ROCKIE HOROSCOPE 74

If you know your ascendant, read it too.

GENERAL FORECAST: Flip, flop. Mercury is tenuously facing forward after three weeks in retrograde, when it aligns with Venus, about to turn retrograde on the 8th for a six-week stint. Here we are, finally getting Mercury-related communication matters back on track, while Venus, ruler of hugs, kisses and pretty objects, is ready to make us reexamine the way we feel about people, the way we look at things -- all that we hold dear. Venus hasn't done a backward flip since the summer of '99, so we're probably due for a readjustment in our value systems. But first we have to survive the challenging sun-Pluto square exact Monday morning. Someone, something is eliminated or, if you dig "The Mole," executed.

ARIES (March 20-April 19)

Decline the last-minute invitation, take to your bed, turn off the phone. The weeks before Aries begins is the proper time to withdraw from the world of petty concerns, replenish your sense of self and figure out what you want for your birthday this year. Too many prior commitments and obligations? Not to worry; once magnetic Venus in your sign turns retrograde next Thursday, feel free to pare your dance card down to the people you really want to see. But leave room for the arrival of a person from your past who -- surprise! -- still turns you on.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20)

Read for Aries. Although you may not be poised for a fast getaway to a favorite hideway, you can be in a reclusive mood while your Venus ruler visits your 12th house of confinement and the karmic past. But this respite won't last; once Venus flips on the 8th, your recent romantic history will catch up with you. Venus hasn't been retrograde since the summer of '99; was that the last time you yearned for what you didn't have? On the first day of Taurus Venus turns direct; that gives you plenty of time to decide what to wish for on your birthday.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20)

Pressure from the boss to pull off a resounding career success is mounting. Acquiescing to the demands of a family member might mean you have to abandon a deep-seated desire of your own. Not a pretty dilemma, but one you've faced before and will continue to deal with as long as powerful Pluto dominates your Sagittarius house of partnerships. Who finds the middle ground? Well, unless everyone concerned is an adaptable mutable sign, i.e., Virgo, Pisces, Sag or another Twin, it'll be you, of course.

CANCER (June 21-July 22)

Mercury has barely had time to pick up momentum and move far enough forward to have an appreciable impact on your financial situation. Meanwhile Venus, in your career midheaven, is slowing down before turning retrograde on the 8th. No doubt, the money story will improve once Mercury in your house of joint resources is up to speed, but Venus' turnaround suggests a reversal of fortune or direction. However, this could be a good thing, especially if Venus brings a former employer or an attractive client back on the scene.

LEO (July 23-August 22)

Whenever your sun ruler squares manipulative Pluto, as it does this weekend, push, literally, comes to shove. Domineering people with something up their sleeve -- who more often than not turn out to be Scorpions -- gravitate to you. A difference of opinion ensues and, before long, one of you draws the proverbial line in the sand. The issues that incite you probably will revolve around sex, real estate and other people's money, but sports can draw blood too, since Pluto's influence extends to your house of fun and games.

VIRGO (August 23-September 22)

Just as you're beginning to get the work thing going again, and, now that your Mercury ruler is no longer retrograde, your ability to express yourself has returned, Venus prepares to do an about-face. Make the most of the supportive energy the goddess gracefully provides. Once Venus flips on the 8th, her charms and civility will no longer soothe your savage breast or smoothe your awkward sentence structure. Also, beware the person determined to rescue something in the house you're ready to off.

LIBRA (September 23-October 22)

It's primarily Librans and Taureans who will be most affected by Venus' trip through the recent past. Beginning next Thursday, your ruling planet will present a fairly extensive retrospective, complete with examples and explanations, of why you've been feeling the way you do. There is always a point to Venus' stroll down memory lane, whether you take it alone or accompanied by those you love. Sometime in the next six weeks, your current value system may be restructured and, what you find so appealing now can, by mid-April, seem superfluous, silly or self-indulgent.

SCORPIO (October 23-November 21) It may seem like it, but the whole world isn't ganging up on you. However, when the sun (in the guise of a Leo, perhaps a Pisces) squares your ruling planets, like it does this weekend with Pluto, you won't back off, no matter what kind of challenge this person presents. Especially if there is a fair amount of money (to earn, to spend) involved. But once you pass the latest test of wills, you don't encounter another like it until June. Meanwhile, you'll find a diversion to amuse you, one that draws on your creative impulses and romantic proclivities.

SAGITTARIUS (November 22-December 21)

Get set for a power struggle this weekend as Pluto in Sag is confronted by the imaginative Pisces sun. Suddenly someone in the family starts painting a seductive picture of what might be, if only you would follow his or her peculiar line of reasoning. Ever alert to the B.S. factor, you lash out in defense of your own take on what is real, what is possible. This philosophical dispute goes nowhere; however, it can throw you off-stride and make you skittish when you should be strong in case a former love interest shows up while Venus is retrograde.

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 20)

A woman in search of adventure could land on your porch and sit for a spell when Venus does a turnaround in your house of domestic bliss. While the planet of social relationships and down sofas is retrograde, use this time to redecorate, also to make amends within the family circle. Harmony, balance and beauty is what you or whomever has landed is aiming for, and even if the attempts do not go smoothly, something beneficial will come of it. It's only the Mayans who linked Venus with war and bloody sacrifice.

AQUARIUS (January 21-February 18)

Charm, popularity and an ability to speak your mind without offending anyone, for a change, are some of the benefits you receive when Mercury in your sign aligns with gracious Venus this weekend. Writers and sales people find the words that best express their ideas, lovers write letters worth saving. So you probably won't be prepared for a colleague's outright manipulation of a money matter you're both involved in. You can put up an argument and refuse to be coerced, or you could step back and see what happens after Venus turns retrograde.

PISCES (February 19-March 19)

Happy Birthday. I'm not sure it's a suitable gift, but you might reap nice goodies once Venus, in your Aries money house, goes retrograde. Money owed you would show up under these circumstances; things you thought you once wanted may no longer be such hot objects of desire. Your appreciation of valuable stuff could grow immeasurably, aided by a new appraisal from an auction house or dealer. And your feelings can also undergo a reevaluation; a tepid affection for someone could turn into adoration or a rift between friends may be healed.

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