There’s an old Chinese curse, which goes “may you live in interesting times!” The idea being that prosperity, ease and comfortable living mostly goes on when the general ambience of life is rather dull and uneventful. We are in the midst of interesting times, no doubt, and no sooner are we come to terms with one interesting event, than another comes along to jolt us even further out of our complacency.
So, what is going on? The master astrologer Steven Forrest made a very astute observation when he noted the transit of cosmic troublemaker Eris to a square with the dread Lord Pluto. Eris seems to delight in strife. Pluto forces change, usually with a great deal of accompanying discomfort and reluctance. I fully concur that this describes one of the major archetypal shifts that is in the mix and his discussion of the dynamics is essential reading. I would like to join this conversation with some complementary perspectives. I hope this will add to our understanding of these calamitous and seemingly unprecedented events and offer an astrologically signposted route out of our present adversity.
OnFebruary 25th, Ixion made ingress into Capricorn. These transitions of major planets into new domains are usually interesting, but rarely devastating. The movement of Ixion into Capricorn, however, is important, and not only because it marked the point in time when Coronavirus went “global” and ceased to be an exclusively Chinese problem.
The first issue is that 0° Capricorn is an especially important degree because it is one of the Aries’ points. These correspond to the precise moments when the two equinoxes (most equal lengths of day and night) and the two solstices (least equal lengths of day and night) occur. As astrologers we recognise these moments as corresponding with the ingress of the Sun into any of the Cardinal signs.
These moments in time are especially important because they have profound meaning for humanity as a whole, being cosmic transitions, which mark the beginning of the seasons. Therefore, they affect all who depend on the energy of the Sun to make the crops grow. We may no longer be the crofters, farmers, and smallholders of old, but we still live by the Sun’s sanction; every one of us. When a slow moving planet crosses one of these thresholds, its message is transmitted to all of humanity, suffusing us with the energy of the new season, and since the ingress into Capricorn is the time of the Winter Solstice, this particular Aries’ Point gives rise to a long period of darkness, withdrawal and contemplation in the archetypal style of Ixion.
Ixion has many facets, but his key cautionary message is that greed leads to suffering. This is literally the arc of Ixion, who, beloved of the Gods, was invited to dine on Olympus as a personal guest of Zeus himself. Ixion, a King of the Lapiths enjoyed immense privilege, but suffered from humanity’s most persistent and undermining flaw, hubris. He did not keep a sense of perspective and felt that the benefits he enjoyed were rights, rather than privileges. His hubris was such that he even lusted after Hera and attempted to sleep with her.
This was after he had committed the first kin-murder, for which Zeus forgave him, not because he was penitent, but because he was full of pride and self-confidence and Zeus liked him very much.
Ixion then, along with other tragic figures like Sisyphus and Tantalus suffered from what the Greeks called hamartia, a fatal flaw which led to their undoing. In each case, they felt themselves above the normal rules of good conduct. They each ruled over great dominions in the ancient world and felt that they should not be bound by normal tenets of human morality, and instead clutched at divinity. They each tried to trick the Gods, Sisyphus by cheating Hades, Tantalus by attempting to deceive the Gods into feasting on a stew made from his own son Pelops, and Ixion in his outrageous seduction of Zeus’ wife.
Without giving too many spoilers into the Ixion manuscript I have under production, Ixion is an archetypal template for those who through wealth, privilege and power assume they are not subject to the accepted norms of morality, decency, and fidelity. The kings of old are the political leaders of today. The oligarchs of the Greek legends are the billionaires of today, who enjoy unparalleled levels of privilege, much as Ixion, Sisyphus and Tantalus did under the stern gaze of Olympus.
But it is not just the Trumps, Bezos’ and the Musks’ of the world who have lost connection, if they ever had one, with the requirement for a basic humility in the face of untold deprivation and hardship in an overpopulated world; we are all guilty of it. It is the inevitable trajectory of all unenlightened souls. We argue about the qualifications of candidates, customarily all rich white men, for high office while children must contend with lunch money debt and go hungry. Billionaires place orders for mega-yachts with humidity and temperature-controlled wine cellars while schoolteachers sleep in their cars because they cannot afford to live in their school district. Queen Elizabeth II owns one sixth of the earth’s surface while entire populations are made migrants. Even as you read this, vast swathes of humanity, humans essentially just like us, are being bombed, oppressed, starved, and ruthlessly exploited. This happens every day, without pause or interruption.
We have lost our way. Not because we are inherently bad, but because we are human, and we all suffer from hamartia. We forget what really matters. Instead we get fired up about how much tax we should pay, or who deserves to receive food stamps or welfare and who does not, or which disabled people are faking it because they are lazy.
The energy of Ixion is fundamentally Hadean. He sits in the shadowy triumvirate with Pluto and Orcus and his astrological message is of Pluto’s pedigree: transform or perish! The Underworld Lords each have their dominion. Pluto who hollows life out and turns all joy to ash. Orcus who isolates and imprisons you into a long overdue introspection. Ixion, the most subterranean of all the inmates of Tartarus, who makes an unendurable torment which you nonetheless must endure. It hardly matters, so long as you wake up and get authentic. Live simply. Live well. Live the good life. The Greeks had a word for that too: eudemonia. It meant to live a life of simplicity and moral excellence, and they believed that was the only route to happiness.
