Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An astrological recap of 2011

We've made it to the final week of 2011. It's been a very busy year astrologically, and there's plenty more to come in 2012. Before we celebrate the new year, let's take a look back at some of the biggest astrological developments of the past 12 months...

One of the most important themes of 2011 was manifestation. A wide variety ideas, beliefs, even fears and dangers, all percolated up into physical reality this year. We saw protests, the physical manifestation of unrest and the desire for change. We saw terrorist attacks and environmental disasters, the manifestation of our fears. We saw political change and political gridlock. Astrologically, we can thank (at least in part) the sign of Aries for a great deal of this.

Aries, the first of the 12 zodiac signs, is the sign of initiative, of action, and is the point of physical manifestation in the zodiac. Aries is associated with the spring equinox, the time of new beginning and new growth. In January of 2011, Jupiter moved from Pisces into Aries- the planet of justice, optimism and expansion, spurring initiative and opportunity in a very direct, physical way.

Later, in March of 2011, Uranus moved into Aries as well. Uranus, slower moving and carrying more long-term intensity than Jupiter, helped spur the rebellion and the imperative to take real action for independence and freedom around the world as it made its way into Aries. This event encouraged individuals around the world to take action in standing up for their beliefs, and protests became ubiquitous (so much so that Time's Person of the Year was "The Protester"). This manifestation led to real change, though unfortunately was not lacking in violence (another association of Aries). Many thousands of people died as they challenged corrupt rulers, and unnecessary violence and brutality have become commonplace.

It's a-mace-ing how many of these images are peppered around the internet.

While Aries was the focal point for manifestation, Neptune moved into the deep waters of Pisces, beginning in April. Neptune hasn't been in Pisces since shortly after its discovery in the mid 1800's. As the planet of creativity, imagination, spirituality and illusion moves into its home sign of Pisces, the sensitivity of our collective consciousness is heightened. The usual boundaries of perception are misty; the lines between ourselves and others less solid. Now, as in the mid 1800's, Neptune in Pisces can show us creative new developments in art, music, fashion and spirituality... as well as new drugs, new diversions, new ways to retreat from the the intensity of life. We may also see changes in policies toward the ocean, and water resources are bound to have a heightened roll in years to come. Have a beer (but not too many!) and open up to your creative side.

We had a brutal Mercury Retrograde when Mercury opposed Neptune this past summer. The deeper themes of Neptune- creativity, consciousness, boundaries- added deeper, much more difficult lessons to the usually mundane reminders of Mercury retrograde.

Saturn and Jupiter moved into opposition earlier in 2011, pitting the need for individuality and pioneering optimism (Jupiter in Aries) against the responsibility and structure within our relationships and obligations to others (Saturn in Libra). Tensions mounted this year between being spurred into rebellious action and being aware of our responsibilities in connection to others.

Finally, towards the end of 2011 we saw Mars enter Virgo, a much needed "nose to the grindstone" period for the planet of action, energy and drive. In Virgo, Mars is forced to focus on details, and we have the energy and focus to take action on our everyday "dharma". This can also lead to a buildup of nervous energy and stress, however, so it's also an important time to assess our relaxation techniques and express anxious energy in a constructive way (not a bad time to consider exercise or yoga to keep the body's energies balanced).
Bending and weaving our way through Mars in Virgo... or is that stretching a metaphor?

So, what is there to look forward to astrologically in 2012? Quite a bit. The big doozy astrologers have been anxiously waiting for is Uranus squaring Pluto, a volatile aspect that hasn't been seen in quite some time. There are plenty more events as well (posts to follow!) that should make for a busy 2012. I hope you'll join me in toasting the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, and I hope to share more with you in the new year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Celebrating the winter solstice- the next Gruit project

Bog Myrtle. Sort of like hops' crazy great-uncle, who misses the good old days.

Happy Winter Solstice! Also called Yule, Yuletide, Jul, Midvinterblot, and other names increasingly difficult to pronounce (or type), the winter solstice is celebrated the world over as a reminder of the importance of community, merriness and hope as we pass through the longest night of the year. In European history, especially, it's time to break out some drinks, too. What better to celebrate the long history of this special day than to consider gruit ale?

You can read my post here from November of last year about making gruit ale, the pre-hops libation of Northern Europe consumed since antiquity (although more or less falling off the map from the 1400's to the present, new interest in old brews is reviving Gruit once more). To celebrate the Winter Solstice (which is also the time when the Sun enters Capricorn), I brewed this particular gruit with wintergreen, an herb associated with Saturn, and most of the traditional gruit herbs. It was wonderfully interesting, but it's time now for a new celebration of the Sun entering Capricorn- winter sowing of gruit herb seeds!

The herbs that make up the basis of gruit flavoring are Wild Rosemary (couldn't find much about the astrology of this herb), Bog Myrtle (associated with the planet Venus), Yarrow (Venus), and often Mugwort (Venus and the Moon). These perennial little shrubs grow naturally in the highly acidic, peaty, often boggy soils of Northern Europe's traditional landscape. Because of the long, sometimes harsh winters there, these plants have developed protective mechanisms. In the case of Bog Myrtle, Wild Rosemary and Mugwort, new seeds require a period of cold stratification to germinate. This simply means that snow and ice fall on the seeds, pressing them into the ground, then slowly melt, then more snow, which then melts, etc. This process slowly breaks down a protective layer on the seeds, allowing them to germinate in springtime.

This is a wonderful website offering seeds and planting information for a variety of herbs with a history of traditional use in medicine and ritual. There's a bit on the page about wintering seeds that mentions how sowing seeds in the middle of winter dates back at least to Roman times. Sowing seeds in the middle of winter provides the period of cold stratification necessary for germination. Sowing on the Winter Solstice, in particular, ensures that the days will be increasingly longer as the seeds undergo their transformation, oriented them towards the upcoming growth of spring. Plus, what better way to celebrate the Sun in Capricorn, the sign of discipline, practicality and patient ambition? Capricorn urges us to have the responsibility to plant the seeds of the future wisely. Then, hopefully, around the time the Sun bursts into Aries... some gruit herbs should be on the way!

