The Fatness of Falstaff & the politics of redemption

Word on the street is that Wonga, the controversial Internet payday lender, is preparing for an IPO (Initial Public Offering). This anticipated share flotation could yield its owners in excess of £100 million.

But first, after having been publically disgraced for charging interest rates in excess of 5,000% (APR) and using fake law firms to harass its hapless borrowers, Woimagesnga must redeem its ‘bad-boy’ public image.

In October 2013 Wonga reported £1.2 billion in lending (an increase of 68%) and pre-tax profits of £34.5 million (an increase of 35% on the previous year). In October 2014, following government intervention, Wonga is writing off £220 million in customer receivables and revising its lending practices. Some market-savvy commentators suggest such redemption is strategic for that anticipated IPO. I can only imagine how right they are in that.

In his first soliloquy of Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV (1.2. 185-204), Hal (the future Henry V) plots his own ‘redemption’. Like Wonga, he will shed his ‘bad-boy’ image being ‘like a bright metal on a sullen ground’ – a light that will ‘attract more eyes’ than if it had ‘no foil to set it off’. By referencing the ‘base contagious clouds’ and ‘foul and ugly mists’ the ‘vapours’ of which ‘did seem to strangle him’, Hal announces his foil to be none other than ‘fat-guts’ (2.2.29) Falstaff – and friends – that charismatic, largeUnknownr-than-life, ‘oily rascal’ –(2.4.507-508) with whom he has chosen to spend so much time.

There have been as many theories about why Falstaff is fat as there are those who have pondered the question; a parody of puritan ethics (Bulman, 160), signature of the opacity of character (Bulman 161), symbol of Vice as in Morality plays (Bulman, 162).

At first I had concluded that the question of Falstaff’s fatness need not be more complicated than as a proper foil for Hal – ‘a starveling,’ an ‘eel-skin’ a ‘bull’s pizzle’ and a ‘stockfish’ (2.4.237-238) – Falstaff had to be fat – really fat – larger than life, fat. Indeed he must be fat as life itself – ‘banish plump Jack, and banish all the world’ (2.4.461-462). The more obvious is the difference between Hal and Falstaff, the better. Contrast of colour or quality to set something off to advantage is what being a ‘foil’ is all about (OED n 6).

This is the easy option. This is the most obvious, most moral answer. This the solution to which, at least modern audiences, are most attuned. I mean with the words ‘I banish thee’ as ‘I have done the rest of my misleaders’ (2 Henry IV 5.5.62-64) who wouldn’t want to believe that Hal was nothing more than an ordinary adolescent under pressure to put his youthful rebellion and associated friends behind him?

Yet the more I considered the question, the more I became convinced there was more to it than that. After all if according to Desmond Barrit (143), who played the role of Falstaff in an RSC production, Falstaff was the most complex part he has ever played then as Falstaff’s counterpart, Hal must be equally as complex.

According to Adrian Lester (148) who played the role of Hal in an RSC production of Henry V, in that first soliloquy (1 Henry IV.1.2. 185-204) with its image of the clouds hiding the sun, Hal reveals the kind of ego necessary to fill the role of king to which he was born. Not only that, but Lester suggests that by introducing the notion that he should be ‘wondered at’ (1.2.199), Hal is signalling that we should never be too certain that we know or understand him.

So why had Hal ordered Peto to search Falstaff’s pockets while he was asleep (1 Henry IV .2.4. 510-530)? Why had Hal allowed Falstaff to falsely claim he had killed Percy – especially after having told his father that he would ‘redeem himself’ on Percy’s head’ (3.2.132)? If Hal is so quick to comply with Falstaff’s deception – ‘(I)f a lie may do thee grace/I’ll gild it with the happiest terms I have’ (5.5.152-153), then what other deceptions might he be willing to perpetrate?

In that first soliloquy, Hal reveals all – by paying ‘the debt I never promised’, he plans not only to ‘redeem time’ (redemption implies the ‘discharge or paying off a debt or obligation’, (OED, n 6b) but also to ‘falsify men’s hopes’.

It is possible that debt to which he is referring is the repayment of the money Falstaff plans to steal from the pilgrims at Gad’s Hill. Yet it is difficult to imagine that if, as he said himself – he was neither a thief (1.2.130) nor did he intend to involved in this caper (except to the degree he agreed with Poins to return the money to its rightful owners – 1.2.136) why Hal would believe this to be his debt to repay. It is even harder to imagine that by returning something to its rightful owners Hal would ‘falsify’ the ‘hopes’ of anyone.

