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The Mountain Astrologer

A Generation on the Move

by Wendell C. Perry

Refugees In 2015, the world witnessed one of the most massive shifts in population since World War II. More than 600,000 refugees from the Middle East and Africa — most of them fleeing war, political oppression, and social chaos in their homelands — entered Europe during that year. This amazing influx of desperate people has created a crisis situation for many European countries. More importantly, there seems to be no immediate end to this migration. At least 100,000 new refugees entered Greece and Italy just in the first two months of 2016.1

These numbers don’t include the 1.9 million Syrian refugees currently living in camps in Turkey, or the hundreds of thousands who have fled to other, more stable Middle Eastern countries. (Syrian refugees now make up 25% of the population of Lebanon.) However, the source of this huge migration is not just the war in Syria. It includes people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and other troubled countries around the world. Even nations located on the European continent, like Albania and Kosovo, have contributed to the exodus.

Behind the statistics and their political and social ramifications, of course, there are millions of personal tragedies. Sad images and sadder tales abound, but perhaps the saddest tale is a story told by another statistic. Half the refugees pouring into Europe are children. Many of them come with their parents; however, it is estimated that more than 20,000 of these young people have arrived alone, with no adult to care for them.2

We could point to several astrological factors that are relevant to this historic movement of people. First of all, there is the recent ingress of Saturn into Sagittarius. While Sagittarius is associated with travel to distant lands, Saturn rules hardships and harsh realities. These refugees are “traveling” because the harsh realities they face in their homelands give them no choice, and they are facing significant, even deadly hardships along the way.

Saturn in Sagittarius could also be applied to the nations that are (either willingly or not) hosting these refugees. Saturn brings challenges, and Sagittarius rules the higher mind and intellectual openness. The sudden, overwhelming influx of immigrants has challenged the idealism and generosity of the people of Europe in a manner that is unprecedented. Some countries, like Germany, have answered this challenge by opening their borders. Others have reacted in a much more negative way. The Prime Minister of Hungary, for example, has proposed building a wall along the border between his country and Serbia to keep the immigrants out.3 (And you thought Donald Trump came up with that all by himself.)

Recent events, such as the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, have made the integration of these migrants into European society even more difficult. The influx of refugees has given new life to right-wing political parties all across Europe,4 while in the United States, President Obama’s offer to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees was met with sharp resistance by several Republican governors.5

The square between Saturn and Neptune (exact in November 2015 and again in June and September 2016) reinforces this challenge. At its highest level, the boundary-dissolving power of Neptune can become a catalyst for compassion — not just for people who look and talk like you but for everyone in the world. Saturn constricts this compassion and qualifies it with earthbound concerns and fears, some reasonable, some not.

Another astrological factor is the long-running square between Uranus and Pluto. The dramatic events that occurred while this aspect was closer, such as the civil war in Syria, the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, and the rise of ISIS, set the stage for this mass exodus. Uranus square Pluto has brought war and anarchy to many places around the world, and has generated a pervasive state of alarm and fear that touches even those of us who live in more privileged nations. The current refugee crisis could be seen as the natural fallout of this remarkable aspect.

The Generational Answer

It is standard astrological procedure to look at what’s currently going on in the sky when considering a crisis like this one. However, I also like to consider the horoscopes of the people impacted by the event and see what they have in common. In other words, I look to the placements of the slower-moving, generational planets when these people were born.

That’s why I was so struck by the large number of refugees entering Europe who have been classified as children. If we take age 18 and under as the basis for this classification and then look back to see where Neptune was 18 years ago, we find that it entered Aquarius in January 1998 and remained there through most of 2012. This means that the vast majority of these young people have Neptune in Aquarius. The only exceptions will be the very oldest members of the group and those younger than four years old.

In the past, I have written articles about the generational influence of Neptune and Pluto in various signs.6 My contention in these articles has been that Neptune shows us the vision, hopes, and dreams that are pervasive in a particular generation. For example, the first wave of Baby Boomers (born between 1943 and 1956) have Neptune in Libra. They came into this world with a vision in which everyone was to be treated fairly and equally. This contrasts sharply with the vision of the second wave of Boomers (born between 1956 and 1969) who have Neptune in Scorpio. They’ve impacted the world with a vision based more on subjective emotion and fear.

But what about a generation born with Neptune in Aquarius, a sign known for its rationalism and also its idealism? More specifically, how does a generation born with Neptune in Aquarius deal with the traumatic experience of being brought — through great difficulty and life-threatening trials — to a place utterly different from the land where they were born?

