Newsletter February 2019
by Steven Forrest
Facing any kind of crisis or heartbreak in life, most of us would find an eye-to-eye session with a living astrologer to be more satisfying than a computer screen offering us pre-packaged nuggets about our current transits or progressions. There are a lot of reasons for that, most of them rather obvious at the human level. People and machines may be developing an interesting symbiosis, but when the emotional chips are down, human-to-human, heart-to-heart, interactions are still the most appealing option for most of us.
Beyond the obvious touchy-feely realities, there is another level to this distinction, something more intellectual, something that goes beyond empathy and a hug. The human mind can do something that no machine can do. It can meld all of the symbols together into one clear, coherent, emotionally connected package. Developments in artificial intelligence may change all that someday, but for now the human heart is still the premier instrument when it comes to pulling the diverse messages of many planets into a meaningful, coherent statement.
When I am teaching the more advanced kinds of astrological interpretation, I constantly beat this drum: integration, integration, integration. One day I realized that I could boil this critical skill down to one single pithy statement: always remember what you have already said. So simple to say, but it really encapsulates all the critical integrative principles.
Imagine someone is a Capricorn with the Sun-Saturn conjunction. The computer tells him definitively: you are a loner. But maybe that person’s Moon is in Libra in the seventh house. The computer goes on to explain how he is a social animal, with a strong compulsion to be in relationships.
Go figure, in other words.
Learning to make those two statements dance together illustrates the critical interpretive skill about which I’m talking. The part of your brain that likes poetry has more affinity for it than the part of your brain that thinks like a microchip.
Remember what you have already said.
The statement is clear enough in principle – but complications arise after you have said ten different things. What does statement number two have to do with statement number seven? How do they fit together? How can you even remember them all?
This leads me to another line I often use while I am teaching: you have many planets, but you only have one head between your ears. Somehow, the messages of all of those planets ultimately merge into one state of consciousness, like many dyes flowing into one interesting color – a color you have probably never seen before.
Mostly, these integrative principles apply to the way I look at an individual chart. In this month’s newsletter my aim is to illustrate them with a living example – one which will bear upon every one of us this month in varying ways. Let’s look at the changing sky as it presents itself in February 2019. During these next four weeks, there is as always a complex and ever-changing stew of aspects forming and dissolving among the planets.
Out of that stew, I want to extract one theme. It is based on a series of aspects formed by the planet Mars.
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The month begins with Mars in its own sign, Aries. When it is there, it simply packs more punch than usual – that’s true of any planet when it lies in the sign it rules. Speaking of punch, on February 1, Mars squares Pluto. We have “the god of war” and “the god of hell” at each other’s throats. Stand back, in other words. On the seventh, Mars squares the lunar nodal axis. On that same day Mars and Mercury form a sextile. On February 13, Mars conjuncts Uranus. On the fourteenth, Mars crosses into Taurus – the sign ruled by Venus. The atmosphere mellows a bit. What could be more appropriate for Valentine’s Day? There are no more major aspects involving Mars until near the end of the month. On the twenty-seventh, Mars and the Sun form a sextile aspect.
That is a lot of aspects! It would probably be difficult for you to repeat the list from memory without cheating. For me too.
In order to keep a handle on the complexity, there is a great temptation to think of them individually, in atomized fashion. But that’s how a computer would do it – spitting out a few lines about Mars square Pluto, then a few lines about Mars square the lunar nodes.
Let’s not think like machines. Our Holy Grail is integration. How do we make these events dance together in a meaningful evolutionary sequence of events?
Our attempts to figure that out are further complicated by the reality of human freedom. How we react to these energies is not determined purely by the planets themselves. They each contain many possibilities. Fortune-tellers ignore our freedom, imagining that aspects mean this or that; that is why their predictive track records are so abysmal. We humans can get any astrological configuration right – and we can get it wrong too. And there are many shades of gray in between.
Thus, each of these configurations represents a range of possible realities, further complicating any attempt to predict how they will interact.
Thinking of Mars squaring Pluto at the beginning of the month, many astrologers might express something between caution and horror. And indeed, there are spectacular ways to make a mess out of such an aspect – murdering your boss or your partner, for example. But it is also possible to get it right, and that’s something we will contemplate in a few moments.
Our key here is the realization that success with one of these aspects builds a foundation for success with the next one. Conversely, failure with one renders success with the next one more problematic. That is one practical effect of our principle of integration – and integration is not just a good idea; it is actually how these things work in real life.
For purposes of keeping this newsletter down to a manageable size, I will do a lot of simplifying here. And of course we are not relating any of this directly to anyone’s natal chart, which is how this stuff really works. Here, I only want to talk about how February’s six big Mars events form an interdependent evolutionary chain. Unlike in my normal client work, I will be speaking about all of humanity, not just an individual.
When Mars squares Pluto on February 1, suppressed anger, resentment, and tension come rising up out of the depths. Destructive blowups are possible. But Pluto invites us to think deeply and honestly. It asks us to be vulnerable to our own wounded reality.
My mind goes down two roads here. The first is psychological in tone: consider, for example, that if you are feeling resentful toward your partner, that perhaps what is unwittingly surfacing is actually an old anger at one of your parents. Look deeply and honestly at your rage, in other words; reflect upon its actual source. Be wary of avoiding those inner processes by projecting these energies onto convenient external targets – don’t “kick the dog,” in other words. Deal with your own stuff instead.
The second road my mind goes down as I think of the Mars-Pluto square carries us in a very different direction. Is there a legitimate resentment that you have been afraid to feel, fearing that expressing it would create more problems than it solved? Under this aspect, letting that resentment fester would be very dangerous. The time has come to deal directly with some of life’s darker feelings, and perhaps to share them with someone no more eager than yourself to hear them. That takes a lot of that classic positive Mars quality: courage.
