Nora Barnacle was born in the city of Galway, but the day of her birth is uncertain. Depending on the source, it varies between 21 and 24 March 1884. Her birth certificate, which gives her first name as “Norah,” is dated 21 March. Her father Thomas Barnacle, a baker in Connemara, was an illiterate man […]
It is fairly clear to me that the timing of the opening of the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London, was certainly by design. I contend that this event encapsulated the then zeitgeist, thereby setting in motion a new world at all levels.
We need not be surprised by this. Astrologers had for centuries been consulted as to the most propitious time, astrologically, to begin a new project, a marriage, business, government, reign, or even country.
One of the most well known examples is John Dee’s choice of day and time for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth I of England on January 15 1559. We can speculate as to the wisdom of his choice, although historians have certainly been highly favourable when writing about the so called ‘Virgin Queen’ ever since.
When I found out the the date and timing of the opening of the Great Exhibition, I immediately looked at the chart – and was astounded, though not entirely surprised.
I will begin with the date itself, May 1. May Day has long had traditional pagan associations. In fact it would appear that this date was considered the most important of the year until fairly recent times, so we are told. The festival of Beltane celebrated the turning of spring into summer, usually involving fertility rites, bonfires, even sacrifices.
Then during the 19th century this same date became associated with international workers rights and the advance of international socialism. So at the very least, the choosing of this date is most intriguing. Even Queen Victoria herself made reference to “strengthening the bonds of union among the nations of the earth.” There was an internationalist flavour to this and all world’s fair events like it.
John Bull at his apogee
So let’s get into the meat here. By all accounts the exhibition opened around midday, soon after Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their entourage entered the Crystal Palace. At this juncture the Taurus New Moon was only a few hours old, with both of the major luminaries conjunct the Taurean Midheaven of the chart, the part of the chart signifying goals and ambition.
A new Moon, or the ensuing hours after it, are traditionally thought to be the best time for new beginnings of any kind. In Taurus, anything to do with money or construction will be favoured, as long as it is also well aspected. The Moon is said to be exalted in Taurus, at her most fecund, promising further success.
This is highly symbolic timing for the beginning of this exhibition. It was not only to exhibit to the world the technological, economic and cultural hegemony of Great Britain for the next six months, but was meant to set the course for the remainder of this very ‘British century’, John Bull (Taurus) literally at the apogee, if you will. Taurus loves to establish and have firm footings.
Pax Britannica – Great Britain ruling the waves
Appropriately enough too, royal Leo is on the ascendant loosely conjunct the fixed royal star Regulus. This makes the Sun ruler of the chart, as befits this very royal, if not imperial project. Although Queen Victoria was to lose her consort Prince Albert in 1861, she went on to become probably Britain’s most famous monarch – and Empress of India.
Interestingly, there is also a Venus Mars conjunction in Aries in the 9th house of philosophy, enterprise and long distance travel. The thrust of Mars is given a certain belligerence in his own sign, plus carte blanche to take it to the furthest corners of the earth.
The presence of Venus here adds a kind of benevolence too, maybe even the idea of Pax Britannica, the British Empire on which the sun never set. Great Britain ruling the waves (and pretty much everything else) indeed, as she proceeded to do for the next seventy five years.
Revolution meets irresistible force
However, this chart works on many layers, some of them quite deep. Around six weeks earlier in late March 1851, Uranus and the then undiscovered Pluto made the last contact of their recent coming together in Aries, a sign which is also strongly associated with England and Great Britain.
For example, the Christmas Day chart of 1066 set for the coronation of William I of England, has Aries on the ascendant. Many astrologers believe this chart still has much resonance today, and the Venus Mars conjunction in Aries in the Exhibition chart also links up with the 1066 chart’s action oriented Aries ascendant.
Now Uranus and Pluto meet up around every 172 years, so this represents a highly significant time astrologically. On the face of it, no one knew about the existence of Pluto at the time. Both Uranus and Pluto are still close together in the 1851 exhibition chart, straddling the Aries Taurus boundary. What is more, around the same time Saturn passed over both of these outer planets in late Aries and early Taurus.
With this I believe we get into some pretty deep territory. Since the discovery of Uranus in 1781, this planet became associated with sudden change and upheaval. Hence the revolution in France and the so-called Industrial Revolution, for example. It is as if an awareness of or need for change had suddenly entered our collective consciousness – the notion of ‘progress’, technologically and culturally.
Superconscious, transpersonal – or magical power?
However, if we think of this new discovery as a higher octave, or rather a superconscious (transpersonal) aspect of communicative Mercury, we might also get a better understanding of principles like insight, breakthrough and invention.
