This article was originally published in the August/September 2020 issue of The Mountain Astrologer magazine. A minor change has been made in this online publication, regarding the term ‘standstill’; in the TMA article, I used this term also when speaking of the lunar peak at the 23.5 declination degree, but to avoid possible misunderstandings, I have decided to change it into ‘a peak’, meaning a maximum monthly declination degree or a turning point.
Neptune as the main significator
The first question that an astrologer asks in reference to a (or any) contagious disease, is: what is its planetary ruler (significator)? Whereas traditional astrologers may choose Saturn (illness and death in general) or Mars (infectious disease-causing inflammation and fever), my experience is that contagious diseases and epidemics are more accurately ruled by Neptune. There are two reasons for this: chemistry and (lack of) containment.
First, Neptune rules chemistry and poisons as well as everything that is subtle but hurtful or detrimental to our bodies. Take alcohol or drugs, for example, two classical Neptunian entities. They change the chemistry of our bodies and make us feel “unreal”, nauseous or sick. Many medicinal drugs create in us a feeling of being well when in reality we are not: aspirin will make a headache go away but the cause for the headache will still be there. Viruses invade our bodies before we are even aware of them and weaken us substantially. They are seemingly invisible, so small that they can be seen only under a microscope, but they can be deadly because they reproduce wildly and meddle with our bodily chemistry. They have this typical Neptunian trait of pulling down bodily defenses, and our immune systems have to put up a fight when faced with the threat of their invasion. Diminutive but strong, invisible but highly contagious and fatal – that is all very Neptunian.
Second, Neptune rules everything that cannot be contained or is very difficult to contain (like gasses); everything that spills over the top; everything that is a threat simply because it cannot be controlled. Viruses are such entities – the most indeterminate form of life but all the more dangerous just because of their sheer determination to reproduce and invade our bodies. Transits and progressions of Neptune tend to cause people to feel weak, tired, or lethargic. Doctors usually can’t find a reason for their condition, and when Neptune moves away, these people start to feel good again. Thus, Neptune takes away physical strength for reasons difficult to discern. However, extremely contagious diseases are another possibility, in which case, we see a widespread, invisible attack of a quasi-alive organism (virus) deplete, dissolve, and obliterate human immune defenses. An apt signature, indeed.
Astrological signatures of historical epidemics and pandemics
Based on my reckoning that viruses and epidemics come under Neptune, I have examined mundane transits of Neptune according to three measurements: longitude, declination, and latitude. Because not all epidemics could be accounted for by Neptune transits, I added total and annular solar eclipses, also checking them against their aspects with Neptune. My results revealed the importance of less commonly used aspects like parallels of declination and latitude.
According to my research, all the worst epidemics and pandemics in recent, recorded history have manifested in times of Neptune–Pluto or Neptune–Saturn major aspects in longitude, declination or latitude, or the involvement of Neptune or any of the two pairs of planets in a major eclipse. Often, the trigger can be Neptune’s arrival at a critical degree: the equator, the ecliptic, a station, or the degree of its peak (maximum declination or latitude degree/minute). The involvement of Pluto more often escalates an epidemic into a pandemic. Epidemics also tend to develop into pandemics in the years of minor and major lunar standstills, and when the monthly lunar peak is 23.5˚. While these, lunar phenomena, indicate extremes of all kinds (from natural disasters and mass suffering to major breakthroughs in science) in this article I demonstrate how they relate to outbreaks of epidemics and pandemics.
This article is focused on declination and celestial latitude only – those measurements that are less widely known but no less powerful than the more familiar measurement of celestial longitude.
Declination and celestial latitude
Declination is a measurement in the equatorial system whereby we measure the distance of a celestial body above or below the equator (or north and south of it) in degrees, minutes, and seconds of arc. Latitude (or celestial latitude) is a measurement in the ecliptic system whereby we measure the distance of a celestial body above or below the ecliptic (or north and south of the Sun’s annual, imaginary path) in degrees, minutes, and seconds of arc. The only aspects that we use with both measurements are parallels of declination and parallels of latitude. I have come to the conclusion that a viable orb for a parallel of declination is 1° whereas for a parallel of latitude it should be 20 arc minutes, not more. This is because the apparent distances between celestial bodies in latitude are tiny; all the planets except Pluto stay relatively close to the ecliptic at all times. Venus can reach just beyond 8° of northern or southern latitude; the Moon has a steady cycle of fluctuating between a bit over 5° to the north or south; Pluto can go as far as 18° whereas all the other planets — especially those from Jupiter onwards — will always stay closer to the ecliptic.
