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Using a Cyclical History to Find

The Evolutionary Gold in Difficult Patterns

unpublished / written October 1996


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The natal birthchart is often interpreted as though it were a pronouncement of irreversible fate - particularly in relation to difficult patterns or placements.  I have often heard students, and practicing astrologers alike, bemoan the Sun-Saturn square they were seemingly stuck with, or the 12th house Mars that put them perpetually at a competitive disadvantage, or the Venus retrograde that made relationships a lost cause. 

This theme, of course, has endless variations, most of which can be summed up as a tendency to want to "blame it on the stars." Supposedly, we are all beyond such fatalistic thinking, in this new age of self-empowerment.  But in practice, how often do we still act as though the most difficult features of our birthchart were a burden, or automatically presume that the astrological grass must be greener on the other side of the fence.

Along the same lines, I have heard many astrologically literate people look forward to difficult transits with trepidation, or more beneficial transits with disproportionate hope.  These people often act as though a lifetime of intransigence in relation to a particularly nasty configuration could be changed by fortuitous astrological intervention, or some weird twist of astrological fate might suddenly undo a lifetime of gradual, but steady growth.  The assumption here is a corollary to the assumption of a fated natal chart - mainly that transits (and perhaps progressions) apply pressure toward change, for good or ill, upon a natal chart which, for good or ill, we are stuck with, and that is relatively fixed.


Of course, this is nonsense to anyone who has made it past mid-life, and has some personal awareness of being a different person now than they were, say in their teens.  Certainly, it might be assumed that the same chart would be interpreted differently at different periods of life, and that maturity would bring a more adept response to difficult natal patterns.  We all give lip service to the cyclical nature of astrology, but how often, in practice, do we actually recognize the changes that take place in our response to natal patterns, as we live through cycles relevant to them?  Is it such a radical notion to assume that the meaning ascribed to a natal chart must necessarily evolve through time, as we evolve in relation to it? 


I have heard more than a few astrologers expect to one day "transcend" their birthchart, as though it depicted a burden to be endured, rather than an opportunity to be seized.  I prefer to believe that it is by working with and through the patterns described by the natal chart, that we will grow into the fullness of our being.  From my perspective, the birthchart - difficult patterns and all - is not something to be transcended, but rather something to be fully realized.  How we read the chart will necessarily change as we evolve toward this state of self-realization, but what we become at the far end of the journey will be described by the very same natal patterns that appeared to give us so much trouble at the earlier stages.  The end result will not be a transcendence of anything, but the realization of something beautiful that was there from the beginning, while the process will be one of slow, alchemical transmutation of base metal into gold. 

I would further propose that our success in rendering alchemical gold will be dependent upon the choices that we make at the critical junctures of the cycles through which our most difficult astrological patterns unfold.  If we can assume that the natal chart is the vehicle for self-realization, then it might also be reasonable to assume that the process of self-realization proceeds as each natal planet, aspect, and planetary pattern unfolds through cyclical time.  Since the same energies that were functional at the time of our birth are being reactivated every time the cycle that contains them reaches a critical juncture, then throughout a lifetime of conscious attention to these cycles, we have numerous opportunities to become more adept at dealing with difficult natal patterns.  From the evolutionary perspective I am proposing, dealing with and learning to master these patterns is why we have taken birth in the first place.   

The Multidimensional Interplay of Progressions and Transits

Each planet, of course, has its own revolutionary cycle, ranging from about 28 days for the Moon to about 248 years for Pluto, while each planetary pair has a correspondent synodic period.  Beyond these more literal cycles, there are also progressed cycles in which the symbolic equation of one cycle to another (e.g. a day = a year) sets the stage for an entirely different order of evolutionary process.  Taken in its entirety, the natal birthchart can be conceived as a cosmic clock, with a multitude of cycles (both implied and literal) unfolding at different rates of speed.  If each cycle represents some evolutionary potential unfolding, then the birthchart as a whole, represents the evolutionary process unfolding in all of its multi-dimensional complexity.

