Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I found myself heading in this direction after noting that today, 30 September, is the birthday of one Claude Vorhilon aka "Rael", founder of a UFO religion known as "Raelism". (I'll feature other Weird Wednesday subjects from time to time - there are a lot of 'em about!)

Vorhilon holds that he "had an alien visitation" in December 13, 1973. "According to Vorilhon, in a secluded area within a French volcanic crater, an extraterrestrial being came out of a craft which had descended gently from the sky, and told him, in French, that he had come for the sole purpose of meeting with him. Vorilhon claims he was given a message by this alien and told that it was his mission to pass this message on to the people of Earth." (Wikipedia)

Yeah, yeah yeah, I thought, I bet he's made lots of money out of it all. It's not a case of "cherchez la femme" in these instances, it's more "cherchez le motif" (hope that's correct French!) His foundation of a cultish religion has led to all kinds of shenanigans, including some supposed human cloning.
See Sydney morning Herald, 2002.

The debate over the morals of cloning humans has degenerated into farce with the claim by a religious sect that it has a cloned a baby ready to, as it were, go. While religious leaders, scientists and ethicists have argued, the Raelians say they have duplicated a human as part of their quest for "perpetual orgasms through cloning".

Jest or genuine? The truth of the matter eludes all. But it is clear the Raelians have turned cloning into a situation comedy.

The man behind such a peripatetic quest had something of a wandering career before finding his true calling as a prophet of free love, cloning and the return of aliens to Earth. Nearly three decades ago, Claude Vorilhon, a sportswriter and race car driver, stood at the top of a volcano and began a movement that now lies behind what is either a stunning scientific breakthrough or a staggering hoax.

Vorilhon, a Frenchman who calls himself Rael, claims to have held six meetings with space travellers at the volcano, after which he founded a religion based on the belief that aliens created humankind through cloning 25,000 years ago. Now, a research company with close ties to his sect, called the Raelians, says it has followed suit: cloning a baby girl called Eve from cells provided by a 31-year-old woman. Clonaid, the company, offered no proof of its success when it announced on Friday what it claims is the first human cloning. But it said independent tests backing its claims would be finished in about a week.

Let's have a quick look at this man's natal chart. Born 30 September 1946 in Ambert, France, at 5am (Astrodatabank).

First thing I notice is that it's a rather unbalanced chart - so many planets clustered together with lots of empty space elsewhere. Other than two outer, generational planets there's only Saturn outside of that Libra/Scorpio cluster which overflows very slightly into Sagittarius. This is not to say that there's anything inherently wrong in a blend of Libra-Scorpio, but I find it significant that Mons. Vorhilon has no planets in Earth signs - saving grace may be Virgo rising, but it has a lot to talk down to common-sense Earth level, Airy Libra and Watery Scorpio seriously outweigh it.

Sun is conjunct imaginative Neptune, with Mercury close enough on the other side to be conjoined also. I think there's little doubt that this man's imagination and creativity leads him, and rather than drawing him into art or music, it has led him to spread his imaginings to others, forming a cult-like following. Saturn, the planet of organisation and business is in outgoing Leo, sign of showmen. No doubt this has assisted him in combining showmanship with business throughout this and his previous careers (motor racing, pop musician). The time of birth given by Astrodatabank puts Uranus, the planet most associated with UFOs in communicative Gemini and right at midheaven, the career and public status area of the chart; not only that, but trining natal Mercury, planet of communication as well.

This all seems highly appropriate, given his story.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WHAT IF.........

What if a nuclear conflagration were to take place on Earth, resulting in the complete annihilation of the human race? The planet would be left devastated for many thousands of years. What if, eventually, after a minor hit from a small asteroid which carried spores from outer space, a form of life began to take root, mingling with whatever remained among the formerly radioactive rubble? Several more millennia would pass with lifeforms becoming more sophisticated and intelligent, though in no way similar in form to the human race. Would the sensibilities of these beings still be governed by the same planets, Sun and Moon, seasons and cycles as we are, we the human race ? Would the same astrological imprints still endow similar benefits and drawbacks. Would there still be that tiny seed of hatred embedded, that same seed which we all carry within us? Are we, as a race, warts and all, simply as we are because of our particular physical place in the universe? And would any other developed race spawned on this planet have the same problems because of the planetary setup?

