The Astrology of Breaking Down

Today’s article is a story. Not a made-up story, it’s a real-life story, a part of my own story, and it demonstrates, I believe, just how astonishingly powerful astrology is when you are open to its most fundamental principles, when you are fluent (and that’s a potent word in this context) in its language, and how it is a diagnostic and therapeutic tool second to none if you are experiencing life problems.

There is a phenomenon in astrology which I call the cascade effect. I shall quote myself, because I want you to understand the cascade effect, if you don’t appreciate it truly, then you will struggle to harness the power of your nativity: instead, it will remain abstract, disconnected from your reality. So:

Any physical symptom is simply an expression of the astrology at the level of last resort. That psychic impetus that you have not manifested at some level higher-up in the totality of your awareness has – left with no viable alternative – found its way out into the body, and that is the cause of your symptom.”

Meditation or prayer is a powerful tool for healing when combined with astrological self-awareness

So, if you are sick, then there is a problem in your nativity that has been triggered. Of course, for the sake of clarity, this does not mean that if you have caught a cold there is a problem in your nativity; but if you are unusually sick, relative to the statistical norm for people of your age and background, and even, in fact, relative to your own experience. What this means is that if you become ill, and your symptoms are severe, chronic or unusually distressing, then the reason for that problem will be found in your nativity.

That problem will have manifested at different levels too, although, if it has reached the ‘low-point’ of the physical body, then the chances are that you haven’t noticed it manifesting in any of the higher levels, but have no doubt, it will have been there! I have a theory that these problems want to be noticed, simply because the natural impetus of the human soul is toward improvement and purification. Let me use an analogy.

You go and buy a TV, and because you’re short of cash, you buy it on credit. The next day you lose your job, and because you are always a bit short of cash you didn’t get any unemployment insurance, so you miss the first payment on your new TV. A month goes by and you receive a reminder in the post. You ignore it, thinking you’ll soon be back in work and you’ll sort it out then. Another reminder arrives and you ignore that, and the next, and you’re beginning to get a little panicky about it now. The phone rings and you’re screening the calls and it’s the credit company, so you start avoiding the telephone (we’ve all been there right?) A couple of weeks later, you get a really threatening letter telling you you’re going to be taken to court if you don’t get in touch and sort this out.

Now, you can carry on with this story, right up to the point where the bailiffs are kicking in the door and clearing out all your worldly goods, you get evicted and end up living in a homeless shelter; but since I already said this would be a true-story and not make-believe, I’ll leave all that to you.

The point is that your astrology works in exactly this way, except it doesn’t use uneasy feelings, reminder letters, phone calls and bailiffs; rather it uses synchronicity, feelings of discomfort, interpersonal conflict and physical sickness as a direct correlation.

What this means is that the Universe (which from a philosophical perspective is really your nativity) starts making things happen in external reality as a way of trying to tell you that you need to take note of this problem and start dealing with it. We call this synchronicity for easy reference. Astrology is a universal language; Mercury is concerned with an array of factors, from communication at the interpersonal level to nerves and lungs (and so on) at the physical level. Similarly, Mars rules assertion and competition at the interpersonal level and the muscles, the head (and so on) in the physical body. Therefore, if you suffer from neuralgia or frequent toothaches then the chances are that there is some difficult connection between Mercury and Mars in your nativity. This might not be immediately obvious, but here is a list of some possible interconnections:

  1. Mercury in aspect (especially hard aspect) to Mars.
  2. Mercury in Aries or Mars in Gemini.
  3. Mercury in the 1st or Mars in the 3rd.
  4. Having a stressor aspecting the midpoint of Mercury and Mars (e.g. Sa=Me/Ma).
  5. Having both planets in weak positions, thus Mercury in Sagittarius and Mars in Libra, (or even Mercury in the 9th and Mars in the 7th).
  6. Having another planet act as an intermediary: for example having Jupiter in Aries (thus ruled by Mars) in tricky aspect to Mercury. Or vice-versa, having Saturn in Gemini in tricky aspect to Mars.

Now the crucial point here is that this problem will be trying to get itself noticed throughout your life, but like the reminder letters from the credit company, you’ve been ignoring them. What happens next is that you get a (cosmic) phone call, and maybe you start experiencing heightened conflicts in your interpersonal relationships; you’re always arguing with some people (and just what is their problem anyway!) but still you take no notice, you stop answering the phone and eventually, the bailiffs start kicking the door down. AKA: you get sick.

There are  a number of other stages of course: you might get divorced, your car might break down repeatedly (that’s a Mercury problem too), but whatever, ultimately, if you don’t take notice at one of these other levels, eventually you leave the Universe no other option than to give you a really big and obvious hint and make you sick.

Of course, you can go on with this (as with the original story) and ignore the bailiffs too, but now you’re playing a high-stakes game. Your quality of life might be affected or you might be hospitalised: you could even die; and lots of people do, believe it or not, rather than fix the original problem which is sitting there (often plain as day) in their nativity.

So you see, by following the TV bought on credit example, you can begin to understand how your astrology actually works. It would be nice of course if we were able to work out what was wrong even before we got the first reminder letter, and actually, with practise you can. You can cultivate a habit of taking notice of synchronicity, those coincidences that seem too uncanny to truly be mere coincidences and try to interpret what the underlying message is all about, but of course you need to be aware of the universal and symbolic language of astrology before you can understand the message. If you don’t speak the language, you won’t be able to understand the message (you can of course use a good interpreter).

