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© 2009 by Richard Nolle
last revised SEP 30, 2009

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). Also please be aware that, while I never change a forecast once it's published, I do post errata to acknowledge typographical errors and the like.

Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.
-- Henry Ward Beecher

October shapes up to be an active, dramatic slice of the calendar. It’s the first full month in the biennial Earth-Mars close approach cycle that began in September – with all the tension, action, conflict and drama that implies. The Saturn-Uranus opposition is another hold-over from last month, remaining within a few degrees of its September 15 exact alignment all the way into mid-October: social and economic instability are still a major theme this month. Mercury’s intersolar cycle continues as well, until the little planet reaches maximum elongation west of the Sun on the 6th – a sure sign that keeping things straight and on track is high priority and none too easy as October gets underway. And then there’s Jupiter’s station at 17° Aquarius on the 13th, ending the retrograde cycle the giant planet began back in June: technology and social innovation have had their chance, and the clock is fast running down. (For one thing, this looks like a last stand in the current campaign for meaningful health care reform in the US for now.) And then there’s the nominal batch of storm and seismic stress indicators to watch out for. As hazardous as these can be, my sense is that human beings individually and collectively cause the biggest storms and tremors in October . . .

Synodic Cycle of MarsMars turned a corner in the heavens last month, so to speak: the Red Planet’s daily motion through Earth’s sky dropped below its mean motion for the first time since April, 2008. This relative slow-down points to the upcoming Red Planet retrograde, which begins on December 20; and it indicates the beginning of the biennial Mars perigee, as Mars and our home planet move toward their close approach during the full moon Sun-Mars opposition on January 29, 2010. From now until then, Mars gets brighter and bigger in the night sky, culminating in the late January, 2010 perigee. Likewise, all things pertaining to Mars loom larger and larger in human experience during this period: haste, heat, fire, danger and conflict literally and figuratively are more and more on the rise during the Mars Maximum that holds sway from now into late May, 2010.

Determining the beginning and end of one of these Mars Maximum cycles is a bit tricky. With the inferior planets, Mercury and Venus, it’s pretty easy to tell when the close approach phase is active. It stretches from the maximum eastern elongation (evening star apparition) through the retrograde to the maximum western elongation (morning star). With superior planets – those from Mars outward – there’s no similarly obvious astronomical cue. Over the years, I have experimented with using the geocentric Sun-Mars squares (90° and 270° arcs) as delimiters for the Mars Maximum cycle. I’ve also tried the heliocentric Earth-Mars squares. Nothing really quite fit. At last, after some years observing and researching it, I am persuaded that a superior planet’s close approach cycle effectively begins when its daily apparent motion drops below its mean value, extends through the retrograde, and continues until daily apparent motion surpasses the mean daily motion again. (See the animation to get a view of the cycle as a whole.)

I hasten to add that it’s not enough just to use the mean daily motion for a superior planet’s synodic cycle. That’s too rough a measure, because it fails to take into account the relationship between Earth and the planet in question. Take Mars, for example. It makes one orbit in about the time Earth makes two. Mars’ mean daily apparent motion for the entire cycle is 0° 31’. However, for roughly half of the Mars cycle, it is physically closer to Earth and therefore moving relatively slowly through our sky. During the other half of the Mars cycle, the Red Planet is on the far side of the Sun from Earth and therefore has a faster apparent motion. There are other factors affecting the daily apparent motion of Mars, such as its perihelion (close approach to the Sun, the faster end of its orbit) and aphelion (the opposite point); as well as Earth’s perihelion and aphelion.

To adjust for these variables, I calculate the mean daily apparent motion of the superior planet from its conjunction with the Sun to its solar opposition, and from opposition back to conjunction. Each of these halves of the cycle has its own mean daily motion. In the case of Mars, for example, its current close approach cycle began on September 23, 2009, when the Red Planet’s daily motion dropped below its mean value (0° 34’) for the period from the December 5, 2008 Sun-Mars conjunction to the January 29, 2010 Sun-Mars opposition. The cycle continues until May 25, 2010, when the daily apparent motion of Mars finally gets back up to the mean daily motion (0° 30’)for the period from the January 29, 2010 Sun-Mars opposition to the February 4, 2011 Sun-Mars conjunction. What to expect?