The price we pay for the beauty of the Earth and its benefits is that its human inhabitants carry a mix of characteristics capable, at worst, of destroying themselves. If, as astrologers believe, these characteristics are governed (in part) by the physical situation of our planet Earth, and how it relates to celestial bodies surrounding it, then nothing will ever change fundamentally - only superficially. Wars and hatred will always be a part of life on Earth, the features of its inhabitants, uniforms and figureheads may change, but the core drive of hatred (and greed) will remain, always.

If this is so, then the only way for a better world would be to find another planet capable of supporting life, with a different planetary setup surrounding it. There's a snag though. What if the human race did de-camp from Earth - a different setup would not necessarily be a better one, and and it could take thousands of years to discover the new astrological workings. Humans born there might have less, or even none, of our good traits and more of our bad ones. In any case, that scenario is not likely to happen.

We have to carry on "playing with the hand fate dealt us". It's a gamble, and gamblers do very occasionally win, even with the odds against them.

Monday, September 28, 2009


On this day, 28 September, in 1991 Miles Davis died. Davis's musicianship, trumpet playing and composing is part of jazz history - he is almost universally revered, yet is said to have had a difficult and strange personality. His music, then, must have been exceptionally brilliant to overcome that drawback.

I first became aware of Miles Davis through my husband, the jazz fan. Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, featured on the Davis album "Sketches of Spain" has entranced me from the first time I heard it. I can hardly call myself a jazz fan, yet I can appreciate some pieces, especially those with a semi-classical base.

Miles Davis was born on 26 May 1926 in Alton, Illinois, at 5 am according to Astrodatabank. Some sources have his birthday as 25 May, but Astrodatabank gives 26th and 5am an AA rating - I'm going with that.

Here's an excerpt from an on-line biography. My comments on related astrology follow.
For the last two decades of Davis's career he became more of a jazz curiosity than a musician to be taken seriously. A good part of his fame owed less to his considerable musicianship than to his strange personality. Davis gained a poor reputation in performance for turning his back on audiences, for expressing racial hostility toward whites, for dressing poorly early in his career and wildly later—all of which contributed to his mysterious image.

Davis was a complex man with strengths and weaknesses that would ultimately destroy him. Himself the victim of a policeman's clubbing (reportedly, racially inspired), he had the fairness and courage in the late 1950s to challenge black jazzmen's expectations by filling a piano vacancy with a white player, Bill Evans (1929–1980); but then, by all accounts, Davis often racially taunted him. A physical fitness enthusiast (with his own private gym), he nevertheless took vast amounts of drugs (sometimes, but not always, for pain). Oftentimes unfriendly, he was also capable of acts of generosity toward struggling musicians, both black and white.

Davis was married three times—to dancer Frances Taylor, singer Betty Mabry, and actress Cicely Tyson. All three marriages ended in divorce. He had, in all, three sons, a daughter, and seven grandchildren. He died on September 28, 1991, in Santa Monica, California, of pneumonia, respiratory failure, and a stroke

The Gemini Sun in Davis's natal chart links closely to very little - it lay within a few degrees of the ascendant, but in 12th house, which astrologers consider to be an area of withdrawal. I think this might account in part for his strange personality - turning his back on the audience, for instance, might be a reflection of this.

There's a Grand Trine in emotional, creative and sensitive Water signs in his chart. It links Moon/Saturn in Scorpio to Uranus in Pisces and Pluto in Cancer. While Water signs are generally emotionally driven, and a Grand Trine is a helpful circuit between signs of the same element, the inclusion of Saturn, Uranus and Pluto in this particular Watery circuit bring in a touch of negativity and some bloody-mindedness.

The other main configuration in this chart is a Grand Cross (shown right), involving Moon/Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter and Neptune - made up of square aspects and oppositions - all challenging in different ways, often resulting in a few difficult personality traits. Davis had many challenges to overcome in his life - racial prejudice, addiction and ill health being high on the list. The planets involved in this Grand Cross relate to communication (Mercury) publication and expansion (Jupiter), creativity and addiction (Neptune) and Inner self (Moon)/rigidity and discipline (Saturn). One integrated opposition: Mercury and Moon/Saturn is especially notable here, involving, as it does, Mercury the communications planet opposed by Moon/Saturn a kind of inner self policed by Saturn push-pulling with a need to communicate.

