Astrology, Uncategorized

Richard Tarnas on the Planets in 2021

Last week I had the privilege of attending an online talk led by Richard Tarnas, author of Cosmos and Psyche, on the astrology of 2021. It truly an honor to be in the presence of a man who is widely recognized as one of the great minds of our time.

During his presentation, Tarnas chose to focus on three of the most significant transits of the past and current decade:

  • Uranus square Pluto, lasting from 2007 to 2020
  • Saturn conjunct Pluto, from 2018 to 2022
  • Saturn square Uranus, from 2019 to 2024

The Uranus-Pluto square brought to the surface many of the things which lay in the collective shadows. According to Tarnas, Trump was a potent symbol of the shadow side of this Plutonian energy—he gave permission to other to express many of the things which lay beneath the surface in our society (racism, misogyny, etc.), bringing them into open expression.

The Saturn-Pluto conjunction, which also aligned with Jupiter last year, was one of the most significant of our time. This triple conjunction saw discovery and proliferation of COVID-19, as well as a host of other dire effects. Whenever Saturn enters the picture, it brings with it a great heaviness and seriousness, during which judgements are made and there are consequences.

According to Tarnas, the triple conjunction of Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto in Capricorn was in many ways an initiatory crisis for us. In many ways, it provoked a moral crisis, an awakening which asked us to die to our old identity and be born into a life of meaning. Tarnas spoke of this on a collective level, but I also have felt this to be true on a personal level during the past year. By confronting death, I was able to see life more clearly, and was forced to find a way to live it more courageously and with much more integrity.

The two transits mentioned above are all coming to an end, and we are now left with the major, definitive transit of 2021, the Saturn-Uranus square. The transit will be exact on three dates this year: February 17, June 15, and December 24.

This is not an easy transit. However, Tarnas believes there is still more room to maneuver here than under the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of last year. The energies are now fully engaged, we feel less trapped and are more inspired to face the challenges directly. It’s as if we have gone through a near-death experience, and the life that remains has been imbued with greater preciousness and significance. We are willing to fight for the changes that we need to make in our lives.

Uranus, the unconventional, rebellious planet of change, will meet Saturn, the wise but severe taskmaster of the sky several times through this year, leading to an energy which is great for making creative structural changes in order to permit wiser living and greater freedom. It would be well-advised to make prudent changes slowly and gradually; if we choose to ignore the lessons imparted by Saturn and Uranus, we may find that a sudden break or collapse may occur when we least expect it.

As challenging and disruptive as this may be, the Saturn-Uranus squares of 2021 have the potential to be a sacred marriage of the past and future. If we use this time wisely, we may be able to carry forward what is most valuable from the past, discern what is most promising of the future, and together bring both into structural embodiment.

These crises can be opportunities for us to reconfigure our moral values and make creative, structural changes that will serve us well for years to come. Like with any difficult transits, the more consciousness, creativity, imagination, and courage that we can bring to bear on this situation, the better.

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The Maze & the Labyrinth

Many of us consider a maze and a labyrinth to be one and the same thing, but there is actually a subtle difference.

LABYRINTH is the term used when there is only one fixed, or unicursal, path to the center.

A MAZE, on the other hand, refers to a multicursal path that may contain dead ends or different ways to reach the center, and where the possibility always exists to become lost within.

For example, the structure built by Daedalus to hold the minotaur in Ancient Greek mythology has usually been referred to as a labyrinth, but today we might all this a maze, as it was clearly multicursal, with many complex paths and dead ends meant to trap the minotaur.


The unicursal labyrinth is powerful symbol of spiritual transformation. The labyrinth was a symbol which combined the circle and the spiral into one symbol of wholeness.

The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral

To move from the outside starting point of the labyrinth to the center, and then back again, is symbolic of the spiritual journey to the center of the self and beyond.