The traditional viewpoint is that progressions map out a more internal sense of evolution, while transits represent the flow of external events.  Progressions signal when we are ready to change, while transits bring external circumstances to which we must respond in order to set those changes in motion.  Or, if we are reacting unconsciously to the evolutionary process, transits will bring external pressures that force us to change, ready or not, and create problems commensurate with the level of our resistance.  In any case, progressions map out the potential for significant change, while transits mark the actual process of making change through responding to day-to-day challenges and opportunities.

It has been my experience that the most powerful moments of breakthrough in a life often come when progressions and transits simultaneously impact the same natal planet or planetary pattern.  When such an alignment occurs, there is a synchronicity of internal readiness to change with outer opportunity that facilitates accelerated growth.  The evolutionary process that necessarily precedes breakthrough, however, is predominantly the province of transits, and especially of the series of transiting aspects that tie significant moments of a cycle together.  While every moment is undoubtedly important in some way, those in which transiting planets form major aspects to their natal position are those in which the evolutionary process related to a particular cycle can be most clearly perceived.  These are also the moments in which we have our greatest opportunities to evolve in relation to the patterns we are attempting to negotiate. 


In order of occurrence, the key moments of any cycle are as follows: initial conjunction, waxing sextile, waxing square, waxing trine, opposition, waning trine, waning square, waning sextile, and return conjunction.  In certain cases, it might also be worth looking at waxing and waning semi-sextiles and/or inconjunctions; perhaps occasionally semi-squares and sesquiquadrates.  In any case, by looking at the way in which an individual responds to the appropriate key "moments," you can get a pretty good sense of the evolutionary potential that is evolving, and how the individual is learning and growing (or failing to learn and grow) in relation to that potential.  I call the process by which a story is gathered in relation to the key moments of a given cycle, taking a cyclical history.


Initial and Return Conjunctions: From Potential to Self-Actualization


Any cycle, of course, begins and ends with a conjunction.  The conjunction sets the tone for the entire cycle, and presents the particular challenge which will be addressed within the cycle.  Because the conjunction only represents potential, however, it won't be until the cycle actually starts unfolding that we can truly evaluate how the promise of the new beginning is actually being realized (or not realized) with the context of a human life. 

Whether or not a given potential is realized will depend upon the consciousness that we bring to the task at hand, and the choices we make as we carry out the task - factors that we can not evaluate in reference to the birthchart alone.  We can make note of the potential that exists at the conjunction phase of the cycle, but it is only as we observe how an individual responds to that potential at the key junctures of the cycle that we can glimpse the evolutionary process at work.  By the same token, it is not until we reach the return conjunction, one full cycle later, that we will know for sure, how this potential has been manifest in actuality.  Until the full cycle has run its course, all interpretation made on the basis of the potential inherent in the initial conjunction must remain speculative at best. 

Of course, not all cycles will be fully observable within the course of a lifetime, but this just underscores the necessity for being somewhat humble in the face of the evolutionary process. Our job, as I see it, is not to make absolute pronouncements, but to observe the cycles that are unfolding, and witness how an individual is responding to the potential that the natal birthchart suggests is there to be actualized.


In terms of aspect cycles involving the movement of a planet in relation to itself, or a natal conjunction, the life process related to the cycle will conveniently begin at the beginning.  For most cycles likely to be observed in relation to aspects in a natal chart, however, it is important to realize that these aspects represent evolutionary processes that were already set in motion before birth.  While it may be possible to speculate about past lives in relation to these cycles already in progress, I do not find this approach particularly helpful. 


What is more helpful is to continue watching the cycle unfold, discerning both the issues that the individual is attempting to resolve in relation to the natal aspect, and how the individual is growing (or not growing) in relation to these issues.  When the relevant cycle reaches the conjunction phase, at whatever stage of life this occurs, there will often be a sense of some new beginning in relation to the potential that is attempting to unfold.  Often this is also a time during which natal issues can be more clearly articulated, and addressed with renewed vigor.

