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Kingston, NY, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009

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The Delicate Sound of Lightning

Dear Friend and Reader:

BARACK OBAMA'S inauguration next week is the chart of a world in transition, or one about to unravel. These may amount to the same thing, necessary aspects of the same process: though if you ask me, this is a dangerous chart. We live in dangerous times and most of us have no clue the extent or depth of this fact, nor its profound virtue. This chart contains both the idealism of the election and also references to the mess that we are going to be left to clean up in the wake of what amounts to either an eight-year military dictatorship or abusive marriage.

Before I get into the chart, I want to offer a little background material on inauguration charts in general. And first, a bit about the word: it's related to the concept of augury, or divination by the flight of birds. Etymology Online says the roots go back to Latin: "consecration, installment under good omens," from inaugurare, "take omens from the flight of birds, consecrate or install when such omens are favorable."

It's unfortunate that astrologers cannot choose the time of the inauguration; rather, the time is constitutionally fixed, at noon on Jan. 20 after the election. This year it's on a Tuesday, that is, this coming Tuesday. In our current era, the Sun is always in the first degree of Aquarius for the inauguration, and Taurus is always rising. The degree 14+ Taurus has been the rising degree since the second Nixon inauguration in 1973. (The position of the Sun and ascendant for a chart cast for the same time and place, year after year, will gradually drift due to something called precessional movement of the Earth; that is, our planet wobbling on its axis makes even fixed positions drift gradually over the centuries. There is a nice animation at the wiki link that I've highlighted.)

The Sabian symbol image associated with 14+ Taurus is a man braving a storm. The degree associated with the first degree of Aquarius is an old Adobe mission in California. One is a personal symbol, an individual facing adversity; the other is about the selfless legacy we leave behind for the benefit of others, symbolized by the California system of missions that has endured through many decades til the present day. We have images of both the personal and transpersonal experience of the new president. We're reminded we're acting on behalf of the future.

You can look forward at inauguration charts for generations; assuming that the scheduled time is not changed (that's only happened once, when inaugurations were moved to Jan. 20 by the 20th Amendment), something unlikely to happen for a while, you can get glimpses ahead at history. We can also look back and see how the astrology reckons with what actually happened.

The question is what these charts really mean; and they do seem to mean something. Inauguration charts for both of Clinton's terms and both of Bush's terms were dark, suggesting extraordinary controversy and contention. Looking in 20/20 hindsight, had we understood Nessus, we could have predicted a sex scandal for Clinton's second term. Bush's second term chart was characterized by cruelty as a leader. Bush's charts had death painted all over them; astrologers all wondered whether it would be him.

Bush miraculously managed to survive his two terms (despite the curse of the "zero year," but he's leaving office as broken of a man as Bill Clinton was, though without Clinton's poise). Bush is trying to convince us that he has left a brilliant historical legacy. I think that this reveals the extent of his hubris: the nation is hobbled by two wars, bankrupt banks and both industries associated with the American dream, the home and the car, are devastated.

His true legacy has yet to emerge, and once it starts to come out, it's going to be like dropping Mentos into a two-liter bottle of Pepsi.

Tuesday's chart has several distinct features that speak of rapid change in movement that sets in instantly upon the inauguration. Two stand out right away: Mercury is not only retrograde, but it's about to change signs to Capricorn. And the Moon is void of course. It's so close to the end of Scorpio that had the inauguration happened just 24 minutes later, it would be taking place under a Sagittarius Moon with a very different feeling.

Also, we know that Pluto is at the beginning of its journey through Capricorn; and that Saturn, the ruling planet of that sign, is being opposed repeatedly by Uranus. These are longer-term symbols of changes to the structure of society, including government, business and perhaps the nation itself.

Finally, there is something that had long confounded me and is now starting to make a lot more sense. Two symbols of the marital partner -- the asteroid Juno and a centaur planet called Chariklo -- are occupying prominent places in this chart. Indeed, Juno is the most elevated planet in the chart. Now that we know something about Michelle Obama, we can see that she is likely to have an extraordinary leadership role as her husband begins the task of cleaning up the mess left by eight years of Bush and half a century of an unbridled military-based economy.

Let's take these chart factors one at a time, remembering to keep them in context.

Mercury Retrograde

The inauguration takes place with retrograde Mercury making an exact interior conjunction to the Sun in the first degree of Aquarius. This is three statements in one: Mercury is retrograde; it's exactly conjunct the Sun; and it's about to change signs. I am sure everyone aware of this is wondering what this Mercury retrograde means.

Things never go as planned with Mercury retrograde; never is a strong word and I am using it consciously. Things don't necessarily go badly under Mercury retrograde, but the plan changes. Events and information can be confusing, and it's difficult to get to the essence of the problem. It's difficult to plan for. Retrogrades tend to go particularly poorly if you don't have a little money stashed away and if you don't take care of your computer, your car and other basic technology devices.

I checked inauguration charts going back to Nixon in 1969. Mercury is always in Capricorn or Aquarius when the new president is sworn in; more often it's in Capricorn. It's only been retrograde twice in that time: when Nixon was inaugurated in 1969, and when Daddy Bush was inaugurated in 1989; both times it was in Aquarius when retrograde. It's never been in a configuration even close to what we're witnessing now, with Mercury at the edge of a sign, so at least that symbolism fits the picture: we are in unique, edgy and unpredictable days.