Because even as we read these words, we may forget that we are in a blessed half of all humans who have access to the Internet. We forget to be thankful that we are not one of earth’s 800 million people who are hungry right now and will be hungry again tomorrow. We might be fortunate enough not to be one of the third of all Britons who are living in poverty, or one of the 2.5 million American children who annually find themselves homeless. But forgetting to be thankful is not inevitable, even if it is commonplace. It takes presence and commitment to maintain our humanity and our sense of responsibility to others and their welfare in the face of such institutionalised indifference.
The second important message is that with the movement of Ixion into Capricorn, we are being cautioned to do the work of Saturn for the right reasons. It cannot be right that our society, our lawmakers, our leaders and authorities – the personifications of Saturn – expect the populations they were elected foster and cherish to work for poverty wages in pursuit of meagre sustenance alone. Where is the tide that raises all boats? Instead we have a tide that raises only the best appointed and most luxurious boats, the others must founder and be wrecked.
So, when one of the Hadean avatars crosses the threshold of the Aries’ Point we are all, not as individuals, but as a species, forcefully reminded of our need for humility and humanity. Just as the emperors of Rome were told “memento mori” we must all remember that we are not Gods, but mere men and women, with human failings and weaknesses, regardless of wealth and status.
What can we learn from the last occasion that Ixion crossed the Aries’ point? This occurred between 1933 and 1935 at the ingress into Libra. This coincided with the Great Depression and signalled the period when the stock market crash of 1929 translated into hardship for much of the planet. The period between 1933 and 1935 marked the time when Dust Bowl America left entire swathes of the population destitute, when Hitler began his rise to power in Germany, and the Long March was undertaken by the Chinese Communists, forming the foundations of today’s Chinese state. The collapse of the world economy devastated industry and banking alike. As an example, in Britain in 1933, 30% of Glaswegians were unemployed due to the severe decline in heavy industry. In some towns and cities in the north east, unemployment reached as high as 70%. In the early 30s, working Britons went on a series of hunger marches, so bad had the situation become. There is a worrying echo of these themes today, with millions of working Britons relying on charity food banks to sustain their destitute families.
By 1935, the Great Black Storms of middle America became a common occurrence as Ixion made his final ingress into the sign of Libra and were allegedly terrifying to behold. Thousands either died or had their health permanently compromised from breathing in the fine particulates that clogged the air for hundreds of miles.
Ecological disaster, economic collapse, the rise of demagogues and far-right extremism, China, respiratory diseases, all of these were commonplace the last time Ixion crossed the Cardinal line, and here we are again, witnessing the very same players and actors in motion.
By 1935 the shift was complete, and big changes were forced onto the legislature of many nations around the world. In the United States this was epitomised by the New Deal which shaped the social and economic framework of the United States until Reagan’s introduction of a new economic paradigm, which we now know as neoliberalism. Roosevelt’s solution to rampant American poverty, the New Deal, saw the rise of a middle-class America which became the foundation of the good life for millions of families from the 50s to the 70s. The noble ideal of the New Deal has slowly been dismantled over the last 40 years, as America’s vast wealth has, by sleight of legislation, taxation, and sophistry, been moved ever upward, creating a new billionaire class of oligarchs, enjoying greater wealth and influence than Ixion himself could ever have imagined. These same avaricious motives empowered Thatcher in the UK, and now there is barely a middle-class remaining. There is just a vast swathe of working poor, topped like a resplendent cherry on a woeful cake, by a comfortable executive and property-owning class who are increasingly indifferent to the plight of their fellow humans. And worse, who see them as an “undeserving poor”.
Exactly the same conditions that were prevalent at the time of the Great depression.
The parallels are stark and irrefutable. Ixion has arrived, and we won’t get off the wheel of suffering not just until the gross injustices of the elites and their political fixers are addressed, but until we all start thinking about society instead of just ourselves.
When we contemplate the concept of the Dark Ages, we think of some benighted medieval dystopia, bereft of science, insight and reason, but fail to comprehend that a Dark Age holds sway whenever we turn away from what is light and good in the world, when we don’t want to share our good fortune with others, and stop out ears against the wailing of the destitute and the hungry.
If we travel back even further in time, to the previous crossing of the Cardinal threshold by ignoble Ixion, we see the great humanist authors working to bring a lamp into the prevailing darkness of the Industrial age. In 1860, as Ixion crossed into Cancer, Charles Dickens published Great Expectations. At the second pass, the following year, George Eliot published Silas Marner, a novel about a man who returns to authenticity after losing his heart and soul to avarice. At the same time, Victor Hugo was writing Les Miserables, a monumental work whose central premise is a society that has lost its soul and become heartless and uncaring.
In such enlightening treatises we find the key message that the antidote to Ixion is a renewed awareness of our compassionate hearts, and the rekindling of the unassailable conviction that we cannot aspire to greatness, as individuals or societies, while we are devoted to mean objectives. These are timeless lessons that have been known and forgotten time and again through all of history. We must, all of us, choose the good life if we want to live good lives.
Thanks for reading, and stay safe,