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The Observer Observed (Part 3) Date Published: 5/01/2001 by Bill Sheeran


Part Three

There are two main themes running through this series of essays. One of them concerns issues arising when the astrologer is seen as a major contributor to the construction of an astrologically based story, as is the case with forms of judicial astrology. The other main theme concerns the astrology of nations, and questions whether the idea of a single foundational horoscope for a nation state by itself is particularly useful for understanding that country's social and political dynamics. I have chosen to use as subject matter the question of Irish national statehood, with myself as the interpreting astrologer who constructs a story by working with a set of symbols and chosen tools in relation to that context. Such a construction has a value in so far as it illuminates the dynamics of an evolving historical picture, both retrospectively and also in terms of the present and future. This astrological perspective is considered to add something to the overall understanding, supplementing insights drawn from other disciplines.

Astrology stretches from symbolic forms such as horary to virtually physical forms such as astro-meteorology. These two poles of a spectrum contain between them the full range astrology's field. Each location in the spectrum where a branch of astrology lies will be characterized by a particular blend of the symbolic and the physical. This blend to some extent selects for a certain general stylistic approach on the part of the astrologer. It is in the middle ground of the astrology spectrum that the creative contribution of the astrologer's consciousness is crucially brought into play. For here, the astrologer is unbridled from the strict rules of horary. He or she is also free from the detached observer status that ideally holds for, say, astro-meteorology.

And therein lie [astrology's] main constraints as well as its freedom. Each astrologer has a preferred set of tools, a philosophical perspective and cultural bias which contributes to the development of a style which is highly subjective. The creative dialogue between psyche and symbol is a very personal thing. Hence two astrologers considering the same time and place data, though using two different sets of tools, can arrive at equally useful and even overlapping insights. Similarly, two astrologers using exactly the same set of tools can derive very different insights, both contributing something positive to the overall understanding of the issue in question.

Bearing this in mind, the following paragraphs describe some of the elements that contribute to my own style. They help to make sense of the picture which I have developed regarding Irish national charts as well as general thoughts on mundane astrology triggered by the astrological data presented in Part 2 of this series.

My Tools

My tool kit for mundane astrology work is fairly basic. In selecting it from the available range of techniques, I am taking on constraints in the same way an artist does when choosing a colour palette. This naturally influences the nature of the picture I produce.

I use the tropical zodiac with the Sun, Moon, eight conventional planets and the lunar nodes as my root symbol system. I down play the importance of houses and their cusps, but pay a lot of attention to the Ascendant and Midheaven for accurately timed events, and will note the quadrant positions of planets and their relationship to the Angles. I use midpoints selectively to supplement the basic palette, as they make sense to me, and experience tells me they have explanatory power. For dynamic work I use transits and progressions. Even though long time frames are often used in mundane work, I don't use precession corrections. And that's about it.

My Philosophical Filters

There are some key factors in my world-view which influence my approach to astrology. First of all I am conscious of the fact that I don't understand what I am doing - I don't know the 'how' of astrology. Thus, as far as I am concerned, the definitive rule book has not and cannot have been written, which unleashes my creativity. On the other hand, I do not ignore tradition or the historical experience of other astrologers.

I attach a lot of significance to interpretation as a subjective act. I believe non-rational mental faculties are in play. When I am engaged with a horoscope's symbolism there is, for want of a better term, an element of divination involved. In other words, there is an 'occult' dialogue between symbols and psyche - the symbol patterns speak to me. This runs in parallel with a more literal recognition of a symbol's meaning, originally based on book learning but subsequently confirmed by experience. In other words, I wouldn't argue with Saturn as a symbol of limits, but would allow non-rational faculties to guide me in the direction of its local meaning. At the same time, I also use reason and common sense when interpreting patterns.

For me, astrologically revealed potential percolates through the worldly context. In doing so, a modulation occurs which ultimately determines the manifest form which that potential takes. The specific meaning of a symbol or pattern is not given in the horoscope. Thus, understanding the context well is a prerequisite for making useful statements, no matter how one approaches the interpretation of symbols. I see life as highly complex, open, evolving, and hard to predict in specific terms. Life is not clockwork.

My Cultural Bias

I am a European, and my education emphasized reason, materialism and the freedom of the individual. I am not a fatalist. My Irish soul has me attuned to imagination, which I see as equally valuable as reason. For me, reason goes to work on what has first been imagined. Perceived truths, though often constructed using reason, are ultimately rooted in the imagination. Einstein's formula e=mc2 did not start out its life on a blackboard. I believe that inspiration occurs through non-rational faculties, so I have learned to try to both recognize and assimilate the fruits of their activity, despite the reluctance voiced by my conditioned rationality.

The Heart of the Matter

At the heart of the astrological picture under discussion is a horoscope for a lunar eclipse which occurred on October 12th 1791. For me it represents a root horoscope for the story of Irish republican nationalism. It was I who chose this chart, not the imperatives of astrological tradition. The use I make of it is idiosyncratic. It was a combination of curiosity and non-rational intuition or perhaps inspiration which led me to focus on this eclipse chart. I can't justify this easily, other than to say that the chart 'spoke very loudly to me'. I believe that the divinatory aspect of astrology was in play here. The eclipse occurred two days earlier than the actual 'birth event'. Historically, the emergence of the aspiration towards an independent Irish Republic is associated with a vote held at a meeting between political activists on October 14th 1791.

