Too close to the Sun

It was whilst I was cradling my dying kitten on my breast that I began to muse on the apparent split in the astrological world concerning psychological and horary astrology. For a psychological astrologer some of the terms associated with traditional and horary astrology must be something of a mystery. Like “combust” (Note 1) and “cazimi” (Note 2) for example. Just an hour previously I had been viewing the rare inferior conjunction of Venus and the Sun, which was made even more remarkable by the fact that Venus visibly retrograded over the lower face of the sun for the first time in 122 years. The sun momentarily had a beauty spot – but, astrologically speaking, was that a good thing?

During the 1980’s revolutionary trends in astrology circles worldwide brought a new consciousness to horoscope interpretation. The individual was placed at the center very much in control of his or her fate, and encouraged to manifest as much free will as could be mustered. The psychological approach, triggered by such authors as Liz Greene (Note 3) and Stephen Arroyo (Note 4), brought a wave of optimism and a deep understanding. If only we could understand the basic psychological mechanisms involved, then we can control them and change our behavior. We could be masters of our destiny.

Yet it was in precisely the same period that a first edition of William Lilly’s “Christian Astrology” was painstakingly restored and published by lovers of traditional astrology in England , reinstating the old art of horary, which is blossoming in astrological institutes worldwide today. Prediction is the centerpiece of horary, which assumes that a horoscope for any particular event reflects both the circumstances leading up to the event, the event itself, and the way this event will unfold. A horary astrologer does not beat about the bush – either something will happen, or it will not.

Horary astrology places enormous reliance on value judgements – the relative strength and weakness of the planets. Whilst the psychological approach takes rulerships into account – for example the ruler of the 4th in the 9th might show a childhood abroad – it will not automatically assume weakness just because the 4th house ruler is Mars in Libra. The horary astrologer however will place great significance on the fact that Mars is in exile in Libra, and therefore cannot express its energy decisively. Indeed William Lilly assigned points to planets according to whether they were exalted, dignified (in their own sign) in detriment, in fall or retrograde. Without understanding the relative strength of a planet, it is impossible to judge the outcome of a situation.

Value judgements are anathema to psychological astrology, partly because this type of astrology deals more with people, whilst horary traditionally deals with outcomes. It seems unethical to judge a person’s character in advance because of the weak placement of planets… or at least it seems disempowering. Furthermore, the very cornerstone of horary – prediction – finds no favor with the psychological approach, with its emphasis on adapting behavior to create optimal outcomes. To pencil out a probable future seems to place the client in a behavioral straightjacket.

Both views have their strengths and weaknesses. Horary can be extraordinarily accurate but too depersonalized to be empowering for the client. The psychological approach may seem strangely anemic, in that the element of clarity as regards outcomes and actions can be missing; but it can give huge insights into behavior.

But anyway, sitting there with my dying kitten, I had the distinct feeling that Venus combust the Sun was not such a good aspect, even though, psychologically speaking the conjunction of Venus and the Sun sounds quite nice. It was amazing how fast the process went. As the Venus beauty spot entered the blazing edges of the sun, we noticed that out of the three kittens, this particular one had become too weak to suckle. Off to get a pipette and artificial kitten milk, but even cradled to my warm body and fed warm milk it rapidly lost body warmth and the life ebbed out of it.

See horoscope: 08.06.2004 11.40 Copenhagen

Sufficiently recovered some hours later, the grieving “father” cast a glance at the chart for its death, where, appropriately the Moon was in the 6th house with Uranus setting on the Descendant. Indeed the Moon had just crossed the border into the spirit realm of Pisces, leaving behind the Aquarian brotherhood of its two healthy siblings. Venus was cazimi… just four minutes of arc from the center of the Sun. And as the Sun itself measures 30 minutes of arc, Venus was still of course visible in the raging center of the bright summer sun. Traditional rules would probably assign 6th house ruler Saturn as ruler of the kitten, and it is of course weak in Cancer and has been afflicted by an even weaker if not virulent Mars, which is in fall in Cancer and here exactly quincunx Pluto. And Saturn here is precisely conjoining my natal Mercury in Cancer… not so good for pets.

There is no doubt that the combustion of Venus and the Sun was damaging in this case. The kittens were born at two hours intervals seven days previously (Note 5) with the Moon in Scorpio and just as retrograde Venus opposed Pluto, so perhaps we should have expected a death in the family. Nevertheless it was also a great privilege to be so close to the kitten at its death. The transition from its struggle to survive to its quiet acceptance of death was very educational. Perhaps all beings struggle madly to survive, yet when death announces its coming, give up the struggle with some relief at the end, as the kitten appeared to do.

