Sunday, March 30, 2014

Russia and the Ukraine

On 1st March 2014, the day Mars turned retrograde, President Putin ordered Russian troops to mobilise in Crimea. So Mars is the planet to watch out for in this crisis, and he will be retrograde until 20th May.

A retrograde period can be a time to turn inwards and reflect, and by the same token a period for going over old ground. And the status of the Crimea has been anomalous since the end of the Cold War. During Soviet times, Crimea was transferred to the Ukraine, though still under control of the USSR/Russian Empire. And during the 20th century, her demographic changed from 35% Russian to 55%. In 1991, as the Cold War ended and the USSR fell apart, Crimea became an autonomous republic within the Ukraine.

As the Ukraine has moved towards Europe, the divided loyalties of the country have been exacerbated. And Russia, like the US, is protective of its sphere of influence. As the Ukraine underwent a revolution in favour of moving towards Europe, so did Russia act.

There are many possibilities for a chart for Russia, as the USSR’s collapse occurred in a number of stages. One chart I have used is for 19 August 1991, when Yeltsin stood on a tank and proclaimed his resistance to an attempted coup by the old guard. That was arguably the decisive shift in power from the USSR to Mother Russia. It occurred at about 11am, giving 23 Libra Rising, which Mars has been retrograding over in the current crisis. By progression, the MC is approaching Jupiter, so Russia’s expansionism is not going away anytime soon. And Vladimir Putin has a stellium of Sun-Saturn-Neptune-Mercury between 14 and 23 Libra, close to Russia’s Asc, making him the mouthpiece of Russia’s self-expression.


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Meanwhile the West is wringing its hands and imposing sanctions on Russia for its annexation of the Crimea. Putin is not someone to be pressurised. He acts on behalf of Russia with the straightforward ruthlessness of a country that has 1st House Pluto in Scorpio square to proud Sun in Leo.

Of course the ‘referendum’ in favour of Crimea joining Russia was rigged. But that was probably just a sop to the West. Russia doesn’t think in terms of our democratic niceties. Crimea is mainly Russian, we want Crimea, so we will take it.

And you can see their logic. What would be the democratic alternative? Crimea perhaps having a referendum, after years of bombings and atrocities by Russians who want to be part of Russia, versus a Ukraine that doesn’t want to lose any territory. That is what democracy often produces. When Russia has a breakaway region, it stamps on it ruthlessly, as it has done in Chechnya. That was what the US needed to do if it was to have any chance  in Afghanistan. Unless you are prepared to do that, then don’t invade. Democracies are too accountable to be able to have this degree of ruthlessness.

Now I’m not speaking out in favour of these brutalities. I’d much rather live in a western democracy. But it occurred to me in the case of the Crimea that this straightforward assertion of power by Russia may in the long-term give a better result than the democratic approach.

The chart I’m using for the Ukraine is for 24 August 1991, when Independence was proclaimed. All 3 outer planets conjunct the 2 main Angles, which suggests to me a country that is liable to be swept along by wider forces. And Uranus Rising suggests a country that is not stable and settled, that is liable to split – much as the UK, with its Uranus Rising in the 1801 Chart, has been subject to calls for independence from Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Pluto and Uranus are activating Ukraine’s natal Uranus by transit – just as they have been for the UK, where we have a referendum on Scottish Independence later this year.

The East of the Ukraine leans politically towards Russia, though it is only in the Crimea that Russians form a majority.

The crisis is likely to continue in its present form until Mars stations in May at 8 Libra – square the Ukrainian Asc, Uranus and Neptune.

As far as Russia is concerned, that is that, Crimea belongs to Russia. The only negotiations will be over the sanctions the West is for now imposing. The noise will probably have mostly died down by the time Mars returns to 27 Libra, the point from it which it began retrograding, in late July. At that point Mars will have crossed 3 times over the Russian Ascendant between February and July, a cycle of assertion and aggression. But in the sign of Libra, traditionally a sign in which Mars finds it hard do well, being opposite the sign it rules, Aries. Russia, however, seems to have been able to use Mars in Libra to its advantage, using the thoughtful quality of the sign to wait until the right time before seizing the Crimea. And creating an illusion of ‘fairness’ through the referendum. Well, from Russia's point of view, and from the point of view of the Russians in the Crimea, what has happened probably does seem fair. It really is Mars in Libra.

After its cooked-up invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US is not in a position to claim the moral high ground over Russia’s actions. And Russia knows this.

Putin is not a man who explains his actions. America is the opposite, producing copious justifications – many of them spurious – when it infringes the sovereignty of other countries. America feels secretly ashamed where Russia does not.

So what is the future for the Ukraine? The Crimea has considerable strategic importance, as well as having a population that is mostly Russian. These conditions do not apply to the East of the country, which though it leans towards Russia, has a slender majority of Ukrainians, and far fewer Russians.

So though the country will continue to feel divided – as evidenced by the natal Uranus Rising – for demographic reasons this doesn’t seem likely to result in another split.

The Solar Returns for this year and next year are interesting. This year’s (starting last August) has Angular Sun, Pluto, Neptune and Jupiter, as well as a Moon (the people)-Uranus (division) conjunction. We don’t need to interpret all this to see that it is pretty tumultuous.

But then next year’s Solar Return (starting this August) is nowhere near as dramatic. Overall this suggests that as the Mars retrograde cycle completes in July, and as the new Solar Return begins, the Ukraine will settle down – though perhaps licking its wounds (Neptune-Chiron opposite the SR Asc!)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Boris Johnson's Moment is Passing

Everyone in the UK knows who ‘Boris’ is. He is the Mayor of London and is seen by many as the leader-in-waiting of the Conservative Party. Not so much because of his abilities (which are considerable), but because of his charisma. He has Sun conjunct Venus in Gemini. He has charm and the gift of the gab, and he clowns his way through problems that would be the end of many politicians. In an electoral contest, the person with the charisma always seems to win. Even if you only have a little bit, like David Cameron, that was enough to beat the dour Gordon Brown.
David Cameron
Of course, there were other reasons that Labour lost, like the minor matter of being at the helm when the economy had its biggest crash since the 1930s. But with a bit more charisma from Cameron, the Tories would probably have won outright, instead of needing to form a coalition.

