Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Astrology of Tolkien's Lord of the Ring's Trilogy, Part Four

The Fellowship leaves the Kingdom of Pisces and makes their transpontine journey into the equinoctial sign of Aries, so put on your Red Shoes and get ready to dance until you drop, because we're about to enter Death's Kingdom.

Aries, Kingdom of the Sun, Domicile of Mars

Whenever I think of Aries these days I get military images buzzing through my head along with the orchestral sounds calling out for valor. I'm tearing up again when I hear them (why does everything make me cry? Jeez!), but there's something about Mars in his highest form of caring sacrifice, effort, and honor that just breaks my soul the way Beauty and Love do. Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man? Chills. Respighi's Pines of Rome? Transcendence and sobbing. John William's Olympic Fanfare and Theme? Put the headphones on me, crank the bass, and watch me crack as my imagination puts on wings and ascends to Heaven. This is the kind of music I want playing as I enter the Gates and the Angel is there waiting to tell me, "Good job, Jared. You made it, kid. We're all so proud of you up here."

Whatever the Olympics have become, the essence of the Games remains pure Aries, and when those athletes walk into the sacred stadiums, they're walking into the Kingdom of the Sun. Going for gold (Sun), as they say. By extension, that Kingdom gets to look like your treadmill, your exercise bike, the gym, the path in the park, maybe your bedroom where you do yoga, or a dojo where you shape body and soul with the Martial Art. Maybe it's your workplace. Maybe it's a room in your home, or the home itself. Maybe it's a chamber in your Heart. A Ventricle Valhalla! Ha!

The Kingdom of the Sun is anywhere you strive.

Let's return back to the Martial image and figure of the Blacksmith. The first image and sound which immediately come to mind is a muscular arm lifting a hammer and then smashing it down onto molten metal. Clink after clink after clink as that sledge descends to forge a new entity out of the old. Transformation through effort!

One of my favorite Solar images for Aries is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Stellar Gellar was born as the Sun was passing through Aries, which is one of those awesome sync experiences where the actor and character are united through an astro-mythic Image. It's like they're both telling the same story; it's gotta feel GREAT as a performer to experience that! Which is why I still want to take a crack at Sweeney Todd.

That, or Elrond: The Musical.

Buffy's journey will find more life in this blog, as it's loaded with the kind of astro-stuff embedded in LOTR, but suffice to say, Buffy is most definitely our kick-ass Sun in Her Kingdom of Aries. There is much to relate between Buffy and Aragorn, our solar protagonist, and at the end of the whole Buffy series (at least the televised portions of the story), Buffy (Sun), with the help of Willow (the Moon, obviously - willow trees are Lunar plants), pulls a complete Aragorn move and closes the Hellmouth for good. It's pure Sun. Hint: Buffy's season 7 move is a line Aragorn says when we enter Scorpio.

Speaking of Scorpio, it's worth noting here that both Scorpio and Aries are under the domicile rulership of Mars, linking them through themes of battle or any other arena where iron cuts into and separates flesh (check out the local hospital's surgery wing). The difference, however, is that Aries has the Sun as King to order the Martial principle and provide structured containment and direction (Leadership) to Mars, where in Scorpio, the Sun is dying (it's autumn) and cannot do this. In Scorpio, without a Leader to Guide, Mars the Soldier gets out of control and becomes a Wolf. (This is also why Mars-as-Scorpio needs his Taurus partner, who we'll meet soon.) Though, let's not shit all over Scorpio. There are plenty of narratives where I wouldn't want to see Mars-as-Aries doing poorly; that Solar Furnace is one mighty hot blast of power, and can you be sure that your Sun King isn't actually lead on the inside? Is the cause Honorable? The dictionary definition of "honor" emphasizes the word "respect" in multiple instances, indicating to me that what is honorable is worth looking at (seeing = knowing) over and over again from different angles (re-spect, to look again). You'll notice that ol' One-Eye cannot do that. Maybe seeing/knowing over and over from other perspectives actually builds worth and honor. Better get your Hermes hat on.

First and foremost, I encourage Mars for protection and defense rather than offensive moves. Don't they say that the a good defense is the best offense? Get the willow branch and beat the bounds. Fortify. Build immunity by moving energy through the system.

Remember Mars from his Kingdom of Capricorn, our Nile Irrigator? Before we leave the Mars element behind, it's worth remembering here that Sam is our Mars-as-King and should be cross-referenced into Mars-themed episodes in the story. Though Frodo isn't quite our solar figure, he is Sam's Sun, and Sam will protect, defend, and support Frodo to the end. Cut to that scene on Mt. Doom where Sam picks up Frodo and carries him the rest of the way! (Tears again.) "I can't carry your burden for you, but I can carry you!" Now that is honor.

Along with themes of honor and effort, when we enter the oracular Kingdom of the Sun, we encounter his guise of Double-Tongued Apollo, master of riddle, divination, and prophecy. Bilbo and Frodo really nail it on this front as competent riddle-solvers (apparently it's a heritable trait), even over and above Gandalf. (If you've got the Sun dignified in the 9th place in your horoscope, get your automatic writing hand ready and start huffing those snake-fumes!)

Nowhere is the double-nature of the Sun more apparent than in its role as a dealer of death who makes life possible. This paradox still makes my mind vacillate wildly. Though Light reifies and makes an entity knowable, when a planet gets too close to the Sun it burns up, is turned to gold and rendered unknowable and inert in its significations and "responsibilities," possibly even signifying physical death.

David Mathisen's works (The Undying Stars, the three huge volumes of Star Myths of the World) have helped to nuance the Sun as life-giver and death-dealer by pointing out the etymological connection between the words "pure" and "fire." Our word "pyre" goes back to the Greek "pur," which means "fire." Hence, if someone is a pyromaniac, they're crazy for fire! Or, a pyre is a pile of wood upon which a body is placed and then set aflame, releasing the spirit from the body. (Note which cultures burn their dead and why, as well as which preserve the body after death. There's a spiritual technology at work behind both.)

So, nested inside our notions of purity is a flame. We could say Sun = Death = Flame = Pure. The Sun, through burning, releases an entity into its purest form (spirit, essence). This also gives us a clue when we read something like "a pure virgin," which can be understood in the astrotheological sense as "the Sun in Virgo." Or, let's take Venus' retrograde cycle wherein she moves backward to descend into the flame, undergoes purification, and is reborn. Her underworld Sister-Queen might even be understood as an aspect of Venus herself, imaged as the Queen at the Heart of the Sun.

By the way, to be in the heart of the Sun (sharing the exact degree with it on the Wheel) is called cazimi.

I just love that word!

I should also mention that when a planet is cazimi, it is the most exalted, powerful place in the whole Zodiac. I'm at a loss for words to describe what something so cosmically radiant and eternal might look and feel like, but fortunately, Tolkien gave it a shot! (Though we won't get the image until The Two Towers.)

Much of the imagery in the Faces associated with the sign of Aries is quite constructive and powerful, what we'd usually associate with positivity. In Tolkien's story, though, the world is quite divorced from itself and in a state of death-wielding madness, so rather than creating Life through establishment of order and effort, we have Aries as a field of death and destruction. The Life-creating Force turned against itself as in War; the dividing blade of the axe and plough have been set to flesh.


The first Face of Aries is ruled by Mars and is the Two of Wands in the Tarot.

The Sun's passage into the sign of Aries in the Tropical Zodiac marks the beginning of Spring and the start of the New Year. At least in the northern hemisphere! Aries is the Kingdom of the Sun because it is at this point on the Wheel that the Sun now begins to increase in light and days become longer than nights. Symbolism of birth and creation abounds here, and in Tolkien's story it is the point at which the Fellowship is "born" and enters into the world at large. I can see the head!! (The sign of Aries rules the head in astrology, too.)

By the way, contrast Aries' here-and-now presentness and birth energy with Venus' preceding Kingdom of Pisces. Might the womb symbolism of Pisces-Venus describe something to us about what's prior to birth? Mother and baby as One? Souls United?

The Sun and Moon can both be understood as aspects of consciousness where the Sun is active and the Moon passive. These ideas get burdened with a bunch of our limiting and frustrating hangups over the sexes, but in their essence these two consciousness modes are about wanting and creating (active, Sun) and learning (passive, Moon). Look to both the Moon and Mercury in your horoscope to determine your learning style and how best to set up your life for maximum learning and reception. Also, look for and notice when your consciousness is in active mode, passive mode, and both at once.  A lot of television watching and book reading falls into the Moon mode (the quicksilver faculty of imagination is given to Mercury).

So, here in the Sun's Kingdom of Aries, the story is all about wanting to do things and create things. A lusty spirit drives the heart here, a zest to go out into the world and expend effort in following your passion. I want! I want! I want! (And it's common and easy to be disconnected from that and feel the burning misery of not knowing what you want - and by extension, why you exist. This may need rediscovering at multiple points across a lifetime.)

So, like Diana Ross, the Fellowship has come out, and right away we see them plagued by the destabilizing Mars ruler of this Face, Sarumon. (Mars = Five = Sarumon) The group must hide from a pack of Sarumon's crows, which he of course can communicate with. Birds have long been and continue to be oracles (watch for when flocks of birds gather around your home!), and there's a long tradition of being able to read signs by them. We are, after all, in Apollo's Oracular Kingdom. Apollo struck the crow with blackness for bringing a message he didn't like receiving, and thus are crows bearers of bad news. Among other things, of course. Crows are highly intelligent and know things. Secret things. I was told a story by a friend who talks to crows (they are always around him and they all caw back and forth) that, when out in the forest alone and in complete solitude, crows sing with the most beautiful song ever heard. Remember how Apollo is the father of the Muses? (Muse = Music)

Sarumon, being a smart cookie and ascertaining from his crows that Gandalf plans to avoid the combustion kingdom of Moria, takes action to force the Fellowship into danger's way. He does this by controlling the weather, another wizardly skill set. (Ever heard of a cloud buster? Reich's orgone energy?)

Gandalf knows exactly what's going on down in the mines and when asked about taking the passage through Moria replies that he'd avoid it at all costs. When we remember Tolkien's experience as a soldier in the First World War, we can read Moria as the Front on continental Europe (Aries = Mars = Warfare) and Gandalf's words as a response to conscription. "I'd avoid it at all costs." But Gandalf is "drafted" - notice that he doesn't choose Moria of his own agency but has Frodo decide - and the Fellowship begins its deathly descent into the heart of the Sun.

Of course when they reach Moria they are met with another riddle (Sun), though in a fascinating script which can only be read by moonlight. The dwarves love their moonlight, don't they? Being Venus, the dwarves are under Luna's regency (in the way that Jupiter is under the Sun's. This all has to do with the doctrine of sect - which planets are diurnal or nocturnal).

Before the gang enters Moria, though, we get some accidental mischief that sets a series of unfortunate events in motion. Our twin Mercury hobbits are going to cause all sorts of trouble in Moria, the Sun's Kingdom, foregrounding the way low, common, impulsive, scatter-brained Mercury acts in the Sun's realm of dignity, forethought, focus, and right effort. In a perfect world Mercury can don Athena's helmet and owl and stand as strategy, but Merry and Pippin, while fun and funny, don't think ahead. God doesn't give with both hands.


The second face of Aries is ruled by the Sun and is the Three of Wands in the Tarot.

As the Fellowship is forced into the mines, we encounter a grim scene. Tolkien uses the Sun like before to signify a kingdom, but the Saturn association with the number Three manifests here as Death, much to Gimli's horror and despair (Saturn = a fall away from hope, hopelessness).

The path leads to an impasse when it forks into three (Saturn) possible doors, which stalls Gandalf as he can't remember the way (Saturn = forgetting).

