The astrology of autumn 2021

A Venus retrograde conjunct Pluto, along with the final Saturn-Uranus square of the year, suggest life may have some continuing twists and turns as we settle into fall and move into winter. But at least we’re on a trajectory toward positive change. Savor every bit of joy you find.

Astrology of 2021: Venus Rx and more. Background image from the Hubble telescope. The Flame Nebula is a large star-forming region in the constellation Orion that lies about 1,400 light-years from Earth. It’s a part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex.
Background image: Swirls of dust in the Flame Nebula captured by NASA's Hubble telescope.

Table of Contents

Venus retrograde in Capricorn

The big news for late autumn and the first two months of next year: Venus retrograde. During this 40- to 42-day cycle—which happens roughly every year and a half—Venus makes lingering aspects to personal charts in ways that can be delightful. If Venus is aspecting the angles, planets, or other major points in your chart this fall, you may be in for a season of contentment, joy, even real happiness.

Of course, the catch with Venus retrogrades is that whatever they bring doesn’t always last. It could be time for a fun, romantic fling, new or returning (Venus aspecting Venus, Mars, or Neptune), a makeover or new sense of yourself that makes you feel fantastic (Venus aspecting the Ascendant), an optimistic, fulfilling time at work (Venus aspecting the Midheaven), or simply a period where you make progress or enjoy life a little more than usual (Venus aspecting the Sun or Mercury).

With Venus retrogrades, while there may be a catch, that doesn’t necessarily mean their benefits won’t persist. A promotion or other positive life event that comes along during this time isn’t likely to go away. And even relationships don’t need to crash and burn or disappear—though it is, let’s be real, a possibility. For example, I’ve heard, via another astrologer, of a couple who got married during a Venus retrograde (generally something to avoid, if you can). Years down the road—still very happily married—they discovered a technical glitch with the paperwork meant they had not, in fact, officially tied the knot!

So, carpe diem. No matter what comes, if you’re feeling good, enjoy the time. Don’t turn away from a positive shift just because you’re worried it may not last. The universe loves a grateful receiver. If we appreciate what we’re given, we’re likely to get more. (I think appreciation is a better concept than gratitude, which feels a touch grating.) But hey, even if we don’t get “more,” in whatever sense that’s meaningful, at least we have the memories! That’s nothing to sneeze at, despite our conventional obliviousness to life’s startling brevity. We have a right to savor every bit of joy life’s buffet has on offer. It helps get through the harder times—and we all know this has been a particularly rough couple of years.
Venus retrograde dates for late fall and winter 2021-2022
Dates EST. Please check your local time.

This Venus retrograde does have a twist that could challenge efforts at nonattachment, which is why it’s all the more important to keep it in mind: Venus will conjoin Pluto three times while it traverses the sign of Capricorn. This aspect suggests the possibility of positive, possibly profound transformation, but watch for its downsides, which include obsessiveness and ruminating. Whatever you have in your natal chart at 24-27 Capricorn, in trine at 24-27 degrees of Virgo and Taurus, or in sextile at the same degrees of Pisces or Scorpio will be favored. Those with placements at the same degrees of Cancer (in opposition to Venus’s path), or in square along the Aries-Libra axis are also likely to feel this retrograde deeply, but its effects could be more fraught.

It might sound annoying—because who wants to hear it?—but it’s a good time to meditate on the Buddhist concept of the ephemerality of all things. Try to cling to joy, and it may be lost. So let things happen as they will in this upcoming few months. Stay true to yourself and your values but, as much as you can, avoid meddling in outcomes. If what comes to you now is meant to last, trust that the universe will conspire to make it so. Remember that Venus transits mirror the beauty that’s within you—while they may inspire, enlighten, enliven, they cannot evoke what does not already exist.

Venus will stay in Capricorn until March 3. From the start of this retrograde shadow period till its end, she moves between 11 degrees and 26 degrees of Capricorn. On January 9, Venus will conjoin the Sun and Vertex at 18 degrees Capricorn: this may mark an important time for fateful meetings and relationships. She then goes direct on January 29. If Venus’s joys do fade—and I’m not one to say they necessarily will, but all good parties do have to end sometime—look for changes around the time she finally leaves the retrograde shadow at the beginning of March.

Eclipse season

This fall’s eclipses and lunations fall at 12 degrees of Scorpio, Sagittarius, and Capricorn, and at 27 degrees of Taurus and Gemini. If you have anything in conjunction, opposition, sextile, or trine to these (generally within a degree on either side), an area of your life will be in the spotlight, particularly during the eclipses. Find out how to locate where a new or full moon falls in your chart here.  If you’re wondering how one of these lunations will affect you, please feel free to post a question in the comments below.

Autumn 2021 Eclipse and lunation dates
Dates EST. Please check your local time.

Autumn ingresses and other important dates

Autumn sees the forward march of the Sun and Mars through Sagittarius and Capricorn. Mercury began November in Scorpio, then moves on through Sagittarius and Capricorn as well. Take advantage of Sag’s fondness for getting out and try to wrap up your holiday shopping early this year. By the time Capricorn season settles in, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, it’s hibernation season, so take a breath in the relative calm. If you can, curl up on the couch and prioritize resting before what may be an intense holidays, with Pluto conjoining Venus early on December 25. However you celebrate, honor this peaceful time before the start of the new year.

The end of 2021 sees a significant shift in the skies, with the nodes moving to Scorpio and Taurus on December 23 and Jupiter moving into Pisces for good on December 29. Jupiter dipped into Pisces back in May and July of this year (May 13 to July 28). Whatever was started or put on hold back then may return or pick up speed now. Look for more about Jupiter in Pisces and the nodes changing signs in an upcoming post.

