The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton: astrological archetypes through literature

I thoroughly enjoyed this 800 odd page novel, set in gold-rush New Zealand. The astrological symbolisim is obvious from the outset with star charts drawn up to represent the planets at the time. It doesn’t include Uranus, which was discovered some seventy years earlier, just the old astrological planets. Incidentally, Neptune was being discovered around the same time the novel is set (1865). I just found out that Eleanor Catton read the collected works of Jung before she embarked on the novel and had the idea that 12 characters would represent the zodiac while others would represent the planets. It’s very clever but doesn’t cut in on the story which is wonderfully well written, so much so that it has been shortlisted for the Booker.

I do believe Catton used the movements of the planets to guide the plot and decide the scenes she was writing.  It would take much re-reading to figure out all the intentional synchronicity.  She takes great care to describe each character, slipping in the properties of the astrological archetype in a way which could easily go unnoticed. Of course every zodiac sign and planet has many different facets and Catton seems to draw on a few of these for each character and also incorporates other characteristics which might better fit the story.  I won’t go too much into what is obviously stated, I will focus instead on broader reflections of the novel’s symbolism.

This story begins in the 12th house of the psyche, whereupon Walter Moody (Mercury) unwittingly interrupts a secret meeting of 12 very different men at the crown hotel. It must be in the 12th because we are so in the dark, and where else would we find 12 men, symbolising the twelve zodiac signs, than in the natural home of Pisces? In fact, this whole story belongs to the 12th house as the character symbolising the sun and psyche, Emery Stains (fantastic name) is literally stumbling around in the dark for the almost the entire journey.  Therefore, treating this novel as a Jungian journey means delving into the exploration of one’s psyche in the dark, with minimal illumination that grows as we progress.

Despite not being represented, the archetype of Neptune is obviously in the room, probably sitting in the back corner smoking opium. Opium is very prominent in this story both in the pipe and in laudanum tinctures.  There are many delusions at play, of grandeur, of love, of mysteries and plots that might actually not exist. This story also has a very strong Pluto/Scorpio theme, secrets, suspicion and paranoia add tension to the narrative. There is gold involved as well as prostitution and death. You can’t get more 8th house than that.

I would indeed like to re-read this novel and observe the characters in relation to my own personal archetypes in the style of Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It promises to be an interesting and illuminating journey into the dark recesses of the subconscious.

The predator archetype in the social ecosystem

I drove past a police car today. As usual, despite not doing anything obviously illegal, the sight of the white, yellow and blue elicited a moment of physical anxiety. I can almost feel my glands releasing the hormones that would naturally assist in protecting from predators. Even the police cars themselves are designed to look like predators. I have written about the predator archetype before and discussed it in relation to the fallen magician, but this time I want to focus less esoterically and more sociologically on this powerful symbol.

Seeing the police car, and my physical reaction to it, made me think of the role of the predator in an ecosystem. In her magnificent novel, Prodigal Summer, biologist and author Barbara Kingsolver describes the importance of predators in an ecosystem. Take all the starfish out of a rock pool and the diversity of life drops to zero. The food the starfish would normally eat multiplies out of control until it has nothing to sustain it.

The predator has a regulatory role, and it’s important. The police force fulfill this role, along with the judiciary and other systems for keeping order. Sometimes they cross the line and act out the shadow side of the archetype: corruption, exploitation, excessive violence, sexual assault.  Sociologists like to point out that the police force are a gang and function in much the same way, despite being a legitimate gang. Illegal gangs also fill predatory roles in a society, some socially beneficial, some detrimental.

In astrology, Saturn is the regulator, the structurer and restructurer, the disciplinary force. Saturn, like the predator archetype in its positive polarity, has the job of letting die that which must die in order that the healthy psyche may live.  It both the force which keeps us safe and that which poses the most grave danger if we step out of line.  When suppressed, this force is at its most dangerous. Dis-empowerment makes it desperate and ruthless, just as on a social level the most disempowered populations are the most likely to form gangs.

Healing this social and personal pathos involves bringing it into the light of awareness, stripping back the suppression, healing and empowering healthy functions of regulation.

Meditations on Virgo: complexities of the virgin/whore/analyst archetype

Everyone has a little bit of Virgo, and what better time to contemplate this extraordinarily complex archetype than a Virgo new moon? Some people call Virgo a duel sign, but she is a lot more complex than that; how else could she govern health, sickness, work, cleanliness, criticism and submission? Virgo is one of those signs that can seem boring on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper you might be surprised. Virgo wants to heal you, she wants to analyse you and she wants you to get off your ass and do some work – properly! She also wants to roll around in the dirt and explore the dark recesses of the psyche with a magnifying glass.

As an earth sign, Virgo is grounded, although she does have neurotic tendencies. Like Gemini she is governed by Mercury, the messenger/communicator, although she’s not as childlike, fast or flighty.  She excels at communication as long as she doesn’t get too anxious about it. She loves freshly mown grass and spring blossoms. Her colours are teal and white, greens and browns. She belongs in the sixth house of hard work and, traditionally, slavery.

Virgo is strong.  She cannot be slut-shamed. She is beyond that. She submits on her own terms. She owns her darkness.  The mistress of contradictions, she is the secretary and the cleaner; the innocent maiden and the auditor; the therapist and the patient; the hypochondriac and the doctor; the workaholic and the servant. No astrological archetype better represents the contradictory virgin/whore.  It is her obsessive cleanliness that makes dirt so appealing and, like all control freaks, Virgo is sexually submissive. Holding on so tightly means she has a deep need to let go.  She is tight with money but appreciates quality purchases.  After a while the contradictions begins to make sense: one’s inner prostitute is the guardian of one’s integrity, after all.  It is her job to let you know when you are in danger of trading your self-worth and selling yourself short.

To find out more about your Virgo look at where it sits in your natal chart. Every house represents a different part of your life. Does Virgo govern a house or is it intercepted, (stuck in between two houses) leaving your highly-strung analyst deep inside your psyche, screaming to get out? If you have planets in Virgo, think about how the archetypes of the planets click or clash with the contradictory Virgo vibe.

Yes, Virgo can be anal-retentive with a stationary fetish and a penchant for delicate floral print fabric, especially if you have a natal Venus in Virgo. Venusian Virgo is very particular about what she likes: a total aesthete guru. She loves lists and ticking things off gives her little jolts of pleasure, she also has a habit of analysing her partners half to death, trying to fix them.  She abhors clutter and unhinged garishness. Planets in your 6th house may interfere with Virgo’s master plan to analyse and categorise everything.  Uranus, the chaos magi will electrify her chi all over the place making a stable work-life an unlikely possibility.

A new moon in Virgo is a good time to set fresh intentions and let go of old emotional baggage, especially around your mum.  The maternal moon is often symbolic of the emotional self and the mother (also the nurturing father, or lack there of). Mothering is damn hard and no one does it perfectly.  Every time your parents failed to nurture you, your inner Virgo was probably keeping score, holding on to each painful experience for later analysis. Maybe it’s time to let go of that crap. You don’t need to over-think it, just intend it. You can go one step further and write your mom a letter. Mine goes like this:

Dear Mum. I have been decluttering my life on all different levels, as I explained before, courtesy of the Virgo new moon.  As the moon represents the mother, emotions and nurturing I decided that this is a good time to let go of any emotional baggage and resentments I may be holding onto from my childhood, consciously or subconsciously. I now understand how hard it is to be a parent and how easy it is to fly off the handle. I release you from all old emotional debts and all childhood needs left unmet. Love xoxo

Decluttering by the moon: Virgo dark moon phase

Decluttering by the moon: Virgo dark moon phase

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In the Southern hemisphere it’s time for spring cleaning and in the Northern the trees are beginning to let go their leaves. It’s time to shed excess baggage and the last few days of the Virgo dark moon have been especially good for this kind of work. I imagine if I hadn’t been on a 24 hour decluttering spree I would have felt extra frustrated with everything else.

Bearing in mind that the outside reflects the inside and vice versa, cleaning the house is a great way to clear the mind. Tidying one’s bedroom is akin to tidying the innermost room of one’s psyche, and cleaning can be so satisfying. I wish I was taught this as a kid, rather than learning to resent dumb chores that took up valuable TV watching time.

A few months ago I began noticing the Virgo moon coinciding with my cleaning habits. One full moon I cleared out the worst corner of the kitchen. When I checked my emails on Monday I read in the Daily Mystic that the full Virgo moon was perfect for a spree.

I now have exceptionally minimalist bedside surfaces (by my standards). My habit of keeping things in beautiful bowls had gotten out of hand, so I spent hours sorting through batteries, hair fascinators and other debris. After much deliberation two large bowls of collected crystals have been replaced with a small dish of favourite gems. And after two drop offs to the local recycling centre I have two bags of treasures to give away and a tidy costume collection. It’s hard to let go of shiny things, especially those collected over a long time, but much better than turning into the miser from the Osho Zen Tarot.

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The dark moon phase, just before the new moon is the best time for self-care, introspection, letting go and not getting into trouble. This is the waning, resting, releasing and rejuvenating part of the month before the fresh start of the new moon.

Everyone I know seems to be on a detox at the moment and given the heath obsessed anal-retentive nature of Virgo, its probably a good time for juice fasts and colonic irrigation, especially if you’re going through a major Saturn transit. Counselling and other brain-clearing activities also wouldn’t go amiss along with cleaning up your work environment, or even just your attitude to work and health. After cleansing and clearing on all different levels I’m ready for the fresh start of the new moon. Time to set powerful new intentions.

Deconstructing the Psyche: the animus in the wall

 

 

A wise woman once told me that the psyche is a lot like a wall: if the bricks aren’t laid properly at the foundation, it doesn’t matter how many bricks you build up, the wall will always be wonky. Now, I have a great appreciation for wonky things, but when it comes to my psyche I would prefer it to be strong and resilient.  Most of all, I would love to be free of the feeling that there’s something wrong or broken that needs to be fixed. Apparently it’s possible – all you have to to is deconstruct the wall, brick by brick, fix the problem at the foundation and then you can build yourself a strong, stable wall.

The wonky bricks might come from a number of things: childhood trauma, neglect or needs not being met.  I have been slowly processing my traumas as they emerge, and I am getting good at recognizing them when they’re projected on to other people close to me. I can tell because when trauma is triggered I get intensely emotional – angry, sad, scared – in a way that outweighs reason.  The more awareness I build, the more I can move on. But it’s not only trauma wonky-ing my wall, there are a few bricks missing.

One of the main things I have (recently) realised about my childhood is the absence of good male role-models. People often worry about the lack of male role-models for boys, but rarely do they consider them for girls.  How are we to draw a healthy animus (male part of the self), with no artists model? I grew up with a tyrant of a step-father, a dad who lived far away, no close uncles and a distant (but kind) grandfather. It’s really no wonder that as an adult I have had so many bizarre, and not-very-healthy relationships with men. So, bearing this in mind I have been embarking on a journey to re-construct a healthy animus. Externally, I have built good friendships with psychologically balanced and self-aware men.  Internally I have worked with archetypes – the father, the hero/rescuer, the lover.  I have even started to see this work reflected in the outside world – for example, I have actually started getting appropriate crushes on healthy and well-rounded men for a change.

I don’t know much about this, really, but apparently Jung talked about different stages of development for the animus archetype. The first is very physical, progressing through to psychological and spiritual awareness. At the moment, my animus is still in a petri dish, but it’s growing – and it’s healthy – and it’s a breath of fresh air.