June 27, 2020 - January 5, 2021
As we in the northern hemisphere enter the dog days of summer, the Red Planet enters Aries in a blaze of glory, to turn the heat up even higher on the thermostat of life. He was last in his home sign from January 1 - February 14, 2019 and this time around, due to a retrograde, he will be camped out there until the end of this year, ensuring that we have a six month supply of kindling to add to our individual and collective fires.
As with any archetype, we can expect to see both the positive and the negative manifestations of Mars throughout this transit. Greco-Roman mythology reflected the human psyche’s ambivalence toward violence in its war gods. On the one hand, the Greek Ares was a savage figure, hated by the other Olympians, a symbol of frenzied rage and brutality, and in him we see a reflection of our baser instincts and more dangerous animal drives. The Roman Mars, by contrast, was more of the dignified and heroic warrior, a symbol of action though bravery, the leader and progenitor of the people. One instills fear and the other inspires courage. One is motivated by bloodthirst; the other is motivated by glory, but both relish battle.
Mars, in astrology, is our phallic, protruding life force: the Yang to our Venusian Yin. It rules the head, and its symbols include iron, sharp objects; red stones such as coral, carnelian, bloodstone and garnet; thorny plants, nettles and thistle; cayenne and black pepper—among many others. In the astrology of countries, Mars represents the police, military and militant groups (ahem). Aries, the cardinal fire sign, is the archetype of the warrior, the pioneer, the daredevil and the survivor. In the tarot, the closest approximation to the two is the Emperor or the Tower. If it burns, stabs, or severs, then you know the war god is close at hand.
Among firefighters and indigenous peoples in regions of the world where wildfires are a threat, there is a practice called controlled burning, whereby a fire is intentionally set under precise and carefully-managed circumstances, and in doing so, prevents the truly catastrophic wildfires from running rampant. It seems counterintuitive at first, but it comes from a prehistoric knowledge and respect for the role fire plays in the balance of the ecosystem, and an understanding of its innate properties. Fire is an element of nature—it has a rightful place on the earth. Fire is hungry—it must be fed. And so, by controlling and limiting its fuel source, the steward of the land allows it to be satiated without ravaging everything in its path. There is a wisdom to this, I think, beyond the ecological sense, that we can apply to this transit. How can we use intention and proactive thinking to feed the hungry god—through smaller acts of courage, strength and boldness—so that we avoid the conflagration of the lightning-struck tower, or the cruel devastation of the scorched earth policy? How can we be more conscious about discerning between our inner Ares and our inner Mars? And at the same time, how can we build in cooling and calming practices to our routines, so that we can maintain some sense of peace and equilibrium?
Where Aries falls in your chart is the area of life where you can expect extra blood flow for the next six months. It looks more confident, more competitive, more driven, and more assertive. It also could look more dominating, more belligerent, more destructive, and more inflammatory. It is a transit that, like a wildfire, must be managed with care and knowledge of self, not with fear and avoidance. Forewarned is forearmed. As passions, and tempers, run high this year, let us remember to pick our battles, so that they don’t end up picking us.
Tonight, on the day of the year when the light is longest and brightest, the Sun will, for a moment, be blocked out and the Moon will be dark. The location of this convergence is 0° Cancer, the so-called critical degree of the cardinal water sign. Even if you’re no omenologist, the symbolism is enough to raise an eyebrow at. Maybe even two.
In the Vedic tradition, they tell the story of the Sun being swallowed by the hungry dragon. You could say that this eclipse on Rahu, the Dragon’s Head, is a call to feed the Feminine, lest she start devouring her own tail. You could also say it’s the call of the ancestors, a last word from them before the Cancer-Capricorn portal closes up for another 18 years.
