Dear Friend and Reader:
Early Thursday morning, the Sun passed the midpoint of the sign Aquarius. In the old calendar, this is the sabbat of Imbolc, one of the four cross-quarter days. Said simply, we’re at the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox — at least here in the Northern Hemisphere.
This is not the beginning of spring; but, depending on how you look at it, it’s the peak, or the tipping point, of winter. Yet it’s also a seed moment for the new season, when you can feel the first surge of energy. Whether you’re in the Northern or Southern hemisphere, this idea about the cross-quarters holds true.
There are four of these natural holidays. I will reference them in their Northern Hemisphere manifestations, to save confusion — those of you down under may reverse them, or not, depending on your personal spiritual practice. In any event, the solar year is divided into eight major points, each separated by about 46 days.
Our current sabbat is called Imbolc, which means “in the milk” or “in the belly.” It’s also called Midwinter Holiday. At this time of year, the days are still pretty short, the skies tend to be dark, and we are deep in the belly of the stars. The Christians adopted this as Candlemas, which indicates that it’s a fire holiday. We’ll come back to that in a moment.
It exists in modern form as Groundhog Day, which is used for an odd form of weather divination involving a lot of TV cameras. This has roots in the tradition of all of the quarter days and cross-quarter days being time to cast divination. You might think of that as asking the universe a question, and getting an answer.
Midway between spring equinox and summer solstice is Beltane. This shows up in Christian culture as the holiday with the maypole, and the crowning of the Queen of the May.
It’s usually around May 5; this year there is a New Moon on May 6, so that’s when I would say is the time to have your celebration. That’s a Friday night. This is the holiday of fertilizing the fields with sexual pleasure.
Lakshmi Girl in the Chironian. She is leaning against an inverted 250-million-year-old sea floor, blasted away to extract the stone, which was made into natural cement. This was used to build the Brooklyn Bridge, the wings of the Capitol Building and the runways at JFK.
It’s the celebration of love and abundance, and an offering to Gaia or goddess, in anticipation of a healthy growing season.
Midway between summer solstice and autumn equinox is Lughnasadh, pronounced “lu-nessa.” Its Christian name is Lammas, which means “loaf mass.” It’s the first of three harvest celebrations; in some traditions it’s called First Harvest or Second Planting.
Midway between autumn equinox and winter solstice is Samhain (pronounced “sah-wen.” This corresponds with modern Halloween, and Days of the Dead. It’s perhaps the most ancient holiday, when the ancestors are honored.
How You Might Celebrate Imbolc
Imbolc is a time of preparation, and of renewal. Think of it as a seed of consciousness being born in the deeps of space and time; of a light in the darkness. I consider Imbolc a fire festival, which could mean lighting candles, and also tending the hearth. It’s time to clean the ashes out of the fireplace or wood stove, knowing that most of winter is over and spring is on the way.
Any metaphor you have for this — any form of clearing and cleaning and removing obstacles — would fit the idea of tending the hearth. This could translate into cleaning kitchen closets, cleaning the fridge and generally opening up interior space.
View of the Chironian during the day. You can see the fire circle in the middle of the image, right below the large pillar. To the lower left you can see into the the lower regions of the mine. Remember, this is a thick section of fossilized sea floor from a quarter-billion years ago.
This year, I happened to dive into a long-overdue project of rewiring the desk in my photo studio, removing clutter, cables and various defunct electrical components.
I also cleaned up the altar area. The whole ritual had the feeling of opening up the flow of energy, allowing for movement. I also arranged with my landlord to have the gas heater inspected this week.
If you use the equation “space is intelligence,” the wisdom of this will be clearer. The more space you have, the more free your mind is to do its thing. There is a direct parallel between physical and energetic environments.
One other thing I did, without planning it, was take a friend down to an abandoned cement mine that I consecrated into a healing cave back in the early days of my astrological studies. This involved driving to a remote area, parking, and walking stealthily through the wet, foggy woods. We found the entrance to the cave and descended into the ground, about 20 feet down. Then we sat in total darkness; I really had that feeling of being “in the belly” of the Earth and the stars.
