A joint publication of: Astro Logos and Zyntara Publications

 

ISSUE NO. 26

February 2007

 

In this issue: 

When beggars die, there are no comets seen - unpacking comets in astrology
Facies, the pain of arrows - a case study of the nebula Facies when linked to a chart.
 

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With the arrival of a Great Comet clearly visible through out most of January I have focused my section of this issue of the newsletter on the cultural and astrological implications of comets. I am suggesting that we re-visit our ancient astrological knee-jerk delineation of disasters and strife and not cast all comets in the same mould. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Irene Earis for pointing me towards the comet work of McCafferty and Baille from Queen's University, Belfast.
 

                          
                          When beggars die, there are no comets seen,
                          The Heavens themselves blaze forth the death of Princes.

                                                                                         
(William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar)

Bernadette Brady M.A.
 

Traditionally comets in astrology have been linked to disasters or the death of kings but this is a concept that is worth unpacking.

There seem to be only a few references to comets found in the translations from the Mesopotamian astrologer priests to their kings. This is not what one would expect, as comets are reasonably frequent. Indeed since the year 1800, a period considered to be quiet for comets, we have had over forty bright comets slashing through the starry sky. So either the Mesopotamian astrologers were not concerned by these “hairy stars” (the Greek word is Kometes which means hairy) or those particular letters have simply not yet been translated or found. However, Herman Hunger gives us one letter from the Babylonian priest Asaredu the Younger written around 671  BCE. Asaredu was referring to a comet which became visible at the time when Jupiter made its last appearance in the night sky and he wrote:

[If] a comet [becomes visible in the path
of the stars of] Anu: [fall of Elam. Its] people
[......] will be confused [......] city with city
[......] brother will kill brother [......I the
king  of Elam [......] his days are near (to their
end).
[1]

Asaredu’s letter shows us that by the 7th century BCE comets were already harbingers of woes and troubles and considered heralds of the death of a king.

This view was highlighted when a comet appeared in 44 BCE after the death of Julius Caesar and then reinforced in 79 CE when a comet appeared and was considered to be a warning of the death of the Emperor Vesparian who dismissed the omen as he was bald: “This hairy star does not concern me; it menaces the King of the Parthians for he is hairy and I am bald” [2].  Vesparian did, however, die later in that year. Indeed people’s belief in linking comets to the death of kings was so strong that many were surprised when no comet appeared in 814 after the death of Charlemagne.

But, as I have indicated, comets are not that rare and since 1950 we have had at least twelve comets all visible to the naked eye. The following is the list of bright comets in the recent past.

Visible comets since 1950 

                  Period of visibility

2002 Ikeya-Zhang

Visible to the unaided eye in March and April - cut between Venus and Mars.

1996  Hyakutake  

Observed with the unaided eye from early March until early June.

1995  Hale-Bopp

Visible with the unaided eye from July 1996 to October 1997.

1975   West  

Followed with the naked eye from late February until mid-April.

1973  Kohoutek  

Period of naked-eye visibility spanned the end of November until late January.

1970 White-Ortiz-Bolelli   

Seen visually only from the 18th May until the first week of June.

1969  Bennett    

Under observation with the naked eye from February  until mid-May.

1965  Ikeya-Seki   

Observable with the unaided eye from early October  until mid-November  - The most brilliant comet of the 20th Century.

1962  Seki-Lines  

A naked-eye object from late February through to the end of April.

1961  Wilson – Hubbard   

Visible to the unaided eye only between 23rd July and the first days of August.

1957 Mrkos   

Followed with the unaided eye from 29th July until the end of September.

1956 Arend-Roland

Naked-eye visibility extended from mid-March until mid-May.

So given that the above twelve comets have not all been associated with the death of kings, we can probably place little store in this ancient thinking. However, this is not the end of the argument.

It has been a long time since we have had a comet which passed seriously close to the earth. Irish scholars McCafferty and Baille [3], basing their findings on dendrochronology (dating climate change via tree rings) and mythology, argue that the earth has experienced close comets and that some of these close comets were recorded in Irish mythology. They put forward a strong argument that the god Lugh, (whose name means light) - iIn Welsh mythology he is known as Llew, and in English mythology he is King Lear - was just such a comet.

In the early version of the mythology, Lugh is described as being as bright as the sun but not the sun. This theme of "being the sun but not the sun" is also expressed in a question in the early myths put to a Druid priest by the Irish warrior Bress who stated:

"It would seem wonderful to me that the sun should rise in the west today and in the east every other day", said Bress to his Druids. “It would be better for us if it were so” replied the Druids, “It is the radiance of Lugh of the Long Arm”. [4]

 

Two version of Lugh: Left a flaming sword and right, a more ancient image showing his solar disk.

 

McCafferty and Baille point out that a close comet can rise in the west and be as bright as the sun but would, unlike the sun, have a long arm or column. They also revisit the descriptions of mythic heroes who are full of light and fire and put forward a convincing argument linking comets in history to the description and stories of great Celtic solar heroes. Such heroes include the Irish warrior Cuchulainn as well as the legendary King Arthur and his flaming sword. Cuchulainn is linked to a comet because of his rage, flowing hair, and brightness which outshone the sun while Arthur is inked by his sword which shot flames up into the sky like a column of light, similar to Lugh.

  Cuchulainn with his brooch brighter than the sun (John Duncan 1913)

We also have additional evidence, apart from mythology and tree rings, of such close encounters. In 2350 BCE, Chinese astronomers recorded a time when ten suns were in the sky, all shining brightly. Later in 174 BCE, Titus Livius tells us that three suns shone all at once with burning torches falling to earth; and then in 42 BCE Diodorus of Sicily reported the sun shining at night. All of these three historical reports are suggestive of comets passing close to earth.  

A close comet may look like this image but with far more light and possibly flaming, falling debris. 

This theme of close comets generating stories of gods is also reflected in the writings of Pliny the Elder (79 CE) . When he described eleven different types of comets based on their visual appearance, he conveyed one of these as:

 A white comet with silver hair so brilliant that it could not be looked at and having the aspect of a Deity in human form.

Indeed in considering the image above (my simple attempt at reproducing a close comet), it is easy to accept that such a comet is, firstly, quite destructive and, secondly, could be seen as a deity. 

Comets also come in many different shapes, not just the pencil like shape we see in images and drawings. In 200 BCE the Chinese constructed a comet atlas which was recorded on silk.

This atlas shows shapes of comets varying from a swastika to shields to trees.

The Mawangdui, Changsha, silk comet atlas 200 BCE  

So I think that it is important as visual astrologers to recognize that not all comets are the same and it may well be that the messengers of doom and gloom (the traditional role of comets) can probably be more successfully associated with close comets that shower the earth with debris and/or seriously impact on climate, causing destruction or, at the very least, providing such a terrifying display of heat and light that the fabric of society is damaged.

But the comet of January 2007 (Comet McNaught), although now officially award the title of “Great”, in fact was distant and tame and has now left us for some hundreds or thousands of years. Such a comet is unlikely to herald the death of a king or other such disasters. Yet as astrologers we instinctive seek meaning in our ensouled sky. So what can visual astrology tell us about this latest comet? 

It so happened that comet McNaught cut across the ecliptic at the very time that Mercury was making a reappearance in the early evening sky and in doing so, the comet was seen to split the path between Mercury to Venus, breaking the normal link between the two sky figures. On one side was Venus radiating the stars of Capricorn, which are symbolic of that great civilizing domesticating god of Ea who brings order to his people. On the other side is Mercury, a messenger seemingly returning from the underworld (see image below).

Comet McNaught passing between a bright Venus and a newly-emerging Mercury

In 2002 comet Ikeya-Zhang appeared to pass between a Venus amongst the stars of Pisces, newly emerging in the evening light, and a bright Mars, low in the west and within the stars of the constellation Aries (Starlight users may wish to have a look at the western horizon of a sky map for 18th March, 2002). The events of the year 2002 were filled with the drums of war as President Bush talked of the Axis of Evil. It seemed as if the calming ability of Venus was totally cut off from the heat of Mars who was sitting above her in the sky.

Now with comet McNaught we have the calming influence of a bright Venus in the civilizing stars of Capricorn being cut off from a messenger coming from the war-like stars of the constellation Sagittarius. Venus is higher in the sky, so one tends to think that this year will be remembered as one where there were further provocative acts but finally cool heads prevailed. Maybe, just maybe, this comet is indicating that governments, in all parts of the world, will not be so quick to respond to calls for vengeance or aggression. 

I think this comet is a harbinger of good news, finally breaking the link between the warrior stars of Sagittarius and the government/ruling-class/establishment stars of Capricorn with the calming effect of Capricorn or Ea prevailing.

____________________________

1.
Hunger, Herman. (1992). Astrological Reports to Assyrian Kings. Helsinki, Finland: Helsinki University Press. pg.194. 
2. Sagan C. and Druyan, A. (1985) Comet. Michael Joseph, London: pg 25
3. McCafferty and P. Baille, M. (2005) The Celtic Gods, Comets in Irish Mythology. Tempus. London
4.
Squire, C. (1912). Celtic Myth and Legend: poetry and romance. The Gresham Publishing Company. London. pg 111


 

 


Facies, the pain of arrows 
A
Case Study - Darrelyn Gunzburg

In previous issues of the Visual Astrology Newsletter I have been looking at charts which have planets or luminaries in paran with what are traditionally considered to be be "difficult" stars - Zosma and Algol. In this issue I want to continue exploring this group of challenging stars with a case study involving Facies.

Facies is the star in the head of Sagittarius the Archer. The earliest writings about this Archer are on cuneiform tablets from the Euphrates calling Sagittarius the Strong One or The Giant King of War [1]. The Egyptians saw it as a hand holding an arrow and Aratus called it the Wielder of the Bow. To the Persians this constellation was Kaman, to the Turks it was Yai, and in Syria it was Kertko, all names signifying a Bow or Bow and Arrow.  However it was translated in these various cultures, one quality was constant - to be of worth, the Archer had to find his target with this bow, otherwise he was of little significance.

 So the Archer became known as a feared and powerful warrior, able to fight from afar rather than face-to-face with a sword. Picked for his sharp eyesight and steadiness of stance and strength, he was the 'green beret' of the squad when archers were the most important and powerful pieces in the game of war. Thus the soldier of Sagittarius was cruel, stormy, wild and feared, an extremely threatening figure whose greatest skill was his eyesight, embodied by Facies, the penetrating stare of the one who holds the lethal weapon, the one whose remit is to force a way without regard for others. As a consequence, Facies became known as being cruel and ruthless and its darkest shadow was the evil of war. Its mantle is that it is considered to be one of the most difficult and possibly most violent bodies in the heavens.

Yet whilst Facies may mean a person may be non-diplomatic, if balanced, they will also be one who achieves. For when Facies makes a paran to a planet or luminary in a person’s chart, the planet it touches will be extremely focused and driven and the person can push forward with their goals and aim high – as long as they are also aware that such actions can slide into ruthlessness, for Facies can as easily express itself as the leader as the dictator. Yet if Facies is the only difficult star in the person’s chart, then it will talk more of concentration, than cruelty; if other difficult stars are also present, then issues of heartlessness and even brutality could be a problem.

The other side of Facies is the individual who may be the victim of the archer's stare. John Lennon, for example, has Facies as one of the stars on his angles. Brady in Starlight, says of this combination:

                  The soldier, athlete, or the aggressor; or alternatively, the wounded

Lennon was the victim of a fan’s bullet when he was murdered in New York City on 8 December, 1980, when he and his wife, Yoko Ono, returned home after a recording session.

But what happens when you are not famous or in the public eye? My client has her Venus-Mars conjunction in Capricorn in paran with Facies in the prime of her life:

Facies with Mars:
[from Starlight]
Endurance
, physical or mental, for good or for evil

Facies with Venus:
[from Starlight]
Anger at injustices, seeking a different order

Although in the 8th house, this conjunction is within 5 degrees of the ninth house cusp and in the same sign as it, so one can read this conjunction as taking on more of a ninth house expression. This exalted Mars in Capricorn with its intuitive base (ruling the 12th house) and working best with the support of partnerships or business relationships (ruling the 7th house), uses its practical drive and action in order to gain outcomes and achievements. A planet in exaltation can be highly successful, as long as the person is prepared to put in continual effort and energy and not sit back on one's laurels. Facies in paran with this Mars, adds turbo power to its hard-working capacity. Mars in conjunction with Venus makes this a highly creative combination, receptive (Venus) as well as driven (Mars). Thus my client was not only seen as steady and reliable (Venus ruling a Taurus Ascendant) and extremely hard-working (Venus ruling the 6th) in her networking (Venus) but Facies in paran with her Venus gave my client the right amount of anger at the injustices she saw to use her networking skills to create a climate of change.

Has my client use Facies well? Graduating with a law degree, by her early forties my client had risen to a position of executive advisor with the Family Court of Australia (Venus-Mars in 9th in Capricorn).

It was her vision and that of a colleague which in 2004 led to registries in the state of Victoria being able to share information and resources, hence to be more effective for their clients. Here we can see Facies with Venus in operation: my client recognized a weakness in the system that disadvantaged family law clients and with endless hard work and endurance (Facies in paran with Mars in Capricorn), set about changing the system (Facies in paran with Venus in Capricorn).

 

The success of this venture led to her work on the joint initiative between the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia, both independent courts established within the Commonwealth of Australia, in developing a new approach to the way services were delivered to clients in family law across Australia.

My client was recognized by her peers and the legal profession as having extraordinary qualities in legal management and the energy and vision to bring nationwide changes in service delivery to those in need. As long as my client had visions she could implement to help bring about change (Facies with Venues) and on which she could work long and hard with practical results (Facies in paran with Mars in Capricorn), this "difficult" star was happy.

My client's story does not have a happy ending, however. In July 2005 my client was diagnosed with brain cancer and died two months later. Despite her sustained focus, my client had encountered the penetration of Facies. We could surmise that with Facies in paran with Mars, the arrow's work was swift. Yet it is also important to remember that it is illogical to connect one difficult star with certain death. Other things were going on in her chart.

My client has since been honoured by the Family Court of Australia with an annual Award in her name, given to people who demonstrate the qualities she exhibited: innovation, pro-activity and providing exemplary service in response to community needs. Facies in paran with her Venus-Mars continues to drum her qualities of  physical and mental endurance for the good of others  (Facies in paran with Mars) and the ability to seek a better order (Facies in paran with Venus).


[1] Brady, Bernadette. (1998). Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars. Maine, USA:Samuel Weiser, pp.293-299. 


 

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