2020 Articles

Tribute to Hugh Courtney

In Memory of Hugh Courtney by Rosemary Tayler

Having travelled twice to Woolwine, Virgina for training in biodynamic preparations, I feel honoured to have been part of the circle of students and mentors led by Hugh Courtney. Hugh crossed over unexpectedly at his home on June 15, 2020, at the age of 87.

According to his obituary, his life spanned three careers: the first as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy; the second as a librarian in Maryland; and the third as a teacher and mentor in biodynamics. In 1978, Hugh purchased his farm in the rolling hills of Woolwine and for nine years was mentored by Josephine Porter, an American biodynamic prep maker. He also exchanged ideas with Ehrenfried Pfieffer, a German soil scientist and student of Rudolf Steiner.

For over 30 years, Hugh mentored hundreds of students from across North America and around the world, including such countries as Great Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, Japan, Phillipeans, Taiwan, South Africa, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico.

Upon seeing and hearing his dedication to teaching biodynamics, I invited Hugh to write articles and become a mentor for our planting calendar. Gradually he took on more responsibilities and soon the calendar became a platform where he shared his wisdom, deep insights, and experiential learning. One major contribution was his recommendations for sequential spraying, an advanced technique used by biodynamic farmers and gardeners, which we continue to incorporate into the monthly charts.

Now it our turn, as users of this calendar, to follow his teachings. As the community of students and interns continues his efforts to outreach to farmers and gardeners everywhere, may we all carry his passion for the natural world, both seen and unseen.

Note: All the articles Hugh Courtney contributed to this calendar are posted on the Earth Haven Learning Centre website at #hughcourtney, #biodynamic, #bdprepmaker, #farm, #garden

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The Rare Triple Conjunction of 2020 

by Gary P. Caton

For almost the entire year of 2020, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto are all within about ten degrees of each other in Sagittarius/Capricorn. This means that if you extend your fist to arm’s length against the sky, it will cover all three planets. Perusing the historical records, I can find only one other instance where these three planets came together this closely and it happened to be in this same part of the sky. 

One theme emerges from the four alignments of these three that occured over the last century.  In my opinion, I found a theme centered around the beginnings of political dynasties. For instance, the last time these three came together this closely (which also happened to be in front of Sagittarius and Capricorn) was the year 1285, which was during the lifetime of Osman I, the first Ottoman Sultan and founder of the Ottoman Empire, which lasted into the 20th Century. 

The next time Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto came together was in 1444, though only within about 16 degrees, in front of the constellation Gemini. A pair of twins, Cosimo and Damian de Medici were named after Saints Cosmas and Damian, two early Christian martyrs. By 1444, Cosimo de Medici’s power over Florence, Italy, was such that he was able to build the first public library. As historian Edward Gibbon put it: “[Cosimo was] the father of a line of princes, whose name and age are almost synonymous with the restoration of learning.” The Medici dynasty’s patronage of the arts is still seen the foundation to the Renaissance Era and extended to Galileo’s time (1564-1642).

The next time Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto conjoined was in 1583, again only within about 16 degrees, this time in front of the constellations Aquarius and Pisces. This was an important time in the founding of the British Empire, the largest empire in history. In 1583, Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland for England and a year later the first British colony was founded in North America on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. 

The last time these planets came together was recent and close. In 1980, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto were within about 10 degrees of each other and they were in front of the constellation Virgo. Because of this recurring pattern of the founding of political dynasties during these particular triple conjunctions, it could be that some of the events of this time take on more importance than we might otherwise attribute. During that same year, Tim Berners Lee wrote the software project ENQUIRE, a predecessor to the World Wide Web, which he went on to found ten years later. The subsequent explosion of the Information Technology sector and the ability to store, manipulate and mine data have greatly transformed the world and this technological boom has ramifications in many other facets of society.  

So, how can we apply this knowledge of historical trends to the work of a biodynamic farmer? It seems to me that stewardship of the land can and perhaps should be remembered as the first and most important kind of dynasty. Wasn’t this always the traditional view? The only dynasty most of us will ever belong to is that of family and the land that sustains it. Perhaps we can begin to fashion legal structures similar to land trusts or conservancies that keep family farms from being preyed upon by larger corporate interests. I see this happening in my local area where the re-routing of the Appalachian Trail in the 1950’s led to the formation of the Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy in 1974 and from there the establishment of a Farmlands Conservation Program in 2005. I have to imagine that this is going on elsewhere as well, and that we can ramp up these activities this year to take advantage of these cosmic energies.

