by Tony Howard
In this issue of the Forrest Astrology newsletter, Tony shares an open discussion about Uranus and Venus retrograde in the charts of Madonna and Miley Cyrus on the night of the taping of Miley’s MTV Unplugged special. But first, a couple of updates...
Today, as we enter the shadow period following Venus retrograde, we find ourselves in yet another shadow – the one just before Mercury retrograde, which kicks off officially with its station retrograde on February 6th or 7th (depending on your time zone). Completing the trio of personal planets, Mars joins this planetary backwards-day party on March 2, marking the first half of 2014 as a season of retrogrades.
We tend to complain about retrogrades no matter when they occur. But having them at the start of the year goes against the natural logic of forward momentum that any new year carries with it. Instead of marching valiantly forward with our New Year goals, we’re encouraged to take a step back. Re-visit, re-vise, re-do. Just about any word you can add “re” to will apply during this time. If you find your actions meeting road blocks, try adding “re” to whatever it is you’re doing, shift gears if necessary, and see if that helps create some ease.
Don’t Tell Us What to Do!
by Tony Howard
I got a kick out of this photo which circulated the web recently, of Miley Cyrus and Madonna graciously displaying their tongues for the audience at MTV Unplugged. Here we see two pop stars playfully giving us, the audience, the middle finger. The gesture is all the more meaningful and relevant because both stars have been the subject of public scrutiny and criticism. And with this performance they’re basically saying, “we’re going to be who we are, love us or not, and we intend to keep being in-your-face with the parts that make you uncomfortable.”
Although I have to admit to not being a big fan of either performer, I was drawn to this image because I can recognize a Uranian gesture when I see it! When I looked at their charts, I was expecting to find a strong Uranus placement, either natally or by transit. And what do you know? There it was. Let’s take a look at their charts, and their transits on the night of the taping.
Before we dig in, I should note that Madonna’s birth time has a Rodden rating of “C,” which means that the source isn’t as strong as it could be. But we can feel solid about our read of Miley’s chart, with its AA rating. I’m using the following birth data: Madonna, August 16, 1958 at 07:05 am, Bay City, Michigan. Miley Cyrus, November 22, 1992 at 4:19 pm, Nashville, Tennessee.
Let’s start with Madonna. Looking at Uranus, we find it is squared by Mars. With this aspect we have a transpersonal planet configured with a personal planet, which increases the importance of Uranus in her chart. As the two planets interact with and inform each other, we’ll see that Uranian goals will infuse Madonna’s actions and call to will in the world.
Before I go any further, why am I looking at Uranus in the first place? Because Uranus is the rule-breaker, the rebel, and the outlaw. Uranus seems to work to liberate us from societal and parental conditioning. See the late 60s for reference! As Madonna and Miley stuck their tongues out at the audience (in the performance they titled “Don’t Tell Us We Can’t Stop”), they defiantly identified themselves as rule-breakers, and status quo challengers.
Although Madonna isn’t well-known for sticking out her tongue, she’s definitely known for bucking the system at times, notably when it comes to the Catholic religion. And we find Mars, the planet of conflict, stirring things up from her 9th house. Scenes from her videos and live concerts have been condemned as “sacrilegious” and have been seen as an open attack on the Catholic church. The conflict and accusations of attack – that’s Mars. But Madonna’s intention to use those images not only to shock, but also to help liberate people from the oppression of Catholic dogma, is markedly Uranian.
So what made this a special night for Madonna? Let’s take a look at transiting Uranus. There is no direct hit between transiting Uranus and another planet in Madonna’s chart. But what we do find is transiting Pluto in Capricorn conjunct retrograde Venus, both trining her natal Mars, and thus activating the natal Mars-Uranus square. Bingo! The issues contained with Madonna’s natal Mars square Uranus signature are triggered by transiting Venus and Pluto on the night of the performance.
