Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Scorpio Considered

 Scorpio by David Palladini
In his book, Astrology published 1964, Louis MacNeice, not an astrologer, but a poet and scholar, gathered together much of interest from a variety of sources, ancient and modern. On zodiac sign Scorpio, through which the Sun now travels, he wrote the paragraphs below, quoting from some professional astrologers. This extract was not copied and pasted from elsewhere, but copy-typed by my own fair fingers; illustrations added by me.

NOTE: Mr MacNeice's seeming separation of male and female Scorpio-types, in the last paragraph, could be seen as unnecessary these days. what applies to the male applies also to the female!

Scorpio the Scorpion

October 24 - November 22.
A fixed, watery sign, ruled by Mars. Traditionally, people were frightened of Scorpio, since it is the eighth of the signs, and was thus often related to the eighth house, the house of death. Varley gives it rather alarming characteristics: "Scorpio has been occasionally found to afford to one class of human form when it is rising, a near approach to serpents, in the expression of the countenance, especially in the eyes and mouth; and when doing or saying cruel and bitter things, they are apt to be assimilated to the nature of snakes, scorpions, etc." This animal symbolism has been made much of by most astrologers, it is surprising to find a scorpion, usually encountered in hot, dry countries, established as a watery sign. (All the same, we are told that some modern Scorpio types excel at skin diving.)
The watery significance of Scorpio has been explained in different ways. Ingrid Lind says it is "the tidal wave of the thundering weight of Niagara." On the other hand Barbault contrasts it with the water of Cancer (the source) and the water of Pisces (the ocean) and makes it essentially stagnant, the kind of water that is found in marshes. This does not seem to fit with the energy and passion attributed to Scorpio characters, but Barbault no doubt is basing this diagnosis on the fact that Scorpio is a FIXED sign; after all, Cancer is cardinal and Pisces is mutable.

Stagnant or tidal, Scorpio is very peculiar. Barbault points out that the scorpion is the only animal that can kill itself (whether deliberately or not) by stinging itself with its tail. And he describes the sign as "the cemetery of the Zodiac." But readers who think themselves Scorpio types need not be alarmed: Scorpio has enormous stamina and can make a comeback like a phoenix. Having Mars as its ruler, it shows two main Martial qualities: aggressiveness and eroticism. Barbault writes that "the most murderous sign is also the most fecund." and to explain the apparent contradictions in Scorpio he once again, as with the preceding sign Virgo, calls in the anal complex. The Scorpio infant gets its first taste of pwer on the pot - and it will never look back.

Some modern astrologers prefer to think that it is the newcomer Pluto, rather than Mars, who is ruler of the sign, Pluto being the lord of the underworld. To look on the bright side of the sign, we are told that though the Scorpio man doesn't set out to please and doesn't like taking advice, he can be very good company just because he enjoys things so much. We are also informed that he often excels as a physician or a practical engineer and that Scorpio women make excellent cooks - and tend to have sexy voices like Edith Piaf. Born with Scorpio rising (which, according to some, endows a man with Spartan qualities) were Nelson, Kemal Ataturk, Goering, Mussolini, Franco, Nietzsche, Goethe, Victor Hugo and Edgar Allan Poe. Goethe's great hero Faust has been taken as a Scorpio type. Dostoevsky, Goebbels and Madame Curie had it as their Sun-sign.

Scorpio, being simultaneously fixed and watery, is like the two preceding signs, Libra and Virgo - complex if not self-contradictory. The next sign, Sagittarius, being mutable and fiery (which seems to make more obvious sense), is comparatively straightforward.

Astrologers mentioned:
André Barbault
John Varley
Ingrid Lind

Several earlier posts relating to Scorpio can be easily accessed via the Label Cloud in the sidebar.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

An "utterly memorable" Day

In trying to keep my thoughts away from that coming pesky election I noted that today is St Crispin's Day.
St Crispin is known as patron saint of shoemakers, leather-workers and suchlike.

Crispin and his (twin?) brother Crispinian were shoemakers as well as Christian martyrs, beheaded during the reign of Diocletian; the date of their execution is given as 25 October 285 or 286.

