Lineage and Legacy: The Cancer/Capricorn nodal axis

Lineage and Legacy


(This article is a reprint from the midwinter edition of NCGR’s quarterly journal, Memberletter, of which I am a regular contributing columnist)

Just after the lunar nodes (true) shifted into Cancer/Capricorn at the beginning of November 2018, the dismal news emerged that esteemed astrologer Robert Schmidt had fallen ill and was preparing to pass. Schmidt’s contribution to astrology was enormous. As one of the co-founders of Project Hindsight, Robert personally translated ancient astrological texts from Greek into English— an endeavor that paved the way for the rest of us to gain a deeper understanding of astrology in the Hellenistic era and some of the pinnacle origins of our craft. Robert was a brilliant philosopher and historian whose efforts bridged many of the gaps in our astrological history. He recovered ancient techniques that are currently being revived today. Robert Schmidt passed away on December 6th, leaving behind a robust legacy that will be referenced for perhaps centuries to follow.

Only two days later, the astrological community suffered another great loss. Donna Van Toen left this world on December 8th, 2018. Donna was a beloved astrologer known for her warm candor and sharp wit. Donna’s legacy is the State of the Art Astrology Conference (SOTA)— a well-organized intimate conference with quality speakers. Donna joked that she wanted to cap off attendance at 200 to maintain the coziness, but she wouldn’t turn down the cash. Donna had a gift for making everyone feel welcome; she was known for offering younger astrologers a chance to speak at SOTA and for making the whole room roll with laughter. Her honesty was refreshing and everyone had a story about her. Who knew this would be the last SOTA Donna would lead? I am grateful I had the opportunity to personally thank Donna for creating such a wonderful event. She declined my offer to give her a lift back to the hotel, though I gushed to her that this was the best conference I’d ever attended (sorry, NCGR).

Two fine astrologers, two brilliant legacies, two minds who influenced others within our astrological tradition.


The Axis

Photo by Matt Bluejay

Photo by Matt Bluejay

Even before the transiting nodes arrived in the Cancer/Capricorn axis, the phrase “lineage and legacy” has kept popping up in my mind. And especially now so. Cancer represents the primal instinctual-emotional nature that biologically protects us. Ruled by the Moon, memory and heritage are also associated with this sign. The Moon symbolizes our baseline perception of nurturing. Our mother often sets that standard, but it’s truly much more complex. Cancer is a nostalgic sign known for its impeccable memory.  

If Cancer seeks emotional security, Capricorn seeks the security promised by order. Represented as a mythological sea-goat, Capricorn is adept at transmuting emotions into focused goals. Ruled by realistic Saturn, Capricorn directs feelings toward building useful, tangible results. Capricorns are ambitious, patient and hardworking with a mind toward the long term. They are self-made. And they’d like a cushy retirement. Ruled by Saturn (the buzz-kill reminder that our time and energy on this planet are limited), Capricorn figures that we might as well do something with it. As the final Earth sign of the zodiac, Capricorn deals with self-actualization.  

Essentially, both Saturn and the Moon are concerned with the passage of time. The Moon retains memory, while Saturn is motivated by shortage of time.

On a very personal level, if we want to look at “lineage and legacy” in our own charts, we specifically want to look at the 4th house and the 10th house. Not to conflate a direct parallel between signs and houses, but there are indeed shared themes worth noting. We might also look at where the rulers of these houses live, their qualities and their aspects. The 4th house specifically deals with heritage, homelife and our emotional support system. The 10th describes what we become known for. I like to think of this axis like a tree trunk. Did you know that a tree’s branches mirror their root system? It gives a whole other meaning to the axiom “as above, so below.” Indeed, the quality of nourishment we receive at our roots has great influence over how far we are able to reach.  


The Enigma of our Legendary Craft

Time is a big deal for astrologers. In our understanding of cycles, the past informs the future. If you write horoscopes, you are almost always living a week or a month ahead of the present. Secondary progressions are a strange (but effective) microcosm of the fourth dimension. And in our client work, we often time-travel with them back into the past, as well as help them plan for the future. When a hater smears the validity of our craft, we shoot back with an arsenal of historic facts boasting astrology’s impressive legacy of steering socio-political movements. Yeah, it’s true, some sources suggest that astrology’s origins extend back as early as 4000 BC. We hail from a long tradition of oracles, soothsayers, sky-watchers, philosophers, scientists and mathematicians— beginning with oral traditions passed down from teacher to student, then expertly recorded onto stone, hand-copied onto parchments, and taught in secret during times of religious persecution. We have miraculously preserved.


