Weather or Not

First, as a major story, came the record-breaking heavy snow and cold air outbreak, concentrated on Montana. And simultaneously, the southeastern states of the USA were encountering record breaking heat and severe drought.
Around the same time, the eastern central region of the Atlantic Ocean — over there, off the coast of northwestern Africa — was buffeted by a very rare major hurricane: Those massive storms hardly ever make U-turns, as this one essentially did.
Then the weather news was abuzz with another unusually heavy early blizzard, concentrating this time a bit to the east of the first one: North Dakota. An unusual chill moved largely southward: bundled-up baseball players in St. Louis could be seen. Temperatures in the southeast were restored to more typical conditions.
Would the trend continue through the rest of the fall and winter? Would 2019-20 shape up as a bitter, brutal winter?
Well, the dramatic weather so far, in only three weeks since the equinox (Libra solar ingress), reflects several factors in the astrological chart for the ingress. One is the close T-square (an opposition of two or more bodies, with one or more bodies at right-angle to that axis) consisting of Luna in Cancer opposite Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn, with Mercury and Venus at right-angle from Libra. This is a strong indication of rapidly developing air masses and storm systems with considerable energy intensity.

Secondly, the chart includes a looser T-square including Mars opposite Neptune, with Jupiter square to both. With Mars, the fastest-moving of the three, at a higher degree than both the others, a dissipating set of atmospheric circumstances is indicated: the highly charged conditions, including storm surge, that accompanied Hurricane Dorian, especially.
What’s left? Sol (Sun) and Uranus. The astro-meteorological characteristics of the latter are relevant to North America: The north-south line on Earth of places where Uranus was exactly on the upper meridian (the “noon” position, more or less) passed through Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and along the Alabama-Georgia border. Generally speaking, it means that a broad band of the central region of the country is particularly subject, this season, to “surprising” weather events, and especially to unusual outbreaks of cold weather. For those places closer to the line, that has not happened yet, but look for that to occur around the time of the next New Moon on 27 October, when Sun and Moon line up closely opposite to Uranus.

The Mercury and Venus lines also run north-south, through the High Plains and the southern Rockies: Unusually high winds (Mercury) and precipitation (Venus) have been reported.
The southern West Coast shows a complex and challenging situation: Moon rising and Saturn setting along the coast, with Sun-on-lower-meridian running north-south. This emphasizes factors of overall changeability and tidal movements (Moon) and cold (Saturn), as well as excess dryness (Sun) enabling another round of wildfires disrupting life for tens of thousands of people. Note that reports of large fires forcing evacuations and accompanied by wide-area power outages began cropping up as Sun crossed the position of Mercury on 8 October. This was just days after Mars crossed the Sun’s position, denoting an acceleration and intensification of dry (not even officially drought) conditions.
The only other lunation (New, First Quarter, Full or Last Quarter Moon) that strongly “lights up” the fall season configuration is the Full Moon on 11 December, when Sun and Moon will oppose one another at twenty degrees of Sagittarius and Gemini, respectively: close to Jupiter at seventeen Sagittarius. That is an indication of especially fine, dry and warm weather: similar to the situation that occurred through western Europe last February. This time, however, the Jupiter line runs through Greenland and eastern Brazil: enjoyable late-spring days for the latter but concerning regarding the already-melting icecap. Jupiter is often associated with something that is too much of a good thing.

And so what about winter? Well, it will be a lot darker and colder than summer, and there will be snow, mostly in northerly places. More seriously: For the East Coast, the overall prospects are for considerable changeability: mutable Sagittarius will be the sign on the lower meridian, the biggest astrological factor. Sagittarius is of the fire element, so overall relative warmth and dryness are indicated. In addition, the longitude of Washington DC will be where Mercury will be on the lower meridian, foretelling exceptional windiness (and in the political sphere, moralizing and pontificating). Foggy conditions are also likely to be more problematic than usual: noting Neptune’s placement close to the western horizon of the chart.

The western half, or a bit more, of the country will have Scorpio on the lower meridian, indicating generally wetter conditions (with considerable variation: pronounced wetness closer to the Pacific coast) and more extreme temperatures than usual. The presence of both Luna and Mars in Scorpio should produce some dramatic contrasts between wet and dry regions.
As with the autumn chart, there is a right-angle between Luna and Venus, Luna again in water (Scorpio) and Venus in air (Aquarius), but this time both are in a T-square configuration with Uranus (the planet that correlates with the unprecedented or highly unusual). Another round of heavy precipitation is expected, where the T-square hooks up with meridian or horizon of the locally-referenced chart. The pronounced wetness, alluded to above, is related to Luna and Uranus being at lower and upper meridian, respectively, through the West Coast states. It will be an off-and-on, abruptly shifting phenomenon, however: the nature of the Uranian factor.

The band of severe cold, as indicated by Saturn on the lower meridian, sets up over Greenland (not shown): good for the crucial icecap. Thus, a not particularly severe winter for all but eastern North America should gladden millions of hearts.
As for the timing of significant events, lunations are the primary factor: whether or not any of them link to the pattern for the season in a given region. The closest connection is the New Moon on 24 January 2020 at five degrees of Aquarius, conjunct Venus’ position in the season chart. Venus, however, is not prominently placed near either axis of the chart for locations in the USA, therefore the expected freezing rain conditions should be relatively minor. (The Venus-on-lower-meridian sets up through the North Atlantic Ocean, passing between Iceland and Greenland.)
Full Moons, when they fall across either axis, can manifest in the winter as impressive snowstorms. Such is the case for the one on 9 February at twenty degrees of Leo, which exactly strikes the season chart for Boise, Idaho. The interior mountain regions in general would do well to be on the alert.
As winter shifts toward spring, the Full Moon on 9 March is closely aligned with Neptune, warning of unusually heavy precipitation and likely newsworthy flooding along the East Coast, particularly the Northeast. Noting that this is the early part of the “Capricorn Crunch” — Mars joining Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto in that sign from mid-February to the end of March — one can readily anticipate considerable re-organization of day-to-day functioning — even widespread austerity conditions — accompanying watershed political events.
Climate chaos comes home on a decisively serious new level.

See also the monthly personal forecast co-written with Aeolea Wendy Burwell.

