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home    consultations    site map    ideas    irish astrology        Bill Sheeran

This article is an edited version of a posting to the ACT online mailing list made on March 30th 2000 and subsequently published in The Wholistic Astrologer, issue no.4, May-July 2000 . I have tidied up the use of language in the text, and made amendments which adjust for the fact that the content has been removed from its original discussion context.

Generational themes

In astrology, it is the cycles of the slower moving planets which are deemed to symbolically correlate with shifting generational themes. This is because those born within a certain time frame will inevitably share some planetary positions in their horoscopes. Pluto, for example, was moving through Scorpio from 1983 until 1995 and this shows in the horoscopes of all those born during that period.

By extension, groups of people may also share in common the patterns formed between two of the slower moving planets. For example those born in the mid-1960s will all have a Uranus-Pluto conjunction in their charts, many of these also including an opposition to Saturn.

The astrologer tries to ‘read’ the changing quality of experienced time on a collective level by considering these outer planet positions and patterns. In this way the temporal climate or zeitgeist of the past present and future can be brought into view. The assumption behind the modelling is that these symbolic patterns reflect fundamental principles (often called archetypes), and that these will find their specific manifest forms in ways which are context dependent. There are reasons why it was London that was ‘swinging’ in the mid-1960s and not Moscow.

From this point of view one might expect the changing phase of Neptune in its cycle (for example) to correspond contemporaneously with emergent qualities relating to diffusion, escapism, fantasy, idealism, illusion and so on in whatever context one cares to explore. Musical and fashion styles being a good place to start.

However, there is also another dynamic involved which ensures that the emergence of generational themes is bi-phasic in nature.

Those 'entities' which are born during such periods (i.e. while Neptune is in a given zodiac sign), whether they be individuals, political states, books or whatever, have lives which extend beyond these periods. Their horoscopes contain the said patterns for the full extent of their lives.

If we stick with individuals for the sake of simplicity, those who have Pluto in Virgo (i.e. who were born when the quality of potential associated with that symbolism was emerging) have a natural psychic resonance with Pluto in Virgo themes. While they are alive, they in effect move as a wave through the cultural collective giving expression to these themes.

However, a new born baby is not going to be taking part in the social or cultural circumstances which reflect the planetary symbolism active at the time they were born. Instead, they are agents who carry the potential through time, and give expression to it in due course as they become mature or old enough to express their creative energies, access power so as to be able to effect transformation, and so on.

Thus there is what I call a culture lag between the initial emergence of astrologically associated themes, and a flowering of expression of the same principles decades later. In my opinion, this explains why an author might write a book which is very much of its time, but being of its time it is inherently novel and therefore radical. It may have initial impact, and then slide out of view. But years later, many of those born when it was being written will experience a resonance the contents. Astrologically, the book and those born when it was written have something in common. The later generation ‘get it’, and the writer’s work re-emerges into popular consciousness. An example might be Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, written when Pluto was in Virgo - I think in 1960 - and when public awareness of environmental issues was less than zero. Rachel Carson herself probably had Pluto in Cancer (the book was about the effects of pesticides on bird populations, food chains and so on). Her prophetic voice found ears when the Pluto in Virgo generation had had time to mature beyond childhood. When those individuals managed to get to positions of power, they started pushing for changes in the legislation relating to environmental pollution and so on. Whether or not I've chosen a good example, the scenario I'm painting should be clear.

There is a whole peer group out there, many of whom till the moment they drop dead will feel the need to engage with themes such as transformation of relationship to the environment, work practices, health issues, and so on. Just as there is a whole peer group who emphasise constantly the need for self-transformation (Pluto in Leo), or put great value on the acquisition of individual power. In that sense, as long as the Pluto in Leo generation is alive, there is a 'virtual Pluto in Leo' happening still. Its voice is being heard loud and clear in the present. However, its original lightning flash has long since passed.

The movement of Neptune through Scorpio may have coincided with the eruption of Rock 'n Roll and Elvis the Pelvis during the 1950s. Civilisation was deemed to be at an end. Look though at what happened in the west when those born with Neptune in Scorpio were old enough to buy equipment, make noises, and start fashions (i.e. mid 1970s). We got punk, more black leather, silver and chrome, knives and weird hairstyles, some of which were directly mimicking the rockabilly quiffs and decidedly retro. The three chord trick re-appeared in noisier form, and the plain people were scared, just as they were in the mid 1950s. Malcolm McClaren started a boutique in the Kings Road, London called Sex, essentially the progenitor of the punk style. From those who used to hang around that shop, the Sex Pistols were born. These two elements of the mid-1970s London scene surely give a delayed expression to Neptune in Scorpio in the fields of fashion and music. In real time however, Neptune was in Sagittarius (which found its clearest delayed expression in the awakening to ‘World music’ and multi-cultural fashion).

One could forcefully argue that this has nothing to do with culture lag, but is instead an argument in favour of the sidereal as opposed to the tropical zodiac. However, while acknowledging that possibility, there is a logic to this concept of a culture lag in terms of expression of astrological patterns that verges on common sense. I know I still give expression to Uranus in Cancer, Neptune in Libra and Pluto in Leo, all of which in real terms died a long time ago.

This way of looking at the issues is a bit simplistic - there are many inter-related factors involved in unravelling the picture. But I do think it is important, especially in mundane or collective level astrology work, to bear in mind this culture lag aspect of astrological dynamics. Apart from anything else it helps to make sense of the tensions which can arise between generations. Or illuminate political dynamics. Tony Blair is from the Pluto in Leo generation and it shows in his approach to wielding power. Labour Party members with Pluto in Cancer (which in the UK would be 'Old Labour')look on aghast as the adherence to socialist principles dies with them.

Copyright © 2000 by Bill Sheeran     All Rights Reserved