Neptune was first observed by Galileo December 28, 1612, when it was zodiacally exactly conjunct Jupiter at 26° Virgo . . . however, Galileo thought it was a fixed star.  He did not know that Neptune was, in fact, stationary-retrograde on that very day, thus apparently motionless.  Also, he was seeing it with Jupiter, (both at 26° Virgo) a known “wanderer”, thus he could not have realized Neptune was a planet given the circumstances. Also, Neptune only covers a span of about 3 degrees every 18 months. Not a speedy pace.

Galileo observed Neptune, again, January 27th, 1613, but the cosmic shaman was thwarted both by the quality of his telescopes and the fact that Neptune was full into retrograde motion. At both sightings Neptune remained elusive to our collective consciousness, hiding in retrograde motion, disguised as a fixed star.

After numerous observations when Neptune was finally apprehended, the sun was opposed to it, at the “flashpoint” of a retrograde planet iii . . . but it was not firmly established until “around midnight” of the 23rd to 24th September, 1846, when it was exactly conjunct Saturn at 25° Aquarius. The symbolism of Saturn containing Neptune may be a bit arcane, but I like the image . . . of the elusive, ineffable, illusionary Neptune being “grounded” by the old Titan deity, Kronos, the boundary of visible planets in our family system.

So, it would be 234 years later, September 24, 1846, well after the sighting of Uranus, that Neptune became known as the second trans-Saturnian planet.   The final sighting and establishment of Neptune as one of our solar system planets was fraught with obscurity, confusion, and mathematical eccentricities . . . such are the nature of this great planet.

We are now just past the exact anniversary of Neptune’s sighting – it first returned to 25° Aquarius in March/April 2009 and its final return when it went stationary-direct in November 2010 – when Neptune returned to its place at 25° Aquarius.  Now, astrologers have a full conscious round of Neptune to look back over.  That Neptune was sighted in the same degree as the United States’ natal Moon manifests in many events that are descriptive of Neptune’s daemonion as we perceive and experience it in astrology – both personally and globally, historically and currently.

astrological chart

On the Seas of Liminality – Neptune in Pisces

As Neptune now begins its transit to and fro 0° Pisces over the next eighteen month retrograde/direct pattern, it will cross the first degree three times before firmly establishing its home in November 2012.

It will remain in Pisces through March 21, 2025 when it begins its sojourn in Aries.

1. April 4, 2011 Neptune enters Pisces – 0° 00’
June 2, 2011 Neptune Stations rx – 0° 55’ Pisces
Nov 9, 2011 Neptune Stations D> – 28° 08’ Aquarius
2.  Feb 3, 2012 Neptune direct pass into Pisces – 0° 00’
June 4, 2012 Neptune Stations rx – 3° 09’ Pisces
3.  Nov 10, 2012 Neptune Stations D>  – 0° 21’ Pisces

Neptune returning to its own sign – mind you, assigned to usurp Jupiter’s domain in Pisces upon its sighting – puts the global transit of it as a collective experience of thresholding, transitioning and a sense of chaotic dismemberment of identity and chaotic loss of knowing who we are and what to do.

This is evident in the religious wars now occupying the Middle East in active war . . . as well as more subtle acts of war, the loss of cultural boundaries, the dissolution of territory and “place” for billions of people on our planet.
Too, there is the coincidence of phenomenal Earthly incoherence, where entire polar formations are melting, ground is upwelling, tectonic plates cracking and earth splitting asunder.

Neptune rules earthquakes and the resultant tsunamis; volcanic activity is more Plutonian – the vulcanization of earth is Hephaistos, the chthonic (earth) god who is known as Vulcan in the Roman theocracy, and is the craftsman and metallurgist, husband of Aphrodite.  The sudden tearing asunder of entire nations is Uranian in its revolutionary/collective tribal role.

Nuclear meltdowns are both Uranian and Plutonian, but the resultant toxicity and its invisible terrorism and creeping death is very much Neptunian, and requires a new vision to adapt, morph and move toward the next stages of our personal and global lives . . . the horoscope figure above symbolizes this creation/destruction tension perfectly.

So, we are aware of these phenomena – but we may not be aware of them as cyclical; that the ending of every Great Epoch has been affected in a fit of high innovation and ingenuity coupled with dire cultural extremes that end entire civilizations, giving rise to long sleeping archetypes in which we all undertake a new apprenticeship.  To begin again, to take a step across the threshold, to a new global archetype and an evolutionary step forward, is actually an incremental backward step through the precession of the equinoxes, the Great Ages of the planet earth.

