In 1499, the German astrologer Johann Stoffler predicted that the world would be destroyed by a catastrophic flood on February 4, 1524, due to an ominous conjunction of planets in Pisces, the zodiacal sign of water. It wasn't long before other astrologers followed suit, lending their support to Stoffler's claim of an impending deluge and spurring many to build boats or relocate to higher ground. Even the philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli chimed in at one point by writing verses urging others to escape to the high hills to avoid the coming cataclysm.
As it turned out, 1524 came and went without any catastrophe, and certainly produced no such "flood" — or so it seemed. If we stand back and broaden our historical focus just a bit, we'll see that quite a lot happened, actually, but it didn't unfold precisely in 1524, nor was it as straightforward as astrologers of the time predicted.
Befitting the symbolism of Pisces, the years and decades that followed witnessed a profound change in the world, but one involving the religious sensibility of men and women, as the once all-powerful Catholic Church found itself convulsed by dissent among its priests and parishioners. That reached a tipping point ten years later, in 1534, when Martin Luther translated the Bible into German, thus making it available to ordinary people and undercutting the privileged status of papal authority. It would be the beginning of the end for the centralized church, a Copernican shift in the religious world, as it were.
So, in reality, a flood did occur, but it involved a different manner of Piscean symbolism altogether and unfolded over a much longer span of time. (1)
Examples like this tell us something important about the nature and symbolism of stelliums, and how they operate in our world. (2) Take a close look at their timing throughout history, and you'll find that they rarely exert their full influence right away, tending instead to reveal their true power over years or even decades. In that respect, I've come to think of them as "industrial-strength New Moons." Ever heard the phrase "what the New Moon promises, the Full Moon delivers"? That's actually true of all conjunctions, since they represent the starting point of larger cycles. When Pluto and Neptune came together in the early 1890s, for instance, this planted a seed that continued to bear fruit in the ensuing decades, in the areas of religion, technology, and the arts.
When several planets come together to form a multiple conjunction, which astrologers properly term a stellium, it signals a change of an even more momentous sort — particularly if one or more of the outer planets are involved. Such configurations serve as history's engines of change, indicating seismic shifts in the cultural imagination on multiple levels simultaneously. Whenever they occur throughout the centuries, we see one chapter in the collective consciousness closing off and another one opening up, a proverbial "changing of the guard" in one area or another. The significance of planetary lineups is something that artists, poets, and filmmakers through the years have intuitively sensed, as, for example, in Jim Henson's Dark Crystal, or Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, where major shifts in evolution were shown accompanied by major lineups of planets.
With that in mind, it's worth taking a look at some other key events from history, to see how an understanding of stelliums can shed light on their meaning and timing.
Writer and esoteric scholar Manly Palmer Hall may have been the first to suggest that major wars are often accompanied or preceded by lineups of multiple planets. That isn't simply because stelliums are inherently negative or violent, but because they signal seismic changes in consciousness — of which war and revolution are the most turbulent expressions. Think of the word "revolution" itself, which is an astronomical term describing the completion of a cycle, something coming full circle, then starting up again. The effects of stelliums are revolutionary in the truest sense of the word.
There are countless examples of this from recent history. The Spanish American War was preceded by a six-planet lineup in Sagittarius during early December 1899; the outbreak of World War I was accompanied by a close conjunction of six planets in Aquarius during January 1914, all within six degrees; America's entry into World War II followed on the heels of a major lineup in Taurus in May 1941; and the multiple-planet lineup in Aquarius of February 1962 preceded the nearly apocalyptic Cuban Missile Crisis later that fall. To that short list I'd add the seven-planet lineup (including the Moon) that occurred in January 1994 in Capricorn, followed just a few weeks later by the horrific slaughter of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children in Rwanda.
So, when I learned that a significant lineup of planets was slated to occur in May 2000, involving the planets Mars, Mercury, Sun, Moon, Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter, all in the earthy sign of Taurus, I wondered whether we'd see a major conflict taking shape in its wake, too. The last time we saw a stellium in Taurus this significant was back in early 1941, the same year the world plunged into a global conflict, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor several months later in December.
