Thursday, September 30, 2010

Water World: A parable for our times

Self-help books are the ones I usually ignore when scanning shelves of used books in junk/antique stores, but one lying alone on a table caught my eye because of its title: Pools of Lodging for the Moon by David K. Reynolds, Ph.D.

I half suspected it would be a poetry book. It isn't. Some of the book's contents are quite poetic though.

Dr. Reynolds has written several books describing his principles of "Constructive Living, a positive life-style that is a synthesis of two forms of Japanese psychotherapy: Morita and Naikan. The combination of Morita, with its emphasis on doing what needs to be done, and Naikan therapy, which stresses recognising our debt to the world around us, form a the basis for appealing solutions to our daily problems."(From the book's back cover).

I think there must be an astrological connection or equivalent to Naikan and Morita -perhaps something akin to what was discussed in yesterday's post and comments touching on the topic of higher consciousness.....Back to the astrological elements, and their balance within the personality then? Or perhaps there's similarity in considering the balancing "effect" of opposing signs eg: Leo/Aquarius, Cancer/Capricorn.

Anyway, what persuaded me to part with my $1 was this little "parable" which happened to be the first I saw when, standing in the store, I opened the book :
Water World

Once upon a fragile time people lived on the surface of a huge body of water. They walked on a thin film that covered the water's great depths. Sometimes the surface tension weakened in spots and someone began to sink. Those around the sinking person risked breeching the surface tension in order to rescue him or her. It was the custom. Such self-sacrifice was necessary in that world. When the rescuers were in danger they, too, could expect help.

Sometimes the tear in the surface film spread, there were whole chains of people lending a hand to their fellows. In that risky world it was good to know that supporting hands were ready to help when needed.

Nearby, another group of people lived on a small island. They were proud that each of them walked by the individual's own strength with no help or support from others. In other ways they were a very bright people. Yet because of their pride they were confined to their island. And they knew a chilly loneliness that their water-borne cousins never felt.

One of the part-truths in American culture is the part-myth of the self-made individual. That notion has both stimulated us and limited us. The other side of that truth is that we are all dependent on others for our successes and for our moment-by-moment existence.

My politically slanted brain read that wee tale as an analogy for socialism and conservatism/capitalism. Others might read it differently....if so it would be interesting to hear about it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Perceptions of Higher Consciousness - Looking Through Astrology's Viewfinder

It could well be due to a "feet-on-the-ground" Earthy Grand Trine in my natal chart, but concepts such as transcendence, spirituality and higher consciousness bug me more than a little. An article at Common Dreams the other day "No, Higher Consciousness Won’t Save Us", by Norman Solomon caught my eye, but an ever growing stream of comments by some erudite guys and gals proved to be even more interesting than the article itself.

It wasn't too surprising to see two clear camps emerging. The "feet-on-the-ground" types to whom I related most easily, and those who support the idea that higher consciousness (and there were differences in perception of its definition) could be a component in what might "save us", politically and/or physically.

In current debates the meaning of words, often a matter of individual perception, can cause huge frustration and misunderstanding. "Socialism" and "socialist", for instance. Higher consciousness is an expression similarly open to a variety of definitions or perceptions, meaning different things to different people. While no perception of it is quite as bad a misunderstanding as arises in relation to "socialism" in the USA, the differences can still cause problems, as was apparent in the thread of comments to which I've referred.

Many who study astrology have aspirations towards what they see as higher consciousness. Articles relating to the end of the Mayan long-count calendar, in 2012, often refer to the likelihood of "a change in consciousness" supposedly due to happen around that time. One hopes it'll be an upward change rather than a downward one! People who lean towards eastern versions of religion and astrology almost always aim to "raise their consciousness" as part of the discipline.

Higher consciousness can simply mean being more aware of what is going on around you, putting less focus on self and more on the common good. That's my simple definition which, come to think of it, might be better expressed as "wider consciousness". Other definitions of higher consciousness can begin to sound uncomfortably elitist. As one commenter at the article mentiond in the first paragraph described it: an attitude that "my consciousness is higher than your consciousness" - this can happen when the expression isn't clearly defined by those using it.

To be perfectly honest I have no wish to send my mind elsewhere, higher or lower. There are more than enough problems to solve in the here and now plane of existence. Aiming for a more esoteric plane described in eastern philosophy might be satisfying on a personal level, but what exactly does it do for the world at large?

There's no getting away from the fact that there'll always be differences of opinion, perception, and consequently of desire, on this subject. None is more correct than others. There is space and a place for all.

With astrology in mind, I'd like to relate differences in perception of what "higher consciousness" means to each individual to the elements: Earth, Water, Air, Fire in their natal chart. Those of us "regulated" (I use the term very loosely) by Water are, I suspect, the ones most likely to seek the eastern type of higher consciousness; those whose understanding is led by Earth perceive it more as I have described it for myself, in a previous paragraph. Air and Fire people could swing either way, but on the whole Air is more likely to be interested in the eastern version than the generally "get-it-done" Fire mentality.

Zodiac signs showing elements: red=Fire, pale blue=Air; dark blue-Water; brown=Earth.

Calculating one's likely "regulator" isn't easy. It's not just a question of natal Sun in a sign whose ruler is Earth, Air or whatever, or any other commonly accepted labelling tool. Even counting the number of planets in each element doesn't necessarily come up with the right answer, because position of the angles, and aspects to and from each, could well make a significant difference. has a section under the Extended Chart Selection called "Pullen Astrolog" where, after inputting your birth data you can go to the section called "Simple chart delineation", scroll through lots of information about your natal chart and eventually come to some statistics where the value of the 4 elements, painstakingly calculated, is expressed as a percentage. Even this doesn't give the expected result for me. According to this my highest percentage is Water, then Fire; Earth is 3rd, Air 4th. Alternatively then, depending on one's natal chart, the relevant relationship in this question of perception of "higher consciousness" may be more specifically connected to where/how Mercury (planet of understanding) is placed. In my case it's in Earthy Capricorn and at a strong position near the descendant angle, hooked into a Grand Trine in Earth. That'll have to be my ...I mean my story, if my consciousness, though attempting to be wide, remains stubbornly dragging its heels in the dust of Mother Earth.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


BY Guest Blogger GIAN PAUL

The world has no doubt seen fewer women than men having an impact on the course of history. But there were women like Jeanne d'Arc, the "Virgin of Orléans" who did what normally, in the past at least, was reserved for men.

