When a tree is planted, eased carefully into the earth, watered and nurtured, you can look at it one day, and then the next, but you will not see it grow. But as you watch it each spring, you will notice that that, yes, it has grown and the trunk is thicker, the branches longer. When the first hard green apple appears, it may feel that it takes forever, but one day, there it hangs, ripe and juicy and the tree is ready to be harvested. (Note 1)
It’s like that with progressions… they creep up on you without you noticing. But suddenly you realize their effect has been growing and blossoming, and you are already acting them out. As John Lennon says: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. Mercury progressed may for example catch up with Venus by progression, and for years and years they move on together in tandem. Could that be your new partner’s sister who is always visiting and involved, or have you started a 5-year study of French, or is a sibling born, who will be a part of the family inventory for years to come? Progressions can encompass everything, and you may still not realize their importance.
But transits are different. They do not creep up, they hit like a storm, like rolling thunder, like a wave, like a shock, like a force of nature. Transits are not the unfolding of your inner life as progressions are. Transits are what life throws at you and at everyone else, and the test of character is how you react. As the bible says:
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous… (Mathew 5.45)
Nobody is going to escape the challenges that human life entails from birth to death, and attitude is all-important when these challenges come along.
Transits reflect of course the current positions of all the planets, and we are all sensitive to the same transits at any given time. They are a collective force to which we individually react according to out nature. The imminent series of seven squares between Uranus in Aries and Pluto in Scorpio will affect every individual through the collective response of society… and some individuals more than others if personal planets or angles are touched. Some people will be the lightning rod through which this planetary energy is expressed, whilst others will just be witnesses to change.
But people are nervous about change. Even if they are in a situation which is not ideal, it is very common to prefer the devil you know to the devil you don’t. Most of the problems that arise with transits occur because of resistance to change. Consider this: People who have undergone a Pluto transit, and have inevitably transformed their lives accordingly, are almost always happy that their life is not as it was before. They prefer the new situation that has arisen. As a general rule people are richer for the changes they have undertaken as a response to the states evoked by transits. This is the key to counseling clients who come at a time of change. They may feel uncomfortable now, but if you were to ask them in two years’ time whether they would like to turn the clock back – they would not.
The trick then is to identify the change that the client secretly wants, which is going to take place anyway, and which is going to make them happier and more fulfilled. Get it? Once this has been done, it is just a question of planning. (Note 3)
Pluto transits work because a situation which seems impossible to change becomes more and more intolerable. You are cornered; the tiger has you backed up against the abyss. It is dark; you have to jump, but you know not how far and where you will land. You will jump, because you have to; it is just a question of when. Here is another thing: the situation you have been in has for several years been far from ideal. You are not living your life optimally or even authentically. Pluto is not satisfied. He wants to rip the mask of deceit or falsity from your life. He would like to strip you down to the essentials, and from those bare bones rebuild a new, authentic you. This is going to be a real relief for you, because you will be forced to drop something you want to drop, but do not drop out of consideration for others, or because of attachment in another form.
For example, a Pluto transit over the MC will build up slowly over a year or so, during which time your relations to an authority may become more and more untenable. Perhaps a new boss arrives and there is an immediate power battle, which mobilizes all your resources. Or perhaps, if you work independently, the economy simply worsens. Or, a parent continues to dominate in your life. As the months go by and you obsess about the clash of wills, or about bankruptcy, or about family consequences, you reach the point of exhaustion. You cannot give up the job, because it pays well. But, on closer examination, you were tired of the work. The bad boss may be doing you a favor, forcing your hand. If you don’t go, the company is downsized, and off you go anyway. And you are free to pursue what you really wanted to do all along: passionately engage yourself in work that is meaningful and enriching.