Unexciting leaders don’t tend to get re-elected, whereas exciting ones do. They don’t need clear policies, just the ability to wow the crowd, which Boris Johnson has in spades. This seems to be how Democracy, the ‘advanced’ political system that the West tries to foist on the rest of the world, works.

But astrologically, his moment is passing. Leaders who get elected tend to do so under major transits, and they remain in power until those transits have passed. Thatcher had Pluto to see her through her time in power, Blair had Neptune.


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For the last few years, as his political star has risen, Boris Johnson has had Pluto and Uranus hard aspecting his Angles. In 18 months Pluto will start to pull away from opposing his MC, and I think that will be that. Between now and then, he will remain very popular, and he may get elected as an MP in next year’s General Election, on a tide of hope that he will replace Cameron as leader. But that will be his high point. His Progressed MC has recently moved from Leo into Virgo, and as it gathers momentum, he will find himself in a position of service rather than leading.

David Cameron has Sun at 15 Libra, which Pluto is starting to square, but Pluto won’t start to properly move away until 2017. So he is likely to remain leader of the party at least until then. That will be Boris’ moment.

But not only will Boris lack the major transits to carry him into power, Uranus will be starting to oppose his Scorpio Moon, and that suggests to me the real reason why he won’t become leader: something unpalatable will come out about Boris. It may even be something he has done already, that an enemy is keeping in reserve.

Boris already has a history of being less than straightforward. He lost his first job as a journalist for making up a story. He was taped agreeing to reveal the address of a journalist to a friend who wanted to beat up the journalist, though he never did reveal the address. He denied an affair to his party leader that was bound to come out, he had a child from another affair whose existence was kept secret by court order for many years. What will Boris do next?

It may be that nothing comes out, but nevertheless there is still the  sense you can’t quite rely on Boris to stay away from scandal, and when push comes to shove and the Tories are asked to elevate him from crowd-pleaser to leader, they may shy away. Whichever way, he doesn’t seem likely to become leader.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ecstasy and the Limits of Mundane Astrology

9/11 evokes strong views/feelings in probably most of us. So how possible is it to read a chart in those circumstances? Many think it was a US government conspiracy, and when they read the chart, that is what they see. I don’t think it was a conspiracy, and when I read the chart, I see something closer to the ‘official’ explanation.

Maybe this is a problem that applies particularly to mundane as opposed to personal astrology, because we often come in with strong views. Take the Ukraine. Lots of astrologers have been analysing that country’s chart in the light of the recent political events. We may not know much about the Ukraine, but Russia is playing a decisive role in events, and how can we not feel one way or the other about that?

So again, can we really do astrology effectively in those circumstances? I think we can, but it requires considerable self-mastery.

It’s like doing a reading for a close friend or family member. To read effectively we need both emotional neutrality and emotional engagement. But with close friends and family how can we be neutral? There are things, for example, that annoy us about them, that we probably see as their faults, but our view of those ‘faults’ is coloured by our emotional response. And if someone is your wife/husband/partner, well it’s a tangle of smoke and mirrors, it’s a crucible that we are in looking out of, and to do astrology we need to be out looking in.

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I’m not ruling out astrology for family and close friends (by close, I mean you know them well enough to behave badly towards them, and you still remain friends!) Not at all, I do some good astrology round the dinner table with a few glasses of wine in me. But maybe I need the wine to take me out of myself in that context?

Astrology is divinatory. It is grounded in certain rules of interpretation, but that is just the launch pad for the really powerful stuff, when something speaks through you, your intuition, the gods, guides, whatever. In a good reading this always happens to some extent, and you may not even be aware you are doing it. I’m liable to protest: “But I can justify what I said in terms of the rules, I wasn’t being intuitive!”, but that’s just my rational bias.

Astrology is in this sense ecstatic, a word which comes from the Greek meaning to stand outside oneself. And we probably all know that feeling of bliss that comes with it, how after doing a reading you feel like you’ve been somewhere else, and we all have our own ways of coming back and absorbing what has just happened.

Which brings me back to mundane astrology. You do not have a living person in front of you, you have a chart for a country that is perhaps thousands of miles away. I think it’s possible to read the chart ecstatically, to be a mouthpiece for the gods of that country. But I think it’s very difficult. It’s more natural to follow the rules of astrology in these cases. But then we are liable to interpret using our ordinary human emotions, and see what we want to see. Because any astrological configuration has a number of equally valid and even opposing interpretations, if we are just following the rules.

Mundane astrology can be one-sidedly rational. I was on a short course in it many years ago, and we certainly learned some of the rules, but at no point did we use them to delve into national character, which I had naively thought was the whole idea! I still do think that. To read accurately, you need to get inside the chart, you need a sense of what it feels like to be a Ukrainian, or its government, for example (which can just be an intuitive thing.) There has to be feeling there, like in any reading, but not too personal.

So with mundane astrology there seems to be an issue around bringing Fire and Water (intuition and feeling) into the reading, along with Earth and Air (accurate data and rational interpretation). For example, you could have seen at its inception that the EU was going to go through a major crisis around 2012. That is basic astrology. But would it cause the EU to unravel, or come together on a new basis? You would have needed Fire and Water, which go beyond the ‘rules’ of astrology, to be accurate about that.