But if a major conflict was going to unfold this time around, what form would it take? And who would be battling whom? I wondered. I've come to believe we can get an early sense of what a major stellium might bring by looking closely for subtle clues or omens around the time of the alignment itself. That's because, even though the full effects of the alignment won't be felt right away, these effects will announce their presence in the form of "seed symbols" early on. Those can show up in any number of places, such as movies, books, TV shows, or other social developments. For example, the twelve months following the Uranus–Neptune conjunction of 1993 saw the Internet emerge into popular consciousness, a development that has altered our world in unimaginable ways. This was also the year the Hubble Space Telescope became fully active — a technological marvel that's changed our understanding of the universe. Anyone paying attention back in the early 1990s could easily have predicted that developments like these would have long-lasting repercussions, simply by merit of the timing involved.
So, when I learned that a major Hollywood film, Gladiator, was about to be released, exactly in the midst of the 2000 stellium, I was curious to see if anything in the film might hold clues for our near future. Sitting in the movie theater that first weekend, I was particularly struck by the film's opening sequence, which depicted a battle between the Roman legions and barbarians at the Empire's borders. I thought much about that scene in the coming months, and upon finishing my second book Signs of the Times one year later, I wrote the following passage about what that sequence could portend for the long-range impact of the Taurus stellium:
… as of this writing (Spring, 2001), there are disturbing signs of unrest taking shape around the world, particularly in the Middle East, along with growing concerns over terrorist activity directed against the United States by militant factions from that region. Perhaps this uneasiness shows another level of significance in Gladiator, released during the May 2000 lineup. In that film's first major sequence, imperial troops battle "barbarian" forces at the Empire's borders, using their superior technology. Set during the reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius, it is a turning point in the Empire's history; Roman power has reached its zenith, yet it will increasingly find itself threatened by those very barbarians — that era's equivalent to our modern-day "third world" countries. One might see a parallel here with the state of affairs now facing superpowers like America in its dealings with Iraq or terrorists like Osama bin Laden, though whether we'll see a similar turning of the tide like that experienced by ancient Rome remains to be seen. (3)
As it turned out, the publication date of my book was pushed back from autumn of 2001 to early 2002 (a fairly common practice in the publishing field, alas), but fortunately the editors kept that passage intact — however moot it had become by that point. Still, the fact remains that the tragedy on 9/11 did revolve around terrorists and Osama bin Laden, at least as far the dominant media narrative was concerned. Whatever one's own beliefs about what really happened that day, the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon became the opening volley in the much-ballyhooed "war on terror," which not only impacted life in regions like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan but seriously undermined civil rights in the U.S. as a result of the Patriot Act. As yet another expression of the Taurean symbolism in that stellium, the decade following 9/11 also witnessed a restructuring of the U.S. economy (and to some extent the world economy), as George W. Bush's term in office made the corporate sector's influence on American politics more far-reaching than ever before.
Since then, of course, many astrologers have gone on to relate 9/11 to the powerhouse opposition between Pluto and Saturn that was in effect throughout 2001 and 2002, due to that aspect's association with high drama and structural transformations. While that configuration surely played a key role in the events of that day, I'd suggest that we view it as superimposed on the lingering effects of the stellium one year earlier, and that the two energies were acting in concert with one another. In other words, historic events are rarely the result of any one planetary pattern by itself, and it's important that we consider the multiple causes that can pool their energies into a single development, whether that be the Protestant Reformation, Pearl Harbor, or 9/11. (4)
As a child in grade school at the time, I'm old enough to remember exactly where I was when I got the news of President John F. Kennedy's assassination that day. That was a remarkable moment in history, but it was made all the more remarkable by the convergence of several other significant events happening in its compass. Consider that less than 60 minutes before the president was shot, the famous Christian theologian and fiction writer C. S. Lewis died, while the famed author and intellectual Aldous Huxley died just twelve minutes before that (famously under the influence of LSD, incidentally).
But that's not all. When doing some research on the music of that period, I came across this extraordinary tidbit on Wikipedia:
On 10 December 1963, a five-minute news story shot in England about the phenomenon of Beatlemania was shown on the CBS Evening News. The segment first aired on the CBS Morning News on 22 November and had originally been scheduled to be repeated on that day's Evening News, but regular programming was cancelled following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy earlier that day. (5)
In other words, the very same day that JFK was shot and both C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died, North American audiences experienced one of their first media glimpses of a musical phenomenon that would eventually define the entire decade — the Beatles. Clearly, something big was "in the air" that day. But what, exactly?