Frodo engages Gandalf in conversation during the wizard's remembering, and a most Solar exchange is uttered. Again in despair (Saturn), Frodo says that he wishes the Ring had never come to him, that none of this had happened. Jupiter-Gandalf responds invokes the Sun itself by saying, "So do all who live to see such times. But that's not up to us. All that we must do is decide what to do in the time that is given." Back to the Sun as marker of time! And in astrology, the Sun is a guide as to what to do with the time you have - look to the sign it's in, hence the enduring popularity of Sun-sign astrology!

Gandalf then pops back into full Jupiter mode and talks of Destiny, telling Frodo that there are other forces at work; both he and Bilbo were meant to have the Ring. These forces at work point us back to the eclipse cycle wherein the New Moon conjunction on the North Node creates the Ring, but the Moon then bears the shadow away. Bilbo and Frodo, being our two Moon stand-ins, are implicated in this Fate: they are part of the celestial drama where the Moon makes a full cyclical return to the North Node eclipse point (Rahu, the Dragon's Head).


Our final episode of Aries is ruled by the planet Venus and is the Four of Wands.

Once the Fellowship passes through the mines and into the great hall of Moria, we enter the final episode of this Kingdom. Balin is discovered to be dead, and we see the first of many Venusian tears to come. Pippin pulls his Mercurial move and starts the goblin-ball rolling, which leads to Balrog straight to the group. In this demon we find personified all of the horrors of combustion and battle, all of the War in its fury dealing death to the land. This is the gatekeeper on the journey to the heart of the sun, and it is Death. The Balrog itself reminds me of those photographs of the Sun where black sun spots can be seen speckled all across its body.

Even though the Balrog is a foe beyond all of their capabilities, Gandalf, in an act of courageous sacrifice, faces his combustion, drops into the abyss, and in so doing drops out of Time and Space. Venus is said to be in the sign of her "fall" in Aries, and here we see the loss of those we love as they meet the purifying flame. The hawks of war overcome the dove here; purification makes us weep as we lose the living flesh to hold and hug.

Gandalf's mantra may come in handy for moments when facing combustion: "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun."

To wrap up this Aries episode, the spring equinox does not bring with it a Balrog, nor a World War every year. What it tells us is that the time has come for us to begin the Season of Works, wherein we use our red-blooded, muscular effort to start preparing the soil for fructification. When that equinox hits, it's time to get out the iron, hit the fields, and begin phase one of the growth season. Our blood is sacred, and our effort is, too. We make holy by giving our bodies and souls to Life. Caring is the root of effort. What is begun here yields harvest when the Virgin arrives to usher in the Season of Grace, where we live off our efforts during the dying time of fall and winter. The Farmer's Almanac probably has a lot to say on this topic.

It's worth striving to make Aries a time of Creation where we forgo our Rites of Spring, our Red Shoes, our Dances with Death, and till not our living blood into the soil but our Will to create an abundant, safe place for those we love.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Astrology of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Part Three

As our merry band sets out from the Prancing Pony, we find ourselves crossing a threshold into the next sign of the Zodiac, Pisces. While Aquarius only has a domicile ruler and not a regent, when we move into Pisces we find ourselves back in a land with two rulers.

Pisces, Kingdom of Venus, Domicile of Jupiter

A discussion of important Venus symbolism is required here. This one escaped me for a long time; I can't believe that in almost 20 years of reading astrological and theological texts that the defining feature of Venus has gone unremarked! (If it was anywhere, it was probably in Lewis' The Discarded Image) And that is this: Venus is the wife, lover, and consort of the Sun.

Like me, you may have imagined that it is the Moon and not Venus who is the Sun's wife, partner, consort, etc. I mean, it makes sense, right? The two Luminaries! The Lights are a pair! But no, the Moon is not the Sun's wife and partner. The Moon herself is actually untouchable, which we'll see soon; her true nature is Mystery and will never be revealed to us.

To unpack Venus' status as lover and wife of the Sun, we must return to the Thema Mundi and the order of the planets (back in part one). Recall that the order from Earth up goes: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. Notice how Mr. Sun there is situated about halfway up. If we take him as the center (which is the basic meaning of the Sun anyway) we have three below him (Moon, Mercury, Venus) and three above him (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn). 6 + 1 = 7. This also highlights the Sun's essence of pontifex, as Bridge and Unifier from heaven to earth and back (remember that second Face of Aquarius? It's a Six = Sun!). In astrology, the planets below the Sun's orbit are called inferior planets, and the planets higher than the Sun are called superior planets. And no, value judgments based on verticality don't come into play here; we humans foolishly love to equate low with bad and high with good. As if anyone with an ounce of Mercurial sense couldn't see that the poles change places all the time! Flip flop! What do you think this whole Lord of the Rings story is about anyway???

Caveat: when it comes to the retrogradation of the planets (when they appear to stop and turn backward in their orbits; the Lights are exempt), the inferior,  or shall we say, "inner" planets are more troublesome and difficult in their significations than the "outer" planets. This has a little something to do with their speed, for the Moon, Mercury, and Venus are the fastest of the bunch. We've already encountered Mercury's speed factor in the story!

Now, we're going to set the Moon aside for now during the inner planet discussion because she is not bound to the Sun the way the other two are ("There shall be one Mistress here, and NO Master!" Now you know why she painted her body white!). But Mercury and Venus are really tight up to the Sun and close to him, and as such, they are never very far away from him on the Great Wheel. Where he goes, they go. I forget at the moment the maximum distance away from the Sun that Mercury can get in terms of degrees, but Venus can never be more than about 46 degrees in front of or behind the Sun on the Wheel. We can simplify and say that Venus and Mercury will always be either in the same sign as the Sun or in the sign immediately in front of or behind him.

The Sun-Mercury relationship can be unpacked in a few exciting ways, but we'll get there once we come to Rohan. For now, let's look to the Sun-Venus bond, and, from our perspective, Venus is even closer to the Sun than Mercury is. (Yes, from a heliocentric point of view that's flipped, but I'm not writing this from the surface of the Sun. I know, the dream is ruined.)

An important equation: Sun = Red. The Light and heat of the Sun is understood to redden things that get close to it, or things that its beams touch. (Sunburn, anyone?) In Alchemy, when the Work enters this solar phase, it's called the reddening of the Work: the rubedo. And now you know why rubies are called rubies! And to which planet they belong. I'm going to bet that they're all over crown jewels across the world. But like a jewel in the crown, Venus is also red because of her proximity and relationship to the Sun. Ever heard a woman called a Scarlet Woman? How about the Woman Clothed with the Sun? What color hair does The Little Mermaid have in Disney's film? Did you know that mermaids are Venus symbols? And that mermaids also are symbols for prostitutes? Well, mermaids would simply mean sex in general, but we have Moon and Venus trouble in our culture and therefore tend to hate Venus, poor Lady. Besides, prostitution is slavery (human bodies should not be assigned monetary value) and therefore has no place in Venus' world. But, a quick and easy cultural reference for spotting Venus is simply to look for the woman with red hair in most stories. Jolene, Jolene, Joleeeeeeeene, I'm begging of you, please don't take my man! (She even has eyes of emerald green, another Venus color! Girl's doubling up!)

Those of you thinking ahead will also note that Mars is also in the same proximity to the Sun as Venus, he's just on the other side. And what color is Mars? And what Mars substance makes blood red?

Things could get a lot more sexy and graphic here with this Venus discussion, and I even invoked Mars into the conversation, and he looovvvveeesss Venus. Although, unfortunately, for about one thing only it seems, but I digress. Those born to her Kingdom of Pisces share a love of sexual union, but only insofar as this suits their need to Unify and create wholeness. Pisces-Venus is no wanton slut - that's more Mars' game (in some of the Arabic texts he's described as a fornicator when lacking dignity in a horoscope). Remember how Mars likes to disperse and "spread it around?" I'd say he's Lust, not Love. (c.f. Crowley's attribution of Lust to the Sun's sign of Leo in the Thoth Tarot. Discuss. 555-4455.)

Venus shares a drive to Unity with Her Husband the Sun, the pontifex. And I'm tempted to say that she does it even better than He does, since it is Love which endures his Death (you know why he dies?).

Go ahead, imagine the face of someone you love so dearly that has died. What do you feel?

Are you smiling yet?

Bringing Life together is Venus' essence, for she is fidelity itself, Love's draw to be Near. ("It's not the pale Moon that excites me, that thrills and delights me. Oh no, it's just the nearness of you.") It is unsurprising that Venus' major signification in astrology is love and marriage. Most of the comedies in Shakespeare's canon fall under the heading of Venus, for they end in marriages. Happy ending! Hell, even LOTR ends that way for a number of characters, if not explicitly then implicitly.

The glyph for the sign of Pisces is two fish bound by a cord. They're often described as swimming in opposite directions, but I think direction is tangential to the fact that these are two entities bound by love. There's a nice twist on the old binding spell, eh? Turns out Love is the ultimate binding agent! If I were to put true marriage anywhere, I wouldn't place it in Libra where it usually gets attributed. No, no, I'd put it in Pisces. That's soul love. I can see where the thinking leads one to think of Libra as being the natural place for marriage; after all, Libra rules binding words. But as we'll see with Return of the King, Libra is Saturn's Kingdom, not Venus'. Venus is the domicile ruler of Saturn's Kingdom, so it is she who is doing his work by, but she's not calling the shots or making the rules. And she is classically not Saturn's friend, daughter though she may be. They don't work under the same rules. The dude had to have his balls cut off in order for her to come out of them, so this is telling you that the father-daughter relationship is....complicated.

(James Hillman in Aphrodite's Justice writes that Venus is the very essence of "complication", which etymologically means "to fold together." Back to unity. Sex does tend to complicate things, doesn't it? Of course, that's the point.)

So, a little fishy diversion so that I can bounce an idea off this whole Libra-Pisces-marriage thing. Take Crowley from his Book of Thoth  to start us off. When writing of the Death card of the Tarot (which is Scorpio), he says: "This card is attributed to the [Hebrew] letter Nun, which means a fish; the symbol of life beneath the waters; life traveling through the waters." He goes on to point out that fish (and the gods associated with them like Oannes and Dagon) were the central symbol in spiritual technologies that emphasizes reincarnation and resurrection.

One of the new ways in which I'm reading and experiencing Pisces is taking a cue from this equation of Fish and Soul, especially in relation to Death. I imagine fish under the surface of a glassy pond as souls yet to come through into incarnation, or souls having left this world. Surface of water = Death. And remember, too, Water = Mirror. (Take a think on that one next time you're doing your hair after the shower. I know I do.) Pisces, being one of the two Kingdoms that straddles the spring equinox (Aries is on the other side), is understood to be situated at the Crossing. This is also true of Virgo, which is situated at the Crossing of the autumnal equinox (which is Libra). Pisces and Virgo, therefore, are said to give birth to the signs that represent the equinoctial seasons. Let's see...where do we know of a story where a Virgin gives birth to the Dying Son? I mean, Sun? Do we have any wine and water and bread/wheat imagery, or perhaps fishes and shepherds and flocks related to a Cross(ing)? I can't quite recall...

At any rate, Pisces is well acquainted with the glassy surface of the Birth-Death Threshold Crossing.

My next step now is to puzzle out that cord binding the fish, which to me is Love, and thus I come to Pisces = Soul Love.

Soul Love is beyond sex, beyond the genitals, beyond bodies, beyond our idiotically puny definitions of love that have resulted from the Sauron Division Culture. I do think the happily ever after/soulmate thing can work (see the Ten of Cups), but like all things magical, one cannot lust for result, and we're given a whole lotta crappy results to bewitch us by the aforementioned SDC (monoculture). But, and it's a big but, Love and Death come as a package; James Hillman spent his whole life unpacking the Soul's love for Death (if you don't own Dream and the Underworld yet, get it!); Freud picked up on the strange union of Love and Death (Eros and Thanatos). Like the Germans, it's not all smiles and sunshine.

