On January 4, 2011, a partial eclipse of the sun was visible in Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East. The swath of 50% visibility cut across Africa’s northern shore and the Sahara desert, from Morocco through Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, and on across the Sinai through Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, before terminating in Russia.
At 13 Capricorn, the eclipse fell in the sign ruling governments, particularly of a calcified, reactionary, authoritarian nature, signaling a moment of disruption in the natural rhythm of those governments, and a potential chink in their armor. Additionally, the eclipse was exactly squared to the Black Hole at 13 Libra, indicating the potential for dramatic, complete reversal in the status quo, an opportunity for alternate realities to assert themselves and step into the temporal vacuum symbolized by the sun’s “disappearance.” In two of the countries the eclipse passed through, Tunisia and Egypt, long-standing dictators were toppled by largely peaceful, massive public protests during the ensuing weeks, while additional anti-government demonstrations occurred in Algeria, Libya, Bahrain and Iran, also within the 50% band, and in Yemen, further south, with a 25% eclipse visibility.
Although the eclipse acted as the starting gun which signaled these revolutions, it did not occur in an astrological vacuum. Pluto’s passage of Capricorn, disrupting governments, banking and business institutions, and structural elements globally, has been augmented by the slow formation of a T-Square including Uranus and Saturn, with Pluto at the fulcrum, evoking transformation. With Uranus ruling revolution and democracy, and Saturn representing repressive, authoritarian regimes, sparks were bound to fly, and contacts from the eclipse degree to the charts of key players and nation states under the gun of the eclipse path clearly demonstrate where its effects would be most strongly felt.
Additional factors include the celestial pas-de-deux of Uranus and Jupiter over the cusp of the Aries Point, combining restless, rebellious energies (Uranus) with politics, philosophies, and exuberant optimism (Jupiter); as well as Neptune and Chiron in late Aquarius, blending the energies of martyr (Neptune) and maverick (Chiron) with social networking, high tech connectivity, and radicalized democracy (all Aquarius). Both these pairings have criss-crossed Black Holes at 28 Pisces and Aquarius over the past year, further ramping up the volatility and unpredictable nature of expression of their energies, and impelling major revision of existing conditions and the establishment of new circumstances which were previously unthinkable, and seemingly impossible to achieve.
Saturn in mid/late Libra has also been approaching conjunction with TNO Rhadamanthus, urging a stern appraisal, judgment and punishment (all Rhadamanthus) of authoritarian or autocratic governments (Saturn), while within orb of TNO Haumea (named for a Hawaiian goddess of childbirth, representing creating or initiating something new) and opposing TNO Eris in Aries, indicating extreme discontent, discord and strife. An exact pairing of TNOs Ceto and Deucalion in early/mid Scorpio signals a recognition of the monstrous actions (Ceto, named for a primordial Greek mythic sea monster) of these regimes, which are swamped in a rising tide (Deucalion, named for a Greek progenitor of the Noah/flood myth) of popular opposition, opprobrium and rejection.
These many celestial factors have combined to produce the global atmosphere resulting in the changes we have seen in the Arab world over the past two months, subject to the eclipse trigger and localized to its terrestrial pathway. Solar eclipses typically can begin to manifest in symbolic incidents up to several weeks before the actual occultation, and can take up to three years to fully manifest, though they are strongest in the six months subsequent to the eclipse, until the next eclipse occurs.
Such is the case with the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor on 17 December 2010, just 18 days before the solar eclipse, in protest of his mistreatment by police and government officials, which touched off the overthrow of the Tunisian government.
26-year old Mohamed Bouazizi had been selling produce from a wheelbarrow on the street in Sidi Bouzid, a provincial capital in the central region of Tunisia, since the age of ten, trying to support his family. Regular harassment from and run-ins with local police and repeated confiscation of his goods led to a humiliating incident on the morning of December 17 where Bouazizi was publically slapped in the face by a female officer who spat at him and threw his produce into the street, after insulting his deceased father.
Less than an hour later, Bouazizi appeared at the governor’s office, and after he was refused an audience, doused himself with gasoline and set himself afire in front of the building. He died on the day of the eclipse, but in the meantime, his desperate gesture had sparked a countrywide rising in opposition to the government of dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who had governed Tunisia since 1987.
Protests over Bouazizi’s treatment specifically, and the state of unemployment, hunger and poverty generally, began in Sidi Bouzid and spread rapidly across the country, reaching the capital by December 27. Police reinforcements used tear gas on the crowds in an effort to disperse the demonstrators, and after a second protestor’s suicide by electrocution brought the crowds to frenzy, deadly force began to be used.
