Saturn and Jupiter met up at the same degree of the zodiac, known to astrologers as a “conjunction,” on Monday’s winter solstice in the first degree of Aquarius. The conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter, known as “the Great Conjunction,” occur every 20 years, making it a significant astrological phenomena, but not a “once in a lifetime” astronomical event.
What is more significant is that these conjunctions take place in signs of the same element (air, fire, water, earth) for two hundred year periods at a time. For the last two hundred years or so, their conjunctions have taken place in the earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn), but as of Monday’s solstice conjunction, we have moved into a new epoch of their conjunctions in the air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) that will see us through until the year 2219.
Earth signs have to do with material, with money, with the physical world and how we interact with it. Since entering into the earth epoch with a Jan. 26, 1842 conjunction at 8°54’ Capricorn, humanity’s relationship with our environment has changed in staggering ways.
Mining, fossil fuels, and the industrialization of the world plundered the earth and natural resources. We are now able to create and move commodities around the globe with record speed. And the wealthiest people now are the wealthiest in the history of our world. Vast swaths of wilderness were fought over and became “owned” during this period, while innovations in farming allowed us to grow a human population of over 7 billion.
Our mastery over the earth element has transformed our world, and tipped many ecological systems into devastation. Just this past week, in an article for The New Yorker, Bill McKibben drew our attention to research out of the Weizmann Institute of Science which concluded that the year 2020 was the year that man-made “stuff” came to outweigh all the biomass on the planet — including all the humans. While the weight of biomass remains fairly static, the weight of stuff we create has been doubling every (coincidentally?) 20 years.
So is all of the “technology” going to save us? Air signs are about ideas, they are inherently social and communal, Aquarius even boasts “humanitarian” as one of its monikers. They rule technology and innovation, especially as it relates to the mind and the community. Where earth signs build physical boundaries, air signs soar between them.
But the switch from earth to air is not so much an upgrade as a lateral move, from the vicissitudes of one element to the many facets of another. The last air epoch lasted from 1226 until 1405 — two centuries whose headlines are dominated by crusades, Ghengis Khan, Marco Polo, the decline of the Islamic Golden Age, and the first full English translation of the Bible. The Italian Renaissance began, and the black death claimed an estimated 25 million lives. As the world became more connected, some exchanges brought disaster, while others new influxes of ideas and goods.
We have already had a taste of this shift into air. The hand-off between elements does not happen so cleanly. The past 40 years have been somewhat of an overlap between the two eras. The first air conjunction happened in the early 1980s in the sign of Libra, but the conjunction on May 28, 2000 returned to Taurus. If the acceleration of the development of new technology is any guess, our sense of reality will undergo massive transformations at ever decreasing intervals.
Wild speculations aside, the Great Conjunction has left astronomers and astrologers alike pondering its historical significance. In 1603, astronomer Johannes Kepler was the first to theorize that the Christmas Star that led the Wise Men to the baby Jesus may have been formed by a conjunction of these two planets. In mid-December of that year, he witnessed them approach a conjunction and marveled at the brightness of their combined light.
In terms of the subtleties of personal astrology, what this conjunction means in a personal way depends on the specifics of the birth chart. The uniting of the primary forces for expansion (Jupiter) with contraction or limitation (Saturn) offers either the steady growth of a system properly balanced or the wobbling and fumbling of yielding to both extremes. The middle road is the promising one, so try to stay clear of temptations to go all in or completely refrain. Life is messy, what with the sacred and profane so inextricably mixed.
In any case, their conjunction on the solstice, their brightness on the longest night in the northern hemisphere, is a balm of brightness after a difficult year.
Whitney Will is a professional astrologer, writer, and teacher. Visit starhearthastrology.com for courses and readings.