Saturday, December 18, 2010

A new blog project: The Neptune Cycle and Petroleum

First, a quick update on the winter solstice gruit- good carbonation, clean drinkability, but the wintergreen gave a flavor reminiscent of root beer or Robitussin. Juniper Berries next time I'm thinking- but still, a successful completion start-to-finish.

So, as we continue to discover more and more the affects of the Horizon oil spill on the Gulf, the topic of petroleum is of increasing interest. Not that it's been ignored over the past couple of years. The unique aspect of petroleum- as a substance, a movement, a resource- is that it has managed, over the past 150 years or so, to seamlessly work itself into the machinery of our society. The functioning of modern society as we know it is absolutely dependent on cheap, abundant oil. As we have come to depend upon oil, the range of technologies, of science and medicine, have expanded as if fueled by some magic power. The ability of modern society to move people and cargo, to grow more food, changes to our foreign policy- completely dissolved the old barriers of what humans thought possible, and the ideal of what we can expect of modern technology has blossomed into an ever-growing, ever-consuming engine of development.

These themes- magic, dissolving of boundaries, building an ideal not before thought possible that transcends our current world- are shared, in astrology, by the planet Neptune. Neptune, the god of the sea, represents the misty transcendence of physical limitation. Like ocean waves and churning currents, Neptune dissolves, mystifies, and opens up the idealistic and metaphysical senses. This paves the way to creativity, new ideas and understanding, spiritual development... as well as delusion, idealism, and the temptation of that which intoxicates further (such as alcohol and drugs). It's no coincidence that many critics of modern oil reliance use the phrase, "we're drunk on it". It is an intoxicating substance. In this series of posts, I hope to explain why in more detail. I'm also working to show the cyclical connection between oil and Neptune over the past few hundred years, and the current developments within the oil industry that reflect a new cycle of change.

Astrology helps us learn about ourselves. The outer generational planets often show us lessons on bigger scales. My belief is that the era of Petroleum is approaching a time of great change. I capitalized petroleum because it's more than just a substance- it's a phenomenon, a cultural mechanism, whose importance we may not really be able to comprehend until it's no longer available.

I know all of my posts are about the generational planets; I'm trying to work my way in. The hardest challenges in astrology for me are actually the cycles of the inner planets and their importance in individual charts. Hopefully some day soon I'll post about them too, however. 2011 should be an exciting year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Uranus turns direct, Wikileaks explode

Over the past few days, Uranus has stationed direct. This means that it has slowed down after its lengthy stretch of going retrograde, ultimately coming to a very powerful stop before slowing speeding up again moving in a forward direction. These stations are powerful times in which the energy associated with the planet builds and intensifies, before it moves either forward or backward. Uranus is now moving forward again for the first time since this past July.

Meanwhile, on the off-chance you've missed the latest news, governments all over the world are in a bit of a tizzy over a very interesting website called Wikileaks. This website began in 2006, with a man named Julian Assange as its director. The website is sort of a service provider- it provides documents leaked by various individuals who provide these documents to the site. One of the most notable such leaks recently was that of airstrike footage in Baghdad, in which two Reuters journalists holding cameras were fired upon by U.S. helicopters (who mistook their cameras for guns). Further leaks about the Iraq War indicated that the U.S. had ignored reports of torture carried out by Iraqi authorities. Other documents have provided information about corrupt events hidden from the public in countries around the world.

Last month, Wikileaks appealed to the U.S. government for information on anyone who could be directly harmed by a new group of forthcoming documents. The government refused to discuss the matter. Several days later, on the 28th, Wikileaks released the first group of some 200,000 leaked documents consisting of diplomatic cables from officials all over the world. The relatively small portion of documents leaked so far has indicated distrust and suspicion amongst various countries, all of which are particularly stinging because they are in the original rhetoric of the diplomatic cable. The insults, jabs and reactions amongst officials from these countries are unedited and in some cases rather amusing.

The more dire implications, at least from the perspective of world governments, is that these are a threat to national security worldwide. The U.S. wants to extradite the leader of Wikileaks, Assange, for espionage. He's also wanted in Sweden for sex crime allegations. Assange is currently imprisoned in Britain.

Meanwhile, various supporters of Wikileaks (Paypal, Visa and Mastercard, etc) have discontinued services with the website at the behest of the U.S. government. This alone has ramifications for the government's concerns about these leaked cables. In response, a group of activist hackers ("hacktivists") have since attacked these former Wikileaks supporters by disruption-of-service type assaults (flooding the sites with traffic to cause them to crash).

A cyber-battle over the right to free speech? Governments and secret hacktivists battling it out on the internet in a struggle to maintain the right of citizens to know what secrets are being kept from us? A internet-based facilitation of heavily guarded information with potentially life-altering ramifications? That's right, it sounds like URANUS!

Uranus is the planet of electrically charged rebellion. Uranus rules technology, innovation, freedom, revolutions of all kinds, individuality, and challenges to the status quo. Uranus is sometimes associated with the Greek god Ouranos, other times with Prometheus. I prefer Prometheus- it's the perfect archetype for Uranus. He brings new, innovative technology with which to facilitate our freedom from ignorance and our development as a more creative, able species. As Uranus stationed, this information on Wikileaks was preparing for release. And, just as Uranus prepares to burst from the gates, the cables are released. In the days since Uranus has been direct, we've seen increased concern worldwide over the ramifications of these cables and the contents of those not yet leaked. We've also seen the group of hacktivists (under the name "Anonymous") take up the cause to rebel and retaliate against the groups that dropped Wikileaks through cyber attacks. Now, if that's not a Uranus scenario (technological rebellion for the sake of freedom of information), I don't know what is.