Whose hopes, then, does Hal intend to ‘falsify’? The obvious answer is Falstaff’s. That those hopes might have been unrealistic from the start does not alter the fact that Hal has constantly sent Falstaff mixed messages in regards to how far he might push their relationship – one moment Hal playfully suggests he will renounce Falstaff (2.4.463) and the next he allows Falstaff the glory of having been responsible for Percy’s death (5.5.152-153).

To whose ‘debt’, then, is Hal referring? This answer is not so obvious although I suggest that it was that of his father, incurred in usurping the throne of Richard II. There is little doubt that some believed that Henry IV had incurred such an obligation – Hotspur says as much (1.3.185) when he urges his kinsmen to obtain ‘revenge’ from this ‘proud king’ to ‘answer all the debt he owes.”

Likewise there is little doubt that said debt weighed heavily on Hals’ father’s mind. Indeed Shakespeare chose to commence the play with Henry IV’s ruminations on the ‘bitterness’ of the ‘civil butchery’ that ensued from his actions (1.1.13). Bulman (158) suggests this was why Hal chose to idle away his time in a tavern rather than at his father’s court.

Let’s face it – Wonga is not writing off £220 million in customer receivables to be nice guys. By repaying a ‘debt’ that ‘he never promised’ to pay, Hal is not being a nice guy either. Bulman (158) reminds us that Elizabethan audiences were aware of the importance of public self-fashioning. Being publically seen to redeem oneself could not have been any less politically astute in Elizabethan times than it is today and if we know anything about Hal, it is that he is politically astute.

I suggest that if we believe that it was only with Percy’s head that Hal planned to redeem himself, we would be wrong. Elsewise he could never have so easily have given that distinction to Falstaff. In truth, Hal needs something much more than Percy’s head to ensure the success of his own IPO (Initial Public Offering) and that something is to secure a legitimate alternative to divine right to the throne via redemption of his father’s debt.

Bottom line then is that however much Hal might have genuinely cared for Falstaff, he had planned from the start to use him up like a Kleenex – because in order to complete his redemption, the prodigal son must consume the ‘fatted calf’.

By comparing himself to the well-appreciated sun coming out after being obscured by those ‘base contagious clouds’ (1.2.180-190), Hal clarifies his understanding that those who redeem themselves are more revered than those who remain steadfast. He also clarifies that he intends to use this to his advantage – ‘I’ll so offend to make offence a skill,’ (1.2.204). Finally (1.2.183) he clarifies that it was for such purposes that he never intended to remain long with Falstaff and friends – ‘I know you all, and will awhile uphold (emphasis added). He even hints that Falstaff will become the sacrificial ‘fatted calf’ – while play-acting with Falstaff, Hal refers to him as a ‘roast manningree ox with pudding in his belly’ (2.4.336) who ‘run and roared as ever I heard bull-calf’ (2.4.252).

That Falstaff is sacrificed every bit as is the ‘fatted calf’ is undeniable. In the final scene of 2 Henry IV (5.5.46-47) Hal tells Falstaff ‘I know thee not, old man’ and then leaves the Lord Chief Justice leave to toss Falstaff and friends in jail (5.5.88-89).

Bulman (173) suggests that if Falstaff had not been so presumptuous as to publically claim Hal as his own ‘sweet boy’ (5.5.39) in the midst of his coronation, Hal would not have so callously denounced Falstaff. That might or might not be true. But I suggest that if Hal knows anything about Falstaff, he knows that that Falstaff loves him like a father and that such treatment will be the death of his fat friend.

bad boysAt the end of the day it is not Wonga’s owners (nor their equity investors) who will pay for its redemption but those two million customers who have already paid interest rates in excess of 5,000% (APR). Likewise, at the end of the day it is not Hal (nor his family) who will pay for his redemption but Falstaff. Such is the politics of redemption – success requires sacrifice and this is best accomplished through the sacrifice of someone else.

In summary, (1) both Hal and Wonga need to redeem their ‘bad boy’ imagesimages-2 and t (2) such redemptions are best funded at the expense of someone else. It remains to be seen whether Wonga’s redemption pays off for its founders but we already know that Hal’s most certainly did. As the Bishop of Ely replies in in answer to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s marvelling over Hal’s ‘reformation’, ‘we are blessed in the change’ (Henry V. 1.1.76).

 

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Bibliography

Bevington, David, ed. Henry IV Part One. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Taylor, Gary, ed. Henry V. Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1982.

