Friday, June 10, 2011

Saturn, the Lord of Time, Stands Still

Saturn stations June 12-14, 2011

This week the most visually stunning and mysterious gas giant, Saturn, will momentarily appear to stand still in the stars of Virgo as it end its westward, or retrograde, motion and returns to its direct, eastward motion for the next 8 months. Avid sky watchers will be able to clearly view its spectacular rings and dragon storm from backyard telescopes. Even the Washington Post mentions its center place in the night sky this summer:

"The evening show through the late spring and early summer weeks has Saturn at center stage. Find the ringed planet high in the south at zero magnitude (bright). By the middle of June, it has shifted to the western sky at dusk. You might notice the planet’s current travel companion Spica, a star in the constellation Virgo, lower and to the east of Saturn. In the waning days of June, Saturn sets just after midnight."

At first glance it might seem strange that The Washington Post would highlight this news story that seems more pertinent for an astronomy magazine or blog. However, as the constellation of Virgo figures prominently in countless artistic references throughout the architecture, paintings, statuary, and facades of Washington, D.C., there may be more to the story than meets the all-seeing eye. Yes, that's right, I'm talking about the Masonic symbolism embedded in our nation's capital city. While controversial, the author David Ovason does make a fascinating case in his book: The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital (1999).

From these diagrams, you can see how the architectural layout of the streets around the Federal Triangle (the Washington Monument, the White House and Capitol) are aligned in a similar fashion as the constellation of Virgo and the fixed star Spica. Moreover, it is said that the construction of all three were connected astrologically to the sign of Virgo, including the cornerstone ceremony for the Washington Monument which occurred precisely when Spica was rising (August 7, 1880 at 10:59 AM). Even today NORAD refers to Virgo in its references to a series of ongoing exercises called Falcon-Virgo that are designed to test airspace security, especially around major American cities like New York and Washington, D.C. (click here). (Falcon is a reference to the Egyptian god Horus, whose all seeing eye is immortalized on our one dollar bill.) Thus some might say that Saturn's passage through the stars of Virgo may draw the shakti power of these asterisms down to special centers of power that were designed to collect this energy at specific points and times. Or the alignment of key architectural structures with these stars act as an astronomical clock pointing to the dawn a new age, the return of Atlantis, or New World Order.

Or perhaps the unusual spotlight on Virgo and Saturn's movement through this part of the summer sky is an unconscious expression of Saturn's role in the U.S. birth chart. The great planet Saturn rules the Aquarius ascendant of U.S. Scorpionic chart (David Solté). This version of the nation's birth chart is based on the signing of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union(on November 15, 1777 at 12:26 pm in York, PA) giving the United States an Aquarius ascendant ruled by an exalted Saturn conjoined Mercury and Venus in the fortunate 9th house (sidereal). Below is the commemorative stamp for the 200th birthday of the signing of the Articles of Confederation: a 13 cent stamp not only representing the 13 colonies, but also the thirteen bits of Horus' father Osiris. (Horus, the falcon rules the air, and his father, Osiris, rules the underworld.)

During the past two years Saturn's transit through Virgo has taken it through the 8th house of the U.S. chart, which is the house associated with debt, joint money (taxes), death (and longevity), sex, secrets, and metaphysics. Saturn has certainly been keeping these issues in the headlines. By the time it returns to its sign of exaltation in November, it will mark the 8th Saturn return for the nation.

Even as I write this post, the waxing Moon meets up with Saturn and Spica. Spica is the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo, the Virgin or Maiden, and represents the sheath of wheat that the goddess dropped to form the Milky Way. (According to Masonic tradition, Virgo represents the goddess Isis, sister-wife of Osiris and mother of Horus.)

In Brady's Book of Fixed Stars, Bernadette Brady writes that the ancient goddess in the sky was probably part of the original six zodiac constellation and is considered by some astronomers to be part of human awareness for over 15,000 years when Virgo was the sign of the spring equinox. The Golden Age was said to have ended when this goddess no longer governed the solstices. This shift in the night sky gave rise to the belief that the goddess left the earth in distress at the declining behavior of humans in the darkening age; but as the goddess also ruled cycles of all kinds, there was also a promise of her return to rule again during the next Golden Age.

Western mythologies also associate Saturn with ruling a lost Golden Age, so eloquently described by Tracy R. Twyman in her two-part article: Regnum in Potentia: Saturn’s Kingdom Transformed Into the Golden Age:

"Saturn was thought of as the Lord of Unrule, and during this epoch, his subjects wanted for nothing. There was no money, nobody had to work for a living, and all things were held in common. It was a paradise in which everyone was free to do as they wished because there no lack, and therefore no need for involuntary compulsion through violent force. Or so it is implied. . . As I stated in Money Grows on the Tree of Knowledge, there is a moral dilemma implied in the story of Chronos/Saturn. Saturn is associated with liberty, and a Golden Age of peaceful anarchy. Yet we know that in order to maintain this form of rule, he killed his own children to prevent them from growing up to overtake him. The only reason the Golden Age was so golden was because Saturn’s children were paying the price of the sacrifice. . . . What these myths of the Golden Age, Garden of Eden, and other primordial paradises really point to is the concept of a cosmic center: a kingdom that doesn’t really exist, except in the Otherworld, in potentia. But it is said to be at the heart of our own existence, and its essence can be felt everywhere. It is a place where there is no time as we know it. Rather, all points of time exist simultaneously, and all space as well. This is why the people who live there are said to never grow old".

