The Virtuous Nation — Part I

Since we are almost at the birthday of the United States, I thought it appropriate to write about one of the most important configurations in the chart of the United States, the triple conjunction of the Sun, Jupiter, and Venus. This triple conjunction influences the behaviour and beliefs of the United States, including the ever-important American Exceptionalism, which every politician must swear allegiance to. This article was originally written for the magazine The Mountain Astrologer before the Great Recession of 2008, so some of the figures may be slightly out of date, for example China is now clearly the number one emitter of carbon dioxide, but the figures stand  quite well.  Endnotes in the original are now put in brackets.

National character is an idea often used by writers, but never given any definition. Various concepts are suggested as to what the national character of the United States is, but with the tool of astrology one can clearly see the national character of the country through exploring its natal chart.

Venus is conjunct Jupiter, and both are conjunct the Sun of the United States on July 4, 1776. I am looking at the Sibly chart, but obviously that configuration occurs for any time on July 4, which is traditionally celebrated as the birthday of the United States, and has been since 1777. This triple conjunction can be seen as Venus conjunct Jupiter (the closest conjunction), Sun conjunct Jupiter, Sun conjunct Venus, and finally Sun conjunct Jupiter conjunct Venus. These four aspects will be discussed in turn. The nature of a conjunction is such that the separate traits of each planet are so entwined that they cease of have distinct meanings. Since both Venus and Jupiter are somewhat similar, drawing distinctions between the conjunctions is problematic, so while one could argue that a characteristic should occur under that aspect rather than this aspect, nevertheless the distinctions can be made. This triple conjunction, especially considering that the Sun is one of the planets involved, strongly affects how the United States is seen by others, how it sees itself, and how it behaves.

Once you understand the chart of the United States, you will begin to see how the meanings of the planets play out in history and in everyday life. The symbols of the planets cease to be abstractions but rather can be seen all around you. The daily headlines reflect the astrology of the United States: you only need to open your eyes to see astrology at play all the time. We are fortunate that the birth date of the United States is recent, and well established. Everyone who has participated in that summer birthday celebration knows when the country was born.



The United States in 1776



Venus conjunct Jupiter


In astrology, Jupiter is called the “Greater Benefic”, and Venus is called the “Lesser Benefic”. Here we have both of them together, which connotes fortune. America is the Blessed Nation, as Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States during World War I, called it in a speech in 1915[Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations, Hill and Wang 2006 p. 147]. Blessed seems an apt description for this conjunction, and I think it is safe to state that Wilson was at least fairly unfamiliar with astrology or with the chart of the United States. This conjunction could also be described, as George Orwell might have put it in NewSpeak, as double-plus good, the ne plus ultra of goodness.

America has always been a blessed, lucky, and fortunate nation, at least since its birth. Consider the luck of defeating the greatest military power in the world at that time, Great Britain. After what is called in the Colonies the French and Indian War (1756-63), a war that Winston Churchill considered the first world war, and one that gave an up-and-coming soldier by the name of George Washington his first real experience at war, an experience that was to come in handy later, England emerged as the leading military power in the world, one with large debts that required squeezing the Colonies for more money. All of the best firepower – rifles and muskets — were made in England, whereas America had little industry of this kind[Michael Bellesiles, Arming America, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, especially chapters 5 and 6]. Nevertheless, America, with help from some European nations, was able to triumph over Great Britain.

After the defeat of Britain, and America was on its own as a new nation, another very fortunate happening occurred. The third President, Thomas Jefferson, sent two ambassador to Napoleon’s France to see if they could secure right of passage on the Mississippi River and landing rights in New Orleans for America, which were strongly needed as Americans were expanding into the Ohio Valley, and used the Mississippi River to market their goods. Instead of just offering them rights to the river, Napoleon was willing to sell America the entire territory of Louisiana, thus doubling the size of the country at one time.

America has also been blessed with a large variety and quantity of natural resources. Oil was first discovered in Pennsylvania, and the country is still the third largest producer of oil. If one drives around parts of Southern California, they can still see oil derricks. And the State of Texas is synonymous with oil; in fact, there are many Texas multimillionaires that started in the oil drilling game, including several that are in the White House.

America has always been called the “Melting Pot”, but many other countries in the New World acted as melting pots also, attracting immigrants from many other nations of the world. But for the United States, this attraction operated somewhat differently than in other New World countries. In most other countries, certain nations would predominately send their immigrants. However, the United States attracted immigrants from almost all countries of the world. America has been called “The Melting Pot of Melting Pots”[Michael Bellesiles, Arming America, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, especially chapters 5 and 6]. To Americans, this mixture of new culture added to their vitality, and to employers the mixture of languages made unionization more difficult.