What the astrologer needs to do in this scenario – when the client asks how to improve the situation at work – is to identify what the client is dead tired of, completely finished with. It may be necessary to demilitarize the situation if there is a battle of wills with demonized others; ultimately the client may exhaust himself to no avail. As a rule the client has no idea what will replace the existing situation, and does not believe anything can. Something will, and it is good to explore what this might be, bearing in mind that first the client needs to jump into the abyss of unknowing to discover the invisible treasure. Clients need to know that the world will not end if they act. In fact they will be reborn, with a new appetite for life. They also need to know that the longer they draw it out, the worse it is going to be.
Of course, if a transit activates a natal pattern involving the transiting planet, there are deeper issues involved. The following client came to me just after he had had a medical examination where concerns were raised that he might have a serious ailment. For those into the consultation chart (Dec 18th, 2003 9.55 CET Copenhagen, Denmark) the fact that Mercury, the horary 6th house ruler was stationary retrograde, had opposed Saturn in Cancer in the 6th once, and would do so twice more, amongst other things, indicated a serious illness would be revealed.
To underline the seriousness of the situation, my client’s progressed Descendant was precisely conjoining Pluto, and Pluto transiting was conjoining his natal 6th house ruler, Mercury, and would go on to conjoin Mars and ultimately Venus over the next five years. He was very grateful for the prediction at the time, that there would be radiotherapy (Uranus), surgery (Pluto) and five long years of survival struggles which would end positively through an extremely fortunate development. So through radiotherapy and the constant recurrence of the disease over these many years, he had a timeline for cure, which proved to be correct when he was fortunate enough to find a bone marrow donor, which occurred when Pluto transited his very beautiful Venus/Moon trine.
It could be asked how this dire series of events could possibly have a positive slant. But it was the client himself, who informed me that studies have shown that cancer survivors have a better quality and enjoyment of life than people who have not had a life-threatening disease. What the transit did for him was to eliminate the victimhood he had felt in relation to partners and parents. The birth patterns reflected an obsession with the injustices he had experienced. And yes, he had experienced terrible injustices, but the survival battle put this into a quite different perspective. This person has been free of illness for about four years now.
Do you know the feeling of waking up in the morning fresh and alive, and then it hits you? The same old situation is going on and on. You want to stay in bed. A mood of sadness envelops your soul, sorrow catches in your throat. The sacrifice must go on and it will never end. You can’t fight it; you have lost the battle before you begin. A good film may take you away from it; a good wine may make you forget… for a while. You know what you don’t want to do, but you don’t know what you do want to do. Also, you may be grieving for something you have lost or cannot have.
Neptune wants to tell you, that whatever you have, you will lose it… if not now, then later, and certainly when you die. What you are attached to now is a false friend. It will let you down. What you think is real, is temporary and transient. Tune in! There are new ways of doing what you are doing that will be meaningful and that will bring a higher level of satisfaction, a greater depth of insight, and an ultimately joy that cannot be taken away. To learn this you may be asked to give up what you have, and to surrender to forces beyond your control.
The challenge for the astrologer in this scenario is to motivate someone who has lost motivation, and whose energy is low. The undermining of willpower is particularly noticeable when Neptune transits Mars, an influence that profoundly affects work motivation. The trick here is to get the client to identify what the client does not want to do first. If you have been working for several years behind a counter at a video store, for example, you will begin to wonder if the rest of life is going to be like this, and if it is, what is the point? Discontent is the method Neptune uses to remind you that time is short and must not be wasted. Discontent is a signal, and a signal in this situation is exactly what the client needs. The discontent will grow until you make a move. Any addictions – even excessive TV or gaming – which may be indulged in at this point are merely ways of putting off the inevitable. They will leave you empty. Neptune to Mars demands a more refined use of energy… a rise to a higher level especially physically, through swimming, yoga, Tai Chi and subtle sports. Or moving from selling video to making video, learning Photoshop or something creative.