In Part 2 of this series I tabulated events of major significance to the story of Irish republicanism and correlated them with transits and progressions to that lunar eclipse chart from 1798, set for Dublin to the present year. I focused attention especially on the eclipse axis and its pattern of aspects from other planets, as well as the Angles, and the midpoint between the Ascendant and Midheaven. If you look back at the results, you will see how my use of this lunar eclipse chart is justified by conventional astrological standards. The correlations are striking. To be honest, it is true that fairly adequate correlations would come from using a horoscope for October 14th. This is because a key pattern is the close opposition between Pluto and a Mars Uranus conjunction, which holds in charts for both days. This is an explosive combination. However, the repetitive involvement of the Angles, the AS/MC midpoint and eclipse axis itself during transits and progressions for crucial events is fairly extraordinary in my opinion. And these would not be present in a horoscope for the 14th.

The Act of Union 1801

An example of the usefulness of this eclipse horoscope is given by the transits active when the Act of Union (which gave birth to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) came into force at midnight on January 1st 1801. Saturn was located at 23Le22r, sitting on the eclipse chart Ascendant at 22Le32. Whatever parliamentary power Ireland had at the time was removed with this Act, and from thence forward she was ruled from Westminster. This was obviously a major blow to the republican independence cause. The impact of a constraining and weighty authority coincident with a political union is clearly consistent with the Saturn transit to the Ascendant.

Uranus (1Li 54) was square the eclipse horoscope's AS/MC (1Ca21). Here we can see the signature of disruption, or, as Ebertin's The Combination of Stellar Influences (COSI) puts it "the spoiling of plans". Neptune at 18Sc44 was square the 'explosive' Mars/Uranus/Pluto pattern lying between 18-20 Leo Aquarius. One would not expect much clarity or potency during this signature for the diffusion of revolutionary energy, but instead a lot of confusion and perhaps disillusionment.

The Act of Union came after a failed and very bloody republican insurrection in 1798, and was made necessary by both the continuing Irish unrest and the fact that England was fearful of an invasion by the French through the 'backdoor' of Ireland. Irish revolutionaries of the time made close alliances with republican France, and received military help from them.

Structural Coupling

The Act of Union has its own horoscope, one which is still very relevant today, it being the most commonly used chart for modern Britain. However, this horoscope is simultaneously a set of transits to the postulated 1791 Irish republican chart. This means that there is an intimate connection in the astrological plane between the destiny of the United Kingdom and the goal of Irish republicanism.

This intimate connection has its astrological consequences. For example, transits to the 1801 UK chart's Saturn necessarily coincide with transits to the Ascendant in the 1791 eclipse chart, as both chart factors inhabit the same degree. Similarly, planetary transits to the UK Uranus or Neptune will coincide with transits to the 1791 chart's AS/MC midpoint and eclipse complex respectively. By eclipse complex, I mean the eclipse axis itself at 18Ar40 and 18Li40, along with the Mars/Uranus/Pluto alignment along the 18 - 20 Leo/Aquarius axis that aspects it.

It is worth noting that the AS/MC midpoint for the Act of Union horoscope set for Westminster (51N30, 0W07) lies at 23Le15. This highlights considerably the significance of Saturn (23Le22) in the chart for the UK, but also amplifies the extent of resonant connection between these two horoscopes, bringing the Ascendant of one into conjunction with the AS/MC midpoint of the other.

I use the term 'structural coupling' to describe this in-built resonance which can exist between horoscopes. My feeling is that it is especially significant if the horoscopes so coupled refer to real world circumstances where there is indeed an important relationship characterised by a sequence in time. For example, in the case under discussion, the UK's birth was partly prompted by the earlier expressions of the 1791 eclipse chart - i.e. militant republican activity. This is a different situation from straightforward synastry between horoscopes that are initially contextually disconnected, as is the case with strangers who meet and become lovers, for example.

A Vortex Analogy

I'd like to introduce the analogy of a vortex here to help as an aid in visualizing points made later in the text.

A vortex emerges in a flowing system such as a countryside stream. It is a structure which emerges as part of a process, and which manages to persist for a period of time - it has a certain transient inertia, if you like. In order for the vortex to remain in existence, there have to be certain conditions of movement and flow in the system. A vortex can never exist separately from the system in which it emerges, and there is a lot of exchange involved (communication) between the vortex and its environment.

Imagine that the weather has been gentle and the flow of the stream is fairly uniform. Not a vortex in sight. As rain starts to fall, more water enters the system and the flow rate increases. Depending on various factors such as the depth of the stream, the presence of rocks, the uneven nature of the stream's bed and so on, at some point a vortex will appear. As the flow increases, more vortices appear. As the rains continue to pour and the flow rate increases further, all structural integrity disappears and turbulent conditions replace the vortices. Then it stops raining. As the flow starts to diminish, the turbulence subsides, and vortices once again appear in the stream. As the flow decreases further still, these vortices become increasingly shallower and slow moving, before finally disappearing into what becomes a uniform flow once more.

I use this model to describe what I see as the transient relevance of collective level horoscopes as used in mundane astrology. Such transience may spread out over a prolonged time frame of several centuries, or for much shorter periods.

