Swine flu threat
Swine flu: real threat or media scare?
(Posted May 1, 2009) The swine flu threat has emerged as a significant development in recent weeks after originating in Mexico in mid-April where it has caused over 100 deaths. While the number of cases and deaths remains quite low around the world, there is real concern by governments and health authorities that a dangerous pandemic is possible. While I alluded to the possibility of some kind of disease threat in last month's newsletter based solely on the New Moon chart, this matter deserves a closer examination. Just how serious could this flu outbreak become?
Many Western astrologers are pointing to the close conjunction between Chiron and Neptune at 2 degrees of sidereal Aquarius as a poignant astrological signature for this disease scare. Chiron, a planetoid beyond Saturn's orbit discovered in 1977, is said by some to symbolize "the wounded healer" and therefore is secondarily connected to health matters after Neptune, which is the primary significator for illness in Western astrology. While I do use some Western notions such as Neptune, I am more agnostic on Chiron's role in this flu outbreak. A cursory review of recent flu outbreaks does not reveal an obvious Chiron influence. The 1918 Spanish Flu featured an extremely rare configuration as Neptune crossed very close to the ecliptic at the same time as Saturn opposed Uranus. Lesser flu outbreaks in 1957 and 1968 also do not strongly implicate Chiron. Whatever the role of Chiron might be here, I tend to focus on the planets that have a more firmly established symbolism. At present, Neptune is conjunct Jupiter which ought not to indicate disease or pandemic but rather the opposite, such as the ending of disease since Jupiter is a benefic influence. Perhaps one can argue that Jupiter acts as an expansionary or magnifying energy here for Neptune's penchant for disease and weakness, but that seems counterintuitive. Perhaps the Jupiter influence here refers to the media hype (Jupiter = bigness/exaggeration; Neptune = image/media), or perhaps to the finding of a quick cure for H1N1.
Saturn is the traditional Vedic ruler of disease and we note that it is soon coming up to its direct station on May 16. At that point, it will be motionless in the sky and thereby exert greater force. Saturn is in the middle of a year-long opposition cycle to Uranus which began last November. Another exact opposition is due in August. Uranus is a destabilizing energy which can bring out the negative side of Saturn such as disease and hardship when it is in tense aspect. This is basically the case now, so we have to consider the Saturn-Uranus opposition as a contributing factor to the swine flu outbreak. And as mentioned above, the Spanish Flu in 1918 was characterized by the same Saturn-Uranus opposition so there is at least some historical precedent. But it is noteworthy that the swine flu scare of 1976 that never materialized also coincided with a Saturn-Uranus aspect, although it was a square. Perhaps that instance lacked the additional planetary affliction to actually create an infectious influenza. Perhaps the worst post-war flu pandemic occurred in 1958, as the Asian flu killed over one million people over a one-year period. It's interesting to note that Saturn was parallel to Neptune as reckoned by latitude, a pattern that brought together both traditional and modern rulers of illness.
While the apparently positive Jupiter influence on Neptune is heartening and would tend to suggest that this current flu outbreak will not be very severe, I am a little worried by some afflictions I see in some key natal charts. Using the Houck USA chart, the Saturn station will closely aspect the natal Mars within one degree. Mars rules the 8th house of serious illness in this chart, although Mars more often is connected with violent or sudden situations rather than situations that are drawn out. That chart seems to indicate that some significant suffering involving will occur in the next month or two, although it could relate to something other than the swine flu. The more often cited 1776 USA chart is also indicative of some Neptune-type situations since Neptune will make its retrograde station just two degrees from the natal Moon (4 Aquarius) in the 2.18 sidereal Libra rising chart. The Moon represents the population as a whole, and Neptune is clearly a marker for disease and illusion, so we have the possibility for some kind pandemic, or more optimistically, of a pandemic scare. Again, Jupiter's presence on that degree ought to provide some protection from the worst case scenario. More worrisome is that transiting Ketu will conjoin the natal Mercury in this chart in July-August, and given Mercury's association with transmission and communication, we need to be aware of the possibility of trouble on those fronts.
So it's a mixed picture. The planetary patterns don't clearly show a worsening pandemic, but there is still some risk that it could intensify over the summer. The Mercury retrograde cycle that begins on May 7 under the distorting influence of Rahu will be the first test. Mutation of the virus is always a possibility, since Rahu has that potential to disrupt the current state of things. Hopefully, the difficulties I foresee in the US charts over the next few months refer to some other stressful situation such as a relapse for the economy or stock market, or perhaps some other new challenge. Obama's chart also shows siginficant Mercury-related problems over the coming months as Ketu transits over his Mercury at 9 Cancer. These may be related to the economy and indeed this is the most likely outcome. However, they could also relate to national health since Mercury rules Gemini which is his 6th house of health. What is also interesting is that the nodes will activate the Sun-Mercury conjunction (6 Capricorn) and the Moon (5 Scorpio) in the Obama inauguration chart in June and July. One potentially important date to watch is the time around July 11 when Mars aspect Rahu and both these malefics will form close aspects to the aforementioned planets in the inauguration chart.
For another examination of the possible correlation between astrology and pandemics, see my 2003 discussion of SARS and the Spanish Flu.