St Crispin's Day has become embedded in most minds, in Englnd at least, mainly through William Shakespeare's play, Henry V, in which the (as "1066 & All That" puts it) "utterly memorable Battle of Agincourt" took place, and Henry (via Will Shakespeare) made his oft remembered speech.

In unvarnished, unpoetic real life it's highly unlikely Ol'Henry Five ever said anything of the sort!

Information following was gleaned from (I wish we'd had access to this kind of help when presented with Henry V to study, as we were back in High School in England in the 1950s!)

The play was written around 1599, but it portrays events that occurred immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt (October 25, 1415), which just so happened to occur on St. Crispin's Day, the feast day of the martyred twins, Saints Crispin and Crispinian. Like we've said elsewhere, the events in the play speak to some contemporary (Elizabethan) issues. As Shakespeare's original audiences watched Henry wage a war with France, they would have been reminded of their own long-standing problems with Spain and a recent uprising in Ireland, the Earl of Tyrone's Rebellion (1594-1603).

Henry V is a war play..... What's the play's attitude toward war? Specifically, what's the play's attitude toward Henry's decision to invade France? The answers aren't cut and dried because the tone shifts between patriotic fervor for Henry's campaign against the French and it's recognition of the horrors of warfare. On the one hand, the play celebrates Henry's triumph over the France, which seems miraculous given that the English troops were exhausted, sick, and seriously outnumbered at Agincourt. The play is also chock-full of patriotic speeches that suggest warfare is patriotic and ennobling. (The clearest example of this is Henry's famous St. Crispin's Day speech, where he insists that the men who fight alongside him will become his "band of brothers.") On the other hand, Shakespeare goes out of his way to show us the horrors of warfare, which involve brutal hand to hand combat, raping, pillaging, and endless suffering. As Exeter points out, neither side can escape "the widows' tears, the orphans' cries, / The dead men's blood, the pining maidens' groans, / For husbands, fathers, and betrothèd lovers."

Returning to St Crispin's Day, 2016: as shoemakers, in the traditional sense, are now few and very far between, their patron saints' workload in that department will have been considerably reduced, though not entirely eliminated. Western "cowboy" boots, belts, saddles especially come to mind in the USA; Spain, and maybe Mexico, still retain their leather-working traditions. St Crispin and St Crispinian have not been made totally redundant yet.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Music Monday ~ Georges Bizet & Carmen

Tomorrow will be the anniversary of the birth of Georges Bizet, French composer of Carmen.
Bizet died suddenly after the 33rd performance, unaware that the work would achieve international acclaim within the following ten years. Carmen has since become one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the classical canon; the "Habanera" from act 1 and the "Toreador Song" from act 2 are among the best known of all operatic arias.

Set in southern Spain and tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen's love to the glamorous toreador Escamillo, after which José kills her in a jealous rage. The depictions of proletarian life, immorality, and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial.

Clips from brief biography by Rovi Staff at All Music website

Bizet was born in Paris on October 25, 1838, and grew up in a happy, musical family that encouraged his talents. He learned to read music at the same time he learned to read letters, and equally well. Entering the Paris Conservatory before he was ten, he earned first prize in solfège within six months, a first prize in piano in 1852, and eventually, the coveted Prix de Rome in 1857 for his cantata Clovis et Clotilde. .....The two years spent in Rome after winning his prize, would be the only extensive time, and a greatly impressionable one, that Bizet would spend outside of Paris in his brief life. When he returned to Paris, he lost confidence in his natural talents and began to substitute dry Germanic or academic writing for his own developing idiom. ......
In 1863 Bizet's father bought land outside Paris where he built two bungalows, one of which Bizet frequently used as a compositional retreat. He began a friendship (apparently not a physical one) with a neighbor-woman named Céleste Mogador, a former actress, author, courtesan, circus rider, and dance-hall girl. She is said to have been the model for his masterpiece's title role of Carmen. ......
Bizet's corpus of unfinished works is large, and testifies to his unsettled existence and his difficulty in finding a place in France's notoriously hierarchical and conservative musical world. In 1869 Bizet married Geneviève Halévy, daughter of his teacher. The marriage did not turn out to be a happy one, primarily due to her family's history of mental illness. .......
At last confident of his creative vision, Bizet was able to steer his final masterpiece [Carmen] through various obstacles, including the objections of singers and theater directors who were shocked by Carmen's subject matter. When the opera had its premiere on March 3, 1875, it was received barely well enough to hang on for future productions. Although it took audiences only a few weeks to catch on, Bizet died [on June 3, 1875 in Bougival, France] convinced it was a failure.

Astrodatabank has a birth time of 10p.m. for Bizet, but ranked as "DD" (dirty data). I'm ignoring that - if it's dirty, why muddy the waters with inaccurate assumption? Using 12 noon chart will give sufficient broad information for this blog post.

Natal Sun in early Scorpio (erotic) in trine aspect to Uranus (ahead of its time) in Pisces reflects Bizet's daringly erotic (for its day) subject matter of Carmen - the work that eventually brought him the success he craved, albeit posthumously. Neptune (imagination, creativity) in Aquarius trine Jupiter in Libra (the arts) is echo of the same. His Venus in Libra, one of three natal planets in the sign ruled by Venus, speaks to his innate musical sense, becoming obvious from a very early age.

Saturn in Scorpio square Mars in Leo; and Pluto from Aries opposing Venus and Mercury are reflections of the difficulties and challenges Bizet experienced in his professional and personal life.

Without a reliable time of birth Moon's position isn't known, but almost certainly it would have been somewhere in Capricorn, providing the only Earthy, practical grounding in his chart, to balance an Air/Water (mentally/emotionally oriented) nature, unless such was also coming from his unknown ascendant.

Finishing off the post, a very brief clip from a recent British production of Bizet's other well-known opera,
The Pearl Fishers

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Keys to Unlock Astrology

Keywords used in interpretation of zodiac signs and astrological houses are a handy tool, especially helpful to beginners who wish to learn more about the ancient art. There are several websites online offering lists of keywords - for example HERE, under "Introduction to Astrology."
Among astrology-related books lining my shelves is "Astrological Keywords" by Manly P. Hall. The author is described here as:
"One of the metaphysical giants of the Twentieth Century, Manly P. Hall spent decades researching eastern philosophy, occult studies, astrology, and a wide variety of related topics at a time when such subjects were still unknown territory in the western world. It is in no small measure due to his extensive writings and teachings that these subjects are so widely known today.

A prime example of the visionary Balsamic Moon type, Hall had Sun in Pisces, Moon in Aquarius. He earned an honorary Ph.D. in literature, was a 33rd Degree Mason, was a Rosicrucian initiate, and wrote over 200 books."
Another post on Manly P. Hall, among the archives, can be read HERE.

Astrological Keywords has been re-printed many times from 1958 onward, my copy is the 1978 version. It contains a treasure trove of astrological information. I'm borrowing, here, from the last chapter headed: "Snap Judgment".

Mr. Hall tells us that
"While a detailed analysis of character depends upon a profound knowledge of the science of astrology, the possession of certain fundamental keywords enables the student to arrive at remarkable conclusions, which, while not complete, will adequately demonstrate the accuracy of astrology."
For me, this pencil sketch style can often be far more convincing than pages and pages of scholarly interpretation.

Mr. Hall provides 8 examples to illustrate his point. I'll borrow his snap judgments about three of the best known personalities he features.
"Abraham Lincoln -
Aries rising - courageous, ambitious, idealistic. Sun in Aquarius - humanitarian, religious, progressive, tolerant. Neptune, Saturn and Antares (fixed star) conjoined in 8th house: a tragic and violent death. Mars and Uranus in 7th house: unhappy marriage. Capricorn in mid-heaven: high honor and great sense of public duty and responsibility. Venus opposing ascendant in Aries - features irregular but conveying an impression of beauty, sweetness or kindliness. A glance reveals these elements in the horoscope of America's martyred president, Abraham Lincoln.

Sir Francis Bacon
Aquarius rising with Sun opposite ascendant "spiritual and scientific progressivisim and diplomacy. Sun in 12th house: disgrace or imprisonment. Mercury conjunct Sun in 12th: the brilliance of his mind left unrewarded and obscured by the enmity of his contemporaries. Sagittarius on mid-heaven: high philosophical and religious attainments. Uranus in 10th house: erratic fortune and public place. Mars in Scorpio in 9th house: religious and political intrigue. This is an astrological sketch of the personality of Sir Francis Bacon, Chancellor of the British Empire and father of modern science.

