Water Worlds
by Eric Francis

  Photograph copyright © Eric Francis. All rights reserved.
Digital photo by Eric Francis. Planet Waves Picture Galleries

IN RECENT YEARS, a variety of planets near or beyond Pluto (but still within our solar system, orbiting our Sun and pirating our satellite TV stations) have been named for gods and goddesses associated with water. Many other notable planetary discoveries have been made in this time, such as Xena and Quaoar, but it's interesting that in the past six years, numerous major planetary discoveries have started receiving the names of water deities -- that is, mythological figures whose primary association is with oceans, rivers, rain, flooding and related themes.

Water has been dominating the news lately, with two major hurricanes striking in the Gulf Coast region of the U.S. this year, and more recently with devastating results in Mexico and Central America. But our planet is also in a fresh water crisis, rapidly depleting the tiny amount of drinkable water that we inherited the Earth with. And there are problems with the oceans, documented by Jacques Cousteau and others going back to the 1960s. (These themes are covered in the 2004 Planet Waves annual edition, aquasphere, and will be reviewed in the 2006 annual, Parallel Worlds.) So it's an appropriate enough time for planets with watery themes to be discovered and understood as having both historical relevance and personal psychological significance.

[I would note here that there is a controversy in the scientific community, as well as the astrological, as to the definition of a "planet." I use the term here to describe any orbiting body, in the sense that the Greeks used the word to mean "wanderer." Personally, I don't participate in the "what is a planet" debate because nearly all of the proposed definitions, including the one currently used, are arbitrary. When necessary, I'll differentiate between the different kinds of minor planets: asteroid, Plutino, etc. Okay, back to water.]

Water relates to the unconscious, the emotions and the inner experience of well-being and security -- or the lack thereof. It is the intuitive sense, and the psychic sense. All astrologers study the attributes of water as human energy in their work, though the signs Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. The Astrology Encyclopedia by James R. Lewis gives an overview of these attributes. "The emotional sensitivity of the water element shows itself somewhat differently in each of the signs of the water triplicity. Cancer's watery nature typically manifests as feelings about home, security, and family. Scorpio's emerges as strong feelings about sex, death and occult mysteries. Pisces' watery nature appears as mysticism, sensitivity to music, and impressionability."

These are generalizations, but they work well enough. Remember that water flows, and these themes will always mix and match among the water signs, and indeed all charts.

The second planet ever discovered by science, Neptune (Roman equivalent of the Greek Poseidon, discovered in 1846 by the astronomer Galle in Berlin), was named for a water god. Several associations of this planet for some reason tend to collect around the letter D: dreams, delusions, denial, drugs, and drink, for example. Empathic or psychic qualities also appear, which are at times denied. There is a high degree of sensitivity, creativity, music, art, cinema and theatre, all forms of expression that involve the use of illusion; and actual experiences involving water, flooding, the Navy and the oceans. Neptune also addresses the theme of sacrifice; where it is placed, we'll typically notice we're giving something up. In its most wholesome expressions, Neptune is a spiritual influence. In its lowest, it corrupts with deception and substances.

The newer Water Worlds take the associations with water to a subtler, more specific level -- a typical property of minor planets, which tend to represent distinct psychological processes. Or this, at least, is true once they are understood. Most research astrologers use the "keyword method" of understanding a planet, collecting a bunch of descriptive terms associated with each new world. My sense is that a planet is not understood by astrology until it can be described as a growth process. For example, many people associate the keyword "healing" with Chiron, which is true enough. But if you say, "transformation through raising awareness," you get a much more tangible picture.

The Water Worlds are not asteroids, nor are they in the Centaur class of minor planets (such as Chiron, Pholus or Nessus). All are planets in the small, select group of named bodies called "transneptunian objects" or TNOs, because they are all beyond Neptune. They have several hang-outs, including the Kuiper Belt; the Oort Cloud; and the Scattered Disk. Most TNOs come in two major categories: ones with orbits similar to Pluto, and ones beyond Pluto (which come in several varieties). The classifications can be confusing and don't really factor into our discussion.

