Saturday, May 31, 2014

Archaic Astrology ~ Firdar & Cardan's Aphorisms

Ancient astrology, in common with most ancient ideas, retains a certain curious appeal, but the parts of it I've come across accidentally have been pretty hard to take seriously. For instance, I read about Firdar years ago and promptly set it aside as seeming like just another ancient "astrological board game":
Firdar or Alfridaria from glossary here:
Derived from the mixed Arabic and Persian "al firdar", the alfridaria, or alfridaries, are a system of planetary periods of Persian origin first described as far as we know by Abu Mashar. Originally intended for the long term forecasting of historical events, they can also be used in predicting for individual charts.
Nutshell: Different periods of life are associated with different planets which will define the theme prevailing during each of the periods.

From a full explanation by Stephen Birchfield A.M.A. HERE
It will be useful for us to examine this teaching at the source, Abu Ma’shar -
“Each of the seven stars, and the Ascending and Descending Nodes, has certain determinate times, and each star administers to the native in accordance with its proper firdar. The firdar of the Sun, then, is 10 years; of Aphrodite, 8; of Hermes, 13; of the Moon, 9; of Kronos, 11; of Zeus, 12; of Ares, 7; of the Ascending Node, 3; of the Descending Node, 2 – altogether, they are 75.
Another full explanation of Firdar by one of today's well-respected astrologers, Robert Hand, is HERE. Firdar did come up in a 2012 post of my own about 75 year cycles.

Perhaps I should not be so hasty as to cast aside Firdar - it might have some bearing on my pet theory about astrology: that the planets, in their cycles, are simply markers on waves of time, each wave bringing in different cosmic "atmospheres", which can be felt here on Earth, the waves roll on, sometimes criss-crossing, sometimes blending. Best leave Firdar in the "pending" tray!

I found another tid-bit of ancient astrological thought in a book sparsely titled Astrology by Irish poet Louis MacNeice:
Aphorisms of Jerome Cardan (1501-1576), Italian physician and astrologer.

Pronouncements by ancient astrologers tend to be on the gloomy side, too much so to take too seriously. It's always "is" or "will be" rather than "could be" or "likely to be". Still, they're fun to read and consider, and there could be a germ of truth included....perhaps.

Astrodatabank's page and natal chart on Cardan

 Jerome Cardan
Wikipedia page on Cardan

Some Aphorisms of Cardan....

When the Moon is in Scorpio in square of Saturn in Leo or in his opposition when he is in Taurus partilely, the Native rarely has either Wife or Children, but if Saturn be in Aquarius, he will be a mere Woman hater.

Mercury mixing his Beams with Mars, is a great argument of a violent death.

When Venus is with Saturn, and beholds the Lord of the ascendant, the Native is inclinable to Sodomy, or at least shall love old hard-favoured Women, or poor dirty Wenches.

The Moon, full of Light in conjunction with Mars, makes the Native be counted a Fool, but if she be void of light and with Saturn, he is so indeed.

A Woman that has Mars with the Moon is Right, I'll warrant her.

The Moon in Aquarius or Pisces makes the Native not at all acceptable amongst Princes or Grandees.

In Purging, 'tis best that the Moon and Lord of the Ascendant descend and be under the Earth, in vomiting that they Ascend.

Make no new Clothes, nor first put them on when the Moon is in Scorpio, especially if she be full of light and beheld of Mars, for they will be apt to be torn and quickly worn out.

If a Comet appear while a Woman goes with Child, if it be either in the fourth, fifth or eightth month, such Child will prove very prone to anger and quarrels, and if he be of quality, to sedition.

Saturn in fixed signs causes scarcity of Corn, dear years, and the Death of many Men.

When Saturn is in Libra and Jupiter in Cancer, great Changes and Alterations shall happen in the world.

- Jerome Cardan, Seven Segments, 1547, translated by William Lilly, 1676.

I've mentioned MacNeice and his book in a past There are other snips from the book among the archives, accessible by clicking on "Louis MacNeice" in the label cloud in the sidebar.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Mabel Lucie Attwell & Our Inner Child

 I'd like to caption the above, "I read the news today - Oh boy!"
Wandering away from painterly painters, painters starving in garrets, and painters tangled up in diverse romantic or emotional muddles, here's someone completely different.
Mabel Lucie Attwell. I don't know how well she was known in the USA. Husband didn't recognise her name. Even in the UK, nowadays, she mightn't be easily remembered. My generation, the "War Babies", the only generation still around who'd remember her clearly, are tending to sink slowly in the west. Mabel Lucie Attwell is probably better recognised, anywhere, if at all, by her whimsical style illustrations of chubby-faced cheeky children than by her name. Her heyday was in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, echoing on through the early 1950s.

I'm not a fan of "twee", and it has to be said, some of Mabel Lucie's postcard illustrations are painfully twee, and yet, there's also a wee bit of sly knowing in some of 'em, and that's what attracted her adult fans.

Mabel Lucie Attwell was born in London on 4 June 1879. She had a natural aptitude for drawing. From her youngest years she loved to draw pictures to illustrate the stories she'd dream up with one of her sisters. Her drawings sold easily, and in sufficient volume that by age 16 she was able to finance her art studies in college. She met her husband-to-be while studying, they married later and had three children, a girl and two boys. The little girl, Peggy, was Mabel Lucie's inspiration for her round-faced cherubic subjects.

