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.”]

Not Anywhere

. . . near where “we” — in anthropocentric parlance — need to be. That is what more and more climate and ecological scientists, and throngs of activists (Student Climate Strike, Extinction Rebellion, Sunrise Movement, etc.) in much of the world, are saying about reducing the level of ongoing destruction of the Earth that supports our lives.

Along the way, the word “ecocide” has been used more and more to describe the unraveling of Earth’s web of life. Yeah, that’s what’s going on, according to the alarm — among the latest — sounded by a United Nations report made public on the sixth of May: one million plant and animal species on the verge of extinction. I think humanity must be one of them.

In a way, it seems crazy, except that one’s gotta what one’s gotta do, according to one’s skills and training. Crazy as in advocating for legal rights for Earth. That’s what Ecuador did, once upon a time, though what one hears from there lately in relation to the oil industry doesn’t sound like the legality has taken root.

These things take time, and indications are that time is short for doing anything on a large enough scale to make a significant difference — if such is even possible — in terms of ecological protection / restoration or climate remediation. Still, it fits with what might be termed the Aquarian Shift — a pronounced and rapid shift of awareness and behavior — represented astrologically by the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn (at one degree of that sign) in December 2020, followed by Pluto entering Aquarius in 2024.

One of those who has advocated most strongly for such legal rights is lawyer Polly Higgins, from the United Kingdom. She sought to expand the legal responsibility for ecological damage and destruction, in a vein similar to the International Criminal Court. In 2009 the effort she led succeeded in persuading the United Nations to draft an Universal Declaration for Planetary Rights. Then, in 2011, a mock Ecocide Act was drafted and tested in the UK Supreme Court. And this led, eventually, to the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) to End Ecocide in Europe launched 22 January 2013. And that was facilitated by a provision of the Treaty of Lisbon, in European Union document, agreed to 01 December 2009.

That’s where the Aquarian Shift comes into this story: December 2009 was the time of a Jupiter – Neptune conjunction in Aquarius. The planetary / sign combination offers the potential for expansive and visionary concepts recognizing a sense of interconnectedness, including in a legal sense.

Jupiter – Neptune has a far different energy tone from, say, Saturn – Pluto, which is prominently in play currently. Jupiter – Neptune is the other major signature for this year, 2019. All the writing astrologers are writing about Saturn – Pluto, though: It’s a big deal, and it has scary overtones about it. As in prospects of extinction. And the need for a group calling itself Extinction Rebellion.

Charles Harvey, writing “Cycles in Practice” within Mundane Astrology (1984), agrees that Jupiter – Neptune “has a strongly idealistic, humanitarian and ideological quality about it.”

And so it was, back in ’09.

The next Jupiter – Neptune conjunction is set to occur in 2022 in Pisces. By referring to the key significances of planets and sign, one may safely anticipate episodes of loss and suffering on a large scale. (The previous one in Pisces was in 1856: Neptune’s cycle is that long, remaining in a given sign for fourteen years, while Jupiter spends one year in each. 1856 was the year of the John Brown-instigated Pottawatomie Massacre in Kansas, a small-scale atrocity that foreshadowed the War Between the States; the initial formation of the Republican Party; and the high-water mark of the Know-Nothing Party: the nomination of former President Millard Fillmore as its candidate for president.)

The word “ecocide” was first recorded at the Congressional Conference on War and National Responsibility in Washington DC on 20-21 February 1970. The extraordinariness of those days were marked energetically by a partial lunar eclipse (visible throughout North America) 2 Virgo at right angle to Neptune at 1 Sagittarius.

On that occasion, American-born plant biologist and bioethicist Arthur Galston — recognizing the vast destruction of Vietnam under chemical assault to defoliate the dense forests and render the Vietnamese “enemy” visible — proposed a new international agreement to ban such practices. (Remember that Vietnam was the venue for testing and deploying a new round of machines and chemical agents on a large scale, and the astrological time frame was the epochal Uranus – Pluto conjunction in the efficiency-oriented Earth sign of Virgo: the first conjunction of those planets since 1851.)

Galston was born 21 April 1920 in New York City — how fitting that his personal “solar power” would come from Earth sign Taurus. He had powerful astrological armament to be an eco-warrior: one capable of acting effectively to defend the boundaries of Earth from invasion and wasting. For one thing, his first-degree Taurus natal Sun was exactly opposite Mars, the planet associated with warriors, in the first degree of Scorpio: Mars’ nocturnal sign (Aries being the diurnal sign), through which the fierce energy could be directed in a more inward and self-mastering manner.

The natal chart is calculated for sunrise.

A visionary outlet for Galston’s warriorship and leadership is represented in the Jupiter – Neptune conjunction in early Leo: at right angle to the Sun – Mars axis. Translation: Capacity for energized, grounded idealism.