So on that night, Madonna had an opportunity to take some action that would liberate some aspect of herself (and/or us via her performance) in order to feel less defined by external structures of control and authority. Now let’s look at her Venus retrograde transit.
In his research on the subject, Nick Dagan Best has found that Venus retrograde is often associated with actions (and people) that upset others. For instance, Chris Rock has a natal Venus retrograde placement, and his confrontational comedy style has gotten him into trouble now and then. In 2007 at the London Live Earth concert, Rock’s performance broadcast was cut short by the BBC because of his use of a popular slang cuss word that describes mothers in a less-than-nurturing way.
Perhaps Venus retrograde is associated with upset because with Venus partially out of commission, Mars has more freedom to instigate conflict. It could be that during Venus retrograde periods we don’t have full access to the typical Venusian graces. Diplomacy, nicety, and charm may be in short supply. And since these energies provide the natural balance for Martian aggression, it follows that Venus retrograde periods (and people) could be marked by offense and upset.
But it’s important here to remember Steven’s quote that “God doesn’t make mistakes in the birth chart.” So before I start sounding judgmental towards people with Venus retrograde (or Uranus) placements, let’s remember that every chart has gifts. It doesn’t take very long to bring to mind people throughout history who have helped get very positive things done in the world by upsetting other people. So there’s always a high expression available, no matter what placements we have. Whether Madonna and Miley were accessing the highest expression of their transits that night, well, that’s up for debate!
It’s hard not to focus on Madonna in this pairing, given her history and prominence in pop culture. But this was really a Miley moment. Miley invited Madonna to participate in the performance in a sort of homage to the older singer’s influence on her. So it’s not surprising that we see an even more dramatic astrological signature in Miley’s chart.
Once again we find a strong natal Uranus, which figures prominently in Miley’s chart since it is conjunct the personal planet Venus, which is also the ruler of her Taurus ascendant. So Uranus is infused with Miley’s external veneer – it colors the way Miley dawns on the world. She’s here to express the archetype of the great liberator, the rebel, the revolutionary, the rule-breaker in ways that are obvious to anyone looking. And she’s doing it in a distinctly Venusian way, via her beauty, her sexual currency, and her, um, charm.
Charm is maybe not a word we’d associate with Miley these days, after recent performances like this one. But remember that charm had a lot to do with what made her a teen pop star in the first place. Charm informed who she was in the past and she’s now reacting against that because she wants more freedom to express herself outside the confines of that well-crafted image. Venusian issues still take center stage for her, no matter how she expresses them. She wants to be liked. She wants to be flirtatious. But she also feels confined by societal rules about how women, and especially “charming beautiful ones,” are allowed to express their sexuality. Here we see her natal Venus-Uranus conjunction in action, as the two planets stimulate and encourage each other towards growth and evolution.
Do we think Miley has done a great job working with these energies? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s fair to say that, like the rest of us, she’s a work-in-progress. And perhaps with age and wisdom, her Uranian antics will take on a more seasoned tone.
Let’s look at the transit triggers for Miley on the night of the performance. Her transit chart shows Uranus opposite her natal Jupiter, the same transit that was within range as Miley’s now infamous twerking performance made her a household name. One potential for that transit was that offensive and rebellious actions Miley took that night may or may not work out to her advantage, but definitely expressed her desire for liberation. With the opposition to Jupiter the potential for overreach and hubris was there.
Under a Uranus stimulus, even though we desire to break free of restrictions, and that feels like a good idea, the timing of any drastic move is key. We’ve all probably known someone who quit a difficult job before another one was lined up, only to find that a replacement didn’t materialize as fast as they needed it to. In a Uranus time, that itchy-trigger is a natural evolutionary guide. But if we pull the trigger too quickly, we can also damage our potential.
Under her Uranus opposite Jupiter transit, Miley gleefully waved goodbye to her more play-by-the-rules youthful image and stepped into a new more rebellious one. Whether it’s one that will serve her over the long haul, only time will tell.
