Astrology & the Financial Markets

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to join a 90-minute Zoom presentation, Markets & Mundane Astrology. It was given by Gianni Di Poce, a financial astrologer based in the United States, and hosted by Astrology University.


The following is under no circumstances to taken as financial advice either from myself or Gianni. It is offered only in the spirit of exploring the effect the planets have on the markets. 

PlanetMarket Rulership
SunGold and business executives
MoonSilver & real estate
MercuryMedia, autos, and transportation
MarsSteel, weapons industry, defence, and irons (smelting)
Saturn Real estate (infrastructure), agriculture (equipment), commercial real estate, construction, and labour
UranusTechnology & the Internet
NeptuneCrude oil, pharmaceuticals, and drugs
PlutoBonds/debts (especially debt restructuring), the black market, taxes, and back-room deals
JupiterRefined oil, banks, airlines, and international commerce

Interest Rates & Inflation

A key indicator of overall market momentum is bond prices, which usually have an inverse relationship to interest rates: when interest rates fall, bond prices increase and vice versa. 

In tracking bond prices concentrate on 10-year US Treasury Notes as they are the least effected by actions taken by the American Federal Reserve Bank (‘the Fed’). Keep in mind that the Fed has always dominated the short-term American bond market. It also worth noting that globally, most central banks like the Fed have recently been engaged in Quantitative Easing (QE), a process by which they purchase predetermined amounts of government bonds and other financial assets to inject cash into the economic system. This means the Fed is now a major player in the long-term bond market.

For the Fed, this began in November 2008. But by the early 2010’s the Fed had commenced a tapering program (thereby acknowledging the dangers of inflation), whereby they began to ease of their QE plan. Will this continue as planned?  Quite possibly not. Watch what happens when Venus turns retrograde in mid-December 2021. 

Gianni reminds us that interest rates are basically a function of (1) inflation, (2) demand for money (i.e. people are willing to borrow to buy now to avoid higher future prices), and (3) risk premium faction (lenders charge higher interest rates for weaker borrowers).  It is worth noting that like many other central banks the Fed has been engaged in a Zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) following the Great Recession (2007-2009). This has affected both inflation and bond prices, leaving us currently with a steepening Yield Curve (longer-term bonds yield higher return) suggesting investors expect rising inflation and stronger economic growth in the near future. 

With the planet Jupiter coming into conjunction with Neptune in April 2022, inflation is most certainly in the cards. Also note that after deflation, necessarily comes inflation and the Saturn/Pluto cycle is a huge indicator of this. When the planetary pair were both in Capricorn (2018-2020), it was no accident that we experienced hyper deflation and just now we are coming out of this. Gianni anticipates that inflation will be on the rise from April 2022 perhaps all the way through 2024/25, when Jupiter enters Gemini.

Take away: in the coming months, we can expect interest rates and inflation to be on the rise. Pay attention to the bond markets to see how this will be received by investors. In general, as the price of bonds fall, the equity markets benefit and share prices rise. 

Geopolitical Instability & the US Dollar

With higher inflation, comes the danger of hyper-inflation, which could negatively impact the currency markets. One only has to look at what happened in Weimar Germany between 1921-1923 to see how much misery was created with an impossible rise in prices. Many have been predicting a similar fate for the US Dollar. After all, it was a mix of high inflation and huge national debt that brought Weimar Germany to its financial knees and the national debt of the United States is at an all-time high. 

Gianni acknowledges that the combination could be dangerous for the dollar but in his view, the fact that the dollar is currently the world reserve currency (i.e., it is the currency of choice for other central banks and major financial institutions for international transactions) precludes hyperinflation. However, reserve currency can be lost. It’s happened before. For example, the £UK lost its position as the world reserve currency to the $US as the result of the geopolitical instability that followed in the wake of WWI.

Naturally, this did not happen all at once. But as the rest of the world sought political and economic security, it became clear this was no longer to be found in troubled Europe. Could the $US be replaced? For example, might political and economic security be found instead in the Chinese CNY or RMB or even Bitcoin, over the next few years? Anything is possible. The Chinese economy is projected to overtake the American economy perhaps even in the current decade and Bitcoin (and other crypto currencies) do enough significant freedom from political strife.

Although Gianni admits there are many in Washington who would like to see the dollar no longer the world’s reserve currency, in his view, this isn’t likely to happen. The Americans would loose the way of life to which they’ve become accustomed and politically that won’t be easy to sell. None the less, if unplanned geopolitical and economic instability is truly a significant factor in loss of reserve currency status and/or hyperinflation, the $US may be coming up to a big surprise. Gianni agrees with many astrologers that between now and 2025-6, as a stable nation state, the United States is in for a rough ride.

Civil war is a realistic possibility.

During that period, the US will suffer its first Pluto return, 2nd Neptune opposition, and 4th Uranus return. Typically such transit bring significant disruption – if not utter chaos – to everyday life. Do not forget that when the United States first broke from Britain, it suffered an ugly bout of hyperinflation. Pluto (dealing with debt and debt restructuring) returning to the same place as it was when the United States was first formed in 1776. This is not to mention that Neptune will enter Aries in the spring of 2025, and of course the last time that happen (to the day) marked the start of the Civil War, which itself was marked by an intense period of hyperinflation.

Will history repeat and, if it does, will it bring down the US dollar in an extended period of hyperinflation? For now, the only answer is to watch this space.

Take away: there is a reasonable chance that civil unrest in the United States will do significant damage to the value of the US dollar sometime between 2022-2025. Hyper-inflation is the most likely result. Play close attention as to how the American government deals with its spiralling national debt as well as cultural disagreements within its own borders. We may see a taste of what is to come as early as mid-February 2022 (first hit of the Pluto return).

