"On August 18th, 1999 the planets of our Solar System are going to line up into the shape of a cross."

"I don't believe in astrology."

"I'm not talking about astrology, I'm talking about astronomy! They're gonna line up in the fixed signs of Aquarius, Leo, Taurus and Scorpio, which just happen to correspond to the four beasts of the apocalypse as mentioned in the Book of Daniel. Another fucking fact!* Do you want me to go on? The end of the world is nigh Bri, the game is up!"

"I don't believe that."

-dialogue from Naked, written by Mike Leigh

* - not a fact

It may be difficult to believe, in reading this writeup, that I have not been sucked in by all of the End Of The World theories relating to this event. However given that we are still, in fact, here, and that I believe that to be the case, let's assume that I haven't. It's just what I read, guv.

So, what the hell is a Grand Cross? Not too difficult to surmise from the name (though why it's 'Grand' is anybody's guess), a Grand Cross alignment occurs when four planets, or sets of planets, line up opposite one other in fixed signs of the Zodiac (Aquarius, Leo, Taurus and Scorpio) with Earth at the intersecting point. First thing to note here is that two Grand Cross alignments actually occurred during August 1999. Once on the 11th and again between the 17th and 18th. This is not significant in the grand scheme since just about any planetary alignment can occur given sufficient time. Despite the collective shrugging of shoulders by astronomers, probably interspersed with mutterings about "real work", the lightning rod that is/was the year 1999 meant that the proliferation of theories linking this event to disaster/rapture/increased occurrence of warts was inevitable.

It is virtually impossible to read about this on teh intarweb without reading mentions of planetary 'energies', the antichrist (in various guises, one of whom amusingly is Vladimir Putin), the number 666 or Nostradamus. I do not wish to delve much further into the apocalypse theories but for now, suffice it to say that tenuous links are made with past/current events, suppositions are forwarded as fact and presumptions are the order of the day.

Only three Grand Cross alignments have occurred in the last 100 years; that the most recent two occurred within a fortnight of each other and within a week of a total solar eclipse whipped certain people into something of a frenzy. Before that the last alignment was in 1910, though it is disputed whether this was a 'proper' Grand Cross event or not.

The two August 1999 Grand Cross alignments were laid out as follows:

August 11, 1999


                          O  O
                        Sun Moon
SCORPIO   O -------------- O ------------ O     TAURUS
          Mars           Earth         Saturn



Not to scale or in proportion, obviously, and in both cases the cross is a little more wonky. I was unable to find out where the other five planets were at this time.

ueni says re Grand Cross planetary alignment; August, 1999 : According to my screensaver from www.fourmilab.ch, the missing planets in your Aug 11 '99 cross were in: Mercury = Cancer; Venus = Leo; Jupiter = Aries; Neptune = Capricorn; Pluto = Scorpio. I would take this with a grain of salt though because it also said Mars was in Libra and Uranus was in Capricorn at the time.

August 18, 1999


                         Venus     Mercury
                             O  O  O
          Moon O                               O Saturn
SCORPIO   Mars O  ------------- O ------------           TAURUS
                                Earth           O Jupiter
            Pluto O             |



In some quarters this has been called a 'double Grand Cross' because the number of planets involved make it possible to derive two sets of planetary links.


Now I am faced with the unfortunate juxtaposition of my contempt for astrology and apocalyptic ravings, with my noding of a subject whose significance is predicated entirely upon both. Such is life. To be honest I first learnt of this event when I heard the node-opening passage sampled on a dance tune. Said passage clutched at the last remaining dregs of my Christianity and I investigated the statement further.

I have since dismissed any perceived 'wider' significance of this event to my satisfaction but the fact remains this event is important to many, even if I think the interpretations are utter nonsense. To call the conclusions drawn from this event 'contrived' - drawing as they do from literary fragments, vaguely-related events and simple fabrication - would, to me, be like saying Antarctica is a bit chilly. Still, enough dissing the, uh, Grand-Cross-ists for one node.

The most obvious thing is the shape itself. The cross, Jesus, Christianity. Also the year 1999, close to 2000 years after Jesus' birth. Said point supposedly marks the beginning of 'The End Times' written of at several points in the world's best-selling book. 2000 years after Christ died, He is prophesied to return after the confluence of various unpleasant events on Earth. Diseases, famine, natural disasters, the disappearance of all true believers, what have you. The two appearances of a cross on a cosmic scale, together with the year of its occurrence, lead some to believe these events were soon to begin.

