Mars in the 12th: dazed and confused…

Mars struggles in Neptune's house...

Mars struggles in Neptune's house...

I always understood that I was born sometime “getting on for” 6am, and evidently, as an astrologer that is maddeningly ambiguous. I made a point of recording therefore the exact moment that my own children were born; actually, the moment they took their first breath; which with my daughter was very straightforward; but was not so much with my son because he was rushed off and had to be resuscitated, so I was forced to approximate within a 5 or 10 minute window. My own birth was much complicated by the fact (so it is said) that I stopped breathing on three occasions altogether and on the third time the priest was called to administer the last rites; thus the picture is confused by this attendant calamity. When all is said and done, I had the time within this range and for a great many other reasons I was confident that my Ascendant fell somewhere between 24° and 29° of Virgo.

So, what’s the big deal? I realise that it doesn’t sound like much, but did you hear me say the bit about Virgo? I rest my case, and now I shall proceed. So, I tried a few things. My first foray into rectification had nothing to do with astrology; instead I determined to simply wake up at the exact minute of my birth time and I tried this for maybe a week. In every case I awoke (uncharacteristically I might add) no earlier than 5:34 am and no later than 5:51 am. I was therefore very comfortable with the idea that my range had narrowed to something between approaching 25° and 27° of Virgo; this also seemed to correspond with some other forays as well into rectification by progression and arc, so it was all good.

Next, the Sabian symbol trick. I should mention that I have long been familiar with the Sabians after my grandfather gave me a first edition of Marc Edmund Jones’ work many, many years hence, and I always found it to be “otherly insightful”. I am indeed often tempted to produce a Sabian chart as a consequence for my clients. But anyhow, I digress. The pictures for each of the degrees therefore:

25th degree: A boy with a censer.
26th degree: Grande dames at tea.
27th degree: A bald headed man.

Now importantly, anything past the half-degree moves into the next picture, thus I also needed to consider “a man gaining secret knowledge from a paper he is reading”.

That last one, and to some extent also the bald-headed man (expanded by Rudhyar and others from the original transcripts to “a bald headed man dominates a meeting of national figures) have a peculiar resonance for me and I am comfortable with the sense therefore that my Ascendant lies at close to 27½° of Virgo.

Thankfully, I just had this confirmed. Mars has been transiting through my 12th house now for a few weeks, and that, coupled I would say with my ongoing Neptune square creates a very dissolving influence over my Martian qualities; especially when you consider that with Mars in the 3rd squared to Pluto, it was pretty much the sole source of my ability to output the necessary quantities to dispatch my responsibilities to my many clients. I have been completely at sea of late, unable to focus, to set myself any reasonable deadlines or to stick to them when I do. My work throughput has suffered horribly. Then yesterday afternoon, I started to feel distinctly different, suddenly I felt like I could focus again, and I actually wrote a 5,000 word interpretation and mailed it off after pondering and struggling with it for literally days. Last night I simply could not sleep; I felt as if I had mainlined amphetamines and coffee directly into my brain stem; I maybe got to sleep at 2 am and I was awake before 7, my brain buzzing with ideas, thoughts, articles I want to write, work I need to do. So, somewhere between 27°10′ and 27°30′, Mars broke out of the 12th would be my guess.

Now my son Joe is a lovely guy, if I say so myself. He is approaching 16 and he wants to be a doctor. Actually he is thinking that he wants to work in women’s fertility (don’t ask me, it’s not entirely normal for a boy of 16, but it is in his astrology and we did talk about it once and he really liked the idea), he is also what I would call an Indigo (I kind of despise the term, but astrologically it does have meaning) and he has Ur/Ne conjunct at less than one minute of arc just a couple of degrees on the 6th house side of the descendant, which is pretty much unequivocal. He is the appointed mentor at his school for any child with depression problems and he hangs out with children of his age and younger who are suicidal, clinically so, and he actually gets a real compassionate joy out of helping them. Last month he went to sell all his old toys at a boot fair but decided to pretty much give them away to younger kids because it was worth more than money to “make those little guys happy”. I know, it’s probably not normal, but it is what it is.

