The Astrology of Austerity


Here is the birth chart of British austerity, as announced by David Cameron in Cheltenham in April 2009. (26/04/09 22:00 Cheltenham, UK) The chart contains several outstanding markers for difficulty. The austerity chart evinces two tee-squares, a Grand Trine and a few other remarkable features.

The first tee-square then:

  • Venus, archetype of the good times is in detriment, precisely conjunct the Aries’ point, conjunct Mars in his sign and square Pluto. This is a Venus under maximal stress, and unable to make any headway against a supercharged Mars who:
  • Is much better able to cope with a Pluto square, because Mars is in a sympathy with Pluto, where Venus is not. Furthermore a planet exalted or otherwise strengthened is better able to endure stressful aspect.
  • Although not a mainstream marker, the transneptunian Kronos is at 3° Cancer, and represents lofty ideals, expertise and intellectual authority. Kronos opposes Pluto, and in general terms economic experts (Kronos in the 8th) argue that austerity doesn’t work. Pluto in the 2nd, the agenda characterised by the more simplistic ‘money in the hand’ narrative of the Conservative government, holds sway.

Why should this be?

  • Pluto is working for Saturn (by rulership). Saturn is in the Midheaven, so therefore it’s all anyone can “see”. Pluto also rules the chart. Note the language that presaged the advent of this new policy: “The age of irresponsibility is giving way to the age of austerity.” David Cameron has perfectly leveraged the style of Saturn (responsibility) in Virgo (accounting) in the zenith.
  • And bear in mind that the current Pluto-Kronos cycle began with the American War of Independence where Britain lost huge revenues over a tax dispute with its American colonies. Since planetary cycles – no matter how antediluvian in nature – retain a common thread, we can suggest a learning process that involves an element of hubris, and the challenging consequences thereof. Any ruling class (British or other) that seeks to impose austerity through taxation, removal of direct or indirect supporting measures, or through simple authoritarian diktat, is going to tweak this planetary cycle.
  • Saturn is also peregrine, or singleton. This has a tendency to overshadow all other considerations. Saturn squares Ixion, a Plutino in the Hadean triumvirate with Orcus and Pluto, forming a matrix of drives and compulsions that give the raw domination material of the human ego. The great challenge for the adept to overcome. Ixion is the basest of the three Hadean styles, but also the most covert. When Saturn squares Ixion there’s an uncomfortable compulsion to impose harsh, authoritarian measures and thereby get one’s own needs met. Those needs are usually quite unsophisticated too.

But wait! There’s a second tee-square:

  • At its apex we have a Moon that is strong by sign but is at the anaretic degree of Taurus. The 30th degree of any sign creates a great sense of urgency, and here the stressing nature of the critical degree is informed by the most material sign of the zodiac. Great pressure in economic matters.
  • Further the Moon is square to Neptune (also Jupiter and Chiron) This narrow stellium has the flavour of what I would call “flawed idealism” and in Aquarius has a humanitarian, universal application. So it represents quite clearly the ideals of social care, of providing support and benefits (Jupiter) for the unfortunate (Neptune) and disabled (Chiron). This is creating a stress for the Moon’s urgent concern (money). The Aquarius stellium is opposed by Orcus who has just moved into the anaretic degree of Leo. So there’s an implacable force at work, opposed to the ideals of social care, and it’s a privileged force too, Orcus is conjunct Regulus, one of the four Royal Stars, whose interests align with kings, rulers and elites.
  • Moon is also conjunct Mercury who is precisely conjunct Algol, the most unfortunate star in the heavens. Here it gives a tendency to strategisation and stealthy enactment of agendas. It gives an amoral cast to Mercury, who is already innately ambiguous.
  • Overall the Tee-Square to Moon/Mercury/Algol is quite potent. It describes a struggle between an elite and the prevailing social policy of our time.
David Cameron: tough times ahead.

David Cameron: tough times ahead.

But the gloss over all of this is a Grand Trine between Sun, Pluto and Orcus.

  • Yikes! Yes, that’s right. Yikes indeed.
  • Bear in mind that the Sun is the public face of any chart, and here we have a Sun applying to the cusp of the 6th in Taurus. And don’t hardworking people deserve to enjoy the rewards of their hard work? Well, don’t they? You’d have to be some kind of leftie lunatic to disagree with that!
  • A Grand Trine is a ‘safe place’ in the chart, a place that one can fall back into when the going gets tough – for better or worse. So here there’s a sense of being in easy control, a single-minded determination to get things done to one’s satisfaction. It’s smooth and very determined.
  • And the Grand Trine lies in the 2nd the 6th, and the 9th Money, philosophy and the working public.

Looking forward, we can say that 2016 is a critical year for austerity. Since Saturn has run away with the chart we look with interest to February 2016 as the first Saturn square for austerity. The first Saturn square is always a time of profound testing, where motives, usefulness and reliability are all under serious scrutiny. Ten days later, the Conservative Party chart experiences the first of three Pluto – Moon oppositions.

