Eco Worlds
By Eric Francis

IN OTHER NEWS, we now live in a solar system where there are about a quarter-million known objects orbiting our own Sun. Some have names. Many do not, they just have numbers or provisional designations.

Most people are stunned to learn this information, but it's true. Whole new classes of planets have been born in recent years. Some are Centaurs, like Chiron, which shuttle between the inner solar system and the outer (coming inside the orbit of Saturn and even Jupiter, and extending out to Uranus, Neptune or Pluto). Others are members of the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud, vast regions of space around and beyond Pluto (Orcus, Varuna, Sedna). Some defy easy categorization (such as Cyllarus, which is considered a Centaur but which goes out well past Pluto).

New discoveries are named by astronomers, who are part of our culture. Most have trouble recognizing the validity of astrology. Yet they respond to the world around them, and interrelate with the same symbols and references available to everyone else. Their naming choices are recorded perpetually in scientific history, creating a kind of diary of the times in which we live. In doing so, they are resurrecting the ancient gods and goddesses and placing them and their stories into public consciousness, sending us a message about what's happening in our world. It is interesting that folklore is now in the hands of scientists, who are effective at using it. We are being called through the awakening of ancient myths to pay attention to what is happening to our world right now.

Together, many of the recent names tell a story, one we've seen being acted out in the news in the past decade. Looking at several planets named in recent years, I see a pattern of naming choices related to the climate crisis.

Let's begin with Ceres, the first asteroid, named for the goddess of food and the patron of grieving mothers. She was discovered on Jan. 1, 1801 (the first day of the 19th century) and declared a planet, but was promptly relegated to asteroid status by science, and for the most part has been ignored by astrology. She was revived from obscurity and designated a dwarf planet in the summer of 2006, at the same time as Pluto and Eris, putting these three on the same level of consciousness. Ceres is about food, and our current ecological crises come back to food every way you look at it.

I'll give two examples. Food is related to petroleum and thus to the core environmental crisis; in many ways, it is petroleum. We must plow oil into the ground, in the form of fertilizers, pesticides, and the energy used for irrigation and farm equipment, in order to get anything back out of the ground.

Second, we have companies such as Monsanto taking over the biosphere with genetically modified plants. We have many reasons to be suspicious about the Frankenstein DNA of these plants, including what it does to us and to everything else that grows, but we never let this issue see the light of consciousness.

With Ceres, we have a combination of the themes of mother, food and loss/grief, which aptly fits our times today. She is the astrological stand-in for the struggle of Mother Earth, the nurturer. Interestingly, though, she was in the ascendant of the chart for the SUNY New Paltz PCB disaster.

Most of us have heard of Eris, a planet larger than Pluto that upset the known order of the solar system in the summer of 2006. She is the goddess of discord (named Discordia in Roman myth), though astrologically planets are always about more than their myths. Eris (originally called Xena or 2003 UB313), she gets more attention than any other minor planet, but for the most part, astrology still has no clue what to do with her.

Eris is currently the most distant known planet. If she is the goddess of discord and chaos, that is an invitation to take notice of the hormone chaos being created by the numerous pollutants we are exposed to. Today, the word 'pollution' is synonymous with hormone pollution: chemicals from aluminum to pesticides act as hormones in our bodies.

Many mimic estrogen, the main female sex hormone. This may help explain why sexual cancer rates are so high, why men today have half the sperm counts of their grandfathers, and why there are so many Viagra ads in your inbox. Eris was photographed in 2003, discovered in 2005 and named in 2006. She has an orbit of 557 years.* While I feel that Eris is most meaningfully considered as a means to understanding the chaos of our self-identity at this point in history, I am sure that much of that turmoil involves the condition of our endocrine systems. We are in a state of hormone vertigo that messes with our experience of gender, of one another, and with our feelings and internal messages in general. Think about that next time you see smoke pouring out of a smokestack.

Much of the planetary crisis involves water. Two recent discoveries were named for gods of water in a time when flooding is one of the dominant news items, as well as the health of the seas and freshwater bodies.

