May 20 - June 20, 2020
Trying to define Gemini is a bit like nailing jello to a tree, but one way you could do it would be to say that its natives are consistently inconsistent, predictably unpredictable, and invariably changeable. A Mercury-ruled mutable air sign, it can’t help itself, and nor should it. Gemini’s MO is to experience the world through the intellect, and to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible, which necessarily precludes staying in one place, or one job, or one relationship, or one persona forever and ever. Boredom, to a Gemini, is misery. But though they may appear frustratingly flakey and maddeningly aloof to the very earthy or the very watery, the Gemini soul really does have a raison d’être. Geminis are our storytellers and our wordsmiths. They bear witness to the life experience, usually through the gift of language. They do the observing, and then the comprehending, and then the communicating, and the rest of us are smarter for it. Your favorite teachers, journalists, rappers and authors probably have strong Gemini in their charts.
Geminis’ superpower is the plasticity of their brains: they are adaptable and can fit in well almost anywhere; they are curious, which gives them a youthful quality they carry even into old age; they don’t get lost in the depths of their feelings and so don’t hold grudges; and they love a good conversation, which makes them easy to talk to, witty, friendly and engaging. But on the other side of that coin are all of the sign’s flaws: superficiality, impatience, fickleness, gossip, duplicity, short attention span, and not finishing things. To overcome those pitfalls, Gemini can learn from the big-picture thinking of Sagittarius (its polarity), the grounding influence of earth signs, or the emotional intelligence of water signs. It can also try to make friends with its mercurial nature and its many different faces. Gemini is happiest and healthiest when it is translating the world around itself, and novelty is fuel for its most important asset: the mind.
I want to talk about Ceres today. She feels present in the zeitgeist—maybe because the United States is currently completing and beginning a new 26-year cycle with the asteroid goddess, or maybe because she has shown up prominently in almost all of the readings I’ve done this month. She is also involved in this Venus retrograde, squaring the action from 7 degrees Pisces.
The ancient Romans worshipped Ceres as the goddess of the grain, fertility and the seasonal life cycle. Her name derives from a word meaning “to grow” and “to feed.” Like the Greek Demeter, she was the Great Mother who sustains all life on earth. Her daughter was Proserpina (“to emerge, creep forth”), the beautiful maiden who, like her Greek counterpart Persephone, embodied the promise of spring.
There is a plain in the town of Enna, Sicily, that is said to be the site of Proserpina’s underworld rapture (rape?) by Hades. According to the myth, she was picking flowers when she was abducted. Thus the poppy, often found in wheat fields, became one of her symbols: blood red and narcotic, the crop of death growing next to the crop of life. Proserpina represents budding, ripening life. She also represents the archetypes of awakening and loss of innocence—the shedding of skin and the shedding of blood.
In my experience with (admittedly) mostly women’s charts, when Ceres is in difficult aspect to asteroid Proserpina, Black Moon Lilith, Pluto, Chiron or the Moon—or with heavy placements in the 4th or 8th houses—you’re most likely looking at a complicated, karmic, and deeply ambivalent picture of motherhood. Many have a sense that it just isn’t in the cards for them. Some choose willingly not to have kids; some struggle to conceive; some never found the right partner; some are deeply afraid of passing along mental illness or addiction; some have had abortions; others have suffered miscarriages. For those who do have children, it may be that the pregnancy was unwanted or unexpected, or that the child undergoes a period of illness that feels like a separation. It may show up as a contentious custody battle with a controlling ex. Even without challenging aspects or placements, Ceres and Proserpina (or Demeter and Persephone) exist somewhere in all of our natal charts–men’s and women’s alike. The myth invokes a poignant archetypal story of initiation and transformation, on both the part of the mother and her child. It is a story of separation from our younger selves; and it conjures up the bittersweet space between holding on and letting go.
As to the macro perspective, for so many throughout our history and today, that separation has not been the result of nature taking its course, but from the powerful and heartless mandates of imperialism, colonialism and capitalism. We see it in the uprooting of indigenous peoples; in the countless captured and enslaved in the African diaspora, transported to the New World, and sacrificed to the cash crop; and in the millions of sons and daughters lost to wars, to incarceration or to human trafficking. While those threads continue to run through the generations, we are also seeing other modern-day examples in the families separated at the US-Mexico border; in those taken by the opiod epidemic; and in the effects of climate change and the tenuous future of food supplies and agriculture. And the most eery: due to the pandemic, we are all currently suspended in a mythic winter, while the Mother wanders the earth, seeking what was taken from her.
