Run a chart for any day in December 2005, and you will see a grand cross.

What’s a grand cross?

grand cross
A grand cross is a rare formation of four planets that form a perfect square in the heavens.

A grand cross is made up of two oppositions that are 90 degrees, or square, to one another.

The nature of planets involved in squares is that they are normally in the same modality.

This winter, there are two oppositions in fixed signs, Mars in Taurus opposite Jupiter in Scorpio, and Saturn in Leo opposite Neptune in Aquarius.

But wait!.. you might say. The Saturn-Neptune opposition doesn’t become exact until August 2006! And you are right. Indeed, Saturn starts moving backwards (retrograde) on November 22 and backs away from the opposition to Neptune. It only gets kind of close this winter, it doesn’t become exact. But something happens called “translation of light.” As Jupiter moves through Scorpio, he squares Saturn, exact on December 17. Then Jupiter “translates the light” of Saturn as he moves into a square with Neptune, exact on January 27.

Meanwhile, Mars is retrograde. And Mars translates some light of his own. Mars will square Neptune on November 7, then carry Neptune’s light to Saturn, exact November 18. On December 4, Mars will oppose Jupiter, translating the light of the Jupiter-Saturn square, which perfects on December 17. On December 9, Mars changes direction and runs through the whole process again. Mars square Saturn, December 27. Mars oppose Jupiter, January 15. Mars square Neptune, January 18.

Between November 18 and December 31, Mars covers two degrees. That’s all. Two degrees in six weeks. That’s highly unusual, and it only happens when Mars is stationary—that is, about to change direction. Normally, Mars would cover that same territory in four days.

But what does it mean?

Squares and oppositions signal times of stress and conflict. This is an extraordinarily complex and stressful formation, which holds for an unusually long period of time. To help us understand, let’s break it down into its constituent parts.

Introducing the players

  Mars: War, fighting, arguments, fire, knives, explosions, injuries, heat, inflammation, fever, crisis. Mars is in Taurus, the sign of money and financial systems.

  Jupiter: “Lots of.” Jupiter increases whatever he touches. Jupiter also symbolizes law and courts, police, travel, education, publishing, teachers, religion and clergy. Jupiter is in Scorpio, sign of banking, loans, finance, major changes, as well as life and death situations, crises, emergencies. As Jupiter rules travel, and is involved in this cross during the holiday season, I expect there may be problems with major airlines. Keep your plans simple.

  Saturn: Restriction, limitation, shortage, hardships, big business, authorities. Saturn is in Leo, the sign of leaders, fathers, authorities, and bosses.

  Neptune: Fraud, deception, disappointment, dissolution, infections, addictions, water (god of the ocean), oil, gas and fuel, pharmaceuticals. Neptune is in Aquarius, the sign of technology, computer systems, broadcasting, electricity, energy.

Combining energies

What happens when Saturn and Neptune combine?

Note: Quotes are from Ebertin, The Combination of Stellar Influences.

Psychologically, “A dual character, a struggle between the lower and the higher nature, a frequent change of moods, distrust, insecurity, dissatisfaction.” The force of Neptune (dissolving) acts on Saturn (structures and boundaries). It’s a destabilizing aspect. Although we may not see the full results until the aspect completes, starting in late August 2006.

Saturn signals limitations, restrictions, shortages. And Neptune is, unfortunately, still the fuel source for most of us—oil and gas.

Sociologically, “Poor, sick, or depressed persons.” Medically, “the chronic and unhampered progress of malady.” Folks, there probably is something to this bird flu scare.

Even “conservatives” are now taking President Bush to task for appointing cronies to crucial jobs in the government. Do you think this one might be more trouble for him? Could be.. Saturn’s stationary point is very near Bush’s Mercury Pluto conjunction. A Saturn transit to Pluto is never easy, it limits your power and the things you can do. Saturn to Mercury brings difficult decisions, lots of hard work, pessimistic thinking, and bad news.

What happens when Saturn and Jupiter combine?

