Mars, Venus, Orcus,Troy and Kiev: messages from the deep for 2022 (II)

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[1] 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.

[1] See for her article on Orcus

Picture credit: ‘Deianira’ by Evelyn De Morgan

The Journey of Odysseus: messages from the deep for 2022

The astrology of 2022 holds the tantalising promise of the birthing of that dream that has been slowly taking form during months of relentless oppositions in 2021, both astrologically and literally. Whilst researching the main celestial events of the year, I was struck by how archetypal astrologer Vanessa Couto used the story of Penelope, wife of Odysseus from the Greek epic, to explore meaning in them.[1]  After all, astrology is one of the ways we can begin to understand cosmic order, to see the bigger picture of which we are just one minor part, and when combined with mythology, the stories that arise from the collective unconscious, we can really start to attune to the whispers of the World Soul and hear them more clearly and coherently. Having recently read the Odyssey (a lockdown project!) the idea of exploring the unfolding astrology of the year and its resonance with global events, then seeing them through the lens of the mythological adventures of Odysseus began to grow on me. But why the Odyssey and why now?

The Odyssey is the second work of Western literature, which along with the Illiad, tells the epic story of bronze age heroes, kings and their wives preserved in the oral tradition of the Aegean but collected and written down by Homer in around the eight century BCE. These tales of love, loss and passion, framed around the events of the Trojan War, still hold us in thrall today for they are archetypal stories, masterfully told. Penelope is just one of the vivid female characters brought to life by Homer, but there are many others including Helen of Troy herself, Circe and Calpyso, all of whom were famed throughout the ancient world, holding in their stories a piece of our collective past.

The epic is focussed round the story of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, who participates in the Trojan War and then is beset by many adventures on his return. In fact, he is away from Ithaca for 20 years, which as Vanessa points out, is the timespan between significant conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter,[2] the masters of time and rulers of the ages. These conjunctions have been considered as auspicious from ancient times at least, and the key themes and dangers associated with them have been preserved in the myth of Uranus and Saturn, as told by Hesiod. We saw one of these conjunctions at the Winter Solstice of 2020, which was also in the first degree of Aquarius – one of the signs of the dawning of the Great Age. Why it took Odysseus 10 years to journey from Troy to Ithaca, a distance as the crow flies of approximately 1000 km, was impossible to say, but nobody other than Vanessa, as far as I know, have matched the timespan of his absence with the epoch marked by a Saturn/Jupiter conjunction.

The present epoch making cycle began then around 2020 – 2021, and it was in 2020 that an exhibition of Troy took place at the British Museum, vividly bringing the Homeric stories to life with artefacts of the times and paintings depicting the characters and their passions. The Trojan War, which Odysseus was eventually dragged into, famously begins with the Judgement of Paris, Prince of Troy. He was asked to decide which of the goddesses Athena, Aphrodite or Hera was the most beautiful, and though all of them tried to bribe him in various ways, it was the offer by Aphrodite of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, that swung Paris’ decision in her favour. The subsequent abduction of Helen, for she was already married to Menelaus of Sparta, is what sparked the Trojan War. But actually it did not begin here – it began with Eris, the goddess of discord.

In the version told by Homer, Eris was the daughter of Zeus and Hera, but known for her troublemaking ways, she alone of all the gods was not invited to the wedding of an important couple called Peleus and Thetis. Snubbed but not disheartened, she arrives at the wedding party and tosses an apple into the revellers inscribed with the words ‘To the Fairest One.’ The dispute that immediately broke out between Aphrodite, Hera and Athena, all of whom laid claim to the apple, and as mentioned above, it was Paris who was chosen to settle it. The ensuing war lasted 10 years and resulted in the destruction of Troy, so Eris certainly achieved her desired aim.

In 2005 a dwarf planet from the Kuiper Belt was given her name Eris, and during 2020 and 2021, this dwarf planet made a series of meaningful conjunctions with Pluto, Lord of the Underworld, bringing up from the deep all that is disharmonious and buried in our collective unconscious. These conjunctions occurred alongside a series of oppositions between Saturn and Uranus in 2021, the relentless grinding together of giants, mirrored below in lockdowns, the clashing of polarised views on how we should collectively deal with pandemic, and a host of other issues. Eris and Pluto have not yet finished their dance, so it will be interesting to see what else they bring up from the deep this year, and in what other way this resonates with the journey of Odysseus.

 But now to the astrology of January 2022 to see if the Odyssey is helping us to hear the voice of the World Soul this year. In December, Jupiter moved into the watery realm of Pisces, where it will slowly move towards Neptune (already there and happy in its home sign) in a conjunction that promises the birth of a new way in April. However, though the birth pangs have started, the process of bringing something new into being takes time and can be both painful and difficult. To the Greeks, Poseidon was the god of the sea, and in the Odyssey, he has a particularly antagonistic role to play, constantly thwarting the hero’s return journey with his storms. In revenge for blinding his son, Polyphemus the Cyclops, Poseidon, also known as the great Earthshaker[3] sent particularly large waves and turbid seas to dog Odysseus’ voyage, eventually leaving him shipwrecked and alone on the island of the Phaeacians.

We too have been reminded of the awesome and unpredictable power of the sea, for on Saturday 14th January 2022, the great Earthshaker struck again when the eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’api sent a plume of debris up to 20 km into the sky, burying the northern part of Tonga’s main island under ash and triggering a tsunami that reached the shores of New Zealand, Australia and Japan. According to Nasa, the eruption was hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bomb, obliterating a entire island in the north of Tonga and affecting more than four-fifths of the population with falling debris. [4] Volcanic eruptions, especially ones that occur in or very near to a subduction zone, such as this one, are not unusual, but still when the World Soul speaks, we do well to listen.

The Tongan islands exist as a result of plate tectonics and the volcanic lava produced through subduction zone processes, and new islands have been formed as recently as 2015 by profusive eruptions. Soil enriched by volcanic minerals have allowed agriculture to flourish on these remote paradise islands, which are also protected by off-shore barrier reefs, allowing human inhabitation to take root. However, humans have tried to dominate and control the natural environment in time honoured fashion, and overfishing, deforestation and damage to coral reefs have ensued, as well as a tragic decline in sea turtle populations due to over hunting.

Like Odysseus we have been reminded to respect the sea, and the fiery land, and all that they bring and take away. The themes of deep emotion, sensitivity, hope, psychic connection and dreaming are carried through Pisces, the river of the zodiac, and amplified by Neptune currently in this sign, but also delusion, sacrifice, and deceit. As the unprocessed emotions erupt from the depths, propelled by the fire of the spirit, they threaten to overwhelm and subsume us if we do not pay attention to both emotional and psychic hygiene on the inner planes, and to the proper care and custodianship of our environment on the outer. Odysseus paid the price for his own actions, for it was his greed and deceit in the cave of Polyphemus that led to him wounding the Cyclops and provoking the wrath of Poseidon. We too do well to heed the voices coming from the deep, carried on the foam of the oceans and the regularity of the standing waves.  It remains to be seen how the theme of Odysseus and his wonderings will add more meaning to the voice of the World Soul as expressed through astrology and world events as they unfold throughout the year. Let’s see what next month brings!

[1] See Vanessa Couto, ‘At Penelope’s Loom: Astrology of 2022,’ available at

[2] As above

[3] Homer, ‘The Odyssey,’ translated by E. V. Rieu and puplished by Penguin Book ( p. 123)

[4] ‘Tonga volcano: eruption more powerful than atomic bomb, says Nasa,’ BBC News 25.1.2022, available at