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  Home   |   Articles   |   Book Reviews   |   Star Gazing   |   Astro*Weather   |   Everyday Astrology    


Astrology Articles
Article Title: Which Side Are You On?
Date Published: 5/4/2007

“Which side are you on?” repeated the organizing anthem of the Harlan County, KY, coal miners on strike against starvation wages and brutal conditions in 1931. They were fighting the odds, with big money and government in the other corner, but in the end, history was on their side and buried the ruthless bosses and their scabs in the dungheaps of the past. Fifty years before, that same cry from the Paris Commune was temporarily silenced, but ultimately changed history. They were uphill battles, but although the established powers were against them, the tide of society was moving toward social democracy, fair wages, and rights for the working man and woman. 

Those tides come in waves, however — two steps forward, one step back — and sometimes it’s hard to tell in which direction ultimate progress lies. There is a clue to be gained in the skies, and it comes from the relationship of Saturn and the outer planets — and the reason it’s hard to find at first glance is because of the masking effects of Jupiter, Mars, and the inner planets.

Saturn, Outer Planets Tell the Tale

The basic idea is simple. The general motion of history is painted over the centuries by the slower movements of the outer planets. Representing the greater sweep of religion, culture, and technology, theirs is the inexorable effect that wears down monarchies, overthrows dictatorships, and evolves democracies, whatever the short-term successes that strut and fret their parts upon life’s stage. When we think of short-term success, Jupiter and its cycle comes to mind, but that is only the aspiration to success, the growth and drive that gets you there, or gives you the illusion you’re getting somewhere. It’s Saturn and its cycle that represents true success — you haven’t made it until you’ve become the establishment, and that’s Saturn. The trouble is, Saturn can be solid and supportive, or it can be harsh and repressive, and sometimes you can’t really tell the difference until you yourself have helped put the bad version into power. Perhaps worse, at other times you don’t know when you’ve got a good thing going and you help throw out the baby with the bathwater.

There are times when all the sky is truly a mystery, totally at cross-purposes, or at the still point of massive change, such as the late Edwardian period or the 1760s. But such times are rare. Usually there’s a clear direction, if you know what to look for. 


November 11, 1918, 11:11 AM — Armistice chart with  clutter (l.) and without (r.) —  Saturn breaks away from outer planets.

The giveaway is whether Saturn (establishment, government) is running with or in opposition to the outer planets. Simple as that. Because of their relative speeds, the outer planets (OP) spend most of their time within a 180-degree arc, often within a 120-degree arc, with only relatively brief periods when Uranus is outside of it. If you take all the rest of the planets out of the chart, you see history developing itself in a cozy OP nest — a bowl or even a bundle chart. Put back all the other planets and you hardly notice the effect, because they move around so fast and clutter up the view. Put back just one, Saturn, and you see a rhythm of periods in history when Saturn is outside of that bowl, and much of that as the handle of a bucket chart. During these times, the establishment is bucking the tide of history. The majority of aspects made by Saturn are hard and conflicting, primarily because of the preponderances of squares, quincunxes, and oppositions. Conversely, when Saturn is within that OP nest, the additive trend of the aspects it makes is supportive, because of the preponderance of the conjunction, semi-sextile, sextile, and trine.

If these were all you had to deal with, you’d have already noticed all this long ago. But it is not the habit of astrologers to be so semi-selective. It has been traditional to look at conjunction cycles of one or two planets as history-shapers. That concept has been around since al-Kindi and Abu Ma’shar and was shaped by Aristotle. But a tide, historical or otherwise, is not a single event but a flow of events, and that is what you want to look for. When you throw all the planets in, the self-cancelling clutter of the shorter-cycle planets obscures the mixed rhythms that Saturn and the outer planets make that both depict the shape of history and yet are still within a single human lifespan, within the tangible range of human choice. In other words, you can see which way progress lies — even if it isn’t popular, or in power, or even appealing at the moment — and you can take the right side. Perhaps “right” may too charged a word, but you can take the side of history and progress, such as it is, for sure.

In and Out of the Nest

That’s good in theory, but how does it work out in real life? Let’s look at notable, recent periods when Saturn was in or out of the bowl.

Saturn was nested with the outer planets 1805–19, outlining the Napoleonic Wars and the subsequent rearrangement of Europe, and also 1942–53, outlining the war to contain facism (WWII) and the subsequent rearrangement of Europe. Each of those was followed by a short nesting 1846–52 (revolutions across Europe) and 1982–89 (peaceful revolutions and reestablishment of democracy in Eastern Europe). We get another large nest in 2020–33, but then things go haywire as the OP go into grand trine and prevent nesting, as they did in the period just before and during the American Revolution. Nesting is also pretty much prevented when the OP go into an opposition pattern, splitting the Zodiac, as they did in the late 19th century. A brief glance might indicate that wars and social change that mark progress (or historic social change) are characteristic of the nesting period, but also that there are periods when the OP themselves are either divided (when you get big rearrangements, but no forward motion, like the lead-up to and conclusion of WWI) or in grand trine, when they're doing something really special on a much bigger canvas, part of the +/- 500-year Neptune/Pluto recurrence cycle.

Clearly, what we’re looking at is the really big hand of time (the OP) in relation to the next smaller one, Saturn. When Saturn’s in, it’s progress, though sometimes at great cost — but what about when Saturn’s out? It’s out most of the time, so that has limited meaning, but it would be at its most noticeable when Saturn’s making a bucket with the OP, or at least 60 degrees outside of their nest, which happens less frequently. Recently, that’s been 1825–39 (repressive European monarchies restored), 1858–77 (U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction, Franco-Prussian War), 1923–35 (rise of facism), 1961–77(brackets Vietnam War), 1998–2019 (???).


