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National Past Time 16/10/2014

Posted by zoidion in Event, Hellenistic, Long Emergency.
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Twin Cities ephemera: The scene seemed almost like Tucson before dawn this morning, when I stepped outside to view the sky: the relative clarity of the atmosphere, the brightness of the waning Moon approaching Jupiter, one-and-a-half fists (at arm’s length) apart. Eighteen degrees, according to the computer. What a wondrous sight to behold, while noting the stillness of the air, the not-darkness of the leaves clinging in their final days to the massive silver maple tree in the yard to the south (making it impractical to install solar power panels or a solar hot water rig over here), the distant noise from the rail yard and the Interstate.
Unlike Tucson, there was a light frost settled on the insulated roof of M’s studio, but not on the kale. There has been frost nearly every morning for the past two weeks. But frost doesn’t count as precipitation: Like dew, it’s condensation. Thus, the rain gauge was empty yet again, for the eleventh day in a row.
The thirteenth was a still, cloudy day, but I never had the sense that rain would fall. The next morning, soon after sunrise, the wind rose and blew the clouds away quickly and dramatically, from northwest to southeast. Otherwise, the weather lately has been consistently sunny. It’s been a lovely period.
With only light frosts that haven’t reached under the Colorado spruce tree out front, the extensive patch of Purple-flowered touch-me-not (Impatiens balsamina), which I started about eight years ago from a dozen or so seeds collected from a neighbor’s now-vanished patch, remains standing and flowering.

Meanwhile, out in the wide world, there’s a whole lot of fear and blame-mongering, and a bit of sense ¬†about Ebola virus disease (EVD) reaching America, and the performance of the nation’s disease control system.

Mary Odum–an adjunct nursing professor with a background in critical care, and a PhD in health policy–summarizes some of the casual behaviors called into question:

TSA used gloves to pat me down, but they were not washing their hands after contact with people. Boarding passes, drivers licenses, and credit cards were swiped and exchanged, along with bills and coins. I saw a large homeless population on the waterfront in San Francisco with no access to bathrooms or handwashing, who were using the streets as open latrines. I saw prostitutes. Hotels had carpets and mattresses that would defy cleaning in an outbreak.
I saw people hugging, and shaking hands, and doing all kinds of human, caring, or even loving things that would be extinguished in a pandemic.

As with the recent incident of sabotage of the air traffic control system in the Chicago area, some of the flaws–or call it institutional incompetence–in the system are being revealed. In the Dallas hospital, the foolishness of profit-bolstering short-staffing and shortcuts is being revealed.
(As John Michael Greer has put it on occasion: What we have in America is capitalism on the cheap.)
I’ve been pondering the Ebola situation from an astrological perspective, going back to 1976 (the American bicentennial year), when the first case of Ebola in a human was identified. That occurred on 26 August–the day after a New Moon in health-related Virgo–in the village of Yambuku, in the Mongala district of Zaire.
The year chart for 1976–the Aries ingress on 20 March–at that location had several features that now take on a darker hue. The Sun was in the ninth sector, ordinarily a positive indication relating to international concerns, travel, higher learning and (perhaps not so positive) organized religion; but that zero-degrees Aries Sun was governed by Mars at one degree of Cancer: a tight configuration representing problematic circumstances: a difficult fight. (Those planetary positions were “stimulated” when Pluto reached zero Capricorn in 2008, and Uranus–along with Jupiter–reached zero Aries in 2010.)


(The chart location is the town nearest the village cited.)

(The chart location is the town nearest the village cited.)


