The 'great conjunction' kicks off a new astrological epoch. So what now? | Emily Segal

The apparent meeting of Jupiter and Saturn in the skies – known as the ‘great conjunction’ – marks the birth of a new astrological epoch

On Monday, Jupiter and Saturn – which are actually more than 400m miles apart – will appear to come together in the night sky, forming what is called a “Great Conjunction”. This is one in a series of meetings the planets make roughly every 20 years, due to Jupiter’s orbit of less than 12 years around the sun lining up with Saturn’s, which is 29.5 years long. On the night of the conjunction, the planets will seem as if they’re separated by about one fifth of the diameter of the typical full moon, appearing to touch or form a single brilliant heavenly body. Besides its visual dazzle, this event has special significance through an astrological lens: it marks the official shift from a 200-year period during which Jupiter and Saturn made conjunctions primarily in Earth signs into a 200-year period of conjunctions in Air signs, marking the advent of a new epoch in a larger 800-year macro-cycle.

Thinkers have used Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions to track history for thousands of years – Johannes Kepler’s early 17th-century trigon diagrams are famous ephemera from the beginning of our current macro-cycle. Jupiter and Saturn are the slowest and furthest away of the planets available to the naked human eye, and function as the short hands of the astrological clock, sketching the broad strokes of an era. In astrological terms, Jupiter signifies expansion, growth, and coherence – but can also lead to cancerous hypertrophy. Saturn represents the opposite principle, of limitation, structure, and containment, often considered the cruel taskmaster of the zodiac. Together they are like life and death, warp and weft, and their conjunctions signal key moments in the formation of collective reality.

According to historians of astrology, Earth periods like the one we are about to exit focus on materialism, hierarchies, resource acquisition, territory control, and empire stabilization (see the late Roman empire, high middle ages, and industrial capitalism). Astrologers believe that Air periods, by contrast, favor the renovation of hierarchies, decentralization, shifting orders, rapid translation, mass mobility, trade networks, and rampant spirituality. Relevant historical examples that astrologers cite include the rise and fall of Alexander the Great’s empire leading to the network of city-states in the Greek-speaking Hellenistic world (Air period 383-185 BCE), the fall of the Roman empire (Air period 412-610 CE), the division of the Mongol empire after Ghengis Khan’s death, and the plague’s destabilizing effect on feudalism in Europe (Air period 1206-1405). Thematically, Air periods tend to foster information ages that focus on the intellectual, the immaterial, and the ideological – though not necessarily in a peaceful manner.

I am a trend forecaster. Part of my job is about zooming out and looking at big-picture data and trends in order to analyze the present and model key changes to come. I’ve found that astrology, which tracks data from the motion of stars and planets and tries to extrapolate trends and meaning from it, is a useful, evocative model for pattern recognition. I’m not alone in this fascination: Astrology is absolutely booming among millennials and Gen Z, led in part by a renaissance of scholarship around the subject over the last ten to fifteen years, which has restored a great deal of classical legitimacy and rigor to the admittedly woo-woo new age astrology of the 1960s and 70s.

Speculating on the current transition, as a researcher and student of astrology, what kind of shifts do I anticipate might follow? One is a move from key social conflicts over physical territory to struggles in the psychological and ideological realms. Astrologers suggest the game will be “up in the air” rather than “all too dense”. That means mass migration and decentralization of power seem likely, as well as radical technological advancement that will make a mockery of Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. (Have you noticed how much of the newest tech, such as Blockchain, has seemed to end up being about finance or infrastructure, after an initial expansive frisson? That’s very Earth period, and I believe we can expect it to change.) The world wide web itself is entering its Saturn return, a period traditionally viewed as a difficult but pivotal coming of age passage. As a trend forecaster, I’ll be looking for developments related to ideological struggle, surveillance, decentralization, virtuality, exile, subculture, and the avant garde – as well as shifts in the contours of empire, of course.

In addition, I’ll continue to pay attention to the current astrological renaissance (whose stars include Chris Brennan, Leisa Scheim, Austin Coppock and Kelly Surtees at the Astrology Podcast; Chani Nicholas in the queer-pop-self-help sphere; and Maren Altman on TikTok, among countless others) as its combination of spirituality, unseen realms, classical research and digital distribution is a perfect match for an Air period.

As for your own experience: don’t panic. Elements are traditionally neutral, which means going from a period typified by one to a period typified by another doesn’t spell disaster. Epochal shifts are part of life, though not everyone has the privilege of living through one like this, since they only happen every 200 years. While I definitely recommend keeping your eyes peeled for changes, don’t expect everything to update all at once – the Air period may be upon us, but certain heavenly revolutions are a slow burn, indeed.

• This article was amended on 1 January 2021 to emphasise that a number of statements within it are attributable to astrological beliefs, rather than statement of facts as indicated by an earlier version.

  • Emily Segal is the author of the novel Mercury Retrograde, recently released by Deluge Books. She leads the thinktank and consultancy Nemesis

Emily Segal

The GuardianTramp

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