On the positive side, his art - his musicianship - is underlined by Venus, planet of the arts, in go-getting Aries forming a helpful trine to Neptune, planet of creativity in Leo. In addition to his talent in music, I ought to mention that Miles Davis was quite an accomplished painter, it was something he enjoyed in his later years.

More about Miles and his music at "Miles Styles" by Michael S Smith.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Waldo Williams was a Welsh poet, born 30 September 1904, with Sun in Libra. Wikipedia tells us that he was also a notable pacifist, anti-war campaigner, and Welsh nationalist. The first two I applaud, the last, not so much - but to each his own. I particularly like this poem of his, the fourth verse especially contains great wisdom.

The Welsh are justly proud of their mystical tradition. Waldo's poetry is said to be strongly influenced and inspired by
"the mystic revelation he had as a youth about the unity of the whole of humankind. This revelation was realised in the cooperative and harmonious living he witnessed amongst the farming communities in the Preseli Hills and reflected in feelings of belonging, knowing, and a desire that people should live together in peace – constant themes in his poetry."
See Welsh Icons.

What is it to be human?
by Waldo Williams

What is staying alive? To possess
A great hall inside of a cell.
What is it to know? The same root
Underneath the branches.

What is it to believe? Being a carer
Until relief takes over.
And to forgive? On fours through thorns
To keep company to an old enemy.

What is it to sing? To receive breath
From the genius of creation.
What's work but humming a song
From wood and wheat.

What are state affairs? A craft
That's still only crawling?
And armaments? Thrust a knife
In a baby's fist.

Being a nation? What can it be? A gift
In the swell of the heart.
And to love a country? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.

What's the world to the all powerful?
A circle spinning.
And to the children of the earth?
A cradle rocking.

Translated by Menna Elfyn
From Poetry Foundation.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


It's not easy to find real-life stuff to laugh at these days. Most of what's in the news frustrates, angers or saddens, rather than amusing us. Yet there's supposed to be a funny side to almost everything.

It's undeniable that infectious laughter and bright smiley faces light up life, make us feel better immediately, even in the face of dire circumstances. We are sometimes told that it'd help to be more child-like in our approach to life. Children laugh easily, I guess because they have little or no responsibility. We have to somehow strike a balance between child-like appreciation of the bright side of life with the serious responsibilities that arrive with maturity and a clearer understanding of the ways of the world.

Perhaps a person's astrological blueprint governs where their funnybone lies, and how sturdy and resilient a bone it happens to be. A well-respected British astrologer. C.E.O. Carter wrote a little on the topic of humour in his "Encyclopedia of Pyschological Astrology". He states that:

"Each sign has its special kind (of humour), but the general astrological indications of this gift are Venus and Taurus, Jupiter, Neptune, Sagittarius and Pisces, Moon Cancer and Uranus. Humour in the strict sense, I put under the Moon and Cancer.

Venus and Taurus seem to have to do with laughter and amusement generally; Moon, Neptune and their signs with whimsicality (which is also noticeable in many Virginians (
I think this must refer to Virgoans rather than inhabitants of Virginia); Uranus with incongruity and unexpected effects; Jupiter and Sagittarius with fun and satire. Mercury must, of course, be prominent where the power of humourous expression is involved. Humourous persons, unlike witty ones, have not always the gift of speech.

Wit depends upon a strong Mercury, the quality of wit being determined by the chief aspecting planet. It is often found aspected by Mars, Jupiter or Uranus.

The signs which most commonly lack humour are Leo, Scorpio and Capricorn, as these often produce persons with a strong sense of personal dignity, not to say self-importance. They can seldom appreciate a joke at their own expense, as the Jupiter person can. It is probable that Saturn afflictions to the Moon tend to destroy humour, while Martian ones coarsen it, and incline to horseplay."

I dare not and should not argue with Mr. Carter, but I do wonder about one or two things he has written, especially in the last paragraph quoted above. I've found that it really is not possible to accurately categorise people by their Sun sign, or by a planet, as in "a Jupiter person", as Mr. Carter appears to be doing (but perhaps I'm misunderstanding him, if so, I apologise profusely).

