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©2003 by Richard Nolle
last revised UT 23:46 NOV 29, 2003

If you were expecting some kind of sun sign nonsense, forget it. This is real astrology. See the section above. And if you need help deciphering the astrological glyphs in the graphics accompanying this article, see Astroglyphs: Astrological Symbols Guide. Please note: this forecast is expressed in terms of Universal Time (UT).

Don't worry about the world coming to an end today.
It's already tomorrow in Australia.

-- Charles Schulz

DEC 8 Full MoonA SuperMoon, Mars crossing Earth's equatorial plane, and Mercury coming to an apparent standstill in the heavens (and then going retrograde): that's about it for notable celestial markers this month. Well, almost: Jupiter holds forth within a degree of its January 3 retrograde station from December 9 onward, and Uranus reenters Pisces on the 30th. Which mostly adds up to paint a picture of 2003 going out like a lamb. Heaven knows we could stand a relatively quiet month. And that's largely what we'll get, with the exception of some perilous times around the middle and end of December and within a few days either way of the 23rd. Not a whole lot of bang, but as for the whimper . . .

The one cautionary note that carries through the whole month is associated with Uranus transiting in the late Aquarius-early Pisces zone. The last time this happened, as I've indicated previously, coincided with the Spanish flu - a pandemic that started small and mild in the spring of 1918 and then went on to kill upwards of forty million people around the globe when it came back with a vengeance six months later. This time around - late 2002 into early 2004 - has so far seen the outbreak of SARS, several Norwalk virus incidents, a couple of hepatitis A outbreaks, and an ominous quick start to the 2003-2004 flu season - to name just a few of the recent epidemiological highlights. Expecting December to bring more of the same, preventive health measures make especially good sense now.

I hate to be repetitious, let alone sounding like a public service announcement, but this is not your ordinary flu season. It's more like your great grandfather's worldwide flu pandemic, so don't take it too lightly. You know the drill: eat, rest and exercise right, wash your hands frequently, avoid infectious people and places as much as possible - and think about a flu shot. There's way more out there than just a flu, so don't get complacent. And remember: this carries through into early 2004, since Uranus doesn't leave this critical zone until March.

We've come a long way since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and the last time Uranus transited the Aquarius-Pisces cusp. That's the good news, but it's the bad news too. Today, much can be done to treat the victims of infectious disease. But the same advanced medical technology that treats illness is also used to create bio-weapons, and in either case there's no place on Earth that's beyond the reach of an epidemic. So be vigilant, be proactive, and stay as strong and healthy as you can - always of course, but especially now and for the next few months.

A whole string of storms and seismic disturbances will likely make headlines from late on the 1st through late on the 11th. The Moon's northward equatorial crossing on the 3rd kicks it off, the full moon at 16 Gemini on the 8th and the lunar north declination extreme on the 10th keep it going. Strong storms with high wind and heavy precipitation are on tap (along with concomitant flooding, mudslides, etc.), together with moderate to severe earthquakes (Richter 5 and up) and volcanic eruptions. I'm not looking for the kind of thing that really rocks the world this time around - that's more likely later in the month - but it's not a bad idea to have your foul weather gear and emergency kit handy just in case. If traveling, allowing extra time for weather-related delays would be wise.

DEC 17 Mercury Sation (Retrograde)After nearly a week of relatively normal weather and seismic activity, another uptick in the natural disaster quotient is likely between the 16th and very early on the 18th, in association with the Moon's southward equatorial crossing on the 17th. Again, I'm not expecting anything approaching apocalyptic proportions. However, this particular risk factor looks more intense that the longer one earlier this month. A flurry of weather-related accidents appears likely this time around, in view of the Mars equatorial crossing and Mercury station happening on the 17th. If you do what you can to lessen your vulnerability to bad weather and moderate to severe earthquakes or volcanic eruptions (if you're in or plan to visit somewhere subject to such risks), then you should be fine.

At least, risks of natural hazards like storms and temblors are fairly predictable, which simplifies planning and preparation. Less predictable are risks associated with human irrationality - or worse, malevolent intent. With Mercury doing its retrograde station on the 17th, just as Mars makes its northward equatorial crossing, there'll be plenty of inattention and human error on the one hand, plus outright hostility on the other. Think security during this Mars and Mercury melange, and you'll come out ahead for it. This means be aware of tendencies toward haste and recklessness - in yourself and in others. If you rely on other people being safe, responsible and courteous, you're putting yourself in major harm's way. Cool off, calm down, steer clear of places where trouble is likely to strike. Avoid conflict where possible - and if you can't avoid it, keep your guard up and give it your best shot. (On a more positive note, expect some truly inspiring athletic performances around mid-December.)

At the personal level, the period around the 17th (give or take a few days) is fraught with potential for arguments and accidents. Tools, machinery and weapons are always safe only when used responsibly and carefully. (There'll be plenty of "if it bleeds, it leads" headlines and breaking news from about the 14th through the 19th: fires and crashes galore.) Irresponsibility and carelessness being hallmarks of a time like this means danger enough. When you add in hot tempers and short fuses plus misunderstandings and miscalculations, you can pretty well figure on a crime wave of the violent variety. With a little luck and the Mercury station in effect, some of these bozos will commit a stupid criminal mistake and get themselves caught before they hurt anyone.

At the social level, violent potential of the sort I see as prevalent from about the 14th through the 19th means not just collective threats and posturing, but military and paramilitary strikes against various and sundry "enemies of the state," or "infidels" or whatever other rationalization serves to excuse murder when it's wholesale. A good time to be as far from the line of fire as possible, or else swathed in Kevlar. Bullets by the truckload, bombs by the ton, RPGs for everyone and mortars all around. Thank heaven it's just a short outburst, and the last big one for months at that. With Mercury going retrograde, maybe the bad guys will be the ones who make the stupid mistake: the suicide bomber connects the wrong wire and - oops, there goes a terrorist neighborhood.