Market Momentum 

  • Except for the Corona Crash in March 2020, when the share markets lost 40% of their value almost overnight, the equity markets have been on a bullish trend since 2017. There is every reason to believe that there is still some upward play in this rally. However many believe that the rally is now in process of maturing and when it does, there will be between a 10-20% correction in equity prices. This may come as early as December December 2021 – January 2022, when Venus (which rules stock exchanges) turns retrograde. Venus retrogrades have a history of bringing sharp market reversals. Until then, there may be a significant amount of sideways movement in prices. Mercury goes retrograde 27 September through mid-October; this usually manifests in ‘frothiness’ (i.e. uncertainty/indecision) in the market during which shares tend to have false moves both up and down as well as sideways trading.
  • Crude oil prices hit a generational low in April 2020. Indeed 2020 was a year of many firsts. But now oil and gas prices are on the rise and for the foreseeable future (unless another ‘black swan’ event like Covid occurs), expect this upward trend to continue. 
  • Bitcoin and similar alternative currencies are here to stay. Prices are now beginning again to rally. This won’t go on forever and we might expect some market peaks as early as December 2021. As Pluto moves into Aquarius (as early as March 2023), we should look for digital currencies to overtake cash. Likewise, widespread adoption of block-chain technology, a digital form of record-keeping, which although mostly in the public domain is decentralised and so notoriously difficult to trace transactions.
  • Although interest rates are set to rise, this ought not to have a huge negative impact on house prices in the United States, at least not to the same extent it did in 2008-2009. 
  • Traditionally, gold and silver have been hedges against mounting government debt but at least with gold, that’s not lately proven the case. The market ahead looks better for silver than gold.
  • With three direct hits of Saturn square Uranus during 2021, we ought not to be surprised that the global ‘supply chain’ on many goods/commodities has been severely disrupted and because Saturn rules the labour market, shortages in labour ought to come as no surprise. We can expect a last hurrah with such disruptions for  Christmas 2021.
  • With Uranus moving through Taurus, we ought not to expect a settled market in anything (including cryptocurrencies) until at least June 2023, when Uranus enters the last decan of Taurus. 

Take away: expect continued disruptions in supply chain (including labour) at least until early 2022. Likewise, unsettled markets all around likely until 2023 and perhaps beyond. Watch what happens in the United States.

Finding Balance with the Cancer/Capricorn Polarity

According to Safron Rossi, astrologer and mythologist at Pacifica Graduate Institute, the psychologists James Hillman and Carl Jung were fascinated with the tension of opposites and the unions of ‘the same’. Astrology, this equates to zodiacal signs in opposition to each other. In this respect this duality provides essential information about the qualities you need to bring into balance in your life. 

At first, this seems an impossible task; after all opposites are, well, opposites, right? Do not underestimate the tension inherent in confronting that which we are not (i.e. the ‘other’). Keep in mind that the zodiac signs that play a prominent part in your charts format your perceptions of life. Yet another person will see things differently than do you. Can you both be right?

The short answer is yes and it is your job to constructively engage with this tension. When you do, you will have taken your first step toward psychological wholeness. This is because the themes inherent in the opposites of polarity not only highlight your blind spots but also offer you hidden gifts.

For example, I have Cancer rising and a whole lot of planet in my 4th natal house. This means that the following three essentially Cancerian themes significantly format the way I lead my life. 

  • Creativity – is a key theme for Cancer, especially feminine creativity relating to fecundity of the Great Goddess and the Moon’s monthly cycles of birth, becoming, and death. Think of the Greek goddess, Artemis, who although considered a virgin (i.e. sovereign unto herself), was closely associated with childbirth. Her associated myths suggest the daimon of Cancer is the need to make something manifest from the watery images of the lunar realm, which can occur in any number of ways. My preferred method is through writing fiction, which makes perfect sense considering that my personal Moon is in Gemini, the zodiac sign of journalists. My hidden gift in Capricorn is the ability to write in a way consistent with my own set of personal values as well as to keep faith and find the strength to persevere in the face of disappointment and rejection, which of course is an essential experience of all novelists. Capricorn brings his inspired visions into form through mastery.
  • Privacy – is another key theme for Cancer, which needs a solid and secure ‘home’ or ‘shell’ into which she can periodically retreat in order to rest and recuperate. The lunar cycle of constant change can make one weary. Little wonder then with all Cancerian and 4th house energy that I’ve spent a large part of my life searching for a place that ‘feels’ like home (Cancer is a water sign and so connected with feelings rather than thinking). This, no doubt, is how although born and raised American, I found myself rather happily living and working in England. I’ve been told that I’ve had many happy past lives here. I can believe it for it certainly feels like home. In Capricorn, I find the gift of securing a sturdy structure (bricks and mortar) that provides just the right balance of social integration and solitude. After all, writing good fiction is requires both an essential understanding of human nature and time spent with pen and paper.
  • Self-reflective consciousness – a final key theme for Cancer is to come to know herself as a differentiated individual. In this regard, this the natural progression from Aries (‘I am’) to Taurus (‘I ground’ the spark of Arian potential) to Gemini (‘I see’ through exploration and making of connections. The Moon is the planetary ruler of Cancer and the light of the Moon is reflected from the Sun. Thus the job of Cancer is to reflect make from her memories and experiences and come to know herself for the individual who has developed from those memories and experiences. This is not as easy it as may sound. The creativity of Cancer necessarily involves the constant giving of oneself. In this respect, Capricorn offers the ability to create boundaries – build walls – place restrictions on the how much Cancer gives away to ensure that Cancer has enough of herself for herself. How else is she to become a that differentiated individual? To this, I can relate. My 4th house planets are all in Libra and thus unless I call in the gifts of Capricorn, I’m all too likely to give everything I have to ‘others’ to keep the peace. Sometimes, you just need to say ‘no’.

