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The Breathing Tide

Like an outgoing tide, retrograde periods give a breathing space to readjust before the next flood, soon to come.

By John  Townley, April 2009

The rolling cycles of history tend to dominate astrologers’ imagination, partly because it is easy to identify and correlate the large planetary cycles (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) with big historical changes. As nearly everyone has been endlessly pointing out, the big change of Pluto into Capricorn is supposed to be marking the crumbling of the established order of government and business structures to make way for a new way of putting them together. That’s a roughly 245-year cycle that takes 14 years of Pluto in Capricorn to fully turn the corner. Also noted by too many to name is the opposition of Saturn and Uranus (a 45-year cycle) that takes about two years to engage and then pass – and that’s associated with a battle between the old establishment (Saturn, not accidentally linked with Capricorn) and sudden, sometimes catastrophic change (Uranus). Both cycles cut in last fall, and not surprisingly the world has been faced with the sudden catastrophic crumbling of the established order of business and government. Astrologers pat each other on the back for getting the prediction right while we all scramble for safety among falling objects, assets, and careers.

Retrograde Rests

If such cycles ran like the unwavering clockwork they’re sometimes painted as, we’d all be ground to dust before they passed, and the growth that signals progress wouldn’t have a chance to stand up and reassert itself amid the gathering rubble. But there is another smaller but more fundamental rhythm that gives us all enough play to get out of the way of destruction and redesign our lives amid the huge shifts going on all around. It is the tide of the seasons themselves, the subrhythm under all the longer cycles, that slows and speeds them, giving us the chance to take a breath and go on after each shift. It is what makes life not a steady lockstep march, but two steps forward, and one step back, then repeat the shift, the 3/4-time waltz of evolution itself.

Its signature is the stations of the outer planets, retrograde and direct, when from our point of view the outer planets stop their forward motion and back up a few degrees, before turning again and creeping along even further. By not forcing their change on us all at once, but in smaller bites we can digest one at a time, we can deal with sometimes massive change that would otherwise roll over and trample us completely.

Tides of Life, Small and Large

It’s like waves coming in at the shore, which flood the beach for a moment, then back off enough for us to scurry around and readjust like small tidal creatures – crabs, shellfish, insects, and birds – scrabbling for food, perhaps quickly mating, then hurrying back to newly dug holes or another safe perch as the next wave rolls yet higher with the approach of the rising tide. Then after a series of these, the encroaching tide itself reaches its peak, and the waves with it, allowing beached fishing boats to set out to sea (at a larger, human scale), until it recedes and returns again in greater or lesser strength, building to or retreating from a new or full Moon. If the waves or tide just came in and stayed there, we’d all drown or be driven away, and nothing would result. Indeed, this rhythmic tidal/wave effect is believed to be a major driver of evolution, as new species develop based on how well each copes with the momentary opportunities to adjust which that ebb and flow affords. Planets without moons and thus tides are considered less likely to have developed life, or as much variety of it, as those with this natural breathing space built into the environment.

Break in the Weather

So, on our even larger social scale, things looked pretty grim when Pluto surged forward into Capricorn and Saturn opposed Uranus last October (2008). The social and economic waves and tides surged, washing away much of our underpinnings, and everyone panicked and ran for cover. Much was destroyed, some was saved, parts were redesigned or salvaged – by individuals, businesses, and governments. The forecast was dark, indeed. Then, just as Pluto made its station in early April (2009) after penetrating past three degrees of Capricorn and Saturn backed off as Uranus raced ahead, there has seemed to be a pause. Suddenly stock market hucksters began proclaiming the end of a recession and good times ahead again. The tide reached its momentary crest and is in temporary retreat, and a few months have opened up to rebudget, remortgage, move, reinvest. And with three months of Venus and Mars running together adding to enthusiasm and dreams of both money and romance, it may seem like the storm is over.

 The edge of the tide is where both pause and progress begin, at the heart of evolution

Perfect Storm

But it’s not, by a long shot. By Labor Day, Saturn and Uranus will be at it again and October will see Pluto come surging back to seize another couple of degrees of Capricorn, demolishing yet more of  200+ years of social infrastructure. The second Saturn-Uranus tangle passes quickly but Pluto plugs on into the winter. And by the time Pluto turns for its breather again in April 2010, Saturn and Uranus gather for their final clash in the spring and summer, now out of sync with the Pluto tide, alternating effects. And then yet another swifter wave, Jupiter, suddenly catches up and joins Uranus, sealing the new-vs-old debate like a warm tide of nutrients added into the mix, something to help us ride the larger swell to new opportunities.

So, what we saw last fall was indeed a sort of a perfect storm, two destructive waves hitting us together, and now we’re in a breather period to rearrange things before the next set returns. Fortunately, they are coming at different speeds and won’t hit quite so simultaneously the next couple of times. Like the locked steps of competitors at the end of a race (or the synchronous breathing of lovers in passionate embrace), sometimes it seems we’re seized up by the situation and can’t get break the rhythm, until it happens of itself and the original cycles separate and move on to meet and peak again later, though we may not live to see it, anymore than many shore creatures will live to see the next tide.

Take A Breath, Now

In the meantime, on both the individual and social scale, remember that we are taking a breather right now, so breathe deep, take every opportunity to readjust and make the most of it, position yourself for the repeating surge. The next waves will be upon us soon enough, and for the moment, overall, the tide is still rising.  


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