Saturday, December 07, 2019

The Reagan Mutation

©2019 J. Lee Lehman, Ph.D.

In the next year, I hope to publish a series of articles about the mutation cycle of Jupiter-Saturn: arguably, the most important astrological trend of our time. In this blog post, I will not be providing the historical justification for the ideas I present, but I want to begin with the immediate astrology which is affecting us now. So we will begin in 1980, the year of the first conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in air since 1405.

The Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions occur about every twenty years, but from the Arabic Middle Ages onward, astrologers recognized that these conjunctions were part of a greater elemental cycle. The conjunctions cluster together in one element before proceeding to the next, following the same sequence as we observe in the zodiac: from fire, to earth, to air, and then finally to water. Each change of element is called a mutation - the change into fire is called the great mutation. This process takes about 830 years, and the number of actual conjunctions within an element varies. Our current mutational cycle began in 1603 with the conjunction at 8 Sagittarius. The following mutation occurred in 1802 with a conjunction at 5 Virgo. For reasons we will explore in a future article, the advent of the conjunction into a new element is almost always followed by a subsequent conjunction or two in the previous element. This process was dubbed the retrogression of the conjunction by 17th century astrologers, and we will discuss a few of the consequences here, focusing on this theme in a later article - and also at my talk at the 2020 ISAR conference.

But let's begin. The first air conjunction occurred in 1980. Contemporary American astrologers were most struck by the fact that President Reagan, while attacked, was the first president not to die in office when associated with the years of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction. The breaking of the so-called Tecumseh's Curse was the first indication that circumstances had changed. But other facets of Reagan’s tenure were far more important for defining the change into air - and many of these were barely noticed at the time.

1980 Jupiter-Saturn conjunction for Washington, DC, USA.

First, let's consider how he won the presidency, apart from the astrological help of Joan Quigley. Reagan was the beneficiary of the shift in the Republican Party to a realignment based upon combining racism, conservative (Christian) religious values, and the more traditionally Republican business support. Reagan used the slogan “family values,” which was code for “traditional family values,” which meant white heterosexual married with children, with the wife in a subordinate position to the husband. As detailed in The long southern strategy : how chasing white voters in the South changed American politics, Maxwell and Shields demonstrate the parallel priorities of the American Republican Party in mixing racism and sexism in an attempt to create a new majority for the Party – a strategy that culminated in the election of Donald Trump. I do not believe that the air mutation is necessarily conservative by nature: air is as changeable as the wind. Nor do I believe it is necessarily religious, because secularism continued to jostle with religious fervor throughout this period, and,in the USA at least, the biggest religious trend was the growth of the religiously unaffiliated Nones. 

The evolution of the Southern Strategy was earth-based in that it occurred in the waning phase of the earth element conjunctions. As such, it was a practical assessment of what components of the American electorate could be combined to produce a consistently winning majority. In the 1950s, the bulk of the segregationists/racists were in the Democratic Party, because the Republicans were still being blamed in the South for the Civil War, and what they perceived of as the invasion of the South as its aftermath.It was the recognition that a white patriarchal religious mythos would produce an invincible voting bloc that moved the Republican Party out of its doldrums - but it also began the process of creating a polarized party rather than an inclusive umbrella.

The approximate chart for the conjunction shows the conjunction in the 4th house - a clear reference to the land of the USA, as well as for endings. But consider also that no region of the USA was more emotionally wedded to the land than the South:witness the rhetoric of Gone With the Wind if you doubt this point.

The Southern Strategy may have begun with pragmatism, but can it survive in an element as unstable as air? Before Reagan, Goldwater (unsuccessful) and Nixon (successful at first) provided the anchors, but it was Reagan who experienced the full benefit of the paradigm shift. Yet Reagan, who exemplified the shift through his 1980 election, was himself a child of the earth element - as were all those politicians on both sides of the divide. The new paradigm by definition is created by denizens of the old element. We could argue that Reagan had his feet firmly in both camps, with natal Sun in Aquarius and Moon in Taurus.

The positioning of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in the 4th house in 1980 may show that the appeal to family values would work. Beginnings and endings in the 4th house can be marked literally by family matters. Saturn is in exaltation in Libra: "traditional" (i.e., Saturn) are literally being exalted. But it's worth remembering that an exaltation is by nature a rise above one's place - and most of the time, an exaltation is followed by a fall! The wheel of fortune will truly turn. The patriarchs of the sky (and Jupiter has exaltation in the sir signs) make their marks in a cardinal sign and an angular house: more power to the patriarchs.

Our forebears, however,  knew they could not calculate this conjunction accurately enough to run a chart - so they relied on the lunation before it. In 1980, that lunation occurred on the day of the winter solstice - also a nice symbol for beginning// ending as implied by the mutational shift. 

Full Moon Prior and Jupiter-Saturn 1980

That this lunation was also at an ingress completely fortifies the conclusion of its importance. And here, the forming conjunction is in the 6th house of workers and health care. What Reagan and his group realized, far better than the Democrats of the time, is that many union members were quite conservative on social issues: a fact that meant that they were only natural allies with the Democrats because of the politics of unions.

