paris blog

Notre Dame and the Great World Cycles

I am still grieving the fire at Notre Dame, feeling a soul ache around the burning of the great cathedral, which has always lifted spirits to beauty from her place in the center of the city. She is the sacred feminine in all her glory. At the same time, the powerful outpouring of donations, the universal desire to see her rise again, gives us hope. A friend who works with stone masons told me almost everyone wanted to spontaneously offer their time to restore her. Perhaps it takes a fire to bring us together right now, to create a sense of purpose. The conjunctions at the end of 2020 are calling forth an urgency around community.

Powerful incoming cycles are in play, and just a few days before the fire at Notre Dame, I spoke about the Saturn Pluto conjunction for Astrology University. These two planets are currently less than 3º apart, and moving on the nodal axis, intensifying their effect through the Moon’s occultation each month. This combination of planets brings a redistribution of power, and often comes with massive change, with death and rebirth.

While the exact conjunction will only be in January 2020, the cycle is already in effect. We feel the immanence of change. And yet Saturn and Pluto come together every 33-38 years,  a huge stretch of time for an individual, a small cycle in the life of an 856-year-old building. What is changing now has an even bigger sweep. In order to grasp it even slightly we have to open our understanding to much larger sweeps of time.

Far back in time, the astronomer priests observed the Great Conjunction, the 20 year cycle of Jupiter Saturn. They saw that this pair made a series of conjunctions in the same element, then shifted to the following one; from fire to earth, to air, to water. It takes approximately 800 years for this pair to move through all four elements and come back again.

Notre Dame, like all the great gothic Cathedrals, came into being during a time when the Jupiter Saturn conjunctions were in earth signs. There was a fever of building through Europe, and an expansion of population. By the mid 13th century, when the cycle shifted into air signs, the cathedrals had already been already functioning as de facto universities. This is the time of the great medieval Renaissance. 

2020 marks the end of a cycle of Jupiter/Saturn earth conjunctions. It began in 1842 as the modern world rose, powered by the discoveries of the industrial revolution, and the world shifted fully from rural to urban. We are again on the verge of a great shift, and this time many other major cycles are also in a closing phase, increasing the notion of extreme endings.The cycles are pointing to the birth of a new era – and yet it may not be an easy birth. Notre Dame’s burning may be part of that. Not so long ago many mothers died in childbirth. Lets hope ‘Mother Europe’ stays safe during this potent time.

On a more micro scale, the south node often empties things out. It has been so close to Saturn that many people around me are experiencing letting go, often without choosing it. These goodbyes will make room for the new world calling to us, symbolized by the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction at 0º Aquarius, heralding the elemental shift back into air during the years that follow. The cycle can take time to unfold. We may not like the way events are going and feel distraught at the things that are lost. Imagine what it was like to be indigenous when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Aztec Empire. That was during the last time Saturn and Pluto came together in Capricorn.

Paris is still beautiful but there is an ugliness rising in the world. Her burning is  a reminder of the fragility of our civilization, of the possibility of great loss, whether environmental, accidental or willfully destructive.

A few weeks ago, I saw the Champs Elysees partly burnt and smashed by gilets jaunes protestors. With them come the ‘casseurs,’ the breakers and burners of previous Saturdays, masked and and hooded in black. These disruptions are drawing attention to major financial imbalances in the French system, to the redistribution of wealth that happened after the 2008 financial crisis. Every Saturday since mid November they have come ripping through the down time of the weekend, seeking confrontation with the forces of order. The repetitive conflict has disrupted the cohesion of the city.

In a totally separate incident, in mid March, another church in Paris, Saint Sulpice, had  a small fire quickly put out. It would seem that the angels of the city are having a hard time holding her under their protection.

On April 21st, 2019 in Sri Lanka, a horrendous attack on churches during Easter Sunday services brought great loss of life on the day Christians consider the holiest of the year. Now the Islamic State has again claimed ownership of mayhem and death, of vengeance and violence, a death cult claiming to act for God. Can we hold the center, or will our world crumble and fall?

There are many forces at work in the world today, extremes of belief, irrational demands, autocrats who brush aside the institutions of democracy. In part, the cosmic shifts seem to be describing a clash between incompatible models of the world. All the while the natural world sends multiple distress signals

The past three Saturn-Pluto conjunctions correspond to times that radically changed the boundaries of our world.

  • In 1914, Saturn-Pluto in Cancer birthed the 20th century and claimed millions of lives on the battlefields of WWI.
  • A conjunction in Leo came just after WW II in late 1946-48 and corresponded to  frantic displacements of populations in India and Pakistan, in Israel and Palestine, and in the refugees camps of Eastern Europe. Leo rules children and the birth rate exploded into a long baby boom at this time.
  • Cycles of birth and death are often closely connected with Pluto in particular. Saturn Pluto brought a powerful shift in economic power towards top-down corporations in 1982. It also brought the first seeds of the AIDS crises. Thousands of young people died, and our attitudes to sex, gender, and death have not been the same since.

Saturn and Pluto were moving to a conjunction by 8 degrees when the foundation stone of Notre Dame was laid during Easter 1163, sometime between March 24th and April 24 of that yea.r And in the project for the restoration of the cathedral submitted by Viollet Leduc in 1843 Saturn was square Pluto. Her rebuilding, which added many of the gargoyles and flourishes we now know was a product of the Jupiter-Saturn Cycle in earth signs, and Saturn had just returned to that very degree of 19° Capricorn.

Notre Dame, our lady, brought millions of people to the Ile de La Cite in the center of the city to marvel at her beauty, her grace, perhaps to light a candle or say a prayer. She is blackened and her roof, her crown, is gone. In its place workers have fitted a protective plastic sheet. For a time, she was also opened fully to what is above – the stars shone into her interior after the fire. What new impulses will come to faith, to this city, to our world, as we move to rebuild?

I am looking forward to traveling and teaching in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington and Austin, Texas over the next few weeks. Perhaps I will see some of your there.


I will be giving a pre-conference workshop on the Saturn-Pluto conjunction called “Birthing the Shadow” at NORWAC in Seattle on Friday, May 24th from 9am to 12pm.

I will be teaching in Austin Texas on June 2, 2019 10- 4:30 pm.