The Threshold:  Your Personal Odyssey

“It furthers one to cross the great water”   I Ching: Book of Changes

The state of being in between – you have left a known place, but have not yet arrived to your destination – is called liminality.  Literally, it is a place in the threshold, the ‘limen’.  It is best to be nemo – ‘nobody’ – in this place, on the seas of change.  ‘Nemo’ is the Latin translation from the ancient Greek ‘outis’, also meaning ‘nobody’ . . .

So, here we are, in the midst of massive global transits in synchrony with one of earth’s major evolutionary upheavals.  As background sound to our personal transitional experiences, this is very loud noise, and even if you do not know about it, you are part of it. We are all tied into it.  As David Suzuki says, “We ARE air.”  There is no demarcation of experience in the profound level of Weltschmertz – “world pain”.  We are in this together – we are one mind.

Each in our own fashion, of course.

Typically, people find themselves in the crossroads with shock and great resistance, and the threshold looming can shock the most intrepid traveler.

The beauty in this experience is pure shamanism:  we arrive to the crossroads, and see something we never have seen before.  What we see is the realization of who we are not !  The work of ‘not being’ is powerful, and many helpers (and tricksters) appear in the threshold, to guide and direct or warn and delay us.  This is precisely what a shamanic experience induces – a porous state of divine openness to the elemental agencies of nature and our deepest heart source. Thus, thresholding is an initiation, a rite of passage in which our individuation quickens through dissolving the bounds of the ego, and to greater or lesser degrees, identity morphing or dissolving.

When in a crossroads, on a new threshold and in the midst of a “sea-change” the most profound meeting is with our own self.  We meet ourselves in the crossroads and this experience requires a new form of relationship.  We find our old language inadequate to converse in a meaningful way . . . we are required to find new ways to commune, visit, encounter and be with ourselves.

Seeing the Neptunian analogy of a “sea change”, a state of being in-between, and experiencing loss of energy, identity, focus, drive, desire, passion and all the human forces that bring us to what we think of as our self, we will find some soothing remedy in the balm of Neptune . . . for he was a kind god to those he loved and who gave him his due.

The Crossing of the Threshold of change, experiencing stuckness, liminality and attendant grief, angst and revelation, occurs in varying states of intensity several times in the course of our lives.  There are as many varieties of astrological transits to natal transits that mark personal rites-of-passage as there are transitional states and people undergoing them.  There is no single indicator of undergoing the mysterious journey from one place to another.  Neptune and its attendant shape-shifters are exemplary of the archetypal metamorphoses we undergo when in the crossroads, and approaching the threshold.

The Sacred and the Profane

During a transit of Neptune to natal planets, regardless of the angle, one enters a realm of true mystery and mystical experiences.  I have found that Neptune is the least informative of planets . . . in that when it is transiting it washes away boundaries, shorelines, containers, definitions and all forms of ego control.  There are potentials for non-rational fears, high levels of anxiety, difficulty in decision making, falling into a ‘folie a deux’ – “madness of two” – being caught in a delusion collusion and not being able to really ‘see’ what you or others are doing!

This also arises in the collective – a ‘folie à plusieurs’– in which case large numbers fall into a fugue of mass psychology and inadvertently lose their individual identities, becoming “mob mind”.  We are now immersed in such a miasma en masse, while Neptune reinforces its position in Pisces, we will see increasing numbers of global – both dire and illuminating – ‘fashions’ parade before our minds and emerge in the social arena.

The timing of Neptune’s three entries into Pisces has an evolutionary process in its stages:

  • The first pass of Neptune is the opening of the doors of perception. There are subtle shifts in our cellular memory and neurological responses, the brain chemistry alters, requiring and bringing leaps in perception.  Many people seek out the metaphysical to coincide with their own metamorphosis.  Others seek out the River Lethe, the underground stream near Hades, whose name means “oblivion”, and is the root of lethal.


  • The second entry of Neptune into Pisces brings more information, more evidence of what the intention of the mass mind has in place.  For us, as individuals, we will find that there is more tangibility to the shifting forms of our lives, goals, ideas, fixations and even our illusions.  The problem with the whole issue of illusions or delusions is that they are always replaced immediately with another one or more, once the “illusion” is dashed!  Strange, but true.
  • The final passage of Neptune into Pisces will be as it stations-direct, when we can expect an inundation.  A clear image of what the global transit in all its innovative, creative, imaginative, magical and amazing potentials is about to form.  We are already seeing another rise, a peak, in interest in psychedelics and psychotropic substances, plant or chemical, in both scientific and medical fields, as well as active discussion on the legalization of various ethno botanicals and valid uses for them.


