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When the Molasses Levee Breaks
Last week we began our study of the history of Saturn in Leo, in response to hundreds of questions on the subject in recent months. I have to say, I had no clue what this transit was about until I looked at history, copiously researched by Michele Perrin in Paris. This edition of Astrology Secrets Revealed will continue looking at the subject from a historical perspective, which we can then slowly bring down to the personal level. Many of the same metaphors will hold up well on both the personal and cultural level.
Based on reading my email and somewhat on my own emotional responses to this change, I want to caution against doom and gloom approaches to Saturn transits, or any transits. Many of the letters coming in are pretty fearful. Some astrologers are delivering Saturn in Leo as specifically bad news, which we could all do without. Prediction is a creative process.
So, let's stay calm, and create. And for astrology devotees, if you're going to find a commitment to constructive and positive ways to work with this transit, you're going to find it on Cainer.com.
Every planet that moves in our charts presents challenges, rewards and opportunities. But planets are not anonymous actors with no agenda. Planets have names, and stories, and we have relationships with them that last all our lives. If you follow astrology, you're developing that relationship and you may want to do it as consciously as possible. Astrology is rather different when you see a transit and you understand it in terms of a lifelong process and a committed relationship with growth, on that particular planet's terms. When trouble comes, it usually comes from deliberately snubbing a process or experience we know is necessary or timely.
We bring our creativity and our intentions to the process of every astrological event, and every other event for that matter. Far from being helpless in the face of transits, they present us with information and energy, which we have the opportunity to evaluate and use.
I believe the real issue with transits and why they are so troublesome is that most people are not so often introspective enough to see that the process of taking over our lives comes as a series of decisions. These decisions are based on what we feel, where we find ourselves, and what we decide we want. We don't exactly have total control; but we have a lot of latitude in what we decide and in how we respond to both inner and outer circumstances. In fact, that's about all the control we have. Once we give up that ability to notice and decide, that's a situation called being powerless. And once we notice that, we have some power back.
Saturn is a planet that wants us to maintain awareness and take action. Saturn says work with your limits, work with them and work right to the edge of them. And then develop them. Saturn demands maturity. If we really do Saturn well, we begin to personally take over all those roles of controlling surrogate parents (inner voices of parents, including deceased parents; spouses functioning in parental roles; 'god'; bosses acting like parents or deities; and every form of a 'should' that we 'should' or 'should not' do). Saturn on one level represents those people, and those inner voices, which strive to control us; and on another level -- the more important one -- it represents personal mastery.
History provides many examples of this, though if you check your Saturn transits your life will as well. We've checked the last four Saturn in Leo cycles, spanning nearly a century of astonishing change in the world (1887-1889, 1916-1919, 1946-1948 and 1975-1978). The first two cycles were covered last week, along with other introductory material, and a proper introduction to Saturn in Leo with much background was posted a month ago -- it's linked from last week's edition.
The most interesting pattern I noticed was that of dams bursting. This is a good example of an astrological metaphor at work. Think of Saturn in Cancer as a massive structure holding back a lot of water. Cancer is a water sign and Saturn represents structures, such as a dam. Then when Saturn goes into Leo, it releases its energy, turns into a fiery planet, and the structure that was holding back all that emotion or energy lets go.
Though it was not funny at the time, the most curious of these dam bursts was the spill of 2.3 million gallons of molasses (raw sugar syrup) when a cistern broke in Boston one day in January 1919, killing a bunch of people (chart and discussion posted last week). Saturn in Cancer certainly does have that feeling of emotional molasses, doesn't it? Remember those fabulous antiwar protests back in early 2003? That was Saturn in Gemini: ideas, balance, depth and action. Where did that energy go? Why have the people been slogging along as the war has gotten worse and worse?
The second really interesting pattern during Saturn in Leo is countries gaining independence, particularly small ones. The list is really long, and I'll continue it in the two later cycles I'm about to cover in today's column (there's a list of countries from the first two cycles we covered last week).
The third pattern was women's rights, in particular, voting rights, and even Susan B. Anthony had her first women's rights congress during Saturn in Leo. In country after country, from the Netherlands to the United States, women gained the vote under Saturn in Leo. There is something about this transit that (often enough) encourages people to stand up for their rights.
