Planting Calendar Aspects

Rare Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto Stellium 

by Gary P. Caton, 2019 Celestial Planting Calendar

For almost the entire year of 2020, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto will be within approximately ten degrees of one another. Visually, this is about the size of one's fist, extended at arm’s length and held up to the sky. In my perusal of historical records, this particular alignment is the closest these three planets have come to together in modern history. They very rarely conjoin and have not come this close in this particular part of the sky since the year 1285, when for the first time the famed Silk Roads of the Mongolian Empire allowed cultural exchange between Europe and China. Marvelous accounts of these early adventures were written by such intrepid travelers as Marco Polo and Rabban Sawma.

Jupiter arrives in the constellation Sagittarius late in 2019 (November 26), however, for this whole year, Saturn and Pluto are together in this constellation, setting the stage for this rare stellium, that is, a cluster of three planets.  Basically this means we start to feel the energy gathering in 2019 and then it reaches a crescendo in 2020. The energy which is gathering is essentially Yang or outward moving energy. 

We can see this same basic approach reflected in early biodynamic thinking in several different ways. For example, in lecture one of the Agriculture Course, Rudolf Steiner tells us that “Mars, Jupiter and Saturn…opens the plant-being to the wide spaces of the Universe and awakens the senses of the plant-being in such a way as to receive from all quarters of the Universe the forces which are molded by these distant planets.”  Steiner was clearly invoking an upward/outward movement when speaking about the planets further from Earth. Similarly, he said that Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are activated by warmth (Fire).   Maria Thun tells us that “when the planets pass in front of zodiac constellations of the same element, their effect is intensified.”  This combination of Saturn and Pluto in Sagittarius is likely to be especially intense, given that both planets are associated with the Fire ether, and Sagittarius is a member of the Fire trigon.

In many ways, the combination of Saturn and Pluto is powerful enough to warrant their own separate historical investigation. The last time Saturn and Pluto came together in front of the constellation of Sagittarius was in 1518. This era saw two major cultural events unfolding. First, Martin Luther published his 95 theses, which became widely circulated via the new technology of the printing press and sparked the Protestant Reformation, which greatly diversified Christianity as it spread to the New World.  Later, Charles V of Spain began selling “asiento” or licenses for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which internationalized the slave trade and brought it into practice on a massive scale. 

The next meeting of Saturn and Pluto in front of a Fire constellation was in 1616-17, when they came together in Aries. This era saw advancements in exploration, including having the first Europeans travel the farthest north, sail around Cape Horn and reach Australia. Tremendous cultural exchange occurred as well; John Smith published his description of the New World and the Native American Pocahontas visited London, England.

The most recent time this pair came together in front of a Fire constellation was in 1713 in the constellation of Leo. This was a time of crisis for the royalty of Europe, with the house of Hapsburg coming to an end, resulting in two wars. The War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) was ending at the same time as the seeds for the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) were being sown. Overall, the balance of power in Europe was shifting from France to Britain. 

How can the wisdom gained from understanding these historical trends be applied to our work as biodynamic farmers? First, we can acknowledge the tremendous suffering wrought by the conscious and unconscious enforcement of cultural values onto people and into places where they do not truly belong. For example, the introduction of invasive species serves as a cautionary tale to the far-reaching energies we will be working with over the next several years.  At the same time, healthy systems must have semi-permeable boundaries and be able to accept, adapt and integrate new energies and information.  A balance between too much and too fast, as well as too little and too late must be struck.

We already know that the Fire trigon, comprising Aries, Leo and Sagittarius, is associated with and useful in the cultivation of grains, beans, fruits, trees and presumably nuts (at least those that grow on trees). So, investment in planting and/or harvesting these crops is favored during this time. Since these alignments are extremely long-term cycles, more long-term investments in timber, fruit orchards, vineyards and berry crops are beneficial. 

Furthermore, since the historical trends show marked increase in long-distance cultural exchanges under these far-reaching planets, it would seem that import/export and/or blending of local/exotic forms of these products would also be favored. The example of the hybridization of the American chestnut with blight resistant species is especially symbolic of these energies.

It would also seem appropriate to spread the knowledge and practice of biodynamic farming into new areas and markets, as well as bring more diverse cultural ideas and techniques into the biodynamic milieu itself. 

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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The Yew:  Sacred Tree of Transformation and Rebirth

by Glennie Kindred, 2019 Celestial Planting Calendar

The Yew, Taxus baccata, is an ancient tree species that has survived since before the Ice Age and as such as been revered and used by humankind throughout the ages. All races of the Northern Hemisphere, especially the Celts, the Greeks, the Romans and the North American Indians, have an understanding of this unusual and remarkable tree. Because of its longevity and its unique way of growing new trunks from within the original root bole, it has been estimated that some English Yews are as much as 4,000 years old. No wonder the Yew is associated with immortality, renewal, regeneration, everlasting life, rebirth, transformation and access to the Otherworld and our ancestors.

