Planet Waves Weekly by Eric Francis
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For Friday, Jan. 31, 2003 | Version 1.0

In the Belly of the Stars

Dear Friend and Client:

February arrives at the depth of winter in most of the Northern Hemisphere, when we live in the shadow of cold, rain and snow. Within February’s first few days lies one of the four high holidays -- or sabbats -- of the pagan calendar, called Imbolc in Celtic times. One of the four "cross-quarter days," its corresponding holidays are Beltane (or May Day, May 1), Lammas (also called second planting in agricultural communities, August 1) and Samhain (also called Halloween, October 31).

Imbolc, also called "Midwinter," literally means "in the belly," and at this time we are deep in the belly of winter, held in gestation for the coming spring at the Vernal Equinox around March 21. Imbolc is like the first movements of the fetus preparing for birth. Its precise timing is when the Sun crosses the middle degree of Aquarius, the symbolism of which we will visit in a moment.

Ground Hog Day

In the modern world, we associate early February with Ground hog Day, which hardly gives a clue to the importance this holiday held not long ago. For most people, the day passes unnoticed, except for a photo in the local paper of a cute little critter in Pennsylvania who has wiggled out of his hole for a breath of fresh air, just like he does every other day. His stirring to life in midwinter is symbolic; ground hogs don't hibernate. The media, oddly enough, are practicing the old tradition of weather divination; all of the cross-quarter holidays are associated with some form of augury or communing with the spirit world.

Imbolc, Agriculture and Aquarius

Astrologers know that Imbolc falls with the Sun at the midpoint of the sign Aquarius, the Water Bearer, who lives today as the astrological symbol of rebellion and eccentricity. As with Imbolc, there are always at least two versions of the story with Aquarius. Is it an air sign or a water sign? (It's an air sign with water themes and imagery.) Is it ruled by, or associated with Saturn or Uranus? (Traditionally Saturn rules it, but in modern astrology most astrologers use Uranus.) Do those wavy lines represent air or water? (All waves are waves of energy.) Is the Water Bearer a male figure or female? (Probably male, but usually represented female.)

The constellation Aquarius, known to be among the oldest named configurations of stars, stands, according to Catherine Tenant, "with his foot on the head of the great Southern fish, into whose mouth his waters pour." She traces the god Aquarius back to Babylon, noting that he rules over a huge area of the sky where are gathered the Southern fish, the dolphin, the zodiac fishes (Pisces), the mighty River Eridanus (the River of Night) and Cetus the sea monster. These ancient waters and their primal creatures were "seen as the source of life, through which the Sun passed during the rainy season."

In the hands of Aquarius, says Tenant, is the Norma Nilotica, the stick used to measure the waters of the Nile River, an important indicator of agricultural success, and hence of survival. In these same rainy days of winter, half-a-world away, the Celts were busy with agricultural matters of their own: doing the earliest preparations for planting in coming spring. A feast marked the waning of winter. Germans in Europe and Indians in the New World were taking stock of how much remained of their winter rations. The ability to manage their food supply was critical to their survival through the remaining weeks of cold.

From Pagan to Catholic

Imbolc was such a powerful holiday for the Celts that the Catholics seem to have piled meaning after meaning on it either to fully co-opt the event, or to obscure the truth. Imbolc coincides with the Catholic holiday Candlemas. Though in early February the days were growing noticeably longer, this was still a dark time, and candles were the only means of lighting the long nights. If there were enough candles, a celebration of light was held, with each window of a house being lit on this night. Candles also held religious value, and this was traditionally the time that the priests of the church took stock of their supply and cleansed their altars. The candle association reaches over to Ireland, where at this time people celebrated a feast in honor of the goddess Brigit (later St. Brigit), a hearth deity whose realm included the fires of purification.

Scholars of church lore know this is also the Feast of the Purification of Mary, held 40 days after the birth of Jesus. This was the Christian interpretation of Mary observing the Jewish tradition of returning to sanctuary and being purified in the Mikvah. Mikvah is the origin of the Christian practice of baptism. The cleansing waters of baptism may also be linked to the Water Bearer symbol of Aquarius.