Maybe we have here the ability to draw on transpersonal energies – Uranus representing the initial breakthrough beyond the limiting boundary of Saturn, even if Ouranos, the old sky god which the new planet was named after, is in fact, ironically, the father of Saturn in myth.
Perhaps the discovery, or even rediscovery of Uranus, is symbolic of the return of the magical power of the older gods.
If we consider the then undiscovered Pluto to be transpersonal power, as opposed to the personal expression of energy as seen in Mars, and all the potential danger that represents, then I think we get some idea as to the real significance of this new cycle which took place in Taurus in 1850 and into 1851.
It is almost like the magician Uranus utilising the deep power of Pluto for future use without mankind being aware of such subterranean force. Saturn passing over both just afterwards is acting like a coalescing agent of this transformative energy in the material world, a changing of the guard and setting the scene for decades ahead.
Every conjunction of Uranus and Pluto marks the beginning of a new cycle which appears to manifest in our world as a force for social and cultural change, but especially since 1851. The energies of transpersonal change and power come together as an almost irresistible force. People will argue as to the benevolence, or otherwise, of this energy.
It would appear the power of this conjunction was being felt at least a year or so beforehand too. Look at the revolutions of 1848, for example, the biggest uprisings Europe as a whole had ever known, at least according to the known history. And even though little political change actually transpired as a result, the cultural significance in the long run was indeed manifest.
Setting the seal and precedent
We can therefore see that the Great Exhibition of 1851 did indeed set the symbolic seal of the times, showcased in the almost unbelievably magnificent Crystal Palace. The exhibition closed in October 1851. Then, remarkably, the great cast iron and glass edifice was transferred to another site in London. It seems little was beyond these Victorian engineers.
So ultimately, I believe the chart set for the inauguration of this important event is indeed highly symbolic. The next six months encapsulated Britain’s inheritance from the old world, yet more importantly, presaged her empire’s predominance in the world and the true beginning of ‘globalism’.
The beginning of globalism
Significantly, in the same year of 1851, we also see the establishment of the prime meridian of Greenwich, making London the de facto capital of the world.
It was around this same juncture too that one of the most important French literary figures, Victor Hugo, made a prophetic speech in regard to the idea of a united Europe. Even though such a ‘dream’ has never quite come to fruition, we can perhaps see the germ of this idea developing around this time, those first steps toward a global world.
The superpower which was Great Britain at the time was only nominally patriotic, in my opinion. Yes, Britons at the time could be proud of their empire, yet the real reach and purpose of this manifestation was to create a global world where the nation state, ultimately, would become redundant. The pros and cons of this movement are debatable.
The next meeting of Uranus and Pluto was in the mid 1960s. By then the idea of Pluto’s transformative power had entered our mainstream consciousness, having been discovered in 1930. This foreshadowed the next stage of social and cultural change – but that’s another article.
The older among us may remember the clarion calls of the late Sixties, the so-called cultural revolution, pronouncements that the New Age of Aquarius was dawning, an age of peace, love and freedom. So what happened?
Furthermore, speaking as an Aquarian sun native myself, although I strongly recognise certain accepted traits of the fixed air sign within myself, such as detachment and forward thinking, I have never felt comfortable with some of the more eccentric and bizarre character associations of Aquarius and this supposed Aquarian Age.
In reality, no one knows when this Aquarian Age will begin. Maybe it already has. The dates suggested have ranged from late medieval times to anywhere as far ahead as 2300 AD. Not so precise, is it?
What’s It All About?
And what is it all about anyway? It’s all to do with the phenomena called the Precession of the Equinoxes. Each zodiac sign is a thirty degree segment of the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the sun around the earth. There is a zodiac sign behind the very slowly receding point of the Vernal Equinox around March 21 every year. This is all part of The Great Year, a period of time of almost 2600 years, where each sign takes a bit over 2000 years to recede behind this Equinoctal point. This is caused by the earth’s ‘wobble’ as the sky spins at an angle of 23.4 degrees around the pole star, from our perspective.
At this present time, we are said to be somewhere around the transition of the sign of Pisces, the fishes, into Aquarius, the male watercarrier. The past 2000 years of the Age of Pisces have been dominated by the sign of the fishes, Christianity. Christ has often been symbolised by the fish, ichthys in ancient Greek, where each letter encapsulates the divinity of the Saviour. The fish symbol was important to early Christians hiding from authorities who regarded them as a danger, even subversives.
