Major Planet Transits for 2003

By Eric Francis

Illustration by Zelinda Rosellini

Two thousand three is a transitional year between two vastly different astrological landscapes. The term 'Post 9-Eleven' world is wearing thin, but it took a lot of fire and air to create that whole mess. Fire to knock down buildings, air to spread disinformation, fire, metal and earth to bomb places, and so on. This would all be well and good except for the tremendous emotional cost, including our own detachment and a lurking awareness of the pain we know we cause around the world, including in our own lands.

Our society is very good at harnessing the elements. But the only things we seem able to do with water on a regular basis are pollute it and turn it into Pepsi and beer. Most people don't even drink the stuff. My friend Ben once accurately divided the American public into two categories -- those who drink water and those who don't (we all knew there wasn't really a difference between Republicans and Democrats). But the real subject of water, astrologically, is feeling. Consider how much effort we invest into not feeling. Are we even aware that's what we're doing? There are many, many industries which exist for the exclusive purpose of helping us stuff our emotions.

Besides two major planets exiting air signs and moving into water signs -- Saturn and Uranus, entering Cancer and Pisces respectively -- the two most watery planets will be positioned on either side of the Earth, creating a polarity. Jupiter, to one side, is a couple of thousand times the size of our little planet, so great in its gravitational influence that it wobbles the Sun in its path around the galaxy; Neptune, to the other side, is somewhat less huge, but still comparable. We have been accustomed to the rock-and-a-hard-place sensation of Saturn and Pluto for the past two years, that delightful feeling of brimstone being struck by a hammer. And while the rock and the hard place do come close to an opposition for the fourth time in a couple of months, it's not going to be what it was. They don't actually touch. No touchie means no sparkie.

But lots of other things do touch. Jupiter and Neptune, which make two more exact oppositions, are much softer, and in a number of ways their opposition will color the overall hue of 2003 more than any other aspect; while it lasts, anyway. If ever the world was getting beamed with peace and love vibes, it's under the influence of these two gigantic worlds. The Earth is now like a meatball spinning on the groovy vibes rotisserie. This is not a good time to make war; it's a fine time to make love; and it's a fine time to lie to people, if they'll believe you, but they won't unless their emotions are buried.

In order to actually lie to people, they have to believe you. Have we considered the proposition that individuals believing lies is as immoral as our leaders telling them to the whole population? After all, it takes two to tango.

Of course we believe what is not true because we have not done the work that our personal material is calling on us to do. A condition of inner denial, particularly of the pain we suffered as kids, leads to a state of outer denial of the issues and situations that cause pain in the world. Typically, we just ignore the problems and participate in the economy and make ourselves feel better any way we can. That has the opposite effect of what we desire: it makes the conditions within even worse.

Alternately, we may climb aboard the submarine less traveled in, and figure out why it is that we so often seem to be confused, weak and lack any real motivation to live, feel or go beyond the places we're trapped. This may sound like an extreme description, but based on a variety of observations, I think it's reasonable. This requires a process. It's an inner process of reconnecting, of evaluating everything in our lives, and of making decisions. Until we're engaged in this process, the events of the world, no matter how tragic or awesome, will have little real meaning to us.

The forthcoming Chiron-Saturn opposition is good medicine for feeling trapped, particularly trapped within the past. This is a relatively rare event, and it has that key-in-the-lock feeling that so often comes with Chiron's activities. There is a confrontation between what is blocking us and what we need to heal our hearts and free our souls. I write about this transit in greater detail below, and in the centaur transit section. But in short, Chiron tells us that we have help if we need it. We're not in this alone. There are people who have dedicated their lives to service, and they will help us too, if we seek them out and receive their gifts. If we don't accept help, however, there are always people around who are willing to consciously or unconsciously inflict greater pain on us, or just waste our time. People are 'receptor mediated', just like the liver and the brain. We need to fill those receptors with the right people or they will become filled with the wrong ones.

