- Emil Alzamora
Last month, Saturn entered Virgo with plenty of fanfare: a pair of eclipses on the Pisces/Virgo axis, then Venus stationing direct a few days before. Sign changes of Saturn are always significant. For millenia, Saturn was the farthest known planet from the Sun. It defined the bottom line of the world before science, electricity, the Enlightenment, and the American Revolution. Saturn represented the bottom line of reality: what we could see with our senses, and also the authority that could be imposed on us by doctrine, force, or structure.
Since Uranus was discovered in 1781, we have gone through a variety of phases where the bottom line was defined by a different planet, with the latest one ending in the summer of 2006 when it was determined that Pluto was allegedly not a planet. During the phase that Pluto was the official edge of reality, we lived through what I will call the “death works” era of history, taking us from the rise of the Nazis through the peak of the Bush administration.
Yet because Saturn ruled over the edge for so long, we have some deep cultural imprinting that we must live with, and when this planet changes signs every two to three years, we begin a distinct new phase of our lives, both personal and collective.
For the past five years, we have lived with Saturn in Cancer (confrontation with insecurity in the guise of “security”) and Saturn in Leo (the breaking of structures and the establishment of new patterns and ideas). Neither of these signs is easy for us when Saturn is there. Sorting truth from falsehood is too often driven by the emotions and not the mind or intuition. With Saturn in Leo, greed and ambition have once again been raised to the level of gods, and any serious discussion of global problems seems to be on the shelf. I don’t count the car trip home from An Inconvenient Truth as being serious discussion; it would at least need to continue at breakfast the next day to qualify.
Saturn in Virgo is associated with deep thought, intelligence, science, and reform. You could call it the authority of actual intelligence. The last time Saturn was in Virgo was during the Carter administration, which was about the last time we actually considered fuel-efficient cars or lowering the thermostat a little bit. Perhaps if Carter, a minister, had ordered the bombing of Iran, Reagan would not have been elected—but at that time in history, cooler heads prevailed. Let’s look more deeply at what this journey of Saturn in Virgo might mean at the moment. All the symbols of astrology conceal a deeper level that addresses much longer-term issues than we normally think of; longer term, as in the history of thought and the mission of the human race. It is precisely this kind of thinking that Saturn in Virgo cultivates, taking us back to the discussion of the relationship between spirit (or energy) and matter—the very relationship that is the basis of science, religion, and astrology.
Alice A. Bailey writes in Esoteric Astrology that Virgo is the “soul life, as sensed in [humanity, in its] gestation period.” Virgo is like the seed pod that conceals the soul before it’s aware that it is a soul. I recognize that “soul” is a controversial term, so we could call it the real person inside all the games, fears, and self-images that we are taught. Most of us experience this dualism: for example, the experience of “the real me” within ourselves, that always seems to be struggling for expression.
Saturn works to bring out the truth, so the journey across Virgo puts us on an inevitable path with something deeper within ourselves. Saturn tends to dictate the necessity of the day, on the most basic level. The necessity at this time would seem to be the question: Is there really more to the material world than we can see?
In Hebrew mythology, Virgo is Eve, the woman who takes a bite of the apple of knowledge, which was given to her by a serpent. In Egyptian mythology, she is Isis, the Black Madonna, who takes this quest for knowledge and understanding to the more esoteric levels (such as the astral level), where we begin to encounter polarity and the shadow side of knowledge in a direct way. Isis is also one of the direct descendents of the Earth Mother tradition.
In Christian mythology, Virgo represents Mary, the cosmic woman who gestates and gives birth to the Christ. The Christ is the unifying principle or value system (not specifically Jesus or his many mythological prototypes) that guides us to sanity. Christ means anointed one, or king. The “second coming” would be people taking up authority for themselves, in essence making the choice to rule their own lives.
We do indeed live in the time without a king, which typically represents a time of spiritual and intellectual chaos. Yet we also live in times when an internal guiding principle is difficult to identify as a phenomenon we can share. It will be the role of Saturn in Virgo to help bring that out, though Saturn often represents a power struggle as one form of authority (dogmatic, external, governmental) is let go of, and another form (inner authority) is embraced.
