Joyful Change: ONE

Joyful Anticipation:   Converging Trends towards a Changing Future

(and how to get where we want to go)

Anne Beversdorf,  March 2009

Part One: In which general introductory notes and answers to previously asked questions about the history of astrology are addressed. Note: If you are not interested in astrology at all, please go to Part Two. If you are not interested in astrology generally, but are interested in the Age of Aquarius and when it starts, skip to the end of this part and then go to Part Two. Last thing I want to do is bore anyone!


Many of us are aware that we are in a period of phenomenal and unprecedented change. The very foundation under us is shifting as we contemplate financial meltdown, global climate change, and the collapse of systems we have relied on for generations. In the meantime, new things keep popping up—just enough to make most of us feel even more unstable in our environment. In this article I’ll be looking at the trends already in play from a variety of perspectives. Underlying all these perspectives will also be astrological observations, since that’s been my profession for the past 16 years. I’ll also look at scientific, technical, and sociological trends, and will also look at some metaphysical predictions and places where science and the study of consciousness coincide and join to bring us to new understandings of our place in time.

Astrological Notes:

As an astrologer, I tend to look at things through a long lens—the lens of cycles of planets, lifetimes, and the cycle of repeating themes throughout lives and history itself. As a physicist friend stated to me after listening to my rather baffling (to him) astrological talk, “Oh! It’s about pattern recognition!” Patterns in human lives and in the lives of nations and the world seem to coincide with regularly occurring patterns in the stars and planets above us. Simply speaking, the Sun marks day and night. Most people work in the day and sleep at night. The Sun doesn’t MAKE you do this. It’s just easier to do things that way. The Moon affects tides and the movement of fluids, so fishing people and farmers find it useful to pay attention to the position of the Moon when they look for fish, or set out new plants. The Old Farmers Almanac is the “bible” for astrological planting. My grandfather would have laughed at the word “astrology”, but he swore by the Farmers Almanac Moon tables for planting.

The symbolic and archetypal language of the astrological hieroglyphs helps me flesh out these patterns, and anticipate, in general terms, what’s coming up. Astrology, by itself, won’t TELL anyone what’s happening. You have to ask questions, and for that, you have to be educated enough to know what questions to ask. For example, financial astrologers need to know investments thoroughly in order to ask the right questions and understand the answers that astrology can provide. Medical astrologers need to know health, diseases, and how to treat them in order to ask the right questions and recognize the right answers in the patterns of planets and stars.

Astrology is actually a second language to me. The symbols of astrology, also called “glyphs” which is short for “hieroglyphs”, are actually a language. Just as in Egyptian hieroglyphs, each glyph cannot easily be translated into a single word. It contains a series of concepts. This means that when one hieroglyph is paired with another one, both share and combine meanings in different ways. The result is that a single hieroglyph can appear to have many different “translations”, depending on its relationships with other glyphs.

But the issue of conceptual groups is the most important one. After decades of working with astrological symbols, I see the world in those terms. I can “feel” the world in those terms. When a client calls me, spitting mad because her HOA refused her permit to add a deck to her house, I can feel Pluto and Mars energy, which have their own archetypal patterns and will relax with certain behaviors and will increase with others. I can identify this planetary combination even before looking at the chart to see that yes, Pluto in the sky was on the position of Mars at the time and date of her birth. I can look at a person who is very thin with prominent bones (or a person with bad teeth and apparent skin problems), and say Saturn is active in her life. This will mean a lot more than thin and bony—or dental and cosmetic expenses. It will mean exposure to stern authority figures, to an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, to possibly a sense of being overburdened or depressed. It can also mean executive ability, dignity, respect given and received among other things. When the pattern runs strongly in one part of a life, I know it will run strongly in other parts of the life, and my question is always about how this person has learned to use the energy.

Although my work is mostly with individuals, I also watch trends, both social and psychological, and read a lot about breakthroughs in new sciences. I bring these issues and my own commitment to personal spiritual development to the questions I ask of charts in my personal practice. The questions I’m predisposed to ask lead me to look towards the transformative changes I’m seeing in individuals as well as in society all around me. In fact, I’m threatening to change my personal “label” from Astrologer to “Futurist”. We’ll see.

