Neptune in Pisces has been weaving its seductive spell since 2011. But what happens in the wider world as a result? What does it actually do? Well, on an individual natal chart, Neptune symbolises our innate need for boundlessness, that eternal reaching out to the Spirit so common to the human condition. The material world, for some of us, feels like a prison, and Neptune is that archetypal urge to be free: from the chains of matter, structure and mortal limits. It’s as if we unconsciously seek to return to the safety of the womb, a Paradise, an Eden that entails no struggle or earthy responsibility. We blend, we transcend, we rise above the world of forms (that keep us separate) and become One.
This longing to return to the source will, in some way, be familiar to those with Neptune strongly placed on their birth chart. Collectively, however, the urge for Oneness or the need to belong and identify with the whole takes a simpler form when we observe Neptune’s transits though a zodiac sign. In Mundane Astrology – astrology applied to the affairs of countries and the peoples that comprise it – Neptune can be seen to reflect (sign-wise) what humans are gravitating towards as a whole, or – if you prefer – a herd. These are, essentially, popular likes and dislikes in the prevailing culture. What is au courant. The typical channels of expression for this will be art, design, glamour, photography, music, television and cinema, fashion, advertising (i.e. the power of the image) and works of imaginative fiction (including the various claims of tabloid newspapers).
Historians and commentators have no idea why certain things come in and out of fashion at any one time in a society. Some are passing fads, some re-appear from years before, such as the kind of clothes, colours or hair styles that are now ‘in’. Or it might be the slogans we repeat, currently popular music, or what trendy, mainstream movies or books are the latest best sellers. There often seems no rhyme nor reason why one type of hairdo should suddenly fall out of favour, or why hemlines are a much different height from last year, or why men should now eschew beards and sideburns. For the astrologer, though, there is a clue in the transits of Neptune. Collective Feeling has settled on certain tastes and values and thus coloured the Zeitgeist – and this happens according to which sign Neptune currently occupies.
At present we see Neptune in Pisces and the seemingly limitless capacity for lies and deception among politicians (especially in the currrent UK government). Politics has always been associated with hypocrisy, cant and a certain elasticity with the truth. But – at one time – politicians in the UK seemed to have more of a conscience, compelled to fall on their sword and resign if they’d misbehaved or knowingly misled Parliament (as with the Profumo scandal in 1963, and various resignations during the Tory ‘sleaze’ years of John Major). It seems no such qualms trouble the MP’s of today. But let’s first look at how Neptune operated in other signs back in the day, and what actually happened …
NEPTUNE IN SAGITTARIUS (1970-1984) The Seventies have been called the decade that taste forgot and not without good reason. The late 1950’s – and then the 60’s – had seen the urgent eroticism of rock and roll (in artists like Little Richard, Elvis, James Brown, Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger) when Neptune was in Scorpio between 1955 and 1970. This sexy, dark and moody vibe in popular music was replaced by something androgynous, bi-sexual, sex-less or just plain shocking. The shackles of 1960’s ‘authenticity’ and taking oneself seriously were out by the next decade’s pop market, and we moved to the freedom of artifice, and the fun, gaudy, ‘inauthentic’ spirit of 70’s and early 80’s hits Thus, Glam Rock, Punk, New Romantics and experimental Synth Pop arrived with Neptune in Sagittarius. Clothes also looked newly garish or were hopelessly impractical: ‘hot pants’, stacked-heel shoes or boots; big, daft-looking ‘spoon’ collars; ‘mullets’; ‘bell bottoms’ and flares and -finally – ‘snorkel parkas’ whose wearers could barely see where they were going. All very colourful, clumsy, expansive and over-the-top – in other words, Sagittarian.