Veil of Kashmir

The story was nowhere near the top tier of the news leads during Equinox Week at the United Nations. The leads were Greta Thunberg’s Scandinavian Capricornian scolding — “How dare you?!” — of world “leaders” for their inaction on the climate chaos, and secondarily — thank the goddess — the Madman Who Must Not Be Named.
Somewhere beyond that, faintly heard, were the warnings of Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan, beseeching the world body for attention to the tension between his country and India over the situation in Kashmir.
As so often, Gaia expressed the region’s tension in another form: a significant earthquake on 24 September, just two days before Khan spoke at the United Nations.
Khan was reminding the rest of the world that both countries possess nuclear weapons and a long history of mutual animosity. Harsh rhetoric and military maneuvering have been the norm for Kashmir at least since the British withdrawal from the Indian subcontinent in 1947. That occasion was marked by a political division into India and Pakistan (then into western and eastern sections, the latter separate as Bangladesh since 1971) and social conflict costing millions of lives.
The dire situation was reflected, astrologically, in the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto, the same combination that accompanied the start of the Great War in Europe in 1914.
Thus, it is no surprise that the recurrence of that conjunction in 2019-20 has been witnessed by a major ratcheting of tensions, particularly since Valentine’s Day. The date was 14 February when a twenty-something Pakistani rammed a car laden with explosives into a bus carrying Indian paramilitary troops near the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar. The explosion was heard for miles around, and at least forty soldiers were killed: the highest death toll from a single attack in the history of the insurgency.
In subsequent military reconnaissance and bombing by India — the first time in fifty years — one of its own planes was shot down, but the return of the pilot did little to reduce tension. India moved thousands of troops to the region and arrested thousands of Pakistanis, and India’s resolve to control the bulk of Kashmir (China also claims and occupies a smaller part) was emphasized by India’s revocation of semi-autonomous status. The newly nationalistic India has been riled up under prime minister Najendra Modi’s regime.
Not a trend that would promote peace prospects.
Plenty of heavy life-and-death sentiments among the Pakistani populace at the time of the Valentine’s Day event are represented by the Saturn-Pluto combination in opposition to Luna in the independence chart. A severe challenge is even more strongly indicated by the particular timing on that day: Saturn and Pluto on the western horizon: the place associated with open enemies. (One can see this by observing the circle-with-horizontal-line symbol in the outer ring of the chart, representing the eastern horizon at the moment, close to the crescent symbol for Luna in the inner ring. Saturn and Pluto, as well as Venus, were opposite that point.)

Also at that moment, Mars, the warrior planet, was at the very end of its domicile zoidion (sign) of Aries, with Uranus the surprise disruptor very close by.
Uranus in the Pakistan chart indicates a perennially precarious state of the government: It is placed exactly on the upper meridian. And Mars . . . well, Mars at zero degrees of Cancer indicates a very insecure nation whose instability can readily draw in the involvement of nations afar.
On 4 October 2019, Mars crosses the zero degrees of Libra place: another trigger moment, likely reflected in significant military developments, and perhaps tumult among Pakistani legislators.
Of greater concern is the period beginning 16 February 2020, when Mars reaches zero degrees of Capricorn — opposite zero degrees of Cancer — joining Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn. Such a massing of planetary bodies in that zoidion surely portends political developments of far-reaching magnitude and significance.
At the most recent NCGR conference, several astrologers voiced grave concerns about political developments in reference to the month-and-a-half period beginning mid-February 2020. Bill Meridian, for one, identified the India – Pakistan flash point, along with Saudi Arabia, as a region of likely upheaval for 2020 overall.
Actually, much of the southern and eastern rim of Asia is in states of great ferment, if not open violence: from Yemen and Saudi Arabia (the latter’s oil-processing facilities recently hit by drone strikes) through India – Pakistan to Hong Kong to the border between the two Koreas. All are thrumming to the quickening vibrations of the great conglomeration of planets in Capricorn.
“Interesting times,” indeed.

Note on Pakistan independence chart: I have heeded the statement in Nick Campion’s Book of World Horoscopes: “Pakistani astrologers use a chart for 9.15 am, August 14, when Lord Mountbatten, the [British] viceroy, addressed the Constituent Assembly.”

See also the monthly personal forecast co-written with my partner Aeolea Wendy Burwell.

Red Stars

Two weeks away from the seventieth anniversary of the triumph of the Chinese Communist Party, Hong Kong residents by the thousands continued their three-month-long campaign to preserve some measure of local democratic autonomy against the might of the central government and its local minions. They were energized by the bitter recollection of seeing none of their demands met in the aftermath of the Umbrella Revolution (2014).
Over the summer, masses of opponents had battled police in the streets on a daily basis, shut down the airport and interrupted subway service. Now (15 September), with the anniversary looming, their ferocity took a new and profoundly defiant course: tearing down and setting fire to a red banner proclaiming the glorious observance.
Many observers wonder: When will the Tiananmen-like crackdown come? Few wonder if the planets offer any clue. Alas, they do: especially (of course) Mars.
The background cycles go some way toward describing the situation.
Transiting Neptune has been opposing Saturn in the chart for the Peoples Republic (1 October 1949), reflecting widespread subversion of the bureaucratic structures of the state, as well as the stirrings of a new collective vision: a great threat to the interests of the entrenched Communist Party elite. The latter have been counting on continued economic expansion to maintain their privileges: a state of affairs undermined by China’s worsening trade dispute with the United States.
In spring-summer 2018, and since April 2019, Uranus has been at right angle to the PRC Moon and Ascendant positions, reflecting a rising mood of rebelliousness and pressures toward a break from the general trend of recent decades. That trend of rising economic and political forces, at the expense of personal freedoms, has reached a peak. The Chinese electronic system, now pervasive, of social ranking on the basis of obedience to central-government decrees seems particularly relevant to this astrological combination.Thus, there have been credible reports of a considerable level of “revolutionary tourism”: people arriving from the mainland, checking into hotels and going shopping for clothes and protective gear appropriate for joining the raging protests. Such is the hunger of the human spirit for freedom.
Transiting Saturn, now “stationary” at a point at right angle to PRC Mercury, symbolizes a protracted period of governmental deliberation about how (and when) to respond to the crisis, and redoubled efforts at information suppression.
What can Beijing do without permanently and grievously damaging the nation’s course by ruining the crucial vitality of its appendage, Hong Kong? The state has the momentum of its entire history of brutality, represented by the Mars – Pluto conjunction in regal Leo in the PRC chart. It has deployed violence in any situation deemed to involve “foreign” culture — Mars – Pluto in the seventh place — and that certainly fits the democratic “infection,” as well as Tibet.

The intransigence of the state at the time of the Umbrella Revolution, and the dejection of the people involved, are reflected in the strong links to the PRC chart: Jupiter to the PRC Mars – Pluto, and Moon – Saturn to PRC Venus.
The youth of Hong Kong have evidently adapted the ways employed in 2014 and learned the bitter lessons of the crushed Tiananmen protests — exactly one cycle of Saturn ago — by developing hit-and-run tactics and better preparing to cope with the weapons of the police.
It seems that the Party faithful want to hold back the military option until after the celebrations on 1 October. By then, Mars will be a full ten-degree arc behind Sol in zodiacal distance: the two were conjunct on 2 September, and are gradually separating. By the Full Moon on 13 October (Luna at twenty degrees of Aries / Sol at twenty of Libra), Mars will be at six degrees Libra: closing in on the place of Sol in the PRC chart, representing the premier and his political circle.