Weis, Rene, ed. Henry IV Part Two. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Barrit, Desmond. ‘Falstaff in Parts I and 2 of Henry IV’ (128-144). Players of Shakespeare 6. ed. Smallwood, Robert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Bulman, James. C. ‘Henry IV, Parts I and 2’ (158- 176). The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s History Plays. ed. Michael Hattaway. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Dollimore, J. and Sinfield, A. eds. Political Shakespeare. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994.

Greenblatt, Stephen. ‘Invisible bullets: Renaissance authority and its subversion, Henry IV and Henry V’, (pp. 18-47), ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield. Political Shakespeare: Essays in cultural materialism, (Ithaca), Cornell University Press, 1994.

Harriss, GL ed., Henry V: The Practice of Kingship. Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1993.

Lester, Adrian. “King Henry V” (145-162). Players of Shakespeare 6. ed. Smallwood, Robert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

 

 

 

New Moon in Virgo – party’s over – time to clean up the mess

The HermitAfter the many ego excesses of Leo, it’s time to drop back and regroup and what better energy with which to do this, than with pure Virgo.

In the tarot, Virgo corresponds with the 9th card of the Major Arcana, The Hermit.

The Hermit is a venerable and mysterious figures of solitary intention. Leaning on his staff, he pauses to hold up his lamp (of intellect) and drive away the darkness (of ignorance).

Contrary to popular belief, the Hermit is not a lonely, sorry individual bereft of family and friends. Quite the opposite. He is the kind old wise man whom others eagerly seek out.

But in many respects he does stand alone in that he separates himself from the crowd so that he’s no longer controlled by their moods and desires.

To be like The Hermit does not mean you must renounce society.

But what it does mean is that you must stand aside from it long enough to turn on your own lamp ti discover who and what you really are.

What would you do, be, wear, or think if no one else were watching?

What would you spend all your time doing – not for money to be gained from it – but for the pure joy of doing it?

What would it feel like to forget all your troubles?

This is not to suggest your troubles have gone away – but only that if you can use the energy of the new moon in Virgo wisely, you and your troubles will no longer one and the same.

Today is a ‘Tower of Destruction’ Day

The TowerWith the Sun in Virgo (perfection) and the Moon in Leo (aspiration), today is a ‘Tower of Destruction” day.

Throughout history, there have been plenty of examples where hubris (i.e. excessive self-confidence, OED, n) has been the cause of a disastrous fall. Check out The Icarus Syndrome by Peter Beinart for insight.

Yet if in today’s world we’re pushed to ‘be all that we can be’ (and more) then where ought we draw the line between well-deserved success and hubris?

Meditations on the Tarot (A Journey into Christian Hermeticisim) provides a thoughtful answer:

Every Christian has been taught that man was ejected from the Garden of Eden for desiring more ‘knowledge’ than God wished to reveal.

Yet why was it so important to have such knowledge?Meditations on the Tarot

Origen (circa AD 185) suggests this is hard-wired in our souls – i.e. we are built to push the boundaries of nature with the purpose of breaching them – i.e. for example through scientific research.

According to the Hermetic tradition, this is dangerous for if God wished us to have such knowledge, He would have revealed it.

Does it mean that we should never strive for more than we’ve been given?

Of course not. The StarAccording to Hermetic wisdom, it is absolutely necessary for us to work and grow – to think and await the ripening of our thoughts – to cultivate and maintain ourselves as we would care for our garden – wherein we realise all will grow and be harvested in its own time.

So why do we push ourselves more than we push our gardens?

Hermetic wisdom suggests that (through ignorance), we identify ‘self’ with ‘ego’ – ‘I’ must have this or that because ‘I” want it (not because I need it or because it is good for me but because I WANT) – and such behaviour is further fueled by advertisements suggesting you should want whatever is for sale for no other reason than because ‘You’re worth it’.

Danger – danger – danger !!!!

What will you be ‘worth’ after your personal fall?

If on a ‘Tower of Destruction’ day, you’re tempted to push beyond your boundaries- beyond the bounds of your own nature  – and like Icarus, fly too close to the sun, resist and be heartened.

In the tarot, the card following ‘The Tower of Destruction’ is that of The Star’ – a kneeling woman with two urns being poured in equal measure so as to achieve balance and equilibrium.

