Thoughts on the Great Conjunction
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.)
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.