Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ukraine protests ousts President on planetary stations

Ukraine's ongoing violent protests against its authoritarian pro-Russian government came to an abrupt end this week as a defiant President Yanukovych escaped the chaos by helicopter.   A new unity government was sworn-in the next day.  After months of street battles and violence had destroyed Independence Square of Kiev, the end came more suddenly that most of the protesters could have hoped.  The victory of this so-called Ukrainian Revolution will likely once again orient the former Soviet Republic towards Europe and the EU.  Although freely elected, the previous government had become increasingly intolerant of criticism and free speech in recent years and had moved away from Europe and into closer alliance with Russia.  It is an open question if Ukraine's political system is pliable enough to handle the deeply-rooted divisions in the country as half want closer ties to Europe and half want to be closer to Russia. 

As an astrologer, I am naturally curious about how the current planets might have related to the natal chart of the Ukraine.  Certainly, there is an unusual amount of energy in the sky these days as we approach a rare quadruple station of Mercury, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter all within one week of each other.  A station occurs when planets change their apparent direction from our vantage point on Earth.  Stations are therefore marked by unusually low planetary velocity and for a day or two the planet does not appear to move at all.  It is completely stationary, hence the term, "station".  Planets become more powerful around these stations and usually correlate with significant situations and developments in the world. 

It seems that a good portion of this energy is restless and negative, however, as Ukraine has removed its sitting President, while Venezuela is also in the throes of violent civil unrest  around an upcoming election.  Violence is also increasing recently in Thailand where ongoing political protests against the government appears to be entering a new and deadlier stage. 


The Ukraine chart is one cast for the moment that Ukraine was declared independent as the USSR quickly collapsed in 1991.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how much instability and affliction there is in this chart.  The Jupiter-Uranus square aspect sets up on the 4th and 7th house cusps and thus directly aspects the all-important Ascendant.  Jupiter is benefic of course but Uranus is quite unsettling and when it is parked over an angle as it here, it can reflect situations of change and disruption of the status quo.  The Jupiter influence here may be one reason why there appears to be a happy ending of sorts and a cessation of violence.  And we can see that Uranus may have played a special role here because the Ukraine was "born" with Uranus rising.  This is a clue that any subsequent transit of Uranus to any of the angles (1st, 4th,7th, 10th cusps) would be more likely to coincide with major events that affect the nature of the nation as a whole.  Transiting Pluto exerts extra pressure on the Ascendant and suggests major transformational change, especially using coercive means.  Pluto is a background sort of influence due to its very slow motion but it is clearly part of the larger picture of change. 

We can get a glimpse of the level of suffering and dislocation from the protests from Saturn's approaching retrograde station at 29 degrees of sidereal Libra.  This is just three degrees short of a perfect forward square aspect to Mercury and Jupiter at 2 Leo.  Jupiter is the 1st house ruler (lagnesh) symbolizing the nation and Mercury is the ruler of the 10th house representing rulers and leaders.  This was not a good aspect for the incumbent government.  The extent of the sacrifice and suffering is also reflected in the closer square aspect between Saturn and the Moon.  The Moon symbolizes "the people" and the national mood.

Of course, the Sun is the planet that best typifies leaders and the head of state.  As it happens, it was under close affliction by transiting Ketu (6 Aries).  The South Lunar Node is usually malefic by transit and is especially antithetical to mundane affairs such as daily governance.  Ketu-Sun aspects are therefore usually bad news for sitting governments.  Yanukovych's bad luck here was that the Ketu-Sun aspect happened at the same time as all these other very stressful aspects.  One affliction to the Sun or to the Ascendant is rarely enough to force a regime change.  Even two such aspects from slow moving planets may only reflect a serious scandal or resignation.  But when there are four or five simultaneous afflictions to a national chart, you have to start to consider the possibility of a revolution in which the entire ruling party will be removed and major alliances will be redrawn.

The transit of Saturn into Scorpio next year will likely bring another round of pressure on any new government.  Saturn will square the Sun and Venus in in the spring of 2015 so it is possible that the government will undergo another major change.  Transiting Rahu will conjoin the 10th house cusp at this time so that is confirmatory evidence that the new Ukranian government will likely be forced out.  A more optimistic reading of these planets would be that the interim government is simply replaced by an elected government sometime in the first half of 2015.  However, the precariousness of the situation and the malefic nature of the planets involved suggests that is not a probable scenario. 

