The Word-Play of Edward Lear

Today I found a blog post written by Roger Ebert on the anniversary of Edward Lear’s death, and it peaked my archetypal interest about this man. I wasn’t that familiar with Lear’s work, but as I read more I saw that he is most famous for writing the children’s poem The Owl and the Pussycat, which I remember loving as a young boy, and that he popularized the limerick form of poetry in the 1800s. He delighted in made-up words, puns and word- play, and became known for his absurdist sense of humor. His first collection of limericks was called A Book of Nonsense.

All of this started to set off archetypal alarm bells for me. These are all classic symptoms of the Mercury-Uranus archetype. And when I looked up Lear’s chart I was pleased to find that he was born with Mercury in a tight opposition to his natal Uranus (and also configured with his Sun, which fits his really shining with the energy and being famous for it).
Mercury of course relates to language, words, and communication generally, and Uranus is the principle of invention, playfulness, the unexpected, the trickster. When people are born with Mercury and Uranus in major aspects you often get people who, like Lear, have a gift for language, a quick wit, a capacity for inventing new words. Rick Tarnas gives many examples of people born with Mercury-Uranus aspects in his book Prometheus the Awakener: Oscar Wilde, James Hillman, e.e.cummings, and John Updike, amongst many others, all famous for their inventive use of language.
I particularly like the case of Anthony Burgess (born with Mercury conjunct Uranus), who wrote A Clockwork Orange. Burgess invented an entire slang language for that book, called Nadsat, with words and phrases like “droog,” “gulliver,” and “the old in-out.” Another great example is radio broadcaster Howard Stern (born with a tight Mercury-Uranus opposition) who is famous for his quick-wit and trickster-rebel use of language.

There was a Young Lady whose bonnet,


Came untied when the birds sate upon it;


But she said: ‘I don’t care!


All the birds in the air


Are welcome to sit on my bonnet!’



My experience as an archetypal astrologer was that I first had to learn a basic foundational understanding of each individual combination (Moon-Pluto, Mars-Neptune, Sun-Uranus, etc.), and I needed to have another astrologer who had already developed a sophisticated archetypal eye (for me this was Rick Tarnas) describe the astro-logic for each archetypal tendency (like with this case how Mercury-Uranus often correlates with word play and inventive use of language). But most importantly I needed to be shown many examples of famous individuals born with each combination in order to bring that archetype to life.

There was an Old Person whose habits,
Induced him to feed upon rabbits;
When he’d eaten eighteen,
He turned perfectly green,
Upon which he relinquished those habits.


The astro-logic is important, but once I was able to connect a particular archetype to a real-life example (whether to a famous person, or to someone I knew personally, or to my own lived experience of a transit or natal aspect) then the archetype began to become an embodied form of knowledge. With each new example I experience a form of “archetypal triangulation” where I can look at the archetype from multiple angles and vivify a deeper awareness. With each new embodied encounter with an astrological synchronicity my archetypal eye grows wider and I am able to see and recognize a particular archetype with greater clarity.

There was an Old Lady whose folly,


Induced her to sit on a holly;


Whereon by a thorn,


Her dress being torn,


She quickly became melancholy.

This example of Edward Lear now goes into my personal databank of experience with the Mercury-Uranus archetype, and every time I encounter that combination in the future I will be able to drawn upon a richer understanding. I will be able to remember the playful energy of The Owl and the Pussycat and the archetype will be alive in my consciousness.

Edward Lear’s birth data comes from Rodden’s Astrodatabank and is rated B data (the time comes from Lear’s own personal communication).
The three quoted poems, and the images with them are Lear’s, and are from his A Book of Nonsense, 1862.

Bill Keller Reveals the Behind-the-Scenes Wikileaks Drama

I read Bill Keller’s excellent essay “Dealing With Assange and the Secrets He Spilled” in the New York Times Magazine today. Keller is the executive editor of The Times, and he describes the behind-the-scenes process during the period they were reporting on the Wikileaks story this past year. It also addresses the aftermath of the reporting and readers response to the release of such sensitive information. The essay gave me great insight into the power and responsibility of the press, and is also a fun read about a very dramatic news story. Keller describes what it was like for The Times to work with Julian Assange during the reporting process, and it is great to read about the secretive dealings with this fascinating man. Keller writes about what it was like after the newspaper was first contacted by Assange and offered access to the Wikileaks documents:

The adventure that ensued over the next six months combined the cloak-and-dagger intrigue of handling a vast secret archive with the more mundane feat of sorting, searching and understanding a mountain of data. As if that were not complicated enough, the project also entailed a source who was elusive, manipulative and volatile (and ultimately openly hostile to The Times and The Guardian); an international cast of journalists; company lawyers committed to keeping us within the bounds of the law; and an array of government officials who sometimes seemed as if they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to engage us or arrest us. By the end of the year, the story of this wholesale security breach had outgrown the story of the actual contents of the secret documents and generated much breathless speculation that something — journalism, diplomacy, life as we know it — had profoundly changed forever.