There were several successful female illustrators of children's books around at the same time (there's a relevant post in my archives - here), but Mabel Lucie had something special - a winking cheekiness with appeal to adults. She illustrated books, posters, thousands - or millions - of postcards, advertising matter, calendars, magazine covers and illustrations/cartoons. Her pictures often whispered of the challenges and changes going on in the 20th century world of adults, but always with gentle humour.


In 1945 Mabel Lucie moved from London to Cornwall, in the far south-west of England, to live with her son Peter. She stayed in Cornwall until her death on 5th November 1964. As is stated in a piece about her work at World Collectors
"Still to this day products are licensed under her name and are just as sought after as the original pieces from the earlier part of the 20th Century, ensuring that her legacy lives on through the eyes of adults who are secretly still children inside."


Mabel Lucie Attwell was born in London on 4 June 1879. No time of birth is known, chart set for 12 noon. Moon and ascendant would not have been as shown.

Hmm. I don't have a whole lot to say about this chart, except that it's highly appropriate that Venus, planet of the arts, should be found in Cancer, sign of the home, of nurturing, family, and sentimentality. Her chubby wee ones all have round "moon-faces", and Cancer's ruler is....the Moon.

Mabel Lucie's natal Moon was somewhere in Sagittarius, a sign known for its optimism, an outlook that shines through all her little postcard messages. Moon was probably in opposition to her Gemini Sun, depending on time of birth - and forming a T-square to Jupiter (ruler of Sagittarius where her Moon is placed). In most charts this might indicate some ongoing challenges, but somehow, in this case I doubt perhaps her natal Moon was out of orb to form those aspects, or at least too far out to form them tightly enough to matter.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Not Old Yet!

From an article by Janet Allon at Salon this week, referring to another article at

"Old age begins much later than you might expect
A new study proves the adage that age is just a number. Plus! Twenty-five signs you're getting old":

Here, according to, an independent newswire in Great Britain are the dreaded signs of ‘old age:’ Chances are, no matter what your age, you’ll recognize yourself in a few of these. Like, who isn’t forgetful from time to time? And plenty of people of all ages choose clothing for comfort rather than style. So, take it with a large grain of salt.

I did, and provided my own responses:

1. You fall asleep watching TV or reading the paper.
Don't read papers, read the internet. Fall asleep if watching crap TV programmes, so mostly watch DVDs instead and stay awake.

2. You become forgetful.
Not often, and mostly about inconsequential matters.

3. You groan when getting up from a chair or out of bed.
Maybe, sometimes, depending on the weather.

4. You say ‘back in my day’.
No I say "back when", if I'm speaking or writing about the past, so what other way is there to speak about the past?

5. You choose clothes for comfort rather than style.
Always have but try to combine both comfort and style.

6. You repeat yourself.
So do lawyers, politicians, teachers. So?

7. You have no idea what is in the music charts.
And that's a necessity in order not to get old?

8. You insist ‘things aren’t as they used to be’.
They aren't - in some ways it's a good thing (segregation, slavery, World War II).

9. You choose places to eat because they play quiet music.
I choose places where they sell what I feel like eating.

10. You have an afternoon nap.
No. I don't , not ever.

11. You don’t know the names of current celebrities.
Yes I do, but what good is that?

12. People offer you a seat on public transport.
There is no public transport where I live.

13. You prefer to stay in rather than go out drinking.
Are you kidding? But there are no pubs where I live. I can stay in drinking.

14. You have a low tolerance for teenagers.
Doesn't everyone?

15. You forget where your glasses are.
I have several, so can always find one.

16. Choosing to meet friends for lunch or dinner rather than a night out for drinks.
Kidding again aren't ya?

17. Choosing a cup of tea over an alcoholic drink.
As if! Getting silly now!

18. Wear slippers all the time.
I do not possess a single pair of slippers.

19. You watch ‘old’ TV shows like Antiques Roadshow.

So? I'm interested in fine arts and antiques, that's not a sign of old age.

20. You spend weekends or bank holidays in garden centres.
I do not have a garden. I have never, knowingly, entered a garden centre.

21. Gardening is a hobby.
I do not have a garden. Oops - repeating myself! Sign of age? The questioner is repeating too. Nevertheless I am gardenless.

22. You only listen to music from your youth.
I listen to music from the youth of countless generations, including, occasionally the current one.

23. You don’t hesitate to complain about poor customer service.
Nobody should.

24. You always take an umbrella or coat out with you, just in case.
Yes - "Be Prepared". UK's climate taught me this lesson.

25. You get a haircut to ‘suit your age’.

I cut my own hair, always have, always will. It suits ME.

Old - nope! Mature - perhaps.

For passing readers, of whatever vintage, a wish for y'all (and myself) in words of Bob Dylan,

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Doubts About Senator Sanders ?

I wonder why Bernie Sanders last week decided to vote to confirm David Barron's ascent to a powerful judicial position on the First Circuit Court of the United States, a judicial position which often addresses significant issues related to Americans’ constitutional rights.

I should like to read the Senator's views on this before writing him off as just another faux-populist, trojan horse, wolf in sheep's clothing...whatever.

