Pretty thankful

Posted by & filed under Seasonal Essays, Transits.

Last weekend was a turning point, wasn’t it? The news has been full of strange outbreaks of violence; in my little corner of the universe, I’ve heard several stories of couples who had really serious arguments – full-scale battles – over the weekend.

And yet somehow, miraculously, I received a sort of reprieve from my own violent emotions. I sang at a supper for a local peace coalition, and came away from a nice evening of soup and wise words and kind people with the sense that the world has not gone uniformly mad after all. It’s a feeling of well-being that’s stayed with me over the past few days, even as I struggle to stamp out the many pre-Mercury Rx bonfires breaking out around me. Somehow, I gave up the burden of feeling that the weight of the world was on me alone, that I had to make people change and save the world. Getting together with a group of like-minded people, I felt enormous relief.

Today the Sun squared Uranus, and the mounting tension of the weekend is well described by this aspect. For those who are feeling agitated but could not find a release valve of like-minded people, perhaps the pressure just built and built until it had to explode – in some cases, via their cell phones.

I’ll be hitting the highways early tomorrow, a reluctant freeway pilgrim, to share the Thanksgiving holiday with my siblings and their families. It’s a tough time for us, since we are far from agreed about the things that are wrong with the world, and the best way to fix them. Three weeks ago I was tempted to blow the whole thing off this year, for the first time ever. But now, I’m glad I didn’t. Now I’m glad for the opportunity to sit and have a meal with the people who, for better or worse, are wedded to me through the bonds of birth. By this time tomorrow I may feel differently, but for now, I’m thankful for the cool weather and the good earth and the prospect of a big slab of pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Blessings to you all.

Mercury Rx and the Shadow Period

Posted by & filed under Mercury.

Is it just me, or are things already feeling kind of Mercury retrograde-ish, even though the next Mercury Rx period doesn’t begin until the 30th?

I’ve been noticing it for the past few days – everything takes at least one extra step that I didn’t anticipate. Well, maybe not everything, but lots of things. Especially computer things. Also, after an outbreak of ants late last month – our first serious one in this house, thanks for monthly ministrations by a pest control company – was seemingly subdued, the little bastards have started showing up again, in true retrograde fashion.

This can all be explained by the “shadow period” theory about retrograde cycles. It works like this. Mercury will turn retrograde on November 30, at 27 degrees Sagittarius. It will retrograde back to 10 degrees Sagittarius before turning direct again on December 19. So according to the shadow theory, we began to enter the pre-retrograde shadow period when Mercury hit 10 degrees of Sagittarius on November 11 – a degree sensitized by a foreshadowing of Mercury’s station there.

A similar shadow period is in effect on the other side of the retrograde. So after Mercury turns direct on December 19, it is said to be in another shadow period until it reaches 27 degrees – the degree where it turned retrograde. Which takes us into the early part of January 2005.

My MoonCircles colleague Pythia Peay, in her book Mercury Retrograde, Its Myth and Meaning writes,

The shadow periods preceding and following the twenty-one days of Mercury retrograde could be said to be like a wave that gradually rises, crests, then falls, melting back into the ocean.

That’s right, friends: surf’s up.

Mars in Scorpio: How sharper than a serpent’s tooth…

Posted by & filed under Transits.

Mars entered Scorpio last week and is currently squaring my natal Mercury… and of course, I started the day by charging into an argument on a message board, one where I almost never post comments. Now I feel pissed off and misunderstood. Ugh… when will I learn to check the transits before I start popping off?

Mars is strong in Scorpio, a sign it traditionally co-rules. In this sign, Mars gives us a mandate to cut, and ruthlessly; it is a measure of our strength and integrity whether we wield this placement of Mars as a compassionate surgeon, excising a cancer, or as a power-hunger warlord with a machete. Or, as I feel this morning, like a neophyte chef who has cut herself with a very sharp kitchen knife.

The optimism of uncertainty

Posted by & filed under Not Really Astrological.

