As I write these words, I am in voluntary self-quarantine. I suspect that many of you are too. It’s the right thing to do. A few of you have contacted me, wondering about the astrology behind the pandemic, how long it will last, and how bad it might get. I don’t know the answers to the two latter questions, but let’s peer into the crystalline mirror of the heavens and see what we can learn about the first one: why Covid-19 is upon us right now. I do think that we can at least get some sense of its purpose.
Many astrologers have been pointing an accusing finger at the current planetary traffic jam in Capricorn, with the Saturn-Pluto conjunction as the main culprit, and Mars currently helping it along. Neptune in Pisces has a correlation with contagion too, as Maurice Fernandez has emphasized. All that is solid astrology, but it leaves out an important piece of the puzzle – one whose significance has been banging us over the head since 2005, but which astrologers still tend to ignore. That is the planet Eris, which is currently squaring the Pluto-Saturn conjunction, and doing so from the edgy sign Aries. That is what I want to explore with you in this newsletter. I believe the Eris-Pluto square is actually the heart of the matter.
Many of you are probably only dimly aware of Eris. It still has not gotten the press it deserves in the astrological community. Let me be the first to admit that I have not integrated it properly into my own teaching and counseling myself yet. That’s a big mistake, as I believe we will see clearly in the light of Eris’s unmistakable fingerprints in the current viral situation.
In a moment, I’ll offer a quick introduction to this new planet just to bring us all up to speed, but first, let me throw some dates at you: Eris and Pluto form five squares before Pluto moves on toward the waning degrees of Capricorn. This year, the dates of the squares are January 26, June 14, and December 10. The dates in 2021 are August 27 and October 9.
Since both of these planets move very slowly, all five of these conjunctions occur within a space of about one degree, between 23̊14' and 24̊18' of Aries and Capricorn. If you’ve got planets there, hold onto your hat. Eris has been in Aries since 1925, by the way. It will not touch the Taurus cusp until June 2044. Eris is not only really slow, but it is also at the slowest part of its orbit, close to aphelion. (We have a rare opportunity here to think of Pluto as fast-moving.) Eris is slightly smaller, but slightly more massive, than Pluto. It is also much further out in space. It takes 559 years to orbit the Sun a single time, compared to Pluto’s 248 years.
Astronomers classify Eris as a “dwarf planet,” just like Pluto – and since few working astrologers would dare to “dwarf” the significance of Pluto, it makes sense that we should show similar respect for Eris.
In September 2016, I wrote a lengthy newsletter about Eris. Because I want to move quickly toward a look at the current Covid-19 situation, I just want to say a few brief introductory words about this newly-discovered planet in order to get us going, then cut to the chase. If you would like a fuller picture, you can go to forrestastrology.com and enter “The Current Uranus-Eris Conjunction” in the search engine to recover that earlier newsletter. It is a lot more detailed than what I will write here, and gives more of a rationale for why I’ve come to believe what I believe about this new addition to our astrological vocabulary.
In Greek mythology, Eris is a hard goddess indeed. Let’s start with the fact that she is the sister of Mars. She delights in “the groans of men dying in battle.” She “goes among them, increasing their pain.” The Romans called her Discordia – a name that works even better than Eris. She sows discord wherever she goes. For one example, she singlehandedly fomented the Trojan War and sat back laughing. Again, if you are interested, you can read all about it in that earlier newsletter.
The single most reliable principle I have ever found in astrology is that every front has a back. In other words, every symbol has a higher purpose as well as a dark side. Vicious competitiveness is the dark side of Eris. She likes to win, but not as much as she likes to see you lose.
Her bright side lies in the way competition can bring out a person’s excellence. Writing of Eris, the Greek poet, Hesiod, points out that much effort and creativity is triggered when “potter is angry with potter, and craftsman with craftsman and beggar is jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel.” As a result of their competitiveness, they might all simply make an effort to improve. It may not be pretty, but we all get better pots and better music.
