View of October leaves from below; photo by Amanda Painter.

In These Days, Do Not Play Dead

By Amanda Painter

We’re in the midst of the Days of the Dead (a Catholic celebration of departed souls that has pagan roots, and echoes in many ancient indigenous cultures), and I have a question: How does one honor one’s ancestors when so much of what they helped to build is being dismantled, perverted, mocked and cut down?

View of October leaves from below; photo by Amanda Painter.

View of October leaves from below; photo by Amanda Painter.

I’m not referring to past institutions that we’ve come to realize are systematically racist, sexist or in some other way oppressive; the process to recognize and dismantle those strikes me as being one of the reasons we’re all here at this time.

I’m talking about cultural advances that were made to lift up and empower as many people as possible, and which now appear threatened. I’m referring to past cultural lessons about things like fascism, which many people seem to have forgotten or somehow never learned in the first place.

If you are someone who chooses this time of year to honor your deceased ancestors, how do you bring your meditation and ritual intention into action? How might you choose to connect the past and your place in your familial lineage with serving the highest good for all concerned?

I have a couple thoughts on that, especially this week, in view of the pointedly anti-Semitic murder of 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue (including one survivor of the Holocaust), and Pres. Trump’s declaration that he intends to issue an executive order ending birthright citizenship (which is protected by the Constitution). Trump’s refusal to denounce outright the violent actions of ‘white nationalist’ extremists, and his repeated, toxic, inflammatory language whipping up that demographic, is having visible — and measurable — effects.

Disturbingly, the U.S. is not the only country seeing a rise in right-wing extremism. Europe is experiencing its share; and earlier this week, Brazil elected Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right leader who has praised Brazil’s former military dictatorship (which ended 33 years ago); has threatened to destroy, imprison or banish his political opponents; and who wants to open the Amazon rainforest to more agribusiness and mining.

All of this is unfolding against a shifting astrological backdrop that has been primarily focused on Scorpio. It’s easy to associate Scorpio only with its darkness, sharpness and intensity and forget its higher nature. As Aleister Crowley wrote, “the Scorpio becomes, under higher impulses, indefatigable in his desire to help mankind, and his coldness and insensibility to the sufferings of others is transmuted into devotion and self-sacrifice.”

I myself know a few Scorpios who fit that description, and it is humbling to watch them in action. It’s an inspiring model of behavior, and one upon which we need to shine the spotlight as often as possible — as well as support with our voices and other resources, and emulate. This is not a time to sit quietly at home thinking, “Oh, other people are better at helping and taking action.” Yet neither does that mean we all have to go all-out 100% of the time. As the famed street artist Banksy has noted, “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”

After all, the planets’ movements are not always focused on constant push and confrontation and struggle. There are times of ease and receiving; brief lulls when you can catch your breath, regroup and integrate what’s just happened.

We seem to be in one of those moments now, though major astrological events are in the works, and planets are in the process of changing signs. For example, in exactly one week Jupiter will leave Scorpio and enter a sign it rules, Sagittarius, where it will travel for about a year.

Additionally, just yesterday Mercury and Venus changed into their Halloween costumes. They’ll stay in them longer than just one night, but not nearly as long as Jupiter will.

Yesterday morning, Mercury entered Sagittarius in direct motion — though be aware that as of this past weekend, Mercury is in its pre-retrograde echo or shadow phase. (It stations retrograde on Nov. 16; the same day Venus will station direct). And yesterday afternoon (or evening, depending on your time zone), retrograde Venus backtracked into late Libra.

Mercury in Sagittarius may help you to foster a more optimistic outlook — although, given all that’s going on in the world, that could be quite a feat. I think of it less as a Pollyanna-style “Everything’s great and will work out!” and more like an enhanced ability to see the point in giving something a try, with genuine curiosity, sincerity and an appreciation of the challenge. For those of us living in the U.S., with midterm elections on Nov. 6, I’d say tapping into this particular mental tone is crucial.

Bear in mind that Mercury in Sagittarius can also be a little too direct in its speech, forgetting to pause beforehand to account for the possible impact of what’s being said. You’ll also want to notice if you start to become more concerned with people’s attitudes than you are with the facts. If you work as a public opinion pollster this could be very useful to you this week; for the rest of us, it’s good to remember that “An attitude is not necessarily right merely because it is popular or prevailing,” as astrologers Frances Sakoian and Louis Acker have written about this Mercury placement. I’m curious to see what, if any, prevailing and popular attitudes shift or come to attention in a new way during Mercury’s time in Sagittarius, especially while retrograde.

As for retrograde Venus, which made an exact opposition to Uranus yesterday (have you experienced any unexpected interpersonal tricks or treats this week?), it is now in Libra, a sign it rules. This is a more ‘comfortable’ sign for Venus, yet the state of being retrograde might mean that it expresses a little less directly than it normally would here. This could be more noticeable if someone’s actions this week really threw you for a loop.

Even so, you may wish to keep your antennae tuned for a sense of greater emotional clarity on issues that have come up for you over the last month. Perhaps not a full-on ‘a-ha’ moment yet, but maybe a more intellectual or spiritual take on something that’s been a primarily emotional experience thus far.

Venus in Libra is also famous for its dislike of injustice and ‘uncouth’ behavior. With such things seemingly rampant right now, the question becomes how to engage with them in a way that opens the door for improvement and justice, rather than simply turning away so as not to be bothered by it all. With Mars still making its way through group-focused Aquarius, I’m holding space for us all to come together to act for the common good in the next week. I’ll be voting; if you are in the U.S. and eligible, I hope you will, too.


As we go deeper into this most unusual and challenging phase of history, intelligence is the thing we need the most. That is the theme of the 2019-2020 annual edition of Planet Waves, now available for pre-order. See more information here.

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