TL;DR: Starbucks debuted its beloved sweet fall drink, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, at a time when the planets associated with sweetness and popularity (Venus and Jupiter) were conjunct the Sun in the sign of Virgo, the harbinger of the seasonal transition from summer to harvest and autumnal festivities.
It’s another new September in early 21st century America. The sun hasn’t yet risen as baristas everywhere brace themselves for the onslaught. The syrups are all topped off. The milk is frothed and steaming. The cups are stacked and the markers are ready. Still, the baristas shiver. The manager gulps. They hear a dull roar in the distance which turns into a raucous cacophony as they are swarmed by a horde of Becky’s and Karen’s trampling each other underfoot with their Ugg boots and TOM’s slip-ons. Courageously the baristas stave off the formless caucasian morass of Northface jackets, yoga pants and iPhones, summoning and exorcising each form of the entity by declaring their names for they are legion, each with more unnecessary vowels than last year. For their hunger is not slaked by gold nor blood, but the spice of pumpkin is their god, served hot with cream and sugar to be posted on Instagram. The ritual continues until deep into the winter, until next year, at the next Pumpkininig.
If you’re like, “That’s not me, I like PSL’s and I’m not a Basic Bitch!” Well, check your symptoms with your doctor first.
So this has all gone a bit…far hasn’t it. How did we get here? How did a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves become such a big deal? And to really throw things for a loop, how might we understand the pumpkin spice phenomenon astrologically?
The answer to the first question is that it’s been a big deal for a long time because these spices are delicious by themselves, and especially in combination. There are recipes involving these spices that go back thousands of years. Astrologically, we’re going to have to think about what in astrology could reflect tastes, and then compare this to some of the modern origins of this flavoring.
Hellenistic astrologer Vettius Valens starts off his Anthology by giving a long list of significations of the planets. The final signification he gives for each planet is its association with particular tastes. I’ve included the adjectives from both the Robert Schmidt and Mark Riley translations of Valens.
- Sun – “Sharp” (Schmidt), “Bitter” (Riley)
- Moon – “Salty” (Both)
- Mercury – “Sharp” (only Riley)
- Venus – “Greasy” (Both)
- Mars – “Pungent” (Schmidt) “Acidic” (Riley)
- Jupiter – “Sweet” (Both)
- Saturn – “Astringent” (Both)
I’m not sure I necessarily agree with all of these these. I would tend to associate sweetness more with Venus for its associations with beauty and charm and I’d associate greasiness/fattiness with Jupiter due to its associations with excess/abundance. I can certainly see Mars for acidity or spiciness although I would think Saturn would be associated more with sour tastes. I suppose that could be a stand-in for “astringent”. I do like “bitter” for the Sun though. What do people drink to wake up in the morning? Coffee!
In any case for a good ol’ Starbucks PSL, we’re talking about a feel-good comforting fall drink which is extraordinarily sweet and creamy, with a light-ass tad of bitterness due to the espresso shots. This is a “benefic” kind of drink. So if we were to try to describe a PSL purely in terms of these taste associations with the planets, we might say it’s a Sun-Venus-Jupiter drink. And of course, since it’s absolutely associated with fall, the signs of Virgo or Libra would make sense because that’s where the Sun is when fall begins, either calendrically or astronomically. So let’s take a look at the time Starbucks released its very first PSL.
Unfortunately we do not have the launch date of Starbucks PSL’s, but we do know that they were first sold in September of 2003. It’s fair to presume the beginning of September was the likely time period since they’d been preparing it to launch since January of 2003. In fact, September 1st 2003 was a Monday. It’s more likely that it would be released at the beginning of the workweek, which makes September 1st and September 8th more likely. But here’s what’s amazing about this timeframe:
The three planets we might associate with a drink like the PSL (the Sun, Venus and Jupiter) were all together in Virgo in early September 2003. Jupiter had ingressed into Virgo 3 days before September began, and made its heliacal rising from the Sun on September 4th, a powerful new appearance for a planet associated with sweetness. Meanwhile the Sun was still in conjunction with Venus, a point in its cycle where social enterprises can be binding, or when something favorable or beloved can enter the public consciousness. The most recent new Moon had occurred on the day Jupiter ingressed into Virgo, showing the beginning of a new month-long chapter in time that could produce something successful and beloved, sweet and fatty. There won’t be another alignment like this in this part of the zodiac again until 2027. So this was actually a pretty special arrangement.
Jupiter Return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte – Interestingly, it was on September 8th 2015 that Starbucks launched the Pumpkin Spice Latte with a tweaked recipe – which finally included actual pumpkin! (Yeah, it never actually had pumpkin in it before…) The day the new Pumpkin Spice Latte was released was when the Sun was conjunct Jupiter in Virgo, having return to its position from 12 years before.
Even more interesting is to consider that Starbucks itself started at a Venus-Jupiter square, on March 31st 1971. This was when Venus was in one of its best signs, Venus in Pisces, square Jupiter in one of its best signs, Sagittarius. So Starbucks is already attuned to this pairing of planets, which would be so integral to the success they had with the Pumpkin Spice Latte decades later. It’s pretty appropriate for a business which ostensibly sells “coffee” but sells extraordinarily sized and extraordinarily priced drinks with extraordinary amounts of sugar. The benefics are in overload in the inceptional chart of Starbucks!
I can’t astrologically decode pumpkin spice any further than this, but I think this is otherwise is a key part of the astrological signature of the vaunted PSL. I promise Starbucks didn’t pay me to write this post, but go ahead and grab a PSL. Satiate your inner basic bitch, and raise a Starbucks cup to Venus and Jupiter. Cheers.