Thursday, July 26, 2012

Uranus, Pluto, and Guns: The Astrology of the Aurora Shooting

It's been a week since the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, during the opening night of The Dark Knight Rises. 12 people were killed, many more were injured. The alleged gunman: a troubled 24-year-old named James Holmes.

Holmes had been studying for a PhD in neuroscience, and was described as socially awkward but easy-going- by no means a typical candidate for mass murder. His mental state around the time of the shooting appears to be a very different story. He purchased four firearms at a local gun shop, as well as over 6,000 rounds of ammunition... online. This last detail has a particularly strong astrological resonance with the planet Uranus. He also dyed his hair and appeared to be emulating the personality of the Joker from the Batman series.

Before exploring the connection between Uranus and Holmes' weapons purchase, let's take a look at his chart:

If you take a close look at the chart (outside ring is the chart for the shooting, inside ring is James Holmes' natal chart), you'll notice two hard aspects that may have contributed to the event. The green line shows the opposition between Saturn in Libra (in the shooting chart) and Jupiter in Aries (the natal chart). This opposition is a tug-of-war between two fundamentally different planets- the planet of expansion, freedom, and opportunity (Jupiter) and the planet of responsibility, limitation and karma (Saturn). In Holmes' birth chart, Jupiter is in Aries, the sign of pioneering action, energy and individuality. Saturn, on the other hand, is currently in Libra, the sign of cooperation and responsibility. Such an opposition demands reconciling the need for freedom and self-expression with responsibility to others. This is not a comfortable task.

More potent still, however, is the square between Mars in Libra and Pluto, which is exactly on Holmes' Neptune, both in Capricorn (the red line). Pluto, the planet of death, rebirth, and churning the depths, is penetrating the mysterious waters of Neptune. This can cause deep, difficult questions about one's ideals, beliefs, and aspirations. A challenging square from Mars in Libra, though, forces these difficult questions into the physical, interpersonal realm. Such an aspect can bring creativity and needed action, but it can also be disorienting and frustrating. This aspect may help explain the blurred line between reality and fantasy, with Holmes assuming the chaotic persona of the Joker. These aspects may also suggest why his motives in the shooting remain unclear.

One aspect of the chart for the shooting, which we've all been experiencing for a while now, is the square between Pluto in Capricorn and Uranus in Aries. In Holmes' chart, Uranus in Aries provides a third point to the square between Pluto and Mars, further electrifying the difficulty of the previous aspects. However, it also touches on an astrological narrative that spans the past 100 years or more: Uranus, Pluto, and the American history of guns and gun control.

Thompson in violin case

While there is no shortage of astrological coverage of the Uranus-Pluto cycle, or Uranus charging through Aries, firearms are an important aspect of these patterns that aren't often addressed. Uranus represents individuality, freedom, and technology, including weapons technology. Aries, meanwhile, is associated with martial arts, knives, and guns. Uranus in Aries, therefore, is often a time of rapidly developing gun technology (or, perhaps even more notable, availability).

Uranus last moved into Aries in 1927. The heyday of mob and gangster violence, one of the most iconic images of the time period was the Thompson sub machine gun. The "Chicago Typewriter" represented the increasing availability of technologically sound, extremely dangerous weapons (sound familiar?) The St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929 brought to a head public anger over the dangerously armed gangs of the time period. Uranus was also approaching a square with Pluto, much like our current square today. When Uranus moved into more stable Taurus, the National Firearms Act was passed, in an effort to regulate "gangster weapons".

The next aspect between Uranus and Pluto occurred in the 60's. This tumultuous decade had more than its fair share of violence, including the assassination of John F. and Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Spurred in part thanks to these deaths, the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed in Congress. With a conjunction between Uranus, Pluto, Jupiter, and Mars all around the beginning of Libra, it's as if the energies of these planets convened to produce order and cooperation in the realm of firearms.

Now in 2012, Uranus and Pluto are in square aspect again, with Uranus back in Aries. The unique aspect to this current square is the development of the Internet (see my post here about Uranus, Neptune, and the Internet). The ease with which James Holmes acquired thousands of rounds of ammunition online has alarmed many, including representatives in New York and New Jersey who are calling for greater restrictions.

Gun control is one of many issues brought to public attention with Uranus in Aries. The common denominator underlying many of these issues is the internet. Online sales, social media, and more are rapidly changing our modern society. As Uranus continues its journey through Aries and its square with Pluto, we can expect the debate over these issues to continue...

