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A quick look back to 2020
I believe that the only way we can understand the future is to understand how we arrived at the present, and for this we need to look back. Pluto, the planet of destruction and regeneration, has been in the earthy sign of Capricorn since 2008 when it began compressing power structures around the world, concentrating wealth in the hands of the few, and building the top/down kind of societal construction for which Capricorn is famed. Capricorn teaches mastery of the material world and has little patience with frivolity or illusions, and we have all had to come to terms with a more practical approach to the way we live, especially when Saturn entered Capricorn in December of 2018. Saturn and Pluto came within a few degrees of a conjunction in the spring and summer of 2019 and the compression that would later become 2020 began.
Jupiter joined Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn in December of 2019, and Saturn and Pluto aligned in a conjunction on January 10, 2020. This coincided with a station of Uranus (shock and surprise) as well as a lunar eclipse in Cancer that triggered the Saturn/Pluto conjunction. In December 2019 I cautioned about the period between January 8th to the 16th as being a potential danger point. It was at this time that the spread of COVID-19 became evident. Mars entered Capricorn in March of 2020, and by March 17th had reached the point of conjunction with Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto. St. Patrick’s Day marked the beginning of lockdowns around the world. In the summer when Mars moved into Aries it eventually formed a challenging square to the Capricorn planets throughout August, September, October and part of November.
These planetary combinations themselves did not cause the virus. But it’s clear that life on Planet Earth has reached an untenable position, and nature seems to always send a plague when biological populations are out of balance. Medieval astrologers associated the Bubonic Plague with conjunctions of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and here we had Pluto as well which intensified everything and created even more stress.
It didn’t help matters that we had a tremendous force of multiple retrograde planets in 2020 – every planet that can appear to be retrograde WAS retrograde, and the retrograde period lasted for an unusually long time. (See this article for more details about the Year of Retrogrades.) In a heavily retrograde environment our attention is turned largely towards the past, and it can be very difficult to achieve what most would consider progress. Instead the efforts are internalized and primarily process-driven rather than event-driven. In other words, a sense of being stuck with no clear direction forward.
The Aquarius transition
In December both Jupiter and Saturn entered Aquarius, a sign of the air element. A strong Capricornian influence can feel heavy – our responsibilities can weigh on us and cause us to feel a lack of freedom or liberty. Aquarius is still ruled by Saturn, so it’s not like there’s a party starting here, but as an air sign Aquarius is concerned with matters of ideas and solutions. (Here’s a video that I made with more details on the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction.) This elemental shift is the beginning of a 200 year cycle of Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions in air, so it’s a pretty big deal and will likely bring about some permanent changes in the landscape of human life.
The symbolism of the transition from the Capricorn influence to the Aquarius conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn reflects the idea that we are moving from one way of life to a completely new one. The conjunction itself has moved from an Earth cycle of stability and structure to an Air cycle of ideas and new liberties. The Air cycle is by its very nature idealistic and interested more in communication and the transmission of information than creation or mastery, which makes it somewhat hard to contain. Yet Aquarius is fixed Air, and the natural malleability of Air is anchored into a nature that can be unyielding and unforgiving.
Jupiter entered Aquarius in December, but will tiptoe into Pisces between May 13 and July 28th before moving back into Aquarius until December 28th. I expect that the period in May, June and July when Jupiter is in Pisces could coincide with another major spread of COVID-19 or one of its mutations.
The square from Saturn to Uranus
Aquarius shares rulership with two planets: Saturn is the traditional ruler, and Uranus the modern ruler. (I have never understood this idea of dismissing the traditional ruler in favor of the modern – the traditional rulers works on the level of personality and the mundane while the modern rulers have a transformational effect.). What is particular interesting about this pairing is that mythological Saturn/Cronos was the son of Uranus/Ouranos, the sky god, and Gaia, the earth mother (actually, Gaia was the goddess of the pre-Greek religion, but that’s another story for another time). Saturn castrated Uranus and overthrew him to become king – the astrological Saturn representing the mastery of the material world, overthrowing the higher wisdom of the sky and airy intellect as represented by Uranus. In turn, Jupiter/Zeus overthrew Saturn/Cronos and became associated with a greed and hunger for expansion and abundance (especially in the bedroom according to mythology).
In 2021 we are dealing with all three of these gods. Jupiter and Saturn are in the sign of Aquarius which is ruled by both Saturn and Uranus, and both Jupiter and Saturn will align in a challenging square aspect to Uranus in 2021 (Jupiter will make just one alignment, but the square from Saturn to Uranus will be in effect for much of the year. Saturn square Uranus in their co-ruled sign of Aquarius, in the transition to the Aquarian Age, itself reflects the current struggle between those holding onto the past and future. If 2020 was a year of compression, restriction and destruction under Saturn and Pluto, 2021 will be a year of rebuilding and a radical paradigm shift in the way we observe and interact with the world.
