In 1612, Galileo gazed through his little telescope (practically a toy by today's standards) and saw what looked like a dim star — except that, unlike the other stars, it moved. He even drew a picture of it, and if he'd been thinking, he would have realized that it was a planet. Alas, he didn't put two and two together, and he missed the opportunity to identify Neptune.
Two hundred years later, Neptune continued to be elusive. By the middle of the 19th century, two scientists, one French and one English, working separately, had pinpointed the planet's location in theory but neither could gain access to a large telescope to confirm it. If they had, they would have found it in precisely the predicted spot (in Aquarius). But neither of them had the wherewithal to make it happen. Finally, in 1846, one of them asked astronomers in Germany to undertake a search for the new planet. Johann Galle, a young assistant at the Berlin Observatory, found it within an hour.
In NASA photographs, Neptune looks like a luminous turquoise marble, almost without features. Astronomers classify Neptune as a gas giant because, like Uranus, it's essentially a ball of gasses swirling around a metal core. It sports a dim halo of barely visible rings and has at least eight moons, including Triton — the coldest place in the solar system.
Neptune is named after the Roman god of the sea. Its symbol (see Figure 10-2) resembles that god's three-pronged trident.
The symbol of Neptune.
Assessing Neptune's influence
Impressionistic Neptune rules intuition, dreams and visions, psychic ability, imagination, glamour, and everything that flows. Neptune finds expression in dance, music, poetry, and daydreams. It stimulates compassion, dissolves boundaries, and sensitizes anything it touches. Idealistic and deeply spiritual, it also has a dark side. Neptune is the planet of illusion, confusion, deceit, vagueness, and wishful thinking. When prominent in a positive way, Neptune brings artistic talent and imagination, spiritual leanings, and psychic abilities. Under negative conditions, it accentuates the tendency to drift and increases the danger of addiction, hypochondria, and escapism.
Neptune doesn't affect everyone equally. Like the other outer planets, it tends to influence generations more strongly than individuals. But there are exceptions. How can you tell if you have a powerful Neptune? Neptune occupies a prominent position in your birth chart if
1 It occupies an angle — that is, it's in the first, fourth, seventh, or tenth house of your chart. It's especially strong if it's near your Ascendant or Midheaven. (See Chapter 11 for more on Ascendants and Midheavens.)
i It makes a number of close aspects to other planets and, in particular, to the Sun, the Moon, or the planet that rules your Ascendant. (See Chapter 13 for a discussion of aspects.)
i You have one or more planets in Pisces.
Neptune spends an average of 14 years in each sign. To discover its position in your chart, turn to the Appendix.
Neptune's position by sign describes the ways your generation is most idealistic — and most unrealistic. Its position in your horoscope represents an area of imagination, idealism, and spirituality (on the positive side), and aimless drifting, confusion, and deception (on the negative side).
1 Neptune in Aries (1861 to 1875): Members of this generation had an intuitive sense of self and took an active approach to their spiritual life. They could be wildly inconsiderate, and they had trouble regulating their aggression, being at times far too weak (like Neville Chamberlain) and at other times far too reckless (like Winston Churchill at Gallipoli). But one member of this generation, expressing Neptune in Aries at its most rarefied, transformed the very nature of conflict: Mahatma Gandhi, the prophet of nonviolence (who was nonetheless assassinated in 1948). Neptune returns to this position in 2026.
1 Neptune in Taurus (1875 to 1889): People born with this placement loved art, soft textures, rich food, real estate, the beauties of nature, and all the sensual comforts. (Casanova, born in 1725, had this placement. So did Pablo Picasso.) They were tuned into the physical world and responded intuitively to the rhythms of the body. But by and large they had difficulties in dealing with the practical stuff — finances included. Examples include Isadora Duncan, Virginia Woolf, and Albert Einstein. Neptune returns to the sign of the bull in 2039.
il Neptune in Gemini (1889 to 1902): People born during the last decade or so of the Gilded Age had subtle, clever, complicated minds along with literary talent, a tendency to be shallow, and a vast capacity for spin. (Edward Bernays, known as "the father of public relations," was born with this placement.) They idealized education and admired the intellect. But many of them struggled with the truth and may have discovered that the more you deceive others, the more you are deceived.