Neptune reaches the parts of body, mind and soul other planets don’t reach. People emerge from Neptune transits immeasurably richer. Their tree blossoms more fully, their fruit is sweeter. Neptune is all about quality of life, about getting much more out of the moment. Neptune is not about dissatisfaction – you were dissatisfied before, you had just not noticed – it is about being content and satisfied. So clients in despair about love, confused about education, disillusioned about work, isolated from family, or in existential pain, are about to discover the missing ingredient which will make them happy. They will learn that the anchor in stormy seas is in their heart, and that change can come and go, but the heart center will remain.
To help a client with a Neptune transit, the astrologer needs to evoke the existential pain and empathize with it. Empathy is the key; logic and advice are counterproductive. Only when the client feels understood – when the pain is shared – will an opening arise to tentatively explore possibilities. As addiction groups recommend with the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Being alone is often a key ingredient of a Neptune transit, which tends to evoke situations when you are removed from your normal environment and left to vegetate, forcing you, even if it is the last thing you want, to feel, feel, feel what is going on within. Rendered passive in this way, you simply have to let go and surrender. And you have to find something to do with your time which – in the absence of practical tasks – will involve something emotionally and spiritually meaningful.
The following client is a photographer (Note 2) who travels extensively in India, and has very close bonds to the Tibetan community, with spiritual teachers both in Sufism and Buddhism, and to top it off a rather uncommitted relationship to an Indian boyfriend. All very appropriate for the Sun conjoining the Pisces Descendant.
Neptune transiting client’s Moon and Descendant
The recent Neptune transit of the Moon in Aquarius in the 6th house related to a debilitating sickness connected with arthritis of the ankle. Friends and doctors had made her aware that it was now possible to get an ankle replacement, which had a 50% chance of working, though it might not last for more than a few years. Should she get it? My response is that she has is the only one who can make this type of decision but, with Neptune affecting the 6th, the likelihood of a successful operation is slight, and the chance of medical complications considerable. Her Tibetan advisor suggested she did not do anything, which I certainly concurred with. It was something she would have to tough out.
But what did it really mean? Is not the Moon in the 6th opposite Pluto rather suspect? Someone actively involved in groups and helping… to the point of exhaustion? Sure enough, she was involved in charity work, which involved traveling around her home country. Which was difficult with the ankle problem. So perhaps she should stop that. Interestingly, with the emphasis in Pisces, she was brought up in her parent’s pub. Her mother naturally worked all hours, as pubs close late in the evening. This work, which is the equivalent of inviting a lot of drunks into your living room, is also reflected by the Moon/Pluto opposition – the occupation – and my client has almost certainly inherited a similar tendency to invite groups in, even if it is not in her best interests. Neptune is encouraging her to discover how she can do her best work, and this will be more photography and video, as Neptune moves to conjoin her Sun/Mercury trine Uranus over the next few years.
Are you feeling comfortable? Oh dear. That may not be such a good sign, if a Uranus transit comes along. These transits are sometimes said to come out of the blue, like a bolt from heaven. But actually they probably come when your development appears to have come to a standstill. There is reason to be nervous in a relationship, if transiting Uranus opposes your Venus, and you sit in front of the TV each night with your partner, visit the family at the weekend, and amiably chat about how cohesive your relationship is. Inertia is no friend of Uranus, whose cure for a no-growth situation is disruption and change. Of course, these days (2010 – 2016) a Uranus transit does not come along without a corresponding Pluto transit… which is like opening Pandora’s Box.
Clients in the midst of a Uranus transit tend to be stressed out; this may be having serious consequences for their work, where new technology and networking demands tend to overload the nervous system. Others make radical decisions which bring serious social disruption in their wake. But at least they are making changes. Those people who strive to cling to the status quo – who “don’t know and don’t want to know” – are in for a rude surprise. If relocated because of their work, or ejected by their partner, or alienated from their social circle, they are going to have to find new coping strategies fast.
