The Astrology of Austerity


Here is the birth chart of British austerity, as announced by David Cameron in Cheltenham in April 2009. (26/04/09 22:00 Cheltenham, UK) The chart contains several outstanding markers for difficulty. The austerity chart evinces two tee-squares, a Grand Trine and a few other remarkable features.

The first tee-square then:

  • Venus, archetype of the good times is in detriment, precisely conjunct the Aries’ point, conjunct Mars in his sign and square Pluto. This is a Venus under maximal stress, and unable to make any headway against a supercharged Mars who:
  • Is much better able to cope with a Pluto square, because Mars is in a sympathy with Pluto, where Venus is not. Furthermore a planet exalted or otherwise strengthened is better able to endure stressful aspect.
  • Although not a mainstream marker, the transneptunian Kronos is at 3° Cancer, and represents lofty ideals, expertise and intellectual authority. Kronos opposes Pluto, and in general terms economic experts (Kronos in the 8th) argue that austerity doesn’t work. Pluto in the 2nd, the agenda characterised by the more simplistic ‘money in the hand’ narrative of the Conservative government, holds sway.

Why should this be?

  • Pluto is working for Saturn (by rulership). Saturn is in the Midheaven, so therefore it’s all anyone can “see”. Pluto also rules the chart. Note the language that presaged the advent of this new policy: “The age of irresponsibility is giving way to the age of austerity.” David Cameron has perfectly leveraged the style of Saturn (responsibility) in Virgo (accounting) in the zenith.
  • And bear in mind that the current Pluto-Kronos cycle began with the American War of Independence where Britain lost huge revenues over a tax dispute with its American colonies. Since planetary cycles – no matter how antediluvian in nature – retain a common thread, we can suggest a learning process that involves an element of hubris, and the challenging consequences thereof. Any ruling class (British or other) that seeks to impose austerity through taxation, removal of direct or indirect supporting measures, or through simple authoritarian diktat, is going to tweak this planetary cycle.
  • Saturn is also peregrine, or singleton. This has a tendency to overshadow all other considerations. Saturn squares Ixion, a Plutino in the Hadean triumvirate with Orcus and Pluto, forming a matrix of drives and compulsions that give the raw domination material of the human ego. The great challenge for the adept to overcome. Ixion is the basest of the three Hadean styles, but also the most covert. When Saturn squares Ixion there’s an uncomfortable compulsion to impose harsh, authoritarian measures and thereby get one’s own needs met. Those needs are usually quite unsophisticated too.

But wait! There’s a second tee-square:

  • At its apex we have a Moon that is strong by sign but is at the anaretic degree of Taurus. The 30th degree of any sign creates a great sense of urgency, and here the stressing nature of the critical degree is informed by the most material sign of the zodiac. Great pressure in economic matters.
  • Further the Moon is square to Neptune (also Jupiter and Chiron) This narrow stellium has the flavour of what I would call “flawed idealism” and in Aquarius has a humanitarian, universal application. So it represents quite clearly the ideals of social care, of providing support and benefits (Jupiter) for the unfortunate (Neptune) and disabled (Chiron). This is creating a stress for the Moon’s urgent concern (money). The Aquarius stellium is opposed by Orcus who has just moved into the anaretic degree of Leo. So there’s an implacable force at work, opposed to the ideals of social care, and it’s a privileged force too, Orcus is conjunct Regulus, one of the four Royal Stars, whose interests align with kings, rulers and elites.
  • Moon is also conjunct Mercury who is precisely conjunct Algol, the most unfortunate star in the heavens. Here it gives a tendency to strategisation and stealthy enactment of agendas. It gives an amoral cast to Mercury, who is already innately ambiguous.
  • Overall the Tee-Square to Moon/Mercury/Algol is quite potent. It describes a struggle between an elite and the prevailing social policy of our time.
David Cameron: tough times ahead.

David Cameron: tough times ahead.

But the gloss over all of this is a Grand Trine between Sun, Pluto and Orcus.

  • Yikes! Yes, that’s right. Yikes indeed.
  • Bear in mind that the Sun is the public face of any chart, and here we have a Sun applying to the cusp of the 6th in Taurus. And don’t hardworking people deserve to enjoy the rewards of their hard work? Well, don’t they? You’d have to be some kind of leftie lunatic to disagree with that!
  • A Grand Trine is a ‘safe place’ in the chart, a place that one can fall back into when the going gets tough – for better or worse. So here there’s a sense of being in easy control, a single-minded determination to get things done to one’s satisfaction. It’s smooth and very determined.
  • And the Grand Trine lies in the 2nd the 6th, and the 9th Money, philosophy and the working public.

