Truth or Dare: Major Transits of 2017

Originally published in The Mountain Astrologer,  Feb/Mar 2017

The opposition between Jupiter (understanding) and Uranus (shifts and shocks) will be asking Americans to get real in a new way this year. Worldwide, it will rattle complacencies. Starting in December ‘16, we saw an upswing of urgency against a backdrop of long-term crises. The confusion and chaos of 2016’s Saturn-Neptune square has quickened into a more wakeful mood as the major transits of 2017 return us to the themes of the Cardinal Cross, now in its assimilation phase. (1) These themes are the most important of our lifetimes, and the months ahead will prompt us to radically reinterpret them.

The transits to the US (Sibly) chart help us understand the U.S. political climate, the most fractious in memory. While squaring Neptune (illusion and disillusionment), Saturn raked back and forth across the US Ascendant during 2016, miring Washington in gridlock. Meanwhile Uranus has been squaring the US Mercury, while on top of the US Chiron in the 4th house (the country’s foundations), acting as an earthquake; both squared by Pluto, which is in a separating opposition to the country’s Sun (strongest through August 2017) and an applying one to Mercury.

It is hard to imagine a more destabilizing set-up: the country’s very skeleton is being shaken. It’s like a collective nervous breakdown.

At the same time, Uranus, which is also sextile US Mars (rage in the electorate) until March, has been electrifying and emboldening people. It is invigorating those who are disillusioned, pushing the doubtful into clarity and inspiring couch-sitters into activism. The trine between Saturn and Uranus, also beginning in Dec ’16, will bring surprises of a different sort, by promoting strange-bedfellow alliances.

The new president campaigned as an outsider, but he is inside now. As he surrounds himself with old-guard politicians, he complicates his role as a champion of the anti-Washington voters who sent him to Washington. This means the Uranus-Pluto energy will have to go somewhere else, as its work of overturning the status quo is far from finished. Nobody will be resting on their laurels this year.

Jupiter and Saturn are more or less sextile as the year begins, within one degree of exactitude between 11/11/16 and 1/24/17. A spirit of enterprise (Jupiter) is supported by a sense of responsibility (Saturn): an unusual collaboration between growth and contraction. The sextile gives the chart of the presidential inauguration a combination of high expectations and pessimism in equal measure. This may bestow a measure of common sense to the public mood.

Easiest to access in late August and September, the sextile reaches exactitude while activated by Mars in Leo. This is the same week as the extraordinary total solar eclipse of 8/21, with a totality path across the USA. Dramatic changes for the country are indicated, by the transits to Trump’s chart and from the symbolism of the eclipse itself.

These configurations make 2017 a year of unpredictability, experiment and risk. They are part of a complex stew of influences that need to be seen in context, so let’s back up a bit and consider the ongoing cycles playing out in the background.

Cardinal T-square

These last few years before 2020 have a confused and scattered quality, a quality of not knowing what to do before a big new beginning. Humanity is making its way through the fog of several waning cycles in 2017: that of Saturn-Pluto, Jupiter-Pluto and Jupiter-Saturn. We are enshrouded in a Dark-of-the-Moon feeling: trying to come to grips with old material that’s been harrying and haunting us. We’re a step closer to the dramatic threshold of 2020, when things will start over on multiple levels. (2)  

The Uranus-Pluto square is 4° past exactitude as 2017 begins. For nine years Pluto has been exposing the dysfunctions and corruptions in governments and financial agencies (Capricorn), among other hierarchical systems now falling over of their own weight. For seven years rebellious Uranus has been fomenting angry populism (Aries) all over the world.

As was made explicit by the recent American election, the Old Guard cannot change itself. The old-school political class, with its sheltered in-crowd of pollsters and pundits, was blindsided by a massive protest vote, a first salvo of the US Pluto Return. We also see here, as we saw with Brexit, Uranus’ conjunction with Eris: the unexpected revenge of the abandoned, the maligned and the snubbed. (3) The USA’s natal Sun-Saturn square – our prickly relationship with vested authority – remains triggered through 2017.

At this point, we can consider the exactitude phase of the Cardinal Cross to have accomplished its goals. The information revolution has established its primacy over the industrial age: the speed (Uranus) and game-changing impact (Pluto) of technology has transformed the world. What used to be called “progress” is now the universal expectation in the wired world of continuous radical change.

Geopolitical instability has also unhinged the old order, as has climate change, which has become consensus reality – despite hiccups of reaction, which will continue until resistance is drowned out by bottom-line physical evidence (e.g. the impact on Florida real estate of rising sea levels). The unlimited-growth model that has underlain the modern world economy (Capricorn) is being reevaluated. Even the old political template of left-vs.-right, which dates from the French Revolution, is giving way to the new framing device of top-vs.-bottom.