Do not even read the comments following that New York Times article snidely titled “Astrology is Hard, Even if it’s Fake.” You will be mad. Every once in a while, it’s healthy to gauge a contradictory POV, so I read them. And my protective Cancerian mama came out. But I realized that the haters were largely ignorant of the magnitude of what astrology is capable of. The thing about astrology is that it’s a precious art as enigmatic as it is technical; it offers us a framework to view the complexity of an individual within backdrop of the multilayered collective. Astrology is a system which can help us live our best lives. We know our time is limited (cool it, Saturn), and astrology helps us make the most of it.

Many people who consult their natal chart seek greater understanding of their purpose. It’s said that the ego is the smaller self who fears death; the ego wants to leave their mark on the world; the ego hates to fathom a world without “me.” Around Día de los Muertos, I discovered a video that described the “three deaths.” The first is when you realize that one day you will die, the second is your actual death and the third is the last time someone says your name. (WHOOSH! My ego definitely felt that.) True, some people will remain immortal for all eternity. There’s Jesus, Genghis Khan, Akhenaten and perhaps even Oprah. But isn’t this something we all think about? How will we be remembered and for how long? For most of us, maybe a few generations. What will the quality of our echo sound like as is ripples through time? Perhaps it’s just as simple as being a decent person. What are the stories your grandparents told you about their grandparents? And what would Vettius Valens say if he knew that people were still quoting him today on something known as the “Twitter?”


One Astrological Kingdom, spectrum of Houses

At this past SOTA, I observed a panel of astrologers introduce themselves. Everyone begins with their background, how they found astrology (or how it found them), who they studied with and where it led. I always find these stories fascinating! Our teachers provide us with a foundation of understanding and initiate us into an astrological lineage. With a myriad of astrological techniques and angles of approach, our style is often influenced by those who we studied with. Conferences are places where you have a higher awareness of the lineal diversity within our community.

This past summer, The Mountain Astrologer celebrated it’s 200th issue by “honoring astrologers from diverse eras who have shaped our chosen art and craft.” The issue arrived in the mail following the very first eclipse of the Cancer/Capricorn series. Synchronistically, I had also begun reading the chapter in Chris Brennan’s Hellenistic Astrology which illustrates the contributions of influential astrologers from the Hellenistic era. In total, I got a solid history buffer and had much to marvel over.  

At this point, I started thinking about my teachers, wondering who their teachers were and wondering how far back we could trace this? Unfortunately, not as far back as an ancestry test (another subject expected to swell during this period). My lineage is of the NCGR New York City chapter. I studied with Joseph Addeo, Shirley Soffer, John Marchesella and Meira Epstein. Since Joseph was my first teacher and he also studied with John, I emailed John over the summer to inquire about who his teachers were and where one’s astrological lineage would live in the natal chart. The 10th house, he says. And it makes sense.


North Node in Cancer

If the north node in Leo reminded us to enjoy life, the north node in Cancer reminds us to take care of ourselves. Of course, we usually don’t “get” the lesson of the nodal cycle until it concludes. With the contentious pileup of malefic planets near the south node during this eclipse period, the north node will have to make a stronger case for itself. One way that this might show up is we find ourselves consumed in duty: overworking, overextending— fully aware that we’ve been neglecting our own needs. It will be a journey, but fortunately (or not), eclipses are cosmic course correctors, and they have a way of balancing matters out.


Cancers are known for being nurturers. One of the lessons a Cancer learns is that they must first put on their own oxygen mask. One cannot draw from an empty well. Try and you risk becoming very crabby. It’s time to replenish the well. Over these 18 months of the north node’s residence in Cancer, we embark on a journey to practice more self-care. Nourishment is more than just the foods we eat. Well-being is determined emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Over the next 18 months, we might feel the pull to plan more homecooked meals, spend time with loved ones and indulge in more CBD-infused bath-bombs. Go ahead, invest in those ultra-snuggly blankets you’ve had your eyes on.

The north node in Cancer places a cursor on the importance of emotional bonds. Hugs that last 20 seconds release the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Experts recommend 8 hugs per day to maintain well-being (and for sooo many more reasons, go ahead and look it up). And what of the healing powers of laughter? Or tears? As it turns out, not all tears are created equal. The tears from the mascara wand stabbing you in the eye lack the potency of emotional tears. When we cry, these tears contain a hormone related to breastmilk production (hello Moon), as well as another hormone related to pain-relief[i]. We call it a “good-cry” for a reason. We feel lighter afterward. Scientists suggest that crying detoxes the body of built up hormones needing a release. Aren’t we all exhausted these days? The phrase “emotional labor” is trending and that should tell us something. Maybe we could use a good cry right about now.

