by Boots Hart, CAP

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI Gives Notice

 Pope Benedict XVI during a May 2007 visit to Sao Paulo, Brazil
(photo credit: Fabio Pozzebom, Agencia Brasil)

Technically, when a Pope leaves office (which apparently hasn’t happened in some 600 years) they resign. And considering what one must be resigned to once you’ve been Pope for a while, that may be apt. But seeing as the rest of us ‘give notice’ in our jobs, maybe that works too.

Born Joseph Alois Ratzinger on April 16, 1927 in the small Bavarian town of Marktl, Germany, the obvious question is why now? Why is Pope Benedict stepping down in this world instead of holding on until he moves on into the next in what is pretty much Catholic Papal tradition?

We aren’t going to ever know this answer for sure, but there are a few thought-worthy notes in the Pope’s chart which may help us each think this question through…should we want to, of course!

 Pope Benedict XVI (born Joseph Alois Ratzinger)
 April 16, 1927 - 4:05 a.m. (CET/-1) - Marktl (Bavaria),  Germany

One way to think of ‘why’ now is to say ‘Pope Benedict is leaving office on February 28, 2013. Does that have any astrological connection to when he assumed the role of Pope?’

Pope Benedict became Pope on April 19, 2005. Here’s a bi-wheel for that date. The inner wheel is Pope Benedict’s natal chart, and the outer ring shows planetary positions for noon in Vatican City on that date. (I don’t have the exact time he assumed office, so we will use the noon ‘leadership’ astrological default.)

 Pope Benedict XVI's natal chart (inner rung and horoscope
wheel) with planetary placements for the date of investiture in the outer ring.

The first thing which jumps out of this chart is Pluto (in pink) at the very top of the wheel. Positioned at 24 Sagittarius, it could hardly be any closer to the Pope’s natal Midheaven without being on top of it, and this position just before the cardinal axis has been statistically tested to be a very important place in the chart. The most basic of keywords for Pluto being “transformation” and Sagittarius being the sign of religion, Pluto conjuncting the Midheaven is a wonderful and clear sign of this being the time when this man’s worldly image, his societal achievements, his place in the world would change. He was – metaphysically and literally, at the ‘top of his game,’ if you will.

Also interesting here is that in reaching the top of the to-be-Pope’s chart, Pluto had just conjuncted Ceres (in blue, at 21 Sagittarius), which in the Pope’s chart is both stationary (exactly on station) and involved in a natal grand trinewhich would ‘set off’ the grand trine.

Ceres on station is a powerful indicator of thinking things through. In a natal chart it would indicate someone who would work to (or towards) figuring out how things can get done. Or, given that this is fiery Sagittarius we’re talking about, how they should get done, or how they would be if things were as they could be.

And yes, there’s something highly evocative (yes, almost amusing) about a Pope’s chart which has asteroid Hel at the Midheaven, too. Ordinarily, asteroid Hel indicates where we make things hard (on ourselves or for others, depending) but this is one of those cases where there’s a whole literal quality to the asteroid. You may not have read any of the Pope’s writings, but the ones I read which were written prior to his becoming Pope and which I heard discussed by Catholic Deacons were pretty conservative, hard-line treatises. When the Pope took office, there were many who wondered how this ‘old style’ thinker would do as a leader in our new fangled world, and to the extent that Pope Benedict stood for very traditional, conservative values he lived out this position very well – he took the ‘difficult course’ and stayed that difficult course, come…um…Hel or high levels of indignation.

And of course, his Midheaven was also conjunct the Galactic Center of the day. Wherever we see the Galactic Center in the chart we understand that’s a place where the person is supposed to give of themselves. Lore tells us that we will not succeed in fulfilling our true potential without honoring the GC’s position.

Regarding the calculation of the Galactic Center: According to planet-hunter Mike Brown (yay!) of Caltech (yes, I’m a fan), though there is a teeny tiny variation in this ‘standardized’ equation, we are pretty much on the dot of the black hole if we work with the idea that the Galactic Center moves 50.27 seconds of arc per year. Given that, the GC which is currently at 27 Sagittarius 01 would have been at 25 Sagittarius when the Pope was born.