Core issues have been recognized and identified. Now, during this next phase of the Cross, they must be addressed. As is always the case, humanity is being given just the right transits to address them. Jupiter squares Pluto exactly 11/24/16, 3/30/17, and 8/4/17. Jupiter opposes Uranus exactly on12/26/16, 3/3/17 and 9/28/17.

In terms of the environment, the realization is dawning that at this point in our negligent stewardship of the Earth, it would take an effort on the scale of the Moon landing of the 1960s to ensure a livable planet for future generations. This year’s T-square encourages this kind of radical (Uranus), ambitious (Jupiter) thinking. As for the societal hot buttons (among them, racism and sexism) let out of Pandora’s box by the American election, it is inevitable that we will see an increase in diversity, not just nationally but everywhere, as demographics and population mobility render moot the preferences of nativists and the scapegoating of ethnophobes.

Just because resistance is futile, however, doesn’t mean anachronistic attitudes will fade away gracefully. Our investment in longstanding cultural antipathies, like our financial investment in obsolete technologies such as the fossil fuel industry, will continue to exert powerful cultural influence. Pluto pushes things to extremes before a system breaks down, later to be reconfigured. We are seeing this happen in the American culture wars, where a jacked-up climate of partisanship stands in the way of finding solutions to the fateful issues facing the Earth.

At this point, the most trenchant standard humanity could use is not whether a given course is my way or your way, but whether it is healthful or unhealthful. This is the question posed by Virgo, the sign in which Uranus and Pluto conjoined in1965-6, the origin point of the current cycle. The T-squares of 2017 are daring us, collectively and individually, to eschew our infighting and be guided instead by the simple criteria of health and workability.

Mutable T-square

For a couple of years now, Saturn has been in Sagittarius (12/23/14 – 12/19/17), a placement notorious for hardening belief into exclusionary dogma. In the USA the public conversation bristles with the defensiveness of Saturn (separation consciousness) fueled by the righteousness of Sagittarius (personal attachment to point of view). Much of the world has come to equate religion with fanaticism during this transit.

Secular demagoguery, too, is a pitfall of this transit. As expressive of dark Sagittarius as the religious kind, (4) demagoguery reached new levels in the USA during the long months of Saturn’s square with Neptune (Nov 2015- Sep ‘16). In and out of exactitude during 2017, transiting Saturn makes a T-square out of America’s natal Neptune-Mars square. We see the transit’s dark side in the frenzied volatility of our popular discourse, where the line between fact (Saturn) and fiction (Neptune) have been blurred like never before. We see its personification in the election to the U.S. presidency of a media-savvy reality-TV star.

Jupiter-Uranus opposition

For most of 2017 Jupiter is in Libra, (5) a placement that urges equitability in relationships – personal (e.g. marriage) and collective (global diplomacy). There is a new focus upon legal matters. For example, the use of litigation as a business policy, a tactic that looms large with the new president, is in the spotlight. Ideally the transit puts our attention on the spirit, not just the letter, of the law. This ingress has accentuated the cardinality of the Cross, which will mean, for some, a more assertive approach to humanitarian values. Individuals with strongly cardinal charts will be inspired to take up positions of leadership.

Jupiter’s ingress into an air sign has added a breath of cool reason to the mix. Moreover, its opposition with Uranus combines two planets that are intrinsically mental, making it likely that fraught moral questions will be leavened with a little more intellectual detachment—as if a window has been opened in an overheated room.

But it’s not a delicate breeze wafting in. Because of Uranus, it’s more like a bracing torrent. Consciences will be prodded this year, ideologies will be thrown off, and minds will be wrenched open. Jupiter and Uranus are both planets of reform. Jupiter, a social planet, believes ideologically in society’s betterment; Uranus, a transpersonal planet, incites social change simply because it is time. Their tug-of-war creates explosive disturbance as a function of natural law.

This transit is the Full Moon phase of the cycle that started when Jupiter and Uranus conjoined in 2010-2011, their New Moon phase – at the most forceful degree in the zodiac: the Aries point. That was a period of globe-rocking uprisings, in Tunis, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere. The opposition now upon us is a geometrical statement of the polarization we are seeing in human societies. The Uranus pole can as easily show up as reactionary rebellion as it can show up as humanistic, future-driven change.

