As we approach Jupiter and Neptune’s conjunction at 22 Pisces on April 12, 2022, now is a germane moment to look back on this pair's previous conjunctions in Pisces throughout history.
Jupiter and Neptune meet in a successive sign of the zodiac once every 13 years. For example, after this year, the next Jupiter and Neptune conjunction will take place at 21 Aries on March 24, 2035. The following conjunction at 19 Taurus will occur on February 24, 2048. This conjunction occurs in Pisces approximately every 156 years.
This essay will survey the previous conjunctions in 2082 BCE, 1916 BCE, 1750 BCE, 1584 BCE, 1418 BCE, 1264 BCE, 1098 BCE, 932 BCE, 766 BCE, 599 BCE, 433 BCE, 280 BCE, and 114 BCE.
essay will focus on ancient history, exploring episodes in Egyptian, Mesopotamian (Mesopotamian) and Ancient Chinese history that coincide with these conjunctions. A future companion piece will carry the timeline forward from the fall of the Roman Republic to this day.
St. Thomas of Aquinas famously coined the Latin expression “astra non compellunt, sed inclinant.” In English, our best rendering of his Latin might be “the stars do not compel, but they do incline.”¹
Aquinas was certainly right that the planets do not control or compel events on earth. However, as pithy this aphorism is, incline is doing a lot of the work here. Incline does not capture Aquinas’s more advanced ideas in the Summa Theologica about how the movements of the planets stir up the passions. What does the conjunction of Jupiter and Neptune in Pisces lead us to be passionate about - both collectively and personally?
By looking back on how earlier generations responded to the energetic invitation of Jupiter and Neptune in Pisces, we can hopefully become better informed, and deepen our understanding of the ways this conjunction might stimulate and inspire us.
March 11, 2082 BC
Given the challenges of ancient history, it can be challenging to pinpoint events precisely to March 11, 2082 BC, or even that year. However, a Piscean shift comes through in the Egyptian chronicles handed down to us from the Old Kingdom. this conjunction took place during the reign of King Wahankh Intef II. From his capital of Thebes, he came to rule Upper Egypt after a series of battles and skirmishes with rival Kings.²
Intef II appears to be the first to build a shrine at a site that would later become known as the Karnak temple complex. An old octagonal column found at its ruins bears his name as well as the god Amun-Re. He is the earliest ruler with an intact inscription at the temple. Elsewhere, Intef II’s tomb inscription boasts about monument building, including a house of Amun, which many historians surmise is a reference to the temple complex.³ It is unclear if he truly broke ground, or he replaced a small pre-existing structure. Nevertheless, Intef II inaugurated a process of royal investment in the site, as well as presiding over a shift of the state cult from Montu to Amun.
Under subsequent pharaohs, the temple of Karnak was significantly enlarged. Today, it is widely regarded as the most stunning temple complex to survive from Ancient Egypt. It is now the second most visited site in Egypt - second only to the Pyramids at Giza.⁴
Intef II oversaw a shift from Montu, a falcon god of war to Amun, a god of wind, whose name means hidden one or invisible.⁵ Perhaps, this is a reference to the invisibility of wind. The full meaning remains unclear.
As Egyptian history unfolds, the theology of Amun evolved beyond the wind god connections of Infer II. In the New Kingdom period, he became not only a god for Thebes, but for all of Egypt. Amun became known as a champion for the downtrodden who upheld the rights of the poor. He was understood to uphold Ma’at (truth, justice and goodness). He was later merged with the creator Sun god Ra, becoming known as Amun-Ra. When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC, an oracle declared him a son of Amun. Alexander would go on to claim hybrid syncretic deity of Zeus-Ammon as his true father.⁶
Space does not allow for a fuller account of the evolution of this central god in Egyptian mythology. For our purposes, what is intriguing is that under the Jupiter and Neptune conjunction in Pisces, a major spiritual shift took place in Thebes. There was a conscious decision to move away from a martian warrior deity, towards a more just deity that would become associated with Jupiterian themes of justice, and one day syncretized with Zeus.
