EHLC Blog
Planting Calendar Aspects

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. 
www.dreamastrologer.com

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2020: 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 http://gregoryrozek.com/en/retrogradeplanets/.  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. 
www.dreamastrologer.com

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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. 
www.dreamastrologer.com

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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.   www.glenniekindred.co.uk

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