The creative side of Uranus in 2017 will fuel the urge to raise the status of women and other groups traditionally denied equal rights (Libra) worldwide. We will continue to see challenges to the flouting of international law, including Washington’s. We are already seeing challenges to the

USA’s longstanding alliances (Libra) with Israel and Saudi Arabia; (6) as well as the specter of a new alliance with traditional “open enemy” Russia (transiting Saturn opposes the U.S. Mars in the 7th house, Dec. ’17- Jan.17 and again this summer). Injustices within the U.S. legal system, like those revealed by Black Lives Matter and the Innocence Project, will probably receive more attention (7), not without the friction of opposition.

With Jupiter in this placement, the ideal of a level playing field is on everybody’s minds. The transit is re-sensitizing us to a state of global injustice to which many of us have grown desensitized. It makes the chasm of difference between the struggling classes and the hyper-privileged in the world today seem not just unfortunate, but unacceptable. The US election upset (Uranus) was a massive (Jupiter) rejection of this chasm of inequality (Libra), and there will be others.

On a global scale, the refugee crisis will continue to be a mass consciousness-raiser in 2017, as it morphs from its pre-Cardinal Cross state – that of unfamiliar (to the Western hemisphere, at least) crisis — to chronic, acute humanitarian disaster. The informal camps are becoming prison-like detention centers, as E.U. policymakers try to contain the problem while distracting media attention from it. (8) A key symbol of the Pluto-in-Capricorn years, these refugee camps represent a teeming dysfunction that is proving impossible for the world’s elites to suppress or ignore.

In Libra, Jupiter is idealistic in a conceptual way. It is good at debating and weighing alternatives, like a roomful of diplomats sharing big ideas. But given that Uranus in Aries is part of the transit, the mental construct of justice is not enough. We are grappling with an urgency to act upon our ethical judgments: to disrupt the imbalances we see, because they feel like they have grown lifeless and obsolete, holding us in arrested development.

And then there is something else going on here, too, something that drives Jupiter quite a bit deeper than Libra usually goes.

Jupiter square Pluto

The presence of Pluto – gut instinct—at the apex of this year’s T-square suggests that humanitarian crises will be perceived in a more essential way than before. Pluto presides over all sorts of decay, including the moral kind. Especially for those strongly attuned to Pluto, natally and by transit, its square with Jupiter can push mere theoretical disapproval into the realm of moral repugnance.

When Pluto is involved, something always breaks down or breaks through. This planet’s influence – sometimes creatively destructive, sometimes just plain destructive—will continue to break through the niceties and technicalities of Jupiter in Libra. On a social level, this suggests a continuing breakdown in standards of civility (Libra), e.g. politicians insulting each other in ways that were once taboo. At the same time, the square inspires a refusal to kowtow to old rules of propriety that lack authenticity in today’s world. Of the many recent examples of this, Colin Kaepernick’s tweaking of the national anthem ritual is one of the more benign.

On a legal level, the Pluto square inspires the calling-out of unethical practices that, despite being technically legal, strike us as profoundly wrong. The fact that a billionaire like Donald Trump could avoid paying taxes that regular folks have to pay was hardly news, but it wasn’t until Mars squared Jupiter in Libra (early October, 2016) that the issue became a lead story in the New York Times.

Similarly, we can expect the shady machinations of the financial industry — many of which were originally criminal acts, later legalized by Congress — to be newly subjected to judgment, as Wall Street insiders move into the new cabinet. The transit will also highlight the profiteering by

monopolies with extensive legal departments, such as the pharmaceutical company that makes EpiPen.

On an international level, the dark side of the transit will undoubtedly manifest in more unhinged individuals (Uranus) jumping on the ISIS bandwagon (Jupiter, Pluto). (9) We will also likely see impassioned debate about the Geneva accords, as regards the imprisonment and torture of untried detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere, the protection of war-ravaged civilians, and any number of Trump proposals (e.g. that of murdering the families of jihadists) should he try to actually impose them. The transit brings into focus gut-wrenching (Pluto) issues of legality (Libra) and morality (Jupiter).

On a personal level, this square can be a test of our ideological self-restraint. Pluto’s craving to do-over, when paired with Jupiterian idealism, can manifest as a compulsion to foist one’s personal morality onto somebody else. In the process, Pluto arouses our survival instincts: on a subrational level, we feel we’re going to die if our point of view doesn’t prevail. If we find an ordinary teaching moment bristling with this kind of intensity, it should raise a red flag.

The hubristic fire of Saturn in Sagittarius has offered us a foreshadowing of how not to use the Jupiter-Pluto square. Both transits teach us that our efforts to reform others wax destructive unless they are grounded in work on the self.

Shock and surprise

At this writing (mid-Nov ’16) it is unknown whether there will be a glitch in the US presidential transition, but the fact that there are rumors – of impeachment, contested election, anti-Trump litigation, Calexit – matches the Uranian mood.