In my analogy, and taking a leaf from C. G. Jung, I would imaginally postulate a collective psychic stream. This can be approached on any scale. For example, the collective European psyche. If one reduces the scale, one might postulate within that larger European stream a collective current which represents the dynamics of the Anglo-Irish relationship. Within that at a lower scale again, the separate collective psyches of the Irish and the English, and so on. The streams I am focusing on in this article are those for the Anglo-Irish relationship and for Ireland herself. I will be using this analogy to help visualise the emergence of 'psychic' vortices in these streams. Each imaginal vortex is associated with a horoscope. The central idea is that while the vortex still spins in the collective stream, the horoscope is still alive and relevant.

The 1791 Vortex

Back to Ireland, 1791. In the 'flow rate' in the collective stream on this level has increased due to environmental (socio-political) pressure. A vortex appears in the collective Irish psychic stream that reflects a similar vortex turning on the 'higher' European level, for in Europe it is an era of republican revolution. This vortex starts turning slowly at first, marking the emergence of an aspiration to create a future Irish Republic. The initial overt material expression of this aspiration (and its vortex) was the formation of the Society of United Irishmen (sic) on October 14th 1791. As mentioned above, somewhat idiosyncratically, I choose to focus on a lunar eclipse horoscope for two days earlier. For me, this chart symbolizes the covert potential of the Irish Republican aspiration.

Feeding off the energy of the broader socio-political environment, the 'republican aspiration vortex' deepens and gathers speed. There are effects in the real world. In other words, the vortex is also feeding back into its environment. Astrologically, the potential of the horoscope is unfolding and finding manifest form. Most obviously, this is evident in the bloody insurrection of 1798, a military failure for the republican movement. This began on May 23rd when 1791 Mars had progressed to the Ascendant, and Mars by transit sat conjunct 1791 Pluto.

As the pressure increases, other vortices appear in the stream, coinciding with either traumatic or highly significant political events, all of which are related to the original aspiration towards establishing an Irish republic. These I would see as constituting a family, each member being represented by its own horoscope.

Back to Structural Coupling

The United Kingdom was one consequence of this increased pressure. This is clearly a robust political entity, just as the Irish aspiration to independent republican statehood is also robust. We can therefore conceptualize the UK as another vortex with considerable inertia, its potential signified by the horoscope for its emergence on January 1st 1801. This and the 1791 Irish republican vortex are part of the same system and as noted above are astrologically coupled with each other. This is indicated not only by the shared degree positions of important planets and points. Until 1922, the whole of Ireland was contained politically within the UK. The struggle for an independent Ireland entailed breaking the United Kingdom, and the fortunes of both have been intertwined as a result for 200 years. At this moment in time, 6 of Ireland's 32 counties still remain in the UK, ensuring that the linking remains solid, and that both vortices are still spinning.

It is important to point out that 'robust' vortices and the entities they are associated with do have a life of their own, despite any coupling between them. Obviously the experience of the United Kingdom is not solely determined by 'the Irish Question', just as the unfolding of Irish republicanism is not tied 100% to the dynamics of the UK.

So, based on the above discussion, we initially have the following astrological scenarios relevant to the dynamics of Irish republicanism:

  • Transits unique to the 1791 eclipse chart
  • Transits unique to the UK chart
  • Transits relevant for both charts due to structural coupling
  • Progressions to the UK chart
  • Progressions to the 1791 eclipse chart

A Word about Progressions and Structural Coupling Progressions due to their nature are unique and internal to individual horoscopes, so they are not involved in structural coupling. One horoscope's progressions can't be shared with another's except in extremely unusual circumstances. In the simplest scenario, both charts would have to have the same planet in exactly identical positions to start with, and also planets or points the same distance away from these identical positions.

Instead, progressions reveal something about the internal state of the process represented by the horoscope. There is a certain ripeness in the realm of potential when fruits, whether bitter or sweet, drop to the ground. An example would be the progression of Mars to the Ascendant (23Le32) in the 1791 eclipse horoscope in 1798, when the republican movement was 'ripe' for taking a military path. Another example is the progression of the Ascendant and the Midheaven to the Sun and Moon of the 1791 eclipse axis in 1949, when the Republic of Ireland as it now stands came into being. This is a remarkable piece of astrological timing which saw the beginning of a resilient political entity.

Three Charts

The quest for an independent Irish Republic moved through many key events and turning points. While not denying the significance of Catholic emancipation, the Great Famine, the War of Independence, and so on, three dates stand out. These can be listed as the 1916 Easter Rising; the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922; and the beginning of the Republic of Ireland in 1949. Each of these events generated their own robust vortex, symbolized by the appropriate horoscopes. They have all astrologically 'emerged' from the primary vortex of the 1791eclipse, as the next table below shows.

The inclusion of the 1916 Easter Rising chart requires some elaboration. This uprising was a military failure. So why not use the chart for the War of Independence in 1919, which was a success? Why, indeed, was the 1916 horoscope used as the sole national chart for several decades? If there is any logic to the analytical attribution of historical significance, on the surface this does not make sense.

