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Before the First Saturn Square- Astrology and Young Children

This article addresses the issue of interpreting the charts of young children - primarily those of the under five's - or in astrological terms before they reach their first Saturn square.

It is likely that work done for a young child will be prepared for someone other than the subject - possibly the parent of a first born child who has little experience of children or for someone outside the family as the chart is intended as a gift. Commonly a written analysis will be required which can be referred to, as the child gets older. It is likely to be referred to for a long time and often will be the only astrological analysis offered, at least until the child reaches adulthood. There is a temptation in these circumstances to describe the child in glowing terms to be part of the celebration of birth that needs to be avoided. It may be the only chance we have to prepare a chart on a completely blank slate. If contact is retained with the parents it is possible for us to see the child grow into the chart and how it manifests.

But for astrologers, preparing the chart of a young child - specifically the under 7 who hasn't yet reached their first Saturn square - can be a real joy. Even casual observation can show the child living out their chart in such a way that we wonder whether they wrote the textbook. Over there you have the fifth house Saturn child wondering how to join in his classmate's games. Turn around and you see the third house Pluto beating his sister over the head with building blocks. You can put them in front of you playing a game with other children and that's the Taurus Moon over there, who's eating everything; that's the Virgo ascendant wiping the table with a cloth because they left a spot on it; that's Leo who everyone is following - you can see them, it's easy astrology. But because it's easy you can get fooled. It's also easy to make mistakes.

All great fun for astrologers. But what parents usually want when they ask for the chart of a very young child are simple basic answers to simple basic questions. They want to know if the child is ever going to sleep for more than four hours at a time, they want to know if they're ever going to eat a decent meal, they want to know if they're going to stop slapping their younger brothers and sisters.

We may want to delve into the deeper recesses of the parent-child relationship. Mother wants to know how to get the little monster to sleep at nights. Talking about development of artistic and musical ability later in life can be fascinating but often unhelpful at an early stage.

For this age group we aren't so much concerned with the bigger things in life as we might be for an adult. Some astrologers aren't happy doing young children's' charts as they don't like to work at this sort of basic level. This can be very much textbook astrology - with no frills or room for manoeuvre. They young child lives out the ascendant, they live out their sun sign.

The difference before the first Saturn square

I'm using the cut-off point as the first Saturn square. Obviously slightly prior to this we get the first Jupiter opposition. The Jupiter opposition heralds the change that you'll get with the Saturn square - - the big expansion ready to be constricted. The process is beginning. This is why I've been looking at under 5's rather than under 7's. I've been looking atbefore the Jupiter opposition as well. The real differences begin at that age.

Saturn squares its natal position at about the age of 7. At this time the progressed Moon is making a square to its natal position and Uranus a semi sextile to its natal position. We would expect a lot of changes around the ages of 6 or 7 with all this going on. People often speak of these changes in vague terms but often don't realise how specific and obvious the changes are. Most of them are due to one reason - what is that?

The biggest difference between children and adults is that children do not have the sense of time that adults have. They start to develop that sense of time at the first Saturn square. The adult has time control and is the one who knows how long anything is going to continue for. A young child doesn't know how long something is going to last. They don't understand tomorrow and yesterday. They don't understand next week.

There are also physical things that happen around this time. Milk teeth start to fall out and adult teeth come through; you develop handedness; up to the ages of six or seven you have no sense of left or right handedness. During the first years of life you shift from one hand to the other. There is a pattern with different age groups as to whether you're left or right handed. And this has nothing to do with whether you end up being left or right handed. Or you may develop freckles - young children aren't born with freckles.

There are many psychological changes and they're almost all to do with a sense of time.

In the early months of life elements of Saturn cannot be present in the way that we tend to think of them as this would mean that boundaries between the mother and child were established and the child is not yet ready to tolerate an awareness of separation from its life support system. Saturn boundaries begin to arise when the mother does not do what the child wants. Rather than a switch between lunar and Saturnian mothering roles, it is an integration of both types of experience and a gradual shift in the first few years of life away from the Moon and towards Saturn.

The boundaries between reality and unreality are blurred. Anything and everything can be real or unreal. Young children live in a dream like world where the boundary between unreal and real is indistinct. Under the age of seven children find it difficult to understand reality, as we know it as their concept of time, position and place of people and individuals is still developing. Younger children become easily confused about what is true or false, what is good or bad. Young children's memory works on images. Up until the age of 3 or 4 when Saturn semi squares its natal position, a child has an eidetic memory, remembering things as images rather than verbally. most adults have verbal memory although there are exceptions. In general after the Saturn semi square you start to develop a verbal memory. You can tell people what you remember. A child can see what they remember but can't always verbalise it. That has nothing to do with their language skills.

Gender definition isn't fixed until about three years old when most children can tell you what gender they are. A child is the gender that you tell them they are. You can tell a boy that he's a girl, a girl that she's a boy and they will happily believe you. Why shouldn't they? It doesn't matter if you point out the physical differences they believe what they're told. It's probably best if I tell you not to try this at home though, we don't want to go around upsetting people. Gender identity becomes fixed between the ages of 5 and 7 and after that time cannot be changed.

