Planet Waves

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Planet Waves
In the shadow of Saturn, unexpected wonders appear. The robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn drifted in the giant planet's shadow for about 12 hours in 2006 and looked back toward the eclipsed Sun. Cassini saw a view unlike any other. Here, the night side of Saturn is seen to be partly lit by light reflected from its own majestic ring system. This is the same Saturn that's in your chart. Photo: Cassini Team.
Life Passages: The Return of Saturn
I am older than I once was / And younger than I'll be...
After changes upon changes / We are more or less the same

-- Paul Simon, from the missing verse of "The Boxer"

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now, 
And will never be any more perfection than there is now

-- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Dear Friend and Reader:

As the world churns, the rest of the solar system keeps moving, silently and dependably. As it does, the current positions of the planets make what are called 'transits' to our natal chart -- they touch and act on the positions of the planets when we were born. Many transits happen to everyone each year, but there are some events that stand out in the course of a lifetime. 

Planet Waves
In 1977, humans launched the Voyager 1 spacecraft (along with its twin, Voyager 2) to take advantage of a favorable alignment of planets in the 1970s -- the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction that was exact in 1981, with Uranus and Neptune right in the neighborhood. These aspects told quite a story in world history, from the election of Reagan to the fall of the Soviet empire.
One thing is for sure: these transits arrive, and when they do, the thing to do is meet them with clear intent and willingness to grow.

Most of the major transits (sometimes called key life transits) that astrologers work with involve the slow movers: Saturn, Uranus, Chiron, Neptune and Pluto. Howard Sasportas once described these as the gods of change, because when they come through our lives, our lives become different.

They are moments of transformation, and though not everyone has a 'good time' going through them, with astrological help they can be easier, more meaningful and more consciously useful. It's rare, however, that people have astrological help or even the most basic information available to them.

Most people know of at least one key life transit  -- thanks to the Internet, 'Saturn return' is a household phrase. That's the transit that happens when Saturn returns to its own natal position in your chart, completing a full 29-year cycle -- one of the most meaningful steps on the way to adulthood. The second Saturn return is about restructuring one's life on the way into later adulthood (what used to be called 'retirement'). 

There are many others, though, including the opposition of Uranus to its natal position, the square of Neptune to its natal position, and a diversity of Chiron transits. There are also some subtler Saturn transits, and a diversity of transits that are unique to an individual's natal chart. 

Planets Beyond Saturn

When we talk about key life transits, we're mainly talking about Saturn and the planets beyond it. There are exceptions. For example, for part of its orbit, Chiron is considerably closer to the Sun than Saturn, though with profound effects. Sometimes a closer-in planet like Jupiter may be involved. But mostly we are talking about the experiences of the slow-movers, which gain strength and influence specifically for moving slowly.

For example, when Pluto makes a square to its natal position, that's a turning point as well, happening these days at around age 36. For our grandparents, because Pluto was so much farther from the Sun during their lifetimes, that same transit happened at age 60, a very different time in one's life. In the current era, the Pluto square is a necessary follow-up to the first Saturn return, a time to deepen one's experience, to do cleanup work and to put the maturity one has earned to good use. The Pluto square takes matters to a deeper level, what you might call a depth of spiritual contact.

Planet Waves
Uranus really is different. It orbits sideways and rotates backwards, to name two distinctions. It's now considered the second-most distant 'planet' from the Sun, followed by Neptune. Illustration by Corey Ford, who has full-size prints available.
Uranus, which has an 84-year orbit, reaches the opposition point to its natal position these days when a person reaches age 42. That's a big moment, and it happens just once in the course of a lifetime unless you live to age 126. Some call this the midlife crisis; I prefer to think of it as an opportunity for radical personal reinvention. This is true of other Uranus transits, sometimes to an equal extent, sometimes subtler.

Along the way, we experience a diversity of Chiron transits. These transits are a story all their own, happening on a different schedule for different age groups with each passing phase of time. Often Chiron transits exchange themes and events with other transits, and are sometimes timed synchronously. Yet because Chiron has an elongated orbit, every age group has its transits on a different schedule, with the exception of one, the Chiron return at approximately age 50.

Chiron is a massive comet (technically called a proto-comet) with an orbit in the shape of a stretched-out ellipse. It has an orbit just over 50 years, though it takes 15 years to go around half the solar system when it's closer to the Sun, and 35 years to go around the other half when it's far from the Sun. Because of this, some age groups can have the first square of Chiron to its natal position at age 7. Other age groups have it at age 15 and others at age 22, with much variability in between. Everyone has their own personal schedule of Chiron transits.

When you seek information from a professional astrologer, they're likely to highlight the most recent, current and upcoming key life transits. They are relatively easy to work with, though the attitude of the astrologer makes a big difference in your perception of the transit you're experiencing. If the astrologer says, "This is going to be difficult," it's more likely to be so. If your astrologer says, "This is going to be an adventure," it's much more likely to feel like one.

Many factors of your key life transits can be addressed without a personal reading; they have a lot in common. 

When I work with a client during one of these transits, I take into account the qualities of the planet involved, the aspect it's making to the natal position, as well as the qualities of the signs involved. I estimate that between a Saturn return in Libra and one in Scorpio, there may be about a 60% overlap in basic material. The sign placement offers additional clarity, and then there's the house placement and the aspects to other planets, which further clarify things. Yet the most significant information comes from the client. As you read this article, consider the different times in your life and note what you've learned and what you've been through. The key life transits often weave together to tell one coherent story -- notably, one that hasn't yet ended. 

