Asclepius was the Greek god of medicine, surgery, healing and resurrection. The son of Apollo and mortal Coronis, he was born via Caesarean section, cut out of his dying mother’s womb by his father. In another version he was abandoned by his mother and rescued by a goatherd, until being restored to the care of Apollo. In his early life, he learned the medicinal arts from his father, and then went on to learn from the centaur Chiron. Myth consistently associates Asclepius with serpents, an ancient symbol of wisdom, power and renewal. While a boy, the story goes, a snake licked his ears, and thus imparted to him the secrets of healing. In another story, a snake helps him to revive a dead man. According to yet another, the goddess Athena had given him the blood of the Gorgon Medusa, half of which could kill and half of which could restore life.
These stories of miraculous healing seem to speak to the paradox of poison—whether venom, plant, or virus—as cure. As an evader of death, and master healer, he angered the gods and was killed by Zeus’s thunderbolt. He was, however, honored among the stars as the constellation Ophiucus, “The Serpent Bearer.”
His temples of healing were called asclepieia. Those seeking a cure for their illness would make a pilgrimage to the asclepeion, where they would make sacrifice, undergo ritual and be treated with a form of dream therapy. The Rod of Asclepius, a serpent-entwined staff, was his primary symbol and is still a symbol of medicine today.
Currently, asteroid Asclepius is exactly conjunct asteroid Apollo and Venus at 12 degrees Taurus. Constellation Ophiucus corresponds roughly to the tropical sign of Sagittarius.
Apollo was one of the Greeks’ foremost deities. The golden-haired favorite son of Zeus, he epitomized the Hellenic male ideal and was the god of many things: the Sun, archery, music and dance, shepherds and children. In his most archaic aspect, he was an oracular god of healing. As Paean Apollo, an epithet meaning “physician” or “healer,” he had the power to bring plagues with his invisible arrows of disease, as well as cure people of sickness. His main cult center was at Delphi, Greece, where according to myth, he slew the primordial serpent Python and took over its oracle. The priestess of Apollo (also known as the Pythia, sibyl or the Delphic oracle) would prophesy from within the inner sanctum of the shrine, seated atop a tripod poised over a chasm. She would communicate in a trance-like state, possibly owing to either the vapors under the rock or an entheogenic substance such as laurel leaf. As a mouthpiece of the god, her words carried great power. On the wall of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi were inscribed 147 maxims, one of which was “Know Thyself.”
His symbols are the lyre, laurel wreath, bow and arrow, wolf, dolphin, swan, raven and python.
The story of the Sun King/Solar hero conquering a chthonic serpent/dragon is a common one throughout mythology, and encapsulates the transitioning of a civilization from worship of earth mother to sky father, and the resulting ideological shift in the collective conscious. Apollo is one of many examples of our Western preference for the archetypal masculine. While this has had far-reaching and often negative consequences throughout history (IMO), there is still much about the Apollonian to be valued.
Apollo reminds us of the healing power of light; the importance of science, music and the intellect; and the mathematical nature of the universe.
Currently, asteroid Apollo is exactly conjunct Venus at 12 degrees Taurus, and the Sun is at 26 degrees Pisces.
Writing about the COVID-19 pandemic from an astrological perspective has been a challenge, because there are many ways to look at it, and I am no mundane (world) astrologer. But here is my take, and I hope it is helpful in some small way.
I am using the Sibly chart of the United States (July 4, 1776 5:10pm/Sun Cancer 7th, Moon Aquarius 3rd, Sagittarius rising), and only looking at transits until the end of May. I’m charting the usual planets, plus asteroids Asclepius, Apollo, Hygeia, Panacea, Pallas Athena, Ceres and Vesta. To learn more about who those deities are and why I’ve chosen to look at them in this context, follow along this coming week as I treat each one to its own post. For now, I’m just looking at their positions on the cosmic game board, to get a sense of how Above might be reflected down Below.
