“Is the person next to you washing their hands with soap?” 100% responsibility!

I’m aware that I seem to write about Saturn and Saturn issues a lot.  In part I suppose this is about my own personal journey as Saturn features so strongly in my chart, but I also think the issues associated with him are something we really struggle with as a society.  Driving into work this morning there was a discussion on the radio about post-toilet hand washing; don’t let anyone ever tell me I don’t know how relax on the way to work!!!  There were some pretty horrific statistics about how few men wash their hands, really nauseating.  The bit that really struck me and made me say, ‘hello Saturn’ was the findings that the signs in public toilets which work the best in improving the number of people who wash their hands are the ones that say

“Is the person next to you washing their hands with soap?”Washing hands with soap and water

This made me laugh out loud.  All the arguments about hygiene, health and the invisible smears on that £5 note you just got in your change, simply can’t match up to the worry of what other people might think if I’m not using soap…  Picture the scenario, you’re washing your hands (because you’re not one of the many people who simply don’t bother) and see the sign.  You glance at the person next to you, who is also glancing to see what you’re doing.  The fear of ‘what will that person think of me if I’m not using soap?’ is enough for some people to do it properly.  How tuned into Saturn we are as a society is pretty staggering, isn’t it???

Although many astronomers consider Saturn to be the most beautiful planet in the solar system because of his stunning rings, earning him the nickname ‘the jewel of the solar system’,  Saturn in the birth chart often gives an indication of where in life our fears can be, especially when we’re younger.  The word saturnine is used to mean gloomy, slow or sullen.  For medieval astrologers he was the last planet visible to the naked eye and so viewed as the edge of the solar system.  In the chart Saturn is often associated with responsibility, authority, boundaries, practicality, reality and building or conforming to social structures.

The other big word associated with Saturn is judgement.  Judgement of ourselves and others, as well as attributing responsibility and blame, are all things that society is really hot on.  The hand washing sign really taps into this worry that we’re being judged by others, or gives us a way to judge other people –  and we all like a bit of that, don’t we?  It puts us in the right and we can feel superior.  The media love, love, loves being judgemental and pointing fingers.  A tragedy happens = who’s fault is it???  Who can we blame??

I talk a little bit about Caroline Casey’s take on Saturn in this post.  She’s definitely worth a read to try and see the positive Saturn, and any of the outer planets, can bring.  There’s so much negative stuff written about him and he certainly does seem to be the planet most astrologers love to hate. Fundamentally, it’s about taking responsibility for ourselves.  That’s all Saturn is asking us to do, be 100% responsible for our lives.

Astronomically Saturn is actually the least dense planet in the solar system.  If there was a body of water large enough to hold him, he’d float!  In contrast Mercury would sink the fastest.  Just take a moment to reflect on that.  How many times do we sink because of our thoughts or something that is said?  Think of all the little judgements your thoughts make on you every day.  If that was a ‘friend’ saying those things about you, you probably wouldn’t be friends any more.  Being the authority in our lives and taking responsibility for all our actions and their consequences means we can stop playing the blame game, be kinder to ourselves, stop looking for scapegoats and maybe, just maybe, float!


United States current transits

I’m an avid news watcher and find politics endlessly fascinating and frustrating!  Perhaps it’s my stellium in Scorpio in the 7th house which means I’m particularly intrigued by political relationships and how they impact on world politics.  Like many others I’m currently fascinated by the impact of the revelations from the Wikileaks website.  Despite the removal of the website, the information is still in the hands of journalists around the world who are revelling in drip feeding us the details, whilst politicians squirm with embarrassment and relationships crumble.  Now I don’t claim to be an expert on mundane astrology but when I saw more headlines this weekend my immediate question was, what IS going on in the US natal chart*?  I thought I’d have a go at picking out just a few of the transits which seem significant to current events.

