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The Observer Observed (Part 2) Date Published: 3/01/2001 by Bill Sheeran


Part Two

In the first part of this essay, I mentioned two key points which have a bearing on the practice of mundane astrology. Firstly, for the astrology of nation states, the focus of attention is on a country's overall process of political and social development. A little bit of thought makes clear that there is no one horoscope which can act as an autonomous and inclusive map for a nation and her people. Unlike the situation for natal astrology, a nation of people do not appear from the womb at a given moment.

On the other hand, events which help create or maintain structures that support and give form to a society often do have recognisable beginning points. Typical examples would be revolutions, the voting in of a new government, the legal [time established for the] enacting of a new Constitution, and so on. Such events do draw attention to specific moments in time, and so horoscopes can be calculated for them. I would suggest that these event charts form a family, with each horoscope acting as a marker for a significant moment in the historical lineage of a nation's story. Although it contains diverse elements, this family of horoscopes constitutes a flexible unity whose collective relevance persists in time. New charts can become part of the family as time passes, while others may fade from significance. But whatever, the family unit remains.

A movie analogy

The conventional practice of natal astrologers in focusing on just one horoscope was imported into mundane astrology during the 20th century. In seeking the blueprint for nations, astrologers went about identifying when various countries gained political independence and autonomy. These are then considered to be the horoscopes for those countries. To take one recent example, the horoscope for Madagascar is calculated for June 26th, 1960, 00:00am BGT (-3:00), set for Antananarivo 47E31, 18S55, which is the time when she received independence from France. There are lots of people in Madagascar who are older than 41, and who were alive and well before this horoscope came alive. This is rather incongruous, as the situation implies that the national chart, in conventional astrological terms, can have nothing to say about their experiences prior to 1960. Instinctively one would begin to think about possible earlier charts. For example, the time when the French first arrived on the island.

Again, a connected series of points in time begs to come into focus. These could be visualised as frames in a movie which, when run, presents the story of the people living on that island. Particular events in the movie may be especially significant, including the moment of independence. But that frame in itself does not tell the whole story. Instead it may be seen as the beginning of a new sub-plot, which runs in parallel to and becomes intertwined with several others which started earlier in the movie.

Using this movie analogy, one moves away from the static quality of a single relevant horoscope into a consideration of processes among a multiplicity of related charts which together constitute a unity. This unity reveals within itself an open-ended story of the dynamics of becoming. At the same time, on its surface, the unity of horoscopes describes (through the persistence of its relevance in time) a state of being. This polarity of being and becoming is mirrored analogically in our sense of ourselves as being the same persons we were during childhood, while acknowledging that we are also not the same as we were then. The American nation persists in time, but is not the same as it was 200 years ago.

Natural and Judicial astrology

Now to the second key point. The current and in my opinion limiting use of single horoscopes for the births of nation states is a radical break from traditions in mundane astrology prior to the middle of the last century. This shift brings into view a primary tension within the broad sweep of astrology between its 'natural' and 'judicial' forms. These are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they are at the same time quite distinct.

Natural astrology today is most evident in astro-meteorology, financial astrology, earthquake prediction, and so on. The tools used would include observations of eclipses and comets, the Moon's rhythms, and real-time aspects in planetary cycles such as the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, among others. These are all closely related to 'real' astronomical phenomena, and lend themselves to consideration in terms of causal models. In the past these celestial events would have been central to political mundane astrology also. The key point about this type of astrological work is that the astrologer's role is that of observer and reporter. Observations were (or are) compared with past records, and conclusions are drawn. The emphasis is on watching astrology in action in an almost physical sense.

Judicial astrology, of which natal astrology is the prime example, is a different kettle of fish. The astrologer here is not merely reporting on the basis of real celestial events, but making judgements which result primarily from the interpretation of symbols. The use of the zodiac and houses is more prominent, as are non-astronomical techniques such as secondary progressions and transits to planetary positions which are more imaginary than real. It is more the astrologer than astrology in action here.