The terms major and minor lunar standstills refer to the declination cycle of the Moon. During its monthly cycle, the Moon reaches its maximum declination twice, once to the north and once to the south (of the equator). This maximum declination varies between 18.1° and 28.7° (N or S). Due to the precession of the plane of the lunar orbit, its monthly maximum gradually increases and decreases, with the whole cycle taking 18.6 years. Starting at 18.1°, the Moon’s maximum declination will gradually increase for 9.3 consecutive years, reach the maximum of 28.7° and then decrease back to 18.1° through the next 9.3 years. The periods (lasting approximately a year) when the Moon’s maximum monthly declination is about 18° are called minor lunar standstills whereas those of its maximum monthly declination of 28.5° are called major lunar standstills. The measurement 23.5° lies between both values and is critical because it is the degree of the Sun’s maximum declination (reached twice a year at the solstices).
Let us now look at some of the historical epidemics/pandemics that have occurred since (and including) the Bubonic Plague to see how these astrological factors present themselves.
In my research, I have uncovered correspondence between the Neptune crossings of the ecliptic and outbreaks of epidemics/pandemics. The force of any planet on the ecliptic is tripled, and the slower the planet, the longer its effect. Due to its slow motion, Neptune crosses the ecliptic every (approximately) 82 years. Starting from 1345, the year just before the devastation of the Bubonic Plague, the next crossings occurred in 1426, 1509, 1590, 1674, 1755, 1838, 1920, and 2003. Bearing in mind that with celestial latitude the orb of influence is 20 arc minutes, which in the case of Neptune equals 10 years of time, the actual time span of every Neptune-ecliptic crossing is 10 years.
FIGURE 1: The path of Neptune in celestial latitude over 800 years (1300-2100)
FIGURE 2: The path of Neptune in celestial latitude over 200 years (1300-1500)
1345 (1340-1350) N/S: Bubonic Plague or The Black Death officially broke out in 1346 and lasted until 1353. It reached mainland Europe in 1348 and killed between 75 and 200 million people – up to a half of the population of Eurasia – in the next four years. In 1346, Neptune moved 4 minutes of arc, its value being between -0°02’ and -0°06’. During the seven years that the plague was making its killing march, Neptune moved about half a degree to the south. Before developing into a pandemic, the illness took some time to spread, and it was probably there a year or two before 1346. This was also the year of a minor lunar standstill.
1426 (1421-1431) S/N: Sources are scarce regarding this period. “The 1420s brought an epidemic of something like influenza, and 1420s and 1430s saw six more outbreaks of plague,” writes Gilbertus Anglicus in his book Healing and Society in Medieval England.
1509 (1504-1514) N/S: 1510 was the year of the first chronicled pandemic. Medical historians describe it as influenza. It emerged as an acute respiratory disease in Asia before spreading through North Africa and Europe. Apparently, a great many people were affected although the mortality rate was only 1%.
1591 (1586-1596) S/N: From 1592 to 1593, London experienced its last major plague outbreak of the 16th century. At least 21,000 people died of plague within the city and in the surrounding parishes.
1674 (1669-1679) N/S: Between 1663 and 1679, there were several major outbreaks of plague in Europe. Whereas timing is a bit off for the Great Plague of London (1665-1666) which claimed about 100,000 lives, the plague took another 152,000 lives in France, Spain, Malta, Austria, and the Netherlands within the said time span.
1755 (1750-1760) S/N: By the mid-18th century, smallpox was a major endemic disease worldwide. In the 18th century Europe, smallpox was a leading cause of death, killing an estimated 400,000 Europeans each year. The British used smallpox as a biological warfare agent at the Siege of Fort Pitt during the French and Indian Wars (1754–1763) against France and its Native American allies.
1838 (1833-1843) N/S: The 1837 Great Plains smallpox epidemic spanned 1836 through 1840, but reached its height after the spring of 1837 when an American steamboat carried infected people and supplies into the Missouri Valley. More than 17,000 Indigenous people died along the Missouri River alone, with some bands becoming nearly extinct.