Because it is a slow-growing tree, it has a tight-grained wood, is tough and resilient, and was used in the past for spears, spikes, staves, small hunting bows and eventually the famous longbows of the Middle Ages. The arrows were tipped with poison made from the Yew. The entire tree is poisonous—wood, bark, needles and seed. The only part which isn’t is the fleshy part of the seed. Be aware of the dangerous aspects of the Yew if you handle the tree or work with the wood. It is one of the reasons why it is known as the death tree.

Magically the Yew is used for summoning spirits and any Otherworld communication. It is linked to Samhain (October 31), when entry to the Otherworld is easiest, dreams are most potent and access to the ancestors is most possible. The Yew is ruled by Jupiter and the positive benefits of transformation. According to a modern encyclopaedia of magical herbs, the Yew is feminine, its element is Water and its planet is Saturn. However it seems to me that Pluto is a more appropriate planet as it is the planet of death and change, transformation and rebirth. The Yew connects through the Water element to Scorpio, ruled by Pluto.

In recent years, there has been an upsurge of interest in the Yew. It is possible to make pilgrimages to visit these magnificent trees and touch their awesome connection to ages long ago.

Glennie Kindred is the author of eleven books on Earth wisdom, native plants and trees, and celebrating the Earth’s cycles. She is currently writing a book called Walking with Trees, which comes out in the spring of 2019.

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Meshing Permaculture with Biodynamics

by Linda Harvey, 2019 Celestial Planting Calendar

Permaculture and biodynamics are both forms of “conscious farming,” that is, farming that takes into account not only commodity production, but also consideration of the effects of production on the land, on renewable and non-renewable resources, on neighbourhoods and on social and cultural values. In other words, this is farming that puts all the variables into the equation, not just the ones that serve the bottom line.
Permaculture is more than a set of guidelines for this or that aspect of farming. It is a way of thinking that dovetails nicely with organic farming practices, including biodynamics. However, it can be adapted for pretty much anything: urban properties, business practices, even relationships. 

The ethical underpinnings of permaculture systems are: 

•  Care of the earth; 
•  Care of people; 
•  Sharing of the harvest. 

Superimposed on these values are 12 basic design principles to guide a person’s activity and thinking. The following is a brief explanation of each of these design principles. 

Observe and interact: Understand your ecosystem fully before you make changes to it and carefully observe how these changes affect the system. 

Catch and store energy: Energy is all around us in the form of sun, wind, and water. Harvest gently and use. 
Obtain a yield: Act with clear intentions and goals. Yield includes not only tangible commodities but also intangible ones, such as a sense of satisfaction and a quality of life.  

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: Not only from your neighbors and friends but also from the ecosystem.    

Use and value renewable resources and services: These are the core of your farm, garden or other activity.   
Produce no waste: This principle seems difficult to implement. Some waste is probably inevitable, but a well-planned ecosystem will minimize this. Waste isn’t waste if a use can be found for it—for example, animal manure added to a compost pile is transformed into organic soil nutrients. 

Design from patterns to details: The larger picture needs to be laid out before attending to details.
Integrate rather than segregate: Design your system so that the parts can interact in productive ways. Examples include keyline water management, use of animals in pasture management and companion planting. 

Use small and slow solutions: Rather than launch into a  huge project, make smaller interventions and note the results. 

Use and value diversity: Diversity here means not only diversity of species on your land, but also diversity of projects and systems. For example, if there are several different means for generating electricity, then there is a better chance of coping successfully if there is a loss of any one of them. 

Use edges and value the marginal: An example is the space where two types of habitat merge and support an incredibly diverse collection of organisms that live in either or both habitats. This principle can be applied in designing gardens and orchards. 

Creatively use and respond to change: Change happens, even forests change. Herb and berry patches come and go. This change is normal. Then there are changes in the larger sense—new subdivisions, new regulations about wetlands, even climate change. It is important to observe, accept feedback and react. 

These permaculture design principles are applied to all aspects of land use management, including the construction of buildings, land use planning, water management, soil maintenance, and livestock and crop management. A seasoned permaculture practitioner is expected to have at least some expertise in each of these areas. Some techniques for implementing these 12 principles include the following.

Social permaculture. Permaculture includes consideration of the local community structure, personal interactions and the interface with the larger world. Social permaculture is considered a particularly important component because, if humans are not working in harmony with each other, or are not happy, they tend to leave and the project is likely to fall apart. Many promising enterprises have failed for this reason. 

Observation. The emphasis on observation, taking it slow, and being sensitive to the systems and creatures the farmer is working with, are closely compatible with the biodynamic approach. In my biodynamics course, we were taught about “Goethean observation,” a very stripped down, phenomenological approach in which observations are made without attempting to interpret or judge. While not identical to the permaculture observational style, both procedures lead to practical, reality-based information and insight.

Efficient design / Zone Concept.  In permaculture design, one of the more efficient ways of arranging things on a farm is to place the things done most often or looked after most diligently within the immediate vicinity of the house. This area might contain a kitchen garden, maybe one or more relaxation areas, a heat-lamp facility for baby chicks, a sprout-germinating spot—things that take a lot of fussing.

