This past year’s astrology was interesting to write about; I’ll give it that. But 2020 has been interesting in the way that nature’s capacity for viciousness is interesting. It’s been interesting in the sense that we’ll be talking about this year for the rest of our lives. And at this point, I’ve gotten so used to feeling like the bearer of bad news that I’m kind of thrilled to be writing about a year that has any sweet spots at all. To be clear though, 2021 astrology is not a gentle sea breeze either, and it’s entirely likely that there are aspects of the “old normal” that we’ll never get back. A year of Saturn/Uranus squares will do that. But old normal was what got us to 2020, and if you’re of the mind that we can’t survive in that space for much longer, then you’ll probably agree that it’s a good thing there’s some structural upheaval up ahead. That it’s the sort of playdough we can work with.
As we welcome 2021, we’ll be in the (relatively) thankful position of having turned a corner on the dense and brutal planetary alignments of 2020. We had a year or so for things to come crashing down, and now we’re just about at the point where we can start to think about cleaning up the mess. And not only that, but also about how merely tidying up is hardly the most creative and generative thing we can do in such a new and indeterminate state. When a fire guts your kitchen, you can sweep up the ashes and replace the old cabinets, or you can rearrange the layout that was always bothering you anyway.
I want to also take a moment to acknowledge the mountain of grief and precariousness that so many are shouldering on their backs as we march into this so-called less painful year. If you’ve lost a loved one, a job, a certain degree of health, secure housing, a way of life, an opportunity, a vision, then that’s not a depth of loss that can be magically erased when an outer planet changes signs or Mars leaves its retrograde shadow. May this new year present you with a sense of renewed possibility and the safety you need to process what you’ve been through.
(Art: Sculpture by John Chamberlain)
+ Main course: the Saturn/Uranus squares
February 17, June 14, December 24
With Saturn back in Aquarius for the long haul (until March 2023), its first task is completing a series of challenging squares to Uranus in Taurus. Though we get three exact hits of this as outlined above, Saturn and Uranus will remain in orb of each other pretty much all year, with a little bit of breathing room towards late summer and fall. And actually, there will be a moment of “oh, and another thing” as the two come within a degree of each other once more in the fall of 2022.
Saturn is tradition; Uranus is “why not try something totally different.” Uranus could flip the script in an instant; Saturn encourages respect for the fact that some things simply take time. Saturn is conservative in nature, and Uranus is an agent of liberation. I’m not saying these two can’t work together towards the same goals, but it’s a jarring cacophony even when they’re on the same team.
If Saturn in Aquarius is more or less about establishing social systems, rules, and doctrines, and Uranus in Taurus is encouraging a quantum leap forward in terms of food production, land management, currencies, and economic safety nets, then it seems likely that this series of squares will either generate a bumpy first few steps toward a more sustainable future or represent the struggle to get it started.
Hopefully, this departure from “business as usual” will result in restorative changes to our social fabric. The last time Uranus was in Taurus, Saturn was also in Aquarius simultaneously for a brief period. They weren’t square by degree, but certain themes from then may ripple across the pond. Among other things, the New Deal was in the midst of being enacted. Right now, there’s growing support in the U.S. for the (very Uranus in Taurus) Green New Deal, but it’s facing a bit of a Saturn problem — a conservative ideology that’s rooted in hierarchical distributions of power and wealth. Saturn has many faces though, including the kind that recognize what’s necessary for long-term survival.
Stitching a new social fabric requires many hands as well. When I first wrote about Saturn in Aquarius, I referenced this Slate article in view of the Saturn/Uranus squares:
“Small disruptions create small societal shifts; big ones change things for good. The O.J. Simpson trial helped tank the popularity of daytime soap operas. The New York transit strike of 1980 is credited with prompting several long-term changes in the city, including bus and bike lanes, dollar vans, and women wearing sneakers to work. The 1918 flu pandemic prompted the development of national health care in Europe.”
“People might stick with the disruptions to their lives, too: More deliveries taking the place of personal trips. More cooking, and less eating out. More driving in solitude—or, optimistically, biking—and less reliance on Uber, Lyft, and transit. Therapy, yoga, and medical advice online. More video games; less live entertainment. The social fabric that breaks might not be repaired.”