1920 (1915-1925) S/N: Between 1915 and 1926 – very exactly within the range of the Neptune ecliptic crossing, a peculiar epidemic was spreading across the world, affecting nearly five million people, a third of whom (about 1.5 million) died in the acute stages. The disease – now close to extinct – was called Encephalitis lethargica, also known as “sleeping sickness”. Many of those who survived never returned to their pre-existing “aliveness”. In his book Awakenings, Oliver Sacks writes: “They would be conscious and aware – yet not fully awake; they would sit motionless and speechless all day in their chairs, totally lacking energy, impetus, initiative, motive, appetite, affect or desire; they registered what went on about them without active attention, and with profound indifference. They neither conveyed nor felt the feeling of life; they were as insubstantial as ghosts and as passive as zombies.” Sounds like a doubly Neptunian pandemic!
Then there was the Spanish flu (1918-1920), an influenza pandemic claiming between 17 and 100 million lives. (See also chapter Parallels of declination.) Typhus also raged between 1915 and 1922, causing several million deaths worldwide, out of 20-30 million cases. Around 3 million lives were lost to typhus in Russia only. On a lesser scale, there was the 1916 poliomyelitis epidemic in the USA, claiming over 7,000 lives.
2003 (1998-2008) N/S: The Opioid epidemic began in the United States in the late 1990s when opioids were increasingly prescribed for pain management and resulted in a rise in overall opioid use throughout subsequent years. From 1999 to 2017, more than 399,000 people died from drug overdoses that involved prescription and illicit opioids.
SARS (2002-2004): The latest, 2003 Neptune-ecliptic crossing synchronized with the outbreak of a deadly coronavirus epidemic, SARS (severe respiratory syndrome). The outbreak was first identified in China in November 2002. Over 8,000 people from 29 different countries and territories were infected, and at least 774 died worldwide. The World Health Organization declared the disease contained in July 2003, however, several SARS cases were reported until May 2004.
Parallels of declination
Spanish Flu (1918-1920)
“The Spanish flu (also known as the 1918 flu pandemic) was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic. Lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected 500 million people — about a quarter of the world’s population at the time. The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.”
Now, this is the big one! No wonder it had several astrological signatures, working synchronously, to combine into a true “pandemic bomb”! Three major astrological factors come into prominence: Neptune crossing the ecliptic, the Moon’s declination maximum equaling 23.5˚, and Neptune in a rare parallel declination with Pluto and Saturn (see FIGURE 3).
FIGURE 3: A triple parallel of declination between Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto in 1917-1918, synchronous with the outbreak of the Spanish Flu
Getting back to latitude: when the pandemic started at the beginning of 1918, Neptune was only 0°08’ minutes away from the ecliptic (see FIGURE 1). In 1920, Neptune finally crossed the ecliptic from South to North. Considering the orb of 20’, in 1918 (and even 1917) the Neptunian energy was already strongly present in the Earth’s biosphere. Second, in 1918, the Moon’s monthly declination maximum was 23.5˚ — a strong indicator of extremes and things getting out of control. Third, Neptune was in a parallel of declination with Pluto and Saturn, which became exact in the second half of 1917 and during the first months of 1918 when the epidemic officially started. A triple parallel in latitude between those three planets is an extremely rare celestial event. Since 1000 it has occurred in 1127, 1809, 1863, and 1918, and it won’t happen again until 2212! (By a triple parallel, I mean the three planets actually crossing each other’s path, as viewed from the Earth, in the course of 6 months.) The 1863 configuration carried extreme power because the three planets also conjoined at the sensitive celestial plane of the equator. In the midst of the American Civil War (1861-1865), the fourth cholera pandemic had started (1863), claiming about 600,000 lives until its dissipation in 1875.
But let us return to the Spanish flu. Its beginnings stem in late 1917 when military pathologists reported the onset of a new disease with high mortality that they later recognized as the flu. This concurs with the triple parallel of declination between Neptune, Pluto, and Saturn that formed for the first time in the second half of 1917 and repeated — in an even more condensed and therefore stronger form — in the first half of 1918 (see FIGURE 3).
All the slow-moving planets, however, show their greatest strength not only when they cross the ecliptic (or the equator), but also when they reach their upper and lower maxima; in other words, when they are at their southern or northern ‘peaks’.