A person with Sun/ascendant and more in Leo could have all kinds of aspects pointing towards humour in their chart, which would completely overcome any over-developed sense of self dignity. In fact, a good dose of Leo is very helpful in presenting humour to an audience.

I've found people with a lot of natal Capricorn to often have well-developed dry humour, which could combine easily with any sense of self-dignity. As for Scorpio - perhaps black humor (dark in content, not skin color) which seems to be gaining popularity, might be a genre natural to a Scorpio-heavy person, or one with Pluto (ruler of Scorpio) prominent.

As far as I can see (and perhaps that's not far enough) nothing in astrology can be set out as "cut and dried" for every individual. One man's hilarious joke is another man's yawn, or even obscenity. And come to think of it, isn't that word "hilarious" vastly over-used these days, at least in the USA where exaggeration seems to be the norm? I've lately heard the most inane or trivial stuff described as "hilarious", which makes me wonder if my own funnybone is suffering from osteoporosis.

Back to my original thought about seeing the funny side of things that in reality are not at all funny. It's a special talent, probably inborn and not easy to cultivate. As the wise old saying goes "if we don't laugh, we'll cry"; for sure laughter and sorrow are close together, on either side of that cusp dividing the normal from world shattering events, personal or communal. I'm going to guess that those people with Sagittarius and/or Jupiter well prominent and without blight from Mars, Saturn or Pluto are those who are most likely to be able to laugh in the face of disaster, with an ability to see through the gloom and into that elusive funny side.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I wouldn't have recognised the name Jack Davis before I met my husband, who's a great fan of Davis artwork, often found on LP sleeves and book covers, in magazines, and advertisements. Whenever we visit antiques stores on our travels he can be found rifling through piles of LPs and magazine covers, searching for examples of Jack Davis's artwork he hasn't yet acquired.

Jack Davis is an illustrator and cartoonist, he draws a mean caricature, and it's said he's one of the fastest "draws" in the nation. The ability to catch facial likeness on paper always intrigues me - and to have the talent to do so at speed is mind-boggling. Such skill requires a particularly incisive eye and mind.

From Wikipedia

"Because Davis could do cartoon illustrations in a matter of minutes, he was sometimes called upon to save ad campaigns which had gone awry. This combination of speed and top clients at one time made Davis the highest paid illustrator in the world. Davis said many of his assignments came from art directors who had grown up reading Mad (magazine)."

Born 2 December 1924 in Atlanta, Georgia, Jack has his 85th birthday just around the corner. His chart is set for 12 noon, the exact time of birth isn't known. Moon position will not be accurate, and rising sign can't be calculated without a birth time, so house positions are in question too.

Jack Davis's Sun, Jupiter and Mercury in Sagittarius nicely reflect his light-hearted good humoured approach to illustration. Jupiter (excess, expansion, and publication) and Mercury (communication) are conjoined symbolising his prolific output leading to mass publication in a variety of forms. Neptune, planet of creativity and imagination is in helpful trine to Mercury/Jupiter from Leo.

There are two other conjoined pairs of planets: Saturn/Venus in Scorpio and Mars/Uranus in Pisces. Venus, planet of the arts and Saturn planet of hard work blend together in Scorpio (here's his incisive insight), as do Mars (energy - possibly where his speed comes from too, and Uranus (quirky, zany) in imaginative Pisces.

Moon at 12 noon on the day Jack Davis was born was in Pisces; if he was born in the morning, at 7am or earlier, Moon would have been in Aquarius. It's not easy to guess which is more likely. I think Moon in Pisces best reflects his kindly approach, yet his pull towards a quirky cartoon style seems more Aquarian.

It's easy to recognise Jack Davis illustrations by looking at the feet of the characters he draws, they are always oddly ultra-long.

More illustrations HERE and via Google Image.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


While we were away, and since we returned home, even though I've attempted to avoid upsetting news stories and the opinion of others, one thing has seeped through the brief instances I've happened upon accidentally : hate (that's a verb) so I should really have written "hatred", I guess. Whether noun or verb, it's still obnoxious.

