The Sun enters the second face, or decan, of Cancer on Saturday, July 1st (7/1 8:45 AM PDT). Here philosophers gather privately, inside a walled and secret garden. They have come from far and wide, each carrying with them a precious flask containing the primordial waters. In the center is a large alchemical furnace with a fire beneath it. The philosophers drink and talk merrily amongst themselves while poking at the flames and carefully adjusting various tubes feeding into and draining out of the alembic. Meanwhile, a wolf can be seen prowling the walled periphery, looking for a way in.
As I wrote of this decan previously:
In the second face of Cancer lies the secret garden of the philosophers. Indeed, Jupiter’s degree of exaltation can be found here, as does the ecliptic degree of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.
It is only within the protective confines of the walled garden that the Work can be nurtured. Intimate and honest conversations require a protective vessel of trust, and great work can only take place in the context of shared understanding and mutual respect. The alchemical child must be protected if it is to grow strong. This walled garden is thus greenhouse, womb, and furnace simultaneously.
Its design is two-fold, comprised of the sensitive process within and the protective, enclosing structure without. This lunation is thus a call to inspect the integrity of your walls, your shell. Walls are either effective or they aren’t. Half measures do not work. One gap destroys their purpose. Elements and entities contrary to our process may enter through these, interfering with and possibly corrupting our work. Aphids in a greenhouse. These gaps are also leaks. Even a tiny hole in your gas tank will soon empty it.
The ability to seal is fundamental. There are few processes of creation or transformation which do not require it. Alchemical traditions around the world place a high value on sealing. It is so important, in fact, that the phase “Hermetically sealed” has become common parlance.
Yet seals and walls must be permeable under the right circumstances. A gas tank that cannot be refilled is of no use, and a greenhouse which does not permit the entry of light will produce no flowers. A child with no mouth cannot nurse. The art on display in this decan thus involves the awareness to discriminate between food and poison, coupled with the ability to open up to what nurtures and seal out what corrupts.
The Sun’s trip through the second face of Cancer this year sees Mars accompanying him. The fire underneath the cauldron is thus hotter, and the wolves prowling the periphery hungrier. Furthermore, this year there will be a potent Full Moon overhead, whose silver light will penetrate deep into the earth beneath it, and like x-rays, map the rocky structure of the caves below.
Mars Opposite Pluto: Learning To Lose
Early on July 2nd (7/2 5:01 AM PDT) Mars opposes Pluto. Mars’ oppositions to Pluto often bring feelings of hopelessness, as the personal potency represented by Mars faces off against the grinding tide of evolution which Pluto presides over. It is the lone warrior facing off against Death itself — there is no doubt as to the outcome of the contest, only its duration. This is perhaps doubly the case with Mars in Cancer, a sign where the red planet is thought to be particularly vulnerable and ill-suited.
There is a theme of purification here. By divesting ourselves of investment in contests we have no power to win, we save our energy and resources for those battles which we can. This purification theme is also echoed by Mars’ phase for July and August. The Sun hugs Mars close during these months, making it impossible to see the red planet. The Sun’s embrace combusts the red planet, burning off false conceptions of power and vainglorious aspirations.
There is a secret power in submission, and a peace in seeking to struggle. This is a theme martial artists are well versed in. Any Judo-player knows that the more you fight the throw, the more hurt you’ll be. The jujitsu specialist knows to relax and save their strength when they are put in a difficult position. Meanwhile, one of the hallowed maxims of Chinese martials arts is “learn to lose.” This martial wisdom does not only apply on battlefields, though. In every area of life, whether it be our profession or relationships, there are times when the only move is to stop struggling and go with it.
Though these themes are occluded after only a few days by Mercury and Venus’ pleasing hijinks, the power-struggles will continue to be highlighted in the background until the middle of the month.
Morning Star, Evening Star
In the days following Mars’ opposition with Pluto, Mercury and Venus both change signs, and then make a lively sextile. This set of factors uplifts the tone of the surrounding days, and provides some light-hearted contrast to the heavy note sounded by Mars and Pluto. As I wrote of these shifts in “July 2017: Fire Ceremony”:
Venus Enters Gemini: Talk Nerdy To Me
Venus enters Gemini on American Independence Day, July 4th (7/2 5:11 PM PDT). As the lady of the heavens exits Taurus she leaves her place of power behind, and must instead make do with what pleasures can be had in Gemini’s frenetic arcades. Though not as lush as the pastures of Taurus, Venus finds in Gemini the fun of games and enjoys the friction of witty repartee. Venus will be hosted by the Twins until July 31st, when she enters Cancer.
