|MAY 2009 BLACK HOLE CASE STUDY
by Alex Miller
Avast, me buckos! The Jolly Roger be well and truly hoisted off the Somali coast, but the swag be lackin,’ and Davey Jones’ locker be fillin’ handsomely. Arrrrrr!
Just after dawn on April 8, 2009, the 17,000 tonne Danish-owned container ship Maersk Alabama, flying US colors and with a 20- member US crew on board, was hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean 350 miles off the coast of Somalia. Captain Richard Phillips offered himself as a hostage to the pirates before the unarmed crew somehow regained control of the ship, which was headed for Mombasa, Kenya with a cargo of food aid. Four heavily armed pirates took Phillips aboard one of the Alabama’s 28-foot lifeboats and set it adrift, holding him there pending payment of a ransom.
On April 9, the USS Bainbridge, a destroyer-class guided missile ship, arrived on the scene, with FBI agents aboard, and began negotiations. The pirates signaled for support to a “pirate mother ship,” a captured and retrofitted tanker, which was unable to approach due to the strong US Navy presence, with both guided missile frigate USS Halyburton and amphibious assault ship USS Boxer also en route. About midnight that night, Captain Phillips attempted to escape by jumping overboard from the lifeboat, but was recaptured and retained by the pirates.
On April 10, with all three US vessels at the site and surrounding the pirated lifeboat, President Obama gave approval for the use of deadly force by US seamen if Captain Phillips’ life appeared in imminent danger. On the April 11, sailors attempted to reach the lifeboat, but were repelled by gunfire from the pirates. Their fire was not returned, and the sailors retreated safely to the Bainbridge.
On April 12, while one of the pirates was aboard the Bainbridge pursuing ransom negotiations, Navy SEAL sharpshooters shot and killed the remaining three pirates on the lifeboat upon which Captain Phillips was held, after observing them training AK-47 files on Captain Phillips’ back. Three marksmen, perched on the destroyer’s fantail and wearing night vision goggles in the gathering dusk, fired simultaneously at the pirates, who stood on the pitching deck of the lifeboat 100 feet away, surrounding the bound hostage. All three pirates fell dead at once with head injuries. Phillips was retrieved unharmed, and the remaining pirate taken into custody.
It was a busy week for pirates off Somalia. On Friday April 10, French commandos stormed a pirated sailboat where five French nationals, including one child, were being held hostage by five pirates. The Tanit had been taken by pirates on Saturday the 4th, and negotiations for the hostages’ release had been foundering as the captured pleasure craft moved to within 20 nautical miles of the Somali shore. French policy precludes the transfer of hostages onto land. The French Navy disabled the Tanit on Thursday by shooting down its sails, at which point the pirates threatened to execute their prisoners. French president Nicolas Sarkozy gave the order to attack the ship once negotiations had failed, and in the three-minute assault, two pirates and one hostage were killed, and the remaining three pirates captured. The dead hostage was identified as Florent Lemacon, owner of the boat, husband and father to two of the freed hostages.
On Saturday April 11, owners of the pirated 23,000 tonne Norwegian tanker Bow Asir agreed to a $2.4 million ransom for the return of the ship and its 27-member crew, captured in late March.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been an increasing problem since the collapse of the central government there in 1991. In 2008, an estimated $50 million was paid to pirates in Somali waters, with 115 attacks reported, resulting in 46 successful hijacks and 69 repelled.
Why this sudden notoriety for the issue? Several factors combine to provide that answer.
For one, Neptune, named for the ancient Roman god of the seas, is currently exactly conjoined the Quasar at 25 Aquarius. Quasars are far and away the brightest objects in the universe, and their activation often “spotlights” or brings attention to an issue, so a high profile for water- or sea-related events can be expected during this period. Neptune further rules the areas of self-sacrifice, as in Phillips offering himself as a hostage for his crew, and also capture or imprisonment, both highlighted in this drama.
Neptune is traveling right now with asteroids Damocles (at 20 Aquarius on April 8, the day of the pirate attack), indicating a potential doom hanging above one’s head; asteroid Icarus (then at 26 Aquarius), suggestive of rash or ill-considered action; and Jupiter (also at 20 Aquarius), which tends to inflate or exaggerate any situation with which it comes into contact. Jupiter also has a bearing on the “foreign” aspects of the venue, as well as being the traditional ruler of long-distance sea travel.
