I’m writing on 10th November 2018, and have been looking into the astrological resonances of the World War One Armistice, which was signed at 5am in the Forest of Compiègne, north of Paris, on 11th November 1918 and became effective later that day, at 11am.
The chart of the signing of the Armistice, Forest of Compiegne, 11th Nov. 1918, 5am
The sabian symbol for the ascending degree when the Armistice was signed (26° Libra) is startling:
An eagle and a white dove change swiftly into each other.
Six hours later, when the Armistice became effective, the ascending degree was 6° Capricorn with Pluto (death, fate, necessity) exactly on the descendant, signalling that the destructive forces of Pluto were disowned and projected on to the ‘Other’ side, and loading the moment with depth and intensity. The Sun (national identities) is conjunct Venus (the peacemaker) ascending towards the midheaven, shining down over the whole chart.
The Moon (the people) is just hours away from a conjunction with Uranus (liberation) – an exuberant time of release and freedom. Of course, the Moon had been conjuncting Uranus once a month for the entirety of the war, but that it is stamped into this historic moment is worthy of remark. This mood of popular liberation is echoed in the 1801 UK chart which has a quintile from the Moon to Uranus: the UK populace carries the Uranus theme of eccentricity, innovation and of upsetting expectations (even to the point of perversity).
Mars (the warrior), at the signing of the Armistice, is at 29° Sagittarius in an exact square with retrograde Chiron (the wounded healer) at 29° Pisces. Chiron today, 100 years later, stands at 28° Pisces, also retrograde, lending a fraught and painful resonance to the centenary. By 11am, when the Armistice became effective, Mars had moved to 0° Capricorn, the lowest point in the zodiac and the degree of the midwinter solstice, trining Saturn: aggression is in lockdown, stilled and held by authority. Hostility is positively contained.
In the UK chart Mars trines the Sun – self-assertion/aggression (Mars) flows very naturally as a part of the national identity (the Sun). Both the Sun and Mars are in earth signs and belligerence might be seen as a national attribute. Mars squares harmonious Venus (Stiff upper lip, don’t be a softie, lad!) and opposes Neptune. Now this is interesting. Neptune signifies idealism, sacrifice and delusion, suggesting a British tendency towards idealising conflict, having an inflated sense of our own force and an appetite for martyrishness. The Brits tend towards autonomy, but the tendency is not readily seen or owned (Mars and Uranus are both hidden in watery houses, the 8th and the 12th respectively). So often it has happened in our dealings with Europe that we suppose we are being slighted and taken for a ride and feel bullish in response. It is our own perverse tendency to doing it and having it our own way that makes us poor collaborators across national boundaries.
The 1801 chart of the UK
The Sun-Venus conjunction in the Armistice chart opposes the UK’s Mars and conjuncts the UK’s Neptune, bringing a conscious awareness of the mood of surrender and release that is the resonance of Neptune. As we mark the Armistice each year the Sun is passing through the degree held by the national Neptune – we fall under the trance-like spell of that planet and tend to idealise our losses and focus on sacrifice and the grandiosity of heroism in a sadly sentimental way. It would be good to mark this centenary without falling into nationalistic emotion, to recognise that the wiping out of a great part of a generation of young men across the continent of Europe is a blight, a shame and a trauma from which we are still recovering.
Our UK Mars-Neptune opposition means that feelings of loss, self-sacrifice and idealism are hopelessly muddled with conflict and aggression. People in this country still talk jauntily of “the Blitz spirit”, and get sentimentally teary about our war dead. Without demeaning them in any way, those that died in WW1 were not heroes any more than you or I. They had no choice, but to be shot for desertion or abused and imprisoned as ‘conchies’ (conscientious objectors, for the younger reader). Our war dead were sacrificed by the State. The victims of war are calling out for our help still, arriving in Kent in refrigerated lorries, drowning in the Med (near coastlines where we like to holiday) and living in degrading conditions in refugee camps. These people are our people, let us not feel separate from them. If an eagle can swiftly turn into a white dove, a white dove can as swiftly turn back into an eagle. At the going down of the Sun, we shall remember them. And so we should. It might pay also to remember the atrocities that citizens are obliged to participate in on the orders of the State. This is not a time for emotionalism.
My local town hall is currently festooned with Union Jack bunting (it’s like doing pilates on the set of Dads’ Army) and the hallway is lined with letters addressed to the Unknown Soldier by our local school children, thanking him for his service and sacrifice. I’ve seen grown men and women dressed up in WW1 uniforms on the street. It’s an uncomfortable mixture of homage, nostalgia and costume party that feels to me inappropriate and confused.
Transiting Saturn is now squaring the UK ascendant/descendant axis and approaching a conjunction with the Sun. Our identity as a nation is feeling gridlocked and restricted, and in authoritarian mood. At the same time Pluto is, and will be, over the coming months, moving away from its long transit by opposition of our introspective Cancer Moon. The UK people’s sense of belonging, our crustacean-like need for firm borders and security has been radically overhauled by this Pluto transit. This has allowed us to witness a smash and grab of power-mongering in the body politic, and much that is poisonous and abhorrent in the national psyche and in national institutions has been brought into the light of consciousness. This is no bad thing, but it is surely time to cultivate the mind of compassion. This requires some emotional maturity which will become available in the new year when transiting Pluto will have moved off the Moon and transiting Saturn will have taken its place; Saturn will bring maturity, gravity and realism into the reckoning of Brexit. As ever, under the influence of Saturn, it will be time to bend or break.
We are at an historic moment: commemorating the centenary of the end of WW1 hostilities and engaged in fundamentally altering our historically fraught relationship with continental Europe. The post-war European project may be far from ideal but it has also been far better than the perpetual scrapping and warring that preceded it. It would be helpful now for us to divorce our honouring of the dead from nationalistic sentiment. To combine these two makes us highly vulnerable to political manipulation. Best to try and see and think clearly at this moment. Certainly we should honour our dead, all our dead, whatever their country of origin. And let us honour not just the dead, but those living with the effects of war: the wounded, the traumatised and the exiled.
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