The function of retrogradation is to repeat the cosmic lesson in question. The pivoting planet wants us to understand something at a deeper level; otherwise it wouldn’t be spending so much time going back and forth over the same part of our chart. During each of these three passes of Saturn, we have been presented with a series of tests related to being an adult.
Even those too young to have this literally apply, i.e. natives who haven’t yet been through the Saturn Return, which occurs around age thirty, will have been faced with issues of grown-up-style responsibility. Ideally, the third pass is the charm. By the time Saturn has confronted us three times with the same theme (though not necessarily with the same specifics), we should be more aware of the way karma works than we have ever been before. That is: you throw a ball up into the air; it comes down. You pump negative energy into a relationship, the relationship goes sour. You work hard on a project, the project succeeds.
Under a Saturn transit, instead of cursing the work to be done, the healthy response is to roll up our sleeves and dig in. After the planet has retrograded back and returned forward again, whatever our age we should be able to respond with equanimity in the face of the pressure upon us… rather than reacting against it, like a kid.
The New Moon on July 2nd is noteworthy for its line-up of feminine energies. Mother Moon is in her glory in Cancer,. She and the Sun are right on top of one another, and strengthened on one side by Ceres, the ruler of agriculture and fertility; 1 and by Venus on the other. These soft, psychically receptive energies radiate the strength of the feminine principle: the power of empathy and emotional connectedness. At their highest, that is.
The cruder use of Cancer involves the kind of defensiveness we exhibit when we can’t see beyond our own little white-picket-fence-bound reality. Low-level Cancer shuts out the unfamiliar, views non-family with suspicion, and identifies as a threat anything and anyone that could be construed as foreign. This kind of insularity has exhibited itself as a chronic weakness of the American collective mind, with its three natal planets in Cancer (the country’s birthday is, of course, July 4th; its Venus Return fell on the summer solstice this year2).
The three fundamental themes of Cancer will be writ large this month: shelter, nourishment and protection. Under the spotlight on the collective front will be Big Agra and the food industry; real estate and its evil twin, homelessness; and social services — or lack thereof — for those in need. The nurturing that a state might be expected to provide for the very young, the elderly, the destitute and infirm –exemplified by such programs as Medicare and the hapless FEMA –will be on people’s minds in a particularly poignant way. The national discussion will be driven by emotion rather than logic; for Cancer is a water sign, ideally driven by the societal equivalent of mother-love.
Two weeks later, at the Full Moon on July 18th this four-week-long cycle will come to a head. Processes initiated at the start of July will blossom, for good or ill, just after the middle of the month. Mercury (the media) will be conjunct Ceres by this time, and pundits will be sure to pick up on the theme of the Mother State that is in the air. These issues will be clarified, for those open to it, by the tension that comes of polarization (Full Moons represent opposition: the Moon and the Sun are 180º apart).
With this symbolism in the sky, international attention will focus upon the politics of food. Crowding their way into mass consciousness are global realities about starvation and its obscene counterpart, morbid obesity. The former strikes one as purely tragic; the latter as a more complicated, psycho-spiritual kind of tragedy. But these twin snapshots of the modern human condition form a matched set. Students of archetypes will see here one form of distorted Cancer polarized against the other, the better to provide a complete self-portrait of humanity at this crossroads in time.
Right now, with more food produced than ever before in human history, more than one in ten people on the planet go to bed hungry. The current skyrocketing price for rice and other staples constitutes globalization’s ugly shadow. Raj Patel (www.stuffedandstarved.org), who probably knows more about food distribution than anyone alive3, reports that without agricultural support policies to protect small farmers in already-destitute regions of the world there is no buffer between the price shocks and the bellies of the poorest people on Earth.
