Mark Andrew Holmes

5335 Damocles is an outer-system asteroid discovered on 18 February 1991 by Robert H. McNaught at the Anglo-Australian Observatory at Siding Spring near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia.

It has been proposed that perhaps Damocles is the nucleus of a dead comet, as its orbit is extremely eccentric. On the scale astronomers use to express the shape of the orbit of a heavenly body in which 0.0 is a perfect circle and 1.0 a straight line, with the values in between an ellipse growing flatter as the numbers go up, Damocles' orbit is 0.8669, not quite straight back and forth from the Sun but fairly close to it. At perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun, it crosses the orbit of Mars, coming only 1.6 astronomical units (AU) away from its parent star (1 AU=93 million miles, the approximate distance from the Sun to Earth). At aphelion, its farthest distance from the Sun, it is 22 AU away, going beyond Uranus' orbit. Its orbit is steeply tilted to the plane of the ecliptic (the Sun's equator projected into space, which the planets and asteroids' orbits more or less follow). Its latitude (position relative to the ecliptic) can go as high as 84 degrees, a right angle to the ecliptic being 90 degrees. The extreme eccentricity of Damocles' orbit makes its transits strange; it spends most of its cycle of 41 years in one sign, Aquarius, racing through the signs from Aries to Sagittarius in just 2 1/2 years (from April 1989 to October 1991), spending only about 4 years in Pisces (1985-1989) and only about 2 years in Capricorn (off and on in 1991 to 1994). Therefore, most of the population, those born in the remaining 32 1/2 years, have Damocles in Aquarius.

Zane Stein speculates that the influence of Aquarius might actually be, at least in part, the influence of Damocles. Aquarius is a sign of politics, ideology and groupthink impelling toward change. It sanctions nonconformity and the stress that comes with change in a regimented or semi-regimented population. The influence of Damocles and of Aquarius coincide, and we may associate Damocles with Aquarius or with Letter Eleven of the astrological alphabet.

I suspect that Damocles in Pisces indicates that image and/or surrender to the group or something larger or higher than the individual will figure prominently in the native's life. Many individuals who have achieved prominence in the fields of sports and entertainment have this placement. Political figures and social activists with this placement, including President and Mrs. Clinton, Simon Wiesenthal, Albert Speer, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Henry Cabot Lodge, Dan Quayle, and Czarevitch Alexis of Russia, tend to be independently wealthy or have dharma that has heavy moral connotations or both. Any negative moral connotations tend toward debility in some way.

Damocles in Capricorn seems to resonate even more strongly, both morally and politically. Its representatives include Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Aly Khan, Roy Rogers, Pope John Paul I, and Jackie Coogan.

Most of the population has Damocles in Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces, the last three signs, where individuality is surrendered to collective structure (Capricorn), to collective desires and aspirations (Aquarius), and to the universe itself (Pisces).

5335 Damocles was named for a courtier of the ancient tyrant Dionysius I(The Elder) of Syracuse who lived in the 4th century BCE. Damocles was a real person, although his story has become mythic: his constant flattery of his king and talk about how wonderful it must be to be a king wearied Dionysius, who decided to teach him a lesson by inviting him to a sumptuous banquet. Dionysius directed Damocles' attention upward, to where a big sharp sword was suspended directly over his head by a single hair-- to illustrate the constant danger as well as the great privilege and pleasures of being a king. Since then the phrase "sword of Damocles" has come to mean an ever-present threat of disaster.

"[5335 Damocles][has an] orbit of very high eccentricity and inclination and crossing the orbits of Mars to Uranus, could itself be seen as such a sword... when it becomes an Earth crosser."--Minor Planet Circular, September 1993. (Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, Lutz D. Schnadel, Springer -Verlag, 1999.