"Prophesy and purification are the recurrent and symbolic themes of the midwinter festivals," writes Donna Henes in her book Celestially Auspicious Occasions. "The concept of prophesy is drawn from the foresight and faith that spring, in all its verdant glory, is on its predictable way, even amid the hard, white winter. Purification suggests careful preparations for its coming."

When the Sun is crossing Aquarius, most of our time is still shrouded in darkness, and we remain, for a while, in the belly of the stars of night. We might be tempted to look to the meanings of Aquarius to help understand this fascinating convergence of holidays and themes, but it seems rather more appropriate to apply mystical and agricultural folklore back to Aquarius, reminding ourselves that its waters bring purification and moisten the land for the first growths of spring. And to keep in mind that we really are in the belly of the stars, gestated, born and living in a mysterious cosmos.

-- By Eric Francis. Additional Research: Jenny Singer, Carol Burkhart, Sean Springer and Debbe Faulhaber at Planet Waves Digital Media. This article is reprinted from

Imbolc 2003: Aquarius New Moon, Year of the Sheep, Ram or Goat
and Shine On, Asbolus, Neptune, Hidalgo and Bridget of Ireland


Those with anniversaries in our current region of time stand in a most unusual threshold, where no conventional rule of society is truly applicable. You are not alone, for the astrology of your birthday reaches across the imaginary membrane from the personal to the co-creative. We now stand in the exception to the rule, in a moment of strange, awesome and beautiful potential. The joy is that of boundless truth. The grief is that of denial and all its consequences, waging wars and hiding our love behind closed doors, in the words of Lost at Last.

And we might well ask: why is it safer to hate than to love or, better still, why are we fooled into thinking it is so?

For birthday people, your quest is not merely knowing what you feel, but rather feeling what you feel. The knowledge aspect is so strong as to be a total infusion. This does not mean you will be any less a mystery to yourself than usual. Hopefully you will just get overwhelmed and stop trying to figure yourself out. Dare I say it is not as much fun as you think.

I recognize that most of the trends in spirituality tell us to take the sensations and emotional movements of the body and bring them "up" to the mind. It would help you immensely if you did just the opposite. The rather profound influence of Sagittarius and Aquarius in your solar return chart are calling you in two directions, at once toward what you might call cosmic contact, and also into physical contact with others around you who resonate with your experiences. The key word is personal. Say it a few times to get the feel. Look it up in the dictionary. It is about that which pertains to the one and only you, as a person.

This is beyond visionary; actual manifestation is what you are seeking. That comes through desire, contact and most of all, direct relationship with others. In the current version of World Earth, these are all considered either impossible, bad or dangerous. But you should, if the stars reveal anything, have no difficulty surpassing the known rules of the world and focussing your dreams and visions in the coming year.

The New Moon

We are headed for a most unusual New Moon on Saturday, in the sign Aquarius. This was described in some detail in last week's newsletter (if you don't have it, you may request it at The Sun and Moon in Aquarius will be conjunct at least three planets: Neptune, Hidalgo and Asbolus, all of which deal with intuition and seeing through deception, be it on the individual or cultural levels. As if this were not powerful enough Aquarius for you, remember that Uranus, the modern ruler of that sign is currently still there and maintains influence through a large segment of the current year.

The implications of this New Moon are many -- some of the more political ones were covered in last week's 3,200 word rant about the media and the war.

This New Moon coincides with a number of other events. As mentioned above, it is now the season of Imbolc, which is traditionally considered to be Ground Hog Day or Feb. 2, when scores of TV cameras gather in Pennsylvania to hassle a poor little critter who does exactly the same thing every day: wake up and leave his burrow looking for breakfast. But Ground Hog Day is yet another meaning designed to obscure the feast of Imbolc, celebrated in the Old Religion when the Sun is halfway between Solstice and Equinox (see above for more on that cover-up). The most commonly celebrated version of this holiday is Candlemas, which is traditional enough even for some hard-core Wiccans.