Pluto is probably more familiar to you than Eris. Working at its best, the “Lord of the Underworld” helps to bring unconscious material to the surface. Pluto is the part of us that can squarely face difficult truths. But when we instead make a weak response to Pluto, those difficult truths manifest in your life instead of showing up in your head and heart in the form of liberating insights. At such times, the Shadow grabs the steering wheel. We get hurt and we often hurt other people too.
The square joining Pluto and Eris is an aspect of friction. Friction can be creative, and it is often highly motivating. But with any square, we can also potentially see two planets bringing out the worst in each other. And, given the edgy natures of both Pluto and Eris, that worst case scenario is a scary prospect. I want to look the devil straight in the eye here – but I promise that before we are done, we will consult a few angels as well. Nothing in astrology happens without a higher purpose. That is true of this Pluto-Eris square. It is also true of the Covid-19 crisis which I believe this square has brought us.
Aries – where Eris lies – is a self-oriented sign. It is about our right to behave autonomously, to set boundaries and to defend them. It is characterized by a high degree of autonomy. (One can also see that quality very clearly in the natural resonance between Aries, the first sign of the zodiac, and the first house.)
Let all those statements about Aries enjoy some ambiguity. Let them be both potentially good and potentially bad. In a nutshell, we would all be in trouble if we were never capable of being selfish – but a little of it goes a long way.
Capricorn – where Pluto lies – has a natural resonance with the tenth house, and thus it correlates with our relationship to the big world: society, government, the spirit of the times, styles and fashions, public institutions, along with the weight of customs and tradition.
With Pluto there, that big Capricorn world has looked quite Plutonian in the darker sense since 2008. We have seen so much pain and trouble everywhere. Capricorn respects tradition; it is thus naturally related to conservatism in the broad sense of the word. Pluto brings out the shadow-side of whatever sign it is in. Who can doubt that we have been witnessing the shadow dimensions of conservatism all around the world for the past dozen years? It’s been a great time to be a tyrant – and not such a great time to be vulnerable or otherwise disadvantaged.
And who can doubt that – with not only Pluto, but also Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter in Capricorn – that the big world is looking particularly scary at the moment? That is not just because of the Covid-19 virus, but the virus nicely encapsulates the point. In the light of what we all know of Capricorn as a wintry, solitary, disciplined archetype, to grasp this encapsulation, we only need to list the obvious current realities generated by the pandemic: we are exhorted to isolate ourselves and to avoid touch. We must give up social pleasures, such as eating in restaurants or getting together with friends. No concerts, no sporting events. Austerity reigns. Blessed are those with toilet paper – a situation that was literally unimaginable just a few weeks ago. If we have any money, it is rapidly disappearing. Many people are facing the prospect of actually starving or of being cast out from their homes. And may God have mercy on those who are “vulnerable or otherwise disadvantaged.”
Meanwhile, all of that Pluto-in-Capricorn pressure is grinding away on Eris through that hard square aspect – and let’s not forget that Eris lies in Aries, which in its darker potentials is the angriest, most violent, and most selfish sign of the zodiac. Here are some good rules of thumb: don’t annoy Eris. Don’t try to tell her what she can do and cannot do. Don’t force rules upon her. And of course that is obviously exactly what Pluto is doing – and doing in ways that reflect a mixture of justice and corruption. How does Eris feel about that? And how is Eris going to react?
As we have seen, Pluto always brings out truth one way or another – either in the form of liberating realizations or in the form of people “acting out” their wounds. As one illustration of acting out, in a Plutonian time, the kid who was once physically abused finds himself hitting his own child. It does not have to be that way, but it often is –.statistically, being hit while you were growing up often correlates with hitting your own kids later on.
What about the higher Plutonian ground? That same grown-up child, for one example, enters therapy under the Plutonian stimulus and deals effectively with his hurt and his anger.
Let me add an edgier perspective – one that we must grasp if we are to understand how Pluto works in real life: perhaps that grown-up child does actually hit his kid – and is so shocked and humiliated by his own behavior that he then seeks psychotherapy.
Sometimes, in other words, the “acting out” is the trigger for the eventual healing. It ain’t pretty, but it sometimes works. Sometimes we need to learn things the hard way. And I get the feeling that there is a lot of that going on right now.
