This month we ride out to meet this year’s most difficult configurations on the field of battle. It is a hectic month, with sudden starts and stops, and alternating periods of piercing clarity and miasmic confusion. But victory waits somewhere behind the lines, ripe for the taking. There is no accomplishment without ordeal, and no way around this month’s tough terrain. So mount up, and when the horn sounds- charge!
Refugees From Imagination-Land
The configuration behind August’s most challenging arrangements is the ongoing square between Saturn and Neptune. This aspect has been active since September of 2015 and it will continue to be so for the rest of this year. This pattern is anchored three exact squares, the first having occurred last November, the second in June and the third this coming September. In my June monthly, I outlined the square as thus:
“Saturn advocates for strong walls and stern discipline while Neptune is content to let things flow as they will. The two powers of concretization and dissolution, of walls and waves, are quite clearly contrary and Saturn’s attempts to build firm boundaries is confused by Neptune’s insistence on seeping through every crack.
Though the friction between the two planets can be witnessed in a variety of places, it is perhaps most clear in the ongoing refugee crisis, which took shape on the same time line as the square between Saturn and Neptune. The current administrative structure of the EU is simply unequipped for the flood of refugees streaming out of the Middle East and North Africa. Responses to the crisis have tended to bifurcate into the Neptunian- limitless compassion, and the Saturnian- higher walls.
On a personal level, the friction between these planets corresponds to a confusion about when to be disciplined, and when to let things flow. Great benefit comes from separating what you’re trying to concretize from what you’re trying to dissolve, as both processes can occur, but not in the same place and at the same time.”
There is another level on which these powers conflict, and that is the troubled relationship between Saturn’s world of facts and Neptune’s realm of the imagination. As pointed out by my colleague Chris Brennan, this intersection can be seen positively in the rapid development of commercial virtual reality, as well as the strange hybridization of reality and fantasy exemplified by Pokemon Go, the tip of the augmented reality (AR) spear. On a negative level, the friction between Saturn and Neptune has also given birth to a number of utterly fantastic and perniciously toxic, yet widely believed, political narratives.
Dirty Dreams, Sold Dirt Cheap
Though not perfectly conjoined until next month, the Dragon’s Tail, the South Node of the Moon, will be closely conjunct Neptune for all of August. The South Node purifies Neptune, drawing out the poisonous elements in our personal and collective fantasies so that they might be excreted. We may need to let go of certain toxic dreams or delay them until they’ve undergone the process of refinement and purification the South Node describes.
The month begins with Mars’ re-entry into Sagittarius and the New Moon in Leo, both of which occur on the 2nd. The New Moon in Leo takes place at 11 Leo, and in a close but departing trine with Saturn in Sagittarius. This lunation’s theme, which will characterize the fortnight following it, is the re-establishment of sovereignty and equilibrium after recent obstacles and difficulties. If you stop chasing things for but a moment, gravity will quite naturally pull you back to center. In our solar system, that center is the Sun, and in our internal spacescape, the Sun points to who we really are- a blazing stellar node of sentience seated upon a throne of flesh and bone, a seraph enshrined in a vertebral column. The trick will be to remember that radical sovereignty within as you move through the coming weeks.
When the Going Gets Tough
Mars re-enters Sagitarius on August 2nd, the same day as the New Moon. As the New Moon sets the tone, so too does Mars in Sagittarius, as the red planet will be within the Archer’s sign until September 27th. This entrance into Sagittarius is in fact a re-entrance, as Mars already spent a two and half months there, between early March and late May.
On an immediate level, Mars’ movement out of Scorpio and into Sagittarius will put an end to the seething, venomous intensity which has fallen over the world like a toxic cloud bank. In Sagittarius the martial energies leap to the surface and shriek toward their goals, like a flight of rockets or arrows. It is certainly not inactive, or peaceful, but it lacks the brooding, toxic quality of Mars’ time in Scorpio.
The primarily issue with Mars’ second go through Sagittarius will be his copresence and conjunction with Saturn. Mars and Saturn spend the entire month within spitting distance of each other, an arrangement which occurs every 2 years. Mars and Saturn are both traditionally considered to be malefic planets, meaning that they rule over life’s more challenging situations and the virtues needed to make it through them. When the pair are doubled up, as they are for August, they tend to oversee a variety of misfortunes, and the human world is often a harder and more depressing place.
Yet there is virtue to be found and forged during their conjunctions, and great victories to be won. It is perhaps only under the intense combined gaze of Mars and Saturn that we can develop perfect discipline and industry, where we learn to set aside childish wants and do exactly what needs to be done, without hesitation or internal conflict.
Saturn, the relentless drummer and the lord of time-lines, sets the tempo. Mars dances to this beat, exerting himself in perfect harmony with the demanding pace. At its best, this is the perfect union of effort and discipline.
It is important to note that most people, in their attempts to be disciplined and industrious, push themselves beyond their capacity and end up injured or burned out. Maximum efficiency is a matter of pushing yourself close to your limit, but not beyond. Every time we push past our capacity, we make ourselves weaker, not stronger. In some Taoist martial arts, it is customary to train constantly and for long sessions, but to never push the body beyond 80%. This ensures that injury will not destroy our regimen, and that the ongoing process of strengthening and refinement is uninterrupted. We must partake of both Saturn’s patience and Mars’ ferocity in equal measure to become the point which reconciles and unifies the two.
Wheat and Chaffe
On August 5th, Venus enters Virgo. While Mercury loves being within the precise sign, Venus has a harder time. Venus is traditionally “fallen” or in “depressed” in Vigo, as the critical orientation of the sign is contrary to the embracing, joyful nature of the planet. Try not to let little things overshadow your appreciation of people or situations which are otherwise positive. Venus will be in Virgo until August 29th.
