The Once Was Great Conjunction

Maybe it’s my Sun-Uranus, but I never seem to get in the same groove as other astrologers. It’s not that I am trying to find fault with the prevailing opinions. Or perhaps this is the Mercury reception Pluto speaking, but what is really going on, like underneath? I feel as though everyone is pointing at the big shiny rock and saying how good it looks, and while I’d be the first in line for a little cosmic fortune, shouldn’t somebody lift up that rock and see what’s under there?

Arabian Parts - Astrodienst AstrowikiLet’s get back to the basics: Jupiter and Saturn are the two slowest classical wandering stars of astrology. Many civilizations from the Babylonians to the Greeks associated them with world-changing events. As astrological theories developed pioneering astrologers of the Islamic world like Ma’shallah, Achmat the Persian, Ibn Hibinta, came to believe that great initiatory events were presaged by the conjunction in the head of Aries and from there cycled through a recognizable pattern: every 20 years Jupiter and Saturn would meet in a zodiac sign within one elemental triplicity, and every two centuries Jupiter and Saturn would move from one elemental triplicity to another and after 900 years the cycle would restart.

For these Islamic scholars, the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn was both a major transiting event and an important planetary period. They too divided the conjunctions into categories, the small, occurring every 20 years between two conjunctions, the middle with a period of 240 years, heralding the shift to a new triplicity, and the great, with a new zodiacal cycle after 960 years between two conjunctions in the head of Aries.

This then is the first cautionary note. What we have occurring this month, though undoubtedly significant, is not the “Great Conjunction”, but it is in fact a middle conjunction of Jupiter with Saturn.

The next issue that we have is that many of the claims of the powerful effects of the conjunction were made by court astrologers whose job it was to provide reassurance to the dynasties which they served, and so they weren’t averse to a certain amount of revisionism and poetic license when it came to interpreting the effects of the conjunctions of these two wanderers of the heavens. The first time this occurred (that we have reference to) was in the 8th and 9th Centuries when it was employed to interpret the history of Islam by Theophilus of Edessa. Many subsequent scholars thought his claims a little on the fanciful side, but it went down well with his devout employers[1].  And though his original texts have not survived, we know enough from the sheer number of times his ideas about the Jupiter – Saturn conjunction were quoted by later astrologers to have it in whole cloth. So, an idea of Jupiter-Saturn having profound effects on world events grew out of this initial work. It was again employed by Jewish astrologers between the 10th and 12th Centuries using the same methods to reinterpret Jewish history.

Ibn Ezra

Later astrologers were perhaps more credible, certainly their methods are still used, and we have the first Arabic heavyweight commenting when Ibn Ezra spoke about – in Te’ amim I, various series of cycles, including the three types of Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions as being the “opinion of the scientists of Persia and India”. For Ibn Ezra, the conjunctions were important, but played only a “modest role” in the shaping of the history of cities and being associated – in part – with wars, high and low prices, drought and plenty.

And we can follow this logic as the struggle between the expanding and plentiful nature of Jupiter with the contracting and scarce qualities of Saturn.

Ibn Ezra contended that the Great Conjunction every millennium, was significant enough to influence nations, that the middle conjunction would affect kings and princes, and the small conjunction was concerned with “increase or decrease in the kingdom.”[2] Beyond this though, he expended his energies on other matters.

Even ancient astrologers were not convinced of the infallibility of the Great Conjunction. It was said that while Ptolemy often contended that the syzygies of the Sun and Moon at the new and full Moon were important tools for determining events, he never referred to the conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter as tools for historical prediction. Indeed, he was said to have taught that “the ratio of Jupiter to Saturn is not as noble as the ratio of Jupiter to Venus”, since in Ptolemy’s view the harmony of the benefics made a stronger power than the nullifying contest of Jupiter with Saturn.