Stock Market crash October 29, 1929 marked height of Saturn bucket, Establishment bringing on disaster

So far, only the most general periods and trends seem to be highlighted, and then not exactly. But suppose we fine-tune them a bit more. What we are looking for is crossover times when those in power changed from sailing with the winds of history to trying to fight them. The logical crossover point is when Saturn is not actually within the OP but beginning or ending a bowl with them itself, from its opposition to the leading edge OP until its opposition the trailing edge OP. Those are the points where the hard aspects really cut in and the helpful ones become rare, between the central periods of nesting or bucket. Then, on top of that, Jupiter and even briefer Mars cycles act to mask or distract from the overall motion, often triggering misplaced confidence and acts of war in the process.

Possibly the best example is the Great Depression and the concomitant rise of facism, particularly in Germany. It happened at the peak of Saturn its bucket opposite the outer planets, but even as that waned, Jupiter joined Saturn in 1940 as if to support it, as did Mars just before at the invasion of Poland and the outbreak of war. Yet, Saturn was already moving away from its outside status and towards the outer planets and the outcome of the conflict was already ahead of the trappings of its beginnings. At the time it was happening, you might have been hard-pressed to predict the winner, but watching the rise of the perpetrators could have told you that the very fact of their stars being in the ascendance (so to speak) doomed them to future defeat. Such, in fact, was the case even for some laudable steps forward elsewhere, such as NRA and much of the stillborn socialism of FDR in America. After all, FDR came to power only weeks after Hitler did, and died just weeks before him. Establishment victories in the late 1930s simply wouldn’t last, though their effects would endure forever.

It is beyond the scope of this article to apply this principle, example by example, to the other periods of history we have mentioned, as that would take a book. Yet, a glance at the transits and the associated events, from Napoleon to the present, shows a consistency that bears closer inspection. If you look at just Saturn and the OP across a large swathe of history on a computer, speeded up so the years fly by onscreen, you can see a tide-like rhythm that looks like waves ever washing upon the shore, each time backing off and then going farther forward.


By the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, Saturn had finished its outside stint, and again rejoined the outer planets.

When the real swing from one period to another occurs depends on just how alone Saturn is in the sky. If Jupiter and Mars join it against the OP for a while, they can extend its regressive power, as happened in the late ‘30s, when it had already passed its opposition to Neptune and was well beyond a bucket, but found Jupiter and Mars aggressively taking over the bucket handle and prolonging the previous trends long enough for the Nazi conquest of Europe and some serious doubts about whether things would ultimately change direction. If you look at the transitions intomost of the other periods mentioned earlier, you’ll find them to be centered around when Saturn got past the bucket and into a bowl, but before it actually nested, with some extra stretch or compression provided by Jupiter and Mars either augmenting it or hastening the change. Look for when Saturn makes the opposition to the leading outer planet, forming a bowl, and there’s your marker, the tipping point.  

What makes all this particularly relevant right now is that we are at just such a crossover period in the next couple of years, in which Saturn finally gets out of the opposition to the OP and all the planets tighten up ranks, beginning with a bowl in 2008–9 and moving on to a bundle by 2019. As before, it may not be a peaceful progression because of the fix we may already have found ourselves in — especially since we have two very strong Saturn buckets yet to get through in the winters of 2007 and 2008. But by that time you will probably know who the ultimate winners will be. 

So you are, by this, forewarned — simply by looking at who’s in power now and what they’re up to. Whoever they are and whatever they’ve been doing, it’s been bucking the tide — they’ve been up to no good, just because they could. So, who have you been voting for, and now, which side are you on? 

Copyright: John Townley

Bio: John  Townley

Early in his astrological career, John Townley introduced the composite chart technique for analyzing relationships in his book The Composite Chart, and 20 years later wrote the definitive work on the subject, Composite Charts: The Astrology of Relationships. He has pioneered techniques for astrological cycle analysis and proposed a new, physical basis for astrology. He is also the author of Planets in Love, Dynamic Astrology, and Lunar Returns, has been the president of the Astrologers' Guild of America, was the editor of The Astrological Review, and is a contributor to professional and popular astrological magazines. His books have been translated into seven languages.
John is also a well-known journalist, elected member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, historian, preservationist, performer, and record producer. He can be regularly found, camera and microphone in hand, covering cultural and technological events ranging from the Consumer Electronics Show to the Toy Fair, from international music festivals to ocean sailing races. When he's not behind the camera and microphone, he's in front of them, performing at maritime concerts in the U.S. and across Europe.

Visit Townley's homepage at

Other articles by John Townley:

2008 Primaries & Beyond: Composites and the Candidates   1/7/2008
A New Presidential Paradigm?   2/22/2008
Above Us, The Waves -- The Post-Election Weather Observer   11/6/2008
Aspects and Orbs   6/8/2007
Dark Days: The End of the Beginning   5/25/2007
Darning Your Threads … Rectification by Association   7/18/2007
Gift Signs for the Holidays: Thoughts that Count   12/10/2007
Mars-Uranus, Redux   4/19/2007
Of Time and Tide, and the Flowering at the Flood   8/1/2007
Planetary Order I: ... rising ahead of the Sun   8/15/2007
Planetary Order II: … all your ducks in a row   9/5/2007
Planetary Order III: Islands in the Sky   10/1/2007
Ringing the Changes   2/8/2008
Stars Over Lebanon: An Interview With Carmen Chammas   5/11/2007
The (Not So) VOC Moon   7/25/2007
The Battle Finally Joined: Obama vs. McCain   7/8/2008
The Personal Void-of-Course Moon   4/26/2007
Threads of Destiny   7/6/2007
Tips for the Tempests of 2007!   4/13/2007

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