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Eclipsed 27/08/2017

Posted by zoidion in Event, Hellenistic, History, Mundane, Photography, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: As I stand in the sunroom of my house, feet at shoulder-width, facing Sol during qigong practice, I now do so with a different meaning and feeling: I have stood in Luna’s shadow under Sol.

In a small group of people, beside a small pond near a Japanese-style garden in the Missouri Botanic Garden in St. Louis, I marveled at the strange yellow light before totality: as if looking through an old-timey photographic filter. Waterfowl had already flown across the scene as a hush fell upon the people with the funny eclipse-viewing spectacles.

Suddenly, Sol’s light vanished, leaving the scene in deep dusk. And soon, amid a puff of breeze, the temperature noticeably dropped: a welcome relief on a hot, humid day. I’ll admit: I was befuddled, nearly unable to operate the camera-tripod setup I’d brought. I had not planned to obtain photos of Sol: There would be gazillions of those. I was interested in earthbound scenes. But after many occasions recently of sighting Venus in the predawn sky, I neglected to look in the total eclipse moment about thirty degrees west of Sol-Luna. Sigh . . .

Then, just as suddenly, Sol’s light returned: a different type of relief, and a return of the intensity of heat. There were oddly shaped clouds on the horizon: two “regular” clouds connected at their tops by a misty cord. A patch of lotus plants in the shallows of the pond faced them and away from Sol and Luna. Crescent-shaped shadows continued to appear on light-colored surfaces as the eclipse waned.

Just as Sol re-appeared as usual, a heavy cloud rolled in and let loose a pelting rain as brief as the total eclipse. Then the town was one huge steam bath. 

Back home after five days’ absence, the garden called for attention. The cucumber plants, sucking up the excess moisture through this cool August, had continued producing a plethora of green (and overripe yellow) zeppelins. This has been relish-making time.

The occasion of the most portentous solar eclipse of the past century, for this country at least, is a fitting one for departing from the usual fare here of, well, portents of doom.

Such occasion seems appropriately to be one for investigating and describing the man who called the first one — in the sense, that is, of foretelling where on Earth Luna’s shadow would fall. (It is after all, Luna’s shadow, with only the halo of Sol visible and radiating through to Earth.) That would be Edmond Halley.

That’s right: Halley’s Comet’s Halley.

Back in Merrie Olde England in 1715 — on 3 May, to be more exact — the first map depicting the territory to be enshadowed was borne out.


Tumultuous would probably be a more accurate word for England at the time. The previous year brought the House of Hanover (renamed Windsor in 1917) to power (while Sol was in Leo), beginning three centuries of rule, still ongoing. There was a challenger, however (when is there not?), and a rebellion that lasted into 1716.


The effort and recognition surrounding the eclipse map crowned Halley’s second Saturn cycle: Halley was fifty-eight years old. He had already had an illustrious career, going back to age twenty-two, when he published a catalog of 341 southern stars: the first systematic southern sky survey. Only eight years later (at his first Saturn return), he established the relationship between barometric pressure and height above sea level, presented a systematic study of the trade winds and monsoons, and identified solar heating as the cause of atmospheric motions.

That only brings his chronology to 1686, with eclipse day still twenty-nine years away: a full Saturn cycle.

In between, he did a few other things, such as preparing the first mortality tables (way to go, Mr. Solar Scorpio) that statistically related death rate to age, and computing the expected path of return of his namesake comet.

But this was actually the big one, the truly pioneering work: the eclipse map. How fortunate — or not, but nevertheless portentous — that the path of the 1715 total eclipse passed across southern England. Halley himself could easily observe it, and public interest was considerable; he put out a call for reporters across the land to send him the details of their observations.

There was an unusual configuration within the zodiac at the time: a triple conjunction of Saturn, Uranus and Pluto — a combination that would not recur until the 1850s. They were in the zoidion of Virgo, where Uranus and Pluto would be again in the 1960s, with Saturn opposite. Clearly the Uranus-Pluto pair is related to technological achievement and deployment.

Perhaps more fascinating is the other configuration: the eclipse with Jupiter and Neptune in Taurus. What could be more appropriate for cosmic consciousness — in the form of comprehension of celestial mechanics — brought down to Earth?

The latter configuration was opposite the natal Sun, in the tenth place of public recognition and achievement, in Halley’s birth chart. That fourth place, where Sol and Luna and Jupiter and Neptune were at various rates passing through — Jupiter for one year, Neptune for fourteen — represents the most-earthed realm. As in a deep, narrow vertical shaft above which planets and stars are visible, except at midday.

