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Sacred Conversation

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At 5:52 p.m. Eastern time on May 19, the Sun leaves placid, nature-loving Taurus for talkative, information-loving Gemini. Then, at 7:12 a.m. on May 23, the Moon begins a new monthly cycle when it leaves the balsamic (or final) phase of its Taurus cycle and enters the new (or dark moon) phase in this year's Gemini lunar cycle. These events grant us our annual double dose of Gemini.

This yearly emphasis on the sign of the Messenger asks us to focus on our minds, communication, learning new information and skills, and interacting with siblings and our local communities. This year, however, our efforts require a deeply spiritual approach because Mercury--which rules the sign of Gemini--is retrograde.

Whenever any planet is retrograde (meaning it appears to move backward as seen from our vantage point on Earth), it indicates a need to review the area of life the planet governs. It also invites us to perform this review by going within via reflection, solitude, prayer, and meditation so that our minds operate on a spiritual level. Later, whenever the planet in question ends its retrograde and begins to move forward again, we can apply any insights we gain to improve ourselves as well as our interactions with family and friends and our contributions to society via work and volunteer efforts.

The current Mercury retrograde began May 6, while the planet was in its home sign of Gemini; by May 13, Mercury had slipped far enough backward to re-enter Taurus. Taken together, the retrograde and the shift to Taurus tell us clearly how to work with this month's planetary energies: focus our thoughts on the spiritual aspects of our material world by contemplating nature's higher purpose and the pleasures of being a soul incarnate in a human body.

Ultimately, this inward process leads us to consider the feminine--especially God's female aspect as the Divine Mother, Holy Spirit, or Divine Feminine. Probably since the first humans walked our planet, people have associated the sky with male or active energy and the Earth with female or passive energy. This impulse led people to personify our planet as Gaia or the Goddess and led astrologers to associate all the zodiac's earth signs with the feminine. Taurus, earthiest of all, comes during spring in the northern hemisphere, when earth's explosion of flowers proclaims our planet's fertility and beauty. Given this timing, May became associated with the Goddess and marked the time for ancient cultures' fertility celebrations; some of those rituals remain with us, such as the maypole and the custom of making May Day baskets filled with flowers.

As Christianity began to dominate the West, the Divine Feminine became associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and eventually the Roman Catholic Church designated May as Mary's month. Today, this devotion survives in the May crowning (placing a crown of flowers on the head of a statue of Mary), special prayers, and other observances throughout May.

All of us, regardless of our religious background, can benefit from harmonizing with this powerful, beautiful energy during this fertile, flower-filled month. Those whose background does not include any experience with Roman Catholicism might choose to tap into the Divine Feminine by reflecting on our material mother, Earth, or by researching and then meditating on ancient Goddess images and cultures or by spending time alone in a park or other natural setting.

One of the most apt approaches for all of us, and one that elegantly combines the highest Taurus and Gemini energies, can be found in a type of Italian Renaissance painting called the sacra conversazione. Translated as "holy conversation" or "sacred conversation," the sacra conversazione arose because Renaissance painters sought new ways of depicting the ubiquitous theme of the Madonna and child with various saints. Until that time, artists typically created multi-panel paintings showing Mary and Jesus in the central panel and the saints specified by the purchaser (generally a church or a rich person) in separate panels flanking the central image; sometimes the donors and perhaps their family members might appear in such paintings, often kneeling among the saints.

With the Renaissance development of perspective came the ability to paint realistic depictions of space, and Italian painters began placing Mary, Jesus, and all the selected saints together in a single architectural space that was rendered as realistically as possible. In such works, the saints stand nearby Mary's chair, but all the figures appear to be communicating silently (presumably about elevated spiritual subjects and feelings) with mouths closed and faces at rest, rather than holding an everyday conversation with their mouths open and faces looking at one another.

Such images combine Taurus's energy of the Divine Feminine and material fertility with Gemini's energy of the Higher Mind and human sociability. By contemplating these paintings, we can learn to make fertile use of our minds by dwelling on beautiful thoughts. We also can receive inspiration to make our conversations with others as holy or sacred as possible by avoiding gossip and judgment in favor of constructive subjects, kind words, and a spirit of unconditional love.

The sacra conversazione also suggests our great spiritual potential. Although saints, ascended masters, and all other spiritually evolved beings may dwell on the spiritual plane, they started out like us: souls who had to evolve through incarnation in a human body. Their spiritual achievement proves that we can reach the spiritual heights, too--if we are willing to elevate our thoughts and dedicate ourselves to goodness. To begin, we can enter into our own sacred conversation with such beings through prayer and meditation and ask for their help. Just as a mother hears her child's cry and responds, so will the Divine Feminine hear our petition and grant us whatever help we need.

May her spirit inspire you well at this auspicious time.

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Award-winning artist Anne Nordhaus-Bike paints colorful, calming watercolors inspired by nature. Anne's art has appeared in numerous solo and group shows as well as many arts programs, presentations, and performances. Her work has been (more...)

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