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©2018 by Richard Nolle
last revised October 30, 2018

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). Location for all mundane charts is set for the Great Pyramid at Giza; the choice being strictly arbitrary in any case. 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 2018 World Forecast Highlights (41 8-1/2 x 11" illustrated pages); focused, amplified and elaborated with details for the month as appropriate. The full version of my 2018 World Forecast Highlights is available in hard copy by mail ($75) or as a PDF document by email ($50). I just began accepting advance orders for the 2019 edition, although the 2019 forecast will be embargoed until the end of December as usual. Orders may be phoned in toll-free anywhere in North America to 800-527-8761, and charged to any major credit or debit card. Orders may also be placed direct from your own PayPal account page to rnolle@astropro.com – or by using the AstroPro PayPal order page.

"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Mercury Max is back this month; a cycle that includes the infamous Mercury retrograde, but is actually ever so much more than just the retrograde. (Think hectic craziness and mind-bending puzzles galore, for starters.) And once again, we’re still in the midst of this year’s Venus Max and Mars Max cycles. They’ve been in effect for months, and have some time to run yet. This bears on the strength and direction of economic activity, and the level of conflict in human relations. And then there are the more or less constant lunar fluctuations synchronizing the ebb and flow of geophysical and well as human activity levels – amplified, this month, by the solar storms accompanying the Mercury Max cycle. And then there’s Pluto lingering within a few arc minutes of its southward crossing of the ecliptic last month. Let’s start with the most historic of all these celestial phenomena; namely the Pluto crossing, a subject I addressed in last month’s forecast.

Flying the Ecliptic Plane

If you missed it last month (or you could use a refresher), here’s the deal on Pluto’s ecliptic crossing. Feedback from clients and colleagues has revealed to me that a great many astrologers and students are not up to speed on the ecliptic (the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun); especially when it comes to movement north and south (in latitude) with respect to the ecliptic. Without ecliptic latitude, you’re not doing three dimensional astrology. It’s really four dimensional of course, because time is essential. But without ecliptic latitude, you’re in Flatland.

OCT 24, 2018 Pluto Ecliptic Crossing (Southward) There’s a lot more to the cycles of Pluto than just the crossing of the ecliptic plane, but that cycle is an important key. Why? First, it’s because anytime another planet is on the ecliptic plane – the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun – that planet is directly aligned with Earth. It’s like a polarized pulse between Earth, the Sun and the planet in question. Practically speaking, that means we’re getting a major Pluto pulse this month – for the first time since 1930, and only the second time since 1770.

What’s the ecliptic plane? It’s the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. If you could set the Sun on a giant table, Earth would roll along on that table in a nearly-circular elliptical path around the Sun. That flat table is Earth’s ecliptic plane. (It’s called the ecliptic plane because eclipses occur when the Moon aligns with Sun and Earth on that plane.) Earth and Sun are always at 0° ecliptic latitude; which is to say that the ecliptic plane passes through both bodies. (Don’t imagine this to mean that the plane of Earth’s orbit is immutable. In fact, over time it gets twisted and warped in and out of shape. But at any given instant, as a frame of reference for that moment, it’s a plane.)

Pluto’s orbit is tilted with respect to Earth’s. It’s on an entirely different orbital plane. In Euclidian geometry, parallel planes, like parallel lines, never intersect; but when one plane is inclined at an angle to the other, they do cross. That’s the ecliptic crossing: the points at which two nonparallel planes intersect.

Orbits being ellipses, there are two ecliptic crossings for any one planet with respect to another. One intersection occurs when the planet crosses the orbit from below (south of) to above (north of) the other planet’s ecliptic plane. The other happens when the planet crosses from above (north of) to below (south of) the other planet’s ecliptic plane. What we’re experiencing this month is Pluto’s first southward crossing of the ecliptic plane since 1770. (The most recent crossing was in the northward direction, back in 1930.)

Pluto, Wealth and the Underworld

What does it mean, the God of the Underworld retreating back into the Underworld? Think about it: Pluto, plutocracy, the wealth of minerals and seeds contained in the underworld; the myths of Hades/Pluto, Demeter/Ceres, Persephone, Orpheus and Eurydice: look back into archaeology, and you can see that these myths are symbolic representations of human civilization.

Before the arrival of agriculture, humans were hunter gatherers. We ate fresh picked fruits, nuts and vegetables, and the catch of the day. All of these things had to be consumed quickly, because they were perishable. Typically, a good kill or gathering was shared on the spot with the social group (family, clan, tribe). There was no such thing as wealth, in the sense of something one could possess. It all had to be shared, or it would spoil.

