February 1 - February 25, 2021
In the tale of the Swan Maiden, a motif found throughout folklore, a man observes a flock of swans alight on a pond to bathe. Unaware that they are being watched, the swans begin to remove their feathered robes, revealing their womanly human forms underneath. The man, in a fit of desire for one of the maidens, steals and hides her cloak, so that she cannot fly away, and must marry him. For many years she remains with the man, and though he loves her, she often appears forlorn, until one day her children happen upon her hidden cloak, and bring it to her out of curiosity. Reunited with her wings, and remembering her avian nature, she suddenly flies off, to her home in the land beyond the North Wind, never to be seen again.
There is something of the swan maiden in Venus, our goddess of love and relationship, moving through the distant, disembodied air of Aquarius. Her stay this year will not be long. Under Saturn’s rulership, she will do her duties to the sign as best she can, and under Uranus’s, then she will be gone. Her head and heart are not bound to the earth, and to try to change her or to domesticate her would be an unwise move, as the story shows. Any attempt to define, confine, or contain her will succeed only on borrowed time—eventually she will tire of denying her true nature. Paradoxically, however, if she is allowed her freedom, or if she finds her mate in a fellow exile, then partnership can work quite well, and need not follow convention. Swans, after all, are known for forming pair bonds, and are socially (though not sexually) monogamous creatures.
Poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “The heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care.” She was right, and I believe our Swan Maiden would agree. The Aquarian parts of our charts are home to much cosmic activity this month, and Venus’s contribution is to guide us toward our tribe: that is, the relationships that we choose, based on similar ideals and visions of the future; the spaces where we share the same differences, and are free to be ourselves. Venus in Aquarius would not have us suffer where we do not belong; rather, she would liberate us to follow our hearts.
Mercury-Hermes is classically depicted in myth as a clever, fleet-footed, youthful and androgynous character, who traverses the boundaries of the upper and lower, inner and outer worlds. As the god of messages and of the mind, he is always at work, passing notes through our neurons and networks. To go retrograde, then, for the planet of the busy traveller, is to delay, disrupt, deviate or re-route him from his path. With his first turn of the year taking place in Aquarius, an air sign that challenges norms and champions the unorthodox, if there were ever a time to think outside of the prescribed, proverbial box, or to expect the unexpected, this would be it.
The influence of a retrograde on Aquarian Mercury can radicalize the trickster, redefine the revolutionary, extol the exile, and interrogate the gender binary. Truth-telling becomes all-important, while the truth itself becomes more abstract, elusive and fractured. And language, the domain of Mercury-Hermes, can quickly run amok into a Tower of Babel-esque confusion of tongues. The soothsayer and the conspiracy theorist separated only by shades of difference; omen and delusion cut from the same cryptic cloth. The Uranian gifts of foresight and technology, and the Saturnian love of solitary work, together can produce a special kind of genius and inventor. They can also breed, er, extralegal activities, a Pandora’s box of unwanted surprises; can pull us downward into the underbelly of the internet, social media and Big Tech; or upward into the weird otherworlds of outer space.
During this Mercury retrograde period, allow for the usual hiccups and frustrations, and do your best to have patience. But also consider it an opportunity to stretch your brain and your perception in new and innovative ways (maybe for some this would be a great time to delve into astrology, which is ruled by Aquarius, and has so much humanitarian potential!). It is a time to look inward at the parts of ourselves that feel strange, alien, or cross boundaries, and think about the ways those very things might lead us into the future and shape our communities. To paraphrase astrologer Dane Rudhyar—during this time, look upward—if you understand the language of the sky, then the sky will speak to you. For the next few weeks, the winged messengers are slowing down and changing direction; what messages are they carrying for you?
January 28, 2021
As the Leo Moon ripens into fullness overhead, we set off into the forest, the place of mystery and adventure. Who might we encounter, and what might be illuminated along the way? Ahead in one corner lies Taurus, where Mars and the Black Moon Lilith lie together, Uranus close by. In another direction are Venus and Pluto, having their tryst in Capricorn. And at the far end of the woods await the Sun and Jupiter in Aquarius, with Saturn not too far off. In this shadowy lunar landscape, with this cast of characters, appearances can be deceiving, and our eyes aren’t always to be trusted; we must feel our way through the fable. Maiden, Mother, Crone, Huntsman or Big Bad Wolf—who is who, and which is which? Are they hero or heroine, villain or victim?
The almanacs call the Full Moon of January the Wolf Moon. The sound of howling is said to be louder and clearer at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. I think the name is especially apt in this case; we can find the lupine lurking in many of our planetary configurations. The Moon, Mars, Jupiter (Zeus) and the Sun God Apollo have longstanding associations with wolves in European myth. Our long co-evolution with the species has deeply embedded them into our collective unconscious, where they can be both dangerous and protective, both mysterious and familiar. Under the influence of Lilith, Venus, Pluto, Uranus and Saturn, however, that animal archetype may morph, according to our unconscious fears and desires. Some may see the werewolf, a persecuted, savage figure. Others, the she-wolf, foster mother to heroes, and ally to gods and humans. And for others, the cunning predator with the ability to devour.
Like the Moon card in the tarot, this lunation shines a light on the path we walk between our civilized selves and our wild origins. It also tells of potential illusions, deceptions, hidden truths, strange dreams and unconscious awakenings. As we descend further into the woods, we may see our wounds weaponized, our basic instincts demonized, or our innocence exploited. We may also find passion, drama, eroticism, bravery, and generosity in all the twists and turns. If we find ourselves in the belly of the beast, we may confront the mysteries of sexuality, fertility and the primal Feminine—and from there, feel a sense of resilience and rebirth. In your version of this adventure, will you be donning wolfskin, red cape, or nightgown? What will you carry as amulet—a hatchet, a basket of food, or a bundle of stones? There is a fairy tale alive in all of us, and this Full Moon is an opportunity to meet our inner child as well as our inner monster, to ask them what they need in order to be free and fulfilled, and in doing so, move closer to individuation and inner harmony.