The Timing of the Transits

In this article I will go over the basics of the Saturn return. (I will cover the other planets in later articles.) Saturn is in Scorpio, returning for all people with Saturn in that sign -- those born between late 1982 through late 1985 are having their first return. There are a number of peak events within that time frame, and there will be a margin on either end for charts that are especially receptive to the transit (for example, if you're born with Scorpio rising). 

Planet Waves
Most people use clocks and calendars to keep track of time, though that's rather short-sighted. Astrologers use the motions of planets, which cover much longer spans of time. Saturn is one of the astrological factors that covers the topic of time, its use and its passage. Photo by Eric Francis.
Those born between late 1953 and late 1956 are currently experiencing their second Saturn return. Those born between mid-1969 and early 1972 are currently experiencing their Saturn opposition, as are those born between mid-1998 and mid-2001. (If you have Saturn in Leo or Aquarius, you're currently experiencing a Saturn square.)

Uranus is now in Aries, and is currently making an opposition to the natal position of those born from around 1970 through around 1974, with subsequent years not far behind. This transit will affect people between about age 37 and age 43. Because planets often cluster up or form complex patterns, it's possible to start experiencing the effects of a major transit earlier, and for it to extend well beyond the usually proscribed age range. The peak, however, is usually in the age ranges I'm describing.

Sometimes, however, the effects of a transit can seem to linger if we don't 'do the work' of the transit, make the decisions or process the material that comes up during the transit. Often, there will be a subsequent transit following shortly to help with that. For example, not long after the Saturn return ends, there's Pluto square Pluto. Soon after that passes by there is Uranus opposite Uranus.

Saturn: The Misunderstood Planet

Saturn may be the most misunderstood planet. Associated with structure, authority and stability, Saturn has been called many things by astrologers that have propagated considerable unnecessary negativity. I consider Saturn to be the internal governing principle. If you structure and run your own life, you won't need someone to do it for you. 

While you may hear Saturn associated with being stuck, there are few more dependable agents of change and progress than this planet. For those who fear loss, I would remind you of the words of Patric Walker, who suggested that Saturn always gives more than it takes away. 

Planet Waves
Stunning view of Saturn casting a shadow over its own rings. We had seen no such perspective on Saturn until the arrival of Cassini in the early 2000s. Photo: Cassini Team.
One of the most significant elements of Saturn is the structuring of time. Both the themes of 'time' and 'structure' are from old delineations, but the structuring of time is something I've adapted from the work of Dr. Eric Berne. In his book Games People Play, he describes the ability to structure time as a necessary prerequisite for sincere intimacy. We do not live forever, so if we want time enough for love, we have to make space for that experience. That's a necessary element of maturity.

With Saturn it's necessary that you do your part, and then it will do its part. This is to say, consider the themes I've mentioned. Be real to yourself and to what is indicated in your Saturn placement as you grow to understand it, and you'll be at a considerable advantage over others without this understanding. There are often associations with parents where Saturn is involved, and in this respect the message is simple: resolve your relationship to them. Don't let them run your life vicariously, and know when you're aspiring (whether consciously or otherwise) to be them. You're not them and they are not you; you are you.

Transits of Saturn have a few themes in common -- development of maturity, the structure of our lives and the work that we do. Along with these themes, people undergoing Saturn transits will often experience changes or rearrangements in their relationships. This falls under the general heading of maturity and structure.

I know people who refuse to have intimate relationships with those who have not had their Saturn return; they are often too much like kids. When the Saturn return is done consciously, this is a transit that can help people settle into more grounded and mature attitudes and values. Your relationship to responsibility and the world around you is rearranged, usually in helpful ways.

Saturn Returns to Scorpio

That said, I suspect that the newest Saturn in Scorpio sub-generation is struggling a bit with these themes, owing mainly to the state of the world. I recently read that fully one-third of American adults are either unemployed or have given up looking for work. This placement lends itself to serious, clever and committed people who take using their resources wisely as a cornerstone of their lives, in a world that seems to be squandering everything it has.  

Planet Waves
People having their Saturn returns today have watched many peers become rich and famous for doing little or nothing. Kim Kardashian is just such a person. Along the way she was awarded $5 million in 'damages' for a far more boring sex tape than many other women her age make.
These natives are emerging into adulthood in a world where there is a radical imbalance in the distribution of resources -- such as vast gaps between the pay of CEOs and ordinary employees. They watched the leaders of the banking system nearly cripple the economy and bankrupt the federal government, then the banksters walked away not only without prosecution but with millions of dollars in personal gain.

This is also one of the first crop of Saturn return people who grew up with the Internet. While unlike some of their younger siblings they were not born into the Internet, the IBM PC came out in August 1981 and the Macintosh came out in January 1984. That would be fine except for the ways in which computing rearranged the professional world, consumed many more jobs than it created and eventually fostered an environment where people could entertain themselves into oblivion. 

Many of the people they see doing the entertaining have been catapulted to instant fame and fortune, and one thing that can hold back current Saturn return people is the expectation that this might happen to them. However, most (not all but most) very young people who find themselves living glamourous lives didn't get there by mastering Saturn; they had something else going for them, and the adults around them provided the Saturn structure. This is one reason why so many famous young people cannot stay out of trouble.

Meanwhile, it's difficult to imagine a sub-generation that's seen more change in its short lifetime than this one. Between the day they were born and the day of their Saturn return, the world had gone through more revisions, renovations and recreations than all the open-source software combined. They are used to a world where something is new and exciting one day and irrelevant the next -- and that won't get you far with Saturn. 

If there seems to be nothing to hang onto or no easy way in, that's not an illusion. It's a difficult fact of life that they must face. When they are ready to start taking on serious work assignments, there are fewer of those opportunities than ever.