This is even more noteworthy because on 12th January, David Cameron weathers the middle pass of Pluto square Sun. A profound challenge to leadership and personal authority. Since his Sun squares Orcus natally, his integrity is also undergoing a withering examination at this time. The Conservative Party chart (18/12/1834, 00:00 Tamworth, UK) undergoes a Uranus square to natal Moon two days beforehand and then Pluto opposes the Tory Mars in April, which when viewed together, constitute one of the most fundamental challenges to Conservative politics, probably for many years. Pluto squares the UK’s lunar axis for the last time in ten days from now. The destiny of this nation is being forged as we speak.


Hadean Times: the Rise and Fall of Rolf.


The rise and rise of Rolf Harris was always somehow improbable, and though his fall has only just begun, it makes an excellent study of how easy it is to fall into the trap of misplaced self-belief. Many of my generation are reeling somewhat from the news that Rolf Harris, whose cheerful, positive and uplifting manner is somehow keyed into the DNA of our childhoods, has turned out to be a fake. And it’s not so much that he was just a fake, because fakery is commonplace, but rather that his deception was so singularly spectacular.

One of the key lessons of a life of astrological study though has to be that our astrology only has negative power if we give ourselves away. This is as true for Rolf as it is for anyone else. While there is an element of fate in everyone’s nativity, that fate is predicated upon free will. That is to say, that it is the choices we make of our own free will that set the specific shade of karmic machinery in motion and lead us into difficulty, or into eventual emancipation. We choose to do right and despite the difficulties of our fate, we are eventually exonerated by life. We decide we can ‘get away’ with something, and we might for the rest of our days, but eventually, in this life or the next, we need to pay our dues.

So Rolf’s astrology hasn’t put him in prison, it was Rolf’s choices that did that. Having made the style of choice he did however, we can read the astrology and find the message in it, as clear as can be. And sure, innocent people get sent to prison too, and we can understand that as well, because we all get to pay our dues: in this life or the next…


Rolf Harris is a poster child for that Martian/Uranian blend that is so perfectly encapsulated in his Sun/Uranus conjunction. It’s fascinating to note that as a child, Rolf was a champion swimmer, being the junior backstroke champion (no mean feat in Australia incidentally). This Mars is surprisingly strong in the water, here in Pisces, and he is accidentally further dignified in the 1st, but ruled by a very difficult Neptune, detrimented in Virgo, weakened by retrogradation, and peregrine. This suggests that he was secretly very disappointed by his choice of marriage partner, and with Neptune opposing Eros 433, there was no sexual attraction. But Neptune also opposes Atropos 273, so it did not begin this way, but the attraction faded to be replaced by a critical, almost intellectual dissatisfaction. So a strong (very strong) Mars, giving a strong libido, squaring Jupiter – a real bed-hopper in the style of Zeus himself, ruled by a difficult Neptune that magnifies the idealism of the marital bedroom gone awry, gives a very difficult construct to carry on with.

One might wonder why he didn’t leave his wife. It may be that like many deviants, he needed the ‘cover’ of a healthy and functional relationship to act as a smokescreen for his dark dalliances, and though the marriage, for his wife Alwen was unhappy, she contemplated suicide in the1960s; ‘”I feel like killing myself, I am so bored,” she had written in her diary at the time, “My days are filled with such emptiness. Please take me away from here…” Rolf appeared to have no clue or awareness that his wife was struggling. To compound this impression, his daughter has described him as absent at home, a man who only came to life when the centre of attention out in the world. “As a child I got fed up with everyone going on and on about Dad because he was on telly and because they imagined he was painting paintings on my walls, being funny all the time. It simply wasn’t true – he was always busy, rushing off, giving his all to everyone else in the world.” A narcissist perhaps, but one content to mask his hard won reputation in the veneer of conventionality that a longstanding, stable marriage confers. Clues to narcissism can often be gleaned from the placement of Ixion, who delineates the areas and the styles of personal entitlement. Once again, Ixion, like Neptune is peregrine, conjunct Atlantis 1198. This gives a style of narcissism, if one can call it so, that invades the privacy and sexual boundaries of others (+Atlantis, in the 8th house). It operates secretly, covertly, and peregrine: it’s either full on or completely absent.

Then there is Orcus, remarkably also peregrine, in Taurus and only 16 minutes from conjunction with IC. Rolf is worth an estimated £11 million, and this is very much in keeping with the motivated style of Orcus in Taurus, where Orcus is angular or powerfully configured with the chart, to accrue wealth. The same can be said for those with Orcus in the 2nd house or intertwined with Venus in some way. What’s more telling is the placement on the IC, which with the 4th is strongly redolent of end of life qualities. It seems likely that Rolf might well die in prison. At the very least this describes someone whose final days are spent in isolation. Whether he survives incarceration or not seems beside the point, he will have very few ‘admirers’ to call round should he pay his debt to society in full and be sent home. Once again, the style of that rather fearsomely angular Orcus is entirely dictated by Rolf’s choices. A life of respectability and admiration is nothing if it is hiding a cruel, unsavoury truth, and Orcus finds out the bodies given time. Had he made healthy choices, his final isolation would most likely have been splendid and dignified.

