A confessional tour through a major Neptune transit and a month-by-month photo essay of my 2017
Today I fail yet again to write “promotional materials” for my business and instead, descend into the deeply personal … These past two years I’ve been in the grips of an intense Neptune transit: an opposition to my natal Sun. I have no idea why casual astrology buffs are so blasé about the impact of this planet, when it has flooded and dammed me and then flooded and damned me again so frequently in the course of my life. Give me a solid Saturn transit any day, an opportunity to build and work. I’ll take that sexy Pluto transit and squeeze the molten pain into diamonds. But with Neptune I am simply at sea …
I’ve seen people lose everything under Neptune stimulation. Everything. Houses, jobs, relationships, identities … there is no devouring power to rival the ocean’s. Neptune also rules over irrational fears and complexes. I remember when a good friend of mine fell into a relationship with a violent, abusive man who brainwashed her into thinking she couldn't leave him. Neptune was transiting her natal Venus-Mercury conjunction. “How long is this going to go on?” she begged to know. The conjunction was separated by a few degrees; “four years,” I answered honestly.
I didn’t see her again until four years later, when she crawled out from under the rock where he'd been hiding her to finish the graduate degree she’d put on hold. She walked away from Neptune with a newly haunted past, a stalker, and severe PTSD.
Spiritual delusion is another common manifestation of Neptune stimulation to the chart. I watched another friend flip the bird to a tenure-track job (the Holy Grail of post-graduate achievement) to pursue spiritual enlightenment at the pleasure of several high-interest loan companies. His shame over this unplanned detour into consciousness expansion is so deep that it’s still difficult for him to acknowledge that his Soul had been yearning for something beyond the brittle attractions of an academic career …
But Neptune doesn’t always manifest as descent into emotional and intellectual weakness. One of the first astrologers who read for me (and who explained to me that I had unaccountably dropped out of graduate school because of a Neptune opposition to my natal Saturn) informed me that Neptune had done wonders for his acting career. When it crossed his Midheaven, he had landed a recurring role on the TV series Bewitched. I still remember what a strange thing this was to tell a client. He reminded me of a drunk Steamboat Captain.
I make a practice of loving all the planets. Of giving the gods their due. And as you might have guessed, my intent in writing this piece is to work my way into a state of appreciation for Neptune and what it has helped me heal in the two years that it’s been opposing my Sun. But this is a challenging task because Neptune’s “gifts” are so little valued by society at large and – more often than not – they’re invisible.
In 2015 I experienced my first memory of having been sexually abused by my father. I sort of dealt with it by seeing a past-life counselor which sort of helped. I felt unable to work with him any longer when he told me that I wasn’t a victim. I said that I understood the idea of “no victims” as a spiritual truth, but hadn’t I better admit to myself that the abuse was real? That it had been corroborated by other family members and had really happened and had fucked up my entire life? Shouldn’t I integrate the truth prior to transcending it? He responded by retreating beyond the veil and claiming a spiritual injunction against further communication.
In mid-2016, the Neptune opposition to my Sun would be exact for the first time. “What was going to happen?” I wondered excitedly. Would I become famous – would I be like that Steamboat Captain on Bewitched? My husband had to have some emergency dental work done and I worried that he was going to die from an untreated abscess (Neptune opposing the Sun can manifest as loss of a male figure). He recovered, and I enrolled in teacher training at the Waldorf school, a primary school program with a mystical pedagogy.
I also got my ass into real therapy with a trauma specialist. Prior to that I had picked up some feminist classics like The Courage to Heal, and an indispensable volume by Charles Whitfield called Memory and Abuse. In these books I learned that often the biggest challenge for abuse survivors is admitting, and then integrating, the reality of the abuse. The fragmentation that occurs around traumatic memories is a self-defense mechanism, the psyche’s way of protecting itself from material that is too disturbing to process normally. Furthermore, abuse victims so often blame themselves for the abuse that simply saying the magic words, “I was victimized,” can release deeply held beliefs around causing and deserving the pain
My magic words these past few years have been, “It’s not your fault.” When I start feeling ashamed and spun out for no apparent reason, I yell them loud enough for my inner kid to hear. She always responds. Like most kids, she wants to know that she’s good. She is. It’s not her fault and it never was.
