by Boots Hart, CAP
In the first part of our Neptunian exploration we discussed how Neptune works, doesn't work…or might work as we want it to… were that concept not so very Neptunian. With Neptune, the more we focus on the hope of a specific emotional reward, the more our expectations get tested. Not because we wish for things which are wrong, but because the dream is never quite the same as the reality.
With all that now as a given, we move on to the contemplation of Neptune completing its first truly "known" orbit—one which astrologers either believe opens the Aquarian Age, or leads right into it. There are two camps on this, but regardless: with the Piscean Age now giving way to the Age of Aquarius, humankind now finishes developing our spiritual sense and begins putting that it to use.
Or to the test, depending on how you feel about it.
So let's begin with little astronomy. Unlike Jupiter and Saturn (known astronomically as "gas giants"), Neptune and Uranus are known as "ice giants." Neptune's inner mantle is thought to be an ocean of ammonia and methane. On Earth we know these substances for their stench (both), combustibility (methane) and cleaning power (ammonia)—an interesting comment on Neptunian astro-images, like when we blow things out of proportion (manufacturing a "false" image), creating of emotional stinks (misunderstandings are very Neptunian) and of course, the fabled Neptunian ability to force us to clean up our act, get real with ourselves and try, try again when things don't work or simply end.
Perhaps even more interesting is how science proposes that at depths around 7,000 km in this painfully toxic mantle, sheer pressure causes diamonds to precipitate out of the methane. Sinking to the planet's core, they coalesce, giving us the image of Neptune as a planet shrouded in toxicity which through pressure and natural forces resolves, slowly building a nexus of brilliant and durable beauty. This image is wholly in keeping with the metaphysical Neptune andstruggles we find in resolving our Neptune, Pisces and 12th house issues—from which can come things of great human beauty like art, mercy, spirituality and feelings of being freed from the tyranny of separation, fear, isolation and loneliness.
And yes, it is a struggle. Everyone has a 12th house in their chart, Pisces appears somewhere in that chart and everyone has a Neptune in their horoscope. Purely and simply, this says that anyone who claims not to have problems is either lying or so in denial and so afraid of their Shadow that they can't bear to admit the truth of their humanity even to themselves.
So who's actually vulnerable: the person who admits to vulnerabilities and is willing to work on them—or the person who simply thinks everything's okay? It's such a Neptunian question!
This "hard to pin down" quality even showed itself in Neptune's discovery. In a typically Neptunian manner, Neptune was discovered long before being officially "discovered." To whom did Neptune make itself known? To none other than Galileo, who unknowingly spotted Neptune once on December 28, 1612 and again on January 27, 1613. He thought Neptune was a fixed star, which is—yes—so very Neptunian.
Conjunct Jupiter at the time (an interesting comment how Jupiter as ruler of Sagittarius represents the expanding of horizons and knowledge), astrologically we could say Neptune "wanted" to be found. And it would have been apt, seeing as how Rome was in the middle of an Inquisition and one of Neptune's Piscean functions is to transmute Jupiterian seeking into true spiritual worship—which, in being devoid of rules and human ego is so exactly Neptunian. But since Jupiter and Neptune were in Virgo at the time—the sign which is exactly opposite the sign of their joint rulership (Pisces), both planets were weakly placed. Ergo, we had weak plus weak—and to top it off, they were also in Virgo's 3rd decanate at the time (degrees 20—29 of any sign being where success or failure results from social/societal interactions or judgment). So it's no giant shock that things didn't go well. Although…considering that the Catholic Church has through the ages maintained an astrological cadre amidst the folds of their robes (they're currently part of the Jesuit Order), you'd think someone would have checked. It was an "aha!" wanting to happen.
But no…as if to prove just how weak Neptune plus Jupiter in Virgo can really be (particularly with fixed star Scheat in opposition, tossing in dislike of anyone thinking out of the box), this became a recipe for trouble based on ego, obsessions with details and political correctness—without regard for far greater and eternal implications.
