is St. Nicholas, or our modern Santa Claus— a benevolent, all-knowing, jovial and ever-so-slightly mischievous father-figure, who rewards obedience and good behavior—then Jupiter conjunct Pluto in Capricorn is most definitely his shadow, Krampus. These days, we are all feeling like naughty kids at Christmas, terrified that the evil goat-man is gonna snatch us. But what have we done wrong? What are we being punished for?
One look at Krampus and there’s no mistaking his resemblance to the hell-dwelling Satan of the Christian imagination. What has caused the Western psyche to associate the goat with bad deeds? And who got to decide what separates good behavior from bad in the first place?
The concept of a Horned God has inhabited the human mind since time immemorial. He appears in his earliest form in Paleolithic cave art, and is found in pre-Christian mythical and spiritual traditions all over the world. Pan, Faunus, Dionysus, Pashupati, Cernunnos and Capricorn are just some of his names. In the pagan worldview, the Goat God is an earth deity: lord of the woodlands, mountains, wilderness, the animal kingdom and the hunt. He is a symbol of male fertility and virility, the archetypal masculine principle in its raw state. He protects and presides, over both the earthly realm and the afterlife. But to the collective, after hundreds of years of church intervention, paternalism and shifting attitudes about man’s relationship to nature, he has become a monstrous specter of sin and wickedness, what we think of as the “darker” side of our nature. Can we see repression at work here?
From a Jungian perspective, the Horned God is a manifestation of our own inner masculine qualities; for women, this is called the animus. When integrated on a conscious level, and no longer relegated to the shadow, he becomes our inner protector, mediator and guardian, and allows for original and authentic creativity. But if he is repressed, or denied, he becomes the destructive masculine or the abusive father, punishing and cruel, or even predatory and sadistic. He becomes the devil. This is, in my opinion, part of what Jupiter and Pluto in Capricorn are asking of us: to do the inner work of healing the wounded masculine in all of us and looking at our relationship to its symbols in our life.
As it happens, the Devil card in the tarot is a perfect encapsulation of this transit, that can give us insight into what those symbols might look like on both an individual and a collective level. How have we become enslaved to money and material possessions? To work, productivity, achievement and power? Do we have a sense of entitlement that is justified? Do we feel dominated by someone or something, or perhaps feel the need to dominate, ourselves? What about unhealthy attachments to people or things that chain us to them in a metaphorical sense, or create fear and anxiety that is soul-killing? What are our addictions and how are they keeping us in bondage? Are there socioeconomic or interpersonal power dynamics that are wildly out of balance? How do you feel in the presence of men, regardless of your gender identity?
The Devil card asks us to look at the ways in which our fears and attachments hold us back from our potential. It also asks us to come to terms with our shadow self and whatever is hidden in our psychic closet. And to let go of the need for control. Hard Capricorn work! Deep Plutonian excavation. But a Jupiterian opportunity for growth and expansion on the other side. If done with patience, guidance, forgiveness and self-acceptance, it’s the kind of work that frees us from the cages of our own creation and gives us a sense of wholeness.
And so the Krampus question answers itself. We are not being punished. This pandemic is not a punishment, but it is a consequence of the ways in which we have designed our world, and it is exposing all our fears and addictions and vulnerabilities and attachments that are also the result of living in these times. If there is any demon we are running from, it is a side of our own psyches we refuse to give ourselves access to.
Amidst this very real and very threatening crisis, we are being given an opportunity. This is the beginning of a new 13-year Jupiter-Pluto cycle that will end and begin again in February 2033 in Aquarius. Now, in Capricorn, the archetypal work is the healing of the sacred masculine and redeeming of the divine feminine. Conjoined to the two planets this time is asteroid Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom (with her own association to goats). I see her here in the role of Sophia, the inner feminine counterpart to the Horned God. Where both can be integrated and co-exist, there is real hope for transformation and individuation.
Venus is moving into Gemini tomorrow, where it will remain for the next four months. Usually Venus moves through the signs fairly quickly, but her stay is being extended this time due to a retrograde (more on that in a later post), so we’ll have plenty of time to get to know her in this new role. For Venus, moving from her home in solid and sensual Taurus to mutable air sign Gemini, is a bit like being jolted awake by an alarm clock. Startling and annoying at first, but soon enough, you’re up and moving. Venus isn’t unhappy here, but she will have to adapt to a different pace and a different way of relating. Connections of the body will now be of the mind. Interactions take place on the intellectual plane, and the brain becomes the erogenous zone. She has entered the swirling, dizzying, stimulating world of thoughts and ideas.
