The Earth is tilted about 23.5 degrees as it rotates on its axis in space, giving us the seasons. Like a spinning top or gyroscope, the axis itself rotates slowly in a circular motion. The gradual circular movement of the Earth’s axis is called axial precession, and takes about 26,000 years to complete a single rotation.
Because of the Earth’s axial tilt, the position of the Earth in its orbit around the Sun at the equinoxes and solstices slowly changes over 26,000 years. This results in the vernal equinox moving from one of the 12 signs of the zodiac to the preceding sign roughly every 2,160 years. An “astrological age” is defined as the period of time it takes for the vernal equinox to complete its movement through one sign.
There are various methods for calculating the movement of the vernal equinox into a new zodiacal sign, and therefore many estimations for the beginning and ending of any particular astrological age. Approximate dates for the end of the Age of Pisces and the beginning of the Age of Aquarius vary widely. Many astrologers estimate the Age of Pisces began around 1 AD and that we are now, or have been, moving into the Age of Aquarius.
Rather than looking for a specific date to assign to the beginning of an astrological age, we can view it as a gradual shift over an extended period of time. In recent decades planets associated with the sign of Aquarius, its planetary ruler Uranus, or planets in aspect with Uranus or Aquarius, have brought forth its archetypal themes and issues. A series of overlapping planetary cycles over a period of years helps us make a gradual transition while providing opportunities to learn and experience the themes, issues, and “flavors” of the new age. This allows us to better hone our skills and adapt to a new phase in human evolution.
The Uranus-Pluto conjunctions in the mid-1960s coincided with the rock musical “Hair,” which foretold the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius.” Its themes included personal freedom and rebellion against conventional societal norms. The Harmonic Convergence of planets in 1987 was believed by some to be the beginning of the Age of Aquarius. This event preceded the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russia is associated with the sign of Aquarius in astrology, and exemplifies rebellion against monarchy and egalitarian social and political systems. Aquarius rules science and technology, innovation and invention. The Saturn-Uranus-Neptune conjunction during 1988-1991 brought huge advances in computer technology and solidified its role in communication and information sharing and processing. Some assign the beginning of the Aquarian Age to the August 1999 total eclipse of the Sun. At this time the Leo Sun and New Moon shed their light upon opposing Uranus and the lunar South Node in Aquarius, marking a new Aquarian cycle.
The transiting lunar north node, our collective spiritual destination, was in the sign of Aquarius from December 2007 until August 2009, urging us to value individual uniqueness and diversity, and embrace tolerance and open-mindedness. At this time in the USA we saw the rise of a progressive movement, and the successful campaign and election of the first president of color. In 2010 the planet Uranus entered the first sign of the zodiac, Aries. This was viewed by some as a new beginning, a new cycle of understanding the Uranian archetypal forces and expressions in us as individuals and in relationship to others. During subsequent years issues around freedom of individual identity and expression surfaced in government institutions, such as acceptance of LGBTQ people in the military. The struggle for acceptance by minority, fringe or under-represented groups is a re-occurring theme of Aquarius. December 21, 2012 brought the end of the Mayan Calendar, which many thought marked the beginning of a new Aquarian Age.
Just this past month Jupiter and Saturn conjoined in the first degree of Aquarius on the winter solstice. This is another important turning point moving us into the Age of Aquarius. Jupiter expands and uplifts the Aquarian principles of equality and independence for all peoples, and provides an idealistic and optimistic vision of the future. Saturn grounds the innovative ideas of Aquarius by finding practical uses for its scientific and technological advances, and employs them to advance social progress. The years ahead will continue to astound and disturb us with the unexpected changes Aquarius brings into our lives. As we learn to break free from attachments to the past and make room for change, we can garner the gifts of Aquarius.
“Be wary of great leaders. Hope that there are many, many small leaders.” – Pete Seeger, after leading an Occupy Movement protest in 2011