It's particularly cruel that those who sought an education are saddled with more college debt than any generation that came before them, with fewer work opportunities to help them pay that debt off.

Planet Waves
Nearly all students graduate from their undergraduate education deep in debt, and many are struggling to find decent jobs to pay back the banks. The whole point of college loans is to create an educated workforce; now it seems merely about enriching the banks. Photo of Capen Hall at SUNY New Paltz by Eric Francis.
The real estate crisis has done little to lower rents, even as property values have plunged. Those at their Saturn return, who might ordinarily leave their parents' home and the roomies behind, may be stuck living with others long past when it's productive for them.

One of my readers described her dilemma eloquently. "All the possibilities available seem to overwhelm my ability to embrace even one of them fully. Which keeps me away from intimately relating to what is in front of me, whether it's a partner, an idea, a possibility." 

She continued: "The fear of death seams to be pushing for a strong desire to accomplish something. An obsession with the future, and what to do to get there. The urge to share the body of artwork I have built up the last few years and to share the wisdom of the person I have become. At times, I even sense an imminent death, then an intense anxiety arises, of not having shared to the world my art, my love and my vision for the world and all people.

"I have a strong sense of who I am and what I am here to do. But it is the urge to do it and the fear that I won't that is so prominent over the last weeks. The pressure feels as if it's a one-time opportunity to grow up into what I will become."

The Second Saturn Return

Those in their second Saturn return, in their late 50s, must really be looking at society in bewilderment right now. Those born in the mid-1950s were some of the original 'save the world' people -- they were teenagers at the time of the first Earth Day, and those impressions never left them -- but there's a big mystery where the idealism went. 

Their older siblings helped stop the Vietnam War, so they had the notion that social justice was possible. Now many more major wars later, none of those ideals have come to fruition. My sense is that many are ready to take up the good fight perhaps for the first time, now that their children are grown and many are watching their grandchildren grow up in an extremely uncertain, increasingly dangerous world. They too are struggling for a way into meaningful participation, but the shock must be even greater because they've lived through many phases of history when that participation really was possible.

Planet Waves
Astronaut Dave Bowman catches a glimpse of himself as an old man in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film is filled with themes of Saturn, including many visual illustrations of the nature of space and time, and visits to other dimensions.
There is the pressure of leadership because at the second Saturn return one truly becomes an 'elder' in society -- one entrusted with moral leadership. And unless they've had very successful careers, their plight for survival is often harder than those who are at their first Saturn return. In this world it's not possible to be mature enough.

Yet I think that if they are able to use the restructuring power of Saturn and not succumb to the pessimism that really is possible with Saturn in Scorpio, they will be able to provide a solid foundation for the generations that came after them. They are not too old to think for the future, and future generations are counting on it.

Meanwhile, there are many deep personal issues that call for resolution when Saturn in Scorpio is aspected by itself or by another planet. By the second Saturn return, the confrontation with fertility and sexuality is not as potent as the confrontation with mortality, as those experiencing it see many of their elders depart the planet, sometimes in groups. One difference between the first and second Saturn returns is that at the second, the thought of mortality is less an abstraction and more a reality. Many of my readers have commented about what it's like to see their elder relatives in decline.

Physical health is usually a greater concern at the second Saturn return. Yet despite this, many at this time seem to start their lives over, get divorced and begin new relationships, change careers and even go back to school to develop additional skills.

For those with Saturn in Scorpio at either Saturn return, there may be titanic questions about the role of sexuality and relationships in their lives, which are now coming to a boil. For people entering their second Saturn return, subject matter that was seemingly left behind during their 30s can come right back, seeking attention and healing. Perhaps people are not expecting to explore questions about sexuality or their sexual legacy in their late 50s, but we are after all talking about Scorpio here.

Planet Waves
The second Saturn return can be a time of reclaiming one's life and pursuing interests outside of work and family. Photo of Jim in his Woodstock studio by Eric Francis.
I've been doing some reading in the old astrology texts, and all authors who have commented on Saturn in Scorpio have noted its deep feelings and its tendency to secrecy -- these individuals don't give up their pearls easily, whether black or otherwise. Now those feelings and secrets are working their way to the surface, and this may leave those with this placement feeling especially vulnerable and asking the deepest questions of their lives.

And then there can be the dawning of that elusive thing, wisdom. As one of my readers wrote recently, her life "would be most dramatic if it weren't so quiet here, in my body and person and whereabouts. I've spent the last decade building a house. Now it's about done. I have a home, something I've wanted since childhood. Mostly, I have equanimity, a quality that always eluded me, that I've often prayed for, and this translates into more confidence, more of a feeling of myself and not a cloak or a ghost. 

"I started reading poetry again. I used to be a woman who sought advice everywhere, and now I'm the rock in the stream, all the chaos flowing around and over me. I don't have to attend so many seminars, read so many books, which makes for more time."

Ah yes, were it so. Were it so.


Planet Waves
Truth or Dare in the Manifestation Zone

We're about a week out from the last of three eclipses -- a lunar eclipse in Sagittarius -- but before we get there, there's even bigger news: Monday, May 20, is an exact contact of the Uranus-Pluto square. Uranus-Pluto is the defining signature of this current era, 'the 2012 aspect', though we will not know its full effect and meaning until years later. 

Planet Waves
The third contact of the Uranus-Pluto square, the 2012-era aspect. There are many other squares in this chart, including Mercury and Venus square Chiron, and the Sun square Neptune. This chart is about the provocation to action, but it also questions human capacity for accepting and working with what is true.
But it's easy to see in action: sudden upheaval, sparks of revolution, and the potential for evolution. We would be wise to question how exactly this aspect is working, however. In other words, whose revolution are we in the midst of? Are progressive or regressive forces getting more traction?