Thomas Edison
Scorpio rising, a scientist. Leo on 10th house, a leader. Sun in Aquarius, a mind turned to Aquarian concerns - an inventor. Mercury in Aquarius, electricity. Neptune in Aquarius an inventor and investigator. Thus we may sum up the outstanding characteristics of Thomas Edison." (Inventor of the light bulb, among other things).
I didn't realise, until I'd finished typing these, that the subjects are all Sun Aquarians. I looked quickly through the other 5 examples in the chapter and oddly there's another Sun Aquarian, an Aquarius rising, a Pisces rising, a Sun Pisces, and a Leo Sun with Uranus in Aquarius. The author, Manly P. Hall, had Sun in Pisces, Moon in Aquarius (as stated in his memorial above). I wonder whether there was a little astrological nepotism going on here? Or are Aquarius and Pisces, for some reason, best able to demonstrate the efficacy of snap judgments? Curious.

[This is a lightly edited post from my earliest astrology blogging days.]

Friday, October 21, 2016

Arty Farty Friday ~ Going Ape

On our recent wanders around antique and vintage stores in Kansas I found another piece of sculpture by Austin Productions. In an antique mall in Emporia KS, this one came as a surprise. I picked it up for a closer look mainly because I liked the idea it represents; turned it around and was very surprised to see "Austin Productions" carved into the base at the back, dated 1962 - quite an early piece for them. We already have four other Austin Productions pieces (see here, here, here, and here).
I bought the piece at a very reasonable price, much lower than is being asked for similar pieces on E-bay and elsewhere.

I wasn't, originally, aware that it is an "homage" piece, or rough copy, of a famous sculpture by 19th century German sculptor
Wolfgang Hugo Rheinhold
(26 March 1853 – 2 October 1900) who was arguably most famous for his
Affe mit Schädel (Ape with Skull), inspired by Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. There have been several variations, copies of, and tributes to Rheinhold's sculpture over the years. Austin Productions was one of the original US manufacturers. The Austin Productions piece differs from Rheinhold's original in fine detail, and in material used.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I'm going to be really shallow here (you have been warned). I'm prodded by something written by Ted Rall yesterday in his piece published at Smirking Chimp and at Counterpunch.

From: The 4 things Hillary could do to close the deal against Trump:
........Then there’s her incredibly ugly, unbelievably hideous wardrobe: it’s hard to like someone who makes your eyes burn. But let’s face it. Hillary Clinton, probably like you and definitely like me, can’t do anything about her personality. At 68, that stuff is baked in. Still, there’s a lot she could do to close the deal against Donald Trump.....
(My highlight.)
Google Image offers up several pics of Ms Clinton in her many trouser suits - or as they call 'em on this side of the Pond "pant suits".

These are not some of the most recent creations we've seen during this election go-around, but do illustrate one of my main quibbles about her style - the other quibble was the buttoned up round-necked jackets she was sporting during the primaries. The jacket she wore during the last debate with Trump - the grey job with long, lighter coloured lapels - was a big improvement. However, it's those darn trousers that, for me, take away from any total good look. Most of her trouser legs are too narrow, and almost all are too short. To my eye women's trousers should cover the front of the foot or, if not, show off a nice soft boot top (and she could afford the very best light-weight boots that money can buy!) Those narrow-bottomed trousers are out of proportion; low-fronted "court shoes" are not a good look with trousers. The trousers of the turquoise suit, 4th from left in the first photo above, are about right, but she hardly ever wears them that way. The skinny leg look is fine for slender young things who can get away with just about anything - she ain't one of those. Narrow trouser bottoms with a bit of flesh/stocking showing, on a woman of Hillary's age and size, just look bad. I'm surprised that her advisers don't...well...advise better!

Now...I am no fashionista by any measure, as I've written before when doing a bit of ranting about clothes; do feel, though, that I can tell what looks good, right and proportional.

Oh my - how shallow was that!? What does it matter what this lady looks like and what she wears? It really shouldn't matter at all. If she'd just keep us out of World War 3, I'd be happy enough if she wore an old hempen sack clinched with duct tape, a muddy pair of green wellies on her feet.