I have been fascinated by, if not the greatest practitioner of tarot since I was a teenager.
My love of astrology has generally kept me from continually using tarot over the last thirty years or so. This is no excuse, as both methods of divination are generally complementary.
For a time, somewhere in the 1980s, I did use a deck called ‘astro tarot’, which I think you can still buy, but I ‘lost’ these years ago.
In more recent times, particularly over the last few years, I have been drawn more fully into the mysterious and magical world of tarot, its practise and its disputed history.
Most particularly I have learned to respect and invariably use Tarot de Marseille (TDM), rather than the more well known Rider-Waite style tarot decks.
I much prefer the ‘unillustrated’ pip cards of TDM; I don’t like my intuition being influenced too much by the more illustrative and suggestive Rider-Waite, particularly in the swords suit, where, for example, if one draws the Nine of Swords, this can leave people quite worried!
No, I much prefer to stick to basics: swords is the mind, our thoughts and 9 is attainment. It is up to the tarot reader to interpret this. But more of this in another piece some other time.
One particular deck I’ve enjoyed for some time is the Grimaud Cartomancie TDM, ‘Ancien Tarot de Marseille’. It comes in a beautifully presented, sturdy box, with the usual mini-book with basic interpretive ideas – in French.
The illustrations are very clear and basic, with strong colours and bold black linework. The word is emphatic, which I like. The card stock is likewise quite sturdy with a grey-blue patterning on the reverse.
The history of TDM, like all tarot, is complex. There are many variations of TDM but this overall style developed, as the name suggests, in the south of France, but also has strong links to northern Italy, Switzerland and even southern Germany over the years.
In other words, this card style does not owe everything to the city of Marseilles, which could be regarded as a name of convenience – and it sounds good too, doesn’t it? After developing from the seventeenth century onwards, it was in 1930 when Paul Marteau of the Grimaud family truly established and perpetuated this particular artistic style of TDM.
I am very glad that he did, as these cards are a particular favourite of mine and I would very much recommend them.
Paul Cézanne is perhaps one of the best-loved painters of Western art. Yet the popularity of his still life and landscape works has perhaps tamed the radicality of his vision in our own eyes. It is easy to forget that these seemingly traditional 19th century Post-Impressionist paintings caused ‘a landslide in art’. Jacky Klein explains […]
When we talk about classical music today, 19th and early 20th century French romantic composer, pianist and organist, Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns, may not figure in the highest echelons in terms of outright popularity.
Ok, so he isn’t Bach, Mozart or Beethoven, nor Schubert, Schuman or Wagner, but in astrological terms, much deeper than the mere superfluous realm of ‘star signs’, he makes a most interesting study indeed.
This fellow Saint-Saëns was certainly a remarkable child prodigy and composer, whose musical abilities did appear to come rather easily to him. Anyone who could produce works of the quality of, for example, ‘Danse Macabre’, ‘Carneval Des Animaux’ and ‘Samson & Delilah’, must certainly qualify as being near to the pinnacle of their profession.
He went on to be a very well travelled international figure, as well as being highly honoured, receiving the French Grand Cross of Legion d’Honneur in 1913. He was also inspirational; Faure and Ravel were both strongly influenced by him, for example.
By the age of 6 this prodigy was already composing, performing as a pianist by the time he was 10. He entered the Paris Conservatoire aged 13 and composed his first symphony when he was 18.
Saint-Saëns became quite a scholar of musical history, too, developing a more conservative, traditional approach to compositional structure, something which set him against the more modern trends of the early 20th century, which evidently wanted to turn everything on its head, as in other artistic fields such as painting.
Controversy and tragedy affected him too at times. Marrying later in life, to a much younger woman (to the surprise of those who knew him) the relationship would appear to have always been difficult, or strained. Nevertheless, the couple had two sons. However, in 1878 an appalling tragedy struck when the 2 year old Andre fell to his death from their Parisian flat window.
Tragedy & Disappearance
Only six weeks later, young Jean Francois died of pneumonia. This effectively ended their marriage. In 1881 whilst on holiday with his wife, he suddenly disappeared, later writing her a letter of explanation — that we would not be coming back. Even so, the couple never divorced. Speculation has remained as to Saint-Saëns’ sexuality.
Overall, however, this remarkable man led a very successful and productive life. I was intrigued to come across his birth data, so that I could assess him astrologically.
One of the most remarkable features of his chart is the positive placement of most planets. In traditional astrology, a planet is said to be exalted, or function at its best, in certain signs. In Saint-Saëns’ case, he has Saturn exalted in Libra, the Moon exalted in Taurus and Jupiter exalted in Cancer. Would might this mean in terms of interpretation?
Let’s begin with Saturn in Libra. Saturn, often still called the Greater Malefic, signifies limitation, boundaries, structure; in Libra, the Cardinal Air sign, this function is well reasoned, balanced in the most positive way. I will return to Saturn shortly.
Then we have the Moon exalted in Taurus. The Moon represents our responses, emotions, feelings; in Taurus (also ruled by Venus like Libra), these qualities are at their most grounded and fruitful.
We now turn to Jupiter, the Greater Benefic, exalted in Cancer. Jupiter is expansion, optimism; in Cancer, ruled by the Moon, expansion is given a nourishing, homely expression, like a blessing upon the base of our lives, quite often our mainspring for success in life.
A Charming, though Dignified Bearing
What is more, Saint-Saëns had other planets which were ‘dignified’. What do I mean? Dignity in astrological terms refers to a planet being in the sign of its rulership.
Firstly, he has Venus in Libra, the principal of unity given a highly balanced and considered expression; an ideal of beauty, balance and peace.
Then he also has Mars in Scorpio, which it traditionally rules. I personally do not subscribe to the ‘modern’ notion that outer planet Pluto rules Scorpio. Mars is energy, activity; in Scorpio, the Martian energy is concentrated, somewhat emotive, and also secretive — yet even so, well placed if one wishes to achieve something deeper, meaningful.
So what are we to make of all this ‘positivity’, the level of which I haven’t come across too many times before? Overall, it may represent the positive gifts he was born with, Saint-Saëns’ ability to create, seemingly with ease and with the blessings of his local universe.
Let us now return to Saturn, which was rising conjunct the ascending degree in Libra, closely followed by his Sun and Venus in the same sign of the Scales. A Libran ascendant is courteous, diplomatic, often charming, yet with Saturn so close to this degree, one would expect a certain amount of caution too, perhaps manifesting as a kind of dignity in the manner and appearance, which might seem at times like a little shyness, reticence, even haughtiness.
Conservatism, Good Fortune& Fixed Stars
As said above, limiting and conservative Saturn is indeed ‘exalted’ in Libra, so it is not surprising that later in life he grew to be noted for his conservative outlook, plus the deliberately structured nature of most of his works. He tended to favour the more traditional compositional styles in the long run, even though as a younger composer, he accepted the then ‘modern’ trends of such men as Wagner, without truly embracing what they stood for.
At this point I would like to introduce the fixed star, Spica, which is also conjunct the ascendant and close to Saturn. I have only recently begun to reintroduce certain fixed stars (the 15 Behenian Fixed Stars) into my method of interpretation — I think they can be highly significant.
Spica, traditionally, is said to be of the nature of Venus and Mars, a star of good fortune. This is thought to confer general happiness, honour and preferment. If we take out his short lived marriage and the major life changing tragedy of his young sons, Saint-Saëns’ life in general was very fortunate.
Keen Student of Musical History
This fixed star is also close to Saturn, conferring interests in the occult and history too. It is known that he was a keen student of musical history, which had a strong influence upon his compositional style.
Saint-Saëns’ Sun conjunct Venus in the Libra ascendant, would only underline the charm, diplomacy and overall affability of his personage. There would also be a certain amount of sophistication about his presence too, attention to his appearance, probably a liking for traditional fashion (Saturn in Libra conjunct ascendant) and being ‘just so’.