The Neptune in Aquarius Generation

Let’s answer these questions by first examining the vision we might expect from the Neptune in Aquarius generation as a whole. Before we do that, however, I need to insert my usual disclaimer. No one is, or should be, a perfect representative of his or her generation. We are talking about general trends here, trends that can be seen in the opinions and actions of very large groups of people. The fact that you, as an individual, may deviate from these trends is perfectly natural.

It so happens that the previous generation born with Neptune in Aquarius (between 1834 and 1848) included the group that first sparked my work in generational astrology. I have a particular interest in visual art and art history, and many years ago I came across an old book that provided a long list of major and minor Impressionist painters. The list also included the birth dates of these artists. For a research geek like me, this was a gift from heaven. I immediately got busy doing charts, looking for a unifying factor. What I found was that most of the artists listed (with a few notable exceptions like Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro) had Neptune in Aquarius.

For people who think of Impressionist paintings as pretty, inoffensive pictures in bright, pastel colors, this association with Aquarius might seem rather strange. However, during the time the Impressionist painters were creating these works, they were considered — and generally considered themselves — to be revolutionaries. Their exhibitions were lampooned in the newspapers and laughed at by the public. But these rejections seemed only to strengthen the resolve of the original core of painters, like Renoir, Monet, and Berthe Morisot (all with Neptune in Aquarius), and made the Impressionist style more alluring to the young artists who came out of that generation.

What drew these young people with Neptune in Aquarius to Impressionism was the fact that it was a style of painting that focused squarely on the modern world. There were no angels or gods in Impressionist paintings, no historic battle scenes. Impressionists painted the people and the scenes of their own time.

Everything about the Impressionist style of painting represented a break with the past and the arrival of something new. For centuries, painters had been starting their work with a medium-toned ground, an Aquarius initial layer of brown or gray paint. Impressionists, on the other hand, typically painted on a white ground, so that the brilliance of their colors was increased. They used purer colors to create their images, avoiding the muddled browns and blacks that characterized earlier works.

It wasn’t just their subject matter and their technique that made the Impressionists modern. It was also the technology of their time. The manufacture of paint in tubes, then a recent development, freed Impressionists from their studios and allowed them to paint directly from nature. Also, scientific discoveries in the field of optics had recently established that the eye doesn’t “see” the world, it reacts to light. It is the brain that organizes this perceived light into images. We may never know whether the Impressionists were aware of this science, but their concern for light and the looseness with which they rendered details certainly incorporated this new understanding of “seeing.”

Meanwhile, in the U.S., members of this same Neptune in Aquarius generation were also breaking with the past. However, they weren’t content with making images of the modern world. They were creating it. This trend was epitomized by two famous inventors: Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. Westinghouse’s development of alternating current made it possible to power Edison’s newly invented incandescent lightbulb over long distances. Together these men and their inventions provided the means by which darkness was defeated across the entire planet. At the same time, another Neptune in Aquarius inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, was revolutionizing communication with the telephone.

We find another feature of the Neptune in Aquarius generation’s vision in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (who had Neptune in Aquarius in a close trine to his natal Sun). Nietzsche still stands as one of the most iconoclastic figures in Western thought. His radical and, at times, outrageous ideas have influenced an incredible range of thinkers, from Adolf Hitler to Emma Goldman and from French existentialists to American neoconservatives. Nietzsche’s writings seem to have the unique capacity to excite the Aquarian revolutionary in everyone who reads them, regardless of their philosophical or political persuasion.7

What we can glean from these examples is that the vision of a generation born with Neptune in Aquarius will be a vision focused on the modern — on the world of their own time. But this is Neptune we’re talking about, of course, and Neptune is never satisfied with what it sees. It wants to dream and escape boundaries. For a generation born with Neptune in Aquarius, those dreams will be of the future, a future in which the possibilities presented by the modern world merge with fantasy and hope.

When we talk about the future, advances in technology become an issue. The vision of a generation with Neptune in Aquarius will be tied to technology and the advance of scientific knowledge. At the same time, there will be resistance to the mystical, magical, and nonrational ways of looking at the world that are typically associated with tradition and the past.

Then we have revolution, something that astrologers have long associated with Aquarius. However, we can’t expect the revolutionary spirit of this generation to be slanted in any particular direction. Like the philosophy of Nietzsche, the concern will be more with individualism than politics. Of course, that individualism would have to be in the service of a larger idea or cause. Any social constraint, any oppressive force — be it from the right, the left, or the center — will be regarded as the enemy.

The Neptune in Aquarius Refugees

So, what does all of this have to do with those unfortunate children riding rubber boats across the stormy Mediterranean? The fact that these younger refugees have Neptune in Aquarius tells us that, in general, they are unusually well equipped to make the most out of their relocation. The vision of Neptune in Aquarius requires a revolution. They’ve already had theirs. The status quo in which they are growing up is chaos. The traditions and cultural norms of their various homelands have been reduced to fragile memories.

