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Even in our increasingly urban society, where farm life seems but a quaint reminder of some bucolic, bygone era, we still have to eat. Lest we forget who feeds the city, the vast, underlying power of the countryside has recently reasserted itself. The agricultural underpinnings of the European economy are currently threatened by a foot and mouth epidemic so potentially damaging that it has pushed the plummeting stock markets right off the headlines. The astrological indicators are well worth reviewing.

Large animals, and the wide, open spaces needed to maintain them, come under the astrological rulership of the planet Jupiter and the sign Sagittarius. Whereas small household pets tend to be associated with the sign Virgo and the astrological Sixth House, Sagittarius is more commonly associated with the training or ranching of animals, especially farm animals. In this current threat to the herds of England and the European Union, the influence of Sagittarius and Jupiter is unmistakable.

Foot and mouth disease is a deadly and highly contagious virus that only afflicts animals with cloven hooves, such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer. However, this hardy, airborne strain can be spread by almost anyone or anything: horses, boots, tires, hems and cuffs, sparrows, etc. It has been almost completely eradicated in the United States, where the last outbreak was in 1927, but it rages on in parts of Africa, Asia and South America. The disease can incubate for weeks, but it eventually raises painful blisters on the hooves and mouth of the animal, making it difficult to walk and eat. A slow, miserable death eventually follows. Untreated, the victim will linger long enough to infect the rest of the herd.

Small Beginnings, Rapid Spread

Since February 19, foot and mouth has raged in England, but it started from small beginnings. On that day, inspectors at an abattoir in Essex found symptoms of the disease in local pigs and quickly ordered the necessary tests. The following day, their worst fears were confirmed, and the news soon became public knowledge. A noon chart set for February 20 shows the astrological situation quite clearly.

In this chart, a particularly difficult t-square is forming, involving the Sun in Pisces, Mars in Sagittarius and Jupiter in Gemini. A t-square is a stressful alignment that involves two planets in opposition to each other (in this case, Jupiter and Mars), while a third planet (in this case, the Sun) forms a 90-degree square aspect to both. The resulting lineup looks like a letter "T".

The t-square is a dynamic, unstable configuration, demanding action and resolution. The stress will compile as each attempted solution generates further obstacles and frustration. The New Moon on February 23 at 4 degrees Pisces only aggravated the problem. It formed a tense, 90-degree square aspect to that troublesome Mars at 4 degrees of Sagittarius.

The limited condition of Jupiter, the largest of the planets, within the smallish confines of the sign Gemini, is evident here as well. Jupiter rules, or is associated with, the opposite sign, high-flying, no-fences Sagittarius. A planet placed in opposition to the sign of its rulership is considered to be in "detriment.” As the name implies, detriment can be uncomfortable or problematic. With Jupiter in detriment, and afflicted by that t-square/New Moon combination, the King of the Gods just hasn't been up to his usual largesse. This has definitely put a lid on all things Jupiter, limiting travel, transport, sports and outdoor life while filling the headlines with more bad news.

The Spread of Foot and Mouth

In the highly agricultural Irish Republic, a country depopulated by emigration, in some areas the sheep outnumber the people three to one. An outbreak of foot and mouth disease would be the absolute worst-case scenario. Draconian measures were immediately undertaken, bringing all animal transport to a halt, discouraging travel and tourism, canceling all sporting events, closing off playing fields and pitches and abandoning outdoor or public gatherings. St. Patrick's Day celebrations were either canceled or drastically scaled back, including the Dublin parade. Extreme, yes—but it worked, because the disease, which struck Northern Ireland in late February, has yet to cross the border.

Not so in England, where, to the dismay of the rest of Europe, it was pretty much business-as-usual. Although many did do their part to try to contain the outbreak, soccer and rugby matches continued, as did racing and horse shows. Organizers even tried to bully the government into allowing the largest racing festival of the year at Cheltenham to proceed. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed, but the damage had already been done. Arrogance and negligence took its toll and instead of going away, the epidemic raged and spread to France.

This weekend, Mars in Sagittarius will make a conjunction with Pluto. This union of two malefic and deadly planets implies that things can only get worse, and more international in scope. Pluto in Sagittarius, that dark cowboy riding the outskirts of the solar system, in combination with fiery, destructive Mars, could coincide with the largest slaughter of farm animals ever, potentially surpassing the 400,000 sacrificed during the English outbreak of 1967.

The vision of farmlands ablaze with the funeral pyres of innocent beasts will haunt us, for the only way to stop the disease is to do its work ahead of it. The economic and emotional implications will be with us for years. We have come so far, shrinking our world and conquering the borders that used to separate us, only to find that we still have so much to learn about sharing the planet with each other.



Courtney Roberts, M.A.,is a writer, teacher, and consultant, originally from Miami, FL. Her work reflects a unique perspective: a real passion for the 'big picture' that combines cosmology, religious studies and history with a lifetime of observing the dynamic interaction of spirit and cosmos.

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For more information about Courtney Roberts Conrad, click here.

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