The constellation which plays host to this event is Auriga, the Charioteer. In his traditional depiction, he sits at ease, only loosely holding the reins. I immediately think of the Chariot card of the tarot, replete with both solar and lunar symbolism, and which happens to correspond to Cancer. That charioteer is a princely figure, a symbol of channeled energy, focused willpower, perseverance and triumph. He too stands still, holding no reins, at the intersection of the past and future, order and chaos, the masculine and the feminine. Perhaps if the Chariot holds a lesson for us at this time, it is a reminder of the human ability to overcome difficulty and to persist through hard times. But it may also be a warning to those who would try to dominate through their will, to control opposing forces from the top down rather than integrate them from the inside out; a caution against too much rigidity or stasis. Consider too that “solstice” comes from the Latin for “Sun standing still.” A station of any planet, and especially the Sun, is a powerful concentration of energy and a pivotal time.
A Jungian might say that the King is in the alchemical bath: while the Dragon swallows the Moon swallowing the Sun, the conscious is entering the unconscious realm. Everything is in shadow. This may be the stage-setting of a story about power that must be earned by periodic descents into the belly of the beast, or redefined altogether.
And so during this reset, what can we do but sit in the liminal space, and wait patiently in the dark? What transpires in the radio silence is probably not for us to know, or to comprehend, and so we’d be wise to leave well enough alone. We should have reverence for these mysterious events. They sow seeds in our world and in our lives that lie dormant until, by transit, they are activated, sending their roots back through history to recall previous eclipses and sending their tendrils forward, bringing new events and lessons to the ever-unfolding human story. See y’all on the other side.
(June 20 - July 21, 2020)
In ancient times, the constellation of Cancer was known to the sky-gazers as the Gate of Man, the portal through which souls enter their bodies, and are born onto the earth. And though we tend to think of Aries as the starting point of our year, there is a case to be made for Cancer as the archetypal beginning of all things. The cardinality of the sign, coupled with its elemental water nature, implies primal creative energy. Cancer is the healing, cleansing, fertile water of life. It is the reason that civilizations originate along the banks of rivers, or worship at sacred springs. Or why life exists on earth at all: a planet without water is barren. It is our unconscious womb memories of nourishment, protection and rhythm that we seek to find or recreate once born.
Cancer is ruled by the Moon, the Great Mother. Neptune and Jupiter exalt there; Saturn and Mars have a harder time expressing their natural qualities. It corresponds to the stomach and the breasts, where we feed and are fed, where we are carried in utero, and where our vital organs are housed. Like its symbol the crab, its natives are naturally self-protective, guarding their privacy and their vulnerability underneath their shells. They need to feel safe in order to be open and candid with others, and so may need some time to warm up when in unfamiliar spaces. Paradoxically, they are usually very good at getting people to confide in them, as they are natural counselors and instinctually know how to create safe spaces and containers for others (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the terms “safe space” and “container” were coined by a Cancer!). Their lunar nature makes them subject to fluctuating moods and emotions, and sensitive to their surroundings. It makes them the memory-keepers: many enjoy genealogical research, or hearing stories of their ancestors, or holding onto family heirlooms. Their connection to the past gives them a nostalgic, sentimental quality: indeed, for the Cancerian, tears well up readily, little microcosmic pools flowing from the same Source as the rivers of life.
Whether you identity as male or female, there is an undeniable maternal quality to a Cancer. Many are naturally good with animals, plants or children. Cooking is one of their love languages. Consider this quote from 11th house Cancer Sun native Anthony Bourdain: “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.” Well if that doesn’t say it all.
If Cancer is prominent in your chart, you are here to learn how to navigate the messy, unpredictable world of emotions; to learn trust, vulnerability and softness. You are here to learn about the concept of the tribe: and if that isn’t your actual family, then it’s your fam—the one you create in your world, and the people that you cultivate and nurture. You are here to learn how to take care of others, and to protect the vulnerable. To achieve security and a sense of home. And by that same token, be careful that that protective side doesn’t metastisize into tribalism, nationalism, insularity or over-dependence on others to get your needs met—shadow expressions of Cancer. Like the crab, you contain instincts that come from the land before time; your life is attuned to the tides; your shell protects you, but still must be moulted periodically—in other words, you will experience periods of vulnerability but they are necessary for your growth. You are an amphibious, mysterious creature and we are all more in touch with our humanity for having had you in our lives.