Mars will be heliacally rising: emerging before Sol in the morning sky and beginning to be visible again. This marks the start of a period in which the urge to once again unleash the People’s Liberation Army will be very great. With Mars thereafter moving into a right angle to Saturn and Pluto, brutal suppression of the upwelling cleansing forces within the mass of common people becomes more likely. (Saturn’s conjunction with Pluto in January 2020, exactly upon the PRC position of Jupiter, in any case promises great and deep changes to China’s corporate colossus: a grand reorganization.)
China is clearly at a turning point. The Party may already have lost the war, in showing Hong Kong’s entrepreneurial class that for its dynamism to survive, it must undergo an exodus. The most apt place of relocation would be Taiwan.

Picture of Dorian Great

Comparisons aplenty are being bandied about just now, concerning the confounding Hurricane Dorian and the Great Labor Day Storm of 1935.

The ferocity of the storms is comparable: Dorian flinging sustained winds of 180 miles per hour — just try to imagine literally weathering such a blow — with gusts over 220, when it made landfall the first of three times at Elbow Cay of the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas group. That occurred at 12:40 p.m. on 1 September.

Reports barely convey the experience: Homes — perhaps thirteen thousand — and businesses completely destroyed in the northern Bahama Islands and inundated with an extraordinary amount of flooding. Residents described “buzz-saw-like winds that splintered homes, flooded streets and left them terrified for their lives.” The storm surge has been reported as reaching twenty-three feet above normal sea level, the storm itself called “the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record,” according to ABC News.

Perhaps the words of the Prime Minister somewhat better conjures the feeling: the destruction “unprecedented and extensive,” battering a nation of small islands that has had to deal frequently with severe tropical storms: Floyd in 1999, Wilma in 2005, Matthew in 2016, Irma in 2017.

Where will it go next? Millions of people are wondering and worrying, their lives and livelihoods on hold. Officially, the word has been that “it’s going to be extremely close” at to whether Dorian would clobber Florida’s eastern coast, where more than a little interest has concerned the fate of the Trumpster’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where El Presidente expects to host and profit from 2020’s G-7 meeting of heads of state.

But at this writing (2-3 September), the storm has stalled, its hurricane-force winds barely reaching said coast.

Understanding the event from an astro-meteorological point of view must include the season chart and the configuration for the event itself (see chart below). A prominent feature is the tight Sun-Mars conjunction along with Mercury and Venus in mercurial Virgo in the landfall pattern upon the ascendant of the season chart. The message: a very forceful event with much wind and moisture hereabouts and now. The bodies in Virgo were at their highest elevation for the day at the time of landfall as they were blowing down the door to the end-of-summer season at the tropical vacation spot — where most of the local population struggles to survive.

The preceding New Moon on 30 August (a super-moon: at lunar perigee, resulting in greater-than-usual tides) with Mercury, Venus and Mars all in Virgo, close to the ascendant of the season chart, was the primary warning of a major weather event. A closer look shows Mercury in a most powerful position: exactly on the ascendant (i.e., eastern horizon). In mythic terms, Hermes was stepping onto the scene to usher the Bahamas — politically, economically and ecologically — into another phase of its existence, along with some individuals into the next world.

Also worthy of study is the Mercury-into-Leo ingress chart (relevant to Dorian’s emergence), Mercury being the wind factor. Notably, Mercury passed over the zero degrees Leo point three times between late June and early August, due to Mercury’s retrograde phase; the chart here is for the final passage. (This point is within three degrees of Mercury’s place in the Bahamas independence chart (not shown) on 10 July 1973 — a retrograde Mercury at that.) This ingress chart shows Jupiter close to the ascendant, strongly suggesting an event of great magnitude, and Jupiter’s square to Neptune near the lower meridian: a strong indication of flooding as the primary and pervasive problem. The same date also saw the conjunction of Venus (at the midpoint of the “underworld” phase of her cycle) with Sol: describing the combination of heat and moisture that fed the monster storm.

The chart for Mercury’s ingress into Virgo (not shown), cast for the same location in the Bahamas (close to the landfall place), offers less conclusive indications: Pluto near the western horizon, and the lunar nodal axis at right angle to the meridian. The meaning of the nodes, which mark the solar and lunar eclipse zones, is basically concerned with events that might have a significant impact on the continuity of the affected ecology, culture and infrastructure. However, linkage with the nodes does not carry through the other relevant charts.

All in all, this hurricane at this location was foreseeable far in advance: a great potential benefit of astro-meteorology. There must be at least a few astrologers in Florida and/or the Caribbean region who are anticipating such storms, and taking appropriate action.

(To emphasize that such a statement is far more than mere analysis after the fact, my partner and I published a statement — submitted for publication on 28 August and published 1 September — comparing the 2019 Virgo New Moon configuration to a very similar pattern that coincided with catastrophic Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico in 2017. I posited the likelihood of a significant hurricane around the date of the New Moon on 30 August.)

What comparisons might there be with the big blow of 1935, the storm that inspired the Bogey-and-Bacall movie “Key Largo”? That one, decades before hurricanes were assigned names, made landfall at Islamorada, Florida, on 2 September at 10:00 p.m. EST — four days after a New Moon in Virgo with Mercury, Venus and Neptune also in that sign. Aside from the factors already mentioned, Dorian has tied or exceeded Labor Day 1935 in a rare planetary coincidence: Uranus’ return, after eighty-four years, to the same zodiacal place within one degree. Uranus the exceptional, the record-breaker.

Woodstock Revisited

How about you: Have you caught a bit of Woodstock fever?

Amidst a seemingly expanding plethora of dark developments, it’s been refreshing to look back at what happened at that violence-free event — look at the attitudes that shaped it — look at the people involved in organizing it. Yes, there was a great deal of chaos — and that’s what some people, mostly observers from afar, I suspect, have focused on — yet a great many people both on-site and off-site responded helpfully. It’s a remarkable story, its details new to me.

The story of the lead organizer, Michael Lang, is a fascinating one of a quick starter in life: someone who early on became acquainted with both musicians and music business people, and who enjoyed the support and instruction of people who could pass on crucial skills. (It was his father who passed on the observation: If you’re talking, you’re not learning.) Yet it was his innate characteristics that provided the catalyzing spark.

How is that reflected in the relevant astrology?

Mr. Lang’s basic birth data is easy to come by: 11 December 1944 in Brooklyn, Kings, New York. Given that, and his testimony and that of others, what approximate birth time makes sense?