The September 6, 2007 Israel air attack on Syria’s nuclear facility came just three days after Mars’ daily motion dropped to below its mean value for the period between the October 23, 2006 Sun-Mars conjunction and the December 24, 2007 Sun-Mars opposition. (The mean daily motion for this period was 0° 34’ of arc.) The September 11, 2001 terrorist air attacks on the US came less than a week before Mars’ daily motion finally came back up to its mean value (0° 33’) for the period between the June 13, 2001 Sun-Mars opposition and the August 10, 2002 Sun-Mars conjunction. The Mars Maximum now underway began the same day (September 23) that the US, Great Britain and France exposed and denounced Iran’s secret nuclear facility – to which Iran responded within days by launching a barrage of ballistic missiles in what was termed an exercise unrelated to the nuclear program controversy. Clearly, these Mars Maximum cycles promise saber-rattling – and threaten worse.

Mars cycles of this sort happen only once every couple years or so. They're not unlike the intersolar cycles of Mercury and Venus, in that they emphasize the nature of the planet in question during that portion of its orbit where it passes closest to Earth. So the high Mars cycle that began in September 2009 and concludes in May 2010 indicates a period of elevated tension and conflict, the kind of atmosphere that cultivates inflamed passions, hot tempers and rash, even violent action - of the criminal and military type, from terrorist atrocities to large scale military conflict.

The last such Mars cycle was accompanied, as noted, by Israel’s bombing of a Syrian nuclear facility; it also coincided with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, etc. Before that came the Mars Super Maximum of 2003 (as the insurgency phase got underway in Gulf War II). The latter Mars alignment was historic, the closest pass between Earth and Mars since Neanderthal Man. It was chief among the factors that led to my 2003 World Forecast prediction that the Persian Gulf War II would break out that year, and then get really messy that summer: "Whoever thinks a swiftly concluded Persian Gulf War II settles the world into a Pax Americana early in 2003 is tragically mistaken. This late summer super Mars thing says peace and quiet remains far away, that danger and conflict are close at hand."

Apart from the direct impact of the fires, clashes, crashes and explosions that are par for the course under this sort of Mars close pass, some such incidents can raise the possibility of a disruption in the oil and natural gas supply chain - which in turn can shock the financial markets and set investors and institutions in a mad dash for the exits. (India, Pakistan and Afghanistan fall right under the Mars meridian line for this alignment, while the Rocky Mountains from Canada into the US (along with western Mexico) are on the Mars anti-meridian: these are some but not all of the focal zones for the alignment.)

SEP 15, 2009 Saturn-Uranus OppositionWe’ll have plenty of time to watch the headlines and observe the Mars Maximum correlates as they develop. Just remember that they don’t develop only ‘out there’ in the world at large. They’re also alive in us, in the people around us. This is a time to be safety conscious, to get a grip on the animal spirits within and channel them productively rather than letting them loose on anyone who gets your goat. If people are cranky, if you’re short tempered too, realize that this is just the nature of the time/space field for now, and do your best to ride it out with as little drama and damage as possible.

It doesn’t help that last month’s Saturn-Uranus opposition is still hanging in there within a few degrees of exact well into middle October, around the time of the Moon’s conjunction with Venus and Saturn on the 16th, at the start of the Orionid meteor shower. I’ve already described this alignment’s historic connection with socio-economic instability and influenza epidemics. I’m a bit puzzled at how mild the response to the September 15 exact opposition of these two planets has been, in terms of major financial markets around the world. True, it’s quite possible that the downturn has begun and we just haven’t recognized it as such yet. Look at the Dow for September: the peak was on the 22nd, and it’s gone down since then. Look at the Nasdaq for September, and the S&P: same thing. Likewise the FTSE, the Dax, the Hang Seng and the Nikkei: same thing, give or take a few days. We may have topped out and started down the week of the Saturn-Uranus opposition after all. Look at the FDIC request for advance payments from the banks to cover its deficit this week. The March 6 turnaround in the markets didn’t happen in a day, but it started on a day. We’ll see . . .

Meanwhile, that "whiff of revolution" is clearly in the air lately. You can plainly see it in the increasingly ugly polarization of the American body politic, which is now afflicted with death threats (to the President, to Gramma, to sick people); with armed critics showing up at President Obama’s town hall meetings, 'Tea Party' mobs, etc. And then there’s the swine flu epidemic, which is gathering momentum too. The thing to remember is that the current Saturn-Uranus opposition remains within a few degrees of exact until about mid-October, and then makes two final passes in 2010. Also, look back at the 1918-1920 swine flu epidemic: same Saturn-Uranus opposition then, same Mars Maximum too. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re still in the early phase.

Mercury's Synodic CycleIt’s unlikely we’ll see things straight until after the year’s third Mercury Max (intersolar) cycle ends with the little planet’s maximum western elongation on October 6. I covered this in detail in last month’s forecast, so I’ll refer you to it if you need some backgrounding. The animation in this month’s forecast may help put the phenomenon in perspective.

