Sunday, August 31, 2014

Russian invades eastern Ukraine

(31 August 2014) Russian troops invaded eastern Ukraine last week prompting calls for tougher sanctions against the Putin government.  Putin denies that any invasion took place but evidence is mounting that the Russian adventure in Ukraine has entered a new phase.  Some observers are suggesting that Putin wants a land connection to Crimea, which Russia already took control of several months ago.  Thus far, US and EU sanctions have had little effect in deterring Russia and the eastern Ukrainian rebels.   Putin continues to bank on the unwillingness of the West to stop him militarily.  Meanwhile, newly-elected Ukrainian President Poroshenko is calling for NATO membership and armed intervention by the West. 

In a previous post in July, I suggested that Putin was likely to do something unpredictable and likely unsuccessful in August and September.  I noted that transiting Rahu (North Node) conjoined his Saturn at 24 Virgo.  I also thought that last week's Mars-Saturn conjunction at 23 Libra could also signify important developments in this crisis since it would align with Putin's Saturn.  Thia invasion would seem to fulfill some of that planetary symbolism as Putin is revealing himself as a law unto himself without regard for international opinion.   We can see that the invasion occurred when transiting Mars and Saturn were square his natal nodes.  This is a classic signature for unrestrained aggressive action without consideration for consequences.  Putin's tendency to act suddenly and unpredictably is further indicated by the exact Uranus opposition to his Sun. 

In the July post, I thought that Putin's chart did not look good given the Rahu and Saturn influences.  Not only is Rahu conjunct his Sun-Saturn pairing, but transiting Saturn (24 Libra) is moving up to oppose his Jupiter (26 Aries) and aspect his natal Ketu at 26 Cancer.  Of course, it is a matter of interpretation whether Putin is getting what he wants at this point.  Ukraine has not yet taken back eastern Ukraine although it has made gains in the past weeks against the Russian-backed rebels.  And the Russian troops have not yet gained a clear advantage or even engaged the Ukrainian army in a significant way.  Putin likely expected the current level of Western outrage but short of arming Ukraine, the West likely hasn't done anything that he wouldn't have planned on.

Given the tightening of the Saturn aspect to Jupiter and Ketu in the next several weeks, I would expect Putin's efforts to be opposed quite strongly.  The US may well decide to send arms to Ukraine.  And it may also decide to send NATO troops into the nearby Baltic states as a deterrent measure against possible future Russian attacks. In keeping with Saturn's tendency to deny one's ambitions, both of these moves would be a step backward for Putin's plans of resurrecting the Soviet Empire.  With Putin's chart looking afflicted in September, I would expect his troubles to continue with stronger Western actions quite likely. 

Putin's fortunes will likely improve, however, by November.  Saturn will have moved away from its affliction to Jupiter and allow for more of his plans to be realized.   This could include presenting a better case to the international community to justify his actions, or it may mean divisions among Western nations.  And it may also include military success.  I don't know if there will be a full-scale war with Ukraine.  Certainly, that is still possible given how unstable Putin's horoscope is in the coming months, even if his birth time is unknown.  He is capable of acting quickly and will not shy away from a fight.  If there is going to be a war, I think it is more likely to occur in early 2015. That may be the most dangerous time as Uranus conjoins Ketu (South Node) from December 2014 until March 2015.  

Financial Markets Update

Despite the rising risk of war and economic disruption in Europe, stocks inched higher last week.  The Dow closed at 17,098 while in Mumbai the BSE Sensex hit another all-time high of 26,638.  I had expected a little more action in the markets last week given the Mars-Saturn conjunction on August 25th.  As sometimes happens, a multi-planet alignment can coincide with gains even if malefics like Mars and Saturn are prominent.  Monday and Tuesday saw Mars align with Saturn but also with Uranus, Mercury and Venus.  The alignment reminds me of a famous five planet alignment that occurred on 24 August 1987 -- the very day the US market made a high after a long six-year rally. Less than two months later, the biggest crash in history took place that saw 25% of the value of stocks erased in a single day.  Only time will tell if last week's alignment will have a similar historical importance.  While I do not foresee an imminent crash, I still think the current planetary alignment is hostile to further gains. 

