Cosmic Advice Corner is a place where newsletter subscribers can submit questions for me to answer using astrology and tarot, and their identity remains anonymous.


Reader Question:

“Since quarantine started, I’ve been experiencing coincidences or synchronicities all the time. They’re frequently small things, like I’ll be driving and hear a song on the radio, then go into a store and hear a cover of that song, or the same specific but seemingly random subject will come up in conversation through multiple people. But sometimes they’re more significant, like when we had an earthquake in Los Angeles in September of 2020. It happened around midnight, and the next morning, in my half-awake state, I thought of an old friend from high school who I hadn’t seen or spoken to in many years. I wanted to read about the earthquake, so I went to the LA Times — which I normally don’t read, but I figured they would have local coverage of it — and halfway through the article, this friend from high school is quoted giving an anecdote about her experience of the earthquake (she also lives in LA.) These kinds of things seem to be happening with steady frequency, so I wonder what’s happening? Not “what is god trying to tell me”, but more so: am I just being more perceptive, or is there some larger pattern happening? Essentially, what is happening and why?”


Birth data: August 27, 1988, 5:21 AM, Culver City, CA

Dear Reader,

Synchronicity, as you likely know, is a term coined by Carl Jung (who also used astrology for most of his career) to express the concept that significant physical and psychological coincidences are connected by an a-causal (but not meaningless) principle. The meaning behind a synchronous event can be found in its archetypal quality — that is, each experience holds a correspondence to one or multiple archetypes, which are essentially autonomous forces that operate through human consciousness and external events. So we could try to discern which archetypal forces might be showing up through the specific topics that come up, but it sounds like you are less concerned with the content of the coincidences and more interested in why they are happening at all.


In your birth chart, you have Mercury (the planet related to communication and thinking) and the Sun (your core essence) in analytical, detail-oriented Virgo, which suggests you’re naturally oriented towards clear, rational and practical thinking. It makes sense that you’d be feeling confused about experiences which are hard to rationally make sense of. When I look at your transits (how the current planets are effecting your natal chart) I see that Neptune and Chiron (both in Pisces) are both traveling through your 8th house which, among other things, is associated with hidden dimensions of life and experiences which push you to new psychological depths. Chiron is squaring your natal Neptune, and is also squaring your natal Chiron (this is known as “The Chiron Square” and it happens only twice in a lifetime — this is your first.)


Neptune



Before I get into the meaning of these transits, I’ll give some background on who these celestial bodies are. Neptune rests at the boundary between the large outer planets and a field of icy, Pluto-like stones called Trans-Neptunian Objects (or TNOs). Like the other planets, Neptune’s physical position in the universe mirrors its function in our psyche: it can be likened to the outermost layer of the personality, that which separates the individual identity from a feeling of one-ness with all that is. Astrologer Steven Forrest describes Neptune as the window through which our consciousness peers at the cosmos, and the window through which the cosmos peers back at us. It’s the planet most commonly associated with mysticism, creativity, and inspiration. Neptune laughs in the face of categories, boundaries, and the individualistic drive for achievement that defines capitalism — it wants to connect us with the intangible and the numinous. Because of this orientation towards oneness, it’s also associated with confusion, fantasy, and a kind of fog that obscures reality. Chiron (named after a mythological Centaur) is an asteroid known as the “wounded healer,” and represents how you grow towards wholeness by alchemizing the gifts within your wounds. With Chiron in a challenging aspect to Neptune, this process of grappling with the unknown and possibly questioning your own beliefs can feel uncomfortable and even painful. The Chiron Square represents a healing process of sorts, where events and experiences may urge to redefine your outer life so that it better reflects your inner life.


Leonora Carrington, And Then We Saw The Daughter of the Minotaur, 1953



I understand your hesitancy around ascribing too much meaning to seemingly random events. There’s a certain type of magical thinking in which everything is a message or a sign, and it all connects to some larger narrative, and this can lead to dangerous outcomes — we can see this kind of logic operative in many of the conspiracy theories that are so prevalent today. I mention this not because I think you’re in any danger of conspiratorial or delusional thinking, but because knowing about these kinds of cultural stories can make it harder to embrace nuance, mystery and liminality without fear of “going too far.” I think it’s important to be aware of these things while simultaneously allowing yourself to explore what these experiences might mean for you personally. If you were to read them symbolically, what would they say? Perhaps it’s significant that this event occurred on the night of an earthquake — could it correspond to a shifting of the tectonic plates of your consciousness?