Because America has drawn immigrants from so many lands it has become the world’s first truly multicultural nation. This is a real blessing to the United States, and a source of strength that many have either not recognized or actively shunned. This experiment in multiculturalism, while not always successful, has been one of the positive facets of America, and will prove more so in years to come, as it gives America a preview of the future of the planet.

But there is one reflection of this Venus-Jupiter conjunction that has caused America to be different from other modern democracies in a less positive manner. America’s welfare program is much skimpier than in other industrial countries.[Rauchway p 68 has a graph illustrating this] Just consider that other democracies have a universal health plan, and most have had such for many years, while America has still not attempted such a thing, even though it is the richest of all those countries. This may be hard to understand until you examine the astrology of America. America is the blessed country; America is naturally lucky; America is fortunate. If the country is so lucky, people who are unlucky, who are unfortunate, are simply at fault. Since this is a naturally blessed country, if you personally have not gotten your share of blessings then it is your own fault. This seems to be the unconscious (and sometimes not so unconscious) belief in America. Since we are such a fortunate country, there is no need to give any benefits to those who are unfortunate. Good luck will eventually come their way. America is seen as the land of opportunity, and this was thought to make government intervention unnecessary, and in fact it was thought that government intervention would stifle economic freedom.

Another result of this conjunction is that Americans in general feel special, that their country is special. And as we can see in this article, this is true. This gives rise to a condition of America that has long been noted by commentators, a facet of American life called American Exceptionalism. This concept, that Americans are somehow special or exceptional, has a long history, and the meaning is somewhat fluid. The idea is that because of America’s unique geography, history, political and economic origins, this country is different than the other countries of the world. But different somehow morphs into better. It was first used by the French traveler Alexis de Tocqueville when he visited America in the 1830s, but the concept dates back even longer, to Puritan preacher John Winthrop in 1630 and his speech about America being “a city upon the hill”. Madeline Albright, the Secretary of State under Bill Clinton’s second term, called America the “indispensable nation…[W]e see further into the future.” Richard Holbrooke, a diplomat who also served under Clinton, said “the United Nations works best when the US leads.” The city on the hill idea was used in speeches by such varied men as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. The concept of American Exceptionalism really got a boost by the rise of the Whig party in the 1830s[Rauchway p 66 ff], who also believed that what was bad for the wealthy was bad for those who could become wealthy.



Three With Saturn-Pluto

We’ve discussed before the malefic tendency of hard aspects between Saturn and Pluto. We saw two example of this in the 9/11 attack and the Spanish American War. Here are three more examples.


The first one is the start of World War I, exactly 100 years ago this year. Because a number of alliances had been set up in Europe, it only took a spark to set the whole edifice on fire. That spark was the assassination of the Serbian Archduke by a deranged anarchist on June 28, 1914. This assassination allowed the various alliances to take sides, and Russia came to the support of Serbia and then it was all downhill. On this centennial year there have many book s exploring this onset of war, such as The Sleepwalkers, which describes accurately what the world was at the onset of war. For most of the West, the previous 100 years had been a relatively peaceful time, the first in memory. Sure there had been some wars, such as the Civil War in the United States, and the Crimean War, and, though few Americans are aware of it, but you can be sure the Chinese remember it, the Taiping Rebellion in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, which is considered one of the deadliest military conflicts in history, with at least 20 million deaths. But for the West things had been mostly peaceful since the Napoleonic Wars were over. It was considered that peace had broken out and would last forever. Possibly because there had been so little war that many (such as Theodore Roosevelt) worried that men had lost their manliness, and large armies were build up “just in case”.


World War I

In the first chart for the start of World War I, we see that Pluto has just entered the sign of Libra, a Cardinal point. This date, for the assassination, is considered the starting event for the War, but the hostilities didn’t start until at least a month later, and then the war slowly ramped up. The Americans did not enter the war until April of 1917. From the chart you can see that Saturn is conjunct Pluto and the conjunction will get tighter over the next months, as the war starts to build. World War I marked the first time that the developments of the Industrial Revolution could be really applied to warfare. Thanks, submarines, aircraft, automatic weapons, and poison gas could be used. The result was massive bloodshed.


World War II

The standard beginning date for World War II is Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, even though there was a multi-year run-up to the “official” war, including such things as the Spanish Civil War (1936), Japan’s invasion of China (1937), and Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia (1938). The chart above is set for the official date. Note that there is a square between Saturn and Pluto; Saturn is retrograde and the square will get weaker before it gets tighter. Note also that Saturn is opposite the North Node of the Moon, and thus conjunct the South Node.