Financial markets update

Financial markets were mixed last week as winter weather made interpreting the weak US economic data more difficult.  US stocks held mostly steady while Indian shares rose smartly.  Crude oil and gold also moved higher.  We did get some weakness midweek around the Moon-Mars conjunction as US stocks pulled back on Wednesday.  But it seems the market is still being fueled by the Jupiter-Uranus square aspect.  This is a bullish pairing and when both planets are moving more slowly than normal as is the case now, there is a greater probability for markets to rise. 

This week could see some troubles around the Venus-Saturn aspect early in the week.  However, the ongoing Jupiter-Uranus aspect offers hope for a rebound, especially later in the week when the Sun aligns with Jupiter.  The larger question is whether this rare series of four planetary stations over the next week will coincide with any major trend reversals.  There are no hard and fast rules in this regard, although some telling correspondences have been observed.  Most recently, the Venus direct station on February 1st coincided with a significant interim low in most global markets. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Markets applaud Yellen's inaugural testimony as Fed Chair

(16 February 2014)  Incoming Fed Chair Janet Yellen made her first appearance before Congress this week as legislators quizzed her on the Federal Reserve's monterary policies.   Yellen's remarks were well received as US financial markets generally rose throughout the week.  Yellen emphasized the continuity of the Fed's policy of near-zero interest rates and the promise to extend the tapering of QE as long as the economic data warranted it.  US stocks climbed through the week on her testimony which seemed to calm worries over a possible slowdown.  Gold investors were especially enthused over her desire to increase inflation to 2.5% through further measures.  Gold gained 3% on the week closing near $1320.  Indian stocks slipped a bit, although they remained within their recent trading range.

In other words, Yellen is telling markets exactly what they want to hear.  If things turn sour again for the economy, the Fed will be there to open the taps and flood the market with lots more free money.  Whether this will actually improve employment and the economy as a whole is another question, but it will certainly boost stocks and make the Wall St bankers happy.  Good economic news means stocks can rise on future earnings expectations.  Bad economic news means the Fed will goose the market in order to improve money flow and thereby stimulate the economy.   Now more than ever, the Fed plays a pivotal role in financial markets.

The importance of the Federal Reserve pertains not only to investments, but to the world economy as a whole.  The Fed pulls the strings, and the economy dances.  Or not.  This makes Yellen vitally important for understanding where the world economy is likely to be headed during her term as Chair. 

The astrological dimension is not without some usefulness in this matter.  The moment Yellen assumed the Chair of the Fed is a significant moment in time that is inscribed with a unique cosmic imprint.  Yellen assumed the office of Chair of the Fed at 12.01 a.m. on Saturday February 1st.  The resulting horoscope can provide insight about the nature of her term.  One complicating factor is that Yellen took the oath two days later on Monday February 3 at 9.10 a.m in Washington, DC.  Both charts are potentially revealing, although given my drothers, I would defer to the midnight Feb 1 chart.  Let's take a look.

The February 1st chart has Rahu rising with Mars just a few degrees away.  This is anything but a picture of stability and tradition.  Rahu suggests bold moves and very independent thinking to the point where they can be destabilizing and unpredictable.  Right off the bat, we have some indication that Yellen's Fed will be different from the Fed of Bernanke and Greenspan.  The fairly close proximity of Mars to Rahu suggests that the bold moves will be accompanied by some annoyance or awkwardness, if not frustration and pain. 

Libra rises in the chart which is ruled by Venus.  Venus is tightly conjunct Pluto (power) and closely opposed by Jupiter (expansion).  There are at least two possible interpretations to this configuration.  The first is that the Fed will likely expand its loose monetary policy since Jupiter is all about expansion and inflation.  Perhaps the Fed will expand its balance sheet once again in order to boost employment, or perhaps just buy stocks directly. Alternatively, the Fed could simply expand its reach and its institutional power during Yellen's term.  This needn't be inflationary but may involve experimenting with new policy tools beyond interest rates and bond buying.  Either way, it does seem more likely that the Fed will continue to fill the policy breach created by the political stalemate in DC. 