Yet here with Pisces, the symbolism is telling me that we're upon a Mystery wherein Love crosses the Death-barrier and can both push into it and bring things out of it. And I suspect that also doesn't look the way this Western culture has mediated it to you, either.

So, back to marriage. Here in Pisces we have the Kingdom of Venus in which Love unites two souls together, or they are already bound together (please for the love of God can we give some dimension and perspective to the term "soul mate?") and they must find each other in this level of reality. When we do, LOVE! Notice how, if we operate by Libran standards, two people can be bound together even if they are not Soul-Bonded? This seems a very dangerous thing, and probably not optimal for overall health and happiness. I have made humongous Libra-generated mistakes by making unwise attachments, and lemme tell ya, folks, it does NOT end well! I mean I guess two people can "learn" to love each other, and maybe soul-bonds can by forged (aka, by hard work - should love be difficult?), but there's something here that gives me pause.

Let's play with this: what are the similarities and differences between "unite" and "bind?" Which feels more Venus, and which feels more Saturn? Is binding always bad?

Now we move on to the domicile ruler of Pisces, Jupiter. Grand, fatherly Jupiter here is in service to Venus. It is he who accomplishes Venus' work of marrying souls by being as cosmic, wise, spiritual, and hopeful as can be. Yet in Pisces, Jupiter has a particular feeling and dynamic to him that he does not experience elsewhere. Remember how I said that Venus is never very far from the Sun and that she stays with him through his Death? Well, here, Jupiter must watch Venus die with the Sun because she is united with him, and there's nothing the Good Father can do about it. His little girl must be lost to him. This leads one to the classic reading of the Pisces Kingdom as full of love (Venus) and hope (Jupiter), but wherein its natives feel helpless to do anything or make a difference because there is an inevitability of Death at work here. Venus will die with the Sun. (Another kiss for those of you who have already figured out who these characters are!) This dynamic also leads its Piscean natives to FEEL EVERYTHING; they feel emotionally into and unite with all of creation (the Big Good Father), yet cannot fight back against the feeling that one just "can't do enough" to save all the little fishies out there in the world. And if anyone can reach into you and touch your soul, it's Venus. And yes, she suffers for it; the walls are porous or non-existent for her (Pisces people have to erect some sort of emotional coping structure - my guess is that it may look like a jellyfish's body rather than the Great Wall.)

And now to the Vale of Tears. Feelings so strong often make Piscean natives weep. Through the Trilogy, the scenes in which we see characters weep in the film correspond to the Faces Venus rules. Venus = weeping. Venus is a water elemental, a being born of and made of water. Venus brings wetness (and yes, that kind, too). In astrology, in fact, she is understood as one of the rulers of the water element itself a dignity she shares with Mars - remember that in Capricorn Mars brings the water with his effort? He's a water master! I have wept at the scene closing the first film where Frodo tries to leave Sam but he follows and almost drowns for loving Frodo so much. Damn it, I'm tearing up now as I write.

Though, you know who's important to you in your life by knowing who would make you cry if they died. For whose loss would you weep? This is Venus talking, telling you who is Lovely and Beautiful to you in this world, and who to cherish. Hey, remember how Madonna's "Cherish" video is set at the shoreline (where Venus was born and where she rules) with a bunch of mer-men (Venus)? Fuck, that just hit me...I love that song. "Gimme faith, gimme joy!" Spoken as Aphrodite herself! (Venus = Faith and the sensate particulars which render God knowable - colors, smells, sounds, ritual - and keeping the Sanctuary clean).

Maybe you still weep for the loss of some people. I sure did, but the more I make them part of my daily life through ritual, remembrance, and dedication, I just sigh and then smile more. But hey, She wants you smiling, too. Ask your beautiful fishies on the other side if they want you to cry in sadness or go smell the roses, orange blossoms, and gardenias. (I'm talking long term. The funeral and its aftermath are another matter. See beloved John O'Donahue's "For Grief" in his To Bless the Space Between Us. Radiant, beautiful soul!)

For my own part, I will say that I cry all the time (yes, She is strong with me), but it's Beauty that moves me to tears more than anything. And that's also why I cry all the time; it's our responsibility to see Beauty in the world, as my dear Friend of the Fish tells me. Maybe Beauty makes us cry because when we are moved by it, we see our Source and want to go Home. The cord pulls.


The first Face of Pisces is ruled by Saturn and is the Eight of Cups in the Tarot, and boy, is this Face a tough one! It's rulership by old malefic Saturn lends it some pretty grim imagery, and our characters in LOTR go through a helluva time in this episode.

Pisces is a water sign, but with Saturn as ruler of this elemental Face, what we are left with are pools and swamps of stagnant, stinking, toxic water. You know, the kind that mosquitos lay their eggs in and which breeds pestilence. Images of miasmic poison abound - Saturn in astrology is said to rule poisons and narcotics, an attribution we also see connected to the Death Kingdom of Scorpio, itself a rather Saturnine place. Mars, ruler of Scorpio, is also a pharmakon (Greek for "drug, medicine.")

As a contrast, pick up Coppock's 36 Faces and read his delineation of this Face. It's a lot more constructive and positive. Austin is a good Blacksmith.

Tolkien, however, sticks with Crowley's interpretation and foregrounds the really crappy Saturn bits. In this case, even though we are in a Mercury-ruled number (8 = Mercury),  big, heavy, superior Saturn overpowers light little Mercury, and we see Frodo get stabbed and poisoned (by the Nine's leader - remember how the Nine are connected to the Fallen Moon Kingdom of Scorpio? The venomous stinger?), a wound he will carry unto his death.

We also see a Saturnine action going on in this episode when we see Sarumon first begin to destroy the forest, killing the Living Trees to feed their bodies to his flaming furnaces. Keeping in line with Mercury and his connection to industry and craft (remember the Seven-Eight tier on the Tree of Life?), another possible reading for this Saturn-Mercury episode could be "industry and craft which kills." Although this begs the image of what a harmonious arrangement of the two could look like.

We get more of Mercury's nature as, like before, the Nine must be speedily outrun (even on the Mercury instrument of bridled horse), but first we meet Frodo's vessel of delivery and the very Queen of the Kingdom herself, Arwen!

Let's back up a minute. Earlier, we see Aragorn singing a song about Arwen herself while the group is camped for the night, which makes sense because we are in Her kingdom. She calls it out of him! (Did you know that's what "education" means? When in your life has Love called something out of you?) He's sad, and the song is sad, which resonates with the Saturn (melancholy) rulership of this face.

Our first glimpse of Arwen in the film is moving in its luminous purity. She arrives to us as the Evening Star herself, radiant and soft. And she says, "Hear my voice. Come back to the Light." Have you ever needed Love to say that to you? I will openly admit to having wept at this moment. "Come back to the Light." The Tolkien-Jackson hive mind really set us up for a spectacular moment here!

Once Arwen has Mercurially outrun the Nine and crossed the river which borders Rivendell, Frodo lets out a death-rattle gasp and is about to let go, which causes Arwen to weep (Venus again). And she says one of the most amazing, stunning, heart-wrenching, Beautiful things that is the absolute essence of Venus captured:

"What Grace is given to me, let it pass to him! Let him be spared! Save him!"

Now, I'm even crying again writing this, because let's remember that both Lewis and Tolkien experienced firsthand the horror that was the First World War, a demonstration of cursed soullessness that prompted them both to write stories which would redeem this fallen state. But, hearing Arwen say those words, I cannot help thinking that Tolkien would have heard these words said on some desolate, senseless battlefield in Europe where men were holding their dying brothers and wailing in grief.

Maybe he even said them himself.

How many mothers do you think were saying that?

How many do you think are?


Once into Rivendell, we're in the second Face of Pisces, which is ruled by Jupiter and is the Nine of Cups in the Tarot.

The action in this episode is characterized by Jupiter, and indeed we meet our Jupiter Domicile Ruler of Pisces, Lord Elrond. We know he is wise, and he's the go-to guy for medicine, healing, and as we'll see later, some nifty chemistry (which by now you should just be reading as Alchemy).

Naturally, since Gandalf is also a Jupiter figure in this story, he's there in Rivendell, too, marking the reunion with Frodo and Sam. He updates Frodo on what happened to him since they parted ways in the Shire, which involves us seeing how Gandalf made his prison break from Eisengard.

The Eagle has always been a symbol of Jupiter, so it's no surprise that we see the Eagles' action in connection to Gandalf. While Gandalf knows how to call them, it should be made clear that he does not command them! They are the embodiment of God's Grace! He can only ask for their assistance; he has no guarantee if they will even show at all. He's essentially saying a prayer into the moth. Moths and butterflies in folklore are said to carry your message to the Great Spirit if you whisper it to them as they pass. I learned from the Radio Lab episode called "Black Box" that the physical structures of the future butterfly are already in the caterpillar before it even goes into the chrysalis. What does that make you think about Gandalf our Good Father and Destiny?

Jupiter in astrology is a signification of Faith. It is most certainly not Knowledge - that would be Mercury. Faith-Jupiter picks up where Knowledge-Mercury ends, which speaks to the priesthood as a classic career delineation for Jupiter. (Watch The Father Brown Mysteries - a great example of Mercury-plus-Jupiter in one; notice Mercurial Agatha Christie's character Poirot struggle with Jupiter's realm of Faith in Murder on the Orient Express - the stellar David Suchet portrayal. I weep at that one every time, too! They all Loved that girl and her family so much!)

So next time someone says, "Why didn't they just take the Eagles to Mordor and skip the whole journey?" you'll know you're in the presence of a fool.

Our list of Jupiter characters is rounded out by a third as Frodo finds Bilbo has made it to Rivendell. And lo! He has finished his history book! The reunion is bittersweet, though, as the weight of Bilbo's actions crushes his heart upon seeing Frodo nearly die because of them. Bilbo weeps, saying he's sorry for everything. Venus and tears again.

It is in this episode that Tolkien gives us another temporal clue which indicates that multiple time frames are happening across Middle Earth. When Frodo emerges from his NDE (near death experience), Gandalf lets him know that it's 10AM on October 24. Being an astrologer, that date immediately rang in my ears as the date when the Sun enters the sign of Scorpio in the Tropical Zodiac (it's actually somewhere from the 21st-23rd, depending on the year). So we know for sure that it's autumn, and the surroundings of Rivendell make that clear. But we know that the journey began just after the winter solstice (Dec. 21-23ish), so if everyone were on the same time frame, that would mean the Hobbits have been on the road for almost a whole year! And we know they haven't been; Frodo will mention at the end of the story that the whole ring journey took 13 months (that's an important number), so what's up?

Let's look back to Elves = Saturn = Three. Remember how I said that the Triplicities in astrology describe the elements? If you were to connect the signs of a particular element in the Zodiac, you'd end up with a triangle, as the signs belonging to each element are 120 degrees apart on the Wheel (three signs multiplied by four elements gives you the total twelve). Taking Rivendell for Pisces, that would mean that the Elf Time is one point of the triangle behind the rest of the world: Scorpio is the sign 120 degrees earlier than Pisces. Or, we could look at it as being two points of the triangle ahead of where the gang is now. Either way, the Elemental Elves are moving through Time at a different rate than the rest of Middle Earth and that movement is based in their own image of the Triangle. We know, too, that the elves are leaving Middle Earth, their life energy dying away just like in the fall. The bonus documentaries on the Trilogy DVD contain the designers explaining this when they get to the part on Rivendell; and if you watch The Hobbit, you'll notice that when Bilbo gets to Rivendell, it's a Green Summer there.


