Sunday, 28 June 2020

two scorpio moons: joanna newsom and beyoncé

 a coincidence that these two are scorpio moons and i stan them both! a lot

(though recently, i have reflected on beyoncé's wealth and joanna newsom's marriage to copaganda man andy samberg)(to admire someone is not to idolise them or to elevate them above others)

but there are some similarities between them. self-contained, very private and in control of their image (joanna has yet to have any social media accounts), yet showing a lot of vulnerability through their musical expression. VERY ambitious and detail-oriented in their work, and more often than not, pulling it off. legends. they are both earth suns too, let's make that clear.

they are both especially known for depicting heartbreak and the difficulties of love, despite also being known for being in very long-term, committed relationships. have one on me and lemonade kind of parallel each other, in having stages of understanding betrayal and the loss of a relationship, though lemonade also reaffirms the relationship in the process. have one on me is more damning. both are critical of how women are exploited in relationships with men.

betrayal is a very scorpio theme. there is a stereotype of possessiveness and seeking emotional permanence, which i think comes from the tension i feel from scorpio as a sign. it manages to hold a paradox of emotional sustain (commitment) and emotional extreme (change) ("it can change in shape or form, but not in size/well, the water, it runs deep, my darling, where it don't run wide"). both scorpio and aquarius are fixed signs, but are ruled by elements i consider more suited to mutable signs: water and air. and they oppose the two signs i find to be more comfortably fixed: taurus (earthly abundance) and leo (abundance of spirit).

when i think about scorpio, i think about the cycle of physiological emotional response, stress hormones, and outlets. seeking extremes can be a form of catharsis. creative expression can also be a form of catharsis. people with scorpio energy might not be able to move through emotions as easily as cancer (very present to emotion) or pisces (emotion as diffuse, universal wavelength). they might get stuck somewhere and need to take action (mars) to resolve the cycle. it makes me think of beyoncé's big jumps. people with scorpio energy might be thrillseekers, like aries or sagittarius, except it is more for releasing emotions, clearing blockages, rather than adrenaline on its own.

(pray you catch me)

another parallel is the role of lost children in their work. beyoncé was open about suffering a miscarriage and channelling that into her work, and a few songs by joanna newsom hint to a traumatic experience of losing a baby (emily, baby birch, esme). though ofc i'm not saying any astrological placement is more prone to suffering any kind of tragedy, scorpio is the sign best able to hold (fixed) and transform intense feelings.

having moon in scorpio is considered a difficult placement, in "fall". alice sparkly kat had some really interesting thoughts about placements in detriment and fall. traditionally, the moon is uncomfortable in scorpio because the moon seeks stability, and scorpio seeks catharsis. astrology is based on a lot of dichotomies, which in the western world, are often taken to be mutually exclusive, as if any two things can truly be essential opposites (self v other, etc etc). i think it can be fruitful to think of everything the moon can access in scorpio. deeper meaning, expression, etc. i think a lot about trauma and grief stewardship and how often people need to understand pain to help guide other people through it. that deeper knowledge of pain becomes a form of connection, maybe a spiritual stability that moon in taurus would resist knowing at the outset.

"stewardship is now generally recognized as the acceptance or assignment of responsibility to shepherd and safeguard the valuables of others" (from wiki of "stewardship"). scorpio as protective force, protecting taurus venusian abundance, having a deep understanding of vulnerability. protecting vulnerability not as fearful reflex, but a tender understanding of how fragile humans can be.

i think that is a huge difference between aries and scorpio, as the martian signs -- aries can somewhat innocently stomp on other people, being singlemindedly focused on their wants and needs. scorpio has deeper understanding of vulnerability, able to see deeper into people and their motivations, and this is a power that can be abused (leading to the scorpio = manipulative stereotype) but it also means that scorpio can be so incredibly protective of other people, as well as themselves. aries can be very protective too though it is more like "i heard you were talking shit about the person i love" and less "i feel resonance with this person's vulnerability, it strikes something deep in me, i feel less alone, and i will protect it and them"

i can see that protectiveness in both beyoncé and joanna, but also that respect for vulnerability. there's a lot of care in how they let it out through song. i don't think that care and deliberation makes for a less emotionally compelling performance -- it's a different way of connecting to experience, giving space and time to your own emotions, and giving other people the opportunity to connect to theirs.

