On March 20, 2005 at 7:34 AM EST in the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun enters the sign of Aries. This is the Vernal Equinox; the annual solar cycle begins again and it is time for renewal. Spring cleaning is on our minds both literally and figuratively.

The Equinoxes are balance points: the days and nights are of equal length. But other planetary considerations suggest that maintaining balance at this particular moment would be quite an accomplishment!

To determine what the next several months will be like, astrologers cast what is called an `Ingress' chart for the exact moment of the Equinox. Naturally, this chart and its meaning would vary from location to location, but in the United States, we use Washington D.C. because as the nation's capital, it represents the country itself. Aries is `cardinal fire'. Fire is associated with enthusiasm, vitality, and passion, and the `cardinal' modality is known for its ability to get things going like a motivating force of nature.

This March, the Celestial New Year in the U.S. begins with the Sun in Aries `hidden' in the 12th house, Mercury retrograde, Mars at the last degree of Capricorn, the Moon at the last degree of Cancer, a Saturn station at the very base of the chart, and a couple of pending eclipses. What does all this mean? For one thing, it means that jumping into new projects with gusto may be off to a sluggish start and that our spring cleaning-`op' arrives at a moment when many of us are more or less homebound and not quite ready to roll over, wake up, and emerge from our winter-y hibernation.

A Closer Look

Let's examine these placements in detail:

Mercury, the planet of communication and transportation goes retrograde (appears to go backwards) three times a year. This retrograde, from March 19-April 12, 2005, suggests that now is the time for review, reflection, and tending to old business as we delay the gratification of the rush that forging into new projects brings. It is also a time to be careful about travel, transportation, communication and contracts. So the combination of Aries `fresh start' and Mercury retrograde is a kind of push/pull.

This very theme is further emphasized by the tension created by the opposition between Mars (the ruler of Aries and therefore very important in this chart), and the Moon, both at 29 degrees of Capricorn and Cancer respectively, and stern Saturn stationed intently and digging his heels in at the 4th house cusp promising some inclement weather and a feeling of being `stuck,' at least for the moment. All of this indicates a tension between the pull towards worldly accomplishments (career-driven action to meet professional obligations) and the need to stay indoors for some soup and TLC (insular, comfy, at home and with family). A `pull' is also quite clearly indicated between the agendas of corporate America versus the vulnerable, less sophisticated citizens at home and on the farm. A serious showdown between big business and those committed to preserving the environment could easily flare up as well.

The Sun intercepted in the hidden 12th house is very intriguing too. The 12th house has an `out of sight' quality to it, the interception, based on house division, further conceals this Sun. In a "mundane" chart, such as this for the Aries ingress, the Sun represents the leader. As was mentioned in the New Year 2005 piece I wrote for Beliefnet in early January, this placement could indicate a President who is not that visible. Will Bush be ill, on vacation, or out of the public eye for one reason or another? How will the final transit of his 2nd Saturn-Return play out? Will his approval rating dip below the current fifty percent? We'll have to wait and see.

But by and large, the Saturn station and the Mercury retrograde won't keep spirits from soaring for too long. Mars (the ruling planet of Aries) enters nonconforming Aquarius later that day (March 20). According to astrologer Donna Van Toen, author of "The Mars Book: A Guide to Your Personal Energy and Motivation". "Mars in Aquarius can be mentally-dynamic, truth-seeking and scientific, as it seeks humanitarian causes." Mars in Aquarius doesn't like restrictions; it's creative and experimental as it breaks away from the mold. That energy is available for all from March 20 through April 30th. Where would you like to break free? Where might you be inclined to take a risk and a leap of faith?

By the second week in April, Mars will meet up with Neptune in Aquarius. In May 2003, when that last occurred, there was an outbreak of SARS. This time, the helpful aspect from Jupiter in airy Libra can expand the Mars/Neptune even further. So we must once again be vigilant about airborne germs and do our best to boost immunity in advance. This is one way that astrology can be most helpful: An ounce of prevention can work wonders. Another possible less toxic and more uplifting manifestation of this configuration is joyful creativity in the form of sublime music composition and fine writing, so get your paper, pens, and musical instruments out, and write and compose away!

The Aries Solar Eclipse

On April 8, at 4:32 PM EST, the Sun and Moon will conjoin at 19 degrees of Aries near the Moon's North node and voila--The Solar Eclipse! Eclipses generally mark an `out with the old, in with the new' turning point. Throughout history they've coincided with the births and deaths of monarchs and rulers. Interesting that Charles and Camilla are scheduled to marry on the day of this eclipse (Princess Diana died on one in 1997, and Prince William was born on one in 1982). This eclipse features the fiery Sun, Moon, and Venus in a maddening square (an aspect of friction) to a watery Saturn, the very embodiment of frustration, intense hard work and not enough time to do it, and a rained-on parade if ever there was one. This can play out in a number of ways, but if we were to focus on the more positive end of the spectrum one could use this energy to move mountains and to accomplish just about anything. The configuration is powerful and the energy can and should be channeled. Case in point: During the past two weeks, in my own chart, transiting Saturn has been squaring my Sun and Mars came along and made a very rough T-square. I was concerned about all sorts of things and was apprehensive enough to discuss it with my fellow astrologers. Some advised me to be careful and to do whatever I could to avoid accidents, others thought I needed to watch out for illness, and still others just felt the pressure of the coming days, while physically taxing, could result in a "break-through" of some kind. The latter seems to be the net result. The up shot? I worked day and night to produce eleven paintings for my very first art show, as I continued to meet with clients, write, guest on radio, and teach my class. Triple duty for sure. But the point is that this kind of pressure is not only survivable, but often necessary to make things happen.

Bottom Line: Use the energy of the eclipse and the squares at hand to conquer that which you must. 'Renewals' are not always smooth. Many magnificent births and stellar creative productions are often preceded by grueling long labors. Take a deep breath, have faith, and just do it!

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