She was born around 1412 in a small village, Domrémy, in Northern France. Her family was engaged in farming, not poor but simple. Very religious, at the age of around 18, Jeanne told her family and subsequently some noblemen that she had "heard voices" giving her instruction to engage herself in the ongoing but difficult war to liberate France from its oppressors, the English, then allied with the Dukes of Burgundy.

Times were extremely difficult, much of Europe was already at war for almost a century (the 100-year war) and and the then King of France, Charles VII was materially and morally exhausted. The English, allied to various noblemen who were contesting the King, were rapidly gaining the upper hand, even controlling Paris.

For more details about the recorded historic facts , Wikipedia gives an ample description.

The aim here is not to investigate history but more to try to understand what happened psychologically to Jeanne, the reasons and consequences of the events that took place. And, if it happened in the 15th century, why not in similar fashion again later on - and even why not today?

I believe in mysteries being just that because no-one managed to clarify them and miracles more or less the same. Not exactly in the way Catholicism tries to deal with these phenomena, but using other input, from Eastern religions and thought, astrology and findings by modern science.

Basically one can observe that fewer mysteries occur in our modern times than was the case in the past. Apparently it's not just that science today helps to debug what formerly might have been a mystery. There is also what one could call a "dilution or diminution of divine intervention" in modern times. A possible explanation being that with society progressing - the mass media, internet, easy travel, modern mode of scientific thinking etc. higher powers (for whom believes that such exist), may have had to adapt their way of steering humans on earth.

The other day I read about a modern "miracle or surprise" (all fabricated but real and the type of thing now occupying people's minds): Oprah announced that she will invite the audience of her show for a free trip to Australia - and their pilot would be John Travolta! With this kind of news in the air, one can estimate that there is not be much room left for news of "divine nature" to have more impact than that. Today's public has gotten used to being manipulated, all the time and would hardly have the necessary mental capacity to distinguish what's fabricated, man-made or "divine".

You may ask what has this publicity - motivated free trip to Australia to do with Jeanne d'Arc?

Quite a lot: In her times, living under a condition of "little news", people tended to give credence to what they heard. As it also was the Middle-Ages, their mode of thinking was very Catholic, uncritical but normal in the then world, and also mixed with other superstitions. Exhausted from 100 years of war, hoping for something better to happen, desperate even (Charles VII, about to loose his kingdom), divine intervention had a "ready-made audience", a terrain easy to operate in. And it happened. Simple from a psychological point of view.

I do not pretend to know how "divine intervention" operates, but I believe it does happen. Also, not having the exact birth date of Jeanne d'Arc, astrology could not help in explaining why she was chosen for being the vector of this intervention. And another point, difficult to rationalize, she was burned and died of a horrible death by the English AFTER the town of Orléans was liberated (under her guidance) and the King was returned firmly back into power.

(Illustration, right
"Entry into Orleans", from The Personal Recollections of Saint Joan of Arc by The Sieur Louis de Conte and translated by Jean Francois Alden and illustrated by F. V. Du Mond, copyright 1903.)

On her having had to die as a martyr, one can think that "up-there" someone thought that to galvanize more then just the military and the noblemen surrounding the King, but the people of France, Jeanne d'Arc had to die as and when she did, at only 19 or 20 years of age. I will not speculate if she died as a virgin, and neither if that whole thematic of her being a virgin was also planned from "above" or whether this were mere "favorable accompanying circumstances".

What is of interest however is that the Catholic Church was for a very long time resisting to recognize Jeanne d'Arc's merits and proceeded in "painful slowness" to declare her a Saint. Her beatification happened in 1909, only under considerable pressure from the French and it took another 11 years for her being declared a Saint, in only 1920, when World War I was over, and the French had won.

Why? Here there was a 24 carat case of a true Christian believer, turned visionary, hero and martyr. Is it that she helped put in place a secular power in France, then under the Kings, but having a tendency(continued after the French Revolution) of the French being French first and secondly only Catholics? When Napoleon was to be crowned by the Pope, he took the crown out of the Pope's hands and put it himself on his head. He also had a law passed, subordinating the Catholic Church in France to the state. Not having the horoscope of Jeanne d'Arc, here the map of Napoleon, so-to-say self appointing himself Emperor of France by an "organized vote" of the French Senate. This happened on May 18, 1804 and has, I think a direct link to the slowness of the canonization of Jeanne d'Arc:

(Click on image to enlarge it)
One notices in this horoscope (for mid-day) that Mars in Aries(Napoleon, the General turned now Emperor) opposes Jupiter (religion). There is also a somewhat by then already distant conjunction of Uranus to Jupiter in this map. But Napoleon was for some time already upsetting the "Catholic applecart" all over Europe. The Sun opposing Neptune at the time of Napoleon being voted Emperor was an indication of this becoming soon an ephemeral dream that could not last very long. But the facts of the French-Vatican-stressed-relationship once more were confirmed.

Back, and to conclude with the "Virgin of Orléans": Most probably the girl had had a "visit by some higher entity" whom she identified mostly as being St. Michael. Psychologically this is not unusual. In Hindu tradition visits by Avatars (higher entities) are quite common. The interested reader may want to look up an intriguing report by Gitta Mallasz, a Hungarian. She and her Jewish friends, during Nazi occupation in Hungary in 1944-45 had some extraordinary encounters with "Angels". It must have been very similar to what Jeanne d'Arc experienced.

We have today mostly lost the sense of such "divine occurrences" being possible. At least in the Western world. But from what one gathers this transformation also is taking place in the East, India, China, Indonesia etc. Consequently a profound new way of operating by "higher entities" may have occurred for them to influence the human race. And this is not being said lightly! It may either be happening, without us (or me at least) realizing, or "they have given up" on us. Hawking, that strange British scientist, believes and says so.

Monday, September 27, 2010


This post turned out as something quite different from what I originally intended. I'd decided to write about a musician with Sun in Libra. John Lennon filled the bill, being a name everybody who's likely to read this, now or in the future, would immediately recognise. But everybody and their dogs have already presented a variety of takes on Lennon and his astrology. So, delving deeper, I decided to relate some of his songs to the planetary placements in his natal chart.

This proved to be easy enough - Lennon's output was diverse and prolific. I came up with several songs which match his Sun and Mars in Libra (Give Peace a Chance, Imagine etc.) Moon in Aquarius: Revolution, Mercury in Scorpio Jealous Guy. None of this seemed terribly interesting though. It was when I got to thinking about Venus and Neptune in Virgo that I began to look closely at the lyrics of Strawberry Fields Forever, and wondered exactly what was in John's mind at the time he wrote them. This was where the post took a turn from the route originally intended.