The astrological picture is, in effect, created by the choices the astrologer makes in terms of techniques. But it doesn't stop there. The astrologer's interpretation will be influenced by cultural conditioning, the level of understanding and knowledge of the context being investigated, personal prejudice, and even the nature of his or her psyche. In short, each astrologer will have his or her own preferences and style.

Implications of the dialogue between psyche and symbol

The reference to psyche is important here. The dialogue between psyche and symbol is personal and subjective, and in its own way is quite mysterious. If a symbol does not 'speak' to your psyche, then it has no meaning. The meaning imparted to a symbol in a textbook tells you what it signifies to several or many other people. However, Chiron, to use one example, doesn't 'speak' to me from a horoscope, no matter how many books I read on the subject. So it's not on my palette, and I don't paint pictures with it. For others it has a powerful field of meaning, and of course they are right to incorporate it into their interpretations. What is important is not what is on the symbol palette, but whether the astrologer is able to glean useful insights when using it.

One can take this further. There are a whole range of techniques we can choose from, different zodiacs and house systems, even different astrologies. If one ignores the role of the astrologer, and focuses solely on the tools the astrologer uses as a means of understanding what astrology is, this plethora of options creates problems. Often techniques or tools can seem to be mutually exclusive (such as the sidereal or tropical zodiacs). The quest then starts to identify which is the correct one, creating a lot of argument and wasted energy. There is no objective right way to do astrology. How can one dismiss a whole sub-continent's tradition out of hand simply because it doesn't fit western notions of a universally applicable system? Astrology is not like science in this regard. As mentioned above the judicial astrologer, far from mimicking the neutral detached role of the scientist, is centrally involved in creating the astrology. Idiosyncrasies of style and the breaking or making of rules are to be expected. The only real judgement one can make is whether or not one feels the insights generated by an astrologer have a useful applicable value.

An illustrative example

I'd like to illustrate all these points with an example based on my work in researching the mundane astrology of political processes which provide the framework for the history of Ireland. This island lying off the north west coast of the European land mass contains two separate 'nation states'; the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland. While the island and its people have a cultural and political history which extends back into the mists of time, the partition into two states only happened 70 years ago. In recent decades, the tension generated by the implications of the partitioning border erupted into a tragic 30 year conflict which is only now in the process of resolution.

I started working on this subject in 1992, prompted by an urge to understand political and social developments in my own country (the Republic of Ireland), alongside growing fears about the way the conflict was escalating up in the North. As my previous astrological experience was in natal astrology, I went looking for the 'correct' national birth charts, assuming that such things existed. On consulting Campion's Book of World Horoscopes, I was thrown into confusion, as there were three charts for my own country, all contained within a time frame of 35 years. One was for an event which wasn't associated with a political birth of any kind, but a proclamation of independence [made] at the start of a failed uprising in 1916. Another was for the first semblance of political autonomy for 26 of the 32 counties in Ireland, which occurred as the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922. And the last was for the birth of the Republic of Ireland in 1949. Which was the horoscope I should be using?

Driven by my quest for beginnings, my eye was led along a line of temporal perspective receding into the past. I realised that I was looking at a sequence of horoscopes for events connected as part of a linear historical process. There is no objective fixed starting point to such an historical process. On the other hand, the two political States on the island mirror a fundamental division; in the south the people exist as citizens of a Republic, while in the north, the people are subjects under the British constitutional monarchy. As the people of the Republic had to fight politically and militarily to break free from the influence of the British Crown, my attention was drawn to identifying the birth within the Irish of collective [awareness] of active Republicanism. It was the germination or birth and growth of this movement which bore fruit in terms of the current States on the island. If I could find a suitable horoscope to symbolise this birth, I anticipated that subsequent events of political significance would coincide with transits and progressions to the chosen chart.