Unfortunately, its difficult to get Wild Rosemary seeds even in their native Europe, and all but impossible here in the U.S. Luckily, there's a New World cousin called Marsh Rosemary or Bog Labrador (aka Labrador tea), with the same climatic requirements, and I found some of those seeds online. And I had planned on sowing Mugwort seeds, until I found this little dude growing in the alley behind my work:

Unlike the other herbs, Mugwort is relatively common, though generally goes unnoticed. It grows in urban and rural areas alike, often along roadsides facing the south. Sure enough, I found this little dude by the alley, on the southern side of a fence. I gently dug him up, put him in a cup and carried him home on my scooter. He's doing well, which means we're 1/4th of the way there already! Yarrow is going to be planted in spring.

As for the Bog Myrtle and Marsh Rosemary, here's the process...

I have a plastic pot with holes drilled in the bottom, a bale of peat
(acidic dead plant material, just like the seeds' boggy native soil),
a bag of humus (richer, denser for nutrients and stability), a bunch of
pine needles I found while jogging (provides further acidity and a
protective top layer)

I mixed peat with warm water and humus, then added a big scoop of dirt from the garden patch to help balance the potting mixture and add more nutrients.
Here's the completed potting mixture with the seeds sprinkled on top. The Marsh Rosemary seeds were like dust, they were so small...

Here's the pot in position behind the north side of the house, out of direct sun but exposed to the necessary snow and ice winter will provide. The acid-enriching and protective layer of pine needles is spread over the top, with seed packets for identification.

A little candle to celebrate this year's Winter Solstice Sowing. I walked away for 5 minutes, then realized I'd left a lit candle in a giant pile of bone-dry pine needles. After a brief reassessment, I placed the candle in the window for the night.

Now it's time to tap into Capricorn's patience and wait. No maintenance required, just hopeful thoughts that in 3 or 4 months these little guys pop up. Then it's just a matter of ensuring that plants from Northern Europe survive a St. Louis summer...

How about you, readers? What "seeds" are you sowing for the year ahead? 2012 is bound to be an intense one! (plenty of posts to follow about that...) Leave a comment!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mars in Virgo part two: Practicing the practical

One of the challenges of using astrology is translating "astrologese" into practical, everyday terms. "Astrologese" refers to the unique jargon used in astrological description and interpretation. This language is just as particular and complex as any other field of study, but one of the key elements that distinguishes the field of Astrology is its application to our individual lives. You may be quite content to never need an explanation of the role antimicrobial pharmodynamics play in your life, for example. But, if an astrologer tells you you're having a Saturn return, this is an immediate and challenging event, and you'll probably want to know what that really means.

Well, with Mars (the sign of energy, action taking, drive) in the sign of Virgo (practicality, precision, detail) there's no better time to take a closer look at the day to day, practical implications of what Mars is up to. In other words, a brief translation from astrologese into ordinary parlance.

Some of the best tools for translating astrologese are key words. Key words have an immediate impact when you see them, and help to get a richer understanding of the significance of astrological events.

Some key words for Mars:
Aggression, drive, urge, passion, physical
(themes relating to energy and how energy is expressed and action is taken)

Some key words for Virgo:
meticulous, diligent, analytical, critical, worrying
(themes relating to analysis, precision, and the concern for details)

In addition to these thematic key words, the signs and planets also rule or are associated with objects and events in our daily lives.

Things ruled by Mars:
muscles, blood, male anatomy, soldiers, athletes, knives, fanatics, energy

Things ruled by Virgo:
pets, health resorts, hard work, the harvest, bookkeeping, crafts, details, criticism, tension

To synthesize these key words and rulerships, we can consider how these elements combine.
The themes of energy, drive and passion in Mars are filtered through the caution and attention to detail of Virgo. This energy can lead to a bit of stress (which we may all feel even more intensely with Mercury being retrograde for another couple weeks or so). However, this combination also pares down Mars' intense drive to a more practical level of which we can take advantage in daily life.

The aspects of our lives ruled by Mars or Virgo may be affected in different ways for different individuals, and as always will be affected by where Mars in Virgo is traveling in your chart (and what else it touches- a personalized astrological consultation can help in this area). In general, however, you may find your attention drawn to health matters (and how you take action on your health), anything associated with crafts, pets, your productivity in or outside the workplace, and the potential for both great concentration and great restless anxiety or tension in whatever you consider to be "work". Remember the themes of Mars in Virgo for guidance on how you can tap into the productive potential of this event!

What do you think, readers? Where is Mars in Virgo traveling in your natal chart? Where has your energy been focused lately? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mars in Virgo and your Dharma Checklist

There's no shortage of activity in the news these days. Financial crises, global protests, political strife and more seem to inspire us to consider the major thematic shifts in world consciousness, while simultaneously urging us to grab a six pack and run for it.

Well, running away does have its place. So does taking a stand and changing the world. But, as the planet Mars moves into the sign of Virgo, we are reminded of a third option (and, perhaps, a good starting place): our dharma.

Dharma is one of the most important components of Hindu philosophy. In basic terms, it is comprised of our individual duties, obligations, and the manner in which we are called to serve. In the caste system, one's dharma is dictated by their societal position. We don't need to belong to a caste to consider our dharma, however. Instead, we need only consider fulfilling the duties that all of us have, particular to our own circumstances. We must take action in the practical, immediate circumstances in which we live. As Gandhi famously said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

The planet Mars represents how we take action, our motivation, our drive. Also, depending on how that action is taken, Mars rules conflict. Mars has recently moved out of the sign Leo which, though not a conflict driven sign, is certainly a passionate and dramatic one. Mars in Leo urges us to take action in a grand way, with confidence (and a healthy dose of ego).