Readers: How do you feel about guns and gun control? How is the internet affecting other issues that are important to you? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Next Phase

In today's post, I'm breaking one of Astrology's biggest rules: "Don't take on a massive undertaking during Mercury retrograde." There is one aspect of Mercury retrograde, however, that we often forget- and that's the introspective, intuitive side of the three week period. While my scooter has already mysteriously broken down and I've been late everywhere I go (typical Mercury retrograde), I've also had time to reflect on my astrological practice. After studying for years and exploring a variety of concepts here on Drunken Astrology, I am now beginning my professional practice.

What can you expect from an astrological analysis? You can expect an in-depth look at your chart and how it reflects you and your life. A chart analysis can highlight opportunities and difficult areas that you may be experiencing, and how you can use your astrological strengths to their full potential.

My true specialty, however, is spatial or relocation astrology. This area focuses on how astrological energy manifests on the earth itself, and how travel or relocation activates your chart. When we move or travel, we break out of the status quo of daily life, and open ourselves up to a host of astrological influence. A spatial astrology analysis can help you navigate the changes of moving or traveling, and help you take advantage of new opportunities.

If you're interested in any services or have any questions, email me at:

We have a ton of astrological events to discuss in the times ahead. Astrology may not have all the answers, but it can help you get a deeper understanding and a new perspective on the events we face, both in the world at large and our everyday lives. I'd like to help you get that new perspective.

So, this Mercury retrograde, double check you didn't lock your keys in your car or wash your cell phone. But also take a minute to relax and reflect, and don't be afraid to take a chance occasionally...

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Uranus-Pluto Square of 2012 (The transit we can't ignore)

So, I haven't posted anything in a few months. I've been a bit wrapped up in working on another project: building my first Greenland-style skin-on-frame kayak. After chiseling away for months, I'm almost done, and in the process I've started a companion blog called The Landlocked Seafarer. Check out one of my latest posts here, where you can see part one of the kayak building process. If you're a fan of paddling, sailing, boat building or anything ocean-related, follow me over there!

But enough about boats. Let's discuss the big headline in the astrological news this month: The Uranus-Pluto Square.

As tumultuous as the planetary energies have been the past few years, the one transit that astrologers have anticipated perhaps more than any other is the square between Uranus and Pluto. Both planets move very slowly, and are often referred to as the "generational" planets, because their effects are felt on a large scale. The last aspect between these two planets was the Uranus-Pluto Conjunction, in the 1960's. Uranus, the great awakener and pioneer of individuality and freedom, combined with the intense catharsis and inner power of Pluto. This led to a time of electrically-charged cultural revolution.

With the impending square aspect between these planets, the same planetary themes are at play. However, the square aspect indicates constructive tension. The two planets are forced together in an uncomfortable way, with the ultimate goal of positive development. Neither Pluto nor Uranus will consent to work together very easily on such a goal. It's not expected to be an easy astrological ride.

Support Arab Spring demonstration in Pittsburgh 4

Rick Levine, in The Mountain Astrologer, writes about the significance of Pluto and Uranus: "Now, as we move into the first hard Uranus-Pluto aspect since the 1960's, technology has taken us to a new level of interconnectivity..." One of the major components of the revolutionary 60's was the development of media. The Vietnam War is often labeled as the first "Television War", because for the first time in history, people could watch the conflict from their homes. This new level of exposure helped fuel the unrest that people felt over the war, because it took on an immediacy that people couldn't ignore. Uranus, the planet most associated with revolutionary technology, has recently passed through a period of mutual reception with Neptune (read my post about it here.)

This mutual reception fueled the development of the internet as well as online social media, which has presented the modern world a level of interconnectivity unimaginable in times past. Now we don't just see conflicts around the world, we participate with those who face such conflicts. Activism, communication, entertainment, all manner of our social experience of the world is fueled by social media and the internet in general. This means that, in the conflicts we've seen in recent years (such as the Arab Spring) and any future conflicts that arise, we can expect to participate like never before in history. With Uranus in Aries for this aspect, conflicts for the sake of freedom are likely to continue.

Pluto, on the other hand, is more complex. While Pluto in Capricorn seeks death and regeneration, the violent purge that heals our current world order, it also represents the deep roots of power that run through our business and government realms. When you combine the energies of these planets with the unprecedented global unity of modern society, you have a recipe for a very uncomfortable, challenging, essential conflict between individual freedom and institutional power that cannot be ignored. The ultimate goal, however, is constructive, positive catharsis.

