Sunday, 26 October 2014

Solar Fire 8 on Linux Mint 13

Linux and Astrology

One of the major barriers that astrologers face in adopting the Linux operating system is the limited choice of astrological software available on the platform. If you wish to explore the options, you may like to visit Unfortunately most of the commercially available packages, such as Solar Fire and Janus, are written using Microsoft programming packages like Visual Basic and are not designed to run on alternative systems. Solar Fire claims that the program can be run on a Mac system using virtualisation software. But the options seem to be limited for using SF, or alternative commercial astrology programs such as Janus, on Linux.

Happily, however, this is not the case. I have been experimenting with Solar Fire, Janus, Solar Maps, Nova Chart Wheels and Delphic Oracle on Linux. I have them all running on Linux using the Wine facility. In virtually all cases, I have got the Windows-based software to run extremely well on Linux using Wine. In the case of Solar Fire, following a breakthrough with a font problem, I have been able to get the program running perfectly on Linux. In this case, the functionality and performance of the program is identical to running Solar Fire on Windows. This is a significant development as it now means that Solar Fire users can move to Linux without any concern about losing access to their astrological software and data.

In this blog I will describe my experiences running Solar Fire on Linux, including all the tips that you will need to get a perfect installation of the software. I have been experimenting with Solar Fire on Linux using Wine for some years now so I have built up a good working knowledge of how to achieve a trouble-free, stable installation. The steps I will describe below should not be beyond a capable desktop user. However, I would recommend that you familiarise yourself thoroughly with the process described before attempting any of the steps. If you are confident with the workings of the Solar Fire program, with Linux and Wine, and with basic computing tasks such as managing fonts, you shouldn't have any difficulties with the process.


Before you try any of the following steps, please ensure that you are satisfied that you have a robust backup of any files that are personally valuable or critical to the functioning of your computer. If you have any critical program installations that you don't want to lose, you may want to make an image of your hard drive. None of the steps below should lead to catastrophic data loss. However, it is essential that you have taken steps to protect your files before proceeding. If you have existing SF user data files, please ensure you have at least one copy, and preferably two copies, of these files on a physical medium such as a CD-ROM or backed up on a flash drive or external hard drive.

First, a little about Linux and Wine.

Linux is a desktop OS that has been developed by enthusiasts and volunteers, with some commercial input, since the early 1990s. It is now a very mature, stable, secure and attractive OS that is a rival for Mac and Windows. The original impetus for Linux came from Linus Torvalds. He pioneered the development of the original kernel and is still actively involved in the development of the OS. The desktop that is the front end of Linux is developed by various teams of individuals around the world. There are variety of desktops, which gives the end user a range of choices about how to interact with their PC - some of the desktops include Cinnamon, KDE, Unity, LXDE and xfce. Linux is one of the central parts of the free software movement.

Wine is a program that can be downloaded through your Linux software repository. This piece of software is designed to allow Windows based programs to be installed and run on a Linux system without using virtualisation software or a virtual machine. This means that you do not need to install a copy of Windows on your linux system to run Windows software. You can find out details about Wine at This is how the Wine team describe the program: "Wine (originally an acronym for "Wine Is Not an Emulator") is a compatibility layer capable of running Windows applications on several POSIX-compliant operating systems, such as Linux, Mac OSX, & BSD. Instead of simulating internal Windows logic like a virtual machine or emulator, Wine translates Windows API calls into POSIX calls on-the-fly, eliminating the performance and memory penalties of other methods and allowing you to cleanly integrate Windows applications into your desktop." (from

Wine is a very neat solution to the problem of running Windows-based software such as Solar Fire or Janus on a Linux system. I believe it is preferable to installing a virtual copy of Windows because it maintains the integrity of the Linux OS. After all, I can't see the logic in running Linux on a desktop machine if, at the first problem, one installs a virtual copy of Windows to run software. The downside of Wine under Linux is that not all Windows software will run perfectly on Linux. However, as far as I can see, Solar Fire installs and runs perfectly within Wine. In fact, most of the astrological software I have tried runs very well, or perfectly, using the Wine/Linux system.