At the Waldorf School of Orange County I discovered an amazing community of people who were also into Neptunian practices like energy healing, Kundalini Yoga, and fostering the magic of childhood. I read books about child development. I put my hands in clay. I made a lot of watercolors (being terrible at it didn’t stop me from adoring the experience!) I knit a gnome. I sang songs in a group and practiced geometric drawing. I tackled Rudolf Steiner’s Theosophy and fumed impatiently because the other students were so ignorant of the applied theory of reincarnation. That was maybe my first inkling that I probably wasn’t destined to become a Waldorf teacher … I’d sit in class and squirm against the awkward knowledge that I already had a very Neptunian expertise in astrology, so why wasn’t I pursuing that as a career? Why did I need more training?
Eventually I came around to the idea that I was using the teacher training as art therapy. Knitting, painting, and drawing meditatively were more healing to my Soul than any linear talk therapy. You see what I mean about Neptune’s gifts being immaterial? When people ask me what I’ve been up to these last few years, I never find the words to say “I’ve been healing from something you didn’t even know I was suffering from. And I’ve been allowing art for its own sake to redeem my inner life …”
Under Neptune stimulation to my chart, the bulk of my Tarot deck was illustrated. To see the images that I conceived come into being at the hands of a gifted artist is a Neptunian experience of the first order … opening my inbox to view the first concrete version of an imagined Tarot card is like nothing I can put into words. It’s dreams made real. It’s amorphous vision taking on real-world definition. It’s Neptune at its best, proceeding from the dream outward, as the diarist Anais Nin liked to say …
Onward to 2017, during which Neptune opposed my Sun (my light, my vitality) all year. The year began with the Women’s March which was a profoundly healing experience for me. In my limited understanding prior to 2015, I imagined that healing from sexual abuse might involve a lot of crying … doesn’t healing from anything involve a lot of crying? But my lived truth is that I was strangely bereft of anger and sadness in relation to the abuse memories. The fall-out of my trauma was pure, irrational fear. I perceived “bad guys” everywhere. Driving anywhere by myself took on a terrifying quality for the first time in my life. Enduring a doctor visit (in which a male figure might have to exert authority over my body) became impossible.
Because I was raped in my home in the middle of the night by a family member, middle of the nights became treacherous as the remembered feelings surfaced. For days on end I might wake up at 3 am sweating, with an aching jaw from grinding my teeth, and a miserable, inveterate feeling of dread. I was just as likely to wake my husband up at the same inconvenient hour to report “noises.” And he’d hold me lovingly, like one would a child, and explain each of the far-off industrial or traffic noises as perfectly mundane sounds indicative of no bad guys whatsoever.
Simultaneously, my psychic “hearing” (Neptune) went through the roof. I had a clear vision of one of my neighbors dying after a botched attempt at erotic asphyxiation (this was one of those 3am sound-feelings that I reported to my husband). Six weeks later, the event unfolded exactly as I had seen it in my mind's eye in the apartment below us; I watched an EMT in the street act out what had happened with his hands from my upstairs window.
The Universe is not subtle. I took to heart the symbolic linkage of sex and death that played out in the downstairs apartment, the violent, fatal fucking that vibrated up the thin walls while I pushed cars around on the floor with my son. Early on in my healing, the sense that I had been “murdered” by the abuse was palpable, as what else might a small child assume when she has a visceral experience of being violently ripped apart by her father?
On my birthday this year, the film screening that we had planned to see at one of our favorite Los Angeles institutions, the Cinefamily, was cancelled due to sexual harassment allegations made against members of its management. It was a Weinstein-esque abuse of power on a smaller scale. In desperation I scanned the city mags for another suitable birthday event, and settled on a performance of Iphigenia in Aulis at the Getty Villa. Iphigenia is of course sacrificed by her flawed father Agamemnon as an offering to the goddess Artemis. I remember looking out at the sea from the height of the Getty's manicured gardens and thinking, "Even on my birthday, I cannot outrun the murdered daughter." What's more, my own abuse memories had surfaced within 48 hours of attending a scholarly reconstruction of an Artemis rite facilitated by Dr. James Rietveld. The Universe is not subtle at all.