Now, just to check in with tradition, I pulled a book off my shelf this morning -- "The General Principles of Astrology" by Aleister Crowley with Evangeline Adams. As you might expect from an astrology book, it does not have good things to say about Saturn in Leo, on the grounds that the hot, bright, and sanguine (blood-like) quality of Leo would be suppressed by the structured and somewhat cool nature of Saturn.
I won't get into the gory details of their theory, and I would note that the writers are talking about natal astrology (a theory I still don't like because it's rather dead-end), but the statements seems to fly in the face of everything we actually see under Saturn in Leo. Except for one thing, and it's not a small thing: if we're not careful, Saturn in Leo is going to harden our hearts, on a wide cultural level, and as individual. As you'll see, the one that most of us remember, 1975-1978, was good times for the most part. The music was incredible. There was the hope of progress in the world. But there was a rejection of the peace and love values of the 1960s and early 1970s as no longer cool.
And then came Reagan. And Maggie Thatcher. And they did not come out of nowhere. And for the most part, their ghosts and agendas still linger. And this political and social shift to the right also followed the 1946-1948 transit of Saturn in Leo. Political shifts in this direction are based on things like fear, overdoing the concept of individuality, and pride. In measured doses, these are important psychological factors. But not heaped on endlessly.
The period after the Second World War came with a huge number of innovations in culture and technology. All that energy that had been bogged down in the war came surging out once the war ended -- in the United States, that is. Americans need to know that it was VERY hard times in England for a LONG time after the war. Rationing continued for years. This is partly because England was bombed to rocks in many places, and partly because it did not have the resources to pull out of the ground that the United States has, simply because it's a smaller and older country.
In both societies, people took advantage of the last year of Saturn in Cancer (through Aug. 1946, the first 12 months after the war) to stay home and make a lot of babies; there was a baby boom that began and lasted through the 1960s (though in my mind, the "baby boom era" ends for astrological purposes with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, which begins a new mini-era or brief generation that lasts till the Kennedy assassination).
In 1946, there were the Nuremburg trials of Nazis. This was a truly monumental moment in world history, when the (very nearly) whole story came out about what happened in Germany between 1933 and 1945. The Americans tried 185 Nazis for genocide, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and other war crimes, in a process that extended from October 1946 through April 1949. (American companies and their executives were not put on trial for doing business with the Nazis during the war, and there are many on that list.)
U-S-History.com writes, "Many defendants who took the stand tried to put their actions in as positive a light as possible. The majority of the defendants claimed to know little or nothing of the existence of concentration camps, while others testified that the concentration camps were necessary to preserve order."
I think that the most important development to come out of the trials was the banning of what's called the "Nuremberg Defense." A person on trial for crimes against humanity cannot testify that they were "just following orders," which was the primary defense used by Nazi war criminals -- a defense that was rejected by the court. Troops are only obliged to follow lawful orders from their superior officers. But this, of course, is tricky territory, as we're seeing in the Iraq torture scandals.
So with Saturn in Leo, we see some cleanup, or at least adjudication, of the mess created with Saturn in Cancer, which was definitely a peak phase of the atrocities of the war. Notably, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit with atomic bombs in 1945, during Saturn in Cancer -- which has long been considered some kind of "good deed" because it allegedly ended the war. America has always excelled at public relations.
In 1946 (under Saturn in Leo), there was the first meeting of the United Nations. Women's voting rights were granted in Belgium, Romania, Yugoslavia, Argentina and Quebec.
Also in 1946, there were the first drive-up teller windows, and Tupperware came on the market.
The following year, 1947, brought many more changes that we're still living with today. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) began to operate. The CIA was founded, as well as the Deptartment of Defense (a carryover from the Department of War, with an innocent new name), as well as the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Not only that, GATT and the World Trade Organization were founded.
Pakistan, India and New Zealand gained independence. The Brits withdrew from Palestine.
