I have looked at British political parties elsewhere on astro.nu – let’s look at the UK Birth Chart, at how the underlying energies of the Cosmos have materialised with relevance to Great Britain. One of the most reliable national charts, and one with some historical justification behind it, is the chart set for 25th December in London for the coronation of William the Conqueror. The Norman invasion more or less redrew the face of England as it had been up until that point, and the chart set for noon – when interpreted – is a good illustration of England’s ‘national character’ (about which we’ll have plenty to say very soon). The other reliable UK Birth Chart – also favoured by astrologers – is for the Act of Union with Ireland of 1801. (Scotland already having been incorporated into Great Britain in 1707.)
Here then, is the 1066 chart for England:
The Coronation of William I, December 25th, 1066
The main components here are the Capricornian sun, Piscean moon and Aries ascendant. Capricorn (as a kind of key to our sense of collective self) is instructive – for this is a sign that often defines itself by its status in the social pecking order. Indeed, you could say this sign invented snobbery! In other words, it is extremely class conscious – and the whole edifice of ‘class’ (no matter what Tony Blair said about us ‘all being middle class, now’) is central to life in good old England. (It’s interesting to note that another country famous for its strict class-based striations in its society, India, is also a Capricornian country.)
One of the typical stereotypes of Englishness is the so-called ‘reserve’ and caution about expressing feelings (as opposed to the stereotypically passionate Italian, or romantic French). This can be seen with that twelfth house moon (in Pisces) on the one hand; and Venus in Capricorn, on the other. The moon is a symbol for human emotion, and twelfth house energies are typically repressed and withheld (and consequently relegated to the Unconscious). Similarly, Venus in Capricorn is hardly a symbol for gregariousness, demonstrative affection – instead, feelings are understated and kept under wraps.
Anthropologist Kate Fox’s excellent book, Watching the English, makes it abundantly clear that British society operates by a collection of tacit social rules and codes that have at their core, unease, or what Fox calls ‘dis-ease’. This is a kind of, as she puts it, ‘emotional constipation, fear of intimacy’ the product of which is insularity and social awkwardness.1 This is both sun and Venus in Capricorn writ large, a sign of self control – another Capricornian word.
Fox continues that ‘humour is the most effective built in antidote to our social dis-ease’. For example, there is the famous ironic, detached and deadpan wit for which the English are known. I’ll let the honorary Brit, travel writer Bill Bryson (an American) explain how our sense of humour differs from that of his compatriots. In Notes From A Small Island he writes: ‘I remain constantly impressed by the quality of humour you find in the most unlikely places – places where it would simply not exist in other countries … particularly the dry, ironic, taking-the-piss sort of wit’.2 Then, Bryson goes on to recall an encounter when buying a train ticket in England, as the vendor announced: ”The ticket’s free but it’s £18.50 for the receipt.” Bryson points out that, had this occurred in America, the customer would have had a near heart attack – failing to see the whole thing was a joke.
What he is describing here is Mercury in Capricorn on the national chart – Mercury has much to do with how we communicate, and in the dry, laconic earth sign of Capricorn it emerges just how Kate Fox described it earlier. Mercury on the national chart is also trine to dour, realistic Saturn, hence it’s no wonder that we don’t enthuse or emote unnecessarily. Like Kate Fox observed in her study, we seem to have a ban on being over earnest – for that would make us seem less cool and detached.
Even so, that Piscean moon has to be expressed somehow. On a mundane chart the moon signifies the population, the ‘common people’, specifically the kind of issues through which we find some collective emotional identity – how we all might feel the same. Whatever inhabits the collective memory or imagination is indicated by a country’s moon sign – and in Pisces, the theme is escapism! Cultural commentators have noticed just how much mysticism (a Piscean word!) actually runs through the English imagination, one persistent theme being the Retreat to the Countryside: England as idealised Rural Arcadia or Eden has appeared in many a poem, painting, novel or film. (Of course, it’s a vision with little in the way of actual reality, which is – in any case – beside the point.) Significantly, Neptune (imagination, fantasy) is in the first house (identity) in Taurus – an earth sign symbolising the sphere of nature, the countryside, flora and fauna.
