21-Feb-2017, 14:33 UT/GMT
|Explanations of the symbols|
|Chart of the moment|
Kathleen Barnett shows how a birth chart unfolds through repeating themes
Astrological forecasting or ‘prediction’ is on a scale of hard to impossible, and I sometimes feel that as astrologers we cannot win. If we make an educated guess at the outcome or meaning of some transit (or arc or progression) and we are wrong, we lose the confidence of our client, so as good astrology students we are taught to look back at similar transits and transit cycles in the past to see what happened. If we can then spot a broad theme or issue or a repeated pattern of events, this gives a more secure context for speculating what might happen next time around. And if we are correct, we are then accused of being wise after the event!
The value of this technique, however, is that it takes us away from the cookbooks, which sometimes present transits as dropping on us out of the blue and, in my experience, can often over-play the negative, especially in the case of the potentially life-changing outer planets. Looking back illuminates a process unfolding in the reality of the person, and this often happens far more slowly than we might think. Life is always much more fascinating than we can imagine, and I never fail to be amazed at how astrology can reflect in the most unexpected of ways what we should be paying attention to at a specific time.
In this article I am going to present some unusual examples of what I mean. In order to keep things simple and lean and to illustrate my point as clearly as I can, I will only be looking at exact transits from Jupiter to Pluto, so am aware that this is not strictly ‘best practice’ for forecasting. Exact names and birth data have been withheld in order to protect the identities of the people and places concerned.
C’s chart suggests a potentially difficult sibling theme, with the classic significators of the 3rd house-Gemini-Mercury being under tension, yet she has no brothers or sisters. Saturn is squaring the 3rd-house ruler, Venus in Gemini, to within 4 minutes of exactness. It is the closest aspect in the chart, which gives it extra weight and is a powerful pointer that brings with it the suggestion of being an only child. Also, Mars is conjunct Neptune in the 3rd house square Mercury and the Sun. The involvement of Neptune suggests that all is not as it seems.
Transiting Saturn came to an opposition with natal Venus (the 3rd-house ruler) in 1957, so forming a t-square of natal Venus, natal Saturn and transiting Saturn. C was seven years old at the time and apparently her mother let slip accidentally that C had had a sister who was born prematurely four years before C herself was born and who lived for only two days. That this revelation occurred at a Saturn transit feels absolutely apt for such a serious and ‘adult’ piece of news. C explained to me later the feelings of surprise and puzzlement she experienced at the time. As she has grown older, these feelings changed into upset that no-one had told her before and a real sense of loss and sadness for something that she did not know she had in the first place.
It is interesting to see that at the birth of this unknown sister, in 1946, transiting Uranus was conjunct C’s 3rd-house ruler, Venus (though C was still to be born), so highlighting C’s natal Venus-Saturn square and suggesting something unexpected. At the same time transiting Saturn was conjunct C’s natal Mercury, so squaring her 3rd-house planets and backing up the theme of loss with respect to 3rd-house matters.
In 1995 the sibling theme raised its head again and a little more information was uncovered. At this time transiting Saturn was opposing C’s natal Saturn and squaring her natal Venus (3rd-house ruler), so creating another t-square. C’s parents had always refused to talk about the tragedy of the death of their first baby, but in 1995 they had both died and an Aunt told C the full details. It appears that the baby sister died immediately post-war, when there was no wood available for coffins, so the hospital just buried her with the next person to die. There was no proper funeral and the mother never even saw her to say goodbye.
In 2004, during a routine update of her chart, C admitted to me a growing need to chase all this up in some way by searching relevant archives. She wanted to add her sister’s name to a plaque attached to a rose tree that she had planted for her mother and father in the local crematorium and possibly put a headstone or a similar marker on the grave where her sister was buried. Transiting Saturn at this time was conjunct C’s natal Mercury and so squaring the 3rd-house planets, and seemed to be calling for her to face the reality of what had happened and do something concrete about it. BUT, at this time there were two sticking points. First of all, C did not feel emotionally ready. Secondly, she was anxious that her Mum and Dad would not have wanted her to do what she was planning, because they buried the issue by never mentioning the baby and did not really grieve properly. Here is the cautious face of Saturn and guilt and conscience and worry about doing the right thing in terms of the parents.
In the summer of 2013 transiting Uranus was in opposition to C’s 3rd-house Mars, and while doing some sorting out in her house she discovered her sister’s birth and death certificates in the attic (in C’s chart Mars rules the 9th house of legal matters). Now retired, C once again started to think about tracing her sister’s grave and approached her local history library to find out the next step. She was told that she had enough information to enable her to check the handwritten grave lists and would very likely be able to find out the location of the burial.