What had started as a street protest by the underprivileged escalated into a mass movement with elite support when 300 lawyers who demonstrated outside the government palace in Tunis were savagely beaten on December 28, prompting the early January strike by an estimated 95% of Tunisia’s lawyers in solidarity. On January 14, resigned under pressure from the military, and fled the country with his family. Denied asylum in France, his former ally, Ben Ali eventually sought refuge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The solar eclipse of January 4 punctuates this period of unrest, and fell precisely on Tunisia’s 13 Capricorn Mars (Tunisia granted independence 20 March 1956), exactly sextile its 13 Pisces Mercury, indicating the violent (Mars) protests (Mercury), and opposing Tunisia’s natal asteroid Liberatrix (“the Liberator”) at 10 Cancer. This last is an exact match for asteroid Achilles in the chart of Ben Ali’s administration (begun 7 November 1987), which was also opposed by the eclipse, and represents a congenital weak spot, a point of potential undoing for the regime. Further, the eclipse is also tightly sextile to the 14 Scorpio Sun of the regime, and squared its Eris at 16 Aries, giving voice to the discontent that pervaded the society.
Mohamed Bouazizi was especially suited to act as instigator of this uprising. Born 29 March 1984, his Sun/Quasar/Eris conjunction at 9,10 and 15 Aries makes him a vessel incarnate (Sun) of discontent (Eris), fated to be highly visible (Quasar) at some point; with his Sun falling closely on Tunisia’s natal Eris at 8 Aries, Bouazizi gives a face to the nation’s discord. This combination was activated by a square from the eclipse, which also fell tightly on Bouazizi’s natal Jupiter, ruling politics and public policy, at 11 Capricorn, and exactly semisextile his natal Uranus, ruling rebellion, at 13 Sagittarius, while sextile to natal Saturn, representing the police, government repression and authoritarianism, at 15 Scorpio (conjunct the 14 Scorpio Sun of the regime, bringing loss and limitation—Saturn—to Ben Ali -Sun).
Natal Uranus is also conjoined by asteroid Liberatore (#17960) at 14 Sagittarius, just one minor body that can be equated with “freedom” or “liberty” based on its Latin root, liber (literally, “free man”). The others also feature prominently, with Libera (#771) on a spotlighting Quasar at 5 Scorpio conjunct Pluto (transformation, renewal) at 1 Scorpio; Liberati (#6417) exactly on a Black Hole at 17 Aquarius and exactly inconjunct Liberatrix (#125) at 17 Virgo, itself exactly on a news-oriented Pulsar. Mars at 28 Scorpio is also exactly on a Quasar, and conjoins asteroid Tunis (#6362, named for the country’s capital city) at 0 Sagittarius, highlighting the unrest in Tunisia that Bouazizi’s act helped to bring into focus.
Bouazizi immolated himself at 11:30 AM local time on December 17. A chart cast for this moment appropriately shows both Neptune and Chiron rising exactly on the 26 Aquarius Ascendant, combining the martyr (Neptune) with the wounded maverick (Chiron) in an egalitarian, progressive cause (Aquarius). These pull into focus Bouazizi’s natal Achilles at 29 Aquarius, which is square his natal Mars—the inherent flaw in his make-up (Achilles) which caused his death (Mars).
Transit Libera at 15 Sagittarius is exactly trine Bouazizi’s natal Eris (discord, strife) at 15 Aries, exactly sextile transit Saturn (repression, authority) on the Quasar (bringing notoriety and public attention) at 15 Libra, and is just cresting the Midheaven on the Black Hole at 9 Sagittarius, making it the most elevated point in the chart. Libera is further conjunct Bouazizi’s natal Uranus/Liberatore conjunction; also conjunct the MC from the Ninth House side is asteroid Hidalgo, named for a leader of the Mexican war of independence, exactly on a Black Hole at 5 Sagittarius.
Libera further conjoins the 20 Sagittarius Sun and an exact pairing of asteroids Liberatore and Icarus at 22 Sagittarius, marking the day (Sun) as one made prominent (their Tenth House position) by a rash act (Icarus) focused on or resulting in freedom or liberation (Libera/Liberatore). Transit asteroids Liberatrix and Tunis (representing freedom for Tunisians), at 3 and 4 Virgo respectively, cluster about the 26 Leo Descendant (a new way of relating), and together oppose Bouazizi’s natal Damocles, the doom hanging overhead, at 3 Pisces (a point the Moon, then at 7 Pisces, had crossed over earlier in the day), while transit Damocles at 17 Aquarius is exactly atop Bouazizi’s natal Liberati.