Waxing and Waning Sextiles: The Outworking of Potentials


If conjunctions represent potential, in its seed form, sextiles (aspects of 60 and 300°) provide a pivot point, at which the outworking of potential can first be clearly seen unfolding - in relation to cycles that are either just begun or just about to begin.  At the waxing sextile, or the second key point of observation in any cyclical history, it becomes possible to observe the natural predisposition that a given individual has toward the potential in question.  In other words, at this juncture, either the individual will display a natural, innate talent in dealing with the issue being addressed, or s/he will make some effort toward the cultivation of an ability which does not come naturally, but which somehow seems to require cultivation nonetheless.  In either case, it will be possible to witness, at this point, how the individual functions in relation to the potential that is there at the conjunction phase.


Similarly, at the waning sextile, or the eighth key point of observation in any cyclical history, it becomes possible to observe what an individual has actually learned in relation to the potential in question.  By this point in the cycle, either the individual has taken an innate talent or ability to heart, and made it his/her own.  Or s/he has evolved a higher level of capability in relation to a process that did not come easily to him/her.  Or s/he has let the opportunity for the cultivation of potential that existed at the initial conjunction go by, without doing much of anything. 


At this point in the cycle, it becomes possible to evaluate the choices that an individual has made in relation to the potential that was there at the beginning.  It is these choices, observable in their cumulative implication at the point of the waning sextile, that will determine the new level of potential inherent in the return conjunction.  Or put another way, how well we fare throughout the cycle up to the waning sextile will determine the level of opportunity and/or challenge that we will necessarily face throughout the next cycle. 

The return conjunction, aside from its placement at the end of the preceding cycle, is of course, also the initial conjunction for the next cycle about to unfold.  By the time one has had a chance to observe the waning sextile, one will be a position to make a relatively educated guess about the nature, purpose, and function of this next cycle, since the seeds for the new cycle are already buried in the compost of the old cycle by the time of the waning sextile.

Waxing and Waning Squares: Points of Crisis

The waxing and waning squares (aspects of 90 and 270° - the third and seventh points of observation in the aspect cycle of a cyclical history) are generally points of crisis at which one's resolve in relation to the potential or issue unfolding is tested.  While sextiles represent points of relative ease in relation to the cultivation of potential, the squares often denote difficulty and challenge. 

At the sextile, we will either possess natural ability or not, and in either case, have the opportunity to demonstrate what we are capable of doing without much opposition from the external environment.  Depending on our essential character, and the level of consciousness on which we are operating in relation to the potential in question, we will either run with the ball, or not, but regardless of which path we choose,  we will make our choice as though our own internal process was the only factor to be considered.  At the squares, the external world will respond to our choice, and we will have to deal, not only with our own internal predispositions, but with external considerations as well.


If, for example, we possess natural talent or ability in relation to a given potential, at the square we may be tested to show what we can do in a situation where the criteria for success are externally determined.  At such a point, we may believe in ourselves enough to carry our potential into the realm of achievement, or we may be intimidated, make compromises, and somehow get derailed.  If we don't possess natural talent or ability, but we make an effort, we may be rewarded for that effort.  Or we may find that whatever we did in relation to the potential in question, it was not good enough to meet the external standards by which our efforts are inevitably judged.  If we did not try at all, it will likely become obvious, through the feedback that we receive from the external world, that there are consequences to our negligence, laziness, or refusal to grow.


Regardless of the form that the crisis of the square will take (and it can take any number of possible forms), it is these consequences of our choices and our actions with which we will have to deal.  How we deal with them will essentially be a test of character, as well as the determining factor in the cultivation of the potential we are considering.  Even if we did not put forth effort during the sextile phase of the cycle, for example, we can still rise to the occasion at the square and redeem ourselves.  Conversely, the possession of natural talent or ability at the sextile, will be no guarantee that anything will come of that talent.  The crisis presented to us at the square could potentially render the possession of that talent a moot point, if we do not also have the determination and ability to persevere that would allow us to actually do something with it. 