Monday's Uranus-Pluto contact is exact at 7:02 pm EDT. The chart to the right is set for Washington, D.C. This will be the third out of seven exact contacts, which stretch from June 2012 through March 2015 (with a few years on either side when the effects are noticeable). Also on Monday, Venus becomes the first of the personal planets in Gemini to square Chiron. This is the beginning of the expression of 'what is really true', in response to questions Neptune has been raising.

Chiron will get your attention, especially if there have been lapses of integrity in your love relationships (Venus), letting you know in no uncertain terms how you can heal. Hint: it will take an active choice to come into alignment with the truth.  

Meanwhile, Mercury, Venus and the Sun have been making a series of squares to Neptune, adding a chaotic, deceptive energy to the mix. If we're going to have a revolution, it's going to start with telling the truth. But that's not what the sport or business of politics is based on. So we either need a total transformation in the political realm or to take the discussion outside of politics, or both.

Uranus square Pluto has the potential to open up our cultural fabric in a way that lets us weave something new; something that actually moves us forward as a society. But that will take holding a positive vision and being vigilant in recognizing those who would fill the opening with 'advancements' that actually set us back. The vision must be backed with action, and not 'action by others'. This is about each of us, individually and collectively. 

On the more internal, personal level, consider Uranus-Pluto a kind of booster rocket for whatever evolutionary leaps you're making during this eclipse season. Whether you're feeling these eclipses as subtle tugs to your subconscious or clarion calls too loud to miss, Uranus and Pluto will likely add some spark and muscle to the process -- if you work the energy.

Planet Waves
Chart of the Sagittarius lunar eclipse on May 25, 2013. Note the triple conjunction in Gemini -- of Venus, Mercury and Jupiter. The Sun and Moon are both square Neptune, a powerful applying square. Saturn and Neptune are in a trine aspect, something that deserves a closer look, which we will do soon.
The Sun ingresses Gemini Monday, May 20, and will make a square to Neptune. That early Gemini Sun is then met by the May 25 lunar eclipse in Sagittarius, which has both the Moon and the Sun square Neptune. In the current week, Venus and Mercury are square Neptune.

So what's with all these squares to Neptune? They represent questions of integrity. It's about what is true, what you believe, how you describe your experience. In other words, the integrity piece is about speaking the truth and discerning what is not true. The May 25 eclipse looks like it bursts the bubble on illusions. That's to say, you probably don't want to be floating on one of those bubbles when the moment arises. The time to get gritty is now, though the sensation may be that 'real' is the least convenient option of them all.

Remember, where there are eclipses in the neighborhood, we're in a manifestation zone, where patterns are noticed, erased and rewritten. If you're someone who claims to live for truth, now is the time to question and notice everything that is not necessarily true. Subject everything to the same basic line of questioning. Scrutinize your intent. Listen to what you say and what others say to you.

Notice when you're believing something that's not true, or saying something that's not true. This is a habit. So are the white lies that we tell and believe. You could say this is a game of truth or dare. Are you willing to speak your truth, and in particular, to speak the truth of your feelings? Would you dare yourself to take action on who or what really matters to you? That is a pattern I think many people would say they want -- to let go of little deceptions, muster up some courage, and take an authentic emotional risk.

Planet Waves
This Week in the Anti-Sixties

As we approach the third of seven Uranus-Pluto squares Monday -- that's what I've been calling the 2012-era aspect, which spans from 2012-2015 with a nice margin on either side -- politicians in Washington appear to have gone even more mad than usual. You would think these people have nothing better to do and plenty of time on their hands because everything else in the world is going so well.

Planet Waves
Michele Bachmann spoke at a Tea Party rally this week and called for the impeachment of Barack Obama. This week all records were broken for use of the words 'impeach' and 'scandal'.
The frenzy is synchronous with the squares of Mercury and Venus to Neptune (not good for straightforward honesty and great for deceptive chaos) as well as the approach of an eclipse of the Moon in Sagittarius on Sunday, May 25, the third of three eclipses this spring. Here in the United States, four stories worth knowing about dominated the past five days of the news cycle.

One was the Republicans' ongoing uproar over the attack on a CIA post in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, including repeated hyperbolic calls for impeachment of Pres. Obama, and none other than Minister of Truth Dick Cheney weighing in claiming that Obama is a liar. At least we're starting to hear that the "diplomatic mission" was associated with the CIA rather than having it be called an embassy or a consulate, but that's more like a true rumor than something that's easy to track down.

In other words, what happened last Sept. 11 seems not to have been the result of normal politics or diplomacy; it was a covert operation gone bad. However, that's not what the Republicans are saying; they're selling it as some kind of nondescript scandal in a media campaign designed to inflict maximum damage on Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time and who will probably run for president in 2016. Everyone seems to understand this.

As POLITICO noted Friday, house Republicans have the power to call a select committee to investigate the issue (that is, to do something serious if they have real concerns), but that would cost millions of dollars (which would not look frugal) and sideline everyone not on the committee who is currently making a lot of political hay out of the issue.

Planet Waves
Dick Cheney called Obama a liar this week. AP photo.
They would have to shut up and let the committee do its work. Therefore, it's more effective to just let the chaos unfold, no matter how ridiculous it makes them look.

Next was the revelation that the Justice Department subpoenaed the telephone records of hundreds of AP reporters in several major bureaus last year, purportedly to track down who in the federal government had leaked information about a foiled al Qaeda bomb plot based in Yemen.

