If you were expecting some kind of sun sign nonsense, forget about it. This is real astrology for the real world. If it's real astrology for yourself that you want, you can get it by phone or in print. 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).
Look before, or you'll find yourself behind.
-- Benjamin Franklin
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan is a tragic example of the Mars effect which has run rampant the past couple of months, per my forecasts last year. This trend toward "extra strife and danger" peaked in December as noted in my forecast for that month - only a few days before Mrs. Bhutto was killed on December 27, as it turned out. But with Mars still retrograde, this is far from over. Those "fires, crashes, clashes and explosions" my forecast spoke of as the signature of the Mars perigee will still be only a heartbeat away throughout January, as the Red Planet retrograde holds sway through the Mars direct station on the 30th. While the peak Mars zones for this particular perigee, as described in last month's forecast, run "through Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Indian Ocean in the Old World, and the western US and Canada in the New," you don't have to be in a zone of maximum risk to be endangered. This is a planetary phenomenon, so stay alert and vigilant no matter where you are. The "inflamed passions, hot tempers and rash, even violent action" I described as emblematic of Mars' close approach remain a particular danger this month; also, as I wrote, a greater than usual risk for "accidents in general, and in this case with a special focus on mines, dangerous chemicals and other noxious substances, and the petroleum and nuclear industries."
While the danger zone lasts all month, the beginning and end of January look especially risky, what with Mars opposing Pluto on the 2nd and the Red Planet's direct station on the 30th. Just be aware of the heightened potential for violence, irritability, haste, accidents and conflict, and act accordingly. And remember too that these things operate at the collective as well as individual levels. One-on-one hostility or criminality is one manifestation of this Mars effect, but so is terrorism and military conflict. Between geopolitical developments of this sort, and accidents and explosions in the energy production and transport infrastructure, January could see sudden price shocks in crude oil, natural gas and gasoline, as well as in other commodities (e.g. precious metals). I can't see oil failing to cross the $100-a-barrel threshold before this Mars cycle is out.
For most of January, Saturn remains within a degree of its December 19 retrograde station. This marked the beginning of the Ringed Planet's cycle of apparent backwards motion through the sky, which lasts until May 3, 2008. Watch for all saturnine phenomena to grow in prominence over these next few months, with a peak late in February, as the Sun and Saturn align at opposite ends of the heavens with Earth in the middle. What's saturnine? It's the very opposite of former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's iconic "irrational exuberance": things slow down and sober up, get heavy or serious or sad; turn glum, morose or melancholy. I figure that most of January has that rather somber tone to it. You want to get on the good side of bad news if you aim to have some chuckles this month. This is happening in Virgo, so it's probably not a bad idea to get your flu shot now, if you haven't already done so.
Mars and Saturn aren't the only planets retrograde this month. The first intersolar Mercury phase of the new year begins with the little planet reaching maximum eastern elongation on the 22nd, includes the January 28-February 19 retrograde and the February 6 inferior conjunction with the Sun, and ends with Mercury's greatest western elongation on March 3.
If you're a regular, you know the drill. If not, the key idea is that all things Mercurial are crucial during the intersolar Mercury phase; infrastructure, commerce, information, communication and transport being prime examples. Absent careful investigation and planning, and conscientious follow-through, all such things are apt to go off track during these cycles. Mercury's intersolar phase is a time for focus, concentration, planning, follow-through and communication - all the qualities of the active and involved mind, in short. In case you haven't noticed, most people are not especially alert and focused most of the time. When this kind of sleepwalking runs into Mercury's intersolar cycle, with its focus on mental acuity, it doesn't take long for things to go awry. If you're sharp and focused and alert, you can avoid a certain amount of this mess. In fact, you can even prosper by concentrating on tasks that center on thought, planning and communication. But you'll still have to dodge all the chaos created by the people who are sleepwalking. So be ready. Otherwise, it's silly season out there, a whole Murphy's Law festival.
Among the things to watch for during the above January 22-March 3 Mercury intersolar cycle: strikes and other disruptions affecting transportation and communication (e.g. postal, phone, mass transit, trucking, airline, shipping, dock and warehouse workers, teachers and all manner of media). Weather both terrestrial and solar (including geomagnetic storms) can play a part in the kind of breakdowns described here, but human effort (and sometimes malicious action) is a part of the mix as well. Power failures due to infrastructure breakdown and computer network disruptions caused by hacker attacks, software vulnerabilities and the like are also just a crossed wire or a keystroke away from a major mess at these times.
With no SuperMoons and no eclipses, I'm not expecting the worst of the worst in the way of storm and seismic risk this month. But there are still a few geophysical warning signs worth mentioning, in the way of a higher than normal potential for strong storms with damaging winds and heavy precipitation, as well moderate-to-severe seismic activity (magnitude 5+ earthquakes and volcanic eruptions). The first such risk window is in effect from the 5th through the 15th, with the greatest potential coming around the 6th, 8th (the new moon) and 13th. By far the biggest risk of damaging storms with high winds and heavy precipitation, as well as moderate to severe seismic activity (magnitude 5+ earthquakes and volcanic eruptions), appears to be the period from the 18th through the 27th - and most especially around the 19th (a lunar perigee at the Moon's north declination extreme) and the 22nd (the full moon). These are the times to keep a weather eye on the sky, to have your emergency kit ready to hand, and to make allowances for weather-related hazards and delays if traveling or expecting someone who is. It's a big planet, and chances are most of us will have the luxury of witnessing this part of the December forecast as spectators, rather than being personally caught up in the hazards of dangerous storms or seismic upheaval. But do be prepared, just in case.
SPECIAL FEATURE: This month's birthdays of the famous and infamous (with astrological birth charts)