May, 2005, a year later
The discovery of a new planet is always a challenge to integrate and assimilate into our consciousness, for its discovery means a hitherto unavailable part of our inner self is now suddenly thrust into the bright light of awareness demanding our attention. The newly-discovered planet, Sedna, is a good case in point.
Her 10,500-year orbit around the Sun immediately challenges our assumptions about the outer limits not only of our solar system but of our consciousness and our place in the world, both physically and metaphysically. By examining, step by step, the unique astronomy of Sedna, the mythology of Sedna, and the analytical tools given to us by Dane Rudhyar, we can pinpoint the Sedna archetype and how it works in the natal chart.
Sedna’s placement in the natal chart is not so much a mystery as a revelation of a new aspect of ourselves which each of us as individuals must now learn to integrate into our conscious being: the caretaker of humanity and this planet.
First let’s look at the astronomy. Prior to the announcement of Sedna’s discovery in early 2004, we divided planets into two major categories, the inner and outer planets. The inner, or seven ancient planets, were and still are the symbolic representation of our conscious awareness of society and our personality. Our astrological forebears studied them for millennia, and quite properly we still put great emphasis on them today.
Uranus, the great liberator, blasted our complacency out of the water at the end of the eighteenth century when his discovery opened up the outer planets, which now include, additionally, Neptune, Pluto, and the many transneptunians such as Quaoar and Orcus. Chiron conveniently bridges the gap between the inner and out planets.
Dane Rudhyar gives us the tools to start analyzing these two categories, inner and outer planets. His final book, The Astrology of Transformation, is the basis of my work in karmic astrology, and it is not my intention to summarize his work here. May I respectfully suggest you dust off your copy and reread it. (Rudhyar is always worth rereading.) Rudhyar’s point with the outer planets is that they represent the transpersonal energies inside each of us which we may use on a spiritual journey to regain our connection to our Source, however it is one chooses to define that Source.
The outer planets then, with orbits of 80-odd years to 300-odd years around the Sun, are more or less gathered together in the same neighbourhood performing the related metaphysical functions of showing us our path out of personality (inner planets) into a transpersonal All (outer planets). God is still in her heaven and all is well with the world in this approach.
Then ka-boom. Sedna arrives. A 10,500-year orbit? How in the world does that fit into this nice little schema of inner and outer planets? Short answer: Sedna doesn’t. Sedna represents a new category of planet, a third category which hasn’t been officially named by the astrological community. However, my third house Moon in Aries demands a label, so for the purposes of our discussion here I’m going call Sedna the first of the Great Year planets .
Here’s why. The Great Year is defined by the precession of the equinoxes, and the precessed cycle is some 25,770 years long by current scientific calculations. Geophysically precession is simply the slow wobble of the Earth’s axis, and it gives us the 12 ages of the zodiac, the Age of Aquarius and the Age of Pisces being the most current and most famous.
The Mayan calendar, tied inextricably to Mayan cosmology and its attendant astrological system, neatly defines the demarcation point for the ending and beginning of a Great Year as that time when the Sun, the ecliptic, and the centre of the galaxy are conjunct. That only happens once every 25,770 years, and December, 2012 is the next occurrence. The centre of the galaxy, now around 27 degrees Sagittarius, was considered a sacred spot by the Mayans, the place from with God emerges, to very crudely translate their complex cosmology. These days we know the centre of our galaxy, and most galaxies for that matter, to be a black hole, an intriguing phenomenon which likely is also a dimensional gap into the metaphysical planes.
Yet the precession cycle, long though it be, is just a cycle, and according to Rudhyar’s work, we must look at the quarter, halfway, and return points in any cycle for key periods of change. The halfway point, which according to Rudhyar is a key period when the cycle either comes to fruition or collapse, is about 12,885 years for a Great Year.
While Sedna’s orbit is about 2,300 years shy of an exact match to the half cycle of precession, the astronomers who discovered Sedna have made it very clear they expect to find several more planets like Sedna in the same distant neighbourhood. In other words, as we come to end of a Great Year cycle according to an ancient astrological system, we discover the first of a group of planets whose orbital period approximates the half-cycle of the Great Year.
Draw such conclusions as you may be comfortable with, but I do not consider this to be coincidence, which is why I call Sedna the first of the Great Year planets.
This, of course, leaves us with the question of the significance of the Great Year itself in human terms. This is an area ripe for speculation, as our written record of human history gets fuzzy for the era of two and three thousand years ago, and disappears for the most part for events more than five thousand years ago. For 12,000 and 25,000 years ago, we are in the realm of myth and legend, which is much like being in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store. Which flavour would you like?
But there are tantalizing hints. It’s not just the stunning level of mathematical accuracy of the Mayan calendar that suggests an earlier civilization, now lost to us, whose observational and computation skills were impressive. Other ancient civilizations have left us knowledgeable fingers pointing to the past. Stonehenge and the pyramids (the Sphinx is now dated to be 10,000 years old) also point in the same direction. Impressive math does not function in a vacuum, such math requires a sophisticated society to support it. Archaeologists need to keep digging to get us the physical evidence of the ancient civilization(s) which produced this remarkable math.