The point I am making is that he has all these incredibly decent qualities, he is funny, kind, compassionate and very handsome in a slightly offbeat, wild-haired Aquarian way BUT, he really struggles to focus. If I had to make one detractive statement about him, it would be that he has only two gears, “slow” and “standstill” and I do worry that despite his genius (which he really does have) he will struggle with his exams because he just cannot find any urgency. It always mystified me too, because I have the exact opposite problem, with my Mars in Sagittarius in the 3rd square to Pluto, I simply cannot moderate my output (and a peregrine Mercury in Scorpio – thus ruled by the Ma/Pl square – compounds that too). I wrote a book in 4 weeks and on a good day I can get 10,000 words out without skimping too much on quality.

What gives? I always thought. Now I think I know.

My Joe has Mars (in Cancer) in the 12th house. I did not appreciate fully, until just now, this last 24 hours in fact, as Mars crossed my Ascendant, just how subjectively difficult that can be. Self evidently it has something of the quality of Mars conjunct Neptune to it; my friend Alice has a transit of Neptune to Mars just now and she has complained of feeling very out of sorts for the last several months. Conversely, my brother in law has Mars rising, just over the Ascendant and into the first house and he is a study in crazy (Aquarian) energy: his hair stands on end, he is erratic, irascible, infuriating, cranky, offbeat, too cool for school and awesomely, lovably quirky all at once and he is beyond energetic. He gets an idea and he’s up and away. Many have been the times when I will be sitting with him in his garden drinking wine in a refined and leisurely way and he suddenly decides to ‘build something’. Then off he goes, into his workshop, crash, bang, wallop and two hours later he emerges with a “construction”. It’s exhausting just to watch him.

So now I get it. Mars either side of that magical line creates a profoundly different ambience and for the first time in my life, I felt it switch and all the lights came on.

The Lion and the Cobra and the Leo-Scorpio Square

Lion and Cobra

There are often profound insights to be found in scripture. This has nothing to do with religious belief either, it merely states a clear fact, because it states in the bible that you really don’t want to be stepping on the Lion and the Cobra if you can possibly avoid it. (Actually it says that you can tread on the Lion and the Cobra, providing you trust in the Lord thus: “No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.” From Psalm 91). Clearly though the wisdom contained therein suggests that unless you have the Lord’s protection, then the last things you should step upon in all creation are the Lion or the Cobra. They’ll mess you up. The aphorism derived from this is astrologically apt, the Cobra will leave you alone providing you don’t provoke it, and a happy well-fed lion will happily ignore you too, providing you show it proper respect and this is no more or no less than we understand about the nature of Leo and Scorpio.

In my experience Leo speaks to two key principles; leadership and creativity and all Leos and Leo placements will have at their essence one of these Manuscript Headerconcerns (and often both). The reason that Leo speaks to leadership concerns is because of its innate expectation of respect, because like any lion, Leo wants to be admired. Thus Saturn in Leo creates a test of leadership, the pull of the Leonine fire is toward exaltation, like the fixed flame of his genesis, it is a wondrous sight to behold (think “the eternal flame!”) but with Saturn the desire for that divine state is turned into a life-challenge; people will not admire the Leo configured with Saturn even though the native will demand it, this creates (often) arrogance and pomposity – which is merely a state of demanding respect which has not been earned. That is Saturn in Leo. Similarly, Leo is the creative principle; ruled by the Sun, creator of all life, which is exactly why Jupiter in Leo so loves children and Saturn in Leo struggles to love them. Moon in Leo is instinctively commanding, when put under pressure the Moon in Leo native will try to take charge. All of these insights are underpinned though by the fixed nature of the sign. Yes fire is warm, fire draws people to itself, but the fixity of Leo proclaims itself as a fire that cannot be put out, thus it cannot be extinguished, managed, controlled or argued with, Leo is an ‘always on’ type of energy that like the Lion will not stand down.

