Astrology July 22nd – Aug 1st (♌I): Sword and Skin

Astrology July 22nd – Aug 1st (♌I): Sword and Skin

The Sun enters the first decan of Leo on July 22nd. In this first face a serpent, flaming and lion-headed, descends. It falls like light into a gemstone, or a spotlight onto a performer. The lion-serpent finds its counterpart and home in the bone-dragon architecture of the vertebral column and skull. The two fuse, Solar and Saturnian, light and living stone.

From this unions springs the hologram of a large and fearsome man, looking not unlike Herakles. The image wavers, flickering back and forth between a man riding a lion, and a man wearing the the lion, as if a costume.

On esoteric level, this face abounds with revelations about the intersection of spirit and matter, and the power of spirit to pattern the flesh. The beam which shines upon and into matter changes it. This light is the light of consciousness, the radiance of attention. What the eye beholds, the mind can engulf. Thus, we find the power of the evil eye as well as the blessed gaze in the first face of the Lion’s sign.

Optics are indeed an important part of this decan’s dynamics, as what it brings into being is often quite theatrical. Spectacles and performances abound. Masks and spotlights on. The Saturnian judgment of the audience competes with the performer’s bravery.

Though the first decan of Leo is ever a place of spectacle, the play performed is constantly changing. This year the drama takes place deep within a golden palace, its architecture an odd sort of pharaonic monumentalism. In a theatre deep inside the labyrinthine edifice, a curtain rises on a dark stage. A single spotlight flicks on, its vertical beam illuminating a sword in a stone. A figure looking like King Arthur walks out, though after a second it becomes clear that the “king” is wearing an elaborately carved wooden mask. He picks up the sword, and raises it skyward. As he does so, the fiery serpent spirals down and encircles the blade. “Arthur” then turns the sword on the stone which he pulled it from, sundering it with one blow. He turns to face the audience and removes the mask, revealing in place of a face, a starless void. As he does, the theatre goes dark. Silence settles over the crowd and is then rent by the roar of lion, which shakes the entire theatre.

All this, however, takes place behind the veil of daylight consciousness. Nonetheless, these deep dramas will serve to warm the surface, feeding it fire and light. All of this is initiating us, preparing us for a sequence of events which will take until the end of August to unfold.


New Moon in Leo: Bonfire

On Sunday the 23rd (7/23 3:00 AM), the Moon catches up with the Sun in the very first degree of Leo and their conjunction makes the lunar month anew. This New Moon is closely conjunct Mars, and emphasizes the themes emanating from the perfect Sun-Mars conjunction on the 26th. Questions of identity, power and performance leap like cinders from the bonfire the Sun and Moon together build.

It is important to note that this is actually only the first conjunction of the Sun and Moon in Leo this year. The second, the astrological equivalent of a blue moon, occurs on the 21st of August, and will be so perfectly aligned that it produces a total Solar Eclipse. This New Moon thus initiates the process from which the second will draw its conclusion.

Jugglers and Dancers

After the New Moon in Leo on Sunday the 23rd but before the Sun-Mars conjunction on Wednesday the 26th, Venus and Mercury both briefly claim the stage. Mercury juggles Uranian fire while Venus, opposed Saturn, dances Butoh. As I wrote in my July 2017 overview:

On the 24th Venus opposes Saturn (7/24 7:53 AM PDT) while Mercury trines Uranus (7/24 9:32 AM PDT). These two simultaneous influences are somewhat contrary in nature, for while Uranus excites, stimulates and surprises Mercury, Saturn depresses, blocks and frustrates Venus. It speaks to the ongoing question this year of how one can manage obligations while making space for the eternal flame of radical personal sovereignty and independence.

On the 25th, a day after trining Uranus in fiery Aries, Mercury slips into Virgo. Virgo is considered to be home base for Mercury, and the swift planet is strong and fortunate within its confines. This year, however, the journey will not be quite so simple, as Mercury’s next retrograde is due to take place in Virgo. This, however, does not take place until August 12th. For the rest of July, Mercury will be in its phase of maximum elongation, when it is as bright and high in the post-sunset sky as it will ever get. There is a mental fullness to this phase, like a cup runneth over. Ideas and insights are thus likely to come tumbling out, like a flood of ink. Grab a notebook and make sure some of it lands on paper.