Hatred is like fire -- it makes even light rubbish deadly.
George Eliot
British astrologer of the last century, C.E.O. Carter wrote that:

"Hate is one of the most extreme Martian vibrations, through Scorpio rather than Aries, and probable generally with an admixture of Saturn or Uranus. The last-named is often violent in its antipathies, and, like Scorpio, may remember slights and insults after long periods. In maps capable of nourishing hatred and revenge the benefics are usually obscurely placed."
We have an "admixture of Saturn and Uranus" hovering above us just now, in the form of a celestial opposition between the status quo (Saturn) and change (Uranus). Perhaps it's this reflected in earthly terms that we keep encountering here in the USA.

Extreme political right-wingers seem hell-bent on the destruction of any aims of President Obama and his administration to right many societal wrongs, particularly in relation to health care in this country. These wrongs are clear to others, but the hatemongers remain blind to them, or obtusely uncaring. Hatemongers will use any twisted logic and lies to persuade the uninformed or passive that their views are the right ones. This is bad enough, but as long as it stops at people waving hate-ridden signs, and shouting abuse, not much is lost. I fear that whipping up hatred of this nature among many who will not stop to think things through for themselves, could lead to much worse eventualities. Blood could well be spilled before long. In fact, immediately after drafting this post yesterday afternoon, I saw this article at Huffington Post: "Census Worker Hanged: Bill Sparkman Found with "FED" on his Body". This man was a teacher and part-time worker collecting information for the census in Kentucky. Investigations are ongoing.

Hatred is like fire -- it makes even light rubbish deadly.
What could be done to alleviate the situation?

When we were in South Dakota last week, enjoying one of the many sights there, I heard a nearby group of tourists discussing the political situation. One of the group said "all Muslims are terrorists, and now we have one in the White House". On another occasion, in an antiques mall in Nebraska, another group of people stood discussing health care, and though I didn't hover too long, as I passed by them I couldn't help hearing just one sentence concerning what is, in the USA seriously misunderstood and looked on as a dirty word: "socialism". What is a person like me to do in such circumstances? Should I insert myself into their discussion? That would be very rude, and in any case my views would not be welcome because the minds of these folk are made up, set in stone. Yes their minds are set in stone. There's nothing to be done, but to live through whatever comes next.

I don't hate these people, I feel dreadfully sorry for them. I feel sorry for this beautiful, beautiful country that is has a proportion of citizens who do not want to see the wood for the trees.
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

(From Rogers & Hammerstein's "South Pacific" )

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


As we move on past the autumnal equinox, and into the zodiac sign of Libra, I find myself pondering, once again, that I can never really get a grip on this sign and its supposed attributes. Astrologers usually give Libra a good write-up. Adjectives such as charming, diplomatic, tactful, courteous, agreeable, even-tempered, artistic, refined are used. The worst I've ever seen in a description of characteristics attributed to Libra is "indecisive". I do often use the same adjectives myself when writing about Libra in a natal chart, assuming that my own views of Libra, which are rather more jaundiced, must be peculiarly skewed.

Libra is one of three Air signs in the zodiac, Gemini and Aquarius being the other two. Having Sun in Aquarius myself, on paper I'm supposed to get along famously with Sun Librans and Geminians. It does usually work with Sun Gemini folk - I seem to immediately take to these characters. With Sun Libra folks it's not always so easy after a possible initial attraction. The sign is one of two ruled by Venus, planet of the arts, the other being Taurus, the Earthy face of Venus.

My mother had Sun in Libra (28 September), and we fought - a lot. I loved her though, and admired many of her characteristics. She was the hardest worker I've ever known (apart from my Dad), she was the driving force in their aim to become self-employed and remain so, which they did, with reasonable success. My Dad had the skill, my mother had the drive. She loved a good time, loved to have a few drinks; loved new clothes and shopping (that's probably a Libran trait), was always generous to her only daughter right to the end, but also highly critical which didn't go down too well with ultra-sensitive yours truly. My mother could accurately be described as domineering - though it was with the best possible intentions. You don't try to dominate an Aquarius Sun with Aries Moon though....not if you're wise! I have to remind myself here that Aries is Libra's opposite sign, and that we all tend to reflect a little of our opposite. My Sun Aquarius Dad (without Aries Moon) was happy to be dominated, loved it, in fact, and loved my mother deeply until death parted them and devastated my Mum, and me.