The seventies film industry has – unsurprisingly – been labelled a free-for-all, anything goes era, whose creators were becoming much more daring about what they could show (and get away with). Portrayals of cinematic sex and violence were increasing by the late 60’s, but what we saw in the 70’s was much more ‘permissive’. By the 1970’s, restraint was out; shock value and outrage were in, typical of Sagittarius, a sign which baulks against limitations. Hence ‘shockers’ like: Straw Dogs, The Exorcist, Last Tango in Paris, A Clockwork Orange, I Spit On Your Grave, The Devils, Texas Chain Saw Massacre (even Monty Python’s Life of Brian offended figureheads of the Christian Right, like the egregious Malcolm Muggeridge.) It was also the era of the ‘video nasty’, more Sagittarian-like unrestraint from the early eighties, but which arguably began with the outrageous Pink Flamingos in 1972 (featuring a scene in which drag queen Divine – in the words of critic Roger Ebert – ‘actually ingests that least appetizing residue of the canine.’)
On another tack, the prevailing 70’s-early 80’s fashion in movies and T.V. was the ‘blockbuster’ whose characters literally went out of this world (Sagittarius does love long distance travel). Hence sci-fi and outer space was wildly popular again, in programmes like UFO, Space 1999, Buck Rogers in the 23rd Century, and movies like Star Wars, ET, Close Encounters and Alien. The pop music industry (reliant as it is on glamour and illusion) is also quite clearly a Neptunian phenomenon, whilst Sagittarius’ ethos is ‘do it big’. And so, in 1976, the Who played a gig at Charlton FC which was rated at the time (by the Guinness Book of Records) as the loudest concert ever performed. Earlier in 1970, at the Isle of Wight music festival, the final performance was that of Jimi Hendrix (a sun Sagittarian) who set one of the first high attendance levels, as 600,000 followers showed up. More Sagittarian expansion, and ‘doing it big’.
Finally, there was liberation from the drudgery of the kitchen, hence fast, time-saving, ‘convenience food’. Nowadays we know better and (hopefully) insist on a proper, balanced diet. In the 70’s, the market was flooded with ‘instant’, quick-to-make or boil-in-the-bag junk meals that were supposedly about saving time, but were really about novelty value. (Sagittarius loves novelty, too.) For those who desire reconstituted noodles from a plastic pot whose nutritional value is equal to that of a Meccano set, this is instant, ‘fun food’ – again, very Sagittarian. In this era we could delude ourselves that the future had nearly arrived, as we awaited the invention of the jet-pack and highways in the sky. Meanwhile, we had the wonders of Pot Noodle, Cup-a-Soup, Cadbury’s Smash and Bisto Gravy Granules. There was even the powder one mixed with water and ‘cooked in the fridge’ that was meant to turn into ice cream but, rather, tasted like (according to some critics) ‘flavoured snow’: Chillo. (All of which achieved popularity in the 70’s.)
NEPTUNE IN CAPRICORN (1984-1998) 1984 was the year Neptune moved into Capricorn, the sign of the aspiring, self-reliant entrepreneur or business mogul. Comedian Harry Enfield perfectly summed up the worst of this era with his vulgar ‘Loadsamoney’ character, a parody of the Thatcherite capitalist ethos and the self-made ‘Essex man’ driving his flash car and showing us how easy it is to make a quick buck. In the same context, the slogan ‘Greed is Good’ came from the 1987 US movie Wall Street, whose rapacious financial trader Gordon Gekko was its chief character. The catchphrase originated in a speech made by Gekko when he proclaimed that, ‘Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,’ making the point that it ‘captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.’
Of course, with Neptune in Capricorn blurring the boundaries between ambition and ‘survival of the fittest’ avarice; between competition and screw-your-enemies-self-gain (where sympathy for the loser is considered a weakness), the Gekko philosophy is just what we should expect. Thus it became fashionable to be ‘in business’ and worship the filthy lucre, to which end we had the prevalence (in the 80’s) of amoral corporate raiders and businessmen (for they were mostly men) famous for hostile takeovers. Besides Gordon Gekko (in Wall Street) the stereotypical corporate raider was embodied cinematically in Danny Devito’s ‘Larry the Liquidator’ in Other People’s Money (1990), and Richard Gere’s Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman (1990).
