Wednesday, April 30, 2014

10 Years!

30 April 2004
Our 10th....(goodness me 10th!) wedding anniversary today, 30 April. We usually try to mark these occasions with a trip away from home for a day or two. I've come to rather wish we'd sorted out a wedding date which gave Oklahoma's tornado and allergy seasons a wider berth! I didn't know about such things back then, I was more worried about eclipses, moons void of course and suchlike; avoiding both figured into the reason for our wedding date, added to the fact that we needed to "get on with it ASAP" due to his visa requirements and my emigration procedures in general.

Below, a blurry compilation, from husband's Flickr site, made from a jokey video he took at home following our very casual wedding in England. Ceremony comprised just him, me, Registrar, a driver and a photographer who kindly acted as witnesses, and an internet camera connection to the USA, so that husband's family could watch. It was 2pm in England, 8am in Oklahoma. Accompanying music is a scratchy old recording of "Take me to the land of jazz" - and is apt enough, 'cos he did!

In my early years here, we took some anniversary trips that I'd think twice (or 4 times) about taking at this time of year now! I think I used to assume that as long as we were out of Oklahoma all would be well. Not so, especially during the past two years when tornado tracks have seemed to change ever so slightly, veering a wee bit further east much of the time. Thoughts are with those affected by recent outbreaks, mainly to the east of Oklahoma.

Tornado watches and warnings are bad enough when safely ensconced at home with TV weather forecasters busily providing viewers with exact data on tracks of tornadic nasties in their area, but if away, blithely driving along some rural road when a funnel shaped thingie appeared in the distance, we'd be hard put to "keep calm and carry on!" Down flat in a ditch in company with whatever varmints and critters might also be hiding there doesn't appeal much.

Now, when we think of taking a break away from home in celebration of our late April wedding anniversary, I insist we travel only westward, well away from main tornado-prone areas. I had a rough plan in mind this year to try for northern New Mexico and a hop just over into Utah to see Monument Valley etc. That tentative plan has been shelved, mainly in case either, or both, of us were to suffer relapses while "on the road" of the endless sneezing, blocked nasal passages, sore throats, feverish temperatures and fatigue we both suffered a few days ago, possibly brought on by this year's "pollen vortex". A shorter trip westward remains a possibility this week, so if posts stall after tomorrow's, that'll be the reason.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mystery of the Masquerade

Most astrologers would agree with Molly Hall's explanation of the meaning of our ascendant/rising sign:
(Snip from HERE)
The Rising sign is known as the mask of the persona, and the first impression we make on those we meet. It could be said that the qualities of the sign that was rising on the eastern horizon imprints on the outer self as we emerge into the world. After that, each time we encounter a new situation or person, this is the "face" we reveal.

If you've ever been puzzled by how others describe you, it could be that they've encountered the Rising sign qualities. It's the image facing outward, and might not be how you see yourself at all. It is the front door of the self, but as much a part of the personality as the Sun sign.

The Rising sign deals with First House issues like appearance and personality, and can even influence physical characteristics. If the Sun is the core self, taking action in the world, the Rising sign is the vehicle with which to do it.

C.E.O. Carter, well-respected 20th century British astrologer, had some less common ideas to share (see HERE) ~~
On the Ascendant as a Mask:
Recently we have heard a good deal to the effect that the rising sign, and in particular the ascending degree, is a mask which the native wears before the world but which conceals his true self. As I have stated in the Lodge, this proposition does not seem self-evidently true. It seems to derive from the practice, in Alan Leo times, of correlating the Sun with the 'individuality' and the Moon with the 'personality', using these words in their well-known theosophical senses. 'Personality' is further derived from the Latin persona = something one makes a noise through, hence a mask such as actors were wont to wear, with a wide-open mouth. Then, apparently, this idea of a mask was transferred to the ascending sign...

I suggest that it is not the rising, but the setting degree, that is more truly a mask, for it is through this that we contact other people, and unless we have very strong personalities (in the usual, not the theosophical, sense) we do modify our demeanour according to the man or woman who confronts us..."
[From an Editorial in The Astrologer's Quarterly, September 1951]

Below is a list of the zodiac signs with their opposites, as rising and setting i.e. ascendant/descendant signs:
When Aries is rising, Libra is setting
Taurus rising - Scorpio setting
Gemini rising - Sagittarius setting
Cancer rising - Capricorn setting
Leo rising - Aquarius setting
Virgo rising - Pisces setting
Libra rising - Aries setting
Scorpio rising - Taurus setting
Sagittarius rising - Gemini setting
Capricorn rising - Cancer setting
Aquarius rising - Leo setting
Pisces rising - Virgo setting.
Mr.Carter's theory makes sense to me. Other astrologers have proposed that the descendant indicates "what we need", in a partner, or in life. I like Carter's idea much better. It seems to work in all the charts I've been able to check so far. Admittedly this is not a large number, because times of birth have been elusive for many of my close connections throughout life. It's a stumbling block for people in Britain where times of birth have not always been routinely recorded.

My own descendant is in Capricorn. I've been told more than once that I come over as a solidly, reliable Capricorn-type. This makes my revolutionary Aquarian Sun bristle, and my Aries Moon put up its fists! As Mercury lies in Capricorn in my chart I've usually blamed the impression I seem to give on that placement. There's also the fact of Saturn being traditional ruler of Aquarius to consider in my case, so I mightn't be a good example. I do doubt that the first impression I give is that of my rising sign, Cancer. I'm anything but motherly. I've never been a mother, never wished to be a mother in fact; I'm house-trained but hardly domesticated. I am ultra sensitive and sentimental/emotional, and in my youth I was shy (Cancerian traits) but few would perceive that from a casual meeting.

I tried Mr Carter's theory on my husband's chart. He has Leo ascending, Aquarius on the descendant. He has told me that when he was young he deliberately tried to be original and different, not to conform with the fads of his contemporaries - in the way he dressed, his hair style, his taste in music, the way he spoke. That clearly says Aquarius to me, not Leo. Matured now, less avant garde in most things, but still his Leo remains well hidden to outsiders, just a part of the mix of his real self, his natal Moon is in Leo too. When I first stumbled across him on the internet, the impression I had was of a school teacher or some such academically inclined mortal. It turned out that he wasn't, but his demeanor was definitely more Aquarius than Leo. His eldest daughter has a similar Leo ascendant, these remarks could apply equally to her.

