Martin Luther writes to Lambert Thorn, an Augustinian monk, in the Netherlands. Thorn (or von Thorn) was probably the third of the trio of Augustinians who had been arrested at Antwerp and tried for heresy. The other two, Heinrich Voes (or Vos) and Johann Esch (or van den Esschen), had been burned at Brussels. Thorn […]January 19, 1524 — Today’s Luther
Doorways to nowhere,
ghosts whisper from parallel worlds
where alternate timelines run,
better worlds than our own.
copyright Francis Barker 2020
In the largely secular world of ‘Western’ society today, Halloween has become a huge and ever growing event each year. So much so that the other significant anniversary of October 31, namely Reformation Day, is often forgotten, or ignored by many.
Today marks 502 years since the German monk, Martin Luther, one of the prime movers in the Reformation of Christianity, apparently nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg church of All Saints.
A sprawling empire, a collection of German states
In those days the Electorate of Saxony, in which the city of Wittenberg lay, was part of the sprawling Holy Roman Empire, of which, what we now know as Germany, was wholly contained, though it was not a unified country but a hotchpotch collection of smaller states and city states.
Martin Luther, who had long agonised about his own faith, was dismayed by the growing sale of indulgences, and especially the spread of this practice to his homeland of Germany.
The selling of indulgences
For a tidy sum, an indulgence could reduce or cancel your time in purgatory. The funds from the sale of indulgences were to be used for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
This may have been the final straw which led Luther to publicly portray his strong misgivings about the religion in which he was so deeply immersed.
The stone which Martin Luther dropped into the lake of faith that day has continued to ripple ever since – an action which was demonstrably epoch making.
copyright Francis Barker 2019
Lincolnshire in the east of England has some wonderful, often underrated medieval churches.
One such is in the south west of the county, in the lovely village of Corby Glen. Here on many of the walls of the church you can see paintings and illustrations of religious and spiritual imagery, representing stories from the Bible and the faith and beliefs in general of the later medieval period.
If you look carefully, you can make out several layers of art, where older ones have been superseded with new work.
During the Reformation in the 1500s, all of this art was whitewashed over, part of the process of removing all imagery, which also meant stripping out idols and even rood screens which separated the nave from the chancel.
It was only in more recent times that this treasure trove of art was rediscovered through church restoration.
Today this art represents some of the most important medieval imagery not only in the county of Lincolnshire, but also in the whole of England.
copyright words and pictures Francis Barker 2019
Peterborough Cathedral in the east of England is one of the country’s biggest and most beautiful churches, with an association with two famous queens.
The long nave is quite stunning, with a beautiful roof and with a modern golden image of Christ suspended high as a focal point.
The cathedral is dominated by Norman and early English architecture, with numerous examples of Norman arches, such as these interlacing examples above.
The cathedral is also notable for its association with two famous queens.
The first was Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England when she was married to Henry VIII. Catherine was buried here in 1536 and her tomb is still something of a shrine to her memory, with pomegranates very prominent as her symbol because the fruit appears on her badge. Pomegranates are an ancient symbol for fecundity and regeneration.
Catherine certainly suffered much during her husband’s long and protracted break with Rome, in which she was the innocent victim, her only crime it would seem was not being able to produce a living male heir for Henry to perpetuate the Tudor dynasty. This was how she was treated after being completely dutiful to the king, but Henry had to have his way. Her motto, which translates as ‘humble and loyal’, is a phrase she very much lived up to.
The second queen associated with Peterborough Cathedral is Mary Queen of Scots.
Mary inherited the Scottish throne after only a few days of being born, thrusting her into a world of political intrigue and shenanigans which she was never able to control.
She essentially became a pawn of more powerful rulers and some despicable characters. However, in 1559 she duly became Queen Consort to Francis II of France, solidifying Scotland’s long alliance with France.
