2016: An Astrological Overview


Though we may annually commemorate our 'new year' at each January 1, astrology doesn't chop up time with such conveniently tidy markers.

As we collectively enter 2016, we won't be encountering any strikingly 'new' macro-astrological influences straight away. Rather, throughout a good first-chunk of 2016, we'll be continuing to engage with aspects we've already begun experiencing.

We had our most recent sense of 'something new' back in October, after Saturn had reentered Sagittarius (to stay through the end of '17) and started to move into its square with Neptune in Pisces. At that time, I wrote this personal dispatch which contains many links to prior articles describing the astrology we were moving away from.

This Saturn-Neptune square remains arguably the top astrological news for much of 2016. Following their first exact hit back in November, Saturn and Neptune will form two more squares on June 17 and September 10… with this aspect's orb-of-influence impacting us almost all the way through the end of the year. I've already written a couple pieces about the Saturn-Neptune square (this one and this one); each provides a contrasting take on our pressing need to balance forward-facing reality-checks (Saturn in Sagittarius) against heart-centered empathy for our shared human condition (Neptune in Pisces).

As I've previously discussed, there's often an undeniable quality of disillusionment inherent to hard Saturn-Neptune aspects. Even if dismantling our romantic notions, cutting ties with a glorified past, and/or valiantly setting off on an unexplored course is exactly what we require for our growth—or else is what our present circumstances are now forcing us to do—we cannot avoid the potentially humbling or dispiriting emotional fallout likely to accompany any letting-go of former wishes, dreams, or impracticalities.

One clear Saturn-Neptune theme for the year-ahead: realigning ourselves with a path that leads us somewhere genuinely stimulating, eye-opening, and meaningful. Life is short, our limited time too precious to blow on fantasies or self-sabotage. Not 'going anywhere'? On to the next.

On the other hand, Saturn-and-Neptune's square warns us against becoming so fanatical about following our own self-designated path that we harden ourselves to the concomitant impact on other beings. While Saturn in Sagittarius teaches us the essential importance of staying carefully focused on what matters most to us, Neptune in Pisces reminds us not to use this laser-focus as an excuse for ignoring others' disadvantages, deprivations, or suffering. Otherwise, we risk eschewing heartfelt interpersonal connections with others—or, worse, we actually harm them in our blind efforts to push that single agenda we consider 'right'.

Another Saturn-Neptune theme: acknowledging the inherent limits in any stark universalizing ideology, particularly if it comes at the cost of another individual's welfare. Beliefs predicated upon a false separation of humans into groups (usually 'good' and 'bad', whether overt or implicit) are always already spiritually faulty.

To be fair, we must also consider this square within the broader context of Jupiter, in Virgo since August, simultaneously squaring Saturn and opposing Neptune… creating a mutable T-square (i.e., three planets that form two squares and an opposition) which remains in effect through mid-'16. The convergence of mutable energy marks this present period as one of 'seasonal transition' (as I described at greater length in this piece), during which we must consciously adapt to whatever changes in personal circumstance were wrought by recent years' shake-it-up happenings, blending qualities of who we've been with new features we aim to develop… in anticipation of that more palpably initiatory moment (associated with cardinal signs) due to arrive once Jupiter shifts into Libra in September.

Extending through the first three-quarters of '16, this mutable-sign emphasis carries a fluctuating feel, as we vacillate between now-passing-away and still-nascent versions of ourselves: some behaviors familiar, some foreign. Think of this as a testing-ground phase, then, when we can provisionally try on different ways of being, learning-by-doing-style, as we figure out what will best serve us once we 'begin again' more emphatically.

While still in Virgo, Jupiter also continues to make its trine to Pluto in Capricorn (here's my original write-up), a synergy of earth-sign practicality which supports us in tweaking our methods and habits, correcting oversights and inconsistencies, and/or revising longer-term objectives and action-plans… to help ensure our everyday practices are, slowly but surely, adding up to something concretely useful and personally impressive, by design. Without close attention to our handling of these day-to-day details and its cumulative effects, however, we can too easily lapse back into old patterns which don't serve our latest stated mission (or maybe even work against it). Left to its own devices, this Jupiter-Pluto trine can instead re-inscribe the power of status-quo routines, strategies, and institutions, as if to passively (and mistakenly?) insinuate the most sincere approach toward our earthly work is merely to keep doing what we've been doing, reverting to revered traditions and/or refusing to rock the boat.

After first having trined back in October, Jupiter and Pluto move back into this exact alignment again on March 16 and June 26. To use this energy constructively during 2016's first-half, apply this logic: Epic undertakings are comprised of many modest steps, each carried out with meticulous care and an eye ever fixed on the endgame, ready to adapt to changing conditions if necessary. It all starts small.

The biggest potential wild-card spoiler to all this astrology I've mentioned thus far? An especially noteworthy Mars retrograde (Apr 17-Jun 29), which, when factoring in its pre- and post-retrograde shadows, demands our attention during a large portion of the year. Mars is the planet that represents our outward assertions of desire and will: the energizing initiative which propels us to take action, the courageous spirit to fight for what we want (and to fight against whatever's blocking us from getting it). When Mars goes retrograde, we often find our initiative is diverted elsewhere from where we'd expected to point it, whether by unavoidable circumstance or an unforeseen shift in our primary impulses.

