The key unfolding astrological dramas of February 2022, and beyond into March, are the conjunctions between Mars and Venus in Capricorn, then Aquarius, all mixed in with Pluto and its much spoken about return. In simple terms, every time the goddess of love and the only female gendered planet in the solar system, and the fiery masculine god of war square up, we are bound to feel it not just in our relationships, but in all aspects of polarity. This opposition is playing out on the world stage in the Ukraine, where the east/west stand-off has now tragically erupted into war. To continue with the exploration of the motifs in the Odyssey (see ‘The Journey of Odysseus: messages from the deep for 2022’) and using it as a lens through which to view present events, the best analogy to today is the besieging of Troy and destruction of the surrounding countryside by Menelaus of Sparta and his Greek allies (including Odysseus) in what became known as the Trojan War. To weave in the mythology with the astrology, the Trojan War (Mars) was catalysed by the actions of Venus/Aphrodite, whose granting of Helen of Sparta to the prince of Troy was the spark that lit the conflagration. The edges of this current Venus/Mars conjunction are hard, and this clash of opposites is sadly being felt in a very real way by the people of Ukraine. However, the unfolding astrology thankfully holds the promise of softening in the form of Jupiter and Neptune in Pisces, and the opportunity for transformation though the involvement of both Pluto and the centaur Nessus on both personal and collective levels.
Venus and Mars have been dancing around in Capricorn since last year, occasionally coming into contact with Pluto, which itself has been transiting Capricorn since 2009. This transit has been the major signature of our times, the astrological impetuous to reveal all that is corrupt and no longer serving us. Over the course of 15 years of Pluto in Capricorn, every aspect of polarity has been explored and inequalities exposed through the lenses of gender relationships, black lives and white privilege, the poverty of many versus the wealth of the few (‘Plutocracy’), so much so that the world outlook has changed beyond all recognition. This powerful transit is now slowly coming to an end, but not before one final denouement – what is being called America’s Pluto Return. On February 20th, Pluto returned to the same place in the sky where it was on July 4th 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed, offering the US an opportunity to dive deep into its soul as the year, and the return, continue to unfold.
The first hard edge conjunction between Venus and Mars took place on 16th February 2022, at a time of heightened tension between Russia and the West over (eastern) Ukraine. The situation is politically complex and beyond the scope of this post, but in energetic terms, the Ukraine is highly significant as its capital, Kiev, is located on what arguably should be the Prime Meridian. The so-called Nilotic Meridian stretches from South Africa up to the Arctic Circle covering the longest landmass of the planet, and is peppered with many sacred and resonant sites usually involving lions. Kiev is therefore both physically and energetically an omphalos, or navel point, and therefore the perfect energetic nexus for polarity on every level. Symbolically, it could be seen as the present-day equivalent to Homer’s Troy, with both cities acting as magnets for conflict in antiquity and today.
Geopolitically, the conflict in (eastern) Ukraine could be view as the latest in a long term stand-off between East and West. The dance between Mars and Venus is mirroring this opposition, inviting us to draw back the veil and look deeply at our relationships on every level, both personal and collective, human and non-human, and to continue to evaluate that which is important, to winnow out that needs cherishing from that which is to be released. Though the pandemic seems finally to be loosening its grip, we are still collectively being held in the balance, suspended between worlds both geopolitically and psychologically, while we take the time for the necessary introspection and integration of all that it brought forward.
The Earth itself has been restless over the last few weeks, blowing some of the strongest winds on record through the UK and beyond. Just before Valentine’s Day, when the winds swept though and when Venus and Mars also began their opposition, a more subtle and deeper opposition took place between two transpersonal minor planets – the Centaur Nessus and the TNO Orcus. Nessus is also involved in the unfolding of the Mars/Venus conjunctions into next month, warranting a deeper look at this intriguing astrological alignment.
Orcus is a minor planet that crosses the orbit of Neptune (TNO) and was only discovered in 2004. This creature from the depths has an orbit the mirror image of Pluto’s and is therefore perceived as a co-ruler of the Underworld. In Greek mythology, the name is evocative of Horkos, the daimon of oaths, presumably the inspiration for the horcruxes in the Harry Potter series, magical objects capable of holding fragments of the soul. This dwarf planet has a highly transpersonal resonance, bringing up from the deep some of the most hidden aspects of our being, that which is both bound and broken by oaths and curses. Melanie Reinhart describes Orcus as a healer and protector of the matrilineal line, bringing forth an ecological resonance, for be in service to the female is to be in service to the Earth herself. For example, during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Icelandic volcanic eruption, Orcus was involved in a series of oppositions with Chiron that perfectly mirrored the unfolding of the ecological catastrophe. Due to the highly elliptical orbit of both these bodies, it should be emphasised that these oppositions are rare – truly a gift from the Underworld.
Oppositions between Nessus and Orcus are more frequent than those between Chiron and Orcus, so it is only really by looking at the broader astrological context that we can flesh out meaning. The mythology of Nessus takes us more deeply into the symbolism of the Venus/Mars opposition we are experiencing by casting a different light on the gender relationships. In Greek mythology, Nessus was the Centaur who indirectly brought about the death of the hero Hercules by using his wife Deinira as an unwitting instrument. As he lays dying, fatally wounded by Hercules in retaliation for an attempted rape of his wife, and Nessus gives Deianira a love potion made from his bodily fluids saying that it will keep Hercules faithful to her. Some years later, fed up with her husband’s infidelity, she surreptitiously smears it on his signature lionskin shirt – but instead of inducing love for her, the potion brings on a terrible affliction that scalds and burns his flesh. Driven mad with agony, Hercules rips off his own skin and eventually throws himself on a funeral pyre to escape the pain. The combination of Nessus and Orcus points to the ending/release from a collective and very ancient curse and this has great pertinence for our relationships, both human and ecological, and for the current geopolitical polarities playing out on the world stage. The power for transformation and release is enhanced by the dance between Mars and Venus, especially as they will both conjunct Pluto, lord of the underworld, before moving into Aquarius. Now is the time to add all the grief, grievance and pain caused by betrayal, corruption and inequity into the alchemical mix, to allow it to dissolve and distil into potent medicine for the emerging new vision.
Wind is a major theme in the Odyssey, no doubt because the prevailing winds around the Aegean are both powerful and perilous, and winds were the cause of the lowest and most dangerous point on the hero’s twenty-year journey. It was the south wind blowing without pause that sent his ship back to the treacherous clutches of Scylla and Charybdis. Here calamity struck, dashing the last of his men on the rocks and smashing his only surviving ship to pieces. Odysseus himself only survives the maelstrom by tying himself to the remains of the ship’s mast. Stripped bare, grief stricken and alone, the hero is then left to drift for nine days in a state of limbo – akin to our current collective situation. Unable to move forward, we too are being forced to descend to the watery underworld of the collective subconscious, to dive deep and retrieve the treasures that await us, and which will eventually propel us forward.
So, for now, we leave Odysseus drifting at sea alone and bereft, stripped down to his soul and unaware of what the future might hold. As the year progresses, the hard edges of the conjunction will be gradually softened to allow the dissolving of tension that our desperate clinging onto the past (Capricorn) is causing. But the wheels of the heaven will keep turning, moving both Venus and Mars into Aquarius for the next stage of their dance. Significantly, this will take place in the first degree of Aquarius, the same degree of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction of the December Solstice of 2020, beginning the twenty year cycle that is also the signature of the story of Odysseus.
Picture credit: ‘Deianira’ by Evelyn De Morgan