Back when the world was young, Taurus was more Taurean.
In the Northern hemisphere, the month of May meant fertile fields of loamy earth, calves being born to swell the herds, and fruit trees in blossom. The sign Taurus signified full bellies to come. Security—“wealth”—was equated with the fecundity of the natural world, in its glory at this time of year.
These days, we equate Taurus not so much with resources as with the idea of resources. We moderns gauge security in terms of our possessions, including those signifiers of economic status that may have little relationship to full bellies, or to physical survival at all. We perceive wealth in an increasingly abstract way. At this point in human history, this good, solid Earth sign has come to equate almost exclusively with money.
And money itself has become un-tethered from the natural world. At first symbolized by rare and precious metals, jewels and spices, it then came to be signified by paper notes, whose credit depended upon gold bars stored in the federal treasury. Now, with the gold standard long gone in the USA, what is it that actually backs up the stuff in our wallets? Greater or lesser amounts of debt, expressed in pixilated figures on a computer screen.
Plenty o’ Nothin’
Taurus governs the concept of abundance. But a significant meaning shift came about with this archetype as societies moved away from their origins in food cultivation.
A milestone in this trajectory was the development of surpluses and stockpiling, which led to trading and investment. The idea of material sufficiency started to detach itself further and further from our actual animal needs, more and more removed from the energy of this most literal of signs.
Instead of using a cellar full of salt pork to measure the notion of plenty, we count the digits in a CEO’s bonus. Instead of assessing societal wealth in terms of how many citizens are healthy and well-fed, we assess it in terms of what Fortune Magazine says about some hedge-fund manager’s portfolio.
The most bizarrely un-Taurean feature of this perspective is that no goods are produced by these new criteria of wealth. No new cattle or fruit trees come of the stock trader’s little numbers. No reservoirs are filled by Goldman Sachs’ billions in profits. The only thing that is produced is the idea of economic power, a chimera even for the very few who contend for it.
These incongruities should prompt us to revisit our ideas about the core meanings of wealth, security and abundance. Can economic “resources” with no use-value be confidently said to be governed by Taurus—the earthiest and most practical of the Earth signs?
For those who feel prompted to go deeper into this highly charged topic (1), now is a good time. For one thing, every spring money is on everyone’s minds because of the Sun passing through Taurus for two-thirds of May. This year, Mercury, too is in Taurus for the entire month, inviting us to think more rationally than usual about our financial lives.
Pluto in Capricorn
Reinforcing this annual focus on money is Pluto in Capricorn (monetary systems). For the past couple of years, this slow-building transit has been forcing the whole world to look at its relationship with the plane of matter.
In the collective, it is clear that humanity has no choice but to get it together ASAP as regards our stewardship of the Earth. It is also clear that consumerist nations like the USA, whose Sun cluster Pluto is opposing, must change their economic patterns.
On the personal level, attitudes about value, worth and the accumulation of stuff (2) are also shifting radically. The various meanings we’ve given to money are meant to break down now, and turn into something else.
Most of the world’s governments are broke right now: what’s going on in Greece, Portugal and Spain right now should be watched carefully by Americans. The infrastructures that manage the world’s resources are very shaky everywhere. Global analysts are grappling with economic theories to explain this instability; politicians and pundits are trying to make partisan hay out of it; and ordinary folks are clutching their wallets in panic.
Astrologers, meanwhile, see the crisis as symptomatic of meaningful cosmic cycles whose growth arc can be foreseen, responded to and learned from. Those who accept the transits’ invitation, rather than reacting against it in fear, will be led, step by step, through the learning curve.
This growth arc clicks into its next phase at the end of this month, when Uranus moves into Aries.
For the ancient Greeks and Romans, Hades/Pluto was the god of hidden riches. He hasn’t changed careers; he’s just swapped his black cloak for a Brooks Brothers suit. The modern world has resurrected Pluto as the behind-the-scenes banking cartels that manage concentrated stores of wealth, such as the Federal Reserve, the World Bank and the clique of financial industry players whose shenanigans triggered the Wall Street meltdown.
As soon as Pluto went into Capricorn in 2008, we were handed his calling card.