The last Face of Pisces is ruled by Mars, and it is the Ten of Cups. Being a Mars-ruled Face, we can expect to see some conflict.

This episode sees Elrond hold the secret council wherein the delegations of elves, men, and dwarves convene to decide a plan of action to achieve the One Ring's destruction. Destruction is an apt topic of conversation for a Mars-ruled Face! Naturally, quarreling results, and if there's one thing that Venus dislikes in her Kingdom, it's quarreling! Frodo really gets moved by Her spirit, and seeing the writing on the wall, he steps into Her role and commits what may be seen as an ultimate act of selfless love by volunteering to take the Ring. And just like that, the quarreling does a 180 and Unites everyone there! Men, dwarves, and elves come together in marriage to help Frodo. Once the Fellowship is "married," notice that Elrond enunciates the ultimate Jupiter-Venus "binding." He tells the members of the Fellowship that they are bound by no oath and only have to go as far as each of them feels in their hearts to be right. Any one of them can leave at any time.

Take a note, Libra.

An interesting note provided by Boromir: having ever dwelled in the presence of the Shadow, he states that there is evil there which doesn't sleep. In Shakespeare's Macbeth, a Scorpio story loaded with Mars themes, we see a few examples of Macbeth and his Lady living in a state of sleeplessness. Mars, it seems, especially when up to no good, denies the body of life-affirming rest and sleep. Too much adrenaline in the system corroding and degrading body and mind. While it seems to be yet a Mystery as to why we sleep, we know that if you don't sleep, you die. If you don't dream, you die. Sleepless = Death = Sauron. Remember how the Moon is Fallen in the sign of Scorpio? Another kiss to you who guesses what the Moon is!

A final note before we leave Pisces. This episode contains that iconic bridge scene where Arwen and Aragorn share their lovers' moment. The Sun and Venus, uniting as one - on a bridge no less. Just a wee bit of symbolism there; bridges and thresholds are both places where these two live, and to top it off their love is bridging a gap between two very different Beings. To close us out, some final essential words of Arwen-Venus:

"I would rather share my lifetime with you than face all the immortal ages of this world alone."

UPDATE 6/18/17: Chris Knowles' blog The Secret Sun has a very, very timely and quite mind-bending post as part of a series right here that speaks awesomely to our topic of Venus and her kingdom. These stories are not just for the screen.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Astrology of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Part Two

We pick up our analysis where the Prologue left off, at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. Here, Tolkien will set us off on our journey around the Great Wheel, beginning with the sign of the winter solstice, Capricorn. We'll move through a total of five Zodiac signs in this film, moving from Capricorn to Aquarius, then Pisces, to Aries, and making it through Taurus before stopping at the gates of Gemini (the next film, The Two Towers, picks up there. It's so obvious I can't believe I missed it!)

Capricorn, Kingdom of Mars, Domicile of Saturn

As I mentioned in part one, our King in this land is Samwise Gamgee. If there were any doubt, Tolkien is using the name of the Angel of Mars, Samael, as a key. And not only Sam, but Samwise, aka, a Wise Mars. Here we see Mars at his best: effort to irrigate the land and make it habitable for Life. Significations for the sign of Capricorn list laborers of the land, irrigators, and seafaring/sailing careers for its natives. Not only are we near water, we use our effort to move that water to other places. Images of Egypt populate this sign: its middle face is the image of a pyramid. The word "alchemy" means "art of the land of Khem", where Khem is the word for Egypt. Guess what Egypt was good at? Irrigating that Nile delta and engineering abundance! Among other things, of course (magic!). A dear friend of mine remarks that wonder is the root of care (aptly, she's a super Jupiter Cancer, the opposite solstice), but after watching LOTR and learning from Sam, I would add that care is the root of effort. 

The sign of Capricorn finds its beginning at the winter solstice (around Dec. 21-23 in the northern hemisphere). Solstices are unique in that they can be understood as stations of the Sun, points in time where the Sun appears to stand still (all of the other planets except the Moon do this). In fact, it's quite difficult to tell when exactly the solstice is because the Sun appears to be stopping and changing direction; to discern the difference takes a few days. (Weird how we made up this "calendar" idea and disengaged ourselves from the Planet Clock...why don't we celebrate New Year's on Christmas?) 

Capricorn Face One

This Face is ruled by Jupiter, and in the Tarot it is the Two of Disks (the terms Pentacles or Coins are also used). Crowley titles it "Change." (Can you tell when exactly Galadriel is speaking the Prologue voiceover? "The world has changed.") The Rider-Waite Tarot shows a figure holding two disks with a figure-eight infinity loop around them. This point is a handover, the old year handed over to the new. The Sun at this point has just poured out the last bit of its light and is now ready to begin the ascent back up again. 

We first see Bilbo, a Jupiter figure in this story. He is writing his history (a Jupiter theme), including a notation of the date that not only situates us in time (remember how Jupiter is about epochs and ages?), but which lets us know that there are multiple time frames going on in Middle Earth at once ("by Shire reckoning"). In describing for us the nature of Hobbits, Bilbo lets us know that in the Shire, "change comes slowly, if it comes at all." This picks up on the fact that this sign is about the station of the Sun. It also foregrounds the amount of effort required to get a big behemoth up and moving! Push! There's five more acres in the lower 40 I've got to plow! And Mama said it was a shame about Billy Joe anyhow.

The Sun functions as a major timekeeper (when particular stars, like Vindemiatrix in the constellation Virgo, made heliacal risings, it was time to do certain things like begin the grape harvest), and here in Capricorn/The Shire, time does not move at all. Those with strong Capricorn placements in their horoscopes tend to be conservative in nature, valuing the past and "the way it's always been" over new possibilities for the future. Yes, this includes the political sphere (I just heard a factoid that conservative Republicans tend to be statistically Capricorn). But lest we forget, in their most Samwise form, that's because these people care. They love and want to preserve. Capricorn is given the element of Earth in the Zodiac, an element given  to stability and nurturing. (Check out Dondi Dahlin's The Five Elements - it's based in Chinese medicine, and I love how it illuminated this missing Eastern perspective and provided fresh blood to my understanding of Western humors!)

Taking the narrative a bit further into the body, Saturn, the domicile ruler of Capricorn, is said to rule the bones (and teeth) in astrology, and while muscles and the chubby bits can grow and shrink, once you're done growing the bones stay the same and support you. Of course, Saturn in astrology also rules the blunt-force trauma that breaks bones, or a gravity-induced fall from a great height (spoiler alert: Steward). Saturn makes 'em and breaks 'em. Extrapolate from bones to "supporting structures" of all kinds, both material and mental, both firm and supple (think cell walls or jellyfish), permeable or airtight, and you're in Saturn's substantial wheelhouse. 

In astrology, Jupiter and Saturn, while alike in power and scope, often feel like two sides of the same coin. Jupiter expands, Saturn contracts. Jupiter is hopeful, Saturn is cynical. Jupiter releases and frees, Saturn imprisons and binds. Here, Bilbo, being a Jupiter figure, has earned the reputation for disturbing the peace. Notice how the adults in the Shire view Gandalf in the same vein (Jupiter rules children in astrology, so naturally the kids love him). Gandalf-Bilbo represent the Change promised by the Tarot card/Face, the very pot-stirring of old into new. You know, crank the heat and get that film off the top of the soup!

But something is amiss. Bilbo feels like butter spread thin over too much toast. He feels old. The essence of the One Ring has created false time. The leaden Saturn-gravity has prevented the changeover from taking place. Time is out of joint. It's as if the Ring locks one in a moment in time, stops time in its tracks (which Capricorn likes!). We will see a Gold Sun handed over from one bearer to another, but it is a false Sun - it represents stasis, the very opposite of what this Face represents. Change is the foundation of Stability. The earth cannot be allowed to get hard and dry; the old must be let go to make way for new life. 

Most of the Seven Deadly Sins can be attributed to Saturn in one of his facets. Remember the  dire inversion of Mars and Saturn in this sign (Sauron-Sarumon)? The Deadlies are another way of seeing that. Imagining the Shire Soil getting too hard and dry puts us in the camp of laziness and depression (I know, depression isn't one of the Deadlies but it's also considered a biggie). Saturn's heavy sadness and immobility put out the Mars fire: ever put a campfire out by throwing dirt on it? Sadness leads to immobility, which leads to one hell of a pissed-off Mars fire on the inside that burns you alive with un-lived Life. Ever notice how depressed people tend to trigger lots of anger in the people around them? Guess where that pent up fire goes.

Capricorn Face Two

Speaking of fire, this Face of Capricorn is ruled by Mars (notice that this is also the Regent of the land), and  it is the Three of Disks. It's called Work in the Thoth Tarot, and this face bears the aforementioned image of a pyramid. This is Mars taking the elements (Three) and constructing something out of them: it is Mars the Engineer, Mars the Builder. Maybe even Bob the Builder. Weren't they called Dozers in Fraggle Rock? (Saturn is often imaged as a sleeping old man! Elemental inertia as Slumber!) 

Three is Saturn's number, so we should expect some additional Saturn themes to pop up. 

This is Bilbo's big birthday party to celebrate living to be The Oldest Hobbit Ever. Saturn rules old age, very old age, for which 111 qualifies. Notice that in numerology 111 = 1+1+1 = 3. Saturn also, by its nature, rules obscurity, invisibility, and blindness. While the ring is Solar Gold on the outside, it's also Saturn Lead, and when the One Ring's wearer puts it on, invisibility is the result. Bilbo uses this to "end it all," to vanish and leave life behind, echoing Saturn's role as the Threshold Gatekeeper ("Are you the Key Master?" Phallic symbol alert!) at which we leave a physical life behind and enter into the invisible realm of Spirit. For once and for all, that is; we can cross while still alive, too. Point being: Finality is another Saturn theme. But, by extension, so is Eternity. ("Change comes slowly, if it comes at all.") Final = Eternal.

By the way, you'll see me playing with the equal sign ( = ) quite a bit, and you should be noticing that it's the astrological glyph for Gemini simply turned sideways. Remember our Gemini story of Romeo and Juliet? The Two Towers? Sadly in Shakespeare's version, Sauron wins and Helm's Deep is lost. But I digress. 

We get a little Mars action on the side in this Party scene, too. We meet Sam, our Shire King, and get introduced to his Queen, Rosie (whoever guesses which sign/planet she is gets a kiss from me!), a beautiful woman to whom Sam is bound in love and yearning (remember how Saturn rules binding? He rules marriage, too! I do, I do, I do!)

Since this is a Mars-ruled Face, and Mars = 5, we can expect some wizard stimulation in the story here, too. Gandalf's action serves to separate Bilbo from the ring; Mars' action is to sever, divide, and disperse (often unwillingly if you're not careful). Think iron ploughs dividing the black soil, iron swords dividing flesh, iron penises dividing...oh you get the idea.  But this Ring has peaked Gandalf's wizardly interest, prompting him to kick Bilbo out the door again and mediate the Ring to Frodo. The Change promised in the first Face has by now been achieved: the "Sun" has passed from Bilbo to Frodo, new year divided (Mars) from old. 

Capricorn Face Three

The last Face of Capricorn is ruled by the Sun and is the Four of Disks. It's called Power in the Thoth Tarot, and Crowley goes on to say that it is the principle of Law and Order. Which means that for all of you fans of the TV show (and it's many Hydra-head reiterations), this is the Face! I've honestly never watched an episode. 

This face in particular emphasizes the way in which the Capricorn solstice is a point around which the year turns. The astrological glyph for the Sun is a circle with a point at the center. (Buy yourself a compass just like in geometry class and play!) Here, the Sun's energy it consolidated in matter, and its power moves energy around to fortify and defend. The castle walls are a symbol of defensive Law and Order itself, the King (or if you'd simply rather: Leader) its central focus.  