Charles Carter's theory is something worth keeping in mind. What has to be kept in mind also, is that how we see someone else often says more about who we are than who they are! The plot thickens!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Re-inventing the (Chariot) Wheel

....Here they go again, trying to re-invent the wheel!

A re-make - I should say "another" re-make
- of Ben Hur is in the works, due for release in February 2016. What is wrong with these people? Re-making old movies can be a good thing, provided that existing versions are either outdated in some way, or were badly made or poorly cast to begin with. Re-hashing a movie of the stature of the 1959 version of Ben Hur has to be classed as sacrilege in my opinion, and foolhardy by any standard.

Reports indicate that this re-make, or "re-adaptation" will have a rather different focus, supposedly staying closer to Lew Wallace's original novel. The early days of Judah Ben Hur and Messala will be examined, their original youthful best-friendship and the way it disintegrated; while also telling, in more detail than the 1959 film, the story of Jesus Christ's ministry and his sentencing to death. That all sounds more like material for a TV mini-series.
(Photograph right: Wheel from a racing chariot used (below) in 1959's epic, Ben-Hur, on show at Planet Hollywood Cafe (from HERE).

Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (known for involvement in Son of God and The Bible) are closely involved in Timur Bekmambetov's Ben-Hur re-make. Burnett will produce, Downey will executive produce. The couple are said to be devout Christians, so a more evangelical approach to Ben Hur this time around has to be expected, I guess.

I've always maintained that the 1959 movie was not "A tale of the Christ" as the subtitle of Lew Wallace's book promised, but an adventure story: The Adventures of Prince Judah Ben Hur, who accidentally bumped into Jesus a couple of times in the course of those adventures. That was the way I liked it, and what put it at the top of my favourite film list, where it has stayed since I first saw the movie in 1961. Whether the (metaphorical) wheel will come off the newest re-make's wagon is something we shall discover in time.

 Charlton Heston as Judah Ben Hur and Haya Harareet as Esther
As it's Music Monday, and as it's just a couple of days until my and Anyjazz's 10th wedding anniversary... 10 years ago Ben Hur's Love Theme played as we approached the Registrar, it's as good an excuse as any to listen again to
Miklos Rozsa' s wonderful music from the 1959 movie.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

"And then a hero comes along...." - Or maybe not

Last year's post, Thoughts on Crime and Morality, touched on something that has continued to tease my ponderings, especially while watching DVDs of two seasons of Showtime's TV series Homeland. This is another acclaimed and award-winning series without the traditional "hero" figure at its core. A cluster of such series has emerged during the last several years, some I've watched in full, or in part, others I've only read about. Critics and reviewers tend to group these series together as shows with an "anti-hero" figure as lead character. Breaking Bad's Walter White was a classic example, as was Tony of The Sopranos. I understand the lead character of Dexter was another, and the same goes for the lead in Wired. Mad Men's Don Draper character kind of fits, but without quite as much murder, mayhem and bloodshed. There are others too.

Homeland has as its anti-hero a mentally scarred, damaged and conflicted marine sergeant and former prisoner of war in the Middle East, Nicholas Brody. Also in the photograph below, the bi-polar but brilliantly talented and insightful CIA agent Carrie Mathieson. Damian Lewis and Clare Danes play those parts superbly.

I wonder whether the cluster of these 'em "anti-hero series" for want of a more accurate term, came about due to writers copy-catting, keeping up with another channels' award-winners? Or was it simply a communal need by writers and audiences to get away from old well-worn patterns of white hat/black hat, good/bad, hero/heroine syndromes ? Or... was it perhaps something even deeper, affected by events in the real world?

Anti-heroes have, of course, been around since early man first told stories to listeners sitting around fires under the moon. Anti-heroes have popped up here and there in literature throughout the centuries, as well as in film and TV nearer to our own time: think of, for instance, Rhett Butler and/or Scarlett O'Hara (Gone with the Wind), Captain Ahab (Moby Dick), Paul Kersey, the vigilante in the Death Wish film series, "V"in V for Vendetta. However, the current crop, or indeed glut, of anti-hero series, has been a definite, noticeable trend.

In past decades, movies and TV had been honour-bound to follow a code of conduct aimed at protecting the morality of audiences. The first ‘General Principle’ of the Code was :
No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.
Could the recent widespread popularity of anti-hero tales be a reflection of life as she is currently lived, or at least perceived, by the masses? After World War 2, in mid-20th century there was a definite moral tone around, a clear difference between right and wrong was easy to discern. The ultimate evil of Nazi atrocities was still fresh in memory; returning soldiers, airmen and sailors were templates for heroes, families were re-united, better ways of life were envisioned. During the ensuing Cold War there were tales told of spies and counter spies, with a passing anti-hero involved here and there, but as the exception rather than the norm.

From the late 20th century to today, things have not been clear-cut. We've seen undeclared wars, conflicts and occupations, with no well-defined enemy. Without much imagination, the US and the UK could even have been seen as anti-heroic nations: think Vietnam, Korea, Northern Ireland, Falklands, constant mixes and matches in the Middle East (too many to list), coming right up to Afghanistan and Iraq. There was moral ambiguity aplenty, in those conflicts, not to mention on the home front where lies and manipulations from high places came thick and fast. Sex scandals wall-to-wall, Watergate, surveillance, drone strikes, the rot and corruption at the heart of things was becoming clearer as time passed. The scales have fallen from our collective eyes...or should have! The world isn't a chummy-scrummy ol' place where Pollyanna would feel at home, with police wearing white hats, and criminals decked in black, wrongdoers, especially those in high places, always getting their just deserts. We know this, because we've seen it - not on TV or on the silver screen - but in real life.

Is there really any wonder then, that TV shows such as Breaking Bad and Homeland resonate so well for so many?

I was fascinated by both the Walter White and Nicholas Brody characters, thanks in no small part to the talent of actors Bryan Cranston and Damian Lewis.