Astrologers have debated the horoscope of the JFK assassination ever since, with more than a few puzzling over the seeming lack of major configurations that day. True, Pluto was widely squaring Mercury, Mars, and Venus, while Uranus was closely squaring Mercury as well, along with a few other aspects. But none of these aspects is especially unusual, and certainly not earthshaking. Yet, the Earth definitely shook on November 22, 1963. So, what could have triggered a tectonic shift the likes of which heralded the demise of Camelot, the death of notable writers, and the introduction of a major musical phenomenon to American audiences?
Rather than look solely at the transits on that day, I'd suggest we broaden our focus and examine the larger trends throughout that entire decade. Notably, the 1960s played host to the once-every-110-year conjunction of Uranus and Pluto, which became exact in 1965 and 1966 (though its influence extended for years on either side). But no less important was the fact that the decade also witnessed an extraordinary lineup of planets in Aquarius in early February 1962, less than two years before JFK's assassination — a configuration made even more powerful by the inclusion of an exact conjunction of the Sun and Moon, in a solar eclipse.
If we look carefully at where the planets were when JFK was assassinated in 1963, we find that the transits at that moment not only formed significant aspects to the stellium of the previous year, but also served to trigger the potentials of the emerging Uranus–Pluto conjunction. Among these triggers were:
In short, the planetary transits on November 22, 1963 were connected to a far broader complex of energies in effect during that entire period, among them the powerful configurations signified by that stellium back in February 1962. Like a time-release capsule on a gigantic scale, the extraordinary potentials from that previous year's lineup had been lying in wait, and became activated by the transits on that fateful day in ways that proved both terrifying and inspiring. (6)
Examples like these illustrate some of the ways that stelliums demand that we take the "long view" in assessing their effects, long after they've become exact. But this points up an even broader problem that can arise in the astrologer's practice — namely, the failure to fully consider the big picture when studying virtually any astrological pattern, whether that be on the mundane or personal level.
Let me explain. As I've mentioned, when a historic event occurs, there's a tendency to zero in on the precise moment it occurred, by drawing up a horoscope for that exact hour and minute. Yet, that approach runs the risk of missing the proverbial forest for the trees, since there may be far larger patterns at work besides just those isolated transits. Although that's especially true when it come to stelliums, as we've seen, it can happen with other configurations as well.
Take the Uranus–Pluto conjunction of the 1960s. Although it became exact in 1965 and 1966, it continues to exert its effects up through the present day, as evidenced by the increasingly liberated attitudes toward sexuality and gender we see amongst younger generations, and also in terms of many other dramatic developments that have occurred since then, especially as that conjunction continues to be activated by subsequent transits.
In the Spring of 2006, for instance, long after Uranus and Pluto separated, we suddenly saw many of those born during that conjunction acting out a rebellious energy that strongly recalled the spirit of the 1960s, such as with the release of the film V for Vendetta, produced by the Wachowski siblings, both born during the Uranus–Pluto conjunction in the mid '60s. (7) The film had its premiere on March 17, 2006, just as transiting Uranus in Pisces began opposing the zodiacal degrees of the '60s Uranus–Pluto alignment. The fact that we still see street protestors around the world sporting the film's Guy Fawkes mask is a testament to not only the enduring impact of the movie (as well as the Alan Moore graphic novel it's based upon), but also the impact of the Uranus–Pluto conjunction of the mid '60s. Few astrologers studying the horoscopes for the exact weeks or months of that conjunction back then could have imagined the diverse long-term effects that would result from it over the ensuing decades.
Or consider the square between Uranus and Pluto that we've been dealing with these last few years. It's natural for us to look to the daily news reports for evidence of its effects in real time — and indeed, we've already witnessed a number of developments that reflect its revolutionary energies in areas like gay marriage, the Occupy Wall Street movement, Arab Spring, drug legalization, and various breakthroughs in the field of science. But the effects of this square will undoubtedly reverberate for months or even years after it's completed, as it continues to be triggered by ongoing transits.