Most authorities accept that a child cannot be depressed. To be depressed you need a sense of time. Sadness is learned from copying the reactions of adults and is often only a fleeting emotion when exhibited. To be truly depressed you need a sense of hopelessness, to believe that things won't get better, you see things getting worse, and this is only possible with a sense of time.

Grief in the young child is similar: to be able to understand grief it is necessary to appreciate the uniqueness of the individual realising that they cannot be replaced and again to have a sense of time. If someone close to the young child dies they cannot appreciate that they are not going to see that person again as they have no true sense of time. They know it rationally, they can tell you that but the feeling is different to rationalising. Everything happens now. Understanding of grief is rare in children under seven.

Most of the big changes that occur around the time of the first Saturn Square are to do with this sense of time. It is at the first stressful Saturn square that the young child becomes capable of experiencing the type of emotions associated with Saturn.

Because of the young child's special relationship with time, fleeting influences from planetary cycles can have a deep and lasting effect. In general most of us take little notice of Mercury returns, occasionally get hopeful on a Venus return and avoid our enemies on a Mars return. A young child can be seen to be going through a specific stage of development aligned with the planetary cycles and what may seem a minor transit to us as adults can be of major importance in the childs life.

The development of the young child

Babies, toddlers and infants live in the same physical world as we do but their mind works differently because their psychological worlds are very different. During the stage between the first Saturn square and the first Saturn opposition - between the ages of 7 to 14 we have a different group of children again, and then from the opposition to the next square. Each of these Saturn cycles show a different area of development. We are all well practised at pointing out whether people have grown into themselves according to whether they've had their first Saturn return or not before getting to that stage are other points of development. Some of what I say will apply to the 7/14 age group.

The term cognitive development describes the changes that occur in thinking, perception and memory as we grow. Despite differences in the way children are treated, general patterns of development can be observed. Behaviour is not at the mercy of the child's environment. Children go through certain stages in a certain order but not necessarily all at the same time. Unless there is a physical problem each child learns to walk. If they learn to crawl they will crawl before they walk. Some children don't crawl which is something I'd like to take a look at later. A child will sit, crawl and then walk; they won't do it in a random order. But while one child may learn to walk at the age of 8 months another may be 18 months. There is a very broad band as to what is considered normal. I think that the reason why we have such a broad band is because of the triggers within their chart. With walking, crawling jumping and so on we're talking about the Mars cycle. We look at Mercury cycles to see speech and dexterity; Venus seems to be the biggest indicator for separation issues rather than bonding. Venus returns often herald strong separation issues with the mother. With an adults chart we may be thinking of beginning a new love affair. All bright and jolly but for a child is a break, a separation.

The child's intellectual development takes place through the development of what one psychologist Jean Piaget calls schemata, which are the internal representation of a series of physical or mental actions. In other words the child establishes their own sets of rules about how the world works. They operate those rules and live within them until something challenges those rules and then they have to develop a new set. And so they go through to the next stage. They always have their own set of rules and they change with the planetary cycles. They need these rules to understand how to interact with the environment and other people. Once a set of rules is developed the child is motivated to use and test them, it's the constant testing that leads onto the next stage.

Understanding the world through an existing schema is known as assimilation. The assimilation of things into existing schemata allows the child to remember more information about the world although fitting things into the existing frameworks makes the child act in a way which adults consider odd. This is a very definite process. This is how the world is - hang on a minute - that can't be quite right - something doesn't fit - we'll redo these rules, make it fit. I've redone my rules, I allow for this thing to happen and then I test it until something else happens. This process goes on all the time.

When a mismatch between schemata and feedback is experienced the child is said to be in a state of disequilibrium and a new schema has to be formed. This process is known as accommodation.

Developmental theory states that children pass through four broad stages that correspond with successive age ranges. From infancy to about age two, children go through what Piaget called the sensorimotor stage. This is a time when children physically manipulate and sensorially explore the environment. It is not a time when there are mental thoughts about the world.

During the preschool years, from age two until about six or seven (Piaget's Pre-operational stage), children begin to have internal thoughts about the external world, especially as they learn to use language. The child learns to use words as symbols of objects. During this pre-operational stage, children can represent their world in symbols, but they cannot yet mentally manipulate language to classify or logically explore the world. They are in a perceptual world (still absorbing), not a conceptual world.

The third (Piaget's operational) stage unfolds between the ages of seven to eleven or twelve. These are the elementary school years during which children begin to manipulate thoughts, just as they once manipulated the physical environment. Students learn to classify objects, using similarity and difference, and they begin to understand time, number, and space with a degree of sophistication. Although children can begin to reason logically at this early age, their thoughts are still concrete. They cannot yet manipulate abstract ideas.

Piaget's final stage is called the age of formal operations. This occurs after the age of twelve, during the middle and high school years (adolescence). During this time, children develop the adult abilities to use hypotheses, to bring organizational systems into their thoughts, and to understand and employ empathy.