“Innocent” Mercury–the bringer of messages, the transmitter–was also in the ninth sector, indicating that “whatever” could be distributed far and wide. Plus, Mercury was in the universal, indiscriminate sign of Pisces: sign of “detriment.”
And another “detriment” was in the picture: Saturn, also in Cancer: Mars and Saturn straddling the horizon. Not good. Not good at all. Mars and Saturn together in the same sign is an indication of hard, brutal, woeful times. Rather like August and the first part of September 2014, when the overlooked ISIS warband reared its ugly head in the Middle East and America admitted defeat by launching airstrikes in what “leaders” spoke of as a thirty-years war.
Note that Ebola first emerged from the jungle as Mercury and Mars together entered the sign of Libra, in tight configuration with Sun and Mars in the year chart.
And yet the disease mostly slumbered for decades.
Is there an indication for Ebola’s re-emergence in more virulent form in 2014? There is: The solar eclipse–indicating a crisis or turning point–of 29 April 2014 “matched” the solar eclipse of 29 April 1976 (as well as one midway, in 1995).
The April 2014 eclipse was rising (with Mercury) over west Africa, breaking humanity’s slumber. (The April 1976 eclipse culminated at local noon–in conjunction with Mercury and Jupiter, while Mars and Saturn were only six degrees apart–over Zaire.)
In the midst of a new round of horrors in the Middle East, on 8 August 2014, the World Health Organization issued a declaration about the seriousness of the Ebola outbreak in west Africa. As happens several times a year, on that day the planet Mercury was in exact conjunction with the Sun. In the terminology of Hellenistic astrologers, Mercury was “combust”: its astrological function of comprehension and communication “burned up” in the solar fire.
But there are actually two distinctly different kinds of Mercury-Sun conjunctions: superior (when Mercury is “direct” in motion, when Mercury is on the far side of the Sun from Earth) and inferior (when Mercury is “retrograde” in motion, when Mercury is between Sun and Earth). The August conjunction was of the superior variety.
On that occasion and for weeks afterward, the message was largely unnoticed.
Over the past several weeks, however, as Ebola has traveled out of Africa, the message has been heard loud if not clear.
Now–today–Mercury is again in conjunction (inferior, retrograde) conjunction with Sun–as Venus is closing in on superior conjunction. This is an unusual, pregnant moment.
It’s time to get quiet–perhaps to meditate–with ears pricked and eyes open.



Saguaro Tales 04/10/2014

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Climate, Hellenistic, herbalism, permaculture, Photography, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera (or should it be, report from the desert?): It was a bit of a rude return, from hot, dry Arizona to chilly, breezy Minnesota. It was also a welcome return, from a land with little water or soil to a most verdant one. Even so, as I stepped off the light-rail train in last night’s darkness, I couldn’t miss a swirl of . . . something: rain, snow? But today, a paler sun illuminates the glory of fall in the northland.

I am returned from the International Society for Astrological Research (ISAR) conference, followed by a first and probably only sojourn into the Sonoran Desert, its otherworldly flora, and remnants of the nearly-erased Hohokam culture—centered on canal-fed agriculture—from not so long ago. (At the Casa Grande ruins, I noted that the few comments in the guest book generally ran to: “interesting.” I wrote: “Impressive: the amount of hand labor required.”)

Casa Grande National Monument

Casa Grande National Monument

A rather dramatic statement, you might say: only sojourn. As a denizen of the ninth zoidion, I’ve never been inclined to casual travel. It must be driven by need, purpose, the prospect of discovery. When I signed up in April for ISAR, I did so with the intuition that the era of easy mass travel would likely be closing rather soon. (The recent easy sabotage of the Chicago-area air traffic control system and the larger system’s continuing vulnerability is an indication that my statement is not so outlandish.) So I approached the conference with a more focused set of intentions: intellectual, emotional and spiritual.

Intellectually, I wanted to deepen my knowledge and understanding of Hellenistic and medieval approaches to astrology. That I did by attending sessions with Demetra George (“Hellenistic Aspects and Trauma” and “Time Lords: Annual Profections and the Solar Return Chart”), Ryhan Butler (“Reception: My House, My Rules”) and Kelly Surtees (“The Temperaments and Our Collective Shift from Water to Fire”). Ideas and insights from the first two presenters are too involved to recount here, but they provide much food for thought and investigation in the coming months and years. The gold in the lively Ms. Surtees’ session came in her statement that temperament (choleric, melancholic, sanguine, or phlegmatic) is the foundation of chart analysis: Temperament is “the soil of a person’s soul.”