The first thing that strikes me is Pluto opposing the US Venus.  This was a transit which hit five times, starting in March 2009.  The final hit was at the end of October, just as Wikileaks began releasing the US State Department diplomatic cables.  Venus makes a statement about relationships and diplomacy as well as values and resources of the nation.  Clearly there are other issues for the US regarding resources, but let’s just think about relationships here.  A transit by opposition is about someone or something else causing you problems in that area of your life.  So those pesky leaks are causing the US problems in relationships.  In natal astrology a Pluto transit to Venus could signify the sudden and emotionally packed ending to relationships – interesting given all those headlines at the weekend concerning the US UK ‘special relationship’, although as the leaks keep coming it might not be the only beautiful friendship on the rocks…  Pluto is all about the explosive volcano which releases anything hidden under ground in a dramatic way.  This isn’t the gradual lava flow, it’s the volcano that blows the side of the mountain away. Pluto is direct again and heading back towards the US Jupiter.  This opposition is about a desire for greater power and influence.  Jupiter in the seventh house suggests this might be the US trying to regain power and control over relationships with friends and enemies.

The US Mercury is experiencing the final trine of three with transiting Jupiter this week.   A trine in transits usually speeds up whatever is happening, it removes friction like sliding on ice.  Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes not, for example if we try to slow an event down but a trine removes the restrictions we have put on something.  This can lead to rapid achievement or rapid failure.  Mercury is about communication and ideas, so it could be the media, early education, speeches and opinion polls.   It must also be about communication strategy and advisors, as well as the press, who I’m guessing are working pretty quickly this week!

One final thing I have to mention is the fact the US is experiencing a Saturn return.  This was exact last week and there are two more hits to go in March and finally August 2011.  Saturn is exalted in Libra, (see earlier blog post if you are unsure what this means) so it’s in pretty good shape.  For early astrologers Saturn was the edge of the solar system and as a result it represents limits and structure.  In the chart of a nation it is the limits of society, rules, government, authority and bureaucracy.   Saturn ultimately is about responsibility and when Saturn conjuncts Saturn it is a time to explore these issues.  Saturn in the tenth house, ruling the second and third, talks about how US values and communication underpin them being seen by the world as an authority.  Saturn in the tenth suggests that reputation and hard work are important.  The American Dream is based on the idea that anyone who works hard can achieve their aims and gain status and position, so this makes sense.  This is a time for the United States to reassess how it uses authority on the world stage.  It’s the beginning of a new cycle and the decisions taken now will influence the US, and therefore the rest of the world, for the next thirty years.  The question is whether something like Wikileaks, to take just one current event, will make the US use their authority responsibly.  The alternative?  Using it irresponsibly?  Being seen as the disciplinarian imposing fear and blocks on others, perhaps?  I suppose it’s the difference between being seen as the bully or the wise leader, let’s hope they opt for the latter!

*I’m using the Sagittarius rising chart and I know there is controversy over which chart to use.  I’m persuaded by the fact that this seems to work better when it comes to rectification and is supported by historical evidence.

Breaking News: Just as I finish this blog post I’ve noticed that The Mountain Astrology has managed to get hold of the birth data for Julian Assange.  Anyone particularly interested in the Wikileaks story might want to look at this too.  Perhaps we’ll come back to his chart in another post.

Smashing Egg Shells with a dash of Saturn

Ok, Ok, so this doesn’t start off being about astrology, but give me time and I’ll get there.  It started off with a strange conversation over a boiled egg this morning and became a reflection on personal responsibility.  I suppose it is a gentle build up to a post I’m planning about the use of myth in the chart, especially solar myths, and how myth and superstition is important to how we view the world and make connections – (this link is tenuous at best and I’m just making excuses because I wanted to see how many other people smash their boiled egg shells when they’ve finished!).

It started with us having egg and soldiers for breakfast this morning.  Yum, an ideal cold weather breakfast that takes me right back to my childhood.  Dipping the bread into runny egg yolks, delicious!  We both sat quietly enjoying the moment.  I finished and calmly turned my egg shells over and set about smashing them to pieces on the plate.  Suddenly I became aware of being watched, and watched by a slightly confused and incredulous other half who clearly had never seen anyone behave like this after eating boiled eggs.

“Well,” I said, “you don’t want the witches to use them for boats, do you?”

“Eh?!?” he replied.

