The Equinox feels like a good time to ponder the way in which time is organically embedded in the fabric of the living world, and its symbolic correspondences. This insight would seem obvious to most of our premodern ancestors. The so-called Venus of Laussel, for example, a figurine carved in limestone and sprinkled with red ochre some twenty thousand years ago, rests her left hand on her swelling/waxing belly, and holds a curved/waxing horn incised with thirteen notches. Since the Moon waxes for thirteen days between the first crescent and Full Moon, and there can be thirteen cycles in an observational lunar year, this gesture almost certainly celebrates an association between the Moon, fertility in nature, and motherhood. Jules Cashford comments: ‘a more eloquent testimony to the unity of celestial and earthly orders would be hard to find’. The Moon makes time measurable, and causes living forms to wax and wane. Mircea Eliade refers to these basic rhythms as ‘Living Time’.
I was fortunate to meet the late Charles Harvey, an eminent late twentieth century British Astrologer. He used to point out that we’re much more likely to be able to see planetary principles at work in the world around us than Sun signs. There’s a considerable degree of consistency in planetary lore across astrological traditions (that often disagree about other horoscope factors) stretching back to Ptolemy, or even Mesopotamia. Ultimately the roots of Western Astrology recede into the depths of prehistory. Engaging with just one or two planetary principles can be a lifetime’s work.
When approached carefully, and with due respect, astrology can provide a powerful symbolic map of the significance of a moment. Here is one such map, showing the positions of the planets at the time of a memorable Spring Equinox meditation fourteen years ago, that turned out to be biographically important. I hope the following brief note does justice to it as an example of ‘testimony to the unity of celestial and earthly orders’.
Contemporary Western astrology accords prominence to any celestial body on one of the angles (at each end of the horizontal and vertical axes) of a horoscope. Turning to this map, my attention is drawn to the Moon, on the midheaven, and to Pluto, Lord of the Underworld or Dark Mother, rising in his/her own sign Scorpio, and thus ‘ruling’ this horoscope as well as ‘the Great Place Below’. Pluto signifies the principle of Moira/Fate, or Necessity, that we find personified in underworld deities such as Hades, Dis Pater, Ereshkigal, Kali, or Maasaaw.
In the meditation, I received (rather than constructed – the distinction is important) some unusually vivid imagery of Kingfishers, a bird I had been strongly attracted to over the previous few months. At the time I was unaware that my mother had long identified with the species. Over the next two years or so the appearance of Kingfishers in the flesh, and in dreams, came to be associated with her struggle with cancer, and eventual death, and with my own process of bereavement. With the benefit of hindsight I can now see that this horoscope, with its angular Moon (the mother) and Pluto (transformation/death), prefigured this unambiguously.
Another striking feature of the chart is a close conjunction between Saturn (giver of form, boundaries, limits, the material real) and Neptune (boundless unity, water-mother, the flood, dream-time, meditative vision). Referring to this planetary combination Liz Greene talks about ‘the gift of incarnating vision’. The conjunction therefore seems to describe both the process of meditation, the condensation (Saturn) of visionary images (Neptune), and the content of those images. Because Saturn is concerned with the restrictions of Old Age, The Fisher King comes to mind. Unsurprisingly, Kingfishers are also associated with flood mythology. Another image evocative of Saturn-Neptune is the walled garden of Paradise, with its crystal streams. Turning to Liz Greene again, she writes: ‘paradise is the world of the already-born, immersed in the bliss of the breast’.
This biographically significant map is moored to my natal horoscope by Neptune, which makes a partile – exact to the degree and minute of arc- ‘square’ (90 degree aspect) to it’s position at the moment I was born. The Sun in this horoscope illuminates the position of the Moon at the time of my birth. That, no doubt, is why, around the time of the Spring Equinox, I remember my mother, and think about the Kingfishers, who are out there, at this very moment, laying their next clutch of eggs.
I’ve written about my affinity with Kingfishers at:
Note: Two planets simultaneously occupying two of the angles in a chart are said to be ‘in paran’ (in paranatellon). Such double crossings are regarded as symbolically powerful. The Moon and Pluto in the above chart are also in quintile aspect.
Note: good astrological practice is not about making loose definitions fit the task at hand. I recently spent a full day writing a post about another significant moment, only to find, on checking my diary, that, ten years ago, I’d made a mistake when recording the date. The piece had to be scrapped!
Jules Cashford, The Moon, Myth and Image, Cassell Illustrated, 2003.
Nick Campion, The Dawn of Astrology, A Cultural History of Western Astrology; Vol 1 – The Ancient and Classical Worlds, Continuum, 2008.
Liz Greene, The Astrology of Fate, George Allen and Unwin, 1984.
Liz greene, The Astrological Neptune, and the Quest for Redemption,Samuel Weiser, 1996.