August 2003 A Conscious Evolution Newsletter
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Volume 2, Number 8

Opinions presented in Metamorphosis are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of others associated with the newsletter.

August Star Watch

by Terri Smallwood


Welcome, Star Watchers, to August - the lazy hazy “dog days” of summer and the playful domain of Leo, king of the summer skies.

The days of August are long and hot, and the evenings endless. No wonder we itch to toss aside work and other burdensome responsibilities in favor of lazy afternoons at the cottage and romantic nights strolling on the beach. August is the culmination of summer in the northern hemisphere, and once again we can see how the symbolism of the stars reflects the natural world: The heat of the Sun, ruler of Leo, works steadily throughout the month, bringing the crops and seeds planted and nurtured during Cancer to the peak of their summer ripeness, ready to be harvested by busy hands next month when the Sun is in Virgo.

It is Leo’s fiery, fixed makeup that gives Mother Nature the powerful solar boost she needs to get the plants growing and producing, imbuing them with her life force and vitality, preparing them to be storehouses of nutrients and vitamins that will see us through the long winter months to come. And it is the mark of a true king to have delegated the work so well, for while the plants are happily growing, Leo can turn his attention to some of life’s more entertaining pursuits. He has a passion for theatre and the finer things in life - including luxurious food and drink, befitting his role as benevolent monarch.

However, not every Leo comes into this world expecting to be treated like a modern-day Louis the XIV. In fact, quite often people born under this sign demonstrate their kingly natures through a quiet sense of self-assurance. Leo is not a cardinal sign, and therefore, despite his de facto role as King of the Zodiac, he really isn’t a leader, at least not in the same sense as Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. Instead, Leo is more of a figurehead, a ruler reminiscent of your favourite uncle - the one you listen to because he’s just such a nice, amiable sort of guy - unlike that Capricorn aunt of yours, whom you obey unquestionably, but mostly because she scares you stiff!

A creative sign, Leo is associated with the fifth house, the house of children and one of the sources of creativity in a natal chart. The creative power of Leo is a very masculine sense of creativity. Last month we saw the nurturing creativity of the Moon-ruled Cancerian mother; now in Leo we see the pro-creative strength of the Sun working out his role as father through the Lion.

August begins this year with not only the Sun in Leo, but Venus as well, creating a heady sense of fun and romance to start the month. A cheerful and lighthearted combination, the pairing of the Sun and Venus in Leo does much to alleviate the other strong influence that begins August - the Moon in Virgo opposing the recently-turned-retrograde Mars in Pisces.

A planet is said to be retrograde when it appears to be moving backwards across the plane of the ecliptic. While this backwards motion is, in fact, merely an optical illusion caused by the differing speeds of the Earth and the planet in retrograde motion, it does change the nature of the energy being transmitted to earth from the affected body. (Not only planets can be retrograde; the Moon's Nodes quite often are calculated as retrograde as well.)

The well-known effects of Mercury retrograde are a good example of what happens to a planet’s influence while it is in this backwards motion. When Mercury, the planet that rules the exchange of ideas, goes retrograde, all types of communications go haywire! Important documents are often lost in the mail, Internet services slow and even shut down, computers crash unexpectedly, and many minor and petty arguments and misunderstandings arise from people’s sudden inability to remember important facts or express themselves with any real clarity. Mercury in retrograde can be a stressful time to the uninitiated, but the effects are usually short-lived, and most of the snarls can be unraveled easily once Mercury begins its forward motion again. Mercury turns retrograde next on August 29, when it starts to travel backwards from its station point at 26 degrees Virgo and continues to retrograde to 12 degrees Virgo, going direct again on September 20.



Mars: Photo by David Crisp & team, California Institute of Technology.
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/
global/PIA01249.html

The retrograde of Mars, by comparison, is a much stronger and more challenging event. While Mercury retrogrades typically last only about three weeks, Mars retrogrades are at least twice as long, and this current Mars retrograde lasts for two full months, ending on September 27. Mars retrogrades are also much less common, occurring roughly once in every two to three years, compared to the three or four times a year that Mercury goes retrograde. The fairly long duration and relative rarity of the event, together with the passionate and physical nature of Mars, make Mars retrogrades particularly intense.

