Thoughts on the Great Conjunction

Wednesday December 9th 2020

Details from the Journey of the Magi by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Palazzo Medici.
These are the two senior kings — Balthazar and Melchior.

The mightiest  planets known to the ancients, great Jupiter and stern Saturn, will meet on December 21, 2020 for the first time in 20 years. They will be so close together that from earth they may appear as one bright light in the sky. It’s called the Great Conjunction.

This extraordinary sight was last witnessed in this part of the sky during the final year of Genghis Khan’s long reign; the year the heretic Cathars suffered a crushing defeat in southern France, a seven-year-old became the fourth Kamakura Shogun in Japan and the great temple of the smiling Buddhas at Angkor was under construction. Eight centuries have passed.

What is a Great Conjunction?

The Great Conjunction was a cycle familiar to astrologers of old. It’s supposed that it may have been this that brought the magi seeking the Christ child. It was associated with the rise and fall of kings and emperors. And it happens every 20 years, cycling through the Zodiac in different signs.

The Great Conjunction opens a generational period. It’s always a turning point. And the sign in which it takes place flavours the following 20 years.

This Great Conjunction on December 21 takes place in Aquarius and it is much closer than usual. In fact, it’s the closest the two planets have been since 1226.*

The Bridge from Earth to Air

These Great Conjunctions often happen in the same element for about 200 years, with overlaps at the beginning and end of the period. (There are important exceptions to this rule, by the way.)

Josephine at Malmaison', 1800. Josephine Bonaparte (Beauharnais) 1763-1814. Francis Pascal Simon Gerard (1770-1837) French painter. Oil on canvas.

Josephine at Malmaison’, 1800. Francis Pascal Simon Gerard. Think of the radical shift in fashion between 1782 and 1821. From the powdered wigs (guillotined in 1790s) to this flowing  “empire line”.

So, for example, up until 1802, Great Conjunctions had been in fire signs for a few hundred years. Then in that year it took place  in earthy Virgo, but reverted to fire in 1821. That period of time in Europe — 1802-1821 — was very particular in terms of politics and fashion. It was the height of the Romantic era in arts and letters, a passionate response to the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution; and the Napoleonic Wars raged. The second section — from 1821 to 1842 — was when those Romantic ideas bore political fruit; this was the era of the rise of romantic nationalism. The Greek War of Independence (1821-30) was a cause people could die for, and the Year of Revolutions (1848) was a direct result of this romantic thinking.

From 1842 onward, the Great Conjunctions were in earth signs until 1980, when the cycle dipped into air in the sign of Libra. The last earth Grand Conjunction took place in Taurus in 2000. From now on, these Grand Conjunctions will be in air signs until 2159, and really only moving on properly in the 23rd century.

So you could look at this chunk of time from 1980 to now, as the bridge from earth to air, a period of transition. Great Conjunctions: 1980 (Libra0, 2000 (Taurus), 2020 (Aquarius). We had this same series of Great Conjunctions 800 years ago: 1186 (Libra),1206 (Taurus), 1226 (Aquarius).

Three things spring to mind that coincide exactly with that transition period (1186-1226). The High Gothic, the establishment of the Mongol Empire by Genghis Khan, and the Albigensian Crusade.

Technical innovation — the pointed arch, stained glass — came together with religious faith to create some of the most beautiful human-made sacred spaces on earth. At Chartres, Reims, Amiens, Beauvais in Northern France, great cathedrals soared skywards. They were built by teams of craftsmen, paid by subscription from the faithful. This fits beautifully with the rhythm of Libra, Taurus, Aquarius: art, building, community and engineering.

From 1206 to his death in 1227, Genghis Khan united huge chunks of Asia and he also made safe the Silk Road, running from Europe to China via the great trading centres  of the Near East and Central Asia — Trabizon,  Bokhara, Samarkand. This meant silk, carpets, gold and silver, ideas and beliefs could travel freely up and down the ancient route again. Genghis Khan was, among other things, a great organiser and people manager. To get people working together he hired local help, and tolerated local religious beliefs — mind you, he was also a ruthless general and extremely scary by most accounts. His stabilisation of the great route lasted for centuries.

The Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229) was also scary. Some historians call it a genocide. At Beziers, every man, woman and child was put to the sword as the Pope’s priest had said to the soldiers: “Kill them all, God will know his own.” With the blessing of the Pope, the northern French wiped out the heretical Cathars of Southern France, destroying a culture and a language in the process. This heresy was the most successful in Europe before the Reformation, a powerful imagining of the Christian message that, among other things, treated women as equals.  Enormous fortunes were made during this crusade as the invading armies from the north acquired the lands and titles of the southerners. A long-lasting result of the Crusade was the establishment of the Papal Inquisition. 

When we look back over the last 40 years of our own recent history, we can see some strange parallels, particularly in that one phrase “information superhighway”, built collectively like the cathedrals, carrying ideas around the world like the Silk Road. But who are the heretics, the Cathars, rendered speechless? Or the inquisition?

Ruled by Saturn

Jupiter and Saturn are concerned with society and how we live together as human beings. Both Saturn and Jupiter are teachers, judges, gurus. They are both planets of law and rules. Jupiter is the generous ruler, and Saturn is the disciplined ruler. This is why the conjunction affects the whole of society, and marks generational change.

Both the conjunctions in 1980 (Libra) and in 2000 (Taurus) were ruled by Venus, the planet of cash, art, beauty, culture, social niceties, sugar, indulgence, luxury. Excessive Venus can be rather decadent. I am sure it has not felt at all decadent in many parts of the world, far from it, but this has also been an extraordinarily decadent 40 years across much of the planet. In fact, consumer-capitalism became the world religion. 

This month, because the conjunction takes place in Aquarius, we enter into a Saturn-ruled period, which will be a background beat for the next 20 years. This is just the first leg of the “air” centuries. We shall see how this works out, but Saturn is certainly a taskmaster, the most grown up planet of them all. Maybe the adults in the room will finally start to take charge. It could certainly be a time when “rules apply”.

Back in the 13th century, empires rose and fell in the two decades after 1226 — but then, don’t they always? However, if there is one big story in that time, it’s probably the massive expansion of the Mongol Empire across northern China to the East, across Russia to the west, and south to Aleppo and eventually Baghdad. This meant the empire stretched from the Baltic to the China Sea, connecting the Mediterranean to the Pacific, the greatest empire on a single landmass the world has ever seen.

Bright clear air

This conjunction comes at the end of a particularly gruelling period of endings. The dark lords Pluto and Saturn worked together in the sign of midwinter, Capricorn to put a giant full stop at the end of a long sentence on the subject of earthly power that began n in 1802. (Perhaps the founding of the DuPont chemical company just two days after that 1802 conjunction is symbolic.)

Furthermore, our Great Conjunction takes place at 0° Aquarius, the very first moment of the sign, and on the day when the Sun is at 0° Capricorn. That is doubly Saturnian, of course, but also doubly the beginning. It echoes Saturn’s entry into Capricorn in the first place, back in December 2017 at 0°.

Those of you born with many planets in Aquarius will, likely, feel a surge of power, a new sense of responsibility or just a jolt of optimism. All the kids born with Uranus or Neptune in Aquarius at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century will also feel the world turning a little in their favour.

And we should all feel optimistic, this is extraordinary, clear, symbolism. A breath of fresh air is blowing across the world. In January and February 2021, expect high winds. Reef you sails, throw out the old ballast, and get ready to sail as close to the wind as you dare.

*When they met in early Leo, the opposite sign to Aquarius, in 1623, they were also very close.