Perhaps you might be open(ing) to the idea that meaning is not merely a product of the human mind, but that it is extant in the world. Rather than prompting you to create a narrative from their details, maybe these experiences are instigating some deeper shift within you, which re-arranges your fundamental conceptions about the way reality works. In many ways, astrology — or how the movements of the planets correspond to our inner and outer lives on Earth — is essentially the study of synchronicity. If astrology works according to regular, observable correspondences (and not due to physical effects like gravitational pull) then we might suppose that reality itself contains a metaphorical structure — and that meaning can exist apart from our ideas about it, or even our ability to perceive it.


Richard Tarnas’ book Cosmos and Psyche is the culmination of a decade-long research project on astrology, specifically planetary cycles and their corresponding manifestations in culture throughout history. In it’s opening chapter, Tarnas — who began his study of astrology decades ago as a materialist skeptic — argues for the re-enchantment of the modern mind:

“For is it not an extraordinary act of human hubris — literally, a hubris of cosmic proportions — to assume that the exclusive source of all meaning and purpose in the universe is ultimately centered in the human mind, which is therefore absolutely unique and special and in this sense superior to the entire cosmos? To presume that the universe utterly lacks what we human beings, the offspring and expression of that universe, conspicuously possess? To assume that the part somehow radically differs from the whole? To base our entire worldview on the a priori principle that whenever human beings perceive any patterns of psychological or spiritual significance in the nonhuman world, any signs of interiority and mind, any suggestion of purposefully coherent order and intelligible meaning, these must be understood as no more than human constructions and projections, as ultimately rooted in the human mind and never in the world?

This, therefore, has become the looming question of our time: What is the ultimate impact of cosmological disenchantment on a civilization? What does it do the human self, year after year, century after century, to experience existence as a conscious purposeful being in an unconscious, purposeless universe? What is the price of a collective belief in absolute cosmic indifference? What are the consequences of this unprecedented cosmological context for the human experiment, indeed, for the entire planet?”


Leonora Carrington, Fort Lauderdale, 1942


Do you feel like we exist in an “unconscious, purposeless universe”? Perhaps this belief is increasingly at odds with your own personal experiences. I say this not in an attempt to convince you of anything, because not one of us mortal beings can know the Truth. Your analytical mind (Mercury in Virgo) may desire a straightforward explanation, but the work of Neptune is to dissolve binaries and constructs. Neptune tugs at our fundamental need to feel a part of something larger — to imagine ourselves as continuous with all that is. Can you guard yourself against the inflationary, illusory potential of Neptune, while also holding space for inexplicable or mysterious events? The challenge with any Neptune transit is to integrate your growing sense of openness to the Great Mystery, without retreating to escapism or disillusionment. One of the best things astrology can offer you or anyone is the ability to perceive the larger cycles at play in your life — because when you can clearly see the terrain, you can pick the appropriate route. Aligning with the timing of your own life takes patience and work, because our personal planetary cycles do not always align with our desired time-lines. But I’ve also learned, through struggling against my own Neptune challenges, that trying to dissipate fog with a sword doesn’t clear the fog. I am not pleased to report that there is an aspect of surrender which is key to navigating Neptune, and that may be one of the most difficult things for our tender egos to sustain.

I mentioned in the beginning that Neptune is in the sign of Pisces, and historically, Neptune-in-Pisces transits have coincided with significant spiritual renewal and upheaval across many different cultures. During its last transit through Pisces (1847-1861), and immediately following its discovery, there was a massive collective shift in North America and Europe towards personal mysticism. In 1850, almost half the US population was a member of Spiritualist church, and groups would regularly gather in homes to communicate with the dead via elaborate seances.