There was the first computer virus. Hmmm. They turned out to be persistent enough. And Chuck Yeagar broke the sound barrier -- an interesting image of a dam breaking; in this case, a kind of imaginary dam because there is really no barrier at the speed of sound. (The story of that first flight is recounted in "The Right Stuff" by Tom Wolfe, which is worth reading.)
In June 1947, the first UFO was seen, and a month later there was the Roswell crash -- the alleged crash of an alien space ship in Roswell, New Mexico, which I personally believe is a true story.
The transistor was invented; this one invention has made every single electronic thing you see possible. The first commercial transistorized product was a hearing aid. A transistor radio finally hit the market in 1954, but failed; the next year, a Sony transistor radio was a commercial success.
The transistor is an interesting Saturn in Leo metaphor. One definition says transistors are "tiny electrical devices that can be found in everything from radios to robots. They have two key properties: 1) they can amplify an electrical signal and 2) they can switch on and off, letting current through or blocking it as necessary."
They provide structure (Saturn) to energy (Leo). And the enduring quality of the invention is 100% Saturn in Leo. Integrated circuits are comprised largely of many transistors (today, tens of thousands per chip or more). So the invention of the transistor persists to this day, one of many inventions during Saturn in Leo that is utterly and entirely ubiquitous. This is, apparently, the best time to file your patents. We saw this with many developments in the previouis two cycles as well -- inventions that last, including George Eastman patenting roll film and the invention of movies.
The first microwave oven came out during the 1940s Saturn in Leo cycle (talk about something that's everywhere), and a wave of technological developments and inventions appeared that some have speculated were really based on back-engineering components of the recovered alien ship at Roswell; others say this is an obscenely ridiculous notion.
On the list of things we know for sure is that Jackie Robinson, the grandson of a slave, became the first black Major League Baseball player when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers (go Brooklyn!). This is another example of a dam breaking.
Let's look at Jackie's chart. It's a beautiful example of Saturn in Leo, both natal and under transit:
Note that Jackie was born with Saturn in Leo rising -- as strong as it can be. (Look at the left horizontal line to see this placement.) He had Leo in the ascendant, and Saturn in Leo, and he's born quite close to the moment of Saturn rising. It's one of the most prominent planets in his chart. He began to play in the big leagues at the time of his Saturn return, when Saturn came back to its natal position and close to when it was also crossing his ascendant.
He has a thunderbolt of Aquarius to go with all that Leo: an exact Sun/Moon conjunction in Aquarius (born at the New Moon) as well as a Uranus-Venus conjunction. That's a lot of Aquarius and it was certainly a given that he was going to make a unique contribution to the world. So with Saturn in his Leo ascendant we get the image of a person with incredible strength of character. With the Sun (ruler of Leo) in Aquarius, we get an inventive, populist, pioneering figure who’s not afraid to be different. It's the perfect blend of Leo and Aquarius.
Note Jupiter conjunct Pluto, the golden spiritual thread connecting all people and all faiths, in the 11th house -- signaling a major public contribution, indeed, one rarely paralleled in the history of civil rights. Here's a little from his biography, courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library. It's really something amazing and speaks to the strength of character this man possessed and set as an example for the world.
"In 1945, Robinson signed a contract to play for a Dodgers farm team, the Montreal Royals. Many owners and sportswriters were against this. They thought bringing blacks into the league would destroy major league baseball.
"At first it was very difficult. During spring training in Florida, Robinson had to ride in the back of the bus, and some games were even canceled because he was playing. Even so, he was a great player and when Rickey wanted to move him up to the Dodgers, even though a petition was passed around the players trying to ban him from playing, hardly anyone signed it.
"Things didn't get any easier though. The St. Louis Cardinals threatened to go on strike. Pitchers often threw the ball directly at Robinson, base runners tried to spike him, and people called him all sorts of bad names. He even received hate mail, death threats, and warnings that his baby boy would be kidnapped. But, gradually, the fans and players realized how good he was at baseball. They started coming just to see him play."
Jackie's life did not end well. Though he was a hero, he was not offered a coaching gig when he retired. He suffered from diabetes, which is often about a lot of internalized anger. And he died heartbroken after the death of his son, Jackie Jr.