Declination peaks and equator crossings
It appears that whenever a slow-moving planet reaches its northern or southern maximum in declination, or when it crosses the equator as discussed above, it creates exceptionally strong vibrations, similarly to its station (as measured in longitude), only more powerful. Both maxima are, of course, of longer duration, because a planet then seems to “stand still”; with Neptune, this takes approximately 5 years. Figure 4 shows a 500-year graph of Neptune and the epidemics/pandemics that broke out at any of its sensitive phases (both maxima and equator crossings). The last maximum (southern) was reached in 1981 when HIV/AIDS broke out.
FIGURE 4: The path of Neptune in declination from 1500-2000.
Below is a list of all the epidemics/pandemics in Figure 4 in chronological order; the year listed in the first place refers to the exact year of Neptune reaching any of the sensitive degrees.
1535: A major plague outbreak in Europe
1576: The 2nd Cocoliztli epidemic (between 1576 and 1580)
1616: The New England epidemic – a term given to an epidemic of unknown cause that killed between 30 and 90% of the population in Southern New England between 1616 and 1620.
1656: The Naples Plague that nearly eradicated the population of Naples, Italy.
1698: Probably the first exposure of Cherokee Indians to smallpox; during the course of that year, a smallpox epidemic decreased their population measurably.
1739: The Great Plague of 1738 was an outbreak of the bubonic plague between 1738–1740 that affected areas in the modern nations of Romania, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, and Austria. The epidemic likely killed over 50,000 people.
1779: Between 1775 and 1782, the North American smallpox epidemic devastated the New World of the Western Hemisphere.
1816: The first cholera pandemic (1817–1824) began near the city of Calcutta and spread throughout Southeast Asia to the Middle East, eastern Africa, and the Mediterranean coast. It claimed over 100,000 lives.
1863: The fourth cholera pandemic began in the Bengal region in 1863 and claimed around 600,000 lives until its dissipation in 1875.
1899: The sixth cholera pandemic (1899–1923) was a major outbreak of cholera beginning in India, where it killed more than 800,000 people and spreading to the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Russia.
1943: While World War 2 raged and millions of people were dying via warfare, many also succumbed to various epidemics that ravaged war-stricken populations. One of the most notable was the 1943 typhus and malaria epidemic in Egypt and the Mediterranean.
1981: The onset of HIV/AIDS , an infectious disease that has so far caused an estimated 32 million deaths worldwide and is considered an ongoing pandemic.
Lunar peaks at 23.5
The Cocoliztli Epidemics (1545-1548 and 1576-1580)
“The Cocoliztli epidemic or the great pestilence is a term given to millions of deaths in the territory of New Spain in present-day Mexico in the 16th century attributed to one or more illnesses collectively called cocoliztli, a mysterious illness characterized by high fevers and bleeding. It ravaged the Mexican highlands in epidemic proportions.” The worst of these outbreaks took place between 1545 and 1548. The estimated death toll is between 12 and 15 million, or 80% of the population. The next major outbreak was between 1576 and 1580 when between 2 and 2.5 million people or 50% of the population died.
In the second half of 1545, the Moon’s maximum monthly declination was 23.5°. The same signature was operative at some other major pandemics’ outbreaks, like the Spanish Flu (1918) and Covid-19 (2020). Because those lunar extremes (minor and major standstills, and 23.5°) come about every 4,5 – 5 years, other signatures are needed, of course, to confirm the danger of a major epidemic, but they will almost invariably be linked to Neptune. Around 1545, nearly all eclipses were in a major aspect with Neptune!
FIGURE 5: Lunar declination cycle between 1540 and 1555.
The second Cocoliztli epidemic that killed between 2 and 2.5 million people or about 50% of the whole population, broke out in 1576 when Neptune was reaching its maximum declination north – a strong signature.
Parallels of latitude
Persian plague (1772-1773) and Russian Plague (1770-1772)
“The Persian plague epidemic of 1772–1773 was a massive outbreak of Bubonic plague in the Persian Empire, which claimed around 2 million lives in total. It was one of the most devastating Plague epidemics in recorded human history.” As far as the death toll is concerned, this was the worst pandemic of the 18th century.