The other important pattern in this chart is the Moon-Mercury-Neptune conjunction.  This usually represents an inspired vision with enhanced communication.  Neptune can sometimes indicate delusion and deception although that is not always the case.  However, in this chart, we can see that the Moon-Mercury-Neptune trio receives a near exact aspect from Rahu.  That is probably unhelpful for Yellen's ability to communicate clearly and effectively.  I would think that this pattern is more likely to reflect some confusion in her policies as well as problems with the media and investment community making sense of the Fed's intentions, especially in its forward guidance.

Most of these issues are actually repeated in the swearing-in horoscope.  The Mercury-Neptune conjunction is still there under the influence of Rahu and has now shifted to the 12th house.  This arguably a worse placement as it means that communication and policy logic is more likely to be hidden from view or least viewed in that way.  This may indicate a perception of a lack of transparency in Fed policy.  The Moon has moved on of course but is now in the 1st house with Uranus.  Moon-Uranus in the 1st house is a classic signature for sudden movements, and often unpredictable.  There may be a sense of ingenuity here, as if Yellen will be responding to changing situations with some inventive and clever ideas.  But the rest of the chart looks somewhat stressed, as if no matter how inventive Yellen may be, there will be some significant headwinds for the Fed during her tenure.  Mars-Rahu are very close to the 8th house cusp signifying painful obstacles and setbacks.  But Yellen herself may be able to deflect most of the criticism as the Venus-Jupiter-Pluto configuration is invoked once again.  Pisces rises in the chart which is ruled by Jupiter and this receives the aspect of Venus.  There is a sense of a "get out of jail free" card in this pattern which could be useful in maintaining Yellen's credibility. 

The 9.10 a.m. oath chart is somewhat better than the midnight term chart but both do speak to the likelihood of an eventful and challenging term for Janet Yellen.  It may also mean that another significant round of economic turbulence is more likely in the next few years.

This week features an interesting contrast between planetary influences.  On the bullish side, we can see that Jupiter and Uranus are still in a very close square alignment.  This has been building in February and is likely one of the reasons for the buoyant markets in the US and Europe.  But Mercury forms a square with Saturn in midweek which could dent the optimism, especially given the simultaneous Moon-Mars-Rahu conjunction.  The Sun also comes under the aspect of Rahu which can also be troublesome.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Political Crisis in Thailand: Mars and Saturn preclude a quick resolution

(2 February 2014)  Thailand's controversial election was held today amidst an atmosphere of violence, distrust, and confusion.  Voting in many districts was postponed due to protesters blocking the arrival of ballots and officials.  There was no election at all in nine southern provinces where all candidates had been prevented from registering in January.  The election seems to be little more than a public relations exercise for the besieged government of Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of the indicted exiled former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. The main opposition Democrat party boycotted the election as they consider the government illegitimate due to numerous corruption charges and chronic economic mismanagement.  With the election unlikely to settle anything, there seemed to be little hope that deep class and regional divisions in this normally peaceful Southeast Asian country would be resolved any time soon.

The astrological perspective on the crisis in Thailand suggests that the political stalemate will likely continue.  The Thailand chart that marks the beginning of the current Chakri royal dynasty -- a moment in time chosen by Thai astrologers in 1782 --  shows a very heavily afflicted Ascendant by the transit of Saturn.  Saturn (28 Libra) is slowing down ahead of its retrograde station at 29 Libra on March 2nd.  Saturn is usually a bad planet, especially when it opposes a sensitive point in the chart like the Ascendant.  And when it slows its velocity, it usually coincides with significant situations of delay, obstacles, loss and sometimes destruction. 

The protests against the proposed government Amnesty Bill which would have allowed the deposed former PM Thaksin back to Thailand began in earnest in November.  Saturn was still eight degrees away from its aspect with the Ascendant but it was one central reason for the protests.  The Ascendant represents the body and soul of a nation so any affliction by a slow moving malefic like Saturn is bound to correspond to times of national concern and even crisis.

In November, December and January, transiting Ketu (South Lunar Node) conjoined the natal Sun of Thailand at 10 Aries.  Ketu tends to reflect situations of change, uncertainty and disruption of the status quo.  The Sun, of course, symbolizes governments and leaders so that Ketu-Sun affliction was a very apt influence during the growing protests and strategic blockading of major intersections in Bangkok by the emboldened protest movement. 

