phases of the moon

The Astrology of X-Files “Syzygy“ (Season 3, Episode 13)

As an astrology geek, I have a fond love-hate relationship with this episode. Let me count the ways!

The synopsis: Scully and Mulder go to a small town where high school students are being viscerally killed, and the town is amok with Satanic Panic as they seek answers. The culprits are actually two teenage besties who have witchy electro-telekinetic powers, being strongly influenced by a “rare planetary alignment,” a triple conjunction between Mercury (pairs, friends), Mars (aggression, blood), and Uranus (upheaval, electricity).

Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully get downright vitriolic during the investigation, as Scully is acting uncharacteristically jealous of Mulder’s flirtations with another detective. Various characters also engage in out-of-character stress behavior, like Scully smoking cigarettes and Mulder drinking alcohol.

Note: This episode is set during the day of January 12, 1996 and deals with the non-exact triple conjunction of Uranus, Mercury (retrograde), and Mars, all in Aquarius. Here’s the chart for the event:

What I Love:

  • The fact that they even tackled astrology as a concept, AND the writers took care to reference a real astrological alignment that would be happening in their then-present day (the episode was released in 1996, about two weeks after the alignment took place IRL)
  • The fact that Mulder goes to see an astrologer in the episode to ask what’s going on, and her credentials are never called into question
  • The fact that they avoided stereotypes with her characterization: she’s a very ordinary-looking lady who cracks a joke about being a small business owner with a lot of paperwork and makes sure Mulder pays up before she gives him the information he’s seeking
  • I also appreciate that they made her someone who believes in her own craft, avoiding the cheap trope that many TV shows resort to where they have the professional psychic or occultist privately disavow their own practice and claim they’re just telling people what they want to hear, or have the protagonists regard or reveal the person as a scammer
  • The fact that the two teen witches who are the main antagonists of the episode were born on the same date, at the same time, in the same place (!!), which would certainly create the perfect storm of torrid synastry that we see in the episode
  • The little concluding speech Mulder gives about humans being subject to cosmic whims and forces far outside our control, whether we like to admit it or not

What I Hate: Okay, so all these hater points are mostly minor nitpicks. Forgive me, for I have Mercury in Virgo and thus I seek perfection even in the smallest of details 🤓

  • When the astrologer mentions that Uranus is sitting “in the house of Aquarius.” Technically the zodiac signs CAN be classified as the dwelling-places of certain planets (hence where the traditional astrology concept of “domicile” = “in its own home” comes from). But most astrologers would probably say that Uranus was sitting in the sign of Aquarius, saving the term “houses” to refer to the 12-fold divisions of the sky which are modeled in a chart
  • The fact that they show a Full Moon in the sky at the end of the episode, but the date in question IRL would have had a waning crescent moon
  • The astrologer said the planets would be moving into exact alignment on that day, but Mercury, Mars, and Uranus were never partile conjunct during this event (and at least for me, an exact alignment implies that they would all be at the same degree, though I admit they were quite close)
  • The fact that the astrologer DIDN’T mention that Uranus would have been mega-powerful in this triple conjunction because it had literally JUST ingressed back into Aquarius (returning from a retrograde dip into Capricorn) on the EXACT date that the episode is set on, and sign changes for the slow outer planets herald massive shifts in the world

Other than these little quibbles, I’m quite pleased by the way this episode used astrology as a plot point 🙂

Bonus: here’s the un-timed chart for the date the episode was released, January 26, 1996, wherein the Sun and Mercury have basically swapped zodiacal degrees in the interim between the two charts, and the Moon of the episode release has shifted to the opposite sign from the Syzygy event

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