Domesday

Most of us have heard about the 12th century Domesday Book, but few really know much about it. I was lucky enough to hear three separate lectures about it given Cambridge University’s Dr Philip Morgan and the following is what I’ve learned:

  • Actually, the Domesday Book is five separate books, or at least that’s where it stands today. Little wonder there’s some confusion about it as over the centuries few scholars have ever seen the book(s) but instead have had to make do with transcriptions provided by the guardians of the document (whoever and wherever that might be).
  • The plot thickens when you consider that there are three different ‘editions’ or translations available and so if you’re thinking you’ve seen a photo of the original document, you haven’t – what you’ve seen is a replica of one of these three editions:
    • In 1783, there was a demand for the Domesday book to be reprinted and the challenge was taking up by a man named Farley. As the original was in Latin (abbreviated Latin) supplemented by hand  scribbles, a whole new typeface had to be devised to accomplish this monumental task and as this was about the time that the original more or less disappeared from the public eye, (it is rumoured to be kept in a cool, dark place to preserve it for ‘future generations’), all later translations/editions are based on this Farley edition.
    • In the 1860’s, the Phillimore Edition was created using a process known as photozincograph. This edition featured the ‘original’ text (i.e. the Farley edition) in Latin as well as an English translation meant to make the work accessible to the masses.
    • In the late 20th century, comes the Alecto Facsimile, which was a huge project undertaken with the National Archives and National Public Documents Office. As it was leather-bound, it was  pricey.
  • We learn a bit about the origins of the Domesday Book from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (a contemporary work) which suggests that the Domesday Book was commissioned by the king (William the Conqueror) who, at his Christmas Court of Gloucester in 1085, had ‘deep speech’ with his counsel. He wanted to know how his kingdom was occupied and by which men as well as their relationship to each other and to him. The idea was that an invasion from the Danes was expected (although it didn’t happen) and he needed to know how he might raise taxes in order to fund a war. 
  • This was not a census and was  never meant to be. It also did not entail scribes roaming from village to village asking questions. The book was pulled together from existing ‘shire’ (county) ‘geld’ records ( i.e. taxation) and it was meant to be an index of who had what and where. Certain people were asked to show up at the Sessions (as usual) when certain disputes/discrepancies were resolved.
  • This led to a range of documents known as “Domesday Satellites – one example, known as Liber Exoniensis, for example, comprised the estate of records of the Bishop of Exeter. Don’t underestimate the confusion caused by translation – especially of abbreviations and if you are told by an estate agent that the property  you’re considering buy was named in the Domesday Book, think again because manor houses weren’t named as such – the records were much more interested in knowing who owned what (as well as who had owned it previously) with a view to raising the tax rates (known has ‘hides’) whenever possible, and in that respect the number of pigs and ploughs in a particular place (which was probably not a town or even an estate) were considered much more important. 
  • Finally, the book only came by its Domesday title circa 1180, when it is mentioned in the Dialogue of the Exchequer, a ‘faux debate’ between fictional master and pupil when it is apparently used as a metaphor for the Judgement Day – i.e. the last day before the resurrection when it suggests that the book will be ‘appealed to’ in this regard and can’t be ‘debated’. The assumption seems to be that the book is consulted regularly but that probably was not the case and the whole name might have been a bit of a muddle between the Latin and the English and the scribes who were tasked to draw it up as well as report back to Willem, who by the way probably did actually see it before he left in 1086 (and failed to return) although not likely in completed form. When the threat of Danish invasion disappeared, the pressure was off.

Anatomy of a mythological hero

What makes a true mythological hero? 

That depends not only on how one defines ‘truth’ but also on what one considers to be the primary function of myth. In this essay, I follow the lead of philosophical pragmatist, William James, who considers something as ‘true’ if, at any given time, it functions well as a working hypothesis (Blackburn, 49). I also define myth as a story (true or false) wherein some personality (divine, human, and/or animal) is involved in making something significant happen in a way that not only exerts a powerful hold over adherents but also supports theories meant to help make meaning of our lives (Segal, 3-9).

There is little doubt that Greek mythology continues to intrigue adherents several millennia after creation. I believe this has much to do with the role played by the mythical hero, which, as the OED (n, 1) suggests, is a man of ‘superhuman strength, courage, or ability, especially such a man who is ‘regarded as semi-divine’. In this essay, I will argue that it is the special role of a true mythological hero to inform man as to the nature of his relationship with the divine as well as to provide guidance as to how he might connect with it. I will illustrate my ideas using the psychological theories of CG Jung and three well-known heroic personalities of Greek myth.

Kerenyi (Heroes, 3) suggests that it is the function of the mythological hero to teach men something essential about the ‘glory of the divine’ in their humanity. Whilst gods exist in primordial time, the mythological hero is necessarily ‘of his own time’ and so in him, we find divinity ‘strangely combined with the shadow of mortality.’ Without this strange mix, mythological heroes would no longer be heroes but simply great men. So what does it take for a man to rise to the level of a mythological hero? To answer that question, Kerenyi (Heroes, 2) suggests we look to the psychological archetype of hero. 

Although most associate the concept of archetype with CG Jung, Freud likewise acknowledged the existence of  archetypes, although he knew them as phylogenetic prototypes (Adams, 107). Likewise, both Jung and Freud acknowledged something akin to a hero archetype that itself was intimately connected with myth (Segal, 83). But whilst for Freud heroism revolves around human parental relationships, for Jung it revolves around the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious (Segal, 83). In this respect, Jung echoes Kerenyi by suggesting that the archetype of the hero finds expression in overcoming ‘the monster of darkness’ and distinguishing itself through ‘deeds which point to the conquest of the dark’. Jung (Archetypes, 167) suggests that it is through the accomplishment of such deeds that the hero connects with his divinity – ‘And God said: ‘Let there be light!’