One of the associations made is that the four signs of the Zodiac into which the planets of the solar system align, correspond to the four beasts of the apocalypse referred to in several books of the Bible. These are a man, an eagle, a lion and a calf. That the constellations the planets are aligned with do not actually fully match said beasts (Aquarius is a boy, Leo a lion, Scorpio a scorpion and Taurus a bull) does not seem to faze those making this assertion. There are some vague mumblings about Scorpio also being represented by an eagle but nothing more.

An event prophesied to inflict earth during the seven-year period of The End Times is the (ugh) rise of the Antichrist, a man who initially imitates Christ, gaining power and influence but who is ultimately revealed to be evil. This man and his works are identified - for reasons passing understanding - by the number 666. Claims linking this number to the Grand Cross event are made. That 1998 is 666 * 3. That 1999 has an upside-down 666 in it.

So this is where I started thinking the theorists might be reaching a bit.

The connections get more contrived still (I'm sorry, I hung in as long as I could, but it's difficult to be even-handed trying to node this or even to read it without bursting into laughter) from here. One theory is that Vladimir Putin, current president of Russia, is the Antichrist because he was elected during August 1999 and was acting president as the new millennium began in 2000 (it didn't, but that's neither here nor there). The source for this theory also mentions his inauguration within a few days of another astrologically significant planetary alignment on May 5, 2000.

Links are also made between the event and the seven-year journey of NASA's Cassini probe to the planet Saturn. It carries plutonium for generating electricity and made a very close approach to Earth before departing towards Saturn, on the same day as the Grand Cross alignment. The "perilous" fly-by went by without incident, though if the spacecraft had reentered radioactivity would have been scattered over a wide area, with disastrous effects. One of the sources below speculated this might indicate an impending nuclear crisis; an attack of some kind or a disaster.

Continuing, theorists' feverish desire to shower meaning on the event reaches the point of absurdity, with word association (linking "Saturn" with "Satan"), alphanumeric association (the Greek alphanumeric expression of Titan - a moon of Saturn - which is 666) and even that two days later it was Friday the 13th!

Many other claims are made, linking various events to this one. I won't double the length of this node by posting them, I will simply point to the sources and of course, to Google.

Conclusion - sort of

Personally, with theories linking the coming end of the world to the Cassini fly-by and (not so related) The hidden evil in UPC bar codes, I imagine it either to be coincidental or a huge joke by those who made it happen. I imagine a bunch of geeks huddled around a cluttered work table, cackling to one another as they deliberately insert the number 666 into the UPC standard. Or NASA project supervisors deciding to do the Cassini flypast on the same day as the cross event because "that'd totally fuck with the apocalypse nuts."

The assertions made by about this event are far too vague in their connection and wide in their scope to be accepted on their face. That facts incompatible with the inevitable conclusions of the theorists are ignored (for example, that Pluto was not part of the Grand Cross on either occasion) does not serve the cause well either, nor does the haphazard linking of happenstances. I'm supposed to believe that because (for example) there was a solar flare - something that's happened millions of times - within a few days of an arbitrary cross-shaped planetary alignment, that the Antichrist is about to appear? That a spacecraft carrying plutonium represents the fourth horseman of the apocalypse?

In closing, this is an interesting event but in my opinion no more noteworthy in a cosmic sense - let alone a fate-of-humanity sense - than a solar eclipse.

This was my first and last astrology node.

Sources (sort of):
  • Chase, T; "Revelation 13: The Grand Cross Astrology Pattern of August 1999, and The Cassini Spacecraft's Journey to Saturn "; <http://www.revelation13.net/atomic.html>
  • Sandberg, Nick; "Key to the Gnosis"; <http://www.nick2211.yage.net/aug18.htm>
  • Munro, Wendy; "The Grand Cross and Solar Eclipse of August 11th, 1999"; <http://www.netowne.com/astrology/western/grandcross.htm>
  • Riedel, Rick; "The Grand Cross of August 17-18, 1999"; <http://www.greatdreams.com/grand.htm>