“I’m looking at the river, but I’m thinking of the sea.” Randy Newman, “In Germany Before The War”, Little Criminals, 1977.
Today is an important day in Townsville, Australia. Locations south of Toolakea witness their noonday shadows to their south for the first time since the Sun’s declination moved south of Townsville’s latitude on 19 November. In astrological terms, the noon Vertex moves from the 9th House to the 4th, or in simple geometrical terms, the overhead intersection of the Ecliptic with the Prime Vertical crosses from the east to the west, transformed from anti-Vertex to Vertex. Another way to relate to this phenomenon is to imagine the complete reorientation of your sense of direction when the Sun goes from rising on your left to rising on your right, how mindful of your shadow you would need to be in terrain with no landmarks, and how familiar with landmarks you would need to be in the tropics. You would expect our ancestors in the tropics to travel a lot at night and know the stars like the back of their hands, wouldn’t you?
The longing for the divine partner underfoot in eternity is transformed by material greed or secular cynicism into the archaeology of imperial trophies, and, by what Greta Thunberg called “fairytales of eternal economic growth”, into the replacement of religious obedience by scientific enthralment. Is that what happens? Can the Earth’s obliquity really single out the residents of Townsville for such an influence during their lunch break today? And can we really know the exact day the Sun’s declination equals the latitude of anywhere before the noon shadows of the locals announce it? [The sine of the Sun’s declination equals the sine of Earth’s obliquity multiplied by the sine of the Sun’s ecliptic longitude. The Vertex ‘flip’ occurs at the longitude after the Summer Solstice Point (either one) whose sine equals the sine of the latitude divided by the sine of the obliquity, and before that Solstice Point by the same degree. Since sine 0 = 0, those longitudes at the Equator are 0 and 180, the Equinox Points.]
And finally, is there a more logical basis for the application of Sun Signs to places without four seasons than which horizontal hemisphere the noon Sun is in, North or South? As the Sun retreats towards the Northern Hemisphere in our late Summer, we welcome back more of the Tropics to our shared perspective; or the more of us there are, the further away the Sun. [It takes two months for Australia to get all of its Tropics back from the Northern Hemisphere, but the South gains Singapore at noon on March 24, Monrovia on April 5, Bangkok on April 27, Mexico City on May 17, the Kaaba on May 28, Hong Kong on June 3, Havana on June 11 and ultimately Mazatlán on June 13.]
Whatever the flipping of this mysterious recently invented influence on the heart from sidereal Cancer in the House of Aspiration to sidereal Capricorn in the House of Reputation signifies, you can imagine it has a huge bearing on the price of fish, up and down Australia’s tropical east coast. Even with GPS, the unwary visitor who cannot smell the sea will begin westward when trying to find the fishing co-op! No aid will be forthcoming from the locals, either, who will be down on hands and knees with plumb-bobs and rulers, trying to calibrate the turbulent hormones which cascade during a four-hour period in Townsville at different times of day. Perhaps the visitor is of a mind not to ‘lose it’, but simply to go without fish today. Such a person might well be absent in their own country, and not lost at all. What kind of country might that be? Not a culture of power relations and commodities, oppression and exploitation, perhaps, but unfortunately a world of innerness without outward form or utility to anyone else.
Miraculous though its panorama certainly is, the tenancy of country with a small ‘c’ becomes null and void, any freehold extinguished, at death. Whatever ancestors or previous inhabitants might have put into place, for however long the grandfather clock might have ticked, or the eels teemed into the traps, country did not exist until its tenant came along and made it. Has the tenant lived an impoverished existence, up to their ears in debt, even enslaved, banished, children gone in war and marital strife and migration? Very likely! But you know how beautiful their country is? How awesome to be its only inheritance? You probably don’t because, embedded in history, social theory and economics, identity and law, or perhaps the search in therapy for love and validation in your existential victimhood and educated blame, it is too soon for you to stand here on the banks of the Lethe, dissolved in awe of karma created by hope, error, sorrow and submission, defeat, addiction, intoxication and joy, which for all eternity has been the haunt of our ghosts. When the time comes, welcome to cosmic individuality, the practice of awe, where even scientists and high priests acknowledge the relativity of their faith in platitudes about life’s journey.
Let’s whizz to the moment in time, several hours before Townsville noon, customarily identified by the Academy of Scientific Astrology and the Uniting Church of Oncology, Climatology, Astrometry and Extragalactic Dynamics as New Moon. So here we are, ready to argue about signs and influences, but suddenly aware that the only thing we know for certain is that we know nothing. It may or may not be the case that this is not a dream, that the underworld is the outside looking in, or that the many mansions of my Father’s house are the wards of a detention centre’s psychiatric hospital, the hours which mark the various ways the autonomous spirit of everything gasps for survival under the putrefaction of my corpse, or the seams of my resistance to the emptiness of consciousness, time and illness. The following relativities of geography, Milky Way mythology and rotational orientation may or may not be helpful in sustaining the dialogue you might have with the Moon this year. [They are all plotted using Stellarium 0.19.2 and paint.net 4.2.7.]
Every one of these snapshots could begin a dialogue between insiders and outsiders typified by a line in the sand separating absolutist and relativist: do not assert your truth over mine, because I am right and you are wrong. Presented together, they offer the elusive prospect of a system which ties them all together, which should remind us that our most conspicuous lack is not respect for difference, but a spirit of solidarity, an ethics of presence, a sharing of silence. In fact, it is relatively easy to discover systems on the outside, but it is not easy to share from the inside one’s creation, of love and obedience, integrity and awe. The oaths sworn by the gods in honour of the goddess Styx, the elm tree at the entrance to the ancient underworld to which false dreams cling under every leaf, the varieties of madness in the no-man’s-land of the bardo, and the experience of life in death I call ‘country’, are concepts borrowed from other times and cultures, and elements like the oils on a canvas, with no intrinsic meaning or independent agency, of an astrology of empty identity, time and place.