Grim metaphors about war-like conditions and similarities to the devastating 1918 Spanish flu are doing little to keep morale high. Dramatic language may be necessary to force ‘imbeciles’, as one French minister described the irresponsible, to distance and self-isolate but it runs the risk of making a perilous situation sound like an apocalypse.
Spanish flu killed off, on rough estimates, anywhere between 1 and 6 per cent of the global population – perhaps 25 to 50 million people. It was exacerbated and spread by troop movements at the end of World War 1 and killed more in 24 weeks than HIV/AIDS did in 24 years. Curiously it mostly killed young adults it is thought because the older population had built up immunity from a previous flu exposure. It came in three waves – over early 1918, receded through the summer, built up again in the autumn and killed most in the USA over the winter of that year.
In comparison this pandemic – so far – has claimed 13,000 plus lives globally, with 5000 deaths in Italy, though only 100 in South Korea which moved much faster with mass testing, enforced social distancing and contact tracing, because of experience with the 2003 Sars outbreak. The high Italian death rate, in comparison with elsewhere, is partly down to it having a higher proportion of older people, as well as heavy pollution in Lombardy where it started, and political dither before lockdowns were imposed.
When the Spanish flu struck around January 1918 the Saturn Neptune conjunction in Leo was in place with Pluto in early Cancer as it had been since the start of World War 1 in 1914. Saturn Neptune is the classic astrological signature for epidemics and illnesses. But it doesn’t mean it always shows for every epidemic since the early 1950s Saturn Neptune in Libra, while it coincided with one minor flu outbreak, was more notable for the setting up of The Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) by WHO to monitor the evolution of influenza viruses. (See Health and Medicine below.)
This time round there is no Saturn Neptune aspect, though there was the hugely restrictive Saturn Pluto conjunction in place, almost exact for the start of the outbreak. Saturn Pluto in Capricorn is associated more with financial deprivation and hardship than with illness. And one treads warily in saying so but the economic distress caused by coronavirus – so far – far outweighs the health damage.
The next Saturn Neptune conjunction comes due in early 2026 in Aries, with hints from mid 2025 when both are in late Pisces. Pluto then is in early Aquarius. Saturn Neptune has other meanings than illness – it coincides often with the advancement of women’s and workers’ rights.
Odd additional thoughts. It shows up the false economy of shrinking national health services. Germany is faring better than most with a well-resourced health service, testing kits and respirators – it runs a mainly state-funded set-up with mandatory private insurance paying the residue of costs, like France.
The authoritarian regimes have been better at containing the outbreak. Living as I do in France it is fascinating to watch the difference with the UK. The UK PM Boris says plaintively avoid pubs, please stay at home. France doesn’t do plaintive. An edict is issued about a mandatory lockdown. If you emerge you will have a signed form stating your reason. Transgressors are fined and then imprisoned. The UK and the USA are not temperamentally well-designed for having these kind of conditions imposed on them.
Below from my Astrological History of the World.
Saturn Neptune: Health and medicine
The dual face of Saturn–Neptune in providing practical care for the suffering and in the insidious undermining of the body’s health both find a place in world history. An epidemic of St Vitus Dance (chorea) broke out in Europe in 1021 when Saturn and Neptune were together in Aquarius; the disease causes involuntary jerky movements and leads to brain deterioration, and was so called because victims prayed to St Vitus, the patron saint of dance.
The plague that devastated Europe and Asia during the 1340s was marked by the Saturn–Neptune conjunction in Aquarius of 1344, and the Uranus–Pluto conjunction at the same time. The outbreak of bubonic plague in London in 1665 and the Great Fire of London a year later both took place when Saturn and Neptune were together in Capricorn.
In 1846 in Aquarius, widespread famine in Ireland followed the failure of the potato crop. During the 1917 and 1918 conjunction in Leo, there were massive casualties in the First World War, especially at Passchendaele, and the Spanish ‘flu epidemic of 1918 killed 20 million in Europe, the United States and India. By the conjunction of the late 1980s in Capricorn, the AIDS virus was running amok, causing countless deaths in Africa, Europe and the United States.
Medical advances are also highlighted under Saturn–Neptune, with the physicians’ meeting place in Rome, the Schola Medicorum, being set up in AD 17 in Sagittarius; in 1739 in Cancer, the London Foundling Hospital was established; and by 1881 in Taurus, Louis Pasteur had discovered the anthrax vaccine.