January 2021 Tarotscopes with Brandon Alter
By Brandon Alter:
As an Astrologer, I struggle with the concept of a New Year because the Gregorian calendar we live by is arbitrary at best. Nothing actually happens between the 31st of December and the 1st of January as far as the heavens are concerned. But, as humans, time is the means by which we measure our lives. We are Time Beings. In the same way that birds have wings and live the majority of their lives in the realm of the sky, we have these brain clocks and live in the realm of time.
As the system we use to chronicle the linear experience of our lives, the Gregorian calendar holds value. But it only holds value because we give it value, the same way a hundred dollar bill is, at its essence, just a dirty piece of paper that we’ve collectively agreed is worth a hundred dollars. So all that having been said, there is a value in looking at the story the planets will tell in 2021 as compared with 2020. But do keep in mind these are chapters placed at random. The planetary stories are long, sometimes longer than a human life. To divide them into sequences 365 days long is like dropping a period. anywhere. you please in. a sentence.
Keeping that context in mind, the overall energy of 2021 is rather different than 2020. Last year was, in no uncertain terms, an astrological onslaught. It was relentless, rupturing, and required all of us to dig deep for our resiliency. This is not to suggest 2021 will be a cake-walk—because, babies, it will not—but it will give us moments to catch our breath. The big story of 2020 began with the Saturn/Pluto conjunction, followed by Mars as he made hard aspects to those planets and then culminating with the Saturn/Jupiter conjunction in December. It was like an initial explosion followed by continual attacks. That same part of the sky, the late degrees of Capricorn, was pretty much besieged the whole year. And what was the purpose of all this? Who knows? We can make educated guesses but, truthfully, we are still discovering that together. While it's tempting to immediately contextualize the trauma we’ve been living through, we’re still in it. But one thing is clear, the triggering action of Saturn and Pluto getting together to fuck shit up was a catalyst for our collective spiritual awakening.
Yeah, you heard me. It’s a spiritual awakening. We’re all having one, individually and collectively. The only difference is that some of us are waking up and others are trying to snooze their way through the alarm. Those of us leaning in are waking up to the barrage of bullshit we’ve grown accustomed to, either through our own privilege, brainwashing, or just plain ignorance. Those of us leaning away are doubling down on old systems of segregation, insecurity and fear. But for all its intensity and action, 2020 was just a preamble to a longer, much larger story. 2021 is chapter one. Simply put: the bomb has gone off, now what?
The major celestial activities of 2021 involve Saturn (of course), Jupiter (hey, gurl), Mars (‘cuz he just won’t quit), and Uranus (new phone, who dis?). Three times throughout the year, Uranus and Saturn will square each other (the Astrological equivalent of an arm wrestling match): once in February, again in June, and finally in December. A few weeks after each of these squares, Mars will bring his particular brand of angst to the party by squaring them as well. As outer planets, Saturn and Uranus move slowly and basically hang out in a loose square all year long. They will ebb and flow with each other, never quite able to escape the other’s orbit. After the third and final square in December, Saturn will break away, and the next chapter gets written. But what is this current chapter about, the one we're living in?
Well, this Saturn/Uranus chapter is part of a book that takes place from 1988–2023, just to give ya'll some perspective here. 1988 was the last time they came together to start a new 45ish-year cycle. In 1999, they had an opening square, a lover's quarrel if you will. In 2008, they had an opposition, or a stalemate where they both dug in their heels. But this chapter is juicy because it's a closing square. It's the beginning of a resolution between the two. They're gonna fight, yes, but they're also gonna kiss and make up.
The first significant interpretation I notice about this Saturn and Uranus tension is related to the fact that they both rule the sign of Aquarius (where much of the cosmic action occurs this year). Saturn is the traditional ruler of Aquarius, but once Uranus was discovered, modern Astrologers let this new planet of creativity, chaos, inspiration, and innovation rule over the Aquarian domain. In some ways, the Saturn/Uranus square is a battle between the old guard and the new guard, and the battlefield is humanity (Aquarius) itself. But I’m not here to promote doom and gloom astrology; a square isn’t actually a war, it’s an arm wrestling match. And the best arm wrestling matches have players shake hands at the end. That’s the true invitation with a square: compromise and collaboration. Each of us must learn how to shake hands across the aisle, and we must learn to do so for the good of all of us.
Here’s the other thing that’s important to remember: the planets are inside us as well as outside us. Astrology is built on the principle that planetary energy doesn't just act on us, we manifest it from within. So we must learn how to shake hands with ourselves across the aisle as well. The Uranus/Saturn square has external consequences (as we are already seeing play out in the world), but the internal effects should be as closely tended. The keyword for this year-long Saturn/Uranus square story is INTEGRATION. 2021 challenges us to integrate what we’ve learned in 2020 and how to proceed from there.
Obviously there's more than just Saturn and Uranus making moves in 2021, but they are the headliners. Consider this the “coming attractions” for the movie that starts today. And like any good action film, it starts off with a bang. That inciting incident is the New Moon. This is our first New Moon since the Saturn/Jupiter conjunction in December, which you may recall started us all on new 20-year and 200-year cycles. As our first New Moon since, it sets the tone for both of those chapters. This New Moon is a powerhouse. She takes place in Capricorn on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. (PST) and is conjunct Pluto, the planet of death, power, and deep soul transformation. In 2020, Pluto was partially (mostly) responsible for massive and necessary demolition of our Capricorn structures. Pluto showed us, through COVID, through inept leadership, through pain and death and power struggles, how crumbling our societal and bureaucratic structures have been. It’s been deep, it’s been real, and it’s been rough.