Add to that a close Saturn – Uranus opposition, signaling at some point in his life a crisis regarding whether to go along to get along, or strike out on a more individualistic path. That axis was being strongly triggered by the eclipse in 1970. Note also the political planets Saturn and Jupiter in opposition in the sky and aligning with natal Sun and Mars, respectively. It truly was his moment.

Galston had been there near the beginnings of Agent Orange in the laboratory, in the 1940s. According to Wikipedia, “Galston studied the use of 2,3,5-triiodobenzoic acid (TIBA) to encourage the flowering of soybeans, and noted that high levels had a defoliant effect.” Reports of massive use of the chemical in Vietnam compelled him to speak out against its use as a weapon of war. “He was clear about the devastating impact of their use on the environment, and warned of the likelihood that they were harmful to animals and humans as well as plants. Galston visited Vietnam and China, viewing the environmental damage in Vietnam first-hand.”

Amazingly, in view of recent and current functioning of the U.S. government, Galston’s testimony actually led to then-President Nixon’s decision to ban the use of Agent Orange. These days, he’d more likely be overwhelmed in a Twitterpocalypse.

Now, most of the action in the US of A along this line is occurring on state and local levels, and there really is plenty going on. One recent news item was of a sweeping climate resolution by the New York City Council on 18 April that includes major reductions of building emissions — Trump-associated properties being among the prime offenders. And around that time: the UK and Irish parliaments declared official climate emergencies.

All so, so late in the game. And Nature bats last.

New Year New Life

April — the hottest month — is the time to start over in Myanmar, better known as Burma. Where, you say? It’s stuck in that space between India, the second-most populous country and home of Bollywood, and Thailand, favorite Asian vacation spot. Myanmar is almost as little known as North Korea. (Decades of military rule doesn’t help make a country attractive.)
The weather there come April is usually so hot that folks typically welcome a dousing with water. So folks make a festival of it, and base their year on the lunar cycle.
Apparently this is year 1381 in the Myanmar Calendar — I have no idea why that would be so — which has alternating months of 29 and 30 days. Since six pair only comes to a total of 354 days, and an actual complete revolution by Earth around Sol takes about 365 days, those folks throw in an extra month every three years to make up for the messiness.By April the weather is so dang hot that everyone agrees that throwing a lot of water on each other is pretty much the thing to do. People smile and say thank you and bless you. The people have built up a belief that all the sins they have committed during the past year can be cleansed away with the water that’s thrown on them. All sins and delusions are washed away from body, mind and soul. Instead of resolutions soon forgotten, New Year starts with a purified existence.
The Thingyan festival is held at the Full Moon, and lasts for three or four days, depending on what the astrologers there decree. Apparently it’s much the same across the border in Thailand, where they call it Songkran.
The Myanmar version literally means “moving from one thing into another,” or “changing over.”
It’s long been a customary time for political and legal amnesties, though one has to wonder how long a lot of those freed remain so.
Perhaps 1381 — a numerological “four” year — for some reason is the occasion for an especially large amnesty, since thousands were released on two days in April, another 6250 on 6 May.
What brought a wave of notice around the world was the release on the latter date of two Reuters reporters who had been held in detention for over 500 days. They had been touching on a subject which the military government doesn’t want publicized.
“Before their arrest in December 2017, they had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017. The operation sent more than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, according to U.N. estimates.”

Hmmm . . . August 2017, what was happening celestially back then? Oh yes, there was a certain solar eclipse, late in the zoidion of Leo, with Mars just then emerging from the solar rays, at twenty-one degrees Leo at that moment. That made a strong connection with the Burmese independence chart of 4 January 1948: independence accepted from Britain five months after the deadly partition of Pakistan from India as those gained independence from the Empire. (According to reports documented in Nicholas Campion’s Book of World Horoscopes, the Burmese moment was elected, i.e. chosen, by selected astrologers.)
Mars at that eclipse moment in 2017 was closely conjunct Saturn in the Burmese national chart, and widely conjunct the Pluto placement in that chart. That spells activation of repressive currents in the collective: currents that involve elements of the population regarded as foreign: in this case, the Rohingya.

Mercury (planet of journalism) in the eclipse chart is retrograde and closely conjunct the national Mars placement, signaling an uneasy connection between reporters on the one hand, and military and police forces on the other. No wonder there was a high-profile detention.
There are other indications of a testing-time for the country: The eclipse placement of Saturn in the first house (national identity and security) of the independence chart, bringing to the forefront a sense of threat to the collective well-being; and Neptune at the lower meridian, reflecting conditions of dissolution of the established state of affairs.
Within months of the eclipse, Saturn moved from Sagittarius to Capricorn, joining Pluto there and beginning a crucial period reminiscent of 1948, when Saturn and Pluto were also traveling together. Such astrological recurrences coincide with major episodes of dealing with issues of control, repression and restructuring. A time marked by much pain and loss. The expulsion of three-quarters of a million people, and unknown numbers of lives lost, is only the most obvious.
Political entities never welcome the holding of dark deeds to the light of day. Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, had to have known of the grave risk they were undertaking. Yet they persisted in maintaining their innocence and dedication to their roles.
The last release date — the day after the New Moon that followed the Thingyan Full Moon — coincided with a Mars-Jupiter opposition, in itself a combination of generally uplifting energies. And Mars-Jupiter connected exactly with Uranus (liberation, reversal) in the national chart. It was an auspicious moment for opening a new chapter, perhaps with greater openness than before.

