By Robert Gover
The term "Black Swan" is used to describe events which are
unpredictable, have a tremendous impact, and are rationalized only
after the fact.
In economics, great depressions and stock market panics are viewed as
Black Swan events. For instance, at the time of the stock market crash
of October 1929, there was no known logical reason why stocks should
crash and keep going down and down and down and then lead into the
greatest depression to that point in history. It was a Black Swan
event because nothing in the past pointed to its possibility.
"Go ask your portfolio manager for his definition of risk, and odds are
that he will supply you with a measure that excludes the possibility of
the Black Swan—hence one that has no better predictive value for
assessing the total risks than astrology…" (1)
Actually, astrology may offer the clearest and most incisive way to
explain Black Swan events in the economic realm, as I will show in this
article. Western astrologers will recognize in Black Swan events the
influence of Uranus.
The term is believed to have been coined by the Roman poet Juvenal and
used in 16th Century London to describe an impossibility. All swans
were believed to have white feathers until swans with black feathers
were discovered in the outback of Australia, a Black Swan discovery
that happened in 1697. Still, the term continues to be used for the
unpredictable and unprecedented, especially in economics and finance.
Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions are
Black Swan events in the natural realm. The 2011 Japanese Tohoku
earthquake and tsunami and resulting nuclear plant meltdowns hit with
astounding surprise. We know that San Francisco is located on a
dangerous fault line but we cannot predict when another earthquake may
hit, nor if it will devastate that city. Tornadoes "come out of
nowhere," it seems, although later we can piece together the
meteorological factors that created one. We know the East Coast and
Gulf Coast are likely to be hit by hurricanes during the late summer
and early autumn, and we can track tropical depressions moving across
the Atlantic and note when they reach hurricane proportions but we
cannot predict where exactly they will hit and with precisely what
devastation. Seismic sensors can detect volcanic activity but we cannot
predict exactly when another Mount St. Helens will blow and wipe out
forests and towns.
Amazing artistic creations and scientific discoveries that come "like a
bolt from the blue" are also categorized as Black Swan events. In this
essay, I focus on Black Swan economic events. Such events are beyond
any logical risk assessment. The famous economist John Maynard Keynes
pointed out that there is no scientific basis on which to form any
calculable probability for such events. They come as total surprises
and are rationalized only after the fact.
In the 1990s a couple of brilliant mathematicians came up with a
formula for consistently profiting from options trading. They won a
Nobel Prize. Their formula led to the creation of what was then a
unique investment firm, Long Term Capital Management. But the crash of
LTCM and the Federal Reserve's rush to prop up the wrecked banking
system thereafter became a Black Swan event. The professors' formula
addressed known risk, but not unpredictable, unprecedented Black Swan
Long Term Capital Management's crash was triggered by Russia's allowing
its currency to fail—something the best financial minds deemed an
impossibility—on August 17, 1998 with Uranus at 10 degrees Aquarius
forming a grand cross pattern with Saturn at 3 degrees Taurus, Venus at
9 degrees Leo and Chiron at 13 degrees Scorpio. Taurus is opposite
Scorpio and square Leo and Aquarius. Uranus was thus within orb of 90
degrees square Saturn and Venus, and 180 degrees opposite Chiron.
Astrologers call this a grand cross pattern because it creates an X
inside a square box pattern.
The financial meltdown of 2008 was another Black Swan event, for
although there was a bubble in real estate prices, there was no known
reason why the puncturing of that bubble would create such chaos in the
world's financial system and economy. After the fact, reasons abound in
the hidden transactions involving trillions of dollars of unfunded
credit default swaps and the marketing of mortgage securities without
legal transference of property titles. The full story of how this
happened has not yet came to light. (See
www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3Dm9ISwQt8. for some details about the credit
default swap scandal that has yet to be cogently covered by the mass
Uranus, in primary aspect to other planets, brings the unpredictable
and unprecedented to individuals and whole societies. These Uranian
surprises impact our world in ways that we can only rationalize later,
after the fact, when we look back and try to fit them into some
logical, cause-effect paradigm.
