home articles forum events
glossary horary quiz consultations links more

Dennis Elwell

Dennis Elwell

[ More articles by Dennis Elwell ]

Buy Dennis Elwell's groundbreaking-book:

Cosmic Loom by Dennis Elwell
Available from

When Charts Expand Horizons by Dennis Elwell

Dennis Elwell has been an astrologer for over 50 years and is widely respected for his insights into cosmic factors at work in mundane events. Here, in an except from a lecture given at the AA 1998 conference, he considers the influence of Jupiter and the intertwining threads of fate brought together in the British Monarchy by the death of Diana.

If they are honest, every chart reader will admit to periodic crises of confidence. Some years ago I became very despondent with the whole subject of astrology. What was supposed to happen sometimes did not happen. In fact sometimes what happened was the exact opposite of what might have been expected.

How many students has astrology lost because a juicy Jupiter transit failed to produce the goodies promised in the literature? In her book on the planet, Eve Jackson confesses:

One of the things that stirred my interest in Jupiter was my disappointment over a series of Jupiter transits that brought experiences other than I would have wished myself. My rather naive assumption had been that transits from the Great Benefic must bring joy; instead three transiting conjunctions brought the death of someone close to me, the breakup of a relationship and an illness, all of which were extremely unpleasant at the time.

In my own life I have seen six transits of Jupiter over my Sun. I do not have a note of the first, when I was only eight, but I have kept a record of events from 1946, when I took up astrology, and this has been useful for research.

Only two of the Jupiter transits produced the effect the textbooks describe. One was in 1950 when Jupiter stationed in minute exact conjunction with my Sun. Stationary transits are certainly worthy of more respect, and an additional factor here was that by secondary regression the Sun was tine Jupiter. The transit of February 1986 was also appropriate, but this transit fell close to the solar return.

Such considerations, plus figuring out why the other conjunctions 'misfired', led to the realisation that there are protocols of technique which may not yet be thoroughly understood, but which can make nonsense of interpretation by rote, as found in computer printouts.

There is however a wider problem, one splendidly exemplified by Jupiter. We do not always know what we are looking at, when we take a chart in our hand, or consider a list of transits or progressions. We expect to see our own values and preconceptions reflected there, and are puzzled if they are not.

I believe that, to take a leaf out of Jupiter's book, we need to enlarge our understanding of what is really at work in the world. To give an example, I know almost nothing about the world of high finance. Economics, the laws of the market, are way over my head. So you could show me charts for key moments relative to finance and I would not know what it was I was seeing.

But I have lately come to the conviction that our charts can be trusted to show the reality of what is happening, even if we don't always recognise it straight away. It used to depress me when an 'event' chart seemed totally inappropriate to the situation, despite my best efforts to make it fit! It slowly dawned on me that while the heavens are dealing with reality, we may first have to pause to ask ourselves what reality, whose reality?

A classic case is the wedding chart of Prince Charles and Diana. As astrologers considered its significance the central question for most of them was whether the chart showed success (whatever that means, as Charles might have said) or the reverse. The marriage ended in divorce, but it succeeded to the extent that it had fulfilled its purpose, and the purpose was infallibly depicted in the heavens.

Today the world knows what was known only to a handful of people at the time, namely that the marriage was no fairy tale romance in which an adoring Prince claimed his Princess for the ever-after. It was a pragmatic exercise contrived by the Establishment to secure an heir for the House of Windsor, with a Prince whose heart was elsewhere, and when the facts became known the public felt they had been expensively conned.

Yet while the media (and some astrologers) indulged in wish-fulfillment, the chart for the event was all the time telling the naked truth. A conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn was rising in Libra, a sign connected with all kinds of unions, including marriage. There could not be a better signature of the role of the Establishment than this conjunction, because both planets are promoters of orthodoxy, Saturn representing a structure founded on tradition, and Jupiter the churches and legislature working with it in close co-operation. The old astrologers attached a lot of importance to Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions to interpret the prospects for the kingdom, which was only natural because they were working for the Establishment of their day.

Chart for Royal Wedding

Looking solely for indications of success or failure, at least one astrologer publicly interpreted the stability suggested by this conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn as an enduring marriage.