The lyrics of Strawberry Fields had immediately whispered "Neptune"....look:

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.
It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn't matter much to me.

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.
Strawberry Fields forever.

No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.
That is you can't you know tune in but it's all right, that is I think it's not too bad.

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Always, no sometimes, think it's me, but you know I know and it's a dream.
I think I know I mean a 'Yes' but it's all wrong, that is I think I disagree.

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Neptune in John's chart is hooked into a harmonious "circuit" - a Grand Trine involving his natal Moon in the early degrees of Aquarius, with Uranus (the unexpected) and Neptune (the mysterious, nebulous and creative) in the late degrees of Virgo and Taurus. The Grand Trine is classed as "out of sign", I understand, because Moon (inner self) had moved past the Earthy sign of Capricorn, but was still within orb of a linking trine. A whole age-group (including me) had the Uranus/Neptune Earthy trine in their charts, but it isn't always linked to a personal planet, which is what it takes to make it "potent". In my case the trine links to Mercury in Capricorn, in John's to his Aquarius Moon, lending a definite quirk to the otherwise quite sensible and solid Earth Grand Trine. That's why nebulous Neptune plays such a big part in many of John's songs, especially Strawberry Fields.

From my husband's music-related bookshelves came Beatlesongs by William J. Dowlding (1989), I learned that the song was written when John was in Almeria, Spain in the autumn of 1966, while filming How I Won the War. The song was about Liverpool, using real place names for the images they evoked. Strawberry Field was, in fact, a Salvation Army Home, an orphanage, in the neighbourhood where John grew up. He had attended parties there as a child, so the place held pleasant memories.

The book goes on to tell how the song's well-known arrangement came about, as it developed, with George Martin's input, from a sweet nostalgic lyric to "very good heavy rock". It records that in 1970 John claimed that Strawberry Fields was one of only two songs the qualified as "honest" songs (the other being Help!). From an interview quoted in the book:

LENNON: "The awareness apparently trying to be expressed is - let's say in one way I was always hip. I was hip in kindergarten. I was different from the others. I was different all my life. The second verse goes, "No one I think is in my tree". Well, I was too shy and self-doubting. Nobody seems to be as hip as me is what I was saying. therefore I must be crazy or a genius - "I mean it must be high or low", the next line. There was something wrong with me, I thought, because I seemed to see things other people didn't see. I thought I was crazy or an egomaniac for claiming to see things other people didn't see". (Playboy 1981)
Wasn't John so clearly describing Moon in Aquarius there? Wonderful example!

At a website HERE there's a string of comments discussing what fans see as the meaning of Strawberry Fields Forever. It's fascinating to note the different perceptions. One or two clips:

I had always thought the song was about about a suicidal man that was high on something. I thought Strawberry Fields was his "happy place" that he would go while high and that there was nothing to get hung about while there. However upon reading your review I agree that there could be many meanings and that it was left ambiguous on purpose.


Strawberry Fields truly were the surreal blood-stained fields in Southeast Asia, forever. Isn't it wonderful how Beatles songs have meaning across such a diversity of lives.
(Here, taking a meaning implied in the movie Across the Universe).


The Across (the Universe) movie scene was very interesting but I think that, as most of the movie, it ignores the true meaning of the song as written. What most of us oldsters (age 45-56) thought at its release was, it is a comment on the working-class families in England who are so poor, that they spend their mandatory 3-4 week -long vacations in large farms picking berries for extra money, and that much of the "eyes closed" part was of ignorant acceptance or forced acceptance of their poverty and (to U.S. eyes) picking berries is not that uncomfortable. And I don't think this came from a high and mighty academic. But the personal aspect also seems to make a lot of sense as it didn't fit in as well the "let me take you" aspect, and we all know about his childhood garden and climbing across the tree to look at his neighbor's yard... I had thought of the yes and no as "know" and maybe it was about ignorance or drug-induced confusion. Anyway the modern movie, while it is extremely interesting in that scene, really misses the intended meanings of most all the Beatle songs that it uses.


After seeing the movie "Across the Universe". And having discovered there is darkness in every heart. Could the interpetation (that I derived) from a scene in the movie, possibly make easy sense???? Here is what I got :
Living in the time of so much political and world tension (Eg: The US civil rights protests and killings, US involvement in Vietnam) That he was frustrated with the world he saw (Most all would agree there). But here is where I divert: that Stawberry Fields are actually the Bloodstains left on the soil of battlefields after all the violence of the generations. He wishes you to see this? Why?? Along with the fact, that once you're eyes are opened to this darkness they cannot be closed and then you must take initiative to be a part or apart from choices that lead us there. Yes for me it was easy living with eyes closed, until through a series of very diificult situations, I find my self at times confused, and frustrated, and longing for the childhood I once had, along with that innocence I once lost.

So the song has become akin to a piece of abstract art where viewers see many different meanings, often far from what was in the artist's mind. My own explanation of the song (inasmuch as I'd ever tried to understand it 'til now) is linked to childhood memories of my grandmother, mother or aunt taking me to the strawberry fields near our home, with basket in hand, to pick strawberries, which would then be weighed by the field owner, charged for, and taken home to eat with cream. We were allowed to eat as many as we liked while picking, so the pleasant memory is of having the sun on my back and being allowed to find the plumpest reddest fruits and....YUM! "Are we going down to'd strawberry fields today then?" That was a frequently heard question in those long-gone summers - maybe it still is in some areas.

John's own explanation of the lyrics is an almost exact fit for that Grand Trine in his natal chart, linking his feeling of "being different": Moon in Aquarius; Aquarius' ruler, quirky Uranus; and creative Neptune. The interpretations of the song by those who hear it and ponder upon its lyrics link directly to its nebulous Neptunian ingredient.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I wonder what astrologers do when in need of a lift out of the doldrums? We ordinary mortals often reach for chocolate, apple pie, ice cream, or a bottle of booze. I'm not insinuating that astrologers aren't ordinary mortals, of course, perish the thought! But they are in a position to know more about themselves, the future, and their future than the average woman and man on the street. So do they have an antidote for the blues? I ask because reading articles and comments on current events I still feel as despairing, as I did when I posted in similar vein in 2007, in spite of a change of president and "party in power" in the USA, and, for that matter, in the UK. Our communal ship of fools seems still headed straight for the metaphorical iceberg.

So what can astrology offer as a pick-me-up of the non-fattening , non-inebriating kind?