The Sun in astrology relates to a kingdom and its leadership, and whenever the Sun is symbolically active in Tolkien's story, he takes us to a new kingdom (or, a new episode of Law and Order). In this case, we get a peek into the kingdom of Mordor where the Nine (remember, 9 = Moon = Men) set out for the Shire. However, we also get to see the most Solar kingdom of all, the City of Gondor where the King of Men resides. Gondor, being the seat of power for the Sun, is the Zodiac sign of Leo. There is no planetary exaltation or kingship here, because Leo is the very principle of Leadership itself. However, things are not all Leonine in Gondor since there is no King, but the exploration of Gondor and its dynamics comes later in Return of the King. We spend a lot of that film sussing it out, so stay tuned. 

Since this Face/Tarot Card is one of the Fours, we should expect some Jupiter action along with the Solar rulership of the Face. Gandalf goes to Gondor (Sun) and does Jupiter things: he goes to the library reads a history and does research (Jupiter rules books in astrology). Looking ahead, we should also note that it is Jupiter which crowns the King and confers kingship. While Gandalf will perform this function for Aragorn later at the end of the story, for now Gandalf meets a King (Sun) of a past age (Jupiter) only through his written account (Jupiter). 

It's also worth noting that Gondor (the Sun) dwells ever int he presence of the Shadow, Mordor. The Sun and the eclipse's shadow are bound together in essence. Eclipses are always a potential!

This final Face of Capricorn also sees Frodo offer Gandalf the ring, a test which the wizard passes. Sun = Gold =  One Ring. Frodo remains the bearer of this Sun's tainted light, and Gandalf sends him on the road. However, not before attaching Sam to Frodo, and we must remember that Sam is the true King here. Sun = leadership. This Face presents as the image of a Throne, after all. 

While he sends the hobbits out the door and onto their Destiny, Gandalf must go and see the head of his order (Sun = leader), Sarumon. And once we leave the Shire, we're off to the next Zodiac sign!

Tolkien is nice and neat about letting you know when you're in a new sign for the most part; the characters leave a kingdom or realm and enter a new one. Tolkien occasionally use the ruler of the last Face of a sign to instigate the changing of scenery, like the way in which Gandalf must now go and see a leader (the Sun). 

Aquarius, Domicile of Saturn

Boy do I love this sign now after watching LOTR! There is such mystery and beauty here! The experience of the characters in this part of the film isn't what rocks my world, but the entire story as a whole does it. 

Let's start with some basics. This is a sign that has no exalted ruler, so we get to feel deeply into Saturn him/herself. The him-/her- binary does not, in fact, apply to Saturn, for Saturn is not sexed. It is beyond sexuality. Governing old age and senility, it Rules the part of life where procreative generation and all its attendant sexual roles and identities have faded, releasing humans into a phase of Life and Mind outside of the body's passions. (Pharmaceuticals have since made a dent in this stage of life, however, with chemicals that stiffen the plough and moisten the soil.) Remembering how the elves are Saturn beings, notice how androgynous and dispassionate they are? I somehow think there are no Rivendell orgies happening. Venus in astrology governs sex and the genitals, and Venus and Saturn are often imaged as rivals (their combo in a horoscope makes for "issues" around sexuality and desire). Remember how Saturn got castrated? He rules eunuchs and people without genitals, but for the love of fucking God, people, it's a metaphor! Don't cut your balls off! The castration is simply Old Age. Sheesh. Oh, however, Jupiter rules semen (as well as the ova and womb), and that's the part where Saturn is vulnerable, which is why Saturn's son Jupiter went right for dad's balls. Semen = wetness and water, all aspects of Jupiter, and Saturn is Old Dry-as-Dust. It's like when you're about to "get there" but all that comes out is a flag that says "Bang!" on it. 

Lest we get overly physical, Saturn would also rule the emotional hangups in your Head-Heart which would prevent you from having and enjoying sex in the first place.

There's an Elemental Saturn story at play here, too. Remember what I said about Elements wanting to resist coming out of the earth and changing? Many of Saturn's issues about sex come from an intense yearning to remain one's Essential Being, un-mingled with the Essence of another. The elves (Saturn) don't like the dwarves (Venus). An especial favorite example of this is Agatha Christie's Poirot and Miss Marple characters: Christie herself had Saturn in Virgo, and both of her characters could be described as "stuffy virgins." They're also geniuses, but we'll get to that in a minute. 

People with Saturn strong in their horoscopes (by the planet's accidental place on the Wheel or by emphasis on his Kingdom/Domiciles) often come off as cold, dispassionate (unless it's anger - melancholia), and unfeeling. They're "hard as stone," "cold-hearted." This is to be expected and natural, however, for they are in touch with the inner Coldness inherent in all things. 

Ordinary human relationships, however, require more than a little mastery of the water element, and while our friend Saturn here in Aquarius is the Water Bearer, the water it bears is no ordinary water. Saturn's Capricorn domicile would correlate more toward oceans (from which Saturn's daughter Venus emerges - there was something left in those testicles!) and terrestrial waters. Aquarius, however, is heavenly waters. 

I once heard astrologer Michael Lutin say that Aquarius is the potential for Genius, and I love that more every day. I like to think that the sign of Aquarius places its natives on a little tiny boat in the vast sea of stars that is the Heavens. Remember when God divided the waters? Capricorn = the waters below, Aquarius = the waters above. Oh, and didn't Gandalf mention something about two blue wizards? 

Let's take a moment to imagine how seafarers (Capricorn) used to navigate by the stars (Aquarius). Can you see yourself out on the Mediterranean at night under a breathtaking Blue Vault as bioluminescent algae and plankton glow in Answer? And hasn't some ancient Greek computer been found that is for navigation by stars? Capricorn gives the substance, Aquarius the technology and genius to navigate it, and both are Saturn. Nautical metaphors abound in astrology - there's a place in the horoscope to determine who's steering the ship (that planet equates to your mind, your body, your health and well-being). Here in Aquarius, we are with Ezekiel, sailing among the stars. 

Notice how the elves are always giving out stars to people? Elves = Saturn = Aquarius = Stars = Firmament = Water. (The one Galadriel gives Frodo is Venus Herself. We'll see why.)

Take a moment to ponder: Elves = Elements = Stars. Now hear Joni sing "Woodstock." God, I love, love, love that Sainted Woman. She sings, "We are stardust, billion-year-old carbon. We are Golden, caught in the Devil's Bargain, and we've to to get ourselves back to the Garden." And where's that garden? You guessed it. Aragorn knows. 

Looking ahead into Return of the King, we'll learn through Gandalf that the old kings of Gondor (Leo) let their line dry out (Saturn) and instead of taking Action out in the world and Leading (Sun), they spent their time in towers asking questions of the stars (Aquarius). Leo and Aquarius are opposite signs, and this line of Gandalf's paints a picture of what the Sun in Aquarius looks like. Without the King, Gondor becomes Saturn's kingdom. Saturn is associated to three different signs in astrology by either their Regent or Governor, and we'll see later in the story how Gondor and the Steward are rocking all three. Gandalf's disparaging turn of phrase points to the Sun's exile in Aquarius, so I wanted to bring that up here. 

Now, I love me my astrology, but Gandalf's words are worthy. Astrology is knowing when to act. Divorcing Action from Time is one way of defaulting on Right Effort and Leadership. We've all got Saturn somewhere in our horoscopes, and we've all got the Sun. Welcome to the reconciliation of opposites! Piece of cake, right?

By the way, each of the seasons in astrology correspond to one of the four elemental humors of the cosmos. Spring is sanguine, summer is choleric, autumn is melancholic, and winter is phlegmatic. It's winter, the phlegmatic one we're interested in here, because phlegm = cold and wet. In the northern hemisphere, Capricorn begins the season of winter, and Aquarius follows. While the season of winter itself is considered cold and wet, the solstitial Capricorn is cold but it's not wet. It's dry. Aquarius, on the other hand, is considerably wetter. Aquarius brings to mind the rainy season which visits many other parts of the world. Monsoons anyone? Water itself saps heat out of an organism 25 times faster than air does, and one can imagine Saturn's Aquarian Jug spilling heat-sapping star-water all over the land. Venus' fires of passion are soaked and cold, for she's journeying with Her Husband the Sun as far away from his warm Summer Palace as can be. (Don't worry, she's doing better in the next Kingdom over from Aquarius where it gets a little warmer.)

Aquarius Face One

The first Face of Aquarius is ruled by Venus and corresponds to the Five of Swords in the Tarot. It's notable here that this is the first time Frodo and Sam encounter the Saturnine beings of the elves on their journey. The pair get a glimpse of the Elementals leaving Middle Earth, to which Frodo replies that, although he doesn't know why, their leaving makes him sad. Remember how Saturn is depression and sadness? 

Venus, ruler of this Face, is often used in Tolkien's story to signify release due to an oath fulfilled (this picks up on the sign of Libra, a Venus-Saturn duo = words that bind). It is bondage finished, and this image of the elves leaving speaks of link to Middle Earth which has expired and freed them.

Crowley's Book of Thoth calls this Face/Tarot card Defeat, and it is here we need to remember that we are dealing with another of the Fives (wizards). Gandalf arrives to speak with his leader Sauromon, only to discover that Sauromon has joined forces with the Shadow. Check out Crowley's words on this Face: he says that the Five "as always produces disruption; but as Venus here rules Aquarius, weakness rather than excess of strength seems to be the cause of disaster. The intellect has been enfeebled by sentiment. The defeat is due to pacifism. Treachery may also be implied."

This seems to be saying that the Venusian weakness involved is Gandalf's trust of Sarumon, and it comes to bite him in the ass! I've gotta love, however, that in this scene of the film, we see Sarumon give Gandalf a helluva put-down by saying that his love of the halflings' weed as made his mind weak and enfeebled his judgment! Because he loves the Hobbits, Gandalf is "too sentimental" and thus did not see the One Ring right under his nose! Notice how Sarumon gets down on his wizards buddies for doing drugs (the shaman's toolkit of cannabis and psilocybin), while it is Sarumon himself who has the weak and feeble mind! He accuses others of being weak-minded and unreasonable, yet remains blind to his own madness. 

As the wizards converse, Sarumon, mentions that the Nine have left their fortress and crossed the River Isen on Midsummer's Eve. Since we know that astrologically our story begins with Frodo and Sam leaving the Shire in the winter solstice Kingdom of Capricorn, we learn that the Nine left at the same time on the summer solstice, in the opposite Kingdom of Cancer. This says to me that we are dealing with two inverted worlds overlapping, and that Sauron has indeed created a cursed Inversion of time and space. While the Nine actually live in the Kingdom of Scorpio, the sign of the Moon's "fall" in astrology (aka, Life enslaved to Death), it is interesting that the Nine leave from the solstitial sign of Cancer, the Moon's Domicile. Remember that connection of 9 = Moon = Men? 

Aquarius Face Two

The second Face of Aquarius is ruled by Mercury and is the Six of Swords in the Tarot. In his Book of Thoth, Crowley states that this card is called Science, and that the Six (Sun) in all its forms is the Intellect. Here, we have a combination of speed (Mercury) and intellect (Sun) that results in considerable brilliance of mind. 

The bulk of the themes in this scene go to Mercury, for it is here that we meet our Mercurial Gemini twins of Merry and Pippin as they join the journey. Notice how Tolkien has even given them double repeating letters in their names! 

The names of these two trickster Hobbits are very important in delineating the nature of Mercury in astrology, for Merry and Pippin are not their full names. Nicknames are a Mercury thing, too, though. Check the dictionary: a familiar or humorous (Mercury) name given to a person or thing instead of or as well as the real name. Origin: late Middle English from an eke name (eke meaning addition), misinterpreted by wrong division to result in a neke name.

