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©2011 by Richard Nolle
last revised AUG 31, 2011

If you were expecting some kind of sun sign nonsense, forget about it. This is real astrology for the real world, not some mystical mumbo-jumbo word salad. 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.

Take hold of the future or the future will take hold of you -- be futurewise.
-- Patrick Dixon

Mercury's Synodic CycleThere are three major themes in the heavens this month: the wrap-up of the Mercury Max phase, the intensification of the Uranus-Pluto square, and the return of the SuperMoon alignment after a hiatus of over five months. Let’s take them one at a time, to the extent that it’s possible to unravel September’s skeins of destiny . . .

The Mercury Max cycle that began back on July 20, when the little planet reached maximum elongation east of the Sun (its evening star apparition, concludes this month on the 3rd, when Mercury attains its maximum elongation west of the Sun (Mercury as morning star). It’s a cycle that included the August 3-26 Mercury retrograde of astrological legend, which is mostly a bunch of gibberish promulgated by people who don’t understand the celestial reality of the Mercury Max cycle. If the Mercury Wretch enthusiasts were right, everything that could go wrong would have, during the August 3-26 retrograde of the innermost planet. Here’s the real deal:

Being closest to the Sun, Mercury goes between Earth and Sun more than any other planet; several times a year in fact, including the infamous Mercury retrogrades of astrological legend. While most astrologers pay a fair amount of attention to Mercury's retrograde, few realize that it's only a part of the more fundamental intersolar phase in the orbital interaction between Mercury and Earth, as they both orbit around the Sun. Since this is so little understood in astrology today, it’s worth emphasizing . . .

Mercury Max begins when the little Sun-grazer reaches its maximum elongation east of the Sun - its evening star phase. This happens when Mercury has come 'round to the same side of the Sun as Planet Earth, and is relatively near us. The little planet is then pulling up to pass Earth on the inside track, as it were; catching up to us from behind and then passing between us and the Sun. (This catching up is in fact the cause of the so-called Mercury retrograde.) Just as it catches up with us, Mercury passes directly between Earth and the Sun. This is Mercury's inferior conjunction with the Sun. (If the alignment is exact in right ascension and declination, the little dot that is Mercury is actually seen to transit across the face of the Sun.) After the inferior conjunction, Mercury continues pulling ahead of us until it reaches its greatest elongation west of the Sun (its morning star phase), at which point the little planet is headed toward the far side of our parent star. Between these two extremes, the greatest east and west elongations, comes the fabled Mercury retrograde period of astrological lore.

It’s worth noting that with the inferior planets (those inside Earth’s orbit; namely Mercury and Venus), the closest approach to Earth coincides with the inferior (retrograde) conjunction with the Sun. With the superior planets (those outside Earth’s orbit), the closest approach to Earth coincides with the planet’s (retrograde) solar opposition. Clearly astrological doctrine regarding planetary retrogrades is completely unthinking. Rather than being weakened or debilitated in some way, a retrograde planet is in fact bigger and brighter in our sky, and closer to our home planet. Not unlike a SuperMoon, in that respect . . . Accordingly, Mercury Max is a peak Mercury experience, with the little planet shining brighter than usual as the evening star at the beginning of the intersolar phase.

What I have termed the Mercury Max cycle is a way of putting the Earth-Sun-Mercury relationship into a perspective that reflects real-sky, observational astronomy; the dynamics of our solar system as seen from our home planet perch – which is what astrology was, back in the time when it was astronomy. Look up in the sky over the indicated period, and you will see the phenomena described above. This perspective replaces the stilted, removed-from-reality practice of looking not at the sky, but at an ephemeris: first to see when Mercury comes to the degree at which it will later makes its direct station, and second when it reaches the degree at which it will later make its retrograde station; and then referring to the overlap between these two dates and the lesser included Mercury retrograde dates as the "shadow" and "storm" phases of the retrograde. (Some astrologers don’t use the "storm" nomenclature, referring to the overlap at both ends of the retrograde as the "shadow" period.)