For Jungians, the gods symbolise the father and mother archetypes, representing a man’s relationship between the masculine and feminine sides of his personality respectively (Segal, 94). The problem is, however, that all archetypes remain outside our conscious control until sufficient psychological work has been undertaken to integrate them (Segal, 95). For Jung (Archetypes, 164), this work of integration belongs to the child, the motif of which is pure potentiality. Specifically, Jung notes that sometimes the ‘child’ looks like a child god and sometimes more like a young hero; but whilst the god remains wholly supernatural, the hero archetype represents the ‘human raised to the limit of the supernatural’. In other words, for Jung (Archetypes, 166) the hero archetype represents man’s potential for synthesis of (1) his unconscious divine into (2) his consciousness. Until one has become ‘psychologically house-trained’ such that the contents of the unconscious have become conscious, men are ‘possessed’ by ‘complexes’ which express themselves as ‘hysterical’ women’, ‘true disturbers of the peace’ (Jung, Essentials, 122-123).  In this regard, hysterical suggests ‘a state of mind marked by an ‘exaggerated rapport’ with persons in the immediate environment’ (Purrington, 2020).

How might this work in practice? Consider that Homer’s Iliad starts with an angry dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon over the ownership of a woman. Indeed, the whole plot centres on a war, during which 240 gory battlefield deaths occur in a 52-day period, which was launched in anger to recover a stolen woman. When Achilles, the star ‘hero’ of the Iliad, fails to get what he wants he does not sort it for himself but instead runs for help from his divine mother, Thetis. When finally Achilles overcomes his sulky tantrum and re-joins the fighting, he frenziedly mutilates the body of Hector, the Trojan who killed his best friend, Patroclus. The gods are offended. It strikes me that if a hero is serious about connecting with his divinity, he ought to fight his own battles rather than turning for divine assistance from mummy. Likewise, he ought not to go out of his way to offend the gods. Nonetheless, Achilles is lucky. Because he is a warrior or therapõn, a ritual substitute for the god Ares, in the moment of his death, he  achieves his divinity (Nagy, 842).

Homer’s Odyssey ups the ante for bad behaviour when the ‘hero’, Odysseus, slaughters 108 young men and 12 slave girls more or less, just because he wants to do. This suggests that Homer’s Greek ‘hero’ is little more than a hyper-emotional war lord for whom others are objects to be manipulated at will. Likewise, these heroes are allowed not only to self-righteously demand whatever they want whether or not morally justifiable, but also to behave like petulant children as do their gods (Browne). ‘Hysterical’ women and ‘true disturbers of the peace’, indeed. I would argue that overall, Homer’s heroes have made little headway toward psychologically integrating their divinity into consciousness. Nonetheless they remain heroes, although Odysseus, for reasons too complex to address in this essay, may well not be representative of an ordinary mythic hero (Russo, 254). Jung (Archetypes, 167) confirms their hero status by noting that the hero archetype carries with it an unusual paradox in that although the hero triumphs great perils with ease, ‘something quite insignificant is his undoing’. Witness Achilles; killed by a poison arrow in his heel, his only vulnerability. In some versions of that  story, it was the god, Apollo, the most offended by Achilles’ outrageous behaviour regarding Hector, who guided that arrow. Likewise Odysseus, who once rejected Circe’s offer of immortality, ‘accidently’ dies at the hands of the son he fathered on her.

Arguably, Heracles does better than Homer’s crew. As noted earlier, Jung believed that hero archetype finds expression in overcoming ‘the monster of darkness’.  Certainly in his labours, Heracles triumphed over many monsters and, according to Kerenyi (Heroes, 141), he did so in pursuit of the darkness of death itself. Might it be that in accomplishing these tasks, Heracles was well on his way to becoming ‘psychologically house-trained’ despite that hysterical incident in which in a fit of divinely inspired madness, he massacred his first wife and their children? Jung (Archetypes, 171) seems to suggest that he was. This is because Heracles represents the ‘bondsman’ or ‘thrall’, a position that ‘generally leads up to the real epiphany of the semi-divine hero’. Perhaps this is why, as Jung (Archetypes, 123) points out, Heracles is presented with the opportunity to end his human suffering and ‘step into the consuming fire of the flame of immortality’? Equally, however, this opportunity may only have been the result of having been ‘unwittingly adopted by Hera’ (Jung, Archetypes, 45). Regardless, Heracles is confirmed by Jung (Archetypes, 167), as a true mythological hero because despite having triumphed great perils, like Odysseus and Achilles, he meets his mortal end through something insignificant, in this case a gift from his wife.

In conclusion, my working hypothesis of what makes a true mythological hero or heroine is based on my understanding that a primary function of myth is to help adherents make meaning of their lives. For Jungians, this boils down to becoming ‘psychologically house-trained’, or successfully integrating one’s unconscious divinity into consciousness. For guidance as to how this works, we turn to the exploits of the mythological hero, who in ancient Greek mythology was forced to directly deal with the actual divine. According to Jung, the true mythological hero will have achieved the required psychological house training when he no longer behaves like a hysterical woman. Homer’s heroes, who carry on like hyper-emotional war lords throughout both the Iliad and Odyssey, demonstrate how extremely hard this is to accomplish. Other heroes, like Heracles, may do better but still do not quite get it right.  Nonetheless, they all still remain true mythological heroes because they have distinguished themselves with regards to great ‘deeds which point to the conquest of the dark’ (Jung, Archetypes, 167). In doing so, they have imparted to adherents of the myths something essential about connecting with ‘the glory of the divine’ in their humanity: to wit, for the most part, this is nigh impossible to achieve during lifetime, may not be worth the effort, and all too often, it is left to the luck of the draw.

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Bibliography

Adams, MV (2008). The archetypal school. In P. Young-Eisendrath & T Dawson (Eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Jung (2nd ed., pp. 107- 124). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Blackburn, S (2006). Truth: A Guide for the Perplexed. Penguin. 

Browne, S (2021). Ancient myths and ancient men: Homer, Virgil, and being a hero [Online lecture – ICE, University of Cambridge Virtual Summer Festival] https://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/ancient-myths-and-ancient-men-homer-virgil-and-being-hero (available through 6 September 2021).

Jung, CG (1990). The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (RFC Hull, Trans). Bollingen Series XX, Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1959).

