The Occult Renaissance

John William Waterhouse, ‘The Magic Circle’, oil on canvas, England, 1886

Societal fascination with topics of the occult, ideas of the underworld, demonology, ancient gods and goddesses, particularly those associated with death, has seen a massive surge in popularity over the last decade. Astrologically speaking, we can consider how Pluto passing through Capricorn, as well as Neptune moving through Pisces have contributed to this upswing. Faced with events that are unprecedented in recent memory, people are more often looking to the shadows, to things that lie behind and beyond normal comprehension for explanations of life’s complexity, passing over orthodox religion and established modes of spirituality, seeking for new vocabularies of self-expression and self-discovery. This is not a clean, airy, light time in the psyche of humanity, but rather a time when we are searching ancestral roots, rummaging through established bias and assumed systems of power and hierarchy, and trying to see just how we fit into this mass, as individuals. The identity of the individual is being sublimated as pressures from “out there” impinge upon personal freedom and self-expression, resulting in growing tension and stress. On the personal level, people are left to explore and delve the murky depths of personal and societal, which is resulting in a mass churning of the collective unconscious, the energies of which are left to trickle down into the individual psyche however they may.

Georgiana Houghton (Spirit Drawing), ‘The Portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ’, England, 1862.

Capricorn is a sign ruled by Saturn, the god of time, old age, fear, darkness, the dead and matters of the dead, endings, inhibition, and is associated with dark gods like Lucifer or Satan. Pluto housed in Capricorn is right at home, as Pluto’s energy is cathartic, cthonic, depth-seeking and largely discomfiting. His influence is to purge, exhume and destroy, particularly anything which is unnecessary, fatuous or otherwise useless. This is not an easy energy, and it governs things that are larger than life, beyond comprehension and personal control. Personal issues of the individual are set against a much larger backdrop which can only be assumed and accepted, as personal influence is insignificant in the face of such power. The individual is left with trying to make sense of a system that they had no part in devising, but which they inherited from generations past, with a burgeoning sense of culpability, an impression of pressing responsibility, a need to somehow remedy the errors that manifest in surrounding chaos, but with very few tools that have proven efficient, let alone functional.

Frederick Sandys, ‘Morgan le Fay’, oil on wood panel, England, 1863-1864

Pisces is a sign traditionally ruled by Jupiter, though modern astrology assigns rulership of Pisces to Neptune, and Pisces governs matters of the occult, glamor, mystification, mysticism, delusion, confusion, spirituality, magic, photography and media, as well as addiction, mob mentality, illusion, drugs and other intoxicants, fiction, and all things fanciful and ephemeral. With Neptune currently housed in Pisces, society is swimming in these energies, as we are inundated with mass media, glamorized depictions of celebrity, drug addiction epidemics, pronounced and unprecedented attention to issues of mental illness, patient advocacy, new frontiers of sexuality and self-expression. Fantastical imagery floods our media, and the world is a captive audience, connected to ephemeral systems of communication which few understand, but all embrace as necessity. The Covid-19 pandemic itself is exemplary of the combination of Pisces/Capricorn energy at its most profound – mass pathological illness which we are hard-pressed to avoid, and which we attempt to control with rules, bureaucracy, governmental intervention and population control, all obfuscated by ever more bizarre and disturbing conspiracy theories, suspicion, hysteria and lack of information. Add to this increasing impatience with demographic injustice and incredible anomalies of leadership, resulting in race riots, removal and destruction of long-standing cultural iconography, and increasingly erratic weather patterns (also a Neptunian/Piscean phenomenon), 2020 will certainly be a year to remember, and likely one which will be studied by historians for years to come.

John Trumbull, ‘The Declaration of Independence’, oil on canvas, England, 1819

Pluto moved into Capricorn in 2008/2009 and will remain there until 2024, and Neptune moved into Pisces in 2011, remaining there until 2026. The last time Pluto was in Capricorn was 1762 – 1778, during which world witnessed both the American Revolutionary War, as well as precursory actions leading up to the French Revolution of 1789-1799. Neptune was last in Pisces from 1847-1862, during which we saw the rise of idealistic and spiritually-diverse and evocative movements such as Spiritualism, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and Marxism.

Liberty Leading the People. 1830. Oil on canvas, 260 x 325 cm.