Looking forward, we can say that 2016 is a critical year for austerity. Since Saturn has run away with the chart we look with interest to February 2016 as the first Saturn square for austerity. The first Saturn square is always a time of profound testing, where motives, usefulness and reliability are all under serious scrutiny. Ten days later, the Conservative Party chart experiences the first of three Pluto – Moon oppositions.

This is even more noteworthy because on 12th January, David Cameron weathers the middle pass of Pluto square Sun. A profound challenge to leadership and personal authority. Since his Sun squares Orcus natally, his integrity is also undergoing a withering examination at this time. The Conservative Party chart (18/12/1834, 00:00 Tamworth, UK) undergoes a Uranus square to natal Moon two days beforehand and then Pluto opposes the Tory Mars in April, which when viewed together, constitute one of the most fundamental challenges to Conservative politics, probably for many years. Pluto squares the UK’s lunar axis for the last time in ten days from now. The destiny of this nation is being forged as we speak.

Master and Servant: Rulership Theory


With respect to the Saturn – Pluto conjunction Zack asks:

Do you feel the same dynamic is in effect for those with Saturn in Scorpio (ie, a Saturn ‘underwritten’ by Pluto)? The unconscious demanding of respect and resulting anxiety when that is not easily or immediately granted?
With Pluto in Scorpio as sole dispositor of my chart, life itself can feel like it’s run by unconscious anxiety. The only way out seems to be to continually let go, when Pluto wants to grip. Hardly a moment’s rest…

It’s worth getting to grips with rulerships. Astrology starts to make a lot more sense when you can begin to pick apart the avenues of causality that exist within our charts, and rulerships give you this exact perspective.

Except in the case of mutual reception, rulerships are a one way street. This means that in the example cited, with Saturn in Scorpio and (I’m guessing) Pluto in Libra or Scorpio – or indeed, Pluto anywhere except in Capricorn, the rulership means that Saturn is working for Pluto. Pluto in the chart is happy to get the help he needs to fulfil his duties and obligations. If Pluto is in Scorpio, then the buck stops there, but if Pluto resides in Libra, then Pluto is in turn working for the objectives and ambitions of the Venus placement.

Let’s say that you have Pluto in Libra in the 10th, and Saturn in Scorpio in the 11th. This would denote a situation whereby your friendships with older, more experienced and respected individuals would assist you in pursuing your career goals and enhance your reputation. You’d probably be quite anxious about getting ahead in your work, and maybe even manipulative about getting recognised for your focus and drive in your career. This career respect that you enjoy, would in turn likely serve as a means of enhancing your appeal to the opposite sex, making you a better marriage prospect and allowing you to enjoy the finer things in life (you see, because Pluto is in turn working for Venus).

In this way, a planet’s placement is explained by its ruler. If you have Mars in Libra in the 4th house then there will likely be considerable difficulties around fostering independence in the early years. Assertiveness doesn’t come easily. The approval of others is often a condition for independence. Getting one’s way is a struggle because you learned in the childhood home that compromise was required. Now let’s say that Venus is in Capricorn in the 7th house, we probably see that the parents’ marriage was difficult, money was likely not plentiful; the model for marriage is weighed down by Saturn’s concerns. Love and marriage are hard work, although – depending on aspects and other factors – not necessarily a lost cause, because we learn that in love at least, hard work pays dividends. By following these connections we can tease out the story and understand the life lessons.

To return to the original question though, Whilst the effect of rulership is far from the principle of conjunction, Saturn does still have Pluto’s concerns at heart. So if you like, Saturn is working to alleviate Pluto’s natural inclination to anxiety. Pluto’s anxiety – if in Libra – is going to be centred upon approval. Anyone with Pluto in Libra usually takes rejection pretty hard, especially in romantic scenarios. The same is true of course for anyone with a Venus – Pluto connection, but Pluto is not taking on the struggles of the planets he rules. In this scenario Pluto has anxiety about being liked, not respected. Of course the difference can be subtle! Since approval, lovableness and respect are such closely allied concepts.