In a sense, this holiday is a celebration of where dark and light meet up. It’s about going to that liminal threshold where the seemingly unconscious mind meets awareness. It can be frightening there in that world of shadows; you might encounter unfamiliar beings, yet you live with them all the time.
The Specific Astrology This Week
This year, Imbolc happened right before the Aquarius New Moon, so we get a little extension on the window of using energy. The New Moon takes place Monday at 9:39 am EST (14:39 UTC). This is a particularly spectacular New Moon. The Moon-Sun conjunction makes many aspects, which means that it connects to other energy nodes in the chart.
Me in the Chironian, one of my spiritual homes; I learned a lot of astrology sitting by fires down in that mine. Photo by Danielle Voirin.
For example, the New Moon is sextile Vesta and Uranus in Aries. This brings in more fire and light imagery (Vesta is a fire goddess, and Uranus morphs into Prometheus, who ‘stole’ fire from the gods).
It is square the fiery planet Mars in Scorpio, which is conjunct Juno. This is passionate, sexual, given to jealousy and potentially driven by a sense of justice. It’s also semi-sextile Pluto, which has been experiencing a lot of action lately.
For example, there was a long conjunction between Mercury and Pluto associated with Mercury stationing direct. This had the feeling of penetrating truth, burning through the density of Mercury in Capricorn. This is like a new tradition emerging from what was left of the old one.
Now Venus is about to make a conjunction to Pluto; this takes place Friday at 8:14 pm EST (Saturday at 01:14 UTC). This is passionate, lusty and defiant. At the moment Venus and Pluto line up, the Moon is right there. It’s an absolutely gorgeous chart that I rant about on Planet Waves FM in a way that I can’t quite do here in writing.
I do suggest you listen (it’s in the first segment of the program) to catch the feeling of this conjunction as I can only express it in spoken word format.
The message, though, is to set yourself free from the need for the appearance of integrity. Too often this thing we call integrity is associated with appearance and not with being real. This distinction is essential; in growth, I reckon that we want the genuine article and not the charade.
Loving (or Lusting?) the Eruption
Dear Friend and Reader:
How often do you feel like you have to keep a lid on things — your emotions, your sexual urges, your ambitions, your full power? Probably a lot of the time, right? After all, most social and professional situations call on us to temper our more primal sides in favor of being polite, proper, cool and in control.
Paroxysmal eruption of Mt. Etna in Sicily, on Jan. 12, 2011. I don’t know about you, but I see a reclining form whose hand is reaching down to… Photo by gnuckx/Creative Commons
But what if I told you the current astrology is ripe for some of that subterranean stuff you usually hold back to come bursting forth? Would it scare you, excite you, or simply feel like a relief?
What if you were to look at such an emergence simply as yet another step in your personal evolution; just one more facet of yourself to embrace and integrate on your way to wholeness? After all, humanity has a long history of sexual desire (as well as emotions, power and evolving). None of this is new material, though it might feel new (and therefore unusual) to express it in the way the astrology is indicating — and still have it be productive, rather than destructive.
Of course, one key to working with it productively is to own it. That deep, seemingly mysterious place under the surface where your sexuality, emotions and body intersect is all yours. Trying to project it onto others won’t work; yes, they have their own lusty nexus. And you have yours.
So what’s the astrology at work here? The core aspect is a conjunction between Venus and Pluto in mid-Capricorn, exact at 8:15 pm EST Friday (1:15 UTC Saturday). (Ideal timing for most weekday nine-to-fivers, whether you’re in a relationship or solo, to devote some attention to sexual expression and exploration; try it during the day if you work at night.)
Eric Francis reminded me today of the late, great astrologer Al Morrison, saying, “One day astrologer Debbi Kempton-Smith (Morrison’s student) asked him about the Venus-Pluto conjunction in his natal chart and he looked at her and said in his slow Arkansas drawl: Luuuuusst.”
Volcanic cone on Mt. Kilauea, Hawaii. Photo by G.E. Ulrich, USGS.