The symbolism suggests upsets this year on many levels: meteorological, technological and economic. (10). Inspired mischief from unlikely places will challenge the authority of entrenched institutions fighting to maintain their supremacy. Geopolitically, rebellions against global elites are on the rise. (11) Brexit and the Trump victory were hailed by some observers as being part of a global populist revolution, and condemned by others as self-destructive leaps into chaos; the astrological picture allows for the truth of both views. Like a jack-in-the-box, unexpected events are especially likely to pop up when Jupiter’s opposition with Uranus is exact, in early March and late September. (12)

We can also expect to see new frontiers in hacking, from cyber guerillas like those at Anonymous and WikiLeaks – groups brought to us not only by Uranus, but Pluto, the god of invisibility – as well as from intelligence agencies. The threat of cyber-espionage, which arose in connection with Russia during the presidential campaign, fits the symbolism exactly: Uranus (hacking), Pluto (spying), Jupiter (foreigners).

Astrologers will have their eyes on inner planet transits that trigger the cardinal T-square, such as the Mars conjunction to Pluto that coincided with the huge cyber attack which crippled the Internet on Oct 21st 2016. The introduction of self-driving cars and transport systems also opens up the possibility of a new and shockingly impactful target. Extreme weather events, ever more frequent as the climate changes, are as likely as human saboteurs to throw such systems into offline chaos.

Disciplined nonconformity

How are we to handle all this disruption? Answers to this question are likely to be inspired by the trine between Saturn in Sagittarius and Uranus in Aries (late 2016 – late 2017; exact on May 19th  and Nov 11th). This transit offers our best hope this year of constructive rapprochement between

stridently polarized groups — between political factions, between warring religious groups, and between global business interests (Saturn) and those fighting to save the environment (Uranus).

This trine strengthens inventive ideas, helping them break through resistance (Uranus) and become accepted by consensus opinion (Saturn). It also supports the forces of moderation, especially in late November and early December, when Mercury conjoins Saturn (careful focus) and sextiles Mars in Libra (effective, moderate action). (I discuss this transit in more detail in the Astrologers Forum, TMA Dec/Jan 2016).

Social justice workers, whistleblowers and grassroots organizers should mark their calendars: it is in January, May and November that reformers will be able to assert themselves to greatest advantage. In its highest expression, this transit combines courageous iconoclasm (Uranus in Aries) with spiritual maturity (Saturn in Sagittarius), to create what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “disciplined nonconformity.”

Jupiter trine Neptune

As 2017 winds down, there is an sublime water trine between Jupiter and Neptune, effective from around the time of the Neptune station, on Nov 22, to mid-December (exact 12/2/17). (13) Expect the mass mood during the holiday season to overflow with strong feeling. For those of a spiritual or artistic frame of mind – heads up, those of you with water planets in the transit’s path (14)  — the blending of these two idealistic planets can feel like a divine prompt, or a visitation from the Muse. In its less exalted form, the transit promotes nostalgia and sentiment (same energy, different application).

We may feel the trine’s benign side as a dreamy expectation that lofty goals can be achieved without too much sweat. But we should be mindful of its dark side: self-delusion. Jupiter-Neptune combinations can show up as hypnotic cultural trends, such as big, mind-numbing entertainments that enable us to avoid facing our true spiritual yearnings. The transit lends itself to utopian/ dystopian fantasies, such as Elon Musk’s notion of escaping to Mars.

On a spiritual level, we may notice a growth spurt in our ability to feel what others feel. Our hopes for social betterment (Jupiter) become more universalized (Neptune) under the trine, spreading out into the world outside of our own little sphere. Ordinarily, human nature being what it is, our empathy for others’ suffering is reserved mostly for people more or less like ourselves: those of our own race, religion or country. Under this trine, our empathy overflows these confines, in a way that could make the tragedy of, for instance, the world’s 28 million child migrants (15) feel just as real to us as that of a child gone missing from our own neighborhood.

It doesn’t last long, but the trine is a fitting valediction for the year. It opens a window onto understandings that outstrip ideological conviction (Jupiter alone), allowing us a glimpse of our troubled world as an interconnected whole (Neptune in Pisces). It sets the mood for ecological epiphany: the kind of vision that, despite being essentially spiritual in nature (water), works hand in hand with the ideological mind (Jupiter in air) to inspire geopolitical policy such as the Paris Climate agreements.