Sun Conjunct Mars: Arise

On July 26th (7/26 5:56 PM PDT) the Sun and Mars finally conjoin at 4 Leo. The two meet every 2 years or so, but they do so in different signs. These two-ish year cycles form a larger 15 year cycle, though this larger synodic pattern has decidedly rough edges. The cycle is a bit irregular, a bit rebellious, for unlike Venus, Mars refuses symmetry, favoring a ragged cut.

Thus, although Mars and the Sun conjoined during the 3rd quarter of 2015, they did not do so in Leo. Furthermore, if we look back to the last time that Mars and the Sun conjoined in Leo, back in 2002, it was in a different face of the Lion’s sign — more than 20 degrees distant. There is thus an individual quality to every Sun-Mars conjunction. Each mission unique, no war identical with any other.

In my July overview, I wrote this of the Sun and Mars’ conjunction:

The every-two-year event is the peak of Mars’ purification phase, the site of the fire ceremony. Here, after weeks of combustion, the Sun taps Mars with the sword and asks that he rise a knight. Mars pledges to uphold the solar virtues of honesty, strength and fearlessness. Yet there is no knight without a mission, and no point in arms without struggle. Around these days, consider what power is yours, and how best to use it. Who is it that you’ve been armed to protect? What principles will you fight for, and at what cost? This is Mars’ paladin phase, the beginning of the quest, before the inevitable conflicts corrode his idealism and virtue. Though with this conjunction the purification is complete, Mars will remain close to the Sun and invisible for the next month. During this time the distance between the Sun and Mars will slowly grow, and Mars will have to figure out how to

apply the empowerments received and uphold the oaths sworn once he returns to the dirty business of life back on earth.

That this conjunction occurs in the first face of Leo helps characterize the nature of the mission, as well as the equipment it will require. Leo is a particularly visible sign, and so the courage to be seen and the power to shape what is seen will both be important. In addition to courage, a thick skin is required. Thick skin is a particular form of psychic armor, a piece of sacred regalia, and there is no better place to locate it in myth than the lion-skin which Herakles acquired during his first labor. This lion skin was impenetrable, and protected Herakles from all manner of sticks, stones, gods, and monsters. The story of its acquisition is worth reviewing. Here it is, according to Wikipedia:

the Nemean Lion… could not be killed with mortals’ weapons because its golden fur was impervious to attack. Its claws were sharper than mortals’ swords and could cut through any armor…While searching for the lion, Heracles fetched some arrows to use against it, not knowing that its golden fur was impenetrable; when he found the lion and shot at it with his bow, he discovered the fur’s protective property when the arrow bounced harmlessly off the creature’s thigh. After some time, Heracles made the lion return to his cave. The cave had two entrances, one of which Heracles blocked; he then entered the other. In those dark and close quarters, Heracles stunned the beast with his club and, using his immense strength, strangled it to death. During the fight the lion bit off one of his fingers… After slaying the lion, he tried to skin it with a knife from his belt, but failed. He then tried sharpening the knife with a stone and even tried with the stone itself. Finally, Athena, noticing the hero’s plight, told Heracles to use one of the lion’s own claws to skin the pelt.

We might say that the Lion is the bestial, egoic layer of our being. Ever hungry, it is a voracious predator, happy to consume whatever might feed it. But properly subdued, it becomes an invaluable and protective skin. One cannot shoot it from a distance — it must be wrestled, strength against strength, a battle of will rather than cleverness. This mythic image translates with surprising ease into the manifest world, as many of the people born with Mars in Leo make excellent wrestlers — notably, Hulk Hogan and UFC heavyweight champ Josh Barnett.

The lion-skin also appears in the grimoires of the Solomonic tradition of magic, as a piece of equipment necessary for commanding spirits fair and foul, particularly foul. If we extend the lion symbolism to all big cats, we might also see a parallel between Herakles and Shiva, who is routinely depicted as garbed in the skin of a tiger he himself flayed. Like Herakles, Shiva fought his tiger alone and unarmed. Shiva’s tiger skin is commonly understood to be a proof of the spirit’s victory over crude force, matter subordinate to mind. In all of these cases, the cat’s skin represents the victory of consciousness itself over mere ego. Once skinned, the ego can function as a powerful protective layer, but is must first be subdued.