Lust, huh? You might be thinking, “Isn’t that one of the Seven Deadly Sins?” It is; but remember who decided that it’s a “sin” — and why, and what certain institutions have done to millions of people in the name of “saving” them from this “sin.” True, it is not always appropriate or beneficial to act on one’s lust. But neither is it healthy to weigh it down under a mountain of guilt, shame and fear.
Our lustier urges, whether you take them literally or as metaphor, have evolutionary purposes. As Eric added in his email, “[Venus-Pluto] is about letting it out — burning through the prim propriety of Capricorn and getting to the molten goat interior of Capricorn.”
Molten goat? If that image does not work for you, try imagining a volcanic mountain range. It’s solid and strong and seemingly impermeable; but deep within is the magma that actually made the mountain. That magma is hot and looking for a way out. Will it ooze gently and carry you along as it reshapes the landscape? Or will it erupt suddenly, taking the top of the mountain with it and laying bare the power within?
Both scenarios are possible, in terms of how your emotions, your body, and your sexuality may find expression. Current astrology provides an invitation to get in touch with this layer of yourself and your feelings about it.
To the one side of Venus-Pluto is Mars (and Black Moon Lilith, a hypothetical lunar point) in Scorpio. From Scorpio to Capricorn is a sextile — a harmonious, flowing aspect that only asks for some active cooperation from you to help things along. This looks like the image of someone who’s willing to take the energy on, who perhaps is already doing their inner work with deep emotions, the shadow feminine, and their desires, and is open to doing more.
There may be a volcano at the end of that rainbow, but who says the volcano’s teachings cannot be gold in your hands? Photo of Stromboli Volcano, Italy, by boyd1960 / Creative Commons.
Which is not to say that you’ll avoid any “eruptions” if that description fits you. Venus-Pluto in Capricorn has a potentially eruptive quality all on its own (and could signal an eruption of jealousy), even without any help.
Yet it does have help. Vesta (an asteroid) and Uranus are conjunct in Aries, making a square to Venus-Pluto.
Squares are the aspect of dynamic internal tension in astrology; the sense of feeling like you must do something to relieve it. In taking action, you also integrate whatever factors seemed to have been pushing on you to choose and move.
Although the era-defining Uranus-Pluto square is no longer exact, it is still close and quite functional. The sexual and emotional energy of Venus and Pluto, which is looking for an outlet, have an evolutionary function — and embracing it could feel quite revolutionary. Especially if Uranus (in a Mars-ruled sign) pushes out of you something that you’ve been trying very hard to suppress.
Vesta adds a touch of the devotional; as in, devoting yourself to this process of self-discovery is integral to feeding your inner spark. The more self-directed you can be with it (as opposed to reactive), the better.
Finally, note that the Moon will be in mid-Capricorn as Venus-Pluto is exact, sweeping through the aspect just afterwards. As mentioned, your emotions are deeply tied to this process, and efforts to mask them behind a poker face do not look tenable in this scenario. The urge to do so is likely related to very old past conditioning from childhood. Feel free to question it; it could be fun.
Yours & truly,
This Week on Planet Waves FM
The Strange World of U.S. Political Psychology
Dear Friend and Listener:
Megyn Kelly; photo by MattGagnon
In this week’s edition of Planet Waves FM [play episode here] I take a fresh look at the scuffle between Megyn Kelly of Fox News, and alleged presidential candidate Donald Trump. This is a look into the dark heart of American politics — where I come out with something really cool and exciting for progressive people and everyone else.
I also introduce the perennially underestimated thinker Wilhelm Reich, and read some quotes (you can view these here) from his books.
My main musical guest is Sondra Sun-Odeon, an artist who performed at O+ Festival last October; and I end the show with a song by Bob Dylan that should surely be one potential theme for recent Mercury retrogrades.
PS — We published a special broadcast Tuesday night: my September interview with Andrew McLuhan on his grandfather Marshall. You may listen to that show here.
Hey, I wonder what these two animated HitRecord characters are joining forces to do? The better question is: what would you do with the Creative Challenges on HitRecord? Joseph Gordon-Levitt wants to know.