There are interesting and curious subcategories. The mutual reception is just that, a mutual support of one another’s interests, like the best of marriages. There can also be a detrimental reception. Consider any of the classic detrimented receptions:

  • Sun in Aquarius and Uranus in Leo
  • Moon in Capricorn and Saturn in Cancer
  • Mercury in Sagittarius and Jupiter in Gemini
  • Mercury in Pisces and Neptune in Virgo
  • Venus in Aries and Mars in Libra
  • Venus in Scorpio and Pluto in Taurus

In these configurations there is a mutual insecurity. The Moon in Capricorn struggles to relax and takes criticism hard. She looks to support from Saturn in Cancer who has little stomach for hardship and just wants things to be easier. That’s not really the kind of support she needs. But this still improves the original placements somewhat, provided the native can overcome the difficulties inherent in the placements.

Even without reception, you can understand how Venus working for Mars’ interests is going to be tricky. Mars is running the show and Venus is like a delicate maiden running with the neighbourhood toughs. She’s going to be suffering before too long.

When you have a final dispositor, as in Zack’s case, then everything is working, ultimately, for that sole objective. It’s like a long line of employees, each working for their own manager, but ultimately, their smaller objectives only make sense in the context of the big boss sitting at the top of the building.

So if Pluto is a final dispositor then you really have a task to work on that Pluto, if for no other reason than the fact that until you do, your entire chart is working to manage Plutonic anxiety. If you can perform the spiritually neat trick of a Plutonic conversion, then all that energy gets refocused into easier, and ultimately beneficial channels.

But bear in mind, converting your Pluto (a kind of metaphorical uranium enriching programme) is made easier or harder depending on how big your Pluto is. It’s an easier road if your Pluto is in Virgo or Scorpio than in Leo or Libra. Like a lot.

Pluto and Me: the Two Great Invisibles


Today I want to discuss a couple of invisibles. Each has bearing upon the other and they’re inseparable.

First of all, there’s the great blind spot of human (un)consciousness: subjectivity. This is almost impossible to fathom, not least because its frequency is considerably higher than reason. It’s the great conundrum of science and the reasoning mindset that it cannot attune to states of being that are in excess of itself. So science cannot get to grips with love – whether personal or altruistic – except to say something banal and senseless about chemical activity in the brain. The only evidence that can be made in support of love is anecdotal; circumstantial even. The reasoning mind cannot say anything insightful about it at all. Philosophers and great thinkers throughout time have attempted to tackle these thorny subjects. Unfortunately, when Descartes concluded that ‘I think therefore I am’ he committed an act of genocide on higher states of consciousness for all future generations. Consciousness was a done deal; and for every person born since, operating at a sufficiently low frequency (that of reason or below: 99% of all earth’s denizens therefore) there was no need to think any more about it. Hence many of us find ourselves in this strange world that denies our entire experience of life while at the same time it fails to explain it. We are then condemned to spend our lives acting ‘normal’. (And acting normal is, like anything else, easier the more you do it; so that’s okay.)

But subjectivity is a vast fact of human life that due to its intrinsic quality, is invisible to ourselves. Sometimes it’s more visible to others, usually when their frequency (I’m sorry to use that word, it’s very new-age and I don’t like it, but it’s close enough that it’s useful) is higher than ours. And that person probably feels a little compassion when they see it, or maybe they know to cross the road when they see it. (In the opposite direction of course, the person with low consciousness sees high consciousness concerns as ridiculous, stupid.)

But whatever your level of consciousness, subjectivity is a blind spot. Unless you’re a great enlightened one that is. Maybe if we could get into the inner workings of subjectivity we could get around it somehow; nullify it, or at least ameliorate its worst effects, but even understanding it is nigh on impossible because it gets into the great mystery of the human condition, and such explorations have defeated the greatest minds in human history. The ones that weren’t astrologers at least.

Astrology gives us a glimpse into the secret heart of our own subjectivity. In fact, as we all know – those of us who haven’t reasoned the study of the stars into nonsense that is, (in pretty much every case forgoing actual study of course) – astrology can be a weapon if wielded by a clumsy hand. It’s possible to lay bare the unconscious soul to the shock and detriment of the consciousness within. We have all of us, in our serious study, been subject to painful revelation, that with unerring accuracy lays bare our raw and unhappy weakness. Our ‘fatal flaw’. This kind of subjectivity is one that we become increasingly aware and respectful of, as we study the workings of our own incarnation and struggle to become acquainted with our true selves. It brings us to greater and lesser certainty. We are more grounded. We are less pushy. We understand that opinion is our own via dolorosa, and we try to forge a new path. We grow in this way, and become acquainted with who we are.