I took all these synchronistic events as signs that I was not yet done healing, that I was still in the midst of experiencing the extent of my victimization so that I could process and integrate it. In therapy I began to take in the truth that my father was not the only member of my family who had victimized me; I had in fact been scapegoated by my mother and brother for my relative mental health – I had been blamed for so many things that were “not my fault” to ease the burden of their shame.
The Women’s March and the unprecedented #metoo phenomenon that played out on social media were just especially lucky (or divinely planned?) synchronicities that gave me the Neptunian experience of at-one-ness with the world around me. Walking in solidarity with women and men of all socio-economic backgrounds let me know that there was a big “safe” contingent out there that opposed the anti-feminist agenda of our sexual predator president.
I loved how the #metoo campaign called attention to rape and sexual harassment as social ills, instead of individual narratives to be tried in the court of public opinion. I dissolved happily into this Neptunian watershed moment of a mass movement, and watched the horror of my personal story wash away in the great ocean of common experience. This is perhaps Neptune’s profoundest treasure, the drowning of egoic attachment in the waters of shared consciousness.
I’ve been immensely grateful to my Neptunian career this year because of the opportunity it gives me to get out of myself. No matter how much anger I might feel at a family member, or how much generalized anxiety keeps me awake at night, I look forward to reading astrology charts because I get to swim out of my own tiny spark of consciousness and into another psyche. And that simple act of departing the insistent concerns of my ego always gives me increased peace and perspective upon returning to myself.
Earlier this year I joined an online magical community fronted by Carolyn Elliott. Carolyn’s genius revolves around shadow integration, and I confessed my deepest and darkest to these (mostly) women only to have them say – me too. They had been through the same things or similar or worse, and they too maintained basically positive attitudes and sought out personal evolution – via the Hermetic Arts. The effect on me was Neptunian, of course; I dropped the rock of my precious uniqueness and re-calibrated my relationship to personal privacy. Having once had a Facebook account that only included “(safe) people I had met in person,” I threw the door open wide to anyone with a common interest under the assumption that people were basically good and that the “something in common” mattered more than my ego’s coveted sense of separateness from the larger world.
I slipped away from formal therapy and started working with a very 12th-house healer who assisted me in seeing that SOURCE can flow to me from other people as easily as it flows to me from the divine. In other words, I can crack the door to the outside and trust and believe that there’s more than just bad guys out there. I’m still working on embracing the idea that what’s out there could be as fragrant and fulfilling as what I nurture inside, but I’m more open and willing now than I’ve ever been in my life.
This year and the last, I let myself go. I ate too many cookies. I put on twenty pounds. I haven't moved my body very much because I haven't wanted to inhabit it (how Neptunian is THAT?) I spaced out on my phone more than I ever have in my life, to the infinite consternation of my husband. I think if I could offer any wisdom to green astrology students, it's the knowledge that "this too shall pass." I'm not concerned that I've forgotten how to eat healthfully or take pleasure in physical activity. It's hard to imagine that wasting time on social media will replace half a lifetime of intensely conscious presence, of showing up for life and striving toward my best and highest. But I'm more or less comfortable putting these things on hold while Neptune inundates the space between my ears.
I feel in my body currently the way I did just after puberty: it's icky and I want to get out. I'm struck by the parallels of how physiological changes in my soma have released feelings of trauma, first as a young teen when I grew a set of hips as wide as Montana, and later during pregnancy when the same hips were pushed and pressed and stressed to make room for burgeoning life.
Magically, synchronistically, unaccountably, a Cancerian practitioner approached me this past Fall about co-facilitating a women's vaginal healing class to be conducted online, during which we would revisit the time of our first Moon and reconstruct the initiation into womanhood we wish we'd had. The fact that the healer, Veruschka Normandeau, resides in Hawaii, specifically the side of Big Island where the Pacific first crashes onto land after thousands of miles of unimpeded roiling, just added to the Neptunian quality of the experience. Once again I would be drowned in memory and buffeted by overwhelming emotions in order to heal them. The sea god can't get enough of me ...