In Breaking Bad Walter White's first steps on his "road to Hell" were taken due to his terminal cancer diagnosis, and the need to spend most of his savings to obtain the best possible treatment, meaning there'd be nothing to leave for his wife and his two children's education and welfare. Root cause: shitty US corporate healthcare system. His first steps to cooking meth, though misguided, were capable of eliciting audience sympathy due to his motive. Once elicited, that sympathy was quite hard to let go!

In Homeland's story, the audience had to feel sympathy for marine Brody, a returning POW, after 8 years of imprisonment and torture in the Middle East. We initially resented the idea that he had been "turned" - broken - by long-term tortures inflicted upon him. Through plot twists and turns our loyalties wavered a wee bit, but once some details of his captivity came to light, I for one was rooting for him all the way to the end (which we haven't actually seen, as season 3 isn't available on DVD yet, but I've read spoilers). A secret US drone attack which killed 80 children was involved in what made Brody into the damaged and conflicted man he was to become.

Those two anti-heroes were the kind of anti-heroes I prefer.

I didn't warm at all to Tony and The Sopranos, that series didn't impress me one bit. We watched most of 3 seasons, had no wish to see more. Mad Men and Don Draper were interesting for the first 4 seasons, but it since has lost its sheen and novelty. There was no initial moral motive present in either of those series, just selfish greed for satisfaction, revenge or power. For my taste, without some semblance of a motive for which I could find sympathy, those two anti-hero stories failed. It's understandable why Mad Men has been successful, but for reasons unrelated to its anti-hero figure(s). It still remains a mystery to me why The Sopranos was such a huge hit for so long though.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Romaine Brooks

 Photograph by  Carl Van Vechten, 1935.
I haven't featured nearly as many female painters as male painters on Arty Farty Fridays - it's time for another. Though this painter was female she was not, as the song goes, "strictly a female female", by sexual orientation she was lesbian.

Romaine Brooks, born in Rome, Italy on 1 May 1874 into a fabulously wealthy but dysfunctional Philadelphia family. Her childhood was dire, father absconded early on, mother became abusive when present, left her daughter with a family servant, or in a private school in Europe during long periods of maternal absence, adventuring abroad.

In the late 1890s Romaine attended painting classes at establishments in Rome and Paris. Her mother died in 1902; at age 28 Romaine inherited the whole of the huge family fortune. She moved to London soon after, made a marriage of convenience to a well known but penniless gay pianist. The marriage, unsurprisingly, didn't work out. Romaine had eschewed all trappings of femininity, cropped her hair, began wearing masculine style clothes. The pianist was not impressed! They separated after 3 months, though it is said that she continued to provide him with lifelong financial support. After the separation she adjusted her name, in order to appear more androgynous. She was born Beatrice Romaine Goddard, at this point she dropped the Beatrice and retained her married surname, Brooks.

In London, in a rented studio close to where James McNeil Whistler had once worked, she began painting in earnest, and found easy resonance with Whistler's subdued colour choices, which would eventually be her trademark too. She was later to become known for portraits in subtle shades of grey to black.

 The Charwoman (1904)

In 1905 she decamped to Paris, mixed socially in all the right circles, painted portraits of well-heeled and titled women, including her then lover Princess de Polignac. Her wealth meant that pleasing her portrait subjects was not imperative; she remained ambivalent about selling her work. She did develop insight enough, though, into her sitters' characters to earn her the title "thief of souls". Gossip had it that one lady complained, "You have not beautified me", the artist's reply was, "No, but I have ennobled you".

In 1911, Romaine met dancer Ida Rubenstein in Paris. Rubinstein fell deeply in love with the artist, but the feeling, it seems was not entirely mutual, though Ida Rubenstein's "fragile and androgynous beauty" was the subject of some of Romaine's early portraits.

 Ida Rubenstein, 1917

 Jean Cocteau, 1912

In 1915 Romaine Brooks fell in love with writer and salon owner Natalie Barney. Their relationship lasted for fifty years. Romaine painted many of the famous lesbian visitors to Barney's salon, as well as Natalie Barney herself, as an Amazon; and Lady Una Trowbridge, lover of Radclyffe Hall.

 Miss Natalie Barney, "L'Amazone" (1920).

Una, Lady Troubridge, 1924

In 1920, Romaine Brooks was awarded the medal of the Legion of Honor from the French government. During the mid-1920's she withdrew from Parisian society. She and Natalie bought a custom-built house near St Tropez, really two separate houses connected by a common dining room. They often remained physically apart but emotionally connected, despite Natalie Barney's affairs.

 Self Portrait, 1923

In 1936, Romaine moved to New York City and rented a studio in Carnegie Hall. In 1939, as World War II began in Europe, she returned to France to live with Natalie Barney. When the house burned in 1940, Romaine returned to Italy, purchased a villa outside Florence. She faded from public life and remained in isolation after the war. In 1967 she left Italy for Nice. Romaine was reported to have grown somewhat eccentric while living in isolation; she died alone at the age of 96 on December 7, 1970. Natalie Barney died two years later in Paris, also at age 96.

More at
Wikipedia also HERE and HERE


Born in Rome, Italy on 1 May 1874. No time of birth available, chart set for 12 noon. Moon degree and ascendant will not be accurate as shown.

The cluster of planets in Taurus, ruled by Venus, planet of the arts would be a reliable indication that Ms Brooks was always likely to gravitate towards painting/drawing or music. Positioning of other planets, though, reflects some challenge. There's a Grand Cross clearly delineated: Sun/Moon/Saturn/Uranus (we can't be sure of Moon's position, but it's very likely indeed to be within limits to ensure opposition to Sun and square aspects to Saturn and Uranus.) I wonder if this planetary pattern reflects difficulties during her unhappy childhood, which, no doubt left scars to be dealt with later in life. This Grand Cross in Fixed signs indicates a resolute and determined nature - which is probably what helped Romaine Brooks through her unhappy early years. It might also indicate someone who could be a tad controlling and inflexible.

On the positive side, there's a nice harmonious trine aspect between Jupiter in Virgo and Venus/Mars in Taurus. This has an earthy, grounded feel to it, possibly manifested in her clinging to a traditionally realistic art style rather than joining some of the more adventurous avant garde artists of her time.