We live amongst an increasing population of people who are willing to serve as healers, and investing considerable resources in their skills. Some of them, a few of them, are actually very good at what they do, and what they can do goes beyond what we think anyone can do; Time and Newsweek don't write about them and likely would not know how to if they tried. We have help; I will keep saying this; we no longer need to hit the bottle or have it hit us. There are options to pain and numbness. For those seeking an adventure of growth and healing, we are heading for good times.

One of the great things about our era is the proliferation of knowledge, the pathways to access to that knowledge. If while surfing the main frequencies of infotainment we are fed a lot of garbage, we also live in a time when the many layers of truth are available to anyone who cares to find out. Your home computer would have cost millions of dollars thirty years ago, perhaps hundreds of millions, um, billions (a buck a bit, then a buck a byte -- do the math), and it would not have come with an Internet connection, Google or this really cool horoscope column.

Anyway -- here's what I and my colleagues at Planet Waves have been working with for 2003. These transits are the basis for the 2003 horoscope. I'll be tracking them in the monthly and the weekly as they unfold.

Uranus in Pisces

Uranus, the first of the 'modern planets' and the bringer of innovation, revolution, revelation and impassioned freedom, slides into Pisces, where it will be for the next seven years. Pisces is the sign that works like the deepest level of our collective unconscious, and is the source of dreams, inspiration, delusions, unspeakable fears and the yearning for bliss. Uranus in this sign means we'll need more than Prozac or the internet to feel comfortable in our emotions. We'll need more than Ecstasy to feel ecstasy. Maybe -- who knows -- we'll figure out that we need one another, and we'll think we invented something really special.

Speculation is running wild as to what this transit is all about. The New Age is going to promise us more perfection, the Marketing Age is going to offer us more seductive ways to spend our money. The Pharmaceutical Age is going to have yet another answer for everything, including eternal happiness. The Computer Age is probably going to come up with a computer that can have an orgasm, to save us the trouble. In reality we won't know until we get there, which is around March, and begin to feel the changes. Yet with many things Pisces, we don't usually know what's happening until it's happened, and this one ain't over for a while (Uranus arrives at the Aries point on May 27, 2010 -- this is an eight-year transit. And from the look of it, 2010 will be a very, very exciting year, like nothing we've seen in our lifetime.) So pay attention, and remember: if you're married to your meds, you don't actually know what you're actually missing. All you know is what you've got.

Uranus transits of all kinds tend to emphasize freedom, and they make us want it all at once. This is why Uranus is associated with inventions: it's factored prominently in the charts of new scientific developments and in the charts of scientists who had breakthroughs -- from Kitty Hawk to Edison to Sigmund Freud. My sense is that there will be an anti-anti-depressant movement shaping up, the desire to get free and experience one's sensitivity in full detail, gritty though it may be. That would be a kind of radical invention. Uranus in Pisces also has the 'false prophet' feeling to it. There are plenty of those. You can spot them in a second. All they talk about is death, even though it may have a sugar glaze.

Outer planet activity involving Pisces or Neptune can be extremely chaotic and confusing. The problem with the confusion is that we don't know we're in it; it can often exist on the subtle or energy level. It's a psychic phehomenon in a world that doesn't think there's such a thing as a psychic phenomenon. On the other hand it can show up as inspiration in a world that doesn't think there's such a thing as inspiration.

Historian and astrologer Rick Tarnas has proposed that Uranus should have been named Prometheus. Uranus, he reminds us, was an overthrown god. Prometheus is a revolutionary, much more like the planet we call Uranus. Prometheus was the forward-thinking god who not only brought the 'fire of the gods' to humanity: he also helped create humanity from clay. In Pisces, this promethean energy can, and for some people will, feel like some of the highest inspiration they have ever felt. Time will tell what becomes of it.

Saturn in Cancer

Next, we have Saturn working its way into Cancer. I can just see the piles of trash lined on both sides of the street as this emotional house-cleaning gets underway. I can just imagine all your mother's old crap piled up next to the Sears tough-guy garbage cans.

