SUMMER MERCURY RETROGRADE
RETROGRADE – August 30th – Virgo 29 degrees
DIRECT – September 21 – Virgo 14 degrees
Three major configurations highlight Summer 2016’s skies. These include three transformative eclipses at Summer’s end, as well as Mars turning direct in Scorpio, joining asteroid of commitment and sacred partnership, Juno, in Scorpio all summer.
Juno retrograde in Scorpio
Juno is an asteroid, one of the largest, and in 1804 it became the third asteroid discovered. Juno normally occupies a sign for three months, but her retrograde this year means that she plumbs the underwater, unconscious depths for eleven months, in Scorpio. Coupled with Mars in Scorpio from May 27th to August 2nd, we should prepare our relationships to process deep and transformative shadow material.
Juno is a complicated archetype, which makes her fitting for relationships. Juno was the Roman equivalent of the Greek Hera, whose name splits into he era, meaning “the earth,” and also translated as “lady,” the feminine form of “hero.” For the Romans, each man possessed an inner reproductive power called his genius, while each woman had her conceiving and bearing power, called her juno. Juno’s most important function was as a patroness of married women. She oversaw all major social rites and customs, especially that of marriage. From her name derives the month of June, which was sacred to her, and is still the month with the greatest number of marriages.
In one story of their origin as a couple, Zeus develops a romantic longing for his sister Hera as he spots her walking near a mountain. He changes himself into a cuckoo bird. In Greece, the cuckoo’s cries announced the rain that brought forth the food and fruits, so the bird was considered a harbinger of fertility. Zeus, as god of storms, then causes a powerful rainstorm to descend, and he flies, shaken and shivering from the cold, into Hera’s lap. Hera takes pity on the bird and wraps it with her cloak. Immediately Zeus takes his original shape and ravishes her. And here is the important point: Hera feels shame for her violation, and so marries Zeus out of guilt and obligation.
This version of the myth recounts to me the soul-contracts which two people fashion between each other in the spirit-world. There is a sense of pathos, compassion, or divine pity we feel for those who are members of our soul-cluster. We play various roles with them from one incarnation to the next, and we are obligated to do so, in order that we may grow and develop into a greater sense of wholeness. As we continue with Juno’s significance, we will see that she has much to say about our cosmic appointments and our karmic duty.
In another version of the Zeus-Hera myth, the two gods mate in secrecy in a palace beneath the sea on the island of Samos. They partner up as equals, enjoying a three-hundred year honeymoon of limitless bliss. But then the soap opera starts once Zeus brings Hera to Mt. Olympus, and rarely do we hear of any shared bliss between the divine couple again.
Why? As king of the gods, Zeus indulges in many affairs with mortals and immortals alike, at times arrogantly displaying his conquests for all–including his wife–to see. In the stories, Hera repeatedly plots revenge, at times humiliating Zeus. The two punish and manipulate each other as only the best and worst of beloveds can. This tragic component is fundamentally interwoven into our astrological Juno contacts, especially highlighted by the notion of the gods’ honeymoon, isolated in the palace beneath the sea.
The Juno role will be projected on anyone considered to be our “primary partner,” the person with whom we check in, the lover with whom we live, or the one with whom we share our body and soul with–whoever knows us better than anyone else. She is the one, whether male or female, who we bear our naked souls in utter vulnerability. This vulnerability is what frightens us, because we can no longer hide. At any moment, that Juno partner can use their knowledge of our fragile and weaker parts against us. On the other hand, with a reciprocal bond of respect, the Juno partner can act as a guide who perceives the various layers of our psychological fabric, if we are willing to see ourselves mirrored.
The fears and promises of naked transparency with another demonstrate the Scorpio and eighth house flavor of Juno’s meaning in her revelation of certain pathologies in relationships—fears, sacrifices, power struggles, and also the potential of soul-blending. These fears include the fears of betrayal, abandonment, and even the overwhelming intensity of sexuality itself. The fact that Juno has been in Scorpio since the end of 2015, is retrograding here and at the last degree of Libra in early Summer, and will not leave Scorpio until November suggests that all of our closest relationships will reveal our deepest shadows and test our potential for alchemizing the dark reflection into the light emanation.
Shadow Mastery: Mars in the 13th Constellation – Ophiuchus
Mars – June 30th – direct at 23 Scorpio
Mars – August 2nd – into Sagittarius
At the core of our Milky Way galaxy is a trinity of constellations: Scorpius, Ophiuchus, and Sagittarius. Between December 1st and December 17th, the Sun actually travels through the constellation of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer. Ophiuchus, often called the 13th constellation for this reason, is a macrocosmic mirror for the figure of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing and dreams, whose birth story gives us much instruction on the experience of transmutation, magic, and medicine so essential in understanding our current spiritual evolution. Since the beginning of 2016, during his two month retrograde, and through the end of Summer, the igniting catalyst and hungry warrior of the Zodiac, Mars, has been challenging us to engage this archetype of the shaman.
BIOGRAPHY of ASCLEPIUS
Asclepius is the son of Apollo and his lover Coronis (“crow” or “raven”). While Apollo is away, Coronis, who is pregnant with Asclepius, falls in love with Ischys. Apollo sends his sister, Artemis the huntress, to kill Coronis because he cannot bring himself to do it. Only once Coronis’ body is atop the flame of the funeral pyre does Apollo regain his senses. He orders the messenger god, Hermes to cut the unborn child out of Coronis’ womb, and give the child to the wise centaur Chiron, to raise.