Transit Liberati is exactly conjunct asteroid Photographica at 18 Leo, both broadly conjoined the Descendant, and the image (Photographica) of Bouazizi in flames was a major factor in fueling the struggle for freedom (Liberati). The Descendant is also exactly conjunct Tunisia’s natal Pluto (bringing transformation) and within orb of its Jupiter (affecting political realities) at 22 Leo. A potent combination of transit North Node, Mars, Pluto, Mercury and a Black Hole at 3, 4 and 5 Capricorn tells the rest of the tale—a protest (Mercury) born of death (Mars) engendering (Pluto) a dramatic alteration (Black Hole) evoking progress and future development (North Node).
Bouazizi’s actual demise on the day of the solar eclipse, which fell exactly upon the nation’s Mars, marks the Tunisian revolution as the most directly linked to the eclipse itself.
For the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, we can look as well to the actions of Rhadamanthus in the ensuing weeks.
Named for a mythic Greek judge noted for his scrupulous honesty but harsh punishment of wrongdoers, this bit of debris from the far-flung Kuiper Belt has an orbital period of roughly 245 years, and it chose this particular moment to come to its retrograde station at 20 Libra, from where it makes a succession of dramatic conjunctions, being exactly atop Egypt’s (Republic declared 18 June 1953) natal Saturn (government) and the Mubarak regime’s (begun 14 October 1981) natal Jupiter (politics, policies, philosophy of governance)/Sun (the President, Mubarak) conjunction. Rhadamanthus is also sextile Mubarak’s natal Saturn (his authority) at 19 Sagittarius and forms a T-Square with Egypt’s Chiron (wounding)/MC (worldly prominence)/Black Hole (sudden reversal) triple conjunction at 19 Capricorn and Uranus (revolt, rebellion, revolution) at 17 Cancer.
Traveling with Saturn at 17 Libra, Rhadamanthus is evoking a judgment of governments generally, and authoritarian or autocratic regimes in particular. Its station came on January 20, just five days before the protests began in Cairo, which was the day Saturn in its turn stationed retrograde. Already softened by the eclipse in exact square to its Black Hole-encumbered Saturn at 13 Libra, which had just experienced its first Saturn Return, the Mubarak administration could not withstand the additional pressure of this stern judge, jury and executioner.
The eclipse also squared Mubarak’s natal (born 4 May 1928) Sun/Jupiter conjunction at 15 and 16 Aries, while opposing his natal Pluto (the seat of his power) at 14 Cancer. An exact trine of the Sun at 5 Aquarius and Nemesis/Quasar at 5 Libra shows the day the protests began (Sun) as one of karmic reckoning for prior actions (Nemesis), wrought in a highly public (Quasar) manner, while asteroid Sphinx (representing Egypt, one of its most recognizable symbols) is exactly squared (showing conflict) to Damocles (the doom unseen until it is too late) at 18 Aquarius.
As in Tunisia, the protests spread rapidly throughout the country, and the authorities attempted to repress them. The protestors were aided by modern technology and social networking (both represented in the eclipse’s opposition to Egypt’s natal Uranus), which enabled them to organize. The chief locus for the movement was Cairo’s Tahrir Square, “Tahrir” being Arabic for “liberation,” so named in honor of the 1952 revolution which overthrew the monarchy and paved the way for the republic born the following year. When the protests began, transit asteroid Liberatore at 14 Capricorn had just crossed the eclipse degree and was exactly opposed Mubarak’s Pluto, with Libera at 28 Sagittarius conjunct a newsy, media-savvy Pulsar and opposed Egypt’s 27 Gemini Sun, while exactly semisextile the Uranus (revolution) of the Mubarak regime at 28 Scorpio.
For the first week, the protests were surprisingly peaceful; even when the government disrupted internet and cell phone service on the Friday, and began buzzing Tahrir square with low-flying bombers that weekend, the dissenters were not intimidated. Violence only escalated when Mubarak supporters clashed with protestors early the next week, but the Egyptian Army refused to fire on the citizens, or to enforce the government curfew. Mubarak made half-hearted attempts at symbolic reform, finally appointing a vice president, intimate colleague Omar Suleiman, on January 29, then announcing on February 1 that he would not run for another term in elections scheduled for September, but declaring he would hold office until then.