How might we move away from the militancy of Mars towards more Jupiterian forms of relating under this conjunction?
April 2, 1916 BCE
The most significant event of the next conjunction takes place in Ancient China.
The most significant event of the next conjunction takes place in Ancient China. Recent archeological evidence suggests a massive flood in Yellow River Basin around this time in 1920 BCE. Archeologists have pieced together that an earthquake caused a landslide so massive that it damned up the yellow river. An extremely large reservoir of water built up behind this newly created dam. Eventually, the waters breached the dam and overflowed out onto the Yellow River Basin. It is the largest flood to have ever occurred in the Yellow River Basin over the past 12,000 years.
Collaborating across disciplines with ancient Chinese historians, there is now a compelling argument to be made that the mythic founder of Chinese civilization, Emperor Yu the Great, was the man who led the effort to clean up the 1920 BCE flood damage and better control the Yellow River going forward.⁷
Yu the Great also established the Xia dynasty, which was to be the first of many imperial dynasties that ruled China. He is often known by the honorific title “Great Yu Who Controlled the Waters.” Legend holds that Yu was so humble that he ate and slept with the workers - despite his royal rank - in order to see the dredging of the river beds to completion.⁸ He also inaugurated a long-standing tradition in Chinese culture that uses public works and infrastructure to justify imperial authority.
As we grapple with rising flood waters today, might we see a return to the idea of picking competent leaders that can manage catastrophic flooding? In this way, the watery emphasis of Jupiter and Neptune in a water sign becomes quite literal.
April 28, 1750 BCE
The next conjunction draws us into what might seem like an obscure episode in Babylonian history, but with far reaching consequences that still affect how we experience time today.
In 1750 the Babylonian King Hammurabi perished, and his son Samsu-iluna rose to power. At the time of his death, Hammurabi was the effective master of the realm. Samsu-iluna was not as successful, losing control of the many cities his father conquered.
Intriguingly, there is speculation that Samsu-iluna instituted a new calendar system, known by historians as the Babylonian Standard calendar. This calendar still influences how we experience time - particularly in the ecclesiastical realm.⁹
This calendar inaugurated a pattern of every 7th day as holy. Each month began on the new moon. Offerings were made to Marduk and Ishtar on the 7th day after the new moon, to Ninlil and Nergal on the 14th, Sin and Shamash on the 21st, and Enki and Mah on the 28th.
Etymologists trace the Hebrew word Shabbat to the Babylonian word Sapattu for the festival of the full moon in this calendar. It is unclear how the monthly full moon festival morphed into the weekly day of rest in Judaism, but the uncanny linguistic resemblance is undeniable, as is the practice of honoring the divine every 7th day.¹⁰
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the weekly gathering on the 7th day remains for many people their most tangible spiritual commitment. This time cycle rhythm traces back to Samsu-iluna and the Babylonian calendar.
As we approach another conjunction of Neptune and Jupiter in Pisces, we might wish to think about our own weekly rhythms. Are we making space for the sacred, and the emotional shifts that a consistent weekly commitment?
May 28, 1584 BCE
This conjunction is a blindspot. Historians reckon that Shanshi-Adad II became King of Assyria around this time. Unfortunately, his reign falls within a dark age period during which records are scarce, so it is difficult to reconstruct the conjunction’s significance.¹¹ There are not notable events that can be determined with enough specificity in Egypt, Greece, or elsewhere to create an astrological interpretation.
July 11, 1418 BCE
The next conjunction coincides with a truce during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep II during the 18th dynasty. During this period, the Egyptian empire ruled over the Levant, modern day Israel and Syria. In 1420 BCE, a group known as the Mitanni instigated a rebellion in modern day Syria. Amenhotep II initiated a military campaign to quash the insurrection. Two years later, in 1418 BCE,the year of the conjunction, the military campaign ended as the Egyptian armies reached the Sea of Galilee.