Occasionally, some of these bodies are pulled into the inner solar system (inside Neptune, that is) by gravity, and become comets, Centaur planets or other types of minor planets.

TNOs, which are actual, physical planets orbiting our Sun, are different than the transneptunian points, also called TNPs or Uranians, which are eight hypothetical planets used by some astrologers. The Uranians do not physically exist; you could not build a Pizza Hut on one. They are more like etheric entities known to have astrological influence, apparently from another level of reality. [To learn more or get really confused, Google the term "Uranian Astrology," or see the recent Mountain Astrologer.]

When new planetary discoveries are made by astronomers, a naming scheme, established by the International Astronomical Union, is followed to assign names. Discoveries close to Pluto's orbit (called Plutinos) are named for underworld deities, that is, gods who typically deal with the affairs of the dead. Those beyond Pluto are named for deities of creation and resurrection (these are called Cubewanos, named after the first such discovery, 1992 QB1). Names are generally selected by the discoverers, though they must be approved by the IAU, an international panel of scientists and academics.

Astrologers who specialize in the field of new planets then take the name, and properties of the planet's orbit (such as its cycle and planetary nodes), references made by many clients, and, over time, and as evidence mounts, create a delineation that can be used in chart interpretation, counseling and historical analysis.

What kind of evidence? An example can be found with the July 5-6 New Moon closely conjunct Varuna, a planet named for a pre-Vedic cosmic creation deity and lord of waters. The Cancer New Moon and Varuna were both closely conjunct the natal Sun in a United States birth chart (the July 4, 1776 Sibley chart), and the natal chart of U.S. 'president' George W. Bush. The following month, massive flooding inundated the Southeastern region of the country, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

To me, the water worlds are associated with the dawn of what it seems fair to call the Earth Changes era of history, and the human experience of going through this sense of change and displacement. Long ago prophesized by Edgar Cayce and by many others since, the Earth does indeed appear to be going through a series of changes that affect both the conditions on the planet including the climate, and the vibration, growth and experience of the people here.

HERE ARE SOME details about the water words.

Varuna (2000 WR106) was discovered in 2000 and given designation minor planet 20,000 -- a big honor for the discoverers R. S. McMillan and J. A. Larsen. This was the first planet beyond Pluto to get a name. [It was not the first discovered -- that was 1992 QB1, which has not yet been named.] Varuna has an orbital period of 282 years. Varuna is a mighty god, one of the supreme creation deities of pre-Vedic history, still revered today by many, and this was a landmark astronomical discovery, in part because of its size.

The energy of Varuna is that which is too large to comprehend. In this respect, it has some attributes of the 12th house -- the house of overwhelming or incomprehensible aspects of life that act out of sight or in the deep background.

One astrologer who has done some interesting work with Varuna is Juan Revilla of Costa Rica. In an email conversation a few years ago, Juan explained to me his interpretation that Varuna is quite literally "behind everything" -- a potent and ominous force lingering in the far reaches of our lives. Among the many deities who have had planets and asteroids named for them, Varuna's energy seems closest to what we think of as God, the all-knowing cosmic entity that exists silently behind consciousness and events.

Varuna (now in Cancer) also deals with the punishment of liars and those who violate contracts. In earlier times, mortals who did not keep their word would meet his wrath. He could bestow immortality as well. Astrological associations noted by Revilla include the impersonal laws of nature (as opposed to human nature) and the incomprehensible cosmic order (as opposed to the order of society). Questions of the gain and loss of reputation, and the issue of immortality through fame, seem inevitable with this planet.

My phrase for Varuna is, "the great equalizer."

