Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Venus and the Eclipse

As many of you will know, there's a solar eclipse on 23rd October at the very beginning of Scorpio – 00o 24'. However, there are a couple of other events around the same time involving Venus. The first takes place about an hour before the eclipse, when the Moon meets Venus while hurrying towards the Sun. Moon and Venus make an exact conjunction on 00o Scorpio 01' – just creeping into Scorpio. The only two feminine planets in the intensely dark and magical sign of Scorpio suggest a tapping into the life force that lies hidden in the depths. Indeed, the three brightest objects in the sky are so close that effectively they're all conjunct at the solar eclipse.

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Two days later, on 25th October, there'll be a Sun-Venus superior conjunction at 01o Scorpio 48' (on the Ascendant in Exeter). When this conjunction takes place Venus is far away from us, on the other side of the Sun. The last time this pair was conjunct was in January. On that occasion Venus was at her closest to Earth, between us and the Sun, and she was retrograde. It was a particularly powerful conjunction, most noted for the fact that little more than an hour beforehand, Israeli politician Ariel Sharon died. He had been in a coma for almost exactly eight years, which was the last time that Sun-Venus had met in Capricorn at inferior conjunction, with Venus retrograde. On that occasion she re-emerged from the Sun's rays a few days later as the Morning Star. This time it'll be several weeks before she reappears and it will be as Evening Star.

I don't think many astrologers differentiate between the two types of Venus but they really are very different. A Morning Star Venus is young, brash, impatient, more of a warrior than a lover – and when she does appear as a lover, well let's say she has an edge to her. The Irish Morrigan or Battle Crow is a more apt description of a Morning Star Venus than the Roman Venus. Goddess of Love, War and Death, the Morrigan finished off at least one Irish hero who spurned her advances after a hard day on the battle field. An Evening Star Venus is closer to the modern astrological Venus – sensuous, sultry, enticing and generally more mature.

The transition from warrior Venus to sultry Venus occurs during her long period of invisibility – roughly 14 weeks – when she is furthest from the Earth, as if she needs to be free of our influence in order to change, or grow up. I am reminded of the numerous folk songs about two sisters – one dark, one fair or one sweet-natured and one cruel. In many ways, Venus is our sister, or even our twin – the two planets are the same size, are close neighbours in the solar system and they engage in a beautiful cosmic dance to a 5:8 rhythm (5 synodic cycles of Venus = 8 Earth years). When she's on the other side of the Sun she can merge with the cosmos rather than with us, and in doing so she transforms herself into the magnificent Goddess of Love. She is then reborn as an Evening Star, the one you're most likely to see with any regularity unless you're an early riser, as you have to get up pretty early to catch Venus as Morning Star.

When Venus disappears from our skies and undergoes her long period of invisibility, it's a chance for us to go deep within ourselves and receive inspiration from a hidden source. And while Venus is undergoing an alchemical process of transmutation on the other side of the Sun, we too may undergo a similar process. I feel that Evening Star Venus is particularly well placed for this in the sign Scorpio, where her magnetic nature can draw individuals into the depths to explore the mysteries of life and death (although there is always the danger of it manifesting in a darker form through the murky world of pornography and the 'dark net'). At the conjunction on the 25th, the trine from Sun-Venus to Neptune in Pisces can only enhance the lure of these mysteries, and the sextile to Mars adds a bit of spice to the mix.

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There's one other thing that makes this conjunction of Sun-Venus special, namely that it's the last time the Evening Star conjunction will occur in Scorpio for 250 years. The next conjunction, in 2022, will take place on the final degree of Libra, because Sun-Venus conjunctions move backwards through the zodiac. There will, however, be two more Scorpio Morning Star conjunctions, with Venus retrograde, in 2018 and 2026 before they too move into Libra in 2034.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The October Lunar Eclipse and Ebola

The recent lunar eclipse, although not visible in West Africa, has Mars rising through Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. This country is currently struggling to contain the disease and has experienced the most deaths. 

8 October 2014 - Lunar Eclipse - Monrovia, Liberia

Mars is at the midpoint of Pluto and Saturn, and a range of other midpoints in the chart. Ebertin gives the meaning 'necessity to fight for one's life or existence' to MA=SA/PL. AS=SA/PL is described as 'mourning, seperation and bereavement' in Ebertin's Combination of Stellar Influences.