Does this mean the world will dissolve into rebellion on June 24th? I have to assert that no, this is not likely to be the case. With the unprecedented interconnectivity of our modern world also comes unprecedented voice. As individuals, we can do more to support the positive outcomes of these difficult astrological times. Think about the voice you have, whether it be in your community, job, or online with your own blog or website, and don't waste it.

What do you think about modern times and the role that social media plays? Leave a comment!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Celebrity Moon Sign Series: Mad Men's Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm (2008)

While I typically avoid hometown shout-outs here on Drunken Astrology, I can't pass up the chance to boast about growing up in the same city as Jon Hamm, who plays the starring role of Don Draper on AMC's Mad Men. Though a prolific actor in a variety of roles, Don Draper is certainly Hamm's most iconic role. His distinctly aloof but profound acting style, charismatic presence, and the fact that the scotch never runs dry all match up quite well with Hamm's Pisces Sun. The Sun, as our ideal self-image, our vitality, our ego, always factors into an actor's career quite dramatically (couldn't resist that one). But, as is often the case, it's the moon sign that offers insight into what actors are really feeling, and what personal experiences have shaped their acting career. For Jon Hamm, we can look to his moon in Virgo to learn more.

Hamm was born March 10th, 1971, in St. Louis, Missouri. In astrological interpretation, the moon sign is often a strong indicator of tendencies in childhood (sometimes stronger than the sun sign!). Though dabbling in some of the Piscean-approved creativity of acting roles in school, Hamm participated more in sports (a practical and healthy pursuit more befitting his moon in Virgo). Hamm went on to pursue a degree in English, teaching drama briefly before relocating to Los Angeles.

Moving to Los Angeles brought Hamm's Sun-Moon combo truly to the fore: the idealism of his Pisces sun encouraged him to pursue a career as an actor, while his Virgo moon forced him to maintain his practical side (which consequently meant waiting tables). As the frustration of spending years seeking a career in acting mounted, his Virgo moon intervened, as can be summed up well in the following quote:

"The last thing I wanted to be out here was one of those actors who's 45 years old, with a tenuous grasp of their own reality, and not really working much. So I gave myself five years. I said, if I can't get it going by the time I'm 30, I'm in the wrong place. And as soon as I said that, it's like I started working right away."

You couldn't engineer a better statement that addressed both the Piscean pitfalls of frustrated ideals and Virgo's clear-cut demands on practicality and deadlines. The balance of these energies paid off quickly for Hamm, who was cast in a variety of roles from 2000 to 2007, when he obtained the breakthrough role of Don Draper.

Much like Morgan Freeman's stabilizing Mercury in Taurus (read the post about him here!), Hamm's moon in Virgo (another earth sign) provides a solid foundation for his creative Pisces Sun. Even the character of Don Draper seems to exemplify Hamm's sun-moon combination: flashes of brilliance and creativity between libations, with a detail-oriented and critical approach to others bringing everything back down to earth. It's no wonder that Don Draper is Hamm's most successful role and has garnered him multiple awards.

Hints of Virgoan concerns appear in other parts of Hamm's life, as well. Virgo, as well as the sixth house (which it rules) are associated with health, service, and animals or pets. Hamm and his longtime girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt both advocate animal rescue, and their pet dog Cora was adopted from an animal shelter. Small personal details like this can demonstrate the ongoing role that one's moon sign plays in their lives, even while the associations of their sun sign "steal the spotlight".

While Jon Hamm's charismatic screen presence is undoubtedly a product of his Pisces sun, we may just have his moon in Virgo to thank for the practicality and determination that got him there. Practical determination is a skill we could all work on- but it's also important to relax as well. So pour yourself a scotch and go watch Mad Men.
Readers: Do your sun and moon signs help each other out? How do your sun and moon signs manifest in your life? Leave a comment!

Bogs, Booze, and Climate Change, part 1

Tscaz olkrus ubt
Beer: Perhaps the world's most audible source of C02 emissions (*belch*)

At first glance, it might be difficult to see how a frosty pint of beer could relate to climate change. Believe me, when I find myself discouraged by the daunting future of our changing planet, I expect an icy libation to help me forget about these problems. Beer, however, has a rich history that is tied quite intimately with the environment.