In 1418 BCE, the Mitanni sought to make peace with Egypt - and it lasted. Amenhotep II’s scribes record that the Kings of Babylon, the Hittites and the Mitanni all came to him to make peace and pay tribute, although this may be an exaggeration. However, the records at Karnak, kept on walls at the temple also attest to the princes of Mitanni seeking peace in that year. Egypt profited by gaining access to Mediterranean and Aegean trade routes as well as extracting resources from the Levant.¹²
As Jupiter and Neptune meet in Pisces again, we might wonder what we have to gain - both in the personal and collective level - from pursuing peace instead of war.
March 15, 1264 BCE
The next conjunction coincides with a truce during the reign of the most celebrated and powerful Egyptian pharaoh of the New Kingdom, Ramesses II. His name means “Ra is the one who bore him.”
At the beginning of his reign, Ramses II engaged in numerous military campaigns against the Hittite empire, based in Anatolia in modern day Turkey. These two empires fought bitterly to control the resource rich Levant in modern day Israel and Syria.¹³
Their conflict reached a crescendo during the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE, named after the ancient city of Kadesh on the Orontes River, near the modern border between Lebanon and Syria. It is the earliest pitched battle in recorded history for which the tactical formations are recorded. The current consensus among historians is that it was the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving 5,000 to 6,000 chariots. The exact outcome of the battle is unclear - both sides suffered heavy casualties - so it may be fairest to call it a draw. However, the lighter Egyptian two man chariots easily outmaneuvered the heavier Hittite 3 man chariots.¹⁴
After the battle, Ramses withdrew from Kadesh. Smaller battles took place over Syria as well as in Cana. Fifteen years after the Battle of Kush, Ramesses II ratified a peace treaty with the new King of the Hittites, Hattusili III, in 1258 BC.
Hattusili III had been a sickly child and credited the goddess Ishtar with saving his life, to which he remained an ardent patron. This new spiritually aware king sought the way of peace with Ramses, whereas his predecessors had sought war. He came to the throne in 1267 BCE, just a few years before the conjunctions. He consistently worked for peace from the moment he began his reign.
It was under the exact conjunction that Hattusili III and Ramses II were pursuing a peace process. The end result is the first known treaty in which documents from both sides survive. Its remnants are at the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul.¹⁵ With that peace secured, Ramses went on to build more monuments and statues than any other Egyptian Pharaoh, leading many to associate his name with a golden age of Egypt.
April 5, 1098 BCE
The events of this next conjunction are about letting go of past structures - in the literal sense. Around the year 1100, coinciding with the next conjunction in Jupiter and Pisces, archeologists observe large-scale abandonment of the once illustrious Mycenaean palace. It was no longer feasible to keep the palace at Knossos going. Whether it was the invasions by the Dorians, a natural disaster, climate change, or perhaps the confluence of these factors is still debated by historians.¹⁶
As global warming and climate change continue on in 2022, what palaces or luxuries might we be invited to release? it wasn’t as though people stopped inhabiting the island of Crete all together, but a conscious decision appears in the archeological record to live more simply.
May 1, 932 BCE
This conjunction coincides with the death of King Solomon in Jerusalem. The conventional dates for Solomon’s reign are 970-931 BC. In this way, we might think of the way that the conjunction solidified his illustrious legacy of wisdom.
As King of the United Monarchy of Judah and Israel, he oversaw a period of wealth and abundance. He famously built the first temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem.¹⁷ In The Book of Kings, chapter 3, God appeared to Solomon in a Dream. Offering to give him whatever he requested, Solomon asked for wisdom, a discerning heart, and the ability to wisely distinguish right and wrong.¹⁸ In the Hellenistic era, magical texts circulated claiming he was a magician and many amulets and seals invoke his name.¹⁹
Setting aside the endless debates around the historicity of this ancient king, we are left with this potent myth of his wisdom. How might we incorporate the pursuit of wisdom into our spiritual practices as Neptune and Jupiter again meet in Pisces?