At the same time that all these cognitive stages are evolving, there is a concomitant unfolding of neuromuscular abilities. The child walks at the end of the sensorimotor period, just as language is developing. During the preschool years the child learns to ascend and descend steps using alternating feet. Around age three the blind child learns to walk in a straight line, and at age four to walk in a circle. The ability to do fine motor skills gradually develops as the child moves through the elementary years.

The transition from the first to the second phase, from the sensorimotor to the preoperational period in Piagetian terms, occurs during the months leading up to the second birthday, and this is precisely the period when Mars conjoins its natal place, the first Mars Return. The next major transition at 6-7 coincides with the opening square transit of Saturn to its natal place. And the third transition, at about 11 1/2 to 12 1/2, coincides with the first Jupiter Return.

Perhaps it is obvious that the first major Saturn transit to the natal position is linked with an awareness of death and grief and the ability to be depressed. Father Time is a slow mover when we are young. Perception of the speed of time varies as our life goes on. This is partially due to a change in metabolic rate and partially to how memory works. If we have lived one day, experiences are vivid and important as 100% of our life. By the time we reach 30 each day is 1/10,000th of our life. And each successive day is a smaller proportion. Time contracts and passes more quickly. This is one reason for the accepted premise that childhood experiences have a lasting effect on our lives.

Because of the child's special relationship with time, fleeting influences from planetary patterns can have a deep and lasting effect. In general, we take little notice of our Mercury returns, occasionally get hopeful on a Venus return and avoid our enemies or try to direct out energies on a mars return. However, a young child can be seen to be going through a specific stage of development aligned with the planetary cycles and what may seem a minor transit to us can have a deep and lasting effect on them. Many astrologers note that a young child expresses their lunar qualities strongly but take little notice of the difference in effect from the rest of the inner planets. Everything is felt for the now and the inner planet transits need to be accommodated before they can assimilate outer planet transits.

Each planetary combination is a new experience to a child and well before the age of reason at seven the child is experiencing a number of planetary cycles that through our familiarity we tend to ignore. The cycles of all the planets open us up to new experiences enabling us to develop skills, a process which continues into adulthood. Everything is in the now, the concept of past and future is difficult to grasp and a fleeting influence of apparently minor important can have a lasting effect on a young child.

Interpretation factors

Young children live out their charts to such an extent that you might think that they have stolen your astrology textbooks. Before the first Saturn square the young child will experience two Mars returns, A Jupiter square and opposition as well as a number of Venus and Mercury returns. Human beings are pre programmed to develop in a certain way. However, all children do not achieve the same skills at the same age. There is a wide range as to what is considered normal. Planetary cycles as well as transiting aspects to planets can help us to pinpoint when a child is likely to achieve the different stages.

Angles

Planets that make a major aspect to the ascendant are generally considered to be related to the birth experience. For example, the involvement of Mars can point towards surgical intervention, Neptune to a drug aided delivery and Saturn to a lengthy labour. We tend to describe the birth in terms of the mother rather than the child. It is the child's perception of the birth that is important and a Mars involvement may refer to a sense of violence, Neptune to other worldliness. Mars is also traditionally the planet that rules childbirth so its involvement with the ascendant need not indicate anything worrisome.

Cycles of inner planets

It is worth reminding ourselves here of the cycles of the inner planets. Mercury has an orbit of 88 days, Venus of 225 days and Mars of 687 days. Mercury is retrograde for 20% of the time, Venus for 7% of the time and Mars for (% of the time. Retrograde motion may be one reason why there is a large variance in ages in reaching a developmental milestone.

A milestone is an achievement such as walking, crawling, jumping, sitting which all children achieve and is used to judge the general; development of the child. There is a wide range of ages for achieving milestones. Walking may be achieved between 6 months and 2 years of age and be considered normal though the average age for walking is 13 months.

The end of babyhood and beginning of toddler hood is at one year. This is the time of the first solar return. First Venus return and first Mercury return. Depending on retrograde motion these returns may coincide or be staggered over a period. At this age most children have some sort of mobility, speech has started to develop and they may be comprehensible to outsiders. They are no longer babies.

Moon

While the ages of seven through twelve are taken to be ruled by Mercury and ages 13 through 18 by Venus and Mars, the first seven years are dominated by the Moon. Until the age of seven, the Moon is the prime indicator of what a child must receive in order to feel safe and well-nurtured. If a child doesn't get what they need, which is often indicated by difficult aspects to the Moon, they can miss out on emotional resilience.

According to Ptolemy, the Moon is an appropriate ruler for this age because there is a flexibility in the body, quick growth, changeability and the food of infancy is liquid, all things that are linked to the Moon.

The Moon is pre-verbal and unconscious. Imprints set here are very hard to access and change. If for example, the Moon is conjunct Jupiter this indicates that the individual takes a strong nurturing imprint. That person will probably be very well nurtured, and may live in a protected environment. They will carry this with them for the rest of their lives and it will shape their destiny.