Of the many developments of 1948, the founding of the state of Israel stands out. This, too, was a development that came on the heels of the Holocaust.
One of the characteristics of Israel is its extreme state of polarization with its neighbors, which we see any time an underdog is given rights, and which is a signature of Saturn in Leo.
But it's an enduring kind of polarization, as if there is energy created or harvested in the conflict. On the political level, though, it's clear that Israel has functioned in many ways as a heavily subsidized client state of the United States, and it's unlikely that it would have survived otherwise, confronted with the unmitigated hostility that it faced and continues to face. But this extremely strong character (with no particular value judgment on 'strength') is characteristic of the Saturn in Leo placement. And of course Israel could stand to be a little more compassionate. So we must mark that as a mark of Saturn in Leo as well: the need and responsibility to be compassionate, and perhaps a fear of kindness.
As somewhat important side notes, this Saturn in Leo cycle brought the opening of Idlewild (later JFK) airport, now one of the great portals to the New World; as well as the end of segregation in the US armed services, and a peacetime draft.
Also in this cycle:
* Nigeria gains limited autonomy
I think what we need to say here is that the world we now live in, the "Post World War II World," is essentially a creation of Saturn in Leo. This is when the basic pattern was cast: particularly the creation of a permanent national security ("military industrial") state (ultimately encoded in a document called NSC 68, on April 14, 1950, with Saturn in Virgo). There was the beginning of the Cold War and the incredible polarization that characterized the next 60 years, and which is certainly taking chilling turns as we watch live on television today.
The Most Recent Cycle
This brings us to the latest cycle, September 1975 through July 1978. What many of us old enough to remember will remember about this time is the music. This was the era of the second British Invasion, when punk rock and new wave were born and saved us from the sloth of much of 70s hit music.
I'll get to the music in a moment. Let's look at world history.
The Bangiao Dam tragedy in China is reputed to have killed 20,000 people. According to an article by David Fedor, "The extent of the damage then remained a state secret. But Human Rights Watch/Asia discovered limited edition technical books and articles that suggest that tens of thousands of people died when sixty-two small- and medium-sized dams collapsed in Henan Province. The collapse of the biggest, Banqiao Dam, unleashed a wall of water that sped down the surrounding valleys and obliterated communities."
In 1975, South Australia became the first Australian state to decriminalize homosexuality. The next year, Anita Bryant started a Florida-based anti-gay campaign, "Save our Children." Voters in Florida voted to repeal a gay rights ordinance -- igniting waves of violence against gays in the US. Four teens killed a gay man in San Francisco shouting, "This one's for Anita Bryant," after which 200,000 gays marched in San Francisco.
This is a good example of the polarizing power of Saturn in Leo, and its activism, as well as its potential lack of compassion. Let's take a quick look at Anita Bryant's chart:
Notice the prominence of Leo in this chart, particularly the ascendant to begin with; if you have Leo rising and you don't try to stand out, something is not clicking.
But also, notice that Pluto in the first degree of Leo square Saturn in the first degree of Taurus: that square is called tension, and it's powerful inner tension that Anita projected at the world, with some grand results, in evolutionary style of Pluto.
Like Jackie Robinson, Anita came into prominence when Saturn was in her Leo ascendant. But unlike Jackie, she lacked the steadiness and true commitment of a natal Saturn in this sign, and unwittingly cast herself as an antihero. It is true that with all that Taurus so high in her 10th house she was committed to values, and leadership of values. But what ones? It does make a difference.
Yet Anita's anti-gay shenanigans did more for the gay movement than just about anything before her. She personally galvanized the movement, which among other things flexed its consumer muscles for the first time and boycotted orange juice, getting her tossed as the official spokesperson for that product.
Astrology students may note that with retrograde Mercury in her 8th house she was a kind of delusional retrograde spokesperson for sex, and that Uranus conjunct Venus in Taurus is rather erotic to say the least. This is a great chart, worth a whole article or class.
In other news, the Soviet-US Apollo-Soyuz space mission took place, commencing the era of international cooperation in space exploration. The test mission was in 1975 and the mission continued into the next year. So this is cusp territory rather than solid Saturn in Leo territory.