Ireland does not celebrate the War of Independence. On the other hand, every Easter Republicans gather for commemorative speeches at various cemeteries containing the remains of martyred patriots, the most important being held at the graveside of Wolfe Tone, who wrote the proposals voted on in October 1791. Another major venue is the resting place of those who signed the Proclamation of Independence, the reading of which marked the start of the 1916 Rising. That Proclamation was effectively written in blood. With one or two exceptions, all those who signed it were executed for treason after their surrender. The psychological and emotional impact of these executions dissolved the general indifference of the majority of the Irish public to republican goals for good, and set a new 'vortex' spinning off, adding to the 1791 eclipse 'vortex family'. The significance of this event is confirmed astrologically by considering the strong transits and progressions to the 1791 eclipse chart with which the Rising coincided.


Table 1 (all orbs < 1° except where noted)

Event1791 eclipse chart progs / transits
Easter Rising
April 24th 1916
Dublin 12:25 GMT
pSA con radix SA*, pAS squ UR tUR con PL, tUR opp MA, tUR opp UR (1º11'), tPL con AS/MC, tNE squ VE, tAS opp PL,
Irish Free State
Dec 6th 1922
Dublin 5:00pm GMT
tNE con UR, tNE con MA (1º 02') tSA con eclipse axis (1º 02')
Republic of Ireland
April 18th 1949
00:00 BST Dublin
pSA con eclipse axis pMC con eclipse axis

*Saturn was retrograde at 15Ar10 during the 1791 eclipse. As it moved back within 20' of its radix position in 1913, the Irish Volunteers were formed. This body became the IRA prior to the Easter Rising in 1916, which started when progressed Saturn was within 1' of its 1791 position. By the time progressed Saturn had moved beyond 20' of its radix position, the War of Independence had started in 1919. The build up of republican militancy, its unsuccessful but psychologically powerful expression in 1916, and the subsequently fruitful War of Independence define a process which laid the foundations for achieving the republican ambitions set in motion as an aspiration in 1791. The fact that this process should be mirrored within the time frame of the 'progressed Saturn Return' phase is astrologically very interesting and most appropriate. That an actual Republic, albeit comprising 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland, should emerge when progressed Saturn was exactly aligned with the 1791 horoscope's eclipse axis (orb 8') can be considered a major validation of the use of that chart.


Historically, this was a time of great upheaval in Europe, an indication of 'increased pressure' within the broader environmental context. In my analogy, this creates conditions for acceleration of the vortex representing the unfolding potential associated with the aspiration towards Irish independence, and the possible emergence of novelty.

1801 UK Chart Structural Coupling

It is instructive to look at the transits and progressions operating in relation to the 1801 UK chart for these three events. I have mentioned that there is significant structural coupling between the 1791 and 1801 horoscopes, and that the UK chart also operates separately - i.e. has its own robust vortex. Thus one can look at transits to the 1801 UK chart which are linked through structural coupling with the 1791 horoscope, but also at the uncoupled transits and progressions unique to the 1801 chart itself.

To reiterate, structural coupling occurs when two horoscopes contain planets or points at a particular degree (+ or - 1º). These planets or points do not have to be the same - it may be Pluto at 23 Aries in one chart, and Saturn at 23 Aries in the other. When Uranus, for example, reaches 23 Aries, both charts experience the Uranian transit in their own way. If the charts belong to entities which have some kind of relationship with each other - e.g. the Irish desire to break free from English political influence (1791 chart), and the maintenance of English influence in Ireland (UK chart) - then transits activating structural coupling between those charts indicate times when major shifts in the relationship dynamics can occur.


Table 2 (all orbs < 1° except where noted.) Entries in red show transits to the 1801 UK chart which coincided with simultaneous transits to planets or points in the 1791 eclipse chart (shown in green). Stand-alone transits and progressions for the 1801 chart are shown in black in the right hand column.

Event 1801 chart transits (coupled ) 1801 transits and progs (uncoupled)
Irish Free State
tNE squ NE (con 1791 UR, con MA)
tSA sqq PL (con 1791 eclipse axis)
tPL opp SU, tPL con MC (1°20'), tMO opp SU, tUR tri MCpMO con SU, pMO con IC,pSU con MA, pMA con MC (1°16')
Rep. of Ireland
tNE squ NE (con 1791 UR, con MA)
tSA sqq PL (con 1791 eclipse axis)
tPL opp SU, tPL con MC (1º20'), tMO opp SU, tUR tri MC pMO con SU, pMO con IC, pSU con MA, pMA con MC (1º16')
Rep. of Ireland
- none - tNE con S.node, tPL tri N.node tMO squ UR


What stands out in Table 2 is that there was no structural coupling involving the 1791 eclipse chart and the 1801 UK chart activated when the Republic of Ireland came into being. While there were two extraordinary progressions happening within the 1791 eclipse chart (see Table 1), the 1801 UK chart was relatively silent, barring a couple of nevertheless interesting transits to the lunar nodal axis and a fleeting signature of consolidation of independence suggested by the transit Moon in Capricorn square 1801 Uranus. There is one obvious explanation for this. In 1949, the nation state which became the Republic of Ireland had formally and legally left the UK in 1922 when the Irish Free State came into being. So one would not expect the dynamics between the 1791 and 1801 UK horoscopes to have any bearing on this new situation.