The planets this week offer a mixed bag.  There could be some early week strength as Venus enters Leo on Monday.  Wednesday's Sun-Jupiter alignment may also bring about some optimism.  The late week is more troubled as Mars enters Scorpio, however.  Underneath it all, Saturn is moving closer to its alignment with Rahu (North Node) so there is a rising risk here.  Even if stocks manage to stay aloft this week, there should be some turbulence quite soon. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hillary Clinton's difficult summer

(18 August 2014) It's been a tough summer for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.   The former first lady and Secretary of State published a political memoir that met with tepid reviews and poor book sales.   Many commentators saw it as thinly-veiled political ploy designed to boost her profile before her formal declaration for the race to the Democratic nominee for President for the 2016 election.  Her subsequent book tour did little to improve the the book's reception as Ms. Clinton tried in vain to deflect criticism.  Then in a magazine interview two weeks ago, she was openly critical of Obama and distanced herself from him over his handling of the Middle East and Syria in particular.  She was forced to awkwardly walk back her comments in order to appear less confrontational towards the Obama White House.  These missteps have seen her popularity fall 10% in the past two months although she remains the overwhelming favorite to be the nominee of the Democratic Party. 

We can see that Hillary Clinton has been suffering from a bout of "Saturnitis" for much of the summer.  The Saturn station in late July was just one degree off her natal Venus.  Saturn-Venus transits are often times when life feels like it is contracting rather than expanding.  Our social circles also come under pressure as joy and happiness are harder to come by. Saturn isn't all bad -- no planet is -- but there are two important factors that made this particular transit conjunction worse.  First, it was the station of Saturn to her Venus.  Stations last for weeks and describe extended periods where we are feeling heavy or slowed down.  Saturn was within range for her Venus back in June and is still conjunct Venus at 23 degrees of Libra even now, some two months later.  For most people, a little Saturn gives structure, responsibility and maybe some worthwhile life lessons.  But a Saturn transit that lasts not for days but for weeks can reflect major obstacles and setbacks that can throw us off our game.  Saturn will finally move off her Venus in the next week or two so that bodes well for her.

The other problem with this Saturn transit is that it wasn't just Venus that suffered.  Ms. Clinton also had her Mars-Pluto conjunction at 20-21 Cancer closely aspected by Saturn during this time.  While this aspect was still a couple of degree off exact, it was close enough to cause problems.  An afflicted Mars-Pluto can indicate exercises of power that do not end well or may go against you.  This is what happened to Hillary following her comments on Obama's foreign policy.  The Saturn aspect would also raise the likelihood of frustration, especially in matters pertaining to the 10th house such as career and status.  It makes a lot of sense that Hillary would suffer more than her fair share of problems and hassles during this Saturn transit.  These difficult Saturn transits suggest that she did not expect to have this kind of fallout from her comments. 

Hillary's fortunes will likely improve further as Jupiter moves closer to its conjunction with Mars, Pluto and then Saturn this fall.   Jupiter stations exactly on her 10th house Saturn in December so that may be a particularly noteworthy and positive time.  I should note that her birth time remains in question but I am using the 8.00 a.m. chart for now.  Since I'm not sure it's correct, I tend to give less emphasis to time-dependent factors like house placements and rulerships and more on simpler planet-to-planet transits and progressions which are contingent only on her date of birth. 

Transiting Jupiter will remain in Cancer and her probable 10th house for the first half of 2015.   This would be an ideal time for her to declare her candidacy for President.  Usually Presidential candidacies are declared in the January or February of the year before the election.  Hillary could declare as early as December at the time of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction but she likely won't lose anything by waiting for early 2015 since Jupiter will still be in a powerful position in her chart.  I think her chances of winning the nomination are very good indeed, as is her chances to be the next President.  I hope discuss the race in greater detail in the coming months once we have a better idea of the other candidates.

Financial Markets Update

Stocks generally moved higher last week on easing geopolitical tensions and mostly positive macro economic data.  In New York, the Dow climbed about 1% finishing at 16,662 while the Indian Sensex jumped 3% to 26,103.  I had been fairly neutral last week although I noted the likelihood of gains in the second half of the week on the approaching Venus-Jupiter conjunction.  Indeed, stocks were mostly bullish after some early week indecision.

We could see a little more upside this week as the Venus-Jupiter conjunction is exact on Monday.  Tuesday's Mercury-Neptune opposition is more problematic so that could offset some or all of any preceding gains.  The rest of the week may be increasingly choppy and even jittery as Mars gets closer to its big conjunction with Saturn on next Monday the 25th.  Gains are still conceivable here but we could see intraday volatility increase.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ebola outbreak declared global health emergency

(10 August 2014)  Last week the WHO declared the current Ebola outbreak a world health emergency as the virus has yet to be contained and the number of deaths approaches 1000.  The latest outbreak began in February and has since affected four West African countries leading to the closing of borders, many village-level quarantines and widespread fear.   Health officials on the ground say the virus is out of control as the number of cases continues to increase exponentially.  The current outbreak is by far the worst since Ebola first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and Congo. 

