Gustav Holst and ‘The Planets’ – Musings

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Photo by faaiq ackmerd from Pexels

English classical composer Gustav Holst’s most famous work, The Planets, is a testimony to his lifelong fascination for and interest in astrology.

From an early age, his step mother’s involvement with theosophy, inspired him to look beyond perceived reality and examine philosophy. Apart from being a composer, he was primarily a teacher and a trombonist.

Aquarius and astrology

When Gustav was born he had the Moon and Saturn rising in Aquarius. I think this says so much about him. Aquarius tends to be the individualist of the zodiac and anyone with a strong showing of this sign can be somewhat unusual. Holst’s fascination for astrology is quite typical in this regard.

Interestingly, in The Planets Suite, which was completed towards the end of the First World War, it is Saturn which I think is the most successful.

Saturn’s pain and peace

When I was younger I was an avid listener to this work and it was Saturn which most moved me, and I sense that it moved Holst too. This piece is composed like a musical poem and is subtitled ‘The Bringer of Old Age’.

It begins slowly, bleakly, mournfully, then panic sets in to a point of acceptance, which is followed by an unexpected peace as death approaches. It is still quite stunning to my ears, and I think Holst felt this very strongly – fitting then that Saturn should be so prominent in its own sign and on the ascendant. He was ‘in tune’ with Saturn.

Powerful higher mental capacity

That he was very much into philosophy and the higher mind is shown by the powerful Mercury Jupiter conjunction in Libra in house 9, nicely trine his Saturn rising in Aquarius. From this too, I think we can see the composing potential, the all round mental functioning of seeing the small intricacies, and also the big, full picture, plus the hard graft needed to succeed.

Jupiter also rules the midheaven, showing that the above qualities can be chanelled into his life path and career too.

Teacher and composer

His Sun in Virgo gives him a strong central dose of analytical and critical ability too, of course, which would certainly have aided him in composition and Virgoans in general make excellent teachers and worriers.

Venus in Scorpio in house 10 hints at an in depth career in the arts. This Venus is square Uranus and although it may have interrupted his career and relationships with sudden changes from time to time, here too with this tense link, I suspect, lies another indication of a leaning towards astrology; Uranus in some sense ‘rules’ astrology, although personally, I think Saturn is just as important.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

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