In any case, by observing what happens at the square, we can get a pretty good idea of who we are, and what we are truly capable of in relation to the potential in question.  At the waxing square, we will learn about the inner resources we have available to us in facing outer challenges; while at the waning square, we will necessarily have to come to terms with either success or failure.  To move beyond what we have attained so far, we will need to establish new goals which force us to stretch our capabilities; while to free ourselves to face the new cycle with a clear mind and heart, we will need to learn from our mistakes, forgive ourselves our failures, and establish goals which are more realistic in terms of our capabilities.  Waxing squares require us to tap inner resources, while waning squares require us to ground our efforts in a practical assessment of success and failure.

Waxing and Waning Trines: Points of Relaxation and Gathering Momentum

Like the sextiles, the trines (aspects of 120 and 240° - the fourth and sixth points of observation in the aspect cycle of a cyclical history) are relatively easy to negotiate.  If we have managed to tap our inner resources in relation to the challenge presented to us at the waxing square, we will experience a heightened sense of flow and rhythm at the waxing trine.  If you imagine the waxing square to be like pedaling a bicycle up a steep hill, then the waxing trine will be reward that comes when we get to coast down the other side of the hill.  If, on the other hand, we fail to rise to the occasion and tap inner resources sufficient to meet the challenge of the square, the trine may offer the opportunity to recoup, and regroup in preparation for renewed effort at the beginning of the next semi-cycle.

Likewise, at the waning trine, we will have the opportunity to gather energy and momentum, and make whatever preparations we need to make in order to face the challenge of the waning square.  In terms of our bicycle analogy, this is the point at which we can begin pedaling, even though we are still going downhill, in order to get a head start in pedaling up the next hill just around the bend.  What we do with this opportunity is, of course, entirely up to us, and unless we make the conscious effort during times of relative ease, to prepare for impending difficulties, the trine can also represent the opportunity that passes us by.

The Opposition: A Point of Reckoning, Time-Out and Grace

As the midpoint of a cycle, the opposition (aspect of 180°) represents a point of reckoning. It is here that our efforts will either bear fruit, or we will experience a harvest of futility, lack, and/or regret.  It is here that we can begin to understand how the potential we have striven (or not striven) to cultivate impacts the evolutionary agenda we have chosen to pursue in this life; and it is here that we can choose to reorient ourselves to the cultivation of that potential. 

In the larger context in which we move as souls from one incarnation to the next, we will always have the opportunity to try again, and make new choices.  From this perspective, there is ultimately no such thing as failure; just success postponed.  It is at the opposition that we have the opportunity to choose again, regardless of our track record to this point, and gain the perspective to understand what it is we must change in order to achieve success.


In one sense, by the time we reach the opposition of any cycle, we have established who we are in relation to the potential in question, and a particular dimension of our identify will be revealed.  This identity, however, only represents the current point of balance between our potential and our capacity to actualize potential - a point of balance which is constantly shifting as we make choices, take action, and either respond or fail to respond to the opportunities and the challenges with which we are presented. 


Normally, however, we are too caught up in the process to be aware of who are in relation to the process.  The opposition represents a time-out, during which we can re-establish our bearings, and make new decisions which will get us to our destination more effectively.  It is at this point, to continue our bicycle analogy, that we reach the top of the hill, take in the view, and remember why it was we took the arduous trip in the first place.


It is also when we are in this place that we open ourselves to grace.  Just because the first half of the cycle has been a dismal failure, does not mean that there is not room for a miracle of redemption and a profound renewal of spirit in the second half.  Conversely, just because we have reached a pinnacle of success in actualizing the potential inherent in the first half of the cycle, does not mean the second half will be a complete joy ride.  Often it is our successes that constitute the biggest obstacle to continued growth - a factor which usually becomes apparent at the waning square.  Meanwhile, during the opposition, we often get a chance to pause, contemplate life's unfathomable mystery, and gain some perspective before plunging back into the fray of endless process.