From Peregrin Wood at Irregular Times website here, here and here.
The most troubling issue in David Barron’s record is his role as the author of the legal opinion that justified what is rather coldly referred to as “extrajudicial killing” by the United States federal government. Put more plainly, David Barron concocted a legal justification for President Barack Obama, so that the President could order the U.S. military to execute American citizens, because of suspicion of criminal behavior, without any trial or due process.

In Barron’s legal opinion, the people who are to be executed by the President of the United States don’t need to be warned and given the chance to turn themselves in, so that they will have the opportunity to defend themselves in court. David Barron thinks that the President can simply send remote-controlled flying robots to kill them.

To put a lawyer who is willing to engage in such an outrageous violation of civil liberties in the position of a federal judge is extremely reckless. Yet, all but two Senate Democrats voted to approve the David Barron nomination – and the two supposedly progressive independents in the Senate did too – including Bernard Sanders. Why did they do it? They wanted to show political support for Barack Obama as their leader, regardless of the implications.

Also listed
(at the first link above) are names of the U.S. Senators who voted against the Barron confirmation. Are they the good guys in this political story? Hardly. Almost every one of the senators who voted against the Barron confirmation supported equally outrageous violations of civil liberties when they were conducted by the most recent President of their own party, George W. Bush. Just as the Senate Democrats voted in favor of David Barron only to demonstrate solidarity with Barack Obama, regardless of the merits of Barron’s record, the Senate Republicans only voted against David Barron to demonstrate their opposition to Barack Obama.

Earlier this month, Sanders wrote that President Obama “has drawn concern from senators who are disturbed by David Barron’s authorship of legal memos that justified the United States’ killing of an American citizen overseas with a drone.” Yet... Senator Sanders voted in favor of giving Barron a high judicial position in the federal government. Sanders abandoned his scruples in order to do a favor for President Obama and his Democratic allies.

Supporters of Sanders may brush off this vote as just one bad vote in an otherwise excellent record. They’re missing the point, however, that this vote shows that what we expect of Bernie Sanders and what he actually does when political power is at stake are two different things.

I had intended to support Senator Sanders if he decided to run in the 2016 presidential campaign. I hope this isn't the first sign that he is just another broken reed. I'll hold on for a while to see whether Senator Sanders has anything to say on the topic.
Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him. (Isiah 36:6 King James Bible)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Always Too Late

Over the weekend we watched a couple of very different films, different but with an oddly similar factor involved, a factor which could also be applied to our real life situation in 2014.

The two films: from 2011, Margin Call (on DVD); and from this year, shown on HBO on Sunday night, The Normal Heart.

Margin Call is set in a Wall Street investment bank, on the cusp of the 2007/8 financial crisis; The Normal Heart is set in the gay community of early 1980s New York City, when a crisis has arisen with a then unidentified disease killing off, at an alarming rate, a specific group of people: gay men; the film deals with the rise of HIV-AIDS, and founding of an advocacy group. It's a heart-rending story, difficult to watch at times.

On the surface of it "crisis" seems to be the only common denominator. Something extra occurred to me as I watched The Normal Heart on Sunday, remembering dialogue from Margin Call, seen a couple of evenings before. Time and again in Margin Call, as word spread up the investment bank's hierarchical ladder, the person on the next higher rung would say exactly what his colleagues on previous rungs of the ladder had said to the lowly employee who had stumbled across something darkly sinister in the statistics: "Explain this situation to me purely in layman's terms", or "Tell me exactly as you would explain it to a child, you know I don't understand this stuff". Gob-smacking! (I know the film is a work of fiction, but I suspect there is basis in real life). Even more gob-smacking was when another employee stated that, on several occasions, earlier warnings of something going wrong had been passed up the line, but all these had been routinely ignored.

In The Normal Heart (adapted from a play by Larry Kramer, partly autobiographical), warnings of a disastrous outcome to an unidentified plague were being ignored by those on high, ignorance was being spread, not a single person in a position of power would do anything to help finance proper research. They didn't understand, they didn't want to understand. Even some of the gay men objected to the one person who began fighting very hard for their cause.

What people in both films saw as their entitled way of life, pleasures, level of income, place in the world, was not going to be made available for change under any circumstances. Examples of people in the top layers of finance or governance not being of sufficient caliber to understand and act immediately on these extremely serious situations, and not having enough moral core to care, even though dire warnings were being passed to them.....And then it was too late.

Ring any bells? C-c-c-c-c-climate change?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day ?

My own thoughts on Memorial Day are with those who served in World Wars I and II, otherwise, I feel much along these lines - words of the late Howard Zinn. The following paragraphs begin a piece he wrote in 1976, the full piece is HERE

Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?
by Howard Zinn

Memorial Day will be celebrated ... by the usual betrayal of the dead, by the hypocritical patriotism of the politicians and contractors preparing for more wars, more graves to receive more flowers on future Memorial Days. The memory of the dead deserves a different dedication. To peace, to defiance of governments.

In 1974, I was invited by Tom Winship, the editor of the Boston Globe, who had been bold enough in 1971 to print part of the top secret Pentagon Papers on the history of the Vietnam War, to write a bi-weekly column for the op-ed page of the newspaper. I did that for about a year and a half. The column below appeared June 2, 1976, in connection with that year's Memorial Day. After it appeared, my column was canceled.

* * * * *

Memorial Day will be celebrated as usual, by high-speed collisions of automobiles and bodies strewn on highways and the sound of ambulance sirens throughout the land.

It will also be celebrated by the display of flags, the sound of bugles and drums, by parades and speeches and unthinking applause.

It will be celebrated by giant corporations, which make guns, bombs, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and an endless assortment of military junk and which await the $100 billion in contracts to be approved soon by Congress and the President.

There was a young woman in New Hampshire who refused to allow her husband, killed in Vietnam, to be given a military burial. She rejected the hollow ceremony ordered by those who sent him and 50,000 others to their deaths. Her courage should be cherished on Memorial Day. There were the B52 pilots who refused to fly those last vicious raids of Nixon's and Kissinger's war. Have any of the great universities, so quick to give honorary degrees to God-knows-whom, thought to honor those men at this Commencement time, on this Memorial Day?

No politician who voted funds for war, no business contractor for the military, no general who ordered young men into battle, no FBI man who spied on anti-war activities, should be invited to public ceremonies on this sacred day. Let the dead of past wars he honored. Let those who live pledge themselves never to embark on mass slaughter again.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

By Request - Chart of a Special Lady

Natal chart of Lizzie Velasquez, born in Austin Texas on 13 March 1989. Chart is set for 12 noon as no time of birth available.

Relevant Huffington Post article.

Wikipedia's page on Lizzie.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Eminently Quotable Alan Moore

During a search for something to post for Memorial Day later this weekend, I read again some quotes from Watchmen, Alan Moore's comic book, aka graphic novel - a term he dislikes. What an excellent writer Mr Moore is! He has a passionate intensity of style, at the same time he manages to be both poetic and mystical. The combination must spring from a certain mix of facets within his personality; Wikipedia tells that he is occultist, ceremonial magician, and anarchist.

Take these brief quotes, for instance:

“Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves; go into oblivion. There is nothing else. Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It's us. Only us.”
― Alan Moore, Watchmen

“There is no future. There is no past. Do you see? Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time, when the whole design is visible in every facet.”
― Alan Moore, Watchmen.

I've never read a novel in comic book form, am not even sure I could, but I'd give a straightforward novel by Alan Moore a whirl without a second thought. Happily he's writing one, it's to be titled Jerusalem, and will be one of those huge doorstop-type books, maybe even longer than Dune or Les Miserables, it has taken him years to finish, according to one interview he began writing it in 2006.

Mr Moore has told interviewers that he eschews computers, all of their spawn, and most TV. He's something of a recluse, but does come out occasionally to share his thoughts. He is an interesting subject for astrological investigation. I've looked at his natal chart before, when writing about V for Vendetta, another of his creations. An article in The UK's Observer newspaper from 2009 by Vanessa Thorpe describes Alan Moore in this way:
Standing more than six feet tall, Moore has the flashing eyes and floating hair of the malign presence in Coleridge's Kubla Khan. An unsung British creative giant he looks more like a shadowy character from one of his own cult comics than a mighty creator of worlds. He wears silver, scorpion rings, has a penchant for magic, tarot cards and erotica and is rumoured to worship a Roman snake god.

Oh my!

He was born on 18 November 1953 in Northampton, England. Natal Sun was in the sign of Scorpio - sign of dark secrets, erotic yearnings, death, and things subversive. A 12 noon version of his chart is below. I can find no indication online of his time of birth. Ascendant and Moon degree will not be accurate, as shown. Moon would be somewhere between mid- and late-Aries.

Mr Moore has not only natal Sun in Scorpio, but also Mercury, Venus and Saturn... Scorpio x 4! Is he text-book Scorpio, through and through? He has no planet in an Earth sign, so there's not a lot to anchor him from his Scorpionic dark and passionate imaginings. Scorpio's modern ruler, Pluto, lies in Leo and in square (challenging) aspect to his Sun. This might indicate that though Pluto in Leo would, in most cases be happy to seek the spotlight and shine therein, Moore remains something of a recluse.

I notice a "chain" of related degrees here, degrees in the mid 20 degrees:
Sun 25 Scorpio ~ Neptune 24 Libra ~ Pluto 25 Leo ~ Uranus 22 Cancer ~ Jupiter 24 Gemini ~ and possibly Moon too in the mid-20 degrees of Aries. Links in the chain alternate between helpful and unhelpful - but all mesh and integrate, bringing a kind of balance - never a bad thing. Traits included: essence of self/creativity/darkness of style/things unexpected or futuristic/philosophy/publication/ inner dynamism and drive.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ (Sir) Stanley Spencer

Several blogs and websites have done a splendid job of educating readers on the life and times of "eccentric" English artist Stanley Spencer (1891-1959), and of displaying images of his paintings. I will link to the best of these websites and blogs at the foot of this post, and satisfy myself with a minimum of illustrations, adding some information gleaned from the linked biographical material. What nobody else seems to have done, so far, is to consider the natal chart of Sir Stanley and relate it to what's known of his personality. I'll take a stab at that later in the post!