I was asked to talk a bit about the history of astrology. Frankly, it’s a subject that has grown and developed independently in many different cultures. We know of the Vedic tradition. We know of the Babylonian tradition that shaped and was shaped by the Egyptian tradition and grew into the ancient Greek and Roman astrological tradition which is the predecessor of modern Western Astrology. (If you know your “Sun Sign” you are speaking the language of modern western astrology but I bet you didn’t know your debt to Babylon!) We also know of the Chinese tradition; the Tibetan tradition which seems to be a mix of Vedic and Chinese; and of course there is the Mayan astrological tradition.

In all these traditions, the first question is, when faced with the circle of stars above us, where do we start? What is the BEGINNING of a circle? There have been long astrological arguments on this point.

The earliest version of “western” astrology that we know of is from Babylon. At that point astrology was more the omenology of the sky. Sunset and Sunrise were important because they were the first and last times you could see the stars. When the sun is up, we can’t see the stars. The very last star you could see in the morning and the first star of night were tremendously significant. These were stars bright enough to compete with the light of the sun which meant they had a lot of power. And of course, comets, eclipses, storms that hid the stars from view, were all considered important omens. If you were determined to watch the sky one night and a dust storm obscured the stars, the storm itself would be an omen. Over years, these omens –the planets seen, the unusual visual effects, comets, rings around the moon, etc, were recorded and tested, patterns were recognized, and astrology began to be more systematic.

Greek/Roman and Western astrology both give primary importance to the Sun, for somewhat different reasons. Modern western astrology has a media-induced Sun-emphasis. The 20th century was the introduction of “Sun Sign Astrology”, mainly because it was the easiest way to publicize astrology to the masses. The Sun is the only astrological point that is in the same position every year at the same time (within about a day). So you could easily say “If you were born between March 20 and April 20, your Sun is in Aries, which means…..” and then create sun-sign columns in newspapers. This isn’t because the Sun is more important than the other planets. It’s just the only planet that matches our calendar, which is (yes, you guessed it) a SOLAR calendar—based on the cycle of the Sun. If you wanted to do a Moon Sign column, you’d have to include a reference book for every day of the last 100 years so each person reading the column could find their own moon sign. So Sun signs became popularized.

India-n astrology gives primacy to the Moon, the Sun, I presume, being too obvious. The moon moves through the 12 constellations of the ecliptic every 28 days, giving about 2.3 days to each sign. The Indian system of “nakshatras” speaks of the Lunar Mansions—the “home” the moon travels through for a few days. WB Yeats has a poem to the Mansions of the Moon. Vedic astrology has long and detailed stories for the lunar mansions, just as western astrology has long and detailed stories for the 12 solar signs. Vedic astrology traditionally doesn’t use the solar stories.

The astrology of Greece and the astrology of India became quite jumbled up over the course of history. During the great epoch of trade and exchange of learning in the late Greek and early Roman empires, during the development of the great library of Alexandria, and later during the great rise of Islamic scholarship, ideas from all parts of the world were exchanged, and astrology was considered one of the great sciences. Although Vedic astrology existed before this, many concepts from Greek and Arab astrology were added to Vedic techniques, as evidenced by Greek and Arabic words used in Indian astrology.

The same mixture wasn’t available for the Mayan astrologers. In fact, their astrological cycles are based on the planet Venus, which probably not coincidentally, is often the last visible Morning Star and first visible Evening Star.

One confusion about astrology in the western world is that the astrological tradition that gelled in about 300 CE took two different directions: Tropical, and Sidereal. At that time, the spring equinox would take place against a background of stars in the constellation of Aries. In the west, we still say that the spring equinox is the “beginning of Aries”, even though, due to the slow drift caused by the earth’s wobble on its axis, the Precession of the Equinox puts the real position of the Spring Equinox against stars in late Pisces—almost a full sign away. In fact, that’s why we are in the “age of Pisces.” The Equinoxes drift backwards through the signs, and when we finish the “age of Pisces” we’ll be in the Age of Aquarius.