Though the Sun and Mars make their perfect conjunction this week, it is merely the beginning of the next two year cycle, the dawning of its mission and the birth of its struggles. If you would obtain Herakles’ mythical armor, then consider the shape of the stories. The empowered lion-skin cannot be bought or stolen, only earned, as its power and protection is the product of successful internal struggle, a wrestling match in which subs and tag-teams are not permitted.

Venus Enters Cancer: Friends and Family

On the last day of July, as the spectacle of the Sun-Mars conjunction begins to fade, Venus enters Cancer. As I previously wrote:

Venus’ shift into the Crab’s shell activates our sensitive side — big groups and loud venues are less pleasing than a close circle. Venus in Cancer favors the intimacy of old friends and the shared history of family. Feelings of vulnerability are heightened during Venus’s tenure here, so take care not to take things to heart too quickly, or to accidentally wound someone more deeply than you intend. Venus will be in Cancer until August 25th.


Horoscopes are not a real chart reading by an experienced astrologer. They are fun and can be reasonably accurate, however. In addition to referring to your Sun sign, read from your Ascendant and Moon if you know them. If you don’t, find out! I’m a long time fan of the free chart generation software at
Aries: The Ram

The New Moon and subsequent Sun-Mars conjunction in the first face of Leo both push you to recover or discover a portion of your creative power which you’ve yet to fully express. If you’re not literally an artist, creative expression might not seem all that relevant. However, in truth, there is no one who is not an artist. Every life is an art exhibit, co-produced by your choices and your fate. Knowing this, the Sun and Mars intend to gift you a paintbrush soaked in gasoline. You need only provide the creative spark.

Taurus: The Bull

The New Moon and Sun-Mars conjunction in Leo both point toward your familial relationships. In particular, the Sun and Mars shine a light on whatever childhood role you got cast in. Whether you realize it or not, there’s a good chance that there’s a piece of you still stuck in a 4 year old’s onesie, or a rebellious teenage ensemble. If you catch yourself wearing such an outfit, do yourself a favor, and cut your way out. There’s no reason to walk around trapped in a miscast memory.

Gemini: The Twins

The Sun-Mars conjunction puts a sword in your hand, with which you might carve a hundred pathways. The mean streets are only so much foliage. The question, then, is which paths you will choose. It’d be easy to just wander, but if you did that you wouldn’t have much to show for your travels. Instead, plan expeditions. Consider where you want to go, and focus your pathworking toward the destinations where the real treasure is hid.

Cancer: The Crab

The New Moon and Sun-Mars conjunction in Leo point toward the resources at your disposal. There may very well be a literal effect your bottom line, but the implications go beyond the short-term monetary. Beyond the pile of pennies you possess, there are a host of other, more intangible resources, such as your individual cluster of talents and virtues. The configurations in play shine a light on these sometimes-forgotten treasures, and ask that you let others see them, as well.

Leo: The Lion

The light of the Full Moon on July 8th falls across your to-do list, illuminating each chore in glittering silver. The Full Moon falls across medical charts which detail the status of your health. The Moon is most concerned here with the blueprint of your habits. Health and illness, accomplishment and failure, all depend on the fruits of your own repeated actions.

The New Moon and subsequent Mars-Sun conjunction in your sign signal that, like a snake who’s ready to grow, it may be time to shed your skin. This might make you feel vulnerable, but you’ll find as older layers of identity slough-off that your new skin is already fully grown, emblazoned with patterns and glyphs even better suited to represent your most recent iteration. Like the snake’s molt, the change you’re coming up on is inevitable, and resistance will come with slowly mounting discomfort and inflexibility. Still, it’s nothing you need to rush. Take it as it comes, letting the serpent guide you through the process.

Virgo: The Virgin

The Sun-Mars configuration puts a sword in your hand, and points you at a tangle of feelings about getting credit for what you do and who you are. You’ll need that machete to cut your way through the cognitive complications which keep you from getting credit when it is your due. You may find that there’s a fear of being seen hiding somewhere in there, or a disgust with vanity. Once you get at the core of the issue, though, prepare to drop the sword and wrestle the demon to the ground.