We still need to be ready for a surplus of 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. Above all, remember this: assuming that other people will be competent and responsible is always risky. It’s practically insane during a Mercury Max cycle. Follow up and follow through, or just stay home and out of the way.

If you followed last month’s forecast, you may recall that I spoke of a relative easing of geophysical disturbances (as compared to the last couple of months, with their SuperMoons and eclipses). Even so, I cautioned about "elevated storm, flooding and seismic risks (including magnitude 5+ earthquakes and volcanic eruptions), particularly within a few days either side of the full moon on the 4th, the new moon and southward lunar equatorial crossing on the 18th, and the south lunar declination extreme on the 25th."

OCT 4, 2009 Full MoonSure enough, there was the magnitude 7 killer quake just off the coast of Java on the 3rd: scores of people killed, well over 100 injured, and tens of thousands of buildings severely damaged. (Hurricane Jimena was plowing through Mexico at the same time, and northeast India experienced its strongest earthquake in years.) More recently, and closer to home, came the devastating floods that swept homes and people away in the wake of an onslaught of bad weather that began late on Sunday the 20th. Georgia took the brunt of the storms and deluge, but much of the southeastern US was affected. In the last of these storm and seismic risk periods, tropical storm Ketsana savaged the Philippines on Friday the 25th with heavy rains and massive flooding, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless, and hundreds of people dead and missing in its wake. This was followed by a pair of South Pacific killer quakes and a tsunami on the 29th . . .

Although there won’t be another SuperMoon or eclipse until the end of the year, early October opens with a geophysical stress window of its own. It starts with the Moon’s northward crossing of the celestial equator on the 2nd, followed by the full moon on the 4th, and the peak northern lunar declination on the 9th. I figure this period of enhanced storm and seismic risk (magnitude 5+ earthquakes and volcanic eruptions) will extend all the way from the 1st through the 10th. Peak vulnerability appears to be within a few days either side of the 4th. This is a string of celestial factors, the effects of which are global in scope. So, no matter where you are during the indicated periods, it’s a good idea to at least be ready for inclement weather – maybe worse, if you’re in a seismically active region at the time. That said, the full moon in particular has an astro-locality map which suggests some zones of special vulnerability around the 4th.

These include the US-Mexican Gulf Coast, and the central part of North America (roughly along the longitude of Mexico City to Winnipeg). The same arc sweeps down through western Asia, from western China into eastern India. A horizon arc sweeps through west Africa and western Europe in the western hemisphere, and through the South Pacific and New Zealand in the eastern. Indonesia, the Indochina peninsula and the western coast of South America (as well as the northwestern third of Argentina) also bear watching, falling as they do under a Mars horizon arc at the time of the full Moon.

OCT 18, 2009 New MoonMid-October gets a run of geocosmic activation as well, stretching from the 15th through the 22nd, but centered around the full moon on the 18th. And at month’s end comes another storm and seismic signal, associated with the Moon’s northward crossing of the celestial equator on the 29th, merging with the full moon on November 2nd. I want to emphasize that none of this month’s Earth-Moon-Sun dynamics rise to the level of a SuperMoon or an eclipse (or a SuperMoon eclipse, like the one coming in December). That’s no excuse for ignoring these lesser factors, inasmuch as strong storms and moderate to severe seismic activity always pose a risk to people and their interests. So do keep a sharp weather eye on October’s geophysical stress windows.

In closing, I’m once again obliged to remind you you to be prepared for more "Freaky Fridays" this month – the day US regulators seize failing banks. I know it’s fashionable to believe that the so-called "Great Recession" – the longest US economic downturn since official statistics were kept – is over or nearly over. But what I see, as I’ve said before, looks like a "W or double-W" recovery curve. September’s Saturn-Uranus opposition and Pluto direct station look like a convincing reversal point in the first up-leg of the W. We may be only half-way through this thing, at this point. With the FDIC already about to run out of money to cover failing banks, contingency plans are being drawn up to secure funds from the banks themselves to cover the banks that fail. This borrowing from Peter to pay Paul stuff does not inspire confidence. Which is why it might not hurt to have a contingency plan of your own, in case your bank’s ATM runs dry someday.

As I’ve said, this isn’t an ordinary recession: it’s a turning point in history comparable to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the system of finance capitalism that enabled it. The old order is frantically printing money, creating credit and ginning up one bubble after another to try and preserve the status quo. At some point the bill for the bail-outs comes due, the Emperor’s clothes are seen for what they really are . . .

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