Broaching physical health issues with clients is always a delicate matter, and I'm careful when I speculate about how the planets will show up as changes to the soma. I find that Saturn transits might slow us down by inhibiting physical mobility, but more often than not these are temporary setbacks engineered to bolster commitment to a Great Work. Neptunian ailments on the other hand seem rather to demand that we confront the spiritual dimension of illness. When Neptune crossed my Midheaven, I did not get cast as a Steamboat Captain on a hit TV show. Rather I developed a terrifying and undiagnoseable immune condition that sent me to the emergency room multiple times. The end-point of my long odyssey with natural and alternative cures was an inner knowledge that I am a "sensitive." Other people might have no trouble walking through our noise-polluted, chemically-scented, high-stress modern lifestyles, but my walk through the world must be different because my skin is so thin. I can't tell you how many times I got knocked down by uncontrollable illness before I gave up my ego's attachment to the fantasy that I could conquer every obstacle with the force of my will; Neptune's prey was the delusion that my survivor's Soul was indomitable. Admitting weakness and sensitivity functioned rather as gateways to the different life I needed to create.
Right now Neptune and I are sharing a laugh over his latest trick. During pregnancy my feet grew an entire shoe size and literally transformed my walk through the world. I've always suffered from deformities to my feet, a flat-footedness with a technical name, and the condition is so severe that without intervention I'm practically walking on my ankles. My feet barely hold me up, and during pregnancy whatever little ground I'd gained on the problem through exercise and force of will completely dissolved. Since giving birth, walking has become very painful, and I've been reluctant to confront the fact that my former life as a mountain goat has been drastically curtailed. On the rare chances when I get a break from the Mom life and try and take to the hills like I used to, I find myself limping and in severe pain at a mere half-mile in. And suffering excruciating leg and back pain for days afterward, because these new feet are both bigger and weaker and don't know how to support the rest of me.
My very Neptunian response to this distressing information about my feet (the body part ruled by Pisces, the sign where Neptune happens to be cruising) has been to avoid going to the doctor and to instead nurse irrational fears about being permanently disabled. It has taken me years to work up the courage to see a podiatrist, and at my appointment a few weeks ago I was pleased to discover that my physician was a fellow Waldorf Mom. She said many of the things I was afraid I would hear ("You can't wear regular shoes ... and you should avoid walking barefoot at all times") but I tried to give myself over to the Neptunian tide of healing and redemption.
Now let me say that I fully intend to climb mountains again, once I've been fitted with all the devices I'll need to walk anywhere without pain (at first I wrote "vain" - this foot thing has been hell on my ego). But I have to wonder what Neptune was up to in robbing me of my mobility these last few years while I've been actively processing past trauma. Perhaps the refuge I've found in exercise most of my adult life, the endorphins it gives me as well as the powerful sense of control over my body, would actually have been detrimental to expanding my consciousness around my emotional vulnerability. I know, I know, Neptune doesn't make any rational sense, and God forbid we have a bad word to say about exercise in our fitness-obsessed culture. Yet when I check this speculation against my lived experience these past few years, it checks out ... Combatting my PTSD Mars style, guns blazing, was just never going to work. I have to admit that if I'd had the outlet of exercise, the flight into action, I would never have reached such tender places inside. I would never have chosen to feel this scared or this helpless, and had there been any route out of this emotional bog I would have taken it.
So let us all raise a toast to Neptune for forcing me to sit still so that I could endure his healing. I said we were sharing a laugh above because I feel like I finally got the joke about my feet - "oh yes, my walk in the world is going to be different. Yes, you keep trying to tell me that ..." Physically I may be heavier but my ego feels about forty pounds lighter. I lost all the attachment I had to the academic career I spent a decade training for. I gave up my shame about being financially dependent on my husband. I shed the part of me that was terrified of being seen for my psychic and intuitive gifts. I dropped the onerous mask of correctness I was using to shield my authenticity.
Somehow, without consciously directing it, I have become a healer, as was Neptune's plan all along (natally he resides in my 6th house of daily activity, AKA a "job"). I did something of a double-take when I realized I had taken on forty new clients this year, and I reflected upon all the healing I have facilitated for others via Evolutionary Astrology. I am deeply grateful for all of my clients and what they have brought out in me. I'll leave you with this scene from the John Frankenheimer movie, Seconds, in which the ego-bound Rock Hudson is forcibly and ecstatically drowned in a Dionysian bacchanal. I can't imagine a more potent illustration of the transit I've been discussing; the Sun (ego) ultimately succumbs to the wild and insistent pulse of Neptune's transcendent force ... Enjoy.