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.”]

Special: The Time Is Now

6 March 2019

How rare and precious this moment.

Light is noticeably increasing. The days are growing longer, more often sunny. Our hopes of warmer weather can sometimes be tinged by fears of summer’s heat.

By way of introduction, we are two astrologers and concerned global citizens, aware of multiple crises in play on a planetary level. We understand these through the lens of planetary cycles.

For example, the exact moment of the New Moon on March 6, 2019, coincides with several other unique configurations. Sun and Moon will be exactly in alignment with Neptune, ripe with a range of possibilities from delusional to visionary. Imagination is the common element.

Simultaneously, slow-moving Uranus shifts into the Earth sign Taurus, initiating a period of great Earth, economic and financial changes; sudden and shocking events may set the stage for long-term shifts on a very real level. Many of us remember when Uranus entered the previous sign, Aries, which manifested in a tremendous earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan and irrevocably polluted our oceans.

Do you remember? Or have you, like most people, had your attention swallowed by the diversion of tweets? Our world is constantly pelting us with high levels of dysfunction from the political and natural realms, encouraging the need for escape. A miniature screen in every other hand as we drift through the daze of our days. The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard recognized in the mid-1800s this now-typical state of mind with his phrase: “Tranquilized by the trivial.”

We have at our immediate disposal a wide range of technological escapes and may be choosing to drink or drug or binge watch or enter virtual reality to avoid the unpleasantries and uncertainties.

Neptune’s fog has never been thicker, yet never — at least in our lifetimes — has the need for clarity been greater. As with Dorothy and her companions so urgently seeking Oz, we find ourselves irresistibly succumbing to the slumber of our own poppy fields.

We humans are both blessed and cursed with shortsightedness: blessed because otherwise we would be overwhelmed by the enormity of threats to our survival — be they economic or ecological. Cursed because we have forgotten how we got here.

As Catherine Ingram has written, “I offer no hope or solutions for our continuation, only companionship and empathy to you, the reader, who either knows or suspects that there is no hope or solutions to be found. What we now need to find is courage.” (Her article, “Facing Extinction,” is on her website: http://www.catherineingram.com/facingextinction/ )

Everyone can do something that is within their means. Courage can take the form of simple commitments that are possible on an individual basis — for example, reducing packaging, reducing waste, reducing car dependency. Since we owe our existence and the continuation of civilization to six inches of soil, everyone can contribute to soil building through such efforts as backyard composting, vermiculture, community gardening, and supporting native habitat restoration. Contributions can be social, as in feeding the homeless, or supporting organizations that serve individuals and families in need.

An often overlooked, yet vital, aspect of self-care is the cultivation of compassion, along with the capacity to grieve and to laugh at our human follies. The reality is that we have all participated in the creation of our collective situation.

This New Moon with Neptune represents a beginning with the option of vision. Uranus’ shift of sign for the next seven years offers opportunity for innovation in the realms of finance and food production. The energies are quickening, the choices are ours.

Intentional action is healthier than the diversions so readily available in our culture. The question remains: What do each of us now decide to do?


Peter Doughty has nearly forty years experience studying and writing about mundane astrology, including his blog over the past seven years and recent book entitled Scenes from a Tapestry.
Aeolea Wendy Burwell has also been a student of the celestial arts for over forty years, and is currently teaching astrology in her living room or wherever possible. (aeolea@juno.com)

(See also Paul Kingsnorth’s article “Life versus the Machine” on the Orion Magazine website.)

Balmy and Barmy

26 February 2019

Have you heard the news from across The Pond?

Lovers could be seen lolling on the green grass, near expanses of flowers, in London’s St. James’s Park. Young men were spotted strolling shirtless along paths where they would not be touched by the long shadows of the season. Skies were strangely cloudless. New records were set for the warmest temperature in February or any winter month. Even in Scotland a weather station reported sixty-five degrees, with slightly lower marks attained in Denmark and Sweden.

The warmest days were 25 and, especially, 26 February 2019. See a story at the Washington Post.

Yet from an astro-meteorological perspective, it’s to be expected: The chart for the winter season, cast for the Capricorn solar ingress on 21 December 2018 at 10:23 p.m. GMT, featured both Jupiter and Mercury right on the lower meridian. That’s the most significant spot in a weather chart.

Jupiter correlates with high air pressure, fair skies and mild weather — when in a fire zoidion such as Sagittarius, which is the case for nearly all of 2019. Fittingly for the biggest planet, it amplifies and expands the character of the zoidion it occupies. Add Mercury, and moderate breezes are typical.
Note this: On 26 February, Luna crossed the zodiacal places occupied by the lower meridian, Jupiter and Mercury at the time of the Capricorn ingress (winter solstice). The last quarter moon on the same date — seen by Sol and Luna at the same degree, three signs apart — accentuated the fine-weather effect.
What a difference a year — and a whole different astrological pattern — makes. In the winter of 2018 the UK and much of Europe were beset by chronic cold blasts out of Siberia: “the beast from the east.”

Peter Doughty
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Mercury’s Shadow

The night before, the electronic signs began flashing the warnings to semi drivers along the 490 loop: No empty trailers would be allowed on that stretch of highway on Sunday the twenty-fourth, to pose the hazard of overturning in the expected high winds and blocking up the flow of traffic.
And by two in the afternoon on Sunday, the wind in the trees were keeping up a continual roaring sound. Nearly sixty-mile-per-hour winds were anticipated. Fortunately, the trees were bare. Even so, some damage to trees and structures was inevitable.
Why is this happening? There is a strong storm (“Quiana”) with its center east of the Great Lakes this afternoon, bringing blizzard conditions to the upper Mississippi valley, with a steep air pressure gradient propelling winds ahead of it.
It was all right on cosmic time: Mercury had already crossed the upper meridian of the season chart, in fact was exactly conjunct that axis at the time of the Full Moon on the nineteenth. It so happened that Mercury at that moment was passing the zodiacal spot where Mercury would “station direct” on 28 March — after the retrograde period beginning on 5 March, when Mercury would “station retrograde.”
There’s more: At the moment of the windstorm’s arrival, Mercury was exactly conjunct the place of Mars (signifying increased energy and destructive force) in the season chart.
All this greatly emphasizes the Mercury factor, which in astro-meteorology correlates with wind.

Take a look at the chart graphic: the season chart on the inner wheel, the “event” chart around the outside.

You probably recognize the Mars (male) symbol high in the inner ring. It’s near the symbol for the upper meridian: the circle with the vertical line, which represents the zone of longitude where energetic events are most likely to transpire. Mercury in the outer ring is just above it.

Can another significant wind event be expected within this broad longitudinal region in the near future? It’s likely, especially around the fifteenth of March, when Mercury (in apparent retrograde motion) crosses the place of Mars in the season chart.
As of the Full Moon moment, Mercury has entered its “shadow”: the zone of retrogradation, the zodiacal “territory” it passes over three times within a short period: before, during, and after retrogradation.
There’s a lot of reworking of infrastructure to do, as well as of information, comprehension and communication.


Peter Doughty
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