The eclipse, set for Monrovia, constellates the grand fire trine referred to with a high degree of accuracy for this place. To me, the grand trine in fire seems to symbolise the very high risk of rapid spread of a viral haemorrhagic fever, Mars being associated with illnesses of this nature.

Jupiter, Moon and Uranus give associations with swiftness, acutness and speed and rapid spread or expansion of the reach of the disease. Moon is associated with body fluids, the vehicle through which the disease is spread. Mars is also closely semisquare Mercury.

A positive indication that this outbreak of Ebola may be contained is that the MC=SO/JU=MO/JU. So there is the grave difficulty of MA=SA/PL combined with the more hopeful indications MC=SO/JU=MO/JU all on the same midpoint. Ebertin gives SO/JU to 'health, joy, recognition'. Ebertin also gives this midpoint to indications of wealth.

Of course this is little comfort to the people in West Africa at the moment who are suffering. However, we must hope that an urgent response by the wider world will contain the disease, perhaps with lessons learnt for the future management of outbreaks. It seems to me that nations more fortunate (SO/JU) than those in West Africa must help.

The full midpoint range associated with these degrees in mid-mutables and early fixed is as follows:

Jup/Ura 30 49' 15 Gem 49'
Ven/Sat 30 59' 00 Sco 59'
Sun/Jup 31 07' 16 Vir 07'
Mon/Jup 31 07' 16 Gem 07'
Sat/Plu 31 09' 16 Sag 09'
=Mer= 31 26' 01 Sco 26'
=Mar= 31 56' 16 Sag 56'
Mar/Asc 32 07' 17 Sag 07'
=Asc= 32 17' 17 Sag 17'
Mar/MC 32 24' 02 Sco 24'
Asc/MC 32 35' 02 Sco 35'
Sat/Ura 32 52' 02 Aqu 52'
=MC = 32 52' 17 Vir 52'
Sun/Sat 33 10' 03 Sco 10'
Mon/Sat 33 10' 03 Aqu 10'
Jup/NNo 33 12' 18 Vir 12'

The range is about 2 1/2 degrees.

 The dial shows the axis that is referred to above. 

The following map shows the Mars rising line (Mars on the ascendant) running across the western edge of Liberia. The rising Saturn and Pluto lines can also be identifed, representing the MA=SA/PL midpoint in the first chart shown above.

One way of examining the impact of this eclipse is to relocate the chart to other destinations around the world. If we accept that Mars is a key indicator of the presence of the virus in an environment, looking to the places where Mars is on other angles of the chart - MC, IC and Descendant - may give us an insight into to high risk areas of the world.

An astrocartography map shows that the Mars-MC line runs right through India. The map below shows the Mars culminating line running down the centre of the Indian subcontinent. The capital city, New Delhi, is marked. The proximity of the Mars culminating line (Mars on the MC) to New Delhi can clearly be seen.

The following chart shows the eclipse relocated to New Delhi, the capital city. Again, the eclipse is not visible in India. However, it is immediately obvious that India may be extremely vulnerable to a rampant outbreak of the disease. Moreover, the density of population in Indian urban areas means that an outbreak may be extremely difficult to contain.

In the chart you will notice that the Mars position, on the ascendant in Monrovia, has moved within one degree of the meridian for New Delhi. The dangerous SA-PL midpoint is therefore closely configured with the MC. Neptune, a symbol of insidious, hard to diagnose illness, rises near the city. This line can be identified to the west of New Delhi. The grand trine is perfectly aligned with the meridian. 

Moreover, using meridian houses, the Sun-Moon eclipse axis is on the 2nd-8th house cusp, often associated with death. The nodal axis just lies inside the cusp. Mercury retrograde is in the 8th. Saturn is on the 9th cusp, perhaps representing danger from distant countries. Pluto, a symbol of events with collective impact, is near the cusp of the 11th, a house associated with social issues.

There are a number of factors that mean an outbreak of Ebola in India would be gravely concerning. Firstly, it is highly and densely populated, promoting easy transmission of the illness. Secondly, the health infrastructure is under-developed, at least in comparison with some western countries. The number of health professionals per head of population is minimal. Thirdly, many poor Indians live in extreme poverty, with unsatisfactory housing, sanitation and services. These living conditions are likely to encourage the disease to establish itself. Fourthly, the complexities of managing an outbreak in a large, multi-faceted society such as India may be simply too difficult to achieve.