During the performance, we also find a big Venus trigger for Miley, with transiting Venus retrograde and Pluto both conjunct her natal Venus-Uranus-Neptune conjunction. Her Venus transit takes on more importance because this is a Venus return for her, as Venus is essentially stationing near the degree of her natal Venus. With Venus moving slowly over a sensitive place in Miley’s chart, the trigger takes on more importance than it would if Venus was moving in its usual, much speedier direct motion.
We’ve already mentioned Miley’s intentions to create more freedom around female sexual expression. That emphasis is repeated by the Venus retrograde transit to her natal Venus-Uranus conjunction. But adding the conjunction with transiting Pluto brings in an extra level of depth that we witness in the raw power of carnal feminine sexuality inherent in Miley’s performance. But with the absence of Venusian charm, Miley sometimes uncomfortably pushed the edges of “appropriate behavior.”
Venus retrograde alone is already expressive of the underworld journey (see my last Venus retrograde article). But with Pluto conjunct Venus at the same time, we can underscore that dynamic. Do we think Miley is utilizing this transit to mine the depths of her deepest self? Face her demons? Is she reclaiming shadow parts of herself that will then lead to empowerment? Before we answer (or judge), let’s remember that she’s just 22 years old.
When I look at Pluto (or Venus retrograde) in an evolutionary context, I like using the Underworld journey as a metaphor for this kind of deeper psychological process. But one of the fun things about astrology is that these symbols also express literally. Pluto can be associated with great wealth, and includes those natural riches mined from deep within the earth. And what do we see Miley and Madonna wearing? They’re both covered in diamond studs. Granted they’re probably not real diamonds! But they’re made to look like them. And they’re definitely symbolic of the real monetary wealth that both women possess.
Before we wrap up, let’s also look at Pluto’s association with power. By bringing Madonna onto the stage with her, Miley was claiming her right to stand alongside the reigning queen of pop as an equal, thereby claiming her right to some of that primal power. A decisively strategic move, this performance had the mark of Capricorn too, the sign that both Venus and Pluto were transiting. Make no mistake – for all the costume changes and goofy onstage antics, this performance was all business. At the end of the day, pop stars have to sell massive numbers of records. And this was Miley’s statement that she intends to keep doing so in ways that honor the well-worn path of shock and spectacle laid out by other powerful women before her.
PS: Just for fun, I looked up the charts of some other notable tongue over-sharing celebrities, and found Uranus in ample supply. Mick Jagger, with Uranus on the Ascendant, and Ascendant ruler Mercury conjunct Pluto, Jupiter and the Sun in Leo. Gene Simmons from Kiss, with Uranus square his Ascendant ruler Venus. And German pop star Nina Hagen, with Uranus quincunx her Ascendant ruler Mercury, and square her Moon in Libra.
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Neptune in Pisces
It seems like everywhere I look, astrologers have been hyping the Uranus-Pluto square, myself included. And with good reason. This dramatic signature is hard to ignore. But equally important is Neptune’s transit through Pisces. It’s true that this transit heats up more when it’s making a direct aspect with another planet, or with a planet in your natal chart. But Neptune’s transit through a sign marks a change in tone both personally, and collectively, that we can objectively track over time. And when we look back at this one, we’ll find evidence of the Piscean influence infusing life everywhere we look.
Steven has shared some of his thoughts on the subject in previous public talks. Last summer he gave an updated presentation about Neptune in Pisces to an audience in North Carolina, and we now have that available here. If you already purchased the older NORWAC keynote lecture, we’re happy to apply your $10 purchase as a credit towards the new one. Just email Tony and he’ll create a coupon code for you to use at checkout.
New Video Release
Planets Square the Moon’s Nodes
In this pre-recorded live webinar, Steven illuminates the meaning of planets that square the moon’s nodes. If you have a planet squaring the nodes, or want to learn more about interpreting this challenging signature in others’ charts, this recording is for you. mp4 video download format. Will play in any web browser, on any computer or device. $30