A crucial distinction is Luna’s sign: Libra or Scorpio. It so happened that Luna moved from one to the other in the pre-dawn hours, at 8:42 a.m. Universal (Greenwich Mean) Time, or 4:42 a.m. Eastern War Time, then in effect.

(By the way, this is one of those occasions when it’s really handy to have an old-fashioned printed-and-bound ephemeris available. Looking up a lunar sign transition is quick and easy. In fact, I’m not sure how else I’d go about it, other than by using an ephemeris generator built into an astrology calculation program, or utilizing that as one of the many wonderful no-cost options at astro.com. And of course, neither of those options was available back in the day.)

So, by four o’clock that morning, Luna was done with Libra, and if Libra is more fitting than Scorpio, then a nocturnal birth is certain. That increases the influence of Luna over the personality, and limits the places (houses) where Sol in Sagittarius can appear: either the third or second.

Even going primarily by Mr. Lang’s testimony, the choice seems fairly easy: Luna in Libra. The ever-ready, easy-going social skills are abundantly evident. In particular, he possessed the facility for forming working partnerships along with the ability to smooth over rough interpersonal situations. A Scorpio Luna man, intensely feeling, would not be capable of managing the myriad and frenetic negotiations and adaptations that were his lot in organizing such a major outdoor event — even before it ballooned in magnitude. (The originally anticipated crowd was fifty thousand, and a minimum four hundred thousand is commonly accepted; and Lang is far from alone in stating: “An estimated one million people tried to get there on Friday and had to turn back.”)

Given how central his sociability was to the organization of the endeavor, Luna’s position in the birth chart must be prominent: probably in an angular place (house). And the only one available within the established time frame is the first place, with a Libra ascendant. With Neptune also there, adding chameleon qualities. (“An enormous halo of dark curls frames a face that is, by turns, evil, wanton, fey, impish, and innocent. . . . Lang is . . . all-accepting, attuned to unknowable vibrations.”*)

The basic fuel for an individual’s endeavors comes, of course, from Sol, and in Lang’s case the solar fire comes through the visionary, venturesome zoidion Sagittarius. Astro Poet Alex puts the significance of this smartly: “The possibility of a creative life and making space for such a life is one thing that keeps fire signs going (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius). These are signs that not only need to be seen, in terms of getting everyone’s attention at a party or in any room, but they also feel a strong impulse to add to the world through the imagination—to bring into being what is not there. Fire signs are often artists, scholars, and visionaries.”

It was Lang who, having already attended a number of festivals, organized one in Miami and returned to New York, came up with the idea of an event with a broader scope. It would combine music and visual / sculptural / theatre / dance art at a rural site where attendees could camp for several days: an experimental and flexible confluence of emerging perspectives on life. In the midst of a deeply divided nation mired in unending war.

At least the nation possessed the cultural and political armature to allow for such an experiment. (Can one imagine something of this sort happening in China or Russia? Not likely.)

It would be an “Aquarian Exposition.”

Lang himself was only slightly older than most attendees: twenty-four, in the expansive year of the second return of Jupiter to its natal place, in the lead-up to the structurally decisive Saturn return (twenty-eight to thirty), when one must sort out one’s calling: what one must do.

He has some rare and potent natally-bestowed characteristics, signified most dramatically by a planetary lattice consisting of the placements (in zodiacal order) of Uranus, Pluto, Neptune and Mars. Together, they represent the potential personal desires and drive converging with a collective need for transformative experience. Plus, the combination of Neptune and Chiron (the latter not yet discovered until 1977) suggests the capacity for fostering the conditions conducive to cooperative and collaborative interaction: One is merely a channel.

Venus, far ahead of Sol in zodiacal placement as an evening star, appears appropriately in the first degree of Aquarius. As mythopoetic lady guiding the Libran ship, she is in the place of her “joy” in the fifth place, beckoning all moved by the vision to make the pilgrimage to connect with one another in sisterhood and brotherhood, to have fun and enjoy music as one great gathering of tribes.

For such a vision to have a chance at actualization, a great deal of effective organization was essential. And that is perfectly indicated by an exact opposition of Mercury in Capricorn and Saturn in Cancer, the latter considered “weakened” in traditional astrological interpretation. Saturn is both out-of-sect in a nocturnal chart and “in exile” in Cancer. What Saturn signifies here is a sacrifice of whatever element of raw ambition may have initially motivated this production, and instead embrace the caring and nurturing characteristics whose development — likely hindered somehow by Lang’s relationship with his mother — is called for by the Cancer placement. People came first, especially when the problematic facets of the gathering became obvious. (Some politicians wanted to deploy the National Guard; that might not have gone over very well among the crowd singing along with the anti-Vietnam War “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag.”)

Moving communicative and organizational skills (Mercury – Saturn) into a context of collective significance is Neptune’s placement at the midpoint of that opposition. Neptune symbolically calls for it all to transcend strictly personal satisfactions.

What about the timing for Lang? As mentioned above, Jupiter was back for the second time since his birth in the detail-oriented zoidion of Virgo, the opportunity to refine such skills within the milieu of a collective enterprise (the domain of Jupiter’s twelfth place in the chart). In the spring of 1969, Saturn moved into Taurus and his eighth place, and during that time Lang moved deeply and appropriately into the realm of shared finances.

Also that spring, Mars, symbolizing energy in action, entered into a retrograde phase in the same zoidion, Sagittarius, as Mars occupied when Lang was born. Mars appeared to move backward, from seventeen degrees to two degrees of Sagittarius, crossing Mars’ natal placement at eleven degrees: three crossings, actually. (The last crossing was during the festival weekend.) During such a time, one would likely be faced with challenges to continued movement of projects already underway.

Accordingly, initial plans foundered in part on the hostility of townspeople to use of an industrial site at Wallkill — a most unwelcoming name, yes? The festival group had no home until just after the Mars retrograde period ended, when they made a deal with Max Yasgur for use of one of his dairy farm’s pastures on 20 July: only a month away from opening day, and coincidentally the same day that American astronauts first walked on Luna. (The doubly momentous occasion was marked by Luna’s joining in the sky with Jupiter and Uranus on the “world axis” point of the first degree of Libra.)

The Aquarian Exposition was scheduled to officially begin with music at the main stage at 4:00 p.m. on Friday (Venus’ day), 15 August, at which time the Jovian zoidion Sagittarius was ascendant. Jupiter, still close to Uranus, was in the eleventh place: appropriate for an especially large gathering. But such was not to be. The get-together may not have played out so peacefully with Mars rising.

