Modern astrology offers contradictory messages about Aquarius, the sign of this Full Moon: Aquarius symbolizes weirdness, iconoclasm, and innovation, but also friendship and membership in groups. So which is it?
Well, I guess it’s both, really. Aquarius signals sensitivity to the collective, whether it’s because you feel an affinity for it or something a bit like horror. And the truth is, humans are social creatures, so this is something that pertains to each of us.
Prowling Facebook one morning, I spied some photos from a recent reunion of my high school class. Seeing them made me feel vindicated in my decision not to go. To my socially-anxious eyes, the entire scenario—from the windowless hotel banquet room to the manic gaiety of the conga line—resembled some little-known circle of Dante’s Inferno.
There seem to be at least two kinds of people in the world: Those who never miss their high school reunions, and those wouldn’t dream of going to one. I’ll leave it to you to guess which kind I am.
Those who want to revisit high school every ten years or seem generally to be the ones who were popular back then. Or else they’re former outcasts who, having matured and blossomed, wish to take one more stab at fitting in.
I’m not gorgeous or successful enough to take a victory lap in front of my old classmates, and while I did have close friends in high school, I never exactly felt that I belonged there. That wasn’t the last time I felt that way, either. Usually, I feel like some sort of oddball – too old, too fat, too droll; an astrologer amongst scientists, a liberal at the conservative cookout.
The funny thing is, if you asked the happy revelers at that class reunion whether they felt they fit in back in high school, they might confess to feeling a lot like I did—even the ones I considered popular. The need to belong is universal, but apparently, so is the worry that we’re misfits.
On reflection, I realize there may be a third category of reunion-goers, made up of people who simply enjoy socializing. They have an uncomplicated relationship with their fellow humans, fully embracing parties and clubs and invitations to high school reunions. Curmudgeonly introvert that I am, I don’t really get those people, but I do envy them. Probably, they have a bunch of well-adjusted Aquarius planets.
Astrologers often draw a blank when it comes to the subject of Aquarius, or for that matter the 11th house. (They’re not precisely the same thing, but certainly have interests that would intersect on a Venn diagram.) Since many of astrology’s clients, fans, and students are preoccupied with the sexier territory of intimate relationships, money, and success, we tend to vaguely hand-wave Aquarius’ rulership of groups, friends, and politics, then move on.
But we shouldn’t be so quick to underestimate the importance of Aquarius’ territory. The social connections we build there are among the biggest predictors of health, happiness, and longevity, according to some sociologists. In his book, Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect, UCLA professor Matthew Lieberman cites studies that show that our need to connect socially with others is as basic as our need for food, water, and shelter. In fact, social connections are so vital that Robert Putnam, author of the classic Bowling Alone, proposes that if you don’t belong to a group and you join one now, you’ll cut in half your chance of dying in the next year.
This is why cranky, cynical, quasi- hermits like me are probably doomed to shorter lives than our fun-loving, gregarious, conga-dancing friends.
The sign of each Full Moon illuminates both the shadow and the healing antidote to the Sun’s sign. When the Full Moon is in Aquarius, the Sun is in Leo, the sign of self-expression. Leo is where we reach inside ourselves and pull something from the creative stew. It’s where we rely on an unshakeable sense of individuality and resist all efforts at assimilation. It’s not that Leo doesn’t want to be liked, admired, noticed; obviously, it does. It just doesn’t much care about belonging. Belonging, as Leo sees it, is for people who are content being one of the crowd, and that’s the last thing Leo wants to be. But it can get pretty lonely up there onstage, all by yourself.
I’ve got a metric ton of Leo planets in my birth chart, and fitting in isn’t exactly one of my gifts. However, I can readily recall several periods of periods of my life when I somehow, temporarily, slipped into the opposite, Aquarius end of the polarity. For a time, I swam happily in an ocean of sociability, one of the gang and utterly unremarkable. Those interludes offered a purring contentment that my individual achievements never have.
At this Aquarius Full Moon, I’m thinking a lot about those happy times and about my friends, my astrological community, and even about those conga-dancing classmates. In a society where we really do “bowl alone” a lot, in a profession where I work alone in my office most of the time, it’s easy to become estranged from the rest of humanity. I’m reminded how important it is to maintain those social lifelines—and how receptive the world is when I do reach out to it. How fluid it is, and infinitely expandable. How generously I’m welcomed back into the conga line.