the engineer in the basement, and other tales

The Sun went into Virgo a few days ago – one of my favourite times, the road between high Summer and Autumn (in the Northern Hemisphere). It’s normally a light time, increasingly delicate even when it stays good and warm, as the light changes and takes on a sightly more slanted, almost silvery quality. The days are drawing in a little, but not so much that you’d really notice, and the light is very pure. It becomes very clear, and yet we’re still in the the tail end of Summer.

But just recently it has felt heavy, and I think we can find some of the reasons in the sky. Mars has been making his way through Scorpio, to a meeting with Saturn, and now they are almost exactly conjunct. The two “malefics” conjunct in the sign of “ill repute”, tis the stuff of Hammer movies! Just a short while ago we had the conjunction of the two “benefics”, Jupiter and Venus, in regal and sunny Leo, where they are indeed still conjunct. Now the bad boys are together in the sign of all things putrefying, sexy and downright dodgy. I imagine it as like having sex with a great Victorian engineer down in the engine room. All big beards, waistcoats, pocket watches and enormous, driving pistons. Slytherin 15 – Gryffindor 12.

Glamorous reputation aside though, Saturn-Mars feels heavy because it is about work. Energy, drive, motive force, structure, resistance. Without all these things together, a combustion engine would either just go bang, or simply sit there. But if it isn’t mastered, it’s a definite challenge, and even then it needs maintenance over time. In Scorpio Mars is in its own sign. It’s at home, whether coiled or released. Fixed water. Saturn will bring out anything uncomfortable or unworkable, show up anything that isn’t authentic. So there’s a liquid combustion engine working in the unconscious, but slowly. It’s almost like the first oil well. It could bring up wealth, it could bring up poison, and it’s so concentrated that it will probably act as both, so we have to think what we really want, because we don’t have to extract stuff ourselves, in that way. Everything has its place, and sometimes it’s best left where it is. But sometimes it just needs to be done. The capacity for deep and transformative work is there though.

What happened yesterday as well was the New Moon in Virgo, the chart for which is below (set up for London, where I live).


Virgo New Moon 2014

Virgo New Moon 2014

There’s our Victorian engineer, all hot and waistcoated in Scorpio, locked in that square with good time Venus and Jupiter in Leo (joined by not so good time Lilith). Whatever work might be required by the engineer, the abundance and beneficence of the time is not in a position to express itself in a way which lets the engineer go where he needs to go easily, thus the cross purposes of the square here. Similarly, if the engineer works, the party ends up getting the smoke and oil (and possibly scandal).

Both Mars-Saturn and Venus-Jupiter will do what they need to do, but not only are their energies very contrasting, their means of expression are my “stop” for your “go”, chalk for cheese, display for secrecy, celebrity party for private dungeon, my “play” for your “deep work”. Except that Lilith is there at the party too, and that will not leave things just glittering on the surface. At least a few spanners and whips on the tables, some secrets in plain sight, an invitation to go much much deeper.

The New Moon is right opposite Neptune, so there is a feeling of either immense but untested possibilities, or of curling up and sleeping the whole thing off. A flowing trine to Pluto could give the means to manifest some of those possibilities in time, or just a very very good sleep.

Uranus in Aries is still square to Pluto, so we continue to work out all the power and freedom, individuality and establishment, real life and ideals issues of the waxing Uranus-Pluto cycle that started in the mid 1960s (no news there). The Uranus end of the square blesses the Leonine contingent with a nice trine here though, so the party at the Hollywood palace is probably pretty unconventional, which is just what it needs for the good time feel to come through regardless. Nothing says “screw you Saturn and Pluto” quite like a strong, positive Uranus.

What really shows up here for me though is a pair of yods or “fingers of fate”. As the name suggests, these aspect patterns can feel very fated in their influence, but it all depends. The pattern forms when two planets are sextile each other (60° apart), and both are quincunx a third planet on the other side of the chart. It looks like a long, narrow, triangle, and in the New Moon chart you can see two. One is between Mars-Saturn, Mercury and Uranus, and the other is between Pluto, Neptune and Jupiter.

