Astrology of the Bubonic Plague

bubonic-plague-attacks-a-couple-in-rome-rome-italy12961696119-tpfil02aw-764Not long after the Vernal Equinox of 1348 King Philip VI ordered a report on the causes of the Bubonic Plague from the University of Paris Faculty of Medicine. The response came by way of an astrological explanation. If the cause was understood, a cure might be found. The Faculty pointed to a chart for 1.00 pm 20 March 1345 there was a conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the House of Aquarius. Moreover, there had been a significant Lunar Eclipse on March 18 at 9:38 pm.

There is another chart of great importance in this matter. It’s the Solar Revolution for the year that the first known strains of the Black Death made landfall in Byzantium and spread rapidly throughout the eastern Empire, killing 100,000 people a year. At this time the Empire contained the lands on the Mediterranean coast and stretched far into the heartland of Europe. The plague went as far as Denmark and Ireland, ultimately killing about half the population of Europe. The Emperor Justinian contracted the disease in Constantinople but miraculously survived.

Byzantium frequently imported large amounts of grain from Egypt. The shipments became infested with vermin, who in term carried fleas infected with the plague. It has been suggested that the Plague was a Pandemic originating in China at a time unknown. It is not certain however that it was the same strain, In light of this, our focus is on the European experience.

AD541

The Byzantine historian Procopius first reported the epidemic in AD 541 from the port of Pelusium, near Suez in Egypt (Wade, 2010). We are not given a date. The chart is set for 0°Aries at Suez, constituting a Solar Revolution.

First of all, a quick word about the symptoms of the Plague.

Plagues have been the result of various forms of Human y pestis infection, taking three main forms pneumonic, septicemic, and the notorious bubonic plagues. See Ryan KJ, Ray CG (2004). Sherris Medical Microbiology (4th ed.). pp. 484–488.

At first glance, we can see the Byzantium Chart is not good, but perhaps not bad enough to signify what we are looking at. However, we have Saturn in Martian Scorpio in Partile conjunction to the Ascendant. His dispositor is in the Eighth House of Death.

Mars is also conjunct the South Node and Almuten of the chart as well as the Ascendant, adding considerable strength to the malefics. Mars is the Killing Planet. The angles are in Fixed Signs lending more power and longevity to the influences.

Less obvious is Venus in her domicile in Taurus.  In most cases, this is a good placement for her. However, she is exactly conjunct the highly malefic Fixed Star, Algol named by the Chinese as ‘piled up corpses’ and by others as losing one’s head. as in decapitation or madness. The deaths were so numerous that the corpses were literally piled up.

You could say that Venus is a devil in disguise. She is in Hayz and Lady of the Year.  She is also Lord of the two most unfortunate houses, the Twelfth and the Sixth. Mercury is in his Fall and disposits Mars and Moon in the Eighth without benefit. However, he is in the fruitful sign of Pisces. It seems that everything is conspiring to ensure this Plague has all it needs to spread without hindrance.

The Ascendant is the only candidate for Hyleg. Being in a malefic sign and conjunct another, this is dire indeed. The humour of the chart is an airy sanguine, warm and wet. So what is promised by other elements of the chart has the advantage of the best conditions for the Plague to thrive. If it was too hot or cold and dry, it would have been arrested. The Piscean Mercury is Lord of the Eighth House, brings more wetness that only serves to spread the contagion

eclipse

Let’s now consider the  Eclipse chart referred to by the astrologers from the Faculty of Medicine. The chart is for Paris, France. 18 March 1345 at 9:38 pm. There are some similarities between this and the previous chart.

The Part of Fortune is Hyleg and Conjunct Algol, as Venus had been.  She is again in Taurus and in the 7th House. She is Almuten of the chart. Saturn is the Almuten of health according to the rules set down by Omar.

The eclipse is the 6 / 12 axis denoting health and hidden enemies respectively. We know that by this time the plague had become airborne being passed from one to another on the breath. The Killing Planet is Saturn in his own domicile and dispositing Jupiter and Mars. The malefic element of Mars and Saturn are made larger by Jupiter in this case.

The eclipse would have been read as an omen

Finally, we look at the chart delivered to King Philip showing the conjunctions of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the Fixed Air sign of Aquarius. This is on 20 March 1345, Paris France at 1:00 pm. bp

As physicians reading the chart there are many things that would have been clear. It’s Sunday in the Hour of Mars. The Moon is in Via Combusta. Saturn is in the 7th House

Offsetting the emphasis on Air is the Leo Ascending and the Sun and Mercury in Aries.  The Hyleg is the Sun. We end up with a Choleric chart, being hot and dry, hosting the two malefics in Aquarius with Jupiter Parallel Sirius (searing heat). Again, Saturn is the Killing Planet. This happens not two days after the Lunar Eclipse. More often than not, Eclipses auger bad fortune for those under its influence.