Naturally, such a supposition of astrological signs ‘affecting’ human culture is controversial. Admittedly, there were plenty of other events going on in the world over the past 2000 years that were not tied to Christianity. Considering this, and the massive time window given to the threshold of this Aquarian Age, I have long since been cynical about this particular astrological theory.
But I am willing to concede I may be wrong. I am a practising astrologer. I am also a realist. To make prognostications as to whether we are in, or are about to enter the Age of Aquarius, we should surely be clear as to what we should expect to see. Firstly, I do not agree with all people’s interpretations as to the character of the sign of Aquarius. Peace, love, freedom and understanding may be all fine ideals, but are they Aquarian? And have we seen any of this since the late Sixties, for example? I will let you be the judge of that.
One of the problems is that since around 1781, with the discovery of Uranus, most astrologers have come to put this outer planet at least equal to, or above that of Aquarius’ traditional ruler, Saturn. I think this is a mistake. I concur that Uranus certainly does have a revolutionary influence, causes sudden changes, often turning things upside down in the process. But is this in any way Aquarius, the Fixed Air sign? I strongly contend it is not.
So I don’t believe Uranus has ‘rulership’ of any sign and neither do Neptune and Pluto. They are generational influences because they move slowly through the signs, Pluto taking around 248 years, influences we have become consciously aware of since their discovery (or perhaps rediscovery).
The Two Faces of Saturn
For me Saturn has two sides. After all, apart from the sun and Moon, every planet down to Saturn was given rulership over two signs: Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo, for instance. So on one level Saturn may be Satan, the Greater Malefic, virtually evil personified as in the ancient myth of Cronos (Saturn) devouring his own children. On another level, he is the symbol of limitation, for ages considered to be the outermost planet and therefore symbolising a kind of barrier, the furthest reach, where all things are stopped, crystalised and slowly brought back. He is a kind of brake, bringing things down to solid earth so they can be accounted for. The latter I suggest is the Capricornian Saturn, a necessary function of life.
The other side of Saturn is the one which has rulership of Aquarius, the more ‘positive’ side. Aquarius is traditionally the sign of hopes, dreams and wishes, in other words objectivity as opposed to Leo’s subjectivity of sheer life enhancement. If Leo is artistic, Aquarius is scientific, liking to rationalise, codify. The same fundamentally materialistic Saturn, which is associated with the cardinal earth sign of Capricorn, shows this more ‘positive face’ in Aquarius. He is objective, the planner of the future, a practical idealist, as befits the fixed air sign of serious communication and association. Aquarius is fundamentally human. The outright eccentricity often tagged to Aquarius is wrong in my opinion. Strong aspects from Uranus to the planets or angles in a personal chart, would most likely explain any eccentricities of nature.
So, if this indeed be the case, any age of Aquarius would reflect the serious, objective and associative qualities of that sign. These are conspicuous by their absence at the present time.
The Grand Conjunction
That said, what we do have towards the end of this year, 2020, is the Grand Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurring at 0 degrees Aquarius. The Grand Conjunction of these two planets represents a cultural correction point every twenty years, setting a general theme for the up and coming period. This on top of the ‘earth shattering’ Saturn Pluto conjunctions earlier in the year, so symbolic of the nadir of political and economic turmoil and you have a year of major significance, a year of historic transition and migration, if you will. I feel this has nothing to do with entering any new astrological age ruled by Aquarius, with all the ill defined thresholds of each sign within the Great Astrological Year of about 2600 years.
The occurrence of this Grand Conjunction every twenty years or so, invariably, although not necessarily wholly, migrates from one element to another every 150 to 200 years. For the last 180 years, apart from 1980/1, the GC has occurred in earth signs. From this year of 2020, it will be within the air signs of Gemini, Libra and Aquarius for around 140 years. This will be a major transition, marking a cultural shift, a probable explosion of philosophical and spiritual thought and technological progress, as befits the communicative and expansive air signs.
So from 2020 right through well into next century, we will undoubtedly undergo a vast, and, I truly hope, positive transformation, perhaps akin to what we are told about in the Renaissance. Precursing that time, during the 13th and early 14th centuries, there was a similar preponderance of Grand Conjunctions occurring in air signs.
I believe that right now, in 2020, as we are currently living through one of the most momentous times in ‘history’. We are indeed at the threshold of a new age, a new cycle, which bears much renewed hope for humanity. At a time in the near future, we will be able to look back at this hiatus point with a bit more Aquarian objectivity.