Saturn often represents a struggle because typically, we refuse to take sufficient authority in our own lives to master this energy. As I write, I keep resisting describing some of my recent experiences outside Gage Residence Hall here in New Paltz—one of the dioxin-contaminated dorms. But this time I will yield. Whenever I’m out there, most recently taking photos and then earlier this week doing an interview for public television, I take time to talk to students who live there. Most of them are women, so I focus the discussion on reproductive issues, such as toxins passed on to their future children, and more immediate concerns like endometriosis.
Most people simply do not care. So what, exactly, is there to reach to within someone in order to have a real conversation about what matters—such as health, the environment, relationships, or sex? It is not really possible to convince someone to care about themselves; that would be the starting point, rather than the endpoint. What you would be conversing with at minimum is someone’s ability to take charge of their life in some small but significant way. We who don’t live in Gage Hall face similar situations with many personal and global issues at this time, and Saturn in Virgo represents the squeeze.
How much pressure will it take to manifest our actual intelligence and make actual decisions? What will it take to get us to look at the data and assess it meaningfully?
Saturn is generally considered the lord of time; things involving Saturn typically take time, and we are warned to be patient. But Saturn making a move also brings immediate changes, and can represent a change of mind or of outer circumstances. When we add a solar eclipse to this (about a week after the ingress), we have the image of things moving quickly before they slow down. We have the image of a confrontation with truth, both inner and outer.
Saturn transits: conjunctions to outer planets
Between 1956 and 1972, Pluto was in Virgo. Between late 1961 and 1969, Uranus was in Virgo. Between 1960 and early 1969, Chiron was in Pisces. (These dates do NOT factor for retrogrades into the prior or succeeding sign, so if you are born at one of the far ends of the transit, please check an ephemeris.)
On October 9, 1965; April 4, 1966; and June 20, 1966, Uranus and Pluto were exactly conjunct in Pluto, representing the peak of both planets’ transit in Virgo. This was the astrology of revolution, evolution, and liberation that we experienced in the 1960s, which is typical of any era when Uranus and Pluto get together.
Over the next 30 months or so, Saturn in Virgo will make aspects to Uranus, Pluto, and the conjunction points in many millions of natal charts, as well as making oppositions to everyone who has natal Chiron in Pisces. In other words, all the hottest 1960s astrology is about to be set off by Saturn in Virgo—including Saturn itself, which opposed Pluto during this era (for a prototype chart showing the whole configuration, look at April 23, 1965, at 2:56pm EDT—the chart is linked from the online edition of this article).
To me, the Uranus-Pluto configuration represents a massive well of untapped energy, innovation, creativity, and intelligence. Many keep wondering what it will take to wake up this generation, most of which thinks it’s trapped in a cubicle and mortgage. The “service” aspect of Virgo and Pisces is so strong that it often entirely overshadows the innovative aspect.
It may be that the generation of Pluto in Virgo might wind up being the “good Nazis” of our era: people who are loyal to a fault, but don’t ask what, exactly, they are loyal to. It is often enough to be “a good person inside a bad system” or the supposed reformer from within. But I don’t think that is enough. We were taught by our predecessors that living under the conditions of the Great Depression was intolerable; we were taught by the next generation that we must take care of ourselves at all costs; we have learned, as a result, that the “best” way to live is to take up our places as cogs in the machine, but only nominally asking just what that machine is for.
We tend to live “spirituality” as a passive act—often refusing to make our spiritual values into social or political values; perhaps more often, but not often enough, making them into creative values. In other words, we tend very strongly not to put intelligence into action. If we heard more from this generation, we would have less of the impression of living in apathetic or conservative times, and more of the sense of living in times when there was actual discussion and controversy about issues that matter to all of us, most particularly the Earth herself.
Saturn in Virgo is going to push the issue of the role of intelligence in our lives. This happens immediately, but there are peaks. Through mid-to-late 2008, Saturn will make its first pass over the Uranus-Pluto conjunction point in mid-Virgo. The Saturn retrograde from December 31, 2008, through May 2009 will cross the points a second time, and then the Saturn station direct in May 2009 will cross the conjunction points again.
The Virgo-Pisces astrology of the 1960s, which millions of us walk around with, could be described as the soul within the form of existence. Virgo is the protective matter that covers and gestates the fragile essence of truth; yet the added presence of Saturn in the equation will do its part to bring out the inner reality, if we are willing to get out of our heads, bring things into the world of action, and to cooperate in real life. Saturn in Virgo is saying it is time; time to get real, time to use our minds, time to look at the world we live in, and time to envision the world we want. It is time to use what we know. That would be innovative.