This essay was passed on to me by my splendid sister-in-law in Australia. It was most comforting yesterday, when I was in the depths of despair ( which seems to be happening at least a couple of times a day), as was this note from an Australian reader:

Yes our world seems as if it’s slipping back into the days of religious persecution but my gut is telling me its like a wave of fear based fundamentalism on every level before the lightwave hits. Am I being the idealistic Pisces Ascendant too much?

Maybe, but I hope in this case that idealism is next to realism.

Summer Astrology: Behind the Wheel

Posted by & filed under Seasonal Essays.

by April Elliott Kent

When I was a kid, we spent several late-60s summers visiting my mother’s sister and her family in Los Angeles. After school let out for summer vacation, my brothers and sister and I would pile into the back of our Oldsmobile station wagon with a stash of science fiction novels, comic books, Spirographs, snack foods, pillows, and blankets to keep us occupied over the long, three and a half day haul across country from our home in Indiana to southern California.

The best part of the trip was staying in small motels in remote towns along Interstate 40 with exotic names like Tucumcari, Amarillo, and Flagstaff. These motels had large, neon signs and shimmering swimming pools that looked absolutely enchanting after a long, hot day of staring at steaming, never-ending blacktop. I don’t remember ever actually swimming in one of those pools, though; we usually ended the driving day with just enough time to have a fast-food dinner and watch a little TV before turning in early, so we could get up before dawn to hit the road again.

Daybreak was the very best time of day. We’d check out of the motel before dawn and drive for a couple of hours, dad and mom quiet in front, kids dozing in the back, stirring to watch the sky gradually transition from inky to crimson to pale blue. Then, just after sunup, we would pull over for pancakes and hash browns at some greasy-spoon, truckstop diner.

I loved those trips, loved being on the road, jostling along for days at a time; it was like being on a cruise. What luxury, to be in a small contained space for days at a time with nothing to do but munch Cheetos, read great literature like “The Adventures of Tweety and Sylvester,” and fight with your sister. When you’re young you instinctively feel safe with someone else, someone you trust, behind the wheel. All you have to do is sit back and entertain yourself while the world drifts by, filling you with a sense of adventure and endless possibilities as wide as the big desert sky. (more…)

Full Moon in Taurus: Los Dias de los Muertos

Posted by & filed under Full Moon, Scorpio, Taurus.

This article was originally published at in November 2001.

losdiasSan Diego, where I live, is a long way from New York; but every day I think about that huge, smoldering mass grave on the southern tip of Manhattan.  It’s a horror even from this distance; I can only vaguely imagine what it would be like to be living there.  Some believe spirits need their bodies to have a proper burial before they can be at peace, but it’s possible that’s just something that the living need in order to put death to rest.  In any event that beautiful city, normally such a jewel in autumn, must be a shattered place now, a tortured place, heavy with a spirit of reluctant and sudden death.

My culture is generally ill at ease with death. We are mostly ill equipped to mourn, and when we try to do it well meaning friends jump in to get us “back on track,” to urge us to go on with our lives as quickly as possible.But what makes us think that dealing with death is not a part of going on with life?  To be preoccupied with death to the exclusion of celebrating life is nonsense – but then, so is denial of death.  This Full Moon, when the Sun in Scorpio representing the inevitability of death and decay dances with the Moon in Taurus, representing the abundance of life, we’re reminded again that each of these is one side of the same coin, incomplete without the other. We see the call and response of life and death in agriculture, in the lunar phases, in the seasons: Life carries a price tag of eventual death, but death is arguably just a doorway to another kind of life.  That’s not always a comforting thought when it’s your loved one who has died, or when you are facing death yourself; but it does seem to be the way the world works.

America was an interesting place to be in the month immediately following the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Even for someone like me who lives 3000 miles away and didn’t lose anyone I knew in those attacks, the assault on my sense of security felt very much like losing someone close to you:  Shock, disbelief, depression, rage, disorientation, terrible loss. We huddled around our televisions, posted messages on Usenet groups, talked about the events incessantly; that’s what you do after a loss.  That’s part of working through the grief.  And for once, because everyone was grieving together, no one was rushing anybody through the process.  For once, we all understood together exactly what everyone else was feeling.

