Till Human Voices Wake Us


March 6, 2019 at 8:04 am PST / 4:04 pm UT

Moon and Sun conjoined at 15°47' Pisces
Neptune close by at 16°09' Pisces

imageQuite a while ago, when I was in college, I unwittingly irked a teacher of mine by choosing T. S. Eliot's poem "Prufrock" for an assignment in his class. The course was Oral Interpretation of Literature and the task was to present a complete poem plus selections from a novel. "Oral interpretation" is not the same as reciting, nor is it acting either, but a quasi-theatrical cross between the two.

So when it was my turn to stand and deliver, I announced the poem's title and author — "The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S Eliot" — and immediately from the back of the room came a loud groan from my instructor, along with this pointed question, barked out in his characteristic gruff tone:

"Why do you young people like that poem so much? It's about old age and decay!"

Although I had gotten pretty used to his confrontational teaching style, it wasn't easy to push forward and read the poem after such a nice setup. Nevertheless, I managed to gather myself up, straighten my dunce cap a bit, and begin:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table.
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

So why on Earth did I like this poem? What was it that drew me? My instructor's question was a fair one, even if his timing wasn't. Why did I choose that particular poem?

I loved Eliot's descriptions, his unusual comparisons, and Prufrock's crazy internal dialog was definitely interesting. But I remember standing there in the front of the class stunned after getting hit by that curve ball, and all I managed to shrug out was: "I don't know, I just like it." Which produced another groan from the back of the room.

If I had been an astrologer then, perhaps I could have answered with: "What do you expect with our Neptune-in-Scorpio generation? We find inspiration in despair, bleakness, noir. The sootier side of life, obsessive thoughts, deep insecurities, the inevitable aging and mortality — what most people turn their pretty heads away from, is just the ticket for us. When I found out years later that "Prufrock" was one of Eliot's earliest works, written when he was only twenty-two, I felt, not only vindicated, but an even deeper connection to this man and his writing.

Eliot & Friend, 1958
In Eliot's natal chart, both Neptune and Pluto are conjoined in the writer's sign of Gemini, a similar signature to Neptune in Pluto-ruled Scorpio, which explains the draw and resonance. We speak the same Neptune, and in Eliot's chart it is strong. His natal Neptune and Pluto are further connected through a flowing-intellect, air-element trine to the Libra Sun, which falls in Neptune's Twelfth house. His Venus, also in the Twelfth and in Libra, strong in the sign it rules, conjoins Mercury, both conjunct the Libra Ascendant.

No wonder Eliot loved cats with this prominent triple conjunction of Ascendant, Mercury and Venus all in Venus-ruled Libra. (In the photo, he pauses to greet a passing friend.) Sleek, beautiful, "grace-in-motion," cats are Mercury-Venus incarnate. And as you probably know, not all of Eliot's work was of the dark and broody variety, he also gave us that lighthearted Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, a collection of poems on which the musical Cats was based.

With Libra rising, Eliot's Twelfth-house Venus is the overall chart ruler, making this Neptunian 12th house of primary importance. The Sun here as well further underscores the 12th as central to Eliot's life, the creative life especially. Uranus, planet of originality (and cat-like mischief) is also in the Twelfth house, falling right between the Sun and Venus, and trines Eliot's Gemini Moon (the soul of a writer). This "writer's Moon" is the planetary ruler of the Cancer North Node which is conjunct Eliot's 29-degree Cancer Midheaven, and which in turn sextiles Eliot's Neptune. Pretty much all roads in Eliot's watery chart lead back to the God of the Deep Blue Sea.

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

Associated with the transcendent, the creative imagination, Neptune functions like a powerful undertow and irresistible siren. This watery planet describes what feeds that eternal, intangible part of ourselves always seeking the return trip home, that state of cosmic bliss just beyond mortal reach. Neptune energy is not of this world. Since Pluto's demotion to "dwarf planet", Neptune, orbiting way beyond the bounds of Saturn, is now our furthest-out planet.

When we are asked, as my instructor did, why we like our "Neptunian cookies" it can be very hard to explain. From time to time there are fleeting moments of clarity, mirages that dissolve almost as quickly as they appear. With Neptune desires can be powerfully compelling, but vague, confusing and fleeting. We know we want it, love it, need it, even if we can't quite put it into words. Dreamy Neptune fluently speaks the symbolic language of the soul. Images, sensations and feelings take precedence; but the picture we see is sometimes a distortion, and therein lies the dirty trick with the God of the Deep. All too easily, we slip into a fog of self-delusion and escapism; which, with Neptune, siren of the sea, is always a possibility.

* * *

Pisces New Moon Conjunct Neptune: Dreamtime

Colleen Wallace Nungari
Dreamtime Sisters
Pisces marks the place where our muses reside, where the soul and spirit flies — images, sensations and feelings take precedence over tangible, mundane reality. Pisces is the rabbit hole, the other side of the looking glass, the rusty gate that opens to a wild, overgrown path leading us deeper into our own mystery. A sensitive water sign, ruled by both horizonless Jupiter and misty, otherworldly Neptune, this mutable water sign is the 12th and final, culmination point of the zodiac wheel, the last astrological stop in the human journey towards higher consciousness. Pisces is where we learn to connect with the eternal.

Dream imagery and other symbolism, common to mythic and spiritual traditions the world over — such as the Australian aboriginal art, "Dreamtime Sisters" — is Pisces' and Neptune's "commonwealth" language. We dream similar dreams in repeated archetypes. Connected and entwined, we dip into the same deep waters, Jung's (and Neptune's) collective unconscious.