With Pluto squaring Venus and opposed by Saturn, Rolf was destined to come up against insurmountable authoritarian forces at some time or other. His compulsive attractions were the trigger for that hopeless conflict and now with Pluto ruling his Midheaven, and Orcus opposing from the IC, he must die alone, with his lifetime’s efforts unspun and his seemingly untouchable reputation in ruins.

It’s a hard road for those blighted by the judgements of the Hadean planets, but once again we learn that while challenges, to success, wellbeing and reputation are inevitable, suffering is merely optional, and all that is required to see your way clear is to do the right thing, even if nobody is watching.

The Astrology of Oblivion

Last week, we explored some of the broad themes of Neptune. What a delight Neptune is, with his glorious, undermining illusions.

A few months ago, somebody asked me to look at the case of an aging relative who was becoming ‘confused and forgetful’. We talked about it for a while, science, in the form of a kindly, but ultimately noncommittal doctor had no answer to the problem, nor any advice it seemed, except to “monitor the situation”. The fear was, naturally enough, Alzheimer’s.

It is tempting to assume that Alzheimer’s falls within the purview of Neptune. After all, the key energetic qualities have much common-ground. There is confusion, a gradual drifting away, an encroaching sense of loss and eventually, oblivion. It is not for nothing that it is called “the long goodbye”. I researched the matter, and – in an attempt to better grasp the genesis of the disease and its implications – I looked at the history and origins of the disease, then at several case studies and in that process I discovered something new and remarkable.

As is often the case with disease, we are looking at the ‘last resort’ of astrology. I have written extensively on this subject before, as for example with the “Cascade Effect”, and it is worth revisiting the central premise:

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. Now, you might argue that you did not decide to drink the lead-poisoned water and that it was all the wicked power-company’s fault, but really, you did decide to drink it, because it was an esoteric response to a profound unconscious requirement that you apprehend some vanishingly precise and unique expression of human experience and the only way you could manage it was to move into an area where the water was poisoned by an unscrupulous corporate entity.

This posits a fundamental truth of the cascade from psychic pressure, which is itself predicated upon your karma and your innate level of consciousness, the totality of which I would call ‘spiritual energy’, through the emotional body and then into the physical body. If you cannot respond at the spiritual level to your karma then it will begin to have emotional effects. If you cannot purge the ‘dark matter’ then it begins to bring a pressure to bear upon the physical body. Louise Hay writes extensively on the subject without the benefit of astrology, but even so, her observations, with few exceptions, were remarkably cogent. If you have no love in your life then your heart will suffer. If you are fearful then you will have a digestive problem. Problems with the liver and pancreas relate to an inability to feel joy. As can be seen, all of these difficulties are preceded by an emotional trauma, acute or chronic in nature, usually between one and three years before the problem begins to manifest into the body. In that interim, the spiritual problem has begun to poison the emotional system.

Of course, as Wayne Dyer espoused: there is a spiritual solution to every problem, and this is true, but it takes an unusual soul to manage the great leap of faith and love to expedite it. Inevitably, even the most enlightened beings struggle to some extent with anger and woundedness, and these emotional symptoms of a non-spiritual response to conflict and difficulty, if not themselves ‘solved’ with a change of heart (and how apt is that phrase in this context!) will manifest into the mind or body as disease.

So when somebody approaches me with a concern about Alzheimer’s, we look first of all at the background to the problem itself, if we can, and try to build a framework within which we might put the problems in context. We hold in our minds the probability that Neptune is at work, but we can make no assumptions. Herein lies a meandering conundrum about the process of astrology too, which bears examination.

Here is what happens when your 6th house is ruled by Mercury opposition Neptune.

When we consider any disease, or even any broad situation in life, we see that there is a result. The result however, is not the cause. The result might therefore be Neptune in one sense or another, but the cause is not Neptune. Neptune may be part of the cause, but there is no one cause in the nativity. Causes are manifold. In fact, the more causes there are, the greater the likelihood of a particular placement manifesting the result. Sometimes this is a straightforward identification process, the apex of a Yod or tee-square, the debilitating and pernicious black energy of a Mars-Saturn-Pluto stellium, or a series of contacts that are within the same vibrational framework: consider Ronald Reagan’s Mercury opposition Neptune – ruled by Saturn in the 4th – Orcus in a Neptune ruled 3rd house, Pluto peregrine. At birth, Reagan’s Venus was his strongest planet, closely outpacing Mars and Moon, and this set the tone for his life mission, to bring order and harmony to the world (according to his own vision (Mars rises in Capricorn) and traditional, homespun values (Moon is in Taurus)) but crucially, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in August 1994, Neptune had assumed supremacy by his progression onto the IC. He therefore needed to express the quality of Neptune, could not manage it spiritually, nor emotionally, and so the force of Neptune made its way into his mind. The point though is not so much that he was compelled to vibrate at a Neptunian frequency, because that is itself only a result of some other set of prevailing conditions. Thus, if the wind blows from the East, your boat will drift to the West.

