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©2013 by Richard Nolle
last revised JAN 30, 2013

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 psycho-babble 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, aka GMT). 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.

PLEASE NOTE: This month’s forecast incorporates elements of (and refers to) my complete 2013 World Forecast Highlights (31 8-1/2 x 11” illustrated pages), focused, amplified and elaborated with details for the month as appropriate. If you’d like your own copy of the full 2013 World Forecast Highlights, it’s available in hard copy by mail ($75) or as a PDF document by email ($50). Orders may be phoned in (toll-free from anywhere in North America to 800-527-8761) and charged to any major credit card. PayPal orders may be placed direct from your own PayPal account page to rnolle@astropro.com – or by using the AstroPro PayPal order page.

You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
-- Steve Jobs

JAN 30, 2013 Jupiter Station (Direct) February is a turning point for 2013 – not a dramatic reversal or radical change of course, mind you, because it’s way more subtle than that. But you will see it in the flow of world events and in the flow of life around you. It mainly has to do with retrogradation – the apparent backwards motion of planets in the skies of our home planet

The first of these subtle changes actually began in January, with Jupiter ending its apparent retrograde on the 30th, the day of its direct station (the point at which its daily apparent motion comes to a standstill, and then resumes in the opposite (in this case, normal) direction. The giant planet has actually been within a degree of its station point from January 4 onwards, and remains so until February 24.

In contrast, Saturn turns in the opposite (retrograde) direction on February 18th, having already been within a degree of its station point since January 16, and remaining within a degree all the way out to March 26. And last but hardly least, there’s the Mercury Max cycle beginning on the 16th and continuing all the way to March 31 – including the lesser included (and much maligned) February 23-March 17 retrograde of the little Sun-grazer.

Jupiter’s direct station signals economic expansion, which is already evidenced by major equity markets since the giant planet came within a degree of its station point on the 4th of January. However I look for this to be tempered by diminished expectations = and these have lurked around the sidelines more and more since the ringed planet got within a degree of its retrograde station on January 16. The combination speaks of tentative markets generally, with a slight downward bias through about March 26. That said, the transportation, communication, education and media sectors look fairly weak; especially in connection to relative strength in the banking and medical sectors (in what looks to me like a reversal of recent trends).

Watch the relative balance of power begin to flow from the public to the private sector this month, from the idealists to the economically powerful. Social and political reform movements are more visible and seemingly stronger this month and next – but what they don’t get done by striking while the iron is hot now, will fade way as they lose momentum late this month. Watch for economic, financial and political turning points to coalesce in a turning of the tide around the 11th, as Venus squares Saturn in the dark of the moon.

FEB 18, 2013 Saturn Station (Retrograde) Speaking of Venus, I don’t see signs of much in the way of prosperity for 2013 on the whole, as noted in my 2013 World Forecast Highlights. But the fourth quarter, when the next Venus Max cycle begins, looks promising.

By way of an aside, February 4 brings a Mars-Neptune alignment, which in fact has been within a few degree of exact since the end of January, and remains so until February 8. This is a theme unto itself, quite unconnected with the broader trends of the month. This could be ugly: murder most foul, atrocities, military provocations, chemical or even nuclear messes. A busy time for hazmat teams, a risky time for those at sea and in the petroleum industry. I’m not expecting a global crisis, mind you – but a localized or regional mess looks quite likely. There’s going to be some back-stabbing, some skulking around in the dark: so sit in a corner facing out, in a clean, well-lighted place.

Back to the major themes of the month, the first Mercury Max of the year getting underway on the 16th 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 Max phase in the orbital interaction between Mercury and Earth, as they both orbit around the Sun.

The Mercury Max phase 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. Just as it catches up with us, Mercury passes directly between Earth and the Sun. This is Mercury's inferior conjunction with 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 . . .

Max-E S-Rx CNJ SU S-D Max-W
FEB 16 FEB 23 MAR 4 MAR 17 MAR 31
JUN 12 JUN 26 JUL 9 JUL 20 JUL 30
OCT 9 OCT 21 NOV 1 NOV 10 NOV 18
Max E = Maximum Elongation East of Sun (Max Begins)
 S-Rx = Retrograde Station (Retrograde Begins)
 CNJ SU = Inferior Conjunction with Sun
 S-D = Direct Station (Retrograde Ends)
 Max W = Maximum Elongation West of Sun (Max Ends)

I have long wondered how astrologers managed to get astrology so wrong, when it comes to the notion that retrograde planets are somehow inferior. They’re the very same planets as when they’re direct – only they’re bigger and brighter in the night sky, because they’re closer. I think maybe Mercury’s retrograde is somehow key to this misperception. Mercury after all goes retrograde more than any other planet. So we have more experience of its retrogrades. Since Mercury has to do with mental processes and communication, and since so many people can’t be bothered to think straight and communicate clearly, it’s understandable that they might be frustrated and anxious when they encounter a cycle that places a premium on these qualities. It takes all kinds to make a world, and there are many kinds of intelligence. The Mercurial kind places a premium on rationality and seeing things as they are. These are the folks who have the best prospects for success during a Mercury Max cycle. The rest tend not to do so well, which is probably why they moan about Mercury being retrograde.