Agriculture arose from seeds that were unwittingly taken back to camp by hunter-gatherers returning from the wild – stuck to hair, furs and the like. Some of those seeds ended up covered in dirt, and then sprouting and growing into plants – some of which turned out to be cereal grains. It took generations for these grains to be recognized and cultivated as such. That was the beginning of agriculture, which resulted in settlements – which is the very definition of civilization. It was also the beginning of wealth.

Cereals (Ceres of myth), grown from seeds planted in the ground (the Plutonian underworld) produced grains that didn’t spoil readily; and in fact could be stored in granaries or baked into breads. Cereals allowed those who controlled their cultivation and storage to also control the social structure: they controlled access to the only food that could be stored. Agriculture transformed humans from free creatures in kinship groups to settled communities ruled by the few who controlled the fields and granaries that fed those who cooperated with the leaders – the plutocrats who controlled the ground and that which sprang from it. The wealthier the plutocrats are, the more power they seize, and the more power they seize, the wealthier they get.

Over the millennia, religions and cultures arose, grew and died here and there around the world, but the underlying socio-cultural model remained the same: power arose from the earth, and served those who controlled its riches. Was it a Faustian bargain? Some argue that eating the produce of agriculture saved the human race from starvation. But archaeologists have made the case that scattered hunter-gatherers had a better life than centralized agriculturalists: more variety of fresh game and produce promoted better health, a more socially integrated and physically active society – and a whole lot more freedom.

It’s beyond the scope of this forecast to flesh out these ideas. If you’re interested, I recommend the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind as a good backgrounder. Meanwhile, the mythological underpinnings of civilization down through the ages are brutally simple: there has always been a plutocracy controlling the wealth of each and every society. The struggle to survive, overthrow and ultimately control (or replace) that plutocracy is what comprises history. And Pluto’s cycle times the unfolding of that history.

The Cycles of Pluto and the Plutocracy

In the robber baron era of American history, Theodore Roosevelt described plutocracy as "the tyranny of mere wealth". A variation seen in modern Russia is kraterocracy, which is government by those who are able to seize power. The rich are better positioned to achieve this in the first place, and inevitably get richer when they control more and more levers of power. I see little difference between the two. If you dig deeply enough into history, it’s a distinction without a difference: the wealthy seize power, more power all the time. As Springsteen put it in Badlands, "Poor man wanna be rich, Rich man wanna be king, And a king ain't satisfied, 'til he rules everything."

One way of looking at history is in terms of the transfer of power from one plutocracy to another. It’s one thread among the many comprising the tapestry of history, at least. In that regard, Pluto’s crossing of the ecliptic plane marks a crucial turn in the balance of power underpinning a civilization.

Crossing the Rubicon – and the Ecliptic

In 50 BCE – as Pluto was crossing from below (south of) to above (north of) the ecliptic plane - Julius Caesar was ordered by the Senate (led by Pompey) to disband his army and return to Rome, because his term as governor of the province of Spain had finished. Caesar knew that this was in effect a death sentence, because without an army to protect him, and lacking the immunity afforded him by his title as governor, he was totally at the mercy of his enemies. Defiantly, Caesar marched his troops across the Rubicon, and civil war was on. What followed was the end of the old Rome (the Republic) and the beginning of the new (the Empire). That’s the essence of the Pluto crossing: power is seized from the old order, and transferred to the new. What remains the same is that a plutocracy retains control. All that changes is the faces of the people running the plutocracy. (Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.)

These crossings have been occurring in the Cancer-Capricorn axis since the 533 CE southward crossing in Capricorn. Historically, this is in the period of the transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Incidentally, this occurred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Justinian – as did the Great T-Square I’ve been writing about for years – the same configuration which recurred in 2006, for the first time in some 1,500 years. We have been living in one and the same epoch defined by Pluto’s ecliptic crossings for centuries now.

OCT 24, 2018  Pluto Southward Ecliptic Crossing Astro-Locality Map The precise timing of an ecliptic crossing is problematic. It depends on the algorithm used, as well as the precision and the time span covered by the algorithm. It’s much like determining the exact moment of a planetary station: you can get close, but you can never be certain of the exact instant. For what it’s worth, I used Solar Fire to come up with the time of this month’s southward crossing, to the nearest second of ecliptic latitude: 09:53 UT, October 24.