Aptly, this transit is happening at a time when, due to social distancing, physical and in-person interactions are all but prohibited, and so we are adapting our social interactions to virtual platforms and sharing our ideas digitally. But for hundreds of years, people have used letter-writing to form and maintain relationships, and to span distance and separation. It may be a dying art form, but there is a particular intimacy that comes from both reading and writing a letter, that is a perfect illustration of Venus in Gemini. And so I thought, since we’ve got plenty of time with this transit, and most likely won’t be using it for handwriting letters, we could use it for reading about people who did.
The epistolary novel is one in which the story is told entirely through letters, journal entries or documents. It’s a creative, effective and satisfyingly voyeuristic way of getting inside the minds of the characters and of driving the plot. I’ve curated a list of epistolary novels based on Venus in Gemini through the twelve houses. Find Gemini in your chart, look to the house cusp that falls within it, and then find your recommendation:
1st house: “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl”
2nd house: “Poor Folk” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
3rd house: “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh
4th house: “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith
5th house: “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
6th house: “Book of a Thousand Days” by Shannon Hale
7th house: “Frances and Bernard” by Carlene Bauer
8th house: “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
9th house: “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis
10th house: “Up the Down Staircase” by Bel Kaufman
11th house: “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
12th house: “Griffin and Sabine” by Nick Bantock
Happy reading, and writing!
The Dark One. Time destroyer. Ego slayer. In the Hindu tradition, Kali is the goddess of creation and destruction. An aspect of Nature in divine form, she represents the force from which all life flows, and to which all life returns at death. From nothingness, she is the energizer and enlivener. She is the life that begets life and that sustains itself on death, since it is a law of nature that the survival of all beings is dependent on the killing and eating of something else. Human consciousness is bound by the experience of time and of ego, predicated on a consensus reality of the individual self and the passage of time. Mother Kali says, lovingly, fuck your ego and laughs in the face of time.
Kali is fearsome to behold. Blue- or black-skinned and red-eyed, she exults in battle-fury. Savagely, she displays fangs and a lolling tongue. In one of her four (sometimes 10) arms, she wields a sickle-shaped sword, dripping with blood. In another, she holds a severed head. In another, a trident. Around her neck, she wears a garland of skulls or human heads. Serpents, tigers and fire—ancient symbols of power—surround her. She is often depicted standing atop the god Shiva, one foot on his chest, as he pacifies her insatiable bloodlust with calm submissiveness.
Sometimes Kali is pictured dancing, keeping time with the pulses and rhythms of life, whether it be the heartbeat, the menstrual cycle, the hands on a clock, the phases of the moon, or the seasons of the sun. In this aspect, she is the divine Creatrix, through whom all things generate and regenerate. Spinning naked, her long black hair unbound and free-flowing, she is also the wild, orgiastic liberator.
In spite of her terrifying appearance, Kali is considered a benevolent protectress. In one myth, she devours a self-multiplying demon and dances on the battlefield of corpses. Many of her symbols are apotropaic—invoked to ward off evil. Her third eye, crescent moon-shaped crown, and the skulls in her necklace numbering 108 (or 52), all have mystical associations with divine wisdom. One of her right hands forms a gesture that means “fear not.” Kali bestows blessings on those who recognize her power. I think we would be wise to keep her in our minds and our meditations during this time of crisis, and as we fight our own self-replicating enemy. But if we invite her in, it must be with the utmost respect and reverence. And courage.
Right now, Mars is conjoining Saturn at the doorway of Aquarius. Soon, they will be forming a square to Uranus in Taurus. Also in Taurus is Venus, who is sitting over the fixed star Algol, the head of the Gorgon Medusa. In Aries, we have Black Moon Lilith. And in Capricorn, Pluto, Jupiter and Pallas Athena are exactly conjunct.
Here’s one way you could translate all that: there is death, destruction and volatility in the air, and the gods want blood. We are at a crossroads in time where ancient wisdom and novel foresight will both be needed—anything, but the status quo. We are all evaluating our relationship to fear, to uncertainty, to control and to time itself. It is the end of the world as we know it, but it’s also the beginning of something new. Whatever is being born right now, I hope it liberates us instead of destroys us.
Or, you could just describe it all in one sentence: Kali is here.
The preservation of nature is a divine dance. For humans, it is a balancing act between chaos and order, which at times requires us, like Shiva, to be calm and submissive in the face of the Dark.