Mercury's Synodic Cycle What I have termed the Mercury Max cycle is simply 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 periods, and you will see the phenomena described above. Astronomical software and references provide the greatest eastern and western elongations of Mercury (and Venus, for that matter), but astrological software and references do not. One is a real sky perspective, the other is something less – and that is what astrologers have settled for over the course of time.

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. It makes no difference: either way, it’s just plain nonsense.)

For example, the Mercury Max cycle that begins with the little planet’s maximum eastern elongation from the Sun on February 16, includes the February 23-March 17 retrograde and the March 4 inferior conjunction, and wraps up with the western elongation extreme on March 31, 2013. The corresponding shadow period would begin on February 9 (the day Mercury reaches the degree at which it goes direct on March 17) and ends (or the storm period ends, depending on which irrelevant nomenclature you prefer) on April 6 (the day Mercury returns to the degree at which it went retrograde on February 23). 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 February 16 (greatest eastern elongation) and March 31 (western elongation maximum). Occasionally the real Mercury Max begin and end dates will coincide with the artificial so-called shadow period start and stop dates. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. But the reality is there to see in the sky.

FEB 10, 2013 New Moon 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. First Mercury reaches its greatest eastern elongation, then it appears to stand still in the sky (the retrograde station), and then it appears to move backwards through the heavens for a period of several weeks: that's Mercury retrograde for you. It ends when the little Sun-grazer's backwards motion comes to an apparent halt (the direct station); after which, Mercury moves forward again, until it reaches its maximum elongation west of 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.

Mercury retrograde is the cycle when everything goes wrong, to hear some astrologers tell it. The truth is not so simpleminded. 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. 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.

Among the sort of things to be ready for during the Mercury Max cycle that gets underway this month: 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.

FEB 25, 2013 Full Moon If I had to pick a day to have a backup generator all fueled up and ready to go, a contingency plan in place in case the scheduled or expected didn't come to pass, a day to be especially sharp and steady and focused -it would be during one of these Mercury cycles. Note these dates; be ready with a fallback plan just in case. It's not so much that disaster is destined to strike when Mercury is in its Max cycle. 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. Don't say I didn't warn you!

When it comes to times to have a backup plan handy, watch those Mercury inferior conjunctions in particular! (Like the one coming up on March 4.) They’re often accompanied by intensified solar outbursts – Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and the like, which (if the active region of the Sun is pointed in our direction at the time) can stir up geomagnetic activity here. Auroral activity and strong storms are possible at times like this – and in the worst case scenario, these can be associated with damage to satellites in orbit and power transmission systems on our planet’s surface. It’s more involved than that, actually. Extreme solar weather can stir up weather extremes here on Earth as well. Dump Gigawatts of extra solar radiation into our atmosphere and our magnetic system, and you get storms as well as an increase in volcanic and seismic activity. The inferior Sun-Mercury conjunction is a high point in this cycle, but the entire Mercury Max period tends toward enhanced solar activity. Electrical and electronic infrastructure aren’t the only systems susceptible to disruption during geomagnetic storms. The human nervous system tends to get a little glitchy as well. If anything, this is more likely the root of the Mercury retrograde legend than the apparent reverse motion itself. Cutting between Earth and Sun during these Max phases, Mercury introduces an element of turbulence into the solar wind . . .

Speaking of storms and seismic activity, juicing up the solar input down here is a contributing factor for such, but there’s more to the story than that. SuperMoons, eclipses and other lunar extremes stir up enhanced tides in Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and crust as well. Even ordinary new and full moons up the ante a bit in this respect – not to the same extent as the aforementioned extremes, but they do increase the odds for newsworthy earthquakes (magnitude 5 and up), volcanic eruptions and strong storms with high winds and heavy precipitation. This month, February 7-13 and 22-28 are in the bulls eye – most especially the latter period, when weather delays and even volcanic ash can play havoc with travel schedules.


All astrological charts as well as eclipse and astro-locality maps are calculated and produced using Esoteric Technologies’ Solar Fire Gold Version 7.0.8 Sky map images are screen captures from the Pocket Universe app for iPhone. Storm tracks are screen captures from The Weather Channel app for iPhone. Solar activity images are screen captures from the 3D SUN app for iPhone. And earthquake maps are screen captures from Quakes Pro Earthquake Alerts app for iPhone.

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