As much of Twyman's work reveals, the Saturn-Chronos archetype of the Western Alchemical tradition is not only embedded into our rituals and traditions, but also into our minds. We all yearn for this peaceful paradise that seems so elusive in the current age, yet whose frightening shadow is deeply repressed. Saturn's transit through the sign of Virgo seems to have triggered this longing for freedom as many have taken to the streets in protest of current economic, political, and social structures. It has also revealed the shadow of our collective denial around money, debt, and improper use of world energy resources how this karma will effect future generations. Although Saturn transits through the stellar fields of Virgo every 30 years, this time around it coincides with a period of increasing earth changes which many prophecies concerning a rebirth or return of the Golden Age.

Saturn's passing association with the fixed star Spica is said to bring a gift of brilliance or a skill that is out of the ordinary. This star represents the sheaf of wheat held by the goddess. Wheat is a life-giving plant that is subject to repeating cycles: the seed, fruit, and then the harvested kernels. Thereafter, the seeds returns to the earth to grow again in unending cycles. The potential energy packed in a seed waiting for its release is much like the pure energy of the divine hidden deeply in matter, and in ourselves. Spica reminds us of our hidden divine potential which Saturn may lead to the harvest this fall.

In addition to its brush with the fixed star Spica, MSNBC announced that Saturn will also dance by another binary pair of stars:

"Saturn will spend the entire month within half a degree or less of a third-magnitude double star in Virgo named Porrima."

Porrima is the Latin name for a binary star that lies on the waist or hip of the Virgin. It is named after one of the two sister goddesses of prophecy: Porrima and Postorta. Postorta was believed to tap into the past, while her sister Porrima predicts the future. Other traditions suggest that Porrima and Postorta may be two aspects of the Roman goddess of childbirth, Carmenta, who may have been invoked by two names, Prorsa (head first) and Postversa (feet first), the two positions in which a child can be born. As Western alchemical traditions portray Saturn as the child-eating king of the lost Golden Age, his association with the goddess(es) of childbirth may be a bit ominous during these summer months.

However, I have yet to find a story describing Saturn's penchant for eating children to preserve a place of kingship among the gods in the Vedas; but Shani, as Saturn is called in Sanskrit, is equally frightening. In the Vedic tradition Saturn is an indicator of death and destruction causing fear in both men and gods. But Shani's death and destruction is of the ego, of the body, and other temporal illusions that keep us trapped in this illusion of what we believe is reality.

As Robert Svoboda describes in The Greatness of Saturn: a Therapeutic Myth/Shani Mahatma:

"Saturn is the supreme terrifier among planets. All beings fear him, for he rules bereavements and misfortunes. If pleased he will give you a kingdom, but if irate he will snatch everything away from you in the moment. . . Saturn determines longevity and death for he is Lord of Time."

This summer Saturn stations in the 13th nakshatra of Hasta, the hand, located in the constellation of Corvus, the crow.

As the crow is Saturn's vahana, or mount, this is a friendly placement of support for the greatest malefic. The Vedic seers perceived the five stars of this nakshatra as five fingers of a hand offering blessings to humanity, similar in spirit to Spica. The deity of this nakshatra is Savitar, the Sun god who gives life and aids in childbirth, repeating the similar theme found its association with Porrima. However, Saturn is not a huge fan of the Sun, his father.

Yes, the Sun is the father of Saturn, whose wife Samja tired of his excessive effulgence and left a shadow, Chaya, in her place. While she was away, the Sun did not perceive the switch and conceived three children with Chaya: Saturn, Savarni, and Tapati. Thus Saturn is born from the shadow of the divine feminine. As soon as Saturn was born, his gaze fell on his father and caused vitiligo (sunspots?), next it broke the leg of the Sun's charioteer, and blinded his father's seven horses. It was only when he left, that these afflictions cleared.

Thus, as Saturn is born from the Sun's union with shadow, he has a connection to the other shadow planets like the nodes of the Moon, Rahu and Ketu. Like the nodes, Saturn has the power to eclipse the luminaries and thus bring darkness, devastation, disease and most of all fear. The Western alchemical tradition also makes this connection between Saturn and the Nodes in its depiction of Saturn's chariot pulled by snakes and/or dragons. In addition, both Saturn and the Nodes are said to rule the poles, the mythological portals to both inner and outer worlds.

Although the power of Saturn to destroy and bring misfortune should not be minimized, it may also bring positive lessons about the truth of reality and help us break through the bonds of fear (f=false, e=evidence/experience, a=appearing, r=real). As David Frawley writes:

"Saturn shows us the limitation of this realm, which is the necessary but painful lesson we must learn to find our way into the unlimited. Saturn is death that takes us beyond the limitations of mortal life, which is the gateway to the eternal, though straight and narrow as the razor's edge."

Thus while Saturn travels through the nakshatra of Hasta, we may experience either the blessings of an open hand, or the gripping control of a closed fist. It all depends on our relationship with Saturn. Hasta's special shakti power is the ability to manifest what we are seeking and to place it in our hands (hasta sthapaniya agama shakti). So if we are seeking illusion, we may be in for some rude awakening, but if we are seeking truth, we may be blessed with a true awakening.

Om Hlim Sham Shanaye Namah


In this spectacular video of a compilation of Cassini's images, we are gifted an extraordinary glimpse of Saturn, the gateway to truth and the Golden Age, in all its mysterious glory complete with appropriate melancholy soundtrack. Please check it out.

CASSINI MISSION from Chris Abbas on Vimeo.

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