The human body is an energy matrix that is mapped by your astrology

Now, one more note before we move on; the reminders, like the problem that is attempting to get noticed are not random. They are always triggered by transits, directions, and especially – in my experience – Secondary Progressions. What this means is that you can usually find the cause of the sickness if you take a look at the Secondary Progressed nativity at the time the problem was first noticed. It is not always there (but that would be unusual, especially if the problem is serious), but if it is not, then it will certainly be obvious in the transit chart, the progressed Solar Return chart or somewhere else. You will find it if you know how to look for it.

Now, I could provide theoretical examples, but it would be more powerful, and easier, to give a real-life story to illustrate this issue. This article will probably be especially interesting to anyone with difficult aspects between Mercury and Saturn.

In my own nativity, Mercury is peregrine (not classically peregrine, but Ptolemaically unaspected). That means it receives no major aspects. There are only three minor aspects, a quintile (72°) to Jupiter, a semisquare (45°) to Pluto and a quincunx (150°) to Saturn. I have never had the slightest problem accessing the Pluto semisquare, Mercury is in Scorpio and in mutual reception with Pluto in Virgo, and I understand the quintile to Jupiter (I have a fortunate knack for learning: if I want to understand something I will), but I’ve never been especially aware of the aspect to Saturn.

There are two factors to consider here: the aspect, and the quality of the blend. A quincunx is an aspect which fundamentally connotes dissatisfaction: when you try to combine these two energies, you’re never entirely satisfied with the result; it therefore creates a push for perfectionism. Mercury – Saturn on the other hand has plenty of meanings, but fundamentally, it suggests that when you are involved in a communication or exchange of ideas (thus anything from a chit-chat to a formal learning process) there is a feeling of inadequacy, blockage, slowness or frustration. I’d never been consciously aware of any such problem in my life, any dissatisfaction with my communication or ability to learn and as a result I’d never taken too much notice of the aspect before but then, two months ago I began to develop a problem with my shoulder.

As an astrologer, I determined that I really ought to be taking notice of this, because obviously, I’d been ignoring a problem all the way down the line, so I needed to find clues. I thought about it for a few days and went to see the doctor. The shoulder had become so bad by this point that I was practically paralysed, I could hardly move and my every waking moment involved severe pain. The doctor told me that I had a nerve trapped between two vertebrae in my spine and prescribed me powerful painkillers and a muscle relaxant which helped but did not ‘fix’ the problem. I was therefore tasked with translating the problem into the universal language of astrology in order that I find a solution. So, I had: a nerve (Mercury) that was trapped, compressed between two bones (Saturn), which resulted in muscular pain (Mars) for which the doctor (Hygeia) prescribed drugs (Neptune).

So, the trapped nerve immediately made me take notice of Mercury quincunx Saturn. But other events started to make themselves felt.

During the recent Mercury retrograde my car overheated (Mars) and all the water exploded out from a burst pipe in the engine (Neptune and specifically: Mars-Neptune, the explosion of liquids). The next day the temperature dropped and there was heavy snowfall so the water in the engine froze (Saturn), I hadn’t had a chance to put antifreeze in. This resulted in repeated problems with the car; it kept breaking down (Mercury-Saturn). I’ve actually become quite good friends with my mechanic as a result, because he’s had to fix the car (Hygeia) so many times!

So, all the clues are here: we have a Mercury Saturn problem, with elements of Mars, Jupiter, Neptune and Hygeia thrown in for good measure. Now here is my nativity:

As you will see, all of the aforementioned planets are involved in a complicated matrix of hard aspects in my nativity. I was born with this problem. Evidently, I’d managed to ignore the reminder letters, and the phone calls, and now the bailiffs were knocking on my door.

So, what’s the story here? I included the Sun in this picture because it’s relevant.

When I was three months old my father left and I never saw him again (Sun opp. Saturn Rx). My mother remarried when I was 4 and I had never been especially interested in my biological father but through a long course of synchronicities I had finally got to the point where I’d decided to contact him, which I did: just before Christmas. So, for the first time in my life since the age of 3 months, I communicated (Mercury) with my father (Saturn). Shall we call that another coincidence?

So what then is the fundamental problem? As I said before, Mercury – Saturn aspects are all about feeling intellectually inadequate. That would probably seem quite laughable to anyone who knows me well, and indeed, if anyone had told me a year ago that I had a lack of confidence in my intellect I’d probably have found it quite laughable myself, but the more I examined the issue, the more it made sense.

The chakras are the primary energy centres of the human body

My stepfather, whom I love dearly, has always told me how incredibly bright I am, as has my mother. In my stepfather’s case that was all very well, but he is a Cambridge University professor and one of the most supremely intelligent, wise and self-possessed human beings alive on this earth today (which really is no exaggeration). That’s a real legacy to live up to. Upon serious reflection then, I now realise that this first became a problem for me at the age of 14 (when I had my first Saturn opposition, thus triggering the Sun opposition to radix Saturn and the quincunx to Mercury). I fell behind at school after being the highest achieving pupil in my year: and this at one of the best schools in the country. I essentially flunked my exams. Still, my parents persuaded me to go back and take A’ levels, but I lasted almost until the point of taking the exams and I dropped out again. Even still, I went back to school many years later and took A’ levels, this time at 29! The Saturn return: and I got into University as a mature student. I started taking History with Archaeology (how Saturnian is that?) but then decided that it wasn’t for me and switched courses: supremely late, to Computing with Psychology. I got two years through my course and became so discontented that I basically flunked out again.