By observing the movement of any planet or planetary pair through as much of the relevant cycle as has been lived, it is possible to obtain a cyclical history which describes the evolution of potential through cyclical time - not only the natural predispositions indicated by natal placements, but also the challenges related to these predispositions, the way in which these challenges are handled, and the patterns of consequence that arise in relation to the handling of challenges. 

Not every cyclical history will follow the text book delineation of the cycle I have presented, but the basic theoretical framework can serve as a reliable context within which any process can be observed.  Some periods may not yield immediately relevant memories, while others may prove to frame critical turning points, and which key points of the cycle are which will not always be predictable on the basis of theory alone.   Nor is it always necessary to gather memories from every phase of a cycle in order to glimpse its essence.  Regardless of how one chooses to approach the taking of a cyclical history, it is my contention that the process of observation itself will yield a much more complete picture that can be obtained by mere reference to the potentials that exist in the natal patterns one is attempting to interpret.


The Mapping of Cyclical Histories in Relation to Difficult Issues

Where all this really gets interesting, of course, is when we leave the realm of theory behind, and actually track a cyclical history in relation to the difficult patterns of a birthchart.  For here is where we have the opportunity to go beyond the fatalistic attitude that contemplates the Sun-Saturn square, the 12th house Mars, or the Venus retrograde with resignation and dread.  Because it is these more difficult features of our birthchart that represent our greatest opportunities for growth, it is by tracking the cyclical histories relevant to these features that the chart will come alive, and the meaning and purpose of the life being lived through the chart will reveal itself.  By tracking cyclical histories related to difficult issues, we move directly to the heart of any life process, and begin to understand it, not just in terms of speculative potential, but on its own terms. 


Because the difficult features of a birthchart, by definition, represent issues that we will be compelled to deal with throughout a lifetime, it is all too easy to feel only the struggle, and lose track of the evolutionary progress we are making in relation to them.  This is precisely where the cyclical history can be most empowering, for by tracing the process in relation to difficult issues, it is possible to gain a long-term perspective that just does not arise in the course of the daily grind, nor that is possible to intuit based on an interpretation of the natal chart alone.  Cyclical histories are like aerial views of a long and arduous mountain journey that enable us to see where we have been and where we are going.  To anyone slogging through the mud of the trail itself at ground level, simply laying out the story can be a liberating and exhilarating experience.


The Transmutation of a Difficult Pattern Through Cyclical Time:

A Success Story


To get a better sense of how this works, let's trace the cyclical history of a woman named Esmerelda (not her real name), whose Pluto retrograde in Leo in the 1st house forms a waxing square to Saturn retrograde in Scorpio in the 4th house.  The Saturn-Pluto square, of course, is one of the most difficult any human being could be required to negotiate.  Given that this is also an aspect between two outer planets, common to many people born of the same generation, it is also one of the most difficult to interpret, except on a relatively meaningless abstract level - without reference to the real life experiences that give it shape and substance.  This is precisely where a cyclical history can be most useful.


To take Esmerelda's cyclical history, I first told her a little bit about the dynamic between Saturn and Pluto in a general sense.  I then gave her a list of dates during which her natal Saturn-Pluto square was triggered by a hard aspect from transiting Saturn, including the period, early in life, when her Saturn-Pluto square first became exact.  It has been my experience that these earliest memories, when available, often provide a potent metaphor which succinctly encompasses the entire evolutionary process related to the cycle under study.


Esmerelda's story, for example, began with an impressionistic memory of being buried alive by falling snow.  In her words, "I had no arms and my body was snugly wrapped in a blanket, so I was unable to move my legs.  My eyes were shut, and snow was falling on me in the night.  No wind.  I was born and raised in a cold, snowy place, where we had winter about 5 months a year.  And I'm being buried alive slowly.  I know it, and I can't do anything about it." 

The alchemy of Saturn/Pluto often involves an experience of transformation through confinement within a situation in which one is apparently trapped, or even entombed while living.  It is a dynamic closely related to the hibernation of the bear, the chrysalis state between the caterpillar and the butterfly, or the bardo state between lives, and is an initiation into another level of existence.  Esmerelda's early memory uncannily captures the essence of this alchemical process with gentle poetics. 