And since this time, we have only the more prosaic contributions of latter-day theologians, scholars and astrologers to contend with, and this really is the point that it seems to me, is all too easy to miss. What we are really talking about are major planetary synods. In the time of Ma’shallah, Jupiter and Saturn were the far-flung behemoths of the most distant reaches of the known universe. They represented concepts about society that were at the limit of human experience. For sure, Pluto was out there, but it would be another thousand years or more before Freud proposed a model of human psychology, such concepts were irrelevant and far beyond the leading edge of human concerns. Society, the rise and fall of cities, drought, famine and bumper harvests, these were the furthest outposts of study and concern for vast swathes of humanity. And thus, when the ancient astrologers spoke about disaster and ruin, they were not simply being dramatic. A bad harvest literally foreshadowed death and misery. And when they applied these same principles to the dynasties of Caliphs, warlords and petty tyrants, it is little wonder that they saw instability and the “rise and fall” of nations. But they were not nations in the sense that we perceive nations to be. They were more dynastic reflections, thus as one leader fell, others would rise, territories would be contested, so a nation was in many ways circumscribed by the reign of its ruler, and it would effectively fall at his death and rise again under a new regime. So, the rise and fall of nations went on, often with little impact on the lives of ordinary people who simply went about their normal business. But taken in the context of today, ‘the rise and fall of nations’ sounds many orders of magnitude more dramatic and apocalyptic by comparison.

So, this is my main contention with all that is being said about the middle conjunction of Jupiter with Saturn that is imminent. Its historical significance, and with that, a limited historical significance from essentially a small handful of ancient astrologers who are not particularly referred to in any other matter, is being liberally applied without historical context. The view of other contemporaneous and far more latterly respected astrologers is not even mentioned. This results in it being a huge astrological event that has the power to transform the world.

The truth is a little more prosaic.

So, what will happen? Usually there is – as Ptolemy had it – a kind of stand off between progressive and conservative elements. Unsurprisingly, I would say the vanguard of that ideological struggle will take place in the USA, and that’s because asteroid America (916) is close by at 28° Capricorn. Part of that probable stand-off is described by the conditions of the chart. A stellium of Sun, Mercury and Ixion (the privileged, leaders, oligarchs, the media, the establishment, all ruled by Saturn) are in a covert struggle with (not opposition to) the people (square Moon). I have only looked at the London chart, each locale will have its own shading. Here Neptune is extremely strong, so it is not simple, what you see is not what you get. The conjunction also falls square Academia and Bohemia and opposite Pax. There is an underground assault on those kinds of humanist ideals, and part of the struggle that is going on is to do with this enlightenment versus enshadowment. The ruler of the conjunction, Uranus is in Taurus, the sign of his fall, so this indicates – according to Firmicus – that the conjunction is plagued by bad luck. Maybe that is slightly unfair because Firmicus would have had Saturn as the ruler of the conjunction, and certainly he is the stronger of the powers.

In ancient times then, this would undoubtedly have betokened the very real possibility of famine. In today’s terms we would probably revert to a recessive influence. Prepare for an economic downturn. Prepare to hear a great many statements about how things are going to improve but expect to see that promised progress interrupted by various misfortunes. Expect progress and freedoms (Jupiter) to be dependent upon rules and restrictions (Saturn). Most of all prepare for this conjunction being not too big a deal in the grand scheme of things. It’s a fairly minor synodic event compared to some of the real big-hitters that are floating out there these days, for example, the last truly major synodic event was the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of 1965-67. The Uranus – Neptune conjunction of the early 90s was a decidedly bigger event.

So, thanks for listening, and I hope that my view brings some perspective to the discussion. I truly am not trying to be a big old wet blanket about this, and I can see that everyone is excited about the possibility of change, but if change is coming, real systemic, foundational and radical change, Jupiter and Saturn just don’t have the necessary revs to make it happen.

Until next time,




[1] Theophilus was an astrologer in the court of the Muslim caliphs from the 750s to the 780s in the city of Baghdad.

[2] Ibn Ezra: Olam II, 11:1-4.

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