Reagan’s first job as a pro-rescuer – and a good one, he saved 77 lives. Neptune only got stronger from here on in…

In Reagan’s case, there is a fascinating stormy petrel in the form of White House correspondent Lesley Stahl who recounts her final meeting with the president, in 1986: “Reagan didn’t seem to know who I was. … Oh, my, he’s gonzo, I thought. I have to go out on the lawn tonight and tell my countrymen that the president of the United States is a doddering space cadet.” But then, at the end, he regained his alertness. As she described it, “I had come that close to reporting that Reagan was senile.”

This meeting took place precisely as Orcus fell conjunct Reagan’s Ascendant by progression.

There is one other important factor to consider in the case of Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s affliction, one final cause, but we must digress further to make it accessible.

When we look at the history of the disease, we find that it was named for Aloysius Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist whose life obsession became a single 51 year old patient, August Deter, who exhibited all of the, now classic, symptoms of the disease: withdrawal and confusion being most prevalent. After the patient’s death, Alzheimer studied the chemical structures of Deter’s brain and discovered that when studied under a microscope, the patient’s neuron structures were deformed, having a ‘tangled appearance’. These tangles cause the proteins to become insoluble, and thus normal brain function is impaired, albeit in a way that science does not understand. The result is Alzheimer’s disease. Doctor Alzheimer presented his research on November 3rd 1906 (at the 37th meeting of the Southwest German psychiatrists in Tübingen, the first order of the day’s discussions, after breakfast), wherein he first described the characteristic neurofibrillary tangle. Alzheimer’s disease was ‘born’.

The birth chart is interesting because Mercury rises and is precisely parallel Arachne on the Ascendant at 22 Scorpio. Mercury trines Orcus. The neurofibrillary ‘tangle’ looks, under the microscope, like a cobweb, and Orcus makes a prison from the mind as a result.

As I researched Arachne further I came to see that this little-known point loomed large where dementia was found. It was a ‘marker’.

Now, when we return to our study of Ronald Reagan’s nativity, we see that Arachne was trine Orcus at birth and had progressed precisely to his Midheaven on the day he was shot by John Hinckley in Washington DC on 30th March 1981. Remarkably, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, Orcus has covered one third of his nativity, and replicated the birth trine to Arachne, albeit now from Leo, rather than Aries.

A seriously bad choice of mug-ee…

Further research bears out. Charles Bronson, another Alzheimer’s sufferer (and Orcan personification) experiences a Grand Trine of (Sun/Mercury) = (Pluto/Arachne) = Uranus, and these form the basis of Kite when Orcus is included: via his opposition to Mercury!

Iris Murdoch too, with Orcus on the Midheaven opposing Arachne on the IC died 9 days after the all-powerful middle-pass of Orcus = Ascendant; her Alzheimer’s was diagnosed as Orcus transited in opposition to her Moon and Mercury. At the middle pass, quite naturally.

By 1965, Neptune was really making himself felt…

Numerous case studies affirm that Arachne and Orcus are the major markers of Alzheimer’s disease in the nativity. But it bears repeating that it makes no sense to rush off and look up one’s own susceptibility. These are merely the routes to a result that your soul needs to manifest. If Neptune becomes your strongest power then you are simply letting go of control in your life, and you can resist that need to let go if you like. As Louise Hay writes of dementia: what is it that you need to forget?

For Ronald Reagan, it is my view that he could not face the ultimate powerlessness of his own mortality on the fateful Washington morning in 1981, exactly as Reagan’s Arachne progressed onto his Midheaven! The sheer randomness of that dreadful threat must have shaken him to his core. Hinckley, his would-be assassin was declared insane and quite rightly, after all, he decided to kill the President in order that he might impress Jodie Foster.

Jodie Foster incidentally has a one-degree opposition between Orcus and Arachne.

And Hinckley? Orcus conjunct Node, Mars and Mercury, square Moon, sesquisqaure Saturn, parallel Jupiter, Uranus and Arachne, semisquare Arachne.

We are all connected, even when sometimes; we really don’t wish to be.

Orcus on the MC: A Real Big Hitter

Recently I had a conversation with Nate, he had read “Orcus” and wanted to share his own experience. The book spoke to him, he said, and indeed as he explained his many perspectives I could only agree, he was deeply connected with a positive expression of Orcan energy.

One of the real challenges of writing the book was in attempting to explain the fundamentals of Orcus without making the picture appear too bleak and heavy. When a researching astrologer is looking through charts, the mind becomes attuned in an almost sympathetic manner to the most perfect expositions of the planetary energy. What this means in practise is that people who express the fundamental energy of Orcus in its most uncontaminated form are, rather necessarily, quite scary. When Orcus energy gets a grip on your life, you can suffer extreme experience, so the examples that found their way into the book were often case studies whose experiences had been exceptional, and therefore, whose experiences had often been exceptionally difficult.

When one of us mere mortals gets in the way of Orcus, the experience can be testing in the extreme, but only rarely does the experience not let us go. By contrast, some are seemingly doomed to go to the very last mile with Orcus and those people – Terry Waite, Princess Diana, Louis Braille, Helen Keller – leave in their wake a singularly compelling and often frightening narrative. That does not mean that everyone who has a strong affinity with Orcus will go to the same extremes, any more than those with Pluto strong approach the limits of Hadean experience, but these individuals who do go to the bitter end, give up, in their struggles, the distilled principles of Orcus’ painful energy. We who come after can apply Orcus’ lessons to our personal experiences and thus come to better understand our place within the great design, thankfully, without having to go so far.