So what about the Aries ascendant? Well, what characterises this sign – apart from its never-say-die fiery energy (and occasional temper) is its independence. This adds to the native self-control of the Capricorn sun, but Aries is also much less cautious and conservative than Capricorn – indeed, historically, England has been rather daring, feisty, ‘plucky’ and known to punch above its weight! Just look at the size of the UK on a world map (compared with other much larger nations), and then wonder at its enthusiasm for war and domination. It even once controlled an Empire comprising countries (like India) with much bigger populations, if you need to be reminded!
And though this may seem trivial, when we look again at the rising sign we notice that Mars-ruled Aries is associated with the colour red. And so is England, generally. Wikipedia notes ‘the adoption and continuing use of red by most British/English soldiers after the Restoration (1660) was the result of circumstances rather than policy, including the relative cheapness of red dyes.’ Good old Capricorn – thrifty and practical to the last. The Parliament UK website also reports that: ‘In the House of Lords, red is similarly employed in upholstery, hansard, notepaper etc. This colour most likely stems from the use by monarchs of red as a royal colour…’3 It’s also worth noting the prevalence of red in English cultural history, from red telephone and mail boxes to the fact that, though the usual team colour is white, England wore red when they beat Germany in the 1966 world cup. (Does anyone know why?)
Also, Mars in the 11th house indicates deliberate self-sufficiency in the face of any wider community. The 11th house on a national chart represents any kind of conglomerate of countries (the United Nations, say, or the European Union) but Mars is a planet symbolising independence. Also, Saturn (separateness) is placed in the 6th house. Whilst essentially to do with work and health, the core meaning is ‘service’ (to others and one’s body, for example). Now, Saturn works best in isolation – it ‘s not a symbol of the affections or social niceties like Venus. I merely note here that, historically, Britain’s ‘service industries’ (as with its hoteliers, publicans or restaurateurs) have a reputation for unfriendly, poor service, unlike their American cousins who actually excel at the hospitality business! (Just think Basil Fawlty.)
The 1801 UK Birth Chart possesses similar themes:
As you can see, the sun is in tradition-loving Capricorn again, and the strong sense of independence (nationally speaking, isolationism) is indicated by the 11th house Saturn of ‘community’ and groups. Again, Saturn here resists the influence of ‘peer pressure’ which is why there has always been a strong distaste with the powers of the European Union. (Britain’s tendency towards insularity here is well documented, or course.) The Libran ascendant on the UK Birth Chart also perfectly symbolises what the British are – stereotypically – known for: fair play, compromise, tolerance, politeness and especially moderation and always looking for the happy medium (all supreme Libran characteristics).
The moon in sentimental Cancer (cf. the 4th house sun) is also apt when we’re reminded of Britain’s emphasis on privacy. Jeremy Paxman, in his book on the English once noted the strong emphasis on home-ownership, as if this was a kind of birthright. He was making the point that many European countries have a somewhat different attitude – being more communal in spirit, happily renting an apartment as opposed to having ambitions to own one’s place of residence. But then, as it is said, an Englishman’s home is his castle (again, the military allusions of Aries/Mars– a castle is a structure heavily fortified against an encroaching world.)
Let’s now look at significant events in the history of the British isles and see what astrological configurations were present either through transits, secondary progressions (to the charts of 1066 and 1801) or any particular year’s solar return.
HENRY VIII BREAKS WITH THE POPE
King Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic church (itself part of a more general growth in Protestantism, known as the English Reformation) was epochal in terms of English history. As Wikipedia tells us:
‘The English Reformation was a series of events in 16th century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church …The break with Rome was effected by a series of acts of Parliament passed between 1532 and 1534, among them the 1534 Act of Supremacy which declared that Henry was the “Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England”.