AUG 26, Mercury Station (Direct)For example, the shadow period for the August 3-26, 2011 Mercury retrograde would have begun on July 15 (the day Mercury reached the degree at which it would later go direct on August 26) and ends (or the storm period ends, depending on nomenclature) on September 10 (the day Mercury returns to the degree at which it went retrograde on August 3). But in terms of any organic, visible manifestation in the skies of our home planet, these ephemeris-derived dates have no relevance to the Earth-Sun-Mercury dynamic. It’s like left-brain versus right-brain thinking, linear versus holistic; nose in the book versus eyes on the skies. One is a made-up abstraction looked up in an ephemeris, the other a reality that can be seen in the sky. The corresponding organically derived dates in this case are July 20 (greatest eastern elongation) and September 3 (western elongation maximum). Occasionally the real Mercury Max begin and end dates will coincide with the artificial so-called shadow/storm period start and stop dates. (Even a broken clock is right twice a day.) But the reality is there to see in the sky.

Retrograde means moving backwards. This is what Mercury appears to do in our skies when the little inner planet catches up on us and passes us on the inside, between Earth and the Sun. The reality of course is that Mercury never stops in its orbit, and never moves backward: this is only how the relative motions of Earth and Mercury around the Sun cause Mercury to move through our night sky. (See the animated illustration accompanying this forecast.)

Mercury retrograde is the cycle when everything goes wrong, to hear some astrologers tell it. The truth is not so simple-minded. 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 (Max) 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.

I’m confident that fear of the different (Mercury apparently moving backwards in the sky) gave rise to the paranoia about Mercury retrograde. This paranoia was fed down through the generations by the fact that most people are more or less, to use Gurdjieff’s term, sleepwalking most of the time. Comes a time when real awareness and focus is called for, those sleepwalkers run into a virtual (sometimes literal) buzz saw. 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. It’s like driving in city traffic full of bozos who are texting behind the wheel . . .

As noted in my 2011 World Forecast Highlights (published last year), among the sort of things to be ready for during this and any Mercury Max: "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, particularly during other planetary Max phases, most especially Venus, Mars and Jupiter) 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."

AUG 23, 2011 Lunar North Declination Peak Astro-Locality MapRemember, it's not so much that disaster is destined to strike when Mercury is in its Max phase. Rather, it's that everything pertaining to Mercury becomes crucial; and unless it's treated as such, then it goes awry. More and more, we live in a "just in time" world - and if the slightest delay holds up just one single thing, then a whole process screeches to a halt. Unfortunately, few people keep their eye on the ball with any consistency and diligence. And that's the reason these Mercury cycles tend to turn into Murphy's Law festivals. Practically speaking, this means that having a "just in time" inventory of essentials is risky business at times like this. ("Just in time" only works when everything stays on schedule.) Don't say I didn't warn you!

While the above descriptions apply to the Mercury Max period as a whole, we can expect that extremes will be associated with particular milestones the little planet makes along the way, give or take a few days. Most recently, for example, there was the end of August, with Mercury’s direct station on the 26th. You remember Hurricane Irene, don’t you? It formed as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa on the 15th, and went from a tropical depression to a tropical storm on August 20. Both dates fell within a couple days of the special geocosmic risk dates cited in my August forecast: "the 9th, 13th, 17th and 18th look most imposing in terms of storm and seismic risk during this period." Irene became a hurricane on the 23rd, the same day as the 5.3 Colorado quake and the 5.9 Virginia quake – and, the same day as the Moon’s north declination peak. The tropical storm hit the Virgin Islands (where a lightning strike from the storm set British tycoon Richard Branson’s resort home afire) on the 21st, then hit Puerto Rico and Hispaniola as a Category 1 hurricane, before crossing the Bahamas at a Category 3 rating and moving on to strike the Atlantic coast of North America from the Carolinas northward, at strengths ranging from Category 1 back down to a tropical storm, taking dozens of lives along the way. Irene hit North Caroline on the 27th, and worked its way up the coast to strike New York as a tropical storm on the 28th. The latter (and most destructive) dates fell right in the range of the August 29 new moon (near lunar perigee) storm and seismic shock window, which as described in my August forecast ran from the 26th through the end of the month. Ironically, the New York City metro area falls under the same lunar antimeridian line in the August 23 lunar declination astro-locality map as the Mineral VA quake epicenter, as well as the August 24 magnitude 7 earthquake in northern Peru.

