‘A Line in the World’ (Pushkin Press) by Dorthe Nors – Book Review (NetGalley)

When I was small my grandma used to tell me ‘we are Danes.’

I was brought up on the opposite side of that wild expanse, the west side of the North Sea in eastern England. A thousand years ago much of the language, even culture in my part of the world was Danish, Viking, and it was called the Danelaw.

And there are still archaic words of old Norse in use today in our rapidly disappearing dialect. So maybe we are, in some ways, still Danes.

Perhaps that’s why, when I began to read this ARC, I immediately felt at home. Although Jutland’s west coast from Skagen to the German border is north and west facing, opposite to our own, the author’s loose, short sentenced yet lucid impressionistic streams of consciousness took me not only across the divide of the North Sea, but also into the past, my own childhood often spent at the windswept seaside and walking wrapped up in barren marshland where the sky towers above you.

In the flat lands of eastern England there is indeed a psychology at play, much like the writer explains; the quietude does not disguise or distract you from the demons inside like a city does. Here you are more with yourself, and it can be difficult, even depressing, particularly in the winter.

She says ‘Our brown calves are wet with cuckoo spit’, fairly typical of her language which is immediate and sensory, creating a timelessness where past and present merge together, much like the schism of land and sea. She says, throughout the book, that we are defined by schism and I think I know what she means. A country is defined by its border; our selves from one another. A home has its boundary, which is both porous and selective.

In this book the elements are like beings, sometimes friends, but always needing to be respected; the waves like mythological Valkyries: the Norse gods, like Odin, remain in the collective memory of Scandinavians – and isn’t Odin rather ‘Christ-like’, hanging from that ash tree, the Yggdrasil, even if he put himself up there? Yes, our ‘civilisation is a snapshot’; we try to understand, perhaps make a mark and then we are gone.

Like my own coastline, Jutland is bedecked with massive wind turbine farms, which to my eye, have become a blot on the seascape as well as the land. Clean energy is to be encouraged, naturally, but these structures which she describes as white trees with circular branches, only have a limited lifespan. Once defunct they will cause a massive landfill problem – and the wind doesn’t always blow either.

But I particularly like the way she talks of the past in the present tense in many places, so fitting for this every changing, yet eternal landscape, which has had so many shipwrecks (the Iron Coast) and natural disasters through storms.

I loved her tour of the churches too with the artist, the maker of sketches for this book. My own part of the world is noted for its churches too, but in a different way. And I was not aware that the Reformation in Denmark was slower to whitewash church frescoes than in England and Holland, all very fascinating.

I like the way she describes paths in the landscape as being like memories, connections in the brain, synapses perhaps, testimony to human interaction with the environment and shaping it organically.

Her descriptions of the Wadden Sea, the island life, the bird life, are all beautiful too. I very much relate to the area here being a haven for wading birds, pretty much like my own part of the world.

But ultimately it is Skagen, the very northern tip of Denmark where North Sea meets Baltic, the spiritual pinnacle of the Danish and Scandinavian experience. The schism of seas, between land and sea, our selves from one another: life and death.

Like many, I have only visited Copenhagen when in Denmark, but this great city is in no way representative of Denmark any more than London is of England.

One day, perhaps sooner than I envisage, I wish to visit Denmark again, Jutland in particular, and take that trip from Skagen to Esbjerg and beyond towards the Frisian islands. I think I owe it to myself. Thank you Dorthe Nors for enlightening me – I have never felt more like a Dane.


Copyright Francis 2022

Frida Kahlo: Is There a Price to Pay for Genius? Astrology Musings

Photo by Olga Kalinina on Pexels.com

Frida Kahlo is one of the most iconic and celebrated symbolic-realist artists of the 20th century, but her short life was painful and ultimately tragic, yet nevertheless full. Is there such a thing as a trade off between genius and pain?

Such was her fame that even during her lifetime, in 1942, one of her paintings sold for over $3 million at Sotheby’s.

When I first looked at her chart I noted that the three so-called outer planets (which are invisible to the naked eye and therefore not luminaries) are in key sensitive points.

I have long thought that Uranus, Neptune and Pluto and their supposed influences are something to be avoided, or overcome, even though they might put the individual in touch which certain deeper, darker and ultimately dangerous forces of our universe. Uranus may bring originality but can disrupt suddenly; Neptune may inspire but confuses and befuddles; and Pluto might provide intensity but undermines darkly.

At the age of 6 Frida contracted polio which left her with one leg shorter than the other. Later, through sports, she built up her body strength with characteristic resolve and went to one of Mexico‘s best schools.

A Life Changing Accident

Then fate intervened again when she was severely injured in a horrific road traffic accident in Mexico City in 1925. It was a life changing experience which she never truly overcame, but such was her intense lust for life and experience, she got through it, despite numerous operations, including a leg amputation later on.

