Never stand under a tree with a possum in it, especially if you’re facing north.
Welcome the Southern Moon to the Sign of Altruism! He will find things a lot different here, coming from the cobwebs of dilapidated castles which is the Northern Sign of Leo in The Crab. Here, he opposes an absolute monarch in Goat’s Head Soup, when the kids are back in school amid cyclones and some of the hottest days of the year.
Altruism is not a mission, or a moral or political stance. It is innate. You will find it associated with all of your experiences of the suffering of others. It does not say, “I have suffered”, but “Suffering is universal”, and lies at the heart, not of difference, offence and conflict, but of forgiveness, care and transcendence.
People who think of themselves as Leftist use altruism as a deontological set of instructions; Rightists use it as a consequentialist map. However, this month’s Full Moon reflects altruism’s fundamental relativity. Where does the Sun go when it sets? Into someone else’s consciousness, of course. And where is that place? Not here, and not in the past or future. I guess it is in my mind, somewhere, and where am I, there? Here, in someone else’s elsewhere. Someone I don’t know is in my mind, and I am in the mind of someone who doesn’t know me.
This is the passport the present stamps as I emerge on the threshold of my past. The fellow-travellers who scramble to fit into my selfie at Immigration are you, and I am in a thousand mementos on unknown mantels everywhere. I carry with me at all times, hidden in my secret place, the awareness that I am someone else.
Overnight, the Immigrant will arrive in the upside down lion (or possum) we call Leo, and tomorrow, south of a line from Sarina to Shark Bay, it will occult the Archangel Raphael and his ironic gift of healing.
Ironic, because our wound can only be healed by acceptance, in our innermost presence, where we die, where we are Other. This is the celebration at Regulus Gate. This, backpackers from all over the world, is where it’s at! No amount of studying Australia’s immigration law or the victimization of its minorities can prepare you for arrival at whom you’ve always been.
Attesting to the uncomfortable marriage of belief and truth, there exists in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories a township known to the Palestinians as Place of Meat, and to the Israelis as Place of Bread. These are mere facts, but to Christians, who know it as Bethlehem, it remains a landmark in the timeless human search for meaning, associated not only with a birth, but a sign.
This year there are signs in various parts of the world, in the days leading up to the annual commemoration of the Adoration of the Magi, known to Christians as the feast of the Epiphany, of a possible new birth. God knows we need one!
The first sign, at sunset in Bethlehem on January 4, is the simultaneous transit of the First Point of Aries and the First Quarter Moon. In fact, the Moon transits 2 seconds before the equinoxial point, and 7 minutes before official sunset, but it is signs we seek, not facts. Some sort of new beginning might be approaching. [All times at the foot of the following charts are Australian Eastern Daylight Time, UTC +11.]
The second sign, proving just how elusive signs can be, is manifest at Regulus Gate from my observatory on Epiphany morning.
Regulus, the star of the Lion’s heart, has a complex meaning in Southern Hemisphere Astrology. Not only does ‘Regulus‘ mean ‘little king’ (not ‘prince’), an infamous basilisk who can kill with just a glance, but Leo upside-down looks more like a possum than a lion, and as anyone who has been pissed on by a possum can attest, he is a malicious creature. Nonetheless, Regulus is one of the Royal Stars of Persia, the four guardians of the sky (along with Aldebaran, Antares and Fomalhaut), associated with the healing angel Raphael, and so the worst I can think of him is that he can seem sarcastic, when really his mordant wit is simply helping you to recover from yourself. It is important to know these resonances to understand Regulus Gate, because its other end is Alnair (at top of chart), the brightest star of Grus, the Crane, which carries Asian cultural connotations of celebration.
Now, Epiphany is astrology’s big moment, so flipping the globe to my meridian on the other side to see what the celebration end looks like in Brazil, I find the second sign.
Wow, the Ecliptic is so close to the zenith (the zigzag in the meridian line), and Venus is almost there and opposite Regulus, which is right on the opposite horizontal pole! This seems special in some way I can’t quite put my finger on, because Venus and Regulus have been a ‘thing’ for thousands of years. How does Venus in Aquarius through Alnair Gate relate to what I’m seeing in Breamlea? Is she prancing on Regulus’ sarcasm? Is celebration so unwarranted that she must negate her underworld man with an upskirt?
