For two years now, year-end astrological forecasts have been greeted with both apprehension and unprecedented interest. Before 2001, these popular forecasts in mainstream venues were clearly for fun; meant to inspire a little and entertain a lot. Now, in the age of color-coded terror alerts, even astrological skeptics wonder how long this stressful moment in history will last, and people who might not instinctively look to the heavens for answers are...well, taking a peek.

Before saying, "Here's the lowdown on 2004," a word about predictions: They must be made responsibly, keeping in mind that Earth is a place of free will, and at every turn, the human spirit is capable of taking the higher road. With that in mind, I recently sat down with my calendars, ephemerides, and charts for the months ahead to give you a sense of what's to come.

While 2004 is an election year here in the U.S., astrologically, it's a perception year, a time to review our perceptions of--not only the candidates--but virtually everything else, lending intense scrutiny and emotional honesty to what shapes our passions, tastes, and points of view. This is the year to appraise, revise, and revive stale belief systems. Staying clear and centered is the challenge, but the rewards will be worth the effort.

The year begins with a bold and tense T-square formation, a harsh confrontational aspect, evident this past week in mudslides, crashes, explosions, avalanches, and earthquakes throughout the world.
So if you don't feel much like a New Year's Eve party or celebration the next day, listen to yourself and honor your gut. Pass the time quietly if you like. Mercury, the planet of communication has been retrograde since December 17th, covering much of the holiday season, and it does not go direct until January 7th. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, the Chinese calendar has it right in `04, and it won't really feel much like the New Year until after the new moon in Aquarius on January 21. But beyond the somber-ish beginning, for most of us there are sparkling opportunities for growth, creativity, and success in the year ahead, especially for those of us aspiring to live a more creative, less rigid life. Both planets of communication, Mercury and Jupiter, will station (stand still) at the same 9th degree of Virgo. And the Sabian Symbol (a visual image assigned each degree of the zodiac) for that degree is an Expressionist painter at work. As that image implies, connecting with your inner artist/creator is the underlying theme of the year, and "cultural creatives" will rock and rule! What's a cultural creative? It's a sociological term coined several years ago, describing those who create their life as they go along and who are less dependent than their predecessors on external structures (job, church, union, etc.) to support them. Cultural creatives care less about the financial bottom line and more about how their lives and actions impact others. They are said to make up about 26 percent of the population in America (or at least 50 million people) and growing strong.There will be time for lots of creative experimentation and play in the first part of the year because through much of the spring (March 20) to mid-summer (August 7), either (or both) Mars and Venus will be in Gemini, the sign of communication, duality, flirtation, ideas, and instant connections. In fact, with so many new options, March through July of 2004 will feel like a dizzying multiple-choice quiz. Venus will be retrograde from May 17 through June 29, and while a June wedding is discouraged, plenty of parties and lively roundtable discussions are definitely on the menu.
Whereas in 2003 Mars zooming in so close to the Earth was big news, in 2004 Venus makes headlines when she eclipses the Sun (appearing to traipse across the Sun like a shimmying beauty mark) on June 8th. The last Venus eclipse of the Sun was on December 6, 1882. This will have a lasting effect, and we will begin to see more and more women assuming leadership roles on the planet, as well as many startling advances in travel and communication. At the time of the last occultation of Venus in 1882, who could have fathomed that 21 years later man would fly? Can we even imagine where the next set of discoveries will take us? Jupiter will be in detail-oriented, put-your-nose-to-the-grindstone Virgo through late September. Virgo rules and fosters integrity, so once we authentically connect with what really resonates within, we'll each have the opportunity to perfect many of the finer details of our lives and to manifest our (Uranus in Pisces) dreams. All of this points to a growing sense of community rather than isolation, and that's a positive sign. But we must also note potent Pluto's transit in the last part of Sagittarius beginning now through 2008. This will be in effect during the Olympics in Athens and the two political conventions this summer. The Democratic Convention, scheduled for late July in Boston, will resemble a good old-fashioned free-for-all, the likes of which we haven't seen since '68 or '72. The Republican Convention scheduled five weeks later in New York City will be far more subdued in tone, but powerful in its staging and impact. Speaking of power, Pluto, the outermost planet in our solar system, presides over death, rebirth, and the underworld. It has been in the sign of Sagittarius (ruler of politics, philosophy, and beliefs) since 1995. For the first time in 248 years, it's entered the last ten degrees of that sign. The issue of pride surrounding one's religious and political beliefs and lack of tolerance for the beliefs of others is on the table big-time. And since the last third of Sagittarius has a Leo influence, arrogance is a concern, as is the issue of "might makes right." Be mindful of pride and its shadow side rearing its ugly little head. A discussion of whether the war in Iraq was correct will be front and center, as will a better understanding of terrorism and how to dismantle it for good.
The election year ahead has many astounding astrological similarities to 1972, among them Venus stationing at 26 Gemini, the exact degree of '72's Watergate break-in. 1972 saw the landslide re-election of a popular incumbent (Nixon) and then his subsequent downfall. Will history repeat itself? While we can explore the horoscopes of the political candidates further in 2004, there is the strong possibility of an overconfident incumbent president blundering as did Nixon in that year. Some of the big issues will be the fight to repeal Roe v. Wade, to prohibit gay marriages, and the sobering reality that your vote might not count. The solar eclipse on October 13, preceding the elections by 20 days, has a tight Mercury square Saturn with elusive Neptune (in the chart drawn for Washington, D.C.) at the ascendant/midheaven midpoint. This could suggest a paralyzing problem with the setting up of voting machines that lack adequate paper trails and back-up systems for disappearing votes and recounts. While last year's stories were about water ("Finding Nemo," "Pirates of the Caribbean," the Hebrew-talking fish, the Staten Island Ferry disaster, and brave Bethany Hamilton losing her arm to a shark), this year's stories will involve air and what air rules in astrology: ideas, ideologies, air travel, communication, and miscommunication. Words will be all important, so it will be in one's best interest to think before speaking, faxing, or emailing. On a higher plane, Neptune, the planet of dreams and of divine love will hover on and off of the "portal" degree of 15 Aquarius for the first time in 168 years from April 2004 to December 2005. Fifteen Aquarius is also known as the degree of the Angel, and we can anticipate (and be grateful for) a lot of help from the higher realms, and encouragement to transcend many of our earthly limitations. Earthly limitations? Hmmmm. Yes, we all have them. And while they are specific to us individually (described by the planetary placements in our charts), there are some years that suggest special opportunities for spiritual growth and for overcoming the obstacles of the past. 2004 is one of them. May every day inspire you.
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