Looking for a horoscope for an aspirational concept

It's important to point out that what I was seeking was a horoscope for nothing more tangible than the emergence and evolution of an abstract and aspirational concept. This is somewhat different from the situation which holds for the animated flesh and bones of natal astrology. Instead of the cutting of an umbilical cord and the separation of one physical entity from another, a useful image I hold is of the appearance of a vortex in the flowing currents of a stream. This has conceptual implications. A vortex is never separated from the context it is born from - the flowing stream. It is what one might call a process-structure. To continue the analogy, if it rains and the stream starts flowing faster, the behaviour of the vortex changes. It speeds up. Other vortices appear in the stream which maintain virtually static positions relative to each other as the currents continue to flow. In using a model such as this, I, as the astrologer, am placing constraints on the form any astrological picture generated by my research would take. The same can be said of my choice to apply crucial astrological significance to the emergence of republicanism in relation to the future story of the Irish nation up to the present day. I could have chosen the invasion of Ireland by the Normans in 1169, or several other key historical events.

The roots of Irish Republicanism

Checking out the story of Irish republicanism in historical records, I was drawn back to a meeting which was held on October 14th 1791 in Belfast. On this day, the Society of United Irishmen came into being. A group of merchant class Irishmen voted on certain resolutions drawn up by one Theobald Wolfe Tone, who is commonly referred to as the founding father of Irish Republicanism. Originally, this society was set up to promote radical parliamentary reform and the reduction of English influence on Irish affairs, but it rapidly became a secret society dedicated to establishing a Republican government and complete separation from England, by the use of force if necessary. In Tone's diaries, he wrote of that foundational meeting: "We formed our club, of which I wrote the declaration, and certainly the formation of that club commenced a new epoch in the politics of Ireland."

Of course, the Irish republican movement was hugely influenced by events raging elsewhere in the world during that period, particularly in France although past developments in America offered hope too. The French Revolution which started in 1789 gave rise to its first Republic in 1792. What is quite striking is that unlike the upheavals in the aforementioned countries, the quest for a united Irish republic is still ongoing. All the political structures on this island which have come and gone, or which still exist, are emergent properties of a process which effectively started in 1791. The vortex is still spinning.

The lunar eclipse on October 12th 1791

In looking at the astrology surrounding October 14th 1791, I noticed that there had been a lunar eclipse two days previously. I didn't really know much about eclipses, but had recently bought Neil Michelson's 'Tables of Planetary Phenomena', which contained eclipse data for the period I was interested in. The horoscope for the lunar eclipse at 1:30am GMT October 12th 1791 is an amazing looking chart. I set it for Dublin (53N21, 6W18), it being the capital city at the time. The chart really grabbed my intuitive attention to the point where I was quite mesmerised by it. I found myself laying aside the data for October 14th, when the Irish republican movement was actually initiated, and started experimenting with this jewel I felt I had been presented with. Here again, it is the astrologer and not the conventional logic of astrology which was driving the modelling. That eclipse chart was speaking to me and commanding my attention.

Naturally, the horoscopes for the two dates have a lot in common, and both of them shout out a loud radicality in relation to the themes they were being mapped onto. In other words, their symbolisms reflected the themes of independence, separatism, militant revolution, nationalism and republicanism rooted in the liberal ideologies of the time. But the eclipse horoscope shouts loudest. The most obvious signatures in this regard are Mars conjunct Uranus, both in opposition to Pluto across the Leo-Aquarius ascendant axis; a stellium in Libra including the Sun, Jupiter and the lunar N.Node opposed by a Saturn Moon conjunction in Aries. These are all configured into a tight rectangular formation.

One feature caught my eye. The Mars-Uranus-Pluto pattern across the Leo-Aquarius Ascendant axis was contained between 18-20 degrees, the Ascendant itself being at 23-24 Leo. I had previously noted that in the 1916 Proclamation of Independence chart, the Ascendant was at 20 Leo, with Uranus opposite at 19 Aquarius.