Look at the graph. It is an 18° latitude graph (allowing for Pluto that can reach close to 18°), covering the whole 100 years of the 18th century. Presented are the paths of Pluto, Neptune and Saturn. Parallels of latitude are extremely delicate aspects because everything happens within a relatively narrow band; one degree of arc, however, is incredibly lot in the vast space! The triple parallel between Pluto, Neptune, and Saturn started to form in 1769 and dissipated towards 1773. That period was packed with epidemics! Besides the Persian Plague, there was the Russian Plague of 1770-72, which claimed between 52,000 and 100,000 lives in Moscow alone, plus epidemics of both measles and smallpox in North America (the early 1770s).
FIGURE 6: A triple parallel of latitude between Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto in 1769–1773, synchronous with the outbreak of several epidemics.
Great Plague of London (1665-1666)
The plague started in April 1665 and spread rapidly through the hot summer months. By the time the plague ended, about 100,000 people, including 15% of the population of London, had died. The main signature was Neptune in a parallel of latitude with Saturn (1665). Another strong signature was the Moon’s maximum monthly declination of 23.5° during the first half of 1666.
Asian Flu (1957-58)
“The 1957–58 influenza pandemic, also known as Asian flu, was a global pandemic of influenza A virus subtype H2N2 which originated in Guizhou, China and killed at least 1 million people worldwide.” According to another source, the death toll was 2 million. The main astrological signature was a parallel of latitude between Saturn and Neptune, exact in 1957-58. The total solar eclipse of 23 October 1957 conjoined Neptune, while the 19 April 1958 solar annular eclipse opposed it.
FIGURE 7: A parallel of Neptune and Saturn in celestial latitude 1956-57
COVID-19 (ongoing, started in 2019-2020)
There are two main signatures for this pandemic: the parallel of Neptune and Pluto in celestial latitude and the Moon’s maximum monthly declination of 23.5° during the first half of 2020 (exact in March). When I predicted (based on those signatures) a new epidemic for 2020 in my December 2019 blog, I made a small mistake by expressing the hypothesis that it would break out in the fall. I should have known better – after all, my research has shown that in parallels of latitude, the orb of influence is 20 arc minutes! As it happens, the disease broke out around New Year when the distance between Neptune and Pluto — the two planets indicative of the onset of an epidemic — was pretty much exactly 20 minutes!
The first death in Wuhan was reported on 11 January, but later investigations had revealed that the disease probably started around the third week of November 2019. The official date of the outbreak is now 1 December 2019, and within a month of the first death, with the number of confirmed cases and deaths exponentially rising, WHO declared a COVID-19 pandemic.
FIGURE 8: The parallel of Neptune and Pluto in celestial latitude, exact in October 2020
The prospects? At the end of November 2019 when the disease (supposedly) started, Neptune was stationing direct; at the time of this writing (end of April 2020), it is still direct but will turn retrograde at the end of June 2020. This could coincide with a major Covid-19 remission, but we must bear in mind that the parallel between Neptune and Pluto is still forming – that is, the aspect is applying, not separating – and this is worrisome. It is possible that the pandemic escalates anew in the fall, or that it resurges in the areas where it would have been suppressed by then, or that it “relocates” to areas where it would have caused only minor trouble by then. Another possibility is – a new virus, a new epidemic.
Minor, localized epidemics happen quite often, nearly every year. Let us look into the next 50 years to see when another major epidemic/pandemic could take place. The intensity of the contacts listed below varies, and the evidence suggests that we could be in for another pandemic in 2025-26 (possibly starting in late 2024) and between 2061-65. The other periods will almost certainly bring a major epidemic, but it would doubtfully develop into a pandemic.
2022: Neptune/Saturn parallel of latitude
2025-2026: Neptune equator crossing and a parallel of declination with Saturn (in 2026); could start already in 2025 due to a “Neptunian” total lunar eclipse, and Neptune entering Aries; this epidemic/pandemic could involve a novel virus or even the use of a virus as a weapon (Aries – biological war).
2031: Neptune/Saturn parallel of latitude
2037-38: Neptune/Saturn parallel of declination
2052-53: Neptune/Saturn parallel of latitude
2061-63 or 65: Neptune/Saturn parallel of declination in 2061-63, plus a Neptune/Pluto square forming between 2061 and 2065
The future is uncertain, they say, but astrology gives us invaluable tools to research the cosmic laws and predict the possibilities and probabilities – even when it comes to the most elusive of all planets, Neptune. Hopefully, this article has helped the reader to better understand its subtle workings and to get prepared for what it might bring in the future. (Adding, of course, that I am so happy that the future is actually almost never completely certain!)