Squinting at Shadow

As the clouds of summer have burned away to reveal the warm sun of Leo and trines are opening towards beautiful Jupiter, I’d like to take a moment to consider one of the strange minglings of 2019 astrology, Saturn and Jupiter both being in rulership.


Jupiter is the ruler of both Sagittarius and Pisces, mutable energies concerned with blending, hybrid states of warm connection. Jupiter blends experience and thought and creates meaning. Jupiter sits with us when we read a passage in a book that suddenly links a feeling with meaning. Jupiter is with us when find ourselves breaking bread among friends. Jupiter is the energy in your hand as you give that person a five-dollar bill without question or condition. Jupiter is expansion, generosity, meaning, abundance, joy

Saturn is the ruler of both Capricorn and Aquarius energies that concern themselves with structure, In Capricorn, Saturn is concerned with structures that already exist and already are imbued with power. It supports authority and systemization.  Saturn separates things and pressurizes them. Ruler of time, Saturn can see beyond the personal and concerns itself with limitation, contraction, control, endings, and hard hard work.

I was lucky enough to attend Leisa Schaim’s talk at the Northwestern Astrological Conference back in May. Her lecture was entitled, “Finding Joy and Meaning in the Birth Chart.” It was a subversive and generous lecture that entered the mind through the heart. Schaim used this map of joy as a means of steering the conversation towards the crucial question of building equity by inscribing political questions into technical considerations. 

Astrology can get stuck in the mud around the personal. Conversations quickly get derailed into “but what does this mean for MY chart?” It’s easy to find ourselves with only one wheel spinning around the me, me, me of it all. Schaim’s lecture expertly steered around the pitfalls and potholes of self-obsession and resisted common poisons of “positivity” like spiritual bypassing and passive aggression. She maintained a shrewdly honed consideration of joy within complicated contexts, discussing how within a traditional techniques the material realities of our lives are as present in our charts  as the psychological ones — an incredibly important distinction that changes the narrative from simply “I’m lucky” to “I’m lucky and a lot of that luck is circumstantial.” I immediately grasped the potency of her work as a political strategy. When time was up and we were all supposed to leave, half the room remained in their seats not wanting the conversation to end. 

A passage of the lecture I continue to find my thoughts returning to is Schaim’s consideration of the negativity bias. 

[E]ven when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g., unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one's psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things.[2][3][4] In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person's behavior and cognition than something equally emotional but negative.

This year’s Saturn/Jupiter astrology has illuminated this effect. Saturn, traditional astrology’s “greater malefic,” and Jupiter, the “greater benefic,” have been well-resourced in the signs of their own rulership—translating into really good and really bad things happening. As I write, the negativity bias pounds aggressively on my skull. I can imagine many of you barking up, “Good? Really?” I can think of dozens of examples of Saturn (with Pluto and the South Node) in Capricorn (border crisis, rising fascism, the terrorism of gun violence enacted by toxic white masculinity) and I have to work harder to turn my mind back to Jupiter. Like an attentive conductor, I have to keep faithful watch to steer the train of my thoughts away from the chasm of negativity that seems to spread out endlessly in front of me. I think of Schaim’s lecture and the Jupiterian wisdom she imparted. A crucial lens that has me squinting at hope.  

So, let’s talk about that squinting at hope via the technical consideration of the relationship of Capricorn and Sagittarius. While no classic Ptolemaic aspect exists between them, they are in something called “Antiscia” to one another. It’s a special classification of relationship that mitigates the absence of the classical aspect. Antiscia says that while they may not see each other, they can see each other via shadow; they can see each other through a sort of squinting at darkness. Though it’s challenging for a practice like astrology that concerns itself with foresight, a very important part of honoring the prodigious power of these planets is in the squint: Sagittarius/Jupiter insisting on the quest for meaning and Saturn/Capricorn insisting on the restriction & darkness. Antiscia reminds me that, often, shadow is on the horizon, that darkness is what spreads out in rolling landscapes before us. In a sort of inversion of Plato’s cave, much can be learned by looking at shadow. 

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. . . . The future is dark, with a darkness as much of the womb as the grave.”

—Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

There is so much in the relationship of Sagittarius and Capricorn in these statements, a queer blending of Jupiterian positivity and Saturnine responsibility. You can almost feel the mingling. I hear the voice of my dear friend Amara in my mind: “Birth happens through great pressure.”

To put it in astrological language, we might consider that Jupiter happens through Saturn. It’s not surprising that this is the actual myth of these two planets. Jupiter is the literal child of Saturn, born into tremendous struggle. Jupiter overthrew his father and liberated his siblings. What blessing was not born of contexts of struggle? Meaning must always follow experience. Jupiter will always be the child of Saturn. Even in shadow-side expressions, unearned Jupiterian privilege finds roots in Saturnine servitude and exploitation. To use Antiscia as a poetic device, one could say that the work of now is squinting at shadow. 

You darkness from which I come,

I love you more than all the fires

that fence out the world,

for the fire makes a circle

for everyone

so that no one sees you anymore.

But darkness holds it all:

the shape and the flame,

the animal and myself,

how it holds them,

all powers, all sight —

and it is possible: its great strength

is breaking into my body.

I have faith in the night.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

I imagine the negativity bias as the undigested children of Saturn sitting in the darkness—the unseen abuses, pain and grief; the absolute terror at the thought of digesting and processing those wounds; the belief that it’s safer to stay swallowed in the belly of the beast then to risk release. Like Saturn, our bodies hold time for us, they remember.  Like Jupiter, our bodies are born holding capacity to liberate our siblings. Like Jupiter, our bodies believe we will win. 



"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”

—Toni Morrison, Rest in Peace. Thank you

To risk release is to create generative and creative relationships with this darkness, to allow Jupiter to be born of Saturn. Imagine yourself not swallowed in the belly of the beast, but buried in the womb of time. Gestation requires darkness. Practice. Grief is darkness practice. Healing is darkness practice. Intimacy is darkness practice. Hope is darkness practice. As Jupiter prepares to station direct, and as the summer’s insistence on Saturn subsides, I want to write while we have a moment to dream, to hope, to consider joy and meaning.  I want to write while we can squint at Jupiter,  while we can surrender our foresight and watch the prefigurative forms of our futures through the beautiful dance of their shadow. This is a time to unbury your generosity, to invite warmth into the darkness, to find faith in the unknowable. 

“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth's treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal... To hope is to give yourself to the future and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.” 

—Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

*This essay is inspired by the Jupiterian wisdom of Toni Morrison, Leisa Schaim, Rebecca Solnit, Amara Tabor-Smith, Jason Holley, Lynn Bell, and Austin Coppock. Thank you

** To go deeper consider joining my Patreon subscribers club. All subscribers get supplemental material for this essay including a video explaining Antiscia, A long list of Jupiter practices and rituals for working with the astrology, A live session video chat where we’ll discuss Jupiter’s remaining time in Sagittarius.