As a non-astrologer but a woman on the street (if you know what I mean) who has some knowledge of astrological lore, this comes to mind: nothing stays the same for long, everything changes. Just as the planets move in regular cycles, so does life. A bad patch is followed by a good patch, and vice-versa. Some patches take longer than others to give way to the next stage. "The bad times" and "the good times" alternate in nature and in our lives. Enjoy the latter while you can and during the former resign yourself to putting on weight and drinking more than you should.

Influential American author, editor and public speaker, Marilyn Ferguson, best known for her 1980 book The Aquarian Conspiracy (died in 2008) unknowingly described the uneasy situation we appear to be experiencing at this time:

It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear.... It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.

Apple pie, anyone?
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite. Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance. Everyone is just waiting. (Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Suess)

The voice of Francis Bacon comes down through the centuries with his theory that:
"Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly."
In which case, a current voice, Jon Bon Jovi's reminds us that We Weren't Born to Follow.....


Lyrics, for passers-by who are unable to see the video:

This one goes out to the man who mines for miracles
This one goes out to the ones in need
This one goes out to the sinner and the cynical
This ain't about no apology

This road was paved by the hopeless and the hungry
This road was paved by the winds of change
Walking beside the guilty and the innocent
How will you raise your hand when they call your name?

Yeah, yeah, yeah

We weren't born to follow
Come on and get up off your knees
When life is a bitter pill to swallow
You gotta hold on to what you believe

Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow
And that your saints and sinners bleed
We weren't born to follow
You gotta stand up for what you believe

Let me hear you say yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yeah

This one's about anyone who does it differently
This one's about the one who cusses and spits
This ain't about our livin' in a fantasy
This ain't about givin' up or givin' in
Yeah, yeah, yeah.............

Friday, September 24, 2010

Arty Farty Friday ~ Sir Alexander Fleming & Microbial Art

This has to be the weirdest Arty Farty Friday subject yet! Sir Alexander Fleming, Scottish research scientist who, in September 1928, accidentally discovered what the Penicillium fungus he found growing on discarded petri dishes in his messy laboratory was capable of. His discovery and subsequent experiments were later taken up and elaborated upon by Howard Florey and Ernst Chain. Mass producing penicillin became a reality with funds from the U.S. and British governments. Mass production began after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; by D-day they had enough penicillin to treat all the wounded allied forces.

But "where's the art?" I hear you cry.

I'll borrow from the Smithsonian website (order of some paragraphs changed to suit context of this post. Some parts bold-highlighted in connection with astrology and his natal chart): Painting with Penicillin - Alexander Fleming's Germ Art
In addition to working as a scientist, and well before his discovery of antibiotics, Fleming painted. He was a member of the Chelsea Arts Club, where he created amateurish watercolors. Less well known is that he also painted in another medium, living organisms. Fleming painted ballerinas, houses, soldiers, mothers feeding children, stick figures fighting and other scenes using bacteria. He produced these paintings by growing microbes with different natural pigments in the places where he wanted different colors. He would fill a petri dish with agar, a gelatin-like substance, and then use a wire lab tool called a loop to inoculate sections of the plate with different species. The paintings were technically very difficult to make. Fleming had to find microbes with different pigments and then time his inoculations such that the different species all matured at the same time. These works existed only as long as it took one species to grow into the others. When that happened, the lines between, say, a hat and a face were blurred; so too were the lines between art and science.

Fleming’s discovery of the effects of penicillin, the compound produced by the fungus, was a function of his eye for the rare, an artist’s eye. Other scientists had undoubtedly seen Penicillium growing on their petri dishes before Fleming, but they had thrown those dishes away as failures (In fact, both Chinese and Greek medicine had used fungus topically to treat bacterial infections for several thousand years). Not so for Fleming, who spent his life searching for outliers and the situations that favored them. The outliers were not lucky accidents. They were instead, for Fleming, the living art of discovery.

It is not clear why Fleming started painting microbes; perhaps he picked up a brush one day and noticed that it felt like the loop he used for his bacteria. Or maybe it was due to the promiscuous sexual predilections of artists. Fleming worked at St. Mary’s hospital in London, where he treated syphilis cases. Many of his patients were painters, and those painters sometimes gave Fleming paintings and perhaps even lessons in return for treatment. Fleming's palette grew richer with time as he found bacteria with the colors he needed. He found joy in discovering a strange new strain of bacteria, in the way that a field biologist might feel the same in happening upon some new and wondrous bird. He collected unusual life forms in the hope that one of them might someday prove useful.
Fleming was a self-taught artist; he had no real artistic training and so he painted what occurred to him. The paintings had little in the way of dimension or nuance and yet still had a vigor, heightened by the reality that they in fact were alive. As one breathed on the paintings, they breathed back.

One could view these paintings as just another manifestation of the strange ways in which scientists become obsessed (biologists have more than a fair share of quirky hobbies—miniature trains, headstone photography, broken glass collections). But as scientists have begun to reconsider Fleming’s story, it has become clear that these little paintings were more than art.

On that fateful morning, what Fleming actually discovered was, in a way, a version of one of his paintings. Each of the colonies of Staphylococci bacteria that he had inoculated on the plate had grown into a small shape resembling a planet or a star in a night sky. But there among his wild planets was something else, a larger, lighter body at the top of the dish, the Penicillium fungus. Around it the sky was dark, where the bacteria were dying. It was his masterpiece, his “rising sun,” the painting that would save more lives than any other discovery.

Fleming’s bacteria paintings have many descendants. A group of modern painters is using bacteria to produce all sorts of images. Glowing bacteria are used as a scientific tool. The most important descendant of Fleming’s artistic methods, though, are the thousands of modern scientists who, like Fleming, make discoveries by looking for the unusual.

Natal chart of Sir Alexander Fleming, data from Astrodatabank. I'm looking for emphasis on Saturn (science) and even more important in this context, Uranus, planet of the unexpected & invention. If Aquarius isn't highlighted in the chart, its modern ruler Uranus ought to be. Fleming's art isn't "great art", though Venus, planet of the arts and/or Neptune (creativity) ought to be well placed to endow the "artist's eye" which was possibly Fleming's most useful extra gift. Let's see.

Yes!! It's all there.

Saturn at 12 Taurus (ruled by Venus) in harmonious trine to Uranus at 12 Virgo.
Saturn is also conjunct Neptune at 16 Taurus.
Sun at 13 Leo semi sextiles (helpful) Uranus at 12 Virgo.

The main cluster of planets covers 12 Taurus to 1 Gemini, so Venus, ruler of Taurus is well to the fore, though the planet itself is some degrees away from the cluster at 29 Gemini.