That it would be a super-charged year for Halley is evident in the symbolism of Mars added to the cluster of planets in Virgo at the time of his previous solar return.

Yet another touch: the ascendant at London for the time of the eclipse is the last degree of Cancer: the very degree of the solar eclipse prior to Halley’s birth.

Luna was less than five degrees away from that point when Halley was born: into Leo, in a disseminating-phase relationship with Sol. This is apt: While he attained remarkable achievements, he stood on the shoulders of giants of inquiry: figures including Isaac Newton (who allegedly and famously challenged him on his attitude toward astrology).

That Halley was likely a bit rigid in his worldview is in tune with his birth chart: Lord of his Ascendant is Saturn, located in the ninth place (trine to the Ascendant), direct in motion, exalted by zoidion, and in-sect in the diurnal chart. This is essentially a happy and productive Saturn — if one might anthropomorphize — especially within the realm of scientific investigation (physical laws and mechanics). Even so, a bit needlessly limiting.

A bit more problematic is Mars: also in the ninth place and Libra, but in exile (opposite Aries, where Mars is lord) and out-of-sect. Traits represented: contentious in unguarded moments, yet capable of sustained effort toward expanding one’s own and humanity’s horizons.

His mental brilliance, his capacity for recognizing the harmony of the spheres, is indicated by Mercury on the upper meridian, in company with Venus, both opposite Jupiter and Pluto. This is quite the combination, seldom replicated through the ages, showing the potential for thought with considerable breadth and depth. What is most significant here from a Hellenistic viewpoint is the Mercury-Jupiter portion: placed in each other’s home zoidion, a condition sometimes called “mutual reception.” As with Mars, they are also each in detriment (technically weakened) by zoidion.

Mercury in Sagittarius indicates one who naturally thinks conceptually and is apt to have difficulty in keeping the facts straight — may even consider hard information untrustworthy. Jupiter in Gemini typically refers to someone with a plethora of interests and/or projects, each with a shallow level of comprehension and attention. Yet Halley evidently accomplished a great deal of mental work that passed muster. Perhaps, as some astrologers contend, the gods in each other’s domains find ways to compensate for weaknesses within each other’s realms: a canceling effect.

Other pairs of planets reveal that Halley was born into an era and generation that was transitional: a mild-sounding word that really means profoundly disruptive and transformational. Invisible and unknown to humanity at the time, Neptune and Pluto were opposite by zoidia and less than eleven degrees from exactly opposite. Saturn had within the previous month or so moved into Libra and away from an exact closing square with Neptune, correlating with the atmosphere of political slippage that echoes a similar configuration that persisted through 2016.

By moving into Libra, Saturn moved closer toward another closing square: the last-quarter phase with Uranus, in that era occasionally seen in the sky but not yet recognized as a planet. Saturn-Uranus: an often catastrophic combination that was in effect through the global financial meltdown of 2008—from which the economic system has not recovered.

In Halley’s time, the significance — what is established vs. what is disruptive — was less dire: James III, the “Old Pretender,” gave up his challenge to the English throne; Russia’s Peter the Great made his second visit to Europe in quest of importable ideas and technologies; and Scottish economist John Law established the Banque Generale in France.

One might say that Edmond Halley and his eclipse map inaugurated the era of eclipse tourism, which has perhaps now reached its apex. His other contributions helped with the great project of that era: the expansion of trade to farther reaches of Earth.

Arguably, the global trade network has reached its own apex.



The People’s Chronology
, James Trager, 1992.
The Timetables of History, Bernhard Grun, 1975.
The Eagle and the Lark: A Textbook of Predictive Astrology, Bernadette Brady, 1992.
The Astrological History of the World: The Influence of the Planets on Human History, Marjorie Orr, 2002.
Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, Richard Tarnas, 2006.
History Mole online.

Recent listening

Charles Eisenstein on being “guided by beauty”.
The Astrology Podcast, Bernadette Brady: The Astrology of Eclipses.

Recent reading

The Crazy Ladies of Pearl Street, Trevanian


Syrious Situation 25/11/2015

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Climate, History, Long Emergency, Mundane.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Last week’s rains (nearly two inches) and the hard freeze that followed brought the year’s organic growth to a halt. The blue-star-flowered borage plants which had weathered several light frosts finally collapsed. The leaves of the transplanted Good King Henry and lovage withered and disintegrated, along with the juicy and stringy leaves of comfrey.

The rich, dark color of the beet leaves remained, though they had gone sadly floppy. It was time, yesterday, to dig them and the carrots out of the ground; time, too, to take the last of the broccoli florets off their stems.