And in its place, perhaps a new one can coalesce that supports us in our efforts to thrive. I’m not talking about the end of face-to-face interaction — I think most of us are dying to hug and hang out in our friends’ living rooms again. But speaking purely from personal experience, there are certain adjustments to my routine that I’ve had to make, but that also make the old way of doing things seem unnecessarily taxing, wasteful, and time-consuming. When I looked at my calendar from January and February recently, I felt like I was looking at artifacts from a different lifetime. I’m excited to return to a schedule full of fun social engagements again, but it’s also pretty clear why I felt like I was constantly running on empty before. And the pressure to perform and produce — let’s not talk about the expectations we place on ourselves around how we use our time. Saturn is associated with time, by the way, and to a certain extent, toil and labor. Maybe Saturn in Aquarius will help us change the dominant discourse around productivity.
Not all of these squares will feel exactly the same, by the way.
Mars will conjoin Uranus in January while it’s in orb of Saturn, creating a sense of haste and urgency around reform. The initial tear to the fabric might be a fierce one.
In late April, as Saturn starts to slow down, Mercury and Venus will form a triple conjunction with Uranus, generating new ideas, new discussions, and perhaps a rapidly shifting tide of social approval.
Shortly after the second exact hit, Mars and Venus will T-square this configuration from Leo in late June and early July, propelling the dynamic with a bout of social unrest and dissatisfaction with the status quo.
+ And a Jupiter/Uranus square on the side
Not to be overlooked is the Jupiter/Uranus square we’re kicking off the year with. Sadly, we only get one instead of three, but Jupiter/Uranus aspects give us the sort of galaxy brain takes we need to shift entire paradigms. (Think: metacognition, novel perspectives, reaching new frontiers in our acquired wisdom and understanding.) Squares are provocative, as in actually provoking us to move. I don’t want to oversell this transit as it’s pretty brief, but it’s not nothing that the sign-based square will be in play for most of the year. Jupiter is aiding the Saturn/Uranus process with a dose of visionary excitement.
Neptune is also squaring the nodal axis around this time (namely throughout December 2020 and January 2021), which suggests that the imaginal will play an important role in turning the wheels of fate forward. This could go in a lot of different ways — perhaps a collective conspiracy theory or delusion will become real enough, and to enough people, that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Or perhaps a collective dream or ideal will become so potent that it can’t help but rearrange the furniture to some extent. Both of these things can absolutely be true at the same time.
+ Mercury Retrogrades entirely in air signs
January 30 – February 20 in Aquarius
May 29 – June 22 in Gemini
September 27 – October 18 in Libra
To welcome us into the new era of Great Conjunctions that will be occurring in air signs for the next 200ish years, 2021 astrology is serving up a year of Mercury Retrogrades that are also only in air signs.
This is a feature of Mercury’s cycle by the way, not a bug. In any given year, there are about three retrogrades that mostly occur in the same element, or triplicity. Last year they were mostly in water signs, though a couple dipped into air signs at the end. In 2021, Mercury is no longer trawling through the “mute” realms (in water signs, you speak in ~vibes~, not in direct sentences).
This is kind of nice for Mercury, because Mercury has triplicity rulership in air signs, as well as domicile rulership over one of them (Gemini). The glitches are still gonna glitch, but there might be a little more method to the madness. If Mercury retrogrades a couple times a year in order to clear some room for revisions, revisitings, and rewirings of the brain, air sign retrogrades are more logical and direct in how they accomplish this. At the very least, no more sloppy, soppy Pisces retrogrades like the ones we got in 2019 and 2020.
+ February is Aquarius Season but, like, AQUARIUS SEASON
I kind of can’t wait to see how the babies of February 2021 turn out. I am looking at these future denizens of the globe with a mixture of intrigue and slight terror (respectfully!). It’s just a lot of Aquarius, like a lot. Five of the 7 traditional planets will be in Aquarius for most of the month of February. On the 10th through the 12th, the moon will be there too, which means 6 out of 7 all occupying one part of the sky, save for Mars, which is squaring that whole mess from Taurus. Oy! On one hand, this is a lot of focused energy around “how we’re gonna do things around here” and solidifying our blueprint for the future. On the other, this combination looks really obstinate — the contrarian vibes are strong in this one.