The Moon represents a part of us that begins to develop in infancy, in our mother's arms before we have any verbal capacity. At that age, we do not understand who we are (the Sun) or how we fit into the family (the Ascendant); we only know what we feel - hunger, heat, cold, dampness, rage, fear, or need. The Moon is our sense of comfort and safety, or the lack thereof. A child with a Moon-Saturn aspect or Moon in Capricorn is often born to a mother with one or more of the following characteristics: older, anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed with responsibilities, strongly career-oriented. A birth chart with a strong Saturn-Moon aspect symbolises a person born into a cold, unemotional, restrictive environment. It may be worth investigating whether babies that spend time in incubators have strong Saturn-Moon aspects. Later in life, this condition often coincides both with fears of intimacy in relationships and with control over feelings and emotions.

The Moon is passively receptive to outside influences. So the child begins its life in a psychologically fluid state, taking its early shape from the maternal mould. Although an individual with distinct characteristics that will later become conscious, the infant experiences helplessness and vulnerability, and is unable to act for itself except in blind or dim responses. Throughout these first seven years, the child registers the effects of its environment and in so doing displays the acutely impressionable nature of the moon.

During this early phase of life the child develops many personality habits, powers of observation, becomes aware of and interested in their surroundings, reaches out to touch and experience things through the senses. Taste, touch and sight are the first senses developed. A young baby will put everything to its mouth to examine it more closely. Recognition by smell and hearing follows a little later. During this time the reflexes are mainly of feeling and sensation. As the hearings sense begins to co-ordinate with the thinking process and the child begins to recognise people, sounds and the meaning of words and compare things we move into the phase of Mercury.

The Moon takes twenty eight days to go once around the Zodiac, spending only two days in each sign. It governs those aspects of life that change from day to day, the many faces of our everyday personality that may seem consistent to ourselves but may seem to wax and wane to others.

The Moon symbolizes our most basic survival needs. It is our instinctive response to situations and represents those feelings, moods and internal physical rhythms that nature designed for our protection. The sign of the Moon defines the type of environment and emotional response we subconsciously know will provide security and protection. Having no other way to express or protect themselves, infants resonate to the sign of their Moon as a source of comfort and safety. The Moon is the most important planet in an infant's chart, and describes the type of emotional response that is needed from mom to feel comfortable, safe, secure and loved.

During the first weeks of an infant's life, as appropriate kinds and number of sensations are exchanged between infant and mom, the infant feels safe and secure enough to allow its innate emotional nature to emerge from the unconscious.

Infancy and toddlerhood are now seen as the time when the core of an individual's ability to think, feel and relate to others is being formed, and when important protective factors such as intelligence, trust and empathy can be lost. Possibly the most important information to come out of this research is just how important the infant's first experiences are to the individual's entire life.

Marc Edmond Jones has suggested that the speed of the Moon at birth can be sued as a guide towards how quickly the young child can learn. If the Moon is moving above about 13 degrees and 10 minutes then it is fast at assimilating information and using it. This is nothing to do with intelligence. A slow moon - under 13 are slower at getting information together and using it. A particularly fast Moon, over about 14 and a half degrees this indicates a fast learner. When you're looking at a chart of a very young baby this can be a useful guideline. Because you can offer an instant analysis and watch how the Moon speeds up and slows down in the first days of life. And this can affect how they process information and se it.

For the first weeks of a child's life looking at the transiting Moon can be helpful. Small babies are known to be especially fretful and sensitive during the three days around a full Moon especially if they were born around the time of a full Moon. Additional sensitivity can be noted when the Moon returns to the sign it was in at birth. At this time the baby is likely to be emotionally expressive and cling more to the mother. During the first weeks information can be gleaned from the Moon perfecting the applying aspects we see in the natal chart. Additional sensitivity can be noted, especially in relation to illness, when the moon is in the same sign as at birth for very young babies.

Progressed Moon Cycle

When we're looking further ahead we need to look at the progressed Moon cycle. Transiting Moons are only any good for the first weeks of life if we're not to drown in piles of data. Nit pickers may want to follow the transiting Moon around the chart for the first few months as it probably still yields valid information.

It takes about two and a half years for the Moon to move through each sign by secondary progression. An about 27 to 29 years to traverse the chart, allying it with the Saturn cycle.

In other words about the same time as a Mars return. This also commonly occurs when a younger sibling is born, although on occasion it indicates the desire for a sibling coming to light. In the first two and a half years of life aspects are received from every planet in the chart by the progressed Moon. All applying aspects are perfected and the Moon triggers every point in the chart. Adult responses to the child's actions are being learnt. As the Moon moves at about one degree per month all applying aspects will be perfected before the child is one years old. In other words at the stage when a child ceases to be a baby and becomes an infant. In looking at the charts of young babies we have little to work with but the lunar cycle. Small babies are known to be particularly fretful and sensitive during the three days around a full Moon, especially if they were born on a full Moon. Sensitivity is heightened in any event when the Moon returns to its natal position. Emotional expression increases and the baby clings more closely to the mother.