This included office phone records, cell phone records and much besides. Attorney General Eric Holder was being interviewed by the FBI and had to recuse himself from the case.

While what happened to the AP, a worldwide news agency based in New York City, seems to be collateral damage in Obama's obsession with stopping leaks from his government, there is an obvious chilling effect that all journalists are feeling. That is to say, it's scary to do real journalism when you think that your phone records or emails are going to end up in the hands of federal investigators, which would reveal all of your sources, contacts and private details of your life. There remains a lot of confusion over how this even happened.

Planet Waves
Richard Nixon jumped into the political fray this week, holding a press conference where he now resides, in purgatory, calling for the resignation of Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, heads rolled at the IRS after the revelation that the agency was scrutinizing conservative groups who had applied for tax-exempt status. Two of the agency's top officials were forced to resign over a policy of scrutinizing groups with names that included "Tea Party" and "patriot" who had applied for tax-exempt status.

This began in 2010 after the Citizens' United decision of the Supreme Court declared that money is a form of speech and should flow freely like words from the mouth of a preacher.

And two more high-ranking military officers with oversight over sex crimes were accused of sex crimes, bringing the total to three [see related story below]. Meanwhile, Republicans in the House of Representatives tried to repeal Obamacare for the 37th time this week.

If it seems that Republicans are engaging in a coordinated assault on Obama's ability to get anything done, that's an accurate perception. If it seems that Obama continues to rack up an atrocious record on respect for basic civil liberties, that is also true.

Planet Waves
The Military's Sexual Assault Epidemic

News broke this week of yet more members of U.S. military sexual assault prevention task forces being investigated for committing -- you guessed it -- sexual assault.
Earlier this week, an Army coordinator of sexual assault prevention  at Fort Hood, Texas, was accused of multiple charges; last week, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, head of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, was charged with groping a woman.
Planet Waves
Senate subcommittee on Personnel Chair Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. addresses the third panel on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, during the hearing on sexual assault in the military. Finally, women leaders are cracking open the military's bullshit handling of rape. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP.
And just last night, The Associated Press reported that Lt. Col. Darin Haas, the manager of the prevention program at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, was arrested for stalking.
The disgusting irony is driven home by a report released last week by the Pentagon on rape and sexual assault in the U.S. military. An estimated average of 70 sexual assaults are committed daily within the U.S. military, or 26,000 per year. Only 3,374 of those sexual assaults were actually reported for the Pentagon's fiscal year 2012.

Out of those, only 190 were sent to a court-martial proceeding. Notably, just over half the cases in this latest report involved male victims.
"There's a sense that, well, because you're a woman, you'll be sexually assaulted; because women are in the military, inevitably they'll be sexually assaulted -- which is completely false," said Anu Bhagwati, executive director and co-founder of Service Women's Action Network, on Democracy Now! on May 8. "And that rape mythology has to be addressed head-on, because still the vast majority of servicemembers are men."
Clearly the military can't handle this from within. These attitudes are too widespread and too deeply entrenched, but the Uranus-Pluto square is beginning to bust open the hermetically sealed structure of military legal proceedings for sexual assault cases. The lack of access to civilian legal proceedings is a huge obstacle to justice for victims of rape in the military.
It's also clear that the issue of military rape is benefitting from what is historically the largest class of women in the U.S. Congress. Even the Senate Armed Services Committee now has a record seven female members. In a hearing of that committee last week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., grilled two high-ranking Air Force officers.
It seems that the Sun's conjunction to Pallas Athene in Taurus, which was exact for last week's eclipse and is still close, took the form of women warriors shining a light on what we ought to value as a culture but do not yet: the sexual, emotional and legal well-being of those charged with protecting the country.

Planet Waves
How Much Hood is Good? However Much You Have!

Have you ever been curious about just how widely varied women's genitals are? It's not quite such a taboo subject as it once was, but it's still not exactly dinner conversation, either (well, not for most people). This week, in honor of May being National Masturbation Month, here's a unique project to check out: a visual record of clitoral hood coverage.
Planet Waves
These are just a few styles of clitoral hood coverage. View the full chart here.
The Clitoral Hood Coverage Chart is a sister project to a chart showing varying degrees of foreskin coverage. The foreskin chart for penises was created by someone named Paul Sherriff as a way for men to determine how much foreskin they may have, whether circumcised or not.
Enter the 23-year-old, anonymous author of the blog He is currently using a non-surgical method to restore his foreskin (done through tugging/tensioning the existing penile skin, a painless activity according to him).

'Mr. Uncutting' got curious whether the same spectrum of variation existed in women's clitoral hoods, since that body part is basically the equivalent of foreskin. He put out a request for photos of clitoral hoods, and a number of women who follow his blog responded.
"Each clitoral hood you see here belongs to somebody who was willing to contribute to the project," writes the blog's author. "Pictures were taken in a non-aroused state, and contributors were asked to estimate their own level of coverage, to help me decide where on the chart to place them."
Notably, one of the photos belongs to a woman who was subjected to genital mutilation as an infant. Luckily, her labia and the clitoris itself were left uncut, though the hood was removed.
If you are a woman who masturbates, chances are your clitoral hood plays a part in the pleasure. In fact, if your clitoris is extremely sensitive, touching your clit through the hood can mean the difference between pleasurable and painful stimulation.
Whatever kind of hood you have, this is the month to show it some appreciation. And if you want to add your beautiful vulva and clitoral hood to the chart, its creator is planning a second version. You can contact him here.

Planet Waves
Monsanto As Patent Troll: The Law of the Land

Monsanto never really had a business plan when it got into genetic modification in the early 1980s. When it finally came up with one, the outwardly stated mission was to feed the world and cut back on the use of pesticides by creating plants that killed the bugs themselves (to which the bugs quickly became resistant).