Instead, at 5:07 p.m., Richie Havens reluctantly took the stage upon Lang’s pleading, began by playing through his whole repertoire, and killed time tuning and re-tuning his guitar before improvising on the yearning he detected coming from the crowd: “Free-dom, free-dom . . . “ And so the festivities began with Capricorn on the ascendant, with Saturn (“lord” of Capricorn) in pleasure-oriented and pacific Taurus in the playful fifth place. Thus, restraint was the order of the whole rain-soaked weekend, and the needs of group survival under extraordinary conditions took precedence.

Morning-star Venus in Cancer was sinking invisibly toward the western horizon over the forested hills, invoking a nurturing atmosphere in which women, a minority of those attending, could be safe: By all accounts, not a single sexual assault occurred. (What city of comparable size could claim as much?) Instead, helpful communication was the norm, as represented by the exactly sixty degrees between Venus and Mercury.

Mercury’s separation from the square angle with Mars is another indication that any argumentative energies were on the wane: yet another bit of excellent cosmic timing.

The larger potency of the occasion is represented by Luna very close by Pluto and the south lunar node — with Neptune sixty degrees away. As astrological historian Rick Tarnas has pointed out, Woodstock 1969 was a dionysian event of ecstatic participation, and perhaps a reunion of some kind. Surely it was an unprecedented gathering and dispersal, a densely populated field of love comparable in magnitude only to a great battle in another time and place.

What about the weather indications? (You didn’t really think I’d pass up a look in that department, did you?) For anyone even slightly interested in the event at Bethel, the challenging weather of those days is a well-known part of the whole mythos.

And it shows in the season chart: water zoidion Scorpio on the crucial lower meridian, with Neptune nearby. That would be enough to indicate a chronically wet season. Venus with Saturn at the upper meridian adds further evidence of moist and cloudy conditions. That is well documented in the literature on the preparation stages of the festival.

An astro-meteorologist of the time might have hoped for or even expected a drying out period beginning with the New Moon that occurred around actual (rather than “daylight saving” time) midnight on the 13th August, two days before the official start of the festival. Sol swallows Luna in its brilliance at the New Moon: the solar energy predominates. And so a New Moon on the ascendant of the season chart would indicate a likely dry and warm(er) period starting during that quarter (week) of the lunar cycle.

It did not kick in right away, that’s for sure. The hasty construction of concert facilities on the Yasgur site was much hampered by rain and soggy grounds. And it continued through the weekend, most famously on Sunday afternoon the 17th. Dramatically, a thunderstorm with gusty winds threatened not merely the hundreds of thousands on the ground but also light towers that hovered over them. After that downpour, some folks took to sliding through the mud along one long slope among the great crowd. Through the whole weekend, as the rains continued off and on, Sol was moving — a degree per day, approximately — toward the right angle with Neptune.

The last performer, Jimi Hendrix, with his new band took the stage around 8:30 on Monday morning the 18th: about twelve hours later than scheduled. The crowd had shrunk considerably: Thousands of minors had to make their way home to face a different kind of music, and a lot of people had jobs to get to. About halfway into his two-hour set (the longest of his career), a fresh inspiration came to him:

The massive stage was sparsely populated compared to how packed it had been all weekend with musicians, crew, and friends. Jimi, a red scarf around his head and wearing a white fringed and beaded leather shirt, looked almost like a mystical holy man in meditation. His eyes closed, his head back, he’d merged with his music; his Strat — played upside down since he’s a lefty — his magic wand.
As he almost reverently started the national anthem, the bedraggled audience, worn out and muddy, moved closer together. Those of us who’d barely slept in three days were awakened, exhilirated by Jimi’s song. One minute he was chording the well-worn melody, the next he was reenacting ‘bombs bursting in air’ with feedback and distortion.It was brilliant. A message of joy and love of country, while at the same time an understanding of all the conflict and turmoil that’s torn America apart.
— The Road to Woodstock, p. 238

How utterly appropriate that Uranus and Jupiter were at the moment rising over the eastern horizon (representing a tremendously electrifying moment). Venus, in the family / tribe oriented zoidion of Cancer, was nearing the upper meridian. That day, as the crowd dispersed across the country, across the globe, Sol reached the exact right angle — last-quarter phase — with Neptune. That combination at that angle represented, more than any other part of the horoscope, an opportunity for an evanescent experience.

The moment was the culmination of one of the great dreams that manifested for a time on planet Earth — shortly before Earth became Gaia. The largest peaceful social event became history (not much herstory yet) and myth, the memories and recorded media among the fragments of that dream — those who attended and participated being seed-keepers and seed-bearers.

It is well to remember that seeds well-tended can survive for a very long time, awaiting the return of conditions necessary for germination. Perhaps even, as improbable as it now seems, after an Aquarian Shift.

(For many more astro-meteorological investigations, studies of notable persons, and broad historical and futuristic perspective, check out the book I authored and published in 2018: Scenes from a Tapestry.)

Primary source: The Road to Woodstock, Michael Lang with Holly George-Warren, 2009

  • Young Men with Unlimited Capital, Joel Rosenman and John Roberts, 1979, quoted in The Road to Woodstock

Flight Time

You feel it too, right? — this sense of greater possibility and trust in the flow of events (mass shootings to the contrary).
As so many astrological podcasters and Youtubers are pointing out this early August 2019, the current clustering of planets in fire zoidion Leo — adding to the enthusiasm represented by Jupiter in Sagittarius for the year — is a great time for venturing or just being involved in a fine party that supports the creation or extension of strong interpersonal connections.
Here’s a story that fits right in with these energies, and confirms the importance of appropriate timing: electional astrology (electing as in choosing an optimum time).

It’s the story of Franky Zapata’s crossing of the English Channel on a “flyboard” of his own design. A flyboard, you say? He and his invention — powered by five mini-turbo engines — wowed a lot of folks on Bastille Day (14 July), zooming around near the Champs-Elysees. That demonstration was easy, he said: using only three percent of the machine’s capabilities.
The real demonstration — crossing the Channel in two hops, each power pack capable of operating for about ten minutes — was scheduled for and attempted on 25 July, starting from Sangatte, France, at 9:05 a.m. The occasion was the one-hundred-tenth anniversary of aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot’s crossing. This time, the flight went well until the refueling stop mid-Channel.
Complete success was unlikely under the basic rules of astrology: The early Virgo ascendant, whose “lord” is Mercury (retrograde though exactly conjunct Venus), indicates initial plans likely going awry, though not in any disastrous way. And Luna’s close approach to Uranus in the ninth place — the zone pertinent to travel across water — virtually promises disruption, even though highlighting the latest technology.
The chart is of the diurnal sect: Sol above the horizon. That means that Mars, the out-of-sect “malefic,” would represent the greater type of challenges along the way. It would have been a better elected date or time if Mars were not linked with Sol. With Sol in the same zoidion, Mars points toward problems involving excess heat or too-fast combustion of fuel — something of that nature. While that apparently has not been reported, it does not mean that was not the situation.

