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The Lewes Pound: We have it in our power to build the world anew
Published here: 1st February 2009
'We have it in our power to build the world anew'
Thomas Paine, resident of Lewes 1768 to 1774
Recently launched in the town of Lewes on the south coast of the United Kingdom, the Lewes Pound is part of a project aiming to strengthen the local community and build resilience in the local economy by encouraging demand for local goods and services.
There are UK precedents both in history and modernity: Lewes had its own currency from the late 1700s to the late 1800s so this recent launch is something of a return, and Totnes in Devon launched a local currency in March 2007. Of course the idea of having a local currency is not at all new, however in the UK at the time of writing they are arguably underutilised.
A local currency is neither a replacement for the national currency nor is it about independence. It is something that runs in parallel with the national currency in a 'best of both worlds' kind of way, complementing each other. When functioning well a local currency protects the local area, restoring cohesiveness and community.
The Lewes Pound project is part of the Lewes Transition Town initiative. Transition Towns are places all over the world that are applying human ingenuity to the issues of oil dependency and the environmental impact of carbon emissions. Transition culture asks 'How might our response to peak oil and climate change look more like a party than a protest march?'
Synchronous with the launch of the Lewes Pound, the international financial crisis has been occupying news headlines every day. Interestingly, the Swiss complementary currency, the WIR, was formed in 1934 after the stock market crash of 1929-1932 which resulted in currency shortages. It is now used by 16% of Swiss businesses and annual transactions in the WIR are more than £800 million per year.
Because of its environmental awareness and its emphasis on transition, those drawn to astrology might be interested in transition culture - after all, transits and transition are our stock in trade, and so is the study of and respect for the environment: what is a birth chart but a map of the environment, and what is astrology but part of answering the question 'how can we best live in relationship with the planet?'
The Lewes Pound had its launch on 9th September 2008 in Lewes Town Hall. The meeting was due to start at 7:30pm and the unveiling of the currency was set for 9pm, however the people at the Lewes Pound project have kindly confirmed via email that the unveiling actually took place slightly earlier, "pretty close to 8:45pm".
Here is the chart for the scheduled start of the meeting:-
Obviously what catch the eye straight away are stationary direct Pluto on the MC and Uranus on the Ascendant, two markers of significant social change having the potential to be 'earthed' at this time and in this place, via this gathering of people in the name of The Lewes Pound. Together these placements evoke and even make personal to those present the Thomas Paine quotation 'We have it in our power to build the world anew'. Appropriately enough, Thomas was born during an almost exact Uranus-Pluto sextile which has been transited by Pluto during the 'gestation' period of the Lewes Pound. Furthermore, the position of Uranus and Pluto in this chart casts more than a glance to the coming series of Uranus-Pluto squares, already within eight degrees of orb at the 'birth' of the currency.
The configuration of the Sun with both Saturn and Uranus shows that on this day there is a movement from the status quo towards the creative edge, and a reawakening of tradition. It is a forerunner of the Saturn-Uranus series of oppositions since the Sun occupies the degree that Saturn will soon transit. The triple conjunction of Mercury, Venus and Mars in Libra symbolises co-operative new beginnings in human relationship and exchange, involving systems of value, trade, and the capacity to take the initiative to create the medium of interchange.
Here is the chart for the unveiling of the Lewes Pound, calculated for 8:45pm:-
Fittingly enough the Ascendant-Descendant axis is in the Taurus-Scorpio polarity, linked with money, resources, values, and the Earth's riches. The Sun-Saturn and Mercury-Venus-Mars conjunctions are all in the 6th house of day-to-day living which is the essence of the public space. The Moon-Jupiter conjunction in Capricorn, symbolising financial prudence and the 'horn of plenty' strengthening the local community, is now placed at the Midheaven, intensified by Jupiter being stationary direct.
Intriguingly, whilst the inner planets are strongly connected by aspects the three outermost planets are almost completely unaspected. What better signature of this project, designed to strengthen what is local at a time when what is global is increasingly disconnected yet predominant. A cautionary note has to come from the squares between the Mercury-Venus-Mars conjunction and the Moon-Jupiter conjunction, which suggest the need to reconcile diverging views between the project leaders and the public guardians.
On another level these squares also suggest that the currency itself will encounter some difficulties: oscillations in its usage or its perceived value, and maybe one or two clashes with the powers that be in running the currency alongside the pound Sterling. One of the initial problems seems to have been that the great enthusiasm for the currency has led people to collect and in some cases attempt to trade it, rather than use it; perhaps an example of how the great popularity shown by these squared conjunctions can in fact cause the wrong type of growth, prompting the clash of wills and consequent need for realignments and readjustments that squares are infamous for.
By the time of the unveiling the Moon's nodes had shifted from the 6th-12th axis to the 5th-11th, both of which indicate where the individual and the collective either reach a balance or else one dominates the other. The nodal axis lying across not only the 5th-11th but also Leo-Aquarius sounds another cautionary note, as it highlights the importance of ensuring that local strength, power and decision-making must be interlinked with and even channelled into the greater good, or else 'pride before a fall'. Finally, the 5th-11th also symbolises human ingenuity, and it is particularly apt that the North node lies inbetween Chiron and Neptune - surely an indicator of our 'repetition compulsion' where oil is concerned and a strong gesture towards dissolving our addiction to it for our energy needs.
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This article was first written for and published in the newsletter of the Astrological Association
AA Transit Newsletter November 2008 edition
The Lewes Pound
Transition Town network
EF Schumacher Society - local currencies page
Berkshares - a USA scheme
WIR - Swiss complementary currency
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