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  1. Vesta says:

    Me! I have Juno, Pallas Athena and Lilith in Aquarius, and I have prog. Venus there too. Prog. Mars is 28 Cap so, couple of years. My AC is 7 Libra, my NN is 6 Gemini, so I’m seeing more harmony for me.
    I don’t know what orbs astrologers might suggest for the great conjunction but I go with how it feels, I can feel the energy and I trust my own judgement. The great conjunction at 0 Aquarius will trine my NN in 9H and sextile my SN/Moon conjunct in Sag in 3H. There’s a really big theme of communication. I’m excited. New friends! 🙂
    The composite midpoint chart for my TF friend and I has Aquarius IC, Juno and Moon. I wondered about that this whole time. Something to do with humanitarianism, the collective? As I currently understand it, it’s about our personal growth, preparing us to do something on the collective level or just understand it? I think we’re able to evolve with the times, or something? My friend’s progressed sun is Aquarius and quite a few other things. So hmmm! Interesting!
    My natal chart has the same angles as the UK’s so I know the great conjunction is in the 4th house. The foundations. Something is shifting at a fundamental level? And like my friend and I, a push to evolve with the times? Brexit is threatening a break up of the union. If all the nations stay in the EU, it will be difficult for just England to leave. If the great conjunction brings a consideration for the collective, then I can’t see England leaving. I see an agreement that benefits the many, not the few.
    The big planets going through Capricorn have been devastating for me since 2008. But if I take the wider view, they burned away all the chaff and left me with what’s true. So I go into the new era with a cleared out foundation, like a field that’s been tilled. A clean slate. I have a better sense of myself, even if I never bothered to find a new identity, I loved the sense of freedom so much. 🙂 I have learned to trust myself and not give my power away to others and their neverending opinions. Pluto is still in Capricorn and right now, I am digging deep into childhood issues to heal them. My prog. sun is 29 Sag, it will go into Capricorn next year, so I am thinking a greater sense of self, security, feeling more solid in myself after feeling at the mercy of pluto in Capricorn all this time.
    Pluto will go into Aquarius in a few years. I know, slightly off topic. I would agree with Rick Levine, it doesn’t mean the age of Aquarius. Long way to go yet.
    Thanks, Christina! One of the best articles I have seen on the subject. 🙂

  2. “We are sailing we are sailing across the water across the sea we are sailing stormy waters to be near you to be free ….”

  3. Lisa says:

    I have a Yod in my natal chart consisting of ♌ saturn in the 2nd house sextile ♊ Jupiter in the 12th house pointing at 0 degrees Aquarius♒ moon in 7th house……anyone have a thought about this?

    • Christina says:

      A new relationship seems very likely, or an old one renewed. Or business partnership really taking off actually, since there’s a cash-money element to this. I think it’s very exciting and positive anyway.

  4. Thank you for a brilliant article with all your research (especially as I’m studying and writing about the Cathars). My question is, what do you mean by the conjunction being closer “it is much closer than usual. In fact, it’s the closest the two planets have been since 1226.” My astronomical knowledge is not great – are the 2 planets closer to each other than usual (are their orbits then elliptical?) I know that the conjunction is from the perspective of earth, but are they closer to the earth now than they have been since 1226? Many thanks for this, Morelle

    • Christina says:

      They appear to be closer to each other from our perspective on earth.

      But also I thought I’d corrected that line! So thanks for pointing it out. Actually, the conjunction was very tight when they were in Leo in 1623 also. So it’s when it’s on the Leo-Aquarius axis that they get this close.

  5. 44 and counting says:

    Lovely writeup Christina. Some good history stuff in there about the Silk Road and Cathars that I wasn’t familiar with.

    On a personal note, I’m hopeful for the upcoming period – I have a grand trine in air with mars/NN in Aqua. The years when Uranus/Neptune went through Aqua were generally very good to me. But maybe that’s true for us all with Pluto in Sag expanding matters. However I don’t look forward to the Aqua lifestyle dominating over the next twenty years – I believe people are meant to be around each other, not holding each off at distance, lacking the human touch or becoming overly focused on technology.

    I can’t believe it’s been six years since Saturn moved into Sag back in Dec 2014. It feels like a lifetime ago that it’s been traversing these two signs. Compare that to the six years it took to go through Gemini, Cancer, Leo from 2001-07.

    It occurred to me earlier that Saturn in Aqua is a time “when we look at the groups we’re part of and ask whether they’re meeting our needs”. We all get involved in groups because we believe they can add something to our lives, But if all we’re doing is giving to a cause that doesn’t benefit us, then maybe it’s time to move on. I think the social media generation are going to be asking that question – probably a lot of paring down of Facebook Friends going to be happening. And Britain won’t the only nation to question whether it wants to be part of the EU. Likely Scotland will be asking (again) whether it wants to be part of the UK. Football’s Premier League was started in the last Aqua Saturn period when clubs decided the Football League wasn’t to their benefit anymore – now the Big Six are rumbling about a European super league.

