Among the many legends that derive from the story of the Holy Grail, the tale of the knight Perceval is especially poignant. When Perceval comes to the Grail Castle for the first time, he fails to ask about the Fisher King’s bleeding, never-healing wound. Previously, while learning the rules of chivalry, Percival had been told that it was impolite to ask too many questions. By declining to ask the long-suffering King about the cause of his pain, however, Perceval is exiled from the wondrous Grail Castle and condemned to wander for many arduous years, despite his longing to return. After repeatedly failing to find the Grail Castle a second time during his difficult sojourn, Perceval finally discovers his way back and ultimately asks the Fisher King the all-important question, “What ails thee?” which immediately heals the wounded monarch and brings great rejoicing.
This simple concept of being open to understanding the source of a fellow human’s suffering is quite profound. The capacity to listen to another’s grief can heal a marriage or a foundering relationship between a parent and child or between friends. We are often so busy with our own preoccupations or so invested in being right or in not admitting fault that we fail to listen. Without acceptance and understanding, the aggrieved parties will not release their anger, and the ceaseless struggle between them will continue.
In much the same way, this principle exists between nations, and both diplomacy and negotiation, when done appropriately, provide channels through which nations can acknowledge misunderstandings and the issues inherent in their conflicts and reach a consensus for resolution. How powerful, how transformative, would it be if our government could sit down with the governments of Iran or North Korea, or even representatives of the terrorists(!), and listen to their perspective, the source of their anger and their distrust, and attempt to address it? Instead, we create cardboard villains at whom we hurl insults and sometimes bombs, but we get no closer to either the root of the bitter disagreements that rage between us or their solution.
To ask, “What ails thee?” can also be done introspectively, either individually or collectively, as the beginning point of a healthy transformation. For many in America, the many travesties of the Bush administration - its constant deceptions, its weakening of civil liberties, its destruction of the environment, its militant version of diplomacy, its assault on protections for the poor, etc. – have been like a festering wound that seems never to heal, seeping out more of the lifeblood of the nation with each new transgression. On the collective or national level, it is primarily the news media that is entrusted with the task of alerting the public when the nation or its government are deviating from just, lawful, or beneficial policies. It is the media’s task to ferret out the truth, to expose fraud and corruption, and often to speak for the conscience of the people, especially when that conscience has gotten sleepy or distracted. It is the role of the news media to ask the question “What ails us?” and to explore the multifaceted answers to that question, as well as its potential solutions.
In the US chart, Uranus, the planet of freedom, rebellion, and sudden awakening, is very prominent. It opposes the Ascendant, which suggests it colors the very identity of the nation. Indeed, our national identity is very bound up with the concepts of freedom from oppression and equality that permeate our elegantly written Declaration of Independence, as well as with the protected freedoms guaranteed in our Bill of Rights. Moreover, Uranus rules the third house of the press and communication and the US Aquarian Moon located in the 3rd house. This rulership points to the special significance of freedom of speech and freedom of the press in our national heritage. As of March 19, 2005, Uranus has moved to within a one-degree orb of square to the US natal Uranus, and will cross back and forth over the exact square three times through January 2006. Then from March 2006 until February 2007, Uranus will square the US Ascendant (of the Sibley chart). This suggests a prolonged period, from March 2005 through February 2007, during which that part of the American archetype which has to do with freedom of expression, freedom of the press, guaranteed civil liberties, and rebelling against perceived tyranny, will be activated and intensified. Uranus can manifest in a violent or explosive manner at times, and so the upcoming Uranian rebellion may not always be peaceful. But come it will. And it is likely to have a direct and stressful impact on George Bush and his administration, who will be undergoing concurrent Uranus transits, opposite Bush’s Mars and square the Inaugural Moon.
To get some perspective on the impact of the coming Uranus transit in the US chart, it is instructive to look at some historical data. The first time in the nation’s history that Uranus transited its birth place and, subsequently, the US Descendant, was from the second half of 1860 through early 1862, a time which correlates to the building secessionist movement in the South and the first year of the American Civil War. The second crossing of natal Uranus and the US Descendant by transiting Uranus came in 1943 and 1944, as the US was intensifying its war effort against the globally threatening tyranny of Nazi Germany. From late 1963 through mid 1965, Uranus squared the natal US Uranus and Descendant, bringing in its wake an escalating and increasingly insistent civil rights movement, the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and Great Society.
In each of these historical examples, a focused and powerful resistance to a perceived tyranny and a push for greater freedom manifested. Because of Uranus’s unpredictability, however, there is no way to be sure of the exact path the transits in 2005, 2006, and early 2007 will take. At present, there are many who chafe under the grip of the Bush administration’s propagandistic hold on America, its pervasive dishonesty, its increasing limits on civil liberties, and its neo-fascistic foundation in hyper-nationalism, corporatism, and militancy. It may very well be that the coming Uranus transit will challenge the ascendancy of this radical agenda and stir the American public to resist this encroaching stain on its democracy. It is also possible that Uranus will stir up the hostility that exists in the nasty Culture War that increasingly pervades our political and cultural landscape, with its burgeoning animosity between Christian fundamentalist extremists that wish to imprint America with their radical ideology and the more moderate and liberal among us who prefer to let people live their own lives. The current escalating battle over the fate of Terri Schiavo, as the first Uranus aspect waxes in strength, seems to be the latest installment of this Cold Civil War.