It’s been an unusual time. Yet interestingly, given our usual discomfort with death, Halloween has been growing in popularity for years; it’s now second only to Christmas in popularity among American holidays.  Its origin is sketchy – it seems to be descended from a Celtic harvest festival that honored the lord of the dead, brought to North America by the Irish. (Halloween seems to be celebrated primarily in North America, Britain, Ireland, and the Philippines.)  The emphasis of our modern American celebration of Halloween is on fear, and primarily geared toward children, who wear “scary” costumes and go door to door “threatening” adults into giving them candy.  It’s also the favored season for movie studios launching big budget horror films filled with gore and nasty surprises.  The Halloween “season,” once a single night, now is stretched out to encompass as much time as possible in order to facilitate consumerism, so for several weeks each October, American invokes death and the supernatural with a weird incantation of innocuous fantasy, grisly horror, and candy corn. This feels, especially in light of September 11, a rather inadequate way in which to acknowledge death.

In soulful contrast, Mexicans observe Los Días de los Muertos (the Days of the Dead) on November 1 and 2 – days when those who have passed away are imagined to be allowed to return to earth to visit with their families and friends.  Ceremonies and festivals honor those who have died, and bring focus to the other aspects of the life cycle: fertility and life. Los Días de los Muertos are traditionally celebrated by cleaning and decorating the cemetery, creating special flower wreaths, making calaveras (skulls made of sugar), and selling items for the ofrendas, altars made of offerings to the dead to assure continuity of life.  In the Mexican tradition, those who are dead provide a connection between the living and God and the Saints.

Recently I listened to an interview with a photographer who is creating a photographic legacy of the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse. He spends each day at Ground Zero, recording the light and textures of the effort — his ofrenda is a camera on a tripod.  A friend of mine, a writer and filmmaker in New York, published on his website a marvelous essay about the week following the attacks and some remarkable footage he’d shot; his computer, his videocamera, and his website are his ofrendas.

Whether you build a traditional altar or create one through your art, this Full Moon, on the night we celebrate Halloween, is an extraordinary opportunity to acknowledge both death and the continuity of life with an ofrenda of your own.  For mine,  I’ll be visiting my favorite Mexican bakery for sweets, and buying fresh apples and the most beautiful marigolds (the flowers of the dead) for my mantel.  I have my eye on some little calacas (skeleton dolls) to commemorate my personal loved ones on the other side — my abuelos, my padres, my hermano, my tía.  I’ll light candles, build the first fire of the season in the fireplace, and play some of my very favorite music.  And I’ll open up the windows and invite the Full Moon onto my altar while I dance with my loved ones, living and dead, and with the beloved dead I never knew, who dance thousands of miles away on the ofrendas of New York.

© 2001 April Elliott Kent

Eclipses: Defending Your Life

Posted by & filed under Eclipses, Learning Astrology.

by April Elliott Kent

defending Albert Brooks’ gently amusing film Defending Your Life presents a vision of the afterlife in which the newly deceased are sent to Judgment City, a sort of cosmic Ellis Island where each spends four days in court viewing days from his or her life, defending the choices and decisions made on earth and examining his progress in overcoming his fears. A person who led a fairly fearful life might examine events from as many as twelve or fifteen days of his life, while the relatively fearless might only look at a few days. A defense lawyer helps the deceased “defend” his life, while a prosecuting attorney points out his most serious miscalculations. Finally, two judges rule whether he “moves on” or returns to earth to try to get a better handle on his fears.

Brooks, as we soon see through the filmed excerpts from his life, was fairly ineffectual at mastering his fears in life. His troubles continue in Judgment City, where he falls in love with the radiant and fearless Meryl Streep but limits his involvement with her out of fear he’s not “good enough” for her. It soon becomes obvious that even his own death was not enough to persuade Brooks to live his (after)life to the fullest! (more…)