With Sun conjunct Medusa-Tantalus in late Aries, the Pope is not just a man who would be horrified (Medusa) if anyone accused him of anything “Tantalus” (unholy, to say the least and probably deviant and carnal to be more honest)…he’s a man who is horrified by even having to deal with such things.

Enter the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal(s). If humans are supposed to be tested in their lives, then part of Pope Benedict’s ‘trial by mortality’ was surely having to deal with the Church’s sex abuse problems as its Pope.

Was he ignorant about it? Probably not. By now hardly anyone believes the Church as a whole was ignorant of the transgressions of those working as part of the Church.

But there is the matter of Pope Benedict’s physical frailties. He may be one of those people who funnels so much of their mortal energy into one thing (call it religion, Catholicism in particular, maybe spirituality as a whole) that the rest of their life, and to whatever degree their body suffers. Certainly Neptune as ruler of Piscean idealism and the non-corporeal side of spirituality and faith…Certainly Neptune’s position in the Pope’s 6th house (the house of health) speaks to his ability to have compromises of the physical and constitutional sort.

Beyond this however, is the fact that when you’re the ‘head’ of any organization (or even in middle-management), the 6th house becomes the house of employees. In the chart of a nation the 6th house is not just the ‘work’ of that nation but also the civil service/servants and the military who ‘work for’ that nation. So if you’re Pope, then all the other members of the Catholic clergy fall into your 6th house.
Neptune thus would be the ‘willingness to believe’ and the ‘blindness’ turned towards those who did such terrible things to innocent – and particularly young - parishioners. Astrological deduction would also tell us that having to deal with such people and the cost of their acts (Eurydike at the Midheaven) would be taxing and debilitating.

A photograph of  Marktl am Inn, the Pope's birthplace in Germany
(Alexander Z, April 2005)

Interesting also is that Regulus is in this 6th house and conjunct Neptune. One of the famous Royal Stars, Regulus promises (your) success ONLY if you do not wreak revenge or ‘go’ for vengeance. And so, ultimately Neptune conjunct Regulus in the 6th house said that this man did what would be successful for him.

There’s a lot more which could be written about this facet of the Pope’s chart. Asteroid Lilith just barely in the 5th house and conjunct the 6th (Lilith at 6 Leo, the 6th house cusp at 7 Leo) is another form of ‘not wanting to know’ about what happened to little children.

But it’s more than that…which I personally can’t speak to. This Lilith in the 5th house of the Pope’s childhood conjunct his 6th house of health, work, service may well tell us about things he saw in his own early life. He did live through WWII, after all, and was born in Germany.

We can change our minds about things and reject them on an intellectual basis, of course. But what we have seen as children often stays with us. Considering that the Pope’s natal Pluto is in the 4th house of family and native culture with Pluto exactly conjunct Sirius (the star of brilliance) with both – again – one degree shy of the next (5th house) cusp evokes something akin to the image of a child who wants to crawl out of something dark and into the light.

My comments are neither condemnations or excuses, merely astrological observations.

So…were there any giant boffo transits which accompanied this man’s investiture as Pope? Actually, no. He’d just had a birthday, but even that isn’t the a chart which yells Hey, I’m going to become Pope! 

 Pope Benedict XVI's Solar Return chart for the year 2005,
the year when he became Pope.

Far from looking like anything celebratory, this chart looks like someone taking on a long, tough job.

But there is one interesting (cough) note. Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005. And on April 3, 2005, the (then) Cardinal Ratzinger experienced Jupiter conjunct Moon (retrograde), a transit which is often referred to as a ‘feel good’ transit. And that might have been true with the Cardinal, though I’ll choose to go the ‘nice’ route here and say that with his Moon natally positioned in Libra (weighing out the me with the ‘them’ and the effect we have on others in this world), AND because this natal Libra Moon is intercepted in the then-Cardinal’s chart AND because Jupiter is here shown in retrograde, I think it’s safe to say that Cardinal Ratzinger was reflecting on the good deeds and good efforts of his predecessor.