I am quite sure you are seeing a pattern here.

Sun-Saturn connotes somebody who is not so much motivated by a desire for success as they are paralysed by a fear of failure. They can do quite well in life, but crucially, their efforts are fuelled primarily by not wanting to fail.

Now, the Mercury – Saturn connection provokes a test as does any Saturn connection, there is a looming qualm, an innate inadequacy which the native struggles to overcome, usually through persistent hard work. When connected with Mercury, that test relates to intelligence, one’s ability to learn and communicate knowledge, and it relates very precisely to academic matters, so Saturn here says: are you academically able? The aspect is quincunx, so there is a seeking after perfection, things have to be just right or the aspect nags, like grit in your shoe, demanding that you get it right. But then Sun-Saturn is paralysed by a fear of failure and the primary role-model for success in a man’s life are these exact male archetypes, Sun and Saturn, the living embodiment of which is found in the father or father figure.

So, when your primary father figure is one of the most well-qualified human beings on the planet (and he really is: you could count on one hand the number of people alive today with his credentials in his field, he has taught at Harvard, UCLA and held a professorship at Cambridge) then really, to say that’s a tough act to follow, is an astounding understatement. My younger brother summed it up rather astutely when I saw him a couple of weeks ago when he asked: “what actually is the point in trying to distinguish yourself academically in our family?”

True.

It has dawned on me since that the reason I had always dropped out of education before I really got finished was because then I didn’t have to fail (Sun-Saturn) which meant that I wouldn’t therefore have to feel stupid (Mercury-Saturn). What else was there? Any child only wants to individuate and exceed their parents’ expectation, so what was I going to do, become a double professor?

And that’s when I realised that I had an intellectual inferiority complex. It’s not remotely my stepfather’s fault of course, he is as humble, gentle and kind as the day is long, he would never crow about his achievements – indeed, the only reason I even know that he is a professor, or where he taught is because I’ve read his biography in the numerous books he has had published. It hit me with a kind of kaleidoscopic rush. I can now sense the inner tension that builds as soon as I feel pressured to learn something, and it resonates dissonantly, at the same time, with an inner pressure to achieve that learning goal; to prove myself.

And do you know what happened as soon as I realised this?

The pain began to subside. Well, I have a lot of work to do and it will probably take many weeks to fix myself for good, but I feel as though I am on the mend.

Understanding this, let us revisit the story of my car:

During the recent Mercury retrograde my car went through numerous cycles of overheating and freezing (Mars – Saturn: Saturn is in Aries thus ruled by Mars), Mercury was retrograde (breakdowns) and in Capricorn (thus ruled by Saturn). The Sun – Saturn opposition points to a congenital weakness, my mechanic tells me that I bought the car with this problem (on Ebay), and of course, the mechanic himself is represented by Hygeia which is the apex point of a tee square from the Sun – Saturn opposition.

It was when I looked at my Secondary Progressed chart that I decided to just buy a new car, I had already thrown away a small fortune on trying to get the old one fixed.

There are a number of remarkable features here. Before I explain though let me tell you a little about progressed Mercury. I was born with Mercury at 7 Scorpio, unaspected. Mercury continued to progress direct through Scorpio until 1984 – the year I first took my high school exams – when it turned retrograde. It moved back through Scorpio until it had returned to its birth position, when I decided to go back to school and get the exams I needed to go to University. When Mercury was in perfect quincunx to SP Saturn I actually made the decision that I would give up work and go back to school (although it took a while to realise that plan fully). When I experienced my Saturn Return I started University. Mercury continued to retrograde until it reached 1 Scorpio, in 2004. When Mercury came within a degree of the natal quincunx to Saturn (for the 3rd time now) I started to experience pain in my shoulder and the car started to break down.

Quite apart from the rather remarkable fact that SP Mercury has been in Scorpio my entire adult life: and will be until I am well into my 60s, what you will see is that just now, there is a Mars – Hygeia conjunction at the exact midpoint (all midpoints express the two aspecting points) of the Mercury – Saturn quincunx. Hygeia is indeed in exact squile (half-way between the sextile and the square) aspect (75°) to both Mercury and Saturn (don’t laugh, it’s an important and neglected aspect, especially for progressions – as is the squine: 105°). So, the mechanic, the doctor, my health are receiving the tension of needing to fix my intellectual insecurity complex. Mars (overheating, muscles) is manifesting in both the car and my own physical body.

Esoterically I have been reading an interesting book about chakra healing. I meditate most days so I am fairly comfortable with the idea of moving energy around my body, and it’s no coincidence that I’ve always experienced a sluggishness around the meridians in my right shoulder that run up into my neck. I’ve also suffered with a long-standing gallbladder problem (Pluto is on the degree for the gallbladder) and the gallbladder meridian runs up over the right shoulder blade, up the right-side of the neck and on upward through the throat chakra.

Mercury-Saturn of course certainly highlights the throat chakra as an area of potential concern and difficulty (Mercury: communication / Saturn: block). I have had to learn to moderate my communication over the last couple of years, the fallout from my divorce have made that necessary, and in the last few days I am beginning to find the requisite peacefulness of heart to speak my truth without recrimination. The heart chakra, precedes the throat chakra as energy travels up the spine, so the neck problem can only be cured with love and understanding.