The alternative is difficult, but as roads go, it’s positively thronged. The countless multitude asleep to their astrology, and blind to themselves. The great map of (un)consciousness that is the nativity remains unexplored. Each well-worn aspect remains to one extent or another, something between a preference and a compulsion. Always unquestioned. It’s difficult to explain this too, because it’s so very fundamental and intrinsic and innate. For most people it’s as invisible as breathing. We rarely get the inclination to relate to our respiration. The same is true of our astrology, our preference or compulsion. Perhaps, like breathing, we only get very focused on it when we’re drowning. In adversity we are introduced to ourselves after all.

Perhaps an example will help.

Take the case of the greatest and most difficult of all compulsions / preferences. The Saturn Pluto conjunction. Here we introduce the second great invisible: Pluto. To see how this operates, understand that we’re usually quite conscious of aspects to the Sun because they represent our ideal way of being. We get a hit from them. People who embody them become our role models. But Pluto works the other way; they represent our most repressed way of being. We get a sense of anxiety from them. People who embody them become our enfants terrible. So when Pluto combines with another planet, he hides that planet’s influence from ourselves. He makes that paradigm into a blind spot. And since, aside from Pluto and his Hadean counterparts (Orcus, Ixion) there’s no more inflexible, tricky energy to work with than Saturn, the combination is especially challenging. Furthermore, because there’s no aspect that even comes close to the conjunction in terms of strength and reach, it’s little wonder that Saturn conjunct Pluto has always been known as old ‘hard labour’ by those in the know.

But what is ‘hard labour’ when it’s in our blind spot? It’s not hard for us because we don’t see it. In fact, it’s simply unquestioned. It has several manifestations of course, but usually, and most apparently it comes across as judgement. For anyone born in the early part of 1947, ( but to a lesser extent from late 46 to late 47, in Leo) or the later part of 1982 ( and again less intensely from early 1981 to early 83, in Libra), this is their great life challenge.

I grew up in close proximity to some of these energies, so I’ve always found them challenging. And I grew up too carrying the antithetic superpower of Uranus conjunct Pluto in Virgo, so Saturn-Pluto has always been my kryptonite – and vice versa of course. But that awareness has grown into a fine sensitivity. I can spot 1947 a mile off. I have to say, I’m getting to be able to spot 1982 from at least half a mile now that they’ve gone through their first Saturn return too. It’s a really tricky energy. I’m not going to judge it, God forbid, it is what it is. But I do reserve the right to cross the road when I see it coming. Which isn’t to say that it cannot be wonderful. Indeed, 1947 is usually a very strong character and you can think them very fine – provided you’re on the right side of them!

But what happens with Saturn – Pluto is that it judges. It doesn’t start that way, but it usually takes a position which it considers to be inviolate. It can take many forms but (unsurprisingly) it’s a Saturn position. So it’s always, in some sense of the word, status orientated, usually that’s coloured by its sign and house position and the influence of other aspects. In Leo, a proud, theatrical and highly religious sign (yes, few signs are as religious as Leo) it might take a position as high status in the arts. It might get onto the high ground through church membership. It might get up onto the stage and put on a show. It might take a leadership position. It’s important to remember that astrology is expressed through consciousness; so if the consciousness is low, you’re likely to have a religious zealot, looking down their nose at morally inferior types. Or a great artist whose rarefied talents set them above the plebeians. Or a self-proclaimed leader, blithely taking charge of those better qualified and more experienced.

In Libra, there is usually a tendency toward intellectual judgement. At worst, other people are deluded ‘idiots’ who clearly have no clue about how the world works. They’re muddle headed, fatuous and weak minded. The competitiveness of Libra in the air element (that repressed Arien polarity) is always a strong feature of the Libra typology.

If the consciousness is high then things are less likely to be catastrophic, but in some area of life, the Saturn – Pluto conjunction always makes hard work to one extent or another, and that hardship is always self-inflicted.

Why should this be? The problem is that the tendency to judgement is so innate that it’s intrinsically unquestionable. To the bearer of this particular cross it’s as obvious as the sun in the sky, so how can it be anything other than correct? What the aspect fails to appreciate is that the worldview it has created is not the result of inviolate natural laws. Their platform of judgement is not infallible. Indeed, they were simply born with a burgeoning need to judge, but cannot see it as anything other than common sense so they do not even realise they are sitting in judgement.