What is cool for me as an astrologer is how this essay provides insight into different dimensions of the Mercury-Pluto archetype, and it is striking to find all of the Mercury-Pluto connections to the story. Keller himself is born with a Mercury-Pluto opposition (with Mars), and this is classic for someone who must make the ultimate decisions regarding the responsible use of the power (Pluto) of the press (Mercury). He is describing the role of journalism in a democracy and how newspapers provide the balance between the governments natural impulse to try to control and keep certain information secret, and the people’s right to know how the government is functioning.
He describes what he sees as a healthy natural struggle for the power over the free-flow of information. This is a classic Mercury-Pluto dynamic: the struggle over dangerous and powerful secret information. It is an archetype that seems to have a lot to do with spying (in the case of Keller’s essay, both the spying government, and the government being “spied-on” by Wikileaks), and I have often heard Rick Tarnas refer to the combination as “The Spy Thriller” archetype. You see the combo in the charts of many spy thriller novelists (like Ian Flemming who has the conjunction or John Le Carre who has the square). Interestingly, Keller describes Julian Assange (who has a tight Mercury-Pluto sextile) as being like a character from a Stieg Larsson novel, and Larsson is born with a Mercury-Pluto conjunction.
Keller’s essay basically explores the dialectic between the naturally secretive government, and the powerful press that helps correct for the potential misuse of government power. Keller quotes the Supreme Court ruling on the Pentagon Papers situation during the Vietnam War: “The government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.”
But Keller also explores how the press can misuse their own power, and he describes the great lengths that the New York Times and other papers went to protect the lives of people who might have been harmed by the release of the Wikileaks documents. Mercury-Pluto is an archetype that often brings an initiation into the power of words and the power of information, and it has something to do with how that power can either be used nobly or irresponsibly. The Mercury-Pluto archetype relates to how dangerous the Wikileaks documents could be (dangerous for the US government, dangerous for The New York Times, dangerous for Julian Assange, but especially dangerous for people whose names were contained in the documents), and Keller explores just how damaging they could have been if they were mishandled.
The most recent Wikileaks drama unfolded when The Times and other papers released the diplomatic cables documents on November 27th, 2010. There was a Mercury-Pluto conjunction (with Mars) in the sky at the time, and the conjunction has been operative the whole time that the story has been big in the news. We have had a particularly long Mercury-Pluto conjunction these past couple of months (due to Mercury stationing and going retrograde when it was in an exact conjunction with Pluto), and it is only now starting to move out of orb as Keller is publishing this essay (which is part of a larger book that is about to be released). Thus we have a classic Mercury-Pluto drama which has unfolded under a collective conjunction in the sky, and which is being described and reported on by a man who is born with a Mercury-Puto opposition.
Bill Keller’s birth information comes from Wikipedia. No time of birth, so chart is cast for noon.

Louis CK’s Hilarious

Louis CK has become one of my favorite comedians, and last night I watched his excellent new concert film called Hilarious. One of the things that stands out about CK’s comedy is his material about the challenges of being a parent. He has two young daughters, and he is extremely funny when he talks about how difficult it is to be a good parent to them.