It is for the Indian authorities to maintain the highest degree of vigilance in the coming months to prevent an outbreak of the disease on the subcontinent. There is a high risk to this populous and complex country. The simplest approach to preventing an outbreak of the disease may simply to shut its doors to the outside world, at least to the most badly affected regions, for the duration of the global situation.  

The full astrogeographical map for the eclipse is shown below. Of particular note is the Mars-IC (Mars anti-culminating) line running through western Texas. Although this is some way from Dallas, where Thomas Duncan died, it does highlight a risk to the USA. Again it is notable that the MA=SA/PL midpoint brackets the north American continent.

Based on this map, key regions that face risks are west and northwestern Africa (MA rising line), central and western Europe (MA rising line), India (MA on the MC) and the USA (MA on the IC).


Saturday, 11 October 2014

Life goes on

Do the dead remain active after they've left us? They live on in our memories, of course, but what if one of those major forks in the road – like the return of one of the slow-moving planets – presents itself some time after death? For a public figure, could this mean the person once more steps onto the public stage? I haven't done a lot of work on this, but the idea does interest me. And I had an example of it recently, again related to the Titanic.

Edward Smith, the Captain of the Titanic, was born on 27th January 1850. When I saw his chart about a year ago I was immediately drawn to his Neptune on 3 Pisces 29. I knew Neptune was in that general area because it was squaring my own Sun-Jupiter-Mercury conjunction in Gemini. So that meant Captain Smith was more or less having his Neptune return when the centenary of the Titanic sinking was being commemorated.

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The first of three exact returns occurred on 10th March 2013. It's by far the most interesting of the trio because of the number of planets concentrated in – of all signs – Pisces: six plus Chiron! There's also a Yod with Saturn and Pluto at its base and Jupiter – the traditional ruler of Pisces – at its apex. Is this a reminder of his violent death, leading to a watery grave? Incidentally, this Jupiter in the Neptune return chart is almost exactly conjunct the Sun at the moment of the Titanic's birth – its launch on 31st May 1911 (Sun was at 8 Gemini 56). I imagined the ghost of Captain Smith pointing to the Titanic as it slid down the slipway at Harland and Wolff shipyard and into Belfast Lough, as if to say 'this is the architect of my undoing.'

I also noticed that Captain Smith will be having a Uranus return fairly soon – again, the first of three will be exact on 20th May 2016. Funnily enough, this was around the time that Titanic II (a replica ship proposed by Australian billionaire Clive Palmer) was due to come into service but it seems this might not be happening now … or with Uranus involved, maybe it will after all ...

(Note that I have no time of birth for Captain Smith, but when I saw that his nodal axis was almost exactly conjunct the Ascendant in the Queenstown departure chart, I constructed a chart for him with the nodes on his MC/IC).

Returning to Margaret Rice, I decided to check her progressions for 6th October 2014, the date I started this piece of work. Her Sun had by now progressed to 7 Pisces 14. This was a jaw-dropping moment, because that's almost exactly where Neptune is in my Solar Return this year. And indeed, her nearby Mercury is conjunct my Solar Return Ascendant. Neptune to me is – amongst other things – about dissolving the veil between worlds and it seemed to be saying that the time is right for me to work with the Rice family.

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As if to confirm that, when I checked Eugene Rice's progressions for the same date, his progressed Sun and Mercury were both conjunct my natal North Node (all on 5 Aquarius) and his North Node was on my natal Mercury (5 Gemini).

Because their birthdays are so close, Margaret and Eugene have similar Solar Returns. Of the two, Eugene's is the stronger. With his Sun in close conjunction to the North Node and the IC (so right at the bottom of the chart) I'm reminded of a soul trapped in the Underworld – or in Eugene's case in the depths of the ocean. In The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, an opening to the upper world is cut for souls trapped in the land of the dead. They quiver with excitement, and when they step out into the night air they see the stars for the first time in years – centuries even. And as soon are they're free they merge with the sky, leaving a vivid burst of happiness, reminiscent of the bubbles in a glass of champagne.