Yet seven decades after the great depression of the 1930s, economists
still debate why it happened, and what can be done to prevent it ever
happening again. Economists who say they have logically solved the
riddle are vulnerable to looking foolish when the next economic Black
Swan event hits.
Given Uranus' role in Black Swan events, if economists were able to
overcome their prejudice against astrology, a whole new realm of
cause-effect relationships would open to them.
The crashes of 1929 and 2008 both occurred under a T square formed by
Uranus, Saturn and Pluto. The way to foresee the possibility of Black
Swan events is by charting the astrology involved. And the key to
analyzing is the position of Uranus and the aspects it makes at the
time, especially to the other three outermost planets—Saturn, Neptune
and Pluto—and to the natal chart of whomever or whatever is affected.
(Refer to Charts 1. 2, 3 and 4 delineated below).
After a Black Swan event, we are usually able to define a chain of
causes and effects that led to it, even though there is likely to be
disagreement on precisely which precipitated it. What can we say for
sure about the crash of 1929 and the great depression that followed?
Suddenly, within a few months, the national mood changed from optimism
to pessimism. Was it that change of mood that precipitated the crash
and depression? Or was the pessimism caused by the crash and
Astrologically, the answer is that both occurred simultaneously. The
1930s unfolded as Uranus inched into Arises, forming a square with
Saturn in Capricorn and Pluto opposite in Cancer, with all three
creating a grand cross pattern with the USA's Sun-Saturn square.
That T square repeated early in this millennium when Uranus in Pisces
moved opposite Saturn in Virgo with Pluto square both from Sagittarius,
afflicting the USA's natal Mars-Neptune square. The orbs are not exact
and the Signs aren't the same but the planetary angles and
transit-to-natal impact are unmistakable.
This is not to say that there are never rational reasons for Black Swan
economic events. It's just that those reasons are hidden or ignored
till it's too late. As Robert Reich (3) has pointed out, "It's no mere
coincidence that over the last century the top earners' share of the
nation's total income peaked in 1928 and 2007—the two years just
preceding the biggest downturns."
But who tracked this growing disparity back then? The few who worried
about it were accused of fomenting class warfare. Now, in the wake of
the 2008 crash, more and more people are becoming aware of the huge
disparity between the few super rich and the rest of humanity, although
how this disparity developed is still debated, as no single explanation
Hard angles formed by the outermost planets coincide with highlighting
what has gotten out of balance. What is now out of balance economically
is this huge disparity of wealth. What to do about it is another and
more vexing question.
We must make a distinction between stock market crashes and great
depressions, though, for one rarely leads to the other. Stocks have
crashed when the overall economy remained robust, and great depressions
have preceded sinking stock markets.
Looking back through history, we find that every time the USA's
Sun-Saturn square has been afflicted by a grand cross formed by the
outermost planets the national economy has fallen into a great
depression. Great depressions are not to be confused with recessions,
corrections or depressions without the adjective "great." Economist
Ravi Batra (4) defined great depression this way:
"A recession usually lasts for one to three years, during which the
rate of unemployment, while rising, is generally below 12 percent.
When a recession lasts for more than three years, and/or the rate of
unemployment lies between 12 percent and 20 percent, the economy may be
said to be suffering from a depression. When unemployment remains high
and business stagnates for six or more years, the nation's plight may
be called a great depression. Thus, depending on its severity in depth
and length, the downswing of the business cycle may be defined as a
recession, depression, or great depression."
By that definition, there have been four great depressions so far in
the history of the USA. Each has occurred under afflictions to the
USA's Sun-Saturn square, with Saturn in Capricorn and Uranus prominent
in every instance. (5)
1780s with Saturn in Capricorn opposite the US Sun in Cancer and square
the US Saturn in Libra, Uranus conjunct the US Sun square Neptune in
Libra conjunct the US Saturn.