One of the areas in which Orcus can find a positive and free expression is in the world of sport. As Nate related to me, this is a marvellous outlet for this otherwise rather polarising unconscious directive:

Wow. I just got your book and am reading it now. I haven’t gotten to the Mars-Orcus part yet. But I’m reading the Pursuit section where you talk about athletes. I have Mars 10th in Aries trine Orcus 2nd. I won a national tae kwon do championship when I was 15. When I was fighting, I had a mode I called Kamikaze. I didn’t care how many times you hit me. I was going after you until I hit the ground. I was also, the ‘Enforcer’ on my rep basketball team.”

Nate in fact has a Grand Trine of Sun – Mars – Orcus, with Orcus ruled by Sun, Sun ruled by Jupiter in the team-focused 11th house. No wonder he became the ‘Enforcer’ for his basketball team.

Wherever we are required to push ourselves beyond normal limits Orcus is in the signature. It gives us a drive, endurance and will to win that is more than the sum of the muscle, sinew and fibre which makes up our mortal frame. Orcus is the reason why it isn’t always the biggest guy that leaves with the Lonsdale Belt, or why one person ‘breaks’ under torture or the lonely rigours of ‘solitary’ while another seems to emerge from those experiences somehow stronger.

If you look at the two charts below you will immediately notice a profound similarity. They both have Jupiter with Orcus on the MC.

The first chart is that of Muhammad Ali, by secondary progression on the date of the ‘Fight of the Century’ (March 8th, 1971), while the second is the progressed chart of ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson on the day he became the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of the sport. Both of these boxers, who made it to the very top of one of the most gruelling and physically punishing of all possible professions, did so under the auspices of Jupiter-Orcus progressing onto the Midheaven. Joe Louis too, possibly the greatest boxer ever to take to the ring, made his professional debut precisely as Orcus progressed over the MC.

Orcus progressing to the Midheaven is not usually so easy-going. In the chart below you see the progressed chart for the precise date that serial killer Ted Bundy was sentenced to die in the electric chair: would it be possible to imagine a more perfect – and chilling – manifestation of Orcus with Uranus on the Midheaven?

These are extreme examples, but they are, writ large, perfect delineations of the terrifying power of Orcus and his style of manifestation. When Orcus hits your Midheaven by progression (which is very likely to happen during your lifetime if Orcus is in the 10th or 11th houses, possibly also the 12th or even 1st) then you will experience a major change or event which will push you to your limit. It’s highly unlikely to be as extreme a limit as that experienced by those who totally embody Orcus energy – in good and bad ways – but it will be easily as profound and challenging as the same transit by Pluto. Indeed, Orcus is designed to help you find what your limits are, and how you react when you really get down to brass tacks. Can you face Orcus and keep your integrity?

Make no mistake: Orcus is a big hitter, and when he hits, you will feel it all the way to the bottom of your soul.

How big is your Pluto?

This is an interesting diagram which delineates the ‘strength’ of Pluto through the signs. With Pluto, stronger does not mean better, it means, well, stronger. To have sympathy with an energy does not always mean to have more of it, indeed, Pluto is subtle, deep and most of all hidden, so to have Pluto in positive, outgoing and extrovert signs, like Leo, Libra and Sagittarius is uncomfortable for Pluto, who enjoys Scorpio for precisely the reason that he can remain subtle, deep and hidden.

But there is a way in which stronger does mean better, provided you can utilise the lessons of Orcus and find true spiritual integrity. In this way you will not be ‘broken’ by Pluto. So if you have Pluto strong then you are facing a major test in this incarnation, and one which you will learn at a much greater personal cost (but also a cost to those in your life) than the majority whose Pluto’s are less ‘out there’.

If you have Pluto close to an angle, then he becomes even stronger, and he is also strong in the 5th, 7th and 9th houses. So if you have Pluto rising in Libra or Sagittarius, and to a slightly lesser extent Leo, then know that you have quite a trip ahead of you and you need, for the sake of your eternal soul, to get down to some serious spiritual work if you want to avoid the burden of a lot of karmic payback as well as realise the not inconsiderable benefit of having transformed a great deal of Hadean force. That will make you quite formidable, but in a loving and meaningful way.

Plus, what choice do you have? Any other road leads only to unhappiness.

Mercury and Orcus

Here is an extract from “Orcus”, on the contacts to Mercury. All the planetary contacts are covered in detail in the book.
You can buy your copy here (US), or here (UK).

In my view, this is an uncomfortable pairing in the extreme. Mercury’s rather whimsical predisposition to flightiness suffers inordinately under the implacable dictate of Orcus, and considerable work is required to mitigate the brutal tendency toward ‘plain-speaking’ that this pairing engenders. Even plain-speaking may be entirely too understated. Orcus’ implacability applies to the Mercurial, so very often there is genuine ruthlessness in speech coupled with a lack of compassion for the listener’s sensitivities, but also desire for knowledge and communication.