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While I've been writing this, Venus has been moving further away from Earth and into the Sun's beams, on her way to conjunction with the Sun. This is one of the deepest parts of the Venus cycle, when we're taken away from our familiar selves to be immersed in our inner lives more than usual. It's a time when we could find ourselves surrounded by the dead, and/or feel moved to journey to the Underworld. We might discover abilities we didn't know we had and the courage to use them.

So it sounds like this is the ideal time for me to work with these long-dead relatives, to listen to their story, to soothe their troubled souls and release them from their unquiet graves. And perhaps one cold, dark night I might even catch sight of one or more of those bubbles bursting with happiness as their spirit is freed at last.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Into Neptune's Realm

When the Titanic left Queenstown, County Cork, at 13:30 on 11th April 1912, it left behind the safe haven of land and entered the realm of Neptune, Lord of the Sea. If the chart is turned to put Neptune on the cusp of the first house, a very powerful picture emerges. The Sun and North Node are closely conjunct the Midheaven, suggesting a fateful voyage, with Mercury the Psychopomp and Saturn the Grim Reaper also nearby. Saturn is widely squaring the Moon. Pluto and Mars are in a wide, out-of-sign conjunction in the twelfth house of hidden  matters. As we know, the ship never made landfall.

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Looking back at Margaret Rice's charts for the period leading up to the Titanic sinking, I can see many things that suggest a rocky road ahead for her. This is not just with the benefit of hindsight, it has a lot to do with Pluto – which of course was unknown in 1911-12. So in the unlikely event that she had consulted an astrologer in late 1911, perhaps wanting to know whether she should stay in Ireland, the land of her birth, or return to America, where she could most likely give her sons a much better future, the astrologer would probably have seen a year of mixed fortunes, but nothing out of the ordinary. After all, who in the autumn of 1911 would have foreseen the tragedy of epic proportions that was soon to unfold?

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I looked at three charts for the period. In Margaret's 1911 Solar Return, Pluto and Mars are riding high at the top of her chart. Mars in the ninth might signify accidents on a journey, perhaps caused by recklessness. But Pluto in the tenth suggests something much deeper and more ruthless that is played out in public; something perhaps that sears itself into the collective consciousness. With Gemini on the Midheaven, communication is emphasised … and indeed the story of the Titanic has been replayed over and over again ever since in a constant stream of books, films and articles. I'm sure Margaret would never have imagined that she would be caught up in such an event, nor that a century later her story would be available for all to see via the internet.

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I haven't got a birth time for Margaret Rice so I'm reluctant to put too much emphasis on her Moon as it might not be correct, but I found that, in the progressed chart for the date of her death, her progressed South Node had reached her natal Moon. As if to emphasis this, in the Solar Arc chart for the same moment, her South Node and Moon are conjunct in Capricorn, both applying to her natal Saturn. And her Solar Arc Sun-Mercury conjunction is opposite her natal Pluto.

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I can't help feeling that Margaret Rice was destined to be on the Titanic when it left Queenstown. Whether you use the Neptune chart or the standard one, there are three powerful contacts:

- the Queenstown Sun conjunct Margaret's Neptune;  
- the Queenstown Saturn conjunct her Pluto;                                  
- and the Queenstown Ascendant conjunct her Jupiter

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I said earlier that Eugene Rice was the only child for whom I had a reliable birth date. I also found one for George Rice, but I'm not sure it's accurate because his age is given as eight elsewhere. The next one up and oldest boy, Albert, is described as being ten years old. This date is inbetween. But if it does belong to one of these boys, it shows two interesting areas of contact between mother and sons. One of these is in the early degrees of Sagittarius (Margaret's Moon-South Node, George's Sun-Venus and Mercury and Eugene's North Node and Venus) and the other in Aries (Margaret's Neptune, George's South Node and – a bit wide – Eugene's Saturn). George's Saturn is also on one of the Titanic degrees.

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Eugene himself has an interesting chart, dominated by the oppositions between Sun-Saturn and Uranus-Neptune which form a Grand Cross close to the Titanic degrees of 21-25 of cardinal signs. (Bear in mind that the Uranus-Neptune opposition was around for some time so wasn't personal to him. In fact, it's almost a signature for the Titanic disaster: the last word in technological design being overcome by the forces of nature and ending up at the bottom of the ocean). Because his life was so short, there's not much movement in any of the charts I drew for him. The only point of interest I could see in his 1911 Solar Return was Solar Return Mars hovering around his natal North Node.