The first Act of Supremacy was passed on 3 November 1534, and made Henry VIII the supreme head of the Church of England. At the time, very fittingly for a monarch, the progressed sun (royalty) was conjunct the MC (matters of state) opposing Mars, indicating that the ruling power was under enormous internal pressure. Henry’s somewhat radical move to change the practice of the dominant religion – in breaking with the rule of Rome – was really his own desire for freedom and independence. Accordingly, progressed Uranus (harbinger of revolution and liberty) was approaching a conjunction to the natal MC (authority, and the rules by which a country is organised.) The break was momentous.
ABOLITION OF SLAVERY
As Wikipedia explains regarding Britain’s participation in the slave trade: ‘By 1783, an anti-slavery movement to abolish the slave trade throughout the Empire had begun among the British public… In 1808, Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which outlawed the slave trade, but not slavery itself … In 1823, the Anti-Slavery Society was founded in London … William Wilberforce had prior written in his diary in 1787 that his great purpose in life was to suppress the slave trade before waging a 20-year fight on the industry … During the Christmas holiday of 1831, a large-scale slave revolt in Jamaica, known as the Baptist War, broke out. It was organised originally as a peaceful strike by the Baptist minister Samuel Sharpe. The rebellion was suppressed by the militia of the Jamaican plantocracy and the British garrison ten days later in early 1832. Because of the loss of property and life in the 1831 rebellion, the British Parliament held two inquiries. The results of these inquiries contributed greatly to the abolition of slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.’
The solar return chart for 1833, then, shows the potential that year for the spirit of democracy and freedom. The Moon (ordinary people), Venus (the spirit of harmony and justice) and Uranus (rebellion and change) all form a triple conjunction in Aquarius (the sign of ‘brotherhood’) in the 11th house of peer groups and communities. In short, the collective principle, and issues of fairness of human rights and justice are being brought to the surface, into the general consciousness. The campaign to abolish slavery had been proceeding for some time – it’s simply that, with these influences affecting the national chart in 1833, it’s no wonder that some real changes were finally made.
THE NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE
The innovative and wholly beneficial National Health Service was rolled out following two recent oppositions between Jupiter and Uranus in February and June, 1948.’ These planets are significant since ‘there can be new and advantageous conceptions (with Jupiter)’ which, when combined with the revolutionary effect of Uranus can result in a positive breakthrough of some kind.
The great experiment that has been the NHS in England is described by Wikipedia as ‘free healthcare at the point of use [which] comes from the core principles at the founding of the National Health Service by the Labour government.’ The actual date when it was rolled out is 5th July, 1948, for which the progressed chart shows both dynamic Mars and beneficial Jupiter in the 6th house of … wait for it, health. First, Mars and Jupiter acting in tandem are going to positively energize whatever they touch – there is a vigorous, expansive ‘can do’ principle at work. In addition, progressed Jupiter is making a conjunction to the natal Jupiter – an even more powerful indication of this planet’s supportive and beneficial effect on the human condition as a whole, which is exactly how most people felt at the time about the NHS. (Jupiter also symbolises nurture and growth.) In addition, progressed moon (the general public) was in trine (a helpful aspect) to the natal North Node (social connections). In short, ‘connecting’ with and answering a collective need. (Another lunar term.)
THE CHANNEL TUNNEL
Though not a major epochal event compared with other British milestones, notions of a train link up with Europe across the English Channel were in the air as early as 1802. As Wikipedia says, ‘an early attempt at building a Channel Tunnel was made in the late 19th century, on the English side “in the hope of forcing the hand of the English Government”. The eventual successful project, organised by Eurotunnel, began construction in 1988.’
It was completed on May 6th 1994, and the progressed chart for that period shows Jupiter in the 1st house, progressed moon in roving Sagittarius (3) opposite Venus, which is also conjunct Mars (9). What this adds up to is themes of expansion, progress, openness (Jupiter) applied to any means of transport (third house) and foreign travel (9th). It’s one of the more friendly kinds of progressed chart!
THE BIRTH OF THATCHERISM
Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister on May 4th, 1979. Wikipedia explains that:
‘Thatcher’s economic policy was influenced by monetarist thinking … Together with Chancellor of the Exchequer Geoffrey Howe, she lowered direct taxes on income and increased indirect taxes … introduced cash limits on public spending, and reduced expenditure on social services such as education and housing .,. Thatcher was committed to reducing the power of the trade unions, whose leadership she accused of undermining parliamentary democracy and economic performance …’
In short, the whole guiding ethos during Thatcher’s premiership stemmed from attention to the economy and the means of trying to control it. Most of the measures undertaken, like privatising national industries and cutting public spending were about raising revenue and getting inflation under control. Though this created unemployment, it was backed up by her personal ideology. Mrs. Thatcher mentioned the virtues of ‘Victorian values’ , meaning things like thrift, hard work and practical efficiency. Astrologically, these are all (positive) Saturn keywords, and that planet is indeed highly prominent (conjunct the ascendant) on the progressed chart for 4th May 1979, when the Tories won the General Election. As the former Times journalist and author Philip Norman put it, though Thatcher had spoken about ‘restoring Victorian values’, the ones that actually returned ‘were the [other] Victorian ones which the previous decades … had seemed to diminish: class snobbery, social cruelty, racism and blind prejudice.’ 4
All of this is redolent of earthy, leaden, controlling Saturn on the ascendant – as if society was now under the influence of a strict taskmaster, or doctor who administers an unpleasant medicine in the hope that the patient will eventually be cured. (Like the old aphorism that: ‘if it tastes bad it must be good for you’. I also note that Mrs. Thatcher herself had Saturn conjunct ascendant on her birth chart.) Besides these trends on the progressed chart, Uranus (revolution) is also exactly conjunct the natal Midheaven (rules, government) showing just what a radical break with the past this new regime was going to engineer.
Britain, in fact, would never look the same again – and with Pluto (death and rebirth) occupying the 6th house of work and employment, it’s no surprise that industry collapsed, jobs were devastated, and unemployment figures reached record figures. The latter, again, was the fault of her harsh economic policies and the obsession with reducing inflation – everything was squeezed to death! This squeezing or limitation, again, an effect of Saturn conjunct the rising sign. (On a human individual chart, this configuration would be a symbol of, more or less, self imposed restriction. Which makes one wonder whether or not her policies were really necessary.)
People were thus expected to ’make do’ under rather trying economic conditions -indeed, a recession soon followed. The Saturn conjunction was itself part of a ‘T square’ with sun/Mars on the MC (government) and Uranus in the 4th. The fourth house of the chart is ‘home’ – a nation’s sense of its past, heritage (also things like the housing market). Uranus in opposition is – if not exactly disruptive – then revolutionary (think of the Tories’ right-to-buy-your-own-council-house initiative). The opposition to the sun (symbolising the ruling power, i.e Thatcher herself) indicates exactly the kind of real opposition she faced from disgruntled members of the public, Union leaders, opposition politicians and finally members of her own cabinet. But I return again to that that weighty Saturn on the ascendant (the ‘personality’ of the chart) for this indicated her staying power -which she did – for some people, far too long.
THE REFERENDUM ON EUROPE
‘Following a referendum held on 23 June 2016, in which 52% of votes cast were in favour of leaving the EU, the UK government intends to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (the formal procedure for withdrawing) by the end of March 2017. This, within the treaty terms, would put the UK on a course to leave the EU by March 2019. Prime Minister Theresa May, elected by the ruling Conservative Party in the wake of the referendum, has promised a bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and to incorporate existing EU laws into UK domestic law.’(Wikipedia)
As noted previously – when I predicted Brexit in the summer of 2016 – progressed Jupiter was conjunct the ascendant on the 1066 chart; the sun one degree from the Midheaven. This portended a sense of general optimism and self confidence whilst on the progressed 1801 chart the sun, Mercury and Jupiter are all close to the IC, with – significantly – the moon exactly on the ascendant. The IC on a chart is ‘home’, where you come from, what you belong to, whilst the moon on the rising degree is about tradition – that which makes one feel secure, safe and comfortable. This suggests the desire to cling to the past, an emotional connection to the good old days. This for Britain meant its old – largely isolated – self.
Transits to the 1066 chart also suggest stubborn retrenchment and stasis – on June 23rd, transiting Jupiter was conjunct natal Saturn (a stalemate, a clash between expansion and contraction) and transiting Pluto was conjunct natal Mercury (collective ideas infused with passion; or very strong and fixed opinions). Throughout these charts, then, we find planets like the sun, moon and Jupiter repeatedly making conjunctions to intimate points of contact like the ascendant (self/ego), MC (‘public image’) and IC (home/ancestry). Note that these conjunctions don’t include the descendant – one’s relationship with others. It was as if Britain had no interest in such a thing. The message was ‘we’re all right as we are’ and we voted to leave the EU.
LABOUR AND JEREMY CORBYN
The birth chart for the parliamentary Labour Party (formed 1906) shows Mercury, the sun conjunct Venus (plus Saturn) in Aquarius, attesting to its purpose as a party ‘for the ordinary people’. This is just what Aquarius symbolises – humanity, brotherhood and equal rights for all. This is enhanced with moon in Libra – whose ethos is justice and fairness. Mars in Aries also occupies the 11th house – again, to do with community and equal rights, which we could even interpret as a kind of aggressive trade unionism, of which Labour has seen plenty in its 100 year-plus history! But the real inner guiding sense that the Labour movement has a kind of nobility and quasi-religious ‘rightness’ (to exist) is suggested by the first house Neptune. This is the planet of humanity (as opposed to mere human rights) Universal sympathy, charity, and the collective urge towards a kind of Utopian ideal, in this case (at least originally): socialism.
After being elected leader on 12 September, 2015, Jeremy Corbyn became Leader of the Official Opposition. At this time were two concurrent transits: Jupiter (4) making a helpful trine to Uranus (7); and Mars (4) opposing the sun (10). The former provided the go-ahead for progress and the prevailing liberal, left-wing agenda (Jupiter for openness and growth; Uranus for change). The latter provided the seeds of division and conflict! Any medieval astrologer would have seen all kinds of unfortunate omens here, before he did a sharp intake of breath. To begin any project with war-like Mars in opposition to the sun, the most important planet in the cosmos, would be seen as a reckless undertaking. For the modern astrologer it certainly indicates plenty of disagreement ahead.
These disagreements (over policy in general) came to a head the following summer, when the knives were out for Corbyn, with votes of no confidence and his leadership seriously challenged in July. That month (on the 24th) transiting Jupiter was square natal Pluto – all too apt for power conflicts: others clearly thought Corbyn somewhat too big for his boots and were seeking to bring him down (which is precisely what happens with harsh Pluto aspects.) The actual election took place in September, however and Corbyn was re-elected as Labour leader on the 24th. The victory came in between two significant transits to the Labour party chart – one ‘good’, the other ‘bad’. Jupiter (often ‘good fortune’) conjunct Moon (the past) is like ‘coming home’, the reassuring feeling that one truly belongs here – which, in terms of the original socialist ideals of the Labour party, Corbyn certainly does! The other aspect, war-like Mars conjunct the descendant (relationships), signified the divisiveness that we continue to see in the present day.
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1. Kate Fox, Watching The English, The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, Hodder, 2005
2. Bill Bryson, Note From A Small Island, Black Swan, 1996.
4. Philip Norman, Elton!, Hutchinson, 1991.
First published in Raphaels Newsletter vol. 20 (Feb. – Mar. 2017)