The 1916 Vortex

On the other hand, the 1916 Uprising happened in Ireland, but within the United Kingdom. Thus it is not surprising to see transit Pluto square the 1801 UK Uranus at the same time as it lies conjunct the 1791 eclipse chart AS/MC midpoint. Or transit Uranus square the UK Neptune while at the same time lying conjunct 1791 eclipse Pluto, and so on. As regards uncoupled transits in the UK chart, the transit Uranus inconjunction to the UK Moon speaks of a rebellion among the people. Saturn sextile Mars, and Jupiter sextile Venus promise a UK victory, which indeed came to pass - the rebellion was put down in a matter of a few days. In a broader European context, the combined set of transits to the UK chart for this time (as shown by adding together those in both columns) was very challenging, as reflected in the huge difficulties being experienced in France against the German army on the Western Front.

The 1922 Vortex

When the Irish Free State began in 1922, a substantial lump fell off the United Kingdom formed in 1801. It's name changed from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is made up from 6 of the 32 counties on the island. This new UK (along with Northern Ireland as a legal entity) formally came into being the following day on December 7th 1922. This rebirth and transformation is aptly described by the transit of Pluto opposite the 1801 UK Sun and conjunct its MC see Table 2). We might also note the very appropriate progressed Moon conjunct the 1801 UK Sun. Perhaps the progressed Sun conjunct 1801 UK Mars hints at the conflict which was to consume Northern Ireland for 30 years at the end of the last century.

The structural coupling between the 1791 and 1801 charts activated in 1922 indicates two themes which were relevant at the foundation of the Irish Free State. First, the dissolution of the ideal (tNE squ NE) and curtailing of power (tSA sqq PL) in the chart for the UK. Secondly, the synchronous manifestation of a degree of Irish independence as aspired to in 1791, as symbolised by the structurally coupled Saturn transit conjunct the 1791 lunar eclipse axis.

A consequence of the settlement between Irish republican activists and the UK government that led to the setting up of the Irish Free State was the consolidation of the partition of the island. This settlement precipitated a civil war between those Republicans who accepted what was on offer (a 26 county Free State) and those who felt that Republican ideals had been betrayed. This latter group believed (and believe) that nothing short of a united 32 county Irish Republic would do. The Irish Free State was born in the middle of a civil war. The confusion among Republicans at this time is indicated by the transit of Neptune conjunct Mars and Uranus in the 1791. Those who had fought side by side in the War of Independence found themselves pointing guns at each other. Despite the new found relative autonomy, the 1791 vortex kept on spinning beyond 1922.

The 1949 Vortex

The 26 county Republic of Ireland emerged in 1949 at a time when there were two highly significant progressions to the 1791 eclipse chart, but little in the way of notable transits. On the one hand, the progressions indicate a clear historical lineage with the Republican aspirations born in 1791. One might see the progression Saturn and the MC's close alignment with the 1791 lunar eclipse axis as indicating a 'coming to fruition' in relation to the primary theme of that horoscope, which is certainly true in name at least. On the other hand, the lack of tight transit activity indicates that no structural coupling to speak of exists between the 1791 eclipse chart and the 1949 Republic's chart. This suggests that whatever the 1949 horoscope represents, it is not attached to the theme of militant republicanism, and is in a sense set free from that current in the collective Irish psyche. It is tempting to see this 1949 chart as being the primary national horoscope for the Republic of Ireland since its inception, but the situation is more complicated than that.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland came into being on December 7th 1922, the day after the foundation of the Irish Free State. The horoscopes for both states are therefore very similar, and they describe two of the vortices running in the Anglo-Irish collective stream. Even though a Republic of Ireland existed as an independent political entity in the real world, there were still psychological reverberations linking it back to the unfinished business of the original republican agenda - that is, the pursuit of a wholly united Ireland.

In this respect, it is worth pointing out that the Irish Constitution of 1937, which is still in use today emerged before the Republic of Ireland began. It is a product of the Irish Free State, and notably was implemented when Uranus was conjunct the MC of the Free State chart. Articles 2 and 3 of this Constitution essentially laid claim to the 'ownership' to the 6 counties of Northern Ireland. Despite the astrological detachment of the Republic of Ireland horoscope from the 1791 eclipse chart and its militant republican goal of a united Ireland, the Republic as a real world political entity was still committed in spirit to that goal via its Constitution at least (not to mention a degree of public sentiment).

This suggests that the 1922 Free State horoscope continued to have relevance for the country after the birth of the Republic of Ireland in 1949.

The Troubles in Northern Ireland

The troubled political and social situation in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s to the present day has, astrologically speaking, been an expression of a number of spinning vortices in the collective stream of Anglo-Irish relations. It is impossible to map this out fully given the space available, so a couple of examples will have to do.

By 1969, the situation had deteriorated so much in Northern Ireland that on August 14th, British Army troops were deployed for action on the streets of Derry, an act which eventually drew the IRA out of hibernation. Prior to this event, the rioting and unrest which had started in 1968, tended to be associated with civil rights marches and blatant sectarian violence, with no paramilitary activity. The local police force had being trying to maintain order.

Looking at the structural coupling between the 1791 and 1801 horoscopes for this day, we see the transit of Uranus (1º47' Libra) in conjunction with the radix Uranus in the 1801 UK chart (1º53' Libra), which accordingly picks up the 1791 eclipse chart AS/MC midpoint (1º21 Cancer). The awakening (Uranus) of militant republican activity directed at eradicating the influence of the British Crown on the island of Ireland ('Brits Out!') - essentially Irish rebellion within the UK - is what followed, and is consistent with this symbolism. The 1791 eclipse chart was evidently still very much alive.