What might indicate her choice of using such a limited palette of colour, greys and black, in her paintings? Could it be Pluto sitting between her natal Sun and Venus/Mars?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Air Age to Digital Age

In my old volume, The Best of the Illustrated National Astrological Journal 1933-4, picked up in an antique store some years ago, there's a rather odd article by Augusta Foss Heindel, wife of Max Heindel occultist, astrologer and mystic. The piece is titled: "Air Age Tests Human Heart....Noted Astro-diagnostician sees changes in heart due to Aquarian Age influence"

1933 - Aquarian Age? I think not. By some astrologers' calculations we are still, even in 2014, nowhere near the Age of Aquarius, even though that label does fit the current Age - as we see it, not as proper calculation would define it. Maybe people have been willing on the Age of Aquarius since an astrologer first came up with the concept.

Still, laying aside argument about astrological Ages, here are a few excerpts from what the author proposed:
She began:
We are entering an "air" age! On every side we see evidence of this fact. Several years ago an advertising man of Colorado coined the term "air-minded"; daring men conquered oceans with airplanes; millions of dollars flooded into the industry of aeronautics; air mail, air passengers and even air freight were discussed by everyone................It is evident that the public has definitely "accepted" aviation and is building toward an "air" future.
The author goes on to explain why this should be....
We know that the earth itself advances in direct relation to the precession of the equinoxes. And we are now entering into the airy, electrical and etheric sign Aquarius, During this age men must conquer the air and ethers which surround the earth.

That brings me to a point bearing upon man himself. To conquer the air, man's physical body must undergo some changes. Just as Lemurian and early Atlantean men had to develop lungs in order to breathe the clearer atmosphere, so must man now develop organs which will enable him to fulfill the divine plan.

There are two organs undergoing this evolutionary change, the eyes and the heart. The eyes must adjust themselves to become responsive to a higher octave of vision, and the heart must develop "cross stripes" or muscles which will be more easily controlled by mental process. It is interesting to note that eye and heart tests are the outstanding tests in the physical examinations of airplane pilots..................Eye and heart trouble are prevalent now because of these changes which are taking place.........greater number of people, especially young people (are) wearing glasses........The development which is taking place in these two organs has become more perceptible since the planet Neptune transited the heart sign Leo, which occurs only once every 168 years, September 1914 marked the beginning of this transit and since that time heart ailments have increased tremendously.......................
She continues about astrological diagnosis in health care generally.

While I took most of what the author had written with a hefty pinch of salt, I did begin trying to relate her ideas to today's world. Do we need some modification physically to cope with our digital age/ technologial age/virtual age/social-networking age?

Leo rules the heart, according to astrological lore; Mrs Heindel's words were written during a Neptune transit of Leo. Neptune currently, in 2014, transits Pisces, sign of its own rulership. I see no connection to the digital age. A better connection would be Neptune's Aquarius transit, 1998 - 2012. We'd entered the computer age in general some decades earlier than that, but personal computer use and the internet took off on a far wider scale during that time span. Anatomically Aquarius relates to the shins and ankles, and, via its traditional ruler Saturn, to the bones, teeth, joints and skeletal structure.
I cannot see the same kind of connection Mrs Heindel made between the heart, Leo and the "air age". Current human physicality in need of development to better match our digital age would be in the brain's realm, which is ruled by Mercury, whose home signs are Gemini and Virgo. Currently no planet transits, but Saturn, traditional ruler of Aquarius, has transited both signs since 2000: 2001-3 for Gemini and 2007-9 for Virgo.

Are we humans in for some evolutionary modification, mentally, to cope with this digital age? Did humans really need heart and eye strengthening in order to deal with the "air age", which of course went on to develop into "the space age"? Flyers managed well enough with basic aircraft, but once speed barriers were broken, and space travel became a possibility, from there on, I guess only the strongest were chosen to take part. So...perhaps following a similar pattern, to date in the digital age's early stages, we've coped well enough with new technology, but coming decades could prove that we shall not be able to cope with anything more complex without a touch of evolutionary physical modification.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mystical Mountaineer, Maurice Wilson ~ Another English Eccentric.

In Friday's post the subject was an English eccentric - here's another one!

On 21 April in 1898 was born Maurice Wilson, to the owner of a Yorkshire woollen mill and his wife in Bradford, England. I doubt that his family, early on, appreciated what an extraordinary individual this child of theirs would become!

In the beginning his life followed a fairly normal pattern. In the Great War (1914-1918), he served and rose through the ranks to become a Captain. He fought at Passchendaele, won the Military Cross, sustained a permanent arm injury from machine gun fire. When the war ended he travelled to New Zealand, worked on a sheep farm and later ran a ladies’ clothing store. On the boat back to England he met a group of yogis, became interested in their disciplines. Back home, when he contracted tuberculosis he cured himself by fasting and prayer.

Nothing too eccentric so far? But wait.....

Maurice read newspaper articles about British expeditions aiming to climb Mount Everest, and was inspired. He resolved to climb the then unconquered mountain himself! He decided that he was divinely inspired and had "a job to do".

Maurice had no climbing experience whatsoever, but he dreamed up a plan. He'd buy a small plane, fly to Tibet, then crash the plane as high on the mountain's side as he could, then... walk to the summit. Easy peasy! He bought a Gypsy Moth, named it "Ever Wrest", took some flying lessons, obtained his pilot's licence after two attempts, then crashed his plane near home and had a flying ban slapped on him by the Air Ministry. As for climbing skills, his training comprised of hiking in the Welsh Hills -among baby mountains of Snowdonia - never mind all that stuff about about crampons and the essential skills required for highest mountain climbing!

Amazingly enough, Maurice managed to fly to India. He flew via Cairo, Bahrain and Persia, with only a simple map of coastlines to guide him. On arrival, "Ever Wrest", and presumably Maurice, were promptly impounded by the British Government of India.

In May 1933 newspaper headlines back home declared: "Everest Airman Missing". They were unaware of his arrest and temporary detainment. It seems that he spent many months in Darjeeling with Indian mystics who taught him more about Yogism and "subordinating the body to the will of the spirit until he could live for days without food, and endure cold and hardship sufficient to kill an ordinary man.”