The Astrological Fortunes of Richard III

IShakespeare's Richard IIIn the times of William Shakespeare, the ‘stars’ were always a force with which men must reckon. There’s no doubt that in those days, the world was viewed as ‘fated’ – and whether this was a reflection of the ancient cosmos where the gods pulled all the strings or an inherent recognition of what Carl Jung would later posit about the covert operations of the unconscious, we will never know.

But we do know that the idea of ‘fate’ as shown in the ‘stars was woven oft through his work:

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,

Which we ascribe to heaven: the fated sky

Gives us free scope, only doth backward pull

Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull.

(All’s Well that Ends Well, 1.1.209), Helena

Having just finished reading Shakespeare’s play Richard III, I wondered how Richard was ‘fated’ to stack up?180px-Richard_III_of_England

Ptolemy identified six levels of fame/success:

  1. Kings & Princes

Both luminaries in masculine signs and at least one of them to be found in an angle. This alone is pretty good. However – as well, they (both) be attended by a doryphory (including rays)  composed of all five planets – then this is REAL GOOD. In addition this rank is helped if the planets in the doryphories are also in the angles or configured with the MC.

  1. Chieftain

The Sun only masculine with the Moon feminine and only one of them in an angle. If both, however, have good doryphories as described above, then the person will reach chieftain level, with the power to judge life and death. NOTE – a good doryphory has  benefics in good shape or on angles (or ruling them).

  1. Governor or Commander

If the natal chart has the luminaries as for a Chieftain but the doryphories do not involve the angles, these people will not be invested with sovereignty, but will reach eminence.

  1. Civil Leader

If neither of the luminaries be in the angles, but both have good doryphories which are in the angles or ruling the angles, they will have a leadership role in their community. Councillor, President of a club, Mayor of a small town and so on.

  1. Undistinguished

If however, neither luminary is in an angle (Sun still masculine and Moon feminine), and the attending planets are not involved with the angles by placement or rulership, then the person will lead a humble life.

  1. Lowest Level

If neither luminary be found in a masculine sign, nor in an angle, nor attended by any benefics they will live lives of “quiet desperation” and obscurity.

Richard III

  1. Sun in Libra (in fall) in a masculine sign succedent in the 11th house – OK – but could be better – the 7th house Moon in Taurus is in a feminine sign but it is angular and exalted) so overall this is pretty OK.
  2. This might get him to Chieftain level if the doryphories of one or both of the luminaries is strong.
  3. The doryphory is an interesting technique focusing on the ‘retinue’ of helpers either of the two lights or luminaries (i.e. sun or moon) have in their ‘train’. The more planets in the retinue, the more helpers and if additionally those helpers were themselves strong the more help they could give. Imagine yourself a feudal lord trying to raise an army to fight a foe – the more rich/strong neighbours (i.e. able to raise their own armies) you have supporting your cause, the more likely you were to succeed.
  4. Note that when considering if a planet throws a ‘ray’ into the doryphory, benefics (Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, and the Sun) can only do so by sextile or trine and the malefics (Saturn and Mars) can only do so by opposition or square.
  5. Richard III’s solar doryphory (i.e. attendants to his sun at 17 Libra) is as follows: Because the sun’s retinue PROCEEDS him, we look to other planets in either Libra (18 -30 degrees) or Scorpio:
    1. Saturn in Libra (exalted) and succedent
    2. Mercury in Scorpio
    3. Venus in Scorpio (in detriment) yet angular
    4. Jupiter in Aquarius (retrograde) throws a ray into Libra by trine
  6. Richard III’s lunar doryphory (i.e. attendants to his moon at 28 Taurus is as follows: Because the moon’s retinue FOLLOWS her, we look to planets either in Taurus (29-30 degrees Taurus) or Aries:
    1. Mars in Aries – strong by rulership but not angular
    2. Jupiter casts a ray into Aries by sextile
  7. A solar doryphory of four planets isn’t bad – but none of these four are in rulership by sign or term – and although Saturn is exalted, Venus is in detriment (alternative) – but she rules the DSC angle (Taurus). Mercury is reasonable shape and also rules the MC angle. Likewise Jupiter is in reasonable shape in Aquarius and rules the IC angle – so overall pretty good
  8. A lunar doryphory of only 2 planets is not so good – But that Mars is so powerful (albeit also retrograde) that it alone could win the day – not to mention that it is the chart ruler because Scorpio is rising. This means Mars rules this angle. Mars is further empowered by being in reception with the Sun (the Sun is exalted in Aries so that Sun in Libra- charming and strategic – gives all it has to Mars. Being retrograde does not impede its power but will effect the outcome in the sense that this power is never really under control.
  9. Overall, this gets Richard III to chieftain level – but not to King – and that shouldn’t be surprising because although he was crowned king, it was only because he killed off or pushed aside all others entitled to wear the crown. He held the throne for only two years before being toppled himself by Henry Tudor (who’d been smart enough to remain in France whilst Richard was bumping folks off), whose claim to the throne was much stronger.