In Europe, there's a distinctive "line" separating areas with a beer-drinking heritage and those of a wine-drinking heritage. Not surprisingly, this line divides the Mediterranean areas of thriving grape production from the temperate areas of diverse herbs and plants that have been used throughout the history of beer-making. The only one of these herbs still widely used today is hops, which can be about as finicky as grapes when it comes to climatic requirements. It thrives around the 45th parallel, which corresponds to Oregon in the U.S. and Germany in Europe, both of which produce many of the world's best-known hop varieties.

Before hops, a proprietary blend of preservative and flavoring herbs known as gruit was used in brewing beer (read a little more about gruit and brewing in my latest post on gruit ale here). The selection of herbs used in gruit varied widely ("I'll bet these berries are only a little poisonous..."). But in general, one of the most commonly used ingredients was a small shrub known as bog myrtle. Like grapes and hops, bog myrtle prefers a specific environment (though it's not quite as picky as grapes and hops...). Bog myrtle likes peaty soils, high in acidity and organic matter. As its name suggests, it grows in bogs.

You may wonder: why do we digress into bogs when we should be discussing beer and astrology? Have I had one beer too many? The boggy peatlands, as it turns out, are a big factor in European history, in the development of beer, and in climate change (to be discussed in part 2). Here's a map showing some of Europe's libation geography:

Though perhaps not 100% exact, you can see the general range of plant habitats. Wine doesn't do terribly well in Lithuania, and bog myrtle doesn't have much luck on the Sicilian coast. Hops falls in the middle, and sure enough parties with everybody. Germany, a country in which hops and wine overlap, is known for both outstanding hops and world-renowned wine production. England, where hops and bog myrtle's peat-bog home overlap, was an area of intense conflict when hops began to compete with gruit herbs back in the middle ages. Stephen Harrod Buhner, in an article here about the fall of gruit ale, quotes a complaint made by a distraught medieval brewer to the mayor of London:

"a deceivable and unholesome fete in bruying of ale within the said citee nowe of late [that] is founde in puttyng of hoppes and other things in the said ale, contrary to the good and holesome manner of bruynge of Ale of old tyme used. . . . Pleas it therfore your saide good lordshyppe to forbid the putting into ale of any hops, herbs, or other like thing, but only licour, malte, and yeste."

Although hops had become standard in Germany and the Netherlands, the brewers of medieval England stayed loyal to their gruit heritage (for a short time, anyway. Southern England eventually embraced hops with beer styles such as the India Pale Ale). Scotland and Scandinavia, too far north for hops to venture, are home to some really interesting pre-hop brews (including heather ale and a gruit brewed with juniper berries). To this day, Scottish-style beer is characterized by very toned-down hops. Bog myrtle is used in Scandinavia in modern times as an ingredient in home-made liquor infusions. It's inescapable- the effects of climate and environment on drinking culture endure.

That drinking heritage may be facing changes, though. Climate transformation, rising temperatures and freak weather are affecting grapes and hops alike, and the vast peat bogs around the world's northern latitudes are a ticking timebomb of carbon emissions. Read more about these changes and what the future may hold in part 2!

Readers: what do you think about climate change? Do you ever consider the history of your favorite libations? Leave a comment!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Getting an angle on the astrological angles

You're at a party when someone asks "what's your sign?" While this question is starting to sound a bit like an antiquated pick-up line, nearly everyone would at least be able to answer. Most of us know our "sign"- which is our sun sign, the location of our sun in the zodiac when we were born. The sun sign represents our identity and ego, so it's no coincidence that we've incorporated this meaning linguistically ("I am a Pisces").

As you may have read about in the Celebrity Moon Sign Series (check out the post on Grigori Rasputin here!), Some of us may also know our moon sign, the location of the moon in the zodiac when we were born. This represents our emotional, instinctual side, as well as our childhood.

Perhaps not quite as commonly known (but just as important) is the ascendant, or the sign of the zodiac belt that was just coming over the eastern horizon when we were born. While the sun and moon signs are based only on your birth day and time, the ascendant incorporates birth day, time, AND place (since where on earth you were born will affect your perspective of the sky, and therefore what degree of the zodiac belt was on the horizon- the ascendant). This distinction highlights the significance of the ascendant in astrology- it signifies your role, the impression others have of you, and the unique way in which you respond and adapt to your environment. The ascendant also represents your physical body and "colors" the manner in which your chart manifests outwardly.