Maurice Wilson eventually began his attempt to climb Everest accompanied by three guides for the 300 mile trek to the foot of the mountain, after which he was to climb solo.

Reports were that the last sighting of Wilson had been as he set out alone up a glacier, equipped with a tent, three loaves, two tins of oatmeal, a camera, and a Union Jack. His body and diary were found by a British expedition 21,000 feet up on the East Rongbuk Glacier on 9 July 1934. His last diary entry of 31 May 1934 was: "Off again, gorgeous day." His body was buried in a crevasse, a cairn marks the spot.

Rumour had it, perhaps based on his New Zealand sojourn running a ladies' clothing store, that when his body was found, he was wearing female underwear, and had women's clothes in his pack. A Chinese expedition in 1960 found a woman’s dress shoe around the same location. That gossip might have simply been some hack's headline-seeking attempt - but who knows when considering a guy like Maurice Wilson?



Maurice Wilson born on April 21, 1898, in Bradford, United Kingdom.
Chart is set for 12 noon, no time of birth is known. Moon position and ascendant not accurate as shown.

As in the case of Edward James, Friday's English eccentric, I'm concentrating mainly on astrological source of Wilson's eccentricity. Epicentre? I see it as the Yod formed by Uranus (eccentricity) at 2 Sagittarius (excess); and Jupiter (excess) at 2 Libra; and Sun (core self) at 1 Taurus. A Yod is made up of 2 sextiled planets forming the base of a long slim triangle, via two quincunx aspects; planet at apex of the formation being the "business end" to channel reflections of the two sextiled planets. That seems to speak for itself, doesn't it?

His determination to fly a plane long distance, with next to no experience and only basic skills; similarly his determination to climb the planet's highest peak with no experience or skills both reflect excessive daring, verging on the lunatic, driven by an ultra stubborn pigheaded nature. The cluster of planets in Fixed Taurus underlines this! His apparent draw to matters mystical can be traced to Jupiter's inclusion in the Yod described above.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Music Monday's Sheepish Segue

The sheep counting mentioned in my previous post segues nicely into Parilia - it's another of those many and varied ancient Roman festivals. The Parilia was a rural custom performed annually on April 21. Its purpose was the cleansing of sheep and shepherds, in acknowledgment of Roman deity Pales, a deity of uncertain gender, patron of shepherds and sheep. From Wikipedia:
"The pastoral structure of the festival is carried out by the shepherd himself. After the sheep pen had been decorated with green branches and a wreath draped on the gate, the remainder of the ceremony took place in sequence. At the first sign of daylight, the shepherd would purify the sheep: by sweeping the pen and then constructing a bonfire of straw, olive branches, laurel, and sulfur. The noises produced by this burning combination were interpreted as a beneficial omen. The shepherd would jump through this flame, dragging his sheep along with him. Offerings of millet, cakes, and milk were then presented before Pales, marking the second segment of the ceremony. After these offerings, the shepherd would wet his hands with dew, face the east, and repeat a prayer four times. Such prayers requested Pales’s assistance in freeing the shepherd and the flock from evils brought about by accidental wrongdoings (e.g. trespassing on sacred grounds and removing water from a sacred water source). The final portion of the rural festival made use of the beverage burranica, a combination of milk and sapa (boiled wine). After consumption of this beverage, the shepherd would leap through the fire three times, bringing an end to the ceremony......"

As it's Music Monday, some sheep-related music is called for. How about Johann Sebastian Bach's Cantata number 208 aka Sheep May Safely Graze ? Here is Eugene Ormandy's orchestral version in a video with some lovely photographs of....guess what...

There's a choral version HERE, and some notes about the origin of the Cantata at a blog HERE.
English translation of the lyrics =
Sheep may safely graze and pasture
Where a shepherd guards them well.
So the nation ruled in wisdom
Knows and shares the many blessings
Which both peace and plenty bring.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tithera Mithera.....?

Best to be topical! Thinking of Easter and the run up to it, into my head popped a rhyme I used to repeat, long ago and far way near the north-eastern coast of England:
Tid, Mid, Miserai (or Misere)
Carlin, Palm, and Paste egg day.

Reciting it as a child, gobbledegook-wise, I didn't care what it meant, I just wanted to get at those chocolate Easter eggs! I later grasped that it had something to do with the Sundays of Lent, and customs attached.

Carlin(g)s are black peas, eaten on Passion Sunday, On Palm Sunday sometimes dried palm leaves were handed to members of church congregations, and Paste eggs (possibly a corruption of Pasch) eggs were what all the kids eagerly anticipated.

As for the mysterious first line of the rhyme, there are two explanations:
'Tid' was the second Sunday in Lent, when, it seems, the Te Deum was sung/chanted in church; Mid could refer to a hymn 'Mi Deus', sung on the third Sunday of Lent; Miserai/misere might be the psalm 'Miserere Mei', sung on the fourth. But there's also a very slight possibility, because the purpose of the rhyme was to count Sundays before Easter, that Tid, Mid was a variation of an ancient Celtic-based method/ language once used in the north of England for counting sheep. Exact spelling varies with dialects of northern England, but one, two three, four, five = yan, tan, tithera, mithera, pip. Tithera, mithera could equal tid mid? I'm not confident about this, it doesn't really fit snugly. Interesting though. It has been noted that even in parts of the US the old sheep-counting method is not not unknown, possibly brought across the Atlantic by early immigrants.

The full ancient sheep-counting method went like this, with spelling variations.
(My grandmother and neighbours of her generation always pronounced "one" as "yan", by the way.)


The sheep were counted up to twenty, the shepherd then closed one finger and repeated the count until all his fingers of one hand were down = a hundred sheep. Next he would close a finger on his other hand and begin anew. So up to 500 sheep could be counted using this method.

Regarding the mysterious custom of eating black carlin peas during Lent: there's no religious significance, but the tradition is said to be linked to the civil war of 1644. Royalist Newcastle in the north-east of England was under siege from the Scots. People were dying of starvation. The story goes that, either a French ship docked in Newcastle with a cargo of Maple Peas which were distributed to the people out of charity; or that a French ship was wrecked off the coast near Newcastle and containers of peas were washed ashore, much to the relief of starving inhabitants. Either way, a custom was born! Carlin peas are soaked overnight in water, boiled well then fried in butter and served with vinegar and bread and butter. My East Yorkshire grandmother used to prepare carlins that way, each year around Easter time.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Edward James and His Folly, Las Pozas.