What are we throwing out? How about a little resentment. How about a load of sex-role rubbish that's creating a major fire hazard in the bedroom. How about how we take out the shitty parenting we received on ourselves and our partners. Oh, and on our children. No matter how bad we had it as kids, it can't be any better for most of them today, when many parents see their children an hour each day, a sacrifice made for the benefit of an unsatisfying career. Where people allow their children to be drugged in school, but send them there cranked up on sugar, caffeine and television.

Gosh, I'm sounding awfully Saturnian. I'll add one more concept: emotional discipline. Saturn is in its 'detriment' in Cancer, but with the extremely powerful emphasis on Pisces, we need the structure and focusing power that this placement offers.

Through the year, Saturn does something else: it makes three oppositions to Chiron in Capricorn. The combined effect of these planets will give us an opportunity to move some of our mental blocks that work like emotional blinders. If people actually began to feel, even a little, the you's and me's of the Western world would become a force to contend with, in our own lives, and in the world.

Chiron opposite Saturn will also call our attention to the generation gap that started in the 1960s. In many ways the generation gap is a divide-and-conquer tactic. Ultimately we spend so much time trying to be different than our parents that we wind up being just like them. They have one brand of materialism, we have another. They have one brand of dissatisfaction in their relationships, we have our own. Ultimately it's the same product.

The Saturn-Chiron opposition can work like a kind of evolutionary bridge between the past and the future, yet in the most tangible and practical ways. How do we organize our homes? What do we do with the influence of religion that has poisoned our ability to sense what's right and wrong, sensing with our bodies instead of using a moral code?

One last comment. Security. Every other word in the media is security. Every other thing we do is about trying to make ourselves seem, feel and think we're secure. I've incarnated on a lot of planets. I've never, ever, ever, ever been anyplace where people were so obsessed with security but did everything in their power to make where they lived more dangerous. Saturn in Cancer is going to stir all of this up. Here's a Uranian idea: why don't we try feeling our insecurity instead of obsessing over pretending to do something about it? Then we might actually do something that helps

Mars Retrograde in Pisces

Mars, while an inner planet, slows down, stops and goes backwards once every two years, as the Earth (moving faster than Mars) passes between it and the Sun. 2003 is such a year. Mars retrograde happens in Pisces, and interestingly, it spends a lot of time in a conjunction to Uranus. So on several accounts, the first degree of Pisces is hotly activated this year, as are all things Pisces. Mars is serving as a kind of emissary, guiding Uranus across the threshold from Aquarius. I have seen a lot of instances since studying the ephemeris where Mars did just that, particularly where slow-moving planets are involved in sign-changes.

Mars in Pisces is about feeling the intensity of our yearning, our passion, our addictions, and our craving for bliss. Mars in Pisces doesn't want wimpy pleasures. We'll take real sex, real drugs and real rock-n-roll, thank you; we don't cyber and we don't get off on coffee. With Mars in Pisces we want to get wet. Wet means exchanging body fluids, which is, as they say, dangerous. Danger requires trust. Trust is a feeling. Let's pay attention. To my esteemed readers who voted for Bush because you trusted him, and who still trust him, are you actually feeling that trust? Or are you making it up? For one thing Bush is no more trustworthy than any other television character. Trust is best reserved for people you know and have a track record with. There are those times when we don't really have a choice, and this is where cultivating our sensitivity comes in.

Degrees separating two signs are usually significant, but the border between Aquarius and Pisces, the last two signs, is worth fawning over for a moment. Where Pisces and Aquarius meet is the direction in space we look to for the whole elusive business about the 'Age of Aquarius'. I am a touch cynical about the Age of Aquarius, I don't think we're anywhere near it (as confirmed by what I read in the newspaper about where our society is at, and by astronomical measurements that say we're at least 300 years off) but I'll lay something on you that I can relate to. The first degree of Pisces has an image that comes along with it: "In a crowded marketplace, farmers and middlemen display a great variety of products."

What we have, at the threshold of this most spiritual sign of Pisces, is a picture of a healthy society, where people can buy and sell the things they need to live. There are middlemen -- you might call them retailers -- involved too, suggesting a fairly high order of evolution of the system. On the outside, this is what a sane world looks like. Themes of cooperation, freedom, diversity and a thriving culture are all implied in the image.