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By progressions, the only bodies that have moved are the Sun and Moon, and we can't be sure of the accuracy of his natal Moon. The most striking chart is the Solar Arc, because at his date of death Sun, Saturn and Neptune had all moved into the Titanic degree zone (Uranus remaining just outside). His progressed Sun had, of course, also moved into the same area. 

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Margaret Rice's body was recovered from the icy waters of the Atlantic by the ship Mackay Bennett. Her body was taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she was buried in the Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery – as were many victims of the Titanic. Sadly, none of her sons' bodies were ever found. 


One more piece to follow, bringing things up to the present.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Titanic - a personal quest

When I arrived at the Astrological Association's Library Open Day last Saturday, the Librarian was holding a book in her hand. 'I think you'll find this interesting,' she said. How right she was!

The book was Titanic Astrology: the Grand Design of a Famous Shipwreck by Eileen Grimes. I've been fascinated by the story of the Titanic since I was a child. However, it gained a new dimension a few years back when my brother told me that one of our distant relatives (a cousin of my Irish grandfather) died in the disaster. An internet search revealed quite a lot of information about her, and her story is particularly poignant.

Margaret Rice (née Norton) was born in Athlone, Ireland, on 6th October 1872 but emigrated to Canada with her family while still a child. She married William Rice when she was 19 and they had six sons, though the first-born died when he choked on his dummy. The family moved to Spokane, Washington State, where William worked on the railway. However, he was killed in an accident at work on 24 January 1910, leaving Margaret with five small sons to bring up. With the compensation she received, she bought property in Spokane and also had her husband re-interred in a more expensive grave. The re-interment took place, almost unbelievably, on 15 April 1910 – two years to the day before Margaret Rice and her five sons perished in the icy cold waters of the North Atlantic.

She moved back to Ireland with her children for a while but decided they would have a better future in America. She bought a third-class passage on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, departing from Queenstown (now Cobh) in County Cork on 11th April 1912. In 1998 a Memorial Stone was unveiled in Cobh in memory of the 113 passengers from that port who died on the Titanic (all but ten of those who had boarded). The bronze picture on the Stone shows some of the Irish emigrants on two small boats as they were ferried out to the Titanic. Margaret Rice and her five young sons are also depicted on the monument.
I digress here a minute to say that I was always slightly bemused by the lack of synastry between me and my immediate family. I have read and heard of some quite remarkable family patterns that often work through the generations. In fact, as a young child long before I knew anything about astrology, I wondered if I had been adopted as I felt no connection to the people I was living with. When I looked at Margaret's chart, there were some interesting links, but at the time I thought of them as no more than that. I did some work on her chart in the months leading up to the 100th anniversary of the sinking and then moved on to other things.

However, as I skimmed through Eileen Grimes' book on Saturday I knew I had to look at Margaret's chart again. She mentions 'Titanic degrees' – those between 21-25 of cardinal signs – which are present in the charts of many of the passengers and crew of the Titanic. (They derive from the chart for the Titanic hitting the iceberg). Moreover, they're also prominent in their descendants and in people who are fascinated with the story. These degrees are very significant in my own chart, and I had a vague feeling they figured in Margaret's too. Indeed, I was pretty certain that I was reading about this on or very near to her birthday.

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In fact, she has only one planet on a Titanic degree and amazingly it's Neptune, which is conjunct the Sun and Mercury in the Titanic chart. Mercury might be less to do with communication here than with the role of psychopomp (bearer of souls to the Otherworld). 

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I was curious to see if the Titanic degrees turned up in any of her sons' charts, but so far I've had little success in finding their dates of birth. The only one which seems to be reliable is that of her youngest son Eugene, born on 13th October 1909 – little more than three months before her husband's death. He has a Grand Cross in cardinals that picks up a similar pattern in my own chart, but falls just outside the Titanic degrees. However, if you progress his chart to the date of his death (at two and a half years old), his progressed Sun has moved into the Titanic degree area.

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I should add that I don't have times of birth for either Margaret or Eugene so I've chosen the liminal times of dawn and dusk – they felt more appropriate than the harsh glare of the midday sun. This just happens to give them Ascendants on or near the Titanic degrees but of course they aren't necessarily correct. Likewise their Moon positions can't be considered reliable.