1840s with Saturn in Capricorn opposite the US Sun in Cancer, square
Pluto opposite the US Saturn from Aries, and Uranus opposite the US
Neptune from Pisces, square the US Mars in Gemini.
1870s with Saturn in Capricorn opposite the US Sun in Cancer, Uranus
conjunct Jupiter and the US Sun in Cancer, and Neptune in Aries
opposite the US Saturn in Libra.
1930s (by Christmas 1930) Saturn in Capricorn opposite the US Sun in
Cancer, which was conjoined by Jupiter and Pluto, and Uranus in Aries
opposite the US Saturn.
Other periods have been economically difficult and often called
depressions, but those four fit the metrics defining great depressions,
which were Black Swan events because they were unpredicted and
By 2025, we may look back on the 2000-teens as a fifth great
depression, although as of this writing, our travail is still described
as a "great recession." Euphemisms are little comfort to those whose
lives have been devastated by the meltdown of 2008, however—today's
unemployment statistics have been "politicized," so that 9% really
means closer to 18% or 20% when all the unemployed are taken into
account. Given the desire of most politicians to put a smiley face on
our economic situation, the economists they hire obligingly fudge the
We may look back on this period as the most difficult in our history,
for this time it is Pluto in Capricorn, not Saturn, and Pluto is square
Uranus in Aries. All previous great depressions since the Industrial
Revolution have occurred under Saturn in Capricorn. Tiny little Pluto
takes an average of 248 years to orbit the Sun, and hasn't been in
Capricorn since colonial times and the American Revolution. From 1755
to 1758, Uranus in Pisces squared Pluto in Sagittarius, making seven
direct hits. These were the years leading up to the American
Revolution, which manifested in warfare when Pluto went into Capricorn.
Uranus-Pluto squares from Aries to Capricorn are exceedingly rare:
Prior to the one we're presently under, there were only two going back
to the year 1. In 258-259, a killer smallpox pandemic ravaged the
Roman Empire. In 1676 to 1678, an uprising called Bacon's Rebellion
unfolded in the Virginia Colony when English indentured servants and
African slaves united against the colony's aristrocracy, killed Indians
and burned Jamestown to the ground, sending landowners fleeing to the
Eastern Shore; the outcome was the legal color coding of the working
class into separate races called black and white.
Stock market crashes are another category of Black Swan events. A
distinction must be made between the overall economy and the stock
market. The stock market is part of the economy but by no means the
leading indicator of overall economic health or illness. That leading
indicator is employment/unemployment.
Almost every time there has been a surprising stock market crash that
has come with such surprise it has caused panic, the USA's natal
Mars-Neptune square has been afflicted by transiting planets,
especially the outermost four. (See "An Astrological History of Stock
Market Crashes" by Robert Gover.) Not all panic crashes lead into
A few especially intuitive investors may anticipate a crash. These
anticipators are usually called "doom and gloomers" before the crash.
Cassandra has never been popular. After each crash, a variety of
explanations are put forward as to why it happened. Still, the only
way to really explain this type of Black Swan event is to understand
the astrology involved.
The crash of October 19, 1987 was a shocker, and many an analyst at the
time predicted that it would lead into another great depression. But
it did not. Why? Again, astrology holds the explanation. For this
crash, the USA's Mars-Neptune square was afflicted by Saturn and Uranus
in Sagittarius, and Chiron in Gemini. Great Depression occur when the
USA's Sun-Saturn square is afflicted by outermost planets in the
Cardinal Signs of Capricorn, Aries, Cancer and Libra. In 1987 the
affliction was to the natal Mars-Neptune square. By the early 1990s
when Saturn had moved into Capricorn, there was a recession but not a
great depression because there was no outermost planetary affliction to
the US Sun-Saturn square.
As an economic astrologer I rely on the primary angles formed by the
outermost four planets, plus the Moon's Nodes and Chiron, to ascertain
what to expect in the stock market and economy. However, the cosmic
environment our Earth lives within is in constant motion, so no two
moments in cosmic time are the same astrologically. Primary planetary
angles repeat—the Sun-Moon conjunction repeats every 28 days at the New
Moon, the Neptune-Pluto conjunction every 496 years—but always within a
changed cosmic environment.
