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.

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!