I last spoke to C in March 2014 when transiting Pluto was squaring her natal 3rd-house Mars and she still had not been able to bring herself to do this, but the transits are lining up and I await the outcome with interest.
The exact squares of transiting Uranus and Pluto to each other in April and December 2014 feed directly into C’s 3rd-house Mars, and transiting Uranus squares C’s natal Mercury during the year. I would like to speculate that there may be some resolution some time in 2014 as the pressure mounts.
I know I have picked out a small part of C’s chart and I am not suggesting that these were the only transits etc. to the 3rd-house significators in C’s life, or the only expression of the transits that occurred. My point is that the repeated transits to this very specific area of C’s chart gave major emphasis to a facet of life that seemingly did not apply to C (the sibling relationship) and told a developing story over many, many years. Without talking to C and without her willingness to be so honest and share this huge family secret, any interpretation of these times and times to come could have missed something quite profound.
B is a gay man who ‘came out’ on his 40th birthday in 1983 during his Uranus-opposite-Uranus. At the same time transiting Saturn was conjunct his natal Mercury in Scorpio. Mercury is natally square to a 7th-house Pluto and also rules both his 5th and 8th houses, suggesting a potential theme around sexuality and some relationship issue.
Almost thirty years and a whole Saturn cycle later in 2012, Saturn was yet again conjunct B’s natal Mercury. Now retired and aged 69, he applied to become a volunteer with the police force and had to decide whether or not to be open about his sexuality on his application form – should he ‘come out’ again?
This does not sound to be a big deal, but remember that during this man’s lifetime homosexuality was illegal, so admitting this to the force of law was a major step forward in self-acceptance. It is interesting to note that B’s natal Mercury is in the 9th house of the law, squaring the 9th-house ruler Pluto.
As in 1983, once again transiting Uranus was in contact with natal Uranus, this time by sextile. I do not think that when I was learning astrology I had much opportunity to work with older people astrologically and to look at transits in these later years of life. However, as we are all living longer, they are likely to become increasingly important, and I have found Erin Sullivan’s book on this very issue extremely illuminating.1 She describes this particular aspect as ‘supportive’ and an aspect of ‘healthy rebellion’ and ‘continuum of individuation’. Natally, Uranus is connected with B’s identity by virtue of Aquarius being intercepted in the 1st house, so the sub-theme here is about B revealing a crucial part of his personality to the world, which gives a direct link to his Uranus opposition in 1983 – a time when Uranus injected a sense of urgency about being openly authentic.
The powerful thing about this technique is that looking back was a help to B in making his decision and a help to me as an astrologer advising him about what might be ‘in the air’ for him at this time. He came out in 1983 and it worked out for the best, so he decided to come out this time on his volunteer application form and has since met many gay men within the force and absolutely no prejudice.
The technique of looking back at planetary cycles and spotting patterns of development can work just as well in a mundane sense as it does in a psychological sense.
A new small student support service was created by an educational organisation in November 2000. It survived until 2012 before being replaced by a self-help, online support facility, with new offices, a new name, new staff and a new way of operating. During its short ‘lifetime’ the unit went through several phases of restructuring and changes in accommodation and management. Born with a Scorpio Sun, the potential for transformative experiences and ‘deaths and rebirths’ was already there in the DNA, and it is fascinating to see a pattern of constant re-invention when either transiting or natal Pluto was active in the chart, even though transiting Pluto did not move very far during the twelve years. The culmination point was the actual ‘death’ of the service in its initial form.
In the summer of 2001 transiting Saturn opposed the chart’s 1st-house Pluto, and the support service, only still nine months old, was handed over ‘on paper’ to another part of the organisation for senior, strategic and budgetary management, bringing with it the inevitable changes to operating practices and building of new relationships. (Natal Pluto is conjunct Venus, the 6th-house ruler – the house of day-to-day work and routines.)
In 2007 transiting Pluto came to a square of the MC at the same time that transiting Uranus was squaring natal Pluto. For the second time the support service was moved ‘on paper’ into yet another different area of the management structure. This time the budget was reduced and there was also a physical move into new accommodation.
In 2010, with transiting Pluto conjunct the natal Moon (assisted by transiting Uranus on the IC) the service was transferred yet again, this time twice in the same year, into different areas of senior management.
2012 saw the end game. With transiting Pluto once again conjunct the natal Moon (and transiting Uranus square the Moon at the same time) the service was closed. The most profound working out of the Plutonic signature, that only I as an astrologer really appreciated, was that this time the physical area where the service had been operating for the last four years was demolished to make way for a new building – complete annihilation of its home, which was reduced to rubble.