And the stuffed? What is behind the proliferation of obesity-generating fast-food outlets? Why have diets consisting of processed foods spiked with salt, corn oil and sugar overtaken traditional diets in the First World? Why are they starting to overtake them in the Third World and everywhere in between? And what does it mean that in America 20% of this stuff is eaten in cars? 4
Those readers familiar with the way planetary themes express themselves through dualistic ironies will find Patel’s conclusions unsurprising: the way the stuffed denizens of Earth feed themselves is as dysfunctional as the way the starved are unable to feed themselves. There were 800 million hungry souls on Earth in 2006, but they were outnumbered by the billion who were overweight.5
Cancer is an emotional water sign, and the issues it governs are correspondingly fraught with strong feeling. As decoders of planetary symbolism we must try to get a distance on these charged subjects. When we reconnect with astrology’s fundamental principles, we remember that transits are not about creating suffering or mocking humanity’s foibles. They are about raising consciousness.
This part of the cosmic plan seems to be working: it is clear that awareness about the world food crisis is burgeoning. Information about healthy eating, together with scathing indictments of the fast-food industry, are now on the public’s radar in the USA (which, for better or worse, has become the primary bellwether of worldwide media, in “news” as well as entertainment). A significant number of practical visionaries — many of them from the generation with Uranus and Pluto in Virgo6 — have grabbed hold of the collective imagination with such big and timely ideas as locavorism, moratoria on genetically modified crops, the slow food movement, fair trade7 and the replacement of mono-culture agriculture by the ancient sustainable approach.
The geometry of the upcoming transits spells out which issues will become the hot buttons of our era. Pluto’s passage through Capricorn (cardinal Earth) –which will square not only Uranus in Aries (cardinal Fire) but Saturn in Libra (cardinal Air) in the years ahead –will put tremendous pressure on any and all transits through Cancer (cardinal Water) that occur between 2009 and 2014. This is because Cancer will constitute the fourth leg of the Cross. For energetic balance to be maintained, Natural Law dictates that planets passing through that sign will play a starring role. This month’s Cancer grouping, with Ceres (feeding and farming) significantly involved, is a potent harbinger.
In the mass mind, food and water are undergoing a critical change in meaning. Heretofore as taken-for-granted — for all but the destitute– as cheap gasoline, food and clean water will very soon will be the focus of urgent worldwide attention even more than fuel is now. The dietary-staple riots we are now seeing in Africa and the Caribbean, the farmer suicides in India, the takeover by large-scale bio-fuel conglomerates of village farms that used to feed their communities — these number among the disturbing expressions of the shift we will be seeing in humanity’s experience of the archetype of food.
Such scenarios may be expected to multiply until and unless the world absorbs the understandings it is fated to learn.
1 Ceres, formerly the largest of the asteroids, is now designated a dwarf planet.
2 In terms of the Sibly Chart, which posits the birth moment of the new country as 5:10 pm in Philadelphia on 7/4/1776.
3 Stuffed and Starved (Melville House Books 2008.)
5 The USA may have started the trend, but America’s cultural absurdities have been exported willy-nilly to all corners of the world, a process exacerbated by globalization. In India, for example, in 1992, in the same villages where malnutrition had taken hold, the Indian government admitted foreign soft drinks manufacturers and food multinationals to its previously protected economy. Within a decade, India has become home to the world’s largest concentration of diabetics.
6 See “Generation X Explodes”, on this website: http://www.mothersky.com/skywatches/200711_skywatch.html.
7 Interestingly enough, it is a non-nutritive (but stunningly ubiquitous) consumable — coffee – that has raised Americans’ consciousness about fair trade. Through the example of this all-but-universal jones, First-Worlders are becoming increasingly aware of the ways international commodities markets are rigged against growers in developing nations. That is, by subsidizing agricultural products, US conglomerates flood the enormous American market with low-priced goods, while demanding that poor countries remove tariff barriers and open their markets. In Ethiopia, for example, 15 million people are dependent on the coffee industry; 67% of foreign trade is in coffee. Between 2001 and 2003, when the price for coffee hit a 30 year low, farmers could no longer feed themselves, famine spread and feeding stations had to be established throughout the coffee region. See the documentary “Black Gold: A Story of Coffee and Free Trade.”