We grew much closer after Dad died, and yet there was still trouble brewing because my late partner and my Mum fought like cat and dog, with me as "pig-in-the-middle". I loved them both; having to referee their bouts tore me up. They did, thankfully, call a truce in the last few years of Mum's life.

(There are 60 years between the two photographs of Mum, the second was taken during the last of many Christmas holidays spent together, just 20 months before her death.)

My only other close encounter with a Sun Libran was with my first husband (born 27 September). The marriage, which also took place when the Sun was in Libra, was disastrous, a huge mistake. Whereas Aquarius/Libra had worked so well for 55 years, for my parents, in my own case it was a catastrophe. We separated after a couple of on-off years, and I vowed to never marry again, so disillusioned had I become. Divorce was painfully slow because he disappeared without trace (probably to his native Italy) and the law being what it was in those days, I had to wait - I think it was 7 years - for court proceedings to begin. I prefer to draw a veil over this part of my life, it has no doubt left a nasty taste of Libran flavour in my subconscious mind. I cannot bring myself to write about the first husband - he's best forgotten.

So.....I think what the above experiences prove is what I try to emphasise each time I write about a zodiac sign. There's really no such creature as "A Libran", "An Aquarian", "A Virgoan" etc. etc. The whole natal chart has to be considered, and there'd have to be billions and billions and billions of labels if every individual could wear one.

Looking at my mother's natal chart again, I feel perhaps the snags that arose between us might relate to her Saturn at 15 Cancer which is on my ascendant - though the astrologer who recified my chart said the degree could vary a bit - in which case Mum also had Mars at 24 Cancer and Pluto at 3Cancer - all three of these planets can be on the antagonistic side. As my mother almost died when I was born, this could have some relevance. The rest of her chart, apart perhaps from Mercury at 0 Scorpio, isn't all that antagonistic to mine.

Just because the Sun lies in a certain zodiac sign at one's time of birth doesn't ensure that the whole blueprint of that sign's characteristics will be imprinted. The rest of the birth chart will modify Libran characteristics, sometimes so much that classic Libran traits become practically unrecognisable. How one's own natal chart relates to that of another is also a big point to keep in mind. With regard to how one might view a Libra-heavy individual: "one man's charming diplomat is another man's pain in the arse". (Winking).

Using the term "Libran" is shorthand only, it's useful but as with all other Sun sign descriptions, ought to be read with flashing disclaimers!

Monday, September 21, 2009


We're back from our road trip. Blogging kicks off with chat about sights we encountered, embellished with astrology, and a few of our photographs. It's a long post, so will stand for two days - next post Wednesday.

Mercury in apparent retrograde motion didn't catch us out in any serious way, but I had to wonder when, on the morning of our departure while packing the car trunk, my husband absent-mindedly (Mercury retrograde?) left the soft-sided holdall containing my toiletries, makeup and other fripperies lying under the shadow of the trunk lid or wheel - or something. This has never happened before, though we've taken lots of trips. As we drove out of the garage he said, "What's that noise?" We stopped at the end of the driveway, looked back and saw my bag looking kind of squashed and sad. "YIKES!" was my cry. "There's big mirror in there! If it's broken I'll not be going anywhere today!"

A quick investigation showed the mirror was fine, protected as it was in several layers of bubble wrap. The car had run over and caught the edge of the bag, dragged it and ripped it in two places. I didn't investigate further until we reached our first stopover in Salina, Kansas. There I found that a fat new tube of toothpaste had been squashed and split, the heat of the trunk had spread a pretty pink and white sticky frosting over every item in my toilet bag. Nice! A few other items had sustained minor injury.

"Could have been a lot worse", said I. "We might have left the bag in the garage, then where would I be - makeup-less and smelly on vacation? A fate worse than...."

We stayed two nights in Salina, my husband's place of birth and his hometown as a young man. Mercury Retrograde smiled on us as we re-visited his old haunts, including a vintage Lockheed Constellation aircraft, long ago bought by a private individual and parked at the airfield pending complete refurbishment. Planes like this were built in California between 1943 and 1958, 4-engine, propeller-driven aircraft. Refurbishment on this example is, sadly, still pending for lack of cash and spare time. The plane is called "Starship Connie". The husband, something of an aeroplane enthusiast, was both thrilled to see the plane again, but sad that work on her has stalled.

