Friday 6 November 2020

The Astrology of Plagues in the Shadow of the Coronavirus Outbreak

Time will tell if the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) will enter the pages of history as one of the worst pandemics on record. A pandemic which wrecked entire economies and changed the trajectory of nations. At the moment of writing (April 2020) this seems to be the case but like many other historical events true understanding only comes with hindsight.

Let's assume for a moment that the Mars-Saturn conjunction in Aquarius is a pivotal moment in the occurrence of the current coronavirus outbreak. If this is true we should note the position of the heavenly bodies on the 31st of March 2020, the date of the exact conjunction. These included: the latter conjunction between the two malefics, Jupiter conjunct Pluto in Capricorn, the nodes in the Capricorn-Cancer axis, Chiron in Aries, Uranus in Taurus, and a time frame which is less than a year short of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Aquarius. This dry list of planetary placements would prove vital for this short article, since the primary objective is to try and understand which combination of astrological influences is capable of producing a large scale, and at times global, pandemic.

As far as plagues are concerned in world history, the largest and most deadly in the history of the west were the 14th century outbreak of bubonic plague in Europe, the Spanish flu which burst into the scene towards the end of the First World War, and the Plague of Justinian which erupted in the Byzantine Empire during the 6th century CE. The 14th century bubonic plague took the lives of between a quarter to half of the population, the Spanish flu reduced the world's population by a figure of between 20 million to 50 million men, and the Plague of Justinian inflicted a similar death toll to the 14th century bubonic plague in the eastern part of the Mediterranean basin[1]. An astrological and historical review will help us understand whether a unique astrological signature exists for such outbreaks of mass death caused by tiny microorganisms.

The Astrology of the Black Death in Europe

The 14th century outbreak of bubonic plague in Europe is more widely known as the Black Death. That particular outbreak started its way in central Asia in the fourth decade of the 14th century, from which it spread to the Crimean peninsula in 1346, and then to Italy in 1347, from which it spread to the rest of Europe. According to one estimate, the first wave of plague caused the death of no less than half of the continent's population as it gradually advanced inside mainland Europe between the years 1347 to 1352. The Black Death was carried by rat fleas and its fastest spread routes were commercial shipping lanes[2]. The Black Death outbreak in the 14th century is easily one of the most terrible pandemics humanity has ever witnessed.

Already during the days of the Black Death notable contemporary astrologers found blame with particular planetary patterns, which aren't so different from the ones we're witnessing today with coronavirus. The Paris medical faculty issued an official report which hanged the blame for the plague's creation on the triple conjunction of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, which happened in Aquarius during the month of March in the year 1345[3]. This is not very different than what we've recently experienced with the near conjunction of these three planets in another Saturn domicile, in Capricorn during February to March 2020. A further look into the 1345 placements reveals another important similarity to the contemporary coronavirus placements. In both cases the asteroid Chiron was placed in Aries, and it shouldn't escape us that the simple symbolism of such a combination is "new diseases". Additional comparison shows that just like today the nodal axis in 1345 was transiting a cardinal modality, then it was in the Libra-Aries axis. Moreover the troublesome south node was positioned in the same sign such as Pluto. Please note that 1345 is approximately two years before the Black Death has reached the shores of Europe, but according to the Paris medical faculty it was necessary to look back in order to trace the origin of the disease. From a historical viewpoint this of course makes sense, since the plague began its course in central Asia before it advanced westward into Europe. Concerning some of the period's later planetary positions, 1347 was the year in which Jupiter perfected a conjunction to Pluto. A major symbolism in a context such as this is "death on a mass scale", and of course we have a Jupiter-Pluto conjunction in our time as well. Lastly, I may throw into the mix a less obvious but a persistently recurring pattern of Mars retrograde in Leo, which occurred during the time of December 1347, a short time before the plague continued its spread from Italy to the rest of Europe. This may be an opportune time to mention that in Greek myth Apollo, the Sun god, was also associated with the outbreak of diseases, while the Sun of course is the planetary ruler of the sign Leo.
The Black Death in Florence, 1348


The Astrology of the Spanish Flu

The Spanish flu is probably the first global pandemic, it raged between the years 1918 to 1920, following the tragedy of the First World War. According to estimates, about one quarter of the world's population back then contracted the flu, and the mortality rate has reached a figure of 5%, that is one out of twenty cases. Unlike many other diseases in the history of medicine which tended to kill off the very young and the elderly, the Spanish flu proved most fatal to people who were in the prime of their years, ages 20-40. Additionally it's important to point out that while the first and less fatal wave of the flu hit in the spring of 1918, the second more potent wave hit in the summer of 1918, bringing with it an influx in the fatality rate. The sudden transformation in severity was possibly due to a mutation in this particular variant of influenza virus, and the name Spanish flu originated due to contemporaneous publication which wrongly pointed to Spain as especially infected[4].