June 6, 766 BCE
A historical curiosity coincides with this conjunction. The solar eclipse on June 15, 763 BC is extremely significant for academic purposes. It is also known as the Assyrian eclipse or the Bur Sagale eclipse. It took place during the ninth year of the reign of King Ashur-dan III. Astronomers and historians use the mention of this eclipse in the imperial records of the Assyrian eponym lists to establish the chronology of the Ancient Near East for this period. In other words, it is the ability to reliably date this eclipse and its mention that enables historians to construct a methodical timeline for subsequent events.²⁰
Perhaps, the eclipse and the conjunction are a few years apart. But this is the most significant event in world history for this otherwise relatively quiet period in history.
Is there a lesson to be drawn from this? How might we understand time? A nuanced philosophy of time is not a priority in global consumerist capitalist culture. In what ways might we benefit from deepening our relationship with this astrological sense of time - punctuated by eclipses. Just as historians reap an enduring benefit from the choice to observe this eclipse, perhaps we might reap rewards from more closely examining how eclipses, transits, progressions and other timing techniques are coming to bear on us in our enchanted experiences of time?
February 7, 599 BCE
It is around 600 BCE that Sappho and her family were exiled from Lesbos. Believed to have been born in 570 BCE, this exile from her native island would have coincided with her Saturn return. This appears to have been the result of her family’s political conflicts. Sappho and her family relocated to Syracuse in Sicily, but were later allowed to return.²¹ We do not have any insights on how this trauma affected Sappho. But the impression from her voluminous output is that she continued to write. She would live another 30 years.
So much of Sappho’s work has been lost. In 2014, a new poem by Sappho, known as the Brother’s Poem was translated and shared widely for the first time. Although it can not be reprinted in its entirely here, it is worth a quick read of Rachel Hadas’s translation on the Daedalus site.
At first glance, the poem appears to be about waiting for her brother Charaxos to return home from a sea voyage. However, by the end of the poem, the water imagery is employed to metaphorically reflect on the human condition. When she rhapsodizes about “some power may from rough waters steer us skillfully towards blessings,” there is a wider resonance with divine aid helping us to navigate life’s troubled waters.
She ends the poem by wishing her brother Larichose would “man up” and cast off the weight of his depression. Knowing this key piece about the exile, it is hard not to read into a family dynamic where different siblings integrated this trauma in different ways. Sappho copes through writing, Charaxos resiliently charges into the fray with the risks and rewards of a shipping merchant, and Larichose is unable to let go and put his childhood behind him.
Another theme in the poem is how a divine calm can suddenly prevail. It would seem that Sappho believes that a connection with the gods, understanding what they control and what is up to us, may well usher in the calm, blessings and freedom from depression that is desired.
As Jupiter and Neptune meet in Pisces, many of us will still be doing our work to integrate the traumas of the pandemic - as well as other pre-existing challenges that COVID-19 has exasperated. Sappho - enduring exile - was no stranger to pain. But she found something in the spirituality of her time to keep going. How might we work with Piscean metaphors like Sappho, as we steer through these troubled waters towards blessings and prosperity?
March 2, 433 BCE
As we look towards the conjunction of 433 BCE, we find a truly fascinating bell collection. They come from the tomb of the ancient Chinese duke, Marquis Yi of Zeng. The location of the tomb is in the modern city of Suizhou in the Hubei province of China. Looters never found this tomb with its extraordinary collection of bells and musical instruments. the tomb was not discovered until 1977. The People’s Liberation Army was trying to destroy a hill to build a factory when they uncovered the site. An astronomical diagram on a lacquered chest has been analyzed and definitely sets the date to 433 BC.
This large set of 64 bronze bells was mounted on an elaborate framing system. It appears the setup required 5 musicians who struck the bells with wooden mallets. The bells are designed to be two-toned. One note is produced when hit from the side, another when the center is struck. The bells cover a wide range of 5 octaves.²² Scholars do not have enough written information to construct the deeper meanings of this bell music for its first audience. It is evident that although was a relatively minor aristocrat, he was wealthy enough to afford a good set of bells.
