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Dancing in the Dark 

The astrology we’ve experienced this year has picked up the world and spun it on its finger, leaving most of us feeling a bit dizzy. The biggest news events—the earthquake in Haiti at the beginning of the year, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the midterm elections, and the sluggish (some would say nonexistent) economic recovery all fit the same basic astrological picture of issues that are larger than life.

It’s been astrology on the largest possible scale, involving numerous outer-planet alignments and focused on the Aries Point—the first degree of the zodiac, which has a curious magnifying effect I’ve described in many recent editions. The feeling is confrontational. It’s the sense of everything about the world being at the edge of an abyss, and by default, we’re there too. I think that most of us cope by keeping our heads out of big-world stuff and focusing on our personal lives to the best extent we can. Who knows, maybe it’s true—if you feel okay, then everything with the world is going to be fine.

The astrology of midautumn has a different emotional tone than anything we’ve experienced for a while, because it involves Venus retrograde. Venus is a planet associated with our feelings, our values, relationships, and sexuality. It’s an inner planet, closer to the Sun than is the Earth. Retrograde motion is an illusion created when a planet is close to our own. Venus is about to pass between the Sun and the Earth, creating this effect. Venus is retrograde least of all the planets, just eight percent of the time—six weeks out of every eighteen months. Compare that to Mercury, which is retrograde for three weeks three or four times a year, or to Pluto, retrograde five out of twelve months.

Venus is now in Scorpio, and the retrograde begins in that sign on October 8, one day after a stunning Libra New Moon. I’ll come back to that New Moon in a moment—it has a message for us connected to Venus retrograde.

In traditional astrology, Venus is the ruler of two signs, Taurus and Libra. When a planet is placed in a sign opposite the sign it rules, that’s a condition called detriment. It’s a harsh word, I know; many of us have natal planets that are in their detriment (Mercury is one of mine) and we may wonder what to do with them. Old rules of astrology need to be translated carefully into our modern context, but there is always a good translation, and by good, I mean the ancient scholars who gave us our astrology wanted us to notice something that was relevant now, even if the rule we’re applying is 2,000 years old. In astrology, “good” means useful.

Venus in Taurus (one of her rulership signs) is confident in what she believes. The feeling of Venus in Taurus is rooted like a tree. Put Venus in Scorpio and she can feel a little lost—or sold out. Scorpio is a sign of relationships, representing a kind of boundaryless merger with another person. Venus wants to be fully self-possessed and self-defined; in Scorpio, she is totally subservient to the desires of another, or a situation in which she loses her self-definition. Once there, she might resort to manipulation as a way of getting back a piece of her lost power.

In many ways that sums up our lives right now, and the life of our society. Whether we’re talking about consumer debt, the Ponzi scheme that runs the nation known as Wall Street, or a political system that can produce the miracle of a 41-year-old virgin (okay, “secondary virgin”) Republican senatorial candidate who is actually taken seriously by a swath of the American public, we’re in pretty deep.

Venus in Taurus is about nourishment. If we put Venus into detriment, you get an effect like “that looks like food, but it really isn’t.” Indeed, most people don’t eat food. I keep reading that 40 percent of the caloric value of the American diet comes from high fructose corn syrup (which is currently getting a linguistic detoxification as “corn sugar”). Corn syrup makes a lot of people sick—for one thing it turns right into arterial plaque, and it’s toxic in about 50 other ways. (It’s better for you than Nutrasweet, which is neurotoxic and has a brain cancer issue that delayed the product’s release for years—and look how many people drink that.) The American food supply is rife with trans-fats, gluten, genetically modified organisms, and nearly everything coming out of a factory. We in the Hudson Valley are fortunate—we have farmers markets everywhere; you can join winter and summer farm shares, and it’s possible to eat local food (if you can afford it, and if you care).

Speaking of...

  • Venus is now in Scorpio, and the retrograde begins in that sign on October 8.

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