This New Moon is also the Chinese New Year, the year of the Gray Sheep, or watery sheep. Sheep is one of the watery signs in Chinese astrology, associated with the sign Cancer and related to the Boar and the Hare. However, Asia is a fairly large place, and there are many astrologies working. Most people seem to be referencing the coming Chinese year as that of the Ram or Goat. A ram is a kind of a sheep -- a male sheep. We think of sheep as being docile, however, I once had the privilege of watching two German farmers attempt to capture a few sheep to move them to a new pen. Even the plump ones can leap like insects. Goats are an entirely different critter: audacious, clever, and determined critters who will eat your clothing if you don't remind them who it belongs to.

Both rams and goats will bang heads but are not what you would call violent. The horns on many animals also serve the purpose of keeping the space open around them. You can only get so close if they're moving. Yet the two, in contrast, form an interesting picture of humanity: the image of people as sheeple is a tempting prejudice, and the image of people as industrious goats, curious and full of nerve, seems to be the other side of our nature. Have your pick. Just remember, in either case, in your natural state, you have big curvy horns.

Planet Waves by Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Old ideas get in the way of new ideas. We tend to try to work both at once, learning something new and trying to have its truth coexist with something old and best forgotten. Can we really forget what we know? You are managing to do something very good in the process you’re currently exploring. Part of your success has to do with the company you are keeping, and your willingness to indulge your dreams. This weekend's spectacular Aquarius New Moon reminds you that there are true dreams and there are false dreams. They may seem the same, until you feel them with your heart. Then the true ones turn to light and color, and the false ones disappear into mist.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
The turning points of the past week were critical; you reached a point of no return. If you are inclined to feel badly about a loss, remember that you were driven by your passion and yearning. These emotions do have their detractors. We do not usually consider them trustworthy. You can trust what is happening, on one hand, but you don't really have a choice; you are being guided, at the present time, by forces much larger than yourself. One of those forces is desire. And you ain't seen nothin' yet. At the same time, there is something changing in your home. Something is becoming clear. A shroud of denial is lifting. This experience may seem painful, but it will make room for your true friends. And to be sure, you have them.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
A lot of old feelings are coming up, but at least they're clear and that, at present, means undeniable. Denial may be the religion of the world, but it doesn't need to be your religion. I would, to the contrary, suggest some species of affirmation. Now, when I landed in a New Age community in 1986, and people were reciting affirmations like "I am lovable" and "I am wealthy," I was a bit cynical. But the idea as I now understand it is to work with a statement and develop it until it rings absolutely true, till it comes from within. Doors open in such moments, and our once-obscure inner reality can become very apparent. Presently, you're making this more complicated than it really is. Easy is the way.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
This world is all about exchange. Some would have us believe it's about conservation and resistance, about holding ourselves back so that we don't get in too deep, or make decisions we don't want to make, or die. But the obvious deception is that we would in fact die without one another, and without what we offer one another practically every moment. Exchange is a necessity, and we might as well celebrate it. We have all kinds of rules about what energies are good to share and receive, and which are not. Just about all of those rules are based on false fear. The worst of them is that we must not ask for what we need. This is, however, an exceptionally good time to experiment.