Big Yellow Taxi

“Don’t it always seem to go / that you don’t know what you got / til it’s gone” — sang Joni Mitchell so many decades ago. The thought, the sentiment, seems to capture the perverse human tendency to require shocking loss to awaken people sufficiently to provoke movement.

Irish journalist Lyra McKee was killed senselessly on 18 April 2019 at about 11:00 p.m. in a riot zone in Derry, Northern Ireland.(1) She was twenty-nine years old, and so at the watershed life stage known as the Saturn return, with Saturn in political Capricorn.(2) Her life story includes hard beginnings and determined application to a purposeful life of reporting the doings of her troubled community.

Her last published story, on 14 April, was an analysis of the increasing rate of youth suicides since the ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement (signed 10 April 1998). (3)

Tough stuff, reflecting the symbolism of Sun and Mercury in Aries vs. Uranus, Neptune and Saturn in Capricorn in McKee’s birth pattern.

The Uranus-Neptune in Capricorn generation was born into a milieu of epochal political chaos — the transition from the Cold War to the New World Disorder — with the collective task of developing ways of negotiating new patterns of social organization free from the rigid distinctions of the past. So many of them have embraced and cultivated deep connections across former boundaries of race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, norms of sexuality.

McKee had written for many publications, including Buzzfeed, Private Eye, The Atlantic, and others; she had signed a two-book deal, and her book The Lost Boys has been slated for publication in 2020. The timing is in the wake of the much-discussed Saturn-Pluto conjunction, exact in January 2020, but close together and “stationary” against the zodiac in late April 2019. The book, collecting the stories of eight boys who went missing in Belfast amid the political turbulence between 1969 and 1975, is sure to have even greater impact because of her own sacrifice.

On the personal side, McKee’s birth pattern included both Venus and Mars in Aquarius in a right-angle to Pluto in Scorpio. She lived these out in her queer relationships and embrace of high-danger situations.

A born mold-breaker, she nevertheless followed in the footsteps of the late war-zone journalist Marie Colvin, famed in later life for her eye patch covering one of her wounds. Colvin shared the Mars-Pluto combination. (4)

Not much has been widely reported on recent doings in that part of the world since the Troubles that peaked in the late 1970s have quieted — somewhat. The status of that remaining part of the United Kingdom on the island of Eire remains unresolved. Prime evidence of that: Northern Ireland has had no government since January 2017, at which time the enhanced-level-of-breakdown combination of Jupiter – Uranus – Pluto dominated the zodiac.

But the funeral for McKee, attended by top-level politicians from Northern Ireland, the Republic and Westminster, has stimulated a new round of talks on the region’s political future. They are scheduled to begin on 7 May, as Mercury (discussions) closes in on Uranus for the first time since Uranus’ entry into Taurus. This seems an appropriate lineup for an intended breakthrough in the stalemate, though any agreement is likely to be quite slow in coming: Taurus is the zoidion least amenable to change.

As so often, notable shifts in the political landscape are accompanied by a dramatic weather event: Storm Hannah has prompted red-alert warnings for 26-27 April for southwesternmost Ireland, and lesser alerts for the rest of the island and parts of England and Wales. This is the first such alert since October 2017, and is reflected in two recent astrological emphases. The line for Mercury at the upper meridian at the Aries solar ingress on 20 March 2019 fell along the westernmost tip of Ireland — Mercury denoting the wind factor. And in the chart for Mercury’s ingress into Aries (where Mercury passes from 17 April until 6 May) shows Uranus (disruption of the existing pattern) on the ascendant.

Yes, change is coming, and how tragic the cost. Once again.

(1) “The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said that a gunman fired shots towards police officers in Derry’s Creggan area at about 23:00 BST on Thursday [18 April].” (BBC News)
(2) Birth date: 31 March 1990 in Belfast.
(3) On that date, Sun was joined by Saturn, Mars and Mercury (retrograde) in Aries, with nearly-full Moon in Libra.
(4) Birth date: 12 January 1956 in Oyster Bay, New York, with Mars additionally conjunct Saturn in Scorpio for a large further measure of harshness of experience. McKee had been booked to speak at a screening of the recent film about Colvin’s life and work, titled “A Private War.”