Autumn 2021 ingresses and planetary movements
Dates EST. Please check your local time.

Saturn in Aquarius

Meanwhile, Saturn continues its march through the sign of Aquarius. An intriguing idea came up at the London School of Astrology recently, where a fellow astrologer-classmate suggested Saturn in Aquarius can represent healthy boundaries. I love this idea, which is a positive expression of the combination of the Saturnian and Aquarian archetypes.

With Saturn in Aquarius, we also have the ultimate keywords right now—social (Aquarius) isolating (Saturn). I often think of Richard Tarnas’s classic characterization of astrological archetypes as multivalent: they frequently offer meaning on multiple levels, from the profound to the mundane. It is to our benefit to mine them for insights and perspective in order to foreground acting from a place of centered perspective and kindness.

So it’s interesting how much Saturn in Aquarius also describes our current culture wars. We’re having conversations around etiquette (Saturn) toward all people and cultures, particularly those who have been historically marginalized (Aquarius). We’re being schooled in how to treat those who diverge from so-called norms (Aquarius) with respect (Saturn), while acknowledging the essential (Saturn) agency (Aquarius) of everyone who shares this earth. In return, a conservative element (Saturn) chafes at “wokeness” and makes critical race theory its new target—as if there were somehow anything wrong with examining racism. But, as is wearyingly the case, those who benefit from it don’t generally want to see it—and that’s Saturn aligning with the old guard.

There is an irony here. As the Tao Te Ching points out, it can be helpful to think of the “enemy” as the shadow we ourselves cast. We also have a new strictness around code, code words, and cancellation—Saturn, again (a grim follower of the rules), disciplining in defense of difference (Aquarius). Indeed, “cancelling”—calling out, rejecting, casting out from the crowd (Aquarius)—is highly Saturnian. Admonishing those who have historically held power for the purpose of defending those who have not and too often still do not is clearly justified. But do the ends justify the means? At what point do we become our enemy?

When Saturn moves into Pisces in March 2023 (through May 2025), some of the challenges of Saturn in Aquarius may begin to dissolve. Saturn was last in Pisces in the mid-1990s, as the gay civil rights movement began to see profound advances, and prior to that in the mid-1960s, during the era of free love. A more compassionate, more spiritual approach may emerge—and we may finally see the end of the lonely social distancing Covid-19 has required. A bit further down the road, it may finally be hugs all around, as we hopefully breathe a collective sigh of relief and rediscover the joys of joining in communion with our fellow human beings.

Eris square Pluto

The Saturn in Aquarius battle may be playing out in words, on Twitter, from the isolation of our own homes to a collective screen on the Internet. But another battle is being played out in the public square between Eris and Pluto—and in this one, the knives come out. The square between Eris and Pluto has moved in and out of one-degree orb since early 2019 and became exact several times in 2020 and 2021. It left a one-degree orb on November 25 of this year, but its influence is likely to persist for some time.

This square is a superhero-style clash of titans. Eris is the Greek goddess of war and strife, while Pluto (in this scenario) represents power that will stop at nothing to gratify and maintain itself. In this era, following to some degree the astrologer Henry Seltzer, I see Eris as a face of Kali, India’s terrifying goddess of righteous rage.

It’s not news that it’s been an ugly fight. We’ve seen previously impervious dominoes cascade from the loftiest heights. Think of Jeffrey Epstein’s remarkably mysterious suicide in a maximum-security prison and the behavior of men like Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein on triggering global display in the media for years on end. Prior to Pluto, Saturn also squared Eris in late 2017, just as the revelations about Weinstein finally became public. The #Metoo movement subsequently exploded.

Over the past several years, we’ve also seen wrenching mass protests in response to the repetitive traumas of witnessing the caging of children at the US-Mexico border and the inexcusable, reprehensible murders of citizens at the hands of those who are supposedly bound to protect. The simmering #BlackLivesMatter movement, which ignited with the death of George Floyd as Eris and Pluto moved into exact square alignments last year, is  spurring long-overdue changes. 

It is a time of reckoning. My bet’s on Eris, who can definitely take Pluto on, as we’ve seen. Her goal: the right, responsible, ethical use of power, if not—ultimately—the transformation of power itself.

Saturn square Uranus

Meanwhile, last year’s historic astrology still resonates. This year, we’ve dealt with the fallout in terms of an ongoing tense aspect between Saturn and Uranus. The first exact square between these two outer planets occurred on February 27, 2021, and the second on June 14.

Uranus, the planet of change and shock, has been butting heads with Saturn, a planet that very much does not like change. On the mundane level, we can see this in the mask/vaxx divide, as entrenched elements of society argue with more than 300 years of vaccine science rather than adapt to Covid-19—a genuinely world-upending experience (Uranus) that has disrupted so many traditions and routines (Saturn).

The last of this year’s three exact squares happens on December 24. Fasten your seatbelts for the holidays, folks, at least on the mundane level. There could be unexpected world events in the headlines around the holidays. Wherever this has been aspecting your personal chart, you may feel as if you’re between a rock and a hard place—wanting change (Uranus), to break free from restrictions, but prevented by some circumstance that demands you keep working, keep your nose to the grindstone, stick with the current status quo, no matter how frustrating it may be.

Sounds like, say, the continuing restrictions from Covid, right? Rest assured that Saturn, when taken seriously, can surface gifts from all that collective hard work, dedication, and perseverance. We may find ourselves in a more stable place by early next year. The Saturn-Uranus square moves out of 1-degree orb on January 1, just as the Sun moves into a trine with Uranus, carrying refreshing winds of change into the new year. It’s a hopeful start.

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May 2024

The astrology of autumn 2021