Mars in Virgo, on the other hand, is practical, analytical, hard-working. Virgo doesn't share the need for limelight that Leo aches for, and therefore can quietly, at times painstakingly, sort out the details and get to work. Does this sound exciting? Perhaps not. But Virgo as a sign isn't really about excitement. It's about precision, practicality, and dependability, and hard work. Mars in Virgo urges us to put our noses to the grindstone and work on the practical duties that we're all faced with- or, in other words, our dharma.

Like any placement, there are challenges to Mars in Virgo. There's the potential for tension, for worry, for over-critical analysis. When you're paying attention to every single detail, it's easy to get a little stressed out. But with Mars in Virgo, we can really get down to business on our individual dharma and the tasks we have at hand. We can finish our checklist of household chores before we, say, sell our possessions and join Greenpeace (wait a few years till Mars moves into Sagittarius and this won't sound quite as crazy). In so doing, we can get a foothold on the role we have to play in the big picture of our world. Mars in Virgo gives us the opportunity to start small, to work in our individual roles (in our families, our jobs, our communities) towards bigger changes and bigger accomplishments. Once we finish our own dharma checklists, we can play a bigger, more meaningful role in the world's checklist (and that's a particularly long list...)

So, without letting yourself worry too much... start checking off those boxes!

Readers, do you feel the urge to be practical now that Mars is in Virgo? Or, if you have access to your natal chart, where does transiting Mars in Virgo fall? What's on your "dharma checklist"? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and the North Node


If there's one thing in the news lately that has taken a dramatic turn, it's definitely Occupy Wall Street. After weeks of general acceptance, many cities have decided that the Occupy camps have outstayed their welcome, and have begun to crack down on the 24-hour presence of the protesters. Some of the protests have turned violent, on both the sides of the protesters and the sides of the police.

At about 1:00 AM Tuesday morning, the New York City police raided Zuccotti park, where the protesters had been camped, and cleared most of the protesters out, arresting 200 others. As the volatility of the Occupy movement grows, the astrological indicators don't disappoint. The interesting focus in the events of recent days is the Nodal axis.

The Nodal Axis is the intersection between the path of the sun (ecliptic) and path of the moon across the sky. The point where the moon's path rises above the path of the ecliptic is called the North Node, and represents a focused area of difficult development ("that looks new and challenging. Do I have to do it?"). The opposite point, where the moon crosses back underneath the ecliptic, is called the South Node, and represents a place of natural ability or old habits ("I'm good at Angry Birds. Maybe I could just do that?"). Together, these two points form a potent axis or path that draws attention to development and potential in these areas. It's almost a kind of duty or mission, a path of development that we are called to follow.

The Nodal Axis is currently in the signs of Gemini and Sagittarius, with the North Node at 15 degrees of Sagittarius and the South Node at 15 Gemini. Gemini and Sagittarius, though opposing each other, share themes of communication- Gemini expressing the variety of daily communication, Sagittarius expressing enduring truth. This week, Mercury and Venus are conjunct the North Node in Sagittarius, which connects our personal mentality and love nature to this point.

What's really crazy about this particular placement of the North Node, however, is that it is conjunct an object at 14 Sagittarius called the Great Attractor. Gary P Caton discusses this odd anomaly in a post on The Mountain Astrologer website. The Great Attractor is an incredibly huge collection of mass far out in space, with an immense gravitational pull. Astrologer Philip Sedgwick, well known for his work in the astrological significance of deep space objects, gives the Great Attractor a great deal of importance. Astrologically, it's like a giant galactic weight, an area of energetic pull. Conjunct the North Node, it amplifies the significance of the North Node as a "call of duty". The Great Attractor is also associated with impressions of the future. Our current North Node "mission" is certainly a doozy.

On the Planet Waves blog, New York City astrologer Eric Francis discusses the significance of the chart for the time of the NYPD's raid on the Occupy Wall Street camp. Conjunct the Nodal Axis within just a couple degrees was the MC/IC axis at 12 Gemini/Sagittarius. The MC/IC axis, the spine of the chart, shows the foundations and the public expression of the chart's energies. According to Francis, the 12 Gemini/Sagittarius line has itself played an important role in historic New York events, including 9/11.

So, that leaves us with a lineup of the 12 Gemini/Sagittarius line (highlighting major events in New York history), the Nodal Axis (our collective mission), the Great Attractor (adding "weight" and foresight) AND the personal planets of Mercury and Venus, activating our mentality and our interests. With this lineup in Sagittarius, which always focuses on the search for truth, my analysis is that the crackdown on protesters is not the end of Occupy Wall Street. Quite simply, with this lineup... now it's personal.

There's still quite a bit of uncertainty about the future of the Occupy movement, but it continues to catalyze thousands, in the U.S. and in other countries. Now's a good time to tap into our own personal "mission", and to consider the work we have to do... it should be an interesting couple of weeks.

Readers: What do you think about Occupy Wall Street? What's the future of the protests? What are some parts of the "mission" that we are collectively called for? Leave a comment!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The astrology of Gaddafi's Death- Our first dedicated video post!

Gaddafi's death marks a new development in the constant changes wrought by the Arab Spring. Here's a 5 minute examination (via flash video) of Gaddafi's death and what's next for Libya. Leave a comment with your thoughts, suggestions, or ideas, here or on youtube!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

New moon in Scorpio... deeper questions

Saturn in Libra, a potent aspect to the cardinal square of last summer, was recently joined by the sun, Mercury and Venus in Libra, highlighting our responsibilities with and to other people, as well as balance and fairness (Libra is, after all, the scales). Mercury and Venus, however, have since moved into Scorpio, and the sun will be soon to follow. There will then be a New Moon in Scorpio as soon as the moon catches up to the sun on October 26th.

