Sedna

Through the chance viewing of some posts on facebook, and a quick checking of planetary positions over the last Full Moon, I have felt drawn to take a look at the minor planet Sedna, which was discovered in 2003. It is an astronomical object which I had heard of astrologically, but I hadn’t really come to consider just how extraordinary it was.

Astrology has, since the 1970s, started to take on board a far more complex view of the heavens, bringing in “centaurs” like Chiron, Pholus and Nessus, asteroids such as Ceres, Pallas and Vesta, Dwarf planets such as Eris, the existence (or hypothesized existence) of the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud, and out on the edge of the latter, far flung Sedna.

Astrologers will often look to the mythology of a planet’s namesake for clues to its meaning, and Sedna’s mythology is quite alien and unpalatable to the classical bent of traditional astrology (though lord knows classical mythology can put Pasolini’s Salo in the shade). It is Inuit in origin, and there are a number of variations on the story, which you can read here and here. I’ll focus on the one which is best known in the astrological community, though most of them involve themes of abandonment, abuse, and betrayal of Sedna, in which she herself however plays a part, through greed, refusal to grow up, or inappropriate attachment, though there is a wildly unreasoned and violent sense to the myth story. It never appears as a morality tale, or a working out of justice, but just how things are. The transcendent conclusion to the myth has a light to it, but it is uncanny, like ghost lights over a swamp.

In the most commonly related myth Sedna is a beautiful young woman who lives at home and is well cared for by her parents (sometimes it is mainly her father that is mentioned) in relative luxury with food and furs  and warmth. Sedna does not want to leave home, and she does not want to marry any of the hunters who come asking for her hand.

Eventually though a stranger appears who is more interesting. He is decked out in furs and feathers and Sedna is willing to consider this one. When she goes with him to his home on an island he reveals himself to be a bird spirit (a raven or a petrel) though, and she find herself condemned to a cold, miserable life in his bird home. Either through her wailing, or by a chance visit, her father learns of her predicament and rescues her from the island in his kayak, but the bird spirit causes a terrible storm, and Sedna falls out of the boat but clings on to the side. Father doesn’t help though, and either Sedna’s frozen fingers snap off, or he hits them with his oar until they snap off, or he cuts off her finger joints one by one. Unable to hang on, Sedna sinks to the bottom of the sea and drowns. But there her finger joints become the creatures of the sea such as seals, and Sedna grows a fish or dolphin tail, and becomes a goddess who the creatures of the sea obey.

Upon her the people are dependent, because if she is happy then the sea creatures give themselves up for the Inuit to eat. If she is unhappy, then they will not give themselves, and the people risk starvation. When she is not happy, then a shaman has to descend to her realm and comb out the tangles of her hair, and braid her hair for her, which soothes and placates her. She requires certain thing to be respected though, practices and taboos, relating to her creatures and their lives and deaths.

Like I said, there are some variations, some in which she is more of a protagonist, and some in which she is more completely a victim, but this is pretty much the most commonly related version nowadays. The elements of victimhood are there at some point in most, and the elements of self-serving but naive (and ineffective) unconsciousness likewise.

In terms of approaching Sedna astrologically I found this article on  the Karmic Astrology website to be the most useful personally. As the author points out, Sedna is a whole different kind of planet to what we’re used to, as different as the “outer planets” of Uranus through Pluto were to the “inner” or personal planet of Sun through Saturn, familiar to classical astrology. To give some perspective, Pluto takes 248 years to go round the Sun. Sedna takes between 10,000 and 12,000 years (views vary, but it’s a long time).

The cycle of Pluto is beyond a human lifetime. So is Neptune’s, but you could imagine us eventually catching up. Uranus is right on the contemporary money at 84 years to whiz round the Sun. With Sedna, we’re not even talking about the life cycle of civilizations. The last time Sedna was in Taurus (as it is now), it wasn’t within historical time. I would hazard that this is not just about individuals, not just about populations, not about civilizations, but about our entire species and it’s inter-species relationships (which kinda makes it not about our species).

I think that is why the Sedna myth has become active at this time to us, and why it is so extreme, so uncompromising, so seemingly inhuman, and dislocated from a sense of justice or moral proportion. It’s not about “but dad, why?!”. It’s not about our culture’s ideas of human life. It’s about what cuts right across our expectations of culture, justice, morality, story telling, all our plans for ourselves and the future of humanity. If the shit that happens is big enough,  then it just rewrote the rules. That isn’t palatable, but no one put choice on the menu here. It is a face of Nature which we have probably forgotten.

Sedna has a number of resonances, for she becomes a goddess of abundant nature, with conditions dependent upon how we treat her own. The ecological echoes are obvious. But we can also see ourselves as a species in Sedna. Unconscious, unaware, self-involved, expecting Nature (our parent) to look after us. And when we get ourselves into shit through our own choices, based on self-interest, and hang on to Nature’s boat, Nature may just correct the boat, and let us take another role in the scheme of things. We maybe have to be careful that the myth hasn’t returned as a prophecy. It’s a lot more convenient to think of  Nature as Sedna; it fits our preconceptions and probably our wishes – just do the right thing, Nature will come round, with maybe some help from the shaman. But it could be that Nature is Sedna’s Dad, and you know where that leaves us.

I don’t believe that Sedna can’t be interpreted individually, by house position, aspect or transit. I think it can, and I would suspect (from what others have written) that it relates to victimhood and abuse, and the part that unconsciousness and bad choices play in it for us. But being such a slow moving planet (kinda beyond transpersonal), I would wonder if it relates especially to entire culture-wide abuse, of people, other species, the environment. There is also a transcendence in the myth ultimately, that is indicated somewhere. Again, there is no choice involved (though there could have been), and maybe there is something here about the processes that a certain kind of suffering (un)consciousness goes through. Sedna ultimately has no choice but to surrender. It’s scary stuff, but even this much of the transpersonal asks to be integrated by the solar principle of consciousness and awareness, for it is part of the solar system. I have heard that people with an easily aspected Sedna tend to simply not countenance the kind of abusive situations or relations that someone with an afflicted Sedna is more likely to get faced with. Who knows?

Sedna in some ways reminds me of a watery Pluto, not in detail, not even in orientation, but in its non-negotiable feel. If Pluto gives us a sense of the evolutionary principle of Life that we can appreciate psychologically, I get the sense that Sedna is an evolutionary principle that we cannot avoid appreciating at the physical level. Yet it disappears into the depths that we associate with the psyche and its merging with the collective; lost, drowned, tended by the creatures of the deep, protecting them in turn.  Richard Brown of Karmic Astrology feels that Sedna relates at its more transcendent levels to our realization of ourselves as “immortal souls”, and that the realization is not one that we have a choice over. He refers to it as the first of “The Great Year Planets”, due to its orbital period covering almost half of the Great Year of 25,770 years (derived from the precession of the equinoxes). I think he probably is on to something there.

Sedna is an enigma, like all new planets are in astrology, but an enigma that hasn’t been where it is now for over 10,000 years. That in itself means that Sedna is saying something different.

Seal mask, Eskimo, early 20th century, carved wood, red and white pigments, whale ivory, long-term loan to the Honolulu Museum of Art – by Hiart (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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