In other words…Virgo's dark side had its way. And this isn't all so unusual: all signs describe qualities which in some moments are brilliant and in others, decidedly counterproductive. In Virgo, the issue is generally human myopia (short-sightedness), which, with Saturn now in Virgo, we may well have seen a lot of lately. Because Neptune rules Pisces and is always in fall in Virgo, ego is always a Virgo challenge, under a guise of Virgoan "helpfulness." And with Neptune here? That certainly muddied up perspectives. And thus did the society of that time make what might be called a bit of a mistake.
But specific to Galileo, there's definitely a Scheat note to the story (to which Galileo may have said "Oh, Scheat!" But maybe not.) Found prominently in the charts of famously free thinking types who take much flack for coloring outside the lines, including Galileo's, is natal Venus (attraction) conjunct Scheat, with Pluto and Sun also in Pisces. So let's guess that Galileo felt too vulnerable and persecuted to insist on having found himself a brand new planet. And he may be excused perhaps for doing so—already in bad graces with Rome for having announced the Sun was the center of the solar system (not Earth), Galileo's mouthiness would earn him a heresy conviction and permanent house arrest. And that's serious Scheat.
Neptune would just have to wait. And wait Neptune did, going about its planetary business until astronomer/mathematician Johann Goffried Galle (with the help of one Heinrich D’Arrest) cranked up the telescope at the Berlin Observatory on September 23, 1846, finding Neptune by deduction—a concept perilously close to Neptunian intuition. Having figured out something was tugging on Uranus, Herr Galle calculated where said object should be and… voila! Instant Neptune.
The chart for this event starts off interestingly with Neptune conjunct Saturn (reality, fact, solidification, responsibility, time) to the degree. So it was time for Neptune to be found in all its majestic, magnetic bluishness.
The year of this discovery deserves note right off the bat as 1846 is the dawn of an Industrial Age—a period which through its advances in science, mechanics, medicine and technology set the stage for the Nuclear and Technological Ages. Both of these being underpinnings of the incoming Age of Aquarius, its so not surprising that Neptune/Saturn was found in Aquarius, too. Ah, the workings of the cosmos!
Anyway, from that time, because of what began to be learned, humanity (an Aquarian concept if there ever was one) has needed to act with more (Saturn) responsibility for the consequences (Neptunian end products) of what we do and choose. And that's part of what this chart says, what with Saturn/Neptune conjunct being in sextile/trine to the Lunar Nodes. The message is that society (the Nodes) is never more than the sum of its individuals (how very Aquarian), and how though people are often motivated by fear, society has more to fear from stratification, lack of involvement ("let someone else do that") and refusal to realize that freedom depends on structure. Astrologically, this involves a series of partnerships: one between government and commerce, a second between sacred and secular society and third, between our minds and our emotions. A rational sense of entitlement and proportion is essential; "having it all" is antithetical to freedom as it lies at an extreme. Existence is a balance: for some to live like kings is to consign others to being enslaved—literally, figuratively, morally, spiritually and emotionally. The dotted lines between these things are hard to see but exist nonetheless, making it everyone's responsibility, whether we want that responsibility or not. Yes, welcome to the harsher side of Saturn/Neptune.
There is a sextile (the choice to make something happen) to South Node conjunct Pluto and TNO Deucalion in Aries. The South Node is always the "easy way" and Aries typically is "I Am/My Way" (whether that's courageously noble or ignobly selfish). We should do the right and moral (Deucalion) thing. But with Pluto in the mix? Sometimes we'll be totally into that (maybe even obsessively so) and sometimes we'll just deny we have any responsibility for anything social or societal. Or that there's anything we could do about it as individuals. Because Neptune aspects its discovery point from time to time, we'll get periodic tests on these subjects (as individuals, groups and societies)—all of which ask whether we're willing to do the moral, if not necessarily easy thing. Need an example? Well, at the beginning of WWII, Neptune, Saturn and Uranus were in a really uncomfy aspect to Neptune's discovery point. It was a moment of tough love, however you interpret that on a cosmic basis. The result? Horrible? Yes. But also a warning. We are never "safe" from ourselves: humans always have the potential to run amuck and its our job as humans to protect our race (not just "our" people), our environment and our world.