Now have a look at the chart (below) for the start of the second attempt: 4 August 2019, moments before sunrise at 6:17 a.m., at Sangatte. Venus, “benefic of sect” for this technically nocturnal chart, is rising just before Sol: This indicates that conditions are ripe for exuberant success. Even though in her “underworld phase” (invisible due to proximity to Sol), Venus smiles on this heroic effort.
Additionally, Mercury has since the first attempt ended its disappearance during its retrograde phase, and is now heliacally rising in the morning sky: that is, separating from Sol’s glare. Mercury, now seventeen degrees from Sol, may even have been briefly visible somewhat earlier in the morning. Not only that: Mercury is exactly sextile (sixty degrees) from Luna in Mercury’s sign. Excellent indication that any technical glitches had been worked through.

It wasn’t quite the way the aeronauts of a century ago went about their venturing: Zapata was escorted by three helicopters along the route. Still, it was quite the zippy trip: speeds up to 110 miles per hour at heights only fifty to sixty-five feet above the water.
And he had paid the required price of developing the technology: the loss of two fingers to the turbines.
That alone ought to suffice as a sobering reminder that every great venture carries a price, often in blood.

(See another of my stories on electional astrology in the case of the cargo ship “El Faro,” on my previous, still-available blog Astroplethorama.)

The Great Man

The sense of inevitability about it has been one of the stranger facets of BoJo’s ascension to the role of prime minister of the United Kingdom. Second, perhaps, only to the absurdity.

A particularly perceptive portrait of him asks the pair of burning questions: Does he believe any of his stated claims, and do his followers believe him? Fintan O’Toole’s “The Ham of Fate” piece in The New York Review of Books summarizes: “In both cases, the answer is yes, but only in the highly qualified way that an actor inhabits his role and an audience knowingly accepts the pretense. Johnson’s appeal lies precisely in the creation of a comic persona that evades the distinction between reality and performance.”

O’Toole offers an ancient Greek framework for comprehending the BoJo phenomenon: that of an akratic figure. A person, that is, who knows the right thing to do, yet perversely does the opposite.

The whole Brexit project was sold to the voters, back in June 2016, under the slogan “Take Back Control.” Yet, inevitably, the process ever since has been anything but. And BoJo’s own suggestion, eagerly echoed from across The Pond, that Donald Trump — serial bungler, cheat and bankrupt — hammer a new deal between the UK and the European Union, is equally ludicrous.

OK, for those who might not be familiar yet with the abbreviation: It’s for Boris Johnson, born, like the Trumpster, in New York, New York. That’s right, and raised partly in Brussels, capital of the EU, and at an elite private school, Eton.

He’s perfect for the role. BoJo even was employed as correspondent posted to Brussels between 1989 and 1994.

That is quite fitting for one of his astrological makeup, born with Sun, Venus (retrograde), Mercury and Mars in the mutable, airy zoidion of Gemini, and in the ninth place besides. It is also apropos of someone who, even the night before his announcement for Brexit, was vacillating to the extent that he composed two columns for The Telegraph. The fellow is literary, yet has also — like fellow solar Gemini Trump — made a career of mendacity.

As one born in daytime — sun above horizon — his overarching quest is a solar one, an essentially heroic one for a place in the sun, a stage on which to unleash his mercurial nature.

BoJo, like Trump, was born at a rare and curious moment: Trump on the occasion of a lunar eclipse, symbolizing the lack of feeling for anything but [Luna in] Sagittarian bombast; BoJo on a Venus inferior conjunction (that is, Venus between Earth and Sun), representing, one might say, a life quest for values within the inherently vacillating realm of Gemini shape-shifting.

Mercury also in Gemini for BoJo reveals special potency upon closer examination: a consistently inconsistent character indicated by said Mercury position having been right on the place of the pre-natal solar eclipse. And then for an extra dose of mutability, there’s Mars early in that sign, adding an erratic level of activity, especially linked, as it is, with the symbols / energies of the the most contradictory impulses of the1960s: the Saturn opposition to Uranus and Pluto.

It was early summer of 1964 when BoJo came on the scene: seven months after the assassination of U.S. President Kennedy, during the early stages of the British musical “invasion” of the United States, early in the drawn-out American invasion of Vietnam, in the midst of the absurd “space race.” A strange time, indeed.

That’s what he was born into, the atmosphere he was bred to inhabit.

Plus . . . his birth pattern includes an exact Jupiter – Neptune opposition, representing the grand fantasyland dimension to the time he was born into, and now. Now the configuration is a square, the last-quarter mark of the cycle between them, but small matter. The combination was crucially present — call it a recurrence — through the Jupiter – Neptune opposition in play at the time of the Brexit vote, only four days after his fifty-second birthday, in 2016. (Not merely Jupiter – Neptune, but with Saturn (symbolizing structure and control) added into the bargain for greater impact.)

The facet of a drama on a grand scale has been further highlighted by one of BoJo’s own literary contributions: The Churchill Factor. As Britain has sunk further and further into its post-Empire mire in recent decades — royal weddings and babies to the contrary — the sense of national crisis has deepened and broadened. Forgetting Winston Churchill’s many political and military disasters, and his megalomaniac tendencies, the worship of late has been intense, taking the form of not only books but also films — “Darkest Hour,” “ Into the Storm,” etc..

The human species has a peculiar hunger for a “Great Man,” be he Fuhrer, Papa Stalin, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot or whomever. Lunatic sociopaths, those. Churchill, fortunately, was not presented with the opportunity for such absolute power. Even so, Churchill still proceeded through life fueled with the conviction that he was destined for greatness: the conviction born of someone born under a Mars – Jupiter conjunction (as was his French contemporary Charles DeGaulle): bold and brash, with uncanny luck thrown in.

Such is not the stuff of Boris Johnson. And besides, “Boris Johnson,” really? C’mon. Russian and Swedish names? His real first name is Alexander, and the guy is known to family and close associates as Al.

Still, Churchill — always keen for war, much like some characters on this side of The Pond — conjured up some mighty big messes in his time, and hung around long enough for the power to fall to him by default. After Neville Chamberlain — he of “peace in our time” infamy for his absurd pact with Hitler — there was no one else left but him. Rather like BoJo, after Cameron and the sorrier spectacle of Teresa May.

So, off the UK goes, into BoJo’s waiting arms. The recent solar eclipse (2 July 2019) fell into his natal tenth place, close to the upper meridian, signaling a path opening to his becoming the Big Kahuna.