I found a lot of insight into the symbols of the maze and the labyrinth in the words Marion Woodman, renowned author and Jungian analyst:

“A maze is a puzzle to be solved. It has dead ends. You may get lost in a maze. You run into a minotaur and be killed.”

Marion Woodman

Like Woodman, I spent many years of my life feeling like I was trapped in a mazed, living as if in fear of a deadly minotaur, and confronting dead end after useless dead end.


“A labyrinth looks superficially like a maze, but it’s different. There are no dead ends, no traps. There is only one path, and it takes you by a circuitous route to the center.”

In her own life, Woodman found that when she at last confronted her deepest fears and faced death, she was also able to realize the perfection of her life experience and see the purpose of her path.

“I was finally able to surrender to life, because at long last I KNEW there was a center and that if I kept listening, opening, and walking forward, my path would lead me to that center.”

I am finding that the same is true for me. I am going to keep walking. I know the center is there, ever present, just waiting for me to open my eyes to it.

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Feel It to Heal It

To truly heal your past, you need to be able to fully feel and embody your emotions.

Art by Aldous Massie

We often deny or repress our emotions for a wide variety of reasons. By far the most common is that painful feelings are uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s easier for us to pretend that everything is “fine” and nothing is bothering us.

Other, more complex factors can play into our unwillingness to honor our pain. As a child, we may have been punished for showing our anger or sadness. “Boys don’t cry,” we were told. “You’re just being dramatic.” “You’re too sensitive.” Phrases like these could have led us to deny our own feelings, even to ourselves.

In order to heal, we must learn to trust ourselves. This first requires that we feel and embody our emotions. It is only then that we can release the pain of our past and embark on a new future, free to be the selves we wish to create.

I have identify three core steps that have been useful for me when it comes to feeling and healing my feelings.

  1. AWARENESS

It is often difficult for many of us to know what we are feeling. Meditation is the most important tool we can use to develop our awareness not only of our thoughts but also our feelings.

Here are some resources that have been helpful for me in the process of developing my self-awareness:

Real Happiness by Susan Salzberg

Headspace App

2. COMPASSION

The second crucial component in this healing process is developing our compassion, especially when it comes to self. We will be much more resistant to recognize our pain and our possible errors in judgement if we have a habit of being judgemental and unforgiving of ourselves.

When we are able to see our faults and our pain from a place of awareness, understanding and love, we are then more willing to change our behavior and move our lives forward.

Loving-kindness meditation is an excellent way of developing compassionate habits of mind that will help us. This will usually involve sitting in meditation and generating positive feelings towards others and yourself. UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center has an excellent Loving-Kindness Meditation for those who are interested in developing their own practice at home.

Self-care routines can also be helpful. When we begin to prioritize ourselves and our needs, we start to understand that we are worthy and deserving of care.

3. EMBODIMENT & EXPRESSION

The final step is the most important. This is that actual practice of noticing, feeling, and moving through our bodies all of the emotions we have been holding inside.

There are many ways to embody our emotions. We can simply allow ourselves to feel as thoughts and memories come up. We can hold space for ourselves in a safe place to laugh, cry, scream, etc. We can engage in somatic spiritual practices like yoga.

My favorite way to express long held emotions is to dance. In Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts, I learned a practice called “Swamping”.

Swamping involves moving through three stages of embodying & releasing emotions.

We start with a song dedicated to our rage. We dance, we punch pillows, we growl, we scream, we let out all of the anger we have felt we needed to stuff inside of ourselves.

Next we dance through our grief. We hold ourselves as we sway to our song, we wail, we cry over all that we have lost.

And finally, we dance into our turn-on. We can put on a sexy fun song that brings us back in touch with our excitement for life and the core of our power.

Whatever way you choose to embody and express your feelings, you will doubtless come through at the end with a weight off your shoulders and with a renewed sense of health and wholeness.