Underneath the tendency to judgement lies a huge and compulsive insecurity. Remember that Pluto imbues any point it touches with anxiety. So if Pluto relates to Saturn in Leo, then the great fear is that the person is not loved (in Leo) and more broadly not respected. Saturn is a harsh critic at the best of times after all, but when he is hidden from oneself, there is a great unconscious reaction. And the major problem here is that this high level of respect is unconsciously craved, demanded even, without – very often – having been earned. The interpersonal feedback that Saturn – Pluto gets causes a short circuit. They get treated just like anybody else, not necessarily disrespected, but certainly not with the automatic deference the aspect secretly craves. So the ego goes into overdrive building a platform from which to be superior. Then, because for reason x.y or z they are in fact superior to most everyone, they can meet such indifference with the cool repose, or even contempt, it deserves.

This of course is just one example, and a bad case in prospect. The pity of this collusion between subjectivity and Plutonic compulsion is that it becomes impossible to forge the authentic self in the context of such mindlessness. And while we have focused here on the sole example of the Saturn – Pluto conjunction, the same principle operates in the presence of any contact between these planets, since as we know: all aspects are squares!

Furthermore, the two great invisibles have this effect on any planet that is contacted by Pluto. With Venus it is the need to be approved of that becomes invisible. With the Sun, the need to be admired. Coming to awareness of these hidden anxieties is painful and difficult. Some people will go to great lengths to avoid waking up to them. In such short term blissful ignorance lies long-term tragedy. Imagine living a whole life having done no work! And yet that is what the majority of us do, in order to preserve our dearest and most cherished compulsions.

More soon.

Hadean Times: the Rise and Fall of Rolf.


The rise and rise of Rolf Harris was always somehow improbable, and though his fall has only just begun, it makes an excellent study of how easy it is to fall into the trap of misplaced self-belief. Many of my generation are reeling somewhat from the news that Rolf Harris, whose cheerful, positive and uplifting manner is somehow keyed into the DNA of our childhoods, has turned out to be a fake. And it’s not so much that he was just a fake, because fakery is commonplace, but rather that his deception was so singularly spectacular.

One of the key lessons of a life of astrological study though has to be that our astrology only has negative power if we give ourselves away. This is as true for Rolf as it is for anyone else. While there is an element of fate in everyone’s nativity, that fate is predicated upon free will. That is to say, that it is the choices we make of our own free will that set the specific shade of karmic machinery in motion and lead us into difficulty, or into eventual emancipation. We choose to do right and despite the difficulties of our fate, we are eventually exonerated by life. We decide we can ‘get away’ with something, and we might for the rest of our days, but eventually, in this life or the next, we need to pay our dues.

So Rolf’s astrology hasn’t put him in prison, it was Rolf’s choices that did that. Having made the style of choice he did however, we can read the astrology and find the message in it, as clear as can be. And sure, innocent people get sent to prison too, and we can understand that as well, because we all get to pay our dues: in this life or the next…


Rolf Harris is a poster child for that Martian/Uranian blend that is so perfectly encapsulated in his Sun/Uranus conjunction. It’s fascinating to note that as a child, Rolf was a champion swimmer, being the junior backstroke champion (no mean feat in Australia incidentally). This Mars is surprisingly strong in the water, here in Pisces, and he is accidentally further dignified in the 1st, but ruled by a very difficult Neptune, detrimented in Virgo, weakened by retrogradation, and peregrine. This suggests that he was secretly very disappointed by his choice of marriage partner, and with Neptune opposing Eros 433, there was no sexual attraction. But Neptune also opposes Atropos 273, so it did not begin this way, but the attraction faded to be replaced by a critical, almost intellectual dissatisfaction. So a strong (very strong) Mars, giving a strong libido, squaring Jupiter – a real bed-hopper in the style of Zeus himself, ruled by a difficult Neptune that magnifies the idealism of the marital bedroom gone awry, gives a very difficult construct to carry on with.

One might wonder why he didn’t leave his wife. It may be that like many deviants, he needed the ‘cover’ of a healthy and functional relationship to act as a smokescreen for his dark dalliances, and though the marriage, for his wife Alwen was unhappy, she contemplated suicide in the1960s; ‘”I feel like killing myself, I am so bored,” she had written in her diary at the time, “My days are filled with such emptiness. Please take me away from here…” Rolf appeared to have no clue or awareness that his wife was struggling. To compound this impression, his daughter has described him as absent at home, a man who only came to life when the centre of attention out in the world. “As a child I got fed up with everyone going on and on about Dad because he was on telly and because they imagined he was painting paintings on my walls, being funny all the time. It simply wasn’t true – he was always busy, rushing off, giving his all to everyone else in the world.” A narcissist perhaps, but one content to mask his hard won reputation in the veneer of conventionality that a longstanding, stable marriage confers. Clues to narcissism can often be gleaned from the placement of Ixion, who delineates the areas and the styles of personal entitlement. Once again, Ixion, like Neptune is peregrine, conjunct Atlantis 1198. This gives a style of narcissism, if one can call it so, that invades the privacy and sexual boundaries of others (+Atlantis, in the 8th house). It operates secretly, covertly, and peregrine: it’s either full on or completely absent.