I tried to make a home outta you. But doors lead to trapdoors. A stairway leads to nothing. Unknown women wander the hallways at night. Where do you go when you go quiet? You remind me of my father, a magician. Able to exist in two places at once. In the tradition of men in my blood you come home at 3AM and lie to me. What are you hiding? The past, and the future merge to meet us here. What luck. 

What a fucking curse.

(beyoncé, lemonade, warsan shire)

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

leo and camp

leo is known for drama, performance, ham, going big, going all out. as per previous post: association with royalty = lavish banquets, luxurious fabric, which i think (especially in capitalist whatevers) is associated with making a personal statement through consumption.

leo is ruled by the sun, the luminary that rules our sense of self and our ego. something that i find interesting about the leos i know is that there is often an interplay between self-consiousness and almost unconscious letting go of that self-consciousness that seems like part of the leo process. there is a drive towards self-expression that is not necessarily driven by needing to prove oneself, but that is maybe more core than that, more straightforward, even more naïve.

i think a lot about how the two signs ruled by the luminaries (cancer and leo, inner children) are opposed by signs ruled by saturn (capricorn and aquarius, inner elders). the dignity of cancer and leo is firmly centered in the planets closest and most familiar to us: the life-giving warmth of the sun, and the fluctuating protection of the moon. if it weren't for the moon, we would have been hit by many more asteroids, and life may not have been able to take hold in the same way. the sun wakes us up, and the moon puts us to sleep. the luminaries are very present in the moment. they're not really thinking about the world decades from now.

saturn is more removed. and i think a lot of western thought about the ego is very saturn inflected, in that it tries to make permanence out of ego and self-expression. saturn teaches us lessons about sustainability, permanence and impermanence, time and what to invest in, what our boundaries are (beginning with the very first boundaries around a plot of cultivated land). powers in the west try to twist saturn to do its bidding (overzealous resource extraction, lack of boundaries for some and bondage for others, living in denial of natural consequences, lack of accountability)

part of the saturn return, i think, is learning to integrate these saturn questions with the sun and moon in a way that doesn't displace the core functions of these parts of ourselves. this means, maybe, accepting the impermanence of identity, selfhood, even physical ability and energy (aging). it also means understanding emotions as a source of wisdom, especially once transmuted. (saturn as the alchemist).

but back to leo (can't ignore them for too long hehe)

one of the beautiful things about leo energy seems to be the connection between vulnerability, play, honesty, and self-expression. play as self-rejuvenating. i learn a lot from leos, especially having chiron in leo in the 12th house. its a part of myself i have a lot of pain around, and yet people with leo emphasis make it look effortless. but not effortless as in overly rehearsed or mechanical. it's clear it's a natural flow from the heart outwards. they are very heartful beings.

understanding selfhood from leos means learning to play around and accept artifice as a fun tool. leos might not really be caught up in "authenticity" especially if it restricts the different ways they can express themselves. having fun and being honest are not mutually exclusive.

i can't speak much to camp, but i saw these quotes (from a discussion of hard lads, a "masculinity simulator" game based on the video of young white straight men from england kissing each other and hitting each other with chairs):

“In naïve, or pure, Camp, the essential element is seriousness, a seriousness that fails. Of course, not all seriousness that fails can be redeemed as Camp. Only that which has the proper mixture of the exaggerated, the fantastic, the passionate, and the naïve...

[...] Camp taste is, above all, a mode of enjoyment, of appreciation - not judgment. Camp is generous. It wants to enjoy [... and] it doesn't sneer at someone who succeeds in being seriously dramatic. What it does is to find the success in certain passionate failures.

[...] Camp taste is a kind of love, love for human nature. It relishes, rather than judges [... and] identifies with what it is enjoying. People who share this sensibility are not laughing at the thing they label as ‘a camp,’ they're enjoying it. Camp is a tender feeling.”