And then there is the cobra. Here is an entirely different animal. Cold-blooded, deadly, hard to properly see and generally feared, but not feared out of respect for its magnificence like the lion, feared because it will leave you for dead as soon as look at you. The cobra is not mighty in that divine and kingly way that the lion conjures, but just as deadly, just as implacable. Now if you think about the cobra (or the Scorpion: another facsimile for the Scorpio energy) you will understand right away that they are small, almost insignificant, but they can kill an animal many times their own size and what this really underlines is the key power of the sign of Scorpio: survival.

There are sub-plots with Scorpio of course, but they all boil down to the essential foundation of the sign’s nature, which is the survival instinct. The major sub-plot is the idea of penetration; that is a sexual imperative (via the penetration involved in coitus) as well as a mortal one (since penetration of the flesh by sword, sting or venomous fang will destroy the life), but essentially, this penetration is always at its core a survival issue; sexual penetration ensures genetic survival while combative penetration ensures physical survival; thus the essence of Scorpio is always survival. I have written about this in the past in context of Moon in Scorpio, but consider Mars in Scorpio; here is a placement that is ideal for the warrior type. It is not the chivalric, noble warrior code of Mars in Leo for whom honour and glory on the field of battle are possibly held in higher regard even than survival, but it is instead the kill-or-be-killed mentality of the pit-fighter, it is the secret, stealthy mentality of the assassin, it is the merciless and ruthless killer who, without hesitation strikes down his foe and doesn’t look back. There is no consideration of honour, but neither is there any attempt to bathe in the glory of an act of violence, it is merely expeditious; it is a doing what must be done, without a great fuss, in order that life can go on.

This understanding gives a powerful insight into the Leo-Scorpio square. Both signs are in their way implacable, both are fixed, both will not give way and a head-to-head between the lion and the cobra is going to make an uncomfortable contest. The lion cannot give way because he would be dishonoured to do so and his dream of respect and leadership would lie in tatters if he were seen to ignobly baulk at the offer of battle. By the same token, the cobra will not turn his back on the fight because his survival instinct is too strong, turning his back would leave it open to attack and so a stand-off ensues.

There is therefore an inability to compromise in any square between the signs of Leo and Scorpio, both want to go their own way and neither is prepared to back down. The result of any square is tension and ultimately inertia, but with these signs the tension is multiplied and magnified both; neither sign too understands the other, inextinguishable flame and stagnant water have little enough common quality, it is an irresistible force and an immovable object combination that simply creates a peculiar form of paralysis. Actually, as we are beginning to understand it is actually very much a stand-off; neither can feel it is able to win the fight, but neither – for entirely different reasons – feels comfortable with the idea of backing down.

Let us consider a few informative examples.

How about Ted Bundy, the American serial killer, estimated to have murdered between 29 and 100 young women between 1974 and 1978?

Ted Bundy Nativity

Here the square aspect connects a conjunction of Saturn with Pluto in Leo on the 12th with Jupiter in Scorpio riding the Imum Coeli; this is significant especially. Saturn combined with Pluto is known for its brutality; it was known bt Ebertin as “hard labour” and indeed wherever it is found it makes life very, very difficult; it is for this reason that esoteric astrologers consider it to be a deeply karmic aspect, and whether or not you choose to believe that, the reality is, it makes something of a prison sentence of the life. With the ruler of the 8th – Neptune – itself being the ruler of the 12th, then it is little surprise that Bundy’s life ended in prison at the hands of the legal system (Neptune in Libra!). This aside though, consider the ruler of Leo, the Sun and place that brutality in context; the Sun is in the fourth, so the brutality implied by the Saturn Pluto conjunction is enacted through increasingly sadistic sexual tendencies (Jupiter in Scorpio negated) in private (the 4th). The majority of his attacks were carried out in his car or in the homes of his victims, (3rd/4th houses). Jupiter configured with Saturn creates an enormous oscillation; it is a stop-start, hot-cold aspect that generates debilitating tension; Jupiter and Pluto bring leadership and dominance issues to the fore; especially across these signs; here there is tremendous potential for abuse. Consider the near-peregrine island of Mercury and Venus in Scorpio; here is somebody who thinks about sexual or power issues, who possibly confuses love and sex and who is sexually dissatisfied (implied by the Venus quincunx deviant Uranian thinking in Gemini). The mix is difficult and dangerous.