SEP 16, 2011 Pluto Station (Direct)The Mercury Max connection in all of the above? Well, for one thing, there’s my mention of "disruptions affecting transportation and communication (e.g. postal, phone, mass transit, trucking, airline, shipping, dock and warehouse workers, teachers and all manner of media)" as par for the course in a Mercury Max. Billions of dollars in property (including infrastructure) damage, millions of people without electrical power and thousands of airline flights cancelled were all part of the last few days of August – after the Mercury retrograde ended on the 26th, but still well within the Mercury Max cycle. All of which should serve as a reminder: Mercury retrograde missed the mark, but Mercury Max hit it – and it’s still in effect, until the little planet reaches maximum western elongation on September 3rd.

The current Mercury Max cycle is the penultimate one of 2011, by the way. The final such phase begins with the maximum eastern elongation on November 14, includes the November 24-December 14 retrograde and the December 4 inferior conjunction, and wraps up with the western elongation extreme on December 23, 2011. See my 2011 World Forecast Highlights for more.

A new Mars Max cycle starts at the end of next month, on October 28 to be precise. I’ll have more to say on this subject next month of course; or you may wish to see the Mars Max section of my 2011 World Forecast Highlights. After a long, hot summer of strong Mars alignments upping the ante for the regular Red Planet stuff – "belligerence, clashes personal and social (from assault to murder to riots in the street), military and paramilitary attacks (including terrorism), fires, crashes and explosions" – September eases off the peak in these things. Make no mistake: humans being hierarchical social predators, peace and love won’t be breaking out all over this month. And the Moon-Mars alignment on the 23rd may well be a reminder of this. But the kind of friction, conflict and recklessness that have been so much in evidence this summer should be dialed back for a time now. If you find yourself and the people you encounter generally calmer and more reasonable this month, that would be par for the course.

SEP 28, 2011 Mercury-Sun Conjunction (Superior)While the mayhem and carnage will probably come in off-peak compared to the last few months, there remains an underlying social and political tension in the air all month, especially toward the middle and end of September under the aegis of the Pluto direct station and new moon SuperMoon respectively. (That SuperMoon on the 27th also coincides with a confluence of celestial configurations that emphasize a turbulent mass psychology, from the Sun and Mercury oppositions to Uranus on the 26th and 27th to their squares to Pluto on the 28th, the superior Sun-Mercury conjunction that same day, and the Venus alignment with Saturn on the 29th.) Add it all up, and it equals a huge emphasis on the Uranus-Pluto waxing square that’s been in effect already now since the end of May this year – and remains so, on and off, until early 2017. This configuration is exact seven times from 2012 to 2015.

Uranus squares Pluto on an irregular cycle of 50-80 years or so (not counting repeats due to retrograde, which may occur in a series stretching out over a few years). The square aspect is an arc of 90° between two points, and can be either waxing (the faster point 90° ahead of the slower) or waning (the faster point 270° ahead of - i.e. 90° behind - the slower).

As detailed in a 3,000-year table of Uranus-Pluto squares I published a half dozen years ago, Uranus will be in a waxing square (90° arc) to Pluto that’s exact on June 24 and September 19 2012, again on May 20 and November 1 2013, on April 21 and December 15 2014, and finally on March 17, 2015. This will be the first Uranus-Pluto square since the current cycle of these two planets began with their 1965-66 triple conjunction, which was within a few degrees of exact on and off from the summer of 1964 into the summer of 1967.

The 2012-2017 Uranus-Pluto square is the first such alignment of these two planets since the 1931-35 quintuple set. However, unlike the current series of waxing (90°) squares, the 1932-1934 series was waning (270° arc), with Uranus in Aries and Pluto in Cancer. It coincided with the confiscation of gold by Presidential decree in the US, and consequent devaluation of the dollar following several years of financial panic. The last time there was a waxing square of these two planets was the 1875-1878 series, which featured a 90° arc from Uranus in Leo to Pluto in Taurus. It was an alignment that heralded the establishment of the Reichsbank as central bank of a unified Germany after several years of financial panic there; and, in the US, the Department of the Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing started printing all US currency (which had previously been printed by private bank note companies). We have to go back to the 549-551 CE quintuplet to find another set of Uranus-Pluto squares featuring Pluto in Capricorn. In that set, Uranus in Libra squared Pluto in Capricorn in the 549-550 alignments, before each planet advanced into the next sign (Scorpio and Aquarius respectively) for the last two alignments in 551.

