There used to be a time, way back when, when the ideal time of life was to be ‘in your prime.’ I love that word, prime. As a noun, it is defined as ‘the most flourishing stage or state.’ We were thought to be in our ‘prime’ when we had arrived at the peak of our talent and had, wisdom, skill, ability, and the experience to use it with discrimination and highly developed instinct. Now, when would you think this ‘prime’ occurred? In our thirties? Forties? There is such a thing as being in the ‘prime’ of youth, but that’s a different thing entirely. No, this ‘prime’ we’re talking about was only approached in our late forties and beyond. The thought of a 35 year old being in his or her prime would have been laughable.
What happened to us? As a culture, we are profoundly and obsessively youth-oriented. We are expected to flower in our twenties and contribute until, oh, let’s say 45, (interestingly, when the Sun makes a semi-square to itself by progression) and then it is assumed we will gradually and gracefully drop off the radar after that. We are supposed to fade away politely away over the years, and become more silent with the passage of time, more remote, less relevant, withdrawing into the final silence.
I blame the Beatles. Well, no, not John, Paul, George and Ringo directly, but their ascendance with the Uranus/Pluto conjunction in Virgo in the sixties. Suddenly, four young men in their early twenties ruled the world, and no one wanted to be on the other side of thirty. Don’t trust anyone over thirty, get rid of the old structures, get rid of the crusty outdated authority figures and everything they represent (well, okay, this is not such a bad one), out with the old and in with the new. Most people don’t think about it, but Virgo is associated with youth, because of its Mercury rulership. (Virgo rising is famous for looking young well into the golden years.) Virgo is the fecund maid, young and full of potential. The Uranus/Pluto conjunction in an Earth-Mercury sign was about the explosion of youth. Add that to the Neptune in Libra generation coming of age, and ‘All You Need is Love.’
And then there is Saturn, neglected and ignored, mumbling in the background, “Yeah but–maybe a safe place to live and something to eat and some practical ideas for the future would be nice, too.” As with all conjunctions, they can go to extremes and react in very unstable ways, which is exactly what this conjunction did. Pluto/Uranus is a highly unstable energy, a cocktail of destruction. One shake too many and you’re done for. Exuberance and liberation turned to revolution and before long there was blood on the streets and on our hands. We wanted change, but we threw the baby out with the bathwater. What happened? John Lennon knew. “You say you want a revolution, well, you know, we all want to change the world…You say you got a real solution, well, you know, we’d all love to see the plan…” The Plan. No one asked Saturn. The thing that people don’t realize about Saturn is that he’s full of plans. He knows how to get things done in the best way possible. When Saturn is free of fear, when he isn’t clinging to the crusty old past, when he is at his best, Saturn is the Master Builder, the great architect of the world. For that, you need plans.
Now Uranus and Pluto are squaring, the first major hard aspect between the two since the sixties. They are squaring in cardinal signs, not the mutable all-over -nervousness of Virgo, but in Aries and Capricorn, both set in their own ways. And we have this dilemma again. We want change. God knows we need change. People are still starving, the Earth is turning into a cesspool, and the people in charge are more worried about who is in charge than the problems we face. Uranus in Aries says, “Throw it all out. We can begin again, at a higher level.” Last time, Pluto in Virgo was saying, “Yeah, let’s burn it all down and start clean.” This time, Pluto in Capricorn is saying, “Let’s throw out what needs to go, but let’s see if there are some good things intact (Cap is all about quality–ask anyone with Venus in Cap.). “ Uranus says, “No, I have no time for that. Onwards and upwards,” while Pluto digs in his heels. Make no mistake about it, we are still dealing with a dangerous cocktail. But this time, let’s hope that we are not making napalm.
I’m a great believer in squares. Whatever you have accomplished in your life, wherever you have achieved something, I’ll bet there is a square in your chart that helped you get there. Squares deal with a specific issue that needs to be worked out. With Uranus/Pluto, we are likely to burn things down again, but not without the essential foundation. Pluto says, “Wait. Once we’ve got rid of the dead weight and we know where we want to go, I’ll have a plan for us. We can rebuild.”
Capricorn has everything to do with what is Prime. Pluto in Capricorn is rooting for Prime. The power of wisdom, experience, age.
Now, of course, we all know folks who are not the best example of the wisdom of age. Many of them are in my family. What we are talking about is consciousness, of course, being conscious of our experience, and taking responsibility for our own growth. We can grow, become aware, continue to learn and to develop our skills, or we can stop individuating (if we ever did), fall back on the tribe and tribal expectations, and dwindle into irrelevancy.
In astrology, there is a time when we come to a critical crossroads in life–a time when we can decide to continue to grow or to fall into the abyss. I call this, “The Renaissance Decade.” We have a chance to give birth to ourselves anew–to use what we know, to reinvent ourselves, to contribute and connect to the great flow of life, or we can resist all challenges to change. Every experience in our lives leads up to this moment. Everything before this moment was just grist for the mill. A process of growing up, at best. Now we act.
The Renaissance Decade begins with our Chiron return. In fact, if we are aware, it often begins a little before that, with the progressed Sun square to itself at around 45 and the fourth Jupiter return at 48. But by the Chiron return, we need to ask ourselves about legacy–what am I here to do? What do I really know? What do I want to leave behind?
The next ten years after the Chiron return are about the challenges of Mastery. About living life from a pure and genuine core. About self-knowledge and the passing on of knowledge. We are here to refine and rebuild. In this decade, we are hit, one after the other, by major astrological movements. We are faced with important questions at the Chiron return at age 50. After that, spread throughout the decade at intervals, we have a progressed lunar return, another nodal return, another Saturn return, and on top of all that, the progressed Sun sextilling itself at age sixty. Each one has it’s challenges and its rewards. Each one requires us to be brave and honest with ourselves. It ends with a flowering of new potential that we have never before experienced. If we do it right, if we pass the tests, we become the Master Builders. We are in our Prime.
Next time, we will take a look at each of these steps in the Renaissance Decade.