Love’s Alchemy & the Alchemical Marriage

MercuryIn alchemy, the female mercurial principle symbolises the mutable aspect of natural processes, their fluidity and changeability.

Hence ‘he/she’ (Mercury is oft pictured as hermaphrodite) is known to alchemists as the White Queen.

According to Johannis de Monte Raphim (Deutsches Theatrum Chemicum, Nuremberg, 1728):

“The process laboratory-workers wanted to rule him (Mercurius) and force him into (the) process. But he constantly escapes, and if one thinks about him, he turns into thoughts, and if one passes judgment upon him, he is judgment itself.”

Mercury is prized by alchemists because, as the result of ‘his/her’ own divided nature, ‘he/she’ unites opposites. Keeping in mind that the alchemical process is all about separation, purification, and reunification, we begin to grasp the benefits of Mercury. Keeping in mind that Mercury is poisonous however, we can also begin to understand how (as Johannis de Monte Raphim warns us) it might all go terribly wrong.

Mercury = psychopomp = guide between the unconscious and the conscious.

The aim of the alchemical game is to bring up all the dross and impurities (as shown by your natal chart) to the surface (consciousness) so that you can deal with them. How else will you be able to assemble them, purified, back together again?

For example, the heroine of Love’s Alchemy, Judith Shakespeare, has a Mars/Saturn conjunction in the 12th house in Scorpio.

Mars/Saturn contacts are dangerously flammable:

Mars = passionalchemical symbols

Saturn = fear & inadequacy

Whilst her Mars/ Saturn contact operates unconsciously, Judith’s long-term personal relationships will be disastrous. Initially she is highly passionate (Mars). But as her Saturn kicks in (as it must with any form of commitment), she becomes increasingly cold toward her lover and potentially even violent.

Enter Mercury to facilitate the active dialogue and transference which is at the base of all therapeutic work.

With Mercury, Judith’s Saturn can help Mars become more considered and less impatient whilst her Mars can help her Saturn achieve his carefully conceived plans. It’s fairly obvious then that if Judith is to be successful in her alchemical transformation, she must find someone in whom she can confidently confide.

She and I are both hopeful that someone will be Master Francis, the character who is meant to play the King to her Queen.

Because Mercury, or the White Queen, is so fluid, she needs an active force to define and shapes her – this force is the male principle of sulphur known to alchemists as the Red King.White Queen

The union of Red King and White Queen is often called the alchemical marriage. In illustrations, it is depicted as courtship and sex. Sometimes they are garbed, as if just starting to be brought together, offering each other flowers. Sometimes they are naked, preparing for consummation of their marriage that will eventually lead to an allegorical offspring, that all important elixir, the Philosopher’s Stone.

Does Judith want to find the Philosopher’s Stone?

You bet!!

Will she be successful?

That remains to be seen.

 

Making Money through the Part of Fortune – Case Study for Ms Y

part of fortuneBy special request, the following analysis for ability to make money for Ms Y:

In summary, to make lots of money you want:

  • One of the rulers (sign or term) of the Part of Fortune strong in the chart (by rulership or exaltation).
  • One of rulers in an angular house (1st, 4th, 7th, or 10th) preferably conjunct the angle).
  • The primary ruler (strongest of the rulers) also making tight aspect to an angular Part of Fortune.
  • Another the rulers also making an aspect to the Part of Fortune.