Damocles' influence arises from the archetype of its namesake. First of all, it indicates a high level of stress. This may arise from ordinary life circumstances creating a feeling of impending or ever-present potential for disaster. This stress may also arise from extraordinary circumstances such as deprivation, extraordinary danger, transitions or persecution. Additionally it may be triggered by a high degree of peer pressure or trials arising from the possession of power, privilege, high station, wealth, natural physical gifts, or talent. Nonconformity, challenging a tenet or shibboleth, or deviating from a norm, can also reenact the stress of Damocles.

Damocles indicates transitions, changes of direction, the destruction of the old to make way for the new, the changing of the scenery in one's life, and the replacement of an old paradigm. For example, when Damocles was swift of motion just after World War II, the Cold War began. War was redefined; we now had the ability to annihilate most, if not all, life on the planet. We could not win a nuclear war, as there would be nothing but radioactive deserts to win. The Cold War ended during the next period in which Damocles was swift of motion, the late 1980s and early 1990s. The collapse of the Soviet Union took place as Damocles transited across its natal Sun in Scorpio. Suddenly a bilateral struggle for dominance in world politics was replaced by a multilateral struggle where many nations compete for influence.

Damocles seems to have a strong political flavor to its influence, a grandeur, in which it leans on people and nations, crushing some, making others stronger. It forces people to defend and reinforce themselves and their opinions, to continuously justify their presence in the struggle of life.

Damocles can signify threats, retribution, feuds, precarious situations, downfalls, illusions of fame, predators, stalking, the act of besiegement, implosion, disintegration, termination, revolution, nuclear arms, brinkmanship, bluster, flattery, pseudonyms, and false identities.

Since Damocles' discovery, the world has become much more complicated, problematic and dangerous, with nuclear arms and biological weapons at least theoretically available to everybody, including rogue nations and terrorists. Deadly exotic diseases such as AIDS, Ebola virus and Lassa fever, and more banal but still dangerous maladies such as new flu varieties and drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis, can be spread to distant nations by air travel within hours. Universally recognized problems include terrorism, drug trafficking, degradation of the environment, ancient ethnic, national and religious rivalries, human-rights violations, substandard social status of women and girls, and international trafficking in people, especially females, for purposes of sexual or other slavery. Other menaces include stalking (on and off the Internet), identity theft, privacy invasion, sexual harassment, hazing. For the first time in history, sexual orientation has been acknowledged as serious problems afflicting humanity. Undesirable people and ideas are brought into one's home and introduced to one's children through the Internet. (Damocles rules the Internet inasmuch as it is an agent by which the ability to keep whatever one considers undesirable out of one's life is eroded or eliminated, thereby facilitating stress and danger.) People in high places come under intense pressure and tyrants find little or no immunity from justice.

Damocles may indicate awareness of change taking place, or having taken place, more than the change itself. David Helfgott is an Australian concert pianist, psychologically abused by his father. This contributed to a fragile, highly eccentric personality. His Damocles is in Pisces conjunct his MC on the 9th house side, sextile his Sun and trine his Jupiter. He is as well- known for his eccentricity and problems as he is for his piano playing.

Generally, Damocles simply indicates one's relationship with temporal power and authority and ability to handle stress and change. It indicates lessons about worldly ambition, political ability, beliefs, vision, eccentricities, personal negativity and capacity for heroism.

Damocles is currently virtually though not officially "lost" - it has not been observed since 1992. Ephemerides prior to 1980 may turn out to be wrong once the asteroid is redetected and observed for a while.

Juan Antonio Revilla, an astrologer from San Jose, Costa Rica who studies Centaurs, compares Damocles to Centaurs, other minor planets that cross the orbits of the major planets, and to comets. He calls the Centaurs "aggressive" and Damocles and related asteroids (of which at least four are known at this time) "more aggressive indeed than Centaurs."

If the centaurs are "wild," think about Damocles: it "shoots" itself from Uranus to Mars, crossing everything in its path... No dogma will survive "the attack of the little ones," "the orbit crossers", in every facet of life, of human knowledge and of experience. They are destroying all the barriers. If we resist them, they will destroy us, too.

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