Many of these young people will be entering Western countries in which modernity is the order of the day, and the future arrives with every new edition of the iPhone. Some of the young migrants are already familiar with this pace of living, and even if they aren’t, they will adapt quickly. They will adapt, not because they are particularly flexible, but because such a modern, future-oriented world fits their Neptune in Aquarius expectations.

DiagramThis generation will also have a special grasp of the importance of technology. A recent article in TIME Magazine pointed out that, for many of the refugees, their smartphone is their lifeline.8 It is their only link to family and friends who have already arrived in Europe, or who had to be left behind. It is likely that most of the migrants who are carefully wrapping their phones in plastic before departing — and then searching for a signal (the number three concern, after food and water) when they reach shore — are adults. Yet, their example will certainly impress the Neptune in Aquarius children who are with them. It will be a lesson that these children take to heart.

The strong orientation toward the future that we can expect from this younger generation of refugees could become the root of conflict between them and their elders. As time passes and peace is restored to the various parts of the world from which they fled (we can hope, can’t we?), the adult migrants (many of whom were born with Neptune in tradition-loving Capricorn) may well seek to return to their homelands, or at the very least attempt to preserve their customs in a foreign land. They will find their Neptune in Aquarius children, for the most part, thoroughly resistant to the notion of returning to the past.

It strikes me that this group of Neptune in Aquarius children, who now seem so unfortunate and pathetic, are destined to become vibrant and visionary representatives of their generation. Having been force-fed the perils of dysfunctional governance and obsolete social conventions from an early age, they could turn out to be leaders in the dramatic events sure to dominate the middle section of this century, when Uranus and Pluto meet up again in an opposition.


While the sign placement of Neptune shows us the vision that members of a generation bring to the times in which they live, the sign occupied by Pluto reveals how they will internalize the major events of their era. For example, the first wave of Baby Boomers who were born with Neptune in Libra also had Pluto in Leo. The major event of their times was the atomic bomb and the threat of nuclear annihilation. They internalized those dire circumstances by coming to the conclusion that theirs was a special generation, perhaps the last generation, and that they had a heroic mission to save the world.

The Neptune in Aquarius generation that gave us Impressionism and the electric light was born during a long transit of Pluto through Aries. As might be expected, the defining events for members of this generation typically turned out to be armed conflict. For the French Impressionists, it was the crushing defeat of France in the Franco–Prussian War. On the other side of the pond, it was the American Civil War, a conflict in which many of these young people died.

However, when we consider the present Neptune in Aquarius generation, Pluto’s message is not so clear. Those who were born before 2008 will have Pluto in Sagittarius, while those born later will have Pluto in Capricorn. So, even though this group may be united in their visions, hopes, and dreams, they will be sharply divided in the ways they will internalize the trauma they are now experiencing.

As hard as it might be to believe, the group born with Pluto in Sagittarius will likely come to see their harrowing journey as an adventure, and they will view their ability to survive that adventure as proof that they and their peers have in some way been blessed by the fates. In some cases, this awareness will enhance their spiritual life and deepen their religious faith. In others, it will engender a deep and compelling sense of gratitude and a need to give something back to the world.

These older representatives of the Neptune in Aquarius generation will be even more optimistic about the future than their younger peers. At the same time, though, they will probably resist becoming attached to any particular place or circumstance. Along with hope, they will internalize an awareness of the inevitability of change that could make settling down difficult.

The younger members of this group (those born in or after 2008) will internalize their journey to a new life as a struggle. Following the lead of Pluto in Capricorn, they will tend to emphasize the sacrifice that was required of their parents and themselves. They will also be more likely to remember the hatred and rejection with which they and their people were met by many Europeans. They will be far less trusting than the older members of this generation and less optimistic about the future. On the other hand, this keen awareness of sacrifice and the limitations of human nature could become the grounding for worldly wisdom in many of these children.

Since Pluto will remain in Capricorn for another nine years or so, these younger representatives of the Neptune in Aquarius generation may well feel a unique kinship with the Neptune in Pisces generation that will follow them. The horrific situations that created the current flood of immigrants are not likely to end soon, so this junior generation will soon be joining the Neptune in Aquarius kids in trying to adapt to a new world. They will be looking to the younger representatives of the Neptune in Aquarius generation, who also have Pluto in Capricorn, for leadership.


Muslima When I speak of the visions, hopes, and dreams of a generation with Neptune in a particular sign, I am typically speaking in secular terms. However, with these young migrants from the Middle East, we must also consider how religious beliefs will influence that Neptunian vision. They are coming out of a culture in which religion — in most cases, Islam — is a dominant force. Many of them will have to adjust to new homes where Christianity predominates, some degree of religious tolerance is the norm, and atheism is common.