September 5, 2011 Lunar South Declination ExtremeIf that mid-6th Century time frame sounds familiar, it may be because you’ve been reading my forecasts for the past half-dozen years or so. There was a whole rather rare sequence of planetary configurations at work in the middle of the 6th Century CE, which disappeared for some 1500 years and then only reappeared starting at the turn of the millennium in the last dozen years or so: déjà vu all over again, as Yogi put it. You can read up on it yourself in my annual forecasts from 2006 onwards – or wait until I publish my 2012 Highlights and put it all together there. For the moment, here’s all you need to know: we’re in the midpoint of the adjustment phase between the Great Chronocrators of 2000 and 2020 – the latter marking the emergence of the nascent New World Order that‘s been struggling to be born since the 1980 Chronocrator. We’re in the transition between the Industrial Revolution of the earth sign Chronocrator series and the Virtual Revolution of the air sign series, and we’ve been living in the dawn of that new age since 1980.

The current adjustment phase is anchored by the Jupiter-Saturn opposition in effect on and off from spring 2010 into early 2012. Back in 2010, pundits, governments and central banks were telling us that a global economic recovery had begun. Dump trillions of dollars worth of cash into the global financial system, and there’s bound to be an increase in economic activity – for a while. All would be well, if that money were real; if it was a genuine store of value and a reliable medium of exchange. It is neither. It’s not value at all. It’s debt. It’s all borrowed, and there comes a time when the line of credit gets cut off and the loans come due. The day of reckoning began under the aegis of the Jupiter-Saturn opposition component of the signature 2010 T-Square that ran from Jupiter and Uranus in Aries at one end of the sky to Saturn in Libra at the other, all squared up to Pluto in Capricorn. Those same components, although shifted, have been lingering in the sky on and off through 2011, and won’t let go until next year.

September 12, 2011 Full Moon Astro-MapIn and of itself, the Jupiter-Saturn opposition component of this configuration points to political and economic systems being forced to settle up and fix the failures of the status quo. Add in the social revolution component signified by the Saturn-Uranus opposition component, and the squares to Pluto from Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, and you’ve got yourself an emergency fix. However this isn’t something that can be patched up, although that’s the preferred approach of the powers that be. The fix fails because the hole that’s been dug is too deep, and the desperation of the masses is beyond mere palliatives. Deep, thorough-going structural change emerges, like it or not. The heads of state who figure they can handle the crises that come upon us one after the other are mistaken. This isn’t business as usual. It’s like King Louis XVI asking if the storming of the Bastille was a revolt, only to be told "No, Sire, it’s a Revolution." (Which revolution, incidentally, followed in the wake of the 1782-83 Saturn-Uranus oppositions and attendant volcanic eruptions and climate change. Sound familiar? Look at the headlines and the news.)

Lacking immediate and significant Mars transits this month - the Moon-Mars alignment on the 23rd being the one possible exception – I’m thinking that the social, economic and political tensions crackling through the present Zeitgeist will probably fall short of breaking out into the more dramatic kind of mass protests that have made history around the world on and off since late January, when the Sun and Mars aligned. To be sure, there are places (e.g. Libya and Syria) where conflicts begun earlier this year have yet to be fully resolved. The tensions are by no means gone. We still have the "panic in the markets, panic in the streets, people in need of rescue, just a whiff of revolution in the air" ambience that I’ve been writing about these past few years. It’s just in a re-grouping phase, as far as outright violence is concerned.

September 19, 2011 Lunar North Declination PeakThe "panic in the markets" theme probably remains for months to come, with a trading range biased to the downside in effect until next year’s Venus Max picks up in late March. If you’re in the markets, it’s good to be mostly in cash so you’re in a position to pick up in good, blue-chip, dividend-paying stocks when they go on sale. They’re already on sale, after the late July through most of August swoon. They’re probably near the bottom this month, but they likely won’t go long and strong until next year; which means that it’s key to consider how long you’re prepared to wait for your ship to come in. There will be ups and downs yes – but probably not huge and steady gains. So buy the good stuff cheap. And that includes gold on the dips, as I’ve been saying for years now.