Solar Fire 8 on Linux

The following instructions relate to the installation of SF on Linux Mint 13 with Mate desktop. The system specifications are listed below:

Kernel Linux 3.5.0-23-generic
Linux Mint 13 32-bit
Mate Desktop
Wine 1.4.1
Pentium 4 Machine
2.5 GB RAM

Solar Fire runs very smoothly on this set-up. In principle there is no reason why these instructions should not apply to other Debian derivatives of Linux such as Ubuntu. In fact I have plenty of evidence that it runs as well on these OSs - Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, Lubuntu 12.04 LTS and Linux Mint 14.

Installation Instructions

If you have not already installed Wine, download and install the program through your software manager. This will ensure your software comes from your software repository which gives added security and peace of mind. At the moment, most distributions such as Linux Mint are offering Wine 1.4.1 from their repositories. All my comments relate to an installation based on Wine 1.4.1. This version of Wine provides the most complete solution to the installation of SF on Linux. Later versions of Wine introduced a bug that impacts on the Animate Chart function which causes the program to crash.

If Wine is already installed and you have Windows programs already running in Linux, make a copy of .wine folder as a fall-back if installation of the SF program does not work. This will be renamed .wine (copy) by default. You can find .wine by opening your file manager and displaying your Home folder. You will need to be able to see hidden files, so go to View->Show Hidden Files or hit Ctrl-H once you have your Home folder window open. You will find .wine towards the bottom of the list of files in your Home folder. If this is your first Windows-based installation in Wine you can ignore this instruction.

To install SF

The first thing to do is to install a vital file called mfc40.dll. This is done through Winetricks. SF won't run on Linux without installing this dll. If you can't boot SF, it is probably because this file is not present. You can install this dll file by opening Winetricks from your main program menu. Look for Wine->Winetricks. Go to Select the default Wine prefix->OK->Install a Windows DLL or component->OK. Scroll down the list, click the check-box next to mfc40, click OK. Winetricks will then ensure mfc40.dll is available to SF8.

Next load your SF installation CD and double click or right-click->Open the desktop icon when it appears. This will open the folder containing the files on the CD. Find the install.exe icon and right click. When the menu appears, choose Open->Wine Windows Program Loader. This will open the main SF installation screen. Choose SF from the list of options and click the Install button. To install the program from a downloaded file, just right click on the .exe file you have received and choose Open->Wine Windows Program Loader. In both cases the installation routine will begin. When prompted, enter your registration details - username, password etc. This should perform a basic installation of your chosen version of SF.

You may be asked if you want to run the program at the end of the installation routine. I would not recommend this as there are some further steps to take to get the program running. Firstly you will need to copy your existing SF user files to the Solar Fire User Files folder that has now been set up in your Home folder. If you are an existing SF user, you should have a copy of this folder on your old computer, or, better still, backed up somewhere on a CD-ROM or flash drive.

Open your existing user files folder, copy all of the folders, and paste them into the SFUF folder in your Linux Home folder. If this is the first time you have installed a copy of SF, you will need to copy the User Files from your .wine folder. To do this, display the hidden folder .wine and open it. Find the drive_c folder and open. Open the Program Files folder and go to SolarFire8 - double-click to open. Open the User Files folder and copy all the folders. Return to the Home folder, find the Solar Files User Files and double-click to open. Paste all the folders and files into this new location. You may be prompted to over-write files. Go ahead and do this as long as your are absolutely sure there is nothing that you may want to save from the SFUF.

Font solutions

One of the difficulties with running SF on Linux has been a long-standing problem with one of the fonts. You can see the history of attempts to deal with this difficulty on the Solar Fire page at Unfortunately these solutions have only been partial. The complete solution is to use a program called Font Forge (downloadable from your repository) to change the Windows font, Etsans3.fon in the case of SF8, to a font compatible with Linux. This is easily done by opening the .fon font in Font Forge and using the Generate Font command to convert the font to a Win Fon type.

To open the .fon font go to File->Open and from the file browser follow these steps: .wine->drive_c->windows->Fonts. Choose Etsans3.fon. When the .fon font is open in Font Forge go to File->Generate Fonts... and choose this option from the right-hand box below the font name - "Win Fon". Click Save back to the Fonts folder.