Then there is Orcus, remarkably also peregrine, in Taurus and only 16 minutes from conjunction with IC. Rolf is worth an estimated £11 million, and this is very much in keeping with the motivated style of Orcus in Taurus, where Orcus is angular or powerfully configured with the chart, to accrue wealth. The same can be said for those with Orcus in the 2nd house or intertwined with Venus in some way. What’s more telling is the placement on the IC, which with the 4th is strongly redolent of end of life qualities. It seems likely that Rolf might well die in prison. At the very least this describes someone whose final days are spent in isolation. Whether he survives incarceration or not seems beside the point, he will have very few ‘admirers’ to call round should he pay his debt to society in full and be sent home. Once again, the style of that rather fearsomely angular Orcus is entirely dictated by Rolf’s choices. A life of respectability and admiration is nothing if it is hiding a cruel, unsavoury truth, and Orcus finds out the bodies given time. Had he made healthy choices, his final isolation would most likely have been splendid and dignified.

With Pluto squaring Venus and opposed by Saturn, Rolf was destined to come up against insurmountable authoritarian forces at some time or other. His compulsive attractions were the trigger for that hopeless conflict and now with Pluto ruling his Midheaven, and Orcus opposing from the IC, he must die alone, with his lifetime’s efforts unspun and his seemingly untouchable reputation in ruins.

It’s a hard road for those blighted by the judgements of the Hadean planets, but once again we learn that while challenges, to success, wellbeing and reputation are inevitable, suffering is merely optional, and all that is required to see your way clear is to do the right thing, even if nobody is watching.

A Change of Perspective


With the inconjunct and semi-sextile, you have aspects that are vaguely out of tune with one another. Planets that are 150° apart are awkward, and whilst the aspect creates a desire for connection, there is an discomfort, and a vague clumsiness surrounding the association. They’re like strangers thrown together on a blind date, both hoping it will work out, but a little anxious and uneasy with the process. The semi-sextile is a little easier, it’s a superficially harmonious aspect that still suffers from some awkwardness because in both cases, these measures of astrological association don’t have much in common. Planets in these aspects are inherently self-conscious.

This ought to be self-evident, and I’m writing today about awkward sign combinations not because I want to explore the dynamics of basic aspectual complexes, but rather I want to explore a phenomenon that is relatively unaddressed in astrology, but which is of almost critical importance in understanding the arc of human life, and the subjective experience of ‘beingness.’ Sounds pretty dramatic, right? Well, it is, and it affects every person in profound ways, and indeed, it is the cause of much difficulty in life, so it deserves considerably more attention in the astrological press than it currently receives.

What I’m referring to is the phenomenon of progressed sign change. This is the principle whereby every planet moves on the day for a year system, and gradually moves through the extremes of its birth placement until it finds itself in new territory. It is my firm belief that this shift of core astrological principle is rather profound and has undoubtedly far-reaching consequences. This shift is also entirely under-emphasised in the contemplation of inner drives and motivations, and an exploration of these ‘shifts’ is essential to the good understanding of oneself, and of one’s study subjects.

The most easily accessed of all sign-shifts is that of the Sun. And because the progressed system operates on a day for a year ratio, it’s also the easiest to gauge, since you can assume that your progressed Sun moves about a degree every year. That’s not 100% reliable because the earth’s transit about the Sun isn’t perfectly circular, it is vaguely elliptical, so the progressed Sun may move fractionally faster or slower than the mean, but even so, a degree for a year is a good rule of thumb. So if you’re born on July 1st and you’re 30 years old, you can rely on the estimation that your progressed Sun will be in the region of 10° Leo.