I Neptune in Cancer (1902 to 1915): "What a wonderful world," said the great Louis Armstrong, who was born with this placement. You agree. You're observant, receptive, and sentimental — and not just because you're old. The old-fashioned virtues of home, family, and country make you misty-eyed, and you tend to romanticize the past. (Which is not to suggest that your politics are necessarily conservative: Ronald Reagan had this placement, but so did Eugene McCarthy.) As part of the generation that experienced virtually all the great and awful events of the 20th century, you long for security and rely on family. As long as you feel protected, you're doing fine.
I Neptune in Leo (1915 to 1929): You're extravagant, artistic, and romantic — or at least you'd like to be. You idealize love, children, and the creative process. You take big risks — and you often win your outrageous bets. But you're prone to infatuation and may refuse to face reality, preferring the glitter of your fabulous ideals to the gritty imperfections of reality. And I hate to say it, but you can become so enamored of an ideal that you fail to see how moth-eaten it actually is.
I Neptune in Virgo (1929 to 1942): Neptune, the planet of murky vagueness, isn't happy in meticulous Virgo. With this placement, you can't always tell which details matter and which ones don't — so you may become anxious about all the wrong things. Hypochondria is a definite threat. But work that taps the imagination and spiritual activities that focus on service bring you joy.
I Neptune in Libra (1942 to 1957): Idealistic and compassionate, you long for tranquility, balance, and — most of all — love. You respond strongly to art and music. But romantic relationships are mystifying to you, and your high ideals about human interaction (and marriage in particular) are always bumping up against reality. If you were born with this placement, you can expect to experience great shifts in the rules of human relationships over the course of your life.
I Neptune in Scorpio (1957 to 1970): Dream interpretation, occult studies, and mystery novels pique your interest, but nothing fascinates you more than the workings of the psyche. A detective of the spirit, you project an aura of magnetic intensity and instinctively understand the concept of sexual healing. But you're also prone to sexual extremes and self-destructive behavior, and you may be unable to recognize the sources of your own pain.
1 Neptune in Sagittarius (1970 to 1984): Questions of philosophy, faith, and religious values intrigue you. You find them easy to discuss but difficult to resolve. On some level, dogma makes you uncomfortable because your belief system is constantly evolving. You have a thirst for personal freedom and travel (ideally to sacred spots). But you tend to be gullible, and you're easily misled. Be cautious in dealing with anyone who wants to be considered a guru. Sooner or later, you're going to feel mighty uncomfortable about that.
1 Neptune in Capricorn (1984 to 1998): You're ambitious, pragmatic, and nostalgic about the old-fashioned values of the past — or the past as you imagine it. You long for success and idealize the world of business, but you may have trouble acknowledging problems you experience there. Vagueness and uncertainty make you uneasy, and you must combat a tendency to overreact by becoming authoritarian. Your spiritual longings are best satisfied within structured organizations.
1 Neptune in Aquarius (1998 to 2012): As one of the enlightenment-seeking, technologically gifted, altruistic people born since Neptune entered Aquarius in 1998, you possess an intuitive sense of the common good and a progressive approach to social reform. But you may idealize your friends, and your desire to live in a utopian community with a simpatico group of spiritually-minded, ecologically-aware individuals may be more difficult to achieve than you imagine.
1 Neptune in Pisces (2012 to 2026): You have the typical traits of Pisces — squared. You're psychic, generous, creative, empathetic, mystical, gullible, possibly self-destructive, a lover of fantasy and film, an aficionado of complex (or ascetically pared-down) music, a daydream believer, and a likely candidate for all manner of addictions. Sigmund Freud, Johann Sebastian Bach, Vincent van Gogh, and Theodore Roosevelt all had this placement. The next Neptune in Pisces generation should be interesting to watch.
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