There are a few possible astrological observations here.  First, it may not be coincidental that the outbreak reached this emergency status while Saturn and Uranus both stationed in a very close alignment in late July.  As I have noted previously, this simultaneous station of Saturn (22 Libra) and Uranus (22 Pisces) was bound to mark some significant troubles in the world.  We have seen an upsurge in conflict and military violence in the past several weeks (Gaza, Ukraine, Iraq) alongside the worst outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.  It is clearly a very worrisome time.  Saturn is the most malefic planet, of course, and at its worst it symbolizes loss, death, illness and suffering.  Uranus is a more unpredictable planet which is often prominent in situations marked by sudden and unexpected developments.  Together, these two distant planets are very apt markers for a somewhat mysterious and deadly disease that has a fatality rate of over 50%.

The really interesting thing about Ebola is that the Saturn-Uranus connection was quite prominent in the very first recorded case of Ebola on 27 June 1976 in Sudan.  To be sure, it is impossible to know the exact "birth" of Ebola (i.e when the first human was infected).  I also don't know exactly when in the fall of 1976 that the virus was given the Ebola name as this might also have created a viable birth chart.  But we do know when the first person with symptoms came to seek treatment. Although imperfect, this is the best "index case" for the virus and therefore is a plausible enough basis for casting a horoscope. 

The most dominant characteristic of this chart is the near exact square aspect between -- you guessed it -- Saturn and Uranus.  These planets reflect the dangerous and unpredictable nature of the virus as it suddenly appears and then disappears over two dozen times over the past forty years. The first case chart is also noteworthy for the opposition aspect between Mercury (communication, interaction) and Neptune (illness) which is quite appropriate for a contagious viral disease.  The gruesome deadliness of the virus's manifested symptoms may be seen through the exact 45 degree aspect between Mars and Pluto. 

If the virus itself was primarily marked by the cosmic imprint of Saturn and Uranus planetary energies working together, then it is not too surprising that we should see Ebola return once again when the energies of these two planets were again front and center.  While their alignment now not in a square aspect, the 150 degree angular separation is none the less significant, especially since both planets stationed (i.e. reversed their direction) on 20-21 July.  Stationary planets are at their most powerful in terms of influence.  We may also speculate if the transit of Jupiter (11 Cancer) to conjoin the natal Saturn (9 Cancer) is one reason for Ebola's continued spread to global emergency status at the present time.  Jupiter is the planet of expansion and growth and its influence on Saturn would suggest that the outbreak is still growing.

But what lies ahead?  If this chart is usable -- admittedly a big if -- then we could see the virus come under greater control around the time when Mars conjoins Saturn on 25 August.  This conjunction aligns with the natal Mercury in the Ebola horoscope so that may reflect some significant new obstacle in the spread of the virus.  Rahu's aspect to Mercury will tighten further in the coming weeks and could signal further interruption in the spread of the virus in September.  I would also think that we could see Ebola's spread significantly contained or even stopped by October as Saturn aspects both Jupiter (27 Aries) and Mars (0 Leo) at that time.  The first week of October sees Mercury turn retrograde in close square aspect to Saturn and may reflect a blocking of transmission, either through strict quarantine or, more optimistically, through the introduction of a vaccine.  The Mars opposition to natal Mercury occurs around the same time and is likely to reflect significant progress against this Ebola outbreak.

This analysis is more than a little tenuous given the poor quality of the data involved.  Hopefully, the current outbreak will give us two more start-stop data points against which the original chart data can be assessed and improved.

Financial Markets Update

Stock markets were mixed last week as the Ukrainian crisis seemed to lessen after Russia pulled some of its troops back from the border.  The Dow moved modestly higher closing at 16,553 while the Indian Sensex edged lower to 25,329.  I thought we might see some downside, especially later in the week on the Sun-Saturn aspect. Indian stocks did bottom out on Friday very close to this bearish aspect.  US stocks had been fairly negative until Friday but enjoyed a small rebound on that day. 

This week could see more mixed markets as Mercury and the Sun align with Ketu.  These are aspects that often foretell unexpected or counterintuitive moves in sentiment.  Venus approaches its conjunction with bullish Jupiter late in the week (although it is exact on Monday the 18th) so that could briefly boost some stocks.  The ongoing presence of the Saturn-Uranus aspect still looks like an enormous cloud over the proceedings, however.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Palestine under Saturn and Mars: the war in Gaza continues

(3 August 2014)  The fighting in Gaza resumed this weekend after the failure of Friday's cease-fire.  It lasted only ninety minutes.  There are hints that this round of bloodshed may be ending as Israel claims it destroyed most of the Hamas' network tunnels.  Israel may also have an interest in ending its attacks as it has been widely criticized for hitting several civilian targets, most recently a U.N. school which was being used as a shelter.  In last week's post, I wondered if we might get some kind of cease-fire around 2 August and the Mercury-Jupiter conjunction.  As it happened, the cease-fire came the day before.  I also thought it may not hold, and that proved to be correct.  Perhaps peace has a better chance near 16 August when Venus conjoins Jupiter.  We shall see. 

