|Agia Sofia: layers of meaning
Photo: Osvaldo Gago, wikimedia commons
If you stand still in the middle of the vast space of the Agia Sofia, Istanbul’s great mosque/church, as the masses of tourists swirl around you and the silvery light filters from high up windows, you can almost feel that you are at the very hub of the world. High above you arches a dome that’s seen more than a thousand years of pomp and terror, power and glory under its roof. Built by the emperors of Byzantium, remastered by Ottoman sultans. And beneath your feet is the sediment of thousands of years of city. Layer upon layer – Byzantine, Roman, Greek – each layer laced with the sweat and blood of the citizens of this dangerous, beautiful, glorious place.
Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey, but it is one of a handful of great world cities, where people from all over the planet come to do business. Physically, it straddles the point on the globe where Europe meets Asia, where the Black Sea meets the Mediterranean. The Golden Horn, the Bosphorous, the blue sea of Marmara slice through the city; trade routes to the world.
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iconic skyline and
It’s full of Russians, Kazakhs, Arabs, Bulgarians, Italians, Greeks even, and Turks, of course. But the Turks themselves are descended from people who came from all over the old Ottoman Empire – from Egypt, Albania, Circassia, Armenia, Kurdistan (half of which is in Turkey anyway) – not to mention the people captured and enslaved from Africa and Europe.
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It’s the most vibrant crossroads, where cultures have met and mixed and thrived for millennia — and where dictators and despots, fragrant princes and visionaries, aesthetes and idealists have duelled with words and blades. Constantinople was a multicultural urban melting pot when Londinium was a swamp village.
Turkey officially became a republic under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk, and the capital was moved from Istanbul to Ankara 90 years ago. Part of the agenda of the Republic was the “turkification” of Turkey, which involved the suppression of minorities and the rewriting of history to play down the multicultural, polyglot nature of the place and play up the Ottoman heritage. Greeks, Armenians, Georgians and Jews emigrated en masse during the 20th century to escape persecution. Nevertheless, about a third of Turks today are members of some kind of minority group – either ethnic or religious or both.
Turkey had its first democratic elections in 1950, in which the people ousted the sitting government, but since then periods of democracy have alternated with periods of military rule. The tension between Islamists and secularists is a thread that has run through Turkish politics for a 100 years, a thread which has just been pulled again with the mass demonstrations taking place this week. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been elected three times president, but it looks like the people just can’t stand him, or his policies.
At first it seems unlikely that a police state with a powerful army should have sweet Cancer rising and vague Pisces on the MC. But look more closely and you see that Pluto, the planet of dictatorship is rising, and the Sun is in military Scorpio. This already speaks of a state within a state. Scorpio and Pluto are about secrets. (And a country with such an incredibly deep food culture should have Cancer rising, not to mention Venus conjuncdct Vesta, but that is another post.)
Uranus on the MC is revolutionary, and Ataturk’s regime was radical in its programmes of secularisation and modernisation.
The Moon in changeable Gemini, (although at such a late degree it needs to be treated with some scepticism) seems right also for a people who are torn between secularism and orthodox religion; multiculturalism and being “Turkish”. This Moon, which represents the people in a mundane chart, is already feeling the once-a-decade transit from expansive, risk-taking Jupiter – no wonder they are manning the barricades. With the influence of Venus, the protests may still pass off peacefully, but only if they are over soon. Otherwise, Mars is coming up to fan the flames of emotion and it could be an incendiary summer.
But the real kicker here is what is happening to Turkey’s Sun at 5° Scorpio. Transiting Saturn is conjunct – that’s usually a time of maturing for a nation. But transiting Neptune is also trining from Pisces – that speaks of a sacrifice. And it’s in the house that deals with organised religion. Mercury, youth and the news, is just a degree away from trining that Sun too. It’s all focusing on Turkey’s identity. Is this a secular state or an Islamic state? Who are the Turks?
|View of the Golden Horn. Turkey is a watery
nation with Asc, MC, Sun all in water signs.