Stanley Spencer was born on 30 June 1891 in the English rural village of Cookham, Berkshire, some 30 miles west of London. His father, a London-trained music teacher and "born educator" presided over his family of nine children which would eventually produce "a knight, two professors, a concert violinist, a professional stage conjurer, the Director of the National Building Institute in London, an Oxford graduate (killed in the Great War) and the wife of a Cambridge don", as well as two professional artists, Stanley's younger brother Gilbert became a successful artist too.

On the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Stanley enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was posted to Beaufort Hospital near Bristol in 1915, then to Macedonia in 1916, and later applied to transfer to the Infantry and went to the Front Line in 1917. He was deeply affected by war experiences. On return to his beloved Cookham he said he had lost that 'early morning feeling' which had so awakened his spirit. As an official war artist he had painted Travoys with Wounded Soldiers (now in London's Imperial War Museum) and the murals depicting his life in the army in the Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere.

(Click on an image to see bigger version)

 Travoys with Wounded Soldiers Arriving at the Sressing Station

 The Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere in Hampshire,   decorated with  series of large-scale paintings by Stanley Spencer,    inspired by his experiences as a First World War medical orderly and soldier in Macedonia,.  The main painting,  The Resurrection of the Soldiers (above), shows soldiers climbing out of their graves bearing white crosses and embracing their dead comrades. One man kneels at Christ’s side, his head in his lap, one man caresses a turtle, while another clasps a dove to his chest. Spencer wrote of the painting:
During the war, I felt the only way to end the ghastly experience would be if everyone suddenly decided to indulge in every degree or form of sexual love, carnal love, bestiality, anything you like to call it. These are the joyful inheritances of mankind.
(See here)

Stanley married twice, first to a fellow artist, Hilda, in 1925. They had two daughters.


In 1932 he began a dalliance with Patricia Preece, local artist who exhibited the work of her lesbian lover, Dorothy Hepworth, under her own name. She, apparently, had beguiled Spencer. She became a model for several of his paintings. In 1937 he divorced Hilda and a week later he and Preece were married. Their relationship turned out to be a strange one. They never lived together; the marriage was never consummated and after Spencer had signed his home and financial affairs over to his new wife, Preece secured the end of their relationship. In 1938 she evicted him from the house.
 Patricia Preece

It is said that Hilda remained "the love of his life".

His paintings veered between "comical versions of events and intense realism." He often combined biblical themes with topical events, a tendency not always appreciated by critics and viewers of his work.  In his depiction of “Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem,” (below) Cookham village folk run down their garden paths, trampling their cabbage plants, to join the procession. And when he painted Jesus’ last meal (also below) in 1920, Spencer set the table in the cramped back room of a local malthouse.
Critics of Spencer’s religious paintings claim that the artist demeaned religious events by turning them into unattractive, everyday events.  Spencer responded in 1947: “I want to show the relations of religious life in the secular, how that all is one religious life".

 Christ's Entry into Jerusalem (1920)

 Resurrection in Cookham (Click on image for larger version)

The Last Supper (1920).
Sexually, he is described as "something of a late sexual developer", but once into his stride he began shocking viewers of his work with explicit nude portraits of his two wives, no doubt fuelled by marital and emotional crisis. Sexual frustrations were translated through his paintings depicting folds of naked female flesh. Sir Alfred Munnings even initiated a police prosecution against the artist for alleged obscenity, resulting in Stanley hiding his Double Nude Portrait, a frank painting of the artist and his second wife, under his bed, not to be exhibited again until after his death.

 Double Nude (1937)

After Stanley's relationship with Preece came to an end, he made frequent visits to his first wife, Hilda, that were to continue throughout Hilda’s mental breakdown and up until her death from cancer in 1950.

 Hilda and I at Pond Street (1954). Painted after Hilda's death. The baptismal dress in the foreground is thought to be a metaphorical reference, the two small figures represent angels.

One of 8 panels he was commissioned to paint as a record of WW II Shipbuilders on the River Clyde, Scotland. He reportedly sketched preparation on long lengths of toilet paper.

Sir Stanley Spencer died from cancer on 14 December 1959.

 Self Portrait (1939)


The chart is set for 12 noon as time of birth isn't known. Moon position will be a bit adrift, and ascendant will not be accurate as shown.

Two stelliums (clusters of planets), one in Gemini and one in adjoining sign, Cancer; two oppositions: Saturn-Jupiter, and Moon (probably)-Uranus.

Personality-wise Stanley has been described thus by authors of the links supplied below:
....a most sociable character with many friends and supporters who has been called eccentric and Patricia (second wife) in her diaries even called him 'mad'. As a character he was certainly different and unusual. The small man with twinkling eyes and shaggy grey hair (often wearing his pyjamas under his suit if it was cold) became a familiar sight wandering the lanes of Cookham pushing the old pram in which he carried his canvas and easel.

....small and wiry and had a very energetic yet engaging personality. He could also be quite exhausting and would talk for hours with his mind flying free. He would vocalise or write his thoughts on every aspect of his work and left behind a vast archive of letters, notes and jottings.

Although slight in stature and wiry in build (his mother's attributes), was never one to be trifled with. He had an ebullient personality, a surfeit of energy, and an appreciative instinct (his father's gifts) which made him stand out in a crowd and welcomed as an engaging, if sometimes exhausting, guest. But his lively tongue, his ever-enquiring mind and innate sense of wonder were significant characteristics. It is sometimes overlooked that Stanley, even if largely self-tutored, was more widely read than many of his critics and commentators. In fact it can be argued that he was primarily a sensitive thinker whose devotion to art was the most effective means at his disposal of reflecting his metaphysical ideas, an attitude making him difficult at times to classify in the traditional pantheon of art.