What I have learned is this:

I do not need to prove myself to anyone. I am what I am and I live my life with integrity. I try to help people, for no other reason than that it brings peace to my heart to feel their pain easing. Those people who cannot hear me, I forgive, but until they too are able to set aside recrimination and blame I must remove them from my life, in order that I properly protect my sensitive emotional body and the wellbeing of my loved ones. I am learning to say only words which reflect my needs, but without bitterness or anger, balanced with the needs of those around me.

Over the coming days and weeks I will be writing to all those people that I have blamed so that I can express my regret and forgiveness.

That is the path to healing.

Mercury Pluto: Insight or Inquisition?

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Continuing with my current theme of analysing Pluto contacts to personal planets, today I wish to look in detail at the Mercury – Pluto combination, which in keeping with all applications of Pluto evinces a range of difficult effects, most especially because until the behaviour is recognised and reconciled it creates a compulsion, which will be especially uncomfortable for the subject. Inevitably this difficulty and discomfort will affect important relationships too and ultimately – as with any Plutonic contact – the aspect must be transformed to prevent it becoming ultimately destructive. Aspects to Pluto from any of the personal planets are profoundly problematical, but as ever, the first and most effective step on the path to cure must be to recognise the behaviours and take responsibility for them. Owning up to our Plutonic compulsions, shining light upon them – uncomfortable though it may be – is often powerfully effective in transforming them: indeed, in many cases an “instant cure” is entirely possible.

Mercury Pluto, in keeping with other applications of Lord Hades deals with hidden, sinister and subtle aspects of communication and of course the mental processes that underpin them. Indeed, the entire arena of interpersonal communications is fraught for Mercury – Pluto, usually because of an early childhood that is characterised by difficulty, cruelty or power-games in communication matters. We shall explore these causal themes in the ensuing discussion, but first I would like to examine some of the specific effects.

Mercury Pluto is the aspectual manifestation of Mercury in Scorpio, which is renowned for being either verbose or rather monosyllabic. This implies nothing about the underlying mindset or facility for language or mental processing, but only the willingness or unwillingness to reveal the self. This is reflected perfectly by the aspects between Mercury and Pluto, most especially with the conjunction and to a lesser extent the easy aspects there is a loquacious response to the contact: these people talk, often exhaustively although without necessarily revealing much of substance about themselves. Conversely, those with hard aspects are not likely to give too much away, or at the very least – while they may talk freely – they are never comfortable talking about themselves in a way that is particularly incisive or revealing. In either case it boils down to a profound fear of communication and a sense that somehow words can cause pain and lasting damage. With the easy aspects there is not the same urgent sense of danger, but nevertheless there is a need to control the conversation which is engendered by the same mindset as the individual with the hard aspects. Often the Pluto conjunct Mercury person will talk exhaustively and exhaustingly, and the ‘listener’ will often walk away feeling tired and somewhat overwhelmed by the experience. In any case, the process of communicating, with easy aspects or hard, is uncomfortable for both parties involved in the dialogue.

It should be remembered that any aspect between Mercury and Pluto will evince one or other of these effects. For my own part I am extremely familiar with Mercury – Pluto as I have Mercury in Scorpio, peregrine and semi-square, contraparallel and in mutual reception with Pluto, I can speak from experience as to its effects.

With the hard aspects especially, the sense of difficulty with communication creates an observer rather than a participator. Here is somebody who is aware of every subtle nuance of communication and is typically deeply distrustful of words. Usually it will be found that Mercury – Pluto grew up in an environment where truth was taboo, and one or both parents will have been the murky wellspring from which this skewed sense of things was first experienced. It is also possible that an older brother or sister was the cause of the problem or some difficult secret in connection with that sibling or one that haunted and tainted the family environment in some way might be found to be in evidence. On a fairly simplistic level, the Mercury Pluto child will have learned early on that words were not to be trusted at face value. The resentful and controlling mother who would tell her child: “of course I love you darling, more than anything in the world” while evincing no genuine or believable warmth is one good example of this effect. There is then a dichotomy here, between words and more subtle forms of non-verbal communication that have poisoned the child’s perceptions. Body language, ever a reliable indicator of true feelings, is therefore valued much more highly than any simple verbal statement, but this again is fraught with difficulty. The Mercury – Pluto person is formed in such away that they are innately suspicious of any communication: this is very often sensed by others, who feel that they are “on the spot” somehow, and their body language will betray their discomfort which will in turn set off the ultra-sensitive radar of Mercury – Pluto. This can create a cycle of suspicion, distrust and interrogation that is especially exhausting within close relationships later in life.

Therefore, the Mercury – Pluto type is often handicapped in life by being too perceptive and it is through this mechanism of not being able to take things at face value and exhausting oneself and others by continually investigating the most subtle of interactions that the damage is done.

The child learned to do things this way because of the unreliability of close family communications. Language may have been used to damaging effect by a parent or sibling, secrets were kept and wielded almost politically within the early home environment and this actually characterises very neatly the quality of this combination for the afflicted. Words cannot ever mean what they say, there is usually a hidden agenda, an ulterior motive, a secret being kept: indeed this is exactly the case in the childhood home, but the problem is that the child grows up and takes this same understanding out into the world and applies it indiscriminately to every relationship in the whole of life from then on.