But no transit operates in a vacuum. Planetary aspects weave together, uniting a disparate and sometimes contradictory mix of elements. Recently, George Bush has been under a prolonged Jupiter transit to his natal Jupiter and Moon, through March 11, and, soon, briefly square his Sun for a week through April 4. This accounts for his jocular mood and the gloating of administration officials who now think democracy is on the march throughout the Middle East due to the enlightened influence of Emperor Bush’s aggressive policies.
Concurrent to this uplifting and somewhat grandiose Jupiter influence, however, Saturn’s transit to US Mercury and Bush’s Saturn has been exerting significant pressure on the Bush administration, indicating the increasing contraction of US currency and the problematic trade issues that are impacting the US economy. With Saturn now moving direct again, Bush will demonstrate less glib optimism and be weighed down more and more by weighty concerns, especially as Saturn gets closer once again to the US Mercury in May and to Bush’s Saturn in June. Moreover, as of September 2005 and continuing through June 2007, Bush will be under an increasing pressure from Saturn to curtail his actions and face the exigencies of the reality-based world. Saturn will cross his Ascendant, Mercury, and Pluto, and the following year his Venus. These transits suggest an onerous road for Bush, dramatically punctuated with unpleasant surprises from the unpredictable Uranus.
There is yet another significant planetary influence over the coming few years to consider. In the natal US chart, we find a Mercury/Pluto opposition, with Pluto in the second house and Mercury in the eighth house. This describes the obsessive and all-consuming focus in America on controlling resources and accumulating wealth (Pluto in the second house) and the power struggle between labor (Mercury) and the forces of great wealth (Pluto), with wealth often turning trade and labor to its own purposes. An indication of the evolving distribution of wealth and financial power in the US may be found in the transits of Pluto to this natal Pluto/Mercury opposition. Thus, when Pluto crossed in conjunction to US Mercury and opposite US Pluto from 1933 through 1937, FDR pushed through his transformative New Deal, shifting key elements in the economic foundation of America. Forty-four years later, from January 1981 through September 1983, when Pluto moved to square US Mercury and Pluto, Ronald Reagan instigated massive tax cuts for the wealthy with his supply-side economics, creating huge government deficits and very little of the promised “trickle down” effect to help the poor. A significant redistribution of wealth was unfolding once again. The next major transit taking place in this sequence will be from 2020 through 2023, when Pluto will oppose US Mercury and return to its own natal position. We can expect potent forces to profoundly shift the economic landscape at this time, dramatically reshaping the distribution and power of American wealth yet again.
What is interesting for our present consideration, however, is the transiting Pluto quincunx to natal Mercury, a more minor aspect than the squares, conjunctions, and oppositions discussed above, but nonetheless quite significant, due to the tight, hard natal aspect between these two planets, and the slow, prolonged nature of this transit. Covering from January 2005 through September 2006, the Pluto quincunx to US Mercury is likely to bring powerful transformative forces and momentous power struggles that will slowly and inexorably work upon US trade, currency, investment issues, and wealth distribution during this almost two-year period. In addition, the early months of this transit, through May 2005, are accompanied by the contracting, rather depressing, and problematic influence of Saturn conjunct US Mercury. Due to a particularly intense period of the combined impact of Saturn and Pluto, it is possible that May 15 to 28 will bring some kind of crisis involving these economic issues.
Thus far, the Pluto transit quincunx US Mercury, accompanied by the Saturn conjunction, has brought a sharp contraction of US currency, a huge increase in the cost of oil, and growing fears about the trade and current accounts deficits. All of these are issues of Saturn (contraction, scarcity) conjunct US 8th house Mercury (trade, currency, resources of others). But the focus on Mercury will continue after Saturn departs in early June, when Pluto lingers for another 16 months. We can expect a slow, relentless process of transformation in the areas of trade, currency, and resources. Despite any last gasp of hope, there will be no going back to the halcyon days of America, the economic superpower amidst pigmies, calling all the shots. The entire economic landscape is in the process of rearranging once again, and this time, globally. America will have to adjust to a crowded field of competition and will need to slim down and hone up her skills. Moreover, she will have to finally face her gluttony for resources, especially oil. This process may be quite painful due to the wasted years when raising public awareness and the development of alternative fuels could have been given top priority and done with less sense of imminent crisis. Although the major Pluto transit between 2020 and 2023 will bring a profound metamorphosis of our economic reality, the current two-year transit will also cause a significant reorientation and a necessary transformation and will prove to be quite significant in the evolution of American capitalism.
And so, we find ourselves at the threshold of momentous events. The economic shifts have already begun but are only just whispering their way onto the nation’s radar, notably by the increasingly high gas prices. There will soon be some perturbations or eruptions as the Land of the Free remembers its true heritage and struggles to reconnect with its July 4th roots. These attempts to break free and the sudden, pivotal events that will awaken us to a clearer sight have not yet come. But they are brewing all around us, as well as stirring up the long-cowed press, and they are likely soon to bubble over into consciousness.