Inflation is a big one. Difficult aspects between Saturn and Jupiter have historically brought economic difficulties. Ebertin lists the following “probable manifestations”: “Changing success, an unsettled life with many changes, a change of residence or of employed staff, an angry upset, vexation or annoyance.” Change of staff.. White House staff, perhaps? Jupiter-Saturn pinpoints “Professors and teachers of Law, clergymen, civil servants, politicians (relatives, fellow tenants).”

If we combine Jupiter-Saturn with Neptune, Ebertin gives us the following: “Pessimism, a feeling of abandonment, the tendency to begrudge other people’s good fortune. An intolerable loneliness, hard work without success, losses. Damage to a building through dampness, water, gas or force majeur (war).”

What happens when Neptune and Jupiter square?

Jupiter is “lots of” and Neptune is “infection.” Another signal to be ready for a bad flu season. Lots of infection, lots of lies, lots of deception, lots of fraud, lots of water. You need to be on your toes, and you need to trust your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What happens when Mars and Saturn come into contact?

It’s not pretty. Normally these two are only in contact with each other for a couple of days at a time. But this winter, Mars remains within 2-3 degrees of a perfect square to Saturn for about two months. Mars is the accelerator pedal. He’s energy and drive. He’s anger. Anger is energy to solve a problem. But Saturn is the brake pedal. He both provokes and limits Mars’ expression. The result alternates between fatigue and utter lack of energy, to massive frustration, acts of violence, explosions. Since Mars is in an earth sign, we may see Earth events, such as earthquakes, fires, volcanoes.

What happens when Mars touches Jupiter?

Jupiter overdoes, and Mars acts. Overdone actions. Overdone responses. Excessive speed. Violence (Mars) against judiciary, clergy, academics, police, or publishing houses (Jupiter)

Finally, what happens when Mars and Neptune tangle?

Our actions and drives (Mars) lose focus (Neptune). In medical astrology, Neptune is infection, Mars is inflammation and fever. Again with the flu thing. I really hope I’m wrong about this. But I will be adding an herbal flu remedy to my medicine cabinet.

Ebertin also indicates for Mars-Neptune: “Failures caused through the absence of plans or through lack of energy, the misfortune to suffer harm or exploitation, dislike of work, obstinacy and stubbornness, narrow-mindedness.”

Putting it all together

Now, I see this grand cross as a two-month phenomenon, woven together by “translation of light” that makes everything more intense and powerful. It is also a collection of single events. I have made a few predictions, but nobody really knows how it will all play out. But you can use the blurbs above, and overlay them on this schedule:

Mars square Neptune Nov 7
Mars square Saturn Nov 18
Mars opposite Jupiter Dec 4
Mars station Dec 9
Jupiter square Saturn Dec 17
Mars square Saturn Dec 27
Mars opposite Jupiter Jan 15
Mars square Neptune Jan 18
Jupiter square Neptune Jan 27

These are the exact dates. The aspects are strongest in the days just before exact.

Why so negative, Molly?

Because I’m approaching this on a geopolitical level. And in my experience as an astrologer, a negative manifestation is a safe bet when you look at things on that level. Despite our intelligence, as a species, we humans have proved to be remarkably bad at learning from our past mistakes.

What about on a personal level? What can you do to make the most of this? I think everyone’s best bet is to simplify your life. Realize that there is big stuff moving through. Turn off the TV. And get things in perspective. If you stay healthy, safe, fed, and warm this winter, you are doing quite well. I can think of a few million Kashmiris who would agree with me on this.

My teacher Lance taught me that a grand cross signals a time when your boat either stabilizes or capsizes. It’s the trying times that shape our lives the most, those times when we figure out what we’re made of.

At best, adversity uncovers our weak places, so we can shore them up and make them stronger. That is my prayer for humanity today. That we may reach a turning point. That we may collectively realize that things are terribly, terribly out of balance. That we may learn from adversity, free our minds, open our hearts, love our neighbors, get over ourselves, forgive those who trespass against us, and stop the madness.