Commenter "mike" alerted me to today's Arty Farty Friday subject - thanks mike!
Edward James and his creation in Las Pozas, Mexico.

My goodness, though, this guy was such an amazing character, where to begin, there's so much!?
For any passing reader with just under an hour to spare, this video is excellent, and features the man himself:

For passing readers in more of a hurry: I'll begin at the end, at Las Pozas and work backwards.

Las Pozas was Edward James' folly. In England it's not unusual to find follies, they're smallish ornamental structures such as a tower, sculptured column, or a fancy quirky gazebo, they're always in the middle of nowhere, constructed by wealthy landowners or members of the aristocracy, and for reasons best known to themselves. Follies. Los Pozas was a folly of huge proportion, a peculiar but beautiful sculpture garden covering acres of Mexican jungle where Edward James had originally intended to breed orchids, but after unexpected frost killed off his plants, he began creating his wonderful folly.

A few examples - for more just type Las Pozas into Google Image search box, or at YouTube (if you can stand the adverts now almost universally inserted before content!)

Edward James was the epitome of an eccentric Englishman. Born in 1907 into a wealthy family background. His grandfather, an American millionaire had married a mining heiress, before the couple moved to England. One of their sons was Edward James' father, who married an English gal said to have been the illegitimate daughter of Edward VII, she became Edward James' mother.
James went to Eton, and Oxford University but was unhappy in both environments, despite his wealth and privilege. He wandered into the then London literary high society of Sitwells, Mitfords and Cunards, Noel Coward and John Betjeman, of Agustus John and Randolph Churchill. James was said to have been charming, lively and a good raconteur, ridiculously generous on occasion, with periods of introversion.

 Hat-tip Mondoblogo
He wrote poetry and some novels, became friends with avant-garde artists of the day, such as Dali and Magritte. He appears in one of Magritte's well-known paintings:

 Not to be Reproduced (La reproduction interdite, 1937)  by  Belgian surrealist René Magritte.  It was commissioned by poet and Magritte patron Edward James and considered to be a portrait of James .

Quinky-dink sidelight - in a DVD set of a past TV series, Eli Stone we're watching currently, during the opening credits what seems like a loose version of this painting is shown. We recognised it as a nod to Magritte's painting, but had no idea of the painting's connection to Edward James - until I began preparing this post.

He met and married dancer Tilly Losch. The marriage was doomed. Tilly sued for separation, charging homosexuality among other things. James countersued, accusing her of adultery with Prince Serge Obolensky. Back then, this was not something a gentleman did. James moved to Europe. Polite society had shunned him. In 1939, with war brewing, he moved to the USA. In Taos, New Mexico, he lived among a community of artists there including D H Lawrence and his wife, Frieda.

Throughout his life he gave money freely to all manner of painters and writers; he built clinics for poor nuns, bought houses in Hollywood and Malibu, land in Mexico, and supported an assortment of freeloaders. In the late 1940s James eventually found his dream situation in the Mexican jungle. There he adopted a local family and set about building a “stairway to imagination”, as he once put it, in plant and stone. He himself lived in a tiny apartment, a bedroom, living room and porch on two stories. On one wall he scrawled in pencil his poem "This Shell": "My house grows like the chambered nautilus...." His huge and incredibly valuable collection of artworks, his lands in England , America and Mexico, houses from California to Scotland all abandoned for a tiny "doll's tree house where a man could hide".

He died in 1984 after a stroke, while on a return visit to Europe. In 1964, Edward James had conveyed his family mansion, West Dean, art collection and Estate to The Edward James Foundation, a charitable educational trust. The creation of such a trust averted the fragmentation that death duties would have dictated and allowed the materialisation of Edward's vision: creating a community where the Estate supports a college dedicated to the arts and crafts. In 1971, Edward James's vision became a reality when the gates of his family Estate were opened under the auspices of West Dean College. (See HERE).

(General information sources HERE and HERE)


Born on 16 August 1907 in the south of England, probably at his family's mansion, West Dean, near Chichester, Sussex.

For brevity's sake I'm looking only for indications of eccentricity in the natal chart of Edward James. It's set for 12 noon as birth time isn't known. Moon would have been somewhere in Scorpio though, whatever time he came into the world.

Eccentricity in astrology is usually reflected by the position of Uranus; here Uranus conjoins Mars in Capricorn, the duo is opposed by Neptune (imagination, creativity) in Cancer. That, I'd say, was the "epicentre" of James' eccentricity. The three intensely personal planets (Sun, Mercury, Venus) in dramatic Leo, though not harmoniously situated in relation to Uranus, had to have input into the way his eccentricity would manifest. What could be more dramatic and theatrical in nature (pure Leo) than his beautiful jungle follies?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Other Side of April

Around mid-month each April, as years pass, I'm reminded that, as well as April showers, April violets, April in Paris, April has often brought more than the usual ration of loss and suffering. I'll not repeat the list again, but instead link to it in my 2010 post:

This year, April has been living up to that title already. There was yesterday's news of 300 people missing after a South Korean ferry had sunk; the Kansas City shootings of the weekend; 22 injured in knife attack at a Regional High School last week; and the ongoing still fruitless search for missing Malaysian Airlines plane with its 239 occupants, lost since 8 March......

I've pondered before on whether there might be any astrological indication as to why this mid-April period so often brings tragedy, misfortune and suffering one way or another. I hadn't, until now, bothered to investigate the Fixed Stars around this mid-April/Aries area of the zodiac. There's a Fixed Star called Baten Kaitos with negative attributes, and relation to Saturn, which could be seen as a likely suspect, it's found at around 21 Aries:

 From Terry Nazon's website

This year, additionally, we have that pesky Cardinal Grand Cross involved too. Let's hope fervently that there will be no further examples to add to the list for April 2014.

