Maya del Mar's Daykeeper Journal: Astrology, Consciousness and Transformation


Jessica Murray: America in Transition

by Jessica Murray

[Shortly before she passed, Maya said that in her opinion, Jessica Murray was one of the finest astrological writers on the planet. We're extremely pleased now to welcome Jessica to the Daykeeper family. Her column will appear bimonthly.—Ed.]

Taking the Pulse of the World

Astrology has no match when it comes to delineating the subtleties of an individual psyche: there is no psychological model, no sociological theory, no Myers-Briggs-type test in existence as sophisticated as a birth chart when it comes to understanding a person’s character.

And in this psychological age we live in, using astrology to take the pulse of a human being is the arena that gets far and away the most emphasis. But astrology’s symbolic reach is astoundingly elastic. It can just as easily take the pulse of a business meeting, an airplane flight, a culture, or a whole era.

Macro and Micro

Whether the story in question is small and personal (will he ask me out this weekend?), or immense and impersonal (will the USA remain a superpower?), astrology has the language to tell the tale. How can this be? It is because astrology is a system of cosmic laws; and both macro-cycles and micro-cyles abide by cosmic laws. The same planets and signs that measure the vicissitudes of a person’s work week can be used to measure the overarching themes of collective life.

As individuals get born and die, so do nations; so do whole epochs. This column will address planetary themes as they are played out in U.S. culture and the wider world. Just as we use transits to keep us abreast of our personal mood shifts, we can use them to keep abreast of collective mood shifts. Human societies have their own subplots and crisis points that are scripted, chapter by chapter, in the sky.

Written in Code

But we must keep in mind that the script is written in code, not in literalisms. Those new to astrology are often disappointed to find that the planets don’t spell out a specific itinerary. There is no list of events up there waiting to happen, for the future is written at every moment.

When astrologers foresaw Pluto (planet of destruction and renewal) heading towards the USA’s Ascendant in late 2000, for example, we knew something huge and unprecedented was about to mess with America’s mass mind. But the specific manifestation—hijacked planes into the World Trade Center—was fashioned by the group soul, not by the planets. The planets just told us it was time. They told us “what was going to happen” only in so far as they told us what it was going to mean. And they told us this in the coded language of symbols.

All great truths are couched in ciphers. We see this in the nuanced metaphors in holy books (though the religious fundamentalists would argue with me on this); in the analogies of poetry; in the riddles of the Sphinx. The wisdom of the ages has always been carefully encrypted: either by human shamans—who were often sworn to keep powerful mystical secrets from falling into the wrong hands —or by the Divine Mother herself, who designed planetary movements to render a plethora of potential expressions.

We must remember this if we want to derive spiritual meaning from astrology. We must be able to think symbolically if we are going to look to the sky to make sense of what is happening on Earth.

The Outer Planets

To take the pulse of the world at any given moment, we need to back up from the hue and cry of the culture wars. If our intention is to understand the higher meaning of global events we must refer back to the pure abstraction of astrological symbols, for that is where their truth lies. This means setting our sights beyond the partisan opinions and chauvinisms that blare at us from the media and from government spin-masters.

We must even—at first—back up from our dear friends the inner planets, and begin instead with the outer planets, whose cycles are long and slow and describe the evolution of collective wholes. The planets farthest from the Sun establish the main plot of what’s going on for humanity at a given time. The planets closer to the Sun supply the subplots.

Pluto and the Big Picture

So it is to Pluto, the most distant planet in the solar system1, that we will first look to get a bead on what’s going on in the world. Pluto is the planet with the longest orbit, encompassing the longest stretches of history. By examining Pluto in a given sign we can get a perspective on vast societal themes that are otherwise hard to see.

Pluto takes 250 years on average to go all the way around the zodiac, so when it passes into a new sign—every 12-to 20 years—it is, astrologically speaking, a very big deal. Right now Pluto is only a couple of years away from one of these thresholds (ingresses). The world is in the throes of an epochal shift. To understand where Pluto is taking us, we need to take a close look at where it has been.

Pluto in Sagittarius

It has been ten years since Pluto entered Sagittarius, the sign of righteous zeal. For a decade now, Pluto, the planet of death and rebirth, has been wreaking havoc upon the human craving to believe in something.