Many of us have also heard of Sedna (provisional name 2003 VB12, catalogue number 90377), a very distant transneptunian orbiting our Sun once every 11,040 years. Technically, this is a Scattered Disk Object or SDO. Sedna, now in Taurus, was big news when the announcement of her discovery was given in 2004 (discovered in 2003). Mythologically, Sedna is the Inuit creation deity, a goddess who looks like a seal and who lives at the bottom of the now melting Arctic Sea. (Google has many pictures of artifacts if you search Sedna under images.)

Sedna is the goddess of the frozen waters. Her myth is based on the story of a beautiful young Inuit girl who was forced to marry by her father, but was tricked into marrying a kind of demon. Her father, hearing her howls in the wind, rescues her, but in the process, she falls into the cold sea. One by one, her limbs fall off, and each becomes a different kind of sea mammal: whales, seals, and so on. She then takes up residence at the bottom of the ocean with little stubs where her arms and legs were. If you want to honor her, go down there and brush her hair, as she can no longer do it herself.

Melanie Reinhart, in her article "The Goddess of the Frozen Waters," writes of Sedna, "The encounter with what has been lost, drowned out, or frozen long ago is her theme, which can be taken most fruitfully on the inner levels. In other words, our own 'Ice Age' is being highlighted here: the wounds in the soul caused by the impatience, condemnation, dismissal or anger of the father; the living hell of unresolved outrage; the violence of hardship where we cut off from what is desperate and vulnerable in ourselves or others in order to survive. And how this harshness is internalized."

She continues, "Even in the face of unrelenting trauma and suffering, we can, indeed must, beat our drum and sing to life. This is not a plea for escapism, but rather an acknowledgement that the Work is about keeping our heart open in hell. Sedna's story is about acknowledging just how bad things really feel, and starting from there. Radical acceptance is demanded. Allowing love and harmony into our lives (symbolized by the Star of David) may mean opening to the frozen places inside where we are conflicted and feel unloving. To try and manufacture joy is to metaphorically cut off our own fingers."

It's notworthy that the recent Mars station-retrograde in Taurus occurred in a conjunction with Sedna and the TNP (Uranian Point) Admetus. It was part of a yod pattern with Pluto and Jupiter. Mars, Admetus and Sedna were at the point of the yod (an aspect consisting of two quincunxes and a sextile: 150-150-60 degrees). This aspect was developing through the whole Great Hurricane phase of recent history.

Then there is Huya (provisional name 2000 EB173, catalogue number 38628, orbital period of 251 years). Huya is a Plutino discovered in 2000 by Venezuelan astronomers. They proposed the name Huya (Juya with a little accent on the 'a') after the rain god of the Wayuu Indians who live on the arid Guajira Peninsula of northern Venezuela and Colombia. Juya was god of rain; a warrior, hunter, seducer and inhabitant of "the place beyond the Sun." The lack of water is the biggest problem on the Guajira Peninsula and the locals hoped that Juya, god of the rains now recognized the world over, would perform the miracle of water.

There is a second mythological Huya, an Egyptian underworld entity. Based on this mythology, some associate Huya with rites, rituals and offerings to the dead, an association I've witnessed personally in client work. "The Egyptians saw Huya as an underworld deity and great care was taken to offer her food and water in the tombs so she would not be forgotten," Philip Sedgwick wrote in the Galactic Times at the time of the naming. According to the "Tour Egypt" web site, Huya, or Yuya, was the steward of Queen Tiyi, the queen mother and wife of Amenhotep III. However, the intentional naming properties all appear to be associated with the Venezuelan version of the myth.

It is interesting that Huya has two entirely different mythologies, a hint that in delineation, she may represent a point in the chart were there are two different expressions, both of which are true.

A planet called Deucalion (provisional name 1999 HU11, catalogue number 53311), who in mythology was the Greeks' version of Noah (the son of Prometheus and the husband of Pyrrha), was discovered in 1999. Basically, this may be where the flood story in the Bible comes from; it's like it was lifted from British TV for American TV, you can barely tell the difference except the characters have weird accents and eat different brands of cereal. Deucalion is a Cubewano with an orbit of 296 years. [The Cubewanos get their name from the first discovery in their class, 1992 QB1 (say it out loud), which for some mysterious reason persists in not having a name. I imagine its provisional designation will stick more or less perpetually.]