We now have the same air considerations, but the humour is now more a raging fever being driven by the forces of air. The close proximity of the Descending Node to the Sun merely aggravates and exacerbates the situation. The force is unstoppable and all the physicians can do is try to lessen the fatalities.  The Moon represents the people. She is about to slip into the sign of her fall in Scorpio and in the Fourth House. This has among other significations, that of ancestry and the end of the matter.

The Plague in Byzantium was bubonic, but the one referred to King Philip’s physicians appears to have been pneumonic. The first is primarily spread by blood, as in flea bites and the second is carried in the air. This is at the heart of the issue with the charts comprising Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the Fixed Air sign Aquarius.

The symptoms, in either case, include boils and ultimately, several organs can be affected, including the spleen and brain. The infection, accompanied by violent fever causes immunologic breakdown, leading to disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), resulting in bleeding and necrotic skin and tissue, particularly of the hands. This resembles gangrene. Historically, the disease was almost always fatal.

We can see then that the disease displays symptoms attributed to Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Richard Saunders lists these in his Astrological Judgment & Practice of Physic (esp. pp. 52 -53). When we think of fever, Mars is what comes to mind. Indeed, Saunders duly lists, adds red Cholera, Smallpox, breaking of the veins and  great deal more that applies quite specifically to the Bubonic Plague.  Less well known are the attributes of Jupiter in the study of disease. Saunders includes all “diseases of the veins and proceeding from corruption of the blood, windiness and all putrefaction in the blood or fevers proceeding from too much abundance thereof.” (p. 50).

In the airy and Saturnine sign of Aquarius, these would be emphasized.  It would also make Mars and Jupiter * sympathetic* to Saturn in the Ficinian sense. Finally, we look at Saturn himself. The first quality is to make the disease persistent. Although victims didn’t last long and the disease wreaked havoc more or less continuously for more than a thousand years that we know of . Saunders also tells us the Saturn, if, in ill aspect with Venus, he corrupts the blood, with Jaundiesy and Melencholy (Black Bile) . We have noted Venus in all three charts and in the last two she is applying to a square with Saturn. The latter also “brings Black Jaundice and a super abundance of Flegm and crude humours”  Of course this is but a sampling of the attributes. but what can be seen most clearly is how the planets work together

Astrology can still be used for prediction and diagnosis with the same accuracy as in the time of King Philip. But what was an unmitigated tragedy on an epic scale  would today be read as a warning, perhaps. The Plague is still with us and surfaces every now and again. Today we have effective treatments that make it no much more serious than a bad case of the flu. This doesn’t negate the fact of the accuracy of astrology and the validity of using it to warn of epidemics. seismic activity or extreme weather.

Generation or Epoch ? Part I

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As the earlier members of “Generation X” start turning 50, I thought this would be a good time to take a fresh look at what constitutes a generation in Traditional Astrology.

I believe that generation, , as we’ve been encouraged to look at them over the last fifty years, has lead to great misunderstanding and unconsidered stereotyping for the purposes of marketing and commerce. Instead we need to revisit this phenomenon and find context based on geography and many other considerations in concert with astrological ones.

Looking at society in terms of specific and unique generations is a relatively recent pheomenon. Thinking in terms of unfolding epochs marked by celestial events is ancient, as is the all too human penchant for lamentaing the failures of youth. The first consideration ought to be the Superior Conjunctions because these set the nature of epochs, lasting until the next conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn..

Let’s take a look at the so called Post War or “Boomer” generation for example.  Predictably, the generations who made it through the Great Depresssion and World War wished, first and foremost, for little more than to have families and live in peace, pereferably in the suburbs. That was the generation that brought us “My Blue Heaven” which refers to a house.

At any rate, there was a surge of children born in the years following WWII.  This generation remains the largest to this day and was easily dubbed the Boomer Generation. You will notice the title tells us nothing about the characteristics of the generation other than the size.  It wasn’t meant to.

Generations are typically considered to be about twenty years in duration. So generalizations quickly become strained. We are not only looking at two decades, but limiting our view to a very small select portion of the population.

In the meantime during the heyday of the  Civil Rights and Counter Culture Movement from 1966 – 1976, China underwent the bloody Cultural revolution, largely coinciding with the American involvement in the Viet Nam war.

Only a few years before in 1961, the Berlin Wall was built. There was a string of assassinations in America, from the Kennedys to Martin Luther King. College students chanted Communist slogans amd the Red Book of Mao Tse Tung, perhaps the worst dictator of this period  actually got attention. The war in Viet Nam was the ugliset ever to have been filmed at that time. United Staes atrocities became common fare on daily news reports.

Clearly, most of the above would immediately effect those in the United States. Meanwhile, back in the UK, things were a bit more civilized and much less violent. It wasn’t too big on indigenous protest songs beyond the relatively gentle chiding of Donovan. Punk was yet to come. Be that as it may, they still had a lot more in common than not. Nevertheless, this would only leave us with the experience or a small portion of the English speaking world.

Attempts to define the so called baby boomers have always been awkward.  They went from being described as a birth rate statistic to something of mythic status.

The actual baby boom occurred after 1945 and after the 20 year expectation of a generation, it should extend to 1965. What we can’t say is that the entire period was a *boom.* This isn’t how its done.

Modern astrologers have long used the outer planets to describe generations. In fact one of the greatest ironies in the overuse of the Transpersonal Planets is that they are far away from Sol as possible. I often thought this a poignant commentary on the last century, the “age of alienation.”  So one might argue that there is a certain logic in using the outers to identify generations with specific traits.

The boomer generation were (and still are) sometimes refered to as the Pluto in Leo Generation and then sub-divided between those who had Neptune in Libra or Scorpio. and so forth. It doesn’t fit if you lok too clsoely, but the evocative language has power. Perhaps we sometimes have cases of reality imitating bad astrology.

Pluto in Leo has been directly related to Rock & Roll. They were a rebellious generation, questioning and most condemning societal mores, conventions and institutions.  So we need to add Uranus transits to reflect the revolutionary spirit to go with that Plutonian megalomania.

Statistically, this is pure fantasy. While we can point to the Black Panthers, Yippies and Weathermen in the USA, the most frequent theme pretty much globally is  extreme Political upheaval, including for example war between India and Paksitan. We have largely been sold a bill of goods in the interest of marketing.

It is a terrible injustice that those protesting these atrocities all over the world were trivialized and still are, recreated in a media which is more a propaganda machine than a source of reliable news.

The reality of the violence was almost beyond human comprehension. In Viet Nam the US pathetically  legitimized the war as a necessary attempt to stem the flow of Communism

We have said that Traditionally generations and epochs are associated with the Superior Conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn, which occurs approximately every 20 years. In actuality the “baby boomer” generation began years before the boom, back in 1940.

The conjunction finally went direct on 27 February 1941 but it had first formed the Conjunction on 22 July 1940 . This was also a triple conjunction, each having it’s own qualities. However, to keep it simple, I chose a chart for 10.00 am 11 October 1940 BST (wartime).

To put things in context once again, John Lennon was born two days prior. If we can accept the fact that Lennon barely made it into the generation known as boomers and that Ringo Starr belongs to the “silent generation” then all is well. The fact is the Beatles are iconic of that generation but these two show us how shaky these stereotypes really are.This generation unfolded for another 20 years. There were several modifying factors such as eclipses and the phase of the cycle itself, as it opposes, sextiles, squares or trines the triple points of conjunction as well as other Celestial events accompanying this unfolding.

If you wish, you can draw the chart for say San Francisco, Moscow or Beijing. You will find differences, but when you look at them closely they are not so dissimilar.  This is among the most important elements of Mundane Astrology:  Things will unfold as they can unfold.

The chart for what has become known as Generation X is easily to determine because this is a single conjunction, rather than three. The generation is now turning 50. The experience of Generation X has been far less one of political confrontation. It is also decidedly more conservative overall. Both are suggested by a Cardinal Capricorn

As is to be expected both charts show superior conjunctions in Earth signs, the first in Taurus and the second in Capricorn. The Fixed nature of the first  and the cardinal of the second are major differences in themselves. Fixed bring more overt conflict. The greatest error we can make here is what I call the bias of context. We constanltly see so called the middle class American experience held up as universal, as I have already indicated.

So, we can do the same thing with the rest of the world and you will find that humans are surprisingly similar when all is said and done. However, the context in which they live differs immensely. This is where one can refer to Claudius Ptolemy or others for the astrological indicators for different parts of the world. The phases of the unfolding conjunction must be noted. For example, there might be an opposition .. of course in a fixed sign. Mars transits and particularly squares are indicators of violence or war.