This is a good example of the kind of beginning and end process so characteristic of a mutation. A substantial block of union members in such states as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania was Catholic: a group which, at the time, was not substantially aligned with the Republican Party. By breaking the unions, Reagan severed the strongest connection to the Democrats. Then by talking about family/moral values, the Republicans appealed to the social conservatism of these same voters. Substantial numbers of Catholics switched parties over the flash-point moral issues like abortion and family planning, rather than the more pedestrian traditional concepts of Christian charity and support for the downtrodden. While today there still is a majority of Catholics who lean Democratic, the number who voted for Trump in 2016 was 52%.

Reagan’s position as a pivotal figure was firmly cemented by such political scientists as Stephen Skowronek, who named his presidency as representing a paradigm shift, the first since Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s own paradigm-shifting presidency followed the major catastrophe of the Great Depression: the conditions in the USA in 1980 were comparatively mild exceptthat it was a mutation. Forces that had been coalescing since the 1950s attempting to push the USA to the right “suddenly” gained traction at the first appearance of the Jupiter-Saturn in air.

Another concept that appeared around 1980 was Reagan’s remark that the USA would be shifting to a service economy. What this meant at the time was not entirely clear, although perhaps it should have been. In 1980, the United States was a manufacturing country. The growth in the service sector would change the distribution away from the higher paying manufacturing jobs toward lower paying service jobs. This was one of many shifts which were part of the massive transfer of wealth to the 1% that began around 1970, in the waning years of the earth period. At the 1980 conjunction, we also see the approaching Saturn-Pluto conjunction (concentration of wealth) that is again forming now, at the beginning of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction which will cement the air mutation after its brief dalliance back in earth.

But where did the shift to the service economy occur? Among the biggest growth industries since the 1960s is the health care industry - yet another 6th house player. It was Nixon's favor to Edgar Kaiser that resulted in the HMO Act of 1973- which made health care the for-profit juggernaut it became, resulting in the health care industry becoming the leading employer in many communities.

Earth views the purpose of life through work. Whether in the form of contrast between humans and other species through the use of tools, or as a moniker for craftsmanship, earth views the measure of who we are through the lens of our work. On one end, materialism is king,but also the process of manipulating matter. Work may produce the food we need, or the everything things that we use. When we consume, we consume things, whether clothes, shoes, food, or cell phones. Work itself is an honored state.

By contrast, air is almost non-material. It’s hard to envision the attraction of money as cryptocurrency in an earth era, but easy to see the concept in an air era. Air moves things around through the wind. Air circulates. It can be calm or stormy, but it suggests motion.

Air includes speech and language, which is how we communicate. Earth is cold, and thus not so eager to talk about nonfunctional things; air is hot, and so ready to talk about nearly everything. Earth is dry, and thus wanting clear criteria and definitions; air is wet, and thus open to sliding scales, and evolving goals. The fact that both of the Aristotelian qualities of cold and dry going to hot and wet change in this mutation means that this is one of the two mutational shifts which are truly major in scope: the other is the transition from water (cold and wet) to fire (hot and dry).

However, consider the primary rulership of the air element: Mercury and Saturn, who not only rule two of the three signs, but also the day and night Triplicities. Mercury is the planet of youth, while Saturn is the planet of age. Reagan was, at the time, the oldest president the USA had experienced. And he managed to inspire two generations of conservative youths and younger politicians, so much so that he wrested the paradigm for American society from the post-depression ideals of Democrat Franklin Roosevelt to a new hegemony of the Republican Party.

Conservatism, progressivism, and moderation are not the only way to split an electorate, even if they are markers for the current era. This shift to air will speed up the changes. In Astrology of Sustainability, in speaking of Pluto sign ingresses, I talked about how roughly the first third of Pluto's appearance in a sign is about cleaning up the excesses of Pluto in the last sign. Now, as we re-enter Jupiter-Saturn in Aquarius, we have all the detritus of the conjunction in earth lined up before us: the environmental damage, the accumulation of wealth, the death of diversity and species. Sludge has truly happened. And we also have the sludge of decisions: one of them being the deliberate choice to deify white heterosexual maleness to the detriment of all others. The tide has turned, and this group, which was never an absolute majority, but merely a convenient basis for fear-mongering, is still the target of manipulation, which creates the rage of the falsely entitled, and sets up so much chaos for the future.

Air will change. New coalitions will form. In the aftermath of the retrogression of the conjunction back into earth, two generations have been born into the air mutation, which will now take over the full transition to an air-based body politic. 

Weather has always been seen as a phenomenon of air. Climate is weather expressed over time. It is not surprising that an earth-bound society could not fix, let alone fully grasp, the effect of climate change. These changes are coming, and they are likely to be startlingly fast - like the wind. Fox News has peaked. The king is dead! Long live the king!


Abū Ma’šar, Keiji Yamamoto, and Charles Burnett. On Historical Astrology : The Book of Religions and Dynasties (on the Great Conjunctions). 2 vols. Islamic Philosophy, Theology, and Science, 33–34. Leiden ; Boston: Brill, 2000.

Lehman, J. Lee. Astrology of Sustainability: The Challenge of Pluto in Capricorn. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Press, 2011. Maxwell, Angie, and Todd. G Shields. The Long Southern Strategy: How Chasing White Voters in the South Changed American Politics, 2019.

Skowronek, Stephen. The Politics Presidents Make : Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1997.