The ascendant is the first of four chart angles, four points which make up a cross around which the rest of the chart is oriented. The ascendant, and its opposite point, the descendant, form the horizontal axis. The Midheaven and IC (Nadir) points form the vertical axis.

While the ascendant represents you, the descendant represents others. The role of relationships and other people are represented by this point. The midheaven is the zodiac point corresponding to the highest point in the sky the sun reaches as it travels across the heavens. As the highest point of the sun, the midheaven corresponds to our most public, career, or professional aspirations and inclinations. Meanwhile, the opposite IC point represents the more personal, private parts of our lives along with our roots and foundations. The zodiac ring, and the planets along it, are oriented according to these angles. The angles are also used to form the 12 houses of the chart (the ascendant is the beginning of the first house, the IC is the 4th, the descendant the 7th, and the midheaven the 10th).

Planets and zodiac signs on these angles are some of the strongest indicators in chart analysis. A planet can change meaning dramatically depending on how close it is to one of these angles, and which angle it might be. The sun, for example, can go from outspoken and physical vitality (ascendant) to deep foundations and a strong identity with home life (IC) to a strong orientation towards partnership and connection to others (descendant) and finally to a strong public, career-oriented expression (midheaven).

Not only is the axis of the astrological angles necessary for building a chart, but it is also an example of a recurring archetype in cultures around the world. The cross in different myriad religious traditions, the "cross of matter", the compass rose, and the traditional Native American medicine wheel all share this common symbolism. The angles of the chart connect the heavens to the earth, and simultaneously orient the significance of the planets in the zodiac to different parts of our individual lives.

The importance of the angles is also essential to relocation astrology and the corresponding study of Astrocartography (to be discussed more in future posts!). The use of angles in relocation highlights one of the most enduring lessons of the angles- the essential connection between time and space in using astrology. Maybe someday soon, people will be asking "What's your ascendant?" You never know...

Readers- do you know your ascendant? Are any of your planets on the angles? Leave a comment!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Virginia Pepperweed- a Gruit Herb Update

Typically, this is about the time of year when the only way to combat the chill is to consume massive amounts of beer while staring longingly at the calender, waiting for March. Here in the Midwest, however, we've had an unseasonably warm winter. Like many parts of the country, we've seen near record highs and very little winter weather.

Plenty of beer is still being consumed (don't worry). There just hasn't been that much of a chill to fight off. Neither has there been much snowfall, which unfortunately also means there hasn't been much snowmelt. While melting snow typically seems to serve no greater purpose than making a cold, muddy mess, it's actually very important to the gruit herb seeds from the solstice sowing back in December (check out that post here).

Like many seeds in cooler temperate zones, the gruit herb seeds have a protective shell that must be broken down before germination. In the fluctuating temperatures of winter, snowfall and subsequent snowmelt slowly wear down the protective layer on the seeds, preparing them for germination when spring arrives- a process known as stratification. Without proper weathering, the seeds' barriers may not be adequately broken down enough to germinate. In other words, our nice weather is actually putting this year's gruit harvest in jeopardy. Nice weather... no gruit ale?

Confounding though such a situation may be, this is not the only plot twist in the gruit herb saga. As I mentioned in the last gruit ale post, I found this familiar-looking little plant growing outside near a fence. I replanted it in a pot at home, thinking that it must certainly be mugwort.

After a few months of rapid growth, however, it seemed increasingly unlikely that this plant was mugwort. I researched several plant databases, and the mugwort look-alike turned out to be Virginia pepperweed, a common roadside plant. Though edible (and apparently rather nutritious), it's certainly not mugwort. The two plants, when young, are remarkably similar looking...

Virginia pepperweed vs. mugwort. Can you blame me?

After swiftly finding the mugwort seeds I purchased in December, I managed to mix up a planter and get them sown just in time for a surprise dusting of snow.

Mugwort likes a somewhat richer soil than the bog myrtle and marsh rosemary, something not quite as peaty and acidic. I made a potting mixture with a larger portion of humus before planting, and I used oak leaves as a protective layer instead of pine needles. Like the bog myrtle and marsh rosemary, mugwort requires a stratification period. As our mysteriously warm winter winds down, hopefully there will be just enough cold and snow to get the seeds ready for springtime.

Until then... anyone for Virginia pepperweed salad?

Readers: Has there been strange weather where you live? How has it affected you? Leave a comment!