The failed 1916 Easter Rising was a key turning point in the quest for Irish independence and the creation of a Republic. I had speculated that the horoscopes for either the lunar eclipse in October 1791, or for the meeting which happened on October 14th (no time) might work as a root chart for Irish Republican nationalism. Here I was looking at a Uranus transit which was aligned with a Mars-Uranus-Pluto pattern across Leo-Aquarius in either of these charts, coinciding with a military uprising which led eventually to the transformation of subjects into citizens. It is an understatement to say that this conforms with astrological traditions.

Choosing to use the lunar eclipse chart

This encouraged me to look at earlier and subsequent crucial events in the Irish Republican story. I used the eclipse horoscope as a root chart for this purpose, as it could be accurately timed, a psychological comfort for me in those days. The results surprised me, as I found the angles and the ASC/MC midpoint for the lunar eclipse horoscope triggered on several key occasions, as well as the eclipse axis itself.

Note that any conjunction to symbols involved in the tight rectangular pattern (positions given below) necessarily aspect all the other symbols in that pattern, whether by conjunction, opposition, sextile or trine. Any square aspect by transit will also coincide with semisextile, quincunx or opposition transits to the rest of the configuration. To save space (while sacrificing a degree of clarity), I will call the whole rectangular configuration the 'eclipse complex,' and use this term when any of its component symbols are triggered by transit or progression. The actual degree positions of the eclipse complex components are as follows:

Sun:18Li40     Moon:18Ar40     Mars:19Le09     Uranus:18Le09     Pluto:19Aq54

This means that any planet or point between 18 - 20 degrees in the Cardinal or Fixed signs by transit or progression will impact on the whole pattern.

The table below is part of what I found. No precession correction was employed. If you take the time to study the results given below, referring to the above-listed degree positions of the eclipse complex when necessary, I think you will find some very appropriate symbolism connecting the transits and progressions to the events they correlate with. Remember that the radix horoscope is for a lunar eclipse which happened over 200 years ago. This is not a conventional way of using lunar eclipse charts, whose interpretative relevance is usually measured in months, or perhaps a year or two at most.

In the final part of this article, I will discuss the correlations presented in the above table. In doing so I will expand on some of the ideas mentioned in this text by fleshing them out in the form of an astrological picture or model. A central motif will be the concept of a vortex in a flowing stream. I'll be introducing the notion of structural coupling as a way of conceptualising the bonding which allows separate horoscopes to come together as a unity. Finally, I will be suggesting what I believe the three national horoscopes for Ireland in Campion's 'Book of World Horoscopes' actually represent.