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  1. The Part of Fortune for Ms Y is 2 Cancer 37 = ASC – Sun + Moon by Day.
  2. The Moon rules 2 Cancer 37 by sign and Venus by term.
  3. In chart of Ms Y, Venus at 20 Taurus 48 is strong in rulership in Taurus. TICK (or at least at first it would appear) !
  4. Venus is conjunct Jupiter in Taurus and receives Jupiter as it is in the terms of Jupiter. Since it is the job of Jupiter to bring fame and riches, this is very Good. Note that Bonatti suggests that Venus in Jupiter’s terms will ‘marry someone from her own blood and will have many children and will be wealthy’.
  5. Venus however is out of Sect and also combust (within 8 degrees of arc with the Sun) – this is not good – and suggests that whilst trying to bring material pleasure to Ms Y, this Venus will often struggle – in other words – the finances of Ms Y will not be stable leaving her with times of dearth as well as plenty. Worse, however is that being combust will definitely inhibit/weaken the performance of Venus. Best that Ms Y not count her chickens before these eggs hatch.
  6. Venus is not angular so not a TICK there – however neither is it cadent so along with being plugged into the angles (Sextile to the MC at 22 Cancer) it is an effective force (for good or bad) in the life of Ms Y.
  7. Venus does not make any aspect to the Part of Fortune so no TICK there.
  8. The other ruler of the Part of Fortune is the Moon at 14 Aquarius in the 4th house in the terms of Jupiter.
  9. The Moon is Aquarius is not particularly happy. Neither is it particuarly unhappy. No TICK.
  10. The Moon is in an angular house (4th house) but not in the sign of the 4th house cusp – hence its angularity is called to question. No TICK.
  11. The Moon does plug into the angles (by trine to the ASC at 16 Libra) – so it is effective (for better or worse) in the life of Ms Y.
  12. The Moon takes no aspect to the Part of Fortune – hence no TICK there.
  13. The Almuten of Substance for Ms Y is Mars.
  14. Mars is high in the chart in Leo in the 10th It is questionable how angular it is (not being in the same sign as the 10th house) so that’s pretty good but it could be better. Mars is neither in rulership by sign nor term so not so good. However, it is not damaged either and is reasonably happy there. OK.
  15. Can Ms Y make pots of money? No.
  16. Can Ms Y make a good living? Yes – provided she takes precautions during times of plenty to make adequate provisions for leaner times. With Venus out of Sect and combust, her flow of finances will never be reliable or steady. Unfortunately her Almuten of Substance while not really hurting her, doesn’t exactly come to the rescue.wheel of fortune

Love’s Alchemy & the Golden Age of Saturn

imagesThe Babylonians believed Saturn, or Kronos, to be the ghost of a dead sun and hence the oldest spirit in the heavens. Saturn is thus considered the place where ‘created matter’ first manifests; it symbolises the laws defining and delimiting material manifestation.

The alchemist’s journey is focused on breaching these laws – or passing through the so-called ‘serpent’s circle’ of Saturn – in order to break through transient time and return to the Golden Age of eternal youth and divine benevolence.

In ancient lore, references to this Golden Age are numerous.

Hesiod tells of:

A golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Kronos when he was reigning in heaven. And they lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil: miserable age rested not on them . . . The fruitful earth unforced bare them fruit abundantly and without stint. They dwelt in ease and peace upon their lands with many good things. . . .

Similarly writes Ovid in the sixth book of his Metamorphoses:

In the beginning was the Golden Age, when men of their own accord, without threat of punishment, without laws, maintained good faith and did what was right. . . . The earth itself, without compulsion, untouched by the hoe, unfurrowed by any share, produced all things spontaneously. . . . It was a season of everlasting spring.

The messenger of Saturn is the black crow. It symbolises the beginning of the ‘Black Phase’ of alchemical transformation, or Nigredo, the period when light gives way to darkness.black crow

It is in this darkness that we find the fertile soil of new birth. Indeed, the word Saturn comes from the Latin – serere – meaning to sow or plant. Because Saturn marks the boundary between personal and transpersonal (cosmic) powers, it is the alchemists most important planet being equated with both the beginning and end of the Great Work.

Psychologically, Saturn forces acceptance of the limitations of human mortality. Paradoxically, we are unable commit to life until we can face ‘who’ and ‘what’ we really are rather than that which we’d like to imagine. This in turn bring us to the threshold of whole new phase of life, or octave (Saturn being the 7th ring and hence transgressing it ushers in the next octave); each phase or octave leaving further behind the gross material of bodily incarnation in favour of the more subtle matter of our spirituality.

pitagorat1Astrologically, it is with Saturn transits/progressions (especially Saturn returns) that we often commence the ‘Black Phase’. Inevitably this is easier for those with Saturn in the air and fire signs (Gemini, Leo, Aries, Sagittarius, Libra, and Aquarius) for these individuals are more able to keep the ‘faith’ that in the end, everything will be OK.

However for those like my heroine, Judith Shakespeare, who have Saturn in earth signs (Virgo, Taurus, and Capricorn) or water signs (Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio) the Black Phase is much harder because these individuals are too close – too emotionally wedded – to their EGO needs and desires that are being swept away.

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