Many people are surprised to learn that nations, and not just individuals, have birth charts. But the fact is that for much of history astrologers played a key role in advising kings and rulers on affairs of state. The application of the planets and stars to world events is known as “mundane astrology” but it has nothing to do with the usual meaning of the word. The term was originally taken from the Latin, Mundus, meaning “the World.”

As might be expected, mundane astrology deals with causes, tendencies and events on a much larger scale than individual lives. Some of the classic astrology texts from hundreds of years ago, deal with only mundane astrology and trust me, there’s not a Sun sign in sight. Of much interest is Guido Bonatti’s “On War” written in the 13th century. It is a short work that proposes astrological rules and conditions for going to war. Ironically, it’s a book that would have been worth consulting prior to our attack and invasion of Iraq. Using the time of our initial attack on the country as a basis for the chart and following Bonatti’s rules, the war was fated, and I use that word deliberately, for severe difficulties.

But that’s another topic for another time. Let’s look at the US. At the age of 236, the United States is, in many ways, a youth among nations. A gifted, powerful and precocious youth to be  sure, but still on the youthful side. Almost since its inception, the birth chart of the U.S. has been controversial. As most readers of the newsletter know, it’s not just the date and place, but the time of birth that is necessary to cast the chart. Over the years, the chart that has taken precedence is the “Sibly” chart, named for Ebenezer Sibly, an American astrologer who lived during the time of independence.

One way of testing the validity of any chart is by looking at timing of major events. If enough major events are reflected in a chart, it creates validity. In the case of the Sibly chart for the United States, validity was most recently reinforced through one of the most terrible events in this country’s history: the World Trade Center attacks. What we see when the two charts are put together is the planet Pluto, symbolizing death, change and massive reorganization, exactly conjuncting the ascendant of the U.S. chart.

So let’s take a very, very quick look at the chart for insight into the national character. As with charts for individuals, one of the goals for this type of delineation is perspective and self-knowledge. Using the basic vocabulary of the planets and houses, here are some qualities that are featured.

The sign that rises, or is ascendant, describes the purpose of the nation. With Sagittarius on the cusp, we find the traditional American values of freedom and independence. Also with Sagittarius, which is probably the most religious sign of the zodiac, we get a sense of a higher purpose or aim. With four planets placed in Cancer (Sun, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter), we’re lead once again to traditional concepts of  home and nurturing: “give me you poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …”

Finally, we have Mars, planet of war, in the 7th house of open enemies. Given that Mars has a tight square to Neptune, we see a willingness to fight but for reasons that may sometimes be confused and unclear.

But enough of a general overview – what does the year ahead look like?

Between our ongoing economic uncertainties and the deep cultural divisions that show no signs of abeyance, we want to look at the 1776 chart of the United States in contrast to current planetary placements. The perspective, unfortunately, is not favorable, at least for the immediate future.

When looking at nations, we use the slower, outermost planets – Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto – to give us insight into the pressures and potentials of the times. In the chart above, the inner ring represents the birthchart of the country, while the outer ring shows us the placement of the planets as they are at present.

In particular, we’re interested in Uranus and Pluto – both marked with a triangle – and their relationship to the group of planets, Sun, Venus and Jupiter – marked with an exclamation point. It’s crucial to understand that both Uranus and Pluto are slow moving planets. When tightly configured with other planets, they are likely to represent social changes and movements. Here Pluto and Uranus are in a tight square to each other; in other words, conflict. In charts concerning countries, Uranus typically symbolizes innovation, violent change, forceful new perspectives, while Pluto speaks to regeneration, transformation, beginnings and endings on a large scale.

To look at the last time these two planets were in close contact, we have to go back to that extraordinary period of history, the 1960’s, when the two planets were conjunct. The fact that both planets are squared – in conflict – with the nation’s Sun, Venus and Jupiter suggests that the strife, the violent rhetoric, the polarization is not going to end soon. How soon? Consider that Uranus and Pluto move slowly – so we are looking at a time period of seven to eight years of this tension. Because the fact is, it’s only just begun. Much like the 1960’s, there’s a feeling of old ways of thinking being set against new ways of thinking. The difference between now and the 60’s is that the world has become much more connected, and while that has brought wonderful benefits it also opens the door to nations and groups becoming much more reactive, a Uranus word is there ever was one. So if you want to take away any bit of wisdom from this short overview – one that is potentially helpful on both the personal and collective level – it’s to beware of over reaction. It’s not likely that further polarization is going to be beneficial. In the words of Idries Shah: “it’s bad business practice to manufacture enemies. The world is overstocked with them.”