Those three snips, from articles linked, shout, and very clearly, "Gemini!" "Sensitive thinker" brings in a trait, acute sensitivity, and love of home ground (his beloved Cookham) from his Cancer stellium. His natal Sun is in semi-sextile aspect (30*) to a Venus/Neptune/Pluto conjunction (art, creativity, intensity): the semi-sextile smooths what might have been an otherwise awkward combination between the quiet sensitivity of Cancer and Gemini's social butterfly tendency to suffer from verbal diarrhea.

His work equally defied convention. During his commission for the World War II Shipbuilding On The Clyde series of paintings he reportedly sketched on long lengths of toilet paper.

The originality of his art was the product of an innate nervous sensitivity far more acute than most of us are blessed with. We have to push ourselves hard to keep pace with it at times. One can see glimpses of an embryonic split-personality in the dichotomy between his down-to-earth and up-in-heaven, plus a hint of autism in his retentive powers of detailed observation, in his caution about embracing new sensation, in his overriding search for the reassurance of his Cookham-feelings and in the eternal attributions he gave his imagery, with perhaps an added touch of the manic-depressive - the 'manic' in his handling of the overload of creative ideas to which he was subject, and the 'depressive' in his dread of the frustration an interruption to them would cause him (one of the stated functions of close friends at times was to keep Stanley on an even keel by offering diversions from the excesses of his enthusiams, a kindness not always welcomed when he was in rampant creative mode.)

The eccentricities of Stanley Spencer - where are they in the chart? Uranus is the usual culprit. There's a good chance that natal Moon in opposition to Uranus is involved, or possibly Uranus was in first house or on his ascendant degree, or at midheaven.

The mention of "split-personality" draws one to consider those two oppositions, as well as the two stelliums in wildly different but adjoining signs, with a Neptune/Pluto conjunction in their midst.

His genius is of a peculiarly English type – provincial in the best sense, rooted in a particular place, queerly innocent, mystical and yet in love with what's before his eyes, over-sexed and yet somehow chaste, art-religious. Like Blake and D H Lawrence, he was an artist who new-created all he saw.
....that was the last paragraph of a Guardian piece by Howard Jacobson

BBC Arts Highlights
IKPople Blue Yonder/vision (+scroll to "Home" at foot of that page)

To see more of Stanley Spencer's work, all in one place, Wiki has a small sideshow of many of his paintings, any image can be enlarged by clicking on it. (SEE HERE, then scroll to foot of page ).

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Astrology and Astrologers Put to Test

A book I read some years ago, Under One Sky (2004), brainchild of Rafael Nasser, contains the biography of a woman, completely unknown to twelve well-respected astrologers. Each astrologer was tasked to give their "blind" interpretation of the anonymous woman's personality and life history, with only her birth data for guidance. Each used their own specialised system:
DEMETRA GEORGE - Asteroid Focus
KEN BOWSER - Western Sidereal
ROBERT HAND - Medieval
ROBERT SCHMIDT - Hellenistic
STEVEN FORREST - Evolutionary
WENDY Z. ASHLEY - Mythological

The astrologers specified how and why they reached the conclusions they did.

The subject's biography is stated in detail, by the woman herself - a little wordy for my taste. I discovered her identity later (see here).

As I read the biography I picked out a few key points which, in my opinion, ought to come through loud and clear in an accurate interpretation. These were: world travel; academic ability; spirituality; health problems/accidents; relationship with her father.

It wasn't as easy as I'd imagined it would be to see clearly which astrologer had come closest to describing the anonymous woman. Some astrologers were overly wordy, somewhat woolly too in places! Finally I concluded that one astrologer who used the sidereal zodiac, and one who used the tropical, delivered the best, clearest, and most accurate reports. I'll refrain from naming names, because my opinion could differ wildly from another reader's.

For astrology-minded readers this is a fascinating book, I learned one or two things from reading it:

1. Both tropical and sidereal zodiacs can work, in the right hands.

2. Too many words muddy the waters, even when the writer obviously has style and flair.

3. A light touch is best.

4. Not everything is shown in a birth chart, even when experts translate.

5. Basic, bog-standard tropical astrology can be as accurate as the most complex specialised methods, or use of a variety of different celestial bodies, or myths.

A discussion about the book at the Skyscript forum dating from 2010 reveals a variety of opinions on the interpretations, and some disappointment on the performance of astrologers involved in the book's experiment.

Whether interpreting birth data in such a "blind" situation is a fair test of either astrology or astrologers is open to question. On the surface, and to any reader with little astrological knowledge, it might seem to be a reasonable test, but I have doubts. Almost everything in astrology is open to more than a single, black/white interpretation. Expecting a "blind" reading to be more than part-accurate at best would be placing an unnatural strait-jacket on the ancient art. We humans do not fit into astrological strait-jackets (though a few out there in Washington DC might benefit from being strapped into a regular one).