Need some help? I made great use of Mars’ transit through watery Pisces binging the NBC drama, “This Is Us.” And the rumors are true: you will (maybe) cry in every episode. Centered around the individual lives within a family, each character has their own struggles. Amply peppered with nostalgic flashbacks, it’s easy to connect with these characters because they are relatable; their challenges are much like our own. The characters share a deep love for one another and yet complicated dramas strain the family bond. This show is very Cancerian. Milo Ventimiglia who stars as the father is a Cancer. And not surprisingly, water is the element most represented in chart of the show’s creator, Dan Fogelman.

Born on March 19th, 1976 in River Vale, NJ (time unknown), Fogelman’s chart features the Sun at the final degrees of Pisces (associated with fixed star of sorrow, Scheat), Mercury and Venus in Pisces, Moon and Uranus in Scorpio, Saturn in Cancer, and finally an impressively placed Mars out-of-bounds at the first degree of Cancer (a prominent solstice point). Planets placed on the solstice and equinox points often denote visibility, and thus the native tends to gain notoriety for what that planet represents. This rings true for Fogelman, who has made a career writing, producing and directing family-centric TV shows and movies— such as Grandfathered, Like Family, and The Guilt Trip, starring Barbara Streisand and Seth Rogan. Like This is Us, The Guilt Trip focuses on the love/hate dynamic commonly shared between child and parent. While I’m not sure how his powerfully placed Mars plays out in Fogelman’s personal life, it certainly makes itself known in his work. Though Mars in the crab’s sign is considered challenged (as it sidesteps rather than lunging), Fogelman’s Mars is in mutual reception with the Moon, thus negating some of its challenges in asserting itself. This mutual reception allows Mars and Moon to support one another. As such, Fogelman may have heightened emotional awareness and an easier time finding constructive outlets for them. Additionally, it seems to help him emotionally connect with his audience.  

And speaking of Barbara Streisand, the most recent remake of A Star is Born has been conjuring tears nationwide since just before the north node’s arrival in Cancer. And fortunately for us, very soon we will be able to rent the movie and bawl our eyes out from the privacy of our own homes. I personally cannot wait.


“You are the love of thousands….”

With the north node in Cancer, many of us might be called to learn more about our ancestors or spend more time with our parents or children. As shows like This is Us acutely demonstrate, relationships within a family are deeply complex. For some, this period could present an opportunity to make progress in our relationships— with physical presence not necessarily being a requirement.

It should be noted that Cancer is a protective sign. A crab is vulnerable on its underbelly, though shielded by a hard exterior. During this time, we may be reminded that it’s ok to say “no” if that means protecting our energy. Saturn travels close to the south node for much of 2019, and Saturn if there’s one thing Saturn loves, it’s boundaries. For those who struggle exercising the word “no,” 2019 will be your year to embrace it. And if we really want to make the most of this transit, we can say “no” even before we are overworked and exhausted.

While “lineage and legacy” are something we might think about during this time, the trick is not to overthink it too much. “Powering through” only works when you’re about to cross the finish line. It’s not sustainable long-term. Taking a break allows us to return to the field refreshed, so this year, let’s aim to take more breaks. One of the wisdoms of Saturn is that “hard work pays off.” One of the potential pitfalls of such wisdom is thinking that if we work nonstop, we can be more successful. In some cases, sure, but it comes with a price: burnout.

Judy Garland (Cancer rising with Venus in Cancer) was an enigmatic superstar who won the hearts of millions as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Judy was an icon, though behind her captivating voice was a the tragic life of someone who was extremely overworked. After starring in 34 feature films (including A Star is Born), touring and performing continuously from the age of 2, Judy quite literally was a red-giant kind of star who burned bright and burned out at the young age of 49. Judy is famously quoted as saying “It’s lonely and cold at the top…lonely and cold.” And Judy would know. When you are working so hard that you need drugs to go to sleep and drugs to wake up just so you can work, there is no time for relationships and certainly no time to relax! Judy was married 5 times and had complicated relationships with her children. As the saying goes, no one on their death bed laments that they didn’t work hard enough. Quite the opposite. The top regrets of the dying center around holding back their true feelings and not being present enough with their loved ones.[1]

If Capricorn is the sign that channels its emotions into creating something of greater value, Cancer is the sign that recognizes the immense value of our emotions for what they are. Our feelings are what make us human. Maybe in undervaluing them, we feel less vulnerable, less human. But suppress them for too long and we may become rigid, thus accelerating the arrival of the very thing we are avoiding: our demise. While we won’t see another solar eclipse in Cancer until July, the Moon activates the nodes every week, presenting us with ample opportunity to connect more deeply with our feelings.  

So when we feel the call, let’s do ourselves a favor and honor our feelings as they arise. Let’s aim to take better care of ourselves. And go ahead, I dare you: go watch This Is Us or A Star is Born and have yourself a good cleansing cry.