The Saturn-Neptune square is now upon us. It is the most significant transit since the series of grand crosses anchored by the Uranus-Pluto square, past its peak (2010-15) but still within orb.
The USA was hit particularly hard by the cardinal crosses, which made a full-on grand square during the past few years when laid atop the Sibly chart. This series of hard knocks jostled again and again the hyperpower crown on Uncle Sam’s head.
The Saturn-Neptune square will continue the process, in a more oblique way. The weary country is struggling to make sense of its new role in an uncertain world.
Saturn on the ascendant
This winter, 2015-16, Saturn will rake back and forth across the US ascendant, insisting that the collective consciousness pull itself together into some kind of cohesive national persona. The world will demand to know who we are (1).
At the same time, Neptune (meltdown) will undermine the aspects of American life that always used to represent coherence and stability (Saturn), such as our sense of unstoppable growth, and our surety that we were always on the ethical high road (both features of Sagittarius). But any smug righteousness the USA had at the start of the millennium has been severely shaken by the myriad scandals of the cardinal cross years, including the revelations of far-reaching criminality on Wall Street, the news that our government was spying on us, the torture memos Diane Feinstein brought to light (2), and the ongoing killing of innocent civilians abroad by drones that miss their mark, to name just a few.
In millions of minds, the beginning of the millennium—explosively marked by the destruction of the World Trade Center—emphatically marked the beginning of the current American era. Not since Queen Victoria died in the first year of the 1900s has a new century begun with such a definitive stroke, 9/11 being at least as significant for the American empire as the earlier milestone was for the English.
The date of the WTC trauma has assumed a unique status in the group imagination, as evidenced by how often we hear it referenced as a dividing line in American history (e.g. people will say “Before 9/11…” or “Since 9/11…”). It has even become a dividing line of personal memoir, in the way that JFK’s death was for an earlier generation (people used to ask each other “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”).
Saturn then, Saturn now
For students of the Sibly chart, the logic behind 9/11 becoming a national milestone is flawless. The transits on that date spelled out the crossing of an unmistakable threshold in America’s evolution. Saturn was hovering over the US descendant at the time, opposing Pluto’s conjunction with the ascendant (3).
Even when not paired with Pluto, transiting Saturn (chronology) serves as a handy epochal signifier. In this case, the cycle it points to is especially significant, as Saturn is approaching an opposition to its 2000-01 position in the US chart. Sibly-watchers will be reading these two placements—where Saturn was on 9/11 and where it is now—as bookends.
Saturn represents our sense of worldly authority. Its Sibly placement 15 years ago symbolized America’s ability to hold our own with other countries (descendant). Now, as Saturn approaches the ascendant (self-image), it’s about our ability to see ourselves as a mature, capable world power. Or not.
This encloses the national growth arc between 2001 and 2016 in a neat Saturn hemicycle. From it we can infer the USA’s shift in global status, which will be the dominant theme in American life in the years to come—perhaps obsessively so, as we approach the US Pluto Return in 2022 (4).
But first there is some karma to finish up, as transiting Saturn makes its way through the dark, murky waters of the US twelfth house. The fact that Saturn is in this house for the first hit (Oct–Dec ’15) of its square with Neptune makes for a double emphasis on the group shadow. This house contains the accumulated detritus of the cycle now ending, an unsavory stew that started accumulating around 1986, when Saturn last hit the US ascendant.
Donald Trump’s exhortation that we “Make America Great Again” represents one expression of the transit. The slogan implies that the USA is rightfully entitled to be held in high regard (5), but is suffering through an intermediary phase of being held in not-so-high regard. On the face of it, judging from what we know of the Saturn cycle now ending, astrologers would not argue with this assessment. But it is probably true that, in the minds of most people who resonate with Trump’s slogan, there is not much desire to examine too closely the reasons for this dip into non-greatness; for example, the foreign policies of which this loss of global respect is a consequence (6).
Yet such examination is exactly what the transit demands.
Saturn is the planet of karma. This is a word that’s tossed around a lot these days, but in astrology it has a precise technical meaning. It refers to the cosmic law whereby a given action (or statement, thought or feeling) leads to a corresponding result. Thus, the energies with which the USA began the Saturn cycle—when it was conjunct the ascendant in the mid-1980s—are coming back to haunt the country right now. The policies that were instituted then are now visibly unraveling, in preparation for a new lap around the track (7).
These include the economic policies that concentrated great wealth into very few hands, a process that began in earnest under President Reagan. The income gap that is so extreme now was inaugurated then. The stock market crash of 1987 set the tone for the extreme economic instability of the cycle we’re now experiencing in its warts-and-all 12th-house mode.
Today’s gaping class divisions and intractable political partisanship were established then, as conservative forces (Saturn) clamped down on progressivism and became the face of America (conjunction with the ascendant). The term “liberal” became an epithet during this period, as both US parties began their slide to the right.
But this does not mean the same thing will happen again, now that Saturn is back in the same position. It would mean that, if the chart wheel were a mere circle, but it isn’t—it’s a spiral. We know this from watching transits in our individual charts. A cycle comes back around to its starting place but resumes at a higher level every time.
Stewing in our lessons
Understanding evolution as a spiral helps us see why an examination of the cycle now ending is so important. The last phase of a cycle imposes self-reflection, a must if we’re going to consolidate all we’ve learned in the previous phases. This is why the Goddess invented the twelfth house. As Saturn approaches the US ascendant, the placement it held in the mid-1980s, the group soul is awash in the after-effects of its last go-round. We are stewing in the cycle’s lessons.
The USA is working up a new self-definition, one that will last us three decades. It is not an easy task, as we have the Neptune square to contend with this time. Despite the promises of cheerleaders like Trump, the country will not be able to go back in time to summon up the strength it needs going forward. Uncle Sam won’t be able to get away with cartoonish imagery from Westerns and superhero movies, nor bluff anybody with unsubstantiated declarations of superiority.
A collective transit like this is excellent practice for our own individual spiritual work. The months ahead offer us the challenge of remaining clear-eyed in the face of the myriad distractions and pollutions that are sloshing around in the collective mind. As responsible members of this group entity, we’re to use the rest of Saturn’s passage through the 12th house to assess our collective honestly, so as to begin the three decades ahead on a note of integrity.
(1) Transiting Saturn will enter the US first house as the world enters the new year. Its conjunction with the ascendant (12 Sagittarius 21) first hits exactitude in January 2016. It will hover around that degree through October 2016.
(2) This happened when the Uranus-Pluto square was exact in the sky. See my blog Out, Damn’d Spot.
(3) No other date in recent history has elicited so much astrological interpretation. When the World Trade Center went down, the opposition across America’s Gemini/Sagittarius horizon had just reached exactitude. Here was a case of celestial placements matching a worldly event so closely that it rectified the Sibly chart’s accuracy in the minds of many astrologers.
(5) “Greatness” in this context—as used by Trump—can be inferred to mean something like “top of the heap”, “number one”, “first class”, etc: a raw Saturnine concept, with an emphasis on hierarchical status without any sense of depth or connectedness.
(7) The negative reputation of twelfth-house transits (of any planet) only makes sense if we look at the placement holistically, in the context of the planet’s cycle through the houses. Energies in this phase tend to appear in their least becoming form, because something they represent is unwinding, decaying, losing strength. Something is breaking down for the purpose of wiping the slate clean.