The British comedian Tony Hancock provides an excellent case study for the contact between Mercury and Orcus. Hancock had a close conjunction of Orcus with Mercury in Taurus and the 10th house, squaring Neptune rising in Leo. His mistress, and later wife was quite familiar with his Mercury-Orcus square to Neptune:

“Freddie Hancock tried everything – suicide included – to stop her husband drinking, only to be rewarded with a barrage of verbal or physical abuse… Snappy one-liners are Freddie’s forte. Had the right opportunities come along she would have flourished as a comic, the same profession as the man she married: Tony Hancock, the genius of Hancock’s Half Hour. Not that Hancock would have allowed it: obsessed with success, ruthless in his ambition, he brooked no competition. Not even from her. “There will be only one comic in this family,” he told her many times. “Only one star: and it will be me.”

With Orcus in the 10th, he was obsessed with success, and with Orcus quincunx Jupiter and square Neptune there are various pressures relating to status here, we can envisage Orcus – Jupiter in quincunx as a never-sated drive for creative/artistic status, (Orcus/10th, Jupiter/5th) and the square to Neptune is where the tension is expressed, through drinking. Hancock was hailed as a comic genius, but his wife understood the double edged sword this represented to him:

“Tony was the kindest, most gentle, most thoughtful man I have ever known . . . when he wasn’t drinking. When he was . . . that was a very different Tony. He was a tortured man, a man who would dwell upon the slightest error he had made. He would lie awake at night worrying that the audience’s laughter would stop. When he was like that, no one could help him. No one could convince him of his ability.”

It seems that Hancock’s introspection and self-doubt was ultimately his nemesis. In early 1960, Hancock appeared on the BBC’s Face to Face, a half-hour in-depth interview programme conducted by former Labour MP John Freeman. Freeman asked Hancock many searching questions about his life and work. Hancock, who deeply admired his interviewer, often appeared uncomfortable with the questions, but answered them frankly and honestly. Hancock had always been highly self-critical, and it is often argued that this interview heightened this tendency, contributing to his later difficulties. According to Roger, his brother, “It was the biggest mistake he ever made. I think it all started from that really. …Self-analysis – that was his killer.

In another intriguing homage to this placement, Hancock read extensively, in an attempt to ascribe meaning to his existence. He read philosophy, religion, politics and sociology almost ceaselessly.

We see here the structural themes of Mercury – Orcus with startling clarity:

  • A voracious appetite for reading, learning and communication.
  • A tendency to harsh, even brutal, speech.
  • A propensity to ceaseless worry.
  • A sense of intellectual isolation.
  • Deep and uncomfortable introspection.
  • An obsession with the themes of Orcus’ house, coloured by close aspecting energies, thus status (10th) as a creative, comic (Jupiter/5th) communicator (Mercury). The result was a kind of divine discontent, as is often the case with Jupiter quincunxes.

These are easily gleaned observations too, underlining once again the accessibility of Orcus in the chart. At the time of his death (from a drink and drug overdose – square Neptune), Hancock’s Orcus had transited precisely from a waxing to a waning quincunx to Jupiter.

Another good example of Mercury-Orcus energy is provided by Clint Eastwood, who also has a close conjunction of Orcus with Mercury in Taurus. It provides that rather implacable voice tone made famous in many of his roles, from the taciturn hero of many westerns, to Dirty Harry whose immortal line “do ya feel lucky punk?” is delivered with typically Orcan deadpan style.

In the sign Aries we find Stewart Granger, an overtly leading man, with myriad Arian qualities. His roles were typically Martian, romantic and swashbuckling both, neither of which are qualities easily reconciled with a classically peregrine 2nd house Taurus Sun. Mercury conjunct Orcus (by a mere 8 minutes) ruled by a 1st house Mars, trine its ruler Neptune (providing the charisma) and square Pluto, adding in a little danger and menace, seems to tell the story more succinctly. Once again we feel the quality of Orcus under the rulership of Mars when we examine the underlying themes of a life. His determination to be authentically swashbuckling was so great that when he was preparing for his roles in The Prisoner of Zenda and Scaramouche! he took lessons with a retired Olympic fencing champion and wore out “a dozen or so pairs of fencing shoes.” In Granger’s case the Mercury – Orcus conjunction applies to the 2nd house cusp, so we see Venusian themes, too, brought into play, and Granger’s love affairs were notorious. He said himself that this was an area of weakness: “I don’t know which was the greatest disaster: my career or my wives,” and “I made King Solomon’s Mines and I became popular because Quatermain was a mysterious man with a leopard skin around his hat. It was Africa romantic. Deborah Kerr and I made love up a tree. I said to Deborah — I had a six month affair with her — that we should never have come down from that tree.” So here we see the Venus-influenced, Mars-ruled Mercury paired with Orcus. It’s bold, rather ‘plain’ and direct speaking, forthright, ardent and concerned with affairs of the heart.