Mercury's Synodic CycleSpeaking of Mercury's retrograde, you've no doubt heard its reputation: a time when every mistake that can be made is, when everything that can possibly go wrong does. That's a bit exaggerated and certainly one-sided, but it lets you know to get ready for what will surely be a silly season of sorts. The retrograde - a time when, as seen from Earth, Mercury appears to move backwards through the heavens - starts with Mercury coming to an apparent standstill at 13 Capricorn on the 17th.. The little planet doesn't resume its normal apparent motion until it reaches 26 Sagittarius on January 6th. But I must say, after observing and studying the matter for more than 30 years now, that the actual period of its retrograde is only a part - albeit a large one - of the very special Mercury phenomenon in effect at times like this.

It's actually a cycle that begins with Mercury's maximum east elongation, and continues through the retrograde station, through Mercury's inferior conjunction with the Sun, through the direct station and all the way to the maximum west elongation. Basically, this entails the period during its orbit when Mercury as seen from Earth travels in front of the plane of the Sun, passes between Earth and Sun, and then crosses behind the plane of the Sun. The retrograde period, when Mercury appears to reverse its normal apparent motion, is only the most visible sign of this larger cycle: the passage of Mercury in front of the plane of the Sun as seen from Earth. A more accurate term for this notion of an extended Mercury retrograde might be "intersolar" Mercury, referring to the little planet's passage between us and the Sun as seen from Earth during this cycle.

December's intersolar Mercury cycle begins on the 9th, as Mercury reaches maximum eastern elongation. It continues through the entire retrograde, from the station on December 17 to the station on January 6. And it doesn't end until Mercury's maximum western elongation on January 17. The Mercury-Sun inferior conjunction of December 27, when Earth and Sun line up with Mercury in the middle at 5 Capricorn, is bound to be a kind of peak in this cycle - give or take a few days.

Mercury-Sun Inferior ConjunctionCommunication and transportation are key vulnerabilities during the December 9 - January 17 Mercury intersolar cycle. Any system of exchange and distribution is at risk, from highways to shipping lines to air traffic to electrical grids to computer networks. Human error is the predominant cause for concern throughout this period, the primary reason things crash and clog and just generally screw up. But bad weather is likely to be a contributing factor, especially around December 9-11, 16-18, 20-26 and from the 29th on into January 1st.

While poor planning is a good part of the reason why networks and systems go down during the intersolar Mercury cycle, nefarious schemes will play a role as well. Computer criminals, email viruses and Trojans, DOS (Denial Of Service) attacks: they'll all fray nerves, crash systems and make headlines December 9 - January 17. People who attempt to steal, divert or just plain vandalize transportation, communication and distribution network resources will be at it full-tilt during this cycle. Some will get caught due to their own slip-ups - Murphy's Law cuts both ways, after all. But many will get off Scot-free. Identity theft and hacker attacks are the crime du jour, so get your defensive systems in good order before it all hits the fan.

A little closer to home, figure that this intersolar Mercury means you're likely not at your best when it comes to planning, keeping track of things, organizing your thoughts and getting them across. Double-check everything, have Plans B, C and D etc. ready just in case. Don't just assume that your messages get through, or that they're understood as intended. Follow up on everything: tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told them. (Even then, somebody somewhere along the line will look up and say "huh?").

This intersolar Mercury phase is excellent for reviewing things, gathering and organizing records, delving into background and historical archives generally. Finding where things went off the track and then setting things right again: that's what this kind of cycle is good for. Look for what's lost, straighten out misunderstandings and miscommunications: there's so much material to work with, after all.

At least some of the tie-ups afflicting transportation, communication and distribution systems during this month's Mercury intersolar phase will have a weather component, as I mentioned earlier. And this is especially true of the December 20-26 period, which is fraught with potential for strong storms with high winds and heavy precipitation; not to mention moderate to severe seismic activity (including Richter 5+ quakes and volcanic eruptions).

DEC 23 New Moon SuperMoonCentered as it is around the new SuperMoon at 1 Capricorn on the 22nd (less than 24 hours after the December lunar perigee, and less than 12 hours before the Moon's monthly south declination maximum), this has every indication of being the most turbulent storm and seismic cycle of the month. Have your foul weather gear handy and your foul weather plans in order. Allow extra time for weather delays if traveling, or expecting someone who is. As for the seismic risk, well, it goes with the territory or it doesn't. If you're in, or plan to be in, someplace subject to seismic upheaval, then count yourself lucky if dishes rattling is the extent of it during the December 20-26 risk window.

The last of the month's increased geophysical stress cycles centers around the Moon's December 30 northward crossing of the celestial equator. In effect from the 29th into early on the 1st of January, this is another indication of greater than normal risk for strong storms with high winds and heavy precipitation on the meteorological front; plus moderate to severe (Richter 5 and up) earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on the seismic front. Watch the headlines, you'll see what I mean.

Last but not least, there's the January 3 Jupiter station. Although this doesn't happen until next year, the Giant Planet is within a degree of its retrograde station point for most of December. Among other things, this is a sign of labor unions deciding they won't be pushed around anymore. It means strikes, and economic disruption as a result; followed by negotiated settlements that satisfy neither side, labor least of all. (But unions will regroup to fight another day, in the spring of '04.) The health care and public service sectors are a focus for this, along with the food chain from farm and ranch to grocery store. There's never a good time to be sick, but December and January may be especially bad due to shortages of health care workers as well as medical and hygiene supplies - not to mention a surplus of illness going around. Another round of health care cost increases . . . legal delays and red tape.

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