French Composer Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns — Exalted & Dignified: Astrology Musings

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.

Child Prodigy

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.

Paris Conservatoire

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.

Natural Gifts

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.

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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.

Copyright Francis Barker 2020

*The best of Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. And a biography.

The Traditional Model of the Cosmos, Part VI: What About the Outer Planets? — The Wisdom of Our Grandmothers (Reblog)

This is the final installment in the series about the Traditional Model of the Cosmos in which I discuss my ideas about the Outer Planets. For more information about my thoughts on the Outer Planets, see: The Outer Planets – A Theory The Outer Planets: the Pseudomythos of “Higher Octaves” and “Transcendence” Pluto: Its Discovery, […]

The Traditional Model of the Cosmos, Part VI: What About the Outer Planets? — The Wisdom of Our Grandmothers

Moon, Astrology And The Politics Of Capricorn

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Over the course of the next day the Moon in Virgo will trine — that’s a 120 degree aspect considered positive in astrology — three planets moving retrograde in Capricorn: Jupiter, Pluto and Saturn.

In astrology Capricorn is perhaps the political sign par excellence. The fact that three heavyweights are occupying the cardinal earth sign for most of this year, along with disruptive Uranus in financial Taurus, bears testimony to the political, economic and cultural maelstrom which we are witnessing.

Earth Signs and Structure

Capricorn, and earth signs in general, are about structure. Uranus moving through Taurus is forcing us think of money and security in different ways. Delving and transformative Pluto in Capricorn is digging deep into the political quagmire and pulling up a whole host of frightening truths we scarcely knew existed.

Restrictive Saturn has returned to its own sign until the end of the year, trying to hold on, sometimes desperately, to the status quo. Soon the greater malefic (so-called) will team up with Jupiter and both will shuffle through the threshold –into Aquarius, but that’s another story.

Jupiter in Capricorn is in the sign of its detriment, it doesn’t sit well. How can his need to expand be easily accommodated into the sign of restrictions? Nevertheless his generally benevolent presence there does mean that there are signs of hope and support, to maintain some kind of structural coherence.

Some Better News?

So over the next day, the Moon will contact these inhabitants of Capricorn from Virgo, hinting to me that we may see some slightly more beneficial news, even though all three planets are retrograde. This ‘better’ news, whilst being political and economic, may also involve good news in regard to some health issues or even be related to work and employment — all Virgoan issues.

That said, soon after making contact with Jupiter, the Moon opposes confusing Neptune in Pisces, indicating that we need to take heed of the fact that not all of the news we are getting today is going to be clear or indeed trustworthy. As ever we are going to have to use our own discernment and apply it vigorously.

Copyright Francis Barker 2020

The 1960s Cultural Revolution – Part 2: Endemic Revolution

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In part one of this topic I commented on the social and cultural changes instigated around the mid 1960s, breaking off my narrative around the end of 1965 with the supremacy of The Beatles. I argued that the deep, fundamental astrological influence of the outer planets, most particularly the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto in 1965/6 was symbolic of these changes.

The first meeting of Uranus and Pluto was in October 1965, followed by two more conjunctions on April 6 and June 30 1966. The changes were truly worldwide, seemingly polarised in nature, all enhanced by media manipulation and/or the growing promotion of drugs like LSD. The latter is symbolised by Neptune’s positive sextile aspect to the other two outer planets at this time. Even sex was liberalised with the introduction of the pill, pushing the idea that women could be as ‘free’ as men.

At the same time we may have viewed the Cultural Revolution in China as being the opposite of the ‘liberation’ going on the ‘West’, perhaps seen in ‘reactionary’ Saturn being in opposition to the Uranus Pluto synod.

Yet when we analyse the rather divergent political systems, the actual processes were the same – revolution fostered by a saturation of propaganda, all to gain maximum power and control. Uranus upturns, Pluto grabs the reins, with Neptune providing a little deceitful cover in the form of film and other media propaganda as a way to persuade and ultimately deceive.