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Tarot Readings 4 Black Lives

How to Participate

1. Donate $40+ to an organization of your choice supporting Black Lives

Black Lives Matter • blacklivesmatter.com

Black Visions Collective • blackvisionscollectivemn.org

The Audre Lorde Project • alp.org

3. Book a reading online using code “BLM0920”

http://www.therhetoricofmagic.com/bar

3. Forward donation confirmation email within 24 hours to: admin@therhetoricofmagic.com

4. Enjoy your reading!

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Retrograde periods are typically a time to review, reflect & reassess on your life and how a particular planet impacts this sector of your chart.

With Mars retrograde in Aries from September 9 to November 13, we are being called to assess the ways in which we embody our anger & how we take action in the world.

We are being asked to review the ways in which we have caused harm, or have been impacted by the aggressions of others.

With this in mind, I’m now offering a natal chart consultation that focuses on:

•how Mars shows up in your chart (sign & house placements, as well as aspects to other planets)
•how transiting Mars will activate planets in your chart as it moves through Aries
•guidelines for meditative or ritual practice to work with this energy

💥Use the code “MARSRX25” to sign up for 25% off your consultation before September 6💥

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We are often confused about what we must do to begin holding ourselves and others accountable.

We have this idea that in order to create change, we must prove how someone has been wrong and demand immediate punishment.

This is a roadblock to our change. This is what blocks us from being better people.

When we know that we will punish ourselves, or be punished, in a way that is unforgiving and without mercy, we become unwilling to look at ourselves and the ways in which we may have caused harm.

Instead, we cling to denial. We push away anything that would make us stop and pause to examine our behavior, for fear of the pain or destruction to self this would entail.

Compassion is NOT an avoidance of accountability. It is the the PRECURSOR to accountability.

When we are able to look at the ways in which we have harmed ourselves or others in a way that accepts the context of where we were at, that acknowledge our full humanity and the limitations of our perception, only then we have the capacity to do better.

You can create space for your full complexity to exist, even while acknowleging ways in which harm was done.

No one is ever entirely good or bad. No thing exists in a vacuum.

When we hold each other tenderly, it creates space for change. It nurtures accountability. It is a source of continual growth & evolution.

Today, you can practice seeing without rushing to judgement. You can practice understanding with care & concern. You can practice seeking justice without demanding destruction.

Justice without mercy is not justice. Accountability requires faith in our shared humanity. Let’s do this with care & concern, from today forward.

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The Second Riddle of the Sphinx

Most people are familiar with the story of Oedipus Rex, the ill-fated king who murdered his own father and married and bore children with his own mother.

Freud famously interpreted this as a tale which shows man’s secret, repressed desires to kill his father and take his place as lover to his mother. This fits into his narrative about our discontents as members of civilization. He would have us believe that men have a savage primal instinct, an id that lusts for power and sexual dominance so much that it is only society’s control by way of the superego that stops them all from committing fratricide and incest.

It’s an interesting take on this myth, if only for what it tells us about the state of the psyche of Freud and modern man.

When the Oedipus Rex begins, we find that a plague has fallen on Thebes. Sickness and death are everywhere, and after receiving word from the oracle that the plague is the result of a curse, or “religious pollution,” due to the murder of the previous King Laius, whose murderer was never found.

Oedipus rants and rages, demanding that the murderer be found. He vents his anger on anyone who will hear it. When he hears news that he does not like from Tiresias, then Creon, then his wife, Jocasta, he accuses each of deliberately undermining his authority, of plotting to destroy him, and wants them to be killed or banished for treason.

But soon, events start to unfold that reveal the truth of his past, and the nature of the curse upon the city.

Before Oedipus was born, his father, Laius, received a message from an oracle which said that his newborn son would grow up to murder his father and marry his mother.

Laius knew this, and upon the born of his son handed the infant back to his wife, Jocasta, ordering him to be killed. Unable to do so, she hands the boy over to a servant with the same orders that her husband had given her.