When that didn't work out, and when GMO crop yields came in lower than farmers were promised, and when drought resistant corn didn't work, and when Frito-Lay and McDonald's bailed on the NewLeaf Potato (the first crop that was also a registered pesticide), the business plan changed: Monsanto went on to create spray-resistant crops. That, at least, would sell more chemicals. 

Planet Waves
Vernon Hugh Bowman in February of this year, when he gave his testimony to the Supreme Court. AP/J. Scott Applewhite.
Now the business plan has morphed into patent trolling. That's when an 'inventor' makes it easy for someone to violate their patent, and then sues them. This is Business Plan C for Monsanto, which always has another trick or two up its sleeve. 

This week, the Supreme Court handed Monsanto a victory in the case Bowman v. Monsanto Co., in which it sought to block an Indiana farmer from planting patented newly grown soybean seeds not purchased directly from Monsanto. Notably, Bowman never purchased seeds from Monsanto -- he bought them on the open market from a grain distributor.

He then took some of his crop yield and replanted it the next year, as seeds have been used since right around when humans stopped being hunter-gatherers approximately 15,000 years ago. Bowman argued that the right to use the seed that he purchased necessarily included the right to plant the seed and its progeny.

The court rejected that argument, ruling, "If the purchaser of [the sold] article could make and sell endless copies, the patent would effectively protect the invention for just a single sale." 

The case demonstrates first the absurdity of patenting seeds -- and by extension, their natural processes -- as well as the business model of patent trolling, for which Monsanto has built a reputation. They have gone so far as to sue farmers neighboring those that use GMO seed whose pollen has contaminated the neighbor's crop.

In this case, because it's now been endorsed by the Supreme Court, Monsanto can sue and collect from any farmer using patented seeds that were not purchased directly from Monsanto. But that's just the beginning. The presumption is that Monsanto is always right, and that it's not worth fighting because Monsanto will go to the very top and probably win.

I wonder what would happen if some Monsanto-made DNA got into animal feed and turned up in the flesh of the animal. Would it own that too? This is not a game of a monopoly -- it's a case of Ice 9.

Planet Waves
Global War Coming Over Bees?

Russia's President Vladimir Putin kept U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waiting for more than three hours for a scheduled meeting this past week, to signal his "extreme outrage" over the United States's continued protection of global seed and plant bio-genetic giants Syngenta and Monsanto, manufacturers of chemicals that are killing much of the worldwide bee population.

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Um, Mr. Putin... Pretty sure the stinger goes on the other end. Photo from a 2012 protest by Dmitry Lovetsky/AP.
The Kremlin has called it a "bee apocalypse" that "will most certainly" lead to world war, said an article in the European Union Times, an Internet newspaper.

Bees are one of nature's pollinators, fertilizing more than a third of the world's food supply. According to a report from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, released last Friday, there is "undisputed evidence" that a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically related to nicotine, known as neonicotinoids, are decimating the Earth's bees. If left unchecked they could destroy our ability to grow enough food to feed the Earth's population.
The European Commission has placed a two-year ban on neonicotinoids, beginning in December 2013. The timing suggests that this is what you get when a powerful eclipse about 'values', occurring just after Beltane and featuring lots of planets in the earthiest of earth signs (Taurus), presages an exact contact of the Uranus-Pluto square.
If the United States doesn't follow suit with similar action that would be obvious to any rational nation -- and if Putin can be taken at his word -- the U.S. may feel the sting of something far bigger than a bee: Russia's military wrath.

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Planet Waves
Video still of Commander Chris Hadfield as he sings Bowie's "Space Oddity" while serving on the ISS. You might never hear a more haunting and heartfelt "Planet Earth is blue, and there's nothing left to do..."
A True Space Oddity

On Sunday, the world got a chance to hear a cover of David Bowie's hit "Space Oddity" that's unlike any other. Commander Chris Hadfield recorded it on board the International Space Station, while serving as the first Canadian in charge of a spacecraft. He relinquished command of the space station on Sunday, leaving a three-man U.S.-Russian crew on board to welcome the next trio of astronauts. Hadfield, American Thomas Marshburn and Russian Roman Romanenko landed in their space capsule south-east of the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 8:31 am local time on Tuesday.

It is believed to be the first music video ever created in space, and it's a beauty.

With reporting from The Guardian UK.

Planet Waves

Current Astrology, my Interview with Enceno Macy and Your Free Digital Issue of The Mountain Astrologer

Dear Friend and Reader:

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Enceno Macy moments after being released from 17 years in prison. Photo by Eric Francis.
In this week's edition of Planet Waves FM, I have for you my interview with Enceno Macy. He was released from prison last month after serving 17 years for a crime he didn't commit. You'll hear the story of how that happened, and discover that such a thing is actually possible.

He's been a Planet Waves contributor going back about five years, writing a diversity of articles for us -- including a new one that we've just published called Fresh Out. One of his articles, about the state of prisons in the U.S.,  also appeared in Listen, our 2013 annual edition.

Here's a Google search of where his Planet Waves articles have appeared.

Last Call: Free Digital Edition of The Mountain Astrologer

The Mountain Astrologer is considered the best English-language astrology journal. There aren't many left; TMA has persevered through the rising tide of the Internet, publishing six times a year. It now has a digital edition. I've been writing for TMA lately; last year I did an article introducing TMA's readers to my work with Eris and the centaurs (free download). In an upcoming issue I'll also have a major investigative feature, which I will leave under wraps for now.

