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.

Photo by Fernando Arcos on

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

The Outer Planets – To Use, or Not to Use

mountain and sky
Photo by Aviv Perets on

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


A Bull Market for Taurus?

Ironically, Uranus in Taurus could be like ‘a bull in china shop’.

Where will we be by 2026?

It has often mystified me how the second sign of the zodiac, that particular 30 degree division of the ecliptic, got associated with the bull – Latin name Taurus. I’ve read theories but I guess the real truth is lost to time somewhere in ancient Mesopotamia and Greece.

Taurus in pure astrological terms is the fixed earth sign. Earth is pretty fixed as it is but add the ‘fixed’ condition to it as well..? From this it gets its traits of solidity and dependability. OK, a bull is solid – but is it dependable?

Taurus is ruled by Venus, some say the more negative side of the lesser benefic planet. From this Taurus is also associated with beauty, but perhaps a more particularly sensuous, earthy type of good looking things. In the human anatomy the sign is said to rule the neck, that natives may have weak spot in this part of the body, especially if the Sun or planet in the sign is ‘afflicted’ by negative aspects.

The sign is also associated to the second house in birth charts, which is all to do with our personal security and money, basically the Taurean traits applied our personal world. In mundane terms too, Taurus rules money, finance and securities. Aries is said to plough the first furrow, it initiates. Taurus is all about consolidation, big time.

However, last year the ‘outer planet’ Uranus entered Taurus for the first time since the early 1940s, which ended a tenure spanning back to 1934. Naturally, you don’t have to be a brilliant student of history to know what was happening in the world then.

But let’s not be alarmist. What does it all mean? Taurus is money, Uranus breaks up. It could be that by 2026 when this shaker-upper of a ‘planet’ leaves Taurus, our views on money, what it is, how we use it – might be radically different from what they are now. We should also remember that Pluto remains in Capricorn until 2023. Capricorn is the cardinal earth sign and is politics, the establishment, big business. This combination may represent a double whammy for the way things are at present.

My prediction (I know many would say that it’s an easy prediction to make) is that the world of 2019 compared to 2026 will have radically changed. We might see digital currencies running the world by then, which would entail along with it drastic changes in lifestyle.

And there’s no reason why it shouldn’t actually change for the better, for once. That goes for you too, Taurus.