Again, high in the heavens was a powerful configuration in the sign Cancer (which stands for considerations of family and ancestry) and this testified to the overriding demand to perpetuate the nation's prime dynasty. There is even Venus (the bride) in the sign of the obligatory Virgin to complete the picture.

All these elements were present, and they linked together to tell their story. Let us pause to ask a serious question. If astrology penetrates to the essence of events, pointing to the reality behind the appearances, may it not become a dangerous occupation? There was a time, a mere few hundred years ago, when any astrologer who dilated on the correct message of this chart would have ended up in the Tower! But I would say that unless astrology is dangerous, it is not authentic knowledge. We are after all being led into the engine room, to be among the hidden levers.

Astrology has its own spy satellites in the sky, and it is a thought to savour that not even the combined efforts of the CIA, Mossad, and MI6 can silence what they have to tell!

Suppose there had been no divorce, no embarrassing disclosures. Suppose the fiction had been discreetly maintained. Then surely the wedding chart would have forever remained puzzling, or misunderstood. The moral is that although charts can be trusted to indicate the reality of what is happening, at least in part, it may not be possible to grasp their full import immediately, on the basis of mankind's current knowledge.

It seems obvious to me that our charts must portray a cosmic reality, a uniquely cosmic viewpoint. The central misunderstanding in humanity's long conversation with the heavens is that human answers have been expected to human questions. Therefore when human questioning is met with a cosmic answer, it may not be recognised as evenly remotely relevant. Indeed we may have to strain our grey matter to grasp the cosmic message, which is likely to be taking account of facts that are not yet on our mental horizon.

So when a chart does not measure up to my expectations, I should ask: If this chart does not contain what I think it should contain, what does it contain? If a Jupiter transit does not visibly and immediately produce what I expect, what might it have produced, perhaps as a seed? By such an approach we may not only move astrology forward, but astrology may become a means of leading human thought along new paths, by disclosing interrelationships which are at present unsuspected.

When I set up the chart for the crash in Paris that killed Diana, it did not immediately make much sense, but I have learnt that by persevering with a puzzle chart it can begin to talk to you. Where in the chart was the horrendous road accident, the sickening collision of metal and concrete? Where were the paparazzi, the drunk driver, the question of whether it was just an accident or a sinister plot? Admittedly this chart was not the only cosmic indicator of this tragedy, not by a long way, but surely it had to be meaningful in its own right?

As I say, we have to be open to the possibility that the cosmic answers to our human concerns come from a higher vantage point - not so much a bird's eye view as a stars' eye view. This takes in a wider sweep than the view on the ground. Its stands back from the eyeball facts and embraces their context. Is it really so surprising that the cosmos should be dealing with an expanded reality?

What are we to make of the main feature, the opposition of the Moon and Jupiter across the Paris meridian? At an everyday level Jupiter oppositions are compatible with excess, as well as recklessness, so the chart does support allegations that the driver was over both the speed and alcohol limit. The moon represents public reaction, public feeling, therefore this opposition goes some way towards explaining the astonishing outpouring of emotion following the event. The lachrymal glands belong to the moon!

chart for time of Diana crash

All the actors in the cosmic dramatic society have a multiple repertoire, and the moon also holds sway over the female element in life, including the role of women in society. The plus side of Jupiter's lack of restraint is the call of freedom, the ideal of liberty. Mix the moon and Jupiter together, and they make a direct reference to Diana's situation, as she struggled to become a person on her own terms, at the same time establishing a constituency of strong, independent women - 'Diana's people' as they liked to be called. She was a powerful ally of feminists.

Seen through the astrological peephole, reality is indeed strange. Where in the world is the ideal of freedom most visibly joined with the eternal female? Where is liberty represented as a woman? We think of that ubiquitous symbol of America, the Statue of Liberty. Now here is a fact which requires careful digestion. There is one place in Paris where the great American symbol of Lady Liberty - as she is sometimes called - will be celebrated for a long time to come. As the Mercedes hurtled towards its destruction it passed under a replica of the torch of the Statue of Liberty, which ten years earlier had been erected over the Alma tunnel as a memento of the friendship between America and France. The Alma torch, glowing gold, instantly became the focus of the Diana cult in Paris, a place to leave flowers and messages, and will undoubtedly remain so as a magnet for tourists. It is already running second in popularity to the Eiffel Tower. Moreover at this agonised moment in Paris the heavens were forging a direct link between the Statue and its duplicate torch in Paris, because if we adjust the chart for New York, then we find the Moon and Jupiter exactly across the horizon there. Remembering the central role of the Moon in this equation, it is a mother who gazes sightless across the harbour. Bartholdi, the sculptor, never denied the suggestion that her features were based on his own mother.

