On August 19 the world was shocked and appalled by the online release of a video of the beheading of American journalist James Foley, executed by the militant ISIS terrorist group in retaliation for US bombing strikes against them. Beheadings have been a common theme of ISIS-occupied Iraqi and Syrian regions, but these incidents, some of them in mass numbers, had gone largely underreported in Western mainstream media markets, until it involved one of their own.
The ISIS group, which traces its origins to the 2004 establishment of al Qaeda in Iraq, is an off-shoot of that organization, formed by radicalized members who decided that al Qaeda wasn’t extreme enough for them. Previously known as ISI (the Islamic State in Iraq), when the Syrian civil war gave them an opening to expand westward, the self-proclaimed caliphate morphed into ISIS (technically “the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham”, an Arabic term for Greater Syria, but usually rendered in the West as “the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”).
Controlling most of northern and western Iraq, and large sections of eastern Syria, ISIS forces all people living under its jurisdiction to convert and adhere to their particular brand of Sunni Islam and Sharia law, on pain of death, torture or mutilation.
The US has largely ignored ISIS’ development and expansion, but recent events in Iraq’s political sphere and an increase in barbarism on ISIS’ part have made limited military intervention desirable. The US initially supplied humanitarian aid to a group of Yazidi refugees besieged by ISIS on a mountaintop. This was followed by air support for local fighters attempting to retake the Mosul Dam, whose possible destruction at ISIS’ hands would have flooded vast sections of the country and its capital. These operations were successful. The beheading of James Foley, captured in Syria in 2012, came in retaliation.
ISIS holds three other Americans and has vowed to decapitate them as well if US air strikes are not ended. This is a threat the administration has ignored, increasing attacks in northern Iraq and mooting possible Syrian strikes as well. An estimated 6000 Iraqis have died as a direct result of ISIS just this year, with another 11,000 wounded and some 1.2 million displaced.
Officially constituted as ISIS on 9 April 2013, the militant organization has seen remarkable success, particularly in the past year, when the Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Tikrit were occupied, followed by the stunning fall of Mosul and threats against Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, as well as Aleppo, in Syria.
These victories allowed the organization to accrue large stockpiles of sophisticated weaponry and millions of dollars from captured banks, further propelling their jihad. Until the fall of Mosul on 10 June 2014, ISIS’ activities were not widely reported, but have dominated the news of the region since.
This sudden attention may be in part explained astrologically by the fact that there is an asteroid Isis, named for the ancient Egyptian goddess of motherhood, nature and magic, and an exact eponym for the acronymed group. Asteroid Isis has been traveling with asteroids Nike, named for the Greek goddess of victory, and Nemesis, named for the Greek goddess of vengeance and retribution, for most of the past year and more, and will continue this pattern into 2016.
When Mosul fell, this dynamic celestial trio was augmented by astrological conjunction to the Sun, bringing awareness and illumination of the situation. June 10 was the day of the annual Sun/Nemesis conjunction, focusing the rest of the world on the threat ISIS had become. At 19 Gemini, this pair was within orb of Nike at 24 Gemini and Isis herself at 25 Gemini, with Mercury (the media, news) retrograding back into the mix from 2 Cancer.
Isis’ ongoing conjunction with Nike, signifying ISIS victorious, began in mid-June 2013, just months after the group’s renaming, and will endure until late September of this year, with both points within five degrees of each other continually during that period, which coincides with their rapid expansion and success in attaining their goals. Their exact conjunction occurred 4 July 2014, just weeks after the capture of Mosul, as ISIS brigades threatened the Baghdad suburbs.
Asteroid Isis’ conjunction with Nemesis has been more complicated, beginning on 7 April 2013, within days of the group’s inception, until late June of that year. After months out of orb, the two came within range of conjunction again on July 5 of this year, and will continue together within five degrees until early March 2016.
If early indicators prove true, although ISIS feeds off the retributive, vengeful energies of Nemesis, which is a part of its natal make-up, it may also be subject to reversal of those energies, with Nemesis exacting her own vengeance upon the group. The halting of their forward momentum and US re-engagement in the region may be harbingers of this sea change. This is the principal hope going forward, for a region that has been abandoned by local and international authorities.