Pivotal London

China aside, just like the Uranus Pluto conjunctions of 1850/1, London and England once again seemed to be pivotal to the cultural changes, with the so called ‘British Invasion‘ and London becoming the hub of the new fashion scene, epitomised by such manifestations as Carnaby Street.

Interestingly the Beatles landmark album ‘Revolver’ (that is, revolution) was released in August 1966, a summation in music of what was going on. It was indeed a very revolutionary catalogue of songs, utilising unusual, highly sophisticated writing and recording techniques. This was truly one of the cultural icons of the age, symbolising innovation and change (Uranus) in music (Neptune), to instigate a change in the guard (Pluto).

Back in September 1966 Jimi Hendrix, arguably the most brilliant and influential guitarist ever, was brought to England, a step which was to propel him to superstardom at rocket speed within weeks. Although he would be dead within four years, Hendrix typifies the period of sudden change and vast, worldwide influence – a meteoric career indeed. Yet his star still burns bright in the minds of many today.

’68 – Year of Revolution

If 1966 really was the pivotal year, it led directly to the ‘Summer of Love‘ in 1967 and the explosion of creativity in art and culture, transcendental meditation et al. Accepted paradigms were being questioned, which in turn led to the 1968 year of revolution, which came very close to bringing down the French government, for example.

1968 was probably the most tense and tragic year of the decade. The Vietnam War was at its height, as were the protests against it. The call for change, positive or otherwise, was reaching a crescendo. Political leaders who might have been able to bring about such change, such as Martin Luther King Jr and Senator Robert Kennedy, were assassinated in the melee of confusion and hate.

Trying to assess the situation is difficult because of its complexity and the benefit of hindsight is indeed a valuable thing. It does not appear to be a simple case of left versus right, or even right and wrong.

Collective Uranus

Astrologically, Uranus has often been seen as ‘right wing’, but I disagree. I think Uranus simply represents the force for change, revolution, literally turning things over, as in the name ‘Revolver’. I therefore see Uranus as more what we might call ‘left wing’.

Pluto is fundamental, often the hidden power behind the scenes. As I have said, Neptune working in tandem provided the medium (music, art, film)  through which such changes could be started in that 1965/6 period.

Yet behind the passion play which was the 1960s narrative, was another, the so called ‘Space Race’, ultimately won by the USA when America landed a spacecraft visibly on a lunar surface.

Race to Oblivion?

The date was July 20 1969. Intriguingly, on this very day Uranus, planet of change and breaking barriers, was exactly conjunct the Greater Benefic Jupiter at 0 degrees Libra. To me this symbolised a conquest, not merely through the fact of the news headlines which followed, but in the long term reconfiguring of humanity at a global level. The lunar missions would peter out by the end of 1972 in a climate of disinterest: few would have predicted that.

Uranus is often credited in creating ‘individual’ tendencies when strong by position or aspect; it can manifest in individual personalities in traits like eccentricity. Nevertheless, Uranus is ultimately trans-personal and collective.

Continual Revolution – and Disillusion

It is no surprise all three outer planets were ‘discovered’ at times of great, revolutionary change; 1781, 1846 and 1930. The political manifesto most associated with all three the outer planets is socialism, a collective philosophy which has now spread to the entire world in various forms.

The 1960s began as an era of much promise, with a young American president taking office. The mid 1960s witnessed a vast cultural revolution, manifesting in various ways, depending on the political milieu of each country, though the same radical tactics were used. These were based on disruption and chaos (Uranus), confusion and deception through promotion of drugs and media (Neptune in aspect to both) and surreptitious power grabs (Pluto).

It is a sobering thought that the 1960s symbolically ended with the tragedy of the Altamont Festival on December 6. What had it all been for? Yet we are still living with the effects of the 1965/6 synod of Uranus and Pluto. The opposition will not be for a couple of decades. What kind of world will it be by then?

Copyright Francis Barker 2020

The 1960s Cultural Revolution – Love Is All We Need? Part 1: The Dissonance of Neptune

Photo by Mike from Pexels

Of course, the mid 1960s cultural revolution is the stuff of legend. I am just about old enough to remember significant parts of it.

I started school in January 1964, less than two months after the Kennedy Assassination, a matter of weeks before the Beatles made their first iconic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in the United States in February.

The world really was changing and although few may have suspected it at the time, we had just got on board a big roller coaster. By the end of the decade the world really was a very different place.

Shaking Up

As someone who has had a long standing interest in astrology, I thought it was about time I had a look as to what was happening during this period.

Better astrologers than me, such as the great Dane Rudhyar, were assessing the situation with true vision around the time of the mid 1960s. They realised the significance of the Uranus Pluto conjunction in Virgo of 1965/6, that human culture and society was about to be seriously shaken up.

I have recently posted a couple of other pieces in regard to the important 127 years Uranus Pluto cycle, and in particular the conjunction. I believe that this has encapsulated symbolically the vast cultural changes of humanity, particularly since 1710-11 and most especially with the 1850-1 and 1965-6 cycle inceptions.

Generational Influence

The power of the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto have emerged significantly into human consciousness since the discovery of Uranus 1781. I think they represent concepts which can be ‘utilised’ for generational effect.

Uranus brings the idea of thinking differently, revolution, turning things upside down, often for the sake of it. Neptune brings new beliefs, new ways to ‘unite’, concepts but also accompanying delusion, confusion. Pluto is fundamental power which is often hidden and all the potential danger that can bring.

The two planets Uranus and Pluto were drawing relatively close by late 1963. The shock of the Kennedy Assassination on November 22 1963 cast a long shadow over the entire world, but particularly in the United States of course, the most powerful country militarily and culturally.

Counter Culture

This awful event acted almost like a psychological primer for the emergence of the so-called Swinging Sixties and counter culture. Maybe here was evidence of the foreshadowing effect of the Uranus Pluto conjunction, the urge for change merges with fundamental power – a cultural revolution fostered at all levels of society.

I think we should also briefly examine the sign in which the conjunction was to occur, namely Virgo, the mutable earth sign. Virgo and the sixth house represent many totally practical facets of everyday life, our efficiency, work and health. In other words, this conjunction was potentially going to turn upside down all of that, it would be felt by everyone in their everyday lives.

Photo by Sebastian Ervi from Pexels

You Say You Want a Revolution?

And certainly from early 1964, with the cultural phenomenon that was the Beatles, the ensuing ‘British Invasion’ and everything that went with it, to important events like the true beginning of the Vietnam War in August with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, began to set the scene for the rampant cultural dichotomy of the period.

Very interestingly, Uranus Pluto were first exactly conjunct on John Lennon’s twenty fifth birthday, on October 9 1965. By this time the Beatles had virtually conquered the world through their music and films.

The conjunction in Virgo was roughly opposed by Saturn in Pisces, but was in easy aspect to Neptune in Scorpio. I think this is highly significant. Saturn represents the conservative (often religious) reaction to the societal changes, whilst Neptune essentially being in step with both from watery Scorpio cast an other worldly veneer over all of the growing melee.

Although I contend that the three outer planets do not rule any signs, and do not have personal influence – unless they are brought into the equation either through being angular or in strong aspect – I think they do have a transpersonal effect which needs to be carefully examined, even warned against.

Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll

Although drink and drug abuse are often associated with this planet, I think Neptune also has much to do with music, particularly modern, sometimes formless, chaotic music. Neptune in Scorpio could be said to epitomise that ‘sex, drugs and rock n roll’ culture which developed at this crazy time.

Neptune’s transition through Scorpio from 1957 to 1970 witnessed this whole period of world in transformation and the planet’s sextile (60 degree) aspect to the Uranus Pluto conjunction in the mid 1960s particularly allowed mediums like music and also art to manipulate the masses into general acceptance. Music, after all, has a profound effect on the emotions.

Perhaps it was almost like an escape valve in which we were all invited, through the words of Timothy Leary, to ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’ – all very ‘druggy’ and Neptunian.

It was a concept which was to mushroom with all the power of a nuclear explosion in the ensuing years, encapsulated astrologically and symbolically by the transformative meeting of Uranus and Pluto in Virgo. The changes instigated at that time have only cast stronger ripples in our world since then.

Part 2 will follow soon.

Copyright Francis Barker 2020


Turning Point 1711 – Insight into the Origins of Britain as a World Power

united kingdom marching band
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It is remarkable when one looks at a map of the entire earth and notice how insignificant the island of Great Britain appears, hovering as it does off the north west coast of Europe, neither separate from that continent, nor totally attached to it. Perhaps there is something prophetic about that island’s geographic position, looking westward out to the bleak Atlantic Ocean.

According to the historical narrative, relatively small nations had formed huge empires previously. Taking the accepted history of Rome being founded in 753 BC, this small city state expanded to rule much of the then known world by the second century AD. It is said that the influence of this empire is still strongly conspicuous today, especially in language, culture and government.

Spanish Gold

More recently, towards the end of the fifteenth century, the unification of the two Iberian kingdoms of Aragon and Castille, formed the more powerful kingdom of Spain, which went on to prosper the most from the ‘discovery’ of America by Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón) in 1492. Within a mere few decades the Spanish empire dominated the new continent, north and south. Spain became very wealthy indeed during the sixteenth century.

Similarly and perhaps even more remarkably, Portugal, Spain’s feisty neighbour and rival on the western fringes of the Iberian peninsula, not only carved out an empire in South America (Brasil), but went on to dominate trade in the East Indies and to extend its empire to that part of the world and into Africa and its influence as far as Japan.

There are other examples, like ‘Holland’, more accurately called the Netherlands, or The United Provinces at one time, which also was an early beneficiary of trade and settlement in the Americas and the Far East.

Colouring the World Pink

However, no empire was ever as grand as the British Empire. By the end of the nineteenth century it was the empire upon which the sun never set. A schoolboy of the time could look at a map of the world and reflect upon the predominant colour of pink – all those lands, as far afield as Canada and New Zealand, where the British flag flew and the English language was spoken.

It is easy to think of empire building as organic, though this is never the case. A nation, or a people, often have a common purpose, though the vast majority are unaware of it. Nations and empires are steered, often by a few notable individuals and families with ambition and vision.

John Dee, Queen Elizabeth I’s astrologer who chose the timing of her coronation in January 1559, was one such man. I will merely allude to him here, but suffice it to say that he the first to talk in terms of a British Empire, even though technically the notion Britain was only a geographic, not political reality when he was alive.

Tentative Steps

Nevertheless, it was during Elizabeth’s reign that the first tentative steps were taken by English explorers to establish an empire in the name of the queen. Sir Walter Raleigh was one such remarkable individual who made attempts at settling in North America.

By 1707, the crowns of England and Scotland were legally united, officially creating the Kingdom of Great Britain. At the same time a highly significant war was being fought in large parts of Europe. This was a result of Charles II of Spain dying without an heir in November of 1700. The ensuing war is called The War of the Spanish Succession.

The British fought this war essentially to prevent either France or Austria uniting with Spain, and thereby creating a European superpower. Such an eventuality would have been clearly detrimental to Britain’s ‘interests’. It is an early example of a way of maintaining the balance of power – at least that’s the official line.

After ten years of warfare, the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I died in April 1711 and was succeeded by the Archduke Charles, which effectively ‘solved’ the succession crisis, at least in the eyes of the British who began peace talks. This eventually resulted in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which established Great Britain as a naval and European economic superpower. Out of all the belligerents, only Britain could be said to have emerged from this conflict financially intact.

1710-11 – A Major Turning Point

This period centering around 1710 to 1711 was clearly a major turning point in British, European and world history. Astrologically too, we can see clear signs of the turning of a page, or the planting of a seed.

I draw your attention to the three then still undiscovered planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, all representing other (perhaps higher) dimensional (invisible to the naked eye) aspects of the mind, unity and power. As far as we know, these forces were not known at this time, remaining hidden somewhere in the collective human unconsciousness.

Nevertheless when Uranus met Pluto in September of 1710 and remained close, especially during the spring of 1711 when the Emperor Joseph I died, we see the beginning of a new historical cycle, with Great Britain seizing the initiative at an important time of opportunity. Uranus brings new ideas, change, Pluto the idea of collective power.

The Seed of Power Planted

This Uranus Pluto conjunction happened to be in late Leo, also conjunct the fixed star Regulus, which has had a long association with royalty and royal power.

Equally fascinating, the other remaining undiscovered outer planet, Neptune, was for a time in conjunction with the benefic Venus and in very good aspect to Uranus and Pluto from Aries. I think this gave a kind of other worldly blessing to the birth of the new enterprise. It’s fascinating to think that the god Neptune traditionally ruled the seas and from this point on Britannia certainly did rule the waves.

I think the relationship of the three outer planets at this juncture perfectly symbolise the sign of the times, the changing of the guard and setting the scene for the next century or so.

Other significant events at around the same time were, among others, the founding of The South Sea Company on March 3 1711. This was a public/private company created to consolidate and reduce British national debt, something which none of the other participants in the War of the Spanish Succession would have. Remember that important conjunctions are good for starting something new.

The Origins of Steam Power?

Another intriguing development was the invention and application of what was called the ‘atmospheric engine’ by Thomas Newcomen in 1712. This steam driven device was initially used to successfully pump out water from tin wines in the south west of England, particularly Cornwall. It is not difficult to grasp the significance of this invention and its later use in the first steam locomotives later on.

There were also reports of the first successful hot air balloon flight at this time by a certain Bartolomeu de Gusmao. Although this occurred indoors, the fact that it happened at all is highly significant. Uranus, after all, is said to rule the air and scientific invention.

I think there is evidence here of the burgeoning ‘power’ of the three outer planets and their generational influence on human culture, an influence which would gain in impetus as each one was subsequently discovered over the next two hundred years.

Copyright Francis Barker 2020

The Outer Planets – To Use, or Not to Use

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I may have touched upon this before, but I have been experimenting leaving out the outer planets in astrological interpretation.

I have to confess it has not been easy. The school which I studied with thirty years ago fully incorporated Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, if not some asteroids and Chiron.

So when I began to leave out these outer planets, it felt a little bit like riding bare back. It felt uncomfortable, as if I was missing something. Right now I’m not entirely sure which way to go, which isn’t good, because I want to affirm my astrological philosophy after all these years. But it is good to remain open minded.


However, I think I am gradually coming around to the decision to leave them out. What is the reason for this?

I have never been comfortable with the interpretation of the outer planets, their supposed influence. Of course, as far as we know, the ancients did not know about them, so they were not used.

Then boom! Uranus (called Herschel at first after the astronomer who had been tracking him) was discovered in the late 18th century, around the time of the American, French and Industrial Revolutions. Hm, so Uranus is associated with revolution, sudden change, right? Well, perhaps.

Revolution, Mysticism, Extremism

Then in the mid 19th century, Neptune was found, around the time of further revolutions around 1848 to do with socialism and what is now called Marxism. There was also a sudden surge of interest in the area of mysticism. Around 1850, it really did seem like a new world was being born.

Come 1930, little Pluto was discovered. And we know what was to follow after that. Pluto has ever since had dark, underground associations of hidden extreme power and violence.

Gradually each of these new planets were seen by many astrologers as higher octaves of the planets. Uranus was thought to be the higher octave of Mercury, the planet nearest the sun on our solar system model. Uranus was therefore was about mental breakthrough, inspiration, invention.

Higher Octaves

Similarly Neptune was seen as the higher octave of Venus (love, unity) through meditation and Pluto was associated with Mars (energy) in a more transformative pose. I have never been completely comfortable with this thinking.

For one thing, we know these luminaries are there but they are not visible to the human eye. Are we not in danger of ascribing them too much astrological influence? Yes, invisible things can be very powerful. But astrology is about luminaries, things you CAN see. Simplicity can be a blessing.

Some use the outer planets in a lesser way, see them as purely negative, revealing by sign and house position where we will experience problems, perhaps a bit like a negative fixed star. For example, Uranus might reveal where we feel alone, isolated; Neptune warns us of deception and confusion; Pluto where we might be in danger of self destruction. The difference, of course, is that you can see a fixed star.