Jung, CG (1998). The Essential Jung: Selected Writings (A Storr, Ed.). Fontana Press. (Original work published in 1983). 

Jung, CG and Kerenyi, C (1985). The Science of Mythology (RFC Hull, Trans.). Routledge. (Original work published 1941).

Kerenyi, C (1997). The Heroes of the Greeks (HL Rose, Trans.). Thames and Hudson. (Original work published 1959). 

Nagy, G (2011). Lyric and Greek Myth. In RD Woodard (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [Kindle version] Retrieved from Amazon.com

Purrington, Mr. (2020, May 6). Carl Jung on ‘Hysteria’ Lexicon. Carl Jung Depth Psychology. https://carljungdepthpsychologysite.blog/2020/05/06/carl-jung-on-hysteria-lexicon/#.YQfkvi1Q2ek

Russo, J. (2008). A Jungian analysis of Homer’s Odysseus. In P. Young-Eisendrath & T Dawson (Eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Jung (2nd ed., pp. 253-268). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Segal, R. (2015). Myth: A Very short Introduction (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.

The Astrology of September 2021

Summary

The beginning of the month starts off light and easy – harmonious and bright. Expect breakthroughs and moments of welcome illumination. If you’ve been feeling as if your life hasn’t been on the right track, this could be a time when it starts coming together. But as the month goes on, little cracks start to appear in the cement. The brightness and harmony may quickly go out the window – deals and agreements and understandings that you’d thought were sealed, start to unravel and there won’t be much you can do about it. We’re starting to see the set-up for the end of this year which, come December, will not be pretty.

Details

  • 1 September – Mars opposite Neptune  – this often has correlation with martyrs – i.e. dying/fighting and putting personal sacrifice into a cause into which one champions – there’s a sense of calling and/or purpose – consider this as the ‘Joan of Arc’ transit – alternatively, we might feel at a loss for finding a worthwhile cause or, even if we do, we feel helpless to achieve that which we’d like. Avoid manipulative manoeuvres – your own or being the ‘victim’ of those of others. 
  • 5 -7 September –  Venus trine Jupiter – this is great stuff – Venus is in good shape in Libra and as the evening star, is perfect for dealing with others. Expect harmony, benefit, prosperity, and abundance. Also excellent for business deals, social relationships, and even romance. With Jupiter in retrograde, there may be a feeling of reconciling or resolving troublesome issues from the past. A shift in momentum forward. Just, beware, however, of indulging (and or spending) too much. 
  • 13th September – Sun opposite Neptune – don’t be surprised if you’re faced with questions about where your life is headed – what do you want to achieve and how might you best achieve it? If it feels like you’ve been stagnant, this could be a time for breakthroughs and illuminations. You might even have a moment of illumination. Could be good stuff – again, however, ensure you don’t go overboard. Your mission is your mission but others may not be as inspired as are you.
  • 22 September – Mercury square Pluto – this is an important moment because soon Mercury will be turning retrograde (28th September) – This square goes back and forth (Mercury is stationing) into the beginning of October. The image is one of a bright morning star heralding day break and then stopping – and turning back, heading back into the underworld. Expect revelations – insight – something coming from a dark space – the unconscious – perhaps something you do not want to hear – or something that has been hidden – lies/deception exposed – this will play out over a couple of weeks. Stay as diplomatic as possible (Mercury is in Libra) – it might not be easy though because power games are definitely in play. 
  • 22 September – Sun moves into Libra – the key strength of Libra is social intelligence and this year using it to maximum advantage is more necessary than usual. No one lives in a vacuum so think and act like a team player and although the temptation may be to work solely for yourself, it actually is better for all involved if you work for the benefit of the team as a whole.
  • 23 September – Venus opposite Uranus – this could be a potential challenge for all relationships – tricky diplomacy – strategic, but stormy. Venus is debilitated in Scorpio. This might be a moment of destabilisation and change. This could happen in both the personal and political arenas it doesn’t come out of the blue however – look to where the fault-lines have already been shown. The point is that you might have thought you could cement them, but with this energy, this likely will not prove to be the case.

The Poison Garden

The beginnings of a fantasy tale:


The gravel path winding up the steep slope narrowed. Our progress was further hindered by rivulets of rain. As the downdraft pitched toward its icy crescendo, I zipped up my parka and shook my head. The late autumn sky, a slab of blue grey shot through with pure white, promised worse to come. As we’d planned this essential research project more than two years in advance, I could only imagine how much Boreas, that cruel north wind, was enjoying his show. 

“Atropa Belladonna, she is deadly nightshade,” droned our guide, a pimply-faced lad whose Latin was far better than would ever be his English. He pointed to a purple flower flapping like a flag atop a stalky green pole.  “Here on left is Aconitum, he is wolf’s-bane, and if you drink his juice, you forever fall asleep, amen.”

As my colleagues inched forward,  I held back. I was desperate to add a sketch  of Aconitum to my collection. With a single sweep of my charcoal pencil, I captured the essence of the two upper petals peeking out from beneath their hood. From experience, I knew that at their crown was a hollow spur filled with ambrosia, their honeyed nectar. I leaned closer. Might I not just once break the rules and push back that damson-coloured cap to gain a better view?  Reluctant to fall further behind in such bad weather, I elected, instead, for artistic improvisation.

By the time I’d caught up with the rest of the group, our guide was relating how the most dangerous of the ninety-six poisonous plants currently in residence at Hermaia Gardens were housed in giant cages made of a secret alloy of gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Nothing could get in; nothing could get out. Voila, more or less instant immortalisation. There is, however, one drawback.  From the myths of old, we all know  that immortality equates to invisibility. The placard said the Cherry Laurel, prunus laurocerasus, in this cage was from Thebes in Boeotia. If we could see it, we’d fully appreciate that this specimen was more than two-thousand years old.

“It’s a lie.” Nychois, one of my least clever colleagues, pushed forward. “There’s nothing in there. It’s an empty cage.”