Immediately upon entering Virgo, Venus makes a square with Mars in early Sagittarius. This is the last of many Mars-Venus squares this year, and it speaks to sexual and romantic dynamics. Venus pulls together and Mars pushes apart, creating a potentially erotic tension. Their square on the 6th may thus be the last in a series of adjustments within the related areas of life.
Between the 5th and 7th of the month, Mercury in Virgo will square Saturn in Sagittarius and oppose Neptune in Pisces. This configuration will bring Mercury’s analytical prowess and communicative excellence to bear on the ongoing issues connected with the Saturn and Neptune- waves and walls, reality and fantasy, concretization and dissolution. On a personal level, the mind is likely to be pulled to address complicated issues, and some chaos or confusion may be present during those days. However, Mercury is in a strong position and fortified by conjunction with the Dragon’s Head. Thus, the most likely outcome will be a greater level of clarity— power cords untangled, as it were.
Ballistic Flight Calculation
Retrograde since April, on August 12th Saturn finally stations direct at 9 Sagittarius. However, Saturn is slow to start moving forward, and will not leave his station degree until September. The planet’s turn pushes us to organize ourselves sufficiently in order to achieve our goals. It is worth noting that Saturn’s station is in tight conjunction with the red star Antares, which will be visible just below Saturn in the night time sky. Antares adds an extra measure of energy and ambition to the plans Saturn oversees. There is a tension here between the ambition of Antares and the caution of Saturn. It is like spaceflight- the loftier and more promethean the goal, the more exacting and lengthy the preparation required. If you would aim for the stars, double and triple-check the structural integrity of your vessel.
A Nervous Inspection
Approximately a week after Mercury tangles with Saturn and Neptune, Venus does the same. The evening star squares Saturn on the 13th, the day of the slow planet’s direct station, and opposes Neptune on the 14th. While Mercury saw the mind and voice races across the Saturn-Neptune issues, Venus brings the heart to bear upon them, teasing out the more emotionally relevant facets of ongoing situations. During these days Venus pushes us to figure out how to reconcile ourselves emotionally to these difficult dynamics. This is important work, but some level of emotional turbulence is to be expected.
The Full Moon in Aquarius arrives on August 18th. This lunation highlights our proximity to the events in our life. While the Sun in Leo pushes us identify with the characters we play in our own and other people’s stories, he Full Moon in Aquarius suggests we limit our engagement and put a little critical distance between ourselves and the stories in which we feature. There is a balancing act implied here, as we must suspend our disbelief if we’re to play our roles well, yet excessive absorption in life’s regular dramas is exhausting, to say the least.
This lunation will also see a fork in many people’s roads. The question which divides them is whether to continue on despite difficulties, or to bow out gracefully, salvaging what you can from the situation.
It is worth noting that this Full Moon is by some stretches of the imagination and technical definitions an eclipse. Yet it is so weak as to be imperceptible to the naked eye. You will look up and see only undimmed silver. Save your fear of the blood Moon and the dark Sun for the pair of visible eclipses coming in September.
The Programmer and the Priest
As the Moon begins to wane, Mercury approaches Jupiter at the end of Virgo. The smallest and largest planets make their first conjunction on the 21st of August. Yet at this point Mercury has slowed to a crawl, and their union will hold fast in the dusk sky until Venus join the pair, on the 27th.
Mercury’s conjunction to Jupiter yields a beneficent mix of vision and precision, but Mercury is at this point little more than a week away from his retrograde station, and thus his extended visitation with Jupiter may have some more complicated undertones.
Into The Granary
The day after Mercury conjoins Jupiter, the Sun enters Virgo, which makes for a full four planets laboring away in the Virgin’s fields, which places a strong emphasis on sorting, problem solving and analysis. The Sun will be in Virgo until September 21st.
Within spitting distance of Saturn all month, on the 23rd of August Mars and Saturn conjoin at 9 degrees of Sagittarius and on the 25th the red planet squares Neptune in Pisces. This is a tremendously significant configuration, as it brings together the two big storylines of 2016- the ferocity of Mars’ retrograde cycle and the disorientation and delusion of Saturn and Neptune’s square.
The 23rd-25th will thus be a particularly difficult set of days for a number of people and collectives. Try not to schedule anything vital during this span of days, as a variety of difficulties will be blowing about in the wind.
Almost as some sort of half-hearted apology, the day after Mars clears the Saturn-Neptune square, Venus and Jupiter conjoin at the very end of Virgo. Thus as a counterpoint to the conjunction of the two malefics, we also see the benefics, Venus and Jupiter, join forces. Although neither Jupiter nor Venus is particularly strong in Virgo, this conjunction should mix up a little ointment for Mars-Saturn burns, and with Mercury nearby, may also provide help engineering a few good fixes or pivots.
Yet Mercury has plans of his own. The small, swift planet is due to go retrograde on the 30th. Mercury’s retrograde stations often coincide with delay and disorder- closed roads, detours, technical issues and communication snafus are all par for the course. This is likely to be among the more difficult Mercury retrogrades, as it the planet is potent in Virgo, and this retrograde station is occurs right after the difficult Mars-Saturn-Neptune configuration and just before September 1st’s total Solar Eclipse, which also t-squares Saturn and Neptune.
The same day as Mercury’s retrograde station, Venus escapes into Libra, which provides a much-needed saving grace during a week full of extreme configurations. Venus is strong in Libra, and in the sign of the scales helps to lubricate social mechanics, reconcile hard feelings and restore equilibrium. So Let Venus steady our balance as we walk the tight-rope into September, whose eclipses will reveal the conclusion of many of this year’s biggest stories.