All systems are go, so to speak. Since the Cardinal Cross this past summer, in which all the major planets were retrograde except for Saturn and Mars, everything has stationed and gone direct except Uranus. Now that Uranus has gone direct, all of the energies associated with the Cardinal Square have gone from interiorization and reflection to expression and outward movement. Uranus is also conjunct Jupiter, expanding the influence of these Uranian energies and imbuing them with a sense of freedom, justice and knowledge. As faster-moving Jupiter chases Uranus in the zodiac, it will catch up to it on the 28th of December forming a tight conjunction, then passing by and moving onward. The application of Jupiter in the next couple weeks should further strengthen the action of these two planets- in short, things should only get more interesting.

All my details on the Wikileaks are taken from Wikipedia (the two are not associated, despite similar names). A final intriguing quote, from Wikipedia...

In December 2010, Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, told The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC, that WikiLeaks had information that it considers to be a "thermo-nuclear device" which it would release if the organisation needs to defend itself.[270]

What information could be forthcoming in these cables? And what information is Wikileaks considering to be its "last resort"? Personally, I'm thinking anything from wide-scale corruption, to undisclosed advanced technology, to proof of alien life- all favorites of our pal Uranus.

As Mercury goes retrograde tomorrow, remember to backup everything, check your batteries, keep an eye on your car keys, and watch your gadgets so you can keep up as this story unfolds!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beer, Capricorn, Saturn, where's the connection?

Beer, Capricorn and Saturn are all well and good, you might say, but how are they connected?

Each sign is ruled by a particular planet (or the sun or moon), assigned in ancient times based on the seasons. While the moon (our closest planetary neighbor) rules Cancer (the summer solstice sign), Saturn (which was traditionally the coldest and farthest away) rules Capricorn (the winter solstice). The nature of the ruling planet reflects and affects the attributes of the sign. Capricorn, in this case, is often seen as being a sign of professionalism, determination, resolve, austerity, practicality and "coolness". It's a sign of no-frills, hard work accomplishment. Saturnalia, the celebration of Saturn, coincides with the Winter Solstice and the beginning of Capricorn.

In addition, astrological signs and planets have rulership over various herbs and plants. From Marcia Starck's Healing with Astrology: "Paracelsus, the father of modern medicine, said that for every star in the sky there is a flower in the meadow". That is, there's a connection between the plants here on earth and the planets and stars in the heavens. In the healing arts and herbalism, various herbs can be used in connection to how their ruling signs and planets appear in the horoscope. In the case of this month's Gruit Ale, it's not really intended for any specific healing purpose. I chose wintergreen to both reflect the energy of the season as we move into Capricorn- and because it adds a little extra flavor to the beer.

You could use the same logic to make a beer for wherever we happen to be in the zodiac- but solstices and equinoxes have long been seen as significant, powerful times of the year. People of all cultures have picked these points (or those in between, such as Beltane) as important times for any number of rituals- from dancing naked around a fire to brewing special beer. Plus, what's better on the shortest day of the year than a nice frosty brew?

Bottling the Gruit Ale

It's been two weeks since my last Gruit Ale update. The gruit got a short but reasonable 14 days to condition (beer styles that require conditioning can do so anywhere from two weeks to a year). This gave the herbs a chance to add their flavor and aroma to the beer, especially our Capricornian star- wintergreen.

I like to take a "flat" taste of all the beers I'm making before bottling- just to see how they did in secondary conditioning. Especially with a sensitive beer like this one (no protection from hops!), I felt it'd be good to know if it tasted like cough syrup or bandaids before we continued. Fortunately, it wasn't half bad- a fruity, sweet quality mixed with the oddest menthol flavor. Sounds like the wintergreen did its job!

Spilled some herbs in there. Oops... the spout should filter them though

Siphoning the beer out of the gallon jug proved difficult- I had to actually suck the siphon like a straw to get it started. This is highly UNrecommended, as even the smallest bacteria or possibly even foreign yeast strain from a different beer you might be drinking at the time can contaminate the batch. I just did what I had to at the time- the same logic of which I applied to pouring the beer from the jug into the bottling bucket once the siphon failed entirely (again, unrecommended- extra oxygen can jack up the end flavor. Oh well...)
I pared down the bottling sugar for a 5 gallon batch (3/4 cup) to a scant two tablespoons. After boiling this in some water and adding to the beer, I bottled in the sanitized bottles, including a 750ml barleywine bottle. Sadly, my bottle capper wouldn't fit onto it. So, out come some more beer bottles, and finally, the finished product:

I marked each bottle with the glyph for Capricorn, just to complete the theme. Now, in 3 weeks these should be carbonated and ready for consumption- just in time for the Winter Solstice, and the yearly ingress (movement) of the sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn.

Look at the following post for a bit about how beer, Saturn and Capricorn are related!