Meanwhile, her life process was not quite so gentle, and the actual circumstances surrounding her birth set the stage for the real story.  Her mother's father died a week before she was born, and her mother went into shock.  Because her due date had passed, and she had not yet gone into labor, the doctors decided to induce labor, and as a consequence, she gave birth to a child that apparently had no heartbeat.  Esmerelda began her life in what appeared to be a stillborn condition, befitting Saturn/Pluto's affinity for the living death experience.

This is not to imply, however, that Saturn/Pluto is a passive force.  Quite the contrary, for Pluto brings to any equation the potential for violence, while Saturn makes it difficult to escape.  The combination can often lead to horrific results which generates deep wounding, often nearly impossible to get to, later in life.  In the memories evoked during Saturn's opposition to natal Pluto, for example, Esmerelda experienced numerous beatings at the hands of a father whose violence was unpredictable, and often denied after the fact.  As Esmerelda wrote of this period, in retrospect at age 39, "I wondered why nobody knew, and I never told anyone.  The feeling I have from those times is a lot of numbness, didn't really feel all there.  In fact, I didn't really feel all there until a few years ago."

Because of the denial that surrounded her beatings, Esmerelda herself began to doubt that they were real.  In her words, "After my father beat me, he looked sheepish about it, but he never apologized.  I was a stiff-upper-lip kid, and I never cried in front of him.  I wasn't going to give in, and neither was he.  I remember feeling inside of me, because nobody knew about it, and a big deal was never made of it, I wondered, 'Was it really that bad?  It's not so bad, is it, or somebody would do something about it?' "  She started to mistrust her own feelings, which she felt were not real because she had been too afraid to put them into words, knowing that "nobody would have believed me, and then I would have really gotten the shit kicked out of me."

One quarter Saturn cycle later, at age 14-15, during Saturn's waning square to natal Pluto, Esmerelda started keeping herself numbed out with drugs, spent a lot of time in her "own little world," keeping herself constantly stimulated and entertained, in order to avoid having to feel the deeper feelings which haunted her.  At various points throughout her story, she could be seen continuing the pattern begun during this critical juncture - using food, sex, and the endless quest for spiritual enlightenment as alternate avenues of escape from the inevitable inner work that called to her from within the horror of these memories. 


She became a butterfly, flitting from flower to flower, sampling a smorgasbord of nectars, but never really finding sustenance, nor staying long enough to trigger the ancient feelings that were walled off inside of her.  About food, she wrote, "I was eating too much.  I was needing something, and I was using food to fill the void.  Meanwhile, I had no idea who I was, none at all."

While this unbearable lightness of being would seem to belie Saturn/Pluto's reputation for heavy intensity, what was really going on here was desperate avoidance, a kind of thrashing resistance to going down and in, in order to experience the dark roots of her being.  By the time, Saturn had completed one full cycle back to its original waxing square, she wrote, "I was always trying to find out who I was, trying on different identities, and they weren't so comfortable.  I was still looking for all the answers outside myself, and not finding them.  I couldn't trust myself, because during the beatings, I was not acknowledged, no one ever comforted me, I was not apologized to."  Doubting her own validity as a person, because everyone around her had pretended that what had happened, didn't, she went through life disconnected from herself and her own experience.  She was the butterfly with no memory or sense of connection to the chrysalis state, and so no place to land, no real home, no foundation upon which to build a life.

Gradually, however, through a series of relationships with powerful male teachers, with whom she was drawn to study, the haunting image of the dark father was counterbalanced by positive alternatives, and she began to reinhabit her body, where her own true power awaited her.  When she started working with me, during Saturn's second opposition to natal Pluto, she was on her way to study a musical instrument native to Africa called the illimba with a teacher, who taught her not only music, but how to stay present with her experience, regardless of how uncomfortable it might be.  In her words, "I worked really hard, did everything he said for me to do.  He told me I was a good student.  And even if my hands were in real pain, he told me to say, 'yeah, ok, I'm in pain,' and you just move through." 