As if to confirm that this Moon-Jupiter opposition really does refer to Diana, we note that in her birth chart the Moon and Jupiter, both in Aquarius, have their midpoint at 15 degrees of that sign. Thus the natal midpoint was picked up by the selfsame transiting opposition and meridian.

As well as the torch, Lady Liberty holds a tablet bearing the date July 4 1776, so she is celebrating the Declaration of Independence, and the chart for that event has become the national chart of the USA. In that chart the Sun is in Cancer, the Moon in Aquarius, and the most plausible ascendant is Sagittarius, which are the same placings as in Diana's chart. These exercises are like a treasure hunt, where one clue leads to the next. I am not saying that because of a resonance of Diana's chart with that of the USA there was a permanent affinity between them, simply that at that traumatic moment something flashed between Paris and New York, a linkup on the invisible Internet.

This convergence of a significant cosmic moment - the accident - with Diana's personality and what she came to represent, together with the landmark in Paris with which she will now always be associated, is typical of what is at work in astrology. Typical also is the blurring of past, present and future. After all, it was as if the torch was already in place, awaiting the event! Physicists, from Einstein onwards, would be more sympathetic to such an observation than 'commonsense' allows, because modern theories of time do not make a sharp distinction between past and future. So while any event chart applies to the moment, its context embraces what is relevant from both the past and future.

The Moon in Leo, linked with Jupiter in Aquarius suggests a royal lady of humanitarian instincts. Which calls attention to another coincidence, another royal lady. As the Mercedes approached the Alma tunnel it travelled along the Cours la Reine. The queen for whom this road was named was Astrid of Belgium. In fact the tunnel entrance is some 50 yards from a grassy triangle named the Place de la Reine Astrid. Like Diana, Queen Astrid of Belgium died young, killed in a car crash at only 29. Both died at the end of August. Not only the manner of her death, but her character bears a striking parallel with that of Diana. She was known in Belgium as the 'Queen of Mothers' - Moon in Leo on the 4th cusp perhaps? - and took a deep interest in hospitals and crèches for children. On her death her government issued a proclamation mourning 'a Queen whose youth, grace, and beauty had conquered a whole nation. The country is in consternation ... Belgians send their moving love to the Royal children now motherless.' The tribute could have applied equally to Diana.

At one level that Moon opposition Jupiter can be taken as an enlargement of the caring, protecting, mothering impulse - the will to extend these feelings to embrace humanity generally. This was Diana at her best, helping the ill and dispossessed, and the innocent victims of landmines. We are reminded of the sonnet by Emma Lazarus, inscribed on a plaque at the entrance to the Statue: 'Give me your tired, your poor, .. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free'. A sentiment of similar compassion, a quotation from an interview Diana gave to a French magazine, appears on a memorial set up to her at Althorp, her last resting place.

Her island grave is hidden by foliage, but from the mainland visitors can see a stone urn, topped by a carved flame reminiscent of the flame at Paris. I do not think these coincidences were consciously contrived.

Is it merely chance that the Moon-Jupiter opposition was at that moment linking New York with Paris, linking Lady Liberty with the Alma torch? I have suggested that the spot in Paris where this accident happened has meaningful affinities. Another, more flippant, geographical coincidence is that the crossroads of which the Alma tunnel is part, is located at the end of Avenue George V, which runs a straight 800 yards to its destination. The British royals had their own George V, her husband's great grandfather. And the end of George V throws an illuminating sidelight on Palace politics. In his last illness King George was given a lethal injection by his doctor, not as euthanasia but ostensibly so that by hastening his end the news could be announced in The Times next morning, rather than the less reputable evening papers. It gave a new meaning to the term deadline! But it shows how ruthless the royals have been in manipulating their media image. While the King was being put down like a dog, his soon-to-be-widowed Queen sent for news of her friend, Lady Fermoy, who lived round the corner from the Palace and was in labour. And so during that same night of royal stage management Lady Fermoy gave birth to a girl named Frances, whose own baby would be Diana, later Princess of Wales.