Let’s get to the point in terms of how this Pluto-Eris square relates directly to the pandemic. To do that, let’s contemplate one sadly familiar, and profoundly emblematic, scene from the current state of the world: someone has selfishly snapped up every bottle of hand sanitizer in the drugstore. Why would she behave so insensitively? She is obviously reacting to her fear of being infected with the virus. In broader terms, she fears everything symbolized by Pluto in Capricorn – she feels like the big world is attacking her and that her only defense is to become the Dark Eris. She behaves selfishly, hoarding the hand sanitizer, not caring if as a result of her actions, others have none. She does that because she is scared, not because she is inherently mean.
The effect of her selfishness is that her behavior has actually spread the virus by preventing other people from caring for themselves. In her fear of the dangers of the world – in her fearful selfishness – she has actually made her world a more dangerous place, not a safer one. She is now more likely, not less likely, to become infected. This is a clear example of Pluto and Eris interacting in a way that brings out the worst qualities in each of them.
The bottom line is that, as all the wiser pundits and medical people are saying, we are all in this together. Our only defense against Covid-19 is to come together as a community. Only in caring for each other can we effectively care for ourselves. That is not philosophy; that is medical science, not to mention a pretty deep well of spirituality. .
The meaning of the Pluto-Eris square of 2020 and 2021? Our collective addiction to our separation from each other has reached critical mass. It is catching up with us. Humanity has manifested this disease as a mirror of that spiritual crisis. It is pure synchronicity. Nothing happens in astrology unless it needs to happen. Another way of saying the same thing is that everything that happens in the sky reflects an evolutionary necessity. Nothing astrological should ever be considered as simply bad luck – or good luck, for that matter. They always have a purpose. Collectively, we need this virus. Paradoxically, it might turn out to be very good for us.
As Hesiod told us millennia ago, competition makes better potters and musicians. Whoever creates an effective vaccine or medicine for Covid-19 will undoubtedly become fabulously wealthy. Perhaps we shouldn’t begrudge that prosperity to anyone. Again, in the words of Hesiod, “This strife is wholesome for men.” Let the race for that fortune begin. I am sure it already has. Selfishness and competition can be harnessed for the collective good. We should never forget that face of Eris. That is partly because it is simply true, but more deeply, if we make Eris “bad,” we’ve slipped into a catastrophic astrological error: we’ve stripped a symbol of its higher purpose, leaving it with only a negative interpretation.
That “conservative” point about someone getting rich by coming up with an effective medication is worth making, but there are deeper waters here by far.
Communities that pull together, communities in which people effectively care for each other by staying away from each other, washing their hands, voluntarily self-isolating if they have symptoms or think that might have – those communities are going to survive and thrive.
Meanwhile, communities dominated by Plutonian denial and the Eris combo platter of selfishness and anger will suffer disproportionately.
Nations that help to support people in those good behaviors, making those behaviors as easy as they can possibly be made, will get through this mess with a far lower body count than nations dominated by more selfish laws, customs, and institutions – or nations so stuck in their habitual “conservative” social customs that they cannot adapt to change.
Collectively, I believe that Covid-19 is fundamentally a manifestation of the Pluto-Eris square. The essential underlying evolutionary purpose of the configuration is the realization that selfishness – both in individuals and in nations – has just collided with its own end game. The myth of the rugged, independent individual separate from everyone else has finally hit the wall. As we have seen, we are all in this together. Denying that reality simply no longer works in a practical way for anyone. Anyone who does deny it is more likely to get sick. Even money can’t keep anyone safe. Our anger with each other, our divisions, our brutal competitiveness, our sense that national boundaries reflect some immutable law of nature – all of that is collapsing right now before our eyes.
Even politicians must come together to craft a survival strategy. They must get past this “fan-based” model of rooting for their own political party as if the government were the National Football League.
Do we learn the lesson – or do we “hit the kid?” The universe has set up the question. It is pressing on us all. It will not go away.
The answer we choose to give is our own.
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