  -- Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp

i want to note the centrality of failure to this, and i see that as wound up with leo self-expression, vulnerability, play, honesty. failure becomes part of the beauty of that orientation towards selfhood.

here are some tweets by my friend mia that explain a kind of camp:

for people who don't have leo energy or who have leo pain, there is often an insistence on being rehearsed or controlled. the concept of spontaneity is acutely stressful, which is self-reinforcing, because people need to feel a baseline of emotional safety before they can express freely (there's a reason water signs come before fire signs).

in stardew valley, the character emily thinks up "clothing therapy", where she asks people to wear different clothes in order to explore a different side of themselves. it is a very leo concept, where putting on different clothing or adornment, and costumes, can open the self up. performance and play become sites of exploring different true selves.

i think the generosity of leo energy stems from this refusal to be inhibited. it's a lesson that if you let out whatever fun energy you have in you, whatever creative urges, love comes out the same place too. and it's an affirmation of the ways creativity and love are just a part of us, waiting to be expressed. leos perform and they also make the most encouraging audiences.

my great-grandmother was a leo. she was the matriarch of a very large family, like over 30 grandchildren and great-grandchildren combined. but she had a real ability to pay attention to you as if you were her one and only (great-grandchild, in my case). you felt special and fussed over in that incredible way grandparents can fuss. this engaged energy really drew you in and made you want to stay close, hence why the rest of the family kind of orbited around her. literally a sun. i miss her and her insistence that i never call myself short, only "petite".

leos teach me about what it means to generate warmth without expecting anything back.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

transition from leo to virgo

sometimes being immune to smallpox is worth it

interesting to think of virgo's relation to labor and how the 6th house of work, service, also has the association of trade unions, collectivising. wondering how public health and herd immunity sits with that

leo is the party and virgo is the clean up the day after
committing to the unsexy maintenance, the tasks that are never truly finished, the small acts of sacrifice. how do we join together to ensure this maintenance is reciprocal

etymology of maintenance comes from to hold (with hands = les mains, los manos)
mercury rules the hands and virgo, which is cute
how do we hold each other in care?
how do we create daily practices of care?

another kind of transition from leo to virgo:

the critical eye is not so fun

but there's processing happening there... something that helps bridge the self to others

cancer (nurturance) -- leo (expression) -- virgo (offering)

Saturday, 13 June 2020

saturn conjunct pluto musings

“decay exists as an extant form of life”

with the declaration of a global pandemic, many astrologers immediately drew a connection to the saturn-pluto conjunction in capricorn on january 12 2020. it’s a little crude to attribute tragedy to astrology alone imo. but it gives credence to astrology as a way of coping with these kinds of events. the themes of saturn (hard reality, restriction) and pluto (power, transformation) arise in human histories with a continuing rhythm.

in its time, one of the most devastating pandemics — the black death — was said to be the result of a triple conjunction of mars, jupiter, and saturn in aquarius in march 1345. uncannily, mars is currently stomping around where jupiter and saturn are moving towards their conjunction, 0° aquarius, on the 22nd of december (though by that point, mars will have long shot off to battle through the months-long retrograde in aries). not the same alignment — each moment is different — but similar themes. how are we connected to each other? what are our duties to each other? how do we relate our personal experiences to the collective? are our duties bound by borders? do we have emotional blockages that stop us from extending generosity? how does a wider, more impartial view benefit us at this moment? what kind of new feelings come from stepping outside of ourselves? is it time to think of the whole over thinking of ourselves?

i do not in any way suggest that this situation will unfold in the same way as the black death — science has come a long way. i’m reaching for optimism in the less traditional idea of aquarius being co-ruled by saturn and uranus. receiving sparks of insight like lightning bolts, and channelling them into new structures, new work, new friendships, new collectivity.

saturn conjunct pluto is very much an aspect that says, ‘time’s up’. but the timer began long before any of us were born. it’s not something personal, but we’re implicated nonetheless. saturn clears the deadwood, but pluto is the iridescent fungus, the weird, twisted life that grows from deadwood. saturn is the soil, and pluto is the radioactive waste that lays dormant underground for millennia. i’m reminded of these long-time nuclear waste warnings, written in a way to try to ward off future humans who may not even know our languages anymore:
This place is a message… and part of a system of messages… pay attention to it!
Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.
This place is not a place of honor… no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here… nothing valued is here.
What is here was dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.
The danger is in a particular location… it increases towards a center… the center of danger is here… of a particular size and shape, and below us.
The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours.
The danger is to the body, and it can kill.
The form of the danger is an emanation of energy.
The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.
other ideas to deter future human life included forms of hostile architecture, indicating danger:
Landscape of Thorns:
A mass of many irregularly-sized spikes protruding from the ground in all directions.
Spike Field:
A series of extremely large spikes emerging from the ground at different angles.
Spikes Bursting Through Grid:
A large square grid pattern across the site, through which large spikes protrude at various angles.
Menacing Earthworks:
Large mounds of earth shaped like lightning bolts, emanating from the edges of a square site. The shapes would be strikingly visible from the air, or from artificial hills constructed around the site.
Black Hole:
An enormous slab of basalt or black-dyed concrete, rendering the land uninhabitable and unfarmable.
Rubble Landscape:
A large square-shaped pile of dynamited rock, which over time would still appear anomalous and give a sense of something having been destroyed.
Forbidding Blocks:
A network of hundreds of house-sized stone blocks, dyed black and arranged in an irregular square grid, suggesting a network of “streets” which feel ominous and lead nowhere. The blocks are intended to make a large area entirely unsuitable for farming or other future use.
“menacing earthworks” is incredibly saturn conjunct pluto in capricorn. the images these spaces bring up are filled with dread — though i wonder how much of that is instinctual and how much is culturally informed.