The Northern Ireland Chart Activated

The focus of conflict was for the most part restricted to the 6 counties in Northern Ireland. It is not surprising therefore that the horoscope associated with the birth of that State should now enter the frame. Similarly, the horoscope for the Irish Free State is activated too, because it is so close in time to the Northern Ireland chart and therefore has a lot in common astrologically. In the real world situation, the Irish government and a portion of the Irish people south of the border were politically and psychologically invested in the turbulent situation unfolding up north. Apart from anything else, this is confirmed by Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic's Constitution, which voice a territorial claim to the 6 counties.

To cut a long story short, the key pattern in both the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland horoscopes is a tight hard aspect pattern between Venus, Mars and Pluto. Venus lies at 25Sc51 in the N.Ireland chart, and 26Sc10 in the Free State chart. These positions lie square to Mars in both charts, which inhabit 26Aq27 (Free State) and 27Aq08 (N.Ireland). Both Venus and Mars lie sesquisquare Pluto at 10Ca40.

When the troops hit the streets, Neptune was at 25Sc57, picking up this hard aspect pattern in both charts by transit. In the North, a near anarchy broke out, maturing into a particularly nebulous kind of guerrilla war. In the south, nationalist idealism re-awakened for many. This is reinforced astrologically by an added nuance of the Irish Free State chart, whose Moon lies just 1' from a conjunction with that Pluto in Cancer, and thereby also forming part of that hard aspect configuration with Venus and Mars. This suggests a potentially latent (or otherwise) obsessive patriotism. Evidence of this can be seen in the speech broadcast by the Irish Prime Minister the day before the troops entered Derry, which was ablaze and in the midst of a pogrom-like attack from Protestant rioters. Thousands of Catholics were fleeing south of the border in fear of their lives. On TV, he said "the Irish Government can no longer stand idly by and see innocent people injured", calling for an end to partition, and sending troops and field hospitals to the border. This somewhat crazy, deluded and provocative act (effectively threatening to invade the North) reflects the Neptune transit to Mars, Pluto and the Moon in the Free State horoscope.

Moving Towards the Endgame

The shift within the republican movement from armed struggle to the use of political means to achieve one's ends has been a slow process. It started with 'doves' (such as Gerry Adams) trying to convince 'hawks' in the mid 1980s to change track. If the 1791 eclipse horoscope represents republican aspirations, this evolution in approach should be astrologically visible. The period from 1991 - 93 is especially significant in this regard. In 1991, Pluto by transit moved to square the Mars-Uranus-Pluto opposition axis in that chart. A very heavy transit, but also a potentially transforming one. If one is in the middle of a war, there are only two ways such a transformation could go - towards an ending or a major escalation. During 1992 and into 1993, the following transits to that chart occurred.

(transiting)UR squ SA, (transiting)Pl squ AS, (transiting)NE squ SU & MO, (transiting)SA opp UR, (transiting)UR squ SU & MO, and pVE con SA


This is a massive piece of astrological weather, whichever way one looks at it. Things could not possibly stay the same. In February 1993, when pVE was conjunct Saturn, the IRA sent the Northern Ireland Office a note stating that as far as they were concerned the war was over but they needed assistance in bringing it to a close. This effectively was a statement saying that if appropriate frameworks were put in place - a peace dividend for nationalists - then the war could end. They wanted to talk, but in the meantime the war on the ground would continue, which it did with a vengeance. Unfortunately, political dithering contributed to prolonging the conflict.

Note that due to structural coupling, the transit of Pluto to the 1791 Ascendant necessarily coincided with a transit square the 1801 UK Saturn and AS/MC midpoint. Similarly, the Saturn transit opposing Uranus coincided with a square to 1801 UK Neptune. One would expect ramifications for the UK in the wake of these transits relating to possible structural transformation themes, and also a re-balancing between the ideal and the real. And that somehow the Irish question would be involved. The implications were to become evident in 1999 (see below).

Peace Breaks Out

By August 1994, the political consensus regarding peace was universally pessimistic, all talks having come to nothing. Then, out of the blue and to the surprise of almost everyone (I was one of the exceptions) the IRA declared an end to their military campaign. Astrologically, Pluto was conjunct Venus in the charts for Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State at 25-26 Scorpio - the rebirth of peace. The combination of transits and the progressed Venus for the 1791 chart between 1991-93, along with the transits to the Northern Ireland horoscope in 1993-94, indicated strongly that the end game was genuinely in play. However, mistrust and frustration led to a breakdown of the IRA cease-fire in1996. It was reinstated in 1997, and much good news has flowed since then.

Devolution of Power to Northern Ireland and the UK Regions

A key factor in this turn of events has been the change of government in the UK from Conservative to Labour. Interestingly, the Labour government had an agenda to devolve power from Westminster back to the capitals of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland - a reform of the United Kingdom. In order to achieve this goal, the Northern Ireland situation had to be resolved, and the political will was there to do so.

Power was finally devolved back to a Northern Ireland Assembly in 1999 as part of this process, and republican political representatives found themselves in ministerial positions for the first time ever. Amazingly, 1801 UK Saturn had progressed to 23Le22, which is exactly the position it held (though retrograde) when it came into being - the Saturn Return of the UK chart. This position also lies conjunct the AS/MC midpoint at 23Le15. In other words, this highly significant and unique restructuring of the UK, affecting all its regions, happened during its progressed Saturn return. As mentioned above, this occurred a few years after a highly significant transit of Pluto to the 1801 UK Saturn. In the same way that the UK's birth was prompted by 'the republican Irish problem', so too was its reform linked to a necessary resolution of the same.