As a result of this, western scientists frequently (and ignorantly) say “Astrologers are so stupid they don’t even know the signs of the zodiac. They’ll look at the sky and say ‘Jupiter is in Aquarius’ when anyone can see that the constellation behind Jupiter is Capricorn.” Yes, western astrologers will say that. The convention of about 300 CE is that the first day of spring would define zero Aries in the Tropical Zodiac, so that astrological signs and astronomical constellations were no longer the same thing. This offers two different answers to “where does the circle begin.” The answer? It Depends!

starlight-skymap0015Figure 1: Skymap showing the constellations of Aries, Pisces, and Aquarius, against which we can see the glyph for the tropical sign Aries circled in blue, against the very end of the constellation Pisces.

Sidereal astrology (meaning ‘by the stars’) generally labels a planet by the constellation behind it in the sky, but even that isn’t a cut-and-dried science. As you can see from the sky map above, constellations vary widely in their size. Astrology only watches the constellations along the ecliptic—if we drew a line in the sky connecting the positions of all the eclipses, that line would be the ecliptic. In this skymap, the pink line traces the path of the ecliptic.

To the left of and below the blue circled Aries glyph, you’ll see a short straight line with the star Hamal labeled. This is the constellation of Aries. Just above that you see Pisces, which is a big v-shape with a circle-ish shape at the top of both ends of the v. Above that is Aquarius, which ends with a large S-shape, which actually overlaps the last circle-ish part of Pisces.

The thing is, the constellations aren’t naturally 12 equally-sized parts of the 360 circle of the sky. This 12-part division is an average. Sidereal astrology, which is based against the so-called “actual constellations”, still has to figure out where the circle begins. Most Indian astrologers use the point opposite the bright star Spica, in Libra, as the opposite point to zero Aries. Even this is debated though, with several other widely acknowledged starting points also in use. Generally speaking the difference between the Tropical zodiac and the Sidereal zodiac is about 23 degrees. This is why your familiar-to-you western Sun Sign (or ascendant, or moon, or any other planet) may suddenly be in the previous sign if you look at a Vedic chart. However, as we said earlier, the interpretations are entirely different. Leos usually don’t like “becoming” Cancers, but in Vedic astrology the important thing is, from the sign on the horizon at your birth, how many signs away is Leo, the Sun’s own sign, and how many signs away is Cancer, the position of the sun, and are any particularly bad or good planets entangled with it.

The Precessional Ages, The Age of Aquarius, and Are We There Yet?

I sometimes feel like the parent on a car trip with young kids in the back seat. The Age of Aquarius—are we there yet? This is another subject with no simple answer, though I’ve read quite convincing arguments that claim everything from “It began at the Declaration of Independence” to “It won’t start for another 400 years.” This is another variety of the “where does the circle begin” question. At least this time, the answer comes ONLY in the sidereal zodiac, meaning that the real question will be “When will it be that the Sun, on the spring equinox, will be rising against a backdrop of the stars of Aquarius.” As you can tell from the phrase “precession of the equinoxes”, this is all about the equinoctial pattern. The question goes back to where the lines are drawn that divide the 12 “zodiac signs” in the sky. It just so happens that Pisces is a very large constellation, taking up way more than the average 30 degrees. Pisces actually overlaps Aquarius. It also happens that the total time for the circle to complete itself is 26,000 years. In other words, it takes 26,000 years for the earth to wobble around so that all 12 signs get to host the spring equinox. If we divide 12 into 26,000 years, we get an average of 2160 years per constellation, but again, all constellations are not made equal. As we can see from the skymap, the Aries glyph (blue circle) is against a background of BOTH Pisces and Aquarius. It’ll be about 400 years before we drop the Pisces part completely. So we kind of already are in Aquarius, and have been for a while, and we kind of aren’t done with Pisces for a long time. The Precession of the Equinoxes is a scientific concept. It’s about a real, physical world phenomenon. But the idea that there are 12 equally-long periods of time with clear beginnings and endings is a compromise. Equinoctial ages are real. Their length in years is approximate.

What does the precession mean in symbolic terms? The easiest way to answer the question is simply to look at history. The time frames I’m using are approximate and overlap, which is actually the only accurate way to talk about this, but the themes are quite obvious. At the beginning of an astrological age, new ideas about social structure and consciousness arise, threatening and eventually overturning the old structure. Over the course of a couple of millennia, the new idea becomes stuck. It’s no longer new, but old, inflexible, and in need of revision, so the next age presents another new idea, which in turn becomes old and outmoded.