With all this Libra in his chart, he would certainly have craved company too; he might not have felt whole without a ‘partner’ in life. So it is perhaps a surprise that he did not marry until he was around 40. Some have speculated about his sexuality, although it could simply be that he was rather fussy; Librans often have trouble making up their minds, being seekers of perfection with high ideals.
Humour & Magnanimity
His exalted Moon in Taurus would provide relatively stable emotions, pleasant responses to stimuli, perhaps underlining the conservative streak. However, his Moon is also in good sextile aspect to the equally exalted Jupiter in Cancer.
I think there would have been a distinctly good humoured and magnanimous quality about him too, that would have been highly beneficial to him in his career, for Jupiter is housed in his career house and his exalted Moon is ruler of that 10th house. He was fortunate.
Jupiter is also the planet of expansion and projection, physically and mentally. Saint-Saëns became highly travelled through his lifetime, making 179 trips to 27 countries, an astonishing tally.
Much Travel & A Well Developed Mentality
This Jupiter is also close to the fixed star Sirius, generally considered another positive indication. This infers much travel in the career, usually by sea (Jupiter in Cancer), plus a generally caring nature.
His dignified Mars in Scorpio is conjunct communicative Mercury in the 2nd house, ruler of the 9th house of philosophy, the higher mind and travel. This gave him a highly powerful, penetrating, determined and energetic mentality, probably an endless curiosity too, which drove him on in his practical working life. Mars is also the ruler of this house: This was no day dreamer — he wanted practical results. As a young student he was highly proficient in many profound subjects and had a particular love of astronomy throughout his life.
That Trying T-Square
If I may turn to the less positive aspects of his known life, namely the failed late marriage and his sons’ untimely demises, it may be symbolised in what is known as a T-square formation, involving his first house Sun and Venus in Libra, opposite Pluto in the 7th house, both squaring (90 degrees) Jupiter in the 10th house. This is certainly an indication that all would not be plain sailing in personal relationships, which would certainly impinge upon his career and aims.
As I have stated before, these days I do not see the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto as at all positive influences. They are not ‘higher octaves’, as they were once deemed: if anything they are lower, baser influences. They have to be overcome, indicating areas of our life where there could be potential pit falls, or worse.
Potential Disruption in Troubled Relationships
Pluto in the 7th house certainly forewarns one of marriage and/or partnership disruption, especially so as the same planet is opposite (challenging aspect) the harmony seeking Sun and Venus in Libra in his first house; Pluto is directly threatening potential termination, if one is not careful.
I would also imagine that personal relationship issues, such as those indicated by this Sun and Venus opposite Pluto, would have also threatened his career, and also the stability of home and family life: Exalted Jupiter in Cancer is in itself an overall indication of good fortune in family concerns, but maybe serious relationships, such as marriage, constituted a threat.
To Marry, or not to Marry
It is easy to say in retrospect, of course, but would it have been advisable for him not to have married? Did the conventions of the day ‘force’ him into doing what every one else did? He was, after all, quite a conservative in many ways.
Equally, we have the presence of the other two outer planets, Uranus and Neptune in the 5th house of children, speculation and creativity. The potential to have ‘problems’ with offspring are indicated here; Uranus can turn things upside down with sudden, unexpected events; Neptune confuses issues, although no one could have envisaged the tragedy that befell his young family. And whilst controlling Saturn forms a loose positive trine aspect with Uranus, which might have lessened the impact of the rebellious planet, the potential negativity of Uranus would still be there.
I found Saint-Saëns the most fascinating character to study. I have to say that I really like him; I am sure he would have been most agreeable to meet, to talk to, to be simply be around.
Most of all, we can all still enjoy the quality of his compositions.
French 19th century writer, Jules Verne, has been rightly lauded for his literary creations. To many he is simply the father of modern science fiction.
Jules was the son of a magistrate and went on to study law in the footsteps of his father. However, he soon developed a keen interest in the theatre and began writing plays and opera librettos. Fantasy was a subject which consumed him, as did travel and adventure. Gradually his creative processes overtook any interest in pursuing a career in the law, much to the chagrin of his father.