In 2018 Uranus entered the sign of Taurus and will be there until 2026. There are undoubtedly many ways that this long-term transit will play out, and a novel virus suddenly disrupting the global economy and public health is clearly one. I mention this because it’s important to keep in mind the slow-moving events that form the backdrop to the stories of the current weeks and months. And so, on to the chart.
The Sun is now entering the 4th house, putting the emphasis on home, family and private life. Many of us are going to be working from home, or stocking up our pantries, or thinking about how to keep our loved ones safe. Mercury is traveling through the 3rd house, and we are also focused on our local communities, neighborhoods, short-distance travel, cancelled school, and continual updating and sharing of data. Mercury is a swift-moving messenger, whether he’s carrying information or contagion. We are caught between two different tempos: fast-paced and drastically slowed down. And as I said in my last post, this is a story of the very big (populations) and the very small (the virus). Transiting Panacea is exactly conjunct the natal north node in Leo: a nice-feeling energy, but tempered by its placement in the 8th house of life and death (and finances). These are serious matters, and will trigger many of our fears and survival instincts.
By the end of March, Apollo, Venus, Vesta and Hygeia will all be piled up in the 6th house of health and work. We will still be hyper-focused on cleanliness, keeping our home fires burning, keeping businesses running, and taking practical measures to contain the virus. But it feels cooperative. It is worth noting that with the cusp of the 6th falling in the third decan of Taurus, anything passing into that house will encounter the fixed star Algol. This star has a correspondence to the gorgon Medusa: gorgon-blood was either deadly or miraculously healing depending on how it was used and who possessed it, and with so much action at her gate this month, it will be important to have reverence for the wisdom of our healers and not to “lose our heads.” In April, Mercury will move out of Pisces into Aries, and at the end of the month, Saturn will move out of Capricorn into Aquarius. Those are big energetic shifts and I’ll be watching them closely. By the end of April, Apollo, Venus, Vesta and Hygeia will all have moved into the 7th house of The Other, which could highlight issues around personal contact, relationships with other countries, or treatment of people from other cultures.
By the end of May, Asclepius will be conjunct the MC in Virgo, and the Sun will be on the Descendant in Gemini. Apollo and Mercury will be transiting natal Venus and Jupiter in Cancer, soon followed by the North Node, Vesta and Hygeia. What new information will we have? What will we have learned? How are we as a nation being helpers, friends and caregivers to those in need? Saturn will be retrograde in the 2nd house and Mars will be traveling through the 3rd house. Ceres will be returning to her natal placement in the 3rd, ending a cycle that began in February 2016 and beginning a new one that will run for the next 4-5 years. And Jupiter, Pluto, Pallas and Saturn will all still be clustering around late Capricorn and early Aquarius, which is noticeably close to our natal 2nd house Pluto. There’s never a dull moment in 2020.
What do we make of all of that? Well, it can mean a lot of different things, and the way I use astrology is not so much to predict, but to know what questions to ask, and what to anticipate. We should be asking ourselves: what are we being shown about our values, our basic necessities and our resources? How will we take action for the good of our communities? In what ways have we betrayed the Earth Mother, taken from her and abused her, and how can we start to try to make amends and restore balance? The stars don’t tell us what to do, and the cosmos never stops moving. We could look at the transits of 3 months, 6 months, 2 years or 10 years from now and it would all be a continuation of this story that began in time immemorial. Nothing is ever “over,” even when something like this virus is no longer a threat. So astrology can tell us what we’ll be focusing on at a given time but it doesn’t tell us how to handle it. That is human work. In this case, it means listening to the experts, managing anxiety, washing hands and social distancing. Exercise common sense and practicality. Maintain your spiritual practice. Donate time, money or supplies. Get out in nature. Enjoy time with the people you love. Recognize and appreciate the abundance that this country enjoys. And think critically about our systems and social structures and the responsibility the government has toward its citizens. Check on your extrovert friends because they’re probably going crazy. Prepare in whatever way you feel you should, but also remember that life is lived one day at a time and fear thrives in times like these, so self-care and grounding is of the utmost importance. Take care out there, and keep the faith.