Can you believe it?! Not only does "nickname" imply doubling with the aim of fun (Gemini), we have it because somebody divided the word and put it back together incorrectly! Pippin's full name is Peregrine, and in astrology we use the word Peregrine to mean a planet has absolutely no strength or "dignity!" Pippin is fucking up and creating accidents all over the place like a Fool! (Look ahead to when he knocks that dwarf skeleton down the well in Moria and sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Gandalf's death. The film does not profile what has to be a ton of Mercury-Pippin's survivor's guilt.) 

Also, take a moment to ponder the ambiguous role of Accidents in your own life. Were they really accidents? Mercury, Our Patron of Synchronicity might beg to differ...

At any rate, many of us have peregrine planets in our horoscopes (yup, four of the seven are for me), and in these arenas we may expect to be pulling a Pippin and not knowing what do to or how to behave. If our head isn't on straight and causing blunders, we may find ourselves overcompensating in these areas and fucking up for trying too hard. Right Effort = Dignity. (We can circle back to the comedy team of the Straight Man (dignity) and the Funny Man (peregrine), because Pippin's gifts can be used to great comedic effect! It's fun to humiliate Apollo and bring him down a few pegs!)

Not leaving out Merry, his full name is Merriweather, which to my mind scans as: a climate of mirth, joy, and laughter; a festive atmosphere. We must not forget that Mercury, and his Gemini Domicile in particular, carries with him the capacity for Joy and Delight. It would also resonate as the love between siblings (mine are incredible - I love you so much!). But: if you can't laugh (which by its nature includes at yourself as much as at others), you know a One Ring Binding Spell has got you and you've lost your Mercury. Or maybe he's not doing so well in your horoscope and his broken feet need to be rehabilitated! 

Merry and Pippin, our comic relief team in the story, come to us in another of Mercury's guises: as thieves. We meet them as they're making a getaway after stealing vegetables from a farmer. They're running quickly and blindly, and sprinting and speed are themes we'll see repeated when Mercury rears his head in the story. Indeed, once Merry and Pippin complete the foursome, they spend the rest of the Face outrunning the Nine. Mercury does not win the battle with superior force and strength; he wins with speed, strategy, and cunning. (What'd you just call me?!) My favorite image for this, by the way, is my Patronus, Bugs Bunny. He never engages in battle and is willing to let it go, but once you cross him three times and he says, "Of course, you know, this means WAR!" he will win!

Finally, in what is one of the most blatant depictions of a Rider-Waite Tarot card Tolkien borrows, Mercury's Six of Swords depicts a man in a boat rowing two huddled figures across a body of water. Buckleberry Ferry, anyone?

Final thought on this Face: it's one of the most generative, and for some reason a favorite of mine, because it's also called Heaven and Earth. As Austin Coppock begins his description of this face:

"While the first decan of Aquarius pictures rebellion against established order and the exploration of what lies outside it, the second builds bridges between the exile and the citizen, beggars and kings, heaven and earth, inside and out. Its wise and independent inhabitants ply the rivers between established kingdoms, charting liminal spaces."

Isn't that great? There's just something so beautiful to me about that metaxical image which fills my soul with starlight and makes me feel as tall as the sky! Which to many of you who see me in person, I may appear to be...What can I say, I've got a Gemini body!

Aquarius Face Three

The third face of Aquarius is ruled by the Moon and is the Seven of Swords in the Tarot. 

This face finds our party arriving at The Prancing Pony. I find this image and interesting riff on the theme of horses. Mercury has association to horses through the taming bridle, a technology which allows the domestication of horses (check out Lewis' The Horse and His Boy). Notice, too, how this allows humans Horsepower, aka, Speed. Back to Mercury facilitating speed! But the horse itself bears Solar symbolism and is connected to "spiritedness," akin to the Vital Spirit which we experience as our heartbeat. The Sun is said to rule the heart in astrology (we'll meet a horse = king example in Rohan later), and here we have a pony. If I may extrapolate, the big light of the Sun = Horse, smaller light of the Moon = Pony. 

Connecting to the Moon rulership of this Face, we find ourselves again in a locus of Men (9 = Moon = Men), and it is here that we meet perhaps our most important Man of the story: Aragorn! But we do not meet him by that name here; instead, we meet him as Strider.

Our King-as-Ranger here is the image of what the Sun in Aquarius looks like: a man as far removed from King (or Duty) and Country as can be. He is even incognito and unrecognizable to his fellow men, a perfect image of how a leader in a foreign Wilderness must feel. The King cannot Lead in Aquarius and is instead Led by the laws of others. He is divorced (opposition) from this Wild Kingdom, completely alien to it. Yet Aragorn has chosen this in response to the binding curse of the One Ring, and Aragorn is excellent at most things he puts his hand to. He is well-adapted to the Wild (remember that second Face, Science, the union of Mercury and Sun?) and can in fact Lead others through it. All is not lost! 

There's a line Aragorn says to Frodo that makes me delight in his Solar turn of phrase. After he sees Frodo wear the ring, he says, "I can avoid being seen if I wish, but to disappear entirely, that is a rare gift indeed!" If I imagine the Sun itself saying that, I think of not only the Sun's blinding brilliance which forbids anyone to look at it and thus see it, but also of the Sun disappearing under the horizon and avoiding view. The Sun knows how to stay out of sight!

According to Crowley, Venus' sephira, the number Seven, is called Victory, and in this Face we have the victory (Venus) of a man (Moon) over the Nine (Moon). Once the Nine are tricked, the band can make their escape, leave the Prancing Pony, and leave the Kingdom of Aquarius altogether for the land of Pisces. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Astrology of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy, Part One

What's up, Doc?!

Gosh it's good to be back! Back and reborn! And boy have I had some things on my mind! So, so, so much to think about and say, but the most pressing is this little gem that finally struck me like a bolt. It's been rolling ever since! Settle in, folks, because this is going to be a long one! But she won't let me rest until I get this out there, and she wants to be told, so here we go!

I'm going to tell you how I watch Lord of the Rings.

(Disclaimer: I have not read the books. I know, I know. I started, got bored, liked the films better, put it down. The films sufficiently capture the astrology, to our benefit!)

What I have puzzled out is this: Tolkien's tale is a learning tool that synthesizes the twelve signs of the zodiac, dividing the Great Wheel up into its twelve signs and further into its 36 faces (the ten degree portions within each 30 degree sign). Because the Tarot is based on the faces, we also get the bonus of weaving the Cards into our learning. And the final piece of the puzzle is the Tree of Life found in Kabbalah. Understanding all of these pieces and how they fit together unlocks the astrotheological dimension of Tolkien's work, and watching Tolkien's work helps us understand the synthesis of the fundamentals of esoteric thought. I've gotta hand it to Tolkien: this is perhaps the most comprehensive understanding of the Wheel I have seen, and it has blown my mind wide open in gratitude and Joy!

The two pieces of the key essential to unlocking Tolkien's narrative are the astrological Thema Mundi and the Kabbalah's Tree of Life.

Let's start with the Thema Mundi.

If this term is unfamiliar, the Thema Mundi is the big map, the big cosmology of our experience here on Earth. It is the geocentric understanding of our place in creation, the order of the Heavens and our place therein. It's map of the Earth at the center with the planetary spheres around it. We start with Earth at the center, and if we climb the ladder upward (it's a two-way street, mind you), we reach the planetary spheres in the following order:

Fixed Stars

I know, I know, the fixed stars aren't planets, but they are taken into account in the grand scheme. They can also be called the Firmament (one of the two that were divided). There are some characters in LOTR that clear this up, so hang in there.

Now, these wanderers traverse the Great Circle established by the Sun in a band we call the Tropical Zodiac. Big important note here: the Tropical Zodiac is NOT the same thing as the constellations that bear the same names as the signs, but it is, confusingly, derived from the Sun's passage through them on the ecliptic (a fancy word for the path the Sun takes). Nor is the Wheel of Twelve the same thing as the sidereal zodiac, but I digress.

The Zodiac is a division of the circle into twelve equal portions of 30 degrees each (this is a Babylonian invention), and each of those wanderers I listed above (the fixed stars don't wander, so they're off in the green room for this part) is particularly strong in a portion of the circle and is therefore said to "rule" it.

The signs of the zodiac are also referred to as Houses, but they are especially referred to and imagined as Kingdoms. This is a big point which Tolkien will heavily draw upon. Just like a Kingdom, there is a King or Queen who rules it, as well as a planet who acts on behalf of that regent (known in the astro-jargon as a domicile ruler). I've heard the term Prime Minister used to describe this actor, but I've found that the domicile ruler is acted upon by the regent in the kingdom as much as it acts for the regent. We'll see that elaborated, too, later on when we arrive at one of the many Kingdoms (read: zodiac signs) which populate Middle Earth. There are a few on the Wheel which do not have regents, however, so the governors of them act under their own agency in that place, so to speak.

Here are the Kingdoms, listed with regent first followed by the governor/governed (where there's only one planet listed, that planet is a governor only):

Leo: Sun
Virgo: Mercury, Mercury
Libra: Saturn, Venus
Scorpio: Mars
Sagittarius: South Node, Jupiter
Aquarius: Saturn
Pisces: Venus, Jupiter
Aries: Sun, Mars
Taurus: Moon, Venus
Gemini: North Node, Mercury
Cancer: Jupiter, Moon

(Note: the image above of the Wheel only shows governors/domicile rulers, not the regents!)

Now, you're probably wondering what those two oddballs that I didn't prep you for are on the list. What're the North and South Nodes? While neither planets nor stars, these two Nodes are the point at which the Sun's orbit and the Moon's orbit intersect (from our point on earth), and when the Sun and Moon meet in a New Moon (conjunction, sharing the same degree) or a Full Moon (opposed to each other from the same degree) on the "nodal axis," we get an eclipse. It's an axis because these points are always 180 degrees apart - a straight line. Geometry! So that means a total solar eclipse (a New Moon) occurs when the two meet on the North Node. In this event, the earth stands completely outside the pair and is shadowed. A Lunar eclipse occurs under a Full Moon when the Sun is on the North Node and the Moon is on the South Node, making the earth in between the two (which is why the Moon then gets our ruddy brown shadow on her at this time). In Vedic astrology (aka, what they do in India), the North and South nodes of the Moon are imagined as a Dragon, where the North Node is the head (that point is called Rahu), and the South Node is the tail (called Ketu).

All of that Dragon talk was necessary because Tolkien uses these two points as planets (an important aspect which has fallen out of the West due to our loss of tradition transmission, but which is retained in Vedic astrology and for whose use Tolkien has made a strong case). Of course, Tolkien introduces us to a Dragon in the narrative events which precede the Trilogy, and Smaug, too, has relation to Gold (guess what the One Ring is made of?) as all Dragons do. More on that later.

Oh, you're also probably wondering why Mercury is his own governor in Virgo. Like many of the other planets, Mercury is connected to more than one sign, in this case, Gemini and Virgo. The regents in astrology (also, a Regent's shout-out to anyone who delights in Warehouse 13) are called the "exalted" rulers, and it's kind of like saying that the planets are at their absolute strongest and best when in their own Kingdoms. In Gemini, the Kingdom of the Dragon's Head (N. Node), we see Gemini divided in two (the experience of having two minds in one head - schizoid we might say), but in Virgo, that doubleness is unified and there we get Mercury as One (coherent thought and follow-through, etc). But, don't go poo-poo'ing Gemini just yet: that kingdom signifies the possibility for Joy.