We have something to work with as an objective; something to aim for.

The last degree of Aquarius is visited by Uranus for the one and only time in its 84-year orbit in early March. That degree's symbol, and it's a long sentence is: "Deeply rooted in the past of a very ancient culture, a spiritual brotherhood in which many individual minds are merged into the glowing light of a unanimous consciousness is revealed to one who as emerged successfully from his metamorphosis."

Not to sound too much like an AP English teacher (my dream career) but let's contrast those two symbols. Obviously, the last degree of Aquarius has some mystical, spiritual implications -- a spiritual brotherhood, the merging of many individual minds, and the revelation of this greater joining to a newly-initiated individual. Can you relate? Does your experience remind you of the feeling evoked by the language? Or do you still have a little way to go?

When the zodiac cycle continues in the first degree of Pisces, we are standing in a marketplace. It is, in essence, a picture of the same thing -- one is esoteric, one is exoteric, that is, an innie and an outie. Or, we could say that the expression of the highest level of spiritual evolution is simple cooperation between free individuals. And that cooperation is born of the feeling of wanting it to be so, and an appreciation of the beauty of life were it so.

The Jupiter-Neptune Opposition

Neptune has been in Aquarius for a few years and recently, Jupiter entered Leo. While this may seem like more air/fire polarity -- since Leo and Aquarius are the core of the air/fire department -- what we have are the two rulers of Pisces in an opposition. The question: what's good, versus what's an illusion? What is all promise, and what is truly evolved? When nothing seems solid, what is?

With these two planets in any aspect, the need for honesty increases. We need to be able to discern what is an emotional experience, from what is a drug experience, from what is a spiritual experience from a guy talking shit at you on cable television. I know they are all very similar. And there is a difference. We usually don't notice it; we think that because we got really excited in church or at a workshop, that's the same thing as moving to a higher level of awareness, or deepening our relationship with spirit.

This could be viewed as a meeting of the nebulous with the not so obvious. Or, a drunk and a junkie having lunch. Or, the wise, beneficent graces of Jupiter meeting the compassion and forgiveness of Neptune. In opposition, the verbs choice, meeting, relationship, interchange all fit the picture.

Yet this aspect makes many astrologers nervous because it mists false optimism, polyanna attitudes and all promise with no follow through. It is the ultimate feel-good astrology.

Isabelle Hickey, in her commentary on this aspect, remarks that when it is present, we need to work with more advanced methods of healing rather than with drugs. Most of what we run to the doctor for (easily, for example, 90% of all antibiotics used, and many situations allegedly requiring operations) can be handled with holistic methods of healing that don't poison us and work very well. Most holistic methods are nourishing rather than depleting. The issue is always finding a good practitioner. To do that you have to use your intelligence, get references, interview people and learn a little about the healing form the caregiver is using. And then trust your karma.

Under Jupiter-Neptune, you have to use your discernment, ask questions, read the fine print and most of all, listen to your intuition. And everything must stand the test of time: relationships, projects, ideas, inspirations.

Later in the year, the centaur planet Asbolus is going to enter the picture, and Asbolus is all about intuition, only there's nothing subtle about it. We may get a few good blasts of awareness of how fooled we are, then get a chance to clean up and start again.

With Jupiter and Neptune facing one another, we also have a meeting of Sagittarius (which is ruled by Jupiter) and Pisces. Sagittarius is the region of space where we find the most far-out mysteries in this dimension -- stuff like the center of the galaxy and something called the Great Attractor. That shit is pretty far out, but at least it's on our plane of reality. Pisces is barely so. It's like a little bit of Pisces makes it through to the material plane, but the rest is in the next universe over. But when we get a whole lot of Jupiter and a whole lot of Neptune, we get a whole lot of Pisces and a whole bunch of Sagittarius and it's all pretty nebulous and difficult to describe. Good times always are.++

Return to 2003 Horoscopes Index

Space graphic above from the Rosette Nebula in Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Sulfur.
Credit: T. A. Rector, B. Wolpa, M. Hanna.