I am out with lanterns, Looking for myself
On April 12th there is a rare Jupiter Neptune conjunction in Pisces. The last time this happened was in March 1856. One way to understand these large conjunctions on a personal level, is to look at the horoscopes of people who have this configuration in their natal chart. Although Emily Dickinson had her Jupiter Neptune conjunction in Capricorn, her life exemplifies some of the higher expressions of this aspect. One of the reasons I chose her chart is that is a so interesting, her life was both what you would expect and what you wouldn’t expect from the astrology.
The first thing we see, is her Scorpio Ascendant, which is reflected in the quotation above. She is in the dark (Scorpio) with her lantern, (perhaps her Sagittarius Sun) looking for herself-who is she?
At first glance you would expect her to have been a wild party animal (Sun, Venus and Mercury in Sagittarius) a traveler, Sagittarius loves to work on a broad canvas, a bon viveur (Venus in Sagittarius) a lover of luxury (Moon in Libra). None of these turned out to be the case, so how did she express her astrology?
First, a little background to her life. Emily was born into a patrician family, her grandfather was one of the founders of Amhurst College. She was well educated and encouraged to study (by no means a given at that time) and was an eager and willing student, although she may have resented the confines of her education.
They shut me up in Prose –
As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet –
Because they liked me “still” –
Still! Could themself have peeped –
And seen my Brain – go round –
They might as wise have lodged a Bird
For Treason – in the Pound –
Emily adored her father, who is probably shown by the Leo MC. Leos can be wonderful parents as they never lose their love of life and understand and delight in children. Conversely, Emily described her mother as cold and aloof, which can fit Aquarius, ruler of the IC. Emily was musical (Moon in Libra) and was a contented, cossetted child. Moon in Libra can show a childhood of luxury and beauty, certainly, there is usually an refined atmosphere and the arts are encouraged.
Despite this, Emily had a morbid fear of and fascination with death. She was especially afraid of the death of loved ones. After the death of her second cousin Sophia, Emily fell into a deep depression. Scorpio is drawn to understand death and suffering, but as her Ascendant is the only water in her chart, Emily may have had difficulty processing these powerfully felt emotions. She used her poetry to explore the macabre and tragic.
‘A great hope fell
You heard no noise
The ruin was within’
Emily became so ill she was taken out of school to recover. Seclusion, then, became a healing mechanism for her. Winter was a time when all life was stripped bare and for her became a metaphor for death and dying.
‘There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.’
Another expression of Sagittarius is spiritual exploration. In 1845 Emily became involved in a religious revival. She later described that time as one of the happiest of her life. Eventually she became disillusioned and left the church. A 1852 poem began,
‘Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – I keep it, staying at Home’
Sagittarius will plough its own furrow and natives are less likely to be one of the followers. After school, Emily returned home and never left. She befriended Benjamin Newton, who knew her father. He introduced her to Wordsworth and Ralph Waldo Emerson both of whom had a liberating effect on her poetry. Newton recognised her brilliance and encouraged her work. When he died of TB in 1862 she wrote of him,
‘When a little Girl, I had a friend, who taught me Immortality – but venturing too near, himself – he never returned’
Emily developed a passionate friendship with Susan Gilbert who later married Emily’s brother Austin. Emily wrote over 300 letters to Susan who encouraged and supported her writing. Emily referred to her as,
‘my most beloved friend, influence, muse, and adviser’
Her mother became an invalid and Emily had to care for her. She became more and more reclusive, spending her time reading and writing quietly. Between 1858-1865 Emily reviewed and edited her poems, over 800, compiling them into 40 books, which she kept hidden. By 1862, due to either illness or agoraphobia, Emily withdrew entirely from social life. This coincided with her most productive years of writing poetry and her voluminous correspondence. Despite or perhaps because of her seclusion, she was, after all, saved a time consuming marriage and consequent motherhood, her poetry is full of joy. Emily’s Sagittarius Sun, Venus, Mercury took profound inner journeys, her internal world was rich and boundless, fed by her solitude.
‘Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.’