At this point, we've divided the Wheel up into twelve 30 degree signs/houses/kingdoms. However, there's more than one way to divide a wheel (cats are sacred, don't go there), and while the Babylonians gave us the Zodiac, the Egyptians were looking at the sky and using it differently for their Time. The wise ones of Egypt used ten-degree star clusters in order to time their rituals (especially at night), so that yields a circle of 36 ten-degree places, which are called Faces in astrology. The same planetary order I listed above functions for these Faces, except it starts in descending order of the planets, moving from the farthest out at Saturn and going in order to the Moon before starting all over again at the top (Saturn) when one runs out of planets. The hours of the day are divided up in the same way! Most astrologers throughout history use the Sun's equinoctial entry into Aries as the start of the year (the point where days begin to be longer than nights and the Sun is "gaining" in strength - though as Tolkien will show, there are other starting points), and this is also where the Faces begin their list, too, but fun fact: the whole circle starts with Mars, but no one knows why. The philosophy behind that has been lost to history for now. Thus, we'd start the Faces At zero degrees of Aries with Mars, then the next ten degrees goes to the Sun, the next ten to Venus, and so forth. Astrology as we know it is a synthesis of the Babylonian Zodiac Signs plus the Egyptian Faces, and each sign will have (potentially) an Exalted Ruler, a Governing Ruler, plus three Faces, each bearing the countenance and visage of its ruling planet. So if we take Aries, that means we have the Sun as Regent, Mars as Governor/Governed, three Faces ruled by Mars (first ten degrees), the Sun (second ten degrees), and Venus (third ten degrees). Next we'd pick up with Taurus with the Moon as Regent, Venus as Governor/Governed, and three Faces ruled by Mercury (first ten degrees), the Moon (second ten degrees) and Saturn (third ten degrees). Notice how, for the Faces, we picked right back up from where we left off with Venus in Aries and went on to Mercury, and notice in Taurus we reached the end of the list for Face rulers with the Moon and started back up again with Saturn.

By the way, all of this contextual groundwork is available in book form (and on my shelf) by some amazing, saintly, God-like, light-bearing, wonderful astrologers. Chris Brennan's Hellenistic Astrology is foundational, Austin Coppock's 36 Faces is essential for astrology and for LOTR watching, Lee Lehman's Essential Dignities (not to mention her books on horary and medical astrology) is great, and Benjamin Dykes' entire oeuvre or translation makes the heavens themselves sing, but he has great introductory books that are very accessible. Crowley's Book of Thoth takes the reader through the Tarot and Kabbalah, but it should be read hand in hand with Coppock's 36 Faces.  Having a Rider-Waite tarot deck on hand would also help (I wouldn't start my Tarot exploration with Crowley but build to it after familiarizing with Rider-Waite and the help of Coppock).

Speaking of Tarot and Kabbalah, we now leave the Wheel behind and look to the Tree. Here we also get some super cool and fun Pythagorean number theory (it's probably way older than Pythagoras), which honestly is pretty new in my wheel house so I'm not going to be able to provide tons of context here. However, Tolkien taught it all to me, so I can walk you through this much. And besides, I'm a sight-reader (musician); I have the patron saint of the-show-must-go-on as my guide!

The tree consists of numbers one through ten, the big sacred Numbers. While not all numbers correspond to a planet, each planet does correspond to a number:

9 Moon
8 Mercury
7 Venus
6 Sun
5 Mars
4 Jupiter
3 Saturn

Tolkien's story will elaborate these, so I'll let him do the talking for me as I point to the clues along the way.

Ok, enough groundwork, let's get started with this beloved story!


That voiceover of Galadriel gets me every time! "The world has changed." Go ahead, hear her say it in your Mind. It's related to our starting point in this story, for when we pick up the tale with Bilbo in the Shire, we're in a point in the Zodiac called Change (the first Face of the solstitial sign Capricorn, Kingdom of Mars, Domicile of Saturn).

Now, brilliant little sprite that Tolkien is, the word "Rings" in this story has multiple meanings. It's referring to the Great Wheel that is the Zodiac, the rim of the Sun (the crown atop the King's head), the Sephiroth on the Tree of Life, and the rings worn by Ring Bearers in the story.

The numbers Tokien chooses in his story are no accident: they correspond a Ring (Sephira, which I imagine more in 3D as spheres) on the Tree of Life.

First, we are told that Three rings were given to the elves. Looking back up on the list, we see that three is the number which corresponds to the planet Saturn, and it is the first planet assigned to a sephira/number. But Tolkein leaves out two numbers prior, so we must explore those. The One is given the title of the Crown, and we could consider it as pure Mind prior to manifestation. It rings with the unknowability and awesomeness of what we'd call God. Here we do not even have the elements differentiated yet; this One is beyond elemental structure, prior to any division. It is ovum prior to fertilization, prior to the magical Creative act of dividing, and as such it cannot be known directly. We must get to the Three before that can even be possible. The Two, while divided and differentiated from the One, seems to us as the One because it is the closest thing to elemental spirit that we can grasp. Thus, in the Tarot, even though the elemental suits each contain an ace as undifferentiated seed aspect of manifestation/knowability, it cannot even be grasped as an element until we get to the two of each suit, thus Two to us seems like One. Crowley describes the number Two as Will (presumably of God), but like two points on a line, one can notice the polarity and division going on here. Without the metaxical, unifying quality of the Three, we remain antagonistic and volatile in the Two.

So, we come back to the elves, who are the Three, and thus very high up there on the Tree of Life, indicating that they are closer to the One (they are immortal, wisest of beings, fairest). But the elves here, being the Three in the grand scheme, represent the very notion of Element itself. Saturn in astrology would correspond to the foundational structure of life, its very building blocks. Atoms and Adams. The Hellenistic world that brought forth astrology understood there to be four Elements: Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. In astrology, there are twelve signs, which means dividing the elements up equally among the signs renders three sets of four. We call the elements Triplicities. See the Three there?

The elves in and of themselves participate in harmonizing the Mind of God and as such are a way of knowing the One. Even more, they are the very feeling of Spirit in Nature, or perhaps the Anima Mundi, Soul of the World. Being the elements, it's no leap to see that what we would understand as Elementals (dryads, nymphs, mermaids, Shakespeare's Ariel, perhaps even the fiery Jinn) are the elves themselves. We'll see them leave Middle Earth and become these beings when they "go into the West." The West is the point at which Spirit descends into Material Form, so they ensoul the world and become its elements. With Frodo, Bilbo, and Gandalf along for the ride, apparently. (What aspect of the World-Soul would they be???)

They are also immortal because they represent the very drive of Element to endure and remain itself. There is an inertia at work here, which we'll see more of in all things connected to the planet Saturn (which would include the One Ring). Elemental Being wishes to remain itself, and it calls to mind the Mystery of Endurance in a world of Growth and Decay. Gold stays Gold, Diamond stays Diamond...and we've probably all worked with people or have family members who, damn it, have not budged an inch and do the same shit that annoys me every day! By the way, Saturn is also the primary material which is worked in transformation (aka, Alchemy). Your elemental self that wants to become something more yet resists it at the same time. But, here's a fun Mystery for y'all: the number 3 would also correspond to Despair. Weird, huh? Remember how Galadriel, when offered the Ring, turns weird glowy-green and says, "All shall look on me and despair?" Could this be our own souls looking out at the unchanging elements of nature and seeing no possibility of redemption in its ever-Being? No wonder you don't want her with that damn ring!

Oh, I forgot: our elvish Saturn-Three friends would also correspond to The World card in the Major Arcana of the Tarot. That's Saturn itself. World-as-Elements. Reach out and touch those building blocks.

Moving along, we narratively skip the Four, but it it worth noting that our story's Number Four (which one is that on the Enterprise?) is Gandalf! He's otherwise known as our good Friend, Jupiter. The astrological glyph for the planet Jupiter is literally the number 4, so that one wasn't hard to figure out. But Gandalf-Jupiter-Four is in charge of Destiny and all the means by which we know it. A big one in this story is History, Epochs or the great Ages of time, books, and wisdom, not to mention great journeys over distant lands, maps (yes, Bilbo is also a Jupiter-Four, why do you think Gandalf targeted him?) His gray-ness to me is that of continents drifting; he is Plate Tectonics! But this is also the Wheel of Fortune itself (yes the Tarot one, too), the endless cycle of life-death-rebirth that keeps turning until one's part to play has been achieved, destiny met. Remember when he tells Frodo that both he and Bilbo were meant to have the Ring? And that reincarnation, obviously!

Now to the Five. Here we have to pop over to the Hobbit film where Bilbo asks Gandalf if there are any other wizards, to which he responds there are Five. The Five on the Tree refers to the planet Mars and thus wizards. But wait! If Fives are wizards, why is Gandalf set in the Four camp? Here we get to one of the fundamentals of Tolkien's story: the Tree of Life has been split down the middle. In the Tree we find a total of three "pillars": two on each side (containing numbers 3-5-8 and 2-4-7) and one in the middle (containing 1-6-9-10. Note that One-Crown in there!). Not only can the Tree be read vertically, there are some horizontal unions to be found. We could read a tier comprised of the Four and the Five, as well as a tier below that comprised of Seven and Eight. Our two wizards in the Trilogy stand polarized, Four to Five, Jupiter to Mars (a classical antipathy, btw).

I am struck by the color hierarchy of wizards. We have two Blue, one Brown, one Gray, and one White. To my eyes and ears, one wizard for each level of Creation in the world:

Brown = plant and animal life, care of Vegetative and Sensitive souls

Grey = stone and mountain, the moving and changing of Ages

White = beings endowed with self-consciousness (Spirit?), care of Rational soul

Blue = the two firmaments, both of which are water (those above and those below), care of cosmos?

These two Blue wizards are of particular tickle to my fancy, not least of all since they're all over my psyche already and at least one has appeared in visionary work. And one is sitting on my desk now, but anyway. They're so big, vast, maybe old, that they are beyond Memory and Name. We saw how Gandalf became White; what does one have to do to achieve Blue?

The connection between Mars and Magic is an ancient one and takes us right back to the blacksmith. This is the guy in the village who works iron and keeps fire. A guy who knows the secrets of Fire and Metal. People got married over the blacksmith's anvil, and it's still a sacred, magical object. The blacksmith married folks. Take a think on that one. Who has the secret of Effort and Binding? The Blacksmith. The Magician. Gandalf identifies himself as a Servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. We would do well to remember that THIS is Mars. Gandalf = Blacksmith = constructive Mars.

Notice what Mars-Sarumon, a destructive image of Mars, does to the Earth and to other living beings. It's not good. It's Industrialization, the Rape of the Planet. Mars as Wolf, Mars as Rapist, Mars as Murderer. Sauron is a Saturn figure in many ways, all Blackness and Shadow. Black is Saturn's color, and the Sauron-Sarumon relationship can be seen as an inversion of the rulerships in the important solstitial sign Capricorn. In the Shire, we see Mars as King (gardener Sam, caring effort = irrigation, the Nile River) ruling Saturn (the black soil, Egypt, the Shire's soft, cow-poopy dirt). Sauron-Sauromon inverts this life-giving sign and instead we get The Devil of the Tarot, Profanity, Death, Monoculture, No Perspective, Black Earth full of Fire (Mt. Doom, Eisengard's Industrial Furnaces) instead of irrigation.

Moving on, our Six is the Sun. That's Aragorn. Our first man! I mean, are the wizards men at this point? Are they super-men? Taoist masters? Anyway, Six is our King, and notice how he's on that all important and vulnerable middle pillar of the tree. Oh, did I mention he's completely selfless and therefore dreamy and awesome? Now, you want archetypal masculinity, show me someone who puts down his/her life to preserve yours. Real marriage material! Though Gandalf has mastered this, too (Balrog), and let's face it. I'd say yes. He probably knows Tantra.