Left: Georgiana Houghton, Flower of Samuel Warrand, 1862; Right: Georgiana Houghton, Spiritualist medium and artist (1814-1884)


And so we find ourselves in the midst of a Neptune-in-Pisces transit today, the first since its discovery, which spans from 2012-2026. Today, we’re more likely to find “baby witches” hexing the Moon on Twitter from their bedrooms than groups of people gathering to perform seances. In our increasingly fractured society, technology, the pressures of capitalism, and fear of viral contamination have pushed many of us to feel increasingly isolated — and at the same time, these very same forces have also highlighted the urgency of new forms of interdependency. Neptune leaves its mysterious fingerprints on the collective’s relationship to spirituality, and so we’re likely in a period of sea change, again.

When Neptune entered Pisces in 2012, NASA scientists discovered the Heliopause, which is essentially the boundary of our solar system. This boundary is defined by the Sun’s influence — its light, gravity, magnetic field, and solar wind. Light and gravity emitted from the Sun do not actually stop, but solar wind behaves differently — when it hits the Heliosphere, it creates a bubble-like region of gas. Here it begins to move slower than the speed of sound, and merges with the surrounding Interstellar Medium (essentially, a gaseous starry expanse), and this place is called Termination Shock (exemplified below with a running water and a drain).



As discoveries of the outer planets (Neptune, Uranus and Pluto) have each mirrored new discoveries about human consciousness, we might assume that the Heliopause, too, presents us with new territory in understanding our minds. That the Heliopause was discovered with a probe, and not a camera, seems significant: indicating, perhaps, that what is out there (and therefore in here) can as of now only be indirectly sensed, and not directly seen. The new paradigm suggested by Neptune in Pisces, and corresponding with the discovery of a new region of astral geography, implies that we may be entering novel territory that we likely cannot yet see or describe, but somehow sense or feel its presence. This notion of feeling or sensing something before it can be proven mirrors the way Neptune operates, and it suggests the wisdom of widening our capacity to faithfully imagine something before it can be birthed into being.


The Hanged Man from the Scapini Medieval Tarot Deck, which has a correspondence to Neptune



The Judgement card: when I first began studying the Tarot, it was hard to connect to its Biblical imagery, and the notion of “Judgement Day” that it evoked. But experience and observation has showed me that this card is not a harbinger of punishment for sins, but a time of great transition and rebirth in which the self is purified through release of the old and acceptance of the new. This card is ruled by Pluto, which astrologically corresponds to deep soul memory, ancestral memory, and slow but massive transition. Because this card has been coming up so frequently in readings for others and for myself, I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on some of the meanings it evokes, both personally and collectively.

(Judgement card from the Medieval Scapini Tarot deck)

Pluto was discovered in 1930, which is right around the time that Freud introduced the idea of the “subconscious mind” to the general public. Up until Pluto, astrologers didn’t have a planet that related to the subconscious mind, simply because an understanding of it didn’t collectively exist yet.


In this way we can see that we are sorely limited by what we believe to be true, and we can only assume that further astronomical discoveries will teach us as much about what’s Out There as what’s In Here. In a natal chart reading, Pluto's placement points to a deep unconscious security need which is seeking to be resolved in this lifetime. Unraveling this mystery is one of the most illuminating aspects of a natal chart reading, and is helpful for understanding what we may be carrying from the deep past into to our current incarnation.


When I was around seven years old, I devised a kind of divinatory ritual on my walk to school every morning. Just before approaching the threshold of the crosswalk, where the crossing guard (who acted as a kind of psychopomp) ushered me from the world of home to the world of school, I’d kick a pinecone several feet ahead of me, and observe the direction it was pointing when it landed. If it was pointing away from me, it would be a good day, if pointing towards me it would be a bad day, and if pointing sideways it would be a neutral day. It was a small ritual that connected me the sense that the universe was alive and in conversation with me, and that I could participate in this larger process.