It’s More Fun to Join In
By Amanda Painter
Aquarius, co-ruled as it is by Saturn (setting forms) and Uranus (inventiveness), presents a mode of expression that is curious for some. How does one integrate fixity and innovation? I think we can find an illustration in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s rather remarkable HitRecord production company.
You might remember Gordon-Levitt as the space alien in the body of a teenage boy in the ’90s hit TV comedy 3rd Rock From the Sun. Having transitioned successfully to life as an adult actor, he’s clearly keeping his feet on planet Earth by investing time, energy, talent (and obviously the resources at his disposal that come with Hollywood success) into a collaborative endeavor anyone can join.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt; photo by Johns PKI/Splash News Online
Gordon-Levitt himself describes it best in this introductory video on the HitRecord website (seriously, watch it — he’s adorable). But here’s the gist: say you’re a creative type who has taken an idea into its first form, but you need someone else to get their hands into it and take it to the next level. You can upload what you have to the HitRecord site, making it available for any other HitRecord member to play with.
Or maybe you’re itching to get into a project but you don’t have an idea at your fingertips to play with; log onto the HitRecord site to see if any of the Creative Challenges posted by others inspire you to build on them.
Anyone can work on anyone else’s project and upload the result; if you add your project to HitRecord, you’re agreeing to those terms. It does not mean that’s the only thing that can be done with your idea, but it does mean that you could be beautifully surprised by where your online collaborators take it. You might upload something that seems to be in a set form (Saturn), but then another person evolves it into something else entirely (Uranus). As Gordon-Levitt says, “The point here is to make things together.”
There’s even potential for projects to be monetized if Gordon-Levitt decides to take a project to the next level — as in, take it to a film festival, release it as a book, etc. When that happens, the HitRecord collaborators involved in that project get paid fairly (and you still retain the rights to your individual little piece of it).
Yep, you read that right. In the best possible Aquarian fashion, HitRecord members can reap tangible benefits through sharing their gifts through technology — rather than just being slave labor at the bottom of a pecking order, giving away their talents. They’re even collaborating with such partners as the ACLU and the US National Park Service.
Oh, and a fun fact I discovered while working on this write-up: Joseph Gordon-Levitt was born Feb. 17, 1981. That’s right: he’s an Aquarius.
Your Monthly Horoscopes — and our Publishing Schedule Notes
We published your extended monthly horoscopes for February on Thursday, Jan. 21. We published your extended monthly horoscopes for January on Wednesday, Dec. 23. Please note that instead of a Full Moon Moonshine horoscope this month, we will be publishing a New Moon Moonshine horoscope by Len on Feb. 11. Please note, we normally publish the extended monthly horoscope on the first Friday after the Sun has entered a new sign.
Aries (March 20-April 19) — If there is anything that recent years may have taught you, it’s an appreciation for both the specific and the complex. You are better able to ascertain the unique nature of each individual person, place or situation in your life. You understand more about how to perceive and respond to what’s unique about now, rather than reacting to the present as if it is the past. Most of all, you have evolved to better comprehend the importance of subtlety and nuance. For the most part, you have applied your acquired sensibilities towards improving both your creativity and productivity. To some extent you have also brought your more advanced personal skills to individual relationships. Now, you are finally ready to cross another threshold and establish yourself as both more widely influential and more universally respected. As you proceed to take a more responsible place among your peers, simply remember that the example you set will be far more important than the results you seek. – by Len Wallick.
Taurus (April 19-May 20) — When you are driving up a mountain highway, looking only through the windshield does not fully convey how steep the road is. A glimpse in the rearview mirror, on the other hand, really helps you to grasp how far you have climbed. Such is probably your situation now. If you focus only on what’s ahead, you will miss out on the gratification of knowing just how much progress you have made in recent months, even since last year. Your energies have not been wasted. You are receiving a return on your efforts, in the form of greater and more assured proficiencies in the areas where you have been applying yourself the most. You owe it to yourself to see that. In order to do so, however, you will have to pause, and look back as well as forward to really take it all in. You need not be concerned about falling behind. In some sense you are now far enough ahead of schedule to pull over and park to take in the scenery. It will take your breath away, and pick up your spirits too. – by Len Wallick.
