Everybody’s lives have changed in profound ways over the last year. The Saturn-Pluto-Jupiter conjunction, which I mention pretty much every time I mention anything about astrology, has forced many issues for us as individuals, as a culture, and as a species. Pluto (the force of relentless evolutionary change) and Saturn (the force of cultural and egoic preservation and real-life limits) have been in a high-stakes armwrestling match, with Jupiter (the force of amplification and payoffs) egging them on, always raising the stakes and urging the competitors to outdo themselves. Some of the hallmarks of this time have been extreme division, with a sense of victimization on both sides of every issue; forced isolation, resistance, and stagnation; a sense of apocalyptic struggle, outright aggression, and an everyone-for-themselves self-preservation frenzy; a proliferation of conspiracy theories and a compulsion to point the finger; profound loss of lives and livelihood and grief on a mass scale; an awakening of compassion and a deepening of self-exploration, along with a sense that something profound and consequential is unfolding exactly as it is meant to.
I am a self-exploration junkie. I have the greatest faith in our ability to learn profound lessons and be utterly transformed during hard transits. Psychologist Stanislav Grof, one of my heroes, used to love hard transits because he saw them as an opportunity to clear more karma. Who doesn’t like that? Most people, actually — and for good reason! It’s like being told to clean your room, only infinitely more intense, as it always involves the sense of dying on some level. No matter what your attitude is toward such transits, and no matter how much deep inner work you may do, these transits can feel pretty relentless.
One thing that has added more fuel to this fire has been an abundance of retrogrades, including the Venus retrograde, back in May and June, and the current Mars retrograde, which began in September. This Mars retrograde has been extra significant, as it aspects the Saturn-Pluto-Jupiter conjunction, plugging into the heart of the drama. Meanwhile, for much of the summer and fall, most of the outer planets have been retrograde, though one by one they have been turning direct (with the exception of Uranus). Plus, Mercury is still retrograde, stationing direct on the US Election Day. With all of these retrogrades, and especially those of Venus (last summer), Mars, and Mercury, the normal outflow of energy backs up and pools within our psyches. Good news: this creates more opportunities for inner exploration. We can peel back some layers of reality and catch a glimpse of what’s going on inside, down at the roots. Bad news: that is not conducive to outward progress. Things go awry the more we cling to our agendas. Given that the Saturn-Pluto-Jupiter have already been moving us in this direction, all of these retrogrades can feel pretty maddening. In November, they come to an end.
On November 3, Mercury stations direct in a near-perfect square to Saturn, squaring Pluto and Jupiter, as well. Mercury rules perception, interpretation, communication, media, transportation — and of course the mail and things like ballots. On the US election day, the Mercury boat starts downstream only to hit some jagged rocks. It doesn’t take an astrologer to tell you that nothing will be clear on election day, and that forces of deception have done (and will do) their damnedest to throw wrenches in the gears of this election. For Mercury, the administrative assistant of our species, to station direct in a tense square with this lineup means not just a rocky re-entry, but a significantly rocky re-entry. It is bound to be an important scene in the world-play that is unfolding — especially as the themes of deception, confusion, and radically opposed interpretations of reality (all Mercury phenomena) are already so apparent. With Mercury ruling the north lunar node, currently in Gemini, this is all a part of a bigger evolutionary story that is unfolding. Humanity is learning something important by swimming in the rapids of differing perspectives, sound bites, lies, lies about lies, true lies, and false truths. Hopefully this is teaching us the virtues of an open mind, of a flexible perspective, a disinterest in opinions — in short, beginner’s mind.
On the 12th, Jupiter and Pluto make an exact conjunction. Back in April, at the first exact conjunction of this pair, the pandemic hit full-force, with its lockdowns, the run on toilet paper, the mass graves in Italy, the loss of employment, as well as the beautiful side effects of a significantly less polluted world, and the opportunity for many people to start working remotely, leading many to wonder if maybe there was a profound meaning and purpose behind all of this.
These two planets are, among other things, excessive: Pluto is compulsive, intensifying, and full of shadow. Jupiter can bring light, optimism, and meaning — or inflation, arrogance, and greed. This pair has beautiful sides, as well as grotesquely dark sides. The actors Bryan Cranston, of Breaking Bad, and Al Pacino were both born with Jupiter-Pluto aspects. For the dark side of this planetary pair, I point you to their roles in Breaking Bad and Scarface: each portrays a free-fall through greed and arrogance into the heart of evil. For the light side of Jupiter-Pluto, consider this quote from Bryan Cranston: “A shift in perspective can change a life. Hope can create possibility. Options are always available to us if we stand back and look at things differently”: the transformative power of hope. For something in between, here is this quote from Al Pacino: “I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked forgiveness.”
A couple of days later, Mars stations direct. Mars is the planet of action, anger, ardor, and aggression (Mars is so forward, it seems, that many of its key words begin with the letter A). Though the retrograde ends on November 13, we will not yet be out of the woods. Mars will be moving quite slowly, making it maximally powerful. And it will pass through exact squares to Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter on its way out of Aries, signifying some powerful clashes. Before you draw your swords, take a deep breath (or ninety) and scream into/ punch a pillow (or do pushups, headstands, squats, wall-sits, etc.). We can breathe a sigh of relief, however, knowing that Mars is moving direct once more.
Mars will station opposite Venus (the exact opposition is on the 9th). Passions will run high, especially as Venus will move into square Jupiter-Pluto. Mars-Venus can make for a lot of fun: music, dance, art, sex… shake your booties and get creative! It can also make for some serious relational skirmishes. Before you claw your partner’s eyes out, consider putting on some Marvin Gaye and getting it on. Venus-Pluto can add a dash of obsession and catharsis. On the 17th, Mercury will oppose Uranus, as it did last month. This can bring a scintillating rush of new perspectives, new information, and interesting ideas. It can add some conversational spice to the Mars-Venus party, if we’re living out the fun side of that aspect; or it can add a layer of anxiety to the bitterness of Mars-Venus tensions, and Venus-Pluto obsessions. Best to flow like a Taoist master through these crosscurrents. Windows are opening, left and right, through which we may playfully envision new futures — most will never come to pass, but some… who knows! Remember, nothing is personal. Can you keep it light and deep all at the same time? If you can, do so.
The Scorpio New Moon on November 14 provides an opportunity to plant some seeds of intention as we go forward, after the Mars retrograde. Mars and Pluto are the co-rulers of Scorpio, and for the last couple of months they have given us ample opportunity to learn something about the deepest roots of our darkest emotions. May we go forward armed with these powerful insights. May we embody our most profound learning and act always from a place of wisdom, truth, and compassion, even at the darkest of times.
The month comes to an end with a Venus-Uranus opposition. One possible reading of this might be: the awakening (Uranus) of peace (Venus). A rebirth (Uranus) of love and harmony (Venus). A liberation (Uranus) of kindness (Venus). Or, on the lower side, a manic pursuit of pleasure. Seek beauty, but do so safely and respectfully. Create beauty, but do so safely and respectfully. There is no shortage of ugliness in the world right now, but all you need to do is step outside and look around and you can be refreshed, rebalanced, and reborn through beauty. Consider the words of the Navajo prayer: “I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me. I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me. I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.”
Wishing you all safety and sanity as we head into an uncertain few weeks.