Which means that at around the age of 20, (give or take a year or two), your Sun began to shift from a lunar-focused paradigm, to an entirely solar outlook. The implications are many and diverse. Not least because the Sun gains enormous power at age 20, but also because one’s entire way of being undergoes a radical change of focus. If the Cancer Sun is ruled by a second house Moon, then sentimentality around items from one’s past are incorporated into one’s identity. There is material connection to the past, both personal and historical. Security is found in the tangible, and you portray that worldview in your self-expression, such that you might become known for what you own, or what you value. And then at age 20, that changes. The shift of emphasis begins tentatively and slowly at around the age of 17, and ramps up exponentially until you find that you are somehow inwardly ‘replaced’ with new priorities, and it becomes like the shedding of a skin, or the post-larval emergence. You might feel bewildered by your former views and values and there is a period of adjustment. Fortunately, as the Sun moves gradually into the final degrees of the preceding sign, this process does occur by shades, and your consciousness is shaped gently until it is ready to emerge into the new paradigm, but it is this very gentleness which masks the often profound measure of the inner change.

And this in part is the reason why it is so interesting to contemplate the awkwardness of adjacent signs. A soul born into a Cancerian solar consciousness has to undergo a near incongruous change of perspective to accommodate an all-new Leonine identity. And when you contemplate this principle, it is easy to appreciate that there is no sign-change which is straightforward, since all adjacent signs are inherently contradictory.

The move from insular, private Cancer to attention seeking Leo is self-evidently discordant, but every shift contains these same vague antagonisms. Think of the shift from Jupiter ruled Sagittarius, to Saturn ruled Capricorn for example. Or from Mars ruled Aries, to Venus ruled Taurus. The movement is usually inherently revolutionary.

And as an addendum to these principles we should not lose sight of the fact that even after the shift, your essential nature still describes your ‘baseline’ of personal expression. A Cancerian will never abandon his or her lunar nature entirely in favour of the new exciting Leo dynamic. Rather it is incorporated into the totality of one’s personality, adding a new dimension to one’s individual nature. It is as though the lunar way alone is fully explored, it has run its course and something extra is desired. So the new Leonine ingredient is added to create a more serviceable (to oneself) melange.

The Moon moves relatively quickly, and every two and a half years there is similar shift of emphasis in the inner life that is usually quite simple to accommodate and discern: the Moon is by nature tidal, plastic, osmotic. The Sun, Mercury and Venus all follow a generally similar annual pattern, and so their progressed cycles are often analogous in terms of duration, although the action of retrogrades complicates their effects. As we move further out, the progression of planetary cycles becomes ever more ponderous and shifts are rare. But you can be sure they are quite profound when they do occur. Think how much weight Saturn will accrue when shifting from Sagittarius to Capricorn.

But these changes are often accrued gradually enough that they are not entirely noticeable, even if – with hindsight – it is possible to appreciate how fundamentally a person (yourself, someone else) has changed over a span of years. What is more drastic, and often shocking is the progressed retrogradation of an outer planet moving through the beginning degree of a sign and falling back into the preceding sign.

MLKThis is especially true for those born with Pluto retrograde in the early degrees of Libra, where Pluto is supremely potent. The subsequent shift into Virgo equates to an almost complete loss of Hadean force, virtually overnight. Technically there is some small overlap, but the first degree of a sign is so self-contained that very little of the preceding sign’s energy can infect it. This is certainly not true for the final degree of the sign, whose power is waning fast (both reasons why these are ‘critical degrees’). And since astrology does not operate in a vacuum, there is usually some corresponding loss of power (or a paradigm shift in the sense of personal control at least), to accompany the event.

Consider the Bee Gees. That’s not a joke, but Andy Gibb, died aged 30 – of a heart problem, as Pluto retrograded to within 5 minutes of the sign boundary with heart-centred Leo. The enormous and relatively sudden increase in Plutonic force could not be processed by his soul in a timely fashion, so that energy found its way out through the body, as any overwhelming Hadean energy is wont to do eventually, if not catharsised in some way. Or consider Martin Luther King who became a martyr just as Neptune retrograded out of Virgo (where Neptune struggles immensely) and into Leo (where Neptune is astonishingly strong). And furthermore, King delivered his seminal “I have a dream” speech within 6 weeks of the sign change. But while these cases are dramatic, and far from the norm, nonetheless, the shift of sign by progression cannot be underestimated. It will in every case have powerful effects upon the inner life, and almost certainly have some influence on behaviour and motivation, thus affecting the outer life also.