This summer’s Grand Trine stirs that up.
The water Grand Trine that is the main feature of this summer hits the Turkish Sun again and again. Mercury triggers it, then Venus, then the Sun, then Jupiter and Mars will all click into place, trining the Turkish Sun, and connecting it to transiting Saturn and Neptune.
It’s practicality (Saturn) and idealism (Neptune), tradition and mass consciousness. I have written before about Neptune’s influence in earlier popular uprisings, including the year of revolutions 1848. These all fizzled out because no real leadership emerged. But this time, with practical Saturn involved and later in the summer optimistic Jupiter, Turkey may find a way forward.
The other critical current factor is that the eclipses across Taurus/Scorpio are also kicking Turkish Sun into the future, and demanding change. The lunar eclipse on April 25th was at 5° Scorpio. Turkey is a country that has transformed itself repeatedly. This is the job of Scorpio Sun, and now it’s time for another reinvention.
In the natal chart, Saturn – boundaries – and Mercury – speech – are in a tight conjunction. Turkey has the strongest publishing industry in the region — and a habit of imprisoning and persecuting writers to match. You have to be tough to be a writer – and brave and persistent. Without freedom of speech, you cannot have a free country. This conjunction is currently receiving a trine from Jupiter, as voices are raised in protest. Uranus, the planet of freedom, is widely opposing that conjunction now, but when it comes into proper force later this decade, there may well be radical change.
Last time Chiron, the wounded healer, was at such a high point in the Turkish chart, was 1964/65, a year when democracy was restored. Chiron here represents an opportunity for Turkey to show itself to be a nation that can heal its own conflicts. Erdogan may not have the will or desire to grasp it, but his own Sun is at 7° Pisces (exactly trine Turkey’s Ascendant), so he must be feeling the pain of this. With Neptune coming up to grab him too, it’s really make or break time for him. This is a test of his place in history, something of which he seems keenly aware.
Pluto will oppose its natal position later this year in the house of partnership: with whom will Turkey choose to be friends – or enemies? This is a dangerous and critical moment – again it’s about transformation. With a terrible civil war raging next door in Syria, this is no time for Turkey to put its jackboots back on.
Erdogan has been courting the Middle East for a decade, lately presenting Turkey as the potential model for governments evolving out of the Arab Spring, blending Islam and democracy, and at the same time pursuing an Islamophiliac agenda that appeals to those wealthy Saudis and their friends. The former looks a little thin with these current protests.
It’s interesting that Turkey has such a packed 5th house. This is the house of creativity and art, children and playfulness. Turkey is a potential 21st century powerhouse in terms of art, design, innovation – and with Mercury-Saturn there sheer hard graft and cleverness.
Jupiter will cross the Ascendant this summer, this is a moment when Turkey will be in the news. Mercury will be retrograding in the first house too, which suggests that negotiations will be muddled, and the news contradictory. But with the North Node conjunct Turkey’s natal Venus and Jupiter, for once it looks like the forces of oppression will not win. One potential sour note is the combination of Saturn and Neptune could be harshly ideological. Let’s hope that Saturn practicality wins out, rather than rigidity.
When the people take to the streets, it does not mean the entire system is in a state of collapse, nor is it always a harbinger of brutal crackdown. We had the Poll Tax Riots here which really did lead – eventually – to the departure of Thatcher. This is a test of how democratic Turkey really is.
The key is identity. It’s a battle between an Erdogan’s vision of an “Islamo-democratic” identity, or one that is closer to the truth. Because of its position at an historical, geographical, cultural and religious crossroads, Turkey needs to embrace its true identity as a rich, multi-layered, polyglot, multi-cultural, complex, modern nation. That means listening to the people and allowing them the freedom to speak. This would be the finest expression of Jupiter’s last few weeks in Gemini.
Turkey is not Europe or the Middle East. It is itself. Perhaps even the hub of the world – not an easy place to be, but tremendously interesting.