But there is a more profound realisation here too. It is not actually so much what is said that concerns Mercury – Pluto, but indeed what is  not said. This creates an anxiety about communication that is really very disturbing: this is why the native talks so much (in the conjunction or easy aspect), not because they have anything much to say, but because they are terrified of the silence and what it might mean. The child will no doubt have been controlled with lack of communication as much as the use of ugly, brutal or cruel language. A parent or sibling may have ostracised or ignored the child as a means of creating an emotional anxiety, or made vague, open-ended threats which would have created a sense of foreboding and impending anguish all with the express purpose of eliciting control.

There is too a legacy of damaging secrets in the early home which would have reinforced this sense of anguish, very often there are half-brothers or sisters who are kept secret or in some other way separate from the rest of the family. There may also have been other secrets relating to siblings which, when revealed created anxiety in the native: I have seen cases where a more favoured sibling is secretly given money or some other treat or benefit by a parent unbeknown to the Mercury Pluto child and when this is learned the assurances by the parent that they love their children equally become hollow and suspect.

At its best, and transformed, Mercury Pluto makes an excellent researcher and psychologist. Able to delve into the deeper and more innate realities of interaction they can often see cause where others cannot; they see the subtle motivations that are in fact pre-cognitive, and in a very real sense they do not need the words to arrive at an understanding. In fact, the Mercury – Pluto person can often be frustrated at the depth of their understanding because words are ultimately a rather blunt instrument when trying to convey the profundity of their insight and this creates another signature of the contact of course: Mercury Pluto despises the superficial and capricious. Intense and insightful, but with a need to avoid obsessing, Mercury Pluto is a natural researcher and student of human nature and motivation, they make excellent counsellors and – once the aspect is transformed – powerful and persuasive communicators who are able to see into the heart of any matter.

Tales from the peregrine Moon: Sylvia Plath

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In the pursuit of perfection in poetry there can be few luminaries as bright as Sylvia Plath, and it was her profound struggle with depression and grief which underpinned most achingly her gift, which, in pursuit of the sublime aim of describing the indescribable can have few equals; Plath was noted especially for her uncanny use of metaphor.

The mundane facts of her life are bleak. She was born to Otto Plath, a German professor of zoology and Aurelia Schober, a first generation American of Austrian descent near Boston, Massachusetts. Her early childhood was fundamentally idyllic and until her father died when she was 8 years old, she wrote of it thus:

And this is how it stiffens, my vision of that seaside childhood. My father died, we moved inland. Whereupon those nine first years of my life sealed themselves off like a ship in a bottle — beautiful, inaccessible, obsolete, a fine, white flying myth.

She was winning awards for her exquisite poetry by the time she was 18 years, she won a scholarship to Smith College. During her junior year, she spent the summer in New York as a guest editor for Mademoiselle, a fashion magazine. While still a student at Smith, she had a nervous breakdown, attempted suicide by swallowing sleeping pills and was given shock treatments. Despite such upheaval, she graduated in 1955 and went to Cambridge, England on a Fulbright scholarship.

One night at a party in Cambridge, February 25, 1956, she met Ted Hughes, and their romance began in a blaze of passion. She wrote, “He kissed me bang smash on the mouth, And when he kissed my neck, I bit him long and hard on the cheek and, when we came out of the room, Blood was running down his face.” The handsome gifted pair married four months later, on June 16, 1956.

The couple had two children, Frieda in 1961 and Nicholas in 1962. During their time together, the brilliant and tortured Plath mined her own anguish, writing obsessively of her depression, her jealousy, her marriage and her father, the strict, formal professor who had abandoned her by his premature death.

Daddy. Published 1965 (Excerpt)

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two—
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

Her first book, “The Colossus” was released in 1960. “The Bell Jar” achieved critical acclaim in 1963 for its moving portrayal of a young woman’s life including her emotional breakdown, suicide attempts, psychological treatment and relationships.

During the course of her marriage, Plath’s behavior became increasingly more erratic and obsessive. Beset by worry over money, insecurity over her worth as a writer, jealousy over her husband’s friendships with other women, she wrote furiously in her torment. Their relationship suffered tremendously from her fragility and his inability to deal with her roller-coaster emotions. Suspecting her husband of an affair, she gathered all of his papers she could find and burned them in the garden. In 1962, he left her for another woman, Assia Wevill. Just one month after the publication of “The Bell Jar,” on a frigid wintry day in England, she tucked her two small children safely away in their room, set out milk and cookies for them, and put her head in their London flat’s gas oven, ending her life on February 11, 1963. She was just 30 years old. Her last-written poems appeared two years later in “Ariel.” In a twist of irony, the poems established Plath as a fiercely original poet who exceeded her husband as an icon in the world of literature.

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Sylvia Plath, Poet. 27 Oct 1932 14:10 (EST +5:00) Boston, MA, USA

Here are my various delineations:

  1. There is an enormous 7th house emphasis on so very many levels. Notwithstanding the stellium in precision (and actually fidelity) fixated Virgo, Moon is peregrine in Libra – thus the reigning need is for marital security – Jupiter and Neptune both are peregrine in Virgo, making for an extremely uncomfortable impetus. Trying to analyse the divine and count the manner of one’s faith in life, neither can be remotely easy and Venus seems to offer some genuine hope, but even beautifully aspected as it is and accidentally dignified it will still struggle in Virgo. Any contact of Venus with Saturn is an act of renunciation; the grand earth trine creates a practical self-sufficiency – thus someone who can attend to their studies even in the very depth of a depression – but the Saturn contact creates an ease with sacrificing love out of a sense of duty. There is a curious mix of easy difficulty here.
  2. I am not entirely convinced by the Ascendant. A degree or more into Pisces would suit me better making Mercury the ruler of the 7th. At 29Le26 however there is certainly a case for looking to both Sun and Mercury as indicative of the marriage partner. Certainly Mercury in Scorpio in the 9th suggests a man who is a powerful, sharp and incisive communicator and a connection with university too, Hughes was a fellow student at Cambridge when they met and they were quickly married. Other qualities sympathetic to the placement are to be found in the opposition to Chiron – much of her anguish and intellectual inferiority issues were experienced through him (Chiron in the third) and the square to Mars in Leo in the 6th further suggests an almost daily habit to argument and disputatious communication. The union cannot have been easy. Hughes himself hinted at the possibility of her rising sign being a little off: ““that day’s Sun in the Fish conjunct your Ascendant exactly opposite my Neptune,” with his Neptune at 3 Virgo. This of course places Neptune on his descendant and clearly resonates with their match.
  3. Her father is easily identified, Sun square Saturn certainly identifies his cold and rather unloving demeanour. In Scorpio and the 8th? The early death or loss of her father is clearly marked out thus. At age 8 Saturn squared Uranus by Solar Arc (something sudden relating to the father) and the Sun applied hard by Solar Arc to a quindecile of Chiron marking the genesis of the pain of the loss of her father which was to form such an impetus for her later work and ongoing anguish, in keeping with the nature of the aspect itself of course it became something of an obsession.
  4. Peregrine Moon always tells a story and intimates something of a dissociation complex. These people disconnect according to the nature of sign and house. In Plath’s case a romantic reverie is implied, and she may have dreamt long and often about the perfection of her great love. In Libra too there is an overwhelming need to be considered attractive, fair (in all senses) and interesting, which gels not at all well with the reality of her marriage to Hughes who was often considered to be something of a brute (his subsequent wife whom he left Plath for also committed suicide incidentally, and many consider it no coincidence that he is a common denominator in the relationships.) Peregrine Moon too often tells of a feeling of emptiness and isolation which seems to permeate her poetry too: “Empty, I echo to the least footfall,/ Museum without statues, grand with pillars, porticoes, rotundas./ In my courtyard a fountain leaps and sinks back into itself,/ Nun-hearted and blind to the world.” (From “Barren Woman”) And her mother too! What impact must it have had on the young Sylvia to see her mother so alone and widowed, even if she considered her father to be rigid and incompassionate? Children love and miss even bad fathers of course.
  5. And what of poetry? Clearly, with Ve/Ju/Ne in Virgo and the 7th there is a prising out of harmonious economy in all matters of love, faith and spirituality. Of course Neptune is key to poetry but also to that yearning sense of wanting to transcend the difficulty of life because of a sense of disappointment with things. So much of her anguish in her poetry has this at its root, a sense that she has been let down and disappointed, most especially by men. No surprise that Plath has in more recent times become such an icon for the feminist movement, although I cannot imagine that she would have been anything short of horrified by such an association considering her astrology if nothing else. But consider the idea of a harmonious economy and what do you have? Metaphor! Consider “bright as a Nazi lampshade” from Lady Lazarus (an autobiographical account of her first suicide attempt): what could be more shockingly bright? Or using a feverish delirium as a metaphor for love gone awry: Darling, all night / I have been flickering, off, on, off, on. / The sheets grow heavy as a lecher’s kiss. This she wrote during her final days after Hughes had left her.
  6. More intriguingly than this even is the most cursory examination of halfsums. With Uranus at the crucially profound Sun/Moon midpoint there is a clear impetus to the separation (Ur) of husband (Su) and wife (Mo) (father and mother too), but essentially separations and upsets are in store. Then consider Pl=Me/Ve. Power (or powerlessness) is realised through communicating or writing about love, or creating an art from writing. The great Ebertin marks this halfsum as “tremendous creative power” and the “recognition of art as a mission.” Quite wonderful. Then we have Ju=Ve/Ne! I wrote an entire article on this single midpoint (called: “The elusive astrology of yearning and the Venus Neptune halfsum“) and in Plath’s case there is no question that it would expand her ability to access the numinous and find an intimation of transcendent love. Ve=Mo/Ne also suggests a disappointment in love but a possibility of accessing a more divine form of contentment.
  7. Of course, there is an even more pertinent observation. Sappho, the asteroid is so named for the ancient Greek lyric poet: later Greeks included her on the canonical list of nine lyric poets; her reputation survives intact even though much of her work does not (fragments attest to her ability however), and it is to be found in Plath’s nativity at the exact midpoint of Venus and Jupiter (3°49′ from each.) A Venus Jupiter conjunction (which does not in this instance detract from the reality of peregrination) is a horn of plenty aspect, and the “joy of love” by Ebertin, so any influence at the convergence of these powers is going to be powerfully exalted. Jupiter too (and peregrine) rules the Midheaven, and conjunct Sappho her vocation as a poet becomes ever clearer.

Sylvia Plath’s final days were a true tale of peregrinated Moon in Libra cast down. Her isolation was complete, the reigning need of her life, to be loved, to be the wife, to be exalted by her union of love was broken and the distress of her lost father and her intellectual self-doubt crowded in on her. She died just as Saturn (husband and father) applied by Solar Arc to her Ascendant whilst simultaneously squaring Chiron. The pain of the men in her life and the great weight of disappointment seems somehow to be born at that point, brought into the light for all the world to see as Saturn crossed ponderously into the first while Venus also squared Pluto by Solar Arc at this exact juncture, love and death configured in with the burden of isolation; loss and loneliness. Or in the words of her final poem:

Edge

The woman is perfected.
Her dead
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Her bare
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.

David Cameron: Spin Doctor or Saviour?

With all the hoo-har about the release of Barack Obama’s birth details and the subsequent cacophony of ephemerides being slammed onto astrologer’s desks the world over (okay, so we all use software for calculation nowadays, but it’s an image I like!) I thought I would take a look today at Britain’s answer to Mr Obama, the less gaunt, less liberal, less most things you care to mention: Mr Cameron!

David Cameron Nativity

So what can we say about the Libran, Mr Cameron? Actually the first thing that springs to mind is an observation about the sign Libra, which has a rather soft, acquiescent reputation, mostly on account of a great determination to ensure that everyone else is at ease. A Libran strives for harmony of course, but their reputation as a pushover is entirely inaccurate; sure the Libran will give way on the things that they can do without, but engage them on an issue that matters to them and they’ll give even a fundamentalist Scorpio a run for their money. So, to some extent this gives you the first insight to David Cameron, he might seem smooth, charming and rather easy-going, but if he really wants something, he’s probably going to get it.

David Cameron PhotoI would also say that at just under 8 degrees the Sun’s only major aspect, a conjunction to Venus, powerful in her domicile, is rather wide and you might well make a case for his Sun therefore being peregrine, a condition that Hilary Clinton shares, but given the reach of the Sun, it is possibly dangerous to make such a claim at all. What you can say with Venus rising in Libra is that Mr Cameron has genuine charm, he will sweep you off your feet, and no doubt – whether they want to admit it or not – there are going to be more than a few female voters swayed by his pleasing and polite persona on Election Day. Add to this Mercury in incisive Scorpio and suddenly the picture changes, there is a sting in the tail, and now we begin to see the steel fist in the velvet glove, because Mercury here, squared to Moon conjunct Jupiter in Leo in the 10th gives a powerful fixity and ‘unto the bitter end’ determination. Bizarrely, the impression that Cameron often gives, of being smooth, suave and a little soft is entirely contradicted now, here is a man who will not only determine that the things he wants will be his, he won’t care too much who he has to squash to get them. Actually, he’s tough, very tough, and there’s more.

Mars in Leo in the 11th suggests a great deal of leadership energy, a real drive to be top of the pile and here again we have another planet that is truly peregrine, so no doubt he spent the first 35 years of his life struggling to find his drive and his passion and then one day he suddenly woke up to the fact that he really had genuine power; Mars in any fire sign has great energy, and in Leo it is imbued with a measure of compassion, warmth and genuine nobility, which added to his Jupiter in the same sign probably denotes some real ability to lead. If we look at the Moon, in the 10th, it suggests popularity, fame, and conjunct Jupiter, it takes the form of leadership fame, and no doubt it will expand as his life progresses. Moon in Leo is not the greatest of placements, but it suggests an ability to take the lead in a crisis, and that is not so bad a quality in a Prime Minister.

The worst politico placement of this nativity is probably Mercury square Jupiter which tends to make promises rather glibly, it is a promise much, deliver much less tendency that probably suits the profession well, but also undermines the credibility of the entire lower house at the same time. Having said that though, with Jupiter in Leo, the chances are that his intentions are nevertheless good, and Mercury in Scorpio is quite pragmatic and sincere, so even if he does make rash promises, he does not take them lightly even so, perhaps that mitigates the potential for harm.

Most compelling of all though is the rather electric triangle between Uranus conjunct Pluto in Virgo opposing Saturn conjunct Chiron in Pisces all of which trines/sextiles Neptune in Scorpio in the 2nd. This situation is rather profound; one might even say it is almost esoteric; Saturn conjunct to Chiron really speaks of someone who is almost destined to heal the world in some way, who must be responsible for the health and well-being of the spiritual themes of those who are placed under his care. This is quite strange to see in the political chart because if one did not know better one might be tempted to think that his purpose in this world was to change the core paradigms of society, Saturn in Pisces teaches a karmic lesson about the need for compassion, and providing he is able to respond to that calling, his impact could be truly remarkable. Of course the potential for great damage exists in this same aspect set, Saturn opposition Pluto can just as easily represent the dictator as the saviour, he may be deeply pragmatic, prosaic even and be anti-spiritual in which case he could become a true force for evil, but I like to think that if his words can even be half-believed that he might indeed mean what he says and bring some measure of sincerity back into British politics.

I must say that after looking into his astrology, even in this rather perfunctory manner, my opinion of his potential is very much improved. I am not saying that I would vote for him, but I will certainly not be quite so secure in my cynicism about him from here on in.