This, like all Neptunian things, has many faces.  The many faces are too numerous to write about here, but do range from positively dangerous, to ultimately liberating!

Shamans have been using plants and herbs, roots and vines as long as human kind has existed. However, it wasn’t until Neptune was sighted that we could say “we have a drug problem here.”

Drug addictionas we know it today, in the form of mass cartel hierarchy, from source to street, to child to man to anyone who seeks to undergo a religious experience, but doesn’t know how, is modern.  Yes there was laudanum for the ladies, and brandy for the men, but the addict as commonly found now, is a result of a laboratory – not a sacred rite of passage through the agents of a natural herbal or root based Gaia given plant.

Drug use is ancient, but what we have now, is not vaguely a shamanic or even a Dionysian rite of passage, a sacred ritual based on sacred origins. It is a travesty against the nature of the botanicals humanity has been given by (the gods if you wish) Gaia as one of her gifts to the soul and the healing of psyche.

So we will see the continuing rise in interest in natural medicine and “green dying”, in areas of exploration of the psyche and also psychology. The whole issue of “psychoanalysis” may be on its last legs. Psychology has been a door opener, and a mind expander and the greatest modern entry to the layers of the psyche, but since much of it in practice has been by and large “blame based,” at least in that form it is fading out as newer forms emerge.

There is some evidence that subsequent generations to mine (Pluto in Leo) are decreasingly interested in 19th/20th century conventional psychology, and much more interested in exploring alternative ways of perceiving their world, and breaking old ties that bind back to the generation/s before.

The rise of a new generation of astrologers at this time is hopefully a guarantee that the reuniting of the heavens and earth – the astrology of the times – will live to carry its gnosis into this new epoch, upon whose threshold we now stand.

Neptune Stories:
A time for sleep and dreams, and waking journeys to the other side of the crossroads, to distant shores, to home

The sacred place that we occupy when we are without identity and egoless, and are between the known departure point and the unknown destination, is one that needs to be treated with respect.  This space is a psychological, spiritual and a physical state of being. It speaks of a kind of ambulatory temenos, a sacred place where one undergoes a loss of ego identity.  You are not who you used to be, but not yet who you are to become.  This space and transition is always about giving birth to a new self.

The long, triple transit of Neptune over a degree is so akin to a sea-journey for anyone experiencing it, that the metaphors that arise in this transit are literal.  One becomes “nemo” – nobody/no one. It is not by accident that Jules Verne named the captain of his fictional ship Nautilus, Captain Nemo.  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is the story of a man whose origins are unknown. He is in a permanent state of “if” and “maybe”, “when” and “but.” This is the provisional, contingent state of liminality.

Nemo never leaves the sea, never puts a foot on solid land, eats nothing but oceanic foods and claims to have no interest in the affairs of the world above the deep, mysterious body of salt water.  He is a man in deep thresholding, nothing of his past is known, and his future is as limitless as the apparent horizons of the great seas.  It is hinted that he has lost his entire family and has no country of origin or affiliation, and abandoned land for permanent “in between” on the seas.

His motto on the ship Nautilus:  “moving in the midst of mobility”.

On Being Nemo

Poseidon, later adopted into Roman myth as Neptune, held the rulership of the oceans and the underwater tributaries of freshwater streams.  He was known as “Earthshaker”.  The striking of the earth with his trident, caused the earth to shudder climactically, resulting in the tsunami that we know today. He was also guardian of all who sail upon his realm. He was the vengeful one who punished both mortals and demi-gods if they defied the laws of the transitional state of liminality.

Poseidon mated with Medusa – the only mortal gorgon – and she gave birth to their child, Pegasus, and when Perseus severed her head and the winged horse flew out of it.  Poseidon’s domain over horses often is depicted by his avenging horse-crested waves crashing upon the shores.  Sea-goers would often sacrifice horses to Poseidon before sailing off to war.

Poseidon/Neptune is also known as the god who inflicted “the sacred disease” of divine fits, now known as epilepsy, according to Hippocrates, and like Dionysus, who inflamed the maenads into unthinkable madness, Poseidon would ‘cause the mind to shape-shift.’ Aristotle would have had Poseidon as the god of divine madness, being eternally in a state of mental shape-shifting or in contemporary terms, a visionary, a seer, poet and heretic.

We, ourselves, become the guests, the ‘strangers’ when we go through an identity shift and there is a crack in our perception of reality and we no longer relate to who we ‘used to be’ yet not who we ‘will be’.  This thresholding at the crossroads is a divine state of being in which we enfold ourselves in mythic occurrences.  We begin to look for signs and portents, and they also arise spontaneously, so we seek the mystery, the magical and the mythic.