Taking that admittedly arbitrary moment in time as a signature for Pluto’s ecliptic crossing shows Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and western Brazil accentuated in the astro-locality map for that moment; with the eastern US and Canada also on the same Pluto antimeridian line. Conversely, Pluto’s meridian line bifurcates Russia, Mongolia and China, while also touching on Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. (Pluto’s horizon line cuts across Africa and the Middle East and into Russia.)

The Pluto crossing astro-locality map brings targets into focus for the event as a whole, which is effective far beyond its exact date. This is the first such southward crossing since 1770. Its mirror image northward crossing last took place in 1930. Look back through history on these watershed moments, and you might catch a glimpse of the transformation we’re in at the moment.

Don’t make a fetish of this attempt to freeze frame a crucial instant in space/time. But do keep your eyes open, your mind attuned: this is one more in the train of epochal transitions we have been living through since the reappearance of Justinian’s T-Square back in 2006, as described in my annual World Forecast Highlights since then.

So what’s happening at this threshold? In a word, transition. A changing of the guard, when power is seized from the old masters, and a new class of masters takes over. Stay clear of the conflict, as best you can. Recognize that there’s no way to completely escape it. But to the extent that you can see it coming, you know what to look for – and hopefully, you’ll be able to jump out of the way in time.

Look back to the latest such crossings for hints as to what to expect. 1770 brought the Boston Massacre, the beginnings of the American Revolution (the first anticolonial uprising in modern history). The 1930 crossing was the beginning of industrial socialism, growing out of the Great Depression and World War II. While there are similar themes in both of these crossings, there’s much that’s different as well; including the forthcoming Air Trigonalis Great Chronocrator in 2020. More on that in my 2019 2019 World Forecast Highlights . . .

Getting personal for a moment, note that this Pluto crossing is occurring at 19° Capricorn. Check your chart! Got anything there? Then this moment in time is focused on you in particular, in some fashion. While you’re at it, consider the Sabian Symbol for the 19th degree of Capricorn: "Five year-old child carrying a bag filled with groceries." Meditate on that image. It contains a key to you (because it’s in your chart) as well as to this time of historic transition (because that’s where Pluto is at the crossing). It’s a time for rising to the occasion and taking on responsibilities which may be out of our league; but they must be done, and we’re the ones who are available at the moment to lend a hand.

Mercury Max Returns

Huge temporal cycles aside, there are more than a few shorter but still important cycles worth watching this month. One is the third and final Mercury Max cycle of the year, which starts on November 6 and continues into December 15. This is the part of the Earth-Mercury relationship in their orbit around the Sun, when Mercury comes up on the inside track from behind Earth, catches up and then passes our home planet, before disappearing on the other side of the Sun again.

Mercury's Synodic Cycle It is during this cycle that Mercury makes its close pass to Earth (perigee). And during this cycle, Mercury becomes preternaturally large and bright in the sky. Those two factors – closeness and brilliance – are the reason I refer to this as Mercury's Max cycle. (Likewise the Venus and Mars Max cycles: big and brilliant in our sky.)

This time around, Mercury Max begins on November 6, when the little planet as evening star reaches its maximum elongation east of the Sun as seen from Earth. This sets up the retrograde cycle, which begins on November 17 as Mercury begins to pass Earth on the inside track (the retrograde station). The moment of closest approach (perigee) comes on November 27, when Mercury lines up in its inferior conjunction with the Sun. Mercury reaches the end of its retrograde cycle (its direct station) on December 6 as it starts rounding the bend heading toward the far side of the Sun. The Max cycle as a whole ends on December 15, when morning star Mercury reaches its maximum elongation west of the Sun as seen in our sky.

You’ll find all these terms (maximum eastern and western elongation, retrograde and direct stations and inferior solar conjunction) in astronomical references and software. What you want find is astrological silliness such as the "shadow" and "storm" periods of Mercury. Forget that nonsense and get real. In this case, Mercury Max is the real deal, and actual astronomical cycle that really exists and can be seen in the sky. For more on this, see the section on Mercury Max in the full version of my 2018 World Forecast Highlights (pp. 18-24).

The Human Side of Mercury

As for what to expect during Mercury Max, there are two main themes. One is that everything having to do with Mercury becomes more prominent and essential in human experience: intelligence, cleverness, communication, commerce, travel, the exchange of ideas and information. This means that people who stay sharp and focused, and keep their wits about them, will excel and prosper compared to those who are similarly on the ball. Look sharp, be sharp, or you’re going down. Do your due diligence, gather your facts and make your plans (with ample fallback and alternative options).