Another idea that seems to go along with the founding of dynasties is as simple as tree planting. A recent article in the journal Science argues that “restoration of trees remains among the most effective strategies for climate change mitigation.”  The authors estimate that Earth’s ecosystems can support about a billion additional hectares of forest and that this can cut the atmospheric carbon by 25%. Armed with this information, farmers might initiate programs to re-plant forests on their land and hold workshops to invite the community to participate in purchasing and planting young trees. How many people will welcome an opportunity to feel like they’ve made their own personal contribution to a dynasty that can actually help heal the planet? And the relationships formed in this way can also sustain us. People will come out yearly or quarterly to visit their own personal tree in a restored forest. There can be family groves where people come to picnic or camp. 

By reestablishing these stewardship tasks, we will leave a dynasty of healing the relationship between humans and nature, which can extend to all aspects of the planet.

Gary P. Caton - Astronomer, Writer, Forecaster

Growing up in a rural setting outside Leesburg, Virginia, Gary developed passions for gardening and farming early in life and has lived on working farms.

In 1993 Gary was initiated into the planetary mysteries by seeing alignments in a dream. His deep love of nature fuels his enthusiasm for stargazing and astrophotography. Gary claims it has been a true joy combining his lifelong passion for learning with the tasks of completing the calculations and contributing to the forecasts for this calendar. Based on more than two decades of experience, he incorporates several new elements into this text, including consideration of the sextile aspect and a look at the deeper mysteries of the retrograde loops of Venus and Mars.

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An Astronomically Unusual Year

by Gary P Caton

Despite the attention they often receive in the popular media, planetary retrogrades are relatively unusual. The Sun and Moon are never retrograde. Venus and Mars are retrograde less than 10% of the time; Mercury is retrograde less than 20%; Jupiter and Saturn are only retrograde roughly one third of the time. This means that direct motion accounts for approximately 86% of all motion for the seven visible planets. Put more simply, this means that on average, at any given moment, we should expect only one of the seven classical planets to be retrograde.

However in 2020, there are only two months–February and March–which fit the average of one of the classical planets being retrograde. For six months of the year, we will have at least two planets retrograde at the same time, and during June, there will be one week where four of the five classical planets are retrograde simultaneously. This is quite unusual, and only made possible by the fact that we have an unusual conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn–which only happens every twenty years.

In addition to having more than just the above average number of retrogrades, this year is even more unusual in that all of the classical planets cross the ecliptic plane. It is not unusual for planets closer to Earth to do so, in fact on average Mercury crosses the ecliptic about eight times each year, Venus about three and Mars once. Jupiter and Saturn only cross the ecliptic twice in their cycle, so this means every six and 14 years, respectively. It’s only at longer intervals of 30 and 60 years that Jupiter and Saturn cross the ecliptic within a year of each other. The last time all the classical planets crossed the ecliptic within a year was in 1990 and before that in 1960-61. 

Even the casual history buff will note that those years contained a relatively high number of historically important events. In 1960, we saw 17 African nations gain independence and the civil rights movement gained steam in the United States. In early 1961, Eisenhower severed relations with Cuba and warned the public of the dangers of the military industrial complex. Months later, the Cold War became entrenched as Kennedy approved the CIA invasion of Cuba, known as the Bay of Pigs. Thirty years later, in 1990, Cold War relations were moving in the opposite direction, with the re-unification of Germany, the independence of the Baltic states and the breakup of Yugoslavia. Another major development in 1990 was the first web server and the foundation for the World Wide Web.

Looking closer, we can see these two astronomical phenomena are related. When planets are retrograde, they are at their closest approach to Earth. And retrograde motion is not a simple matter of moving backward. Before and after the retrograde, planets actually perform wide looping forays from the ecliptic. There are eight basic shapes these loops assume (see diagram), depending on the relationship between the location of the particular retrograde and the location of the planet’s nodes, namely the points where their path crosses the Sun’s path. 

Because of the different shapes, there are at least eight different types of retrogrades. They vary in shape, more so with the planets closest to Earth. During their retrogrades, Venus, Mercury and Mars come closer to Earth than the Sun, thereby penetrating the interior heart space of our system. Their retrogrades are more extreme as each planet moves farther away from the ecliptic, which makes their loop shapes more exaggerated. Venus, Mercury and Mars usually cross the ecliptic a couple times during their retrograde loops. However, when they are near their nodes, they cross the ecliptic only once in a “Z” shaped loop. 

On the other hand, Jupiter and Saturn are retrograde more frequently, about a third of the time, but their loops shapes are more flattened and less extreme. Also, Jupiter and Saturn cross the ecliptic in the two “Z” shaped loops near their nodes. As mentioned earlier, the last times both these planets performed “Z” shaped loops where they crossed the ecliptic were in 1990 and 1960-61. The reason we can so easily see an increase in the socio-political activity is that the ecliptic is basically the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. So, planets directly on the ecliptic are at the points where they most directly influence the Earth plane. Thus, we can easily see both the unifying powers of Jupiter and the separating powers of Saturn at work during these years.