From the point of view of Astrology, we can find similar patterns in the chart placements of the coronavirus, the Black Death and the Spanish flu years. There are some dissimilarities too, and I'll address those as well. First and foremost it's important to point out that also in the case of the Spanish flu the conjunction between Jupiter and Pluto appears, and it perfects side by side with the deadly second wave of August 1918. Another point of resemblance is Chiron's ingress into Aries in the spring of 1918. Similarly to its present position, it spent the years of the Spanish flu in the first degrees of Aries. Again, much like today, in January 1918 the nodes were positioned in the first degrees of the Capricorn-Cancer axis. Also it's revealing that the Spanish flu outbreak occurred about a year or two before the great conjunction of Jupiter-Saturn in Virgo during the year 2021. Not unlike our own time, it seems that the short sequence of years before the great conjunction coincides with much turmoil, as if the world is in a "balsamic moon" phase. Back to the list of indicators, it might be worthwhile to point out that Pluto transited through a cardinal sign again, that time it was in Cancer. It's one of the main indicators, as we'll later see. More on Pluto, it should be noted that Pluto was in the same sign as the North Node in the early stages of 1918. Lastly, it's important to point out Mars' retrograde motion in Leo, two years before the outbreak of the Spanish flu, during March 1916. The retrograde motion of Mars in Leo is mentioned here for the second but not the last time. As far as differences are concerned, we can find outer planets placements in Capricorn or Aquarius during both the coronavirus crisis and the Black Death years but not during the Spanish flu period. Also in the case of the Spanish flu we cannot find many planetary placements in air signs, despite the contagiousness of that influenza strand.

Red Cross nurses tend to Spanish
patients in California, 1918

The Astrology of the Justinianic Plague

The Justinianic Plague is named after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, and it occurred during one of the empire's golden epochs. The capital of the byzantine empire was Constantinople, which was probably the world's biggest metropolis during that time period, but the bubonic plague which hit the city during the year 541 CE changed the course of history by relegating a minor role for the Byzantine empire henceforth. The plague itself was similar to the later 14th century outbreak of Black Death in Europe. Behind the borders of the Byzantine empire the plague reached many port cities in the mediterranean, the Persian Sasanian empire, and many towns in the eastern half of the Mediterranean Basin. Much like the the Black Death which occurred eight centuries later, the death toll was between one third to half of the population[5].      

Astrologically speaking, the Plague of Justinian was characterized by a few very specific patterns, much like the later Black Death in Europe and somewhat like the Spanish influenza virus of the early 20th century. But first, on the origin of the plague, historians agree that the plague came to Constantinople through Egypt, but there's no consensus on whether the plague reached Egypt from India, Africa or from a different location[6]. This is also the reason why we examine the transits of September 539, two years before the plague reached the Byzantine capital. If so, the main similarities in terms of planetary positions are Pluto in Capricorn, the nodes in Capricorn-Cancer axis, a Mars conjunction to Saturn in Libra, Jupiter in Aquarius, and Uranus in the earth sign Virgo. This short list is comprised of many parallels to the current astrological placements, experienced throughout the coronavirus. Notice the similar position of Pluto, the similar although reversed placement of the nodal axis, the Mars-Saturn conjunction in an air sign, the position of Jupiter in a sign whose ruler is Saturn, and lastly the placement of Uranus in an earth sign. It's also worthwhile to mention Mars' retrograde motion in the sign of Leo during the month of December 542, at the zenith of the plague and its utmost spread along the Mediterranean Basin. In the category of dissimilarity to other plagues which were surveyed, the Justinianic Plague didn't occur prior to the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and the Jupiter-Pluto conjunction perfects too early relative to the plague, in December of 537. It would also be interesting to examine Chiron's placement during those years, but sadly ephemeris data on Chiron during the first millennium is incomplete. 