The New Moon is a time of new beginnings. The astrological patterns of the new moon can give us clues as to the month ahead. Sure enough, we seem to be in the middle of lots of events, all with the theme of social responsibility and accountability. As the sun and inner planets move into Scorpio, the next month may have Scorpionic themes of catharsis, regeneration, uncovering truth. One notable aspect is the Sun/Moon combo in Scorpio opposing Jupiter in Taurus. Jupiter in Taurus has given us expansion and optimism in the realm of our resources and what we enjoy and are comfortable with- an appreciation for the finer things (beer encouraged), perhaps a more patient or conservative outlook.

As a position of optimistic stability, Jupiter must face the challenge of the sun, moon and outer planets in Scorpio. Scorpio demands a deeper understanding, necessary change, action taking and issues of power. This is much less comfortable than Jupiter in Taurus. Such an opposition brings into awareness our values, optimism versus exaggeration, what we have versus what we desire. Aspects between the sun, moon and Jupiter can also bring ego issues into the mix. And, as always, oppositions bring the energies of the opposing bodies into awareness of each other. Jupiter is also retrograde, adding a more introspective element to these themes. What's happening within our selves that questions our resources, our values?

Keep up with the protests in Washington and around the country over the next month. The themes of this new moon opposition may present themselves! The iconic Wall Street Bull is a potent symbol- a sign of financial assertion and optimism (as well as the symbol of Taurus), right in the middle of a growing movement that demands self-assessment, questions, and a search for the truth. Uncanny? You bet. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

National Coffee Day! Let's celebrate with Yemen Mokha

Happy International Coffee Day (1 day belated...). I'm sure it's no surprise that coffee has its own day- after all, ranking amongst beer, tea and water as one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, the little bean has quite a bit to be proud of.

Coffee has an appeal, versatility and history that goes far beyond its caffeine content.
Throughout history, it has been a sacrament (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) shared by a diverse group of people. One of the seminal starting points of coffee culture, however, is now one of great social strife and upheaval- Yemen.

Yemen has been especially significant today, with the death of Anwar Al-Awlaki. This Yemeni cleric achieved notoriety in his alleged role in encouraging several failed terrorist attacks in recent years. He is perhaps most famous for being born in the US and speaking fluent English, which greatly widened his audience. Al-Qaeda has a strong presence in Yemen, which only complicates matters as Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh faces continuing protests over corruption and unemployment.

Yemen has had many governmental changes over the centuries, thanks to it's central location and proximity to both Africa and the Middle East. Yemen was the first area of coffee consumption outside of coffee's native Ethiopia. In its early days, coffee was actually used primarily in religious rituals by the Sufi Muslims of Yemen. As the beverage gained popularity, it became a widely traded item, and the Red Sea port of Mokha became the hub of this booming coffee trade.

Eventually, Europeans began to develop a taste for coffee. A Jesuit missionary first tasted Yemen's coffee in 1595. As European appreciation for coffee increased, some noted flavor resemblances of the Mokha coffee bean to chocolate, leading eventually to today's common chocolate-latte coffee shop beverage of the same name.

Here's a quick video (my first original flash movie made for DA!) of Yemen's coffee. You can see the coffee beans around the highland areas near the capital Sana'a, along with the location of the port city of Mokha.

While its beginnings may have been religious in nature, one of the most enduring legacies of coffee is the coffee house. As coffee gained popularity in Yemen and throughout the Middle East, coffee houses grew up everywhere. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, and so coffee consumption came to serve similar purposes to sharing a few pints. Coffee drinkers discussed politics, philosophy, and religion. This phenomenon also took root in Europe, and like the Middle East, coffee houses became centers of political change and philosophy. Even now, coffee shops continue to be important meeting places. Interest in responsibly grown and traded coffee is on the rise, as well, putting coffee houses on the front lines of developing a more global understanding of some of our most fundamental daily foods.

Another great way to get in touch with the magic of coffee is to examine coffee roasting. Check back soon for part 2 of this post- a look at some simple coffee roasting of today's star coffee- Yemen Mokha!

What about you, readers? Is your local coffee shop a meeting place for people and ideas? And speaking of people and ideas, what'll become of countries like Yemen as protests continue? Leave a comment!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Neptune-Mercury opposition (and thoughts on a brutal Mercury Retrograde)

Our most recent period of Mercury retrograde occurred from August 2 to the 26th. Thinking back to August, did you run into any of the usual snafus and technological or transportation-based setbacks that challenge us during this time? The general realm of Mercury, the messenger god, remains in the day-to-day functioning of our lives and thoughts. When he goes retrograde, he forces us to reconsider our actions, to take our thoughts and communication in an introspective direction. If we aren't careful, problems arise, and often we have to do things multiple times to be successful.

Some of you may have had even greater difficulties this time, however. I know I did. Mercury is also a bit of a trickster; with a smirking grin no doubt, this past retrograde period he went beyond the usual realm of daily troubles. Many people I've spoken with have had incredibly profound difficulties on a grand scale- everything from work, to family, to home. This past retrograde period, it was as if Mercury not only forced us to reexamine our daily actions, but also our values and ideals. It was almost a tidal wave of difficulty.

When we start talking about waves and ideals, you can be sure there's another culprit in this mess: Neptune. Neptune, as you may have read in previous posts, has recently ingressed into its home sign of Pisces. The boundaries of our imagination and reality are thinner, opening up both the possibility for profound creativity and tremendous confusion. Sure enough, when Mercury turned backwards for its last retrograde period, it was opposing Neptune. A difficult aspect, the opposition represents tension and the need for balance. While Mercury going retrograde forces us to reconsider our daily actions, Neptune pulls us into the realm of our ideals, beyond the physical world.

