Astrology and Celestial Poesis

1 Comment

I listened today to an episode of Chris Brennan‘s The Astrology Podcast, in which he talks with astrologer Sam F. Reynolds about Sam’s appearance on a TV show called “Bill Nye Saves the World” from Netflix.

It was a pretty good episode. There was some strong, and useful and thought-provoking back-and-forth between host and guest, centering on the question of whether or not astrology is a science; whether or not there’s empirical evidence for it working (as a middle ground of rigor between anecdotal — “story-based evidence” on the more literary side; or scientific — “big-data-based evidence”); and whether or not any astrologer should get into debates with scientists (or science evangelists) on the subject of whether or not astrology has validity.

I’m really enjoying reading Chris Brennan’s book, Hellenistic Astrology, of course.  Chris’s points in the show were also well-taken: that it’s potentially problematic to ‘give ground and surrender’ right away (my summarization of his words, not a true quote) by agreeing that astrology is not a science.  If one finds oneself in debate with Bill Nye or any other scientist or science-apologist, maybe conceding that astrology isn’t a science right away isn’t wise.

But on the other hand, I found myself agreeing with a lot of what Sam Reynolds had to say.  One thing in particular resonated: the idea of astrology as a language, rather than a science.  Chris Brennan seemed to find this particularly objectionable, because he felt that this undermined the validity of astrology, especially in the eyes of scientists.  However, Sam argued that this helped astrology fit into the realms of literature and poetry more effectively. He called astrology celestial poetry — which I write.

And this brought to mind my regular fascination with the medieval seven: the Liberal Arts (plus philosophy), which I find myself returning to again and again:

  1. The Trivium, or three ways, of language:
    1. Rhetoric
    2. Grammar
    3. Logic
  2. The Quadrivium, or four ways, of mathematics:
    1. Geometry
    2. Arithmetic
    3. Music
    4. Astronomy

It occurred to me that Astrology is a bridge between 2.4 in the above list, and 1.1-3.  One takes the observable data about the sky — the geometry and arithmetic in motion — and use the various degree-coordinates as variables in an equation. These are the placements of planets, signs, and houses; and the resulting aspects between them.  The resulting numeric-coordinate variables are compared with a database of possible text-values, e.g., Mars means this, and Venus means that, and the relationship they both have with the Sun in Leo means this other thing.  The sky, in other words, yields first a set of abstracted number-values and variables… and then it yields a set of words.

Which brings us from the quadrivium, the four-way crossroads, to the trivium, the three-way crossroads.  It brings us from the realm of mathematics into the realm of story-telling, and unites the the two realms of language and mathematics.

When a poet tells a story about themselves, it’s autobiographical poetry.  When a rhetor, an epic reciter, tells the story of the Spear-Danes, they’re reciting history.  But when an astrologer reads the stars for a client, they’re creating a real-time story about time and space in which the client is the protagonist and principal character.  Each and every one of us is the hero of our own birth charts.  That’s who we are — the chief character in our own story.

And that’s why the idea of Celestial Poetry resonated so strongly with me. Because you can buy the celestial poetry I’ve already written:

But Sam Reynolds’ comments also provide me with a way of understanding what I think about astrology.  I don’t believe the stars rule our destiny, for example; Marsilio Ficino, the great Renaissance translator, mystic and magician thought that there were coincidences and correlations between human experience and the motions of the heavens because both were being moved and adjusted by the same invisible forces — and thus astrology is simply a matter noticing and reading the obvious but temporary signs left in place by the road-repair crews — you can see the traffic cones and the diamond-shaped orange signs, and you can see the lane changes plainly enough.  But it doesn’t mean you know who ordered them to put out the cones, or when the work is done.

But literature — poetry, storytelling, song, history — always carries with it some level of validity and meaning.  It’s a way of making sense of who we are as humans. It’s part of the reason I’ve written all those astrological poems, for example — because I’m interested in the idea of cycles of time and changes in the world as a result of changes of time.

So I feel as though I finally have a way to explain and explore astrology in other people’s charts beside my own that makes sense for me — I’m not trying to defraud people out of their money or their time; rather, they’re offering to let me tell them a story about themselves, and about the world they live in. They want to hear their own heroism, their own doubts and failures as a hero, and the moment when they stand and find the courage to do what must be done next.

This is, after all, the reason why so many people go to see astrologers — at moments of crisis or difficulty in their lives, they want to have a sense of how the next part of the story plays out.  They want some predictions that they made the right choices, that this part of the story resolves, and that life does in some fashion go on.  Maybe those are the answers they get; maybe they aren’t.  Either way, though, they’re looking for celestial poetry — for a way to connect the raw celestial mechanics of the heavens above, to their own story and their own meaning.

They are looking for the ways in which the apparently-uncaring Cosmos has written their story into the very movement of the stars.  And that feels like a worthy skill to develop — not just to be a writer of poetry, but a writer of poetry that joins the heights of the farthest heavens to the depths of a person’s soul. There’s no telling whether it will ever win prizes or collect fame or fortune — but maybe it will shine starlight and moonlight on a person’s heavy spirit, and give them a light in a dark and wild wood where the way is otherwise lost.

Yet Another New Book

Leave a comment

I have another, another new book on Amazon today:

The Sun’s Paces: 36 Hymns for the Decans of the Zodiac

510f0dXWciL

The Sun’s path across the sky is called the Ecliptic, and it passes through the twelve signs of the Zodiac.  As it does so, it passes through the thirty-six subdivisions of the Zodiac, called the Decans.  Famed in ancient Egyptian, Hellenistic, and Renaissance sources, they’ve become less important in recent centuries — and yet they’re far older.

In these thirty-six poems, Andrew Watt (that is, me, your blog author), explores these hidden meanings, and the hidden sacred stories in the Hellenistic-era deities that preside over the Decans.  In these pages you’ll encounter Tethys the Titanic queen of Ocean and Hekate the magical lady of the Crossroads, Serapis the syncretic tyrant and Dolus the trickster.  The traditional imagery of the Decans are briefly discussed, and suggestions are provided on how to incorporate the study of the Decans into your own life.  Most of all, these poems celebrate the diversity and range of thirty-six other ways of looking at the complexities of modern life through the lenses of ancient wisdom.

Other Writings

This brings to four the number of titles that you can find of my poetry on Amazon.com:

Thank you so much if you’ve already purchased one or more of these collections of poetry. Your support is very much appreciated.

Following Drawing Scripts

2 Comments


Eighth Mansion of the Moon
Originally uploaded by anselm23

When I realized that today’s Mansion of the Moon image involved drawing an eagle with a man’s head, I went to Dragoart.com, and I looked for a template or step-by-step tutorial in how to draw an eagle, and then I massaged it by adding a human face to the eagle body instead of a beak. Once the eagle was completed, I tried to imagine the view behind it, and was rewarded by a sense of what mountains and mesas and desert might look like to the eagle, or rather, from above the eagle. And so it came to pass.

I’m reluctant to impute deep philosophical meaning to these images, but I think it’s significant that I drew these, and a number of friends contacted me out the woodwork and scaffolding of my life, on a day devoted to love and friendship and fellowship. I don’t think I won any wars today, and my imprisonment isn’t confirmed in any way, but I did get up and make art today, and rather successfully, I think.

Which is what’s on my mind—

My mother the artist (Gordon has his mother the psychonaut, I have my mother the artist) is afraid of drawing. So guess what? I taught her Dave Gray‘s Semigram:

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/v0ix%2BSEC?p=1 width=”550″ height=”443″]

Artist, magician, teacher, poet, whatever you are that reads my blog: get out your pencil and your notebook, and learn this lesson by heart. Drawing is thinking, and your drawing will be crippled like my mother’s has been crippled, if you don’t learn some of the cartoonish basics like line and shape. Learning to draw images will improve your sigil work and your divinations if you’re a magician. It will improve your board notes, if you’re a teacher. If you’re a poet, well… maybe it will improve your poetry to know how to make visual art, it’s hard to say; but it will deepen your love and appreciation for visual symbolism, which will deepen the quality of your use of language. Tony knows this well. You can make great birthday presents with your artwork, eventually. And, it will allow you the chance to delight children of all ages and maybe impress people. Just don’t be creepy about it.

But allowing yourself some creative freedom to make mistakes and develop confidence in your abilities as an artist is critical. I used a drawing tutorial today for an eagle. So what? I’d still be struggling without the prior efforts of another artist to help me over that first hump. To paraphrase Isaac Newton (insulting Robert Hooke, as it happens): We stand upon the shoulders of giants.

Get drawing.

Via Flickr:
The eighth mansion of the moon is ruled by the angel Amnediel, and it is imaged as an eagle with a man’s head. It conduces to victory in war, and the moon in this mansion signified love, friendship and society from fellow travelers; it drives away mice and afflicts captives.

I’ve imagined the image as a floating eagle, high above the desert landscape, with the curvature of the earth in sight, and a Mesa and a mountain visible below. The dots help contrast between the eagle and the background. Paint or ink might improve the line quality — birds’ plumage is more color than line, even on an eagle. The base design of the eagle came from dragoart.com/tuts/3358/1/1/how-to-draw-eagles.htm

18th Mansion of the moon

1 Comment




18th Mansion of the moon

Originally uploaded by anselm23

Yesterday’s mansion of the moon. I probably won’t be training kids to draw the 19th mansion today, seeing that it’s “For success in besieging cities and towns”. But we’ll see.