It was a most remarkable growing season: a relatively cool summer and warm fall, with rains coming as and when needed, with many pleasant days and few incidents of violent weather. Local meteorologists have been calling this a rare and wonderful weather year.

Before the final digging, it seemed appropriate to visit Indian Mounds Park. There, the bones of ancient ancestors, within the mounds behind the camera, watch over a recent memorial as the cyclical waters of the Mississippi River flow along a great arc past the city of St. Paul.


It’s hard to imagine how or when the situation in Syria could improve, as years of unrelenting woe grind that nation to dust.

The first generally noticed hints of trouble were the mass protests that came in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. (The Syrian Day of Rage was 15 March 2011.) By April a peaceful demonstration by tens of thousands was met with bullets. By mid-May the U.S. was applying economic sanctions. By mid-August, security forces herded thousands into a stadium in the port city of Latakia and confiscated their identity cards and cell phones.

The situation deteriorated so severely that by mid-summer 2012 the International Committee of the Red Cross declared that a state of civil war existed.

The next severity clue was reports of a chemical weapons attack (using the nerve agent sarin) on a civilian sector of Damascus on 21 August 2013: two months after the official start of U.S. arms shipments to rebel groups. By then, the war had claimed over 100,000 lives.

In recent weeks, Russia has entered the fray, only to see a planeload of its citizens crash in flames: destroyed by an onboard bomb. And France’s involvement has been repaid with well-planned attacks in the heart of Paris.

And the refugees: They had only spilled over into neighboring country. Now, four-and-a-half years since the eruption, just about everyone knows about the flood of Syrian refugees overflowing western Europe and generating domestic U.S. political controversy.

But what actually triggered such a tragedy? For months now, more and more reports are pointing to drought–beginning in 2006 but particularly severe in 2007-08–as a major factor. Crops failed and farm families abandoned the countryside, adding their dire needs to the already-crowded cities. And the country would need to buy much more food abroad.

Plus there’s the oil factor. Oil? you say — in Syria? Well, yes. Syria was never more than a minor producer for the world market, but the revenues formed a large portion of the national budget: 25% in 2010, fifteen years after peak production.

More crucially, as Ugo Bardi points out in his article, “What Crude Oil Gives, Crude Oil Will Take Away”

“Around 2011, the internal consumption curve crossed the production curve and that transformed the country from an oil exporter to an oil importer. The cross-over point corresponded to the start of the civil war.”

The path has been downhill ever since, as financial / material / social resources have been diverted from the life of the country to uses conjuring only more chaos.

Astrologically, the turning is strongly represented in a comparison of the 1 January 1944 chart for the Syrian state with the solar return chart of 31 December 2009. In a general sense, the 1944 chart shows many buried or deferred issues — stemming from military occupation and the artificial boundaries imposed on the region by the Western colonial powers Britain and France several decades earlier — symbolized by five planets (Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus) in retrograde motion.

That a crisis was at hand as 2009 turned to 2010 was readily apparent: The solar return took place on the date of a lunar eclipse, just weeks after the world’s top political figures met in Copenhagen and decided to do nothing about the deepening climate crisis.


That it would become a military crisis for Syria is aptly represented in the solar return (not shown) at the end of 2010: The Sun (symbolizing the state and its head) was besieged by Mars (war) and Pluto (utter destruction / transformation).

The underlying economic troubles at that point were symbolized by Venus’ conjunction (along with the Moon) with Venus’ place in the 1944 chart. (Both Moon and Venus are “debilitated” in the sign of Scorpio, but there’s no need for a lengthy discussion of astro-philosophy here.) With transiting Neptune in the mix, triggering 1944 Venus and Jupiter, the unraveling of an already precarious economic situation was in the cards.

The religious schism within Islam, yet another factor in the Syrian situation, stems from the murder of the caliph Ali, nephew and son-in-law of Mohammed, in January 661. (Ali’s followers came to be called Shiites, from the Arabic shi’at Ali, or “taking the part of Ali.”) The chart (below) for the sighting of the crescent Moon following that event represents a most potent persistence. The Sun with Uranus indicates the division itself, while Saturn (with Neptune) opposing Jupiter and Pluto indicates the intractable religiously-based political power blocs — a very rare overlapping of long cycles. Mars, in “domicile” in Aries, shows the force of war unleashed.

Sunni - Shiite schism

It is grimly fitting that the major configuration of the year 661 drops like a puzzle piece into the 1944 Syria chart: the part correlating with the precarious economy.

It serves as a reminder that the limits to growth cannot be denied, that when a society’s energy requirements fall short, historic cultural forces overwhelm the polity.


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