There is an astrological event brewing that happens this spring for the first time since 1925: a conjunction of two slow-moving outer planets called Uranus and Eris. You may recall that Eris became famous in 2006 when it precipitated the redefinition of a planet, leading to the "demotion" of Pluto.
What is so exciting is that because Eris was discovered just 11 years ago, we will experience this conjunction with full awareness for the first time in human history.
We've seen the Uranus-Eris conjunction coming for years; and the association between what these planets represent, and how society is changing, seems pretty clear if you know what to look for. Yet before we dive into a distinctly modern astrological technique of assessing an outer-planet event for the entire culture and for each of us as individuals, I would like to start with a point of history.
By 1965, the birth contractions of what would become "the Sixties" were already happening. I use 1965 as a reference point since it's the year of an astrological event associated with everything that happened in that era—the most potent conjunction prior to what we're experiencing now.
In August 1963, for example, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom announced a new phase in the civil rights struggle that began in the mid-1950s. That was where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech before an in-person audience of about 250,000 people, most of them African American. Later in 1963, a young John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Just 12 weeks later, the Beatles arrived in New York, creating a sensation like the world had never seen. The Free Speech movement erupted in Berkeley. By summer 1964, the Vietnam War was officially under way when Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. These things were, of course, just the beginning. Everything was changing, and was changing fast, and going in directions that nobody could predict.
The pace of unprecedented events would accelerate clear through the murders of MLK and Robert Kennedy, the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, and his resignation in 1973. Woodstock, widespread use of LSD, the Moon landing, the shootings at Kent State University, national campus protests, the first flight of the 747 and the Concorde, revelations and leaps forward in all of the arts, in literature, in technology, and in religion: The Sixties were a distinct, strange, tragic, wild and beautiful time, comparable to nothing before them.
Most astrologers who are working today know that there was a rare planetary event associated with the Sixties, called the Uranus-Pluto conjunction. It happens less than once per century, and the event of 1965 and 1966 took place in Virgo. Both Pluto and Uranus had been discovered by the time, and their positions were available to anyone who sought out the information. Uranus was discovered in 1781 and Pluto was discovered in 1930. They were hardly late-breaking news in 1965, the first-ever known conjunction between them.
I've always wondered whether astrologers who were working in the 1960s had any idea that the conjunction was happening, and if they were, whether they worked with it consciously. I had my doubts.
The person to ask was Robert Hand. Many people know of Rob from his most famous book, Planets in Transit. Having accomplished many things since that writing, including earning a PhD in the history of astrology (at the Catholic University of America, of all places) and co-founding what is today a full-on classical astrology revival, Rob is considered the dean of American astrology.
So I called him in late March to find out whether the astrology profession was aware of Uranus conjunct Pluto while it was happening. He said he started attending astrology groups in 1962, and that people were not talking about it.
There were no books about Pluto available in English (one had been written in German but was not translated till the 1970s; a pamphlet came out in the late 1970s and the first book in English finally came out in the early 1980s). So people didn't have a lot of information to work with and felt they didn't really grasp it.
Of course, all they needed to do was to look at the world. You know, step away from the desk and take in all that was going down, then look back at the chart for something similarly unprecedented. But it wasn't until after the conjunction was over and the Sixties had already had their impact that anyone really made the connection.