“It…it transparent”, stuttered our guide.

“There’s only one way to find out,” declared Exapatas. “Go ahead, touch it, Nychois.”

“No,  not, touch,” shouted our guide. “It kill you!”

“I tell you there’s nothing in there but even if there were, we’re all botanists,” replied Nychois. “Not only are my  gloves bullet-proof but we each carry every possible antidote right here in our bags.”

“This one old,” insisted the guide. “No cure.”

“Nonsense,” prompted Exapatas. “Go ahead, Nychois. I dare you.”

As Boreas kicked into gale force,  my colleague knelt and rattled the cage. He turned to stone. Exapatas fainted. The remainder of our group turned and ran. Squeezing shut his eyes, guide stood tall, his hand clasped in prayer. Madly, I rummaged through my antidote bag for something, anything, that might counteract what I reasoned must have been a practical joke, gone wrong. Little could I have known that coming to terms with what had just happened would consume the next twenty-three and one-half years of my earthly existence. 

(to be continued, maybe…)

A Feminist Reading of Jason & his Heroic Argonauts

For a course, I’ve been revisiting the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, which most of us will remember as a heroic tale of adventure and courage in which the charmingly handsome Jason undertakes a dangerous quest with his fellows to recover the Golden Fleece. 

Most of us may also remember that however heroic and courageous Jason might be, he could never have succeeded without the help of the princess, Medea, who lucky for him is a powerful witch. In gratitude, Jason takes Medea home and marries her but then, tiring of this part of his adventure, seeks a new one in marrying a different princess. In a fit of anger and revenge, Medea turns against him and for all involved, things go terribly wrong.

There are many ways to look at this story and what it might mean for us today. Just for fun, I’ve chosen to take a feminist approach – let’s see how that might go, shall we?

One of the primary concerns of feminist literary critique is how socially constructed gender roles contribute to ‘self-making (i.e., what makes someone who he or she is). In this respect, it is important to remember every text brings to itself some form of sexual politics – i.e., an assumed relationship between male and female because however portrayed, ‘otherness’ is always implicit. 

The goal of feminist literary critique is not to destroy thousands of years of western literary tradition but instead, to reinterpret and rethink it especially in regarding stereotyping and the collusion between audiences in maintaining covert stereo-typed assumptions about gender roles. 

As Natalie Haynes points out in her recent book, Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, if Clytemnestra is the worst wife in Greek myth, Medea lays claim to being the worst mother. From the start, Haynes reminds us, Medea, who is a barbarian, is dangerous; she’s clever, foreign, female, and magical. Haynes also reminds us that there were few things that alarmed Greek men more than a clever woman and arguably, Medea is cleverest of all. 

This lays the groundwork for Medea to be portrayed as a scheming menace to society. Arguably, she is more much more dangerous than the warrior race of women, the Amazons. At least put all their cards on the table along with their (male-inspired) weapons. As the result, doubtless hundreds of generations of readers have taken on board that women are dangerous – especially witches. For confirmation of this, you don’t need to look much further than the witch trials (and laws against witchcraft) both in Britain and New England to understand exactly how that has played out.

Imagine the negative self-image foisted upon women as the result – especially when, as did Medea, she might be considering using her ‘special gifts’ to help herself out. Talk about stereotyping; Jason says it all when he proclaims  that ‘women are so unreasonable: they cannot tell what is good for them’. The ‘otherness’ implied here is that, as a man, Jason is reasonable and knows what’s good for him but, as it turns out, he doesn’t. Nonetheless, in most versions of the story, Medea absorbs a larger share of the blame than Jason, right?

But today, we are able to ‘rethink’ the message inherent in Medea’s story. For example, as self-proclaimed witch, Laurie Cabot, made clear in her bestseller – The Witch in Every Woman – all women possess the primal courage and strength of the Witch and so can use these special talents (she provides pages of spells and recipes and rituals) not only to improve their own self-image but also get what they want – the  name of the game as Cabot puts it is the Reawakening the Magical Nature of the Feminine to Heal, Protect, Create, and Empower. But did Haynes mention that? No, she didn’t, and I challenge you to name more than a handful of authors who choose to put (Medea’s) witchcraft in equally as positive a framework as has Ms Cabot. 

Yet the reality of that story is that in the end, Jason lost, and Medea won. In all the gender politics in play, we tend to lose sight of that. One way or another, he ended up dead or clinically depressed or on skid-row as she rode off in her grandfather’s solar chariot toward a new future. Was this because she was of divine birth, and he was not? It is my view that is not made entirely clear. Most portrayals of her are as a barbarian princess, not a goddess. Let us not forget the damage that language like that does without us even realising it. Although the word ‘barbarian’ today is defined as a ‘rude’ and ‘uncivilised’ person, to the Greeks it meant only that she was not Greek.

The covert message here is clearly that whilst men can use everything in their power to get what they want, women cannot. If you think that has changed much over the centuries, consider the antics of former American president Donald Trump regarding his treatment of ‘threatening’ women. Like Jason, in Trump’s eyes Trump should be revered as a hero and Hilary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi dismissed as ‘nasty’ (rude and uncivilised) women. He even goes so far as to suggest the American legal system is engaged in a ‘witch hunt’ when they make rulings intended to shed light on some otherwise very potentially dark shadows regarding him. If we think that people are not colluding in stereo-typed gender messages centre stage in that ancient story of Jason and Medea, consider how close Trump came to being re-elected as president.

Two Versions: which do you prefer?

For my Fantasy Writing course, I was asked to write about the circumstance during which my narrator first met up with a particular archetypal character. Two different voices were required – which do you prefer and why?

Version 1

I have never enjoyed traveling in public conveyances. It is most uncivilised to share such a cramped space with a complete stranger for hours and hours and hours on end. If one is truly unfortunate, as I was on that particular evening, one might, by necessity, even be forced to share one’s meal with another who heralds from a foreign land. The only good thing to be taken away from that entire experience was that whilst nibbling away on an egg and cress sandwich, I no longer could be expected to make polite conversation. 