What’s really incredible is that, in fact, all five planets perform “Z” shaped loops this year! Jupiter and Saturn cross the ecliptic near their South Nodes in February. Then Venus does a South Node dance in June. After this, it is Mercury’s turn, and it crosses the ecliptic in a “Z” loop near it’s North Node in October. Not to be out-done, Mars crosses the ecliptic in an upward “Z” near it’s North Node in December. This is something that did not happen in either 1990 or 1960-61, which makes 2020 a very unusual astronomical year indeed!
Recommended Reading

Gregory Rozek, “Retrograde Planets and their Number in the Natal Chart.” Accessed online 9/11/16  First appeared as “People with Many Retrogrades” in The Astrological Journal, published by the Astrological Society of Great Britain, March 2014.

Gary P. Caton - Astronomer, Writer, Forecaster

Growing up in a rural setting outside Leesburg, Virginia, Gary developed passions for gardening and farming early in life and has lived on working farms.

In 1993 Gary was initiated into the planetary mysteries by seeing alignments in a dream. His deep love of nature fuels his enthusiasm for stargazing and astrophotography. Gary claims it has been a true joy combining his lifelong passion for learning with the tasks of completing the calculations and contributing to the forecasts for this calendar. Based on more than two decades of experience, he incorporates several new elements into this text, including consideration of the sextile aspect and a look at the deeper mysteries of the retrograde loops of Venus and Mars.

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Insights into Fifth Generation (5G) Radiofrequency Radiation

By Meg Sears

Beyond the rainbow is an invisible spectrum of waves. Innumerable inventions in today’s electrified world are exposing the entire biosphere to an increasing glare of novel “light.”

Most spectacular is radiofrequency radiation or RFR–the eletromagnetic signals used in wireless communication. This range of radiofrequency is poised to fuel the fifth generation or 5G broadband. Coming soon, we will have an Orwellian vision of what is now termed the Internet of Things, transmitting data via wireless signals from and to tens or hundreds of billions of devices. Information about everything from social media, email and phone calls, shopping, banking, building controls and security, to the state of your baby’s diaper or supplies in your refrigerator will all be at your fingertips. If done wirelessly, this could swamp our world in an unprecedented intensity of RFR.

All life on this planet evolved with certain electromagnetic radiation (EMR), such as visible light, but the Earth’s atmosphere provides natural protection from cosmic-sourced radiation. The 20th Century brought electrification and lower frequency EMR. By mid-century higher frequencies were introduced and used in radar, military and emergency response radio communications, and radio and television broadcasting. These signals have wavelengths long enough to travel through the earth and buildings.

Communication rapidly advanced from dots and dashes, to radio with music and news. Then during the 1960s, black and white television advanced to colour TV. Broadcasts were transmitted using radiofrequency radiation in the lower frequency bands, that traversed great distances. Everyone listened or watched programs at the same time.

Early wireless communication connected ham radio operators, drivers in vehicles via citizen band, and the 1970s brought the first cellular phone. The size of a brick, it cost thousands of dollars and had battery power for a half-hour conversation.

Fast forward: today’s devices are smaller, lighter and faster, with longer-lasting batteries and many capabilities. Successive generations brought about the smart phone with its texting, Wi-Fi, Internet, live streaming, and full business integration. The fifth generation, 5G, is marketed to reach into all details of our lives, connecting everything with the “Internet of Things.”

Within this current generation, humans have increased their use of radiofrequency radiation exponentially. We no longer gather around the television set at a designated time. Instead, we stream on demand. From 2016 to 2017, the number of mobile phones in Canada increased 3%, mobile data increased 30% but television viewing diminished substantially. A program that was previously broadcast a few times is now being transmitted thousands or millions of times, to single-user screens. A substantial portion of that transmission is broadcast wirelessly.

To keep up with this demand for more data and higher speeds, 3G and 4G wireless are being used more intensively and 5G will expand to higher frequencies with millimeter scale wavelengths. Along with tens of thousands of satellites hovering above the earth and large antennae on towers, small cell intensive antennae are being densely deployed along streets in certain cities, closer to users. 

This ever-increasing electronic noise is biologically harmful and degrades the quality of transmissions along telephone wires. The RFR also disrupts the finely-tuned biochemistry of life, damages cells, causes dysfunction and cancer, impairs development and can lead to chronic ill health with ongoing exposure. Some people develop electromagnetic hypersensitivity. 