Gemini (May 20-June 21) — If you are feeling an itch of some sort, it’s probably because you need to move on in some way. It could be a relationship situation. Or perhaps you’ve just worn a rut into whatever you have been focused on manifesting. Either way, it’s more a matter of how you move on than whether or not you should. No wise sailor, for example, needlessly cuts the rope or breaks the chain to an anchor. Rather, the anchor is raised and converted to ballast so that restored mobility will also be more stable. Additionally, the time will inevitably come when that anchor will need to be dropped again. The same almost certainly goes for you. Rather than needlessly abandoning what has served to keep you in a particular place, seek first to change its role — from holding you fast, to keeping you steady and on an even keel. After all, life is big. There is potentially room enough in your life to contain both the old and the new, even if it means you need to expand your heart as well as your horizons. – by Len Wallick.
Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You have been the underdog long enough. It’s nearing time for you to lead the pack once again. The main thing to remember is that your strength is in the resources you share with those you would lead. Foremost among those resources is what the heart has to offer. Some medical scientists now believe what many — from loyal canines to passionate poets — have long known: that the heart has a consciousness of its own. What’s more, as any being with feelings would intuit, the sentience of the heart does not function (or even exist) apart from that of the brain. Rather, the feeling heart is necessarily inseparable from the calculating mind. So it can be with you and those with whom you cast your lot. You have the unique ability to be the heart wherever and whenever two or more gather in the name of each other, and it is precisely that talent which keeps comrades together. Let others be the brains of the outfit if it comes to that. Intellect can inform, but only heart can inspire others to follow. – by Len Wallick.
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — It wasn’t that long ago that you were a child who could have a ball without the need for anything other your own imagination. With time, childhood passed and you became an adult with different needs. Among the most prominent imperatives that come with adulthood is the attraction of intimate relationship. It is not absolutely necessary to have a committed partner to have a happy and productive life. Nonetheless, the ability to share both burdens and joys with another can and often does contribute to making life a lot easier and more gratifying. As you well know, however, a toxic or unequal relationship can take life the other way, into drudgery and misery. Perhaps it is the downside of a close relationship that has had you working on improving yourself for so long? Now, you might want to consider whether it’s time to put that good work of yours to use, and apply yourself to improving existing relationships — or forming new partnerships that are even sounder than those you have previously known. – by Len Wallick.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Adolescence is probably when you started spending less time with your parents and more time with those of your own age, with whom you would potentially live the rest of your life. It was probably an awkward, occasionally even painful, period full of trial and error, as you learned to navigate the narrow way between conformity and individuation. Even so, the time span between your childhood and full physical maturity almost certainly yielded some valuable lessons and important skills, which serve you well to this day. As a matter of fact, it’s distinctly possible that the months following your most recent birthday have brought something more than just an appreciation for what your “tween” and “teen” years yielded. You may very well feel that you are, in some updated way, going through your adolescence again. If that is the case for you, don’t worry. History rarely repeats, but it does tend to rhyme; so, you have reason to rejoice. You are not regressing; you are progressing and perceiving your most recent advances through the lens of the last time you grew so much so quickly. – by Len Wallick.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — How long has it been since you have had some real fun? Not distraction. Not disruption either, but actual delight? More to the point, how long has it been since you have been perceived by others as fun to live, work or hang out with? If your answer to those questions is, “too long,” now would be a good time to begin thinking about how to make life more fun for both yourself and those you know and care about. You will not have to spend a lot of money to restore levity to life. Instead, spend time understanding what fun means to others. Start off by taking the time to share a smile with everybody. That will open some doors and even possibly some hearts. Then, devote additional time toward encouraging others (who show they are willing) to share their enthusiasms with you. Finally, set aside sufficient time to pursue enough of those shared enthusiasms to find newly common ground in the unlikely cauldron of sheer frivolity. Fun is better when offered rather than taken, and best when exchanged as a common value. – by Len Wallick.