+ A kiss of rain from Jupiter in Pisces
May 13 – July 28
Jupiter will spend most of 2021 in Aquarius, where it will be aiding Saturn in the great work of building a society that’s equipped for the challenges of the 21st century. And this will be a fine and good thing in its own right, but for a couple sweet, glorious months, we’ll be dancing in the rain we thought would never come.
One of the things that made 2020 so brutal was Jupiter being in Capricorn, the sign of its fall. Jupiter dipping into Pisces, where it has rulership, is like a healing rain returning to the parched, arid soil that has barely yielded enough sustenance to get by on. Jupiter in Capricorn was a drought; Jupiter in Pisces is fertile and abundant. Jupiter in Pisces is a more loving and patient face of Jupiter, who is exuberant and energetic in Sagittarius. Jupiter collects and amasses into a cohesive whole, and in Pisces, I imagine this working like raindrops that swallow each other and become larger in their unity. It’s inclusive, it’s generous, it’s compassionate, it’s priestly — and yes, it’s probably gonna be a festive time too. Jupiter is nothing if not bacchanalian. 😉 Projections around vaccine distribution are pointing to this summer potentially being not terrible, or potentially being a time where we might start to see more of each other again. And if not that, then this might be a time for hopes to be lifted, for more visions and opportunities to present themselves, or for renewal in our spirits.
(By the way, two months isn’t all we get — Jupiter will be back in Pisces through roughly the first half of 2022 and then again for two months at the very end of that year. A little more disjointed than usual thanks to where its retrogrades start and end this time, but at least we’ll have three times the ingresses to celebrate?)
+ The Gemini/Sagittarius eclipses continue, with a dash of Taurus
May 26: Lunar eclipse at 5 degrees Sagittarius
June 10: Solar eclipse at 19 degrees Gemini
November 18: Lunar eclipse at 27 degrees Taurus
December 4: Solar eclipse at 12 degrees Sagittarius
As the North Node continues to swing through Gemini through 2021, the most jarring changes in the stuttering transformation of our lives will stem from the new ideas, curiosities, and conversations we’re having as we unlearn (South Node in Sagittarius) old ways of being. The North Node in Gemini has a strong appetite for variety. One person talking is a predictable monologue; two or more people talking drives the conversation along. There’s something potentially stimulating, potentially generative, about acquiring new skills, adding another income stream, widening the inner circle, and mixing up the books and media on your rotation. There’s also something potentially “missing the forest for the trees” about overworking Mercury (Gemini) and atrophying Jupiter (Sagittarius). Both of these things can be true at the same time, and that’s exactly the sort of duality Gemini encourages anyway.
The 2021 eclipses are also happening in testy skies. The first two will occur while Mars opposes Pluto, with Mars squaring the degrees where it was retrograde in the fall of 2020. The third eclipse, which gives an initial preview of the following year’s Taurus/Scorpio eclipses, will feature Mars opposing Uranus and squaring Saturn. Eclipses are categorically “not gentle,” and the context surrounding them this year seems harsh too. Leaving the past behind, or coming to terms with the inevitable, as eclipses teach us to do, can often be a stressful process. In this case, there’s also a sense of struggle to overcome the odds or direct the current of unpredictable circumstances in one’s own favor.
+ A sensible Venus Retrograde to close out the year
December 19 – January 29
It would probably be more fun to say that 2021 is giving us a break from Venus and Mars Retrograde, but that’s almost, but not quite, true. We will end the year with Venus retrograde in Capricorn, which is a callback to the Venus Retrograde of December 2013 – February 2014.
Of note: Venus stations retrograde conjunct Pluto, dredging up all kinds of jealousies and unsavory power dynamics in relationships and consumerism. There’s a certain covetousness to this dynamic, which reminds me of what bell hooks writes in All About Love:
“Greed and exploitation become the norm when an ethic of domination prevails. They bring in their wake alienation and lovelessness. Intense spiritual and emotional lack in our lives is the perfect breeding ground for material greed and overconsumption. In a world without love, the passion to connect can be replaced by the passion to possess.”
And so as 2021 draws to close, we will go deep within ourselves to confront the extent to which our relationships are built on power struggles rather than love, as well as our value systems crowded with capitalist assumptions.
+ And, and! The return of Jupiter in Pisces
We won’t have to wait for 2022 for Jupiter to be back in Pisces — we’ll get to usher in the New Year with Jupiter at home AND the moon in Sagittarius. Looks like a pretty good party night to me.