In 2021, Pluto’s like, "Hey, ya’ll, sorry not sorry, but you want some help rebuilding?"
To me, the message of this New Moon is simple and direct: the only way to tell a new story is to be a new person. We’ve been in a literal and metaphorical cocoon in 2020. Now as we emerge and test our wings, we are charged to take actions as butterflies, not caterpillars. These year-long Saturn/Uranus squares demand we continue to take action as new people in a new world. The New Moon helps us crystallize who this new you really is. This new you may be tested and refined throughout the year, that’s fine. We will keep changing because the more we change, the closer we get to who we really are. But that doesn’t let us off the hook for getting clear on who we are now and who we refuse to be anymore.
That’s the power of Pluto. Pluto says the old you is dead, and no magician can resurrect them. I encourage you to use the energy of this New Moon to set some major intentions, because Pluto is listening. For example, Tuesday night, a good friend and I are getting together (over the phone) to share our goals for the next twenty years. It's a long time period, but this current Astrology practically demands we think big-picture thoughts. Capricorn is the future we can see. Aquarius is the future we can't see. Both require our commitment at this time.
Forgive the length of this update, but Mercury is currently in Aquarius, which makes me chatty as hell, and even if he weren’t, there’s so much interesting astrology that needs to be addressed, I’d probably still talk your ear off anyways. Let’s continue to explore Aquarius and Taurus because they are the hotspots of 2021. They’re the hotspots because Saturn and Jupiter will be spending the whole year in Aquarius (full disclosure: Jupiter will dip into Pisces for 10 dreamy weeks from the end of May to the beginning of July, but she’s mostly in Aquarius for 2021). And Taurus is a hotspot because Uranus spends all year there causing a ruckus but also liberating us, too.
In the Tarot, the card that corresponds to Taurus is the Hierophant. This is a card that gets its name from the Ancient Greek word hierophantos, which refers to the priests who conducted the initiation rites of the Eleusinian mysteries. These were the mysteries given by the Great Goddess Ceres (also known as Demeter). Remember her? Her daughter, Persephone, was snatched up by Hades and forced to spend half the year in the land of the dead and the other half in the land of the living. The mysteries she gave to humanity were informed by nature, the seasons, the never-ending cycle of life and death. Taurus, as an Earth sign, is connected to Mother Earth herself and shares plenty of resonance with these themes.
The Eleusinian mysteries aren't about organized religion, they're about the numinous quality of natural cycles. A cycle is a persistent, unchanging rhythm. Think of the phases of the moon or the movement of the tides. But Uranus in Taurus is going to change our rhythms. Uranus as a disruptor (that’s the function of this planet) wants to free us from what's gone before. So all of a sudden we are in the midst a MAJOR change in rhythm. And this year we really get a sense of the new time signature in which we dance our lives. It's as if we've been living in a waltz, going about our lives in 3/4 time. Now we're in a tango, dancing to 4/4. It's going to take a little while to integrate this new rhythm into our lives, we may stumble or miss a step, but there's no going back. It's tango or bust.
Uranus will be in Taurus until 2026, so for all we know the tango is just a layover on our way to 6/8 time, a jig. But wherever we're heading, Uranus in Taurus is important this year because it’s being triggered by the Saturn square. Whatever Saturn touches demands our attention and our discipline. We cannot ignore Uranus in Taurus, and we certainly can't ignore Saturn in Aquarius, who wants us to get to work and to pick up our discipline.
Saturn in Aquarius means we will be exploring the Aquarian themes of technology, social cooperation, and the future through the tough-love lens of Saturn. But don't panic, Jupiter's there too, remember her? She brings a decidedly more optimistic approach, which adds to (what I'm calling) the clap-on/clap-off vibe of 2021. There will be moments of tension and conflict (clap on) and moments of relief and optimism (clap off). What we need to continue to keep in mind is that the planets are always moving, which means all this will pass. And unlike the persistent bummer of 2020, 2021 will give us breaks, so just keep swimming.
I could go on but I'll save it for Astro Club, your go-to monthly safe space for Astrological insights. If you're curious to explore the areas of Taurus and Aquarius in your own chart or just want more information about the next few weeks of cosmic activity, join us, The Spiritual Gayz, on Tuesday the 19th for a light-hearted conversation and Q&A designed to build community and your Astrological knowledge. Beginners are welcome, as are seasoned astrologers. These monthly meetings are all about advancing your practice of Astrology through personal exploration, lively connection, and fun.
Also, I'm excited to report our signature Astrology course, CHART + SOUL: The Magic of Astrology, is open for registration. Class starts March 11th, runs for eleven weeks, and we'd love to see you there. We designed this course to give you a practical understanding of how to read your birth chart and feel empowered to use it. Over the eleven weeks, we will cover all twelve signs of the Zodiac, the planets themselves, how they aspect one another, and the twelve houses that set the stage for all this energy to play out. You'll leave feeling confident to begin to interpret your own chart and maybe even your friends' charts, too! Registration is open now, and if you sign up before February 11th you can take advantage of our early bird tuition specials.