There is also an asteroid “Richard,” identifying Captain Richard Phillips and personalizing the incident to him, which is amazingly positioned at 24 Leo retrograde, tightly opposite Neptune. This Neptune/Richard opposition becomes transformed into a tense, fixed Galactic T-Square when the Black Hole at 24 Taurus is factored in, providing an opening into a parallel universe of potentiality from which the alternate reality of piracy intrudes into our own 3-D world.
From 24 Leo, Richard is also exactly inconjunct transit Uranus at 24 Pisces, itself conjunct transit Mars at 19 Pisces, indicating the violent, sudden and unexpected nature of the encounter. This forming conjunction became tighter as the drama unfolded, finally showing Mars at 22 Pisces, in exact square to the newsworthy, media-related Pulsar at 22 Gemini when Phillips was rescued on April 12. Uranus is in turn currently opposed the USA natal Neptune at 22 Virgo, ruling the nation’s interactions on the high seas, which is itself conjoined asteroid Chaos at 23 Virgo, indicating the chaotic, unpredictable nature of the crisis.
The Sun at 18 Aries on the day of the attack combines with asteroid Nemesis at 19 Aries and minor planet Eris at 21 Aries, all three squared the Black Hole at 19 Capricorn. Nemesis suggests a reckoning, or retribution for past misdeeds, while Eris lends a fractious, troublesome, irritating energy to the mix. Up to this point, pirate attacks in the region have been treated in much this way, as a nuisance whose costs have been absorbed by transport companies as the price of doing business. However, the increased notoriety which this incident grants may lead to more stringent, coordinated efforts to end the piracy. The presence of asteroid Sisyphus at 20 Aries, named for that Hadean worthy doomed to forever roll a rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down again, may indicate that this will prove a repetitive, ultimately futile or fruitless task.
Mercury hovers nearby at 27 Aries, exactly conjoined a Black Hole, and is the traditional ruler of commerce and shipping, also representing the ransom negotiations. Other pirate- or water-related asteroids prove significant. I chose asteroid “Nicky” as the closest named asteroid to “Nicholas,” representing Saint Nicholas, patron saint of both sailors and thieves, thus doubly ruling pirates. Nicky appears at 27 Virgo retrograde on April 8, opposed transit Uranus and forming a Yod, or Finger of Destiny, with inconjunct aspects to both Mercury and Neptune, Nicky at the Apex. Asteroid Poseidon, named for Neptune’s Greek precursor, lies at 8 Scorpio, conjoined the Black Hole at 7 Scorpio and exactly opposed the volatile, often violent Maser at 8 Taurus. Poseidon is also sesquiquadrate (135 degrees) to transit Uranus at 24 Pisces, again suggestive of turmoil (Uranus) at sea (Poseidon).
Asteroid Dionysos also has a tenuous connection with piracy. A popular myth of the god most often associated with wine and ecstatic revelation relates how once, when sleeping on the beach, Dionysos was captured by pirates, who took him to sea in their vessel, mistaking him for a prince whom they could ransom. When he awoke, the enraged Dionysos transformed himself into a lion, whereupon the terrified crew leapt overboard, and Dionysos changed them into dolphins. At 11 degrees of Cancer, transit Dionysos loosely squares the Sun for the pirate attack, but lies prominently poised over the Sun of the state of Somalia, the pirates’ homeland (created by union between newly independent British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland on 1 July 1960, midnight, Mogadishu). At 9 Cancer this Sun is conjunct the Quasar at 8 Cancer and squared the country’s Quasar-conjoined Ascendant at 10 Aries, which is also the position of asteroid Chaos and minor planet Eris.
Disorder (Chaos) and strife (Eris) has certainly been the predominant image (Ascendant) of the hapless country of Somalia since 1991, when its last central government failed, leaving the country in the grip of quarreling warlords and tribal factions, and giving rising to the lawlessness (also Eris) which allows piracy to flourish there. Somalia’s Sun is also conjoined by asteroid Icarus at 10 Cancer, reminiscent of its sudden plunge into destruction, while its Mercury at 29 Cancer is conjoined by Dionysos at 23 Cancer, linking commerce (Mercury) and piracy (Dionysos), and its Uranus at 18 Leo is exactly conjunct asteroid Nicky, expressing the disruption (Uranus) caused by its piratical seafarers (Nicky).