note the emphasis on indicating that land is “unfarmable”. saturn rules agriculture, and in that, the spiritual law that you “reap what you sow”. saturn conjunct pluto looks to what is beneath the soil. why are our crops dying? what is at the root of the problem? why won’t our seeds take hold? it is somewhat literal with the climate crisis, especially here with the drought and resulting catastrophic bushfires.

saturn also rules time: time to sow, time to work, time to harvest, time to rest, time to hibernate. conjunct pluto, time has a new intensity. time might feel scarce. time running out is connected to a renewed awareness of mortality. saturn rules getting old, and the authority that comes with age and experience. pluto cracks through facade — people who use age alone to claim authority, or people who claim authority without experience. people who haven’t worked for what they have. manipulation becomes obvious. corruption becomes clear. witnessing privilege will become harder and harder to tolerate. the film parasite is a saturn conjunct pluto story:  those that live “underground” become visible, and the neoliberal uplift fantasy is shattered.

other ways this aspect could go is in a new way of wielding time, and understanding time as a form of power. we learn to respect the passage of time, as cyclical, and we respect the inevitability of setbacks. it’s hard, especially in this culture, which demands linear progress. so much of that linearity rests on the need for money. the powers that be are investing so much energy into saving the economy (i.e. people’s wealth), when this economic system was never viable for supporting human life.

even in my own relatively unimportant context: the reason i have to finish a phd in three and a half years (when back in the old days, students could take their sweet time), is because universities receive the funding money for students upon completion. we have a deadline, because until then, we’re a financial liability for universities.

how do we work with time, when it seems scarce? how do we move between different logics of time? recently i’ve been basically devoted to joanna newsom’s music. it came to me late last year, in a time where i felt spun out, saturn was moving towards pluto and across my sun in capricorn. she is also a capricorn sun, with natal saturn conjunct pluto in libra. i think people with corresponding natal placements can be sources of wisdom during transits — especially her, where her sun (creative self-expression) is ruled by saturn, influenced by the pluto conjunction.

i listened to divers first. it was my third time trying to listen to her music: the first time i listened to peach plum pear and could not get past her vocals, the second time i listened to baby birch but wasn’t used to her lengthy songs. another form of introduction i had to divers was this quote from her, explaining what the album was referencing:
Everyone’s getting older. When I crossed that line in my mind where I knew I was with the person that I wanted to marry, it was a very heavy thing, because you’re inviting death into your life. You know that that’s hopefully after many, many, many, many years, but the idea of death stops being abstract, because there is someone you can’t bear to lose. When it registers as true, it’s like a little shade of grief that comes in when love is its most real version. Then it contains death inside of it, and then that death contains love inside of it.
imo, the album is asking, how do we contend with the vulnerability, fear, anticipatory grief, sorrow that we touch when we’re filled with joy? sometimes real love is hard, because those loving spaces open us up, broaden our field of vision, and we see things we might have been avoiding. through real love, we might gain the strength to ask the difficult questions, to look grief and sorrow in the eye.
joanna sings through many kinds of grieving: grieving a friendship, grieving places, grieving histories, grieving past selves, grieving possibilities. the song sapokanikan is about the many layers of history located in greenwich village, new york, and it is titled for the original name for the place, by the first nations lenape people.