Sadly within 18 months the young kind died prematurely. Had he lived, Mary’s life would have turned out entirely differently. As it was, she became a teenage widow and a long series of political and personal disasters ensued when she returned to Scotland. Eventually she fled to England and came under Elizabeth’s control.
After many years’ imprisonment in England, during which the still substantial Catholic faction within England with aid from Spain continually conspired to depose Elizabeth and put Mary on the English throne, she was finally executed at nearby Fotheringhay Castle in 1587.
She was initially buried in Peterborough Cathedral, but her son, James I of England, had her remains transferred to Westminster Abbey in London.
words and photographs copyright Francis Barker 2019
Of course, the city of Peterborough’s greatest glory is its amazing cathedral, but that subject deserves a full article of its own.
One of the overlooked features of Peterborough, a growing city in the east of England, is the Parish church of Saint John the Baptist around the cathedral square.
Consecrated in 1409 during the reign of Henry IV, its close proximity to the cathedral and the modern shopping mall attraction of Queensgate, probably detracts large numbers of visitors. However, it is well worth a visit, and as is quite usual in England’s medieval heritage buildings, there are often some wonderful ‘hidden’ gems.
The south porch entrance is most interesting, particularly the roof in the above photograph.
The nave is very large and light with a rood screen.
There is also a wonderful reredos.
One of the most interesting features is this probable vestments cupboard, dated 1569, a wonderful piece of woodcarving, which I would think is limewood, similar in style to the plethora of such art produced in Germany during the same period.
The pulpit too had some intricate woodcarving, probably oak by the look of it, although I did not find a date on it, but I would assume it is later than the earlier piece.
There are even a couple of examples of medieval embroidery by the door.
words and photographs copyright Francis Barker 2019
They smile when I shut the heavy, creaking door,
from behind their neat wooden kiosks
stuffed with pamphlets and insipid books.
Smiles of recognition, a nodding
acceptance as if to say –
‘Oh, it’s you!’ Volunteer women serving Christ
better than those above them in Church.
I walk along the emphatic southern aisle under
uber-Norman arches, at the far end of which
hangs a limp flag of Saint Andrew,
in honour of Mary Queen of France, Scotland
and some say of England, too.
Glancing to my left a young man kneels,
wringing hands beneath a life-size figure
of a crucified Jesus, hanging high in space.
He stares upwards, rocking gently back and forth,
as if imploring Him to be real,
to writhe, sweat, bleed, perhaps to save Himself
and then, somehow, to save him as well.
I’m here to light a candle outside
Saint Oswald’s shrine and to sit for a time
in silence inside the tidy chapel,
to pray for a poor boy in pain,
perhaps to ponder on those relics,
those bits of bodies and other things,
worshipped once and then dispersed,
despised in fractured minds,
to us now mostly objects of indifference.
Oswald’s arm must lie hereabouts,
known to someone who still believes
in its restorative power, like the monks
who consumed this place, where Domesday
came and went without event,
where the Chronicle of a people faded to grey
in an undrying ink. Still it awaits the next line.
In this fossil the dead are lucky.
They are dead but in faith, whereas I roam
restlessly among echoes of whispers,
a heartless void. I cut across through the choir
to find I’m not alone, where the true
Queen of Hearts lies. Letters of gold spell
her name to all, but for me she smiles
brighter than anyone alive,
a smile from scorched Iberian lands,
her fate to end up on this drab island
where fashioned pomegranates mark her spot,
from which she expects to rise
at some glorious hour, where, until then,
the anonymous faithful lay fresh fruit
and flowers to mark her special days.
I watch a tourist, a German tricolour sewn
onto his rucksack, as he reads
the commemorative words. A sudden,
unexpected pride washes over me
while he pauses on her ground to think –
where I was once intrigued.
copyright Francis Barker 2019
Queen Mary the First of England, popularly known as ‘Bloody Mary’, because of the great numbers of Protestants she had executed by burning at the stake, is one the country’s most notorious monarchs.