This ever changing phenomenon reflects how we perceive earthbound
history as ever repeating but never duplicating. So there is no
guarantee that these planetary patterns which have brought Black Swan
crashes and great depressions in the past will bring the same in the
future. It may be that we are influenced by celestial bodies so far
distant that we have not yet seen and identified them. Yet the
astrology of past Black Swan events remains the best way to ascertain
when another will hit, with hard angles from Uranus the most indicative
pattern to look for.
Anyone with an astrological computer program can quickly erect the
following charts to see the patterns described.
On the inner wheel is the natal chart for the USA, July 4, 1776. I use
the Gemini Rising version of this chart. Most astrologers use the
Sibley version. On the outer wheel is a chart for October 28, 1929 when
the stock market plunged in a way that signaled this wasn't to be just
another bear market, but something more devastating.
The two most economically sensitive points in the USA's chart are two
squares: Sun in Cancer square Saturn in Libra and Mars in Gemini square
Neptune in Virgo. Afflictions to the Sun-Saturn square impact the
overall economy. Afflictions to the Mars-Neptune square bring down the
stock markets. On Black Monday 1929, a stock market crash was indicated
by the opposition of T Saturn and Jupiter hitting the natal
Mars-Neptune square. Moon conjunct natal Neptune apparently triggered
the panic. A few months later, trouble for the overall economy was
indicated by T Uranus opposite the US Saturn, square T Pluto conjunct
the US Sun.
On the outer wheel of this comparative chart is Christmas Day, 1930, by
which point it was clear that the nation was sinking into another
depression, although no one knew yet how bad it would become.
Biwheel Chart 2 shows the T square formed by Uranus, Saturn and Pluto
about a year after the Crash of 1929 as people were realizing that this
crash was unlike any previous, and was leading the nation into what we
now call "The Great Depression." When the Crash of '29 occurred in late
October, the T square had not yet formed but was applying. A biwhell
chart for Christmas 1930 show how the Uranus-Saturn-Pluto T square
afflicts the USA's natal Sun-Saturn square. It's this square that has
always been afflicted when great depressions have hit the USA.
By mid-September 2008, it was clear that another Black Swan market
event was unfolding. A T square formed by Uranus, Saturn and Pluto this
time hit the USA's natal Mars-Neptune square—indicating that this was
strictly a stock market and/or financial catastrophe. As Uranus then
moved into Aries, it opposed Saturn in Libra conjunct the US Saturn and
square the US Sun, with Pluto applying to an opposition to the US Sun.
This indicated another great depression, although few were willing to
call it that by 2011. Every time the USA's Sun-Saturn square has been
hit by the outermost planets from Capricorn and Aries, the nation has
gone into a great depression. Logical reasons why each happened are
found later, although there is rarely agreement among economists
regarding the primary reasons.
In a biwheel chart for March 5, 2015 the US Saturn is opposed by
Uranus, Mars and Venus in Aries, square Pluto in Capricorn opposition
the US Sun. On this particular day the Full Moon is conjunct and
opposite the US Neptune square the US Mars in Gemini. What this
indicates is that the nation, and probably the whole world, is very
likely to be in the pits of another great depression, with the strong
possibility of another finanacial crash around this time making things
even more difficult. What is likely to be different about this great
depression is a militant mood, indicated by Pluto's position. Pluto's
arrival in Capricorn—every 248 years on average—has a history of
coinciding with revolutions. Its previous sojourn through Capricorn
coincided with the American Revolution. The one before that coincided
with the decimation of Native American populations from diseases
imported by Spanish conquistadors, to which the Indians had no
immunity, and the shipment of tons of gold and sliver back to Europe,
setting off inflation and a series of wars. In effect, both Hemispheres
underwent cultural and economic transformations as Europeans invaded
the New World in search of gold and silver.