As I see it, this was the beginning of the true transformation that Saturn-Pluto promised her was her birthright.  When Esmerelda returned from Africa, during this same opposition phase, she began confronting her father about his abuse of her one full Saturn cycle ago.  Moving through the many layers of denial, anger, hurt and fear that surrounded these experiences was not easy, but eventually she and her father came to a place of healing, forgiveness, and relative peace.  Equally important, Esmerelda discovered what it was like to feel again, and to connect with herself in a way that was honest and real.  This, of course, does not change what happened to her in the past, but it did mark a powerful transition in relation to a difficult pattern that would impact everything that happened from that point forward.  Because of the work that Esmerelda had done on herself throughout 1 1/4 cycles, the burden that Saturn square Pluto might have represented at birth was now transmuted into a major source of strength.       

And In The Midst Of Winter, I Found There Was In Me,

An Invincible Summer


At the beginning of our work together, Esmerelda shared a favorite quote by Robert Browning, which I feel expresses the essence of her quest, and of the Saturn/Pluto challenge in general: "And in the midst of winter, I found there was in me, an invincible summer."  This quote, of course, harkened back to her earliest memory of this pattern - that of being buried alive in snow - but also hinted at a way through the dilemma that was not obvious at birth.  As I saw it now, Esmerelda's natal predicament was that if she did not allow herself to feel the depth of winter, she would never really know the invincibility of her summer spirit.  She would simply take it for granted, and use it as a shield to push the winter away - a strategy she in fact pursued for the first 1 1/4 cycles of her attempt to deal with this issue. 


In the meantime, along with the rest of us, she lived on a planet where winter is the name of the game.   The story she had lived - lived but not allowed herself to feel for 35+ years was the untold story for millions of people.  They may not have experienced it quite as intensely as she did, but in their own way, they have also been abused.  As an American, she lived in a country where an unconscionable number of children were sexually abused before leaving home.  This, of course, does not begin to count all those who were not physically abused, but verbally abused, abused by neglect, abused because there was no one there who understood them, or acknowledged their feelings, or really heard them when they spoke.

In some ways, then, she was not so very different than anyone else.  She was simply a mirror for us all.  On another level entirely, however, she was utterly different.  She had survived a transit through hell without losing the innocence of her child-like spirit.  That child spirit, the invincible summer at the very core of her, in the very midst of winter, permeated everything she did, everything she said, everything she was as an adult. 


And it was a gift.  An act of grace granted unto her, and a blessing that she carried with her out into a world that was deeply lost in the heart of winter.  A world that deeply needed the touch of summer to remind it of the turning of the seasons.  A world that was waiting for the liberating touch of her gift.  Liberating because the butterfly knew how to fly?  No.  Liberating because the butterfly had emerged from a cocoon fashioned of the darkest, coldest, most horrific stuff imaginable.  And because she remembered that cocoon, but was no longer bound by it.  This was the true gift that Saturn/Pluto had waiting for her, as soon as she could own her own experience, and the feelings connected to it.

Of course, the story continues to unfold, and there are other unseen chapters through which the potential encoded in this difficult aspect will continue to evolve.  Meanwhile, it is hopefully obvious, through this rendering of the portion of the story she has lived to date, how the difficult potential of her natal Saturn-Pluto square has been gradually evolving through cyclical time, into a source of strength and empowerment. 

I would also hope that the reader could sense how traditional chart interpretation might be brought into three-dimensional relief and living color through the gathering of a cyclical history.  Of course, a working knowledge of astrology must serve as the springboard upon which any story derives its deeper meaning.  Meaning is a product, however, not merely of the natal chart, but also of the unfolding cycles through which the natal chart evolves, and the living story that breathes soul into those cycles. 


The next time you hear someone bemoaning the hopelessness of their Sun-Saturn square, their 12th house Mars, or their retrograde Venus, ask them for the cyclical history behind the symbolism, and see if together you can't find the gold that is slowly being spun out of a difficult evolutionary challenge.

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