That time at about two to two and a half is the terrible twos - tantrums, end of the first lunar cycle, end of the first Mars cycle, anyone who has experienced young children know what I'm talking about. It does vary slightly with different children depending on the motion of Mars. So it may be close or separate to the progressed Moon cycle. Adult responses are beginning to be learned. A sense of what is going to happen and what has happened starts to develop rather than simply a sense of what is happening now. Time. In theory difficult separating aspects and easy approaching aspects show calm infants. And vice versa. Colic? A screaming baby without this combination the screaming is caused by something else.

Between two and two and a half years of age the progressed Moon has changed sign forming a semi-sextile to its natal position. Depending on the change of sign the child withdraws or becomes more responsive. Squares become trines and sextiles giving an ease in response in those areas whilst tension can be found where none previously existed.

Between three and six the Moon enters the next sign forming aspects more compatible with those found in the natal chart. The polarity returns to that of the natal Moon. As a working aspect the sextile encourages imitation of the prime carer. During the fifth year when this aspect perfects, imitative behaviour becomes stronger. A child will not only attempt to imitate the behaviour of a parent of the same sex but also respond to the other parent in a way which is designed to elicit similar responses to those a parent receives. A little girl may try to do whatever mom does to make dad happy.

Between the ages of five and seven and a half the first square is formed. This is another warning of the impending Saturn square and may coincide with it. It coincides with the start of formal schooling for many and represents the first serious attempt to disengage emotionally from the mother. Depending on aspects made by the progressed Moon while in the sign square its natal position, this process may begin immediately or not occur until the time of the exact square at about seven to eight and a half. Switching from receptive to active or vice versa is as confusing for the child as it is to their adult carers. Responses and the level of understanding reached depend to a degree on how well the mother is coping with her emotional stresses.

Examining the Moon can give us an awareness of the emotional development of the child. But it is the cycles of the inner planets which give developmental clues in other terms. As Mercury is retrograde 20 per cent of the time, Venus 7 and Mars 9 there is great variance in the ages in which a child reaches a particular stage of development. A milestone achievement such as walking, crawling and sitting, which all able bodied children achieve, is used to judge the general development of the child. There is a wide range of ages for achieving milestones. For example walking can be achieved between 6 months and two years of age with the child still being classed as having normal development although the average age for walking is 13 months. This variation of ages can be allied to the variations in planetary movement in an individual's chart.

Cycles

I'd like to move on and look at some of the cycles at this stage. Every minor transit holds importance for the young child, as it's a new experience. Few people in this room are likely to get excited by Mercury transiting their Sun. Been there, done that. But this could be when a child utters their first word. In practical terms as well we can't possibility track all the inner planet transits for an adult. But we don't need to. We learn from experience and although the Saturn return is classed as a major changing point before it happens we have experienced Saturn aspecting it's natal position, perhaps conjoining our sun or moon. We have a sense of what Saturn transits mean for us. A young child has yet to have those experiences and the very newness of inner planet transits gives them power. I have found that it isn't the first try at a new skill, the first word or step that ties in with the transits. But rather the first competent effort. The first communication with someone outside the immediate family circle, the first walk outside. Maybe the first shoes. First achievements are different. This can be difficult to define.

If Mercury is retrograde for a long time they are not going to have a Mercury return or opposition at the same time as another child may, they may have to wait until Mercury is direct to catch up with some development points. If they are born with a retrograde planet that again makes a difference.

We are generally looking for aspects between the planet concerned and the Moon and/or Sun - perhaps additionally the ascendant, as well as aspects to the natal position of the planet. There is a wide range of ages for achieving milestone skills and they will vary depending on when retrograde motion happens.

Mercury

We all understand that Mercury governs speech, writing, communication and the mental functions in general. The early years are when the child learns the mechanics of communication, how to write, to speak, to express their self as a mental being and not just as a collection of clamorous desires. They discover that they can contradict the voice of authority sometimes and assert their ideas so that others will listen and pay attention. However, Mercury is not restricted to language development, it is also the planet we look to for development in dexterity and general learning skills. Additionally, hands and feet grow before arms and legs.

In some systems of astrology Mercury rules the period when a child has just been born. While aware of separate existence, they are still closely connected to the mother. The arising of a sense of difference between child and mother is the basis for the concept of division and the source of logical thought. Other schools of thought ally Mercury with the ages of 7 to 14.

This second stage is true childhood, lasting from four to fourteen. It is associated with Mercury, the second fastest planet. Ptolemy explains that this is the period when the child begins to articulate and formulate intelligence, when learning takes place and the mind-character can be moulded through instruction.

During the Mercury phase the child begins rapidly learning and begins to discover its own interests, talents and abilities. Thinking and talking become developed. This stage remains until the onset of puberty when the child enters the Venus phase.