    Meanwhile Jupiter’s entry into Aqua may provide the opportunity to join new groups. I wonder if the next twenty years will see many groups forming/disbanding quickly as people dive in then dive out?

    • Christina says:

      I agree with you. I think being part of/or excluded from a group will turn out to be very important. On the negative side, there is a danger of “thought police” with Saturn in Aquarius — which also smacks of the inquisition.

      • 44 and counting says:

        Indeed. I’ve noticed this year a huge pressure being put on others to support the campaigns of certain groups – which is bad enough in itself. But more insidiously, they promote the idea that if you aren’t actively showing support then you’re against the cause and being cancelled. I’d felt this was like the witchhunts and McCarthyism but Inquisition is just as apt.

        One positive that may come from the Aqua generation is saving the planet. Not because of their ethics or campaigning but because they aren’t as materialistic. Our generation grew up owning CDs, DVDs and videos. They’re happy to stream it from Spotify or Netflix. They’ll work from home and not need cars to travel to a purpose built office etc, etc. They’re very comfortable with an online world.

        • Isy says:

          The “slow fashion” movement seems to be bearing fruit in public consciousness — reacting both against the fast fashions that are so wasteful, destructive, and depend so much on toxics; but also towards the more body-friendly nature of natural textiles, simpler maintenance and cleaning, and the calmer mindframe of having clothes that last years, possibly decades, of wear and don’t need to be replaced every few months.

          A trivial cultural note, perhaps, but interesting.

          • 44 and counting says:

            Not trivial at all Isy.

            Fast fashion is a subset of predatory capitalism. Planned obscolence and continually launching new models of running shoes, iphones, televisions, fridges so people are always buying a new stuff and keeping profits up. Yet rarely does this year’s iPhone deliver anything significantly better than last year’s to justify the spend. Microsoft and the like are always forcing software upgrades on people and then canning support for the older stuff, yet I’m sure all Word97 would do the job for my documents.

            So your point is very valid – maybe there will be a general slowdown in the acquisition of new things with people making stuff last longer. One can only hope. (I say this as someone who still has the microwave they bought 25 years ago!!)

  6. severne says:

    I love the way you think! Thank you for the historical perspective, it is always useful to see the pattern with a greater perspective. I remember clearly the solstice day on 2017, it was quite saturnian (cold and windy.. I could feel it in my bones) it asked me to push through that extra mile…and set some boundaries as well.
    I’m looking forward to this new cycle for sure. A ritual for the Solstice has never felt more exciting!

  7. […] movement out of an earth sign cycle the past 200 years and into air signs for the next 200 years. This article by astrologer Christina Rodenbeck well explains the significance of […]

  8. Isy says:

    Here’s something fun…ish.

    The 2000 conjunction was fairly exactly on my True Node in Taurus.

    My repetitive injury became intractable 12/1999 and I started receiving treatment 3/2000. Dealing with, learning about, and constructing info-delivery about, this domino-knocking business of central pain and physiological & neurological dys-regulation certainly redefined my identity and learning to care primarily for myself (despite all the 12th house pressure built into my chart) became the chief imperative in my life.

    The Enron crisis, which flipped the switch for the financial meltdown 8 years later, came to a head that summer, right around the conjunction. Radical religionists were detailing plans to blow up a major global financial center, which they did a year later.

    This December 22 is the day before the surgery I had 18 or 19 (I always forget which!) years ago which terminated my healthy years and marked the official start of the multi system, multi organ instability which has shaped my life since then.

    It happens in a nearly perfect square to my Sun-Mars conjunction, which straddles the Aries-Taurus bridge and is just barely in my 12th, just above my Taurus Ascendant. This feels very “under the skin.”

    Cherry on top: my GI system, at least part of which is Taurus’s job, is the current focus of dysregulation and degraded function.