When the stock markets were careening up and down during that summer and fall, a certain freedom filled the air. The chaos opened up an unusual degree of feisty public discussion. The official stories had not yet been cobbled together; and during those first months of shock, some dared to say out loud that capitalism had failed. Since then, most of the global establishment media has dropped such inflammatory talk like a hot potato. But the ideas that were swirling around then have not disappeared.
Uranus in Aries is the signature of wild, rebellious notions. Its T-square with Pluto and Saturn indicates dramatic clashes between the interests of raw economic power and the democratic impulses (Uranus) that those interests seek to suppress (Saturn).
In the USA, during that first year of free-fall, many people who’d never thought of it before began to realize that Wall Street and Washington were joined at the hip. Many Americans started to realize why the profits of the financial giants were so huge: it was because the little guy’s tax bill was implicitly guaranteeing them (3).
A few even started to wonder about that most Plutonian of American institutions, the Federal Reserve, which we mentioned last month (3). I imagine the god of hidden wealth reincarnating in the early 20th Century, shopping around for an appropriate venue of operations, and grinning with pleasure when he came upon the Federal Reserve.
Occult in the truest sense of the word, this arcane agency is like the Masonic Brotherhood only without the presumptions to spirituality: it exists purely to concentrate and control wealth.
Astrologically the Fed conforms explicitly to the symbolism of the US Pluto in the second house of banks. Federal in name only, this institution was the brainchild of a clique of private bankers in 1913, and the majority of its shareholders remain secret to this day. It operates with an opacity so complete that it defies all regulation from government, and elicits barely any curiosity from the US public, despite its astonishingly undemocratic workings.
As astrologer Maurice Levanant has written (3), transiting Pluto was exactly conjunct Mars in the chart of the Fed on 1929 when the US stock market collapsed; at which point a tiny group of profiteers made out like bandits and the rest of the world entered the Great Depression.
In early 2008, when the current crisis began, Pluto was right on top of the Sun in the chart of the Federal Reserve.
It does not bode well that the cultural expression of Taurus has become estranged from the physical realm.
Consider the Wall Street versions of wealth that caused such a hue and cry a couple of years ago. Here we have financial concoctions so intangible that they defy comprehension, apparently by design. As economist Michael Lewis has shown, the convoluted nature of these financial instruments was no accident; they were created with the clear intention of hiding risk. The brokers who invented them are glorified gamblers. They knew quite well how fraudulent those credit default swaps were and they used that knowledge to game the market (4).
America’s economic verities have fallen like sacred cows since Pluto transited the Fed chart’s Sun two years ago. The reputation of Alan Greenspan, former demi-god of the Fed, has sunk like a stone; and the entire world has been left to suffer the insults of his having allowed its banks to run riot and having flooded the US economy with dirt-cheap dollars.
This summer, as Uranus and Saturn join Pluto in the Grand Cross, we may see the dollar fighting for its life.
Forward or Backward
Propaganda machines all over the globe are working overtime to make it appear that those in charge know what they’re doing. As astrologers, we ought to know better than to fall for their spin.
Prime ministers and presidents may be in charge of countries, and as individuals we may be in charge of our lives; but that does not mean we are in control. To see transits as Natural Laws at work is to understand that they are in control. We humans can take charge, well or poorly; but under skies like these we misunderstand the opportunity at hand if we imagine that we, as ego-based personalities, are in control. Our best bet is to be aware of what cosmic forces are trying to teach us, and to not resist them.
As we move into each new phase of the 2012 period, individuals of conscience will be asked to separate out the tales told by the powers-that-be from the realities that we see with our own eyes. Will we look head-on at what the transits are exposing, or turn away? Will we pretend the economy is on the way up, and that the war in Iraq was a success, because the news anchors say so? Will we dismiss global warming because there were blizzards in March?
Or will we remain open to what’s being revealed, so as to understand?
1 For Americans, money is a particularly loaded topic. It is a taboo—revered yet despised, seldom approached rationally or honestly. This is borne out by the natal (Sibly) chart of the USA, where Pluto, the planet of obsession, is in the second house of resources.
2 See Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff.
3 The Mountain Astrologer Magazine, April-May/2010, p.34. The Sun in the chart of the Federal Reserve opposes its Pluto (absolute control) within a degree of arc. Its 12th-house Saturn in Gemini opposes its Mercury (censorship, insider information).
4 See John Cassidy’s article on Tim Geithner, The New Yorker, 3/15/10.