This combination facilitates a much more profound 3 weeks of trouble than usual. With Neptune, emotions run deeper, simple snafus become more profound. Losing your car keys as a reminder to keep better track of your stuff can become losing your car as a reminder to not be attached to your possessions. Maybe not that bad, but it's different for everyone.

An aspect such as this is a potent example of the influence the slow-moving generational planets have on the swift-moving interior planets. The slow, grinding gears driving the long-term changes on our planet connect to the daily functions of our lives, and in a difficult aspect like this past one it can pack a wallop.

The mists of Neptune are hard to grasp, but the challenges individuals and the world at large have been facing have some positive lessons to teach. When the boundaries around us are dissolving, we can look to what gives us strength within ourselves. We can tap into our creativity, or into our spiritual side. We can search for healing, for ourselves and for others.

We can also drink beer. Neptune, ruler of intoxicating beverages, might hit us with tidal waves of change, but at the very least he'll let us have a few pints now and again.

Readers: how was your August? And all you Geminis, Virgos and Pisces out there: did you have a particularly hard time? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The 1900's sustainable technology time-warp

We live in an era of "buzz words"- the flow of information in our lives is increasingly linked by key, meaningful words that elicit an instant reaction and carry a great deal of meaning. Luckily for mother nature, many of those buzz words that we're hearing now have to do with one word in particular- sustainability. This term has connected everyone, from off-the-grid neohippies to stalwart businessmen. The vast majority of people in our modern world are beginning to fathom the repercussions of a century of unbridled, almost limitless development and resource consumption. The challenge of sustainability has become: "What do we do now?"

Many people, however, are asking a different question: "What did we do back then?" There's a surprising variety of organizations, websites, etc. that examine the significance of past technologies and lifestyles. Low-tech Magazine is one interesting example. The Sail Transport Network is another. As we try to respond to the sustainability crisis, the debate rages on between saving the world through more technology and saving it with less technology.

Earlier this week, I was browsing for green coffee beans on the Sweet Maria's website, and came upon their home roasting tradition page. Whodathunk that the Sears Roebuck catalog would have offered single origin green coffee beans... in 1900! It would be 100 years before the everyday consumer would even care about single origin coffee again.

Well, this got me thinking about what seems to be a very strange phenomenon- the 1900's sustainable technology time-warp. Somehow, around the turn of the 20th century, things that are just now becoming popular answers to the sustainability crisis where back then both present and unremarkable.

Electric cars are a common suggestion to ease our fossil-fuel consumption, though they remain expensive and lack a suitable infrastructure. However, back in the 1900's, electric cars were every bit as abundant as gasoline-powered. In fact, there was even a fleet of electric taxis in New York City in 1897. Arizona and New Mexico weren't even states yet, and we had an electric taxi fleet.

We had electric cars before we even had 50 states to drive them in.

How bout solar energy? Many a new invention has been proposed in recent years to help with our overuse of combustible resources, increasingly based on solar energy. Here's an ad from 1901 of a solar water heater system.

Strange? You bet. So what's the astrological connection with today? Well, technology is generally connected with the planet Uranus. Being a slower-moving outer planet, Uranus indicates gradual changes in technology, innovation, and organized freedom. Pluto, the slowest of the outer planets, binds us by generation and shows where deep power and transformation come from. Around the turn of the century, Uranus in Sagittarius was opposing Pluto in Gemini. Uranus here would tend to indicate innovation and new frontiers in philosophy, in our ideals, freedom of information- possibly an element of do-it-yourself technology? Pluto in Gemini, on the other hand, indicates deep changes to how we communicate and get around and added significance to new ideas and technology. The opposition of the two is a slow-moving tug of war that seeks to balance innovation and freedom of ideas with deep changes in communication and day-to-day technology.

These two planets are also in aspect today- this time Uranus in Aries squaring Pluto in Capricorn. The same energies of the planets are in slightly different clothes- this time the rights of the individual versus the power of a transforming business and government structure, in an uncomfortable and conflict-inducing square. However, part of this new square connects us to the turn-of-the-century opposition. The connecting theme is innovation. We are challenged to pioneer new technology and new ideals that challenge the status quo. No wonder, then, that we find ourselves looking to innovative eras of the past to answer questions of sustainability today.

Maybe not such a mysterious time-warp after all...

What do you think readers? Is the technology of our last Uranus-Pluto opposition the answer to the problems of our current Uranus-Pluto square world? What's the future of "sustainable" technology? Leave a comment!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Celebrity Moon Sign Series: Grigori Rasputin's Moon in Taurus

You find me a man who can look this terrifying pulling on his beard, and I'll write a post about him just for that.

As a change of pace from the admittedly delayed Celebrity Sun Sign Series, I thought it might be fun to examine a famous celebrity's moon sign. While the sun sign is the overriding profile of our identity (or ego), one of the things any astrologer will tell you is that it's not the whole story. This is one of the limitations of newspaper horoscope readings. The sun sign is the description of our conscious ego-identity, and we reflect this even in how we discuss our sun sign ("I'm a Pisces"). The moon sign, on the other hand, is our emotional, instinctual identity. Our moon sign demonstrates how we react, what we feel, our habits, our intuition and our comfort zone. If you examine your moon sign, you may find that many things that you feel and do reflect that particular sign as much as your sun sign. Especially in the case of famous people in history, an examination of the moon sign can shed light on some of the things about such people that seem to be on a different wavelength entirely from their sun sign.

Our subject in today's post is one of my favorite people (and beers) of all time: Grigori Rasputin.

You know an historic figure has infiltrated popular culture when you can have him animated AND in a pint glass.