These concessions were insufficient, and the protestors increased in volume, daily life in Egypt ground to a halt, tourists and businessmen fled. Even Mubarak’s decision to turn over executive power to Suleiman on February 10, retaining only the empty title of president, was not sufficient to quell the unrest. On Friday, February 11, Mubarak left the capital for his home in Sharm el Sheik. At 6:03 PM local time Vice President Suleiman announced on the evening news that Mubarak had resigned and turned over executive authority to the Armed Forces Supreme Council.
A chart cast for that time is stunning in its celestial simplicity—asteroid Liberatrix is exactly conjunct the 28 Leo Ascendant, also conjunct Fixed Star Regulus, the Royal Star, indicating freedom from Pharaonic stand-in, Mubarak. This squares the Moon at 26 Taurus, exactly on Fixed Star Algol, Medusa’s severed head in the constellation Perseus, at the 25 Taurus Midheaven, symbolizing the decapitation (Algol) of authority (MC) by the people (Moon). This exactly opposes Sphinx at 26 Scorpio on the IC, representing a new foundation (IC) for Egypt (Sphinx), with Neptune (the poor, disaffection, dissolution, solidarity) exactly on the 28 Aquarius Descendant/Black Hole, indicating a major shift (Black Hole) in the nation’s relationships (Descendant) and interconnectedness (Neptune). Ceto/Deucalion at 10 Scorpio, exactly opposed asteroid Persephone at 10 Taurus, shows a recognition of the monstrous nature (Ceto) of the old administration, now swept away (Deucalion), allowing a rebirth (Persephone) of the country.
But there are some astrologic caveats as well. TNO Sedna at 21 Taurus conjoins MC/Moon, depicting both Mubarak’s (MC, as former head of state) isolation (Sedna, named for an Inuit goddess who dwells in the deepest, most inaccessible part of the Arctic Ocean) and also a need for the populace (Moon) to “grow up” and face its responsibilities (a crucial part of Sedna’s tale) in self-governance. Also here is Arachne at 23 Taurus, representing the intricate inter-weavings of power (MC) and the potential snares to be encountered, while Pyrrhus at 29 Taurus could symbolize a worthless, futile victory (AKA, “a Pyrrhic Victory”), one that is ruinous to the ultimate cause. Jupiter at 3 Aries is conjunct Pelion at 7 Aries and Apophis at 8 Aries, all opposed Nemesis at 4 Libra and squared Pluto at 6 Capricorn, suggesting a steep climb (Pelion, named for a mountain in Greece) ahead in political matters (Jupiter) if evil (Apophis) and retribution (Nemesis) are to be avoided, and Egypt regenerated (Pluto).
Other countries in the region continue to show unrest (as, indeed, do both Tunisia, with ongoing protests against the interim government, and Egypt, where worker strikes continue to disrupt a return to normalcy). In early January riots began in Algeria over a projected rise in costs of food staples, which were temporarily quelled after the government agreed to postpone the price increases.
The protests resumed in late January with a renewed focus on violations of the constitution, suspected election fraud, and the policies of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999. A protest rally in Algiers, the capital, on February 12 drew up to 10,000 people in violation of a government ban, and ongoing demonstrations continue to disrupt the country. On January 24, a state of emergency which had been in effect since 2010 was lifted, allowing legal demonstrations with three days’ notice to the government, anywhere except the capital. Algeria’s (chart for independence, 3 July 1962) natal Sun at 10 Cancer was opposed by the solar eclipse, which was also sextile natal Jupiter (politics, policies) at 12 Pisces.
In mid-February protests began in Libya, with anti-Gaddafi marches in Benghazi and other eastern cities, where police used water cannons to disperse crowds. On February 17 a “Day of Rage” in protest of Muammar al-Gaddafi’s rule was called throughout the country and for Libyans in exile. The government responded with gunfire from helicopters and snipers, killing several dozen unarmed protestors, but opposition continued to grow, with the Benghazi airport being taken over by demonstrators on February 19. By February 20, the eastern portion of the country was in turmoil, with protests spreading to the capital of Tripoli.
The government attempted to paint the unrest as engendered by foreign agitators, but southern tribal groups joined the protests, which were now supported by elements in the military and some Islamic clerics. On February 21, crowds of tens of thousands took over the streets of Benghazi, stormed a military depot and appropriated the weaponry, heedless of continued air strikes and helicopter fire. By February 22, the diplomatic corps had deserted Gaddafi, who was importing mercenaries in an effort to put down the rising, since his support within Libya had dwindled to that of his own clan and several thousand military personnel.