“Born” with its name change on 9 April 2013, ISIS’ chart well reflects its philosophy and agenda. A stunning grouping of the Sun with Mars, Eris and Venus that day (at 19, 21 and 22 Aries) signals a disaffected (Eris) membership, militantly (Mars) focused (Sun) on its own ethics and morals (Venus). A close square from asteroid Apophis at 22 Cancer, named for the ancient Egyptian personification of pure evil, shows the barbarous lengths the group will go to, with no holds barred. Apophis is conjoined by TNO Varuna at 23 Cancer, a degree noted for establishing a legacy (which the group seeks to do in the reinstatement of the caliphate which once dominated the Islamic world) but also for a scrupulous rigidity and dogmatism in matters of religion or philosophy.
Speaking of these themes, the group’s natal Jupiter at 13 Gemini exactly conjoins asteroid Atropos, named for the Greek Fate who severs the thread of life at death, and generally representative of end-of-life issues. TNO Chaos joins the mix from 15 Gemini, and together these three suggest a philosophy enforced with the threat of death, spreading anarchy and disorder throughout the regions under its control.
The group’s namesake asteroid, Isis, falls at 3 Pisces, just within orb of asteroid Nemesis at 8 Pisces and closely conjoined Neptune, ruling religious fanaticism and zealotry, at 4 Pisces, with asteroid Requiem, named for the funeral mass for the dead, on the periphery of its influence at 9 Pisces. This again identifies the group closely with death, destruction and undoing, all in a religion-based context.
James Foley’s interaction with the group is perhaps prefigured in ISIS’ natal chart, with asteroid James at 23 Sagittarius, conjunct TNO Ixion at 20 Sagittarius and the Galactic Center at 27 Sagittarius. Ixion is named for the first murderer in Greek myth, and contacts with the GC promote universal or global notice and attention, something ISIS certainly reaped with the murder of James Foley. ISIS’ natal asteroid James is also inconjunct Fixed Star Algol at 26 Taurus, a point noted for beheading or decapitation (based in Perseus’ mythological beheading of the gorgon Medusa, depicted in the constellation Perseus, where Algol forms the decapitated gorgon’s eye).
On James Foley’s side of the ledger (born 18 October 1973), we see asteroid Isis at 0 Libra, conjoined natal Pluto, modern ruler of death, at 5 Libra, from where it is exactly conjoined a Quasar. Quasars are deep space stellar anomalies, among the brightest and furthest objects in the universe. They cast a brilliant spotlight upon whatever they touch, bringing it to the forefront of our attention, in much the way Foley’s death made international news.
Asteroid Isis is also exactly squared Foley’s natal asteroid James at 0 Capricorn, and more broadly squares natal Saturn, ancient ruler of death, at 4 Cancer, exactly on a Black Hole. Black Holes promote reversals of fortune and bizarre, record-making events, a sense of being in some alternate universe or parallel reality, all elements which factor into his horrific death.
At his death, transit asteroid Atropos (death) was conjunct both natal Pluto and Isis, from 3 Libra, squared James and Saturn, while transit James at 28 Pisces opposed natal Isis. There is no asteroid Foley, but there is a Fole, a close linguistic match, which natally falls at 21 Virgo and was squared by transit Ixion (murder) from 19 Sagittarius at his death. Transit Fole at 18 Cancer was traveling in company with Nemesis at 19 Cancer and transit Isis at 23 Cancer (atop ISIS’ natal Apophis, representing pure evil, at 22 Cancer), with Isis tightly squared his natal Sun at 24 Libra and forming a T-Square with his natal TNO Chaos at 24 Aries. The transit Sun at 26 Leo was exactly squared Algol (beheading) at 26 Taurus.
In beheading James Foley, ISIS may well have wakened a sleeping tiger in the US, whose disengagement in the region following its 2011 withdrawal from Iraq has been a contributory cause to the festering within the beleaguered Iraqi state. The US’ natal asteroid Nemesis at 28 Aries conjoins ISIS’ Aries stellium and may well prove the vengeful hand of the goddess in bringing them to their destruction.
Opening photo: ISIS fighters parade through the Syrian town of Tel Abyad on January 2, 2014. Photo: REUTERS/Yaser Al-Khodor.