The servant takes Oedipus to the countryside, and leaves him exposed on a mountaintop. A shepherd, Polybus, takes him and adopts him as his own son. Once grown, Oedipus begins to suspect he has been adopted, and goes to the oracle to ask about his parentage. 

The oracle repeats the same terrible prophecy: that Oedipus is fated to kill his father and marry his own mother.

Horrified, Oedipus flees the town where he has grown up and heads towards Thebes. On the way, he encounters Laius on the road to the city, and when Laius refuses to let him pass first, Oedipus strikes and kills his own father.

Outside the city of Thebes he meets the feared Sphinx, guardian of the city, who demands he answer her famous riddle or suffer death. She asks him, “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?”

Oedipus answers: “Man.” 

He crawls as a child, walks as an adult, and uses a cane into old age.

When the Sphinx hears his answer, she devours herself, and Oedipus enters the city, victorious.

Most scholars have unquestioningly assumed that the Sphinx committed suicide because Oedipus was correct. He gave the “right” answer.

But many others have started to question this interpretation, myself included.

We can start by asking ourselves more about the Sphinx, and what she represented.

According to Apollodorus, the Sphinx was a creature having the face of a woman, the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle and a tail bearing a serpent’s head at the end.

The name Sphinx is said from the Greek word meaning “to squeeze”, “to tighten up.”  This could refer to the fact that, in a pride of lions, the females are the hunters, and they kill their prey by strangulation, biting the throat of prey and holding them down until they die.

Another interpretation, from the historian Susan Wise Bauer, suggests that the word “sphinx” was instead a Greek corruption of the Egyptian name “shesepankh”, which meant “living image.”

It’s possible that this could mean “the living image of God.” The Sphinx may well be a representation of the divine. She is connected to the old mystery cults that existed before the incursion of the male-dominated Olympian gods. 

The Sphinx is a manifestation of the divine in her forms, according the ancient feminine religions. 

The lion represents the animal consciousness, or the libido or life force within the physical body.

The next step in this evolution is represented by the face of the woman. When we are able to able to consciously work with and harness our life force (which is intimately connected with our sexual energy), we are at the stage represented by woman. The capacity to use reason and our minds to direct our desires is truly what makes us human.

The final stage in this development involves the snake and the eagle. We can look to ancient Egypt for more insights regarding the meaning of the snake. Uraeus was a coiled or rising serpent representing the force of Kundalini in the body. This was the divine energy, which, when properly awakened and utilized, would allow one to transcend our human condition and soar (as if on the wings of an Eagle) and reach the heights of heaven.

We can see here that the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx could well be the Sphinx herself. She walks with four feet (of the Lion) in the morning, two feet (of a woman) in the afternoon, and three in the evening (the eagle & the snake).

It is interesting to note that this play, Oedipus the King, was written at a time when the ancient Earth Goddesses were losing prominence and being replaced by the male-dominated Olympian gods. These feminine, chthonic goddesses of Life-Death-Rebirth were overthrown, sometimes violently (through the destruction of temples and killings of priestesses & adherents), to be replaced by male-dominated gods led by Zeus and other violent & often predatory gods.

So we must ask the question: what happens when Man becomes the center of all things?

What happens when we do not honor or respect the interconnected roles which we must play in our families, our communities, our world? When the Ego takes over and crowns himself king, ignoring his Nature and his higher Self?

Laius sealed his own fate by sending his infant son to be killed. He bequeathed his cursed self-centeredness and violent disregard for innocent others to his son Oedipus. And we, us modern men and women, have inherited this curse.

Lest we be too quick to pity Oedipus, we must remember his role in fulfilling the prophecy: he kills his father not in self-defense, but in an incident of road rage, when his father does not let him pass first.

As king, he looks to everyone but himself for the evil which has been done. He rants and he rages at the plague, at his people, at the Gods for what has befallen him. But we must not forget that it is his own blindness to the evil done by his very hand that creates his destiny.