Though…let’s be real. Anyone who knows about the process of electing Popes has got to know that there’s some campaigning which goes on behind those doors of the College of Cardinals.

So with all that now pondered and shuffled and dealt out as a hand, what about this resignation thing?

The Pope’s chart has taken a couple of hard thwacks from eclipses over this past while. The May 2011 Solar Eclipse (at 11 Gemini) would have opposed his 6 Sagittarius Saturn and the November 2011 Solar Eclipse at 2 Sagittarius would have conjuncted said Saturn.

(As someone who has just gone through that and more just recently, I assure you that successive eclipses on your chart can rattle your bones, your confidence, your outlook - many things. This is especially when it's the same point in your chart taking multiple hits, as in this case.)

Uranus made its natal return during this time and it is typical for people to let go of ‘steering the ship’ when Uranus reaches its natal position.

Maybe most telling of all however, is that little ol’ Pope-maker Pluto. Pluto will be going retrograde in April at 11 Capricorn, and by next year will be pushing through 13 Capricorn.

Pope Benedict’s 11th house begins at 14 Capricorn - which means he's been Pope for the time that Pluto has been traversing his 10th house - the worldly house of our greatest accomplishments. And yes, he has affected the world...and no doubt been affected by that world.

But another idea here...since the Pope's 11th house dose begin at 14 Capricorn (which Pluto will move across early in 2014), which his natal Pluto is at 13 Cancer (conjunct dog star Sirius), Pope Benedict has seen Pluto move through half the zodiac during his life.

Which is an interesting thing to think about considering Pluto’s full orbital cycle, is 249.09 years long. How could this happen? How could Pluto get through half of a 249.09 year-long orbit during one man’s life, you ask? That’s because Pluto’s orbit is rather ‘egg-shaped,’ which effectively 'compacts' the time it takes Pluto to move through signs during a certain part of its orbit...which would be - by luck, by fate, by whatever - during this man’s lifetime.

During our lifetimes.

And that is one of those astrological keys as to why we shouldn’t be surprised that so much has changed – been transformed – in the last hundred years or so.

It’s all part of a process.

I’m willing to guess that the Pope has had some second thoughts about stepping down. The announcement of his impending departure having been issued on February 11th, his transits for February 10th include Mars square Saturn, a transit known as testing to one’s will and often about decisions.

Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, giving a private audience
(photo credit: Sergey Kozhukhov, January 20, 2006)

And this transit ties to the one on February 28th, the day when Pope Benedict XVI steps down. On that day he will experience Mars conjunct Jupiter – the moment of exhilarating knowledge…and maybe for this man the moment when he recalls having seen John Paul II pass on with a little gladness that he will have time to be a…what, a Pope emeritus?

I’m not sure the Church has that title.

In any case, come March 2nd, the Pope will move through the last pass of Uranus trine Saturn. He will feel he has met his obligation to do what he could and, for good or ill, now that phase of his life is finally done.

I, for one wish him well. Not because he’s a perfect man – he isn’t. Not because I approve of how the Church has handled the sex abuse cases (and other matters), because I don't. The idea that perpetrators deserve 'forgiveness' and should keep their jobs or cushy pensions while victims struggle with their faith, their lives and the ability to trust anyone...if anything is heresy, if anything fits the definition of 'sin' that would be it.

But I do wish him well, because in the end this Pope has done something truly miraculous in the world of Catholicism: he has known when it was time to move on. Maybe he's doing it because he knows something else terrible is going to come to light, but still, I give him some credit for knowing that it’s okay to move on while you’re still breathing.That's a lesson more than a few Popes (and other world leaders, CEOs - and others) could do well to learn.

Religion is about the examination of being human in the light of that which is Divine - a perfection humans will never have. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try - we should. And when we fail, we should own our flaws and what we have done wrong, openly. It probably hurts a lot of Catholics (and therefore Catholicism) that the Church which asks them to come and confess their sins won't confess its sins.

Still, in the end this one man, this Pope, has admitted he's human, and that’s one of the greatest lessons any of us ever learn, whether from religion or anything else.

While we should aspire, we should also recognize our sheer human-ness.

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