The cause is Ozymandian
The map of Sapokanikan
Is sanded and bevelled
The land lone and levelled
By some unrecorded and powerful hand
the “unrecorded and powerful hand” is the processes of colonisation, made imperceptible. part of that invisibility is a lack of memorialisation of what came before. it seems to me that in the united states, there is so little acknowledgment of its settler colonial history as an genocidal atrocity. the song continues to reference potter’s fields (cemeteries of unmarked graves), x-raying paintings to find secret omissions, and a young politician who fell out of an airplane to his death in 1918, whose memorial “rusts in the park”. these histories are lost, sometimes to be dug up centuries later.

the last lyrics are “look and despair”. instead of a narrative which attempts to recenter these histories in a prideful way, joanna’s song reflects on fragility. it is so easy for memories, experiences, people, even whole civilisations to be forgotten. records are lost, relics decay. colonialism is one of the structures of power that decides what is remembered and what is forgotten. saturn and pluto ally themselves to make those hidden, underground histories visible, to reveal truth lying at the core.

while there is a lot of doom and gloom around these planets — they both signify death in their own ways — their union has a lot of far-reaching possibility. saturn builds with the long term in mind, and pluto is a powerful regenerator. both planets teach courage and resilience, when they touch our chart in significant ways. they strip us of falsehoods, teach us to endure things we didn’t think we could, tell us to be more honest with ourselves. they teach us to deal with loss.

there are two more joanna newsom songs i wanna talk about — the interplay between make hay:

and time, as a symptom:

both songs are interconnected in their dealing with death and impermanence. make hay talks about a friend who is facing death, and the ways the people around her made the most of the time they had with her .”making hay while the sun shines”. the agricultural reference makes me think of saturn, as well as her reference towards the end of the song — “we sow and we reap, again”. this song deals a lot with scarcity, as joanna (as narrator) asks, have i made the most of my life? have i left something of substance behind? have i made a contribution? especially with the repeated “it was before our time / so how was i to know”, reflecting on the possibility of an early exit.

time, as a symptom is in direct dialogue with make hay, answering its initial statement:
And how was I to know
Seeing my seconds pass in a line
If there was a way to reckon love
Except as a symptom of time?
And it pains me to say, I was wrong
Love is not a symptom of time
Time is just a symptom of love
time, as a symptom answers that fear of scarcity with a beautiful, sweeping reclamation of joy and love as the energy that drives time. especially reassuring is the line:
The moment of your greatest joy sustains:
Not axe nor hammer
Tumor, tremor
Can take it away, and it remains
It remains
her basis for that permanence is a belief in time as cyclical — “time goes both ways”. the past is never truly “left behind”, nor is the future a totally new frontier. we live through seasons, again and again, working through the same feelings, same fears, same traumas, and experiencing the same joys, each joy leaving its mark. she repeats through the song, “the nullifying, defeating, negating, repeating, joy of life” — a model of living that holds all this grief, sadness, loss, anger, dissatisfaction, along with love and joy.  here’s a quote from joanna (from when ys came out, around 2006):
The thing that I was experiencing and dwelling on the entire time is that there are so many things that are not OK and that will never be OK again. But there’s also so many things that are OK and good that sometimes it makes you crumple over with being alive. We are allowed such an insane depth of beauty and enjoyment in this lifetime. It’s what my dad talks about sometimes. He says the only way that he knows there’s a God is that there’s so much gratuitous joy in this life. And that’s his only proof. There’s so many joys that do not assist in the propagation of the race or self-preservation. There’s no point whatsoever. They are so excessively, mind-bogglingly joy-producing that they distract from the very functions that are supposed to promote human life. They can leave you stupefied, monastic, not productive in any way, shape or form. And those joys are there and they are unflagging and they are ever-growing. And still there are these things that you will never be able to feel OK about–unbearably awful, sad, ugly, unfair things.
i sometimes wonder if the outer planets are the paths to finding god, or spirit, especially in making sense of what seems arbitrary. i know that in times filled with fear and anticipatory grief, praying seems like one of the most powerful things to do. drawing on these unbelievable joys, and making yourself more vulnerable to them, is another powerful thing to do. becoming receptive to everything in the moment.

time, as a symptom has been my backbone for the past few months, reminding me that uncertainty is here to stay, but love is what propels us, both forwards and backwards. each moment rewrites both the past and the future. this belief has helped me so much with regret and shame (something joanna also sings about in the things i say, one of her most capricorn songs), and i will hold onto it in the coming months.

maybe, the seeds we sow now will one day take hold. maybe the revolution our grandparents worked for, or even just dreamed of, will begin to sprout. if time is cyclical, the hopes for liberation, joy, sovereignty, love can never be truly left behind.