As part of the deal which led to this devolution of power to a Northern Ireland Assembly, the Republic of Ireland government held a referendum regarding Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. An overwhelming majority voted to strike out all territorial claims to Northern Ireland. This is symptomatic of a slowing down of the vortices in the collective signified by the 1791 eclipse chart and the 1922 Irish Free State chart.

Is the 1791 Vortex Dying?

In terms of micro-astrology, one wonders what might unfold in 2008 for the republican aspiration set in motion in 1791. For then, the progressed Ascendant at 23Aq32 moves to oppose its own position, while Pluto lies applying a minute of arc to the same position. Perhaps the vortex will start to fade due to contextual irrelevance, the Anglo-Irish collective stream having moved towards a gentle uniform flow. Demographic considerations will almost certainly lead to a united Ireland in the future, and when it does happen, it will be on the back of a democratic vote in favour of that motion. In the light of an increasingly federal Europe and its parallel dilution of the meaning or relevance of nationalism, it's only a matter of time.

So - is there such a thing as a one true national horoscope? From my experience of working with Irish mundane charts, the answer is no, not really. I think that those which have masqueraded as national horoscopes each represent facets of an overall picture. Let's look again at the three horoscopes included in Campion's Book of World Horoscopes: the 1916 Easter Rising chart, the 1922 Irish Free State chart, and the 1949 Republic of Ireland chart.

The Relevance of the 1949 Horoscope

In my opinion, the 1949 chart for the current Republic is the odd one out of the three. Astrologically, it seems to be a spin-off from the family of horoscopes which are associated with the 1791 lunar eclipse chart (as indicated by progressions), but with which it is not structurally coupled. It shows a strong emphasis on the Fire element (ASC in Sag; Sun, Venus, Mars and N. Node in Aries; Saturn and Pluto in Leo). This indicates a pronounced assertive self-centered-ness, amplified by Jupiter's square to the Sun from the first degree of Aquarius. The Moon is in Capricorn opposing Uranus, with no elemental emphasis on Water signs at all.

In fact, Ireland has changed almost out of recognition in the last five to ten years. During the 1980's its economy was in such dire straits that it almost achieved Third World status. Massive unemployment, poverty and a hemorrhaging of educated young people to the US and elsewhere was a chronic feature in Irish life. A collective inferiority was the norm. At the same time, crime figures were low, latch-keys were left in doors, and the country was perceived as 'Ireland of the Welcomes' by those visitors who enjoyed a genuine hospitality as they rambled around a land that seemed to have retained an innocence long since lost elsewhere.

Today, it has been transformed into the Celtic Tiger. There is a newfound affluence for some, and certainly a new confidence. The economy is the fastest growing in Europe. One of the major social problems, unaffordable housing in a seller's market, is due to net immigration by returning Irish ex-pats and the impact of high wages in the flourishing electronic technology sector. Adding to this is the ever increasing numbers of economic refugees and asylum seekers from abroad, which given the Irish experience of enforced exile, is ironic to say the least.

It is this facet of the modern Ireland which the 1949 chart represents. It is no longer the Ireland of the Welcomes (ask any of those refugees), the sense of community is evaporating, and a virtue has been made of greed and individualism. The fairies have left in droves.

The Relevance of the 1922 Horoscope

Though it is to some extent drowned out by the 1949 chart, the 1922 horoscope is still active. This is especially true in relation to Northern Ireland, about which the 1949 chart has never had anything to say, even during a 30-year war. Between 1922 and just a few years ago, this horoscope was hopping when it came to matching transits to events. Even after the Republic came into being in 1949 Republic chart remained dormant for decades while the 1922 chart continued to sing. It still resonates within the social community in certain respects.

The Irish Free State chart contains symbolism which speaks of a strong sense of community, but also hardship (MO con PL in Cancer in the 1st, squared by Saturn in the 5th). At its root lies Neptune on the IC - a misty island in the ocean, musical, poetic, self-sacrificing, Guinness-ridden, a country victimized by its past, a projection screen for the green-tinted idealism of outsiders seeking heavenly refuge from Saturnian concrete and straight lines. The Irish diaspora bleeding away from its base in a chronic diffusion. Mars on the MC speaks of Ireland's other primary image on the public stage - the myth of the belligerent fighting Irish, a dangerous land of bombs and bullets. Priests and nuns, missionaries and overseas aid workers spill out from the Sagittarian Sun in the 6th. Until recently, no divorce and no contraception (abortion is still illegal) - Pluto sesquisquare Venus in Scorpio, and Mars; all or nothing. But lots of babies - Jupiter trine Moon in Cancer. And so on.