The third sign, computed by a Solomonese Indian astrologer, is the entry of the Moon into Ashvini, the first Nakshatra (opposite Spica) at the precise moment of transit, at sunset on Malaita, one of the Solomon Islands. (Official sunset is a mere 7 seconds later.)
Indulgent Jupiter constrained by shrewd Spica: a gravitational reminder of what the politeness of a refined wife may mask? No? Well, perhaps all these cyclical rebirths are all we get. But wait! Poring over my arcane tables in retreat from the late heat of the summer sun, I realize that Fomalhaut, the angel Gabriel, is culminating, signalling affirmation perhaps of the sacred meaning I am looking for. It was no doubt the same fervour that seizes me now which gripped the astrologers of Herod’s day! I must follow that star!
It takes about 9 hours for the Earth to rotate its longitudes so that Fomalhaut transits at Bethlehem, so I have plenty of time to get there and consult my tables, but I am thrown into consternation by complete unfamiliarity when I get there. It is cold, not at all like the nativity plays where I come from, where the wise men all wear shorts. I can’t even find the sun at first, until I realize it is behind me, much lower than I left it, and setting to my right, clockwise. The chart above, my home, is where I am used to the constellations following an anti-clockwise procession, but no matter, I am already acclimatizing.
But what’s this? What are those ridiculous signs? What in Heaven’s name is Gabriel affirming? Must I become the newborn and start learning to read the world all over again? My wisdom deserts me! Whoever heard of a confident crab, or an aggressive set of scales? Never could I associate a possum with perfectionism! No wonder there is such implacable hostility between sidereal and tropical astrologers up here! No wonder ‘wise men’ no longer look at the sky here: it’s all wrong!
And so, as the sun sets into the cosmic ocean, I finally have my epiphany. Life is not a river flowing down to the sea, but a journey in the opposite direction, through ever more sharply defined contours, dwindling resources and thinning populations, until finally, the water dries up completely.
The story so far:
The vagabond is homeless, disconnected, a refugee from the world of the therapeutically discriminating intellect. Is he unpacking his “stuff”? Is he on the way to realizing that the enemy of a perfect world is the undeconstructed self? Shall we ask him? Are we bored enough by our pallid Nothingness to inhabit with our self-aggrandizing ‘compassion’ another’s tedious wound? Do we have the temerity to apply our triumphant empathy to the capacity to deal with the shame of eating garbage, being constantly afflicted with diarrhoea and having nowhere to do it but in our pants? Are we ready to deal with the stereotypes he has us cast in?
Now read on.
Does this look like a smiley face to you? You’re sadly deluded. The Moon is a piece of rock without legs, and its ‘head’ is all face. If that doesn’t give him away as a shady type, the one eye confirms he is ‘other’, not to be trusted, potentially evil. Of course, as compassionate people, we have long abandoned physiognomy, but our compassion is anchored to the otherness of the ‘other’. Compassion is part of our identity, and the identity of the ‘other’ is as fixed: indigenous people must remain in traditional culture, disinherited and victimized, and disabled people must remain the recipients of our largesse, defined by their disability. To expect otherwise is racist and elitist, disrespectful of their identity.
The Sign of the constellation Taurus in the southern hemisphere is Sagittarius, the sign of charisma and independence. Re-inhabit your subjectivity and respect the ‘other’ in theirs! Nobody’s identity is fixed, at birth or in an analytical, managerial mind. There is no form which is not empty. There is only time, and the dark art of becoming. And the timelessly true subject of the subject, love.
Part The Second
If you want to justify yourself–tidy yourself at the margins–spare me some change, says the vagabond, the loser, the weirdo. Pause for a dialogue in the daylight world of your power to imagine away my exile. But if you can brave it, meet me in the middle of the night, in the chaos of your fears, the world of my power to make you an infantile irrelevance.
Chapter 1. Saiph
Who is God?