From about 4000-2000 BC was the Age of Taurus. What is Taurus? It’s the Taurean Bull. Remember the Minotaur? Remember the Sacred Calf? This was the age of Taurus. This was the time in our known history that cities began. Sumeria, Babylon, Minos, Egypt. Taurus is about builders. It is also an earth sign, and a sign of luxury. Here we see agriculture setting a foundation for abundance from which arose the first great city-states. The Taurus constellation is very large, and overlays (and delays) the beginning of the age of Aries, so the real dates could well be 4200-1500 BC. The idea here is that one can securely and luxuriously stay in one place and have all the comforts you could ever need—food, housing, luxuries of all kinds. After several thousands of years, some people got bored.

2000-0 BC was the Age of Aries. Ballistic, warriors, conquering armies. Love for battle, physical might makes right. This is the age of the Greek and Roman empires (although the Roman empire maintained its strength for another 400-500 years, in another example of overlap). The symbol was the RAM. In Egypt, we saw the Ram worshipped during this time. In Judaic tradition, a sacrifice of a Ram was a highly respected sacrifice. Sheep and rams were a major part of diet and tradition. The Ram was an important image in the Roman idea of power—as was the idea of just charging forward into whatever you wanted next. The new idea is that we can leave our comfortable homes and conquer new lands. It’s exciting. It’s pioneering on a grand scale, and we can just take whatever we want. By the time Christ was born, a lot of people were getting really tired of this paradigm.

0 – 2000+ CE Age of Pisces. The constellation of Pisces is two fish, pulling in two different directions. Pisces is a water sign, and the big new religion of this age, Christianity, called its messiah a “fisher of men”, and uses a fish as a symbol of the religion. Christ-consciousness is about boundarilessness—the breaking of boundaries that divide and separate us. We are all swimming in one great ocean. The concept of this religion is that one should love others, give what you have to help others, and turn the other cheek when one of those Arian Romans strikes you. It was an ultimate repudiation of war, which was rather refreshing at the time.

Another important theme of this watery era was of great discoveries made over water: Vikings and Europeans discovered the western hemisphere during this time. Interestingly, these discoveries took place about half-way through the era, dividing the world into East and West, another example of the two fish, pulling in opposite directions.

This polarizing action of Pisces has been visible throughout the era. Even the idealistic original goal of self-sacrifice rather than anger was raised beyond the point of reason. The theme was even co-opted by large institutions, like the church and the state, to convince people that they should sacrifice themselves for the larger good (namely, the church and the state), making it easier to control the populace. So the concept of self-sacrifice also became polarized: It was both a spiritual concept, and also a tool of political control.. Eventually, this “large ocean we’re all swimming in” became full of metaphorical fish-poop left behind by those consuming the most. We’re getting tired of this one now.

Now-ish til about 4200 CE, the Age of Aquarius. The symbol here is interesting, and is a break from the two fish swimming in a vast ocean. The image of this constellation is a person pouring the water of life into the ocean (where the Piscean fish swim!). People often think this means Aquarius is a water sign, but it isn’t. It’s an air sign. Air is associated with ideas, so the pouring water becomes a metaphor. The “water of life” isn’t necessarily liquid. This is a time of great new ideas, poured upon the entire earth from an unusual source (ourselves!).

I do think we will see water as an important symbol in this cycle. From Emoto’s frozen water molecule studies, through homeopathic medicines, which are measurably nothing but water, to electrically charged water, to a fuel source for cars, we’re already seeing amazing new possibilities from our own waters. We’ll also see concern over equitable sharing of this precious and now somewhat threatened resource.

But Aquarius being an air sign, I think the next 2000 years will be the age of space travel for our species. This could mean public recognition of off-world visitors to our planet, too, and could include making new discoveries by traveling in space. The Hubble Telescope is a forerunner of this. The Aquarian age is certainly a time of cooperative, rather than competitive work. Aquarius is the sign of community. Will we become a planet of tribe-like warring communities, or will we see the globe as an entire community, working with Gaia herself for a better home for all? The modality of the powerful will change from “all you people must sacrifice for the greater good” to “let’s work together for the greatest good”.

(continued in Joyful Change TWO)