Further notes here: the North Node in Libra requires us to be who we are honestly and consciously—it's not just about looking pretty! Libra's scales say that what you get depends on the quality of what you give—and with Niobe (pride brings a fall) and Altjira (spiritual searching) conjunct here, we know Neptune's first "known" orbit—and to a great degree, its eternal presence—will always pit Saturn's realities and facts against Neptunian longings, altruism, allure and possible deception. The Libra North Node asks whether we are willing to earn a good reputation, with Altjira periodically provoking us to be not just "part of the group" but true individuals. Meanwhile, Niobe warns about boasting and putting others down (along with envy and pandering) as not just wrong, but as a path to personal downfall.
That Niobe's story specificallyrefers to children seems of note now, moving into the Aquarian Age, since that puts Leo (sign of children and having children, among other things) on the highly visible position of Descendant. Because of this, it seems no mystery that we're seeing society focusing more and more on kids. In Niobe's case, she offended a good portion of the Olympian Powers Which Were in two specific ways. One, she insisted her kids were better (prettier, smarter, more talented, etc.) than anyone else's. Two, she took her own self-worth from having had those kids and in having had morekids than everybody else, as if children are possessions or tokens of social wealth, totally negating their individuality as people. Indeed, so arrogant and prideful was Niobe that Apollo and sister Artemis were sent to kill her offspring.
Some lessons here are obvious: children aren't objects. Nor are they possessions to be proud of like puppies. Nor are they "wealth." They're people. And though they may be the future, it's adults who run the world they grow into. So those adults need to set a good example by working on themselves so as to be able to grow a stable and well structured (Saturn) reality filled with (Neptunian) wonder and possibilities for those children to grow into.
Another implication worth considering (though to many distinctly uncomfortable) is that given our world's finite capacities and Earth's ever-expanding population, at some point humans will have to confront the idea that part of being a responsible adult human being is the need to balance one's natural, biological, emotional (Neptunian) yearnings to have a family against all the hard-core Saturn facts. When will that happen? In purely Neptunian terms, never is too soon, but the sooner, the better.
That these and other confusing, debatable, emotionally trying Neptune issues will raise much fervency is apparent in the discovery chart. In that chart, Neptune/Saturn are in conjunction with Eris Discord (a dwarf planet discussed in a May 2009 Daykeeper Journal article). Not only that, but Eris is poised in Aquarius' critical 29th degree. Because of this, we can anticipate many issues will become critical during the Aquarian Age and we can count on most of them only being dealt with at the critical moment. Yet even when that moment comes, because Eris is in opposition Eurydike (the price to be agreed to and paid), conjunct Achilles (strength which shields vulnerabilities), Agamemnon (determination) and importantly, fixed star Regulus, resolutions are likely to be tough sledding. We are now in a time when society would seem to almost rather shoot itself in the foot than change—even when it knows change is vital.
And what motivates that? Ego—and the fear which arises when the ego is threatened.
The saving grace here? Probably Regulus. Known as the Watcher of the North, Regulus implies the cooling benefits of intellect, promising success if temptations towards revenge are set aside. Positioned in late Leo, Regulus' polarity will likely initiate oppositions by citing rights and issues of fairness, freedom, elitism—all the negative Aquarian attributes. (We call this projection.) If, when and where this is carried too far, it will be done so at peril to society and social (and economic) systems—as we saw with the recent economic collapse. It's to be noted that Regulus is a fixed star too, so though over time it will move a little (due to our ever-expanding universe), for all intents and purposes Regulus is going to sit in permanent opposition to Neptune's discovery point. You know, that place in the Aquarian 3rd decanate which dictates that whenever and wherever rank, rule and privilege get out of line, it falls—taking a lot down all around it.
Can good things come out of such events? Yes. But societal collapses can be difficult. Damaging. Even catastrophic. Those who know history know this 1846 discovery date as being only a few years before the American Civil War, a war which like all civil wars was particularly pitiless in its disregard for community, family, friendship and basic humanity. Yet out of this war came great advances in medical hygiene, plus (of course) the freeing of American slaves, a truly glorious thing highly emblematic of Deucalion.
Also discussed in its own Daykeeper article, TNO Deucalion reached opposition to the point it was at the time of the Civil War just as America elected its first black president. On one side, this has raised much discussion in black communities as to how this election affects the legacy of enslavement. On another, Obama's election has also raised lingering specters of racism.
