faun100.jpg (2378 bytes)    

 splayvert.jpg (5901 bytes)


by Christopher Scott


This is Part II in a series of articles exploring the astrological and societal significance of  the discovery of the Outer Planets in our Solar System.

First published in Shadowplay #18 - Summer 1989


During the Samhain period of 1845, John Couch Adams of St Johns College Cambridge sent a paper to George Airy stating the proposed location of a trans-Uranian planet based on calculations done on the eccentricity of Uranus@#146; orbit. Two or three evenings@#146; assiduous work devoted to the search would not therefore have failed to make the planet known.

Astrologers look at the manner in which a planet is discovered to get impressions on how it affects human beings. The first two things that are striking about Neptune are that it was discovered by a collective of scientists, and that there isn@#146;t a precise date for its discovery (very unscientific!).

This collective of astronomers named the planet Neptune. Because of the nature of its discovery, astrologers assigned this planet to the rulership of the sign Pisces, maintaining Jupiter as co-ruler. In Graeco-Roman mythology, the god Neptune is master of the sea, underground rivers and water basins. He is also known as the "Earthshaker" because of his association with earthquakes. Neptune displaced the Great Goddess Tethys as ruler of the oceans and primal source of life when Zeus replaced Chronos and Rhea, becoming the dominant god of the Greek pantheon, heralding the Age of the Olympians.

Many astrologers use the mythos of both Tethys and Neptune when talking about the influences of this trans-Uranian planet. Since its discovery, the planet Neptune has been given many feminine attributes, along with the obvious male ones associated with the god.

About two decades before the discovery of Neptune, western culture entered the Romantic Era, so named by contemporary artists and musicians because of its emphasis of emotional content rather than intellectual substance. It was also a time when Europeans started to look for their "lost" cultural and mythological roots. In Britain and Ireland, a Celtic Twilight movement was starting.

In 1843 the ballet Ondine was premiered; in one scene the heroine dances with her shadow, an indication of unconscious forces becoming apparent within the psyche. The following year saw the first collection of Norwegian folk tales published, and within another couple of years, the Kalevala, a group of myths as important to the cultural identity of the Finns as the Mabinogion is to the Welsh, was published. Again, neglected mythologies were rediscovered and made accessible. Neptune rules the collective unconscious and in this resurgence of mythology we see his influence becoming apparent in the society.

The year that Neptune was discovered, Franz Liszt composed Les Preludes. This gave birth to a new musical idiom, the Symphonic Poem. This art form endeavors to create, in a non-concrete form, a concrete story, allowing the listeners to hear and FEEL the composer@#146;s emotional response to a piece of literature or poetry. Richard Strauss was to bring this form to maturation in Thus Spake Zarathustra, a musical acknowledgement of Nietzsche and Gnosticism.

With the re-emergence of the primacy of emotion came a renaissance of the feminine - Grandes Dames held Salons throughout Europe, and independent women were supporting artists, poets, writers and composers. The Duchess of Alba was one of the patrons of Francesco Goya; Clara Weick nurtured the talents of her husband, Robert Schumann, and was the most important person in the life of Johannes Brahms. And at this time, the most significant and influential monarch Britain has known since the House of Tudor sat on the Stone of Scone - Queen Victoria.

In literature, the feminine influence was even more profoundly felt. In 1847 two sisters, daughters of a quiet English clergyman, had their novels published. Charlotte Bronte@#146;s Jane Eyre is the story of a woman@#146;s personal transformation set within the framework of the Gothic Romance currently, and significantly, enjoying popularity. Within its pages is an analysis of women@#146;s feelings, explored in an unprecedentedly direct manner.

Her sister Emily@#146;s Wuthering Heights is a novel about a man and woman@#146;s helplessness before the forces of their own natures and passions. Catherine Earnshaw shows a woman torn between her societal responsibilities and her deepest personal needs. Her failure to reconcile these issues is eventually completely self-destructive. Heathcliffe stands alongside Shakespeare@#146;s Macbeth and Othello, and Marlowe@#146;s Faustus, as one of the great tragic figures of English literature. Had Wuthering Heights been written by a man, Heathcliffe would have died nobly but tragically because of his love and passion for Catherine. Emily Bronte has a far more subtle, but possibly even more tragic ending for her novel.

Neptune@#146;s influence can be clearly seen in both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. In the former novel, Jane goes through self-sacrifice similar to that of Psyche from Greek legend, to find fulfilment in personal love. One of Neptune@#146;s effects is to take a person away from the boundaries of the ego. This can be shown in the Gnostic version of the Crucifixion and in Odin@#146;s own self-sacrifice to his higher self to learn the knowledge of the runes (in Teutonic language "rune" means secret). Jane achieves this through her perseverance, going against the dictates of society and her own fears and prejudices, finding conjugal love with Rochester.

Catherine and Heathcliffe show us the other, more destructive side, of the planet. Neptune@#146;s affiliation with Tethys can take us into primordial regions which can be destructive to the ego. The passions Heathcliffe and Catherine experience for each other were never grounded and sublimated; unlike Janes, and instead of achieving love, they reaped tragedy.

Around the time of the discovery of a new planet, the portents in the external world are always great. In my previous article in this series, I discussed, amongst other issues, how the first effects of Uranus were felt in the French Revolution. The major crisis around the discovery of Neptune was the emancipation of slavery. In the early 1850s, civil war erupted in the United States over this issue. Within two decades, slavery had nearly been abolished from the majority of European colonies. Since that period, humanity has succeeded in eradicating slavery, at least in its overt form.

As above, so below. As within, so without. Through acceptance of one@#146;s intense emotional desires and frustrations, Neptune can liberate the slave within. The process of achieving personal transformation through Neptune is that of the Hanged Man in the tarot, or of Odin himself. This initiatory journey is one of pain, leading to ecstasy and self-knowledge.

Published in Australia  1984 - 1990
In Seattle & Sydney 1990-1994 - and Sydney/Seattle Webzine 1999
Copyright Shadoplay 2000. All rights reserved. 
WebDesign: Rhea - Page last updated October 2000