The yod is a pattern which tends to take a considerable time to work out individually in a person’s life, as it is challenging and awkward, but it does have great potential. The energy is meant to resonate in this pattern, and I get the sense of it going in and out of phase until a person “gets” the hum that it is actually trying to reach. The two planets in sextile work harmoniously together, but the third, while it is in relation to both the others, the spatial arrangement around the zodiac (at 150º) give the means of expression nothing in common with those other two. If one is mutable, the others aren’t. If one is fire, neither of the others are. If one is “masculine”, both the others are feminine. The quincunx by all rights could be a complete miss, a complete nothing, but actually it isn’t. The relationship is there, it just doesn’t match any usual criteria of relationship. That is the nature of its relationship. In a yod, two planets focus that aspect on a third. It could be a complete nothing, but it really isn’t.


” The energy of the two planets in sextile is focused like a laser beam on the action point ………. A sextile is a positive aspect that creates energy. The quincunxes take this heightened energy and raise the vibration even further. The action point planet then comes under incredible stress and tension and must release it somehow. Individuals with this Yod pattern will experience this as continual buildup then release of tension”

Astrology King

Some astrologers do take this to be a very powerful pattern, that can even give a sense of mission. It is a challenging pattern, supposedly involving the learning of repeated lessons around a theme, and is sometimes taken to be karmic, where necessary things are learned, and skills gained.

“The skills are shown by the sextile planets, the challenges through the quincunxes, and the mission or task through the apex planet. The quincunx is an aspect of karmic readjustment”

Astrology King

My sense of the yod is that it might bring about a new and original level of awareness, one which doesn’t fit expected parameters, and may have a bearing on our sense of identification. There is a dissonance in the pattern, focussed on the apex planet, but it is perfectly natural, and this is a powerful pattern. The dissonance will go in and out of phase, in and out of awareness, over time and experience, until the person can “get” it, and incarnates something unique.

But how does this manifest in a chart for a time, rather than a person? Given that our collective and mass manifestations provide a substrate, but not a resolution, for the challenges of consciousness, I would say that they might point to challenges, tensions and potentials of the sort we have indicated, with the sense of karmic patterns involved. The “action planet” should say something about where it is trying to go, and where the tension shows up.

With the Pluto-Neptune-Jupiter yod, the orbs are maybe a little wide (though they are shown as present on the astrodienst chart), so it is the more questionable of the two patterns, but the harmonious base of it is the Neptune-Pluto sextile which has been a backdrop since the 1940s, and will be pretty much in place till 2040. In key word terms it shows illumination and mystical transcendence harmonized (with a little conscious work) with deep transformation and transmutation of life. This shows a potential for spiritual transformation, and according to some it goes along with periods of relative religious liberalism. Where these planets are now is in Capricorn (Pluto) and Pisces (Neptune). Neptune in Pisces has I think a considerable potential to bring about compassionate awareness and sensitivity to collective suffering, while Pluto in Capricorn is shaking and cracking the established structures of how we live, even if it does so in part by casting the shadow of that structure bigger, in shapes more cruel and ruthless. You can see how these two can resonate with each other.

But right now they both focus across the sky on Jupiter in Leo, with that totally-miss-it-exactly aspect of a quincunx. Jupiter is our more personal sense of philosophy, teaching, adventure, and consciousness expansion of the exercising rather than the mind blowing kind. Jupiter can be tremendously healing, and hopeful, and brings light, warmth and benevolence when well aspected. In relation to the yod, the sense of expansion and philosophical answers and generosity is just too personal and egocentric in Leo to answer to the concerns of where Neptune and Pluto are right now. But the relationship is there (if you accept the slightly wide orbs), so there is that tension at the moment. A bit of a missed opportunity, a misplaced good intention, or just partying on as Rome smoulders. It’s not that Jupiter doesn’t care, he’s a big hearted guy, but right now he is in the middle of a world that is like from another time. So there’s maybe a question there, about what kind of philosophy, benevolence, generosity of spirit, can also serve to alleviate the crisis of compassion that Neptune-Pluto is resonating with, without being personally inauthentic. But you can’t force a quincunx, there is just no leverage in any direction, and I think that is probably part of its genius.