On the seventh, Mars squares the lunar nodal axis. The north node lies in Cancer, while the south node is in Capricorn. I went into a lot of detail about that particular nodal axis in the newsletter from last November. You might review that for deeper understanding of all of this. In a nutshell, what that nodal axis tells us is that we all need to heal (Cancer) from a Capricornish karma of exhaustion, duty, and long-suffering.
Now, let’s remember what we have already said . . .
Think of the “second road” in what we explored a few lines ago about Pluto and Mars. We spoke there of suppressed legitimate resentments. Doesn’t that sound like what I just said about that long-suffering Capricorn south node? Self-denial and duty?
See how thinking of Mars squaring the nodes casts light upon Mars squaring Pluto? They are working together.
Going further, the Cancer north node offers a remedy: perhaps instead of harboring and accumulating resentments, you can just ask for some kindness and support. Try visualizing the universe – or your boss or your partner – as a face of the Gentle Cosmic Mother rather than assuming it to be a manifestation of the Harsh Judging Father.
Realizing that your own underlying attitudes are half the problem is a classic Plutonian insight.
On that same day, Mars and Mercury form a sextile. That is part of the picture too. We need to add it to the mix. Here we have a supportive aspect – the sextile – suggesting open doors and abundant possibilities. To take advantage of them, you need to remember that every one of them promises that there will be benefits from classic Mercury activities: talking and listening. Those accumulated frustrations, resentments, and angers need to be put on the table. That is the “talking” part. Don’t forget to listen too!
Conversation supports the nodal breakthrough rooted in the suppressed Mars energies.
Those eleven words illustrate the larger point I am making in this newsletter: in them we see reflected the memory of everything we have said so far. This is what I mean by integration. Again: Conversation supports the nodal breakthrough rooted in the suppressed Mars energies.
On February 13, Mars forms a conjunction with the planet Uranus. If we have missed the evolutionary opportunities presented to us during the first half of the month, this aspect is ominous of how our failures might finally catch up with us. Mars and Uranus are the two most volatile energies in astrology. Uranus adds a hair trigger – and perhaps a kind of cold indifference – to the Martial rage. The danger here lies in accumulated frustrations boiling over explosively, perhaps doing real damage. We might say things we later wish we could un-say.
But that’s just the warning. What does it look like if we get this conjunction right? (And remember, getting it right depends on getting all the earlier pieces right too . . .)
Uranus promises breakthrough and unprecedented insight. A classic Uranian statement is, “Wow, I never thought of that before!” If you have been building a sane Mars foundation earlier in the month, mid-month brings liberating insights and new ways of looking at everything. I am using the word “everything” here – but what I really mean specifically is all of these issues of conflict or tension that have been surfacing for the past two weeks.
Some of them might have seemed intractable, with no satisfying resolutions possible. And yet, if we have moved forward in good faith, with openness in our communications and a willingness to take responsibility for our own dark shadow, then we can expect Uranian serendipity around the middle of the month. “Genius answers” arise which we could not have imagined before now.
Again, please note how this interpretation of Mars conjuncting Uranus actually derives from everything that went before it. We have “remembered what we already said.” We could not make the comments we made in the last two paragraphs without recalling the big picture.
On Valentine’s Day, Mars crosses out of Aries and into Taurus. Traditional astrologers speak of Taurus as the “fall” of Mars. I have never liked that language. It makes it sound as if there is something wrong with Mars being there. Actually, there is nothing wrong with Mars being in Taurus or any other sign – and nothing particularly “good” about it being in Aries. When a planet is in the sign opposite the one it rules, there is only a kind of paradoxical, complicated relationship between the two symbols. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. With Mars in Taurus, it is easy to encapsulate the paradox: Taurus wants peace, while Mars is the god of war. Admittedly, that does not sound like a marriage made in heaven.
The good news is that they can balance each other.
Try this: the world would be a happier place if all the warriors let go of the blood-romance of battle and instead fought for peace.
Our bottom line here, as Mars leaves Aries and crosses into Taurus, is simply that some of the fire goes out of the zeitgeist on Valentine’s Day. If we have done the evolutionary work I have been describing, then we have earned the right to some authentic peace. We have moved to a new level of being. We harvest the fruit of our previous efforts.
If, on the other hand, we have made a weak response to this cascade of Mars aspects, then the dragon only retreats to its cave for a little rest. An ominous calm arises, prelude to the next inevitable – and sadly familiar – storm.
Finally, on the 27th, Mars and the Sun form a sextile. If we have done well this month, this aspect represents the culmination – and reward – of our efforts. It feels adventurous, fresh, and distinctly sexy. It radiates aliveness. If we have done poorly, then a certain militant self-righteousness makes itself felt, and we set the wheels of war turning again.
I hope this little map of February’s Mars energies helps to guide and inspire all of us on this short piece of the evolutionary road. This flow is operating in the collective – that is to say, universally, for all of us. We will all feel it, each in our own particular way. Still, remember that you are always riding a current of transits and progressions in your own natal chart; these Mars energies I have just described are like a tributary to that river, adding something to it, modulating the expression of all the energies that are unique to you.
My main purpose in writing these words is to illustrate our foundational principle of astrological interpretation: integration. Again, it is so easy to say it: always remember what you have already said. As you move to understanding an impending transit, try to fold it back into the meaning of the previous ones.
Astrological mastery is absolutely dependent upon this skill. And, so far, humans are far more skillful at it than computers.
Get Steven's lecture on Mars and the Spiritual Warrior for some insights about the higher expression of this dynamic energy.