Then there was the phenomenon of the so-called ‘young urban professional’. Newsweek magazine, at one time, had appropriately declared 1984 to be ‘The Year of the Yuppie’ – the year Neptune moved into Capricorn. (I would also note that, inflating the Capricornian archetype, 1984 was also the year Jupiter entered the sign.) Thus, the spectacle of ‘power-dressing’, a kind of understated ‘business look’ that bespoke one’s executive status, right down to the prominent shoulder pads and mobile phone/filofax accessories. As Wikipedia notes, Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer in incorporating ‘the spirit of power suits’ where her personal style was, according to Vogue magazine, ‘appropriate for the role of Prime Minister. She was Britain’s first female icon to pioneer at the same time politics and fashion …’ (A perfect example of Neptune in Capricorn.)
Whilst we’re on the subject of fashion (in contrast to the 70’s) the shorter-haired, formal look became popular for men as Neptune entered Capricorn. Even in aged, denim-clad rock and rollers, long hair and unruly sideburns were mostly out. Plus, in the pop music world, a spate of band reunions took place in the 90’s – the older, well established groups ruled again, and the time- honoured and traditional became ‘hot’ once more. Even the Beatles ‘reformed’, as did the once anarchic and threatening Sex Pistols! Even bands who had solemnly delcared they would never get back together again did so. Real guitar bands also returned (after synth pop) and there was a throwback to former styles for their own sake, like the mid 90’s ‘Britpop’ phenomenon, consisting of those aping a 1960’s ‘retro’ sound: Blur, Oasis, Kula Shaker, Cast. Corporate sponsorship of rock gigs (a Capricornian idea, if ever there was one) became popular, making some bands millionaires. Retromania ruled!
Plus, after the flashy, ‘futuristic’ look of 1970’s interior design (Neptune in Sagittarius, with its chrome, formica and plastic) came a new trend for ‘authenticity’, sporting the natural, even ‘historic’, look made from real materials like iron, brass and oak. ‘Retro’and ‘reproduction’ were in, even to the point where pubs and homes were artificially aged to get those ‘original’ features back.
As the Guardian put it: ‘In the 1980s, decorative laminates were consigned to naffdom and banished from the home, along with all the plastic paraphernalia of the 1960s and 70s.’ Journalist Philip Norman (in his biography on Elton John) also sums up this era of 80’s fashion moving ‘retro’. With our Thatcherite values firmly in place in the UK, Norman writes that ‘the great buzzwords turned out to be “traditional”, “original” and “classic”. Pubs transformed themselves into semblances of Boer War gin palaces or Dickensian coffee rooms. Fortunes were made in the mass-production of bogus nineteenth-century goods, from ‘Victorian villager’ soap-on-a-rope to ‘Victorian country house’ chutney and mustard foot-soak. Such things had existed, of course, in the Sixties and Seventies, but were always recognised as pastiche. In the Eighties, they began to be believed … [even] Mrs Thatcher herself spoke of restoring ‘Victorian values’ …’§ To cap it all, English Heritage, the charity that manages over 400 historic houses and places began in 1983, just as Neptune was getting ready to move into Capricorn.
NEPTUNE IN AQUARIUS (1998-2011) The clothes fashions of the Noughties are often described as being a ‘global mash up’ (very Aquarian – the sign of the cosmopolitan, the international, the mixing of cultures). It is where ‘trends saw the fusion of previous vintage styles, global and ethnic clothing (e.g. boho).’ (Wikipedia) There was an observable shift from the more formal, even business-look of Neptune in Capricorn, whilst in the home we wanted less of the stiffly traditional.
There was also an acknowledgement of ‘green issues’ and concerns with the ‘environment’. The spirit of Aquarius is about what is ‘good’ for us collectively, which so often translates as a concern for the state of the planet itself, hence the rise of ‘eco concerns’ in the news. The Guardian wrote, ‘in the 90s, we were still learning what it meant to go green; in the noughties we started to put it into practice. TV’s Grand Designs, which launched in 1999, nurtured the concept of energy-saving ecohomes.’
