Rìo Abajo Rìo


July 23, 2017 at 2:45am PDT / 9:45am UT

Sun and Moon conjoined at 00°44' Leo

picTomorrow, we arrive at the Leo New Moon, a brand new cycle with this fixed fire sign enthroned. Regal, noble, courageous Leo is ruled by the Sun and strongly associated with creative self-expression, passion, joy and happiness. And when the New Moon falls in the Sun's own sign, it is a good time to examine how well we are stoking this important inner fire, applying our creative juices, making use of this essential, sunny vitality and life-giving energy.

The Sun can't help but shine that's its nature, and perhaps why many Sun-ruled Leos are so generous. A different kind of generosity, however, from the water signs, as Liz Green pointed out, in that the giving comes NOT from a response to the needs of others, but from a need to give out one's own light. Leo's generosity is not sacrificial, but self-expressive.

This is the first of two Leo New Moons in a row, the second of which will be a kick-ass solar eclipse we'll be able to see here in North America. So we've got one New Moon coming soon at the very beginning of Leo, the other at the tail end. A powerful emphasis on one sign with an eclipse and a double lunation. Leo is an critical force for growth and development for us all right now. So what does this mean?

* * *

"Listen — are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?"

— Mary Oliver

There are three major aspects from the New Moon, a conjunction to Mars, a square to Uranus and a trine to Chiron. The aspect to Uranus is out of sign, connecting a late-degree Aries Uranus with an initial degree Leo New Moon. From a whole-sign perspective, this is a flowing, harmonious fire trine. Out of sign aspects are different, because the signs involved connect differently from the aspect. So this alters the square as it does not carry the full amount of stress and conflict a normal square would bring. But a square it still is — and to explosive, "do-it-my-way" Uranus, with forceful, assertive Mars conjunct the New Moon adding to the FIRE! So freedom, the freedom to claim one's own path, a chomping-at-the-bit need to do things differently, to break out of those old tired routines will be an important drive over this next month. Along with the challenge to drum up sufficient courage to answer this strong Sun-Moon-Mars-Uranus "Call of the Wild."

This "out of sign" aspect to Uranus also suggests the need to do a better job trusting your own perceptions and feelings. Trusting your struggle. Doing a better job listening to yourself, not ignoring, justifying, forcing yourself to do things you know are wrong for you. What you perceive stems from how you feel and how well you are able to simply just be yourself, mind yourself. This connection to Uranus in Aries is a reminder of the importance of paying attention to how YOU feel and what YOU think, even though that may very different from other people's experiences and opinions. Mars-Uranus is very much a "make up your own damn mind" kind of energy, something a lot of us need a lot more of.

We ignore the natural ebb and flow of a normal creative life and push too hard, force it too much. And the muse eventually picks the lock on that ball and chain and flees.The other connection from the Leo New Moon is to Chiron, a trine, but like the Uranus aspect, also out of sign. Hitching Leo and Pisces, signs naturally "quincunx" each other, signs with nothing in common. So a flowing, easy, happy trine, this is NOT. This is the aspect most interesting to me, this rather difficult connection from New Moon to Chiron, from Leo to Pisces, because it underscores these two, very different kinds of giving. Issues around generosity vs sacrifice will be played out to some degree over this next month. In a larger sense, we are striving for more Leo big-heartedness and joy without Piscean self-subjugation and too much sacrifice; but also Leo self-expression that originates from a deeper, more soulful motivation than mere attention-seeking, gratification of the ego.

I think too this Leo-Pisces challenge represents a conundrum so many of us struggle with — that dream of turning something we love doing into a line of work. And yet, when we finally overcome the financial challenge and fear of doing so, the process of reworking a treasured hobby into a business can kill all the creative joy and fun we felt before. We chain our muse to a factory model of production where constant growth is mandatory. We ignore the natural ebb and flow of a normal creative life and push too hard, force it too much. And the muse eventually picks the lock on that ball and chain and flees. What was once a fun creative process becomes drudgery.

So how do we propagate more Leo creative expression, passion and joy in our lives without damaging the source?

