“Fear, like love, can become a call into consciousness; one meets the unconscious, the unknown, the numinous and uncontrollable by keeping in touch with fear, which elevates the blind instinctual panic of the sheep into the knowing, cunning, fearful awe of the shepherd.”
― James Hillman, Pan and the Nightmare
As I write, the whole world grapples with trapped, anxious, and desperately speculative states of mind about all outcomes, including death. In the operatic match between Life Force and the Living Dead Unknown, taskmaster Saturn and wild-card Uranus challenge humanity to reclaim the fluid display of libido, erotic self-expression and panic.
Saturn and Uranus happen to rule the next 2300 years—the Age of Aquarius, an age that demands mass celebration of gender, sexuality and sensuality. The Age of Aquarius values freedom, desire, exploration, and androgyny; our part masculine, part feminine, half-desiring, half-panicking selves that move fluidly between life and death.
This week, mid-pandemic, Mars and Venus tango onto the scene with the refreshing yet chilling breezes of libidinous zeal and dread. How could these eternal lovers breathe words of ardor and orgasmic sighs on their bed under Hephaestus’ net while mortals suffocate with COVID-19? A week of grotesque epiphanies, tiny deaths, and mass death, stories of “love in the time of Corona” take taboo and morbid turns. Within human dreams of grim conditions and the close proximity of our thoughts to death, the week gifts us with an epiphany of the god Pan (“all”), who holds space for erotic desire and death simultaneously.
Mythology sings the praises of Pan, like his father, Hermes (the astrological Mercury) for his quick movement. Hermes guides the soul from the upper world to the underworld; Pan chases nymphs and revels in nature’s reflexes. Half goat, half man, Pan visits us during panic attacks, the hauntings reminding us of our status as bumps in the earth subject to its predators. But Pan also enchants mortals with revelry, ecstasy, music, and the cosmic joke that we, too, are predators—if we can celebrate that we’re half-and-half.
So, too, are we humans double, triple or more in the realms of gender and sex, and the week hints at the necessity of becoming comfortable with this complexity. Headlines on the horizon include tributes to lovers’ eccentricities, gender reveals, gender-bending, or character assassinations rooted in botched consent. We’ll see virtual ways to participate in group sensual encounters and reflection on our personal experiences of gender’s kaleidoscopic nature. At the strangest apparent timing, scandals about world leaders’ helplessness to control the spinning wheel of sexuality will come forward in the news.
‘What do love and sex have to do with a plague?’ we may ask ourselves. The courage to invite Pan’s lust for primal rhythms into our cells—not only in the form of literal sexual acts, but in the forest’s roaring silence and the plant’s soil—no matter what our proximity to death, bear profound and liberating lessons that transition our unconventional geniuses forward into Aquarian self-empowerment.
But we cannot afford to skip over the “panic” component of this forward momentum. The freedom of limitlessness and anxieties over letting-go both hang in the air, reflected in Luna’s turbulent connections to Saturn, Mars and Uranus in her waning cycle. Agricultural gods both, Saturn and Mars thrive when exerting themselves and laboring within specific structures. Saturn rules the mythological Golden Age, a tranquil, abundant time; Mars wields the power to blaze ahead, discovering new territory. But both forces, while essential for all forms of cultivation, in excess induce claustrophobia and ire. With Luna’s visit to these loosely conjunct planets this week, we feel impatient, agitated, and clingy. Equally, we may begin to let go, only to compulsively label new discoveries as our own in an attempt to possess them.
Part of sexual attraction and being in love—with a person and with the world—is the ability to let go and play, but equally prevalent is the proclivity to grasp, possess and dominate the other, panicking that the object of our desires will slip away. This includes life itself: panic over death is the wish to eternally possess the status quo of aliveness. But it’s the Age of Aquarius, and the more we insist on owning the beingness of persons and world, the more backlash occurs. As erotic demands tug on our physical and psychic bodies, can Libido coexist with Panic, and if so, how?
Whereas Neoplatonism and modern psychology sublimate Venus and Mars to symbolize Diplomacy and Assertiveness, the lovers now undress and resume their primordial status as amorous love-in-motion, a kinetic mode of desire. The interplay between letting go and claiming ownership is part of what the free-radical, kinkily bantering signs of Aquarius and Gemini offer Venus, Mars and the world this week. In this sense, they ‘cure’ humanity’s deer-in-the-headlights anxiety plaguing the world’s present moment: it seems even during a plague, there’s room for joy and sensual pleasure.
How can humanity put one foot in front of the other this week in a way that allows that razor’s edge of panic and joy without literally dying? Luna’s stint in Capricorn and Aquarius early and mid-week suggests that if we can recognize where mold grows upon once-reliable ground, our limits will transform, enabling our forward motion. Luna’s message encourages the expansion of our emotional flexibility even within apparently limited courses of action—those limits are transforming, and once we accept the past, our capacity to expand beyond obstacles increases.
What makes you jump out of bed, transcending all lethargy, with an awareness of your power? Whether it’s a piece of music, the voice of someone you love, a painting, an image from a film, a letter, a message, this week asks you to strengthen that connection. During times of panic & sickness, even when death demands contemplation, a connection with these reminders of life force ask to be consistently reinforced so that they’re rolling from within and with less effort. As Pan instructs, panic and vitality can and do coexist. In this sense, even if ninety-nine percent of your body’s in crisis, that one cell soaring in response to what reminds you of your joy alone protects you and makes all the difference. Even if you feel weak and paralyzed, know that the other side of panic is nature’s orgiastic dance of which you’re an integral part, so you’re exactly where you need to be.
Italian classicist and philosopher Giulia Sissa, in her book Jealousy: A Forbidden Passion, writes, “Culture happens when sexuality is transformed into sensuality.” The driving forces behind the Age of Aquarius might add, “and there are as many sensualities as there are persons—just as with deaths.” Sensuality and death dance with us, and the way out of freezing in Death’s apparition as a terrifying construct lies in recognizing how much each of these parts of life affirm our utter uniqueness. Each of us treads a path: “My sensualities and my deaths.” Also: “Our sensualities and our deaths.” Also: “The world’s sensualities and its deaths.”
What we need are strong hearts, strong stomachs, senses of humor, and lots of trust through the pain. Toward liberation we all go.