Imagine my joy when at long last, my stopping train chugged into Boston’s fashionable red-brick and plate glass Back Bay Station. I breathed a welcome sigh of relief when after raising her gloved hand, that badly-dressed French woman with whom I been trading lies for six hours waved adieu. After directing my ladies maid to attend to my baggage, I alighted on the smoky station quay and was at long last, delighted to stretch my legs.

Although I had hoped to enjoy my first view of Copley Square, home to Trinity Church, America’s quaintly colonial nod to the superiority of European architecture, I was disappointed. A dreadful snowstorm originating from the very heart of Canada had in earnest, descended. It was impossible to see the nose on one’s face, much less anything beyond. Drawing my woollen cloak closer I followed the porter bearing my luggage. Poor luck, I told myself. Perhaps, with the grace of God, after I will have arrived safely at my cousin’s gracious home across the River Charles in Harvard Square, tomorrow will be brighter. 

Now, imagine my sorrow when after only a few yards, my carriage became stuck fast in the same icy white drift as the one before it.

“I am terribly sorry, Ma’am,” announced the driver, sticking his big head through the tiny window. “No further progress can be made. May I suggest that you and your travelling companion spend the night across the way at the Fairmont?”

Although I was not best pleased with the idea, there was little else that could be done. After the driver had arranged for my luggage to be conveyed across the street, I eased my cold fingers into my warm fur muff and prepared to make my exit. To this day, I cannot be certain how what happened next actually did happen.  Suffice it to say that when I turned around, I encountered not my maid but a clean-shaven, dark-skinned man, who was strangely attired in a black woollen tunic, black silk tights, and tight-fitting black leather gloves with cloth covered buttons. A black bolero hat, of the same type that I had seen the week before in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art sat squarely atop his well-shaped head. In his left hand, he clutched a pink papyrus scroll and in his right hand, a shiny silver caduceus, the kind that any well-educated gentleman or gentlewoman will instantly know is associated with Hermes, ancient messenger of the gods and psychopomp of the dead.

“Good evening, Madame,” he hissed. “Diaktoros at your service.”


Version 2

When first I laid eyes on Diaktoros, it was mid-winter; snow fell fast and thick and the frozen air was laden with the acrid smoke of designer fireplaces burning designer wood. I’d long been anticipating my visit to Boston’s Copley Square, home to Trinity Church. Because of its risqué Romanesque arches, pious Byzantine angels, and flying Gothic buttresses, the building has been one of America’s top ten architectural masterpieces for the last one hundred and sixty-three years. After an awe-inspiring article had appeared in a late 20th century Architectural Digest, that House of God has drawn a record one million visitors each and every day. 

That night, however, Copley Place was desolate, deserted. Little surprise. It was half-past midnight in the midst of a howling storm. Equally of little surprise was that moments after the bullet train upon which I’d just arrived had dashed onwards to Canada, I realised there were no taxis. Having never before visited this ancient city, named by the Puritans after the town in Lincolnshire from whence they’d emigrated, I was unfamiliar with the lay of the land. Under such circumstances, might I not be forgiven for failing to realise that The Westin Copley Place, the four-star hotel in which I was to take my sanctuary, was no more than a few yards off to my right?

Ruing my own foolishness for having mislaid my dagger during my journey, I turned left, and walked quickly toward the soft, pink glow of a distant streetlamp. But instead of encountering a busy hive of respectable commerce as anticipated, I found myself in what, in those days, was known as a marginal neighbourhood: one side of the street was gentrified whilst the other, was a ghetto. Since the beginning of time, marginality has been dangerous. Likewise, street crime was as rampant then as now. I needed to get out of there as soon as was possible. Leaning against that streetlamp, I consulted my old-fashioned plastic-coated map. A split second after tucking it back into my great coat pocket, I felt a gentle tug on my sleeve. With my heart leaping into my throat, I pinched my wrist, and gathered my courage. Slowly I turned to face whatever fate had chosen to deliver.

Imagine my relief when instead of finding bandits wearing Carnival masks and wielding sharp sabres, I was confronted with a clean-shaven, dark-skinned man, about my own height. He was modestly attired in a black woollen tunic, black silk tights, and black leather boots with cloth covered buttons. A black bolero hat, of the same type that had become wildly popular after last month’s Versace Autumn/Winter fashion show, sat squarely atop his well-shaped head. In his left hand, he clutched a pink papyrus scroll and in his right hand, a shiny silver caduceus, the kind that every schoolchild knows had been associated with Hermes, messenger of the gods and psychopomp of the dead. I tilted my head to one side, as was the custom upon meeting a stranger. After politely tipping his bolero in the direction from whence I’d just come, Diaktoros smiled and then vaporised, leaving a bevy of cooing white doves in his wake.

A Simpler Life – ancient Greek style

As an inhabitant in the world of Homeric mythology, unless I were a slave, my moral goal would have been to be αγαθός, which although oft translated as ‘good’, meant something very different than we might think of as good today. In that world, there was no overriding concept of good or evil (Morales, 39), terms that are much bandied about today yet virtually impossible to define (MacIntyre, 257). Might αγαθός offer a refreshingly simpler life than we enjoy today? I argue that it could.

I would be αγαθός by behaving in the way that successfully discharged my allotted social function (MacIntyre, 6). If, for example, I were a married woman, then I would be αγαθός if I were faithful to my husband (MacIntyre, 6). It matters not if the requisite αρετή (virtues) to be αγαθός are otherwise unjustified, dangerous, or even antisocial (MacIntyre, 11). Likewise, I might engage in similarly unpleasant behaviour and still be αγαθός. For example, when dissuading Agamemnon from stealing Briseis from Achilles, Nester tells Agamemnon ‘do not, αγαθός though you be, take the girl from him.’ (MacIntyre (8).