These people on the streets and roads of Afghanistan know the folly of disrespecting a man who will kill you instantly with impunity. If one is uneducated in the nature of offence, as I am, and you too, then one is in mortal danger. One must shroud oneself, maintain an attitude of deference and submit to any indignity. Is it wise to leave questions about God to the Imam to decide? No, it is stupid to voice an opinion. And that is why I will be long gone from the shelter of this moai by dawn. The power of Polynesians is immense, and under the gaze of their ancestors existence itself is an impertinence. Saiph has the laughter which incites a man to be bigger than his grandfather. It is very, very dangerous.
Chapter 2. Butch
Who are you?
Why do I sing “O Sole Mio” when all the beautiful people at this beach have their earplugs in? Because this is a dream, and singing a Neapolitan song gives me an aesthetic reason to be dressed in rags. My people forgive my problem with the bottle, and the years I wasted reading the history of the world, because I entertain the tourists. They tell me a woman’s beauty is not so much degraded by wolf-whistles in Italia these days. You can wear these revealing clothes. Is it true? A woman’s beauty in Pukapuka is the secret which keeps us alive. You will all leave and take your secrets with you, and here another cyclone will come.
Chapter 3. Avior
What is life?
You boys are trouble, no? Hahaha! No, just having fun, I know. That’s all I’ve got, and I don’t know when I’ll have more, but you’re welcome! A cricket team, eh? We play baseball where I am from, but last year I was in India. There it is big, I know. Howzat! Hahaha! The world is just a big game of cricket, no? Tampering with the ball! Hahaha! Go over there to vomit, man! Hahaha!
Chapter 4. Regulus
What is death?
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” When will the Holocaust be forgotten? When will the Twin Towers be forgotten? For ever and ever. Now get out with me and witness the moment. I am pausing the meter, see?
That you will never see again. The star is the Archangel Raphael. I thought it was him when you started raving about death. Why do you want to talk about death? Is that my “stuff”? No. “I found more bitter than death the woman who is a trap, whose heart is a snare and whose hands are like prison chains.” That’s mine. “Eh quoi! n’est-ce donc que cela? La toile était levée et j’attendais encore.”
“Finally, I got home. It was tantamount to harassment.”
“Well, at least you got to see the Archangel Raphael”
“And you might refrain from turning our Christmas party into a conversation about death?”
Grab a bottle of wine and come over for lunch. Let’s talk about equality and #ssm!
What is the purpose of closing a gate? Does the farmer know you are here? What farmer? Aren’t we in Justfriendistan, or the Ninth Circle of Hell?
It is sacred; go ahead, clasp it; and open the wine.
Like all creatures, we live only for a short time and then pass into oblivion from whence we came. Our immense blessing is to be aware of this, because together with fear and grief come joy and compassion.
Happiness is easy. All it takes is to be one with the universe, like a bird. Joy is more difficult. It requires conscious finitude and transcendence at the same time.
It has become fashionable to deconstruct the self, to “get out of story”, realize cosmic oneness in “the moment”, and be “present” in relationship. These contrivances too are easy.
What is difficult is to be in love with someone: lonely and connected; insignificant and eternal; guilty and forgiven; afraid and monumental.
This description fits the definition of limerence, an acutely painful disorder which it is fashionable to identify with a wound we need to heal, by dealing with our “stuff”, by doing “deep work”. In fact, limerence exists only in the mind of the friend in Justfriendistan, the one who is not in love.
Our wound is our humanity, people. We were born to carry it and know it. Our most precious moments are our most finite, our most grievous and most joyous, those moments when life explodes like the galaxy in a death-black sky.
Raphael, the archangel, is the archetype of healing, but do not understand him as one who makes suffering go away. Raphael heals the avoidance of suffering. He returns eyesight to the blind. His sarcasm stings to remind you that you are not a fool, not a baby, not a coward. How dare he, indeed! And how dare you pretend your finitude is not happening!
Venus will be free of Justfriendistan Saturday, and while the Moon sinks humbly into irrelevance, Venus, goddess of love, will once again be the resplendent Morning Star, a naked warrior, and worthy Jupiter is above the horizon.
Praise of the ground of our creatureliness is Regulus’ reward.