One of the strategies people under the influence of Uranus adopt is dissociation; they live in their head and are estranged from their bodies and the feelings that reside within. Moving constantly from one scene to another, they feel excited perhaps, but they are not in touch. So an important counseling strategy is to create some islands of calm. Often breathing takes place high up in the chest and throat, and it needs to be centered and controlled. Still, there is a purpose to being plugged in, if it means that the person gets shaken out of complacency. The electric excitement of meeting new people is perhaps just what the client needs to get reinvigorated by life and to find new energy and purpose.
People undergoing a Uranus transit seek circumstances where there is more freedom and space, more cultural diversity, more international or interstate connectivity, more technology and more city lights. The key issue is how to handle these powerful urges without disrupting relationships to partners and family. This generally means having the patience to persuade others of the urgency of the need for change, and how that change will be mutually beneficial. It is no use trying to put the cork back into the bottle… change will come, and everyone can benefit.
Transit of Uranus through client’s 7th house
The following client whose Mercury/Venus in Gemini in the 10th house reveals a multitalented and multilingual person had been in a very dissatisfying marriage for many years, which probably relates to the Moon/Mars conjunction in Pisces in the 7th house. When transit Uranus conjoined her Descendant, her husband announced that he had found a job in Greenland, and without further discussion, took the job leaving his wife alone for months at a time. Pisces is often connected with islands. Uranus is often connected with repeated separations and returns – an on/off relationship.
As Uranus travelled through my client’s 7th house it went on to conjoined Mars and the moon, at which time her partner exchanged Greenland for Afghanistan. On Christmas Day 2007, on one of his few visits home, he walked out and my client has simply not seen him since. Uranus was conjoining the Moon exactly at this time. (But disappearance is a Pluto theme… Pluto was at 28 Sagittarius, exactly opposite Venus at 28 Gemini. Goodbye.) How can this kind of event be interpreted in a positive light? Well, firstly, who wants a husband who makes moves without consultation or consideration, leaving the partner alone for long periods over the years? Only someone with the Moon in Pisces in the 7th could tolerate that. Here the husband made the decision, but the decision favored the wife. The epilogue to this story is rather good. My client made contact with a person who had always been interested in her, and they fell in love. This person is famous locally for his home-made schnapps. (Neptune conjoined the Descendant… how about that for a happy relationship?)
No transit in and of itself need necessarily invoke drastic and unwelcome change. People who value stability can weather transits and stay on course, whilst people who welcome change are far more likely to use the opportunities brought by transits to set a new course. People react to transits according to their individual values and convictions.
Also, transits rarely come alone. For example Saturn, when it enters Scorpio in October 2012, will trine Neptune and sextile Pluto, which might for example make for a very disciplined psychological and spiritual transformation. In 2006 Saturn in Leo opposed Neptune in Aquarius, and this planetary combination tends to be unrelentingly disheartening. Whereas the conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus in June 2010 would have brought far more excitement and exhilaration. So some transit combinations are more difficult than others. Dealing with transits is a question of attitude. Going with the flow, rolling with the punches and surfing the wave will bring more opportunities than problems, leading to the kind of life you have been wanting all along.
Adrian Ross Duncan. February 13th 2012
1. This article forms the basis for a talk that will be made at the United Astrology Conference in New Orleans on May 25th 2012 at 9.00 am. Talk decription:
Every astrologer does it – you peek at the ephemeris and see that Pluto transit approaching and think: Help! But transits are actually just what you have been waiting for, and when they are over, you are the richer for it. Clients often come overwhelmed and in the midst of change they do not understand. In this talk Adrian will demonstrate counseling techniques that help clients overcome their fears in connection with the outer planet transits, empowering them to embrace the change they need to lead a fulfilled and authentic life.
2. In this article I am just dealing with the transits of the outer planets. Both Saturn and Jupiter bring challenges
3. Note this person born hours before a solar eclipse. The eclipse is often seen with photographers. (The shutter, that cuts off the light).