Transit Poseidon at 8 Scorpio on the day of the attack is tightly trine Somalia’s Sun, and opposed its 7 Taurus Mars, signifying the importance of events at sea and adding the elements of violence and death. Somalia’s natal Poseidon at 14 Libra conjoins the 10 Libra Descendant, nominating the sea as the country’s primary venue of interaction with other nations, and is squared by natal Saturn at 15 Capricorn retrograde, which thus opposes the natal Sun, indicating serious structural issues for the country. Somalia’s Sun at 9 Cancer also opposes the USA natal Eris at 8 Capricorn, identifying the country as an irritant to our national psyche, as evidenced previously in the incidents dramatized in the movie “Black Hawk Down.” At 27 Virgo, transit Nicky was exactly squared Somalia’s natal Jupiter, suggesting piracy as the main theme of international relations (Jupiter) at that time, which is certainly in evidence with the additional incidents involving French and Norwegian ships that same weekend.
Captain Richard Phillips’ chart shows obvious reasons for his involvement in the incident. Born 16 May 1955, Phillips has no less than seven major planets all at 24-26 degrees of various signs, thus all currently aspected by both Neptune (the sea, captivity, imprisonment or isolation) and Uranus (sudden disruption, danger of violence). Transit Neptune at 25 Aquarius was exactly squared his 25 Taurus Sun, which, with its conjunction to the Black Hole at 24 Taurus, attracts unusual, reality-bending events and circumstances like a magnet attracts metal filings. Phillips’ natal Pluto at 24 Leo squares the Sun and was opposed by transit Neptune, creating a T-Square. Neptune was also forming a transient Grand Trine with the captain’s natal Mars (attacks, violent acts) at 24 Gemini and natal Neptune (the sea, sailors) at 26 Libra, a benefic pattern which may help to explain the positive resolution to the crisis for him.
A sextile to Venus (valuation, the mooted ransom) at 26 Aries and an inconjunct to the Uranus/Jupiter conjunction (which suggests a potential for shocks or upsets on long journeys) at 24 and 25 Cancer round out transit Neptune’s aspects for the day.
Transit Uranus at 24 Pisces also hits all these points, most strongly in square to Mars, indicating the sudden, violent disruption. Uranus also forms a Yod, or Finger of Destiny, by inconjunct aspects to both natal Pluto at 24 Leo and natal Neptune at 26 Libra, descriptive of the unexpected (Uranus) brush with death (Pluto) on the high seas (Neptune). Natal asteroid Icarus (rash or risky actions) at 23 Aquarius not only aspects all these points, but was recently conjoined by transit Neptune. Transit asteroid Richard at 24 Leo retrograde was exactly conjoined Richard Phillips’ natal Pluto, indicating his transformational, potentially deadly experience.
The only major planets not involved with transit Neptune or Uranus (the Moon is in Neptune-ruled Pisces, degree unknown, but possibly conjunct transit Uranus) are natal Mercury at 16 Gemini and natal Saturn at 17 Scorpio retrograde, both of which are aspected by transit Saturn at 16 Virgo and transit Mars at 19 Pisces, Mars/Saturn forming a T-Square with natal Mercury (commerce, shipping) and respectively in trine and sextile to natal Saturn (Phillips’ career and authority as captain).
Phillips sports a conjunction of asteroids Chaos and Dionysos, both at 4 Aries, with minor planet Eris at 8 Aries, combining a potential for extreme disruption (Chaos) and lawlessness (Eris) with pirate activity (Dionysos). These points oppose Phillips’ natal asteroid Poseidon (the sea) at 11 Libra and together form a T-square with Somalia’s 9 Cancer Sun, identifying that country as a trigger for the natal pattern. The USA’s natal Eris at 8 Capricorn creates a Grand Cross of these energies, pulling in the national focus and evoking our intervention.
All in all, me mateys, a fascinating foray onto the briny deep, and that’s no bilge!
Alex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of "The Galactic Calendar," and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society.
His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. Alex can be reached for comment or services at email@example.com.