Later, books like ‘From the Earth to the Moon’, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ and ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ became legendary and are still popular today.
The Forward Thinking Aquarian
So astrologically speaking, can we glean what made this farsighted man tick?
Although I have a little doubt as to the accuracy of the birth time, given as 12 pm (midday) precisely, I suspect he was born very close to this.
I was not at all surprised to discover his Sun and Mercury conjunct a 9th house midheaven. Aquarians are noted for their farsightedness and detachment. However, I believe too much has been accredited to Uranus as being the new ruler of Aquarius.
The traditional ruler is Saturn and this will always be the case. There are two sides to Saturn: the ambitious, materialistic, highly organised side as seen in the sign of Capricorn; and the detached, scientific and farsighted side which is Aquarius. The forward thinking element of Aquarius is down to Saturn’s careful, seriously communicative and associative side. I think this latter notion forms an accurate backcloth to Jules Verne’s career as a writer and literary prophet.
Science and Adventure
In a nutshell, his sun and Mercury in Aquarius close to the MC in the 9th house, says so much about Jules, his life and career. The MC or midheaven indicates the nature of our aspiration, probably our career.
Sagittarius and the 9th house also relate to the law, so if he had followed his father’s career this would also have been quite fitting, though probably not as rewarding.
Aquarians are scientific in approach and the 9th house relates to long distance travel (adventure), the higher mind and philosophy. Jules was to push the boundaries of writing in terms of science fiction far more than anyone else known up to that time.
With Gemini rising, Jules had a youthful, insatiable, witty curiosity too, which simply had to communicate knowledge to others. Mercury is his ruling planet, therefore, being the ruler of Gemini and assumes much importance in this chart; Mercury in Aquarius is both tenacious and experimental, especially in the 9th house.
Ideals and Fantasy
Interestingly, Venus well placed in Pisces in the 10th house (career again), is probably symbolic of his love of ideals and fantasy, plus their unifying ability. Neptune is in good aspect to his Venus, and whilst I see the outer planets as wholly negative influences these days, nevertheless this aspect will only increase the strength of his imagination and inspiration. Here may have been his initial interest in the theatre, performance and music.
What is more, Venus is part of what is called a Grand Trine in the water signs and practical ‘earth’ houses, the 2nd, 6th and 10th. Venus trines both Saturn in the 2nd house and the Moon and Jupiter in the 6th house.
Jules was clearly, despite being a detached Aquarian on one level, a highly emotional person too, usually kindly and generous but also likely very secretive too. He was able to utilise his great depth of feeling in practical ways and we the public of the world have benefited from this.
Saturn in Cancer is difficult, however, indicating a lack of feeling at one level; the Moon in Scorpio too is not so easy, highly emotional and secretive. Yet Jupiter so close to the Moon and in good aspect to both Venus and Saturn, brings out the positivity of this Grand Trine. And Jupiter is of course the planet of the higher mind and travel, subjects which were close to his heart.
Venus being in romantic Pisces indicates a love of being in love, an almost spiritual attitude towards relationships. This would have brought much pain from time to time.
This Venus as part of the Grand Trine, links it to Jupiter, ruler of the 7th house of relationships. I’m sure in many ways he was hopelessly romantic. It is interesting to note that Jules married a widow with two children — Venus aspects to Saturn often indicate loss in relationships, subjects who marry older, more experienced spouses.
Mars in Sagittarius in his 7th house of relationships indicates eventful and possibly difficult partnerships; even powerful enemies. Uranus is in positive aspect to his Mars, yet the influence of Uranus is always to disrupt, break apart. Relations with his father, son and business partner were often strained.
When Jules Verne departed this life in 1905, he left a literary contribution that is unparalleled. One wonders what he would have made of our own world — and what would a modern Jules Verne write about?
Marie Bracquemond (1 December 1840 – 17 January 1916) was a French Impressionist artist, who was described retrospectively by Henri Focillon in 1928 as one of “les trois grandes dames” of Impressionism alongside Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt. Her frequent omission from books on artists is sometimes attributed to the efforts of her husband, Félix […]