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Life is too short to keep yours to yourself. That’s especially true now, when you are capable of being even more attractive than usual. To increase your allure, however, you will have to withdraw less and open up more. It will probably feel risky, but if you can widen your social circle while simultaneously being more expressive of your needs, the results could make you wonder why you ever even thought to hide yourself away. Believe it or not, there are others who would just love to express their attraction to you by offering to help you either find relief or attain gratification, if only they knew how. In other words, it will not be necessary to assert or demand when it comes to having your needs met; it will simply be a matter of putting yourself out there, both literally and metaphorically. The chance you now have to receive appreciation is an opportunity that few will ever know. All you have to do to get what you have coming is to pull away from your comfort zone and show up as you are. – by Len Wallick.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — What you have been searching for is probably in your immediate vicinity. No kidding. Instead of coming over the horizon, what you have been longing for is most likely in plain sight among the living beings and inanimate objects you encounter every day. It is not so much that you have to look further. Rather, you need to see better. What there is no need for is getting down on yourself. Part of being a human being is accepting that you cannot and will not ever be perfect. Yet, it is possible to understand and work with your imperfections, including those that have to do with not always perceiving and appreciating what is within easy reach. Indeed, the fact that you are now overlooking something or somebody already there for you is reason to feel good about yourself; because the next step — actually realizing the value of what you already have — is a step you will never again forget how to take. Therefore, do not think of yourself as one who is about to stumble across anything. In a very real way, you are about to rise to it. – by Len Wallick.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Any dissatisfaction or lack you now feel might not, in fact, correlate with something lacking in your life. Rather, you may be sensing that there is something more you can do with your life. There is a difference, and it does not mean you have to change the plans you have already developed and put in motion. By all means, do follow through and complete what you have started. Once you have settled into your new situation, however, look to do yourself one better by setting aspirations that go further than being happier with your lot. Go beyond simply confronting challenges that come your way in due course. Create a challenge you can own. Specifically, look to manifest something you have probably been thinking about (but not acting on) for quite a while now. It will have to do with the reason so many people have been looking up to you, even as you have been looking down on yourself. It will mean seeking out greater responsibility and convincing others that you are ready to make the most of it. But first you must convince yourself that you are ready to call some shots rather than take them. – by Len Wallick.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — If you had to choose between power, wisdom and pleasure, which would you pick? There is no denying that there is nothing quite as pleasing as pleasure. Nonetheless, is it really your purpose in life just to please yourself? Neither is power anything to be sneezed at. In practice, power can bring you all the pleasure you can handle, in addition to its many other fringe benefits. Even so, would you really be fulfilled by simply having your way with everything all the time? Wisdom, on the other hand, is neither exclusively gratifying nor entirely self-serving. Being wise, at its most fundamental, includes making the right choices at the right time for everybody involved, even if those decisions require postponing personal pleasure or giving up personal power. Therefore, preferring wisdom over pleasure and power could, in many ways, be the least desirable selection of all — but only if desire is your be-all, end-all. Should you sense that there is something about you that transcends your desires, take your pleasure where you find it and accept power responsibly, but make the acquisition of wisdom your ultimate goal. – by Len Wallick.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Monday’s Aquarius New Moon offers you unusual insight into your own inner workings, as if you can peer into your unconscious mind. If you can do that, it must be something other than unconscious — awareness is a choice, though sometimes it rises like the tide. And this tide will indeed lift all ships, as you clear away beliefs that have outdone their use. This will open the way to your making contact with new communities, new friends, and new possibilities. Most of your astrology is focused on your vocational activities, and how working toward your goals is bringing out the best in you. That still holds, perhaps more than ever. Yet now your social sphere merges with your creative ambitions in an especially potent way. It’s true that the world has grown stuffier, more resistant to change and more prone to obsessing over appearances. You get to go beyond all of that, as if it’s your personal destiny. It isn’t really; you are choosing to follow an inner calling, and you have things to do and things to say — and the time is ripe. – by Eric Francis.