You can find the relevant font in your .wine folder. Again you will have to follow the instructions above to make the .wine folder visible. Open the folder and find drive_c. Open this folder and go to the windows folder. Open the windows folder and find the Fonts folder. In this folder you will find three fonts relevant to the SF8 installation: EtAst1.ttf, Etsym3.tff and Etsans3.fon. The .ttf fonts work fine with Wine and Linux. However, you have to convert the Windows format .fon font as per the instructions above.

To get a perfect installation of SF within Wine, you will need to install a fourth font. I am not sure why this makes a difference. However, without installing the fourth font – ETSYM2.TTF – you will experience residual display problems. The program will be perfectly usable however. The 'fourth font solution' is the final piece of the fonts problem in Linux. Within Windows, SF8 runs on three fonts: EtAst1.ttf, Etsym3.tff and Etsans3.fon. However, for some bizarre reason you need to install ETSYM2.TTF from SF7 to get the font display working perfectly in Linux. This font should be placed in the .wine->drive_c->windows->Fonts folder with the other three fonts. You will need to have a previous version of SF7 to achieve this. There is no complication introducing this .ttf font into Wine, unlike with the tweak required for the Windows-based .fon font Etsans3.

Running SF

You should now be able to run SF8 in Linux using Wine. Double click the desktop icon and the program should run. In all respects you should now be able to use SF8 just as if you were working in Windows.

Upgrading SF

You may wish to upgrade your version 8 of SF to the most current version. This is 8.1.5 and the .exe file is downloadable from the Astrolabe website. This should be a straightforward installation. However, I have discovered that it is important to back up your user files before doing so. This is because the installation routine attempts to overwrite the contents of the Solar Fire User Files folder and does not like doing so, at least in Linux/Wine.

If you don't empty this folder, the upgrade process will be stalled and lead to an unstable installation. It is essential, once you have made some copies of your user files for security, to empty the contents of the SFUF folder in Linux Home folder. However, leave the empty SFUF folder in situ. Following these steps ensures that the upgrade is not interrupted leading to a partial, and unstable, installation of the software. Once you are ready to upgrade, right-click on your .exe upgrade file and choose Open->Wine Windows Program Loader. The installation process will start. You may be prompted to confirm that you have a legitimate copy of SF8 installed on your machine. If you have a personally licensed copy, click OK.

Once the installation has been completed, copy your user files back to the SFUF in your Home folder. Check that you have the correct Etsans3.fon font still installed in the fonts folder. This completes the process and you should have a perfectly installed upgrade of SF8 to the latest version 8.1.5.

If you use a lot of asteroids as part of your astrology, you may wish to copy the updated EtAst1.ttf font file from the program folder SolarFire8 to your fonts folder in Wine. This is a straightforward Copy->Paste from the program folder to the fonts folder. You can rename the original EtAst1.tff (orig_EtAst1.ttf) before doing this. This is a precaution that ensures the original asteroid font file is still available to you and is not overwritten.


The comments above relate specifically to Debian-based Linux desktop systems such as Ubuntu, Lubuntu, and Mint. You will have to experiment if you wish to try SF on other systems such as Arch, SUSE or Redhat based operating systems. The most complete solution seems to be with systems based around Ubuntu 12.04 LTS which is supported until April 2017. The Wine version to use is 1.4 or 1.4.1. I will highlight the regression identified above which crashes the Animate Chart function in more recent Wine versions to the developers through the bug report system. If you can live without the Animate function, you can happily proceed to use Ubuntu derivatives such as the more up-to-date 14.04 LTS, Mint 17 and the latest Lubuntu OS (based on Ubuntu 14.04) with the latest Wine release.

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.

(Click to enlarge)
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.

(Click to enlarge)
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.

(Click to enlarge)

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.

(Click to enlarge)

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.

(Click to enlarge)

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.

(Click to enlarge)

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?

(Click to enlarge)
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.

(Click to enlarge)
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.

(Click to enlarge)

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

(Click to enlarge)

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.

(Click to enlarge)

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.

(Click to enlarge)
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.