She became Queen after the attempt to install the unfortunate Protestant Lady Jane Grey on the throne failed.
Mary proceeded to turn England back to the Catholic faith, a religion which was, however, still very much ingrained in most of English society, particularly in the shires and in the north.
What does her birth chart reveal?
Autocratic, reactionary personality
We must remember, especially in the days of absolute monarchism, that the ruler’s influence was all pervasive and so their personality (birth chart) would have imposed itself upon the character of the country.
When she was born Capricorn was rising with Mars and Pluto close by on either side of the ascending degree.
In many ways, this symbolises her reputation as ‘Bloody Mary’, Mars (representing fire) rising in Capricorn suggests a powerfully autocratic and rather conservative personality and with Pluto working in tandem, she wasn’t afraid of implementing drastic changes, even if they were ‘reactionary’ in nature, namely the burning of over 300 Protestant martyrs.
Ingrained sense of spirituality
What we must remember is that even though her father Henry VIII broke with the church of Rome, he remained essentially a Catholic.
Her brother’s rule over the ensuing six years did see a full blown attempt to make England a Protestant country – but it was only six years. As said earlier, most of the country would have probably welcomed a reversion to the old faith, at least at the beginning of her reign.
Mary’s ruling planet was Saturn and was found in Sagittarius (sign of religion) in house 12 (inner life), in good aspect to a Mercury (mind) Neptune (spirituality) conjunction in Aquarius.
Impressionable and sensitive
Mary had this sense of spiritual sensitivity ingrained within her mentality and obviously had a very intimate connection to the numinous, quite clearly inherited from her mother, Catherine of Aragon, the former queen.
To strongly underline this, she was a Sun Piscean too, with Venus also in that sign in house 3 (also mind). She was highly sensitive and impressionable with an instinctive love of deeper, spiritual, ritualistic things which she liked to talk about and to simply be around.
Dichotomy in the character
However, most importantly, she was born at the exact time of the full Moon, which was found in Virgo in house 9. Here is an essential dichotomy in her nature.
Her deeply spiritual essence was at odds with her naturally fastidious manner, a strong tendency to be critical and to analyse.
This must have made her a very difficult person to deal with at times and this must have contributed to her increasing unpopularity among her underlings and the people at large at the reign went on.
One of the most controversial things she did was to marry King Philip II of Spain, another staunchly Catholic monarch ten years her junior, which brought England very strongly under the influence of this great emerging world power.
Many thought that this would undermine England’s independence, but Mary would have seen this a natural consequence of the marriage, which, had she lived another fifteen years, might well have guaranteed England’s future under what she would see as the wing of Catholicism.
False opportunities – castles made of sand
Looking at Mary’s house 7 of marriage, she has an exalted Jupiter (but retrograde) in Cancer in good aspect to the tension created by her Sun and Moon opposition. This hints at good opportunities through marriage and alliance.
Here we can perhaps see symbolised a way out of her predicament of being one of the first female monarchs, with Jupiter representing an opportunity through marriage not only to secure her throne because of her apparent inability to deal with the situation she was in, but to also produce a Catholic heir and secure the faith within the country.
Sadly for her, none of this came to fruition. With Jupiter retrograde, she was only ever likely to ‘succeed’ inwardly in some more roundabout or spiritually satisfying way, not in the grand manner of marrying the most powerful man in the world at that time.
Her reign lasted just five years and with the accession of her canny sister, Elizabeth, England began the long, slow road to becoming a truly protestant nation.
copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019
Anyone brought up in Great Britain, or in fact anywhere in the world, is probably familiar with the character and the life of King Henry VIII, probably England’s most famous and notorious sovereign – he of the six spouses. Does his birth chart reflect this personality and what else might it reveal?
Henry had the Sun in Cancer, Moon in Aries, with a Virgo ascendant. His Cancer Sun gave him an essentially caring, protective, yet sensitive nature, often inflamed, however, by his ardent, fiery, direct and often impatient Aries Moon loosely square to the Sun.
Even filtered through his Virgo ascendant, which would provide him with a highly discriminatory approach to life, this could not prevent this basic dichotomy of his character from manifesting from time to time. We can see this at various times in his life, his impatience and anger.
Furthermore, his ruling planet Mercury is in Leo in the 12th house, exactly opposing Saturn.
Here is a psychologically ingrained mental pride and implacability, which except under the rarest of circumstances, finds it difficult to envisage that it can ever be wrong.
In any everyday personality, who would have little influence beyond his family, such a mentality would not constitute a wider threat. However, when you are talking about a monarch of a powerful country, such an attitude can become epoch making, even downright lethal for many people.
It is worth remembering that Henry was no radical, but a true conservative, despite his ‘reputation’ for encouraging the Reformation in England.
Quite early in his reign the Pope conferred on him the title ‘Defender of the Faith’, something which Henry was extremely proud of, and a quite fitting title for a monarch with such a stubborn and conservative mentality as symbolised by the quality of his Mercury. The young Henry put up a strong, reactionary resistance to reformers like Martin Luther.
However, whilst this configuration gave him the mental capacity to defend an argument to the hilt and often with great success, as he grew older this same tendency developed into an extreme implacability, far beyond mere stubbornness. This is one of the characteristics that gave him the reputation for being a tyrant.
Jupiter Neptune spiritual cycle personalised
Henry’s chart also has a fairly tight T-square involving Mars at the apex in Virgo in the 1st house, square to both Jupiter and Neptune on the Gemini/Sagittarius 10th/4th axes.
I think this is most revealing. A first house Mars in Virgo in itself represents a diverse, yet practical energy, which would probably sometimes manifest as great irritability when things were not going his way.
Add to this the tension in the Jupiter Neptune opposition, however, which in historic and transpersonal terms is related to the human religious and spiritual cycle (something which would be in all charts for those born around 1491 but made personal here through the contact with a first house Mars) and you can see what might tend to be irritable to him.
Love of scripture
Henry was the second son of Henry VII. Had his brother Arthur lived to become king, Henry might well have a pursued a religious path in some way. Henry clearly had a very strong interest in religion and spirituality, he was very knowledgeable, yet in many ways it proved to be his undoing because it conflicted with his desires as a monarch.
The fact that Mars rules the 3rd house of the mind and the 10th house Venus in Gemini is the ruler of the 9th house, only underlines this. He had a natural love of literature, particularly religious literature, plus a great ability at languages.
King versus Pope
But of course, Henry is most famous for having the six wives. Jupiter is the 7th house ruler, the house of relationships and as we have seen, his 10th house of career Jupiter is involved in a tight T-square, which appears to symbolise the constitutional crises arising from his wife’s ‘inability’ to produces a living male heir. Here we see the needs of the king vying with the fundamentals of religion.
One way around this, was to find an appropriate quotation from the Bible, in Leviticus, in regard to a man marrying his late brother’s wife and the impurity which would result from it; Henry had indeed married his late brother Arthur’s wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Head of the church
It was this argument which was used, stubbornly and vehemently by Henry, though equally opposed by the Papacy and his wife, Catherine. Henry eventually got around the impasse by declaring himself the head of the Church of England, surely equally symbolised by this tight Jupiter Neptune opposition in houses 10 and 4.
But it was something which must have weighed down his conscience for the rest of his life. For despite the break with Rome, Henry remained staunchly conservative in his religious beliefs, as befits that strong Mercury opposite Saturn in the Leo/Aquarius and 12/6 axes.
Vicissitudes in love
So moving on to his love life, we have already noted that his Venus is in Gemini, making him something of a natural flirt (not that all Venus Geminians are like this!), but when we also look at his 5th house of love, we have Uranus present and Saturn is the 5th house ruler.
Uranus would tend to bring sudden, unexpected changes in his love life and Saturn, being ruler of this house, as we have already seen, is in close opposition to Mercury, bringing to bear all his stubborn, arrogant mentality in this area of his life too.
The continual vicissitudes after his first divorce, the sudden demise of Anne Boleyn, the death of his third wife, Jane Seymour, after giving birth to a son, the farce of the ‘courtship’ and marriage to Anne of Cleves etc… are all shown by this 5th house Uranus and the tense quality of the 5th house ruler Saturn.
Sympathy for Henry?
At the end of the day, I have some sympathy for Henry. He never quite came to grips with the circumstances that he was presented with.
His deep sense of faith, his natural conservatism, were tested to the utmost by the needs of his dynasty, the difficulty he and his wives had in producing a living male heir.
This was the classic conflict between church and state, something which he thought he had solved by ‘marrying’ the two together by becoming head of the church in England. I am quite sure, at the end of his life, he never dreamed his life would turn out the way it did.
copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019
The man who many see as the forerunner to playwright William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, died on this day (May 30) 1593, in Deptford, London.
Marlowe was born in Canterbury, Kent, England, sometime in mid to late February 1564. There is an extant record showing that he was baptised on February 26 of that year.
In those days babies were usually christened quite quickly because of high mortality rates among infants. Therefore Marlowe was probably born just two to three days before this date.
Although born to a cobbler, it would seem that young Christopher was quite a precocious child. He went to The King’s School in Canterbury.
It’s worth remembering that then, as still now, Canterbury is the seat of England’s premier archbishop, a very important place.
Later, though perhaps at a relatively late juncture in his early life, he went to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge on a Parker scholarship.
In 1584 he got his BA degree and an MA in 1587, although the university was reluctant to award him the latter because of certain, irregular, though quite lengthy absences from the college.
Suffice it to say, that much has been written and speculated about these absences, as well as what he purportedly believed. Some say he was an atheist, despite spending years studying divinity.
Nevertheless, Marlowe went on to a meteoric literary career as a poet and playwright. He is often credited with inventing blank verse, poetry which doesn’t rhyme but written usually in iambic pentameter.
His play ‘Tamburlaine the Great’, was a huge success in London in 1587, so much so that he wrote a second part to it the following year.
There followed a string of ‘hit’ plays; ‘The Jew of Malta’, ‘Edward the Second’, ‘The Massacre at Paris’ and, probably his most famous play, ‘Doctor Faustus’.
The subject matter of his plays was often controversial, as was his apparent second career as a spy, or ‘intelligencer’ for the Elizabethan government. He seems to have been recruited for this whilst still at university.
Such controversy finally caught up with him in May 1593, when, after apparently being arrested on charges of ‘blasphemy’, released on bail, and then spending a whole day in an obscure house or pub with some rather shady ‘friends’ – he ended up being infamously murdered, during an argument about the bill, the ‘reckoning’.
The circumstances of this too are endlessly speculated on. Incredibly, the inquest of this murder was discovered as recently as 1925.
Even Shakespeare may allude to this in his play, ‘As You Like It’, where he seems to have known some of the details of Marlowe’s premature death.
So Marlowe’s meteoric rise and fame lasted about six years. After this, his reputation, maybe because of the controversy he courted, fell away dramatically.
Today, however, his reputation is back on the rise. He is seen as the true forerunner to Shakespeare, someone who ‘set the scene’ for The Bard’s longer career.
copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019
Soon I intend to do another piece speculating Marlowe’s birthdate and time for my ‘Astrology Musings’ section.
*If you would like a personal astrology report, please contact me on: firstname.lastname@example.org or details.
We recently visited the West Lindsey Churches Festival. One of the most interesting was Bardney’s Church of Saint Lawrence.
The church is impressive with a large nave, indicative of this settlement’s once important though now long dissolved abbey.
As in all the churches in West Lindsey, there were stalls with items for sale, as well as food and drink.
copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019