As we ponder these mysterious bells, buried during a previous conjunction of Jupiter and Neptune and Pisces, how might we profit from re-examining our relationship with music, and bells in particular. The process of listening to the sound of a bell takes on so many meanings in Buddhist lineages. Might we feel a calling to go deeper with music and the emotional and spiritual shifts it can usher in?
April 8, 280 BCE
The next conjunction in 280 BC coincides with the completion of the largest and most famous statue in Ancient Greek Civilization - the renowned Colossus of Rhodes. It is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The Colossus is a statue of the sun god Helios, created by the sculptor Chares of Lindos. It was erected to celebrate Rhodes military successes against the sieges of Demetrius Poliocretes. It stood at over 108 feet high - approximately the same height as the statue of Liberty. The people of Rhodes were able to afford this large statue because they sold leftover military equipment for 300 talents.
Ancient accounts describe the construction process as a skeleton of iron bars over which a skin of brass was laid. Iron and bronze was salvaged and reforged from the abandoned weapons left by the army of Demetrius Poliocretes. The statue was short-lived. It collapsed during an earthquake in 226 BCE. An oracle advised the people of Rhodes not to rebuild it.²³
The statue is not often discussed in these terms. But it was a choice to demilitarize, converting weapons and military equipment into a large work of art that connected to the divine. As we encounter this conjunction of Neptune and Jupiter in Pisces, how might we turn away from the militaristic and towards the sacred - on both the individual and collective level?
May 13, 114 BCE
In the year 114 BCE, the conjunction of Neptune and Jupiter coincided with a bizarre roman story about vestal virgins, false accusations, and a temple to Venus. Three vestal virgins, Aemilla, Marcia, and Licinia, were condemned to death for sexual liasons with Roman knights. The charges may well have been politically motivated. Prominent Roman families may have wished to install their own daughters into these illustrious roles. To atone for their purported broken vows of chastity, these women were put to death and a temple to Venus Verticordia was built.
As priestesses of Vesta, these women were selected by roman authorities as young girls, taking a vow of chastity for 30 years. They guarded the sacred fire in the temple of Vesta that was not allowed to extinguish. They devoted themselves to study, and performed special rites. They were also put in charge of safeguarding wills and other important documents. They were given special seating at public games and performances. Vestal virgins were given bodyguards to protect them when they left the temple. Any man who assaulted a vestal virgin was punished with death. The chastity of the women was believed to have a powerful effect on the health of the Roman state.²⁴
The temple built to atone for their misdeeds was to the epithet of Venus Verticordia, the turner of hearts. This guise of the goddess changes feelings of lust to feelings of chastity. She enjoyed a particular following among married women. Many centuries later, the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti offered a rendition of this aspect of Venus.²⁵
It might be difficult to draw a lesson from these bizarre episodes. Perhaps, the Romans did not effectively respond to the stimulus of Jupiter and Neptune in Pisces. In this way, it might serve more as a warning. Are we respecting the autonomy of women in our lives, including in our workplaces, families, and personal relationships? Is there an aspect of our work relating to independent women and the Sacred Feminine that we are being called to develop under this conjunction - lest we repeat the mistakes of the Romans?
A quote is often attributed to Mark Twain that says, “history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” What he actually wrote is this... “history never repeats itself, but the kaleidoscopic combinations of the pictured present often seem to be constructed out of the broken fragments of antique legends.”²⁶ In this timeline, we have looked at the broken fragments of numerous conjunctions of Jupiter and Neptune in Pisces. These legends and stories from the past have been offered contemplatively to serve as prompts. Imagine what the Romans might have done if they had chosen a more elevated path like the people of Rhodes? As we experience the kaleidoscope of 2022, perhaps the wisdom that comes forth from these legends might serve as guide, inspiration and lesson. To quote the words of Sappho, may some power steer us skillfully from rough waters towards blessings and prosperity.