Moving into Gemini, we have the case of Brian Wilson, founding member of the Beach Boys, who lost many years battling drug addiction and mental illness. He famously spent three years locked in his bedroom sleeping, taking drugs and overeating. Wilson has a Gemini Sun tee-squared from a Neptune-Ceres opposition, ruled by an otherwise unaspected Mercury conjunct both Orcus and Terpsichore . Mercury, unaspected, retrograde, a final dispositor and rising is a very big deal however you want to cut it, and here he is conjunct Orcus. Years of drug abuse (Mercury opposes Panacea!) left Wilson with serious difficulties:

“[W]hen circumstances required Brian to have face-to-face contact with old friends or family members, they often came away dismayed to discover that he could no longer remember some longtime friends and would often lapse into incoherence or even fall asleep in mid-conversation. Brian had also taken on some disturbing facial tics which were often accompanied by shaking hands and a visible trembling in his legs. Some observers concluded that he had suffered a stroke or was showing the latter-day side-effects of the mountains of cocaine and rivers of alcohol he had ingested in the 1970s and early 1980s. But when Brian made a surprise appearance at a Beach Boys’ fan convention in the summer of 1990, it didn’t take long for Peter Reum, a longtime fan who happened to work as a therapist in Colorado, to realise something else. Reum had met and spoken to Brian on several occasions during the previous fifteen years, and so he knew that the man standing before him in San Diego had changed in distressing ways. Given his professional training, Reum suspected that Brian’s twitching, waxen face and palsied hands, pointed to tardive dyskinesia, a neurological condition that develops in patients whose systems had become saturated with psychotropic medications…”

Every astrologer knows that Mercury and Gemini are restless, nervous, fidgety and rule such issues as tics, nervous conditions and disorders and the arms, hands and gesticulatory movements. Here, Orcus combines with Terpsichore (physical movement and coordination) and Panacea (prescription drugs) to create – through isolation and withdrawal – a difficult and transformative process of inner change. The tee-square to the Sun receives pressure from a Neptune – Ceres opposition, so themes of drugs and food are part of the dual-identity problem (Wilson was incorrectly diagnosed with schizophrenia), and he “began most of his days with a dozen eggs and an entire loaf of bread,” and though he hardly produced any new musical material during this solitary period, he could be lured “to the music room with a sack of McDonald’s hamburgers and a few grams of cocaine.” The tension received by the Sun therefore manifested into his identity as a clichéd rock star, and via Mercury’s rulership, that same tension eventually manifested into tardive dyskinesia, which is very much the opposite condition to that of Parkinson’s disease which results in chronic immobility, since sufferer’s cannot help but be constantly on the move. It is the most Mercurial of conditions, and it caused Wilson to become singularly isolated and withdrawn.

Moving into the sign of Cancer we have another fascinating example, this time manifesting through the medium of the aforementioned converse condition to that of Brian Wilson. With Michael J. Fox, we see a close conjunction of Mercury with Orcus in Cancer, and his battle with exceptionally early-onset Parkinson’s disease is well-documented. Fox’s Mercury is conjunct Orcus, Bacchus and Cupido. Bacchus has association with wine (alcohol, drugs and addiction issues in general), while Cupido concerns itself very much with looks, physical appearances and attractiveness:

“After he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but before he started writing books about optimism, Michael J Fox went through a period of seeing himself as he thought others saw him. ‘Peculiar,’ he says, was the overall impression. ‘Funny looking. [Parkinson’s] makes me squirm and it makes my pants ride up so my socks are showing and my shoes fall off and I can’t get the food up to my mouth when I want to.’ Fox had been a movie star for five years when he was diagnosed, and was used to being stared at. But of course this was different. ‘I hate the way it makes me look,’ he thought. ‘That means that I hate me.’”

The Bacchus connection manifested through a hard-drinking lifestyle in his twenties, a mode of living to which he ascribes his later difficulties:

“’I have a lot of compassion for my younger self. It’s funny. I wouldn’t have an appreciation for the things I do now if I didn’t have those experiences. I was so… it really is a course correction – at that point in my life, when I got Parkinson’s, I had to look at the way I was living: the drinking. It wasn’t like a little warning sign at the side of the road. It was a big caution in flashing lights. I don’t know that I would have the family that I have now, the life I have, the sense of purpose, if none of this had happened.’

After he was diagnosed in 1991, Fox’s drinking got much worse. The alarm call came a year later, when he woke up on the sofa one morning, stinking of booze, with his baby son crawling on him and half a can of beer on the floor next to him. When he opened one eye to see his wife looking down at him, she didn’t seem angry or disgusted, but, worse, indifferent. Fox made arrangements that day to get help with his drinking and hasn’t touched alcohol since.”

Hearing Fox describe his subjective experience of Parkinson’s disease is singularly compelling and heartbreaking, and much of his narrative is focused on the frustration and dislocation of the symptomatic communication blocks and challenges that are associated with Parkinson’s disease:

“When I’m ‘off,’ (medication) the disease has complete authority over my physical being. I’m utterly in its possession. Sometimes there are flashes of function, and I can be effective at performing basic physical tasks, certainly feeding and dressing myself, as well as any chore calling for more brute force than manual dexterity. In my very worst ‘off’ times I experience the full panoply of classic Parkinsonian symptoms: rigidity, shuffling, tremors, lack of balance, diminished small motor control, and the insidious cluster of symptoms that makes communication, written as well as spoken, difficult and sometimes impossible.