Mercury Enters Leo: Loudspeaker
On Wednesday, July 5th (7/5 5:20 PM PDT) Mercury leaves the damp confines of Cancer behind in order to prowl the bright savannahs of Leo. This entails a shift in communication from a private to a more public mode. Thoughts turn to tricks of appearance and methods of presentation, and voices get louder, though not necessarily more coherent. Mercury will be in Leo until Jul 25th, when it enters Virgo.
Mercury’s entrance into Leo coincides with its return to full visibility in the post-sunset West. The planet will climb higher and glow brighter in the Western sky throughout the rest of the month.
Venus Sextile Mercury: Fun and Games
Once Mercury has ingressed into Leo and Venus into Gemini they will hold these positions for most of the rest of the month. We’ll have Venus as morning star, rising in the AM to herald the Sun, and Mercury as evening, with the clever young thief raising his lantern in the West just after Sol sets. In these positions, Mercury and Venus provide a light sweetness to the
first portion of the month which helps to balance the depth and darkness of the Mars-Pluto opposition on the 2nd, and the gothic Full Moon on the 8th.
The two planets form a perfect sextile early on the 7th, right after their respective ingresses. The sextile is a happy angle, and the only aspect the two planets partake of, other than the conjunction. It builds a bridge between the head and the heart, and is a particularly good combination for literary or other technical arts. This is a rather nice moment for Mercury, as its contact with benefic Venus helps shake the putrid taste the previous week’s aspects with Mars and Pluto might have left. Oratory works are particularly favored, and in general the days surrounding this Mercury-Venus configuration are a nice time to say nice things.
The best days to take advantage of this are on Wednesday the 5th and Friday the 7th, the days of Mercury and Venus, respectively.
Full Moon in Capricorn: The Necromancer’s Moon
After Mercury and Venus preside over a jolly span of days, the Full Moon in Capricorn on July 8th (Jul 08 2017 9:04 PM) swings the pendulum back toward the dark and heavy. This year, the full Moon is tightly conjunct Pluto. On the opposite side of the sky, the Sun is joined by Mars in Cancer, though the orb between them is a little wider.
Though there is more to be said about this lunation, it must first be stated that this is a somewhat dire configuration. Mars and Pluto both have a role to play, but those roles tend toward the destructive. Mars is traditionally a malefic, related to burning and cutting, and while Pluto has not been part of our awareness long enough for there to be traditional opinions, all of the significations ascribed to the small dark stranger are classically malefic — purification, destruction and finally rebirth, but rebirth only afterward.
Yet Pluto is not without virtue or use. The dwarf planet opens doorways to the underworld, allowing access to realms far beneath the site of waking consciousness. Strategic forays into the realm of ghosts and demons, haunted houses and abandoned hospitals— underworlds of all kinds, are easier on such a lunation. Offerings to the ancestors and recognitions of all those who previously walked the land on which you now live are highly recommended.
If you aren’t particularly interested in harrowing the hell realms, you may find the mood just right for a horror movie marathon, or a historical documentary. Of course, the best possible use
of your time would be playing through the entirety of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in one sitting, but you probably won’t do that.
On a macro level, the Full Moon conjunct Pluto will likely serve to highlight the ongoing institutional crisis in the United States. The abandoned hospitals and haunted schoolhouses are in this case not metaphors, but very real medical conditions of the body politic.
The potent Full Moon in Capricorn poses an important challenge to the alchemical process of sealing and nourishing watched over by the 2nd decan of Cancer. How can the underworldly material excavated by the Moon and Pluto be integrated into your ongoing cultivation? How can the poisons of history be transmuted, cooked into medicine, or at least food? How much heat is necessary, and how long must the pondwater be boiled before it is drinkable? How can the troubled waters of family karma be rendered potable? There are no easy answers, only a willingness to work with the materials at hand. Yet with time, experience and experiment, the mysteries of the transformation of poison into medicine can be grasped.