Sweet April-time
O cruel April-time!
Year after year returning,
with a brow Of promise,
and red lips with longing paled,
And backward-hidden hands that clutch the joys
Of vanished springs, like flowers.
(By Dinah Maria Mulock - pseudonym Mrs. Craik.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Voices on World Voice Day

Today is Voice Day - who knew?
World Voice Day is a worldwide annual event that takes place on April 16 devoted to the celebration of the phenomenon of voice. (Wikipedia)
Voice Day, of course, is all about actual voice, rather than the metaphoric voice we use online, "voicing" opinion via keyboard generated word.

Human voices in tone and "feel" are as individual as fingerprints - and as astrology's natal charts. To celebrate the day, I've gathered together below some descriptive phrases used by writers and novelists when describing voices of their characters or acquaintances. These do, occasionally, lapse close to silly simile territory, you know, the "Her eyes held the glow of a late-night laptop" kind of thing. Anyway here goes:

“The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“Her laughter changed her voice from wind chimes to the jingling of sleigh bells.”
― Leland Dirks, Seven Dogs in Heaven

“The timbre of his voice went into that low register that made my insides curl in on themselves--it was like my uterus was tapping out a happy dance on the rest of my organs.”

― Cora Carmack, Losing It

“Tricky was a plain-faced man with a very handsome voice - a voice like the sound of a clarinet, at once liquid and penetrating, and lovely to listen to.”
― Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet

“She had a voice so husky it could have pulled a dogsled, and the gun she was holding gave me a bad case of barrel envy.”
― Patrick Major Dallas OR

“She was a voice with a body as afterthought, a wry smile that sailed through heavy traffic. Give her a history and she'd disappear."
Eric Packer about Vija Kinski”― Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis

“His voice is deep and gravelly. I once heard one of the girls say that he had the voice of a sex god, but because I've never really heard what a sex god sounds like, I can't verify that.”
― Melina Marchetta, Saving Francesca

“His voice was cloves and nightingales, it took us to spice markets in the Celebs, we drifted with him on a houseboat beyond the Coral Sea. We were like cobras following a reed flute.”
― Janet Fitch, White Oleander

“The voice was cool, drawling, and insolent, but the eyes were something else. She looked about as hard to get as a haircut.”

― Raymond Chandler

“Such a voice this man has. The way he sounds isn't a sound at all. It's a river into which words are thrown.”

― Laura Bynum, Veracity

“The silkiness of his voice was a torturous caress that I could have endured for the rest of my life.”

― Melissa Andrea, Flutter

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pink Moon. & Another tragedy with a link to our town.

We stayed up binge-watching old episodes of Homeland so's we could go out and see the total lunar eclipse in the early hours of this morning. We saw the eclipse during its early stages then again when total and beautifully pink, in a clear sky, from our driveway, temperature around freezing. I've tended not to get excited about eclipses since a solar eclipse occurred slap bang on my natal Sun's degree some years ago -and nothing at all, nothing even vaguely interesting, happened. This one was a lovely sight, anyway.

The lunar eclipse, was in Libra. I read around the net, found this, part of a piece at by David Emery:

As it happens, there's a total lunar eclipse on April 15, 2014, which means we'll experience not only a "Full Pink Moon" (any full moon that occurs in April, per Native American tradition) and a "Paschal Full Moon" (the first full moon after the vernal equinox, per Christian tradition), but also, thanks to the eclipse, a "Blood Moon."

Some Christians attribute a prophetic significance to the Blood Moon of April 15, because it will be the first of a lunar tetrad — four total lunar eclipses in a row — occurring in 2014 and 2015, and because each of those eclipses will fall on an important Jewish holiday, Passover or Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles).

Could it be a sign of the Apocalypse? Most Blood Moon prophecy advocates — Texas megachurch Pastor John Hagee, for one — won't commit to specifics, preferring instead to speak in terms of a "world-shaking event" or "the end of an age." Other Christians aren't so sure the Blood Moon tetrad has any biblical significance at all.
I doubt it - I'd say it's simply part of a pattern.

Yet another horrible shooting incident occurred on Sunday, in Kansas City. Dr W. Corporan, a family doctor in our SW Oklahoma town for many years, and my husband's family GP during that time, was one of the fatalities of the shooting, along with his grandson; a female, killed in a different location was the third victim. Dr Corporan and his grandson were, apparently, attending some auditions being held at the Jewish Center - though they were not themselves Jewish.

Sincere condolences to the families involved.

From Chicago Tribune
A man suspected of killing three people when he opened fire at two Kansas City-area Jewish centers on Sunday afternoon has been formally identified and is expected to face federal hate crimes charges as well as state charges, authorities said on Monday.

Jail records identified the suspect as Frazier Glenn Cross, 73 – a name also used by Frazier Glenn Miller, whom a major civil rights group on Sunday called a former grand dragon for the Ku Klux Klan with an extensive history of hate against Jews, among others.

Cross was arrested Sunday after a shooting spree that killed a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather outside a popular Jewish community center, and a third victim outside a nearby Jewish retirement home.

These recurring incidents are ugly and tragic symptoms of sickness pervading this country. Raw, senseless hatred against some other group based on ethnicity, colour, religion... whatever, flares up regularly. Maybe, though I hope not, it arises from something lodged permanently within the DNA of this nation, a DNA also containing old elements of my own native land, it has to be said. If only it could be bred out!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Music Monday ~ Michael Kamen

I wasn't familiar with the name, but must have been hearing his work regularly over the years without realising it. Michael Kamen, born on 15 April 1948 in New York, died, far too soon, aged 55 in 2003. He was a composer and arranger whose work has graced HM Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee celebrations; Pink Floyd's "The Wall"; dozens of "A" list movies and TV series; rock groups such as Aerosmith, Queen; Dylan, Bowie, Clapton, Pavarotti, ballet.....From an obituary written by Adam Sweeting in The Guardian in 2003: " Even a brief cross-section of his achievements suggests an artist driven by a feverish urge to resist typecasting."

The largely unexplored area between rock and classical music duly became Kamen's stomping ground, and he became a specialist in adding a classical-like sheen and gravitas to projects rooted in rock music. His orchestral arrangements for Pink Floyd's orginal recording of The Wall gave him a formidable calling card, and he subsequently collaborated with the Floyd again on The Final Cut and The Division Bell. When Metallica needed a conductor and arranger for their hook-up with the San Francisco Symphony, Kamen was the obvious choice, and the orchestrated version of their The Call Of Ktulu won him a Grammy in 2001.