Ceres, to me, represents our precarious relationship to nature. It can look like abundance and fruitfulness or lamentation and vengeance. In looking at her astrologically and archetypally, I want to lift up the complexity of women’s experiences around conception and childbearing, and acknowledge the sacrifice of so many men’s and women’s bodies to history. But while I think this myth can point to collective pain and loss, we should also remember that in the end, mother and daughter were reunited. The story of Ceres and Proserpina can also be one of reconciliation and deep love, a reminder that life goes on and the human spirit is beautifully resilient.
In addition to Venus, now Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto are all retrograde. Already slow-moving planets moving even slower. Cool cool. It sounds scarier than it is—outer planet retrogrades happen every year—but that doesn’t mean it won’t be an eye-opening time. For all of us, these planets will be highlighting specific sections of terrain in the chart as if to say, “you sure you don’t wanna take one more look?” Like good editors, retrogrades force us to go over our work not just once, not just twice, but three times. The editor metaphor for Venus in Gemini has us revising and possibly rewriting the stories we carry about love and beauty. With the other three in the last decan of Capricorn, we are poring over soul contracts and balancing our karmic accounts. It’s a much weightier job.
Saturn retrograde will examine your relationship to authority, aging and consequences. How well have you managed your time and your money? How are your bones and teeth, or the roof and foundation of your house? Have you been upholding your commitments? It’s great to have goals and aspirations—have you been putting in the work? Based on your age and stage of life, are you satisfied with what you’ve accomplished? What are your feelings on death lately? That’s Saturn, keepin’ it real.
Jupiter retrograde challenges our faith and our beliefs. Whatever we were accustomed to seeking externally or out in the world must now be found within ourselves, close to home, or enjoyed with limitations. If there was a question of over-spending, over-indulging, over-working, or over-relying—too much of anything—this should give you your answer. For some, this period of withdrawal will be a huge buzzkill; for others, a spiritual opportunity.
Pluto retrograde calls up our cultural and individual Fear of the Dark. Long ago, darkness was quite intentionally linked to badness in the collective unconscious. But dark is just the polarity of light and neither has any inherent value. Pluto retrograde on a macro level is a spotlight on the things we virtue-signal against but privately or unconsciously grapple with: racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, violence and all forms of abuse, wealth accumulation and distribution, sexual shame—to name some. I can’t speak for the rest of the world but I can speak on the US: If you’re still mystified by the anger of minorities, or flinch with defensiveness at the concept of privilege; if you can’t see why the pain of black and brown people being expressed today grows out of compounded generational trauma going back 400 years (and for women, so long ago no one even remembers) —for fuck’s sake, overcome your fragility and please try to get your head around it this time. Pluto will see to it that you at least have the opportunity.
And thus, Pluto work on a micro level looks like radical honesty with yourself. It is probing and noting—without judgment—the contents of your personal underworld. Asking hard questions and sitting with discomfort. What triggers you? Who elicits a strong reaction out of you? What scares, disgusts, thrills or repulses you? The things in the world that we hate and fear unfortunately exist in some form in ourselves or plagued us in past lives. Until we accept them and learn from them, they will continue to create spiritual and emotional blockages, and send ripples of negativity into the world. Pluto work is purification work. And it must be done from a place of radical self-love, humility, readiness, and with support from the people you trust. Where do you find the shadow in your chart? It hides in a number of places, but Pluto and Saturn placements, the nodal axis, and heavy square aspects are good places to look first.
The word “apocalypse” gets thrown around a lot these days. I have no interest in speculating about end times, but what does interest me is the etymology of that word. It comes from a Greek root word meaning “an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling.” It is also related via cognate to our word “hell.” Stripped of their fire and brimstone modern religious connotations, both words carry deeply esoteric concepts. An apocalypse is really a great revelation. The “underworld” is just another place apart from the physical world. We imagine it as dark because it can’t be seen or controlled, and because it’s where things hide. But it exists inside of ourselves, alongside the light, and when we access it, it reveals things to us. Carl Jung said: “To confront a person with his own shadow is to show him his own light.” If, in fact, this is the apocalypse, then I can get behind that idea much more easily than imagining some kind of cataclysmic final reckoning of good versus evil.
My hope is that, as we all take turns descending into and coming out of our own dark places during 2020, we will also all take turns holding the torch for our fellow humans to see by when it’s their turn. Like Hecate guiding by the light of her flame, we can all be light workers for each other—listening, learning and holding space for both the beauty and the ugliness of life.
Jupiter rx: 27°-17° Capricorn until 9/12
Saturn rx: 1° Aquarius - 25° Capricorn until 9/29
Pluto rx: 24°-22° Capricorn until 10/4