But this brings up an important thing to know about cycles: they don't repeat the event, they repeat the dynamic or issue. That Obama's election brought new awareness to discussions about blacks in America is one thing, but the overarching message is better seen in how the United States is also dealing with the rights of gays, immigration, questions stemming from wartime torture and right-to-life issues in both the health care and abortion senses. All such are versions of societal and individual morality discussions, which point to Deucalion—and thus in the end, to Neptune. Every person, entity and region is going through its own version of such challenges, beyond which lies what humanity has yet to deal with as an Aquarian Age fact: that what rulers (democratic, despotic, etc.) have been over the last 2,000 (plus) years is now dissolving (Neptunian-ly) into the hands of companies and religions, neither of which are people per se, but rather entities which cannot be taken on face to face. This is a prime Aquarian Age challenge, and one very much to be brought out by Neptune's "discovery return," which we now turn to with vigor.
But wait! First, a word on returns. Just to recall, what they don't do is replace a natal chart (or in this case, a discovery chart). They're more like a "chapter" in the story. For people, life unfolds a year at a time—birthday to birthday. Every year when the Sun comes back to the degree and minute of your birth, you have a "Solar Return." That chart pictures the incoming year. If you were a tree, we'd call this your tree ring—although granted, one we'd be able to see in advance.
With Neptune, one return takes a very long time: 164.79 years, to be precise. And because of yearly retrogrades, there isn't one Neptune Return chart—the return occurs over a span of time, indicating an evolving process which began on April 12, 2009 and which ends on February 7, 2010.
Given that this return is a "process," we can expect the whole of this year (into next) to be Neptunian—which is to say it's going to be mentally unsettled, with intermittently sunny and delightful moments and showers of emotional confusion (accompanied by possible strikes of disappointment) here and there. In keeping with the original discovery chart, we can expect our highs and lows to center around all the issues already discussed, with the occasional realization coming upon us that no matter what ends we come to, they do indeed justify the means because in the end, we get what we sow in life. Our greatest triumphs will somehow result from having been greatly tested, but seldom will we see the context until we see it within the framework of the outcome…That's the Neptunian/Piscean way.
As a generation, Yuppies (Pluto in Virgo: 1958-1972) will feel this return period more than most because of the Virgoan polarity to Pisces. If you're a member of this group, expect to feel like everything you are and are doing is not as secure as it was, or you thought it would (or should) be. Some members of this generation will find circumstances beyond their control changing their way of life. In essence, the more married to a status quo and "things," you are, the more likelihood there is for change.
In this chart (i.e., going forward) Chiron is conjunct Neptune to the degree. This is an interesting cosmic indicator, seeing as how Saturn and Chiron represent the necessity of differing types. Saturnian growth, we understand how to do. We may not like it, but we understand it. Through Saturn we dedicate ourselves to building careers, we commit to paying off mortgages and to growing through personal commitments.
Chiron is like Saturn in that it asks us to take on challenges, but with Chiron we don't know how before we start—we must learn as we go, and the whole subject feels unnerving. There are two points in the chart nobody tends to like: one is Chiron. (And since I know you want to know what the other one is, it's the North Node.) Separately and together these points define challenges through which we build personal security of a most satisfying and enduring kind. But the whole idea of doing our "Chiron thing" fills us with feelings of helplessness.
And that may well be the key to understanding this return chart all the way around. Chiron, the mythic centaur, was a healer who failed to heal himself—hence, the expression: physician, heal thyself. Wherever Chiron is in a chart, we see that exact flaw in others—but cure it ourselves? When combined with Neptune's ego-denying qualities, in Aquarius the issue is plainly about bettering world society one person at a time—starting with ourselves. As with Chiron, we cannot "fix" anything we cannot first attend to in ourselves. That means physically, philosophically, mentally, emotionally, financially—the works. This return in Aquarius also says this applies to any "group" or societal entity, from corporations to clubs to groups identified by ethnicity, gender, heritage, religion, wealth—or any other means.
The return occurring (as it always will) at 25 Aquarius adds a note that this is about application of knowledge and management thereof. Plus with Chiron present, we can be assured that our priorities need correcting andthat hypocrisy is a problem, probably has been a problem and will be a problem going forward. So it isn't the "other" guy (nation, profession's ethics, etc.). It's ours.