Bad Influences

If we return to the time of the discovery of each of these planets, we could strongly argue that if the finding corresponded with a major shift in human activity as seen through the accepted historical narrative, such as revolution, then maybe these planets’ ‘influences’ are indeed negative.

And as well as all the above, didn’t the old ‘system’ with seven luminaries have a certain beauty, balance or resonance about it? The discovery of Uranus in 1781 and its incorporation into astrology, did indeed disrupt everything.

What is more, it is my contention that Uranus is not the ruler or even co-ruler of Aquarius. The nature of this sign has been subjugated over the last two hundred years, from a serious minded forward thinker, to a wacky professor or flower power hippy – all because of the so called cranky ruler Uranus. Aquarius is traditionally the sign of hopes, dreams and wishes and group objectives. How are these Uranian?

Difficult Associations

Similarly, mystical Neptune has been associated with ‘dreamy’ Pisces and powerful Pluto with the much maligned Scorpio. The tradition of assigning two signs each to the planets, Mercury through Saturn, is ancient. I now believe it should stay that way. Tradition is important whilst remaining open minded.

So at this juncture my purpose is to leave out the outer planets, including Chiron (which is what… a comet?), along with the asteroids.

With each interpretation, if any outer planet does indeed form a major aspect, I will consider mentioning it, but will not include it on the chart. Treating the outer planets a bit like fixed stars might indeed be the way to go – but that is not decry those clearly visible luminaries, which have had a place in many forms of astrology for millennia.

Nevertheless, I feel the outer planets do seem to have influence on us all in a transpersonal sense – though not necessarily in a benevolent fashion. I intend to highlight this is in a number of forthcoming articles.

Copyright Francis Barker 2020


The Brilliance of Britten: Astrology Musings, Neptune inspires again

ocean wave
Photo by Simon Clayton on

One of England’s greatest composers, Benjamin Britten composed some of the most memorable music of the 20th century.

So let’s take a quick look at his birth chart. He has Cancer rising, with a wide Mars Neptune conjunction near the ascending degree, the latter being closely trine his Sun and a retrograde Mercury on either side of the Scorpio/Sagittarius cusp. Sounds complicated?

Inspirational Neptune

As I have noted before, Neptune is very often prominent in some way in the charts of creative artists and composers.

I suspect this is the source of much inspiration. Britten was from Lowestoft in Suffolk in the east of England, he was brought up by the sea and had a strong connection to it. One of his most famous pieces, the opera ‘Peter Grimes’ was inspired by this.

Emotional force

Neptune in Cancer in his first house symbolises this, with the added emotional force of Mars, which may have been difficult to control at times.

In my own mind, I equate that wonderful sound in music of the rolling waves releasing on the beach from the ‘Four Sea Interludes‘ of ‘Peter Grimes’, to the Neptune Mars in Cancer conjunction. It’s beautiful, imaginative, and slightly disquieting. Neptune’s supportive connection to the Sun will give him further innate sensitivity.

Retrograde Mercury thinking out of the box

I am also interested by the Sun conjunct a retrograde Mercury bestriding the Scorpio Sagittarius cusp, in houses 5 and 6.

It’s almost like a confusion of identity here, where the mental processes are turned more inwardly, unusually, and ‘out of the box’, and where the sense of self (the Sun in last minute of Scorpio) is always looking beyond but never quite getting there.

In some sense this may have been another prime reason for him becoming a composer and musician, in that the challenges of expressing thought conventionally with the retrograde Mercury, can be given over to creative, musical inspiration, expressed through ways alluded to above.

Strong attachment to roots

Mars is also ruler of houses 5 and 10, giving much energetic support and a link between his creativity and career path. And it is interesting to note that he was a fine conductor and pianist too.

His ruler, the Moon, is in Virgo in house 3 but very close to the Nadir of the chart, trine to Jupiter. He clearly has a strong emotional connection to his roots, probably his mother, and he never lost that sense of ‘belonging’ to the Suffolk coast.

However, in Virgo the Moon is quite fastidious, supported by a more circumspect Jupiter in Capricorn, a quality which will certainly help the art of putting all that inspiration from Neptune down on paper.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019