Grigori Rasputin was born in a poor village in Siberia, January 22, 1869. His sun sign was Aquarius, a sign associated with humanitarian concern, mental ability, groups and organizations, and simultaneous eccentricity and objectivity. Rasputin lost both his brother and sister when he was still a child. This loss, coupled with his ostensibly supernatural childhood abilities, led to him to grow into a rather unique young man. He spent some time, possibly as punishment, at a monastery in Verhoturye. He became very devoutly religious, and even after marrying and having children, he left home to become a wandering pilgrim. After visiting various holy sites, including Jerusalem, he eventually made it to St. Petersburg. At the time, the nobility of Russia especially were interested in the occult and unique spiritual ideas. This interest provided a very receptive environment to Rasputin's unique (in typical Aquarian fashion) spiritual identity. He became a "healer" with a strong following in St. Petersburg, and eventually entered the realm of political influence when the Tsaritsa Alexandra sought his aid in helping the hemophiliac prince, Tsaravich Alexei. Hemophilia, a genetic disease in which an inability of blood to clot leads to excessive internal and external bleeding, was not as well understood back then as it is today. Much of Rasputin's "healing" council may have simply been common sense, including avoiding aspirin (which thins the blood) and ensuring Alexei received adequate rest (to lower blood pressure). This relationship endeared Rasputin to the royal family, and he soon became an important member of royal politics.

Many of Rasputin's identifying traits thus far clearly reflect his Aquarian sun sign: Logic, humanitarian concern, an ability to synthesize a great variety of experiences and knowledge and apply it with an emotional distance. Plus, "aloof" is one criticism associated with Aquarius, and what's more aloof than leaving your family to become a wandering monk?

But it's Rasputin's moon sign, and his instinctual, impulsive tendencies that really paint the picture of what came to be known as the "Mad Monk". Rasputin's Taurus moon sign is associated with physical comforts, emotional and financial security, and pleasure in various forms. This provides a much more physical aspect to Rasputin's emotions, in contrast to the objectivity of his Aquarian identity. This dichotomy, amongst other aspects of his natal chart, shows his unique combination of group involvement and personal, physical charisma. In practical terms, he become deeply influential in Russian politics and seduced great numbers of women, physically and emotionally, at the same time. The mad monk, indeed. He is famous for his belief that, to overcome sin, one had to indulge in it. Indulge he did.

Opinion about Rasputin became increasingly divided over time, and eventually, members of the nobility who were made uncomfortable by Rasputin's political influence plotted to kill him. Ironically, perhaps, the most famous aspect of Rasputin's life is his remarkable death. He was, in one night:
Poisoned with cyanide.
Shot. Four times.
Bound and wrapped in a carpet.
Flung into the freezing Neva River.
The most terrifying, part, however, is that he died not from any of these- but from drowning in the Neva, after escaping his bonds.

Although there has been debate about the accuracy of this death account, much of Rasputin's life reads like legend. His unique Aquarius-Taurus sun-moon combination reflects the amazing mixture of flesh and spirit present in Rasputin's life. Plus, if after almost 100 years, people are naming beer after you, you must have done something interesting.

What about you, readers? Do any of you have Aquarius sun signs or Taurus moon signs and feel an affinity for Rasputin? Was he a holy man or a creepy crackpot? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Conflicting view and changing times of Astrology and Feng Shui

When one begins to approach Astrology or Feng Shui, it's easy to be intimidated by the conflicting schools of thought in these fields. There is a diverse history in Astrology and Feng Shui alike, which has led to diverging thoughts on the practice of each. Compare such challenges to, say, mathematics, which despite similar divergence of theories in the past (" 'Zero' you say? Poppycock!") now seeks to pursue the most objectively accurate methods (except maybe stuff like theoretical physics). Astrology and Feng Shui are not based on objective proofs, but rather subjective proof. It's about what works for individuals.

In Astrology, there are two main "zodiacs"- the orientation of the 12 constellations that we use in chart interpretation. They are the "Tropical Zodiac" of Western tradition, based on the position of the constellations 2000 years ago and their synchronization with the seasons (Aries begins at the spring equinox, Libra at the fall equinox). The other zodiac is called the "Sidereal Zodiac" and is based on the precession of the equinoxes (the slow, rotating-top motion of the Earth over time that leads to a gradual movement of the constellations in space), rotating the position of the zodiac signs backward approximately one sign. This system is used extensively in India.

In Feng Shui, there are similarly two "styles": Classical or Traditional (Compass-oriented) Feng Shui, and Western Feng Shui. Classical Feng Shui incorporates one of the oldest and still fundamental tenets- "form school", or the symbolic and elemental orientation of the physical environment in relation to your residence. In addition, Classical Feng Shui makes use of the Luopan (geomancer's compass) to orient the bagua (octoganally shaped map of the significance of each section of a dwelling). The Flying Stars school of Feng Shui is based in the Compass school and incorporates a more time-sensitive analysis based on the date of construction of the building. A numerical map of the area is made, with cyclical changes over time that are analyzed for individuals. Western Feng Shui, on the other hand, covers BTB (Black Hat Sect) Feng Shui (pioneered by Thomas Lin Yun and incorporating a more Buddhist heritage than traditional Feng Shui), and traditional "form school" principles, as well as a general amalgamation of techniques from throughout the history of Feng Shui that carry weight and meaning to Western Audiences. The most immediate difference between the Classical compass-based and Western Feng Shui is that the classical method orients the bagua of elements and life experience based on the magnetic directions, while the western approach always orients the bagua based on the location of the front door.
So which of all these should people use? The good news is: there's no right or wrong answer. The bad news is (you guessed it): there's no right or wrong answer. This frustrating ambiguity can be discouraging, leading many to question the validity of the entire system. I have had my doubts on more than one occasion, and have had my share of hiatuses caused, in part, by inability to decide what the heck I was actually studying. By odd chance, for one of the first times since obtaining it, my anthropology degree came to the rescue. Anthropology as an academic science has changed perspective countless times over the years, and while different traditions will always compete, one undeniable consequence is that culture and thought are subjective. Anthropologists have studied why different cultures and people do such and such thing. Some have said that it's a reflection of common thought processes we all share, others have said that culture arises from particular environmental needs. None of these convinced me entirely when I was getting my degree, but the variety did show me that our culture, our history, our individual experience and thoughts we share in our society are all variable.

