Saturday, 19 April 2014

Vocation, Daimon and Destiny

'If you have a vocation, you work to support it – not the other way round.' This came up in our seminar last week and I've been pondering it ever since. 'Vocation' literally means a calling – it's that nagging inner voice you can't ignore. I tend to think of it mainly in religious terms but it could equally be applied to artists, poets, composers and others in the creative sphere, in the healing professions and no doubt others too. The key thing is The Call. Now for some people, their vocation and their profession will be one and the same thing. But for others – perhaps most – the vocation will be something other than how they earn their living. If you're one of the latter, you'll do whatever you must to earn a living while at the same time doing whatever's necessary to satisfy that inner voice. This begs the question who or what is doing the calling – and can we find it in the birth chart?

Well, to me there's only one thing that fits the bill, and that's a point that's little used these days: the Lot (or Part) of Spirit. This is the counterpart to the more familiar Lot of Fortune, which has also fallen out of fashion in recent times.

So what do these two points mean? Let's start with Fortune, as that's probably the most familiar of the two. According to Kenneth Johnson1, in ancient times the Lots of Fortune and Spirit were treated not as abstract concepts, but as characters in a horoscope who were every bit as real as the planets. Fortune, for instance, was a Goddess known as Tyche in Greek and Fortuna in Latin. She was capricious in nature, as likely to bestow good fortune on a thief as she was to mete out misfortune on those it would seem least deserved it. Fortuna was sometimes depicted at the helm of a ship – the ship of our destiny – piloting a course now through calm, now through stormy waters … and sometimes even steering us onto the rocks.

 Spirit was known in Greek as the Daimon – a fiery spirit somewhat similar to but far more, well, spirited than the kindly guardian angel who helps you find your car keys. We come across the daimon in Plato's Myth of Er, which outlines what happens prior to our birth. The tale goes that we're allotted a personal daimon to act as our guardian and help us fulfil the life we've chosen. The daimon carries our personal blueprint and remembers it for us, because we forget all this once we're born. It also brings us back to the path whenever we stray from it. But like Fortuna presiding over the ups and downs of our journey through life, the Daimon is just as capricious where our inner desires and motivations are concerned. Sometimes it impels us to do things we would rather avoid, or forces us onto paths we would not choose to follow, but always, always it's driving us to fulfil the destiny of which we have no memory. So that inner voice belongs to our daimon, calling us to our true purpose, our vocation. 

The system of Lots comes from Hellenistic astrology, and there's a Lot for each of the visible planets. The Lots of Fortune and Spirit are assigned to the Moon and Sun respectively. Fortune represents chance and Spirit destiny. Like yin and yang, they're inextricably linked, suggesting that chance and destiny are two sides of the same coin. It all depends on whether you're looking through the eyes of Fortune (from the outside) or Spirit (from the inside). For example, what looks like chance or misfortune (such as getting onto the plane that crashes) from the outside seems quite different when viewed from the inside, the daimon's perspective. For the daimon would see it as the fulfilment of your destiny. 

We all have a personal daimon, but for the vast majority of us probably the best we can expect in the way of contact is a nudge or a warning at times of danger, a hesitation before we embark on a venture that will take us away from our destiny, or similar. For some great souls, however, their vocation is so strong that they have an exceptional relationship with their daimon. One example which will be familiar to many astrologers is that of Jung with his guide or daimon Philemon, but there are many artists and poets who have had similar relationships with inner guides. These relationships are far from cosy, though. The daimon expects much and can be ruthless in its determination to steer the individual towards creative fulfilment. Indeed, Patrick Harpur2 quotes Jung as saying 'A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon. The daimon of creativity has ruthlessly had his way with me.' And we can probably all think of creative people who have paid a terrible price for their art in terms of health, relationships or personal happiness.