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

NORMCORE - Non-Style Style

Fashion and style have interested me since, oh, the 1960s I guess, but I've never attempted to be fashionable or stylish myself (as if!) I suppose it's the design and art involved that interest me. I've lived through so many fads and fancies, fashion-wise: the shortenings and lengthenings of skirts, the loosenings, flarings or tightenings of jeans and pants, the classic, the quirky, the polyester, crimplene (UGH!!), nylon, polyester (YUK!) the lambswool, the organic cotton, the jersey....the high heels, the low heels, the ultra high heel, the clumpy, the dainty. I've watched it all with interest, but as a rule have gone my own way...different drummer an' all that.

I still take a look at The Sartorialist, blog of a professional street fashion photographer most days, to keep up with what's happening out there, outside of this Oklahoma bubble in which I find myself marooned. Not much fashion goin' on here! Mom jeans, dad jeans, tee shirts, sweat shirts, ball caps, some biker gear here and there, some cute dungarees, with the occasional Stetson for special occasions is best I can hope to encounter out in the wild.

But wait....what's this I read about something called "Normcore"? Wow! Is Oklahoma going to be abreast of - or even ahead of, real hipster fashion now?

A more "in depth" piece - if Normcore has any depths to plumb that is - is from April in the New York Times:
The New Normal
Normcore: Fashion Movement or Massive In-Joke?
By Alex Williams

It becomes unclear whether the whole Normcore thing began as some kind of in-joke or ironic wotnot initiated by some bored New York hipsters. Then the internet caught wind of it and spread the word rapidly, possibly in the process getting the wrong end of the fashion-stick. Maybe. Stripped of its hipster links though, Normcore can be seen as A Good Thing. Eschewing fashion "labels" and dictates of billionaire fashion moguls and corporations cannot be bad - wearing what's handy and comfortable: hand-me-downs (or ups), re-cycling old clothes, buying from thrift stores, Goodwill etc. Being anti-consumerist, anti-corporate. If it lasted it could be the beginnings of a political movement!

Could it catch on in a big way though? With the help of the net anything is possible. The hipsters will no doubt peel off soon, if they haven't already, and find something else with which to define themselves as individuals by all looking the same - let 'em get on with it!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


It's peculiar how, sometimes, a chance encounter among my own archives can lead to a many-forked unmade road and route to "what to write about next".

A post titled Lightworker? from 2008 featuring words from a column written by journalist Mark Morford on the topic of Barack Obama's (ahem) "light", was the first road sign. I've included a link to the article itself because that in my old post is no longer live. After I'd stopped laughing, I quickly checked to find a more recent column of Mark Morford's on President Obama and found one, Obama and the harsh reality check . After the first few paragraphs of that piece which I think must be from late last year, Mr Morford gets down to the nitty gritty and blows clean away any of that "light" nonsense of 2008.

The road forked from there, to various commentary about Mark Morford's journalistic style and comparison with that of another columnist, Jon Carroll.

Onward....I found a few of Jon Carroll's columns at SF Gate, read and enjoyed several; wished I could find birth dates for both Morford and Carroll to compare them - I couldn't. One of Jon Carroll's columns had inspired an idea for a blog post though. The Mystery of Jewdar.

In that column the author first discusses "gaydar", said to be an intuitive sense of whether a person is gay. He then moves on to "Jewdar", which I'd never heard of, but would be an intuitive sense to indicate a person exuding Jewishness. I'm not clear what benefit being in possession of either sensibility would be, though as Carroll wrote, in Germany and parts of Europe in the 1930s/40s being in possession of acute "Jewdar" would have been valuable in deciding who one's friends were.

Whether those two "-dars" are sensed via visible signs and signals, or in accordance with that old adage: "it takes one to know one", or perhaps from both combined, or from some real, but as yet unidentified, human radar-like sense I shall not guess, nor shall I delve further into either sensitive topic. I will invent a new "-dar".

In fact, there's scope for 12 new "-dars" for those among us who claim to be able to sense a person's astrological type. I do not, emphasise NOT, mean their Sun sign. Astrological type could be a Sun sign, but could equally be Moon sign or ascendant sign, or could emanate from a heavy cluster of planets in one sign. It'd be, for instance, a feeling of...."He/She seems very Taurean", or "I'd bet he has a lot of Gemini in his chart, or that was a Scorpio-type if ever I met one!"

What'll we call these "dars"? Aridar, Taurdar, Gemdar, Candar, Leodar, Virdar, Libradar, Scordar, Sagdar, Capridar, Aquadar, Pidar ?

Is this a reasonable proposition? Any ideas?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Music Monday ~ East to West

This large and heavy piece stands propped up on the mantel shelf above our fireplace. (The image ought to enlarge if you click on it - but in this case I'm not certain it will.)

I bought it at a yard sale some 8 years ago. I'd spotted it from the car, it was propped up under a tree in a huge front yard, in a very posh district of town. It called to me! The couple selling it told me, as we chatted, that they had been in the oil business, and had lived in Burma and Borneo. This is one of several items they brought back. It's called a "kalaga"- a Burmese art-form, sometimes incorporating Thai themes. Kalagas are tapestries, individually created from hundreds or thousands of beads, stones and sequins. Mostly they are used as loose wall-hangings, but the couple from whom I bought this had had it beautifully framed. It depicts 5 (Thai?) musicians - at first we called 'em our "Spice Girls", but on reflection , the female musician group "Bond" is nearer the mark, even though they number only four. I 'd resolved not inflict a Spice Girls video on passing readers anyway - but "Bond" is rather good:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Band of Brothers, Nudge Not to Forget & Astrological Quirk .