Byzantine emperor Justinian
during whose time the plague 
raged in Constantinople.

The Plague Which Never Was

For fairness' sake we must point out that in the year 846 CE a similar planetary pattern, to the ones which were described in this article, was present. However, there is no historical record of a contemporaneous plague. To be more precise, September 846 included the following planetary placements: Jupiter in Capricorn, Saturn in Aquarius, Uranus in Taurus, the nodes in the Cancer-Capricorn axis, Chiron in Aries and Pluto in Aries as well, a cardinal sign mind you. Furthermore, we are dealing with a period of about two years before the great conjunction, which occurred in the month of May 848, and a Jupiter-Pluto conjunction which occurred in January 849. All things considered, this bears a major likeness to planetary positions during the Black Death, the Spanish flu, the Justinianic Plague, and the the current coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, besides natural disasters and wars which occurred during the middle of the 9th century, there is no mention of a major plague in the historical chronicles of that time. This anomaly is difficult to explain, but one possible solution is that in this same critical month of September 846 there was a Jupiter-Neptune conjunction which had a mitigating effect on this otherwise corrupting planetary mixture. Another argument, which may explain this exception to the rule, is the nodal axis that year which wasn't aligned with either Saturn or Pluto, rather it was aligned to the arguably benefic conjunction of Jupiter and Neptune. 

A Summary of the Astrological Characteristics of Plagues   

We have become acquainted with a number of planetary configurations which tend to repeat themselves during times of mass sickness and plague. For the sake of convenience, and based on the findings of this small research, a list of such planetary factors is brought before you:

* A conjunction between Jupiter and Pluto
* Pluto in the same sign or conjunct the nodal axis, that is Pluto's involvement in the eclipse cycle
* A time period of around one to two years ahead of the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn
* A conjunction between Mars and Saturn just prior to or at the beginning of the pandemic
* Chiron in Aries
* Pluto in a cardinal sign
* Uranus in an earth sign
* Jupiter in an earth or air sign
* Saturn in an earth or air sign
* Numerous planetary placements in either earth or air signs
* A retrograde Mars in the sign of Leo

Side by side, we must not forget the curious case of 846 CE, which shows that the presence of such planetary positions is not a sufficient condition for the outbreak of plague. The astrological branch of forecasting future events remains, as ever, an elusive prospect. Our friends, the scientists, know best that complex systems tend to surprise and frustrate the expectations of the researcher. Maybe Aristotle described it best when he said that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts".  


[1] Aberth 22-28, 36-53, 117-123.
[2] Ibid 36-53.
[3] Horrox 158-173.
[4] Aberth 117-123.
[5] Ibid 22-28.
[6] Rosen 193-197


Aberth, John. 
Plagues in World History. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011.

Horrox, Rosemary. The Black Death. Manchester University Press, 1994.

Rosen, William. 
Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire and the Birth of Europe. Random House, 2010. 

This article was first published in Hebrew in the astrological magazine, on the 5th of May 2020. 
To access the original version of the article please use the following URL:האסטרולוגיה-של-מגפות-בצל-התפרצות-וירו

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Saturn in Aquarius – Forecast, Historical Overview, and Contemporary Events (2020-2023)

Saturn will enter Aquarius for the first time in our generation on the 22nd of March 2020, he will spend a period of a bit more than three months in Aquarius till he will return to Capricorn amidst a retrograde motion on the 1st of July 2020. He will later return to Aquarius a week short of Christmas, on the 17th of December 2020, after which he will leave Aquarius in favor of Pisces on the 7th of March 2023.

Preliminary Notes on the Nature and Significators of Both Saturn and Aquarius

Amongst the significations of Saturn we can find time, old-age, work, labor, planning, strategy, borders, limitations, reality, agriculture, heavy industry, coldness, fear, winter, history, tradition, scholars, physical laborers, maturity, discipline, harshness, depression, et cetera.

Amongst Aquarius’ sign representations we can find friendship, groups, genius, socialites, freedom, rebellions, alternative currents, reversals, followers (unlike leaders), the nobility (unlike the king), committees and boards, detachment, objectivity, progressive ideas, humanism, high culture and more.