The key however is Jupiter in almost partile square to Pluto; which itself combined with Saturn in the suppressed 12th gives near-fanatic sexual dominance issues that conjunct the IC, are carried on in secret. Anyone born in the years 1946 and 1947 with this particular square (and more generally the Sa/Pl conjunction) will probably display some measure of fanaticism in their outlook; I have seen it time and again in this subset of the Pluto in Leo generation and it nearly always combines power and money issues in some way (and how else explain how that generation ushered in the most debilitating era of pointless and soulless capitalism since the days of European feudalism?) Here is a further example:

Arnold Schwarzenegger Nativity

Consider this identical aspect in the chart of the well-known actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here the fanatic impulse is found in the Sa/Pl conjunct in Leo too, but now in the earthy 2nd, there is therefore a financial connotation, and Arnold is truly wealthy, but the house (and the sign of Leo too) is now dominated by the Sun, partile to the cusp in its domicile; creating an enormous ego and huge personal and physical power. The square to Jupiter in Scorpio creates a leadership issue too, but the Ascendant is trine Jupiter giving an easy outlet for the tension into the body itself. Arnold’s physique becomes a channel for all that power, leadership and dominance; he can quite literally manifest the tension into his muscles. In the 5th as well, Jupiter introduces an element of joy into proceedings, Arnold enjoys flexing his biceps and showing off his great power. But let us not forget too that Arnold has a peregrine Venus, he really wants to be beautiful and admired for his physical perfection (Venus rising) and in the sign of Cancer and with Moon quindecile to Mars in the 12th, he probably feels compelled to do that because his mother didn’t nurture him very well.

But despite all of this, there is a combination of Leo and Scorpio that is respectful to both. It is the Spartan. Here is a warrior that retains honour and respect, but fights for survival. The key to transforming the Leo-Pluto square then is to fight, not like Richard, Coerr de Lion, but to stand your ground, like Leonidas at Thermopylae. That is the archetypal compromise for these two difficult energies. It is not so much a winner and loser scenario, but instead it speaks of finding the very narrow common-ground, the perfect balance between the two, where their energies can be combined in the person of the Scorpion-King (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Conan the Barbarian, the role which first catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger to the A list. Another example of just how succinctly life imitates art!)

The Astrology of Photography.

Ansel Adams Photo

I find that astrology and photography have much in common. They are both concerned with an ongoing attempt to capture the intangible; both rely upon rules that must be learned, subsumed and then transcended in order to attain mastery; they are both concerned with the sublime and perhaps most pertinently of all, neither, whether approached as art or science can ever be considered finished. To clarify, no photographer ever took a photograph so perfect that they considered they could never take better, and the same siren call to improvement haunts every astrologer no matter his skill.

So what of the astrology of photography? The clues are in the immeasurable nature of the pursuit itself, because whilst photographers are required to master some fairly exacting rules of aperture, composition and interpersonal dynamics, the greatest photographs are in some sense boundless, inexact, dreamy or ethereal in an alluring and vaguely mystical manner that is at once immediately arresting and yet almost impossible to define. This then, is exactly why Neptune has always been supposed to be the domain of the photographer and the artist, poet, dancer and ancient mariner alike. Neptune, sea-god, ruler of dreamy Pisces is at the polarity point – the very opposite end of the spectrum to Virgo; but of course a spectrum of any type deals in a common currency and where Virgo is obsessed by rules and specifics, Pisces too is obsessed by rules, but by not needing them because they have been transcended. This then describes perfectly the requirement of the artist to master the technical disciplines of his craft (Virgo) before he can freely express his or her boundless art (Pisces). Or, as Adrian Belew more succinctly said it: even genius needs method.