The association between Mercury and early learning is strong. Interestingly, learning difficulties and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have recently been associated with Mrecury toxins. For the past several years, parents have become increasingly concerned about their children's learning difficulties. Yet this was not a major problem for children growing up in the 1700s or the early 1800s.

In 200 years, we have produced trillions of tons of chemicals utilizing mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and aluminum to work in our industries.

For example, thimerosal is a preservative that has been used as an additive in vaccines [Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), diphtheria and tetanus toxoids with acellular pertussis (DTaP), hepatitis B, influenza] since the 1930's to prevent bacterial and fungal contamination. Thimerosal contains mercury. Mercury can cause immune, sensory, neurological, motor, and behavioral dysfunctions. Autism has also been associated with Mercury toxins. The fetus is eight times more sensitive to mercury than its mother prior to pregnancy. Human exposure to mercury typically occurs when contaminated fish are eaten as food. Children born of women exposed to relatively high levels of methyl mercury during pregnancy have exhibited a variety of developmental neurological abnormalities, including delayed onset of walking and talking, cerebral palsy, and reduced neurological test scores.

Mercury takes about three months to circle the Sun but because it is so close to the Sun it follows it around the Zodiac, moving backwards and forwards around the Solar position on a three monthly cycle. At its fastest it passes through a zodiacal sign in a fortnight and covers affairs of this nature - our pattern of work, our weekly routine, our immediate plans. In the course of a year Mercury marks out the seasons.

As Mercury cannot be more than 27 degrees from the Sun at any point, the first Mercury return occurs about the age of one year - the end of babyhood. The timing of Mercury making its first squares, trines etc to its natal position are highly variable and it is difficult to say that a certain combination results in a particular milestone achievement. In practice Mercury aspects to the Sun and Moon supported by an aspect to its own position provide timing. We need to be aware more in the case of Mercury of the range for normal achievement if we are to make any sensible predictions. The position of transiting Mercury will obviously depend on retrograde motion. With some children born with direct Mercury which does not go retrograde for some time after birth the Mercury return will clearly herald a developmental milestone. With others we may have to ay more attention to the first squares and oppositions.

The first Mercury return occurs at about one year of age, the beginning of toddler hood and the stage t which most children develop clear language. Therefore the Mercury return is associated with first speech. As Mercury has traversed the chart it has conjoined every point, gathering information as it goes. The aspects it makes immediately before the return shows the ways in which this happens, for example if it is triggered by Uranus the n there will be a flash of inspiration, but Saturn a dogged determination and so on. Or with a Saturn contact they may lose confidence in their abilities.

It is easiest to see the Mercury cycle in terms of speech but it isn't exclusively connected with that. Dexterity is also to be considered as well as handedness. The cycle of developing handedness is highly complicated and we don't have time to go through it here, it may be interesting at some point to develop that idea further. The point at which they settle on one hand or another logically ties into a Mercury pattern. Babies begin life by using both hands and later develop through a stage of using the right and left alternately. By the age of four, a preference of hand will be noticeable and by the age of eight or nine, dominance will have been established. There are children who begin to reveal their preference early in life, while others keep parents guessing into primary school. Most show a propensity to use one hand for throwing, writing, and drawing at about age three. Until then, changing hands is pretty much the rule. However, a large minority of children continues to do this until the age of six. In fact, up to 20 per cent of children remain equally capable with either hand (ambidextrous) at least for some tasks.

The closest Mercury pattern to the first Saturn square is the one associated with handedness. It has been postulated that if Mercury is retrograde at this time that leads to left-handedness, but this is not a theory I've tested.

With the retrograde motion of Mercury it isn't possible to draw up a list of what should be expected when. But the milestone achievements appear to align with Mercury making a major aspect to its natal position at the same time as aspecting one of the luminaries. Thos "bigger" more active achievements appear to involve the Sun rather than Moon. The more subtle and gradual changes involve the Moon. Although we are talking about Mercury at this point this pattern holds true for the other planets, albeit with different milestone achievements.

At 4 weeks of age an infant is capable of distinguishing between sounds and will make cooing noises to indicate pleasure.

At three months non-verbal signals of communication can be noted, dexterity improves enabling the child to hold onto an object and the child shows signs of recognising the mother.

At 4 months pointing begins and the child is likely to laugh for the first time.

There is an association between Saturn/Mercury combinations and smiling as early smiles have a relationship with fear, rather than with enjoyment. Think of the smiles and laughter of a young baby who is tossed in the air and caught, peek a boo games etc. There is a sense of thank God I'm safe and can now laugh.

At 5 months the infant is capable of locating audible objects in the dark.

At 5 months a link between sound and gesture is made.

At 6 months there is a marked increase in the range of sounds made

At 6 months dexterity improves and a child can bring a held object to its mouth and transfer it from one hand to the other

At 12 months one word utterances are made.

In the case of Grace, aged two and a half when I examined her chart, a Mercury tine to its natal position was significant in indicting a house move. This occurred at the same time as Mars making an opposition to its natal position and in a child of this age an emphasis on two planetary cycles is often indicative of a major change.