From previous cycles, when Saturn was in Aquarius, we can learn a lot about what expects us in the coming three years. It takes Saturn about 29 years to complete a full revolution around the Sun, and we know that in the early 90s, early 60s, early 30s and during the early years of the first decade of the 20th  century Saturn was in Aquarius.

Saturn’s Spheres of Influence in Aquarius, by Categories

* Dissolution of previously existing power structures
Here we need to comment on the egalitarian nature of Aquarius as a sign, and also concerning the fact that it is the sign of freedom and revolutions. One example is the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its reversal back to the nation state of Russia during Saturn’s Aquarius sojourn in 1991-1994. The end of Apartheid in South Africa, during the same years, is another good case in point. Another example is the Nazis rise to power and the disbandment of the fragile Weimar Republic in the early 30s. One more example can be found in the creation of the Russian parliament in the time of the last tsar, Nicholas II, in 1905. It’s important since Russia was an old-fashioned autocratic state and a creation of a state parliament was a symbolic move towards a more progressive position and a proto-modern state (even though it was virtually without powers).    

* Scientific and intellectual achievement
Saturn’s stay in Aquarius during the early 90s brought with it the early golden age of the internet. The early 60s on the other hand were an age when the space race between the USA and the Soviet Union was in full swing, shortly after communist Russia have successfully launched the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin. Even earlier, during the early to mid 1930s Europe was entangled in an arms race, after it became apparent that Germany wasn’t demilitarizing after the first world war (science can be implemented for good or for ill). Likewise, in 1905 Saturn was once again in Aquarius. During that time Albert Einstein had what biographers call his “extraordinary year”, when he published four major papers in physics and changed modern science forever. Also the Wright brothers’ first successful flight attempt happened in the year 1903.   

* Breaks in the status qua or trying to do things differently
This is another major manifestation of Saturn in Aquarius, and here are a few examples. The Oslo Accords, which were signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the early 90s, have tried to end a long conflict between the two sides. In the previous Saturn cycle, during the early 60s, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a failed attempt by the Soviet Union to place nuclear missiles within range of the US. If such an attempt was successful the status qua of America’s national defense interest would have been violated. A last example is from quite a while before. in the early 30s, the United States has ended a decade or so of prohibition after it became evident that alcohol consumption did not decline and that organized crime was at its height.

* Civic causes, betterment of people’s lives, society becomes more free
These are the final ingredients on this list of categories. We can find examples from virtually all Saturn’s cycles in Aquarius during this last century. In the order of newest to oldest we can mention the 1990s as a decade of growth, prosperity, peacemaking and generally a mini-golden age after the end of the cold war. Things became less rosy as time progressed but the first half of the 90s, when Saturn was in Aquarius and then in Pisces were ‘as good as they come’. Earlier in 62 till 64 we witnessed the height of the African American civil rights movement, spearheaded by Martin Luther King Junior. Also during those years Alcatraz Prison was closed, in a symbolic and factual gesture of expanded freedoms. The Saturn cycle before that, in the early 30s was the time of FDR’s New Deal. The newly elected American president attempted to deal with the aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash, he did so successfully and raising the standard of living for millions of Americans was a side effect of the New Deal’s many measures. In the earliest years of the 20th century we can witness Saturn in Aquarius’ social effects in the opening of women admission to colleges and universities worldwide. Additionally, In the tail end of that Saturn in Aquarius transit, Finland was the first European country which gave women the right to vote.  

Saturn in Aquarius and the Coronavirus
In terms of current events, this lines are being written simultaneously with the coronavirus outbreak. Here too, Saturn in Aquarius provides some interesting insights for things to come.
First of all, the literal symbolism of Saturn in Aquarius can be interpreted as limitations on social contact, group meetings, public gathering and the social sphere, which is so vital for the air signs. Classic Aquarius like locations have already been hit, in the form of museums and galleries, music festivals, cultural events, sports outings, pubs and bar, and so forth.
On a more close and personal level, the Saturn Aquarius symbolism has a strong tinge of anti-social behavior, simply because people are afraid of contracting  coronavirus. Moreover, Saturn is closely tied with governments, rules and regulations, all of which are responsible with contracting the social sphere at the moment.
Lastly we mustn’t forget that Aquarius is an air sign, and one of the industries which has been hit the most is the airline industry.