My ability to form thoughts and ideas into words and sentences is not impaired; the problem is translating those words and sentences into articulate speech. My lips, tongue, and jaw muscles simply won’t cooperate. What words I do smuggle through the blockade can be heard, though not always comprehended. Try as I might, I can’t inflect my speech to reflect my state of mind…

These impediments to self-expression are not the most painful or debilitating features of Parkinson’s disease, yet they madden me more than even the most teeth-rattling full body tremor. When the meds are “off” and P.D. has already rendered me a prisoner in my own body…”

This is a fascinating account that describes with absolute clarity the juxtaposition of Mercury with Orcus, the nervous system has made a prison of the body. His first symptoms appeared in 1990, just as a series of Orcus-Neptune squares came to a conclusion and Jupiter opposed natal Orcus by Solar arc.

Intriguingly, the same conjunction is found in the chart of the A list actor, Tom Hanks. I am reminded of his various film roles like Cast Away, which fairly abounds in Mercury/Orcus themes, he plays a postal service worker, who when travelling by plane is stranded alone on a remote desert island, which effectively becomes a prison. He won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a gay lawyer dying of AIDs in Philadelphia, another profoundly Orcan role.

This discussion posits the question as to whether or not the contacts of Mercury with Orcus are a primary indicator of nervous system diseases. Muhammad Ali has a close trine between Mercury and Orcus and my own stepfather has Parkinson’s and a close conjunction between Mercury and Orcus. The key indicator though has to be Mercury, ruler of the nervous system. The televangelist Billy Graham, another Parkinson’s sufferer, has no contact between Orcus and Mercury, but Mercury is the focus of a tee-square from a Saturn-Uranus opposition, which denotes enormous internal tension of course. Orcus alone lends so much implacable and pitiless energy to whichever point he contacts that he does the job of a Saturn-Uranus opposition single-handedly!

One other intriguing observation about this combination: Orcus appears to affect the voice markedly. Many singer-songwriters of note have this contact, very often their voices have a cracked or broken quality, or some other notable vocal ‘style’ which is not considered ideal, but which somehow adds a plaintive or compelling quality to the voice-tone, and other notables with a distinctive voice quality frequently evince the contact. Consider the following examples:

  • Karen Carpenter (trine).
  • Ray LaMontagne (partile conjunction).
  • Billy Bragg (opposition).
  • David Byrne (sextile).
  • Belinda Carlisle (sextile).
  • Patsy Cline (square).
  • Sean Connery (trine).
  • Aretha Franklin (square).
  • Cary Grant (sextile).
  • Goldie Hawn (opposition).
  • Dustin Hoffman (square).
  • Whitney Houston (sextile to Mercury conjunct Pluto: supercharged).
  • Janis Joplin (trine).
  • Annie Lennox (opposition, Mercury cazimi!)
  • Madonna (sextile).
  • Willie Nelson (semisquare).
  • Olivia Newton-John (trine).
  • Edith Piaf (square).
  • Diana Ross (sextile).
  • Tina Turner (opposition).
  • Tom Waits (opposition).

Especially intriguing is that one can discern the quality of the voice according to aspect, from smooth trines and sextiles (Sean Connery, Karen Carpenter, Diana Ross) to the more edgy, cracked squares and oppositions (Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Tom Waits). Fascinating!


  • Laugh at Tony? I very nearly died, Olga Craig, the Daily Telegraph, 10 Nov 2004
  • Wikipedia entry: Tony Hancock
  • (Stewart Granger)
  • For more on Terpsichore refer to the discussion of Carl Lewis page on page 54, Terpsichore was the muse of dance and body movement.
  • Catch a Wave: the rise, fall & redemption of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson (2006), Peter Ames Carlin, Rodale books, p.271
  • It’s the gift that keeps on taking by Emma Brockes, The Guardian 11th April 2009
  • Lucky Man: A Memoir (2003), Michael J. Fox, Ebury Press p.255

Orcus Unleashed!

I am very excited to announce the publication of my first book whose subject is the phenomenally important transneptunian body, Orcus. It has taken three years to get this far (I started researching Orcus seriously in 2009) and I am delighted to be able to share this knowledge with the wider astrological community, who, I very much hope, will continue the work of bringing Orcus into the mainstream of astrological study.

In my view, the importance and impact of Orcus cannot be underestimated. He is, in every aspect, as profound, meaningful and effective in the nativity as his twin, Pluto, and in many ways his influence is more prevalent.

This is only the beginning of the journey, and I hope to share it with all of the many kind and sensitive souls that have supported me over the last three years.

I would especially like to thank Steven Forrest, truly a genuine and generous man, for his advice and support, without which I am not sure I would have ever found the courage to release Orcus into the wild.

You can buy the book from, or for UK customers, the book is available here.