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The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London – Astrology Musings
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.
Copyright Francis Barker 2020