Mercury rules the chart's 2nd house, that of values and wealth. It's about to change signs moving backwards, from Aquarius to Capricorn, which is a good symbol of a recession.

But it also speaks to mentality. The president, in part represented by the Sun conjunct Jupiter in Aquarius, is a progressive person who has cloaked himself as a moderate, kind of like George Bush did: a radical conservative who claimed to be a moderate. The public, for its part, is reticent to express its progressive values, even though it may have them deep down on some personal level. We need to be moving deeper into Aquarius, and we are reluctant to do so.

Looked at another way, the money (Mercury, ruler of the 2nd) is going toward the corporations (Capricorn) and not the people (Aquarius). But the money is merely a reflection of values. We are still way too enamored of megamultinational companies for our vittles. We need a national movement of making our own soup, and getting rid of frozen microwavable.

The Moon is Void of Course

The void of course Moon is one of those things that can drive astrology students nuts, and it has some distinct properties. The easiest way to define it is that the Moon is very late in a sign. A more technically accurate way to say it is the Moon makes no new major aspects to major planets before entering the next sign. This is true of the inauguration Moon. To me this is a comment about the public being off its bearings than anything else. Most people are not connected to the challenges of the world, nor do they want to see them for what they are.

It's worth noting that the Moon was void of course for part of Election Day, and that in certain versions of Obama's many charts (his birthtime is not known, despite a diversity of claims), it's also void of course there (in late Taurus, so the inauguration Moon is opposite his natal Moon).

What I have noticed is that in addition to things not going as planned, unlikely things happen when the Sun or Moon is void. It's like a little door opens and the usual rules are suspended. If you know this, you can work with it. Awareness is the key, however, and that's a scarce commodity.

The Moon is, however, exactly conjunct a centaur called Amycus, which has a very long orbit of 126 years (about six times longer than Saturn's orbit, for reference). Most astrologers would deny that this eliminates the void condition, but you can't ignore a conjunction if you know about it. Philip Sedgwick suggests that Amycus is about the creation of a long legacy; and also about "doctrines and policies designed to produce a result (policy manuals, creeds), any mechanical device that enables a shift in energy, for instance a clutch for shifting gears, monuments, commandments (as in carved in stone), pictographs and petroglyphs."

Pluto, Saturn, Aquarius and Capricorn

Barack Obama was elected the very day that Saturn and Uranus -- the two rulers of Aquarius -- met in an opposition for the first time in 42 years. Two of the largest, most dynamic planets, they will make a total of five meetings through 2012, the second of which is on Feb. 5 -- just two weeks after the inauguration.

What is interesting about Uranus and Saturn is not just that they represent the new and the old; it's that both are rulers of Aquarius (traditional and modern, respectively), which are meeting in a face-off that I previously described as pluralist versus fundamentalist. That division is not gone; it was not solved by the election. Indeed, the split may only be beginning.

Let's consider Pluto in Capricorn, which along with its incestuous cousin, Saturn opposite Uranus, speaks to the restructuring of society. I just turned on CNN for one of my three-minute surveys of the news, and the lead story was "Corporate Deathwatch." Major companies, including two that got multi-billion bailouts in 2008 -- AIG and Chrysler, along with The New York Times -- are on the list of entities that may be chronicled in the obituaries of history.

Pluto perched at the edge of Capricorn puts us on notice that the structure of society is changing radically. We only saw the first whispers of this in 2008, though they hardly seemed like whispers at all. We can thank the Cheney-Bush administration for accelerating the process and driving the country $14 trillion dollars into debt -- debt which is spread throughout the globe, because governments and corporations on every continent are holding what amount to bad mortgages on the United States itself.

We saw a similar version of this story emerge in November 2001, just as Chiron entered Capricorn, as Enron, Worldcom and Arthur Anderson collapsed in a puff of smoke and broken mirrors. I have written many times that the Chiron in Capricorn era, from late 2001 through mid 2005, was a kind of litmus test for Pluto in Capricorn. Chiron will reveal the flaw in any system that, if addressed, will make the system strong and powerful, but if ignored, will cause the system to collapse. I call this theory the Golden Flaw. But it's not so golden if you do nothing about it, or if you do things that make the situation worse, like plunge the country into a war that costs $8 billion a month.

But it may go further. Ridiculous as it may seem, there are futurists who are predicting that the United States itself will break up into separate countries, forced into fragmentation by moral divisions and economic degradation. This seems absurd now. Yet remember that for those of us who grew up constantly hearing about the evil empire of the USSR, it was unthinkable that all of Eastern Europe would be rearranged in just a few short years. That is precisely what happened under the Saturn-Uranus conjunction of 1989 -- and that conjunction has now become an opposition.

Dick Cheney and Karl Rove may be wheeled off to their ranches or the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, but they have left a legacy that will last for generations to come. We are the first generation to inherit this legacy, which may include their Trotskyite vision of a new republic arising from the ruins of the old one. They have certainly left us with plenty of rubble to work with. Let's see if we can build something creative.

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis

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