But it’s all a joke, and everyone knows it. There is no clueful leadership among the latest crop that can address the burgeoning crises facing industrial civilization. And the crisis in the West is at the stage of the cycle wherein the caesars arise as democracy — at least on the national level — crumbles through its own corruption. “Restoration” is not forthcoming.

The current late-in-multiple-cycles situation — with respect to the three cycles involving Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto (the latter two already in Capricorn, sign of business and government, and structures in general, with Jupiter to follow come December) — is a reliable indicator of deepening disintegration, and discreditation. The Great Man is no fit for the greater feminizing forces of this era.

So usher him in: The Great BoJo.

When? Well, late August 2019 — when the New Moon, joined by Mercury, Venus and Mars, aligns with natal Uranus, symbol of the collective yearning for disruption — seems just about right. The date of his arrival at #10 matters little: Late August is when the fun begins.

On with the show.

Hawaii 911

Hilo, Hawaii – February 2016 – photo by Peter Doughty

The confluence of phenomena was merely a brief blip on the radar of weather-related news — except, I suspect, in Hawaii. Last week, tropical storm Barbara suddenly intensified simultaneously with — and directly north of — the total solar eclipse on 2 July. A satellite caught the two events on camera. (Hawaii News Now posted the story.) And although the storm subsequently weakened well before nearing the islands, peak winds reached 155 miles per hour.
It was a close call.
That island chain was the recipient of a rare tropical cyclone (named Lane) just last year: late August to be more exact.
That storm did some significant damage, mostly from torrential rains: Rainfall totals ranked among the heaviest ever recorded within a territory of the USA. And that surely taxed the local resources. (Bear in mind that that remote island chain is utterly dependent for its collective lifestyle on products and fuel from afar.)
The storm and the volcanic eruption on the Big Island (which started in May 2018), which wiped out stretches of roads and many homes, have been a severe one-two punch — though little or nothing reflecting that is apt to make the news. Maybe a bit sneaks between the lines of the local news, when the subject is the public works budget or tourism (the economic mainstay).

Weird meteorology keeps happening, however. Just a couple of days before the eclipse, on 30 June, Honolulu recorded over four inches of rain: the most on any day outside the usual October-to-April wet season. Could it be related somehow to the array of perturbations associated with an impending solar eclipse? Any experienced or aspiring astro-meteorologist would do well to add this to the ol’ notebook.
After all, it’s been not quite two years since Hurricane Harvey suddenly intensified and hammered on Houston. And that was associated with the Great American Eclipse that crossed the country from coast to coast.
Let’s have a look at the astrological factors.
Calculating the chart for the solar eclipse on 2 July 2019, 9:16:20 a.m. AHST, at Honolulu — where the eclipse was actually not visible — shows the ascendant (the eastern end of the horizon) at 24 degrees of the sign Leo, and the midheaven (upper end of the meridian) at 24 degrees of Taurus. Find the midpoint of those two at nine degrees of Cancer: bingo: two degrees from the zodiacal location of the eclipse. (No planets are particularly close to ascendant, descendant, midheaven or lower meridian.) Thus, the longitude of Honolulu is marked for probably more than one out-of-the-ordinary event. Keep that in mind over the months to come.
The Cancer solar ingress (Northern Hemisphere summer solstice) chart at Honolulu (below) has a couple of potent features: Sun exactly on the ascendant, and Neptune less than one degree from the midheaven. Sun is primarily, of course, an indicator of dry and hot conditions. Not quite so much, though, at the gate of the watery sign Cancer. Neptune, however, is a reliable indicator of any of several wet phenomena: from torrents of rain with resultant flooding to fog. (Neptune / Poseidon is god of the oceans.)

Luna on 30 June crossing the place of Venus in the ingress chart does indicate release of moisture, although by itself it would not signify such a notable event.

As for horrendous Harvey, well, he hit Houston four days after the eclipse, which was at its maximum as Sun and Moon were crossing the midheaven at Houston. (The path of totality passed several hundred miles to the north.) Harvey gathered strength from the very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, while Luna (representing tides of air and water) approached and crossed the place of Jupiter (think “bigger” and “more”: always) as both were in opposition phase with Uranus (think “disruption” and “unprecedented”). In fact, all three were aligned with the horizon at the time of Harvey’s landfall: picture these forces sweeping unhindered across the surface of Earth and ocean.

In addition, Pluto (representing devastation and the process of beginning rebuilding on a new base) was close to the midheaven of the landfall chart.
Less than a month later, Hurricane Maria leveled Puerto Rico, killing (one way or another) at least a thousand people and sending thousands more to the mainland. That landfall moment, at sunrise (20 September 2017, 6:15 a.m. AST, Yabucoa, PR) was marked astrologically by Sun, Mercury, Venus and Mars in the sign of Virgo, just hours after a new moon in Virgo.
A very similar cluster of planets in Virgo recurs in late August and early September 2019, and it includes the new moon in Virgo on 30 August: the peak of the hurricane season.
It’s time once again for people in historic storm zones to get better prepared — even consider (again) whether to pack up and move. At some point, the option of recovery and rebuilding runs out. It’s part of the cyclical process known as catabolic collapse.*

El Nino Revisited

In chapter seven of Scenes from a Tapestry: Reports and Musings on Weather, Climate and the Long Emergency, I proposed a possible method of forecasting an El Nino season.

The midsection of the USA has been pummeled for months now with rain that won’t quit, an unusually active though not spectacular tornado season, hail galore, persistent flooding, inundated farm fields. For a great many commodity farmers—especially those accustomed to producing corn or soybeans—the 2019 season is effectively over. And there are the effects of the trade war against China. What a tide of woe.
As reported by United Press International: “American farmers are usually finished planting corn by early June. But, as of [17 June – date of Full Moon conj Jupiter], 92 percent of the nation’s fields were planted, making this the slowest planting season recorded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “

It started with what I termed “Nebraska’s Katrina”: “When the bomb cyclone hit Nebraska in March, that was really the beginning of the whole thing,” said Gale Lush, a Nebraska farmer who serves as chairman of the American Corn Growers Association. “Then the rain started and it hasn’t stopped.”

That was a month after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued an advisory on 14 February 2019, reporting evidence characterizing a weak El Nino phenomenon; and indicated that it would likely persist through the Northern Hemisphere spring. In the advisory notice published on weather.com, the following summary was included:
“In a typical El Niño winter and early spring the jet stream pattern over the U.S. shifts and can result in wetter-than-average and colder-than-average conditions across much of the southern tier of the country. Drier conditions are often found in parts of the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys.” (Not so this time.)