It's easy enough to find out where both Fortune and Spirit are placed in your chart, and in some programs you can reset your chart so that Fortune appears on the Ascendant. This can give a different take on your journey through life. But I couldn't resist drawing up a chart with my Spirit on the Ascendant, which I did by hand as the software didn't extend to it. And when I did, something inside me gave a little leap of joy – which I like to think was my daimon expressing its approval. In fact, I found the Spirit chart a more accurate depiction than either my birth or my Fortune chart, although perhaps others might be the best judge of this.

These Lots can be a useful addition to the birth chart, but there are other reasons for getting to know your daimon a little better. Tradition has it that as we get older and our powers wane, the daimon grows stronger. And when we finally pass over to whatever is beyond, rumour has it that we'll be greeted by the guide and companion whom we've known all our lives: our personal daimon. Best, perhaps, to be prepared...

(1) Kenneth Johnson, 'Fortune and Spirit: reclaiming astrology's lost archetypes' in The Mountain Astrologer, Feb/Mar 2013
(2) Patrick Harpur, 'A Complete Guide to the Soul'

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Centaurs and Longevity

These thoughts arose from a comment Melanie Reinhart made at our Spring Seminar on 'Ancestral Healing: Chiron and the Centaurs' yesterday. She made the observation that Pholus – the second Centaur to be discovered – has a cycle of around 92 years and therefore still operates on a personal level, as many people are now living into their nineties. Nessus, however – the third Centaur to be discovered – has a cycle of around 122 years and so goes well beyond the present lifespan of a human being.

There's been an increasing number of super-centenarians in the last couple of decades but on the whole they haven't lived much beyond the age of 115. I haven't explored this fully, but I have a suspicion that the cycle of Pluto might be a factor here, as they were born when Pluto was at its slowest, staying in a sign for about 30 years. For example, someone born in 1900 would not experience their first Pluto square until they were 63, whereas someone born in 1969 would experience it at 36. There are, of course, many other factors at work here – not the least being the very different lives led by those born around the beginning of the twentieth century compared to our own. Their lives might appear to have been harder, but amongst other things they ate real food and were physically active. I'm not sure that those of us around now will fare so well on processed foods and sedentary lifestyles.

I wonder too if Chiron might have something to do with longevity. He was, after all, immortal and eventually surrendered his immortality so that he could be released from his suffering. Lifespans seem to have increased since he was discovered in the late 1970s. Again, I haven't looked into this in any depth.

(If Pluto seems out of place here, well no it isn't. Most of the Centaurs have orbits very much like Pluto's – very elliptical and highly inclined to the ecliptic. Centaurs are generally thought to be escapees from the Kuiper Belt, drawn in to the Solar System by Neptune. The Kuiper Belt is Pluto's realm, therefore the Centaurs can be viewed as Pluto's emissaries. It's thought that the Centaurs will not be permanent residents in the Solar System – so we should perhaps ponder why they're making their presence known to us now).

(Click to enlarge)
 But back to Nessus. There is one person who has lived long enough to experience a Nessus return. Her name was Jeanne Calment, she was born in Arles, France on 21 February 1875 and she died 122 years and 164 days later (on 4 August 1997), again in Arles. Her birth data has been verified and she is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's longest-living person. I had looked at her chart in the past as longevity is a theme in my family (both sides), but it was only last night that I found a time of birth for her on Astrodatabank. To my astonishment, I discovered she had Nessus on the Midheaven! In fact, she has a very Centauric chart as she also has Pholus conjunct Saturn and Chiron conjunct her North Node.

(Click to enlarge)

 She had her Nessus return on 9 January 1997, about six weeks before her 122nd birthday.  Interestingly, Pluto was quite close to Nessus in the return chart.
Sadly, Mme Calment outlived both her only daughter (who died, aged 35, from illness) and her only grandson (who died, aged 36, following an accident) so if she possessed a longevity gene it hasn't survived.
I don't want to say any more about her chart.  I just found such a prominent Nessus in the chart of the only person to have had a Nessus return quite amazing.

You can read more about her life here: