Relationships and the Davison Composite

Today I would like to revisit the theme of relationship astrology, and explore another method of determining compatibility between two individuals by the analysis of their astrological combination. Typically this is achieved through synastry: the application of one nativity to another wherein the aspects between each party’s placements are studied. Of course, even before any synastry is considered, a study of the individuals’ horoscopes will expose considerable insight, about the conditions of the marriage, the probability of marital breakdown and the manner of it, clues about the character and disposition of the marriage partner and so forth. I discussed this method previously in my article on the astrology of marriage. Another approach is to use a midpoint calculator and to combine the mundane placements of every discrete shared point in the respective nativities to produce a third nativity. This is an interesting and insightful method that I have discussed before, however, it fails in one very key context which in some ways is difficult to reconcile with the underpinning theory of the stars: namely that the mundane midpoint composite is an entirely academic horoscope: it simply cannot exist in nature. That is to say it is a mathematical construct and is not therefore a nativity that has ever existed in time and space.

This does not discount its relevance and valuable insights can be gleaned from the midpoint composite. What might be more intriguing however is to take an absolute midpoint of two nativities in time and space: thus by finding the exact point in time between two births and the exact geographical location which lies at the midpoint of the two individuals and from that point create an entirely new astrology; and crucially one that does exist in space and time. This is a complex method of combination known as the Davison Composite and named after its creator Ronald Davison.

Therefore, and to utilise a simple example, if you were born at midday on the 1st of January in London and your partner at midday on the 3rd of January in Glasgow, then you would create a nativity for January 2nd at midday, somewhere near Manchester to realise the Davison composite.

Previously I used the example of Prince Charles and Princess Diana as a midpoint combination to study the extant themes. Here then is the Davison Composite for their partnership:

Davison Composite

Charles and Diana: Davison Composite

This chart is not nearly so comfortable and easy as the mundane midpoint combination. There is of course a wonderful emotional power in the grand water trine, an easy sense of outward responsibility across the earth houses. This evidently creates a sense of emotional security derived from those themes of status, easy living and easy money. Jupiter on the midheaven and in Cancer, the sign of tradition, family and all matters clannish really tells a story of royal good fortune and benefit. The good news is decidedly thin on the ground after this point however.

The chart ruler is profoundly stressed most distressingly from Mars and if you consider this in tandem with Saturn in Scorpio, tee-squared from inflexibly autocratic Pluto in Leo and abruptly plain-spoken Mercury in Aquarius then you have a genuine difficulty that will no doubt manifest most especially in the bedroom. Saturn in Scorpio creates an early sexual difficulty: eventually there might be respite, but the lifetime arc of relationships creates pressure to normalise relations early on: a theme of discomfort or dissatisfaction in the sex-life will not long be tolerated in a marriage, at best it will become a major theme of anguish for both parties. Mars in Taurus too creates an astoundingly slow-fuse, here anger and resentment can build over months and that slow-pressure manifests out into the 8th: where sex is a matter of biological necessity.

Therefore, in outward appearance, with Libra rising and a grand trine in water, Charles and Diana would have appeared to be blissfully content, but with the passage of time and the pressure of so much unusual public scrutiny, the lack of any real chemistry and passion would eventually take its toll. Venus conjunct Chiron is very much the pain of love, and in the 4th and Aquarius, it is a behind-closed-doors woundedness that comes of feeling the pressure of convention and expectation; the expectation of needing to be exceptionally in love.

Venus, the ruler, squared (albeit widely) to Neptune rising, most especially speaks to this difficulty. Here is a longing for purity and refinement in the love experience but one that cannot be realised and thus grates and wears down the optimism. The dreamy perfection of matrimonial appearance that is hinted at by Neptune rising in Libra cannot live up to expectations and like a piece of grit in the shoe it niggles.

Another intriguing aspect not included in the chart depiction is Venus quindecile Jupiter. Venus Jupiter always denotes the joy of love, expanding and improving the underpinning themes of relationship; however, with the quindecile it becomes an obsession, and invariably a difficulty is realised as a result. It is of course difficult to derive too much darkness from any combination of Venus and Jupiter, most likely the problem is one of too much of a good thing rather than any constriction or agony, but here the obsession might manifest as an expectation of love that becomes a compulsion of simply having to look good for the cameras.

Lastly, Pluto is supremely difficult. In Leo, he is not an easy power to transform and again the idea that all must appear perfect even when there are severe difficulties in the foundations is mooted. Mercury – Pluto creates a very peculiar communicative tendency within the relationship where what is not said becomes more important than what is said. There is always a sense between these two people that something is being hidden and that more than any other factor is creating the sexual tension as evinced by the Me/Pl tee square to Saturn in Scorpio. Mercury squared to Saturn is the closest major aspect in the chart too, so here is a real brake on easy communication, Saturn in Scorpio creates a test of secrecy among other things and the square creates distrust and too much conservatism, especially for Mercury in Aquarius which really wants to be a little provocative and outrageous at times.

In summation, had I been consulted about this particular relationship, I would have been concerned that whilst there was much potential for an outwardly successful partnership, the appearance of happiness and contentment would very quickly belie a deeper malaise. A very real incompatibility in sexual relations would need some committed work and profound honesty to overcome in the longer term and the tendency for resentment to fester would eventually poison the initial ease inherent in the union. This was a relationship, that according to the Davison composite at least, was always going to struggle.

Pluto on the 10th, Thomas Hardy, Tragedian

Thomas HardyThere is, in this astrologer’s humble opinion, no finer novel written in the English language, than Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native. It surpasses in its sublime blend of Neptunian sensitivity, Plutonic tragedy and Uranian brilliance his better known later works, such as Jude the Obscure (or Jude the Obscene as it was known contemporarily for its frank sexual themes: some book dealers would sell copies in a brown paper bag) and it (again in my own opinion only) dwarfs the comparatively staid literary proficiencies of Dickens and the like. Hardy wrote Victorian England’s Iliads, Dickens its Daily Mail editorial, there is simply no reasonable common-ground.

Jude was so badly received for its lascivious undercurrents, its flippant treatment of lax virtue and its brutal commentary on social deprivation (which is shocking still to this day), that Hardy gave up novel writing for good; but he had a peculiar penchant for testing the boundaries of acceptable content in his work, and then seemed to become especially offended at the reaction he provoked when he successfully crossed it! His greatest works were always accompanied by themes of such Hadean darkness and despair that they make poignant and harrowing reading to this day, and the vivacity and power of the Arcadian landscapes he painted with his words are quite haunting in their potency; certainly when compared with the infernal, hellish visions of the slums and tenements of the city that he conjured; here is a writer who I believe was using his gift as a form of advocacy; Thomas Hardy was not only a master storyteller, a keen psychologist and a passionate celebrant of human love who rebelled against the cloying strictures of a repressed societal tradition; he was also our country’s first ecological activist.

Thomas Hardy Nativity

His astrology is a treasure trove of delights, a mine of insights, that when viewed in context with his writing style, gives an excellent insight into the practical application of astrologic craft. Here are my main delineations:

  1. For a writer there is not a great deal of 3rd house emphasis, but the chart ruler – the Sun – is in Mercury ruled Gemini and the 3rd house ruler is Venus in nature-loving Taurus. This explains then his ability to write about natural, earthy themes with such charming eloquence.
  2. Moon, Mercury and Venus are all placed in their domiciles, giving power to the emotions and memory, the intellect and writing ability and the aesthetic sense and the love nature.
  3. Similarly there is a delightful mutual reception between Uranus and Neptune, giving a genius for appreciating the divine.
  4. Look to the Quindecile from Venus to Jupiter, which always concerns the joy of love; here then is an obsession about the joy of love.
  5. Then note that Jupiter in Scorpio in the 5th house is at the focal point of a Yod from the Sun and Midheaven. Thus the products of his creativity (thus his novels) were never truly satisfactory to him in his career aspirations, or in his self-assessment of his true ability. Here is a ‘could do better’ aspect pattern that with Scorpio involved seeks to be more penetrating, more insightful, more piercing. Note just how stressed Jupiter is here in the 5th house of creativity; he needed to express his power (Scorpio) with words (5th).
  6. Then see the Quindeciles from Saturn to Mercury and Mars. Here there is a conjunction of Mars with Mercury, which creates a rather devilish mindset, a quarrelsome tendency that in the 11th rather speaks of a wish to pick a fight with society at large. Then consider the quindecile in that context: Saturn speaks to the mores and formalities of novels (in the 5th), thus he rebels against the conventions of novel-writing and uses his words to pick a fight with the world.
  7. Chiron conjunct Moon in the 12th speaks of some secret sensitivity to situations concerning the women in his own life; it suggests that the tragedy he wrote of so skilfully was more than a professional affectation.
  8. Now consider the Midheaven and the career: ruled by Mars, which conjunct Mercury in its own sign will be somewhat overshadowed by the Mercurial; Mars in Gemini too gives an energy of ideas and a passion for communication, and in the 11th a dream or aspiration of writing.
  9. The closest aspect is always telling; in this case Sun sextile Midheaven at a mere minute from true partile. This blends the self-image of a writer (Sun in Gemini) with the Career path, Sun too rules the chart, so it is doubly powerful.
  10. And finally, consider Pluto, menacingly ensconced firmly in the heart of the 10th. This speaks to the ability to involve tragedy in the career and too it rather underlines some of the highly Plutonic and charged transformations that Hardy himself was required to undergo as a writer. His first wife died suddenly and he stopped writing novels altogether; both Jude and Tess were greeted with public outrage and denigration and the themes of death and inevitability were so fundamentally woven into his works that his style became synonymous with Pluto; Hardy was the master of tragedy.

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.

Alan Watts and the Philosophy of Cazimi and the Quindecile

The following is a continuation of the previous article, below. For a full appreciation of the themes and configurations in Watt’s astrology, please refer to the article preceding this.

To the casual listener, Alan Watts might well come across as extremely thoughtful, intelligent and insightful, but there is no question that his style was anything but taciturn; his subject matter, which consisted of various facets of esoteric, philosophic and indeed transcendental thought, also underlined his interest in fundamentals and unquestionably his style of discourse was to present an idea and then gradually and systematically to follow the trains of logic which ran out from that starting point to see where they would lead. So then, we have a picture of a communicator, taciturn and methodical in style, one that builds up a picture upon a base supposition and then ultimately reaches a pinnacle insight, usually of a philosophic or spiritual nature; unquestioned in all of this process, is an appreciation of the man’s genius; indeed, I could often feel his frustration at having to hammer home some nuance of his argument to an audience that would clearly be losing the thread of it.

The taciturnity of expression is found in the conjunction of Sun with Mercury in Capricorn. The sign of Capricorn, denoted by the mountain-goat, is profoundly objective focused, it does not have an affinity with frivolity or frolicking, because, like the goat, it sees its world as a hard and often harsh environment where it must be single-minded and determined in order to survive; the food in those lofty realms is scarce, the path is uncertain and treacherous and the drop, no doubt fatal to the distracted. One step after another, the goat makes it way up the mountain, sure-footed, intensely focused on its ascent, driven, but not urgently, driven in a calm, assured way, but driven all the same.

Apply these principles to the Solar principle, Watts’ sense of who he must be are informed by this same driven certainty, and blended with Mercury, he must communicate that sense of self, at all costs. Here also is a measure of his genius because the conjunction with Mercury is so close as to be termed Cazimi, an Arabic word meaning “the heart of the Sun” and it is reckoned by the old-world astrologers to be extremely fortunate, because the principle that is wedded to Sol thus is imbued with the power of eternal life. Mercury Cazimi then gives a power of communication and intellect beyond the pale, beyond the envelope of human norms and this is clear in Watts’ easy discourse on profound matters; actually the most profound matters imaginable, and I shall turn to his subject matter soon enough. Some consider Cazimi to become combust if the conjunction falls outside of 17 minutes of one degree; Watts’ Mercury conjuncts the Sun within 21 minutes; but clearly his genius is absolutely beyond question. This astonishingly close conjunction explains his brilliance, but here, in the sign of Capricorn, it also explains his taciturn manner; his downbeat style, his dolorous, almost flat and unerringly focused approach to the subject in hand. Capricorn describes exactly how he takes a proposition and gradually and undistractedly leads the listener on an ever-ascending journey toward a revelation, a pinnacle, peak, or you might say mountain-top of insight. Then, the first house placement denotes a great energy, it explains his goat-like demeanour and appearance, it resonates with that Mars in the 1st house too, also in its exaltation in Capricorn, where his great energy can build gradually, methodically, to a crescendo of self-expression.

All of which explains how Watts would express his thought processes, but not particularly why, and of course, for an astrologer, the why of a personality is the causal spark, the raison d’etre of incarnation. So then, why did Alan Watts feel such a powerful need to express himself in this way?

The first reason is the Cazimi conjunction of Sun and Mercury that we already understand. Every conjunction between the Sun and the energy of communication, Mercury has to some extent this effect; the self-image is fundamentally a communicating one; the “I” of the ego is an “I” that talks, writes or moves in such a way as to convey meaning. Normally, the wider conjunction gives an element of blindness and often creates a person that talks about themselves a great deal and struggles to talk about much else, but with Cazimi, the communicating awareness is refined and dignified, rather than scorched and obliterated. But this does not explain all of it; after all, Sol and Mercurius can never be more than 28° apart on the plane of the ecliptic, so it is a common association and not many were so driven to explain themselves in this way.

The Quindecile aspect is one that is not much understood in modern astrology, although it has been revived by Noel Tyl, an astrologer of no mean reputation from whom I have learned a great many useful and insightful techniques. For a full discussion of the aspect then read this article. Suffice to say that for the purposes of this discussion at least, the Quindecile (or 165° aspect) has an element of obsessive-compulsive behaviour attached; from the Aries Point, the aspect falls in 15° Virgo and 15° Libra which describes obsession (striving for mental balance and harmony) followed by compulsion (taking a practical step toward the attainment of perfection). This describes the nature of the aspect well, since it is a mental dissatisfaction that provokes a practical fix. The fix rarely actually fixes anything of course, it merely alleviates the imbalance for a time and then it is back to the start, of thinking that something is not quite right and that we had better do something about it.

In Watts’ case we find two separate Qunideciles to that Cazimi conjunction of Sun and Mercury. Looked at in this way we can posit the understanding that his need to express these carefully expounded mental constructs in the form of lectures was the Virgoan solution; it was the fix that he was striving for. The mental imbalance then comes from two separate sources; Saturn conjunct Pluto in the 7th and Neptune on the cusp of the 8th.

Let us consider each of these in turn. Saturn conjunct Pluto is a real soul-destroying aspect; it is back-breaking in effect, because it adds Hadean depth (and you don’t get much deeper than the underworld) to Saturn’s propensity for hard work. Put these together then and you get astonishingly profound limitations, hard work, difficulty, burden and constriction, and in Watts’ case, with Pluto on the Aries Point, and in the 7th, marriage was for him, hard labour. Of course, wherever Pluto is found we have to transform ourselves somehow, but it is the place where we are least able to change, so it is an irresistible force and an immovable object, you know that something has to give, but usually it is ugly and painful even so. Watts went through 3 marriages, and whilst not much is known about the conditions of any of them, there is a between-the-lines intimation that they were far from easy.

Thus, it is entirely reasonable to suggest that the pain and discomfort he experienced in his intimate relationships left him feeling out of balance, and the practical ‘fix’ for that imbalance was to express his ideas in this way.It is almost as though his philosophising about the benign nature of the Universe would assuage the brutality of his marriage experience.

This ties in somewhat with the second Quindecile configured to the Sun Mercury conjunction, from Neptune in the 8th. It is reasonably well-known that Watts had a drinking problem; although he never openly admitted such. When he died aged 58 (at around the time of his second Saturn return – thus Saturn would be transiting the natal Saturn-Pluto conjunction in the 7th) the cause of death was recorded as ‘heart failure’ although it is commonly acknowledged that incipient alcoholism was a contributing factor. This is simply one level at which Neptune might manifest in the 8th, as a contributing factor in the (confusing) conditions surrounding death, also as a motivating obsessive impetus to the compulsion of expressing his spirituality and finally there is the question of talking about death as well, in a spiritual context. Watts frequently spoke about the value of meditating on death, his themes were often uncomfortably Plutonic, his spirituality was all about 8th house ideals of letting go, of non-materialism, of Buddhist ideas about attachment; fundamentally his spiritual DNA was 8th house and he felt compelled to talk it out.

These are not the only Quindeciles in Watts’ chart, he has another from the Dragon’s Head to the Moon which perhaps conveys something about his fated compulsion to bring his ideas before humanity at large, and in this last consideration, he was only partially successful. The taciturn genius pinpointed by his Cazimi Mercury was, like the air the determined goat breathes at the summit of his lonely mountain, always going to be somewhat rarefied and remote for general consumption; his brilliance was of the type of the stars, distant and ethereal rather than the tactile and fawned over diamond of earthly desire, but arguably, it was more precious even so, and will hopefully appreciate with time and contemplation.