Similarly, in 1975 "Micro-soft" was coined by Bill Gates and became a trademark in 1976. This is further evidence that things that start or solidify under Saturn in Leo have amazing persistence and strength. Microsoft has in many respects taken over the world. Other examples of things that have taken over include the development of roll film, the Gramophone, and the invention of the motion picture -- plus the transistor and microwave, mentioned above. And in Leo style, they all have a fun component as well as that Saturn practical component.
In other computer news, the first laser printer was introduced by IBM, and the first super computer for commercial purposes was invented: Cray-1. Oh, and the Pong video game came out too.
Beginning a chilling and apparently enduring trend, in 1976 the US Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was okay if certain provisions were followed. On January 17, 1977, Gary Gilmore became the first persona legally executed in the United States since the death penalty was banned by the court in 1972. This happened so quickly because he refused to appeal his case.
The Irish Republican Army was outlawed in the UK.
And on the countries gaining independence list, we have:
* Mozambique gains independence
Then, newborn East Timor was invaded by Indonesia, beginning a vicious holocaust that would go on for many years, assisted and even funded by the United States -- and largely ignored by the United States media. If you want to read more about this, Noam Chomsky has covered it extensively in the video/DVD "Manufacturing Consent."
And then there was music.
Once again, England proved itself as a spawning ground for the best rock music in the galaxy. During this mid-70s cycle, we had the emergence and subsequent plunge into American culture of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Elvis Costello, Squeeze, and many other pillars of rock.
From Forest Hills, Queens (in New York City, where they play a lot of tennis), we had The Ramones. Researching the Ramones, I found this interesting quote on a fan site: "'All the better-known punk groups that followed -- The Sex Pistols, The Clash, whoever -- they would be the first ones to say that without The Ramones the whole punk movement never would have happened,'" has commented "Spin" magazine editor in chief Alan Light." Now that is interesting.
The energy level picked up, things generally got a whole lot simpler musically, and polyrhythms and 20-minute guitar solos gave way to 170-second bursts of raw thrust to which people would "pogo" insanely. The music was spare, structured and regimented. Bands did not just hang loose and jam. Punk rock was programmed, just like the music today.
However, there were exceptions -- Elvis Costello and the Clash among them, both of which bands truly offered a level of sensitivity and that seemed to be on the level of social responsibility. Talking Heads began releasing their psychologically sophisticated albums in September 1977, the same year Saturday Night Fever hit. (Laurie Anderson also put out her first single that year.) Urban American society experienced something of a genuine polarization between the Disco and the Disco Sucks people; many of the latter were into punk rock, which was by nature intense and political and based on social problems -- rather than the feel-good, let's go out and boogie music that was in reality far more popular and profitable.
There was energy in the air, whatever flavor it came in. And that very quality is what we're missing today and have been missing for some time. I think a lot of people are wondering where it is, or where it went, or where it should be. But from this glance back to the 19th and 20th centuries, it seems a given that as Saturn takes hold in Leo, we're going to see a lot of change, some very unusual progress, and a few levees bursting -- hopefully right were we need them the most.
But the thing is this, and it's no small thing. "The Onion" summed it up brilliantly in its book "Our Dumb Century," which is a set of parodies of Onion covers, most of them fake, going back to 1900. In the edition mocking the Carter vs. Reagan election of 1980, photos of the two candidates were put side by side. Under Carter's was the caption, "Let's talk economy." Under Reagan's, "Kill the bastards."
It is unfortunate that the world seems to have steadfastly taken the second approach, and that too few of us who do object stand up and say so. And if Saturn in Leo is not going to harden our hearts, it’s only because we make sure something else happens as a matter of dedication and commitment, Saturn styled. There are many compassionate people with Saturn in Leo, and I believe most of them get that way because the work of Saturn in their lives becomes expressing that Leo energy of generosity and love as a lifelong devotion. They get over their fear of sensitivity.
One last comment, which leads to a discussion we positively must bring up next week: Chiron is about to have its Saturn return.
Catch you next week, with that chart, and more of your questions.
See you over at Planet Waves.
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