Social and civil unrest
Under the challenging square of Saturn (status quo) to Uranus (radical change), we will likely see an increase in radical demonstrations of social unrest. I see this as an important part of the healing process: Until the inequality and lack of social justice is revealed, any effort to fight against it is futile. However, Aquarius is impersonal and willing to sacrifice the individual for the sake of the collective as I said before, so this could be a challenge for anyone attempting to live a life of peace. Certainly the battle for justice is important, but when there is the potential for chaos that justice is further out of reach. The previous interaction between Saturn and Uranus, the opposition in 2009 and 2010, coincided with the Arab Spring
Three months with one or no planets retrograde
Coming after a year like 2020 in which there were between five and seven planets retrograde for months, having a few months with no planets retrograde will be a big change. After Uranus turns direct on January 14, 2021 there will be no planets in retrograde motion until Mercury turns retrograde on January 30th, but after Mercury turns direct on February 21st no other planet will turn retrograde until Pluto reverses course on April 27th. Planetary retrogradation tends to turn our attention back to the past and make it more difficult to move forwards. Conversely, when no planets are retrograde the creation of new projects and ideas can operate smoothly and without limitations. Obviously Mercury retrograde will likely be its usual trickster and accelerate the transmission of information which can result in the typical snafus, but otherwise the flow of ideas and association actions should operate fairly smoothly.
The challenging square between Pluto and Eris continues
The new planet Eris is named after the goddess of discord, and I have a theory that the role of Eris is to break down the patterns and paradigms of the established order which won’t fit into the changes that are taking place on planet Earth as we move from the Age of Pisces to the Aquarian age. Uranus transited over Eris in Aries a few years ago, and in 2020 Pluto began a challenging square to Eris that continues into this year. As I wrote in that earlier article:
The Covid-19 virus itself seems to embody the discordant nature of Eris. It doesn’t follow any rules. It can’t be predicted in any way. It affects every patient differently. There are a myriad of symptoms that seem disconnected. It erupted, seemingly out of nowhere, quite suddenly and has spread like wildfire. Just as the golden apple of Eris began the Trojan War and transformed the political landscape of Europe and Asia, Covid-19 will likely create long-lasting transformation to global society. Since we are in the doorway to the Age of Aquarius, it seems likely that the destruction and transformation caused by the spread of this virus will pave the way for the shift in ages.
Speaking of Covid-19, I expect that the period in May, June and July when Jupiter slips into Pisces could coincide with another spread of the virus.
Good news with Saturn sextile Chiron
While Saturn is challenging Uranus in a square (90 degree) aspect, it will also harmonize in a sextile to Chiron. Chiron is the planet of wounding and healing, and it is instrumental in bridging the human experience between Saturn’s focus on the mundane and practical to Uranus, the planet which is symbolized by the pouring of wisdom from the stars to the earth. Chiron’s physical orbit in the solar system is primarily between Saturn and Uranus (it does slip into Neptune’s orbit from time to time) and this is very symbolic of it acting as a bridge between the personal planets and the transpersonal – from the level of personality to the transformation level of divine soul. The harmonious interaction between these two planets suggests that rather than fight against disease and general dysfunction, we can learn from the ravages of Covid-19 and other social problems in order to forge permanent and transformative solutions.
2021 brings two eclipse seasons: in May and June, and then in November and December. Both occur along the axis of Gemini North Node/Sagittarius South Node, suggesting a letting go of our preconceived ideas (Sagittarius) in order to learn to take on new philosophies and experiences (Gemini). However, the lunar eclipse in November features the nodes slipping into Taurus/Scorpio, a harbinger of the nodal sign change coming in January 2022. This gives me some hope that when the North Node enters Taurus we will emerge from this year of instability and dramatic change into an increased focus on comfort and equanimity, areas of life ruled by Taurus.
Thoughts about COVID-19
It is my opinion, and this is supported by the astrology, that the dramatic spread of COVID-19 in the first half of 2020 unleashed a dramatic repressive reaction based on a fear (Saturn/Pluto) response. It’s interesting to me that in Eastern countries, including Australia and New Zealand, a short lockdown enjoyed wide adherence and resulted in almost total control over the virus. But Western countries rebelled after a period of time against these short lockdowns, resulting in a virus that is out of control.
Saturn first entered Aquarius on March 21, 2020 which coincides with the nearly global institution of lockdowns after the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11. Aquarius, being the sign which treasures reason and liberty above all things, was not the best sign placement for Saturn at this time since in Aquarius, Saturn will fight vigorously against all forms of oppression. On July 1st Saturn retrograded back into Capricorn and several states rolled back plans to re-open after lockdown, extending control measures in an attempt to keep the virus at bay. At the time I felt that COVID-19 is like a wolf at the door – you can keep closing the door, but it won’t get rid of the wolf. And though I realize this is politically incorrect, I do believe that the costs in human poverty and devastation, of which we are seeing just the beginning, could have been avoided by targeted shutdowns and community cooperation.
Unfortunately the virus became politicized globally as a symbol of the battle between social control and personal liberties, both Saturn in Aquarius themes. Neither the left nor the right have achieved a good balance, in my opinion. Locking down everything which the left promotes is no more the answer than opening up the entire world for economic gain (see also: the Swedish experiment).
After the conjunction of Jupiter (expansion) to Saturn (contraction) at the first degree of Aquarius, the theme of emancipation from oppression will become even stronger, but once the conjunction begins to wane in January the force for liberty will overcome the need to control. The year-long square from Saturn (control) to Uranus (liberty) describes the need to strike a balance between these two extremes. With Jupiter also in Aquarius I am hopeful that the idea of working together as a global community to achieve a common goal will prevail.
Where 2020 marked a breakdown phase thanks to a Capricornian cluster, 2021 is symbolized by the Aquarian ideals of fraternity, brotherhood and equality. These ideals are somewhat impersonal, and in order to achieve greater freedom we must understand that some loss of personal liberty is essential. Astrological conflicts require integration and resolution of conflicting opposites, and in 2021 the need to find that integration and balance will become a life or death proposition and likely result in major shifts of global power and also personal priorities.