Now that Ketu has moved past the Sun, the nature of the protests have changed.   The snap election was called by PM Yingluck in order to find a way to end the protests but that hasn't happened.  The election was a desperate move to buy some time and hope that the protests would fade and thereby avoid a military coup.  The Saturn-Ascendant aspect reflects the growing intractability of the crisis and how there may be no easy solutions to it.  And now Mars is more active in the chart.  Mars represents conflict and violence and it is sitting on the 6th house cusp at 29 Virgo.  The 6th house itself represents conflict and the military.  But the real problem for Thailand is that, like Saturn, Mars is also slowing down ahead of its retrograde station on March 1st.  This means that the Mars influence will be much longer and stronger than it otherwise would.  Mars stations at 3 Libra which will still be fairly close to the 6th cusp.  This is an indication that violence will continue to occur well into March as Mars moves backward over the cusp at 29 Virgo and then the natal Rahu at 25 Virgo. 

So this double station of malefics just one day apart on March 1st and 2nd is likely to hit Thailand quite hard.  This double station of astrology's two worst planets -- Mars and Saturn -- is extremely rare and may correlate with events and conditions of great hardship and suffering.  Thailand's bad luck in 2014 is that these planets will come to a full stop in the sky in close proximity to key points in its natal chart.

It seems very likely that the protests, the stalemate and the sporadic violence will continue until March at least when Mars and Saturn reverse direction and begin to back away from their respective aspects to the Ascendant.   Perhaps the more important question is whether there will be a coup.  The military occupies a central role in Thai society and politics and it has intervened several times in the past during moments of crisis after negotiations and compromise had failed.  The horoscope of the 1932 military coup that ended the absolute monarchy and began the modern era of Thai politics reveals a similar level of affliction.  Transiting Saturn is sitting just two degrees away from the 6th house -- the house of conflict.  Transiting Mars is also active in this chart as it is stationing very close to the 5th house cusp (1 Libra).  It is also exactly opposite unpredictable Uranus.

In a sense, the 1932 chart is not just a secondary chart for Thailand as a whole, it is also the natal chart for Thai military coups.  The September 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin occurred when the chart was under intense transit pressure.  Pluto was exactly opposite the Ascendant symbolizing the radical transformation of society from a traditional form of governance to a modern state.   Rahu was exactly conjunct the 10th house cusp symbolizing the disruption of leaders.   Finally, Saturn was conjunct Jupiter representing loss of the traditional guru or King-like figure (Thaksin).  On a more positive note, Jupiter was also in close aspect with Mercury indicating some measure of relief and resolution as the coup brought an end to a period of ongoing tension and opposition to the Thaksin administration.

So what are the chances for a coup in the near term?  I don't think many analysts think a coup is imminent, although it is in the back of everyone's mind.  There may be a fatalistic attitude toward it, as if it is only a matter of time before each side in the conflict runs out of patience and options and ratchet up the levels of violence.  A suddenly higher level of violence would likely bring out the tanks as the military honours its mandate to keep domestic peace. While the afflictions to the chart are considerable, I'm not convinced they are sufficient to suggest a coup is around the corner.  It's still possible, but it is not something that jumps out from the chart. 

Another major alignment occurs in June and July when Saturn and Uranus are in exact alignment at 22 degrees in their respective signs.  Saturn will station direct at 22 Libra and this will aspect the Lagnesh Mercury in the 1932 chart.  I would expect some significant developments at that time that could point to a resolution of the crisis.  Transiting Rahu also aspects the Ascendant at that time, so that usually means change will be afoot.  Will it be a coup or will the government ride out the storm and find a compromise that keeps them in power?  It's hard to say given the lack of timed horoscopes for the major players in the crisis.  Interestingly, this Saturn-Uranus pattern will align with the the natal Sun of opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban (July 7, 1949, no time).  This is usually a fairly stressful and difficult alignment so he could experience a setback at this time.  That is perhaps a small hint that the government may prevail, but I would not be comfortable making that prediction.  There are other possible scenarios that could see opposition leader Suthep suffering a setback even after a coup that deposes the government. 

Financial Market Update

Global stocks generally retreated last week as worries over the stability of emerging economies continued to undermine confidence.  US markets fell about 1% while Indian stocks slumped 3%.  The pullback was in line with expectations as I thought that the midweek Mars-Saturn alignment would likely turn the week negative overall.  As expected, Indian stocks fell further as the Mars-Saturn pattern activated a key point in the BSE horoscope. 

This week could be more of the same as Mars enters Libra on Tuesday.  Some early week gains are perhaps possible but the second half of the week looks more bearish.