I acquired a replacement holdall for the princely sum of $5 in an antiques shop in Salina. It's a sturdy leather job, dating back to the 1940s or '50s I think, its former owner's name was still showing on a leather tag - a gentleman from Missouri.

The next overnighter was in a state new to me - Nebraska, at North Platte. This city's claim to fame is that it contains the biggest railyard in the world. It's at the confluence of many railway lines and the yard is, indeed, huge. Another of the city's claims to fame is that during World War 2 the ladies of the
North Platte Canteen served over 6 million servicemen and service women, passengers aboard troop trains, with refreshment. (See and hear story at link). The canteen was world-famous in its day; a memorial remains near the rail lines.

Next leg of the trip led towards our pre-booked place of rest for three more nights, Deadwood, South Dakota. The scenery gradually perked up as we entered South Dakota. Nebraska had been pretty and rural, but South Dakota and its Black Hills, named for their dense covering of dark pine trees, is beautiful.

Deadwood is a convenient center for touring the most scenic and interesting areas of South Dakota. It was named for an abundance of dead trees on the surrounding hillsides, killed or permanently poisoned, perhaps, by the many fires which also destroyed the town on several occasions, the latest in 1959.

We arrived on Saturday, late afternoon and the town was heaving, a music festival, "The Deadwood Jam" sounded to be in its last throes. Parking was a nightmare, it was impossible to drive past our hotel, let alone park nearby. After a few circles of the town we decided to stubbornly park crosswise near the entrance, forcing a flustered employee to approach and assist. We were forced into something we usually avoid like the plague, valet parking. It was a necessity, and quite painless in this venue, the "valets" being helpful young lads dressed in tee shirts and jeans rather than snooty guys in silly uniforms.

Deadwood has become something of a tourist trap, having been turned from an old western gunslingers' and miners' saloon and brothel haven into a modern casino town. Happily the casinos are hidden behind vintage facades in the main street, so Deadwood still has the look of a late 19th century frontier town. I have to report that we didn't touch even one slot machine or visit any casino - not our thing at all. There were lots of senior citizens around though, spending their pensions on the slots, hoping for a windfall.

Much is made of the fact that Wild Bill Hickok had connection to Deadwood, and was shot there, in the back of the head, while gambling at Saloon No. 10. Legend has it that when he died the cards he held comprised what's now called a "dead man's hand": aces and eights. The saloon is still there in Main Street, but re-built after one of several fires entirely destroyed old Deadwood.

Another colorful figure of the old west, Calamity Jane, also had connection to Deadwood and both these fabled western characters are buried in the cemetery there.

An astrological interlude:

Wild Bill Hickok was actor, lawman, gunfighter and gambler, subject of many legends a few of which have a core of fact.

His real first name wasn't William, or Bill it was James, James Butler Hickok. "Wild Bill" is said to have been his own invention, and possibly came from a former nickname "Duckbill", he was so-called because of a protruding upper lip and hooky nose.

(Below: yours truly posing with a sculpture of Wild Bill outside our hotel, Hampton Inn's "Four Aces".)

He was born 27 May 1837 in Troy Grove Illinois. Sun, Venus and Mercury all in Gemini with Jupiter and Mars in Leo describe something of the versatile, risk-taking showman type he must have been. What I find most interesting in his chart is the Yod (Finger of Fate) formed by the sextile between Sun/Venus in Gemini and Pluto in Aries both forming quincunx aspects (150*) to Saturn. Astrologers would say that this implies that the energies of Sun/Venus in Gemini (communication) and Pluto in Aries (intensity, aggression, death) are channeled through Saturn ( relating to the law, but also one of the planets known as malefic to ancient astrologers). In a nutshell, Wild Bill had, inbuilt, a propensity for dealing with the law, and death.

Calamity Jane had connection with Deadwood, and is buried there, next to Wild Bill. She was an amazing character, too. Scout, gunfighter, prostitute, alcoholic, yet compassionate to those in need, notably, when she nursed victims during a smallpox epdemic in the Deadwood area.