In chapter seven of Scenes from a Tapestry: Reports and Musings on Weather, Climate and the Long Emergency, I proposed a possible method of forecasting an El Nino season:

It seems to me that one possible (major) indicator would be the signs occupied by Jupiter and Saturn, since they alone among the (visible) planets generally remain in a given sign through the setup and release phases (Northern Hemisphere autumn and winter, respectively). Mars can remain for as much as almost eight months in a single sign, when its retrograde phase is involved, or as little as one-and-a-half months centering on its conjunction with Sol; thus, I am inclined to discount Mars.
Not so much the sign, but the element, also seems crucial: fire, air, earth or water. The element — as in “principle” or “rudiment” — reflects the temperament of Earth, as Earth bathes in the energies of the cosmic environment.

My theory is that El Nino seasons correlate most strongly with those when Jupiter and/or Saturn is/are in the warmer elements fire and/or air. (El Nino correlates most strongly with above-average warming of waters in the tropical Pacific.)
If Jupiter and/or Saturn shift(s) sign / element during the period of late September through December, that indicates a change in the established meteorological pattern. When the change occurs affects the degree of change.

Jupiter shifted from water-sign Scorpio to fire-sign Sagittarius on 7 November 2018, and Saturn has been in earth-sign Capricorn since 20 December 2017: factors pointing toward a weak-to-moderate El Nino. Add that to the overall climate-chaos situation, mix in Uranus-in-Taurus (since 6 March 2019) significations that include large-scale disruptions to agricultural industries, and all the ingredients are present to generate the kind of stories that are being reported daily.

And what about comparisons of 2019 with 1927?

The winter of 1926-27 was a record-breaker in the rain-and-flood department for much of the lower Mississippi River valley. Among the factoids: seven hundred thousand people were left homeless in Louisiana and Mississippi. The misery inspired famous songs such as Memphis Minnie’s “When the Levee Breaks” (famously covered by Led Zeppelin) and Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927”: “It rained real hard and it rained for a real long time / Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline . . . ”

There is little oceanographic data available from 1927, so that season is not included in the list of El Nino seasons. However, I think a strong El Nino event can be reliably inferred. It would definitely support the Jupiter – Saturn element theory: Jupiter was in air-sign Aquarius and Saturn in fire-sign Sagittarius.

During the very strong El Nino of 1997-98, Jupiter was in airy Aquarius until early February, and Saturn was in fiery Aries throughout.

The next strong one is likely in the winter-spring of 2020-21, when both Jupiter and Saturn will inhabit air-sign Aquarius.

Who said the Aquarian Shift would be an easy one?

Capability and Courage

Sometimes a little more amounts to a lot more.
A fresh look at the nearly-forgotten intervention into the civil war in Sierra Leone is a reminder that sometimes wonderful developments, or at least an end to horrors, can occur by surprise. It is possible with the application of capability and courage.
A story in the current issue of the New York Review of Books details the essential points about a rare case of successful foreign military intervention. The man who seized the initiative, way back in May 2000, was British Gen. David Richards, veteran of many prior peacekeeping actions in such places as Northern Ireland and East Timor.
At the time, the government of Sierra Leone was beset by the marauding and maiming Revolutionary United Front, and the capital, the misnamed Freetown, was on the verge of being overrun. Panic had set in:

Thousands of people, carrying children and baskets of clothes, tried to flee by road. At the airport, the last flights were fully booked, with desperate parents begging departing passengers with secured seats to take their children to safety.

Additionally, a peacekeeping mission sent by the United Nations was bogged down, demoralized, dozens of its soldiers held hostage.
Britain, the onetime colonial power there, had a vested interest in restoring stability there — particularly in the form of British citizens present and under threat.
It so happened that British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who would subsequently disgrace himself by supporting the Bush / Cheney / Powell regime-change mission to Iraq, was of a mind to promote a quiet resolution. Looking back, Blair considered Sierra Leone one of his proudest moments in office.
It’s true: He done good, though passively. Richards done even better.
What started officially as a reconnaissance mission aimed at evacuating British subjects became, under Richards, a clever campaign with modest resources to end a decade of barbarity, employing child soldiers.

The RUF was abducting children from their villages, getting them high on poyo (homemade palm wine), marijuana and heroin, and training them to kill. I later heard from a Jesuit priest who tried to rehabilitate these child-soldiers that they made excellent killers because, under the age of nine, they had not yet developed a full moral conscience. The warlords exploited their innocence.

The “cheerfully evil” leader of the RUF was in control of the diamond mines. Fifty thousand — fighters and civilians — had been killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced.
Richards’ small force of Royal Marines and paratroopers landed on 6 May, under a crescent moon: an appropriate moment for nurture and support. They began by setting up a base at the airport, then set out to patrol the city, in the process establishing an intelligence network that bore crucial fruit: the capture of the RUF leader.
There was far more in the sky than a crescent moon, as some readers might recall: May 2000 was the month not only of a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn — signaling a potent political moment — but also a brief and very rare cluster of Mercury, Venus and Mars along with the New Moon (on 4 May) in the stability-loving zoidion of Taurus. All these bodies were arrayed in a right angle to slower-moving Uranus and Neptune in outside-the-box Aquarius.
Significantly, within two days of the New Moon, Mars had separated from the cluster, entering adaptable Gemini. That quality was exactly what was required for a humanitarian outcome: that and a combination of confidence and daring in going beyond the strict definition of the mission. Key to success, however, was Richards’ battlefield diplomacy.
Take note in the chart below how the grand configuration (in the outer ring) linked with Richards’ birth chart (inner ring). (In the absence of a known birth time, the chart has been calculated for the hour of sunrise.) He was truly a man of the moment.

The Taurus cluster — especially Sun (leadership), Jupiter (expansion of scope) and Saturn (restraint, discipline) — filled the empty spot Richards’ natal configuration of Venus – Pluto – Mars: opposite natal Mars (the warrior planet) at home in Scorpio. This represents a rare opportunity to manage a dire situation.

(That’s where it was handy to have a commander born with Luna in Gemini: “jaw and jaw preferable to war and war,” as the saying goes.)

As further evidence, the previous February’s partial solar eclipse fell on Richards’ natal Venus, denoting an opening to promote peace. And, more dramatically, the famous “Grand Cross Solar Eclipse” of August 1999 had emphasized the same degree areas as Richards’ Venus – Pluto – Mars combination. That year, he was commanding a UK contingent seeking to prevent reprisals by Indonesians against citizens in East Timor.
Amazingly, yet appropriately, Gen. Richards was recognized with promotion, ultimately to Chief of Defense Staff, and honored as a Life Peer. Yet his true value was recognized in the streets of Freetown, even during his service there: “Richards for President” posters began appearing, and local women would surround him, holding their babies toward him and weeping with gratitude.

[For some sobering contrast, read “The Generals Won’t Save Us from the Next War.”]