During Mars retrograde, we may notice an instinctive pull away from a project, purpose, or passion we'd been engaged with… and/or a strong inclination or compulsion to do this totally other thing. Our bodies could serve as a playing-field for this flipped energetic, with physical challenges or constitution-swings which impel us to alter our normal rhythms. We might have to fight a different fight, against a former foe or surprising new opponent and/or in pursuit of a target we thought we'd already secured. By its very meaning, we cannot know in advance where this alternate retrograde current will dynamically redirect our Mars initiative… only that it's very likely to temporarily interrupt our perceived 'forward progress', in favor of a more immediately pressing priority.

What we do know is that Mars's retrograde will occur within the late degrees of Scorpio and early degrees of Sagittarius—the exact zone of the zodiac-wheel through which Saturn has most recently traveled. This intriguing synchronicity warns us that some of the items which suddenly and/or surprisingly require our effortful attention may not be altogether unfamiliar… but instead could be recurrences, flare-ups, and/or compounded expressions of efforts, trials, or struggles we've already intermittently faced since late 2014. In reflecting on how this could play out, we should probably pay particular heed to what was happening during the mid-'15 period when Venus was retrograde and Saturn had slipped back into Scorpio. Because both those astro-events will be reactivated by this upcoming Mars retrograde, we can expect certain corresponding parallels… as well as a need to reassert how intently we continue to put those recent lessons into practice through our present deeds.

While Mars typically moves through a given zodiac-sign in roughly a month-and-a-half, it will spend nearly nine months of 2016 in either Scorpio or Sagittarius. This is a factor definitely worth bearing in mind… especially for those astrology enthusiasts who can identify which section of their own natal chart will be hosting this sustained Mars influence. Mars enters its pre-retrograde shadow in mid-February, and doesn't leave the post-retrograde shadow until August 22, right at the very moment it finally conjoins Saturn and squares Neptune.

Interestingly, this whole Mars-retrograde complex (i.e., including both its shadows) is poignantly bookended by 2016's two eclipse-periods: (1) a pair of eclipses in March, right as Mars first enters Sagittarius, and (2) a trio of eclipses from mid-August into mid-September, when Mars clears the retrograde's shadow phase. If we observe my reading of eclipse-periods as 'chapter-markers' which bring our life-stories to some distinct narrative climax every six months or so, then we can see how March's eclipses will introduce the Mars retrograde chapter… and August/September's will bring it to a close, at the very same time Saturn moves into its third-and-final square to Neptune and Jupiter departs Virgo for Libra, kicking off the first distinctly 'new' set of astrological energies of the year.

The closing third of '16, then, is when we at last meet a different vibe. Once Jupiter enters Libra on September 9, it serves to re-accentuate the cardinal quality, as I spoke about earlier… joining Uranus and Pluto, also in cardinal signs (Aries and Capricorn, respectively), in shaping an astro-scene better suited to inaugurating fresh endeavors than any earlier moment in the year. Jupiter emphasizes relational and/or fair-minded perspectives while traveling through Libra (a trip which lasts into Oct '17), theoretically bringing a heightened capacity for considering both sides of any polarizing either/or situations—and, along with it, a possible exacerbation of Libran indecision and/or superficial 'resolutions'.

However (and this is a big 'however'), Jupiter-in-Libra's potential for compromise and evenhandedness will be pretty rattled by its retriggering of the oh-so-familiar—and familiarly disruptive—dynamics of Uranus-and-Pluto's square. Yes, Uranus and Pluto may have already passed beyond their final exact square earlier this year. Yet, this influence is far from totally finished… especially as Uranus and Pluto remain within a few-degrees orb of the square at the same time Jupiter in Libra moves in to create a T-square formation, first squaring Pluto (on November 24) and then opposing Uranus (on December 26). Let's just say that nothing about a Jupiter-Uranus-Pluto T-square smacks of 'evenhandedness', even if the dust it kicks up can ultimately lead us to more thorough (albeit hard-fought) compromises.

Just as we might've begun to grow falsely comfortable in our supposed 'post-Uranus-Pluto-square' experience, Jupiter's act of stirring-it-up-again from Libra suggests that certain concluding steps in the collective 'evolve or suffer' revolution process may still require our further regard—namely, how we integrate everything that's happened since the decade began, favoring neither austere authoritarianism (which may 'get the job done' but in an inhospitable or unfeeling manner) nor chaotic individualism (which, if unchecked, leads to a bunch of self-centered radicals getting in each other's way and pissing everyone off). Without our investing conscious intent in such a belief-driven mission, alas, Jupiter merely makes things bigger: bigger centralized-institution, power-driven crackdowns (Pluto in Capricorn), bigger free-the-people, impulse-driven rebellions (Uranus in Aries). With two more exact hits each of both the Jupiter-Pluto square and the Jupiter-Uranus opposition occurring well into the third quarter of 2017, this integration phase will only reveal its earliest glimpses at the tail-end of '16.

Along with these Jupiter aspects, we'll also get our first glimpse of a trine between Saturn in Sagittarius and Uranus in Aries in the final days of the year (exact on December 24), a fire-sign alliance between the 'structurer' (Saturn) and the 'liberator' (Uranus) which remains in effect through the end of '17. Saturn-Uranus trines aid us in rooting our emancipatory impulses into some built-to-last structure, allowing us to better sustain our progressive advances over time. Saturn in Sagittarius promises to provide us a unifying belief-system, which can guide us further along whatever self-liberating journey our Uranus-in-Aries breakthroughs have helped to inspire. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves: This aspect is more significantly a 2017 influence, and we've got plenty to deal with before then.

Click here for a brief 2016 year-ahead forecast for each of the 12 zodiac-signs.