CK has a Moon-Mercury-Saturn T-square (we don’t know his birth time, but because the alignment is so precise at mid-day, we know it is an operative configuration the whole day that he was born), and this alignment comes through again and again in the themes and tenor of his comedy.
We see it in a generally existential tone to his work, with many jokes about death, aging, and a sense of life as being mostly filled with suffering and banality. This is particularly related to his Saturn-Moon square which, when problematic, can be the “Life Sucks and then you Die” archetype (Jean Paul Sartre is born with the conjunction). It has something to do with the Saturn-Moon’s tendency to meet hardship (Saturn) when trying to satisfy one’s emotional needs (Moon). Often people with Saturn-Moon will have faced significant deprivation (Saturn) in their childhood (Moon), and this can be such a powerful imprint that it forms a kind of poverty consciousness. Interestingly, this archetype can manifest in a totally opposite way (as is often the case with archetypes), and it is also the combination you see in very emotionally mature (Moon-Saturn) people who have worked very hard (Saturn) to learn how to get their emotional needs met, and are able to take responsibility for those needs (rather than blame the world for not meeting them). But I digress…back to CK’s comedy.
In one very funny bit we see CK describing a conversation he has with his seven-year-old daughter. His daughter asks him “Daddy will the Earth always go around the Sun forever?” And before he can catch himself he responds “Well no, at some point the Sun is going to explode.” This of course is very upsetting to her, and she starts crying. In an attempt to comfort her CK adds “Oh honey, this is not going to happen until you and everyone you know has been dead for a very long time.” This is not helpful, and CK realizes too late that he has traumatized his daughter with the confrontation with her own death, the eventual death of everyone she knows, and the eventual destruction of the Sun (CK’s Sun-Pluto conjunction).
Note the many Saturn-Moon themes: the child’s innocence lost, the child confronting death, the sad little girl, the failure to protect the child from the existential dimensions of life, the parent making mistakes. It is also clear in this bit as well as other parts of the film that CK takes his responsibility as a parent very seriously, and that he feels the burden of that responsibility as a great weight. This is all classic Saturn-Moon material. When it is more positive, Saturn-Moon can be the responsible committed parent archetype: the hard-working parent willing to endure great hardships to protect and provide for their children.
It is also classic that CK’s conversation with his daughter would happen when she is seven years old. Seven years is of course a Saturn cycle, with Saturn moving ninety degrees every seven years. And it is classic for confrontations with the more existential dimensions of life to happen in coincidence with the Saturn cycle. The first Saturn square natal Saturn transit occurs around age 6 or 7, and it is very typical for a child to have their first really serious confrontation with the existential dimensions of the adult world at that age. The Saturn cycle can bring the experience of “forced maturation,” and here we have a story of a little girl forced to grow up too fast.
Here is a great clip from one of CK’s previous comedy films where he again explores some of the challenges of being a parent. There are many examples of CK’s Saturn-Moon here, but at the end of the clip we can really see the full T-square with Mercury coming through. CK is trapped in a conversation (Mercury-Saturn) with his child who won’t stop asking him questions. Mercury-Saturn can be the negative thought loop, the being stuck in a constantly repeating phrase, the experience of being unable to solve an intellectual problem. In the course of answering her questions he makes reference to many Saturn-Moon themes: his being neglected by his own suffering parents, his parents lost youth, the fact that we are all alone in the universe, that no one cares about us, and the inability to solve the ultimate existential questions of life.
CK does a lot of comedy bits where he is making fun of his own stupidity or someone else’s, and Mercury-Saturn is the combination of critical self judgement about one’s intelligence. With the Moon, it really fits how he makes humor out of describing what he sees as the stupidity of young children (and his own stupidity as a parent). In his new film Hilarious he describes a fight he has with his daughter who insists that Fig Newtons are actually called “Pig Newtons,” and again he is trapped in a meaningless conversation with a child having a stupid argument.
If we combine the Moon with each of the other planetary archetypes we get all of the various dimensions of what it can be to be a parent. CK is particularly possessed by and focused on the Saturnian dimensions of parenthood: the challenges, the responsibilities, the existential hard realities, but of course, there are many other experiences that being a parent can bring. Parents with the Jupiter-Moon combination might be more aware of the joy laughter and emotional richness that comes with parenting. Someone else who has Uranus-Moon might be particularly aware of the unpredictability of children, their disruptiveness as well as their precocious trickster playfulness. The Neptune-Moon parent might be more aware of the spiritual connection that can exist between parent and child, the sensitivities of children, the boundary issues in families. The Pluto-Moon parent might be particularly focused on the power dynamics that can exist between parent and child, the shadow dynamics within families, as well as the primal intensity of love that drives the parent-child bond.
The gift that astrology, and the archetypal perspective generally, can bring is the awareness of when we are trapped in a limited archetypal perspective. We can come to realize that we are possessed by an archetype, and then we can do work to move beyond the limits of that particular god’s point of view. As we move towards wholeness we are able to appreciate the full range of the human experience, and not limit ourselves to the projections of one narrow perspective. We may be born with a particular alignment (like CK’s Saturn-Moon) that has a very strong hold on us, but as we work with that energy and integrate the fuller range of its potential, we are able to move beyond the possession state and own the fuller range of archetypal potential that exists within each of us.
Louis CK’s birth data found on Wikipedia (no time, noon chart).
I don’t know how long it will be there, but the film “Hilarious” is currently posted on YouTube.