With Regulus always in watchful opposition from Leo, revenge of all types should always be off the table and best results will come from the harnessing of talent through application of ideas, doing what we each do best because it's our gift, instead of for personal gain. This last part is going to be hard for many, but if we look at life from the Neptunian point of view, isn't everyone's tendency to do things only because they're going to get something out of it (whether that's love, money, security, etc.)—isn't that pretty much what's wrong with the world?
Together, Neptune and Chiron tell us that though societies will tend to stratify (along whatever lines, with success (Chiron) and beliefs (Neptune) probably being high on the list) this is exactly what undermines us as individuals and ultimately, damages the world in which we live. And while those who have the upper hand (power of privilege) will tend to put others down and marginalize out of hand, with TNO Orcus (judgment) in opposition to Neptune/Chiron in conjunction with Regulus, those who are downtrodden or "without" need to try too. Neptune with Chiron in Aquarius reminds us that while social forces are enormous, societies (groups, organizations) are in the end, the sum of their individuals. Thus every individual is precious. We all have something to contribute.
Thus the real opportunity for those who have power and those who have a knack for getting ahead lies in helping the less adept. Not for what they can "get" from that person—greed is antithetical to Chiron/Neptune. Or to put it another way, greed is a trigger which is likely to bring out the worst in Chiron/Neptune in Aquarius' 3rd decan. So is insisting on being helpless. At a certain point, that's simply self-indulgence. Trying (which can be very trying, yes!) is the necessity here; and those who do try should be encouraged, not held at bay, excluded or turned away.
This return tells us that one of today's problems is the tendency for those in the mainstream (or in the know, or in power) to get all the opportunities. This chart says that's slowly but surely undermining and deluding society, starting with the very basics which support it, like food. That so much of it is about money, power and control is entirely Aquarian, in the sense that Aquarius is a sign which in its bad habit of stratifying creates "inbreeding" of a type which is first and foremost, mental. As is the "unknowingness" which cripples the downtrodden, abused and even enslaved. The greater the mental destitution, the greater the need for assistance whether or not society likes it. At this point society and social groups tend not to recognize the cost of ignorance—which is to say theirs, never mind that of the abused, enslaved or formerly enslaved. Neptune's strong association with "belief" is here emblematic of the fact we all tend to like people who think as we do, and like to think that people know and are endowed with the clarity of thinking or abilities we have.
But in this chart, such presumptions are cracks through which people and in time the whole societies may well fall. With Venus in Pisces conjunct Scheat and Eris (discord) conjunct a 3rd decanate Aries Sun in this chart, though we each are endowed with the power for social reform, it should start with the reforming of ourselves, in terms of our attitudes towards society. From this will come new ideas, many of which will get sidelined, but like Galileo's assertion that Earth orbits around the Sun, will ultimately win out. Remember, Aries is the knight who slays the dragon because the town is threatened and because that knight knows how to slay such beasts. It's not for glory—it's because the mythic knight finds courage in duty.
Two other notes here: With Saturn TNO Typhon, changes are on the way. They may feel like the end of the world, but they aren't. Fear will continue being used as a weapon, and not positively. Our concepts of age are likely to undergo a shake-up. With this conjunction coming from Virgo, problems which affect society through its "healthiness" are to be taken seriously. That Neptune + Chiron obviously point to the "helpless" in Aquarius speaks to ills which can strike society—and how corporations and money will play a big part in this. That which supports life ultimately should not be about money (period), says this chart. With this being the entrance to the Aquarian Age, Pisces goes to the global second house—the house of resources which are ultimately the source of security. But with Pisces there, answers are as likely to be false as real. Using drugs to escape is in this universal sense quite the equal of thinking drugs (prescriptions) are a cure-all. There is no answer except that which comes out of making the hard choices, taking in the whole of the need (not just your own) and doing what needs to be done, replete with sacrifices of time, pleasure and personal gain.