And then a few months ago, pinecones appeared in my life again, when I was undertaking an apprenticeship in core shamanism with Mimi Young. Mimi works from a Chinese shamanic perspective, but core shamanism is a cross-cultural practice which, at its essence, is the practice of entering a trance-like state with a drum and a rattle in order to “journey” to other realms to interact with spirits from the plant, animal and human kingdoms. Skeptical of my own abilities, but open to the possibilities, I journeyed one evening with the intention to meet one of my grandfather’s parents. I didn’t know their names or faces, but I had a family history book on hand which I could check for information afterwards. During this journey, I saw the face of a sorrowful woman, and saw some distinct images of pine trees. I didn’t have a conscious understanding of what it meant, but when I consulted my family’s book afterwards, I saw my great-grandmother’s face, staring back at me with big sad eyes, and with the last name of Pinelli.

Curiosity about pinecones led me to discover that due to their similarity in appearance, they’re named after the pineal gland, a tiny pea-sized endocrine gland located in the center of our brains. Descartes called it “the principle seat of the soul.” Its purpose remains somewhat mysterious to scientists, but its primary functions seem to be the secretion melatonin, serotonin, and DMT.

DMT is psychoactive on its own and is released in tiny amounts during deep meditation, birth, lucid dreaming, orgasm, near-death experiences, and death itself. It turns out that pinecones were revered in many ancient cultures because of this connection and the pineal gland’s role in mystical experience. They can be found in religious and esoteric imagery across cultures for centuries — in the ruins of ancient Egyptian, Aztec, Greek, Indonesian, and Babylonian cultures — and even the Catholic Church, today, features a giant pinecone statue outside the Vatican in the “Court of the Pinecone" (pictured to the right).


The evolutionary function of the pine cone, much like our physical bodies, is to keep the seeds inside of it safe until they are ready to be released. Some pinecones can only release their seeds after a fire — they need intense destruction in order to regenerate. And yet, the pinecone is one clue (among many) embedded into Nature, which reminds us that life is not the opposite of death: birth is. Life encompasses it all, and somehow death and destruction are built into the fabric of it. If we are lucky, sometimes moments of breakdown become opportunities for new growth, and for the creation of new rituals.

Recently, I also came across James Hillman’s “acorn theory,” which is the idea that “each person bears a uniqueness that asks to be lived and that is already present before it can be lived.” Hillman was the founder of Archetypal psychology in the 1960s, which grew out of Jungian psychology, and was focused on the transpersonal dimensions of psychotherapy. He believed conventional psychology had gotten away from its true purpose — speaking to the soul — at the expense of “seminars on how to clean closets, or withhold orgasms.” I see the birth chart as a kind of acorn — the psychological, emotional, spiritual seed we are born with, which unfolds in a myriad of possibilities over a lifetime. In essence, it’s a framework for understanding the unique blueprint of an individual soul, held within the larger matrix of family, society, ancestral memory, and deep (Pluto) memory.

Astrology and Tarot are both archetypal systems of personal and collective symbols, and both are vehicles for our consciousness to engage with itself and with a mysterious process that evades explanatory language. In Jungian psychology, a psychopomp — which traditionally refers to a figure who guides the newly deceased souls into the underworld, like the Egyptian god Anubis or the Greek god Hermes — is understood as the mediator between the conscious and subconscious realms. This is part of how I view Tarot and Astrology: they are tools that allow what’s below (or above) our conscious awareness to become visible, and understood in new ways.

What started as a handy divination tool in my childhood then appeared in my life many years later as a clue which connected me to my ancestors. And culturally, the pinecone holds scientific, religious and esoteric meaning as a symbol for a mysterious part of our consciousness, the part that brought me into contact with the pinecone in a meaningful way in the first place. My pinecone ritual came full circle after making a divination board that incorporates the 22 Major Arcana figures of the Tarot, their astrological correspondences, and a spinning pinecone in the center, pictured below. This board evolved out of a conversation and ceremony with Georgia Wall (The Ceremonialist) who I highly recommend if you're interested in a personal and meaningful ceremony to honor any type of occasion or transition, from the joyful to the painful.


These tools do not provide all of the answers to all of life’s mysteries. But they do provide a way to be with the questions, and to navigate uncertainty with more insight and understanding. If you are in a Plutonian transition — and even if you’re not — I love to assist in uncovering deeper meanings, insights and connections in your life through my readings. If you’re interested in getting a Tarot reading, a natal chart reading, or a combination of both, you can find more information by clicking this link.