So here’s my point. Through the mists of antiquity we see the last wisps of a mathematically sophisticated society which deemed it of great importance to identify the cusp of the 25,770-year cycle precession cycle. Rudhyar speaks clearly that the end of a cycle, however long, is simultaneously the beginning of a new cycle. The waning Moon always becomes the New Moon. And now as we stand at the cusp of this precession cycle we discover a new planet loosely tracking the half cycle.
Sedna, then, is the harbinger of the new 25,770 cycle in the evolution of this planet, or at least the evolution of humanity on this planet, and to understand her we must expand our consciousness today in the same fashion that our ancestors in the 1790s had to expand their consciousness when Uranus was discovered. It is necessary to think of human evolution in terms of 25,770-year blocks of time, not 12-year or 29year blocks, or 84-year blocks. We have just been lurched out of a rut.
So to what does Sedna then speak? We turn to the mythology of Sedna to get our first clues. Sedna is the head goddess of the Inuit, the indigenous people of northeastern Canada (Labrador) and Greenland. Several different versions of her myth exist. (Click here for a detailed summary of Sedna's diverse mythology.) However, here is a very brief summary. It is not a story for the squeamish.
Sedna is beautiful young Inuit woman living with her father. She has turned down all requests for marriage, but one day a handsome well-dressed stranger arrives and she winds up marrying him. After she paddles off to his island, he reveals himself to be not a human but a fulmar, a birdman, and all his promises of a fine life are lies. Sedna is forced to live in a cold smelly nest of twigs with no food to speak of.
Her father eventually discovers her plight and paddles off to rescue her. But as father and daughter are paddling back home, the bird man and his relatives fly in to attack their kayak. In the course of the battle, Sedna falls into the ocean. As she struggles to get back in the kayak, her father, in an attempt to save himself, cuts off her fingers one by one as she tries to grasp the edge of the boat.
Sedna then falls into the frigid Arctic water and drowns. Her fingers become the fishes, the seals, the walrus, and the whales, and she sinks to the bottom of the ocean where she becomes the goddess who provides the food for the tribe. She is a strict goddess. If the tribe obeys her rules and treats the fish, seals, walrus, and whales with respect, she provides the ocean animals as food.
However, if the tribe disobeys and does not respect her rules for proper treatment of the animals she withdraws the food. The tribal shaman at that point is required to travel to the bottom of the sea to appease the goddess and find out what corrections the tribe must make to get the food back.
No, it’s not a pretty story, and we need to look at Rudhyar’s system of analysis to put this rather chilling myth in context. In his book, The Astrology of Transformation, Rudhyar says that the energies represented by every planet may be manifested and used in one of three more or less distinct fashions, which some have quickly (and loosely) described as density, journey of liberation, and enlightenment. I usually describe the three as beginners (mired in density and a majority of the population right now), intermediate (the seekers on their spiritual journey), and spiritual (which makes more sense to me than enlightenment).
For example, the energy of Mars can be manifest as quarrels and fights (beginners, density), climbing to a mountain retreat to take yoga lessons (intermediate, journey of liberation), or awakening kundalini and living peacefully (spiritual). It’s all Mars, but just at different levels. Rudhyar says we have to work through the three levels of each planet in our chart, and some days (and lifetimes!) are better than others for each planet.
Once we understand the three levels of Sedna and her place in the Great Year cycle, she makes sense as a planetary energy in the natal chart. The beginners level for Sedna, or for those buried in density, is victimization. Indeed, many in the pagan tradition call Sedna the goddess of the victim. At this unevolved level, a person can either be a victim or a victimizer. Check with your local social worker for appropriate horror stories. If my astrological clientele is any indication, the victimization is often for no good or apparent reason. The individual just gets dumped on. As the old saying goes, shit happens.
At the intermediate level, the energy represented by Sedna both follows Rudhyar’s schema but also departs from it. Rudhyar says that after a period of time or lifetimes, the individual gets fed up with the garbage of the beginners level, and makes a decisions to do whatever is necessary to break free of the recurring garbage. This in turn results in the individual beginning what is a great journey of liberation. Rudhyar doesn’t actually describe the journey, but anyone acquainted with Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, knows the plot line. It is the greatest adventure of them all, the journey out of density to the light. (Ninth house people love this stuff. Check in with one of them for details.)
Yes, at the intermediate level, the energy represented by Sedna does involve letting go the density of victimization and taking a journey to the light. But, where Rudhyar correctly observes in the inner and outer planets that the decision to set off on the journey is free choice, in the case of Sedna, no free choice exists. Now pause for a moment and let this one sink in. Sedna is in a new category of planet, and the rules are a little different. There is no free choice. Let’s look at the myth. Sedna had no choice but to die. She was betrayed and killed by her father. But she became an immortal, the goddess of the ocean.
At the intermediate level, Sedna represents the energy which forces us, whether we wish it or not, to let go of our mortality and accept our immortality. Please understand this does not mean anyone is going to die. This is an emotional and psychic reference point. It is a state of consciousness. Are we merely a mortal who will die and disappear after a few years? Or are we an immortal soul, who just happens to be having a temporary adventure in the material plane? Sedna at the intermediate level represents that life experience which forces us to answer no to the first question and yes to the second question.