This leads us to the question of: Which kind of Feng Shui or Astrology is right? Ultimately, my belief is that it depends on the individual and the culture and time period to which they belong. This individual viewpoint tempers our reality, our relationships, our perspectives. It also, I believe, affects the field of forces around us in which we consciously or unconsciously participate. That is, myself and most of the "Western World" don't just practice Tropical zodiac Astrology- we participate in it. It reflects our heritage, and consciously or subconsciously, it works. India, meanwhile, participates in Sidereal zodiac Astrology- and it works, too. The two aren't mutually exclusive, either. They share common traits and dialogue, especially as our global world gets more and more connected.

In similar fashion, both Classical and Western Feng Shui are reflections of the heritage, culture and mentality of different times and places. Both share common traits, ideas and goals (such as the importance of balance and the creative and destructive cycles of the elements). Admittedly, Feng Shui is more specifically endemic to China. However, it has undergone development over thousands of years, as any school of thought would do. It has now achieved a universality that can be applied, with some cultural translation, all over the world. Traditional Feng Shui and the developments of the Compass school are meaningful and applicable to anyone, but in many cases, residents and their places of work and living in the Western world work well with "Western" Feng Shui- that is, we can participate in it with a more immediate conscious and subconscious sense of meaning.

As I mentioned, everyone has a unique and culturally relative perspective, and as such these different schools of Astrology and Feng Shui will resonate differently from person to person, while continuing to share these common traits and goals. I've read articles and correspondence about these issues, Feng Shui in particular, that have such vitriol, such dogmatic certainty. In the problems that face our modern society, dialogue like this is the last thing anybody needs. We should be aware of how our culture and outlook affects our different approaches to Astrology and Feng Shui.

The issue of precession in the Sidereal vs. Tropical is nothing new in Astrology. However, Indian Astrology places greater emphasis on prediction and houses then on the significance of the signs of the Zodiac. Western Astrology, on the other hand, comes from a long heritage of psychoanalysis and self-exploration, and in astrological counsel the Tropical zodiac is accurate and indispensable. Two different schools of thought, tailored, in a way, for different cultural perspectives.

In Feng Shui, consider the cultural differences in our homes. Feng Shui developed thousands of years ago in part to help locate the best place to actually build one's home, which direction it should face, and (in the case of Flying Star Feng Shui in particular) incorporating when the house was built and the placement of occupants within the home. This compass-based orientation is quite common in Asian countries, and speaks to a common cultural concern. In the "Western" countries and cities (of Europe or North America), we seldom have concern for the exact time that our building was constructed. Especially with the burst of the housing market bubble, few people have the luxury of choosing what direction their home should face. The western version of the bagua in Feng Shui is based on the location of the front door, providing easier orientation. The cyclical, elemental importance of the bagua remains intact, but reflects our modern limitations in building choices and information, as well as the importance that we place on our careers (for both men and women), and the individuality that is highly prized by young and old (since each individual room or office can be oriented based on this western bagua). These different schools share many important traits beyond differences such as bagua orientation, and simply reflect different cultural perspectives and realities.

We should share in the commonalities between these diverging schools, for the positive benefit of all those who seek the counsel of these ancient healing arts. It is fruitless to prove which of the various schools of thought in Astrology and Feng Shui are right or wrong. Both of these arts wouldn't be increasing so drastically in popularity and demand unless they were needed by an increasing number of people. Instead of choosing the right or wrong school, we should support each other in choosing the most applicable, in respect to individual and cultural perspective. The diversity of the world is open now as it has never been. Don't fight about it! Let's learn from it and work together to find what is significant and meaningful for individuals!

Here is a list of further articles, some quite short, that touch on this subject matter:

And check out my introductory article on the significance of space:

Readers, what do you think about the diverging schools of Feng Shui and Astrology? Do modern lifestyles require a new perspective or not? Let's discuss!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jupiter in Taurus- Here, have a homebrew

Imagine yourself in a calm, peaceful beer garden. You're surrounded by friends, all generously buying rounds for each other of exquisite German Helles. The sounds of birds and the comfort of friends and familiarity are a reassuring backdrop to your optimistic mood. It's time to discuss expansion, new possibilities philosophy- with a strong dash of patience. Let's not rush in here. Have another beer and relax first. Mmm... crispy hops with rich malty body, in a big stein covered in the condensation of the cool evening mist. Like a painting.

Sounds nice? That's Jupiter in Taurus. Jupiter moved into the sign of Taurus hot off the Aries presses on June 4th. The energy of Jupiter in Aries was unquestionable over the past year- pioneering, individual action and risk taking. Pure initiative, with a goal of building a different, more positive future. A bit brash, at times. With this energy, and Jupiter's conjunction with the even slower-burning Uranus in Aries, we saw the sudden rise of protesters all across the Middle East. Freedom, energy, change through action, all these became themes of the past few months. And, sure enough, change is happening, though with the swift repercussion that comes with swift action. Jupiter in Aries was not about holding back. Jupiter in Taurus, however, kind of is.

Taurus elementally is a fixed earth sign- the most stable, and stubborn, combination that you could get in the zodiac. The stability of Taurus fits well with it's associations: possessions, values, tastes, pleasures- that which we accumulate and hold onto and enjoy. Taurus represents patience, perseverance, and security. For action-taking Jupiter in Aries, this is a jarringly different pit stop. But it's a chance to kick back, relax, and enjoy the "finer things"... like homebrewed beer, for instance. This may befit its own post, but the rulership (overriding association) for alcohol is usually Pisces- dissolving boundaries, changing consciousness, opening imagination and delusion at the same time. If you're drinking beer to get drunk, it's probably a Pisces situation. However, particularly in the growing culture of beer appreciation in recent years, the variety and rich components that make up decent beer may fall under the rulership of pleasureable Taurus. If you're smelling the beer before you drink it, considering the carbonation, thoughtfully savoring the rich variety of flavor without focusing on alcohol intake, or doing all of this while actually getting your hands dirty and making more, I'd say it's a Taurus situation.