I'm still looking at these charts and I'm hoping to continue writing about this over the next few days.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Pholus in the twentieth century and beyond

Pholus was next at perihelion at the start of the twentieth century, on 4 February 1901. The period he was in Saturn's realm – and the lid was on the jar – stretched from 1897 to early 1904. I'd found this part of his previous cycle very quiet, as if the lid were not just on, but firmly screwed down. The situation this time round couldn't be more different. You would need someone with the strength of Heracles to keep the contents in the jar, at least in the period following the perihelion. The reason for this – and the keynote for the whole of this Pholus cycle – was that on this occasion Pholus was dancing not with Neptune but with Uranus and Pluto. The result is a much darker experience of Pholus. It is not an exaggeration to say that, by the time he had passed from Neptune's and into Pluto's realm, Pholus was staring into the Abyss.

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This perihelion occurred shortly before the first of several exact oppositions between Uranus and Pluto during 1901-2 which formed the backdrop to the scientific revolution that shaped the twentieth century. There were notable births and significant events in the years following Pholus' perihelion. The first was Werner Heisenberg, a theoretical physicist who contributed to early work on quantum mechanics and is best known for the Uncertainty Principle – a term which, though it refers to the behaviour of sub-atomic particles, could well sum up the entire century. Heisenberg was born on 5 December 1901, and exactly a week later (12 December) the first radio signal was sent across the Atlantic. Two years later, on 17 December 1903, aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first powered, controlled and sustained flight and, shortly after Pholus left Saturn's realm, Albert Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity (1905). We were not so much sailing into uncharted waters as cutting the ties that bound us to the planet.

Culturally, there was one interesting birth during this period, namely that of Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell, who was born in 1903. Gone were the fantasy worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia.  They were replaced by a gritty realism in which Orwell described experiences like being down and out in Paris and London, and fighting in the Spanish Civil War.  He also wrote perhaps the most famous of dystopias, 1984, the background of which is loosely based on wartime Britain. It's interesting to compare this with the other famous dystopia that was circulating round my class clandestinely in the mid-60s – Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. (Both were much more interesting than our set books and ever so slightly subversive). Huxley was born in 1894, during the decade of the Neptune-Pluto conjunction. Many astrologers point to this conjunction as the start of a new era because it's such a long cycle – nearly 500 years. Huxley's story is about a hedonistic, consumer-oriented society in which anything old is despised, whereas Orwell's is of a grim society in a perpetual state of war where your every move is monitored and even your thoughts aren't private. We used to speculate about which of these was the more likely to happen. Nearly fifty years on, we seem to have achieved the impossible and manifested both.

Moving on to the period when Pholus travels beyond Neptune, between 1934 and 1957 with aphelion on 9 July 1946, the first thing that struck me was that Pluto was discovered shortly before (in 1930) and as we know very quickly made his presence felt through the Great Depression and, in Europe, the rise of National Socialism. This has such a different feel to it from the previous period in the mid-1800s when Neptune was discovered, the utopian Communist Manifesto was published and the Fox Sisters were table-rapping – although once put into practice, Communism didn't remain utopian for very long (Orwell's Animal Farm is relevant here).

The early part of this period was one of rising tension as the war machine started to crank into action, embarking on a six-year period of wholesale slaughter which was finally ended by the dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The technology that made these bombs possible had, of course, arisen as from scientific discoveries such as Einstein's earlier in the century. In my book, they have 'Pluto' stamped all over them, as does the Holocaust. Interestingly, the word itself means 'burnt offerings,' which again is very Plutonian, whereas in fact the many people who went to their death in Nazi concentration camps were gassed, which is very Neptunian.

While the image imprinted on the mind for the first part of this cycle is that of conflagration, that for the second is of cold and iron. As the world emerged from its period of temporary insanity, the Iron Curtain came down and the Cold War started. In fact, they continued for the remaining part of Pholus' cycle, as the world divided into two camps on one side of the Curtain or the other until the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. The threat of nuclear war dominated this period, with many countries building up their nuclear arsenal and testing nuclear weapons, especially in the 1950s.

As Pholus once again returned to Saturn's realm in 1988, things began to change. It was as if the immense forces that were unleashed in the 1940s were finally settling down. It marked the end of the Reagan-Thatcher era, during which the Market Economy became established. A year later, the Berlin Wall fell and over the next few years the Communist bloc fell apart. By the end of 1991, only a few months after the Pholus perihelion, the Soviet Union no longer existed.