Things become numinous, magical powers reside in objects, and meaning is derived from omens while the preponderance of synchronicity is profound. Even if it’s difficult, even if it’s in a state of pain, we might still arise each day with an excited feeling of adventure.  During change, one is vulnerable because one is open to attack and this is where it’s important to realize that there is a place of safety in this liminal state, but it is not found in the old places, since they have, themselves, changed.

Another Sea-Tale – The Long, Wrong Way Home

The ancient poem of Homer, the Odyssey, is the story of a sea-journey, where the hero is bound to the guest/stranger rules.  In the Odyssey many stories are directly related to liminality – Odysseus himself exemplifies this law of sacred transitional reality, of nonidentity. However, he transgresses the most important commandment when one is a journeyer, when on the seas of liminality.

After leaving the battle of Troy, and several adventures later, Odysseus (Ulysses) and his men climb a high cliff and enter the cave of Poseidon’s (Neptune) son, the greatest of the Cyclopes, Polyphemos.   Polyphemos being both brutish and hungry immediately eats two of Odysseus’ men!

Odysseus is trapped in the cave for another day, while four more of his men are devoured.  So, Odysseus gets the Cyclops drunk, burns out his eye with a smoldering post, and then sneaks his surviving crew tucked under the belly of a sheep, down the cliff to his awaiting ship.

The Cyclops, roaring and bellowing in pain, calls to his neighbors, “Help, help, I’m blinded, I’m blinded!”  And his neighbors call back, “Who did this to you, who has blinded you?”  And Polyphemos shouts down to Odysseus, “Who are you?”

To which Odysseus calls back up, “I am Outis”, which means ‘I am no-one.’  That is, he is a liminal being with no identity – which is perfectly in order of the liminal state, a state of being without identity. And so Odysseus’ actions are perfectly in order with the laws of transitional, in-between states.

Polyphemos then calls back to his concerned neighbors, “No-man did it, no-man did it,” and they all go away, since no one has blinded him, leaving Odysseus free to clamber down to his ship.

When first I read this story, I had an experience much like Freud must have when he read about ‘sons lying with their mothers in dreams’ – my pelt rippled!  Of course, I thought, when in transition – especially on the seas of liminality – one should be nobody.  It is the natural law of travelers.

That being: do not identify yourself, have no “I am-ness.” Ego means literally “I am.” And the rule of being on the seas of change is to let go, remain in a state of ego-lessness and discovery.  As soon as one seizes upon an identity to hold on to, then one is doomed to the whims of the offended natural law.

However, Odysseus was filled with the vigor and heroism of war and achievement, and suddenly he blows it.  He realizes midway down the cliff, what he has accomplished in damaging the vicious Cyclops – and he wants acknowledgement for what he’s done!  He wants to be somebody, not no-body.  As the Cyclops continues to bray down to him, “Who are you, what man are you?” Odysseus turns around and shouts back, “I am Odysseus, son of Laertes,” and immediately his fate turns.

From that point on Poseidon had it in for him. His entire journey of return to Ithaka is beset with ten years of delays, tests and trials.  Poseidon had protected him, until he violated the law of “in-between”, thresholding.

I would like to leave you with a poem by a modern Greek poet, C.P. Cavafy:

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid for them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.iv


Saturn in Transit: Boundaries of Mind, Body and Soul.  Erin Sullivan. Weiser Books. 2001 (first published by Penguin Arkana, 1991)

River Flow: New and Selected Poems.  David Whyte.  P. 362.  “Start Close In”. Many Rivers Press. Langley, Washington, USA.

Retrograde Planets: Traversing the Inner Landscape. Pp 119 ff, and P. 133.  Erin Sullivan. Weiser Books. 2001 (First published with Penguin Akana, 1992)

Collected Poems.  C.P. Cavafy. Trans Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Princeton University Press. 1992     To  hear this poem in Greek:
Permission granted from the author to reprint in: “The Astrology of Midlife and Aging” Erin Sullivan. Tarcher, Penguin Group. NYC. 2005.  pp 32/33

Want to learn more about Neptune? Listen to this podcast with Erin Sullivan and Chris Flisher. Neptune In Pisces: The Cosmic Womb – A spiritual and political birthing from 168 years of gestating and returning to its home. Neptune is the planet that represents dreams, visions and mysticism, as well as vast earth energy resource. Erin talks about Neptune’s sighting, and its relevance to its entry into Pisces and many aspects of this 168 year cycle.

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