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

Muddling with Mercury

Mercury in Pisces for nine full weeks: 10 February to 17 April 2019. The astrological community has been replete with discussion of the relative rarity for the swiftest of planets to linger so long in one sign. The period of apparent retrogradation in the middle of that time frame increased the tenancy, and caused the planet to apparently cross the position of Neptune three times: 19 February, 24 March and 2 April.
Many astrological writers and commentators anticipated the likely problematic character of the period, represented by Pisces being opposite one of Mercury’s places of domicile, the sign of Virgo (the other being Gemini). Detriment or exile is the technical term, meaning that its significance is apt to include distinctly harmful and unwelcome effects — when unleashed through inclusion in close configurations with Sol, Luna and other planets, or when changing apparent motion.
The Neptune factor added another layer of complexity, offering options of inspiration, fantasy, confusion and obfuscation.

One particularly horrifying event occurred soon after the start of the retrograde period, on 10 March: the crash, shortly after takeoff, of an Ethiopian Airlines plane, one of a new breed of Boeing airplane, the 737 Max 8. It was the second such plane to go down in recent months, and with over 300 in operation and 5000 ordered, this was big trouble.
Soon thereafter, reports appeared to the effect that the plane had been rushed through the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency approval process, and that there were major problems involving the flight control system. Apparently, the pilots of the Ethiopian plane performed all the procedures recommended by Boeing to save the aircraft, but could not pull it out of a flight-system-induced dive.
Very Mercurial, with a strong dose of Saturn. (Saturn, representing controls and the force of gravity, and powerful from its position in domicile in Capricorn, appeared at the top of the event chart.)

Weather events have been especially severe and unusual through the Mercury-in-Pisces period: notably Cyclone Idai that struck the southern African nation of Mozambique, and the concurrent “bomb cyclone” Ulmer that struck the Central Plains of the United States — both covered here in earlier posts (“Africa’s Katrina” and “Nebraska’s Katrina”).
This week, another bomb cyclone — also described as an “inland winter hurricane” (nearly a month into spring!) — has struck much the same area of the Plains as the one in March. Storm Wesley wound up over Colorado, dropping temperatures impressively, whipping up extreme winds and posing danger from wildfires on its warm and dry side, and from deep drifting snows on the cold and wet side.
Many reports noted that Wesley came through four weeks after Ulmer. Well, it’s no surprise from an astro-meteorological standpoint: The planetary configuration is a near-repetition of the one that accompanied the two storms a month earlier.
For one thing, Mercury has made the last pass in this series through the zodiacal area marked by Mercury in mid-March. In addition, Luna has also returned to the same place as then, forming the same configuration as before, minus Sol.

Even though a fresh season chart forms the basis, the recurrence of the former pattern provides a potent lesson: Understanding and forecasting require detailed examination of the ephemeris. And this calls into question the tempting reliance on computers.

Nebraska’s Katrina

Three weeks have passed since the inundation of the Central Plains of the United States, and further implications beyond the destruction of physical assets are coming to light.
For instance, spoilage of stores of 2018’s crops. As one report from Reuters says: “The USDA [Department of Agriculture] has no mechanism to compensate farmers for damaged crops in storage, . . . a problem never before seen on this scale. That’s in part because U.S. farmers have never stored so much of their harvests, after years of oversupplied markets, low prices and the latest blow of lost sales from the U.S. trade war with China – previously their biggest buyer of soybean exports.”
This represents much more than potential profits lost: This impacts the world’s industrialized food system. And, echoing ages thought past, exposed piles of moldering grain make for a breeding ground for disease-carrying rats. (See “Biblical Anxieties” on James Howard Kunstler’s blog.)
Meanwhile, politicians and media mouthpieces aplenty blather on in their desperate attempts to bolster business as usual.
Some elements of the astrologically savvy portion of the populace may have noticed the catastrophe that struck a very poor region of southeastern Africa (see earlier post “Africa’s Katrina”), and wondered about the indications for the American flood disaster at the same time.
Well, the same tight configuration — Luna at first-quarter exactly opposite Jupiter, plus Mercury retrograde with Sol at right angle, forming a “T-square” — was triggering the center of the flood region, as represented in the chart of the season. Same as with Idai, Sol and Mercury were upon the season position of Mars: representing the factor of extra heat energy and force of wind and atmospheric masses.
Now look at the winter 2018 season chart located to Omaha, Nebraska.

See that circle with the horizontal line at the left side of the inner chart, next to the symbol for Luna? That’s the degree of the zodiac that was rising at Omaha at the time of the winter solstice (Capricorn ingress). Luna at first-quarter for March 2019 was exactly on that degree, with Luna’s place in the ingress chart just a few degrees away. Luna is a reliable indicator of water, and evidently not limited to when Luna occupies a water sign. That was the indicator that water issues were due to arrive.
Add the Jupiter factor, and the magnitude of events gets bigger, amid conditions that on the surface are more favorable, as in milder temperatures breaking a stretch of severe weather.
Add up all the factors, and the sum is apt to come to a “perfect storm.”
That’s one of the things about astro-meteorology: Whenever there is a tight configuration involving a lunation (Sol and Luna at New, first-quarter, Full or third-quarter phase), zones on Earth where they align with horizon or meridian are zones of likely significant weather impact.
An inevitable question arises: Financial and supply issues aside, can the affected regions dry sufficiently quickly to permit planting? The spring season (Aries solar ingress) chart shows Mars on the upper meridian through eastern Nebraska and the Red River valley, so the answer is that generally dry weather conditions will prevail. From awash to dry, hard and cracked earth: That is the prognosis.
Meanwhile, much further east, New England and the Atlantic provinces of Canada are set to receive the symbolic impact of Mars’ approach to the opposition to Jupiter. Accordingly, dangerously dry conditions and record warmth appear set to take effect there by early May. That region may well undergo trials by fire of the sort that beset Scandinavia in the summer of 2018.

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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