“My Mum always told us to smash the egg shells so the witches couldn’t use them for boats…”

He laughs.  I don’t – because clearly this is a serious matter!  Having smashed up his egg shells too (I don’t want to take any chances), I retire to another room to check out the origins of this tale.

No witches using these!

So after some brief research I discover that Sir Thomas Browne in his Vulgar Errors (1686) wrote:

to break an egg after ye meate is out we are taught in our childhood… and the intent thereof was to prevent witchcraft; lest witches should draw or prick their names therein and veneficiously mischiefe ye persons, they broke ye shell …. This custome of breaking the bottom of the egg shell is yet commonly used in the countrey. (Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1686), V. xxii, para. 4)

If you search the internet there are references going back to the sixteenth century on the belief that witches sailed in eggshells and caused shipwrecks.  It was believed that by smashing the bottom of the egg you could prevent this happening and prevent shipwrecks.  As late as 1934 Elizabeth Fleming wrote a poem for children which goes:

“Oh, never leave your egg-shells unbroken in the cup;
Think of us poor sailor-men and always smash them up,
For witches come and find them and sail away to sea,
And make a lot of misery for mariners like me.

They take them to the sea-shore and set them on the tide –
A broom-stick for a paddle is all they have to guide
And off they go to China or round the ports of Spain,
To try and keep our sailing ships from coming home again.

They call up all the tempests from Davy Jones’s store,
And blow us into waters where we haven’t been before;
And when the masts are falling in splinters on the wrecks,
The witches climb the rigging and dance upon the decks.
So never leave your egg-shells unbroken in the cup;
Think of us poor sailor-men and always smash them up;
For witches come and find them and sail away to sea,
And make a lot of misery for mariners like me.

So I’m not completely crazy and this isn’t just my mad family ritual….  I’m wondering if this is also a regional belief, although I haven’t found any evidence to suggest this.  My Mum grew up in Liverpool and that’s where her family are from, many of them having been employed on the docks when Liverpool was a thriving port.  Sailors were renowned for being superstitious and perhaps this is where the belief came from. It makes sense as the thought of going out to sea dependant on the wind, weather and fates is a scary thought.  Superstition offers a means of trying to gain some control over the gods for those who feel at their mercy.  I suppose superstition is also about allowing something else to have authority over you and giving up responsibility.

(Ok, here’s some astrology to allow me to further justify this post)

These images of control, responsibility and authority make me think of Saturn.  Caroline Casey in her book “Making the gods work for you” is wonderful in helping us see Saturn in a more positive light and recognising what he is asking of us.  Saturn transits present us with opportunities to explore these themes of responsibility and authority.  All we have to do is learn to take responsibility and reclaim our authority, simple right?  Er, no, not really, because as Casey points out more eloquently than I can, we constantly give our authority away to other people.  Our parents, boss, the government, partner etc etc, all receive our generous offering and give us someone else to blame when things don’t go the way we want them to.  We blindly follow without asking why or reflecting on whether it’s the best course of action – a bit like me and the egg shells!  Casey encourages us to take responsibility for our actions and be our own author – author being part of the word authority.  She tells us that Saturn transits as well as being an opportunity to work hard, which is not a bad thing, can really help us explore these issues of personal authority.  So, as Saturn transits my natal Pluto, this really is an opportunity for me to explore some of this.  Saturn Pluto energy can be incredibly destructive, Saturn restricts whilst Pluto wants to explode.  However, recognising this energy and taking responsibility for the opportunity will allow me to use the transit more effectively.  This is a time to take on extra work, big projects and use the great power of Pluto allied with the discipline of Saturn to really get things done.  Taking place in my sixth house of daily routine and hard work this is even more important because not using this type of energy well could also impact my health (sixth house is also health).

Coming back to the boiled egg issue, or rather me and my superstitions…  Perhaps this is time for me to really reflect on how much authority I give, not just to other people, but also to routine and superstition.  After all, even though I do believe that everything is connected, if something unpleasant happens, can I really blame it on that magpie I didn’t salute this morning?  Or, alternatively, might I recognise it for a learning opportunity and take responsibility for my own actions and decisions?  Interesting, but at least no sailors will be shipwrecked because of me tonight…….