The Pacific: WWII miniseries

I’m a big fan of war films when they are done right. I love films like Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Platoon, and many others. I love the heroism that is often on display in these movies, and I appreciate the drama and intensity that I am able to experience from the safe distance of the movie theater. I think these films resonate with my own natal Mars square Jupiter (aligned with my ascendant), which can be the archetype of the principled (Jupiter) warrior (Mars), and the celebrated war hero/ the honored soldier (someone like John F. Kennedy has a Mars-Jupiter conjunction and it fits his war hero status and his barrel-chested confidence). Mars-Jupiter is an archetype that is drawn to adventure and when I watch these films that part of me is deeply satisfied.

In this past week I have been taking in Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg’s powerful miniseries The Pacific on BluRay, and I have been deeply impacted by it. I think it is probably one of the most intense portrayals of the intensity and horror of war that has ever been filmed. It focuses on the stories of three Marines and their experiences in the pacific theater of World War II. We get to know these marines intimately and we are able to see how deeply they are transformed by their experiences on the battlefield. It is very moving. The battle sequences are as intense as the famous sequences in Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, but here they are sustained over the full period of a ten hour mini-series.
The war genre in film is most related to the Saturn-Pluto complex, and Richard Tarnas explores this archetype at length in Cosmos and Psyche. The history of major wars regularly coincides with major hard aspect alignments of Saturn to Pluto, and Tarnas gives many examples of this. World War I began under a conjunction, World War II under a square, The Cold War under the next conjunction, The Vietnam War escalates under the next opposition, and more recently 9/11 and the beginning of the War on Terror began under the last Saturn-Pluto opposition. We also regularly see the release of major films about war either under collective Saturn Pluto hard aspects, or they are directed by people born with Saturn-Pluto hard aspects.
Saturn-Pluto can be one of the harshest combinations and it has something to do with the confrontation with the darkest dimensions and potentials of the human psyche. It can be the journey into the “heart of darkness,” and the confrontation with evil. It also seems to deal with such themes as trauma and the journey to overcome trauma. All of these themes are explored in The Pacific, and we see the main characters deeply impacted by their confrontation with the relentless horrors of the battlefield. Saturn-Pluto can be an archetype that is often present when an individual or a collective has a loss of innocence and is forced to face the harshest realities of life, and we see the Marines in this series transform from innocent boys to deadly serious men in the course of a few hours of battle. Saturn-Pluto is also the archetype of “gritty realism,” and often it is behind some of the most brutally realistic portraits of fear and violence, as it is in this miniseries.
Both Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg are born with tight Saturn-Pluto Hard aspects (Spielberg is born with the conjunction in 1946, and Hanks is born under the next square in 1956). They formed a deep bond during the filming of Saving Private Ryan, and then they wanted to continue to shine a light on the drama of World War II and so together they produced the first miniseries Band of Brothers, focusing on the war in Europe. This series was first televised on HBO starting in September of 2001 just days before 9/11 under the Saturn opposite Pluto that was then coming into an exact alignment. It is striking that they would make this next miniseries The Pacific, under the very next Saturn-Pluto alignment, this time the square of 2008-2011. The miniseries was first aired on HBO in March of 2010 with Saturn tightly square Pluto in the sky. Thus both of the major producers of the two series are born with tight Saturn-Pluto hard aspects and they release the two series under subsequent Saturn-Pluto alignments. It is remarkable how these things are orchestrated, and it never ceases to amaze me.
It is worth noting that prior to Band of Brothers perhaps the most celebrated television miniseries to focus on World War II was called The Winds of War, and that series was first televised in February of 1983 under a tight Saturn-Pluto Conjunction.
I think it is also important to note that both Spielberg and Hanks also have Jupiter-Pluto hard aspects (Hanks has the conjunction, and Spielberg the square). And their projects all powerfully have the stamp of that archetype as well. It can be the archetype of “Moral-Power” (Jupiter has to do with higher moral principles, and Pluto brings the deep power), and all three of Hanks and Spielberg’s WWII projects could be summarized as moral power being confronted with the the human potential for shadow/evil: in some cases succumbing to the shadow, and in other cases triumphing over it. It is also important to stress that the positive Saturn-Pluto potentials are also on display in these works. Saturn-Pluto at its best has something to do with extreme potentials for strength, fortitude and courage in the face of overwhelming ordeals. It can be the archetype of sisyphean torment, but it is also precisely the strength and endurance necessary to meet the challenge.