Gaddafi (who holds the world record for most alternate spellings of any head of state—Qadaffi, Gadhafi, Khaddafy, Gadaffy, Khaddafi, Qaddafy, et al.) appeared on live TV in two short addresses to deny that he had fled the country, announcing reforms which, however, he stated would not be enacted until the rebellion had been out down, and declaring himself ready to die “as a martyr” for Libya. By February 26, an estimated 1000 protestors had been killed, and Gaddafi remained in control of little more than most of the capital itself. The solar eclipse of January 4 fell opposed Libya’s (chart for independence, 24 December 1951) natal Uranus (revolution, rebellion) at 12 Cancer and squared its Saturn (government)/Mars (conflict, confrontations) conjunction at 14 and 16 Libra, as well as squared the Eris (discontent, division) of Gaddafi’s regime (installed by coup 1 September 1969) at 12 Aries.
In the Persian Gulf, the island kingdom of Bahrain has been rent with civil strife, which began in early February with rallies in support of the Egyptian protestors that quickly escalated into opposition to the Bahraini regime. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used to quell demonstrators on February 14, but the protest movement managed to occupy Pearl Roundabout Square in Manama, the capital, setting up a tent city on the model of Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The King of Bahrain responded to the unrest by offering to increase social spending, and giving grants of 1000 dinars (approximately $2650) to each family in the kingdom.
On February 17, riot police moved in to clear Pearl Square with tear gas, batons, and armored vehicles, followed by the use of live ammunition on February 18, killing 5 and wounding more than 100. The government, under pressure from the US State Department, did a complete reversal on February 19, backing off its strong-arm tactics and allowing protestors to re-occupy Pearl Square, with the Crown Prince offering to mediate the dispute.
More than 100,000 protestors clogged the streets of downtown Manama, some 12% of the population. Protests continued through the month, and on February 26 the government dismissed four top cabinet ministers in an effort to appease the opposition. The solar eclipse fell semisextile to Bahrain’s (chart of independence, 14 August 1971) North Node (future, evolutionary purpose)/Mars (confrontation, clashes) conjunction at 14/15 Aquarius, exactly squared its Chiron (wounds, maverick behaviors) at 13 Aries, exactly semisquare Liberatrix (freedom) on the Quasar at 28 Scorpio, and trine Mercury (protests) conjunct the Midheaven (rulership) at 11 Virgo.
Iran’s ongoing opposition Green Movement, violently put down in 2009, was breathed new life by the protests across the region, holding solidarity rallies in support of Egypt’s people on February 14 in Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz and other cities, which quickly became anti-government protests. Police used tear gas and paint balls to break up demonstrations, and the following day parliamentary legislators and pro-government clerics called for the execution of opposition leaders.
Sporadic clashes continued for several days. While all Iranian and foreign journalists were forbidden to cover the protests, demonstrators once again used internet social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to chronicle the incidents and organize themselves. On February 20, a crowd of tens of thousands in Tehran was dispersed with the use of tear gas and live ammunition. The January 4 solar eclipse formed a T-Square with Iran’s (foundation of the Islamic Republic, 1 April 1979) natal Sun at 11 Aries and Pluto (death, rebirth, regeneration) at 18 Libra.
Yemen, on the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula, is also experiencing extreme civil strife. Protests against unemployment, economic conditions, and government corruption began in mid-January. On January 27, a crowd of more than 16,000 gathered in the capital of Sana’a to demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, formerly president of North Yemen since 1978, who continued in office when North and South Yemen were unified in 1990, and has governed the country ever since.
Saleh announced on February 2 that he would not run for re-election in 2013, nor pass power on to his son. Daily protests in Sana’a and Aden continued to draw thousands through mid-February, with police using tasers to disperse the crowds. On February 19, deadly force was used, with both police and protestors firing pistols ad assault weapons. Massive sit-ins at the campus of Sana’a University and the cities of Ibb and Taiz occurred on February 20 and 21; schools were closed and government workers went on strike. On February 25, almost 200,000 people reportedly demonstrated in coordinated protests in cities across the country. Yemen has been torn with violent separatist movements in the south, and sectarian Shia rebels in the north. The solar eclipse fell conjunct Yemen’s (chart of unification, 22 May 1990) natal Uranus (rebellion)/Neptune (martyrs, fanatics) at 8 and 14 Capricorn, sextile natal Pluto (rebirth, transformation) at 15 Scorpio, and opposed natal Jupiter (politics, policies) at 11 Cancer.
All told, a stunning lesson in the power of an eclipse to directly affect the affairs of the area of the globe over which it passes, and perhaps, a signpost of hope for the future.