We are taught that the Pluto process disposes of things that have to go in order to introduce change. The complete destruction of the old service in 2012 was no doubt necessary in order to modernise and allow a new and very different service to evolve. However, the continual reshaping of the original service from the very beginning suggests that it was not set up in a lasting way at the start. Its fit with other parts of the organisation seemed difficult to reconcile and the constant change in leadership, including a few months with no leader at all while waiting to recruit, led to an inherent instability (the natal chart has a Sun-Neptune square).
It is also interesting that all this took place within the space of one Jupiter cycle. Natally, the 7th-house Jupiter in Gemini, the chart ruler, is opposed by Pluto. The Jupiter return was in 2012 as the service closed.
I drew charts for every re-invention of the service over the 12 years. Though there is not room here to look at these charts, it was commonplace for me to find a prominent Pluto in just about every one, either by virtue of it being angular or at the Sun-Moon midpoint or square the MC, and of course the newly created online replacement service was born in June 2012 at the start of the current series of exact Uranus-Pluto transiting squares. I would imagine that change and transformation are far from over.
Finally, I want to turn to my own horoscope. As a northern hemisphere person, with very little fire, a Sun-Saturn conjunction on the IC in Virgo and a Cancer Ascendant, I have always seen myself as an introverted, behind-the-scenes person. Several times during my life, however, I have been thrust into the limelight completely unexpectedly in the most unusual circumstances that no-one could have foreseen and often as a result of someone else’s misfortune. My MC-IC axis seems to be the sensitive point when this happens, even when career is not involved.
For example, as a hobby I joined a local choir as a deputy pianist – helping out at rehearsals when the principal pianist could not be there. As a true Virgo I was very happy with this deputising role. One evening in early 1982 I arrived at the rehearsal hall to be told that the conductor of the choir had died suddenly, that the principal pianist was to take over permanently as conductor and that the choir wanted me to become the principal pianist immediately. Not only that, but we were performing at a concert that week and I had to go along and accompany the choir with about three days’ notice. It almost made me chuckle when I found that this completely unexpected event happened with Uranus one degree away from a square to my MC. I stayed with the choir as principal pianist for seven years, playing at numerous concerts.
A second example: in 2000 I was a member of a committee for an organisation and held a fairly minor role. A major row erupted, causing several officers of the committee to resign. I ended up as chair of the committee and nominally head of the organisation for a short time until elections could be held and membership regenerated. The catalyst this time was Pluto in Sagittarius, squaring my Pisces MC and Sun-Saturn-IC conjunction in Virgo.
Yet again: in October 2003 I was working as part of a team when our manager fell ill and went off on long-term sick leave. At the time transiting Jupiter was conjunct Sun-Saturn on my IC. I was asked to become the acting team leader for a short time during her absence, but she never recovered sufficiently to come back to work. Eventually in the summer of 2004, with transiting Uranus conjunct my MC, I was offered her job permanently without even having to apply or be interviewed (I assume I had proved myself) and I stayed in the post until I retired in 2012.
Finally: in 2013, this time with transiting Neptune conjunct my MC in Pisces, a friend was looking for a speaker for a local group and I agreed to do a talk on astrology as a one-off to help her out and also to raise money for my favourite charity (Neptune). We agreed a date a few months ahead. In the meantime, the news must have spread and I had a phone call from a different group asking if I could do a talk the following week to stand in for their booked speaker who had had an accident and could not fulfil the commitment. The talk went down so well that I have ended up with a full diary of speaking engagements for all kinds of groups in my local area without even having to advertise.
These are just a few of many more examples, and with Neptune still conjunct my MC as I write in 2014 I am intrigued as to what may happen next. I only hope that someone else does not have to suffer in order to push me into the limelight. As Shakespeare said, “some have greatness thrust upon them”!
1 Sullivan, Erin, The Astrology of Midlife and Aging, London: Penguin, 2005, pp.196-199.
First published by: The Astrological Journal, 2014.
Kathleen Barnett, FFAstrolS, FHEA, holds the Diploma of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (with Gold Medal), and was its Examinations Secretary for thirteen years. She also holds Noel Tyl’s Master’s Certificate (with highest honours). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Charts provided by the author
Eternal clock: By Robbert van der Steeg (originally posted to Flickr as Eternal clock) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
San Marco clock: By Rob Young from United Kingdom (St Mark's Clock, San Marco, Venice) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Cemetery: CC0 Public Domain, by Didgeman via pixabay.com
© Kathleen Barnett - published by The Astrological Journal / 2014
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21-Feb-2017, 14:33 UT/GMT
|Explanations of the symbols|
|Chart of the moment|