Some consider World War II a continuation of World War I. Certainly the harsh reparation forced on Germany after World War I had an effect. But Germany did enjoy a flowering of culture and democracy, called the Weimar Republic, after the War. This was the “Twenties” in Germany and lasted until the Great Depression started to take effect. We all know what came next.


The First 9/11


The third chart is for a event called “The first 9/11” by those in the Western hemisphere. There was also an important event in South Africa on a 9/11/1906 in the history of non-violence, but that is a discussion for elsewhere. The event of 9/11/1973 was the occasion of the death of Salvador Allende of Chile and Augusto Pinochet taking power in that country, leading to a military dictatorship that lasted until 1990. Unlike the start of a war, especially World War I, the start of the Chilean dictatorship was very rapid. On this specific day the government of Chile was overthrown and the current president died, whether by the army or his own hand is still unknown. But there was an immediate change in government.

In the chart for 9/11/1973 we again see the Saturn square Pluto, with a very tight orb that is only four minutes of arc. And notice again that Saturn is opposite the North Node of the Moon and thus conjunct the South Node of the Moon, just as we saw in the chart for the start of World War II.

It is interesting that in two of these cases we see Saturn conjunct the South Node of the Moon as well as square Pluto. How should we interpret this? The South Node of the Moon sometimes has Saturnian connotations, especially in Indian astrology. This would increase the Saturnian influence. It also suggests difficulties in connections with others. It goes without saying that in both these instances, this Saturn-Node meaning played itself out.

For more details of Saturn and Pluto see Section V of Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas.



This year seems to be shaping up as a big one for anniversaries ending in zero, and we haven’t even reached to big one this summer. This June has witnessed the seventieth anniversary of the landing of allied troops at Normandy Beach, hastening the end of World War II. This landing started at 6:30 in the morning (time zone two hours East of Greenwich) of June 6, 1944. I really didn’t expect from from looking at the chart of this event, but the most interesting thing was when it was compared to the chart of the United States.

D-Day represented the culmination of long planning for opening a second front in Europe that had been demanded by Stalin years before, since the Soviets were baring the brunt of German war machine. There was an aerial bombardment of the coast earlier in the morning, but the invasion of joint forces from many European and North American countries is considered the D-Day invasion which was recently celebrated. The codename for this was Operation Neptune, and there have been several book published recently with that title. And there are movies about D-Day, the most famous of which is Saving Private Ryan.


D-Day  Event Chart

D-Day Event Chart


This first chart shows the D-Day event at 6:30. You can notice that this is a Full Moon, with the exact Full Moon about 9 hours later. The Full Moon suggests the culmination of some process. In this case it was the culmination of a long process of planning. You can see that the Moon has set and the Sun has just risen, as makes sense at 6:30 in the morning close to the Summer Solstice. There are two conjunction that are noticeable The first one is Mars conjunct Pluto. This conjunction can be read as superhuman strength or brutality. Certainly superhuman strength was needed in the D-Day landing, which taxed the strength of about 150,000 men, half of which were Americans. But not only was great strength needed on the day of the landing, but also much planning which took place before the day; this was necessary to assure a successful invasion. The tightest conjunction – about a quarter of a degree – is Venus and Uranus. At first this did not seem fitting, suggesting sudden love affairs and such. But that is on a personal level. It also suggests dancing and rhythm. In this case the conjunction implies that a great deal of planning and even rehearsal for many months before the final assault. In a way it was like a vary elaborate dance whose moves were planned out well in advance of the exact occasion. This was most necessary.

Then notice that the Moon is almost exactly opposite this Venus-Uranus conjunction. This was the timing indicator, since the Moon travels so fast this tight aspect only last a few hours. It was approaching so it would be exact in another four hours, just as the invasion was reaching it high point.

Another thing to notice is the planet Jupiter down by the IC and opposite the Midheaven. This indicates good luck, fortune at the base of the project, which was the Allied assault at Normandy Beach, and which they certainly needed.

D-Day Sixth Harmonic

D-Day Sixth Harmonic


But there is something else, which we can see most clearly in the sixth harmonic chart of the event. In this we see a wide conjunction of Pluto, Mars, Uranus, Venus, and the Moon, with the three center planets being the tightest. This represents the Mars-Pluto sextile the Venus-Uranus and trine the Moon. All five of these planets which we have talked about were involved in one aspect complex.