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In addition to a whole free issue of TMA, you can get a copy of this article that took me 15 years to research and six hours to write.
TMA is very good at what it does. It was one of the first astrology resources I discovered, and it helped me get my start in the business. It offers a carefully edited, selective, balanced presentation of astrology. It has some excellent standing features, including resources for following planetary movements that are not available on the 'net.

Planet Waves and TMA are doing a kind of sample swap -- we've extended an offer for a five-week Planet Waves subscription to their readers, and TMA is offering a free digital edition to our readers -- the 112-page current April/May edition. You'll get it as a digital flipbook and also have access to each article as a downloadable PDF file. Digital-only subscriptions are available.

It's fun doing this kind of exchange, to cross-pollinate our readerships, in the early ethos of the Internet. I think that Planet Waves and TMA are the perfect complement, and they've been very nice to us.

Here's the link to get your free digital issue.

If you have any problem with accessing your free sample issue, please email TMA at

Enjoy -- and please let me know how you like it. -- efc

Planet Waves

Your Monthly Horoscopes -- and our Publishing Schedule Notes

The May monthly extended horoscopes were published Friday, April 26. Inner Space horoscopes for May were published Tuesday, April 30. We published the Moonshine horoscopes for the Scorpio Full Moon and eclipse on Tuesday, April 23. On Tuesday, May 7, we published the Moonshine horoscopes for the Taurus New Moon. Note that the longer monthly horoscope is being incorporated into the Friday issue after the Sun has entered a new sign; a new Inner Space is generally emailed on the following Tuesday.

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Weekly Horoscope for Friday, May 17, 2013 #950 | By Liam Carey

Editor's Note: This week we are happy to introduce Liam Carey. Liam has been working behind the scenes for the past couple of months helping research and write our news sections. He's also a well-trained and aspiring professional astrologer. He will be standing in on the weekly horoscope for me occasionally, and will also be writing columns on the Tuesdays when there is not another horoscope scheduled. Please let me know what you think of his work. Thank you. -- Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Aries (March 20-April 19) -- When I was 16 years old, a loner, stoned out and nearly a high-school dropout, my father gave me a book called No Man is an Island, by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. The well-intentioned gift was offered, I imagine, to cull me out of my rebellious ways. I was insulted. I mention this story as a lesson in how not to respond to gestures that coax one into the social arena, because you may be faced with such lessons this week. First of all, there is a powerful magnetism about you that will draw others toward you. Neither you nor those that come will know exactly what it is, but there's definitely something there. Second, even though you don't really feel like it, you're either going to talk up a storm or at least have so much on your mind you'll burst if you don't get it out somehow. Go with the flow; the interaction is necessary to reality-check your ideas and keep your ego from running riot. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

Taurus (April 19- May 20)
Taurus (April 19-May 20) -- There's no doubt that your solar year is off to a fast and meaningful start. Since your birthday, life has offered you quite a bit of action and depending on how you've approached it, life has been exhilarating, frustrating or maybe just plain odd. It's not over yet by any means (it never really ends, right?) as you still have plenty of adventure ahead, and plenty of ground to cover. I suspect that this week you will start thinking about how important it is to communicate what's most important, what you value most -- not just to 'be aware' of it but to speak about it. Change and growth are necessary even when they go against the grain of comfort and security. In that process things that used to be highly regarded may lose priority. While you know this to be true and integral, others may not understand and may challenge you on this new ground. Trust yourself. Know yourself, and be your own authority in this matter. It will pay off in spades for your self-worth. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

Gemini (May 20- June 21)
Gemini (May 20-June 21) -- It's that time of year again, when everything seems to speed up, doesn't it? It looks to me like things are moving at warp speed for you right now and you may need to remember the little things: do the dishes, walk the dog, go to the grocery store, tell the truth. Remember, the devil is in the details, though so are the angels. Seriously, there is so much energy and intensity that may engulf you, and good feelings too, that it could be destructive if not managed well. Here's one of the details: be mindful of what you say and to whom you say what at work lest there occur any regretful interactions. Be cautious about any thought of revenge. If you talk over any doubts or hurt feelings you may have with a trusted friend, you will both be less inclined to take things personally. One last detail: be sure to put the plug in the jug in time if you're out partying with friends or colleagues, lest a good time get out of hand. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

Cancer (June 21- July 22)
Cancer (June 21-July 22) -- The crab symbolizes the constellation Cancer and often the shell is utilized to articulate the tough exterior protecting an inner vulnerability. There is something brewing in your chart this week that may necessitate using that armor, something deeply significant about your sexuality and the conditioning patterns that govern it. We all have these impersonal rules and guidelines that govern our autonomous energies whether from church, society or family, and collectively they are coming under intense scrutiny; but this is personal for you right now. If you allow it to enter your psyche, you will feel either empowered to explore and experience the bliss of sexual union or fantasize about the several lovers you would have if unfettered. This will lead -- again, if you give yourself permission -- to a reevaluation of what you consider an ideal relationship. It's ok if what you have doesn't measure up to that ideal; it doesn't mean you have to split. It just means you've peeled another layer off that James and the Giant Peach-sized onion. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) -- It looks like you are surrounded by fun-filled, stimulating and fascinating people with innovative ideas. I imagine it is just what you've needed after spending much of the past few weeks mired in work and pressing responsibilities at home. This week is an opening to experience yourself and all your ruminations in the light and reflection of others. It's a great time to exchange ideas and information with a variety of folks, and to learn about and formulate the manifestation of all sorts of things: social agendas, familial relationships, utopia -- your ideal world and relationships. Plus it's just nice to feel part of the crowd sometimes, and I suspect now is one of those times. It's always good to step back and analyze your own agenda when possible and especially when engaged with others. Are you misjudging someone else's or your own intentions? Are you being mindful of boundaries? Many questions have been raised about administration of resources and this can lead to emotional extremes. One way or another, you're likely to encounter lessons about give and take, whose (fill in the blank) is whose, and compromise. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) -- You know that the overall theme right now is change. Not just a little bit of change or anything, either, but some kind of epic, world-shifting alteration is underway and you are feeling empowered to try new things, think in new ways, and experience more of reality. Just remember, it's not going to happen overnight. Step by step, day by day, and person by person, gentle persistence is your guiding principle, along with how to best use the energy that is available at any particular time. The energy right now is collection of information: data gathering, networking, communicating, and perhaps short-term travel. Through these lenses you will understand the options available to you in this process of re-creation. Searches like this have a way of stirring things to the surface that had been forgotten and you may encounter some memories that you must come to terms with. Trust your intuition if this happens and try not to over-think. Not only will you waste valuable time and cause a stir, but also you may miss the more vital message. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