It was the USA's financially-sensitive Mars-Neptune square that was hit
when stocks suddenly crashed to a new one-day record October 19, 1987.
Uranus at 23 Sagittarius was opposite the US Mars, conjoined at this
time by Chiron, and square the US Neptune, conjoined by the Moon.
Although Jupiter was in Aries opposite the US Saturn, its trine to
Uranus apparently saved the overall economy, for the stock market
rebounded in the coming months. A couple of years later, with Saturn,
Uranus and Neptune all clustered together in Capricorn, the Berlin Wall
came down and major restructuring occurred in economies around the
world—the Old Soviet Union disbanded and the USA ramped up
laissez-faire capitalism—but no great depression occurred.
Two rules of thumb emerge from these and other chart studies: No grand
cross hitting the USA's Sun-Saturn square, no great depression. And
when the USA's Mars-Neptune square is afflicted, there is danger of
another stock market crash.
The tremendous impact on humanity of Black Swan events is best
appreciated in retrospect. At the time of each, people are baffled.
Judging by the increased incidence of Black Swan events since the
Uranus-Pluto square began tightening toward exact in 2008—first from
Pisces to Sagittarius and then from Aries to Capricorn—the world as we
know it will soon be transformed, presenting us with a variety of new
challenges. That much we can deduce from the astrology involved. What
we cannot yet know is exactly how the world will be transformed, and
how we will respond to the challenges of change.
In Western culture, we have been imbued with the belief that it's up to
each individual to find ways to survive and prosper. Intuitively
anticipating hard times, some people talk of storing up gold for a day
when our money becomes useless; or moving to a tropical island and
living a self-sustaining life; or turning homes into fortresses to
defend against marauding mobs, and so forth. But such preparations are
iffy at best because Black Swan events are unpredictable and bring the
unprecedented. Those two key words—unpredictable and unprecedented—have
long been used to describe the effects of hard angles to Uranus.
1. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Influence of
the Highly Improbable, published April 22, 2007, TatePublishing.com.
2. In his book The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson has a cogent
explanation of this Black Swan event from page 320 to 330. In brief,
if the Nobel Prize winning mathematicians had known more about economic
history and Black Swan events, they would not have been so sure of
their risk-assessment formula guaranteeing profits from options and
derivatives trades. Investors put so much faith in this formula that
big banks bet billions of dollars—and lost.
3. Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the
University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national
administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President
Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including The Work of
Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, Supercapitalism, and his most recent
4. See Great Depression 1990 by Ravi Batra, published by Dell, 1998.
Although no great depression hit the USA in 1990, the Japanese economy
slumped into a prolonged depression. From Wikipedia: "Batra continued
to publish books with the main thesis that financial capitalism breeds
excessive inequality and political corruption which inevitably succumbs
to financial crisis and economic depression." Great depressions in the
USA have occurred when Saturn in Capricorn combined with Uranus,
Neptune and/or Pluto to create a grand cross pattern with the USA's
natal Sun-Saturn square. In 1990, Saturn in Capricorn made no such
pattern with the other outermost planets. No grand cross, no great
depression. But American jobs were steadily eroded by automation and
corporate outsourcing to cheap labor markets overseas.
5. Economists do not agree on the specific dates when each great
depression began, so it is impossible to pinpoint a specific date for
precise astrological calculation. But the outermost planets move
slowly, so the aspects they form are within orb for extended periods.
These extended periods encompass disagreements among economists. In
retrospect, it is clear that it's impossible to pinpoint a specific
date and time when any great depression began. The relevant economic
factors involved usually develop in a zigzag pattern of fits and
starts. Given our human proclivity to hope for the best, these fits and
starts are often misread at the time, and corrected after the fact. As
I write this, there is great disagreement concerning the true
unemployment figures. What we know for sure is that unemployment and
under-employment are enough to curtail demand for goods and services,
which in turn curtails the production to supply goods and services, and
the bank credit needed to restore normal buying and selling. By the
time you read this, the government may or may not have stimulated
enough demand to reverse this downward cycle.