D-Day and USA

D-Day and USA


Finally let us look at these planets within the chart of the United States, since the Americans made a large fraction of the soldiers in the invasion. For the United states, which was on Eastern War Time for the D-Day landings, the time was six hours earlier. Notice that the Venus-Uranus conjunction is on the Uranus of the United States and the Mars-Pluto conjunction is on the node of the United States. The United States is definitely connected to this event. Finally notice that the planet Neptune is on the MC of the US. Not only that, but Neptune is opposite the Aries point at about 1 and a half degrees of Libra.; anything connected with the Aries point is connected to the World, since the Aries point is common to the World. That is most appropriate for an operation code-named Neptune. For the United States, the Full Moon has just risen and it is illuminating the chart.


Brown v Board of Education

Another anniversary, this time Sixtieth for the Supreme Court decision on May 17, 1954 called Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.

Nations, like people, have their shadow side, the darkness they would rather not admit to. With a person that can sometimes be revealed through introspection or therapy. But for a nation, especially the most powerful nation in the world, such truth is extremely hard to face. We have previously talked about some of the dark side of America, as revealed by its closest aspect, Pluto semisquare Ascendant. This came out, for example, in the Gulf of Tonkin incident and of course the whole Vietnam War. But this side of American behavior is not mentioned in the media, in Fourth of July speeches, or political campaigns. There is a mythic belief of America that is celebrated at such occasions, and much of this is shown by the second tightest aspect in the American chart, Mercury semisquare Uranus.



Dark Side vs Bright Side


Before talking about this aspect it is interesting to note its relationship to what I am calling the dark side aspect of American culture, Pluto semisquare Ascendant. These two aspects are opposite one another and connected by two oppositions. Symbolically this is interesting: It shows that the shadow side is the obverse of the more public side. This Uranus semisquare Mercury aspect is above the earth and thus more public, whereas the shadow side is below the earth, and thus more hidden, at least to the Americans. The recipients of our dark side behavior are all too aware of it. Also notice that the bulk of the planets are included in the arc between Uranus and Mercury. This is the core of America – except for the public, the Moon, which is below the horizon and thus out of mind.

Uranus is freedom, revolution, rebels. As a country founded in revolution and that being a revolutionary country is important to our self image, it is not a surprise that Uranus is so prominently placed close to the Descendant. When Uranus is combined with Mercury, it indicates innovative thinking, science, technology. From the beginning science and technology were important to the country, as seen in Benjamin Franklin and his many inventions and John Quincy Adams, who is considered the father of American astronomy. Thomas Jefferson was an architect and scientist. Early America drew rebels such as Thomas Paine and Francis Wright and Robert Dale Owen. Early steam driven printing presses and rotary presses allowed the spread of newspapers and books. Westinghouse, Edison, and Bell are famous inventors from America. And this has continued into the present with the development of computers and the Internet. America is famous for more Nobel Science prize winners, great science teaching in graduates schools, and so forth. Of course, some of this may be changing with the rise of neo-liberalism and the increasing privatization of public education.

The decision on Brown v Board of Education is an example of our better nature. It is considered the most important Supreme Court decision of the Twentieth Century, perhaps of all time in the United States. It can be seen as demonstrating the revolutionary goodness of America, another example of why America is exceptional. This decision, by a 9-0 vote – when is the last time we’ve seen that – overturned Plessy v Ferguson of 1896 that allowed separate by equal. The decision ruled that separate educational facilities for different races were unconstitutional. One of the lead attorneys, from the NAACP, was Thurgood Marshall. a brilliant lawyer. He was later appointed to the Supreme Court by Lyndon Johnson as the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. When he retired he was replace by Clarence Thomas, appointed by George H.W. Bush. I guess he figured that one black justice was the same was another.





In the chart of the positions of the planets on this day, we see that there is a transiting Mercury semisquare Uranus also, emphasizing this aspect. But look at the transits to the natal chart of the US. There are strong aspects, among the tightest of the day, of the outer planet Neptune to the planets Uranus and Mercury showing that this aspect was highlighted that day.



Emphasis on our Bright Side


While Neptune can represent universal compassion, concern for the helpless, idealism, it also suggests illusion. In this case the promise of Brown v Board of Education, which aligned itself with the positive self-image that America has of itself, was prevented from coming to full fruition by deception. The school boards mostly affected by this decision, from Alabama to Massachusetts, fought against its implementation, It wasn’t until another ten years that the federal government passed a law allowing easier legal redress. Parts of that law have been nullified by the current Supreme Court, the one containing Clarence Thomas. No one noticed the irony. And school segregation, which was supposed to be stopped by this decision, is now more prevalent than before the decision. But Neptune prevents us from fully seeing this.