Mercury gatecrashes Gemini

I am hoping to use this journal to discuss some of the themes and conundrums that get thrown up by my work as an astrologer, and of course, I like to talk theory and practise, so there will be a few insights into hands-on astrology as well; I have no idea exactly how it will play out, but I am all about serendipity, so let us see where we end up.

I guess the first interesting talking point right now is Mercury. Mercury is currently retrograde in Gemini, a sign in which Mercury normally feels very clever and curious, it’s very much at home there and as the planet which is domiciled in Gemini, those born under Gemini are naturally curious, talkative and quick; mercurial you might say. Interestingly the Greek equivalent of Rome’s Mercury was Hermes, (they both sported a nice line in winged helmets) who was the god of roads; travellers, thieves, athletes and shepherds (among other things). Mercury/Hermes was also a hermaphrodite being considered curiously sexless.

Personally I don’t much get Mercury in Gemini, although I am sure it must be very nice and those I know who have this placement are usually very good company; they can be refreshingly curious, and will talk all night long about this and that, about nothing in particular, although they do it with such good-natured enthusiasm that it’s easy to enjoy it.

Gemini though is quincunx to my own Mercury in Scorpio, which is why I probably don’t really get along too well with Mercury in Gemini all that well; I don’t have much mental energy for idle chit-chat, and actually I would rather make one single penetrating observation that cuts to the heart of the matter and be done with it, than spend an hour flitting from one shiny nuance of a subject to the next. I have plenty of Scorpio though, so I can forgive any amount of Gemini once I have determined that somebody is okay, (but God help you if I decide you’re an idiot.)

But usually, and objectively, I would say that if you are born with a Geminian Mercurius then you can consider yourself fortunate; but I would hope for a well placed Jupiter to add some moral fibre to the mix, because Mercury isn’t the ruler of rogues and vagabonds for nothing. Oh, and shepherds. Not sure what that’s about really.

As we speak, Mercury is retrograde in 17° 52′ of Gemini after it made its station right on my Midheaven. Maybe that’s why I have found my work so frustrating recently, but I cannot very well stop communicating whenever Mercury turns retrograde, I can barely make ends meet as it is! Now, usually Mercury retrograde spells trouble for all matters ruled by Mercury, thus things get lost, stolen or otherwise misplaced, communications are fraught, subject to odd delays and snarl-ups and of course, shepherd’s are going to lose a few sheep, it goes without saying. So, it’s probably not the best time to start a new blog, but there’s a philosophical trade-off in your view of astrology, and I am at least partly wise to it (although that’s a subject for a later post).

In general, advice for a Mercury retrograde – especially if you’re a Gemini – is to take extra time and care over all matters of communication and short journeys in particular; and it might be best to put off signing any important contracts until after Mercury has turned back to its direct station again.

So, what else can we learn about Mercury? Personally I don’t have much like for the planet, not least because it is unaspected in my own chart (along with my Moon in Scorpio) so I don’t connect very well with Mercurial themes; but I think even more than this, I just have no love for the nature of Mercury itself. It is essentially quick, clever and flighty, but more so the flip-side of Mercury is glib, clever-clogs and shallow, it is not archetypally a thing of weight and substance and actually with those who have Mercury combust or under the beams, I usually struggle. I guess I have to be careful what I say now, because I certainly do not wish to tar anyone with a prejudicial brush, but I find those with considerable separation of Sol and Mercurius to be most amenable to listening rather than giving forth, and that, to my Scorpionic faculties is far closer to the divine. I learned this from my father, who was by nature a listener, he had a habit of listening to some self-professed expert for a time and then making a single devastating observation that often had me in stitches at its sublime succinctness. He was a simple man mind, but a powerfully insightful one, and that informed my outlook immeasurably.

My wife and the entire female line of her family all have Mercury in hard aspect to Pluto, mostly squared, but my daughter got the opposition on the 3rd/9th axis. I would say that Mercury by its very nature can be extremely prone to colouration from its contacts; many astrologers consider that it needs contact though to assimilate experience (Bill Tierney makes this exact argument for Mercurial peregrination in his excellent Dynamics of Aspect Analysis (which was bought for me by my good friend Tony) and I would agree, difficult minor aspects and parallels just do not cut the mustard with Hermes) and anything that gets coloured in a difficult way by Pluto has its challenges. In hard aspect Me/Pl gives an element of harsh brutality to the speech; with the square this can manifest as too much intensity in communication, the opposition might provoke negative intensity from others and there is hardly a week goes by when my superstar daughter does not come home from school having been locked in a life and death power struggle with one of her classmates over some ridiculous inconsequence. With Pluto in the 3rd of course it is always going to manifest at school and she has Pluto in Scorpio too which in the third is kind of a double Pluto and double Mercury opposition. That’s the downside because of course, properly balanced it gives astonishing potential to express passion and power and her creative writing is pretty awesome (I’m her Dad, so I get to say so.)

For me I have a mutual reception of Mercury and Pluto and they are also in exact parallel. This is a pretty majestic combination (if I say so myself), my unaspected Mercury struggles like mad and I have to keep a lid on expressing that Pluto otherwise I can lose friends, but actually, I get to think deeply about things which is a side-effect I’ve learned to value. Mercury actually retrograded while applying a degree short of square to radix Pluto, which was interesting, I shall let you know how it plays out once it makes it back over my Midheaven. Maybe then I’ll get some paying work? I hope so!