Saturn’s Transits 2018-2025
Another valid point of view on the Saturn in Aquarius transit is examining Saturn’s transits on a continuum. This is also important since no transit appears out of thin air, rather they are preceded and followed by transits in adjacent signs.
Adopting such a frame of reference, the 2018-2020 Saturn in Capricorn transit seemed to have characterized a timespan when governments worldwide became more authoritarian and human rights began to be reduced, global warming began to seem undeniable (or at least, hard to deny), the world became less united and hard borders began to spring up everywhere (Trump’s wall, Europe’s legislation against refugees, Brexit, China’s crackdown on HK and the Uighurs, Russia’s effort to deny Ukraine entering the EU and other such unwelcome developments). Maybe it is also the place to point out that Saturn’s night domicile is Capricorn, but as events have shown worldly manifestations were less then ideal, albeit they remained true to the Capricorn symbolism of authority, bureaucracy, conservatism and regulation.  

Adjacent signs are often very much unlike each other, this can be seen in their differences by element and mode. Likewise, we can expect the Saturn in Aquarius period to differ significantly from the current Saturn in Capricorn period. We’ve already seen from the historical examples above that a few major counter trends might be on the way in. Namely, dissolution of current power structures, gradual expansion of social freedoms and civic rights, breaks in the status quo and scientific advancement. On a different note, technology might notch up the sharing economy to new heights. Likewise, peer to peer money transfer technology (like Bitcoin) will definitely claim a larger market share and begin to replace the old model of banks. Also on the topic of technology the internet giants; Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple may finally start to be regulated and taxed, as befitting Saturn's restricting nature. 

Saturn in Pisces might be too far away and too weird and unexpected to be foretold as easily, but we might as well try. Again with the climate crisis theme, nations might find themselves dealing with faster and more volatile rises in sea levels, there might be a fresh water shortage in different areas around the globe, and floods could prove to be a problem as well. Why so negative? Saturn is related to challenges and karma after all. If this will prove to be the case, we would need to do a good job in the coming three years in terms of developing green solutions, green technology and becoming more united. That is, If we want to face the third millennium successfully and survive. Moreover, religion and spirituality will probably make a big comeback, as some people will undoubtedly become disillusioned with the all-pervading scientific world view. No doubt some will search for an alternative. This may also be a reaction to society’s growing reliance, and dependence, on science during the Saturn in Aquarius period. Also on the topic of science, the Saturn in Pisces timespan may be characterized by big advancements in biology, genetics, chemistry and maybe cloning. All the soft and “watery” sciences, so to speak. Politically speaking, we can be fairly certain that after Saturn’s five years sojourn in Saturn-ruled signs, some people will become disillusioned by politics and governments all together, thus a period of socio-political experimentation will ensue. Maybe anarchism will come in vague, maybe there will be a phase of new nations building, and maybe other forms of organization will become prominent. Concerning this final point we must remember that Pisces is a sign which marches to the beat of one’s own drum.

Pluto in Aquarius, A Disclaimer and Maybe a Word About Politics
From the point of view of March 2020, it’s a bit hard to believe that Saturn in Aquarius will fulfill all of its promises. Even when we consider that Jupiter will join Saturn in Aquarius for the vast majority of 2021 and will continue to his domicile in Pisces in 2022, it’s still somewhat hard to believe. At the current moment the “Saturn in Capricorn machine” which relies on thinly disguised oligarchic and plutocratic forms of authority seems to be invincible, and there are plenty of examples. From Trump’s America and what seems like an upcoming loss for the progressive candidate, Bernie Sanders, to autocratic heads of state in China, Brazil, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Israel, India, Russia and many other nations.

The words above seem reason enough to postulate that the real solution may only hide in Pluto’s revolution around the sun, rather than Saturn’s. Pluto is much smaller, but in a way it’s a far but an influential planetoid (dwarf planet). On its current transit it will spend three last years in the critical and final degrees of Capricorn, and those tend to pile up difficulties most often than not.
If this is truly the case, we would need to wait for March 2023 for Pluto’s first ingress into the sign of the water bearer for some real good news to arrive.

Photo credit: NASA