This war presents a problem for astrologers since the Palestinians do not have a proper national horoscope.  They are not yet a full-fledged nation.  All we have is several lesser charts which may or may not be significant for describing developments in Palestine, whether on the West Bank or Gaza.  The best one I have found thus far is the chart of the declaration of Palestinian independence in 1988.  Even if not as pertinent and accurate as, say, Israel's in 1948, it ought to have some force.  Tellingly, the declaration was made in absentia in Algeria by the Palestinian leadership under Yassir Arafat.  The declaration was the first time that the PLO official renounced violence and tacitly accepted Israel's right to exist.  The declaration paved the way for increasing international recognition which led to the Oslo Accords and the granting of limited sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza in 1994 and beyond.

There are some compelling elements of the chart that seem appropriate.  Ketu (South Lunar Node) rises on the Ascendant in Leo.  This may reflect the constantly unstable situation of the nation which has no fixed territory.  As the planet of asceticism, Ketu is said to deny the material realm.  This is perhaps fitting for a declaration of independence for a people without a homeland.  Ketu is also a spiritual planet, of course, and this may reflect the religious nature of Palestine as an Islamic state.  The triple conjunction of Mercury, Pluto and the Sun in the 3rd house of courage and determination seems to conform to the tenacity with which Palestinians have fought over the year to regain their homeland. 

The Moon's placement in the 6th house may provide a small window on the extent of their suffering although it does not seem quite right somehow. Jupiter's benefic aspect to the Moon is even more puzzling.   One would think the chart would have clearer afflictions which reflect the hardship of the Palestinian people.  Perhaps that comes from the lord of the 4th house (Mars) being poorly placed in the 8th house in a square with Saturn and Uranus.  And perhaps it speaks to better, more prosperous days in the future.  But the big problem with this chart is that there are no clear transit afflictions in recent weeks as one would expect given the large loss of life in Gaza. 

Or is there?  One possible explanation is that the Saturn-Uranus alignment at 22 Libra/22 Pisces is really hitting this chart but just in a less obvious way.  Saturn at 23 Libra is now 135 degrees away from Mars at 8 Pisces.  Western astrology does use the 135 degree sesquiquadrate aspect since it represents an 8-fold division of the circle of 360 degrees.  If this chart is correct, then Saturn will only move away from its 135 degree aspect with Mars later in August and September. That would suggest there could be more fighting and suffering in the days to come. 

Worse still, the Mars-Saturn conjunction on 25 August could be disastrous for Palestine since this is almost an exact aspect to the natal Mars.  A major escalation of violence seems very likely at that time.  Not surprisingly, the chart is running a malefic dasha period -- Rahu-Saturn from 2013 until 2015.  Both of these planets are natural malefics and Saturn is doubly problematic due to its placement with destabilizing Uranus and the weakening influence of Neptune.  Perhaps a lasting cease-fire is more likely as transiting dasha lord Rahu conjoins Venus in late August and into September.

The long term outlook for Palestine doesn't look good.  Some meaningful improvement in possible under Rahu-Mercury dasha from 2015 to 2018 and yet Mercury also suffers from its conjunction with Pluto (coercion) and the aspect from Rahu (deception).  I would be hesitant about expecting too much from this period although it should be better than what Saturn has delivered.  The general situation in Palestine may only substantially improve with the coming of the Rahu-Venus dasha in 2019. 

Financial Markets Update

Stocks tumbled across the world last week as US economic data suggested that the Fed may be forced to hike interest rates sooner than expected.  If the Fed does have to raise rates, then this asset bubble that has been forming over the past 5 years may suddenly pop.  The Dow lost 3% closing at 16,493 while the Sensex also dipped 3% and finished at 25,480.  This outcome was not a big surprise as I thought we might see some noteworthy moves on the late week Mars-Jupiter square aspect.  The big decline came Thursday just one day before Mars was made its closest angle.  It seems the market may be on the verge of falling further in the wake of that Saturn-Uranus alignment on 20 July.  It's still too soon to tell what its eventual impact will be, however.

This week could also be difficult as the Sun and Mercury come under the aspect of Saturn late in the week.  This alignment isn't exact until Saturday so it's possible some of the negativity may be avoided.  But even if stocks do recover this week, there will be renewed pressure soon enough.