Astrological lore has it that everything that can go wrong will, under a Mercury retrograde; a kind of Murphy’s Law run amok. I say that can be true, if you’re not paying attention and keeping your wits about you. Sure, things go wrong all the time. But those who are alert and prepared can prosper and excel regardless. Mercury is wit and craft: be witty and crafty – especially when Mercury is in its Max cycle!

Mercury Max and Solar Weather

Related to the human side of Mercury Max is the solar side; the disturbances in solar weather that come along with Mercury’s close pass between Earth and Sun. The Max cycle marks a time of greater and more frequent solar storms, including X-Ray flares (M and X class), Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and coronal holes. These solar outbreaks, in turn, fire up geomagnetic storms on our home planet – stronger (Kp 5 and up) and more plentiful than usual.

Solar storms in turn make for extra auroral activity, which is the most obvious visual cue to the disturbances here on Earth. But there’s a lot more than what meets the eye. Ionospheric disturbances play havoc with radio transmission, for example. Incoming radiation storms can damage orbiting satellites and even fry electrical infrastructure and devices here below. And that includes the human nervous system, a most sensitive bioelectrical network.

All of the above phenomena are more frequent during the Mercury Max cycle as a whole. But in particular, the five key points in the cycle (plus or minus three days) tend to anchor periods of maximum intensity. You’ll find those five key points listed in my table of the 2018 Mercury Max: November 6, 17 and 27, plus December 6 and 15. Watch and observe.

Max-E S-Rx Cnj. SUN S-D Max-W
MAR 15, 2018 MAR 23, 2018 APR 1, 2018 APR 15, 2018 APR 29, 2018
JUL 12, 2018 JUL 26, 2018 AUG 9, 2018 AUG 19, 2018 AUG 28, 2018
NOV 6, 2018 NOV 17, 2018 NOV 27, 2018 DEC 6, 2018 DEC 15, 2018

Max-E = Mercury (Evening Star) Max. Elongation East of Sun (Max begins)
S-Rx = Retrograde Station (Retrograde GBegins)
Cnj. SU = Inferior Conjunction with Sun
S-D = Direct Station (Retrograde Ends)
Max-W = Mercury (Morning Star) Max. Elongation West of Sun (Max ends)

There’s one last Mercury Max symptom which must not be overlooked: dumping Gigawatts of excess solar energy into Earth’s magnetosphere, atmosphere, crust and mantle is like turning up the heat on a saucepan. It roils and bubbles the cauldron, so to speak. This will manifest as an intensification of powerful storms and seismic activity – including volcanic eruptions and M5+ earthquakes. Again, this will be most prominent around those five key points in the Mercury Max cycle. This time around, this will apply especially around the new moon on the 7th and the full moon on the 23rd – dates which meld into Mercury’s maximum eastern elongation and inferior solar conjunction.

Venus and Mars Max

Finally, the Max cycles of Venus and Mars remain strong all month, putting a spotlight on violence and conflict (Mars) and love and lust (Venus). A hugely passionate month. In a recent consultation, a client asked what kind of passion this entails. My reply was to think of Hank Moody’s second big hit novel in the Showtime series Californication; namely Fucking and Punching. (For more on Venus Max and Mars Max, see pp.13-17 and 18-24 respectively in the full version of my 2018 World Forecast Highlights.) These are trends which have been in effect for months already – and plainly evident in recent headlines - and they won’t be letting up soon. The Mars Max theme of ultra violence is in effect throughout the month: murder and mayhem, "fires, clashes, crashes and explosions" (especially around the new moon on the 6th). And the Venus Max emphasis on love and lust, fear and greed is likewise in effect all month, especially around the 16th.


All mundane astrological charts as well as eclipse and astro-locality maps are set for the Universal Time (UT) of the event, and calculated and produced using Esoteric Technologies’ Solar Fire Gold Version 7.0.8. Charts are set for the location of the Great Pyramid - a purely arbitrary choice, since location is irrelevant to these charts. Unless sotherwise noted, sky map images are screen captures from the Pocket Universe or Star Rover apps for iPhone, or produced by Starry Night for Windows; storm tracks are screen captures from The Weather Channel app for iPhone; and earthquake maps are screen captures from the QuakeFeed, QuakeWatch or QuakeZone apps for iPhone. Any market images are screen captures from the default iPhone Stocks app, unless otherwise noted. Weather images and storm tracks are screen captures from the Weather Channel app for iPhone.

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