Phil Sedgwick proposes that Deucalion relates to "understanding the flow (tides of life), manifestation ability, magical, resourceful, and seeing the talent in everyone." I would say: we call it 'magic', but it's really nature. We call it nature, but it has a 'magical' quality to it. In its more difficult manifestations, he proposes that it's about, "Feeling overwhelmed, not able to tread water (keep up with life), being financially irresponsible, and feeling the burden of humanity." He includes "ceremonies of manifestation, spiritual exercises using images of bounty and harvest, runes, reading bones" -- in other words, divination and seeking warnings and cautions about the future.

Orcus (provisional name 2004 DW, catalogue number 90482), another Plutino, was discovered in 2004, and has a 248 year orbit -- quite close to Pluto's. While this is an underworld god, not specifically a sea-god, it is the namesake of orca whales, sometimes called killer whales (who tend to be friendly to humans), so I'm including it. Orca whales despite their name are friendly to humans, but they are in a serious fight for survival. They are, by the way, practically the subject of a massive folk religion in the Seattle and Vancouver areas, where they are revered.

Sedgwick proposes that this planet can symbolize "a person of one's word, [one who] challenges broken promises, is aligned with a spiritual creed, [and is] accountable for personal thought, word and deed." On the more difficult side, he suggests, "hypocritical, fault finding in the ways of others, blame assigning, ducks responsibility for word and actions, unable to keep promises."

Francesco Sciavinotto suggests that this planet is involved in the fight for survival. I would add that there is a feeling of the ethics that one would apply or adopt when faced with such a fight, and the psychological and emotional steps toward getting there.

AROUND THE TIME of the Libra Solstice there were many interrelationships between the Water Worlds with traditional planets including Pluto, Neptune and Jupiter -- all in septiles and related aspects. A septile is an aspect created by dividing a circle in seven, or 51.4 degrees. You can combine septiles into biseptiles and triseptiles to have even more fun with your cosmic erecter set. So, 103 degree aspects count, as do 154 degree aspects, give or take a little for squirm.

Explaining septiles, Rick Levine says, "When you think of septiles, think of Beethoven. He had a lot of septiles in his chart. Compare this with Mozart, who had a lot of quintiles." When I think of Beethoven I think of the 9th Symphony thundering into the air: intensity, sexuality, a driven quality. I think of poet Adrienne Rich commenting on this quality in one of her poems.

The Astrology Encyclopedia by James R. Lewis says of this aspect, "Because of the numerological association of the number seven with Neptune, it has been regarded as having a mystical or 'beclouding' influence." We also get yet more water imagery with the Neptune connection. Also, when you think Seven think: The Chariot (the 7th tarot trump, related to the sign Cancer), or the Seven of Cups (in watery context, less wholesome) or the Seven of Wands (fiery context, more functional).

Whatever the esoteric connotations, we are in a time when water is big news, and should be bigger news. I am, lately, reminded of The Onion's article from some time ago, "All Americans Issued Life Vests For Some Reason." I am also reminded of an article I just read, a Sept. 15, 2005 offering from Steve Connor from The Independent in the UK, reprinted on truthout.org. Here is the lead to the article:

"A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

"They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating.

"The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a 'tipping point' beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically."

-- Additional research and writing by Kirsti Melto.

Positions of the Water Worlds
(From Riyal minor planet freeware, calculated at Libra Equinox)

Varuna 16 Can 56
Sedna 19 Tau 33 Rx
Orcus 27 Leo 15
Deucalion 01 Sco 37
Huya 00 Sco 28
Neptune 15 Aqu 07 Rx

Copyright © Eric Francis. All rights reserved.
Reprinted on Sphinx.

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