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Neptune had not been a major player throughout this Pholus cycle, but it once again came to the fore as Pholus reached perihelion on 24 September 1991. Take a look at the chart, which is set for London. Two things stand out: the Pholus-Saturn opposition and the beginnings of a Uranus-Neptune conjunction, which is exact during 1993. Pholus left Saturn's realm again in 1994.

The major manifestations of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction to date are the Hubble telescope and its opening up of outer space, virtually back to the Big Bang, and the internet, which has made it possible to link up people all around the world. Wonderful though they both are, they're technological (hardly surprising with Uranus involved), superficial and deceptive (Neptune). What I mean is that the wonderful images we see from deep space are just that: images. They're not real. Even if we could travel that far out, we'd never see those abstract shapes and beautiful colours because they're not there, they're just computer-enhanced images. Likewise, though the internet might have spawned the beginnings of a global consciousness, it could also be likened to the experience of swimming in shark-infested waters. People on the net aren't necessarily who they say they are and there's a dark underbelly of very nasty stuff lurking not very far beneath the surface. 

It's also striking that, though we can now travel to the farthest reaches of the universe and link hands with our brothers and sisters around the globe, there's as much reluctance as ever to plumb the depths, both our own and those of the planet. People seem to be more obsessed than ever with surface stuff like looks, status and celebrities (the glamour of Neptune) to the detriment of values such as honour and integrity. And the disappearance of Flight MH370 has brought home only too well how little we know about the deep ocean depths.
A word about the Pholus-Saturn opposition: Juan Revilla, an astrologer and one of the pioneers of Centaur research, has pointed out that Pholus and Saturn remained in opposition (on and off) from perihelion until February 1999, when the last opposition occurred on the final degree of Aries (http://www.expreso.co.cr/centaurs/essays/winged1.html). He suggests that Saturn clipped Pholus' wings during this period but once the oppositions were over it left him free to fly. We're still in the early days of the 171 year long Uranus-Neptune cycle, so it remains to be seen how the rest of these cycles play out.  Those born at the start of them are barely into adulthood, for one thing.

Pholus, however, is now working with Neptune again, which suits his nature and has the potential to yield many rich gifts when he moves into the Unknown Region once again, a period which begins in 2023.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Pholus in the nineteenth century

I've been looking at, and musing over, the last two cycles of Pholus – which conveniently span two centuries. But they're so different, I've been asking myself where does Pholus fit in all this, if at all.

The answer may lie in the fact that Pholus is strongly linked to the imagination. He travels further than most of the Centaurs I've worked with, in the sense that he crosses the orbits of several planets. By way of comparison, Chariklo orbits sedately between Saturn and Uranus and she's the most 'steady state' of the Centaurs. Pholus picks up on more than most on his journey, and he spends more time in the region of Neptune and Pluto than he does around Saturn – so he's a free spirit for the greater part of his cycle.

If we look at the nineteenth century, this Pholus cycle encompasses two major Neptune conjunctions – the Uranus-Neptune in the early 1820s and the Neptune-Pluto at the beginning of the 1890s. Neptune too is strongly imaginative – our ideologies, world-views and so on arise from the mass consciousness that is Neptune. And even though we talk about living in the real world, or harangue people to 'get real,' we actually have no idea of what really is real, because what we call the real world is simply a mutually reinforced delusion which shifts and changes and eventually disintegrates when that particular version of reality no longer serves us. (And then the Uranian 'awkward squad' comes along and blows holes in the failing consensus of what's real – but that's another story!).

As well as being Keeper of the Sacred Wine Jar, Pholus is also Storyteller to the Gods. Storytelling, like fairy tales and imagination itself, has been relegated to the 'trivial pursuits' level in our bright, shiny, techno-world, but it's an ancient tradition which stretches back to a time long before Homer (who simply started writing the stories down). The storyteller was custodian of the tribe's traditions and also their memory. When storytelling comes from a deep source, the words spring from the visions, not the visions from the words. The storyteller's task was to bring the story alive for the whole tribe, so things like literary style didn't come into it.