Libra: The Scales

The New Moon and Sun-Mars conjunction both spotlight the way you let the world see you. It’s time to ask whether the reflection you see in the social mirror is the look you’re really going for. Are you wearing yesterday’s mask, adapting to a social environment you’re no longer in? If you catch a peek of yourself wearing your high-school uniform, consider a trip to the tailor. The fabric of your image can be cut, sewn and arranged to create a number startlingly different impressions. The self you wear in a social setting isn’t just about the image it puts off, though. There’s also the matter of comfort. Make sure your next set of shoes doesn’t give you blisters.

Scorpio: The Scorpion

The New Moon and Sun-Mars conjunction both occur in the professional sector of your sky. Your ideas about your what your career looks like and what you’re capable of are due for an update, a renewal. The sword which Mars slides into your hand is so that you might free yourself from outdated ideas, the costume you’ve worn to work too many times, and become stuck within. Once you cut your way out of that uniform, you’ll see whether all it needs is a wash, or if it has become sizes too small or large, and if more radical alterations are called for.

Sagittarius: The Centaur

The New Moon and Mars-Sun conjunction in Leo spotlight the trajectory of your journey. While the Sun illuminates the terrain, Mars equips you with a sword for the next phase. You’ll need that blade, and the courage it gives you, to cut through some of the rough terrain up ahead. And while you negotiate the thornier gardens along your path, you may hear destiny call, and it could in fact be one for help. For our destinies can be lost or kidnapped, trapped in towers or held captive in dragon caves, luring us to make them so through their very pusuit. If you hear such a plaintive cry, do not hesitate to ride to the rescue.

Capricorn: The Goat

The configurations in early Leo this week point to those whose resources you draw upon, as well as those who borrow from you. It is the substance of these transactions which are due to be illuminated. While the Sun shines on these back-and-forths, Mars places a sword in your hand, and points you to them. The purpose of the blade, like its edge, is two-fold. You are to cut those ties which drag you down, sever the umbilici which transport poison. Yet the sword is also so that you might defend the exchanges which are dear to you. To tell one from the other you will need honesty more than anything else. That honesty, of course, begins with what you tell yourself.

While the Moon shines on you, the Sun and Mars illuminate the important relationships in your life. What feeds these unions, and what contaminates them? Consider what is medicine, and what is poison, to your most significant connections.

Aquarius: The Waterbearer

The Sun-Mars conjunction and New Moon in early Leo both highlight your relationships, particularly the intimate ones. The sword you take up here glows with solar light, but you’ll use it like a box-cutter, to slice your way out of old ideas about yourself — obselete ego-images. So liberated, you’ll be able to communicate more honestly with the people you’re close to, and they’ll be able to see who you really are with greater clarity. In freeing yourself, you open up your relationships to greater honesty and authenticity.

Meanwhile, the Sun and Mars in Cancer ask you to attend to the physical layer of your life. Each time you do a chore, brush your teeth, do your exercises or pay a bill, it is as if you are feeding the living body of your life. Feed your life, and it will feed you.

Pisces: The Fish

The New Moon and Sun-Mars conjunction in the first face of Leo point toward your habits. Though it might seem an unlikely place to find a magical sword, it is indeed hiding there, between the dishes you left out last night, the receipt for the bills you just paid, and your meal plans for the week. The sacred empowerment waiting for you is the ability to reconnect the divine and mundane, the idea and its execution. Squint at your to-do list, and see the divine spark hiding inside the drudgery. You have not one holy quest, but a thousand sacred micro-missions.

While the Full Moon highlights the communal portion of your life, the Sun and Mars in Cancer stir and heat your creative juices. Though some things cannot be changed, there is always room to create within your life. There is nary a wall that cannot be improved with a little paint. Feed the creative spark inside you by letting it out to play, and it, in turn, will feed you.

Austin Coppock is a writer, esotericist and astrologer based in Ashland, OR. He published paperback Almanacs from 2011-15 but began posting his prognostications online last year, referring to his collection of weekly, monthly, yearly essays and daily delineations as “The Online Almanac”. This work is made possible by his supporters on Patreon. Austin was President of the non-profit organization “Association for Young Astrologers” from 2012-2016. His most recent book is “36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans”, published by Three Hands Press.


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