Thus, Neptune is going to be powerfully important to the fortunes of the photographer, the 12th house and Pisces too must also be considered as the natural domains of photography for this reason.

Ansel Adams' Nativity

Looking at the chart of Ansel Adams, with both Sun and Mars in Pisces, we can immediately see some interesting correlations. Neptune (Gemini/7th) we see straight away is Quindecile to Chiron (Capricorn/1st). Here then is an obsession with using photography (Neptune) to communicate (Gemini) to others (conjunct descendant) his astonishing sensitivity (Chiron) to form and structure (Capricorn). Indeed this is the resounding note that is the hallmark of Adams’ photographic style, his near-deification of patterns in nature that he found in aspens and tree roots, rocks and canyons; he raised the natural structures of the world around him up to an art form, which he then communicated to others in photographs. Of course, astrology sounds its note at all different levels, and Chiron in Capricorn is tweaked out of a fear of not being taken seriously, of being ignored or thought too low in status. Perhaps this speaks to the consensus of opinion concerning the use of photography in those early days; maybe his obsession with proving that photography could be taken seriously as an artist’s media was a large part of his motivation. Wherever the Quindecile is found there is obsession. Furthermore, the ruler of his 12th is in the 2nd, suggesting an ability to earn money from photography and with the signs of Sagittarius and Gemini duplicated he would have been lent extra power from any 12th house activities in his life (at the expense of Leonine and Aquarian activities). There is a strong suggestion from the Moon – Jupiter opposition of marital difficulties that he may have been able to avoid facing up to because he could travel and take photographs, as suggested by the Sagittarius – Gemini axis. The final point of note talks to structure once again; with a peregrine Saturn in Capricorn, Adams’ power to express structure, in magnificent, awesome depth would have been, and is to this day perhaps, unparalleled. Here is another example of a planet unaspected in its domicile which creates a giant in the archetypal concerns of that planet’s power. To Alan Watts’ Uranus, we can add Ansel Adams’ Saturn.

A second study might be informative and I shall take a slightly different tack and look now at the chart of Louis Daguerre, who made his name, not so much as a photographer but rather as a person who changed the very nature of photography itself. Daguerre was one of the principal inventors of a new development process, known as the Daguerreotype which enabled much faster printing of photographic images. He gave his invention to the French government who in 1839, made a ‘free gift’ of it to the world.

Louis Daguerre Nativity

Daguerre was not primarily a photographer but actually carried on two main career paths as a theatre designer and a chemist (and with the Midheaven ruler Jupiter found in the twin sign Gemini, that is hardly a surprise.) If we look to his Neptune we see that it falls within a mere 4 minutes of the cusp of the 8th, the house of transformation and the natural ruler of the 8th is found peregrine (unaspected) in the 12th, the natural house of photography, in the sign of Aquarius. Is it any wonder then that Daguerre transformed (Pluto) the science of photography (12th house) and made a gift of it to humanity (Aquarius)? Look too at the conjunction of Mars with Uranus in the 6th which speaks clearly of a powerful passion (Mars) to revolutionise (Uranus) working practises (6th House), which the Daguerreotype did in spades for photography and then note the Quindeciles from this conjunction to the otherwise unaspected Pluto in the 12th!

The correlations then are quite astonishing when looked at in this way. Once again the brute power of unaspected planets makes itself felt in the nativity of two very different, but uniquely pioneering individuals in the field of photography.

Consultation, for photographers (and for anyone else) can be found here.