The combined influences on this Leo New Moon evokes an old cautionary tale from Latin America, La Llorona, the "weeping woman" who, in a fit of passion, destroys her own creative soul, symbolized in the tale by her children. Jungian analyst and storyteller Clarissa Pinkola Estes retold the tale in her book, Women Who Run with the Wolves; and while it is commonly told as a rather dark and grim ghost story, in Dr. Estes' hands the tale's richer, archetypal meaning shines through.

picLa Llorona is set in the early 1500s when the conquistadors invaded the Aztec/Nahuatl peoples of Mexico, but it may be far older than that. "It is a tale about the river of life," Estes tells us, "that became a river of death." In the story, a beautiful peasant woman attracts the attention of a rich Spanish nobleman and they become lovers. She bears the man two sons, but he does not marry her, instead he returns to Spain to marry another woman and plans to take her children with him. Crazed with jealousy and hate for this man, she picks up her two small sons, runs to the river, swollen with winter rain, and throws them in the swift current. Her two sons drown and she falls to the ground in grief and dies. The soul of this tragic woman becomes La Llorona who haunts the riverbank forever searching for her lost sons.

Another version of the tale which Estes collected from a young Colorado boy, is an interesting variation. In the boy's retelling the rich nobleman owned a factory on the river. Pregnant with twin boys, La Llorona drank from the river and her babies were born blind and disfigured, for the factory had poisoned the river, the town's water supply; and just like the other version, La Llorona threw her babies into the river and died on the bank of grief.

Like many tales, folk, mythology and religious stories, they are not meant to be taken literally, but metaphorically. The tale represents a psychological truth. La Llorona's children symbolize her own creative process, her life, which she has foolishly sacrificed. When we allow this to happen, Dr. Estes writes:

"...both the woman and the river decline. Then a woman whose creative life is dwindling experiences, like La Llorona, a sensation of poisoning, deformation, a desire to kill off everything. Subsequently she is driven to seemingly endless searching through the wreakage for her former creative potential."

In order for our "psychic ecology to be made right again," Estes tells us, "the river has to be purified, made clear once again. It is not the quality of our creative products that we are concerned with through this story, but the determination and care of our creative life. Always behind the actions of writing, painting, thinking, healing, doing, cooking, talking, smiling, making is the river, the Rìo Abajo Rìo, the river under the river nourishes everything we make."

"So we see that the river symbolizes a form of feminine largess that arouses, excites, makes passionate. Women's eyes flash as they create, their words lilt, their faces flush with life, their very hair seems to shine more. They are excited by the idea, aroused by the possibilities, impassioned by the very thought, and at that point, like the great river, they are meant to flow outward and continuously on their own creative path. That is the way women feel fulfilled. And this is the condition of the river that La Llorona once lived by before destruction occurred."

But sometimes, as in the tale, a woman's creative life is taken over by something that wants to manufacture things of the ego only, which have no lasting soul-worth. This struggle often manifests as pressure from society that makes us feel as if our creative ideas are useless, that no one will value our work, and it is futile for us to even try. "That is pollution," Estes reminds us, "pouring lead into the river. That is what poisons the psyche. When there is too much soulless manufacturing, toxic waste pours into the pure river, killing off both creative impulse and energy." The most common effect of pollution in women's creative life, Estes writes, is loss of vitality. Then the creative life dies because we are not tending to the health of the river.

"It is that kind of acting, that kind of ego-wish to belong at all costs, that knocks out the Wild Woman connection in the psyche. Then instead of a vital woman you have a nice woman who is de-clawed."


Navarro River, Mendocino County California

We all have access to rìo abajo rìo, the "river beneath the river." We can make our way to this source through any number of creative acts that feed heart and soul. "A woman arrives in this world-between worlds through yearning," Estes tells us, "and by seeking something she can see just out of the corner of her eye." If you've lost focus, inspiration, just sit down and be still. Take an idea and rock it to and fro. Keep some of it and throw some away, and it will renew itself. You need do no more."



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Estés, Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run With the Wolves. New York: Ballatine, 1992.

The river photos shown in this post were taken by me on the Navarro river, our nearest and dearest river.

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