It is irrelevant whether αγαθός is impossible to achieve. In Homer’s mythical world, we encounter an idealised form of life (MacIntyre, 8) in which successful performance – a factual statement – of the requisite αρετή is all that matters. Helen is not faithful to her husband. It matters not why; therefore she is not αγαθός.

In such a world, it would be in my best interest to be αγαθός. If I failed then at best, I would be made to feel αίσχος, or ‘shame’, as was Paris when Hector found him in bed with Helen instead of fighting with the troops– ‘at the sight of him to shame him’, Hector gives him a lecture (Hom. Id. VI:88-91). As MacIntyre (8) reminds us, αγαθός for a warrior requires public display of courage and by being ‘aggrieved in private’, Paris fails the required display. It is through shaming, that Hector forces Paris to acknowledge his failure. At worst, I could end up dead as were Penelope’s hapless suitors upon the homecoming of Odysseus. MacIntyre (7) suggests that however horrible, their slaughter was morally justifiable because they had failed to display xenia, the αρετή (virtue) required of guests. As Odysseus points out, they ‘fleeced my house’, ‘raped my slave girls’, and ‘flirted with my wife’… ‘while I am still alive! (Hom. Od. 22.36-38 – emphasis added). Definitely not xenia.

Offering little personal freedom and allowing for no defense (MacIntyre, 7), being αγαθός may not appear desirable to modern westerners. We are used to something quite different. Nonetheless, aspiring to αγαθός, I would never be in doubt as to what I should do. Likewise, I would take no personal responsibility for the unforeseen consequences of my actions. Helen’s lack of fidelity was a significant cause of the Trojan war. Yet she is responsible for that infidelity and not for causing a war. As Priam tells her ‘you are not to blame, I hold the gods to blame for bringing on this war’ (Hom. Id. III:63-65).  

I suggest that by the ‘sloppy shoulders’ standards of a 21st century western citizenry burdened by exponentially expanding complexity and the existential angst of too much freedom and responsibility, αγαθός could offer a desirably simple alternative.

 

_____________________

Bibliography

Blundell, Sue. (1995). Women in Ancient Greece. London: British Museum Press.

Homer., Fitzgerald, & Homer. (2008). The Iliad. Oxford. Oxford World Classics. 

Homer., Wilson, E.R. & Homer. (2020). The Odyssey. New York; London: WW Norton & Company.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. (2002). A Short History of Ethics. London; New York: Routledge Classics. 

Morales, Helen (2013, online). Classical Mythology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford; Oxford University Press. 

The Astrology of August 2021

Summary

Life may feel as if it’s getting better but beware, not all your problems have been solved. Maybe you’ll need to drop back a bit and regroup and rework the thing. If so, breakthroughs regarding here-to-fore thorny issues are seriously possible. The trick to getting this right is to be completely honest with yourself. And, by the way, if things are starting to really go your way, do yourself a favour and resist the temptation to ‘shout it from the rooftops’. Private celebrations of your personal achievements would be the better way.

Details

  • 1 August – Mercury is cazimi – seated on the throne of a very dignified sun – empowered thought and speech – getting special privileges – gaining a seal of approval. Just don’t let your ego steer the ship – for example, taking credit for doing something that you didn’t actually do. 
  • 2nd August – the Sun opposes Saturn – this can bring challenges to your personal authority – a moment of creative contraction – a serious challenge – resist kicking out in frustration – instead, stop – evaluate – the feedback you’re getting – how do you want to change this or that or even your entire life?!
  • 6th August – the Sun squares Uranus  – well, if during the last few days you have been feeling challenged, now is the time for a breakthrough – euphony – ‘now it all makes sense’ – with a little bit of luck, you can move forward again. 
  • 8th August – New moon in Leo – the tide of accelerated growth starts now – new beginnings on the horizon – if you’ve now got it right from earlier delays and constraints, it’s time to move forward and become all the best that you, personally, can be. Take pride in your accomplishments – and celebrate them and yourself as amazing. If ever there was a time to deserve it, it’s now. 
  • 9th August – Venus opposes Neptune – Venus is now in Virgo and not a happy bunny – and so if you’ve not kept up your health and your home, you might struggle. It that happens, it’s time to deconstruct – figure out what’s not quite the way it ought to be and do something now about it. Don’t be surprised that in the process, you confront a bit of a mess. Don’t lose heart, at least not yet. In a couple of weeks, it might look better. In the meantime, try to understand why and how it all happened. 
  • 10th August – Mercury opposes Jupiter – don’t get carried away here – don’t be tempted to announce the world how great you are – you might well be great (and this time might well be showing you how) – but now isn’t the time to make a big deal about it. Accept what happens for what it is and if it’s good, then wonderful! Celebrate in private.
  • 16th August – Venus moves into Libra – now Venusian things start to feel much better – and move more smoothly – creative projects, love affairs, public (and private) relationships. What’s not to love about this energy?
  • 18th August – Mars conjoins Mercury in Virgo – perfect time for coming to terms with something that is especially complicated –problem solving and learning new skills and making intellectual breakthroughs – finally you ‘get it’ and so can move forward with confidence. About time, right?
  • 19th August – Sun opposes Jupiter – who or what is being marginalised in order to feed your ego? Authority figures can challenge you now but are they right or wrong, virtuous or corrupt? Make your own decisions on this and follow through accordingly. 
  • 22nd  August – Full moon in Aquarius – this could be a moment where you can see the future more clearly – how can you move forward and meet the challenges ahead – does the collective agenda fit with your own or not? Are you ready, willing, and able to give up some of your personal freedom to achieve greater things for others? 
  • 24th August – Mercury opposes Neptune – expect otherworldly solutions and insights – but do beware you don’t get bogged down with conflicts between faith and science. What do you really believe and most importantly, why do you believe it? Intuition might serve you well right now but don’t expect everyone else to agree with it. Conflict is a serious possibility.