Moon in Sagittarius lay in 6th house of service, as befits a scientist striving to help mankind.

Ascendant in mid-Cancer, a sign often connected to doctors and the medical profession, sextiles Neptune (creativity) in Taurus.

Below are the only examples I've found on-line, enough to give us a glimpse of Fleming's microbial art. For examples of microbial art by others see THIS website.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


In childhood, my kaleidoscope was a favourite toy. I still find in them a source of fascination....which led me to an archived post from summer 2008. It seemed to beg for a complete update.

Done! The theme is here dragged kicking and screaming into 2010 ~~~

These days there's an uncomfortable feel to things in general. The "enticing new possibilities" spied by Ms Kanter in the following quote are thin on the ground just now, especially in politics - unless you happen to be entranced by the antics of that group of people with a thing about tea bags.

“Creativity is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility."
(~Rosabeth Moss Kanter, American social scientist & business expert)

Still... I'll try tweaking Ms. Kanter's thought and look at some of our astrological "floating bits and pieces", otherwise known as the seven planets ancient astrologers traditionally used. Let's see what emerges, kaleidoscope-wise. Focus will be on the USA mainly, but passing readers will no doubt be able to orient patterns towards their own locations.

Our "floating bits and pieces" - how do they shape up ?

Sun, in general represents leadership. Newly moved into Libra, it signals an emphasis on either diplomacy or indecisiveness. In the USA's current leader traces of both traits can be detected. The President panders to his masters, the corporations, bringing forth weakness of resolve and an appearance of indecisiveness, as he tries, at every turn, to satisfy his masters and the Republicans over the needs of what was once his "base". His diplomacy leans only towards those who finance him, not those who worked hard to support him in 2008, in fact, on more than one occasion he, and his underlings have mocked this faction's hopes and wishes.

Moon -I'll use it as representing the public, I understand it does so in horary astrology. A public sharply divided (and sub-divided) in the USA. It was ever thus, but possibly never more clearly sub-divided than now. Further sub-divisions have merged in the 2 years since the General Election. Under the Republican "umbrella" the aforementioned Tea Bag movement has found a place. They differentiate themselves from middle-of-the-road, old-fashioned conservatives. As for the Democrats, they now sub-divide into those for whom the Obama Kool-aid hasn't yet worn off, and those for whom scales have fallen from their eyes. One faction still insists that "he's doing his best in shitty circumstances", parrot buzz words such as "small steps" and "lesser-evil". A more clear-eyed sub-division on the far-left, seminal group of radical left-wingers, theorise that is there is no true difference between the two parties, both are bought by, and run by the corporations, and shadowy figures at the top of an elite pyramid.

Mercury represents all forms of communication. Even since 2008 new lines of communication and networking possibilities have continued to mushroom. Facebook and Twitter have become a bigger part of the fabric of everyday life (for some). A metaphorical wolf may be approaching the door though. Net neutrality is essential for things to remain as they stand currently. The forces who appear to be controlling politics will, sooner or later, also demand control over the internet.

Venus the arts and love planet ought to provide some softer pastel background colour to what is so far a sombre kaleidoscopic pattern. Even here though, there's a harshness in evidence. Modern musical styles could hardly be described as "soft and pastel", modern style in the arts tends towards dark satire and cynicism. Love, in many cases takes a back seat to lust and sexual gratification.

Mars represents energy, war, aggression. The reddish hues of Mars almost overpowers the view these days, leaving little room for much else. No need to peer too closely, or even to name specifics.

Jupiter, planet of excess, religion and long-distance travel. Religious fundamentalism in both Christianity and Islam continue to mushroom, while long-distance travel becomes less accessible for working folk and the unemployed. Past excesses are now having impact upon the environment as well as the economy. Jupiter, as benign a planet as it is considered to be by astrologers, has dark undertones as the result of decades of excess are recognised.

Saturn, planet of laws, restrictions, limitations and authority in general. The US Supreme Court springs immediately to mind. This year's decision of the Court, overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, bitterly divided the Justices when it ruled that the government may not ban or limit political spending by corporations in candidate elections, thus making it even easier for the corporations to buy politicians and parties, so tightening their stranglehold.

So, gazing upon the kaleidoscopic picture presented by our planetary bits and pieces, it's not hard to see how one piece leads to, and relates to another. The whole forms a pattern, pictorially and, as metaphor, politically. I've seen far more pleasing patterns in my time. However, trying to find a positive angle, it's a pattern which, if given a gentle shake (continuing the kaleidoscope motif), could change beyond recognition, and morph into something quite different.

(This is meant to be a moving image, but I'm not sure whether Blogger's platform will crank it up - if not.... it's pretty anyway.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Here in the northern hemisphere we're about to welcome in the fall/autumn of 2010. The equinox will occur sometime between late tonight and early tomorrow. In the southern hemisphere, our esteemed guest blogger Gian Paul, in Brazil, will be welcoming the spring.

Accompanying the equinox, Sun is about to move into the zodiac sign we call Libra, Cardinal Air sign, ruled by Venus.

I'm borrowing, once again, from Louis MacNeice's book, Astrology. It is, apparently, not too well known, published in 1964, possibly shunned by "the astrological elite" as MacNeice wasn't an astrologer by trade. He was a classical scholar and poet and by no means a "hack writer". I'm finding that the book highlights much from a different perspective, refers to sources not often heard of nowadays, as well as some ancient classical sources, and puts them in context. This, I find very helpful.

From Astrology by Louis MacNeice ~ Zodiac Sign Libra

One would not expect to find Venus as Libra's ruler (it has little in common with the other Venusian sign, Taurus) but Venus.....stands for harmony and so can promote a proper balance not only between persons but also within an individual. So the Libra type is easy to get on with, being diplomatic, gentle and tolerant. (William J.)Tucker comments that this type has "many of the traits common to the Chinese race". (This was before China went Red). Being the other equinoctial sign, Libra is the opposite number to Aries, and we could well imagine that it might do Aries some good. But this is contrary to the opinion of most astrologers who think that any two signs 180 degrees apart must be opposed to each other in every sense, just as planets are when in "opposition". There are, however, a minority who think that such opposed signs would naturally complement each other, and certainly the signs of spring and autumn equinoxes would seem to be a case in point.

Note that Libra is the only one of the signs that is inorganic; thus it seems quite fitting that (John) Varley summarizes its "elementary notions" as follows:
"Libra, independently of its appearing in the world's horoscope, to mediate the Zodiac horizontally, and to balance, as it were, the sign Aries, has been found to signify straight lines and regular buildings, and the sublime uninterrupted horizon line of the sea; it represents also the blue color of the sky and the distances."