So what of Jupiter Neptune? Jupiter rules Emily’s Sagittarius Sun, and highlights her Venus and Mercury, her second house of values and her fifth house of creativity with Neptune. Jupiter Neptune in Capricorn will bring structure to the wildest imaginings and a work ethic and artistic practice to her poetry. Her considerable output will be down to that Capricorn work ethic. Arguably, the Muse is Neptune, she offers inspiration, transcendence and escapism, Jupiter will urge her to fly higher, deeper, wider, while anchoring her in Capricorn’s perseverance and orderliness. Emily’s experience of poetry was visceral.
‘If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?’
Eventually, Emily’s seclusion turned into eccentricity, she would not speak to anyone face to face, and communicated through a crack in the door and wore only white clothes.
A solemn thing – it was – I said –
A Woman – White – to be –
And wear – if God should count me fit –
Her blameless mystery –
Emily gardened and did the family baking (Saturn in Virgo). Her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, remembered “carpets of lily of the valley, and pansies, platoons of sweet peas, hyacinths, enough in May to give all the bees of summer dyspepsia. There were ribbons of peony hedges and drifts of daffodils in season, marigolds to distraction—a butterfly utopia.’ Emily grew scented exotic flowers, writing that she ‘could inhabit the Spice Isles merely by crossing the dining room to the conservatory, where the plants hang in baskets’.
‘The lovely flowers
They make me regret
I am not a bee…’
Emily sent little poems and posies to friends and family, but poignantly observed, they valued the posy more than her poetry. Libra loves its sweetness, its networks, little gifts and communications. But her Moon in Libra on the cusp of the 12th house suggests her need for solitude and withdrawal. A Scorpio Ascendant with its fixity, can bring ingrained habits which are hard to break. Once Emily discovered peace and silence, it was difficult to step out into the imperfect world of people. Scorpio loves her secrets which might explain why Emily kept her work hidden. A Sagittarius would know her worth, and Scorpio might enjoy the game of appearing to be an eccentric spinster when in reality she was a sublime poet. Maybe Emily did not want the interruption of fame, or her Scorpio needed to stay in control of her work. There is a sense of loss about her anonymity though,
‘This is my letter to the world
That never wrote to me’
The few poems Emily did publish in her lifetime were ‘edited’ by people who did not understand or value her unique work. This may have made her vengeful and secretive (Scorpio). Only ten poems and a letter were published during Emily’s lifetime. Lavinia, her younger sister found over eighteen hundred poems after Emily’s death. The first volume of her poetry was published in 1890. The poems were edited extensively and some words changed for ‘clarity’. The book was a success, it went through 11 editions in 2 years and has never been out of print. The un-edited versions were only published in 1955 as The Complete Poems.
At the first posthumous publication, in November 1890, Jupiter and Mars were at 6′ Aquarius conjunct her natal Uranus at 7’45. Uranus is in the 3rd house of siblings. It was her younger sister Lavinia who determined to bring her poetry to publication. Lavinia had promised to burn Emily’s letters, which she did, but made no such promise for the poems as she did not know they existed. Uranus also rules the 4th house of roots, endings and tribe. Which to me speaks of legacy through her sibling. The previous year Uranus would have passed over her Moon, it was at 28′ Libra in November 1890. The Moon rules the 9th house of publishing! So her sister (Uranus) took her secret poetry (Libra, 12th house) to a publisher (Moon ruling the 9th).
What about 1955 when her Complete Poems were published without the ‘corrections’? That year Neptune was transiting late Libra, so the year previously, presumably when the book was assembled, it would have been conjunct her Moon. Finally the Muse (Neptune) is heard (Moon ruling the 9th) in its pure state (Libra). Saturn, the Lord of Time, was transiting her Scorpio Ascendant. Finally, enough time had passed and her secret was revealed. Jupiter (the planet of publishing) was conjunct her MC in October of that year. Her great (Jupiter) glorious creativity (Leo) was displayed to the world (MC).
I suspect that the reach of her poetry through time (Jupiter Neptune in Capricorn), because its transcendence (Jupiter Neptune) spoke soul to soul from writer to reader.
Jupiter Neptune, next week, in the super mystical and creative sign of Pisces invites us to dive deep and contact the divine muse and create.
‘The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.’