Leo (July 22-Aug 23)
Okay, so as far as I can tell, certain people are not matching up to the raging childlike power of your imagination, your cosmic curiosity and secret wisdom. They are like all brains and no heart, or all talk and no action and, perhaps, a fool here and there playing it cool. Take it easy on these slackers and show a little leadership. Start with not hiding any of what you're currently feeling -- your drive to experiment and experience, for example, and all the things about yourself that you're remembering, and everything you're forgetting. Look straight at people until you see exactly who you are. In so doing, you will help awaken them to just the inner qualities they possess and want to share, but are not nearly as good at as you.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
The world is in transition, so it should come as no surprise that you are as well. But why does it seem like everyone is having so much more fun than you? Why does it seem like you're saddled with work, necessity, responsibility and the urgent need to heal from a situation that has provoked tremendous insecurity? Or, perhaps, some kind of mental strain? It's not punishment, that I can tell you. It is more like a true calling, more like the medical student in the library when everyone else is out on the quad listening to the band. But you are being unnecessarily hard on yourself, to an extreme. You are not seeking your healing exactly where it is, and where it could help you. You need a soft space to feel, to learn and to let yourself love. You need a more peaceful way to consider the truth of yourself.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
Indulge in the overflowing energy that the people around you are offering. Take in that spirit of fire and celebration, and observe your feelings of anger and passion till they melt. The echoes of ancient days are strong now; we are passing through a well-traveled and powerfully supported loop in the hologram of time, reaching across many cultures and many continents. This pathway is directly accessible to you through your experiences of close friends, associates and intimate partners. There is even something available from your detractors, whoever they may be, perhaps those who doubt you, which is your opportunity to forgive them. This is especially true when you recognize that they are not the same people today as they were when you may have had disagreements with them.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
It is natural for our feelings about ourselves to fluctuate, even to extremes. We are here in the world of dualism, of mirrored states and other people, all of which seem to oppose and contradict one another even as they strive for harmony, and even as we find it. Other people seem to have a variety of responses to us, but the deeper level of reality is that we are having a variety of responses to ourselves, to our past and all its challenge and pain and growth, and to the fact of existence. What never ceases is the process of integration, which is another way of saying forming inner unity. As you do this integration work, you are assembling how you feel about yourself, on the deepest, most intimate and unspeakable levels.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 22)
The seeming detachment for which Sagittarians are famous is but a thin veil over how much compassion and awareness you carry for what happens on the cosmic physical plane. It's just not always that easy for you to express, and sometimes a little challenging to access the feelings in the odd language of Earth emotions. But may the world know that you surely do feel them -- that is, that you feel yourself, and feel, beyond that, feel and experience your connection to the greater spheres. You have the power to make this very personal right now. You have the power to turn the fury and chaos of human emotion to soft, penetrating soul.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
The past is rushing into the future with the sound of a symphony being pulled through a massive vacuum in space. It is not just your mind, though your perception is in full harmony with the rush of time, this strange experience with which our current generations are blessed, but think we are cursed. You among the people in your life have a unique perspective of time. You can feel the simultaneity of time, and its movement; it's sphere-like quality, and its delicate, sometimes tangled thread. There is nothing to untangle, though. You may notice that many of the seemingly important structures -- be they mazes or knots or self-imposed laws -- melt into a much softer self-perception. And you are having this effect on people.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
You get to decide anything you want right now: to live or die, to know or to forget, to condemn yourself for the past pain of others, or to release and forgive and understand without words. There has been no time like this in your life so far. There are elements present in your environment and in your consciousness that no person could have foreseen, or perhaps a great master: someone named Ammachi comes to mind. We could say you are standing in the door to all truth, which is the same as the door to all lies. It just depends on which way you go, what you are willing to feel, what your soul needs, and the extent to which you are willing to set aside the fears of your parents, and of theirs. Check it out. It's not your fear. It belongs to someone else. You can put it down.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
Cut yourself loose into the flow of time. We live in a world of inevitabilities, even though it often seems we live in a world of odd and scattered chances. The strangest and greatest of those involve being seen and known for who we are, and being able to express who we are without reservation. This is no time to hold back. Your expression in the world will take one form, and your merging with the greater destiny you sense opening up within you will, or rather, is taking another form. But there is a meeting place. There is a place where what seem like two entirely different destinies meet, and you are very close to it. You need to move gently there, but that's just to make it safer to be truly bold.

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Planet Waves Weekly and are edited by Eric Francis, with help from Chelsea Bottinelli and the Planet Waves Editorial Consortium. If you would like to be on our discussion list, please email with the word Vision in the subject header -- that's important. It may take us a week or so to get back to you, and admission to the Vision List is by interview only. We encourage our readers to get off their asses and explore their creative passions. Send us what you find out, if you feel like it. We want to know.
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