We might add, thinking of of this blue seascape, that the Venus who rules Libra is more the Venus Anadyomene of Botticelli than the sensual goddess who prompted the Wife of Bath.

The picture that emerges of the Libra (type) person is a sociable, cultured, and courteous person, perhaps only too pleased to sparkle in embassies. He seems to be humanist, empirist, and eclectic, and almost entirely lacking in aggression. He would do most things for peace and finds it very difficult to say no. Perhaps his chief virtue is that he can see both sides of a question; his chief failing that he is too easily influenced. As for the Libra woman, she is extremely soignée. Barbault includes among Libra types Erasmus, Katherine Mansfield, Gandhi the apostle of non-violence, and, as its typical painters, Boucher and Watteau. Libra could hardly frighten anyone.

With regard to that last sentence - Louis MacNeice hadn't met my mother ! Her birthday was 28 September. She didn't fit comfortably into much of textbook Libra, nor did my first husband, whose birthday was the day before my mother's. As always I have to mention that the sign in which the Sun resides as we were born is not the be-all and end-all. In the case of Libra there is a very good chance that Mercury and/or Venus will be found nextdoor in Scorpio - "a horse of a very different colour", or nextdoor in the other direction, in Virgo, which sign lacks much of the tolerance and diplomacy that Libra is known for. Rising sign and the sign in which the Moon lay at our birth must also be taken into consideration, and their respective positions in the chart - whether close to an angle (ascendant and its opposite angle, midheaven and its opposite angle), where the main strength of the chart is found).

There's no such thing as "A Libran", except as a shorthand description of someone born between around 22 September and 22 October. But there can certainly be Libra-types: people who display all or many of the textbook Libra traits - though not necessarily coming via natal Sun.

Ronald Searle's whimsical take on Libra from Searle's Zodiac

A sidelight, when considering Libra, is that the last half of of the sign and the first half of Scorpio were known to ancient astrologers as Via Combusta (Burning/Fiery Road): from Skyscript:

The area between 15 Libra and 15 Scorpio is termed the Via Combusta: 'Fiery Road' or 'Combust Way'. It is considered to be a debilitating area, particularly detrimental to the Moon. Al Biruni wrote of it:

"The combust way is the last part of Libra and the first of Scorpio. These two signs are not congenial to the Sun and the Moon on account of the obscurity and ill-luck connected with them and because each of them is the fall of one of the luminaries. They also contain the two malefics, the one by exaltation (Libra, Saturn) the other by house (Scorpio, Mars)."
This may be a very ancient aphorism, originating from the period when 15 Libra corresponded with the autumn equinox.
Clicking on "Libra" (or"via combusta" if interested) in the Label Cloud at sidebar(right) will bring up relevant archived posts.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010



The intention here is not to speak specifically about "Polish Jokes", but about this type of phenomena. There are excellent Polish Jokes in New York, or Italian jokes in Switzerland, or Irish jokes in England etc. There are sad ones too. To the point where the Polish-American Journal (published in Boston) printed the following in 2009: "Polish jokes started to decline in the USA when Polish Americans put aside their good nature and aggressively spoke out against this Anti-Polish hatred" etc... Admittedly the Polish Americans have some reasons to object to what historically had never been considerate behavior towards them, mostly by the Nazis and the Soviets in the past and the usual stuff immigrants have to hear anywhere, particularly in rough-going New York.

But leaving history aside, who does not like to have a good laugh? Some manage to make others laugh by poking fun at themselves (these are often the best jokes), others need to somehow degrade someone else, preferably when in an audience with similar intent. That's mostly the case with Polish or Italian jokes etc. Anytime a neighbor nation is involved or an immigrant.

In Brazil, many funny jokes are told about the Portuguese, the former colonials here. They are infallibly depicted as inept, not really intelligent or simply old-fashioned. It's an anti-colonial thing. And living in Brazil, the Portuguese one can meet here, one can see, have not always an easy time. Brazilians adore having fun. But they do not laugh so much when an Argentinian tells a joke about Brazilians...

The Jewish jokes I have come across in various countries, often told by Jews themselves, are sometimes of a different nature. The best ones show how clever Jews can be, usually compared to some other religious person or someone of the country where they live. One could say for these jokes that they are an instrument of self-defense. Using humor for that is a very popular thing in the Middle East.

One of the most notorious jokers there is a Turk, known in many other countries as the Hodjia or Mullah Nasreddin. A pendant to the Till Eulenspiegel of the Nordic people and the Dutch. The literature for whom likes this type of reading is quite ample and available in most languages.

What exactly humor is, psychologically, is an interesting subject: To laugh, is a release of energy and at the same time can appear to be a re-charging of energy. Only people with some spare energy can laugh. An exhausted person, even if there is something funny happening, will say "and I did not even have the strength to laugh..."

A "good laugh" is when one expends a considerable amount of energy. And despite this expense, the fact that there is some re-equilibration of energies going on, makes one feel well. The fact of public comics (the Lettermans, Lenos etc.) having success is mostly due to the timing of their presentations. People watching themon TV are usually tired, at the end of their day and welcome a change of mind which, because even if only slightly funny (more often the case than not), it helps them to re-equilibrate their humor (from the Latin, humidity, the state of lubrication of one's psychological machine).

No doubt also there are bigger than just daily cycles between morning and evening involved in humor being appreciated (and produced). It's tempting to think that the "Air du Temps", the flavor of the times plays a role. And if that is the case one might find an astrological link to that. It's quite easy to find a person's horoscope who is often inclined to laugh or gifted to tell funny stories, true ones or jokes he/she picked up somewhere. There are also characters who by simply being what they are, without doing much for that on purpose, are funny.

As a very general observation I found that sun-sign Aquarius is often funny, or fun to be with. A friend of mine, French, ex-captain with the air-born troops in French Africa, then turned banker and a very likable Aquarian has in his horoscope Sun/Jupiter conjunct in Aquarius and an exact trine between Mercury (in Capricorn) and Uranus (in Taurus). He is truly fun to be with. And knowing it, he has made it kind of a standard procedure in his behavior to entertain whomever is in his company. To the point where he had a rich client who accompanied him (on his own expense of course) on many of his professional displacements, just for the fun of being in the Aquarian's company.

Another quite entertaining Aquarian, overtly gay, is a German born in Brazil whose map I made. His natal Uranus (in Taurus) trines his Mercury (in Capricorn), as for the previous person. This leads me to wonder whether a well aspected Mercury in an earth-sign is not bringing about a light element, but also a well "earthed" ability of understanding whatever situation arises. "Funny" is often an observation which is "to the point". There is the unexpected, for whom did not see it by himself, which is being pointed out by the witty person that makes the other one laugh.