In pop music however, with manifold genres spawning even more sub-genres by the late 90’s, it was getting hard to pinpoint which astrological themes were at work. What did stand out was the Girl Group phenomenon. All-female pop groups (whilst hardly unprecedented) were quite rare in the 70’s and 80’s, but by the late 90’s the Spice Girls had shown the way with so-called ‘girl-power’ (a meaningless marketing device, but a new idea that bespoke equality with the Boy Bands which preceded them – very Aquarian). The new girl groups seemed less like Svengali-creations of yore (e.g. The Supremes) but more independent, confident and ‘in your face’, and this spawned yet more girl groups like B*Witched, Atomic Kitten, Girls Aloud and Sugababes.
Elsewhere, the massive popularity of the world wide web – after the ‘dot-com’ boom and bust (1999–2001) and the availability of cheaper high speed connections – is the perfect manifestation of Neptune (trends) in Aquarius (the future – I.e. ‘digital’ technology – and the collective). Mundanely, Aquarius is about the global community and (lest we forget) this was also the original ideal behind the internet – a hi-tech invention for sharing information and resources. Soon, we saw the rise of social media which – Aquarian fashion – brought people together anywhere in the world, 24-7. Starting in 2003, MySpace became the biggest social networking site in the world, superseded by Facebook in 2004, after which we had YouTube (2005), Twitter (2006), and Instagram (2010). Anyone with an internet connection could join in. Instant democracy!
The genre of film documentary also received some new input as Neptune transited Aquarius – but what should we expect from a popularisation of ‘Aquarian’ themes? Well, matters like social justice, ecology (and the subject of global warming) and just about any issue that concerns societies and collectives, and what affects them. One very Aquarian issue is politics – the organisation of large collectives into something manageable (and, ideally, cohesive). Accordingly, the world of the film documentary had a new star in the noughties: Michael Moore, who’d gained an Academy Award in the Best Documentary Feature (in 2002) for Bowling for Columbine, which looked at US gun culture and the origins of the Columbine High School massacre. Two years later, frustrated with George W. Bush’s second election victory, Moore made Fahrenheit 9/11, about the neo-conservatives (and their policies) dominant in the White House. The film’s success and subsequent popularity was virtually unprecedented for a documentary, and by August 2012 (when Neptune had left Aquarius) it was the highest-grossing documentary of all time. Two more finger wagging films by Moore followed, and also entered the highest-grossing lists: Sicko (2006), and Capitalism: A Love Story (2009). (Of course, Moore was at it again with Fahrenheit 11/9, about the Donald Trump presidential victory in 2016.)
Elsewhere, there appeared other ‘Aquarian’ style documentaries, like Al Gore’s immensely popular An Inconvenient Truth (2006) which reminded us of the need for swift action in saving the planet, ‘raising international public awareness of global warming and reenergizing the environmental movement.’ (Wikipedia.) Again, this is a very ‘Aquarian’ theme, as it involves the very human causes for the damage and calls on humanity to take collective action. Whilst we were being lectured on ecology and US politics, other documentary film-makers got into the highest- grossing lists, whether sending up the absurdities of organised religion (Religulous, from 2008) or warning of the dangers to our health posed by McDonald’s plc (Super Size Me, 2004).