We're currently watching a box-set of VHS tapes of the TV series from 2001: Band of Brothers. I bought it on our last trip, realising that one of its prominent actors was Damian Lewis who became even better-known through his role in the later TV series Homeland. I'd first become aware of Damian Lewis in an updated version of The Forsyte Saga, in which he played Soames Forsyte, a not particularly pleasant character yet one who, in the hands of a talented actor, can still manage to evoke some sympathy. There was a hint of that same "feel" in Lewis's role of Nick Brody, suspected terrorist corroborator in Homeland.

In Band of Brothers we are never in doubt as to the stellar character of the man Damian Lewis plays, Lieutenant/Captain/Major Richard Winters, a person of absolute integrity, undisputed courage and quiet leadership skills...John Wayne he ain't, and all the better for it! Major Winters himself, as well as others of "Easy" Company, 101st Airborne Division, contribute their thoughts at the beginning of each episode..

Before the end of this post I intend to mention something astrologically interesting about the way Damian Lewis was chosen to play Major Richard Winters - just reminding myself !

We finished watching the 10 episodes of Band of Brothers this week. There could be no thought of "binge-watching" this series though, it's far too potently disturbing. I did feel we needed to watch it, to refresh our minds about what war truly amounts to in real human terms. We must never forget! Repeating: We must never forget! (See this from Common Dreams yesterday, 16 May).

I owe a debt of gratitude myself to the American servicemen who, during my early childhood during World War 2, came to the aid of Britain. Many fell in action, and the majority of those who were fortunate enough to return home will by now have passed on. Without their assistance to our own brave soldiers, sailors and airmen in those dark days, it's hard to know how Britain, as we know it, could have survived. That was a true war, World War II, not the custom-built, made-for-profit wars of the 21st century.

Main setting of Band of Brothers is mainland Europe, with a couple of early episodes in a training camp in Georgia, USA, and some fleeting glimpses brief stop-overs in England. As the title suggests, the series tells in detail what the war experience was like for a group of US servicemen from "Easy" Company, part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. The series was an adaptation, with some dramatic license involved, of Stephen E. Ambrose's 1992 book of the same title.

When I bought the box set of Band of Brothers I hadn't realised that we are heading towards the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the drama and horror of the original is superbly depicted in an early episode.

I hadn't realised, when we began watching the tapes, that it was as long ago as 2001 when the series was first aired on HBO in the USA and, I understand, it was just days before that dreadful date now known as 9/11. It's not surprising that the series lost much of its impact at that time. It gained a "second wind" on later repeat showings though, and especially with the release of VHS tapes and DVD recordings.

I'm not a fan of war movies in general, especially of war movies made in the USA, especially of war movies starring John Wayne who, apparently, won the war practically single-handed. I've named before the scant handful of war movies I admire, top of the list is The Victors directed by Carl Foreman (see post HERE). Band of Brothers reminded me of the tone of that movie at times. It's honest, raw and painful to watch.

In reading a few online reviews I have seen some unpleasant comments on the series - I rather wish I hadn't stumbled upon them. There are still a few people around with twisted ideas about World War II, possibly encouraged by some modern revisionist historians - and bigots like Mel Gibson. It's best that I refrain from further detail because steam is starting to exit my ears already!

 Major Richard Winters
 Damian Lewis as Major Winters
Now, back to the interesting tidbit about Damian Lewis being chosen to play Major Winters, who is "the spine" of the series, as described by the actor in a set of 6 interview videos on YouTube. (The link is to Part 1, other parts are listed to its right on YouTube).

Lewis, as Winters, appears at some point in every episode, even though every episode's story focuses upon a different character. He describes the way he handled depicting such a heroic and well-respected leader. Over the 9 months of production, he recalled, the actors, especially those who appeared in multiple episodes, began to feel almost schizophrenic from living inside their characters' lives so intensely for so long.

During the interviews Lewis is asked how he was chosen for the part of Winters. He describes how the interviews were conducted, broadly at first, with up to to 100 actors reading randomly for all/any parts, the actors then were gradually filtered to the point when Lewis was being earmarked to play Richard Winters. He admits that he was very surprised to be chosen for the part. Damian Lewis is English, though he does an American accent better than any non-American actor I've heard. The casting director told him that he had known from the first few lines Lewis read on the very first day of auditions that he was "the one". It was this remark that led me to look at the dates of birth of Richard Winters and Damian Lewis.

Without times of birth exact Moon positions and ascendants are not known. Charts below are set for 12 noon.

Both natal Suns in Aquarius! I need go no further. It's enough for me to see the Aquarius link. The casting director must surely have, all unknowingly, had a strongly aligned astro-antenna, or maybe a list of dates of birth of the auditioning actors and an interest in astrology. I wonder!

Major Richard Winters: January 21 1918, New Holland, Pennsylvania. He died in January 2011.

Damian Lewis : February 11 1971, London UK

 Damian Lewis with Major Winters