Mars is the gift of life that bestows upon us the physical, mental, emotional and creative energy necessary to function as flesh-and-blood creatures. During a Mars retrograde our connection to this life-sustaining energy source is dulled, and people find themselves compensating for its loss in different fashions. The most obvious reaction is a sharp increase in feelings of aggression and combative energy. Students of The Celestine Prophecy will understand this concept, which is illustrated by the “Fourth Insight” in James Redfield’s popular new-age novel. Referring to vital energy, Redfield writes, “Too often humans cut themselves off from the greater source of this energy and so feel weak and insecure. To gain energy we tend to manipulate or force others to give us attention and thus energy. When we successfully dominate others in this way, we feel more powerful, but they are left weakened and often fight back. Competition for scarce, human energy is the cause of all conflict between people.”

With Mars going retrograde in Pisces, the keyword here is “manipulation.” Pisces is not a great place for action-oriented Mars. Even when Mars is in direct motion, he finds his fires smoldering under the influence of the watery Fishes. Mars in Pisces is known for surreptitious actions and secret endeavors designed to avoid open conflict through careful manipulation of others. The retrograde exacerbates this already difficult situation, and the air is fraught with the emotional undercurrent of repressed actions.

One particularly explosive transit this month highlights some of the difficulties of the retrograde Mars. On August 6, Mercury opposes the retrograde Mars, while the Moon in Sagittarius squares both planets. Mercury here goads Mars and provides a vehicle to express previously repressed Martian aggression. With the emotional wrench the Moon throws into the ring, this day carries with it the dubious honor of being perhaps the most explosive day of the month.

Another retrograde planet that plays a significant role this month is Uranus. We can expect especially strong bolts of lightning from Uranus, as he is poised to travel back into Aquarius for what will be his last romp in the sign of his rulership for the next 80 years. The outer planets operate in a cycle of retrograde and direct motion, often going back and forth over a particular zodiac point three or more times, ensuring ample opportunity to learn from any given aspect or placement. Expect some surprises from Uranus as he gives us one last crash course in the lessons transmitted during his last six years in the sign of Aquarius.

The last week of August continues to feature Mars, and this time in an especially spectacular fashion. Throughout August, Mars draws closer and closer to the Earth, and on August 27 at 5:53 a.m. EDT, Mars will be closer to Earth than any time in recorded history. Scientists calculate that the last time Mars was this close was tens of thousands of years ago. At a mere 35 million miles away (just around the block in astronomical terms) Mars will be low in the southwestern horizon in the wee hours of August 26 and August 27. August 28 will find Mars at 4 degrees Pisces, in direct opposition to the Virgo Sun. This may be the best day to observe the red planet, as the Earth stands directly between the Sun and Mars at this time. The planet should be visible with the unaided eye, even to city-dwellers. Viewing conditions notwithstanding, all of us should be able to feel the energy of our closest neighboring planet as he puts on a show that promises to be a truly extraordinary event.

The last week of August also sees a shift from the playful Leo energy that began the month to the more studious vibrations of the Mercury-ruled Virgin. Venus enters Virgo on August 23 and is joined there by the Sun the next day. The Sun/Venus conjunction opposes Uranus in Pisces on the 24th, and while Mars in Pisces is technically out of orb for a true opposition, expect the combined strength of the Sun/Venus to draw the Mars energy back towards Uranus for a power-packed day of learning on the Virgo-Pisces axis. Virgo is about service to humanity, after all, and the Sun and Venus are not about to let the hazy mists of Pisces cloud their judgment here. Venus stands for justice, and she will expect a full reckoning from Uranus, reminding him of the responsibilities to world service he took on when he first entered Pisces last March.

* * * * *

Before signing off completely, I’d like to take a moment to mention with gratitude that next month will see us publishing our first anniversary edition of Metamorphosis. Over the past year I have strived to make Star Watch an informative part of the newsletter’s regular offerings, but I could never have accomplished that without some valuable resources. Below are the books that I consider to be my personal astrological “Bibles,” and I offer them to you as both summer reading and extraordinary reference guides.

  • Sun Signs by Linda Goodman
  • Complete Astrology by Alan Oken
  • The Astrologer’s Handbook by Frances Sakoian and Louis Acker
  • Planets in Transit by Robert Hand

Up until now I have focused each month on presenting the current Sun sign as part of nature’s cycle and attempted to illustrate how nature’s cycles complement the progression of signs through the zodiac and vice versa. Next year I look forward to presenting the signs in a slightly different context - as an evolution of man and mankind - beginning, appropriately enough, with Virgo and her role as servant to humanity.

I look forward to continuing to “consciously evolve” with you all!

For a detailed listing of this month’s transits, see
the August Interactive Calendar