This is the 'old Ireland'. It co-exists with the new, and is represented by the 1922 horoscope. For many, its departure is good riddance. For others there is a sense that something is being lost in the transition which we should hold onto, while being thankful for the positive aspects of the evolution. There is a lot of confusion within the society. Whatever, this vortex is still spinning. The qualities it reflects, and which are still mirrored significantly within the character of the people, come from the landscape and the elements, in my opinion. However, its political importance is slowly diminishing, and it is noteworthy that Pluto is currently hovering in conjunction with the 1922 Sagittarian Sun. In this respect, there are currently a number of long running Tribunals happening in Dublin's courts concerning the political and planning corruption that characterized the 1970s and 80s. This is very much the bursting of old Ireland's boils, with crotchety politicians and civil servants from a bygone era being judged according to the newfound standards of modern Ireland. The once invincible moral authority of the Church has disappeared in the wake of revelations about sexual abuse and the institutionalized torture, which was the lot of Irish school children during the first 60 years of Irish independence. This has been an un-edifying spectacle, but no doubt part of a healing process of some sort.

Ireland has moved beyond its post-colonial phase, and the relevance of the 1922 horoscope is shifting accordingly.

The Relevance of the 1916 Horoscope

To understand a people one has to understand its history. Unlike the 1922 horoscope, the 1949 chart does not speak of Ireland's history. It points from the present towards the future, like a seedling growing towards the sun. The 1916 horoscope also illuminates the past. It is a difficult chart, with the desperate Moon in Capricorn opposing Neptune in the 12th, with the Sun squaring that axis, while Saturn languishes in Cancer. The submerged Mars in Leo in the 12th echoing the blood sacrifice of the proud but dead patriotic idealists who shouted the horoscope alive from the steps of the General Post Office that April 24th day. As regards the present, this horoscope is relevant primarily for fundamentalist republicans still at war with the British (the breakaway Real IRA faction), their political wing, and their supporters. For these people, the goal is the full implementation of the words from the Proclamation of Independence in 1916. In other words, a 32 county Republic completely divorced from British influence. Their actions correspond to transits to this chart. They first came to prominence in the wake of the bombing in Omagh, which killed 31 people, mostly Catholics, in a monumentally tragic 'own goal.' Saturn was in the same degree as the 1916 Sun at the time.

The 1916 vortex turns very slowly today, primarily but significantly in abstract collective memory.

A Family of National Horoscopes

I believe that each of these horoscopes has its place in a family of national horoscopes. I also believe that their relevance is contextually based. One looks to the 1949 chart today for economic indicators, for example, or the evolution of novelty. For changes in the law on abortion, for example, I'd look at the 1922 chart. It is noteworthy that there are currently great concerns being expressed about the potential damage to Ireland's newfound prosperity due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease on the island. This threatens the hugely important agricultural and tourism sectors, particular stalwarts of the 'old' Ireland economic plan. Very many ordinary hard working people (as opposed to the nouveau riche of the electronics sector) are staring disaster in the face. Neptune is currently square 1922 Jupiter in Scorpio, while Saturn opposed Venus in Scorpio as the bad news arrived. Progressed Venus in the 8th is square Saturn in the 5th. Apart from loss of livelihood fears, many sporting and pleasure activities are being cancelled daily.

There are no significant transits to the 1949 horoscope, although one cannot ignore the progressed Mars in the 6th square to Saturn in the 9th, signifying blockage and frustration to the new Ireland master plan. Interestingly, mirroring this astrology, the major industrial unrest at the moment concerns a 5-month on/off teacher's strike for a 30% pay rise. This threatens to blow apart the partnership agreement between unions, management and the government which is largely responsible for allowing the Celtic tiger to roar at all. One has to look at both charts to see the big picture. Also echoing this symbolism is the bizarre act of censure emanating from the EU headquarters in Brussels (Saturn in the 9th) because the Irish economy is being too successful!

Lastly, if I'm still alive when a united Ireland seems to be on the cards, I'd expect the 1916 chart to be activated (as well as the mother of them all, the 1791 lunar eclipse horoscope).


Studying the mundane astrology of nations forces one to see astrology in terms of process rather than structure. If a natal astrology attitude prevailed, then one would expect in Ireland's case that the structure of the 1949 chart would tell the story of what's happening in the country. After all, this is when the Republic of Ireland was born. It is simply not the case, even though it glaringly reflects the nature of Ireland's current Celtic Tiger clothing. Apart from anything else, the fact that this chart lay dormant for almost 50 years while a theoretically redundant 'old' chart held sway should alert us to the fact that the situation is more complicated.

Structural coupling helps to define the lineage which important horoscopes can share, allowing an astrological visualization of historical process captured as in frames of a movie - separate, but connected in time. Remove all the frames but one, and you lose the plot. Remove the historical context from any of the astrological frames, and you also lose the plot. Astrologically, it is clear that the destiny of the UK and aspiration for an Irish Republic are coupled together. Historically, one can see how the former came into being because of the latter. We might surmise that if or when the majority of people in Northern Ireland vote to unite with the Republic, then the people of Scotland will take serious note and feel driven to pursue full independence. Wales will not be far behind.

This is the way I see it. Others would create their own picture, identify different moments and events of significance, and take a different journey from the past through to the present. If relying on just one unique horoscope, the picture will be two-dimensional and without perspective. Broad perhaps, but lacking in depth. In my opinion, the desire to isolate is understandable but flawed. It supports the illusion of a supposed and desired simplicity. And life ain't like that.


© Copyright: Bill Sheeran





Other articles by Bill Sheeran:

Sheeran, BillThe Observer Observed (Part 1)

Sheeran, BillThe Observer Observed (Part 2)



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