I could see it, I could feel it, and I could deeply appreciate the metaphor: I had left behind, at home, a book recommended to me by a young man I encountered at the North American Permaculture Convergence: “Teaming with Microbes.” It also reminded me of one of the more satisfying conversations I had during the conference, with Sue Morris. I was sitting outside near the mesquite fire at nightfall, as I did each evening, watching the western glow diminish and awaiting the appearance of the New Moon, Mercury and Mars. (I never did spot Mercury, at near-maximum elongation–longitudinal distance from the Sun–but concluded that it was because of Mercury’s current southern declination from the ecliptic.) Though I could hear a few people at a table behind me discussing the visible celestial bodies, I felt disappointed that there was not a crowd of astrologers (!) out there, marveling at and buzzing about such a sky. At that point, Sue appeared and we proceeded to have an animated discussion about our respective gardens, interest in permaculture, and the launch of her new herbal products business.

At Kris Brandt Riske’s round table chat (she being the author of Astrometeorology, 1997), a group of us talked about that day’s (Saturday, 27 September) techno-weather forecast for rain and considered the astrological indications, right down to the hour and whether precipitation would be significant. She noted the cooler weather that followed Mercury’s crossing the horizon of the very-recent Libra ingress chart, and anticipated modest rainfall beginning between five and six o’clock p.m. As it turned out, by half past noon, a thundershower was visible in the distance, and by two-thirty, the first of two periods of driving rain was distracting me and others from the presentation at hand. One- and two-inch amounts were typical across the area, accompanied by typical local flooding.

Partial Arizona map of precipitation reported by CoCoRaHS

Partial Arizona map of precipitation reported by CoCoRaHS

Nick Dagan Best‘s “Transmission from Mars” reminded me of the especially potent years of age thirty-two and sixty-four, when Venus and Mars return simultaneously to their places at birth at the time of the solar return: signaling crucial stages in the development of love, sexuality and creativity. Two other presenters’ sessions touched me: Adam Gainsburg‘s “Sky Phases” (a subject of keen interest to me) and Marcia Starck‘s on medical astrology. But the surprise (to me) hit was Lynn Bell’s “Listening to the Daimon: The Twelfth House.” Surprise because the double-size room was packed: That realm of trouble and suffering is popular!

Ms. Bell gave moving testimony to the perception that engagement with the chronic ills of one’s life can bring a measure of redemption. She cited the life of Joni Mitchell, whose birth chart shows both of the “inconvenient” factors, Mars and Saturn, within the realm of the daimon. I hadn’t been aware that Ms. Mitchell had been an avid runner until stricken with polio at age eight, redirecting her attention to the guitar and forcing her, because of a now-weak left hand, to develop an unusual tuning and playing style. A quote from Mitchell sums up a crucial realization: “If you get rid of the demons, the disturbing things, the angels fly off too.” Another example, Sri Aurobindo, who heard his calling for spiritual teaching only while imprisoned for political activity.

Ms. Bell defined the daimon as an unquenchable urge, costing what one might call one’s normalcy, calling one to focus on serving the good of the community. Thus, the realm of the daimon–elucidated in James Hillman’s “The Soul’s Code”–is concerned with what one must do, if one is not to drown in sorrow or rage.

All of this largely intellectual work was balanced by the magnificent Nuno Michaels’ four-hour session: “Stepping into Wholeness: Astrology as a Healing.” As he described it: “Working from the idea that ‘to heal’ means to become whole and every symptom is created in consciousness with that same purpose, we’ll be able to use the astrological chart to illuminate and chart our own healing journey as we step into the circle of our own wholeness, or divinity. Participants will then be able to apply every bit of astrology they already know to fostering their own healing and [that] of those around them.”

The appropriateness of that particular session in the Ant Room–others were Road Runner, Quail, Gila Monster–was confirmed for me by my earlier fascination, when exploring the grounds, with the activity of an ant city. Still, it was a small group, much smaller than for the sessions in the rooms on either side. Perhaps–probably–some had been put off by that sticky word “participants.” The session truly was, as Nuno said at the outset, an encounter: not with exotic astrological measurements, but with pain in the heart, behind the social mask. I treasure the authenticity and vulnerability brought by the others, who courageously moved their focus. They gifted me (and themselves) with their presence and attention when I was Nuno’s guinea pig. I experienced then a mental, emotional and physical energy shift, and I continue reverberating.