All Centaurs are liminal figures, go-betweens, so Pholus in his role as storyteller can draw tales out of that vast, imaginative Neptunian ocean and bring them through into our consciousness. And that's what seems to be happening in the nineteen century, as some of the most imaginative writers – many of whom are still read and enjoyed today – were either born or published during significant parts of the Pholus cycle, or when Neptune was in one of its major conjunctions.

However, at the very start of Pholus' cycle in the 1800s – when the lid was firmly on the jar – there's no discernible Pholusian activity. The period that Pholus was within Saturn's realm extended from 1807 to 1813, with the perihelion on 3 March 1810. It was business as usual, namely War, Industry and Empire. I couldn't find any notable births nor marked signs of imaginative activity. For sure the lid was well and truly on.

 The period around aphelion is a different matter altogether. It extends from 1843 to 1868, with aphelion on 20 July 1855. Firstly, Neptune was discovered in 1846 – once again emphasising the Neptunian feel of this cycle. Events that followed include the rise of spiritualism (the Fox sisters' table-rapping), the foundation of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the publishing of the Communist Manifesto in 1848, all quite Neptunian. Also in 1848 – but perhaps more to do with the Uranus-Pluto conjunction that was building – was a wave of revolutions in Europe, though these fizzled out almost as soon as they began. Then in 1854, shortly before aphelion, the essay 'Walden' was published. Written by Henry David Thoreau (born 1817, shortly before the Uranus-Neptune conjunction) this is a reflection on simple living in natural surroundings which is often cited by environmentalists today. 

Then after the aphelion, we have a remarkable cluster of births ranging between 1859 to 1868. Many of them wrote imaginative fiction but there are others who used their imagination in other ways and many of their names are iconic. To give a few examples: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859) author of the famous Sherlock Holmes stories and also a spiritualist, Rudolf Steiner (1861) educationalist and mystic, Henry Ford (1863) who introduced assembly lines and mass-produced cars, Arthur Machen (1863) author and mystic, W B Yeats (1865) poet and mystic, H G Wells (1866) author and socialist, Marie Curie (1867) researcher of radioactivity and winner of two Nobel prizes (and the first woman to be awarded one), and Robert Falcon Scott (1868) leader of the ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic. Additionally, Jules Verne's imaginative work was first published during this period, including Journey to the Centre of the Earth published in 1864.  All of these individuals have Pholus contacts in their charts, with aspects to Moon, Venus and Mercury occurring frequently.

There are incidents associated with two of these writers so reminiscent of Pholus' 'genie out of the bottle' side that I just have to share them.  The first is the story of the Mary Celeste, the ship that was found abandoned. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short story loosely based on this, but with fictional elements introduced, such as accounts that the ship was in an almost perfect state when discovered (when in fact it had been in heavy weather and was water-logged) and that all the life-boats were still present (when one was actually missing).  The fictional account then took on a life of its own.  Written as an eye-witness account, it subsequently appeared in the press as a true account of the event.  Even the fictional name Marie Celeste was the one that stuck in the public's mind.

The second is similar in that Arthur Machen published a short story called The Bowmen in the London Evening News in September 1914, following the British retreat at the Battle of Mons the month before.  It described how phantom bowmen from Agincourt, summoned by an English soldier, had destroyed a host of German troops.  Machen received several requests for permission to reproduce the story in parish magazines, and on one occasion was asked to give details of his sources.  When he replied that there were no sources as the account was fiction, he was told he was mistaken because the incident really had happened.  Again, The Angel of Mons assumed a  life of its own and acquired embellishments, including accounts of German bodies on the battlefield with arrow wounds. As Machen ruefully said, 'The snowball of rumour has been rolling ever since, growing bigger and bigger, till it is now swollen to a monstrous size.'

As Pholus' cycle drew to a close at the end of the nineteenth century, passing once again into Saturn's sphere in 1897, there was a final flowing of imaginative writers such as C S Lewis (1898) and Jorge Luis Borges (1899).  Indeed, the entire decade gave birth to  some impressive names, including J R R Tolkien (1892), Aldous Huxley (1894), Dane Rudhyar (1895) and Robert Graves (1895).  But once Pholus reached perihelion in 1901, things changed completely.  More of that later.

I'll end with a few lines by Walt Whitman, a poet born around the Uranus-Neptune conjunction of 1821, which suggest something of Pholus' journey:

 Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.
I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream'd of in that region, that inaccessible land.
Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.
Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.