What's going on with Aquarians? The fact that they are opposite to the sign of Leo may give an explanation of why they easily can poke fun of themselves, in a light way. Contrary to a Leo, exactly. And that gives them a detached way of dealing with what comes across their path as well. As about themselves. But one better specifies that not all Aquarians are funny or likeable people. Some even show to the outside world the "worst sides of Leo, their opposite sign", i.e. the shadow...

To be more complete, but it's limited to my personal observations as I never came across any astrological take on humor, the map of a young Pisces I made (who is very good at telling stories), has the following characteristics which appear to give him such abilities: Mercury right on his Ascendant in Pisces, enforced by a precise trine from Saturn in Scorpio. His Piscean sensitivity and Mercurial wit is stabilized by a sarcastic Saturn. A way one can interpret his map.

A look at some slow planets and their transits in various signs permits a tentative conclusion which I hope some readers may be able to confirm or even amplify. There were in my experience 2 periods over the last 50 years with more humor and probably jokes being produced and told then other at other times:

The first period strikes me to have been in the late '50s and early '60s. This from what I remember was a period when satirical journals were en vogue: Le Canard Enchainé in France e.g. had a ball making fun of all-important De Gaulle. Playboy was at its peak, all over the world, and often man would buy the magazine because of the jokes, they said. Uranus then was transiting Leo. And - I freely interpret, Uranus being in his opposite sign of were he belongs, was loosening up what needed to be, in fixed and often stubborn or grandiose Leo.

The second period was in the mid-'80s. Then it probably was Jupiter who was transiting Capricorn, loosening up "Saturnian things". Possibly that Neptune then in his turn, as he was entering Capricorn, gave a hand as well.

Right now, with Pluto in Capricorn, I have the impression that in general the penchant for jokes and similar light stuff is receding. And the economic shock the world experienced lately has to do with that as well. The idea to investigate at first about "Polish Jokes", and then the rest came from my personal perception that at this moment there is very little joke-telling going on. A local illustration for that: when Lula was running for president here in Brazil 8 years ago, the place was full of jokes. Now it's very quiet. Almost colorless. And from what appears in the French and American press, it's the case there as well. Who thinks that e.g. The New-Yorker is still funny these days?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Music Monday ~ Acoustically Speaking, John Ford Coley, Terry Sylvester, Fran Cosmo, some astrology & a rant about who "Ain't Heavy".

At our local theatre on Saturday evening the Chisholm Trail Arts Council began its 2010-11 Live concert series. Our friend & in-law, and occasional commenter here (TNPOTUS), as well as editing a local weekly newspaper is chair of the Arts Council committee. His main task is to find and book acts to appear each season, and advertise the shows.

A show called Acoustically Speaking kicked off the new season. The show's title wasn't an exact fit, or even a near miss as it turned out, but nobody seemed to mind. Oklahomans, when on best behaviour, are a kindly and easy-going crowd.

The show featured "blasts from the past". Texan, John Ford Coley (formerly of England Dan & John Ford Coley - I’d Really Love to See You Tonight...etc.) performing as a duo with British (Liverpudlian) musician Terry Sylvester who replaced Graham Nash in The Hollies, he was with the band for 12 years. He sang and played on such famous tracks as He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, & Air that I Breathe. American musician/vocalist Fran Cosmo formerly of the band Boston headed the second half of the show with his current band which includes his son, Anton, now a star in his own right.

We much preferred the show's first half. It's good to know that some of the stars of the golden age of pop and rock are still around and performing well, keeping the "gold-standard" in place. John and Terry received an enthusiastic welcome. John is a near-local from just over the Red River in Texas, while Terry's "come-as-you-are" look fit right in with Okie sensibilities. He seemed right at home, and at one point remarked that he "liked it round here" and that it was good to see grass again after New Mexico's lack of it (causing a couple of sniggers). Their old hits came one after another, voices still strong. Both as they pointed out, tongues in cheeks, "looking good". (Husband's photos -click on them to enlarge)

Fran Cosmo's band in the show's second half was typical wham bang heavy noisy rock. Accoustically, I was challenged. My husband was accoustically bored, except for Cosmo jnr's guitar solo (photo below) which was outstanding. No doubt the band is very good - if you like that sort of thing.


John Ford Coley was the name I instantly recognised. The fact that his late professional partner England Dan(Seals) and he both had natal Suns in an Air sign seems like a good starting point. He was born in Dallas, Texas on 13 October 1948 - Sun in Libra. Dan Seals was also a Texan and had Sun in Aquarius, born 5 February 1948. The reason for the "England" bit, as John explained it, wasn't the same one I'd found on-line. John said that originally the duo intended to, and hoped they would, "go international" and might plan to change the prefix to Dan's name to match their venues ("Germany" Dan, etc.) But that didn't work out because their record label preferred that they remained "domestic".

England Dan's and John's Natal Suns were in harmonious trine aspect. Mercury in trine too, from 3/4 degrees Pisces/Scorpio. The guys clearly had a strong background of compatibility. Slower moving, generational planets were in similar positions for both, of course. It's not at all surprising to find that they had been friends and professional partners since High School days.

The duo disbanded in 1980 as styles changed and the disco era dawned. Sadly, Dan Seals died of mantle cell lymphoma, aged 61 in 2009. On that date transiting Jupiter conjoined his natal Sun. Jupiter is often found in significant position at a person's death, there's no clear astrological reason why such a supposedly benign planet should be around personal planets at the point of eath, other than, perhaps, signifying a benign release from pain. Uranus, planet of change, conjoined natal Venus at the time of his death too.

England Dan & John Ford Coley peforming their biggest hit, I'd Really Love to See You Tonight (written by Parker McGee)~

Terry Sylvester was born on 8 January 1947, close to the home of Paul McCartney in Liverpool's Allerton area. Before getting into music he worked for George Harrison's brother as an apprentice panel-beater. He was part of the band Swinging Blue Jeans, then joined the Hollies when Graham Nash left to form Crosby Stills and Nash - names to conjure with, aren't they?!