Just as this transit is finishing up, around the winter solstice, Saturn enters Capricorn for 2+ years, and a dry-eyed practicality descends upon the mass mood. We start to feel an ambivalent but highly charged sense of responsibility, a foretaste of the momentous Capricorn conjunctions of 2020. (16)

Conclusion

To the extent that our efforts under the transits of 2017 are effective, it will be because they continue the epochal work of awakening the world to the life-threatening paradigms – ecological, military and political – to which we have given our power. It is a long, slow process, punctuated by mass events that hit us in the survival chakra: our sense of fatal emergency.

To see planetary cycles through a spiritual lens, even drastic transits such as Uranus-Pluto and its offshoot T-squares, is to see as harbingers of consciousness human problems that might otherwise leave us feeling helpless. But astrology allows us to see that the crises upon us are for our benefit. They represent the Cosmic Intelligence daring us to grow.

Notes:

1    The waxing square of the Uranus-Pluto cycle is the longest arm of the Cardinal Cross period that began in 2008 and extends until 2023, when Pluto ingresses into Aquarius. The square’s exactitude phase, 2012-15, refers to the period during which Uranus and Pluto squared each other to the minute of arc seven times.

2    The Saturn-Pluto cycle began in 1982, consolidating the merger of global political and economic power, and establishing the post-9/11 security state in the USA and Europe. Also waning are the Jupiter-Pluto cycle, in its critical last-quarter phase this year, and the Jupiter-Saturn cycle, in a waning sextile. All three cycles start anew in 2020 (see the Astrologers Forum in TMA Dec/Jan 2016 for details).

3    The dwarf planet Eris (vengeful furies) conjoins Uranus from 2012-2020 (15 degree orb), recently peaking June and September 2016 and again on March 17 2017. We see this influence in the unprecedented media attention paid in recent years to sexual assaults, by celebrities (Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, et al), frat boys, media moguls et al. During the Clinton candidacy, it was said that sexual trauma became a voting bloc. See Henry Seltzer, The Tenth Planet, The Wessex Astrologer 2015.

4    Arguably, the secular kind is even more Sagittarian. Demagogues exaggerate the sign’s mutability, given their tendency towards ideological inconsistency (whereas traditional religion at least purports to stick to the views of a holy book). And secular demagoguery epitomizes the shadow side of the fire element: the glorification of personal identity.

5    Since September 10, 2016 Jupiter has been in Libra, where it will be retrograde Feb 6-June 9/17. It enters Scorpio Oct 10, 2017.

6    Washington’s complicated relationship with Saudi Arabia, where falling oil prices are wreaking havoc, is heading into troubled waters. Dissident voices have recently arisen in the US Congress questioning the alliance; in one instance, objecting to the latest multi-billion-dollar arms sale by citing Saudi war crimes in Yemen, and in another, offering a bill that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue the monarchy. In November ’16, WikiLeaks released emails corroborating the State Department’s knowledge of the kingdom’s funding of ISIS, Washington’s official arch enemy. The Saudi Arabia Saturn’s conjunction with transiting Pluto starts to peak in March 2017, when the Eris-Uranus conjunction is peaking, which may express as popular revolt.

7    An expose of the public defender crisis appeared in the Guardian three days after the Jupiter ingress.

8    Since the 2016 E. U. deal with Turkey, Greece has become a holding pen. The policymakers’ goals seem to be to push the camps to the periphery of Europe, and to redirect spending from relief to border security and surveillance (see Astra Taylor, in The Baffler).

9    Westerners usually explain such attacks on their home turf as being rooted in Islam, but statistically the perpetrators tend to be non-practicing ethnic Muslims, disenfranchised from society, who know little of the Quran and declare a last-minute allegiance to ISIS before their suicide.

10    Oner Doser has noticed that two of the last three transits of Saturn in Sagittarius, during its transit through the U.S. first house, featured major stock market shocks. He calls our attention to the Saturn Return chart of the 1929 crash (10/24/29), which falls on a day when Mars in Aries triggers the Uranus-Jupiter opposition: Feb 23rd, 2017.

11    As of this writing (Nov 2016), for example, South Africa, Burundi and Gambia have announced their departure from the International Criminal Court.

12    Although the opposition will have a 6° orb, harnessing its energy should also be profitable in early September, when Mercury and Mars in Leo trine Uranus. Innovators (Uranus) will be supported in coming up with new ideas (Mercury), and are likely to run into fewer obstacles acting them out (Mars).

13    The trine has two further exactitudes, in May and August of 2018.

14    Planets in water signs around eleven degrees are ideally positioned, especially those in Cancer, which form a grand trine with the transit.

15   United Nations figure.

16    The election of 2020 looks to be far more decisive than the one we just had, a turning point not only for the USA (Saturn and Pluto will be conjunct the country’s Pluto, Saturn within a degree) but for the Western world.

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