Keyhole gardening. The keyhole bed is an important element of intensively gardened spaces, especially those close to the house. A short central path surrounded by several beds (a keyhole) forms a unit. Several such units radiating from a center or along a path allow for maximum access with minimum trampling. They also provide lots of edges for diversity and can be oriented towards the Sun to trap heat and light, or downhill to drain cold air and avoid frost traps.

Polyculture. Polycultures are communities of plants which support each other and are encouraged to grow in a configuration where each thrives and where all ecological niches are filled. In this way, they are relatively maintenance free and can be highly productive. Polycultures around fruit trees are common. There might be an understory of berry bushes, a taller and a shorter herb layer, ground cover and a root community, such as bulbs. 

In summary, permaculture is more than a set of guidelines for efficiently conducting agricultural activities. It also recognizes the importance of human and social factors. These techniques can certainly enrich a biodynamic farming or gardening experience. Both approaches have much to offer each other. 

Linda Harvey, is a retired medical doctor, moved to a small farm in eastern Ontario with her husband John. For the past five years, they have used biodynamic and permaculture practices on their farm, gardens and woodlot.

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The Sextile Aspect 

by Gary P. Caton, 2019 Celestial Planting Calendar

At the heart of the Celestial Planting Calendar’s methodology is the discovery by Maria Thun during her extensive research that the Moon mediates the effects of the constellations to Earth through the four classical elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth.  Because there are 12 constellations and four elements, the constellations are grouped into four “trigons.” A trigon consists of three constellations which are classically associated with the same element and are approximately equidistant from each other. 

Thus, it is often (but not always, because of their unequal sizes) the case that when we have a trine aspect between two planets (separated by 120°), they are also in constellations belonging to the same trigon. In addition to the trine, or division of the circle by three, Maria Thun and George Schmidt primarily use the conjunction and opposition aspects, which represent division of the circle by one and two, respectively. 
While it may seem proper to strictly adhere to the methods employed by these respected authorities, based on an understanding of the historical origins of the elements, there is adequate reason for experimenting a little further.  

Around 500 BC, the four elements were proposed as “roots” by the pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles of Acragas. Like later biodynamic pioneers, Empedocles associated the four elements with natural phenomena (sun, earth, sky, and sea). Later, Aristotle took the four qualities described by earlier philosophers (hot, cold, moist and dry) and showed how Empedocles’ four elements changed one into another. For Aristotle, each element had a dominant quality and a secondary quality—i.e., Fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry, or hot becoming dry. When arranged in a square, we see that each element adjacent to another, share a quality, and this introduces a cycle of change via the four seasons. Spring is wet becoming hot (Air), summer is hot becoming dry (Fire) autumn is dry becoming cold (Earth) and winter is cold becoming moist (Water), as in the accompanying figure.

As we see by the triangular symbols used, Air and Fire both share the quality of heat and tend to move upward. Similarly, Earth and Water both share the quality of coolness and tend to settle or move downward. This shared tendency toward a basic direction of movement is where the sextile aspect derives its power. Things going in the same general direction tend to be more cooperative than those going in opposite directions. 

We see this same basic thinking reflected in biodynamic theory in several different ways. For instance, in lecture one of Rudolf Steiner’s Agriculture Course the planets are grouped into two types according to their distance, some being nearer and others being farther from the Sun.  Moon, Venus and Mercury are connected with the forces of reproduction and growth. Steiner is invoking a downward motion when speaking about the planets closest to the Earth. 

He then goes on to say: “Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, working via the silicious nature…opens the plant-being to the wide spaces of the Universe and awakens the senses of the plant-being in such a way as to receive from all quarters of the Universe the forces which are moulded by these distant planets.” Steiner is invoking an upward directed movement when speaking about the planets further from Earth. 

Similarly, he says that Moon, Venus and Mercury are activated by Water and Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are activated by warmth (Fire).  In lecture seven, he describes the preparations of Horn Manure (BD500) and Horn Silica (BD501) as aiding earthbound and skybound energies, respectively. 

The sextile aspect (60°) invokes complimentary trigons which are inherently cooperative, because of their basic directional agreement, being both upward or downward tending. There is evidence of this same thinking in other biodynamic literature. Therefore, the sextile aspect seems like a good candidate for inclusion in the Celestial Planting Calendar. While we may still prefer to work with an opposition or trine, there may not be one of these aspects available to us within the timeframe that our lives afford us for a given activity. In this case, we can use the sextile, particularly if it is between planets which correspond to the trigons and plants we are working with. 

For instance, let’s say we want to schedule a wine-tasting event. These are typically best scheduled on fruit days, with the Moon in front of a constellation of the Fire trigon. An even better scenario would be if the Moon were making a trine to a planet also associated with the Fire/Warmth ether, such as Mercury, Saturn or Pluto. However, if we cannot find a day which suits our schedule and has such a trine, a sextile of the Moon with one of those same planets will suffice. Similarly, we could make use of the Moon in front of a constellation of the Air trigon, particularly if it were making a sextile to a Fire/Warmth planet. In this way, the sextile aspect offers additional harmonious opportunities for working with the cosmic forces.

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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