With his flair for large-scale musical spectacle, he also found a natural home in the cinema. "He had a phenomenal talent for motion pictures," commented director and producer Richard Donner. "Who do you turn to when you need great music? You turn to Michael Kamen.".................................

Kamen, whose frizzy hair and beard betrayed his underlying hippy-era values - even when he was wearing a dinner suit - cherished an idealistic belief in the beneficial properties of music, as he explained to me in 1995 at a Pavarotti And Friends event in Italy. Though shortly due onstage, he was happy to sit and chat about opera, rock'n'roll, politics and why he enjoyed living in London, where he had had a home since 1982.

"Music has a great capability to heal and a responsibility to heal," he argued. "It's not just to make people rich, and it's not just to make people dance. It's to celebrate our ability to live in peace and harmony."

He put the sentiment into practice by establishing the Mr Holland's Opus Foundation in 1997. It was named after that movie to which he wrote the soundtrack, in which Richard Dreyfuss played a teacher dedicated to inspiring his students with music, and was designed to raise money to supply musical instruments to children.
He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1996, his death was due to heart attack

Freddie Mercury & Michael Kamen


No time of birth is known. The chart below is set for 12 noon, New York City,
15 April 1948. Moon position not exact, ascendant angle would not be not as shown, unless...born at or near noon.

Music was his gift, his craft and his passion - Venus, planet of the arts has to play a leading part in his nativity. Let's see.....Venus was in versatile, eclectic Gemini at the time of his birth and in harmonious trine to Neptune (creativity) in Venus-ruled Libra. Venus was also in helpful sextile to communicative Mercury in enthusiastic, energetic Aries, with his natal Sun. This little lot is almost enough - but a little more is required to reflect his showman side. Mr Kamen wasn't the kind of composer/arranger who sits in his studio quietly beavering away at his compositions. He was often seen conducting with much vigour, he appears to have relished mixing and matching with the era's musical celebrities....Leo? Yes, he had a stellium (cluster of 3 planets) in Leo: Mars, Saturn and Pluto. Not a particularly benign sounding trio, I have to say, but Leo's shining goodwill had to have warmed them some! The Leo trio was in harmonious trine to Mercury and/or Sun in Aries, lending Leo's talent for the spotlight to Mr Kamen's two most personal planets in Aries where they would be welcomed with enthusiasm!

I think Michael Kamen looked very Leo-ish, with that wonderful mane of hair. Perhaps Leo was rising or at mid-heaven as he was born.

There are many videos featuring clips of his movie themes at YouTube, but somehow, without the movies' stories and images, context is missing, so his music is not experienced at its best there. The two videos chosen below represent two very different sides of Michael Kamen's work.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Being Ourselves

My copy of R.H. Naylor's Home Astrology, (1933) around 80 years old, pages yellowing and brittle, can still prove to be a source of interest, as part and parcel of the history of popular astrology.
R.H. Naylor
(1889-1952) was the first Sun sign astrologer with forecasts appearing in British newspapers - that was in 1930.

In Home Astrology, a book written for readers with no knowledge of the subject at all, Mr Naylor at one point talked about personal magnetism.
"Some people are naturally magnetic, i.e. others are blindly attracted to them. This power of attraction often appears to be entirely independent of physical appeal or character".
He goes on later to warn that,
" There is no greater enemy of personal magnetism than the modern passion for imitation. The young people of today are so busy trying to model themselves upon their favourite film star, theatrical celebrity or public figure, that they forget to be themselves."
Oh Mr. Naylor ! Nothing changes! It was ever thus, and thus it will will be for ever more, I suspect!
"BE YOURSELF" he says "The real you is quite unlike anybody else, and for just that reason, it is naturally attractive."
Digging deeper into astrology than the Sun Sign, much deeper, using the many and varied tools and methods available to astrologers, it becomes blindingly obvious how unique - and I do mean unique in its literal sense - each one of us is. Nobody else is born in exactly the same place at exactly the second you took your first breath. Not even your twin, if you have one. Siblings have similar background and similar inherited genes, but astrology and experiences will differ. This is why astrology can never be capable of all-round proof of its validity - too many variables and imponderables.

So, you'd think it'd be easy to "be yourself". Nothing to it.! Human nature, though has this wee quirk: attraction to shiny objects and to other, shiny, personalities. I think R.H. Naylor was advising readers not to try to become carbon copies, "clones" of someone they admired.

It's not easy advice to follow though, for a young person: not to imitate others. Imitation is part of how we humans learn. We watch our parents and siblings, and imitate. Later we read and watch, and imitate when we write our first letter, or draw our first scrawly piece of artwork. Almost every great writer or artist has been inspired by someone else before them. It's the way life is. And, we never really finish "becoming ourselves", development slows but never stops, until our life stops.

I clearly recall, in my schooldays, trying to copy somebody else's style of handwriting, because my natural style didn't please me. School mistress fairly quickly recognised what I was up to, and gave me a lecture along the lines of Mr. Naylor's advice. I felt squashed and embarrassed for a while. Little by little I adjusted my handwriting until, though it did retain whispers of the style I'd so admired, it was different, and solely my own. This is what happens, I think. We take bits and pieces from all life's experiences and encounters with others, and use them in the development and blossoming of our original innate and unique characteristics.

Obliquely related to all of the above is the experience of finding oneself admiring, maybe even wishing to emulate, a certain style, or a certain smile, of someone whose planetary blueprint matches, complements our own. What I find absolutely fascinating is how this can happen without knowing anything at all about the other person, at the time of initial "attraction". I suspect that this phenomenon is related to the kind of "magnetism" Mr. Naylor mentioned in his book. "Like attracts like", or even "like attracts its opposite" has been attributed to several different sources, depending on a favourite theory of the person writing or speaking. I've noticed it being related to, for example, twin souls/old souls, psychic vibrations, body/sexual chemistry. I like to think, rather than, or maybe in tandem with, one or more of those factors, like attracts like/opposite springs from an astrological sensitivity imprinted in our DNA.