In my piece of 13th Feb, I referred to Bernadette Brady’s recent article in which she traced the path of Pluto through the constellations in the sky. This is not the same thing as the zodiac, even though the zodiac was originally rooted in certain of the constellations, those which lay behind the path of the Sun through the sky, also called the ecliptic.
The zodiac now is rooted in Earth-Sun based events. So Aries begins at the spring equinox, the point in late March when day and night are of equal length; Cancer begins in late June at the summer solstice, when the Sun is at its highest point in the sky; Libra begins at the autumn equinox; and Capricorn begins at the winter solstice, when the Sun is at its lowest in the sky. So there is a reality to the zodiac, it is just not what you would think it is.
You can work this out for yourself. Look up Equinox on Wikipedia. You will see a table of all the equinoxes and solstices. Go to spring equinox 2008. It occurs at 5.48 GMT on 20 March. Look this up in your ephemeris or astrology programme, and you find the Sun at 0.00 Aries. And you can do the same for the other 3 points.
Admission: I wasn’t aware of some of this until the other night when I managed to find it out from someone at our astrobabble group who is technically more proficient than I.
So the zodiac as we use it is purely a projection onto the sky, but it has its own reality, and it works. But I also think it is through a glass darkly: we are astrologers because we have a visceral sense of the connection between earthly events and the sky, and modern astrology to some extent gives us this. But it is obscured, it is through a glass darkly, because the actual stars are not involved.
You get a much purer and more powerful sense of why you are an astrologer once you start bringing in the stars, and basing at least some of your astrology around sky events you can actually see.
But this wasn’t what I set out to write. I wanted to say something about Eris, because Catherine at Visual Astrology has come up with a list of the constellations that Eris has passed through since 1507.
Eris is larger and considerably further out than Pluto and was only discovered in 2003. She was classified as a dwarf planet about 18 months ago, along with Pluto and Ceres. Because her passage is so slow – moving just under a sign during the whole of the 20th century – it is hard to relate her to the life of an individual person. Astrology sees life as an interlocking series of planetary cycles or part cycles, but Eris’ movement during any one of our lives is so negligible that it is hard to see her as part of this.
This doesn’t make her any less powerful, but she needs to be seen in the context of the much longer cycles of human history. In theory, being the outermost planet of all by a long chalk, she should be the most powerful of all – yet only visible in her effects if you take a sufficiently long view. She properly belongs to mundane astrology.
Eris was a goddess who mischievously threw an apple into a wedding feast, sparking a row that eventually resulted in the Trojan War. So small causes leading to large effects. She is a catalyst. For example, the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 occurred with Eris opposite the ASC and square the MC: this event was the trigger for World War I.
In 1930, Eris moved into the constellation Cetus, the sea monster, just a few years (not long for Eris) after moving into the sign of Aries. She will be in Cetus until about 2030, and in Aries until 2044.
Cetus is the whale, which in ancient times was viewed as a monster of the deep. Cetus is therefore a symbol for the collective unconscious. Put the Eris Ingress into Cetus alongside the Eris Ingress into Aries in the late 20s/early 30s, and you have a very potent and warlike combination.
The 1930s saw the rise of collective consciousness in its most destructive form, which this Eris/Cetus/Aries Ingress aptly describes.
Pluto was discovered in 1930, a planet that like Eris can be about small causes leading to large effects; and that like Cetus symbolises the power of the collective.
Nuclear energy was first experimentally achieved by Enrico Fermi in 1934, when his team bombarded uranium with neutrons. Nuclear energy, like Eris, has the quality of small causes (the nucleus, a tiny part of the atom) leading to huge effects. It’s first use was destructive (Eris in Aries) and its impact on the collective has been massive (Cetus), it really has been like a monster emerging from the deep, for better or for worse.
More broadly, this combination of Eris, Aries and Cetus suggests that we are in a long period where the collective can easily be stirred up, often to destructive effect. And we could see the 20th century as the triumph of the collective mind. Democracy became more widespread, for better or for worse. Communism in Russia and China saw society much more in terms of the collective than the individual. Globalisation has its strengths, but the world is also increasingly becoming one westernised mass culture.
In 1937, America changed the date of the inauguration of their Presidents to 20 Jan, at 12pm, a time that since 1949 has had Menkar, the brightest star in Cetus, on the Ascendant. (See my posting of Of Presidents and Sea-Monsters.) This suggests that the President has become less of an independent force, and more of an expression of the collective will. Under this aspect, the best sort of President will be very tuned in to the collective, and able to creatively direct it; while the worst will be not much more than a reflex of the mob-mind.
With Pluto entering Capricorn, a sign of society rather than the individual, we are not likely to see any let up in the near future of the forces attempting to subsume the individual into the collective. On an ordinary level, we can see this in terms of the various crises - environmental, economic, nuclear - that we are facing collectively, and the resultant insecurity that creates. Individuality is seen as a luxury by an insecure society.
But perhaps from 2024 onwards, as Pluto enters freedom-loving Aquarius, and Eris starts to near the end of her long sojourn in Cetus and Aries, there may be more room for the individual.