Saturn in Virgo: Thrifty is Nifty

According to The New York Times, we’re on the “Recession Diet.” Here’s the article.

Astrologers call it Saturn in Virgo. The planet of restriction, Saturn started its journey through Virgo, the sign of modesty and restraint, in September, 2007, and remains there until July, 2010.

Think back to what you were doing the last time that Saturn was in Virgo, from 1978 to 1981. Speaking for myself, I’ll never forget those chilly nights in the composing room at the New Jersey newspaper where I worked.

The Wiki says that President Jimmy Carter dealt with the energy crisis by mandating that the thermostat be kept no higher than 65 degrees in the winter and no lower than 78 degrees in the summer. To set a good example for us, Carter cheerfully donned a sweater, making it look as if the White House were in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Now, I know I’m not going to get a lot of sympathy from New Englanders on this one, but at our paper, the thermostat was turned down to 55 degrees for the night shift. We all wore our coats and woolen gloves with the fingertips cut off in order to do our jobs. Al Gore would have been proud of us for keeping our carbon footprint to a minimum, but it’s hard to work when your teeth are chattering.

What’s really annoying is that the U.S. didn’t learn its lesson during the last energy crisis. When I lived in London in 1981, the house where I was staying only had hot water for two hours a day of your choosing, typically one in the morning and one at night. This was actually a step up from the flat where I had lived previously. There, you only got hot water when you inserted a coin to start the heater. Why waste energy to heat water in your home when you’re at school or work?

Maybe we’ll actually get it this time, because transiting Pluto in Capricorn is trining Saturn in Virgo and is putting pressure on the U.S. to change for good, as it moves to an opposition with our Cancer Sun.

There’s nothing like Saturn in Virgo to tighten those belts. I know it’s not even summer yet, but it’s never too early to start setting aside unwanted stuff for this holiday season’s “Yankee Swap.”

I learned about this yuletide tradition from my friends Margaret O’Connor and Jonathan Berman, when they lived in New York. Every December, they hosted a wonderful Christmas party that ended with the Yankee Swap. Each guest would bring some white elephant (one small enough to wrap in very pretty paper, preferably recycled). The gifts were given to our host and hostess, who placed them in a smart-looking rattan hamper.

After a sumptuous buffet dinner, the fun would begin. Each guest was invited to draw a number from a basket. The person with the highest number (these parties were immense and the numbers often went as high as 80) would choose her present first. Then No. 79 would open his present.

If he didn’t like it, he had the privilege of asking No. 80 to exchange her “Maryland is for Crabs” T-shirt for his Hong Kong telephone. The person who drew No. 78 had two items to consider in addition to his own, perhaps a small bottle of medicine-like Becherovka liqueur procured from the Czech Republic.

The guest with the lowest number had a spectacular range of detritus to choose from. Over the course of several glasses of champagne, the crowd would become quite raucous, and a splendid time was had by all, except for the person who actually got something she liked and was forced to surrender it. The really good stuff, say a Manchester United scarf, changed hands many times during the course of the swap.

Want to host your own Yankee Swap? Click on this Web site and get the official rules.

Their version calls for the lowest number to pick a present first, the opposite of my story. But that’s O.K. It works either way.

Maybe the Yankee Swap should be adapted for children’s birthday parties to give cash-strapped parents a break. You could allow the birthday girl to choose last so she would end up with the best thing. All the other children would draw a number to determine their order in line, and everyone would leave with a present. Sounds good to me, but I don’t have kids.

Well, maybe it’s not such a great idea for young children, whom I’m informed by several friends form an immediate attachment to items they have just received. The Yankee Swap concept may be suitable only for ages 12 and up.

Yankee Swaps, garage sales, consignment stores, thrift shops, eBay, and craigslist will all flourish under Saturn in Virgo. Old Media may be treading water, but Yankee magazine, which celebrates New England thriftiness, will be as fashionable as Vogue during these tough Saturn in Virgo times. Knit your loved one a sweater. He or she will need it this winter.

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