The several days following, in the Tucson area, provided an effective intermediate zone of time and place for reflection and integration before returning to “normal” life. My first morning there, I rose well before dawn to enter the nearby saguaro forest, unknowing its diminished state. Diminished within the past eighty years, diminished not by harvest but by natural forces, primarily weather (apparently).


The saguaro forest’s most prominent protector, Homer L. Shantz, testified to its magnificence in 1932:

Nowhere in the world is there so fine a stand of the giant sahuara (Carnegia gigantia) as in the area included in the University Cactus Forest [which became part of the original Saguaro National Monument in 1933]. Here the plants rise so close together that at times it is difficult to see through them for any great distance. Unique as is the area because of the close stand of sahuara, it is none the less remarkable for the fine stand of cholla, viznaga, ocotilla, palo verde, and hackberry, as well as hundreds of other interesting plants. Those who know every portion of the great Southwest maintain that the area surpasses them all. . . . It ranks with the great Redwoods, not in age and not in mass of vegetation, but certainly in unique character and surpasses it in variety of form. (Ecology of the Saguaro: II : Reproduction, Germination, Establishment, Growth, and Survival of the Young Plant, Warren F. Steenbergh & Charles H. Lowe, National Park Service Scientific Monograph Series, 1977)

A Feb. 1930 photograph of Mr. Shantz standing among such giants as he described shows both their triumph and impending decline: The density of superlative specimens is offset by the near absence of smaller, younger saguaros.

Note the curious cumulative picture of this . . . almost-human-appearing being:

The saguaro blooms and produces a crop of succulent fruits during the driest period of the year–the hot, often rainless months of late spring and early summer. In the absence of other moisture, fruit development is insured by the reservoir of moisture stored within the succulent stem. Thus, each year, the saguaro produces a large crop of seeds just prior to the start of germinating summer rains. . . . The flowers of the saguaro open during the early nighttime hours and remain open until afternoon of the following day. . . . Natural pollination, which is accomplished by animals, occurs primarily during nighttime and early morning hours . . . by a variety of flying animals (insects, birds and bats) that feed upon the pollen and copious nectar of the open flowers. . . . Reproductive growth of a healthy saguaro begins when the plant is approximately 2.2 m (7.2 ft) tall. The first blooming may result in the production of only one or two fruits. The number of fruits increases rapidly, however, in succeeding years, and production commonly exceeds 100 fruits per year by the time the plant has attained a height of 4.5 m (14.8 ft). At that time, the first arm buds develop on vigorous individuals. As early as the first spring thereafter, when they have attained a length and diameter of about 15 cm (5.8 inches), the spherical arms begin to produce fruits. The number of fruits borne on the arms increases rapidly in succeeding years. The function of the arms on the saguaro is to increase the number of fruits, and hence, the number of seeds produced by the plant. Mature fruits weigh about 50 g (1.8 oz) each and contain approximately 2250 seeds. . . . the saguaro begins reproductive growth at age 50-75 years–a conservative estimate–and lives 150-175 years. Based on an estimated average production of 200 fruits per year, a healthy saguaro produces a total of 40 million viable seeds during its 100-year reproductive life span. [ op. cit. ]

In the late Nineteenth Century, a warm climate regime appears to have nurtured their growth and proliferation. But their failure to reproduce in sufficient numbers is seemingly still a mystery. The big blow came with record low temperatures in 1937, though it was several years before they began dying at an alarming rate. In 1962 and 1971 other killing freezes led researchers to conclude that temperatures below freezing for over twenty hours could kill saguaro. (Fortunately, a partial resurgence since the 1980s has been noted.)

And yet their population reached a peak even before the several weather catastrophes, which themselves reveal an astounding reality about the saguaro: It can continue to produce flowers and fruit for years after its death.

Why go at such length into the recent history of a member of the Vegetable Kingdom, even though a prominent one? Because it seems to suggest the prospects for humanity.


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