I have several books by Rilke, but I think my favourite work is the Duino Elegies.
The poet was born in Prague in a German speaking community and wrote in German most of his life, then in French in his latter years in Switzerland.
So his works have been translated into English, which relies, naturally, on the sensibilities of the translator. Nevertheless, he is very much worth investigating. Few poets have suffered more for their art.
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.
It is Rilke’s short collection, ‘Letters to a Young Poet’, which has inspired many people of all ages for around a century.
His messages to this one individual, Franz Xaver Kappus, now immortalised in print, convey the need to go deep within, to accept the human condition of loneliness and isolation and to absorb it. His most famous works included ‘The Book of Hours’, ‘The Book of Images’, ‘The Duino Elegies’ and ‘Songs to Orpheus’.
What kind of man was this? And how has such a message, seemingly contrary to the accepted ‘wisdom’ of our times, found such favour?
Dressed as a girl
Rainer Maria Rilke was born in Prague in late 1875, a member of the German speaking ruling classes of the disparate empire of Austria-Hungary in central Europe. He was always conscious of this and never entirely happy being within it. In his latter years, he would reject it entirely whilst living in Switzerland, where he composed solely in French.
His early situation was not helped by the fact that he had an older sibling, a girl, who died a year before he was born. When he arrived, his mother appears to have wanted another girl and Rainer, or René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke, as he was originally christened, was dressed in girls’ clothing during his formative years. This would have had a profound early psychological impact upon him.
Acceptance of Czech and Slavic culture
He was later sent to a military academy, which he despised, yet he looked back on it as a formative and even necessary experience. Unlike his mother, he always had a sneaking admiration for the Czech/Slavic majority culture, even though it was deemed lower class in comparison to the ruling Germanic. He had Czech girlfriends and got know an uncle of one who had visited Russia and knew Russian literature.
Then his life changed profoundly when he met Lou Andreas Salome, a married Russian aristocrat significantly older than him. Despite her marital status he accompanied her and her husband to Russia first in 1899 and again with her alone the following year, 1900. Here he met the Russian literati, including Tolstoy and Pasternak.
Mother Russia — his spiritual home, or ‘heimat’
But it was his experiences with the simple Russian and Ukrainian folk that had the deepest impact upon him; their complete involvement with the Orthodox culture, full of ancient tradition and festivities. This plus the largely unspoiled Russian countryside, the steppe and its agricultural calendar, opened his eyes to a God essentially created by Man, at least within his own existential thinking. And of course, this was the inspiration for all his later work, beginning most especially with ‘The Book of Hours’.
He would spend several years living and working with the sculptor Rodin in Paris too, another period of change which took him another step forward. In fact, he was restless, always travelling, searching outwardly, and most especially inwardly — the isolation of the individual, his self, which he cherished the most and encouraged others to learn to accept.
No pain killers
Rilke lived his philosophy to the end, too. When he knew he was dying, he was reluctant to take pain killers — they might have detracted from the profundity of the experience. So can a look at his astrological chart, as given, reveal what was going on within his psyche?
He has Virgo rising, showing an analytical and critical approach to life. The midheaven and 10th house in Gemini points towards a career involving communication and much coming and going. Both Virgo and Gemini are ruled by Mercury, who is found in Scorpio in the 3rd house of the mind, challenged by Mars in Aquarius in the 6th house. Scorpio is deep and penetrating, investigative. Here was no whimsy, but someone who dwelt upon issues, but who could also get highly irritable, agitated, to the point where it could affect his health.
A wanderer in body and mind
His Sagittarian sun of self and uniting Venus are in the 4th house of the home, family, ancestors. Sagittarius is another mutable or changeful sign, imbued with a wanderlust, particularly for longer distances. Sagittarius is noted for going far and wide. However, although this is true of Rilke, who travelled extensively in Russia, Europe and north Africa, it was always in search of something inside, his ‘heimat’, or true spiritual home. He was to find this in the much maligned old Russia prior to the revolution and was to carry this realisation always.
His 4th house Venus is supported by being trine Neptune and sextile Mars, indicating his spiritual and passionate yearning for the numinous, ultimately for God, although even with the best aspects Neptune is illusory. His attitude towards relationship (he had many) is typically idealistic, in which he sees each partner upholding the space between them, like guardians of their separate, lonely selves. So love was always going to be a very difficult thing for him, holding up such ideals, perhaps indicated by Neptune’s aspect here.
His sun ruler, Jupiter, is also in Scorpio, just like his chart ruler Mercury. So we have both planets associated with the mind in deep, penetrating Scorpio, in the house of the mind. Rilke gave a new meaning to deep, passionate thought.
Bearing his cross
Dominating his chart is a loose grand cross in fixed signs and cadent houses. This could be seen as the cross he bore throughout his life. The Moon conjunct Saturn in Aquarius in the 6th house in itself suggests a difficult, restrictive, isolated childhood with illnesses, plus a trying relationship to the mother; so much so the health is also likely to be affected. He seems to have carried this sense of loneliness with him all his life, perhaps the major astrological indication of his philosophy of solitude.
Endless flux of life
This conjunction is opposite the rebellious Uranus in the 12 house of the inner life; sudden, deeper psychological issues are highlighted here, eruptions perhaps from problems stemming from his restrained childhood. Undermining Pluto is opposite Jupiter from the 9th house of travel and the higher mind, which may indicate issues like falling out completely with Rodin and the many new starts he had while abroad. This grand cross represents the continual flux he experienced in life, his difficulties and the existential challenge which he took up.
Finally, the north node of the Moon in the 8th house indicates he was born karmically with deep personal security issues. Individuals born with this tendency need to explore more deeply (8th house/Scorpio) through involvement in deeper, more profound psychological areas to do with security. Rilke appears to have instinctively understood this challenge and taken it up.
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?
Recently I posted a puzzle of a piece regarding the sudden, strange appearance of an individual in Prussia in 1850, a man calling himself Jophar Vorin. This man of mystery does not appear in many books but his supposed story can be gleaned online.
Just over a century later in 1954, another unusual bearded man arrived at Haneda Airport in Japan. At first sight the man appeared to be a any regular well dressed European businessman on a routine trip to the Far East.
Evidently his first language was French, though he was capable in other languages too, including the vernacular. He was even carrying several European currencies in his wallet, so nothing much seemed awry – at first.
It was when he was asked about his home country that things took a rather peculiar turn. Not one of the officials at the airport had ever heard of ‘Taured‘, even though he purportedly showed them a passport issued from his native land containing visa stamps, supposed proof of previous trips to Japan and elsewhere.
Unfortunately for this man, whose name is unknown, the company he was due to have a meeting with in Japan did not know of him, neither did the hotel he had supposedly reserved a room with, nor did the bank whose name was emblazoned on his checkbook.
The man seemed to be nonplussed by the situation. When he was shown a map of the world he pointed to the small Pyrenees principality which we know as Andorra, yet which he called Taured.
The perplexed officials decided to detain him, housing him in a hotel for that evening, in the hope that they could cast some light upon this strange situation.
Unfortunately the mystery only grew more complex by the following morning. The man from Taured had disappeared, despite the vigil kept outside by immigration staff all night. What is more all of his documentation also vanished from airport security.
Despite a strenuous search no sign of this man or his effects ever came to light again. It was as if it never happened. So what are we to make of it? It could be a story, a hoax, to tease or confuse. Conversely, if this odd event was factual – and there is no reason to doubt it – what are we to make of it?
If it was a hoax, for whose benefit was it to propagate the story? To me logic suggests that this is not a hoax, though the story may have grown a little in the telling.
Are we looking at an example of the existence of a multi dimensional universe? If they are limitless, then it is possible that the world he knew may have only differed in a few details, such as the name of his homeland in the Pyrenees.
And does the name of his country, Taured, which to his mind corresponded with the known land of Andorra, hold the key to solving the riddle?
A Load of Bull?
The name Taured suggest Taurus, or bull in English astrology. The Iberian lands, which could include Andorra, are still famous for bull fighting and the bull is an ancient astrological and cultural symbol.
If we accept that there are astrological ages brought about by the so called precession of the equinoxes, the age of Taurus would have been, roughly, spanning from 4000 to 2000 BC.
If there are multiple timelines there could be sensitive points at various times and locations where perhaps certain individuals can ‘cross over’, so to speak.
However, this probably doesn’t explain the fact that he knew French, or that he looked like any regular westerner of that time. A timeline diverging from a period as far back as 4000 BC would look very different from our own, one would suspect.
My idea that Taured is somehow related to the previous Taurean Age is probably just another red herring, though it is intriguing to speculate. Nevertheless, if there is an allegorical element to this story, then the name Taured may still be represent a significant clue.