Jane was an Earthy Taurean. Sun, Mercury, Saturn, Uranus and Pluto all in the sign of The Bull. Her earthiness was lightened somewhat by Venus in sociable Gemini, Mars in showy Leo and Moon more than likely in Libra, ruled by Venus as is Taurus where the bulk of her planets lie. She could be termed as Venusian, yet that's not what comes across from her life story, but this could be the source of her compassion, I suppose. Jupiter in Scorpio reflects an excess of sexiness - though to our 21st century eyes her curriculum vitae doesn't appear awfully sexy!

From Deadwood we visited its nearby sister town of Lead, site of the Homestake Gold Mine, America's longest continuously operated gold mine. It closed in 2002. It is 8000 ft deep and produced 40 million ounces of gold during its many functioning years.

A further drive of around 35 miles led us to Mount Rushmore and Gutzon Borglum's world-famous memorial sculpture honoring Presidents of the USA - a stunning sight. I'd expected to view it from some vantage point in a field or from the roadside, but the site has been developed into a real tourist trap now, with gift shop, restaurant, etc. I guess this was inevitable. Trivia: George Washington's nose is 21 feet long (one foot longer than the other noses), his eye is 11 ft wide, mouth 18ft wide. 400 workers took from 1927 to 1941 to complete it at a cost of $989,992.32.

17 miles from Mount Rushmore brings the Crazy Horse Memorial into view. This is a Native American endeavour to build something similar to the memorial on Mt. Rushmore, this to honor one of their tribal Chiefs, Crazy Horse. The Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota Tribe, as is the memory of Crazy Horse. The massive sculpture isn't anywhere near completion, only the face of Crazy Horse can be seen as yet. Photo below shows a view of the work so far completed taken from the exhibition center, a bronze sculpture of the finished monument stands in the window.

The sculptor chosen by the Lakota tribe to carry out the work, Korczak Ziolkowski died in 1982. Portrait shows the sculptor and his wife who now carries on directing the work.

An interesting astrological tidbit is that Crazy Horse, born in the Black Hills, was stabbed in the back by an American soldier at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, while under a flag of truce. He died on 6 September 1877 at around 35 years of age. The sculptor chosen to craft this memorial was born on 6 September 1908....omen or coincidence?

A Sun Virgo sculptor was he, and the Virgoan stickler for detail is evidenced in that he left behind very, very detailed measurements and instructions for the completion of the monument, to be carried out by his wife and family of 10 children. Note that Uranus is in exact trine to the sculptor's Sun, reflecting what some might see as the eccentricity of such an enormous, dangerous and difficult undertaking.

Work began in 1948. No financial assistance from the government is, or will ever be involved. It was twice offered and refused because both sculptor and tribe believe the work should be carried out under a free enterprise system, money coming from donations and admission fees. Work is painfully slow and dangerous, entailing much blasting before carving can begin. The sculpture, when finished will show Crazy Horse on his steed, pointing out to the Black Hills, forever repeating his words:
"My lands are where my dead lie buried".

(Scale sculpture of finished monument).

Image below isn't from our cameras, it's from It was taken during the unveiling at completion of the first stage of the sculpture - the head of Crazy Horse, c.1998, I think.

We next ventured into Wyoming, the state line isn't too far from Deadwood. We sought and found Devils Tower, famous for its appearance in the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

After three nights in Deadwood we began the journey back southward. Overnight stops were in Ogallala (end of the Texas cattle drives, and featured in Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove"), and in York, Nebraska (couldn't miss that one, being a Yorkshirewoman myself); then just before the last leg home, we overnighted in Wichita, Kansas.

Some folks might consider these mid-country states to be merely "fly-overs", but every small town and medium-sized city has its interesting tale to tell; often there's a lovely view around each turn of the road. Approximately 150 years ago, very little that's manmade here existed, and nature's wonders hadn't been seen by more than a handful of intrepid travellers and pioneers. That, in itself, is a constant wonder to me. This was a fascinating and varied trip of just under 3000 miles - one of our best, we'd say, apart from an unfortunate flare-up of my nasal/sinus allergy, in spite of taking regular medication. Luckily this only happened during the last few days, so it didn't spoil the best of the trip. I now have what feels like a head filled with shards of glass. I fear my next trip is likely to be in the direction of the doctor's office.