Varuna was a supreme pre-Vedic deity, and was also the lord of waters. He has influence in the levels of seas, streams and rivers, and most meaningfully, the failure to be responsible for our actions. Like Orcus, he's responsible for punishing those who don't honor contracts. Varuna was discovered in 2000 and has an orbit of 281 years. I call Varuna "the great equalizer." On a collective scale, this planet is calling us to take both personal and collective responsibility for our world.

Second is Deucalion, the Greek equivalent of biblical Noah. This planet was discovered in 1999 (the year of the grand cross/ total solar eclipse) and has an orbital period of 295 years. Deucalion has a complicated myth, one that you did not hear in school. Part of the story goes as follows.

"So Zeus set upon loosing a deluge, where the rivers would run in torrents and the sea encroach rapidly on the coastal plain, engulf the foothills with spray, and wash everything clean," Wikipedia writes. "Deucalion was to build an ark and provision it carefully (no animals are rescued in this version of the Flood myth), so that when the waters receded after nine days, he and his wife Pyrrha, daughter of Epimetheus, were the one surviving pair of humans. Their ark touched solid ground on Mount Parnassus, or Mount Etna in Sicily, or Mount Athos in Chalcidice, or Mount Othrys in Thessaly."

As far as the Greek myth is concerned, we are all descendents of Deucalion and Pyrrha. We had best remember him, and apply some of his ingenuity as the waters of the Earth rise up again.

Sedna is one of the most important discoveries in recent scientific history, named for the Inuit goddess who lives beneath the sea at the North Pole. This body was discovered in 2003. It takes Sedna 10,666 years to go around the Sun once, more than 40 times longer than it takes Pluto and about 20 times longer than it takes Eris. Sedna is a resident of what is called the Oort Cloud, a region in space further away than the Kuiper Belt where Pluto and many other small worlds planets exist. (Note that though Eris has nearly twenty times shorter orbit than Sedna, she is currently significantly further out from the Sun than Sedna.)

Sedna is said to have created the dolphins, whales and other cetations that are the source of food for the Inuit, and which are being killed or dying off in great numbers today. This is in turn a reflection of the environmental and moral condition of our planet.

Related to Sedna is Orcus. While Orcus of myth is described in Wikipedia as "a god of the underworld, punisher of broken oaths, more equivalent to Pluto than to the Greek Hades," he is the namesake of the orca whales (the supposed "killer whales"). Orcus has an orbit nearly identical to that of Pluto, 246 years. This planet was discovered in 2004.

Typhon was discovered in 2002, announcing an era when hurricanes and their resulting floods would dominate the news. Wiki tells us: "His name is apparently derived from the Greek 'typhein', to smoke, hence it is considered to be a possible etymology for the word typhoon, supposedly borrowed by the Persians and Arabs to describe the cyclonic storms of the Indian Ocean. The Greeks also frequently represented him as a storm-daemon, especially in the version where he stole Zeus's thunderbolts and wrecked the earth with storms."

Logos was discovered in 1997 and has an orbital period of about 305 years. Planet Waves astrologer Kirsti Melto has noted that this planet was prominent in the chart of the first computer program. Its name is the origin of the word and concept for language, which is prominent in any form of technology.

Logos was the actual Greek word used for "the word" in the phrase, "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God." So it's an interesting paradox, it is both language, logic and its opposite -- that for which there is no word, and cannot be expressed in words or understood by logic. This fits because computer programming is like playing god -- creating life, artificial intelligence, robots etc; computers are very much a microcosm for our stage of understanding of how the world works.

Logos is also a concept from our own era. "The primary meaning of logos is: something said; by implication a subject, topic of discourse or reasoning. Secondary meanings such as logic, reasoning, etc. derive from the fact that if one is capable of...speech, then intelligence and reason are assumed." We have an issue here, which is that in order to lie, we need language and we need to twist logic.

To do that, we must draw on the power of Ixion. Discovered in 2001 and having an orbital period of 250 years, Ixion was named for the first murderer recorded in Greek mythology (a former king and friend of Zeus). Ixion speaks to that which we are all capable of. While Ixion speaks to the truth that we really can do anything, this expresses itself more often negatively than not. How can oil executives rake in billions in profits while the planet plunges into climate turmoil? How can college administrators put students in dioxin contaminated dorms? For that, we need to have a long talk with Ixion.