By the time we get to the second return (February 7, 2010), some cooler minds will begin to prevail. In this chart, Neptune, Chiron and Venus are all conjunct, with the Nodes having moved to 20 Capricorn (North) and Cancer (South). This suggests leaders who must lead, showing up the good, bad, moral and immoral where they find it. With Pluto (transformation) conjunct Circe (the ability to reduce lust to obedience), the power is on the side of those who know how to build enduring structures not for their own gain, but for the empowerment of the people. You know, the Aquarian individual, and the society. In perfected sextile to Jupiter (expansion of knowledge) conjunct fixed stars Fomalhaut (dreams and ideals which if noble, bring happiness and where corrupt, create loss and confusion) and Deneb Adige (powerful clarification, determination) this is a picture of appealing to the noble instincts in every heart and at the core of every group. What do you believe in? becomes a prime question here. Deneb Adige's downfall—a will linked to temper—if tempered to make the point, leads the way.
In other words, pussyfooting and political correctness may have to give way. This is something of a game of cosmic poker, and leaders who learn to call a spade a spade not out of spite or emotionalism, but because those are the facts—they will win out.
With a 3rd decan Capricorn North Node conjunct Tantalus there will be temptation to play games to get one's way, but with Saturn in early Libra conjunct Panacea, ultimately it is the quality of the product which counts. Many will try to win the day with a "polished presentation," but the proof is in the pudding and people should understand that results are (ultimately) what we all live with.
The Uranus of this chart is positioned in late Pisces—conjunct Scheat, suggesting that breaks with the past are to be expected, along with some terrible, costly mistakes being made by clinging to said past…and by not making Uranian changes which are encompassing enough. The modifiers here being Sabine (forced enslavement through sexual means), Medea (failure through power being used only for personal ends), Pandora (curiosity frees unsuspected ills and challenges) we are likely to see repeated cycles of discovering just how depraved trusted people, institutions and beliefs can be. Especially with Eris Discord conjunct Juno in this chart, we can expect traditional family/gender roles to be broken down slowly—and sometimes violently.
Being that Pisces has a strong association with sexual pleasure, all of today's intimate "extremes" (whether voluntary or involuntary) are up for discussion. Plainly things like pedophilia (which preys on/destroys the immature and truly helpless psyche) will remain vilified. But what consenting adults do in their private life? Given this amalgamation it would not be surprising if there's what might be amusingly called a "disrobing" in this regard, replete with the truth about many who have plainly been and acted with the utmost hypocrisy. But probably not quite yet. Look for all this to break out as/after Neptune moves into the 3rd decanate of Pisces around 2020. .
Before we close, a few notes on the heliocentric, as opposed to geocentric, return chart, which because of its solar orientation is more about Neptune as a life process which shapes our world than how the world operates. In this chart (which comes into being on July 12, 2011), Neptune is still conjunct Chiron, but Neptune is now at 0 Pisces—a degree which defines a healthy human community as one where many people offer ideas, products and talents of many kinds with Chiron (at 4 Pisces) asking us to see the spiritual value of even the most commonplace actions, events, situations and encounters. Conjunct and thus underscoring fixed stars Fomalhaut and Deneb Adige, here Chiron and Neptune expose and test our ability as a race in charge of a planet to act with nobility, or corruption. Mass movements still being composed of individuals, we are asked to consider the place ego has in our beliefs and thus in our choices and ability to accept ourselves and others.
As a wise and wonderful man once said, a solution is only the solution if it works for everyone—regardless of their beliefs. Or lack of beliefs. Also their age, gender, orientation, interests, financial or human status. That recognition speaks to Neptune, the ultimate symbol of acceptance and the tolerance of uncertainty which comes when we don't set up conditions and barriers. In Neptunian times we learn about our ability to survive—and maybe even more importantly, we confront how it may be a human necessity to experience vulnerability, which may explain why “bad things happen.”
In such painful moments, however, lie opportunities, moments when through being made vulnerable we learn we can survive and live to become a more compassionate, accepting and understanding person. A wiser human who, in being less ego driven, is thus more Neptunian and open to being loved, treasured, respected and cherished in life, in our own eyes and in the hearts of our fellow human beings.
Boots Hart is an ISAR-certified astrologer with over 25 years experience. She is a featured columnist for New York Spirit Magazine, long-time contributor to Zodiac Arts and author of a humanistic science-fantasy book series being brought to publication and film production. Boots can be reached at Mentorus@gmail.com for questions or astrological services.