Terry's Capricorn Sun/Mars/Mercury indicate a steady, feet-on-the-ground nature, which must have had a lot to do with keeping his head back in the 1960s and 70s when so many others in the business lost theirs. He has two or three planets in Leo (depending on time of birth & Moon position) reflecting his comfort in the spotlight. An interesting patterning in his chart throws up 3 Yods (sharp pointed configurations formed by a sextile between 2 planets each linked by quincunx aspect to another at the point). One Yod has Sun at the point, one has Mars and one has Uranus. Sun/Mars/Jupiter/Uranus are the celestial "band" forming these mythical "Fingers of Fate", and his celestial band has certainly worked harmoniously for Terry over many years.

The Hollies with Carrie Anne from 1969 - Good views of a youthful Terry here, on vocalist Allan Clarke's left, on screen.

I cannot finish without including the Hollies' version of that wonderful song composed by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell, who were introduced to each other by Johnny Mercer at a California nightclub. Despite the fact that Russell was dying of cancer and that the pair met in person only three times, they managed to turn out He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother.

(Warning: entering soapbox mode in next 3 paragraphs)

He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother is often dedicated to "our soldiers, who are keeping us safe" - Terry did this on Saturday evening, mentioning troops from the UK and the USA. It was the only time I felt unable to applaud his announcements. We've not been "kept safe" since the 1940s, and most of the audience hadn't even been born then, including Terry. Wars since then have only served to make us less safe and to line the pockets of the Military Industrial Complex - wars are huge profit (and empire) makers. Lives, as you may have noticed, are expendable.

I see this song, nowadays, as offering a message to those closer to home, those who avidly support right-wing politics in the USA, and elsewhere, who care little for the needs and poverty of others in their own country and abroad: their brothers. They care, unapologetically, only for their own wealth and comfort. And...Afghans and Iraqis are also our brothers, most of them not much different from you and I, other than in the customs of their respective countries. If I'm ever at a concert where somebody stands up and makes an announcement along these lines, I'll stand up and CHEER them - ducking the pigs as they fly.

I won't apologise for making a political point in a blog about music. Like the character in Network I'm angry - "Mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore"

The Hollies recorded the emotional ballad (lyrics below), which had been discovered by the group's guitarist Tony Hicks as a publisher's demo. Hicks later said that the demo was very slow in tempo, and that really only the lyrics remained in The Hollies version with Allan Clarke on lead vocals and autoharp, Terry Sylvester on high harmony, Tony Hicks on bottom harmony and guitar. Bobby Elliot played drums, Bernie Calvert bass, while Elton John guested on piano.

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

MERCURY, Virgo & Gemini.

Before the Sun passes out of zodiac sign Virgo and into Libra next week, a look at Mercury, Virgo's ruling planet - a ruler shared by Gemini.

I'm using recently acquired book, (published 1964) Astrology by Louis MacNeice. MacNeice was not an astrologer, but a poet and scholar of the classics. More about him in a previous post HERE.

To write Astrology MacNeice must have spent many hours of painstaking research, as befits his own Virgo Sun/Mercury/Venus. He cites much material from older sources, some ancient. The book can in no way be seen as "a fluff piece", it serves, in many cases, to clarify how we got to where we are in interpreting the planets and signs.
The Kalendar of Shepherds, from which he quotes below was published in 1507, translated from (I think) a French version of some years earlier. The illustration, right, comes from the Kalendar. I'm not sure whether it relates to Virgo, but the partially obscured glyph at the top resembles a Virgo glyph, and the corn in the field is cut and awaits stacking, so time of year is right for Virgo.

Here's part of what Louis MacNeice discovered about Mercury.

"The fair planet Mercury", says the Kalendar of Shepherds is "very full and dry of nature and is lord of speech, as the Sun is lord of light......Who is born under Mercury shall be subtle of wit....(that is and always has been Mercury's first characteristic) and shall be very crafty in many sciences......He shall ever follow and resort to them that be of good manners, and shall be fortunate on the sea to use the course of good merchandise."

Mercury is the traditional patron not only of intellectuals but of merchants. He is also the patron planet of transport.

But the Mercury man, according to the Kalendar, will not have it all his own way. "He shall be very gracious, and he shall have harm by women, and when he is married, men shall not set so much by him as they did before." All the same, "he will have great love to ladies and gentlewomen, but yet they shall not be masters over him. He will be a very good man of the church or a religious man, and he shall not love to go to a warfare.....He shall love well to preach and to speak fair rhetoric language, and to talk of philosophy and geometry."

The Kalendar details other intellectual, artistic and commercial activities and ends: "He shall be servant to some great lord or else a receiver of his money." (The original god Mercury himself had been something of a lackey on Olympus, always running errands for the greater gods.) "He shall have a high forehead, a long visage, black eyes, and a thin beard. He shall be a great pleader in the law and will meddle with other men's deeds if they do not well and say against it."

There has been general agreement that Mercury stands for the intellect and for most types of communication, whether mental or physical. Not surprisingly, however, he is undependable; astrologers have named him "the chameleon among planets" (compare the adjective "mercurial") and have explained that he is neutral because, in the aspects, he takes color from other planets but does not give color in return. This idea goes back to Ptolemy, who says that Mercury is "generally speaking in nature like whatever of the planets may be associatedwith him." By Ptolemy's time he was also firmly established as the ruler of two signs, Gemini and Virgo. Rupert Gleadow, who calls him a "sexless planet", points out that both these signs are "somewhat lacking in emotion".

Mercury can make you a genius; he can also make you a crook. The original god had been both, as is shown by the early Homeric "Hymn to Hermes" in which he is described (in Shelley's translation) as

A schemer subtle beyond all belief;
A shepherd of thin dreams, a cow-stealing,
A night-watching and door-waylaying thief

who yet, while still an infant, went on to invent the lyre, killing a tortoise to use its shell for the purpose.

(Left: Carving shows Hermes making the lyre).

..................The planet Mercury, like Venus, owing to its actual nearness to the Sun, is always seen from earth as lying in a sign near the Sun. Consequently Mercury and Venus are comparatively often found in conjunction. In spite of the frequency of such conjunctions an 18th century English astrologer, Ebenezer Sibly, used one of them (retrospectively) to explain the French Revolution: "The active position of Venus and Mercury, conjoined, denotes much restlessness and instability in the councils of France, which seem distracted by the arbitrary will of the Gallic Queen, here represented by Venus, upheld and assisted by light, volatile, time-serving men, pre-noted by Mercury."..........................

As for aspects, it is generally considered that Saturn, having such a different and therefore complementary nature, is the best influence on Mercury.

(Illustration below from Astrology, showing a French Bank advertisement for travellers' cheques. In both astrology and mythology Mercury is considered to be the patron of commerce and transport: thus the two roles here symbolised by the god are equally typical of the planet.)