I’m feeling anxious about Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday, but for some reason the always-simmering but (usually) contained political hostilities within my family have flared up, and this can make family gatherings mighty uncomfortable.
I don’t know exactly what has triggered the rage that’s spilling out all over my loved ones’ Facebook pages this week. I don’t really follow the news these days, but I figure it must have something to do with the really awful terrorist attacks in Paris, the unpleasant rhetoric flying around about refugees, or maybe those godless Starbucks coffee cups.
But really, it could be anything. Because the real conflict is between two fundamentally different world views.
Which brings us to the two planets that best symbolize those views: Saturn and Neptune. The first of three exact square aspects between them takes place this Thanksgiving morning (Nov. 26, 2015 – the other two dates are June 17 and Sep. 10). At this Full Moon in Gemini (Nov. 25 in the U.S., Nov. 26 most other places), the Sun is conjoined Saturn in Sagittarius, the Moon is opposed both of them, and they are all in square aspect to Neptune. So I’d say this Full Moon is pretty much where this nearly year-long Battle of the Titans gets underway.
Saturn and Neptune are big, lumbering planets, so they don’t come into aspect with each other all that often. When they do, they bring important matters and old grudges to the bargaining table. Saturn and Neptune rule a great many things between them, but if I had to sum it up, we might say that Saturn represents the ideological right, and Neptune the ideological left.
Saturn represents the values of structure, rules, and obedience; its motivations are primarily material. Saturn tells Neptune, “You’re lazy and irresponsible, and you want to have everything handed to you. Take responsibility for yourself!” Neptune, on the other hand, prioritizes human connections and a life that feels meaningful; its motivations are primarily metaphysical. Neptune accuses Saturn, “You’re cold-hearted and selfish. Can’t you see that someone cannot pull himself up by his bootstraps if he hasn’t any boots?”
There you have it: the battle that is making a mess of my favorite holiday. It’s very easy to recognize those who identify with Saturn (you’ll find them taking constructive action and getting things organized; or, talking tough, doling out punishments, and obsessed with rules) and those who are channeling Neptune (caring, giving, and idealistic; or, ill, hopeless, disillusioned, or buried in a dysfunctional mess). And on any given day, I would say that most of us probably alternate between the two.
But it’s far too easy to paint Saturn and Neptune, or the left and right ideologies, as natural enemies in a zero sum game. Surely, two planets as different as Saturn and Neptune have plenty to offer one another. Saturn is like a dam that keeps Neptune’s waters from overflowing; it symbolizes the organization and discipline needed to bring Neptune’s dreams to fruition. And without Neptune’s gentle, imaginative, funny, and empathetic influence, Saturn is likely to turn into a tyrant–an enforcer of rules that serve no greater purpose than to squeeze every drop of magic and sweetness out of life.
In other words, we need one another.
Fortunately, the strident ideologies of the Sun and Saturn together in Sagittarius are balanced by the Full Moon in Gemini. Gemini possesses the gifts of both curiosity and diversion. In the presence of someone who has stepped into his Sun/Saturn in Sagittarius costume, holding forth on his strong opinions and throwing around a lot of phrases that begin with, “You people….”, Gemini is able to jump in and divert the torrent of rhetoric that’s flowing his way. His favorite strategy is simply to ask a question. “Oh, do you remember that story you once told me, Uncle Pete, about the time you and dad took a road trip to Vegas?” And that gets the old relative moving in a direction that is a lot more entertaining, not to mention more satisfying, because it leads away from the polarizing landscape of inviolate opinion and back to common ground, where your hearts can find one another.
An excess of Saturn makes for a chilling sort of social Darwinist view of life, where only the toughest deserve to survive. And too much Neptune makes it impossible to accomplish anything worthwhile, because you’re preoccupied with avoiding painful reality and keep forgetting to pay the electric bill.
But here’s the good news: we’re people, not planets. We’re not stereotypes. We are all richer than that. We are more than our opinions. Each of us has the capacity to cultivate loving compassion as well as responsibility and self-reliance. Each of us was designed to stay curious and to keep our minds and hearts open. And each of us is equipped with a variety of other, complementary inherent strengths and talents, to better help and entertain one another along the way.
And for this, let us give thanks.