NEPTUNE IN PISCES (2011/12 to present) Neptune in Pisces began April 2011 and – post retrograde – recommenced February, 2012. There are parallels to when it was first discovered in 1846, when much of the zeitgeist was soaked in spiritual matters: Christian Science, New Thought, Spiritualism, Transcendentalism and Hypnotism were all strange new pursuits back then. (In the nineteenth century, Neptune in Pisces lasted from 1848 to 1861.) We’re witnessing another revolution just like this: the New Statesman (in 2013) showed that only 13% (!) in the UK agreed with the statement that ‘humans are purely material beings with no spiritual element.’ Meditation, yoga, tai chi and ‘green issues’ are no longer quack pursuits. With Neptune in Pisces, vegetarianism and veganism is also on the increase, and the spiritual seems more and more to infiltrate areas from which it was hitherto barred. For one, many scientists, yes, scientists, have adopted a more holistic or unashamedly spiritual approach to life – the names of Rupert Sheldrake, Bruce Lipton, Larry Dossey, John Hagelin and Amit Goswami may be familiar to you. You may not even have noticed this new openness to the sacred, but that is precisely how Neptune works – gently eroding barriers.
However, there is negative side to all of this – we’re also in a new anti-rational era, a phenomenon that has been branded the ‘post-truth’ age. So called ‘post-truth’ politics (identified as such in the decade following the noughties) sees discourse driven not simply by appeals to emotion – as all propaganda does and always will do – but by a hybrid of factors, an entire armoury of lies, distortions, bufoonery, nonsense, wild boasts, and outrageous exaggerations that defy normal expectations and wrongfoot those in search of the facts. The truth. Actually, real facts get in the way of post-truth discourse, and are conveniently ignored. Not only that, the sinister technique of ‘gaslighting’ is also used in order to sow the seeds of doubt and confusion, so that even robust logic and our sense of reality ends up being eroded. The ultimate goal is disorientation, and it has infected much in recent political life; according to Wikipedia:
‘as of 2018, political commentators have identified post-truth politics as ascendant in many nations, notably Australia, Brazil, China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among others … The phrase became widely used during the 2016 UK EU membership referendum to describe the Leave campaign … Faisal Islam, political editor for Sky News, said that Michael Gove used “post-fact politics” that were imported from the Trump campaign … Arron Banks, the founder of the unofficial Leave EU campaign, said that “facts don’t work … You’ve got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.”’
As for Trump himself, his accusations about mainstream press being Fake News was little more than someone burying their head in the sand at the first sign of criticism (another hallmark of ‘post- truth’). Plus – as we saw – an entire movement of wilfully self-deluded Republicans fantasised that Trump had actually won the US election on November 3rd, 2020. Of course, we’ve always had political propaganda, but Trump’s single term in office began with a hint that this was to be no ordinary Presidency; rather, one based on Neptune in Pisces post-truth politics, where the truth is whatever you deem it to be. How else do we account for a White House that – when shown a photo proving 2017’s Presidential inauguration was badly attended – declared such incontrovertible evidence to be an ‘alternative fact’? This is the real ‘fake news’: conspiracy theories as official policy, self-serving fantasy preferred to reality and the unlovely spectacle of January 6th, 2021 when a violent, deluded crowd stormed the Capitol Building in Washington DC. Such are the fruits of Neptune in Pisces – ‘collective emotion’ running rampant, zero boundaries where anything goes. (The same post-truth phenomenon was, of course, at work in the UK during Boris Johnson’s ascendancy towards becoming Prime Minister. The result? Lies about Brexit and – when in office – ‘Partygate’).
In closing, the very idea of blurring or ‘transcending’ traditional boundaries is typically Neptunian. These days, the business of sexual gender is a hot topic, with the rise of Transgender (the ‘T’ in LGBT). This is identity beyond the usual gender binary, neither exclusively ‘male’ nor ‘female’. Hence, descriptions such as Non Binary, Genderfluid (very Neptune in Pisces!), Agender, Genderless, or Demigender. To some more literal minded people the whole business is not a little confusing, but there is now legal recognition of non-binary genders on the statute books. In November 2013 (when Neptune had entered Pisces) Germany was the first European country to recognise an ‘indeterminate’ sex on its birth certificates. Many others soon followed. Is this phenomenon another example of the ‘post-truth’ age?
Image: Garry Knight (Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication).
§. Norman, Philip, Elton, Hutchinson, 1991.Follow me!