In one tradition, Asclepius becomes a widely respected healer, only to have a catalytic episode with his own fears, which propels him into the status of Divine Healer. Shut up in the house of Glaucus, whom he was meant to cure, a serpent enters as Asclepius is absorbed in thought. The serpent entwines itself around Asclepius’s staff, and Asclepius kills the snake. But then, another serpent appears with an herb in his mouth and resurrects the dead serpent with this herb. Asclepius, bewildered, begins to use this same herb in his healings with his patients, eventually gaining the skills of raising the dead back to life. Hades-Pluto, as god of the underworld, will have none of this, afraid that Asclepius’ powers will prevent any souls from entering Hades’ domain. He beseeches his brother Zeus to strike Asclepius down, which Zeus does with a lightning bolt. But Asclepius’ father Apollo pleads with Zeus to immortalize Asclepius in the stars, and thus is born the 13th constellation of Ophiuchus, the Serpent-Bearer.
ASCLEPIUS and the SERPENT-SHAMAN WITHIN
By being ripped from the womb, Asclepius is torn from the fluid dream-consciousness of the womb-state. This is highly instructive for us, because Asclepius becomes the God of dream-healing. He takes his birth trauma wound and turns it into his magical offerings, educating us in how to invoke the archetype of the Wounded Healer.
He also must deal with a very heavy genetic inheritance and family constellation. First, his mother has an affair, betraying his father, a god, during her pregnancy. Then his father, the god of Light, kills his mother, before she gives birth. Asclepius is torn from the womb, in one of the earliest myths of a C-Section (his name means “to cut open,”—Asclepius, god of healing, thereby setting the template for the future surgeons of the world).
This is fairly heavy stuff. Yet Asclepius, fatherless and motherless, is educated by the wise centaur Chiron, another orphan, who teaches him how to transmute his pains and trauma from personal suffering into the golden gift of sacred service.
Like Asclepius, we feel ourselves gifted, but orphaned at the same time. We recognize our divine status as demigods, yet we struggle with our wounds and the limits of a single body in the constraints of space and time.
CELESTIAL SNAKE SYMBOLISM
“Be ye as wise as serpents…” – Jesus to his disciples.
As we can see above, the serpent of Asclepius’ fear, which he kills, becomes his serpent teacher, the one who guides him into accessing his divine gifts. Currently, Mars in the sign of Ophiuchus, is propelling us into the battleground of our unconscious wounds, mirroring them in experiences, situations, and soul-contracts to test our ability to transmute pain into wisdom, like the symbol of the serpent.
In the sky, Ophiuchus, who was also called Serpentarius in the ancient world, wrestles with a gigantic snake. Serpents consistently symbolize wisdom, regeneration, and prudence, and are believed to be guardians of wells with healing powers. Some tame serpents were kept in the temples dedicated to Asclepius, and the god would often appear in dream healing chambers—essentially the first hospitals—in the form of a serpent.
Because they shed their skin to grow, serpents have always been associated with death and rebirth. They instruct us how to discard what is no longer necessary, that old skin which scabs over our essence. In this process of shedding away the refuse, new pathways of perception open before us, which were previously blocked by the baggage of our former identity attachment. Thus, the Pythia in Greece (“pythia” means python) were associated with a great snake at the oracle of Delphi. Many other goddesses of prophecy, visions, divination, and raw, wild sexuality from Medusa to Lilith were often associated with serpents.
Ophiuchus wrestles the serpent in the sky, while Asclepius is portrayed in Greek art with the serpent-entwined staff. Here we find the familiar shamanic symbolism: the serpent DNA spiraling up the Tree of Life, just as the kundalini rides the chakra system. The staff, like the witch’s broom, or the magician/wizards wand, as we’ve learned in Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, represents the Tree of Life which the shaman-wizard uses to access his hidden powers while traveling the Lower, Middle, and Upper Worlds.
With our collective will Mars in the sign of Ophiuchus all summer, we must learn to charm the serpents of the unconscious, to open our mouths and our hearts to Snake medicine as we contact-dance with those shadow forces we encounter in the previous sign of Scorpio, the domain of mystery, the dungeon of the hidden psyche––the forces of the Lower World.
If we gain the Ophiuchun perspective and recognize the medicine in the shadow, the lesson in the darkness, only then we will be able to truly retrieve the fragmented elements of our soul. As we encounter the many faces of our own multidimensional self, then we embark on our return home, soaring to the Upper Worlds, to our point of origin at the Galactic Center. We follow the Archer’s arrow to the core of all consciousness, the black-hole Source we navigate as gypsy pilgrims on the Sagittarian quest for expanded consciousness. Here, we seek truth and meaning as we sail into the spirit world. We are the hero encountering beings, ideas, and philosophies whose alien presence and profound significance transcends linguistics, but whose presence helps us to build a cosmology of deep meaning and spiritual purpose.
On one level, the Ophiuchus serpent symbolizes the medicine we use in order to navigate this Middle World, while accessing both the Lower and Upper worlds: Breathwork, Regression Therapy, entheogens, shamanic journeying, trance-dance, and sacred sexuality.
Even as we study our astrology charts, we wrestle with a new level of self-awareness. Simultaneously humbled and empowered, we must learn to accept and activate the highest expressions of our birth script, while embodying the most evolved potential of our transits.
The scorpion, like the serpent, lurks beneath the rocks; in the shadows. As soon as we sip of the Scorpionic snake medicine and consummate our healing journey, we must battle with the serpent, where there can be no return to “profane” consciousness. This reminds us of the lessons in the tale of Adam and Eve: the serpent is the keeper of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, in which we lose innocence and awaken from ignorance into consciousness. If we try to escape from what we find, we project outside of us our inner demons, while also neglecting the angels trying to communicate through us our gifts of healing, art, and service.