Here’s the curious part. While we seem to have little or no choice over being put in a situation which requires us to produce the correct answer to the two questions above, we can decide to make the situation an easier one rather than a tougher one. My early observation with clients over the last year leads me to this preliminary conclusion. Trines and sextiles (and no oppositions and squares) to Sedna predispose one to the easier circumstances. Conversely those with oppositions and squares (and no trines and sextiles) are inclined to do it the hard way. A mix of hard and soft aspects could go either way.
Note that predispositions are just that. They are not certainties. This is where we as astrologers can really help our clients by pointing out to them that they are facing a couple of tough questions in their current life, and the client might wish to put some thought into the questions before life circumstances (like heavy duty transits!) force them to think about it in an unpleasant situation.
It’s at the spiritual, or top level that Sedna (and any other planet for that matter) becomes quite wonderful. Rudhyar says it is our goal to get every planet in our chart working at the spiritual level. If that sounds like a big job, well we do have as many incarnations as we need to complete it.
It is common for manifestation of the spiritual level of a planet to bear little resemblance to the earlier, lower levels, and Sedna is no different. Again we need to look at Sedna’s myth. At the end of the myth, Sedna is the immortal, the goddess who feeds the tribe. Given her brutal treatment, one could easily understand her going off and letting the tribe go rot. But not so. She sticks around and provides for the tribe. Nonetheless, there is a catch. The tribe had better treat the animals of the ocean well, and not mess around or she will withdraw the food. In other words, she is the provider and caretaker, but she is a very no-nonsense caretaker. The key here is her no-nonsense attitude. The energy of Sedna manifesting at the spiritual level represents the nononsense caretaker of humanity. Compassion with a hard edge, if you will, but a hard edge for good reason.
Now let’s put all the pieces together. We stand at the end of a 25,770-year cycle of evolution of humanity, and if today’s newspaper is any indication, things are a mess. But we simultaneously stand at the edge of a new 25,770-year cycle of human evolution where maybe, just maybe, we could get it right. Enter Sedna, whose message is: get it right in the way you treat this planet or pay the consequences.
So how does the individual do that? Easy. We just look at the house position of Sedna in the natal chart. Houses are easy to understand. They are simply areas of human activity. Which house is Sedna in? That is the area of human activity where the individual must deal with the Sedna energy. Aspects from the lower planets (yes the inner and outer planets are lower planets to Sedna) will mediate, mitigate, and in some cases mess up Sedna, but look at the house. It’s the house that counts.
For instance, Sedna in the 7th house is crystal clear to me now. I’ve seen several individuals with retrograde Sedna in the 7th house, squares and oppositions to Sedna, and no trines or sextiles. In each case, victimization in relationships prior to first Saturn return was a major life issue to overcome. The situation tormented them until they let go their attachment to the dysfunction, their victim identity, and found their immortal identity, their soul, within. By the time they arrived to see me for their reading, all they needed was to be informed of their destiny to be the nononsense caretaker of humanity in one-on-one settings. At that point, a light lit up inside them.
By contrast, those with a direct Sedna in the 7th house and just trines and sextiles, had no history of abuse and victimization, and would not countenance any such behaviour by others in their life. Period. Full stop. End discussion. But they still needed to hear about their role as caretaker of humanity, and yes the light lit up inside.
We’re still in early days with Sedna, and there is much to learn. For instance, I’m seeing both the 6th and 10th houses similarly so far. The difference between being victimized in a job (6th house) or a career (10th house) has not been singularly evident. Usually a job or career change is required to get to the intermediate stage of the Sedna energy, often forced if hard aspects are presents without the soft aspects to mitigate. The soft aspects tend to make the career change much, much easier.
So the rule of thumb is the affairs of the house in which natal Sedna is located are where a person either suffers victimization, or simply does not allow victimization if that lesson has been learned in this or a previous life. It is also the area of life where experience will force a person to let go their attachment to mortality. But the gift to the world is that once this process of growth is complete, the house placement of Sedna is where the person can assist the planet and humanity in a time of great change by doing their bit to be the caretaker of humanity.
If you want to learn more about Sedna, warm up your assorted ephemerides and take a look at your recent past. Between June, 2005 and January 2006, Jupiter by transit opposed the natal Sedna of everyone born in the 20th Century. The Indigo Children (born approximately in the 1990s) got three passes of Jupiter opposing their Sedna, and the rest of us got a single pass. (Click here for a free Sedna ephemerides, and click here for a free ephemerides which includes Jupiter.)
My experience with any of the new planets is that the hard Jupiter transits (conjunction, square, opposition) will magnify the effect of the new planet, and make it easy to observe. The opposition in particular brings others (victimizers? caretakers?) into our lives to catalyse the expression of the Sedna within each of us. Observe what happened to your family, friends, clients, and, of course, yourself. Please share your observations in the New Planet Forum on this website so that others may also learn from your experiences. By early 2006, we all had the experience to become experts about Sedna.