In the case of Grace aged two and a half when I examined her chart a Mercury tine to its natal position was significant in indicting a house move. This occurred at the same time as Mars making an opposition to its natal position and in a child of this age an emphasis on two planetary cycles is often indicative of a major change.

Venus

Venus is the influence of love, art, culture, sympathy, social relationships, evaluation. All emotions that have a sexual basis begin here, including the love of beauty. Creative activities - poetry, acting, music, dancing - come under Venus. It aims to unify. Venus represents a stage when the child realises he or she has something to give and gives freely. Movement is necessary so that the child does not give too much. When development takes its natural course, Venus represents the faculty of synthesis.

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Starting at age fourteen is the third age (youth) which lasts for eight years and is associated with Venus, the third fastest planet. Ptolemy explains that this is the age when there is an impulse toward love, sexual expression and a burning passion for ideals and all the blindness that goes with it.

Venus takes about eight months, 18 and 2/3 days in each sign. On this timescale we see a curious relationship with the Moon with its 18 and 2/3 year eclipse cycle or Saros. Venus covers the rise and fall of feelings, the span of desire. In the sky it is moon-like in that it can be seen in the evening or morning, and it waxes and wanes. In the way that the moon is the reactive feelings, externally stimulated, Venus is those feelings that are internally generated over time. Advertising campaigns usually run for about three weeks before their impact can be assessed.

Again, Venus can be difficult to plot in terms of timing events as it maintains a distance from the Sun of 45 degrees and the timing of its first major aspects to its natal position are highly variable. Venus cycles seem to be primarily concerned with issues of separation, particularly returns which commonly indicate some sort of separation from the mother. Examples of Venus issues are:-

At six months indiscriminate attachment ends

Between 7 & 8 months fear of strangers begins and specific attachment begins

At twelve months specific attachment ends and multiple attachment begins

Looking at Sebastian's chart again Venus squared its natal position on 6 April 1994. This was when he rejected his dummy and refused external comfort objects. On 20 June 1994 at his first opposition his mother noted that he "showed signs of anxiety when seeing me across the room. I.e. not holding him, panicked for the first time in a room full of people who are not focussing their attention on him." On the following Venus square she noted "loves playing peek-a-boo and chases after me when I leave the room" By following the Venus cycle we can see the child's relationship to the mother developing as he learns that he is a separate entity and learns ways in which to cope with this new experience.

Mars

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Especially ages six months to two years. Breastmilk contains an adequate supply of iron for infants and many formulas are fortified with iron so they do too. This age group is in an important stage of growth and development - the brain is growing and learning, cognitive development is occurring, motor skills and behavioral development is happening. Iron deficiency has detrimental effects on all of these. It can cause a loss of 9 IQ points, slows the brain functions, hurting coordination and motor skills. Even mild anaemia in infants and young children can impair intellectual development. Anaemia in children under two years of age may cause problems with coordination and balance, and the child may appear withdrawn and hesitant. This can limit the child's ability to interact and may hinder intellectual development.

Mars takes two years to traverse the Zodiac. It is the last of the inner planets and as such sets the limits of our practical existence. Mars covers our strategies for life, our perceivable building blocks. Most educational courses are based around two years. Most martial arts require two years to attain Black Belt. It is the cycle of skill acquisition. One theory of learning is that understanding lags learning by two years.

Saturn in aspect to Mars in a birth chart indicates one who becomes conditioned to control and who holds back much of the time. A strong ye t difficult Saturn-Mars contact could mean a frustrating toilet training experience during the time of second circuit (Mars/Emotional-Territorial) imprint. Toilet training is an important act of self-sufficiency, a proof of autonomy. With Saturn stressfully connected to Mars one may find a parent who puts pressure on the child, such as pressure to control the bodily functions. This could backfire if the timing is wrong, and the child may spend the rest of his or her life with control problems, a fear of self-sufficiency and a lack of confidence. A positive Saturn-Mars contact suggests the steady control of the aggressive instinct, which is needed when life's great challenges are to be met.

Mars, the point of muscular control and personal autonomy. This is the stage where toddlers learn to do things for themselves. Toilet-training requires muscle control.

1 month - jerky movement

6 months - sits erect when held lifts head

9 months - independent sitting moves around floor

12 months - can stand alone for a few seconds

15 months - clambers to feet, walks unsteadily

Mars is the easiest planet to understand in terms of child development. We are all aware of the "terrible two's" - the bursts of energy and two-year-olds struggle to maintain supremacy by screaming and refusing to cooperate or even negotiate. The toddler is furious. He rules the world, he pulls the strings and the parents respond.

A child is approximately two years old when Mars returns for the first time to the sign and degree of the horoscope it occupied at the child's birth.

Nurturing an infant's Mars begins at birth with the impulsive action of the infant and the supportive reaction of the primary caregiver. An infant's actions are purely impulsive reactions to the sensations and emotions he is experiencing. His desires do not exist as thoughts or ideas, but rather as motor behavior. It is an infant's instinctive motor behavior that gives evidence of his Mars.

