Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
Step out of line, the man come and take you away
Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth
’Tis the season of scary in our culture, when we put on glaring display (using lots of plastic and blinking lights) the things that we are afraid of, mostly having to do with death and unknown or unseen powers — ghosts, monsters, skeletons, witches and oversized spiders. Undoubtedly, the underlying urge to flaunt and so face down these fearful things is rooted in our agrarian past, when the fact that this is the season of death here in the northern hemisphere was unmistakable, and the cold winter ahead threatened illness and hunger. Acknowledging and externalizing fears allows us to share them, and helps stave off the creeping dread.
Except for the increasing number of homeless, few of us here in the USA fear for our lives and health as winter approaches, but fear still looms large in our lives, a natural human reaction that is used by the media to get ratings, and by those in power to control us (“Elect me or socialist Muslims/Christian dominionists/aliens and their pet lizards will take over America!”) Certainly, fear is an effective motivator, but as a constant companion it is quite disempowering. Unfortunately, between the media and the politicians, we are constantly reminded of the things we should fear — things much more immediate and pressing to us than ghosts and monsters.
Astrologically, the Sun moves into Scorpio a week or so before Samhain, and Scorpio loves to explore those issues of fear, death, and control. So, let’s take a look at the upcoming Mercury retrograde cycle in Scorpio, which will be followed by a New Moon eclipse in the same sign. There’s a lot going on in Scorpio right now — Saturn is there, along with the Moon’s North Node, and Mercury. Mercury, because of its retrograde cycle, will be in the sign until early December, the Sun will join the party for a month on October 23rd, and the New Moon arrives there on November 3rd.
Scorpio, like all three water signs, is, in essence, about relationship. Cancer speaks to relationship with family, ancestors, the land. Pisces is about relationship with All That Is. Scorpio’s realm covers both intimate relationships, and relationships with both individuals and groups of people with whom we share resources. Scorpio always takes it down deep, because you can’t really know an individual or a group of people if you always keep it on the surface. The knowing is important to Scorpio, because knowing deepens relationship — not only with other people, but with life itself. Since Scorpio sees so deeply into the human heart, those who are strongly under the sign’s influence can be quite manipulative — sometimes from compassion, sometimes because they like to play the game, and sometimes because…well, you know the story about the frog and the scorpion, right? To Scorpio, pain, and even death, can be just another way of gaining the deep knowledge.
No one can come through the crucible of relationship unchanged. It’s what we do — we change each other, we exchange energy constantly, sometimes casually, sometimes intensely and intimately. So Scorpio also must be able to transform — to shift from Scorpion to Eagle and finally to Phoenix (the three animals of this sign) as relationship deepens and self-awareness expands. Scorpio must learn to change and transform without losing personal identity, to remove the ego from its seat of power — a stolen throne — and place it back in service of navigating daily life within time and space.
As Saturn moves through Scorpio, every fear humans have around these issues — death, relationship, abandonment, identity and power — will be on display in the galleries of our lives, and we are all summoned to attend the show. Saturn rules fear, and it would serve us all well to take a close look at the role fear plays in our lives, then, as with the ego, find a way to remove it from its throne of power, and place it back in service. Which leads to the question, what service does fear perform?
Like anger, fear is a call to action. It is a reaction that tells us when the dictates of time and space are about to impinge on our well-being, and summons all our resources to change that. Also like anger, fear becomes toxic when it is held and nurtured instead of experienced and released. Fear has specific physiological and psychological effects that help us react appropriately in the short term, but damage health, relationship, and the ability to think clearly and learn when it is repeatedly experienced.
Fear is also highly contagious, at the level of the subtle bodies -- which most people are unaware of. A person who is feeling a lot of fear can infect others without having to say a word, unless those others are inoculated against fear. Being inoculated against fear does not mean that one ignores danger, rather that one is constantly — with a sub-conscious, but not unconscious awareness — scanning and combing the mind, the emotions and the subtle bodies for nits of fear that are being held instead of acknowledged and released. This constant energetic grooming actually makes us more appropriately aware of when and what we should fear, because it removes the distraction of fear as a constant state of being with no immediate cause.
Learning to release fear is important work for the magician, and various magical disciplines offer some excellent tools to help us do just that, tools that help us train the mind and the subtle bodies into an inoculated state. Mercury’s sojourn in Scorpio with Saturn, with Saturn itself in mutual reception with Pluto, is an excellent time to develop or expand a regular practice that helps us control our personal energy fields and release the fears that restrain us. This could entail working through a series of focused rituals, learning a physical discipline with a spiritual component (yoga, some martial arts, music) or simply self-observation, meditation and journaling.
Getting to a place where we can easily release fear is a lifelong journey, best undertaken in the company of a bedrock metaphysics, a deep knowing, an unshakeable, experiential understanding of the underlying beauty and creativity of the Universe, and of the ultimate safety of each soul within it. We can all access that awareness, but most of us have some work to do before we get there.
The place to begin the transformation to living free of fear is within our own minds (Mercury), because it is our thoughts that keep fear active within us. First, it helps to look at what we fear, and whether or not those fears are even valid when carefully observed in the light of logic and of our spiritual understanding of how the world works. It’s also necessary to explore why we might hold onto fear. Most of those reasons are unconscious, or only partly conscious. For instance, sometimes fear serves as a kind of talisman — we feel that if we hold onto the fear that someone might break into our house, then we’ll be really careful about locking up and installing security systems. We won’t miss anything, because our fear drives us to be always looking for a loophole, a weak point. We believe we won’t get careless if we are afraid. There’s a certain logic to this, of course, but a bit of thought will bring one to the conclusion that fear is a poor solution to carelessness and inattention. If you fear for your safety in your home, acknowledge it, take appropriate action to mitigate the risk, and then LET GO of the fear. Use meditation, affirmation, ritual or whatever techniques work for you, but train your mind to release thoughts of fear.
There are other reasons for holding on to fear, of course. People who were raised with abuse from infancy will often find this work particularly challenging because fear has been a constant companion since childhood, and there are often somatic imprints that must be worked through. For others, fear makes them feel alive when other paths of feeling are blocked to them. But diving deep into the sea of our own unconscious and learning why we fear is a necessary step. (Damned scary, too!)
Another planet whose help we need in inoculating ourselves agains fear is the planet that rules Aries and co-rules Scorpio. Mars gifts us with courage — the ability and willingness to act in the face of perceived danger. Courage, like many other things, can be developed through determination and repetition. Yes, it’s scary, but to progress and mature, to become the person we want to be, we have to make the choice, repeatedly, to track down and face what frightens us.
There is another reason why this work is so important — the more you release fear, the more you radiate inner strength and certainty. Just being in the presence of someone who is not caught up in fear can help calm those who are fearful in the same way a string on a guitar will change its rate of vibration, untouched, if a neighboring string is plucked. Breaking free of fear is an act of rebellion against those who would control us, be they advertisers, employers, coworkers, family or friends. As magicians, we can help counter the poison of the fear-laced atmosphere of modern society, and energetically shift the world around us with every breath.
The current astrological patterns support this work of learning to understand and manage fear, and they also suggest developing the courage to confront deep karmic and ancestral issues. I’ll discuss that in my next post.