Much of the extremism we have grown to associate with Islam has come out of three generations. There is the Neptune in Scorpio group born between 1956 and 1970. This was Osama Bin Laden’s generation. From this group came those who saw themselves at war with the Christian and secular worlds. Then, between 1984 and 1994, we have the people born with Pluto in Scorpio. This is the generation of ISIS, whose members are characterized by their reaction to this conflict. In between, there is the generation born with Neptune in Sagittarius, which included the 9/11 terrorists. Their capacity for religious fervor has fed the extremism of both Scorpio generations.

I think that this generation of young Muslims born with Neptune in Aquarius will be very different in their approach to these issues. For those who also have Pluto in Sagittarius, religion and contact with different beliefs will certainly be a catalyst for change. Sagittarius brings out the seeker in Pluto, while Pluto provides an approach to faith that goes beyond the surface of doctrine and ritual. The result will likely be a deeper and more tolerant understanding of the nature of Islam.

Another factor to consider is that, for the bulk of these young people (those born between 2003 and 2011), Uranus is in Pisces. This places Uranus and Neptune in mutual reception and creates two unlikely astrological pairings. We have the planet of spirituality (Neptune) in the most rational of signs (Aquarius), and the planet of science (Uranus) in the sign of nonrational devotion (Pisces). It is my personal belief that this arrangement strengthens the typical secularism of Aquarius. As a group, the young Muslims coming into Europe and the U.S. will adapt relatively well to an environment in which religion is not the be-all and end-all of human intercourse.


Great migrations have been a fact of life throughout human history, and typically they have been caused by tragedies like war, oppression, economic hardship, and environmental disaster. In this context, the current influx of refugees into Europe may not seem unique. What makes it exceptional is the fact that we are dealing with some special representatives of a very special generation. This generation born with Neptune in Aquarius has the capacity to bring about changes in our world that will be both important and positive, and those Neptune in Aquarius young people who are enduring the hardships of migration bring experiences and motivations that cannot be duplicated. They come to us with enormous potential. We would do well to recognize it.


(All URLs were accessed in May 2016, unless otherwise noted.)
1. Ishaan Tharoor, “The Astonishing New Numbers Behind Europe’s Refugee Crisis,” The Washington Post, February 25, 2016, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/ worldviews/wp/2016/02/25/the-astonishing-new-numbers-behind-europes-refugee-crisis/
2. Information in this paragraph and the one above it is taken from Karl Vick, “The Great Migration,” in TIME Magazine, October 19, 2015.
3. Ibid.
4. Nick Gutteridge, “Mapped: Shocking March of the Far Right Across Europe as Migration Fears Reach a Fever Pitch,” Express, http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/629022/EU-migration-crisis-far-right-parties-Europe-Germany-Sweden-France
5. Ashley Fantz and Ben Brumfield, “More Than Half the Nation’s Governors Say Syrian Refugees Not Welcome,” http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/16/world/paris-attacks-syrian-refugees-backlash/
6. See, for example, Wendell C. Perry, “The Battle of the Boomers: Neptune in Libra vs. Neptune in Scorpio,” in The Mountain Astrologer, Aug./Sept. 2009.
7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influence_and_reception_of_Friedrich_Nietzsche
8. Karl Vick, “The Great Migration,” op cit.

Further Reading:
Bromford, David, et al. Art in the Making: Impressionism. Yale University Press, 1991.
House, John. Impressionism: Paint and Politics. Yale University Press, 2004.
Ratner-Rosenhagen, Jennifer. American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas. The University of Chicago Press, 2012.
Safranski, Rüdiger. Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography, trans. Shelley Frisch. W. W. Norton and Co., 2002.

Image sources:
Refugee children: By DFID - UK Department for International Development Aquarius: Public Domain, by Peggy Marco via pixabay.com
Diagram: Graphics created by TMA staff
Seagulls: Public Domain, by sipa via pixabay.com

First published in: The Mountain Astrologer, Aug/Sep 2016

Wendell C. PerryWendell C. Perry is a writer and artist living in Kentucky. He and his wife, Linda, are the eco-authors of The Mars Venus Affair. Wendell is also the author of Saturn Cycles: Mapping Changes in Your Life, released in 2009, and Father Sun, Mother Moon: Astrology's Dynamic Duo, published in 2015. Wendell's website is GoodGollyAstrology.com. He can be reached at Wendell@goodgollyastrology.com

© 2016 - Wendell C. Perry - published by The Mountain Astrologer

Current Planets
22-Aug-2017, 18:42 UT/GMT
Neptune1313' 2"r7s28
Chiron2745' 6"r2n47
Explanations of the symbols
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