During this early period following the accident, she began to paint and this was the beginning of her career which saw her later exhibiting as far a field as New York and Paris.

Due to the intense pain and the resulting depression she also developed a drinking habit but always lived life to its fullest.

‘The Heroine of Pain’ What Does the Astrology Say?

There is little wonder that in her native Mexico she is referred to as ‘the heroine of pain‘ – ‘la heroina del dolor’. She certainly seems to have had that air of greatness about her which only few achieve during their lifetime – but at what price?

She has Leo rising with Mercury in the 1st house. Here is the lust for life and creativity and to express it.

However, her ruler the Sun is immersed in the ocean of a 12th house Cancer conjunct Neptune, forming the most difficult and trying figure in the chart.

This subconsciously embedded conjunction is opposed by a practical Mars conjunct Uranus in the 6th house of health and efficiency. This activation of the 6th/12th house axis might well have been behind the motivation to seek a career in medicine in her early teens.

A Potential Career in Medicine

She would appear to have been as much interested in mental as well as physical health, especially so as an exalted Jupiter is also in the 12th house quite close to her north node; she might well have become a doctor of psychology or psychiatry if things had been different, yet other medical paths could have suited. But it wasn’t to be. Any aptitude toward practical medicine was firmly rebuked by fate, steering her toward creative art with a symbolic edge.

Whilst Neptune close to the Cancerian Sun might at best be inspirational, its major influence is to subconsciously confound and upset, affecting her psychologically. This may suggest the subconscious symbolism of her art. Sun Cancerians are family orientated but happiness in this area of her life was to prove elusive.

Opposing the Sun/Neptune conjunction, Mars/Uranus only antagonise and disrupt, the martian strength being exalted in Capricorn, yet is physically embattled and irritated by revolutionary Uranus. The exact opposition between the Sun and Mars illustrates the intense attraction to men she had but also the difficulty in maintaining steady relationships, even though she only married one man – twice.

This opposition of conjunctions effectively energises the whole chart, mimicking the explosive drama of her life.

A Ribbon Around a Bomb?

Psychologically Frida was deep, intensely emotional but had an exacting attitude too. Her Venus, ruler of the MC and 10th house of career, is closely conjuct the undermining influence of Pluto in the 11th house, challenged by Saturn from the 8th. This also reflects her intense relationships and friendships, her difficulty with them, as well as her interest in feminine identity. Venus Pluto and a Taurean MC suggest the intense realism and symbolism of her art.

Her Moon exalted in Taurus in the 10th house is also void of course in the last degree of the Bull. Whilst this might add a certain steadiness to her emotional responses, she might also have felt as if she was always fighting against time. Void of course Moons are difficult to assess in natal charts, but this is my take.

She was once described as being a ribbon around a bomb. Whether that is accurate or not, she was certainly one of the most naturally gifted, intensively creative female artists of any period. Iconic indeed.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com
What the cards reveal: Centre card, consciously; left card: subconsciously; right card: manifesting.


Copyright Francis 2022

‘Not a Day Without a Line’ Emile Zola. Astrology Bites

Born with a stellium of luminaries in an Aries 5th house, Émile Édouard Charles Antoine Zola was a powerful, outspoken, creative and prolific individual.

His Mercury closely conjunct Mars, Pluto and Moon in Aries gave him the energy and compulsion to write, to communicate and express himself. He had an ultra sharp, critical mentality, with imagination (Neptune 3rd house sextile Sun 5th) which made him a fine journalist as well as novelist and playwright. This conjunction’s close trine to the 1st house Saturn provides an important resolve and determination to keep going, forged through earlier disappointments.

His powerful and incise Mercury is ruler of the 7th and 10th houses of relationships and career, energising both areas. His relationship with the painter Cezanne was important to him, but they fell out over Zola’s portrayal of the bohemian tendencies of artists.

Controversy

He also courted controversy later in his reaction to the Dreyfus affair. Venus, always a significator of relationships, is conjunct disruptive Uranus in the 4th house; relationships in general seem to have been unusual and something of a challenge, a difficulty, although he remained close to his mother and cared for her (Jupiter trine Venus/Uranus 4th house).

His Saturn is not really at home in his Sagittarian first house; he could be quite reticent with people, at first. His chart ruler, Jupiter is equally awkwardly placed in the Scorpio 12th house; despite his many natural creative talents, loneliness and disappointment were often visitors, though periods of deep introspection could be beneficial. A writer must essentially work alone, so such experiences would have been formative in the long run.


Copyright Francis 2022

Tarot Cards Review: ‘Ancien Tarot de Marseille’, Grimaud Cartomancie

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.

Copyright Francis 2021