Radiofrequency radiation impacts all life forms. Most obviously, trees close to cell towers suffer damage on the side closest to the tower, then die prematurely. When the wavelength matches the size of small creatures such as insects, as will happen with millimetre waves, the likely result will be substantial damage and death. 
Magnetite, found in microbes, insects, mollusks, fish, birds and mammals, is a mineral that allows organisms to detect magnetic fields. Birds and insects, with magnetite above their beaks and in their abdomens, get lost when exposed to radiofrequency radiation. Birds get disoriented in cities, and bees don’t return to hives. We don’t know the role of magnetite in human brains, but this mineral may be partially implicated in damage associated with RFR emitted by cell phones.

In 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer or IARC, convened a panel of experts who concluded that RFR possibly causes cancer in humans (Group 2B). Since then, the particular types of tumours associated with cell phones are increasing in young adults, and cases are reported of breast cancer where cell phones were carried in bras. Further analysis of human data and three new, large animal studies, lead experts to conclude that RFR definitely causes cancer. If a similar expert panel were convened today, it would most probably conclude that RFR is a known human carcinogen (Group 1, which includes tobacco smoke and asbestos). RFR is a high priority for re-evaluation in the IARC 2020-2024 workplan.

Cancer is the long-term culmination of cellular damage, inflammation and the breakdown of protective mechanisms in the body. Other contributors include adverse chemical exposures, poor diet and stressors, but the fact that radiofrequency radiation is biologically active and causes harm is now beyond debate. 
It may be hard to disentangle effects of radiofrequency radiation from those of screen time and lifestyle in people, yet animal studies demonstrate damage in the brain and organs, and impairment (e.g., memory and balance) in animals exposed to RFR early in life.

If a human foetus is exposed to higher levels of RFR, the child is more likely to exhibit poor behaviour and learning. 

The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) recommends limited the use of wireless devices to address the effects of screen time on social interactions. Children fare better with undistracted attention from parents and other caregivers when they do not have to compete with electronics. Unlike measures in some European, American and other jurisdictions (e.g., Cyprus) to limit children’s exposure, the CPS does not yet mention harmful effects of RFR, nor advise minimizing exposure. 

Schools that were early adopters of the Internet installed cable and wired connections, but those have largely been abandoned in favour of Wi-Fi. Following the introduction of Wi-Fi, some students and teachers began experiencing excruciating headaches, cardiac arrhythmia and other adverse effects. There is no evidence that educational outcomes improved with wireless connectivity. 

Radiofrequency radiation impairs male fertility, as sperm quantity and vitality are reduced when cell phones are in pockets and laptops on laps. Some fertility clinics query the use of wireless devices.
The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Beyond the fringes of the colours of visible light, at lower frequency we feel the heat of infrared radiation. Beyond vibrant red through yellow and blue to violet, are higher frequency ultraviolet, then x-rays and gamma rays. 

Light–indeed, all electromagnetic radiation (EMR)–behaves both as a wave and as a particle, called the “wave-particle duality.” Electromagnetic radiation travels like a wave at the speed of light, so higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths. 

Electromagnetic radiation also behaves as particles called photons. A single photon of high-frequency ionizing radiation, such as X-rays and gamma rays, can remove an electron from an atom, creating a charged atom called an ion. The first recognized hazard of radiation, such as X-rays, was burns, but even low doses of ionizing radiation harms cells, and DNA damage leads eventually to cancer. 
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This powerful radiation is now carefully engineered for medical and scientific applications.
At the far end of the scale, the extremely low frequency Schumann Resonances, starting at 8 cycles per second or Hertz (Hz) and higher, have a wavelength approximately the circumference of the Earth or a fraction (half, third, etc.). See diagram above. This is resonance of EMF pulses from lightning channelled beneath the ionosphere high in the atmosphere. 
Tips to reduce your exposure to radiofrequency radiation

• Wireless transmissions should not be the standard. Fibre-optic cable is more secure, reliable and resilient, requires less energy to transmit signals and results in no RFR. Demand and install wired infrastructure whenever and wherever possible.

• Distance is your friend with wireless devices. Keep phones, tablets, etc. away from your head and body, and off your lap.

• Use text messaging instead of voice calls whenever possible.

• Make only short or essential calls on cell phones, using speaker phone or an air tube headset.

• Power off phones and personal digital devices, or set on airplaine mode. Turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Mobile Data, Mobile Hotspot and Location.

• Avoid charging phones and devices near beds.

• Use corded (not cordless) home phones, wired (not wireless) whenever possible, especially for lengthy conversations.
• Pre-download videos and music rather than streaming.
• Minimize the number of apps running on wireless devices.
• Choose wired Internet connections over wireless systems.
• If Wi-Fi cannot be eliminated, put the Wi-Fi router on a timer to turn off when not needed (especially while sleeping).

For additional articles on radiocommunication, go to and

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