Event Planets and points activated Transits / Progs Comments
United Irishmen Insurrection
May 23rd 1798.
ASC (23Le32)
Eclipse complex
pMA (23Le 59)
tMA (20Aq 00)
First major military campaign
Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland January 1st 1801 00:00 London ASC (23Le 32)
AS/MC (1Ca 21)
Eclipse complex
tSA (23Le 22r)
tUR (1Li 54)
tMO (19Ca 25)
tNE (18Sc 44)
Integration of Ireland within the UK. Note the very apt tSA on the ASC, and the diffusion or confusion of rebellious energy implied by tNE to UR and MA.
First Irish Republican Brotherhood uprising
March 5th 1867
Eclipse complex pASC (18Li 40) IRB were forerunners of the IRA
IRB adopts first known Constitution of the Irish Republic
August 18th 1869
Eclipse complex tJU (20 Ta)
tPL (17Ta 59)
tMA (19 Li)
tUR (19Ca 56)
tNE (19Ar 23)
A very strong set of transits. Note the t-square between MA,NE and UR, and the involvement of tJU in this idealistic but fanciful quasi-judicial act
IRB Supreme Council proclaims itself provisional government of the Irish Republic
March 17th 1873
Eclipse complex tPL (19Ta 13) An extreme act of revolutionary will by a secret militant organisation. tPL squ MA, UR, PL
Easter Rising; Proclamation of Independence
April 24th 1916 Dublin 12:00 LMT
SA (15Ar 10 retro)
Eclipse complex
AS/MC (1Ca21)
pSA (15Ar 12)
tASC (20Le 23)
tUR (19Aq 20)
tPL (1Ca 32)
The key turning point. Sowed seeds for War of Independence 1919-1923. Note progressed 1791 eclipse chart Saturn Return.
tUR con PL, opp UR, MA
Foundation of Irish Free State
December 6th 1922
Eclipse complex tSA (17Li 39)
tNE (18Le 07)
Began during the confusion of a civil war. Contains 26 of the 32 counties in Ireland
Irish Constitution comes into effect
December 29th 1937
MC (9Ta 09) tUR (9Ta 53) This was done without fulfilling lingering obligations to the British Government.
Republic of Ireland begins April 18th 1949 Eclipse complex
esp. MO (18Ar40)
SU (18Li40)
pSA (18Ar 50)
pMC (18Li 11)
Fulfilment of the aims set out in 1791 for 26 counties. Given the time frame, the progs. are astonishing.
Start of the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland
AS/MC (1Ca21)
Eclipse complex
tUR ~ 1-2 Libra
tSA 18-20 Aries
Uranus return of the 1801 Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland. When Saturn was at 18Ar46, the N.Ireland PM gave his 'Ulster at the crossroads' speech.
'Bloody Sunday'
Jan 30th 1972
Eclipse complex
MC (9Ta 09)
tPL (1Li 51)
tUR (18Li 18)
lunar eclipse (9Le39)
13 unarmed civil rights protestors shot dead by British paratroopers, causing huge influx into the IRA
Years prior to end of IRA military campaign 1992-3 Eclipse complex
SA (15Ar 10)
tUR (18-19 Cp)
tNE (18-19 Cp)
pVE (15 - 16 Ar)
A very difficult time when escalating atrocities coincided with secret peace talks.
IRA cease-fire announced August 31st 1994 11:05am Dublin ASC (23Le 32)
SU/VE (24Li 39)
MO/VE (24Ca 39)
AS/MC (1Ca 21)
MC (9Ta 09)
pPL (23Aq 26)
pJU (24Li 34)
pSA (24Ar 31)
tAS 23Li 36)
tVE (23Li 36)
tMO (1Ca 35)
tSA (9Pi 06)
tMA (9Ca 25)
tSU (7Vi 47)
tJU (9Sc 43)
This is an extraordinary set of transits and progressions. Venus was exactly on the Ascendant when the announcement was made. The progressed Jupiter on the Sun/Venus midpoint is especially appropriate. At this time Pluto was also conjunct Venus in the traditional chart for Northern Ireland.
Canary Wharf bombing February 9th 1996 7:01pm London Eclipse complex tNN (18Li 42)
tMO (18Li 51)
tSU (20Aq 19)
Ends first IRA cease-fire. Cease-fire reinstated on July 20th 1997
Good Friday Agreement
April 10th 1998 17:36 Belfast
AS/MC (1Ca 21)
VE (0Sc 37)
tNN (1Li 18)
pMO (29Li 57)
The key event of the post IRA cease-fire peace process
Sinn Fein issue 'war is at an end' statement'. September 1 1998, 16:30 Belfast ASC (23Le 32)
MC (9Ta 09)
tVE (23Le 37)
tUR (9Aq39 retr)
Sinn Fein are the political wing of the IRA
IRA state intention to put arms beyond use.
May 6th 2000
Eclipse complex tSA (19Ta 52)
tUR (20Aq40)
The arms decommissioning issue reappeared at the beginning of 2001 as part of the final hurdle in consolidating peace. Uranus was back in the same degree area during that time.


Go to Part 3 ⇒


© Copyright: Bill Sheeran





Other articles by Bill Sheeran:

Sheeran, BillThe Observer Observed (Part 1)

Sheeran, BillThe Observer Observed (Part 3)



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