For months an infant's impulsive actions, fueled by their desires go uncontested-fed when hungry, carried when tired of walking and easily gets their parents' attention. In time, they become aware that it is their actions that lead to the attainment of their desires.

Six to Eight Months - Transiting Mars has traveled 90 degrees from its birth position At this stage the child is ready to start connecting emotions to actions. The ability to sit upright frees their arms and hands while changing their perspective. They begin to act on their own behalf with increased freedom and dexterity by consciously choosing and grasping any desired object that is within his limited reach. The ability to independently and purposefully select and play with one toy after another marks a turning point, and during the second half of the first year voluntary mobility becomes an option.

Twelve to Fourteen Months: Transiting Mars opposition. The urge to become independent and the negativism that accompanies it begins with walking. The baby becomes a toddler - coinciding with the first Venus, Mercury and solar returns. They become more aware of the fact that they are separate individuals and have a will of their own.

Eighteen to Twenty Months Mars second square. With increased mobility and the freedom to act purposefully on his own behalf, the toddler has developed courage, and with a new burst of energy begins to demand recognition by asserting his personal authority.

Twenty-Four to Twenty-Six Months Mars return. The toddler is full of Mars energy. There is a need to establish that the parent is still in charge.

For months an infant's impulsive actions, fuelled by his desires, have rightly gone uncontested-he was fed when hungry, carried when tired of walking and easily got his parents' attention. In time, an infant begins to see this happen and becomes aware that it is his actions that lead to the attainment of his desires. Healthy assertive development requires that the two year old see himself as omnipotent.

There will be variations depending on the sign placement of Mars and the aspects it makes. The sign tells us how they reach out to gain experience and the aspects, or angles between Mars and other planets in the birth chart, reveal areas of the personality that will assist or be obstacles to assertive development.

Transiting Mars goes retrograde about every two years and two months. This can cause variation in the age that the different stages are experienced. During a retrograde period assimilation of skills already gained is possible.

To look at it another way - Mars squares its own position at about 5 months at the approach of crawling skills. It opposes its natal position at about 11 months, around the time that crawling begins, makes a second square at about 16 months and returns about 22 months. The beginning of the terrible twos. The onset of mobility achievements walking, crawling, jumping ally with an aspect between transiting Mars and natal Sun. These aspects do not appear to relate to when the child first crawled or took their first steps but rather to the first demonstration of competence. So the dates for walking are when the child first walks outdoors, the first walk they are taken on without cajoling and persuasion.

Rory's chart is an example.

At 5 months he began to crawl - Mars square Sun trine Mars

At 11 months he began walking Mars opposition Sun (he actually took his first steps about three months earlier)

At 14 months he gained competence in climbing - Mars opposition Sun

At 19 months he learned to jump - Mars opposition Sun

Interestingly in the chars I have looked at a 12th house Mars is common for children who do not crawl but have a stage where they seem to have little interest immobility before beginning to walk. In one case where the child did crawl she began to at an early stage but continued to crawl for a longer period than average and no walking until the age of nearly 17 months when Mars was trine her Sun and had returned to its natal position. A 12th house mars shows restraint in gaining early motor skills.

Another child began to crawl when Mars conjoined her Moon and squared her Sun, walked when Mars trined her Sun and sextiled her Moon and jumped when Mars squared its natal position. Grace crawled when Mars trined the Moon and quincinxed its natal position, walked when Mars trined the Sun and its natal apposition and jumped when Mars opposed the Moon and squared its natal position.

Commonly, transiting Mars aspects to the Sun - especially hard aspects - seem to be associated with the onset of walking and Mars to the Moon - especially soft aspects - associated with the onset of crawling. Mars aspecting its own position of Uranus is a supporting indicator.

Making it personal

The problem with all of the above is, of course, that although the patterns I have described hold true for most charts I have looked at, they don't allow space for individual differences. It is clearly ludicrous to say that two babies born on the same date will, for example, begin to walk at the same time. To make the difference we need to take account of the house cusps and angles' involvement.

In general terms there often appears to be a transiting aspect to one of the angles when a developmental milestone is reached. Frequently, I have noted an aspect to the 5th cusp when an angle is not involved.

The other individual difference is, of course, the differing house placements of the planets concerned. A transit occurring from an angular house is more likely to mean the achievement of a milestone than one from a cadent or succedent. We also need to take note of the house position of the planet being transited. Again, an angular house involvement will increase the likelihood of a milestone being achieved. Finally, it is obviously important to consider the strength of the planets involved in these transits. A weak Mercury by sign transiting its own position and one of the luminaries is less likely to show achievement than one that is in its own sign and direct. These criteria make it easier to see when developmental milestones are achieved and account for the differences that occur with children of the same age with broadly similar charts but at a different stage of development. I have not had the opportunity to study these differences at length but apply these guidelines in the work that I do. As with all astrology, each chart needs to be considered on its own merits.

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© Kim Farnell 2006.