This brought to mind the actual meaning of cazimi, which is the feeling of being in the eye of a hurricane. Whilst the wind howls around you, you are in the center, eerily calm, and able to gain insight into the primal creative cause. Mercury, when cazimi, gives insight into the very nature of the mind, whilst Venus reveals the deeper secrets of love. So, psychologically speaking, perhaps combust and cazimi are fine, because they are all part of the learning process of life.

In actual fact retrograde Venus is often associated with death. Astrologer Erin Sullivan points out in her excellent “Retrograde Planets” (Penguin Books 1992) that the Aztecs saw Venus retrograde as a goddess assuming the guise of a man who walked the Earth for 40 days and 40 nights. (The retrograde period). When Venus meets the Sun he/she is sacrificed. After the retrograde conjunction Venus reappears in direct motion in the East just before sunrise and is considered to be reborn as the Morning Star. The Mayan people depicted Venus as a goddess of war at the time of the stationary direct Morning Star period, considering that she had risen up from the underworld “still sticky with the blood and bones of the dead”.

And indeed deaths more important than my kitten did take place at this same period – notably the death of former US president Ronald Reagan on June 5th. Here it is interesting to note that he had for 10 years struggled with Alzheimers, and been lovingly cared for by his wife Nancy in this period. His mental affliction and her love are very poignantly expressed by the Sun/Venus conjunction (president and wife) in the sign most connected with mental processes – Gemini. The significance of this death is that it did awaken strong feelings amongst those who loved him – and there are many – and launched a retrospective (retrograde) view of his life and achievements. Over 200,000 people views his coffin in Washington , which, I suspect, is significantly more than viewed Richard Nixon’s. Two days after the combustion of Venus and the sun, the musician Ray Charles also died – and, like Reagan, he too was afflicted, with blindness no less.

This was also the period of the 60th anniversary of D Day, with veterans and world leaders converging on the Normandy coast to commemorate the dead. Again strong feelings of love were evoked concerning the past death of loved ones.

Naturally, any significant event taking place during this extraordinary Sun/Venus conjunction should reflect its astrological meaning, and a colleague of mine did in fact begin a consultation at the same time as my kitten expired. The client in question was born with a close Sun/Venus conjunction, and his current situation was quite disastrous. He was under extreme mental pressure after being fired from work under circumstances that seemed rather harsh and unjust. In the consultation chart the Sun/Venus in the 10th house showed the bosses on the one hand, and the client’s crisis on the other. He had become seriously ill and might never come to work again.

This theme continued the next day, when a client I had (when Leo was rising, therefore he was ruled by the Sun) had also been fired, and he couldn’t understand why this had happened for the 3rd time in 4 years. (It should be said that transiting Uranus was precisely opposing his Mars in Virgo… so perhaps a change was in order.) Later that day a client came with Libra rising, so she was actually represented by the combust Venus (in the 8th house). In this case the Gemini theme came out… well into her sixties she was looking after her “dying” mother and her three brothers, and simply did not have a life of her own. My client was aware that her mother’s health was a very useful tool – she was still ruling the whole family – but despite her awareness of having been manipulated her whole life, she felt powerless to break out.

Naturally Venus/Sun conjunctions will not always be this extreme – the current retrograde cycle of Venus takes place with three oppositions to Pluto (see 2, 3 and 7 on graph) and three squares to Jupiter (1, 5 and 6), so humiliation and injustice are major ingredients in the process. This will be remembered as the period when USA ‘s democracy was exposed and undermined by torture pictures from Iraq – notably the humiliation of male Muslims by female guards. This in turn put the spotlight on the judicial system of the USA , especially in relation to adjustments by the US administration that created the legal black hole of Guantamano and made torture acceptable in some circumstances. Heads have yet to roll in this area, and we can expect further developments as Venus stations in square to Jupiter at the end of June – still sticky with the blood and bones of the dead. Final consequences are likely to take place when Jupiter itself actually squares Pluto in the first week of August.

Whilst this has been a trying time for all those who are sensitive to Venus (for example Librans and Taureans) there is hope for all after Venus emerges from the underworld. Mars too has had its travails – in fall in Cancer with just Saturn for company. On June 23rd Mars enters Leo, and as Venus turns direct, she cleaves to Mars in a long sextile throughout July and into August. The Gemini/Leo sextile suggests fun, creativity and play; romance and children are in the air. Even though Venus meets Pluto again in the last week of July, it is in the heady company of Mars. It is at this time that long-awaited changes – particularly in relationships – will be effectively resolved.

Adrian Ross Duncan 10th June 2004

Note 1. Combust means that a planet is within 8½ degress of arc from the sum
Note 2. Cazimi means that a planets is within 30 minutes of arc from the Sun
Note 3. Liz Greene’s book “Saturn – a new look at an old devil” is a classic
Note 4. Stephen Arroyos book “Astrology, Karma andTransformation” is probably the best known of his works.
Note 5. The first kitten was born on June 2nd 2004 at 1.30 in Copenhagen


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