What happens when we crown our ego King, and stay committed to ruling and dominating others, ethics and consequences be damned?

We end up here: blindly imposing our violence on the world around us. 

We end up here: denying our own shadow, projecting it out onto whatever we happen to encounter outside of us. 

When we crown our Ego self King, limited our sense of self to the conscious rational mind only, we become blind to the evil that is done by our own hands. And here, the left hand knows not what the right is doing. In demanding that our Ego’s sovereignty is the only thing which matters, has value or exists, we violently repress all of us (and all of the others) which we do not identify with the False Self.

This inevitably leads to violence, against self and others. It is a violence that starts from within, with the disconnection from our shadow and our true selves, and this violence and destruction seeps outward to contaminate all it touches.

This points to the part of work that we must do. We need to recognize that evil is not just a thing “out there” to be violently controlled, eliminated, or crushed in others. 

Evil is a poisonous weed whose seed first sprouts from within. Left to grow unchecked, its tendrils snake outwards, wrapping themselves around whatever and whomever it comes into contact with.

But I have hope that we can do this work of transformation. There was a second riddle of the Sphinx which was left behind for us. 

According to Theodectes, the riddle goes like this: “There are two sisters. One gives birth to the other, then that one gives birth to the first. The answer is Night and Day.”

According to some scholars, this points to an even more ancient riddle from the Basque region of Europe. It states: “The brother is white, the sister is black. Every morning, the brother kills the sister. Every evening, the sister kills the brother. Nevertheless, the brother and the sister never die.”

I see the sunset coming. The time has come for this long day to journey into night. 

The moon is rising, and she will shine on this long-delayed night, and we will rest. 

Harmony can return to the earth. Day and night, night and day, they will live and die endlessly, again in balance with the law of nature & the will of life.

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A Tale of 2 Trees

In the Garden of Eden, there stood two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.

The Tree of Life is that of direct experience, life as we perceive it through the five senses. It is felt through the body, and the center of its intelligence is the heart.

The second tree perceived solely through the mind, and through the tool of language & logic.

Language is a tool which divides. Each word cuts through the real, splitting it into binaries. Hot & cold, men & women, light & dark, and of course, good & evil.

Another name for this tree could well be the Tree of Death. We need look no further than the fruits it often bears.

When we begin to label one element of binary as “good” and it’s opposite as “evil”, we know we are dealing with the fruit of this tree. In reality, nothing is wholly good or wholly evil. Humanity, and the universe of which we are a part, is a complex, multi-dimensional reality impossible to encapsulate in one word or phrase.

Too often, when we crown ourselves or our egos the arbiter of all that is Good, we dissociate from the messy reality of being a human being in interconnected web of relationships and roles. This often leads to the violence we see in the world around us. Convinced of our essential goodness, we turn a blind eye to the evil we can do.

It is for eating from this Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil that we were cast from the garden.

To return is not as difficult as we may have been told. We can always return to the Tree of Life. It has never stopped bearing fruit; all we need to do is look towards the sky and reach for it.

Centered in our hearts, with our eyes toward heaven and our feet on the ground, we can begin to live again. We can live with love, with connection, beyond the mind and into the beautiful, messy complexity of what it means to be a human in this vast, infinite universe.

The Tree of Knowledge is not our enemy. When we are in right relationship to it, it can often lead us in the direction of truth. But the final step is often to reach and jumó into the void, that space between thoughts and beyond words.

It is in this space that we can feel the divinity of spirit and the force of life. It is a choice we can make, every second of every day.

When in doubt, you can ask choose to step outside of yourself and ask your mind what it believe to be true.

You can then repeat this process, and ask yourself, “What does my heart know is true? What are the sensations in my body telling me? How do my five senses contribute to this?”

There’s no need to commit to any outcome ahead of time. Just practice switching between centers of awareness. Experiment with it, and see what happens. Move towards life, and watch as your experience begins to shift. You might be amazed at what you see.

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