"Crap, here comes Jupiter. Better get another keg ready."

Though a homebrew is never unwelcome, there is of course a more negative side to Jupiter in Taurus. Caution can lead to reluctance to take needed action. As Jupiter expands its senses, and sense of physical stability, it can be quite enticing to simply stay put. The balancing act with Jupiter in Taurus is to relax and enjoy the pleasurable opportunities that grow, while at the same time maintaining a perspective on when action is necessary. Jupiter in Taurus can grow stronger, more stable, more prosperous, and as long as it doesn't get drunk on all of this our philosophical sides can grow in a new Taurean way. From Hajo Banzhaf and Anne Haebler's Key Words for Astrology, Jupiter in Taurus: "Religion/Philosophy: Epicureans of ancient Greece. Sensual happiness in life within a circle of good friends is the highest goal in life." We can't ignore our physical needs. Jupiter in Taurus is a great time to come down to Earth... and have a beer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 15 eclipse- thinking about Mercury

It's fairly common to hear that people act crazy on a full moon. Some might say the same thing about an eclipse. I would say it doesn't take the moon to make you crazy- it just takes Belgian abbey ale. But regardless of how crazy any of these events make us, eclipses and lunations (full moon, new moon, etc) have a great deal of further significance in astrology. A solar eclipse coincides with a new moon, in which the moon happens to pass directly in front of the sun in its path around earth. A lunar eclipse coincides with a full moon, in which the sun and moon match up in the same location, but on opposite sides of earth, causing the moon to fall within earth's shadow.

What bugged me for years was why this didn't happen every new and full moon- as eclipses are relatively uncommon. I didn't get a concrete answer, as it happens, until I began to study astrology and learned about declination. If the orbits of all the planets in the solar system were rings, declination is the tilt off of center that these rings possess. It has a somewhat less studied but still important significance in astrological study, but that's a topic for another post. Anyway, here's a picture of the difference between the orbit of the sun and the moon (obviously the earth revolves around the sun, but our graphical understanding of the planets is all from our earthly perspective):

The two rings are slightly off kilter, but intersect at either side of a line as if fastened along it. This "axis" is the lunar nodal axis. The point in which the moon path crosses above the path of the sun is the north node, and the point at which it descends below the path of the sun is the south node. Both points are significant in astrology around the world, and you may have seen or read about them in your chart. Symbolically, they are the point at which moon and sun, yin and yang, meet along their orbital journeys. So, while both moon and sun pass these points, they rarely do it at the same time. When they do, you get an eclipse.

The symbolism of the solar eclipse is the moon passing directly in front of the sun, and blocking our usually direct line with the sun's energy. This is like an open door to new possibilities, unforeseen events, and change, similar themes to the monthly new moon but with greater potential for the unexpected. As for the lunar eclipse, the moon passes directly through the shadow of earth. While in this shadow, we have the potential to be awakened to parts of ourselves, memories, etc, that have been unexplored or that require attention. Likewise, the monthly full moon calls us to examine and pay greater attention to our endeavors- when it coincides with an eclipse, though, the information we must examine may be all the more intense. Whew. Thank goodness for off-kilter orbits, or we would have eclipses every full and new moon- that could get exhausting.

The lunar eclipse today on June 15th places the moon in Sagittarius and the sun in Gemini, with mercury just a few degrees away. Mercury is the ruler of Gemini, and as such rules the sun in the chart of the eclipse. The theme of communication is the overwhelming theme of this eclipse. The opposition between Gemini and Sagittarius reflects the tension between impartiality and variety in thought and ideas (Gemini), and idealism, faith and commitment to truth (Sagittarius).

From a mundane astrological perspective, the moon tends to represent the public, the masses, or popular emotions; the sun, on the other hand, represents government and those in power. This eclipse coincides with a great tension between the public at large and those who hold political power- more or less the world over, but especially in the countries of the Middle East facing political upheaval.

Our last total lunar eclipse occurred in December of 2010, which was also the beginning of uprising in Tunisia that would eventually spread across the Middle East and be called the "Arab Spring". Tension between the populace and the government is at an ever-increasing high, a theme reflected by the approaching square between pluto in Capricorn (power struggles and changes in the sign of government and structure) and uranus in Aries (rebellion and awakening in the sign of cardinal initiative). As tensions mount in general, eclipses can be temporary nitro bursts of change and insight.

As a final consideration, here's a look at the U.S. Sibly chart (one of the more generally accepted "birth charts" for the United States) with the eclipse today around it (click the image for a bigger view):

You can see the eclipse axis in the 1st and 7th houses- the moon conjunct the north node in the 1st, sun conjunct south node and mercury in the 7th. Also in the 7th house in the inner ring (the U.S. chart) is the country's natal mars in Gemini- conjunct the sun and mercury in the eclipse chart. This eclipse is definitely having an effect on the U.S. in some way. Astrologically, there mars represents the initiative, drive, and energy of an entity, how the entity takes action and for what purpose. The varied opinions and duality of Gemini (the "twins"!) reflects the duality of policy and action in the United States. We are famous for our two-party system, our legacy of intense debate and examination of issues, and the ability to have a variety of interests simultaneously (at home and abroad...). What new insights about how the U.S. is taking action might this eclipse reveal? Keep your eyes peeled, and watch the news!

Get your mercury on and use your brain! What are your thoughts on this eclipse day? What needs to come to light and be examined? Can we expect the unexpected in the following days and weeks? Let's discuss!

Some links and resources: