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When All Other Lights Go Out

THE ARIES NEW MOON & NEW VENUS

March 27, 2017 at 7:58pm PDT / 2:58am UT (28th)

Sun and Moon conjoined at 07°37' Aries

picYears ago when I was a second grade teacher, I inadvertently ignited a school-wide conflict which ended in my decision to leave teaching for good. The trigger was a note sent home to the parents of my students.

Invariably each morning, two, three, sometimes four different mothers would breeze in the room while class was in session. Each would sing out to their child across the room while waving some item in the air: a lunch box, soccer gear, gloves, hat or some other item that had been mistakenly left behind that morning. Sometimes the mother would leave blowing kisses to her child. All of my students stopped working to watch the entire performance, and it would take a minute or two to get everyone back on task again — just in time for the next mother to come sailing in.

At first it was no big deal, a minor frustration. After ten years of teaching I realized few people understood what it takes to keep 20 or more students happily engaged and on task, and too, there was always that beginning-of-the-year dust that needed to settle. But after a month went by and these drop-ins weren't dropping off in frequency, I included what I thought was an uncontroversial request in a weekly newsletter, asking parents to drop off forgotten items in the office rather than interrupt the class during instruction time.

That autumn marked the beginning of my second year at this particular school. I had made some good friends among my fellow teaching staff and had a successful first year under my belt. My principal had just recently informed me that I was (as he put it) one of the most popular teachers because of the number of parent requests to have their children placed in my classroom. This "honor" and good reputation was what ironically landed this particular group of parents in my midst, folks who gave me a mountain of grief over such a little thing.

So in short, a lot was made out of my note. I tried for months to resolve the big, absurd blow-up that ensued: I met with parents individually to hear them out and explain why I made the request. I met with the president of the local education board, and with my teachers' association. I agreed to attend an evening "venting session" facilitated by my principal. Ostensively to allow an airing of grievances, it devolved into a pretty ugly and counter-productive mud-slinging session, which the "facilitator" did nothing to stop. Sitting there it became obvious to me that no one in this group, my principal included, felt I had the right to set even reasonable limits.

But I would not apologize, and that completely irked my principal and these parents, who not only wanted me to apologize, but grovel. I admit I can be stupidly obstinate, and sometimes I am not very good at picking and choosing my battles; but I did realize the I did realize the enormity of what I was risking: my credentials and livelihood as an educator. Yet something in me just could not bow and scrape to these parents.enormity of what I was risking: my credentials and livelihood no less as an educator, which took years of hard work to achieve. Yet something in me just could not bow and scrape to these parents. While I had the support of many colleagues and parents in the school community who were just as outraged by the situation as I was, I did not have critical administrative support, and gradually it became clear what I had to do. So I tendered my resignation and was gone by midterm.

It was a huge relief to leave this job, and in retrospect a wise decision, nevertheless it was scary, and to this day I miss being a teacher. I was not only out of a job, but the prospects of ever teaching again, given the kind of reference I would get from this particular principal, looked pretty grim. The experience was one of the darkest, most difficult passages of my entire vocational life, and it took some time to get over it. When I found out later that in this same group of parents were important financial donors for the school, and had been causing similar troubles for years, something my principal had "neglected" to tell me — and most illuminating of all, he was having an affair with one of them — I was definitely glad to be out of that viper's nest.

* * *

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

— M. Scott Peck

A Uranus/Neptune conjunction was exact when this conflagration was going on in the fall of 1993, and it was exact-to-the-minute conjunct my Part of Fortune in Capricorn in the Ninth house. The Ninth house is Jupiter's realm and is associated with expanding horizons, travel, philosophy, publishing and freedom. So what did I start doing after I left teaching? I began writing adaptations of fairy and folktales to submit for publication. Nine months later, I landed a job at an educational software company as a product manager and began producing teacher's guides. My writing and editing career had begun. Uranus, planetary ruler of my Aquarius Midheaven (career sector of the chart), provided the sudden, unexpected crisis that freed me from a job that was not right for me, and Neptune contributed the creative and spiritual inspiration and connection to the muse; and in its own soul-deep way, a release from something that was very wrong for me. The focus and compass bearings — "the where" — was textbook Ninth house.

Pluto was also a big factor, transiting through Scorpio at the time; and at the height of the crisis, the Lord of Intensity was smack dab on the midpoint between my natal Scorpio Sun/Mars conjunction, part of a natal grand cross that includes my Taurus Ascendant, Uranus in Leo opposite Chiron in Aquarius (in the 10th house) — setting off this complex and central chart configuration. Transiting Mercury was also in Scorpio and conjunct my natal Mars (the note was the trigger), approaching conjunction to transiting Pluto, while transiting Mars, a most potent trigger, was also in Scorpio, exactly opposed my Taurus Ascendant and heading for my natal Mars and its return, marking a brand new two-year cycle of achievement and challenge. And a solar eclipse that same autumn reinforced all of the above transits, falling one degree from my natal Mars, along with a lunar eclipse two weeks later that opposed my Mercury-Jupiter conjunction in Sagittarius.

All in all, looking back at this time as an astrologer, I got off rather easily given so many simultaneous transits. Lessons learned about the power to stand alone, trusting in my own integrity, and sticking to my convictions, come hell or high water, with or without support, were all powerfully gleaned from this very painful, course-altering passage in my life. Sometimes it is prudent and wise of course to compromise, be a team player, put your own needs aside and support the flow of the group, at other times, given the team itself, it is most definitely not okay.

* * *

Galadriel: I give you the light of Eärendil, our most beloved star. May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

— J. R. R. Tolkien

I remember a vivid dream I had soon after I left teaching that year. I was in the living room of my home. It was late in the evening and without any warning a train crashed right into the living room wall. The conductor, a woman, got out and was rumpled up a bit but otherwise uninjured. She scratched her head and said something like I have no idea how that happened! I made some tea, and while we were sitting at my kitchen table sipping the tea and chatting, a wolf ran up to the living room window and looked in. As I was watching him, his face transformed into a human one and then back. I noticed that the window glass was missing and that he could have easily gotten in the house, but he didn't. According to the Native Americans wolf is the pathfinder or teacher.

Wolf is associated with the Moon and Sirius, the Dog Star, which in Native American legend is thought to be the home of the ancient teachers and sages, the ones who light the way. Wolf also represents our wild soul, the fire that safeguards and protects, keeps us from becoming too tame and docile, too conventional. This wild soul symbolism is very much in keeping with Aries/Mars courage, the grit we discover in ourselves when circumstances force us to fall back on ourselves, and dig deep, stand our ground when we must. It is, after all, our own internal light that we must follow, and sometimes this comes at great cost. But often we get our best glimpse of this inner light when life is at its darkest.

Hierosgamos — "With the Stars"

TOMORROW'S NEW MOON falls in Aries, a sign ruled by passionate Mars and associated with this very same quest to bravely develop ourselves as true individuals — picto answer the call of our own singular, unique nature and its deeper desires. In the course of our demanding lives, in the necessary compromises and challenges of our intimate and work relationships, we too often neglect this, yet it is an important responsibility we have to ourselves.

This Aries concept of personal integrity — wholeness — is a critical theme right now with the New Moon conjoined Venus, just past her own "New" phase marked by the conjunction to the Sun only yesterday. This "inferior conjunction" marks the midpoint of the retrograde and the beginning of a brand new Venus cycle in our lives. So two cycles converge at this Mars-ruled New Moon, with both relationship planets, Venus and Mars, in mutual reception — each falling in a sign the other rules: Venus in Mars-ruled Aries and Mars in Venus-ruled Taurus. This mutual reception connection underscores the male-female, hierosgamos or inner marriage motifs in this lunation: the integration of opposites, the uniting of light and dark. As the late astrologer-philosopher Alice O. Howell discussed this "sacred union" in a post from her wonderful blog, CREDO

This heavy Greek word means Sacred Marriage and is the process associated with Jung's work on the Coincidentia Oppositorum, which is Latin for the "uniting of opposites." As this is the underlying motif of all earthly manifestation and the brain itself, instrument of ego consciousness, it is worth considering. (This word, incidentally, means "with the stars.") And the royal pair in our solar system is, of course, the Sun and the Moon. Perhaps you are familiar with the alchemical drawing of the King and Queen with those heavenly orbs beneath their feet and a dove and six-pointed star above their joined hands.

picThis particular New Moon, coinciding with the midpoint of Venus's reevaluation retrograde project on all matters of the heart, and preceding a Venus-ruled Libra Full Moon, the cosmic task over this next lunar month is to pay close attention to key relationship challenges and insights that come up. Where do you most need to "shore up" the self? strengthen your fortresses, and face where you have perhaps sacrificed too much autonomy and personal integrity in the quest for peace and harmony, love and partnership? And conversely, where you are being too selfish and inconsiderate, not flexible enough, not available and supportive enough for the people you love? Aries and Libra are polar signs, and they challenge us to find a healthier balance in this crucial give-and-take dance. What direction does this Aries-Libra fulcrum point need to shift in your life?

Astrologer Isabel Hickey wrote, "From the universal standpoint, Aries is the first impulse of the life force into activity, the descent of the Divine Spark into manifestation. Wherever Aries is placed in your horoscope is where you, as Spirit, begin to operate." The house which Aries rules in your natal chart and the placement of its planetary ruler Mars reveals the nature of this self-protective heroic spark that lives inside all of us. We all have the courage to face the dragons that rear up in our lives. It is important to keep track of our "Aries and Mars" — our fire — for they reveal where important sources of personal power thrive within us, an essential thing to know.

* * *

"You cannot pass," he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass."

— J. R. R. Tolkien, Gandalf faces the Balrog, The Lord of the Rings

Whenever I feel sad and depressed, rereading Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, or watching Peter Jackson's films adapted from these stories, are some of the best ways I've found to regain my hopefulness in a world where the forces of good seem so outnumbered. picGandalf the Grey, one of the main characters in the tales, was a wizard, sage teacher and wise counselor. In the story, he was forced to fight the balrog, a dragon-like demon, even though Gandalf was not, by nature, a warrior. He defeated the balrog but died in the battle, reborn as Gandalf the White, with even greater powers.

Gandalf was the only wizard who had not succumbed to the dark forces represented in the tales by Mordor and Sauron. While he was quick to anger, any irascibility was tempered with compassion, understanding and humor. His greatest asset was humility and because of this, saw the value in people considered lesser than he, such as the little hobbits, who became his most important allies. These surprising hobbits live at the heart of Tolkien's masterpiece and represent the story's ironic and powerful motif, which Tolkien gives the Elf queen Galadriel the honor of expressing: "Even the smallest person can change the course of the future."

Gandalf and the hobbits may seem to be, at first glance, only silly characters from a modern fairy tale, but they represent quite well this Mars/Aries bravado. We all, no matter how strong or clever, have this same reservoir of courage, the gallantry to stand alone if we have to, and the daring to find our own way, even when — especially when as Tolkien tells us — all other lights go out.

 



 


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Notes

C.G. Jung, The Collected Works. XIV: Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Oppositions in Alchemy, trans. R.F.C. Hull, (Bollingen Series, XX), first ed. 1963, sec. Ed. Princeton 1970, p. 43.

According to Karen-Claire Voss (in the footnotes for her article, The Hierosgamos Theme in the Images of the Rosarium Philosophorum), the first printed edition of the Rosarium Philosophorum was published in De Alchimia Opuscula Complura Veterum Philosophorum, Frankfurt, 1550

This is a updated reposting of an article I originally wrote for the Aries New Moon in 2010.

The illustration at the beginning of this article is by Alan Lee and is titled: 'Well, here is Mirkwood!' said Gandalf"

The illustration of the red knight is by early 20th century Russian illustrator and stage designer, Ivan Bilibin. From a collection of Russian Fairy Tales, it is an illustration for the tale, "Vasilisa, the Beautiful."

The illustration of Gandalf and the Balrog is by Argentine illustrator Gonzalo Kenny.


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