Planet Waves

Libra (Sep. 22 - Oct. 23)
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) -- There is a lot of restless energy in your chart that has been building up for some time and is about to come to a peak. The energy infusion this week will highlight some of the broader ideas about life that you haven't considered in a while, and a few brand-new ones. It just may enable you to see the rut that you've been in and start planning an escape. There is definitely the energy for some long-distance travel here. Perhaps it's because the in-laws are coming? Pay your dues first; keep the peace and then the reward. There is also this concern: are you restless because of an underlying hurt that you don't want to deal with? Maybe there is the subconscious urge to move so you don't have to sit with yourself? It's been said wisely that travel is a good way to get to know yourself. A shift in geographic point of view can give you a perspective on what you've been looking at but not seeing. Then you can decide how much you like it -- which is to say, yourself. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) -- It looks like you've built a defensive structure to protect some emotional vulnerability. That may be a good idea considering the sea of change that you've been navigating these past few months. Don't forget to give yourself credit for staying the course; this type of devotion to change is not easy. Yet if you haven't handled this so gracefully don't hang onto any disappointment or stew over a loss of pride. It's most likely part of the lesson. You're a study in contradictions right now. As much as you want and need to focus inwardly to conceive, form images, and eventually crystallize what and who you want to be, you are at the same time drawn to engage with people in intense, deep, involved discussion. (I hope that sounds appealing.) As much as you feel the need to work, alone and unhampered, pulsating and electrifying your central nervous system, you also feel this deep desire to merge with a multitude of lovers/artists in some form of creativity. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 22)
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) -- Things are looking and feeling much better at home than they have in a while. It seems as though the clouds have parted recently and there is harmony in your deep emotional reserves with what you project to your partners. This is the reward derived from the hard work you've put in over the past few months. Much has been happening to highlight who you are and what you have to offer in relationships, and it has been difficult to tangle with some of these questions. Accept the harmony of the moment and recognize it as fruits of purification. Nothing can grow without nurturing and you did that well. This is part of the long-term path of dissolving those aspects of your personality that just don't work anymore, and in turn, discover what does. It's entirely possible that you'll feel like you're living in a dream -- and who's to argue with you? You can imbibe all you like but I doubt you'll match the high you'll have by being present with your love, and speaking your truth. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) -- First came the feeling, then came the ideas, and now the light bulb is glowing about a project that you think will be well received. Not only do you have all the necessary resources but you now also have the strength of purpose and drive to administer the people and resources properly. There may be a crisis in action regarding a love affair. Love unrequited? Sex talk gone awry in an established relationship? Those are only a couple of the possibilities, but I see some tension in this area of life and some potentially volatile emotions early in the week, as the Sun changes signs to Gemini. You can't control everything, and forcing your will on others will very likely produce resentment. Discretion is the key, as is an honest, humble stating of feelings. It will be challenging to articulate your emotions into feelings, especially if you pressure yourself to, so step back and find a way to objectify them before you communicate. Make sure you channel some of this energy through physical exercise lest you burn out. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) -- I once had a lover tell me to make love to her with my mind. I gotta tell you it drove me nuts. I just didn't get it and, well, I just didn't get it. I'm pretty sure you do though, and that you will have a driving urge to do so starting this week. Not only that but it looks like you will have willing partners in your quest for lovemaking through the mind. If this is not where the energy takes you then there will at least be a need to communicate your sense of aesthetics; your senses will be keen to this. There is a deeply creative spark that has been lit and I hope you have the opportunity to fan its flames. This is one of the most difficult and dynamic aspects of life because of the need most of us have to hang onto control in order to feel secure. To let go and play, make love and recite poetry requires a freedom of self that once granted, is a launching pad to other dimensions. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) -- There is something extra meaningful coming through your emotions this week. It's something that you will not only recognize and think about but also seek to clarify and articulate. This is not an easy task, but it'll be worth it. Emotion is defined in a very circular way in the many dictionaries I checked that keep pointing to 'feelings', but one way to think of it is energy in motion. Feelings are definitely not emotions though; feelings are the interpretation of emotions (a Venus function that has merit here). Emotions are something that happen pre-thought and pre-verbal. There is not much control over them happening, although to make it off the playground safely it's imperative to learn how to deal with them. Emotions are often unprocessed energy that doesn't necessarily fit in the rational, social world and yet, they pulse through each and every one of us to one degree or another. This will be an important time to examine your emotions and consider how they affect your whole being. It's possible that the opportunity will come through interactions with family, or simply an event or circumstance that sparks some memory. -- by Liam Carey

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two product

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