Sagittarius governs belief systems: not so much opinions (that’s Gemini), but convictions. It is a fire sign, so it’s about passionately held ideals and spiritual impulses. Since this transit began, issues that would have seemed utterly secular a decade ago—such as same-sex marriage and the razing of old oak trees—have been bestirring the kind of fire-and-brimstone reactions that one associates with religious crusades.

Since the mid-90s Pluto has been intensifying believers from the aboriginal (paganism) to the mainstream (American Protestantism) all over the globe. A do-or-die extremism characterizes whatever sign Pluto occupies, and the past decade has turned everybody into a warrior for the truth, whatever we imagine the truth to be. Palestinian nationalists, Zionists and Right-to-Lifers all wield the fiery sword.

Perhaps the quintessential symbol of this transit is the indelible image of those airplanes (Sagittarius) being used as death projectiles (Pluto) in 2001, an image which fused the geopolitical with the religious in the mass mind. Since then, international discourse has been framed in the context of moral absolutes, giving new meaning to the phrase “bully pulpit.” Instead of framing their debates in economic or historical or diplomatic terms, world leaders now wage theological warfare: the American president uses the word “evil” to describe his geopolitical adversaries; the Venezuelan president refers to the American president as “the devil.” The epoch’s reigning superpower has a leader who believes he was invited by the Almighty to attack Iraq. His military commanders have gone on television impugning the gods of Guantanamo detainees as being less “real” than the good old American god.

New Versions of Truth

Issues this inflammatory are difficult to think about clearly. Pluto is fueling the current period with such high-octane drama that reason and common sense are in short supply. Our question as astrologers should be: what is the point, exactly, of this righteous firestorm? What has the Dark God hoped to accomplish during this 13-year period?

The job of Pluto in Sagittarius every two-and-a-half centuries is to eradicate old versions of Truth in order to clear the stage for new ones. Pluto’s targets are doddering old ideologies that have lost their vitality, wherever in the world they exist. All around us we see religions being exposed as destructive; we see moral certainties faltering. All ethical structures that cannot withstand modernity are breaking apart. By Natural Law, if they were still viable even Pluto would be unable to get rid of them.

In the USA, corruption and power-mongering have tarnished institutions once considered untouchably sacred. This past decade will go down in history as the one that threatened the heretofore sacrosanct separation of church and state. The pedophilia scandals, which broke just as the transit was beginning, now threaten to bankrupt the Catholic Church. An astonishing number of evangelists and Bible-Belt darlings have been exposed during this period—from the pill-popping Rush Limbaugh to Rev.Ted Haggard and his clandestine call boy. The Episcopal Church is breaking apart at the seams over the ordination of gays and women. Bestsellers have been written eviscerating religious tenets that our grandparents would have considered it heretical even to question (e.g. The Da Vinci Code). Secular morality has been strained to the breaking point by pop culture products in such bad taste that they require a new ethical sub-standard to even begin to critique them (O. J. Simpson’s If I Did It).

Pluto (taboo) in Sagittarius (right-and-wrong) has taken humanity into categories of morality that render obsolete old ways of judging such things. And this was exactly its job: to cause the whole world to shake its head and ask in bewilderment, “Is nothing sacred?”

The sign Sagittarius also governs education, travel, and publishing. In our next column we will continue our exploration of how this transit has changed our society, and factor in the other planets—whose transits add specificity of timing and shadings of meaning to the epoch’s overall themes.

1 I use the term planet unamended for Pluto, despite its reclassification by astronomers in August 2006 as a “dwarf planet” (the word planet simply means “wanderer," and Pluto’s wanderings persist, regardless of its size). I propose that we symbol-readers view the new categorization with caution. See Alex Miller-Mignone’s article in the March 2003 issue of Daykeeper.

Alex Miller-Mignone, photo
Jessica Murray trained as a fine artist before graduating in 1973 from Brown University, where she studied psychology and linguistics. After a stint in political theatre in the heady early '70s, Jessica moved to San Francisco and began studying metaphysics, where she has had a full-time private practice in astrology for more than 30 years.

Her new book, Soul-Sick Nation: An Astrologer's View of America, has recently been published by AuthorHouse. In addition to her column in Daykeeper Journal and the monthly Skywatch on her website,, Jessica's essays appear in The Mountain Astrologer, P.S. Magazine, Considerations and other publications. Jessica can be reached at 415.626.7795 or