While the biggest geocosmic stress window by far this month is the SuperMoon on the 27th, it’s not the only one. First comes the Moon’s maximum declination south of the celestial equator on the 5th, anchoring a likely uptick in significant storm and seismic activity from late on the 3rd through early on the 7th. It’s a time slot when powerful storms with heavy precipitation and damaging winds are likely to make headlines, along with moderate-to-severe earthquakes (magnitude 5 and higher) and volcanic eruptions. Anywhere under the skies of Planet Earth is subject to the stress factors activated at this time, so it pays to have your go bag and foul weather gear handy just in case during the indicated period; maybe especially if you’ll be in one of the locations near – within plus or minus 150 miles or so of - the horizon and meridian lines in the astro-locality map for the September 5 declination peak. Remember: Tropical storm Irene became a hurricane on the 23rd, the same day as the 5.3 Colorado quake and the 5.9 Virginia quake – and, the same day as the Moon’s north declination peak, and near or under the horizon and/or meridian lines singled out in the astro-locality map for that event.

The full moon at 19° 27’ Pisces on the 12th happens within just over two hours of the Moon’s northward crossing of the celestial equator, a combination that ups the ante for notable storm and seismic activity from the 9th through the 15th. If powerful storms wreak havoc during this period, and a rash of moderate-to-severe seismic activity breaks out (magnitude 5+ earthquakes and volcanic eruptions), don’t be surprised. As usual, this alignment being astronomical in scale, it is planet-wide in potential scope. That said, it’s probably worth checking out the horizon and meridian lines in the full moon astro-locality map for tips as to zones of elevated risk: e.g. along the line from southern California and the western US and central Canada, across southern Greenland and Iceland, through central Europe and the eastern Mediterranean basin across east Africa – to name only one of the several arcs and meridians on the map, as you can see for yourself.

September 27, 2011 New Moon SuperMoon Astro-MapOne relatively brief storm and seismic shock window follows the full moon period, and it’s centered around the Moon’s north declination peak on the 19th. In effect from the 18th into early on the 21st, this one is potentially planet-wide in scope; but with special emphasis on the zones in or near its corresponding astro-locality horizons and meridians.

September ends on what looks like the most turbulent geophysical note of the month; namely the SuperMoon new moon at 4° 00’ Libra on September 27, having an associated shock window that runs from September 24 through October 3. (It gets a slightly extended run due to the October 2 southward lunar declination extreme.) This particular SuperMoon comprises a T-Square pattern: Sun, Moon and Mercury all oppose Uranus, while Pluto squares the whole face-off. Venus and Saturn are conjunct at the time, near the western horizon at sunset. It’s a time for austerity, for taking profits, for backing away from the speculative in favor of the solid stuff. At least the crazies are mostly sitting on their hands, for lack of funds and other resources. This should make for something like a sullen peace, a certain gravitas.

Of course there’s a higher-than-normal risk for elevated storm and seismic activity during the September 24-October 3 SuperMoon window. Last month’s new moon was very nearly close enough to lunar perigee to count as a SuperMoon, but it fell just a wee bit short. Even so, look what accompanied it: Hurricane Irene tearing up the Atlantic seaboard, Etna’s biggest eruption of the year to date, and super-typhoon Nanmadol battering the Philippines as the strongest storm to hit the country this year. It would be a good time to have your emergency kit ready, whether traveling or safely ensconced at home. Most especially, perhaps, if you’ll be in one of the astro-locality risk zones associated with this alignment. These include a longitudinal meridian line running through the Bering Strait, across the southern Aleutians and down through the Pacific Ocean, emerging on the other side of the world to cross west central Africa, central Europe and Scandinavia. Also rather risky-looking is the horizon arc through western South and Central America, Cuba, the Bahamas and the eastern US and Canada, across Greenland and down through central Asia from Russia through Mongolia, China, the Indochina Peninsula, Malaysia and Indonesia. Batten down the hatches, have the go-bag, candles, bottled water and canned foods ready just in case.

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