What is more, bearing in mind that by the middle of this decade we will see all the outer planets in ‘positive’ signs too, the world of 2025 and beyond is going to feel wholly different than right now. By then, Uranus will be in Gemini, bringing great invention to technology and all forms of communication. Neptune will be in Aries and Pluto will move in Aquarius, both lengthy transits forever changing our ideas about humanity and spirituality, who we are as individuals and how we relate to the collective ‘universe’ – and revealing the truth as to what that universe and this reality actually are.
The Age of Air
What I don’t believe is that this is the much vaunted Age of Aquarius. If anything, we are entering the Age of Air Signs and everything to do with that element, which on the face of it is far more positive than all the earth energy we have been experiencing over the last 180 years, a truly extended period of denseness and negativity. The Saturn Pluto conjunction of 2020 represents the death knell of this ‘dark age’, where gross materialism has ruled outright and brought us literally to our knees.
The Grand Conjunction’s cycle in Air signs from December 21 2020, marks the beginning of the free – freer, more candid, fairer communication and justice as expressed through Libra; the rolling out of advanced technology for the benefit of humanity and the planet, as expressed through Gemini; and, firstly, a more planned, objective approach to administering the world and its resources, as expressed through Aquarius and positive Saturn. Let’s make it so.
Whilst there are long existing schools of astrology, most astrologers tend to be very individual with their own particular nuances and practices.
I have been fascinated by astrology since my mum brought home a women’s magazine from the sad clear out of grandma’s house back in the 1970s. The publication contained one of those very basic sun sign forecasts which we are all familiar with. The slight difference with this one, was the little write up at the top of the piece regarding ruling planets. From that point I was hooked.
I’ve often thought it was Grandma who led me down this winding path, even if it was through her death. I did go on to study astrology in many varied ways, with two schools and digesting countless books and manuals. However, it is true to say that especially in later years, I too have developed my own approach, which does bear certain similarities to other modern astrological trends.
Firstly, I have become more interested in ‘traditional’ astrology, which is largely based on Hellenistic or Ancient Greek astrology. The reason for this is the often confusing plethora of house systems on offer these days, the use of fixed stars, asteroids etc. I crave simplicity. This is not to say that various house systems don’t have relevance, or that fixed stars and asteroids have no place. All I’m saying is they are not necessarily for me.
Whole Sign System
So today I invariably use the Whole Sign house system, which is in fact pretty much the original house system. This means that if Aries, for instance, is rising, the WHOLE of that sign becomes the first house beginning at 0 degrees. From that point each house proceeds in 30 degree segments. The actual ascending degree, let’s say 15 degrees Aries, remains an important point in the chart within that first house, as will the the other angles in theirs.
Now I did say that I did not utilise asteroids or minor planets. That said, I have come to realise Chiron’s usefulness as the ‘wounded healer’, so I usually use him.
Similarly, the Moon’s nodes certainly are a strong karmic pointer. And I still use Pluto, even though he has been degraded astronomically to the status of minor planet. That said, with the three outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, I do not regard them as serious rulers of the signs Aquarius, Pisces and Scorpio. I still tend to favour the traditional rulers, purely because of the beauty of the original system of rulership, from the intimacy of the Moon ruling Cancer, to the far out, impersonal Saturn ruling Capricorn and Aquarius on the outer limits.
And as far as the orbs of aspects, I tend to restrict them to a few degrees. For the sun and Moon, no more than five and for the planets no more than three. After all, the tighter the aspect the more powerful and obvious it will be.
I generally use this approach for both individual interpretations and for events, such as general elections and their like. Once again, if other astrologers wish to explore the use of minor planets, fixed stars etc to much greater levels, then so be it.
I also like to produce (although not always) the square ‘medieval’ or Renaissance looking charts. I don’t know why but there is something artistically comforting in displaying the information this way, even though it may not be technically or visually as accurate as a round one.
You see, my own particular Aquarian mind yearns for more simplicity the older it gets, a life that’s stripped down and straight forward. That to me seems like a good pointer to the future.
Sir Francis Drake combined several roles, from pirate to sea captain, privateer to explorer. He perhaps typifies the ‘entrepreneurial’ spirit of the Elizabethan Age at the birth of the first English and subsequently British Empire.
One of his most daring exploits was a successful circumnavigation of the earth from 1577 to 1580. He set off with just five ships, including the Pelican which he was on board. He did soon include another ship, however, under the captaincy of a Portuguese, Nuno da Silva, who knew well some of the sea routes around the Americas.
To Elizabeth and the English, Drake was a hero, a continual threat to the Spanish fleets and their gold. To the Spanish, however, he was often referred to as ‘El Draco’, or the Dragon, also probably because of his warlike and privateering exploits in the Spanish Main.