To put it simply: When any aspect completes, it isn't really "over" — any more than your shouts into a canyon stop echoing the moment you close your mouth! Indeed, there's no better example of that than the natal chart itself. As I've pointed out in previous articles, one doesn't truly know the full meaning of a planetary configuration until the children born during it grow up and make their mark on the world. For instance, Beethoven was born in 1770 in the midst of a rare grand trine involving the outer planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto that came into play during the late 1700s. The effects of that pattern didn't simply evaporate once those planets shifted out of orb! In fact, every time you turn on the radio now and hear the music of Beethoven being played, you're experiencing the effects of the configurations from back then manifesting in the present day.
In that same way, our world is constantly seeing the effects of old planetary configurations in action, both directly and indirectly, through the legacies of figures like the Buddha, Plato, Julius Caesar, Adolf Hitler, or Martin Luther King. We're all living embodiments of the universe as it appeared at the moment we were born, and we continue to send out those energies through all our actions and achievements. All of this raises an intriguing question: How will the effects of the planetary configurations in place when you were born continue rippling out into the world in the years, decades, or even centuries to come?
References and Notes:
1. In an echo of the 1524 stellium, a more recent planetary lineup in Pisces took place in early 2013, and curiously enough, the Catholic Church experienced a significant shift of a different sort then: Pope Benedict resigned his office to be replaced by the incoming Pope Francis. Besides being the first pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit pope, as well as the first non-European pope since Gregory III in 741, Francis I has shown himself to be a reformer interested in restoring primary Christian (read: Piscean) principles of compassion and humility, while also attempting to address longstanding financial and sexual abuses in the church. It remains to be seen exactly what lasting effects those actions will have.
2. Stelliums are usually defined as a cluster of four or more celestial bodies in any section of the zodiac spanning 30 degrees or less, though that rule may be modified if the cluster extends to bodies closely located beyond the 30-degree mark. Normally, eligible bodies are the Sun through Pluto and the Moon; some astrologers believe that Chiron is a valid candidate, too.
3. Ray Grasse, Signs of the Times: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of World Events, Hampton Roads, 2002, p. 258.
4. It's worth noting that the 2000 Taurus stellium included a square to the planet Uranus in Aquarius, while Uranus in the 1941 stellium was squared by Mars in Aquarius — and both of the tragedies unfolding in their wakes, Pearl Harbor and 9/11, involved deadly attacks by aircraft!
6. Some other examples of the long-term effects of the 1962 stellium: Singer Bob Dylan (himself born on the heels of a major stellium, on May 25, 1941) saw his first album released the same month as that lineup in Aquarius; the Beatles had their first hit in the U.K. that year with "Love Me Do"; it was the year the Rolling Stones were formed; and back in the U.S., the Beach Boys released their debut album Surfin' Safari on June 4, 1962. For all these performers, the years that followed produced extraordinary success, though there was little indication of that long-range potential early on. A new era was starting up in 1962 on television as well, when talk-show host Jack Paar handed over the reins of The Tonight Show to Johnny Carson, who went on to occupy that spot for the next 30 years.
7. Andy Wachowski was born on December 27, 1967; Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski was born on June 21, 1965.
Chart data and sources:
1962 Aquarius Stellium, February 4, 1962; 6:10 p.m. CST; Dallas, TX, USA (32°N47', 96°W48'). (Chart is cast for the moment of the solar eclipse.)
JFK Assassination, November 22, 1963; 12:30 p.m. CST; Dallas, TX, USA (32°N47', 96°W48'); source: news reports.
Stoeffler: public domain (Wikipedia)
Space: Bonnybbx via pixabay.com
9/11: By Flickr user Michael Foran (Flickr) (CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)), via Wikimedia Commons
Beethoven: Joseph Karl Stieler - public domain (Wikipedia)
First published in: The Mountain Astrologer, Oct/Nov 2014
Ray Grasse is an associate editor of The Mountain Astrologer, and author of The Waking Dream: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of Our Lives (Quest Books, 1996). His website is www.raygrasse.com
© Ray Grasse - published by The Mountain Astrologer 2014
26-May-2018, 19:52 UT/GMT
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