This article first appeared on Mooncircles. It is reprinted here with permission of the author.

This full moon will find the spacecraft Cassini orbiting Saturn, initiating a major astronomical study of the ringed planet and its 31 moons, one of which (Titan) has an atmosphere containing elements basic to life. A "gas giant," Saturn was apparently a potential star that never gathered enough mass to catch fire, but its system of satellites is complex enough to be a solar system unto itself. This complexity (and coldness) is in keeping with Saturn's astrological nature. As the Cassini project goes forward, much will be learned about the physics of solar and planetary systems. We can follow along in our imagination (and online at, reflecting on the rich makeup of this planet which until the invention of the telescope formed the boundary of the known solar system and symbolized the boundaries of human existence.

According to astrological tradition, the human soul, in order to incarnate, descends from Heaven to Earth through the planetary spheres, taking on qualities from each of the planets in turn. The form and limits of the person are first given by Saturn, the outermost of the visible planets. Proceeding through the domains of Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, and Mercury, the fully-endowed soul finally receives its body through the moon. So the moon and Saturn can be seen as the cosmic parents, and their work is most evident when the full moon highlights their signs, Cancer and Capricorn.

As the first of the Water signs, Cancer provides the "juice" that flows through a living system, carrying nutrients, removing wastes, and transmitting information about what is needed in each part. It brings to awareness our continuity with the ancestors and our stake in the future through our descendants. We know ourselves to be part of a living stream of family and tribe or nation. So when the sun enters Cancer each year we drop anchor and bathe in that stream. We refresh our connection with family and cultural tradition and also restore our individual psychic balance and outlook, the ways in which we stand apart from our upbringing and live out of our own emotional truth. It's a good time for weddings, family reunions, and family vacations, but also for solitary rest, retreat, and ritual.

While Cancer supplies the energy for nourishment and growth, Capricorn sets limits. Each organism is born with the potential to develop according to its genetic endowment, and this potential is enhanced or restricted by environmental factors. Cancer gives the organism its impetus to unfold, while Capricorn keeps it true to species form and governs its developmental timetable, including its inevitable decline and death. Cancer supports and nourishes the young, while Capricorn teaches them the rules and guards the boundaries of the home. Together these two signs describe the paradox familiar to all parents: that having a child burdens and exhausts them to an extent they could not have anticipated, but at the same time releases undreamed-of reserves of love, devotion, and stamina.

At this full moon, the cosmic parents are undergoing an alchemical exchange as the moon visits Saturn's domain of Capricorn and Saturn sojourns in the moon's home, Cancer. Each is putting itself in the other's shoes, so to speak. Each of these placements is challenging because it involves a coming together of opposite principles (mother and father, growth and restriction, birth and death, plenty and want, feeling and logic, intimacy and distance). It is between these opposites that we live out our daily lives, making hard choices, reconciling ourselves to losses and limitations, and moving ahead in the face of fears and uncertainties.

These issues should be heightened as the sun approaches the exact conjunction with Saturn on July 8. Easing the tension are Jupiter in Virgo, Uranus in Pisces, and the north and south nodes of the moon in Taurus and Scorpio respectively, forming a Grand Sextile pattern with sun, moon and Saturn in the earth and water signs. Taken together, they suggest that although resources are limited and the future uncertain, we should not give up our dreams but lay careful plans within the given restrictions and go forward. It's a good time to face our emotional limitations and fears, give them their due, and then make choices that will help us to grow beyond them. Additional encouragement comes from Venus, which has turned direct after its 43-day retrogradation and transit of the Sun, and from Mars, which after a dreary and contentious slog through Cancer has finally entered heroic Leo.

As we move through the sun-Saturn conjunction, let's follow the Cassini probe as well and develop our appreciation of the complex world of this planet that represents our outer limits. Astronomically, what appears to the naked eye as a single, remote, cold light is actually a rich cosmos in which all the laws of manifestation may be observed. Astrologically, what limits our existence also provides the containment and the principles of order that allow us to fulfill our destiny. Saturn in ancient mythology ruled not only deprivation and distance, but the "Golden Age," when all things were most truly themselves, in harmony with their archetypal nature. To embrace Saturn's restrictions is therefore to journey toward his realms of gold.

Look for the Cancer new moon on July 17, 2004.

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