THE CHART FOR THIS LUNATION, simplified version here, shows Neptune, the God of the Deep Blue Sea, tightly conjoined the Pisces New Moon, which it rules, wildly boosting the drifty, dreamy flow. So we have Sun, Moon, Neptune and Vesta too — goddess of the hearth, associated with purity, service, and dependability — all together in Pisces, a New Moon quartet specializing in celestial music.

imageMercury, God of Communication and Connections, is also in Pisces and a key influence as well. At retrograde standstill on the New Moon and right on that very last degree of — not only Pisces but — the entire zodiac wheel, Mercury will be doing the backstroke for most of the next lunar month, stationing direct at 16° Pisces on March 28th, four days after its retrograde conjunction with Neptune. Artist, poet and composer, "Dreamtime Sister," Mercury-in-Pisces fluently speaks the symbolic language of the cosmos. Life is experienced though the heart and soul, not limited by the literal mind. Inspiration springs from sources that are out of this world.

We are definitely under Neptune's spell — you probably already have one ear tuned to the siren's song. This is a lovely gift: a stretch of time ideal for relaxed artistic, musical, and meditative/restorative work. And that's the power of astrology, helping us understand the current flow so we can make the best use of it, not fight the current so much in our lives. For Pisces and Neptune are most unhelpful when it comes to concentrated and intense mental FOCUS or detail work, it is the sign of Mercury's detriment. Time to give that fevered left brain a break, for the linear/rational mind is not the only gift Mercury offers. There is another rich and creative vein to mine, and now's the time.

The Sabian symbol for the New Moon concurs completely:

In The Quiet Of Her Study A Creative Individual Experiences A Flow Of Inspiration. Keynote: Reliance upon one's inner source of inspiration or guidance.

AGENT OF AGITATION URANUS is also churning the waters right now. Mercury's higher-octave twin, patron saint of oddballs and eccentrics, puller of carpets out from underneath our feet, Uranus connects with the New Moon through a tight semi-square just as Monsieur Chaos slips from Aries to Taurus, same day as the New Moon. Uranus in Taurus, planet of crisis and sudden change transiting the sign that rules banking, finance, money, possessions — and extreme weather events, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes — is a big topic worthy of its own post, which I hope to get out soon.

Saturn Stability

The Pisces New Moon also forms a stabilizing sextile to Saturn, providing a healthy counterbalance to the Uranian restlessness and potent Neptunian flow. While Neptune can certainly increase our ability to weave a little more, much needed, magic in our lives, if out of kilter, the pull away from life, from Saturn's earthy reality, structure and self-discipline, overpowers. We need Saturn to bring Neptunian intangibles down to earth. To descend the stair gracefully with our inspirational goodies firmly in hand, and not let these gifts slip through our fingers, dissolve back into the ether.

Which, it seems, is exactly Prufrock's big Neptunian problem. Lost and drifting, he is caught in the fog of his own mind. His rambling, disjointed thoughts bounce off those interior walls and amplify in that vast, inner space in which his consciousness seems to be trapped. The physical, real world — Saturn's realm — has receded, shrunken like his under-used body, proof of which is the need to roll his trousers:

I grow old... I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

One of the puzzles of the poem is whether or not Prufrock ever leaves his room. Time and reality, both Saturnian attributes, are confused, a woman referred to in the poem seems, for Prufrock, to exist only in fragments:

Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.

Her world only intersects his in the slightest, most impersonal way, fleeting, incomplete, fading in and out, yet oddly scrutinized in fine detail. It's hard to tell if she is real or imagined — or a ghost of Prufrock's past: arms trailing the scent of perfume, on her way elsewhere. It seems an image a baby might hold, a primitive early memory. Are these images of Prufrock's own mother flooding back into his "etherized" consciousness?

Prufrock is not fully in this world; and like him, if we indulge the interior monologue, escape life too much, we too easily fall into the recesses of our minds. Reality becomes inverted. The real begins to feel unreal. We drift out to sea, and not a friendly sea of inspired creativity.

Neptune is the Green Fairy, absinth, a most powerful spirit. While its potential may be lofty and great, it must be handled with care, Saturnian care, else we drift too far, like Prufrock, into our own muddled depths.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.



museThe Muse in the Natal Chart

If you would like to delve into the significance of your natal Neptune, its associated Twelfth house, as well as look at how Neptune's sign, Pisces, influences your chart, this special reading is for you.

The Neptune-Pisces-12th house signature of chart describes our personal portal to the higher realm of the soul, where our muses and guides reside — and our devils and internal saboteurs as well.

Getting a broader take through the clarifying lens of astrology can help breathe fresh air into this deeply soulful and creatively-inspired zone of your chart.

Find out more 

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The beautiful artwork, Dreamtime Sisters, is the work of native Australian, Colleen Wallace Nungari.

Here is the complete text for "Prufrock" from the University of Virginia.

The photo of T. S with the cat (who looks a lot like Bustopher Jones) was taken by Larry Burrows.

Albert Maignan's painting at the beginning of this essay, La Muse Verte — "The Green Muse" (1895) — shows a poet succumbing to the "green fairy," absinthe. From the Musée de Picardie, Amiens. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sabian Symbols are brief evocative descriptions developed for each degree of the Zodiac. Sometimes cryptic, the symbols are little meditations that can, upon contemplation, sometimes open up new insights. It is fun and often illuminating in a "right-brain" kind of way to look up the symbols for current transits and for the planetary positions and chart angles of your birth chart. Created in 1925 by astrologer Marc Edmund Jones in collaboration with the psychic Elsie Wheeler, they are used as a kind of astrological I-Ching. The citation above is from Dane Rudhyar's book on the Sabian symbols, An Astrological Mandala. New York: Vintage, 1973.

Here is an interesting examination of the themes in Prufrock from the English department of the University of Illinois. And another overview of the poem from Kathleen McCoy's and Judith Harlan's English Literature from 1785 (New York: HarperCollins, 1992: 265-66)