    My natal Venus, chart ruler, is in Aquarius, in my 11th, the house not only of tech and web but of society and the changes therein. (I’m an America living in my country, so I don’t need to elaborate there I think). I see Her sitting just behind the proscenium, diaphanous layers tumbled sweetly about Her and framing the bare knee crossed over her upstage leg, eating salted popcorn and casually awaiting her cue.

    Whether the cue affects me, my country, or the world doesn’t seem like a sensible question. I’m just going to keep knitting chain mail from soft wool & building pillow forts from big cushions & hope for the best!

  9. Eleonora says:

    Nice. Btw, Bogumils in the Balkans were direct predecessors of the Cathars (sharing their fate around the same time). They considered women as equals. They refused churches — both orthodox and catholic, they were pacifists, vegetarians and valued education and literacy. So, in short, they were a hell of people for any medieval ruler.

    I was astonished to find almost 1000 years old Bogumils monuments with poems written on them, in my montenegrin grandmother‘s village at Durmitor, bellow the Canyon Tara. During the purge, such monuments were destroyed in Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and much of the Montenegro, but here, high in the hills, some remained preserved.

    It was the first time I even heard about Bogumils. This was not the sort of history we were thought at the school. Yet, Bogumils were big in the Balkans – really, really big.

    Before that, I always considered my grandmother‘s strong dislike for any sort of organized religion or nationalism and her admiration for education and sadness of not being able to get an official education (she had to interrupt her schooling due to the WW2 and never got over the elementary school), to be the direct product of the communist ideology, which was particularly strong in that area, resulting in one of the first partisan uprising in occupied Yugoslavia. However, it’s probably more complex. Yes, she was a staunch leftist, as most of her tribesmen at that time. But the radical left has found a fertile soil there for several reasons: dislike for church, monarchy and the kings, the rich and the elites in general, among the most important.

    As for Genghis Khan, it’s worth noting that his troops killed 5%-10% percent of the entire world population! It’s unprecedented in the human history. Half of the Chinese and Persians. However, during his rule, Pluto was in Leo. For some reasons, Pluto in Leo seems very cruel. Think of the WWII, or Hiroshima and Nagasaki (or the very existence of the nuclear weapons). Mass destruction (Pluto) of life (Leo). So, I hope we are not going for another Genghis Khan yet. Though Corona is bad enough.

  10. Eleonora says:

    Nice. Btw, Bogumils in the Balkans were direct predecessors of the Cathars (sharing their fate around the same time). They considered women as equals. They refused churches — both orthodox and catholic, they were pacifists, vegetarians and valued education and literacy. So, in short, they were a hell of people for any medieval ruler.

    I was astonished to find almost 1000 years old Bogumils monuments with poems written on them, necropolis, in my montenegrin grandmother‘s village at Durmitor, bellow the Canyon Tara. During the purge, such monuments were destroyed in Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and much of the Montenegro, but here, high in the hills, some remained preserved.

    It was the first time I even heard about Bogumils. This was not the sort of history we were thought at the school. Yet, Bogumils were big in the Balkans – really, really big.

    Before that, I always considered my grandmother‘s strong dislike for any sort of organized religion or nationalism and her admiration for education and sadness of not being able to attend a school (she had to interrupt her schooling due to the WW2 and never got over the elementary school), to be the direct product of the communist ideology which was particularly strong in that area, resulting in one of the first partisan uprising in occupied Yugoslavia. However, it’s probably more complex. Yes, she was a staunch leftist, as most of her tribesmen. But the radical left has found a fertile soil there for several reasons: dislike for church, monarchy and the kings, the rich and the elites in general, among the most important.

    As for Genghis Khan, it’s worth noting that his troops killed 5%-10% percent of the entire world population. It’s unprecedented in the human history. Half of the Chinese and Persians. However, during his rule, Pluto was in Leo. For some reasons, Pluto in Leo seems very cruel. Think of the WWII, or Hiroshima and Nagasaki (or the very existence of the nuclear weapons). Mass destruction (Pluto) of life (Leo). So, I hope we are not going for another Genghis Khan yet. Though Corona is bad enough.