Seven brings us to the Dwarves, and Seven is the number of Venus. Desire. Notice that they get a reputation for being greedy and for digging too deeply into rock and going crazy. They don't live in irrigated Shire Soil, they're below under gray mountains (remember the Hobbit and Gandalf's maneuvering dwarf  mountain affairs?). Beings in this story who stray too far from life-bearing irrigated soil don't do so well. Here, though, is our Mistress of Beauty, pulling gemstones out of the earth, you know, Hearts of Mountains, and then crafting them into beautifully, artfully made objects.

The topic of beautiful crafts brings us to Eight, Mercury's number. The dwarves at their best seem to occupy this Seven-Eight duo, where the Seven-Venus part is the beautiful substance, and the Eight-Mercury part is the crafting of that substance into something novel, delightful, and intricate. But, Middle Earth is divided, and as the Hobbit shows us, things on the Delightful Crafts front haven't been a party for the dwarves. Using gold (aka, the blood of the Earth) for money will get you every time!

The antipathy between elves and dwarves seems to me based on the Elves-Saturn-Three wanting to maintain their natural essence, whereas the Dwarves-Seven/Eight-Venus/Mercury wants to get in their, pull the essence out and craft it. It would extend to using any of nature's element to make stuff: chopping down a tree to build a house, cutting up a diamond to make a ring, using water to power a hydroelectric damn, all of human ingenuity harnessing nature for its own ends. Let's just think about how industrialization and the trash mountain the size of Texas floating in the sea might make the elves AND dwarves feel. Mercury crafts cherished objects of delight, people. When's the last time you held something truly Delightful in your hand? And if you even bring up a smart phone, you are dead to me.

Nine! Nine rings given to Men! Nine is the sephira of the Moon. It's back to the middle pillar on the tree. Six (Sun, King) sits atop Nine (Moon, the King's subjects). Galadriel tells us that Men, above all else, desire Power. This is the last stop before the very bottom of the Tree, which is number Ten, the Kingdom, the good ol' root chakra. Ten would be maximum manifestation here, farthest from the God-Mind at One (remember how those elves were up there and super close?), and thus things down here get pretty dense. Gravity takes over and pulls. Basically what we're seeing here is a centralization of power (remember how humans are on the middle, center pillar?).

Notice how Sauron is the very principle of centralization of power. The tree is thus not only split down the middle, it's also inverted (materialism the Ten as the One). Not a bad thing in its essence, this Inversion. I'm experimenting with it myself these days to great effect (though it does carry its own brand of mind-fuckery with it). Think of that Hanged Man card of the Tarot. There's something important and valuable in Inversion, but centralization of power is an inversion that does not end well. Never mind that it's running the world right now as I type this, but what's a stylish crafty wizard to do? Can't put the Kingdom at the Crown. But it seems Men love to do this, so the Ring pretty much devours them like a bag of chips. And then you get those awful Nine, those Scorpionic wraiths full of death and venom. Absolutely anti-Life. So if you have the Moon in Scorpio, do not accept rings from strangers.

I've got to wonder if those Hobbits aren't down there at number Ten, being even smaller than men, closer to the ground, unregarded in the affairs of men, "beneath them." I'm also playing with putting the Nodes at One and Ten and seeing what happens, but that's still bubbling over on the Dr. Bunson Honeydew burner.

Boy that was a helluva lot of Tree of Life, Numbers, and the cast of characters! And we haven't even left the Prologue yet! I want to point out that the Anti-Life Monoculture Inversion and schizoid severing of the Tree of Life manifests in the astrological oppositions across signs becoming enemies: Aries hates Libra, Taurus hates Scorpio, etc. The opposition of two signs or planets (being 180 degrees apart) in astrology is considered the most malevolent and antagonistic of aspects. It is one based in blindness and a whole lotta crazy. BUT! And it's a big but, the opposition can also mean seeing eye-to-eye, an image depicted most often (and certainly in LOTR) as Marriage. A union of equals. (You may want to pick up your copy of Romeo and Juliet at this point and give it a review. Hint: the boy and the girl are part of one Soul-Mind.) Part of the opposition's malevolence seems to be its inherent instability, that it can be an either/or situation but you don't know how it's going to go: it's either antagonistic enemies or eye-to-eye marriage unions. Or it's both! Fuck! Remember that Two way back up at the top of the Tree of Life as yet unharmonized by the Three? Two dimensions just give lines, they don't give planes. They don't give relationship, they don't give perspective. If anything, they represent one perspective and one only. But if we must rely on the virtue of men to make marriage and not war, I'm made nervous. Hell, I have a hard enough time trying check my own blindness; doing this on a macro level probably shouldn't be attempted by many, but if you're going to be Aragorn, that means you've mastered the skill and are worthy of Right Effort. As have all of our leaders, right?

We'll return to the idea of astrological opposites more; Tolkien will show us what it's like to have the King or Governor of a sign in the kingdom opposite it (which means: far, far away from your own land and in Wilderness, in bondage or slavery, with the lowest self-esteem possible, and generally fucking up at everything. Which is common and happens all the time in horoscopes, including mine. Ain't life grand?!).

Let's get back to the Prologue. Sauron has handed out all the rings, but then we find he pulled a fast one and worked a secret binding spell. What did he do? In the fires of Mount Doom, he makes a master ring that centralizes power in him. BUT! And again, it's a big but, he did this working on a Solar eclipse on the North Node. Over and over in the Trilogy, Sauron (and is corresponding Kingdom) is described as the Shadow, and what they're talking about is the eclipse shadow onto the earth. Remember that when an eclipse happens on the North Node of the Moon, the Moon moves in between the Earth and the Sun, blotting out its light and casting a shadow onto the face of the earth. This Shadow is Sauron. And it's always a potential. Eclipses happen regularly every six months.

In astrotheological cosmology, the Sun is not the source of life itself. That is God. The Sun is merely a vessel that the light shines through. To mistake the Sun for the source is the ultimate act of blasphemy and sin, the rotting I-am-Divine corruption that is centralized power (hmmm, a French guy called the Sun King, anyone?), the ultimate materialist mistake that leads to insanity. One may imagine the sun as a great hole through which Light shines. When an eclipse comes along, it effectively plugs that hole for a number of minutes, leaving us bereft of the Light and Knowing. (Pendulums go haywire during eclipses, and we still don't know why. Bye, physics!) This is the Black Sun, the alchemical nigredo, the sun putrified into the toxic lead shit, the Head of the Dragon Swallowing the Sun, the heartbeat stopped dead in your chest, choleric Spirit and Energy grown melancholic, dark, heavy, and insane. It is incredibly dangerous, and a time during which one does not want to initiate an action, for anything undertaken during a North Node eclipse binds in the darkness. Or, we could also say it binds to darkness. Remember how Gemini is the Kingdom of the North Node, the Head of the Dragon? The sign of the Two Towers (spoiler alert) is especially vulnerable to a North Node solar eclipse, and it seems that the result is the schizoid splitting of the mind, the severing of the Tree of Life and its inversion. Wanna know where you go insane? Gemini, and by melancholic black extension, Saturn's Kingdom (Libra). It's worth noting here that in the transformative art of Alchemy, in order to remain motive and resist getting pulled into the inertia-black hole of the nigredo (the blackening of the work), the alchemist must become "blacker than black." One must learn to see through, imagine into the Blackness. (James Hillman's Alchemical Psychology is essential reading.) But, hey, every being in Middle Earth is prey to the Black Sun, so we know that this is a universal Effort.

Side note: I feel like Blacker than Black needs to be some sort of alchemical black-xploitation film, wherein our hero has to beat the evil white wizard by becoming blacker than black. And hot as fuck.

So, here we are. Sauron not only does a binding spell under the correct conditions to work a binding, he also does it in secret. Secrecy is a long-standing aspect of any New Moon, but it certainly works and doubles up when its an eclipse New Moon. (Bonus astro tip: you also don't want to start anything under a New Moon because there is too much unknowable in the system. Terrible time for a wedding or a website launch.) Conjunction with the Sun also is the same thing as death. A planet's passage across the sun has always been imagined as it's death and rebirth: it disappears from sight under the Sun's beams, burns up as it reaches the Heart of the Sun, starts to come out the other side, and once it can be seen by the eye again, it is reborn. Many myths narrate this: Innana/Ishtar's (Venus) descent to see her sister, Queen of the Dead, springs to mind. Or Buffy dropping into the death-portal in season five to save Dawn. So, you don't want to be doing things under a planet's combustion (technical term for conjunction with the Sun - though an opposition to it would also have been viewed as debilitating), unless you're psychopathic Sauron of course and actually want the power of death for your very own. Which means it'll make you insane and kill you. I mean, death is pretty much the definition of Binding. What's more certain and binding than death?

And boy what a binding he worked. The One Ring is Black Gold, Saturn-Sun as one, lead coated in gold, with all the melancholic gravity of the core of the Earth. And what does it make you say?


You know you're under a binding spell when something becomes "precious" to you. You know you're under a binding spell when you feel something "belongs to you." Ownership. Be careful what you let in. (Vampires are not sexy. Do not believe the cultural conditioning.)

So, the Ring makes hell on earth for all the living beings, but when a King (uh oh, a highly susceptible middle pillar Man!) gets a hold of it and takes it to the Center of the Sun (Mt. Doom), the Ring's curse gets him, since after all, is it a Black Hole and made of pure Gravity. We know it leads to Isildor's death, but before it kills him he's so crazy that not only does he give in to it's Gravitational Binding, he fucking binds everyone in his family yet to be born to the damn thing! Because it's precious to him, he binds everyone else to it! The Ring in this instance has won; there is no more King left. There is only Binding.

Which brings to mind my favorite line from Star Wars, spoken by Obi Wan: "He's more machine than man now." Because I use it like a Mad Lib at every opportunity. Because, you know, being consumed by the Ring is hilarious!

Oh, did I mention that Star Wars might just use a "few" of these themes?

My current theory is that when the Ring comes to a person, that's a North Node conjunction happening. The solar eclipse manifests (N. Node = manifesting, but more than you can handle) in one's life. But when it is taken away and lost, that's a Lunar Eclipse happening: the Moon carries the Death-Gold far away (remember how I mentioned that 180 degrees thing meaning removal from the kingdom?). Our Hobbits in the story represent this South Node Moon action. And where is farther removed physically and spiritually from Mordor? The antithesis is the Shire, and that's where the Hobbits bear it (it's opposite, too, in the sense that Mordor is an inverted Shire). The Ring ultimately wants to be in its own Kingdom (Mordor, Sauron), which would be its North Node eclipse point (and remember, Gemini will play in here). But a Hobbit grabs it and takes it to the polar opposite. To destroy it, the Hobbits have to take it back to its point of origin, its own Kingdom. Remember how a Full Moon eclipse looks with the Moon stained ruddy with shadow? Yeah, that's a Hobbit with the Ring, either Bilbo or Frodo (remember how Frodo's delicate little Moon-body gets poisoned on Weathertop because of it?). The Moon bears this terrible sacrifice for us, blessed creature! Bilbo intercepted it and brought it the first half of the circle, the "zenith" at the Shire, and Frodo must complete the task and carry it around the other half to "culmination-return."

So there we have it! Some context and background in astrology and Kabbalah to get us through the Prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring! We have planets, signs, rulerships, kingdoms, a Tree of Life, numbers/Sephiroth, pillars, eclipses, inversions, a cast of characters, magical workings, and the framework for an epic story around the Great Wheel!

The next installments coming up will clarify any fundamentals here further; after all, LOTR is a way to teach you these ideas through narrative! I'll go scene by scene from the films, which is basically going sign by sign (and nested within, Face by Face) of the zodiac, pointing out the keys that Tokien has embedded in his story.

But for now,

That's all, folks!