Uranus and Neptune, Arm in Arm?


Now that it's a new year, everything's supposed to start fresh. And you've got it all figured out, right?—your hundred-and-one resolutions, devoted service to which will magically transform your life into a perfect realization of that true potential you possess, underneath all those pesky human inconsistencies? What? You haven't yet outlined the steps to achieving your long-overdue success in '03? Hell, maybe instead, it feels like that hangover from too much New Year's Eve partying is really hanging over, fogging your mind long past the point when all the alcohol is out of your system. Come to think of it, you didn't even drink that much this year, not nearly enough to account for the day-after-ness stretching out beyond its statute of limitations.

Or did you forget that it's Mercury retrograde time again? Yes, on only the second day of 2003 (Jan. 2), the planet that bridges gaps—through communications and transportation—moved into one of its "backwards" periods, shaking the bridge beneath our feet so that we'd do well to watch our step. Its reversal in motion occurred in conjunction with the New Moon in Capricorn, the same sign through which mischievous Mercury is dilly-dallying, as if to say, You will pay attention to me all month. Mercury's message? Those fresh-start new-year plans are incomplete, require rethinking. You're trying to forge a strategy upon which you can pin your short-term future, but you don't have it in the bag yet. Don't make the final decisions yet. Bide your time. The disorientation feels peculiar for the start of a year, like this January isn't really the first month of 2003 at all, nor the last month of 2002, but more a floating chunk of time, some thirty-one-day cruise during which the ship continuously circles the harbor.

And though we're circling, that's not to say we are gliding through waveless loops of smooth water. Venus and Mars, the yin/yang pair of personal planets, are moving out of their conjunction in Scorpio, their gradual divergence signaling a lessened concentration of focus in our give-and-take actions and reactions. Life returns to a more fractured complexity. On their way past, each planet makes its tough square (the challenging 90-degree angle) to Uranus, finishing out its own 8-year transit through Aquarius. Our deep personal investments in ourselves—whether these include desperately clutching to the status quo, insinuating self-centered agendas into others' lives or intentionally ignoring our own pain-inflected cries for help-are colliding with what the greater unifying forces have in store for us. As I've said before, in 2003, inertia-shattering Uranus is king. He will make his power known in sharp bursts, and taking names first and not answering questions until later.

Uranus, along with Neptune and Pluto, is an outer planet, meaning that it dwells farther out from the Sun, relative to the other planets in our solar system. The outer planets have larger orbital distances, taking longer to travel one full revolution. And the astrological effects of their cycles are longer-ranging, bringing profound transformational effects on individuals when they cross important points in the birthchart. Because of their slow-moving nature, outer planets remain in the same signs for years, connecting those of us born in the same period into larger transpersonal generations of like-mindedness.

For instance, people born between the end of 1968 and middle of 1975 all share the placement of Uranus in Libra. As Uranus is the planet that symbolizes how we reject orthodoxy and seek liberating experiments of a new order, its journey through Libra during 1968-1975 brought about radical experimentation in matters associated with that sign—relationships, social conventions, aesthetic tastes. This Uranus-in-Libra transit coincided with the "free love" movement and its rejection of traditional relationship patterns, with widespread drug use and its subsequent effect on popular culture. Children born during this period watched the unprecedented breakup of so many marriages of their parents' generation. They've grown into adulthood aware of the need to demystify the traditional illusion of seamless partnerships, and many have sought couplings that go against the grain and offer greater personal freedom.

This year, Uranus leaves its ruling sign of Aquarius (where it's traveled since 1995-96), entering Pisces from March through September, returning in December to stay until 2010-11. This sign-shift is one of the most significant astrological events of 2003. Uranus in Aquarius brought rapid-pace technological advances (i.e., the WWW, a proliferation of digital media, biotech research, and now, human cloning) and an expanded awareness (with the Internet, multinational corporate capitalism, 9/11, etc.) of the systemic social interconnectedness of our whole world. But Aquarius is an air sign, and with Neptune also in Aquarius and Pluto in Sagittarius (a fire sign), the general mood has been one of thought and word and action, but less of sustained feeling or emotional connection. With Uranus moving into Pisces, a water sign, it is virtually assured that this global mood will change to something less easily articulated and safely distanced, more sensitive and spiritually inclined, perhaps murkily painful or depressing at times—but with the promise for true interconnection, without the burdensome wires and pesky dollar-signs and other such social contracts.

Once Uranus is in Pisces, the planet will be in a long-term mutual reception with Neptune in Aquarius (where it stays until 2012). Neptune is naturally ruled by Pisces, and Uranus by Aquarius—and when two planets are traveling through each other's ruling signs, this is known as mutual reception. This phenomenon indicates that the effects of these two are closely connected, emphasizing one another's characteristics. In my view, there could be no more poignant a symbol of the slow transition from the Age of Pisces (approximately 0 A.D.-2000 A.D.) to the oft-heralded Age of Aquarius than these two planets dwelling in each other's realms for the next several years. The remainder of this decade will be colored by the interpenetration of Aquarian and Piscean qualities, a magical and confusing and uncomfortable phenomenon. Pisces is a sign of idealism, compassion, and the emotion-drenched self-sacrifice that often accompanies both—and it is all too fitting that the most enduring symbol of the 2,000-year Piscean Age is Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for everyone else's sins. Aquarius is also idealistic, but on a more social and intellectual level, favoring freedom and fairness over sensitivity or intimacy of feeling. Together, Uranus and Neptune will spend the next eight or so years marrying their two archetypes, ushering in a (dare I use the phrase) new age. And it all really starts to get going in 2003.

So, with such a big shift approaching on the horizon, it is no wonder that you don't have your year figured out quite yet. As you spend your next couple Mercury-retrograde weeks trying to get a grip, I want to leave you on a closing note about this Uranus-Neptune, Pisces-Aquarius combination. One thing that both these archetypes/signs have in common is a certain sixth sense, being as they are the last two signs of the zodiac before a new cycle and thus possessing an extra something, elusive to those that precede them. Aquarius and Pisces are psychic signs. Aquarians just know things sometimes, without being told, based on the space-age fashion in which their brains work. Pisces just believe things sometimes, with no logical reason to do so (and not necessarily the words to describe it), based on their faith and extreme emotional empathy. The transition from a Piscean zeitgeist to an Aquarian one indicates that we may soon become more mentally and intellectually conscious of unexplainable phenomena that previously existed in unspeakable form. I believe we all experience forms of extrasensory perception, regardless of our astrological signs, whether we acknowledge them as such or not. I also believe that these experiences will become more common, more pronounced, and more speakable as the next several years advance. Uranus and Neptune tell me so. But more about this some other time.