The Power of Gentians

Dark, shadowy, little understood; the Hadeans, even under the most intense scrutiny, give away almost nothing of their true nature. Pluto, the best known of the Triumvirate of the Underworld, is so fundamentally dimensioned that despite countless studies and analyses, we cannot ever be sure if we have truly burrowed to his dark essence. Like the moles of his domain, we strain the blind senses to glean some of his hidden truth and esoteric meaning, but we are still never truly confident that we have understood. His magisterial shadows are too pitch. His seismic growl, too profound. This is the nature of Hades. Mysterious, fundamental, terrifying. But also rewarding.


Rewarding because Pluto is the death of form and attachment. Unrealised Pluto is characterised by insatiability. No amount is ever enough. Hence Plutocrats never cease in their quest to amass greater and more superfluous wealth. Serial philanderers never sate their appetite for sexual conquest. For unrealised Pluto, a little control will not suffice. All of these dark appetites are insatiable, thus those in Pluto’s thrall are slaves to their appetites. They destroy their inner harmony, and that of those around them, through their compulsive quest for satisfaction, and yet they cannot be satisfied. The Plutocrat’s wealth does not soothe his restless discontent. He grasps and plots and lives in misery. The compulsively promiscuous do not bask in the warm afterglow of intimacy. They are already craning their necks to spy the next target of their cold attachment. The control-freak, having got her way, does not relax into quietude. She raises the pitch and having secured one concession demands another. None of these unhappy individuals, for all their successes and victories are ever in a state of appreciative reward. Feeding their appetite is never gratifying. It is at best a momentary relief, akin to walking around for an hour in shoes that are a size too small with the sole, illogical motivation of taking them off in order that they might experience the cessation of continual, cramping discomfort. And after a moment of blessed relief, they go back on.

Pluto transformed however, kills attachment. And therein is the true reward. The ability to ‘let go and let God’ is Pluto’s greatest and most hard-won gift. This is the Hadean reward.

Attachment, in all its forms, to the material, to outcomes, to our very lives is the Hadean arena, and to contend with attachment is to do battle with the dread Lord Hades himself.

D.H. Lawrence knew Hades:

Not every man has gentians in his house
in Soft September, at slow, Sad Michaelmas.

Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime torchlike with the smoking blueness of Pluto’s gloom,
ribbed and torch-like, with their blaze of darkness spread blue
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto’s dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter’s pale lamps give off light,
lead me then, lead me the way.

Reach me a gentian, give me a torch
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of a flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness,
even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness is awake upon the dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice
or a darkness invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms Plutonic, and pierced with the passion of dense gloom,
among the splendour of torches of darkness, shedding
darkness on the lost bride and her groom.

Perhaps it is only in the realm of poetry that we can truly grapple with the Hadean element with prescience, for it is here that the indescribable can be apportioned, fleshed out, dissected. Lawrence wrote a later version of this poem which contained a decidedly steamier final stanza:

Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of a flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness
down the way Persephone goes, just now, in first-frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness is married to dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice, as a bride
a gloom invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms of Pluto as he ravishes her once again
and pierces her once more with his passion of the utter dark
among the splendour of black-blue torches, shedding
fathomless darkness on the nuptials.

This is possibly the finest modern work of poetry on the fundamental quality of Hades that we know. The insights are not stark, nor are they cerebral. Instead, they are sensual, osmotic. What is also interesting is that Lawrence originally titled this work “Glory of Darkness”, and he wrote it knowing that he would, one day soon, die of the tuberculosis which had plagued him for much of his life [1].

The poet William Bryant understood the underlying spiritual message of gentians:

Thou waitest late and com’st alone,
When woods are bare and birds are flown,
And frost and shortening days portend,
The aged year is near his end…

…I would that thus when I shall see
The hour of death draw near to me…

So we see that there are motifs that reflect in their very being the fundamental truth of a thing. The power of Hades is too subtle, too profound, too deep to be captured in the mind. Consciousness has no intellectualising paradigm for the shadow. But the simplest device can encapsulate this strange essence, a gentian for example[2], and effortlessly portray a meaning that words and thoughts flounder around and fail.

So understanding this, we can begin to raise up a mechanism, a scrying device which will allow us to glimpse through a shadowy, enriching lens, the deepest workings of our human soul. And seeing the tumblers and levers laid bare, we are gifted the method of shamans and witches, and can at last begin to transmute the spirit within.

That is the power of gentians.

He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough – Lao Tzu.

[1] The Last Poems of D.H.Lawrence: Shaping a Late Style. Dr. Bethan Jones, Ashgate 2010 p.37

[2] The gentian violet was named for Gentius, King of Illyria, who used the flower in a tonic to battle depression.