The other yod (and this one is unquestionably in orb) is between Mars-Saturn, Mercury and Uranus. The harmoniously related planets are Mars-Saturn in Scorpio and Mercury in Virgo. So all that work-demanding stuff in the underbelly of the zodiac, it’s getting good support from detailed, digesting, integrating Mercury in Virgo. Communication and travel, mobility (and mental activity in general) might have a somewhat slow feel, but you can tell it’s processing, or maybe even healing. Not a time for quick anything. But thorough? To the last detail. And what Mercury adds to the engineer’s labour, Mars-Saturn’s work, is the lightness of a bit more consciousness. What this very solid grouping focusses on, across the sky again, is Uranus in “head for the hills!”, pioneering, individual Aries. It’s difficult to imagine them making any impression at all on Mr Lightning Strike, but one way or another, they resonate with each other (though Mercury will move on quickly) and while Mars-Saturn-Mercury work together and hold together, Mars-Saturn to Uranus, and Mercury to Uranus relate in a WTF, bull in a china shop, “don’t bring that thing in the lab!” kinda way. But Uranus is always a truth, whether welcome or not. So there is the unease, the doubt, the inkling, of what we don’t know, of what we haven’t included in our calculations at all. So that heaviness that maybe comes from the Mars-Saturn conjunction, it’s helped by the conscious work of sifting, digesting, integrating (or even just doing the hoovering). There may be some tension in the background of it, some unease, but don’t worry, it’s just a transdimensional, ultimately individual truth, reminding the world that it’s there, even when the world can’t quite relate. Being a quincunx aspect, it could be. It’s just that it isn’t in any conventional, recognizable terms. Just be open minded, and leave some spaces in the plans. That’s good engineering too.

One body that aspects just about everything we have talked about here, one way or another, is Chiron in Pisces. Sextile Pluto, trine Mars-Saturn, opposition Mercury, quincunx Venus, semi-sextile Uranus. The wise, exceptional centaur, in its “Summer of Love”, Sergeant Pepper sign touches on most of the things in the chart, so my inclination is to view the New Moon as being about a lot of healing when it comes down to it. It feels heavy, but it’s shifting, integrating, processing, transmuting, for a new day. In Pisces, I think Chiron teaches us to be realistic, know our limits, not try to literally save the world, not take in our own huddled masses, and also not over value our own suffering. Chiron is a lot about wounds we re-inflict on ourselves, but ultimately it is about gaining the wisdom that stops the repeating cycle, which we can share realistically to make our world actually a better place, rather than just making ourselves feel better, or worse. Sometimes he will just tell uslet it be”.

West Oil Company Endless Wire Pumping Station, U.S. Route 50 – by William E. Barrett, Photographer, 1973. Image in public domain, via Wikimedia Commons



  1. Thanks for that article on the yods. I have been trying to get more understanding of them lately. I have a young relative who I don’t see as they all live far from me, but she has been suffering from depression this last year and has 3 linked in yods apex to moon and Neptune. She is possibly bi polar and some of these kids have been doing it tough lately, with Saturn transitting Pluto.
    A literal manifestation of exact Mars conjunct Saturn Scorpio yesterday..I was cleaning up some firewood just out back here, New Moon, and was drawn to meditate on fallen tree in sun. Fab new moon meditation. Later I felt a tick on my arm. As I was tryng to pull it off, it painfully injected its poison. So I later ended up with very painful swollen arm.

    • ouch, yeah that’s a little *too* concrete as a contemplation on Mars-Saturn in Scorpio 😉 Hope that is getting better today.

      Re your young relative, if the depression is anything to do with the yods, I’ve read that yods tend to be more troublesome earlier in life, and as you age you have more of a chance of getting in tune with it (something along those lines). Young adulthood is a truly awful time for so many people, I hope she is able to get any help she needs.

  2. Yeh thanks. She has Sun 1* Scorpio closely conjunct Mercury, Venus end Libra, so tr. Saturn has hit her really hard. These transits so very challenging for young kids asking them to mature quickly and early and endure hardship.
    Some of these difficult aspects we only grow into more gracefully as we age and learn from experience. She also has a heap of quintiles.
    What I love re:astrology is that as regards to difficult transits that people are going through…. it doesn’t sugar coat what we are going through, but it always! shows the sun coming out again after the storm.Yay!

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