One characteristic of astrology is that it is multilevelled, multivalued; which means that a number of related meanings can be unwrapped from the same configuration. We can watch as any configuration mutates between the physical facts at one level, up through considerations of personality and psychology, and higher still to the spiritual situation. Ranged above all these is the overarching level of cosmic intention, because the cosmos does have an agenda of its own.

I think this Moon-Jupiter opposition can be seen as the cult of celebrity, the very reason why the Mercedes was being chased by the paparazzi. Leo is the sign of the showy personality, the Moon is the public, and mixed with this is Jupiter, planet of things inflated and international. It is in the midheaven, signifying status, fame. If Diana had become a threat to vested interests, if her sparkling contrast to her dowdy in-laws endangered their image, it was because she had achieved unparalleled heights of celebrity. This was where her power lay. And she was increasingly claiming the freedom to do as she wished - a loose cannon.

Another feature of this opposition across Leo-Aquarius is that it echoed a number of mundane charts for the UK that around that time were emphasising this same polarity of signs, Leo-Aquarius. If Leo is royalty, then Aquarius is the ordinary people. This event triggered a clash between the royal family and the wishes of the country. It was a conflict in which the people affirmed that they were citizens (Aquarius) rather than subjects (Leo), and the shaken royals made concession after concession to popular feeling. The mood was, if Diana can free herself from the stuffy royal protocols then so can we.

This opposition brings together related issues concerning royalty, social privilege and status. The Moon in Leo draws attention to another royal lady, the Duchess of Windsor, whose status was an issue which was blown up to incredible proportions. The 4th cusp - the home. Moon plus Jupiter is the grand house, the Villa Windsor which Diana visited on the very afternoon of her death. An innocent enough visit, it might be thought, to look around the villa that Dodi's father had lovingly restored to the elegance it knew when the Windsor's lived there. Both had died in that house, and their bodies had been flown from Paris to London for burial - the same fate awaiting the unsuspecting Diana.

Diana's physical contact with the Windsors, and the way it came about, was part of an extraordinary affair of destiny which only astrology can unravel. The honour that should have been accorded his Duchess was to be a festering resentment for the Duke of Windsor, the abdicated Edward VIII. In an act of petty vindictiveness she was deprived of the title of Her Royal Highness. I have no hesitation in saying that the grievance over the HRH, which survived the death of the sad occupants of Villa Windsor, stayed behind as unfinished business. It would have remained so, but for Diana.

It was decreed that after her divorce Diana, too, was no longer HRH. In both their cases the bizarre possibility arose of conferring the title on them after their death.

Diana and Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, had a lot in common. Both fell in love with a Prince of Wales who had suffered a lonely upbringing by distant and undemonstrative parents. Both were subsequently frozen out by their in-laws. Both came to be the leading celebrities of their day, internationally regarded as arbiters of fashion. Both were key figures in the two great British constitutional crises of the century.

Now it is curious that for more than ten years Wallis had been a Spencer. She was thrice married. The first marriage was to a pilot in the US navy, and his name was Earl Spencer. In fact he was Earl Spencer Junior, because his father had the same name. Let it be recalled that in Diana's family the title Earl Spencer, father to son, goes back to 1765.

The present Earl Spencer was to deliver an astonishing rebuke to the royal family at Diana's funeral. His target was their stifling adherence to protocol, at the expense of compassion, and he reminded them that Diana did not need her HRH to achieve the good she did. One could almost hear Wallis cheering him on from her place in the beyond.

On the Saturday, hours after the funeral, the Spencers and the royals discussed whether Diana should get her HRH back. On the Monday it was announced that the offer had been declined. Thank you, but no thank you! And on Monday evening a new play had its premier in Birmingham. It was about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and its starkly simple title was HRH. Now it may seem fanciful to suggest that unspent energies, the stuff of deeds, thoughts and emotions, can be taken up by the cosmos and guided towards their resolution. Admittedly it smacks of karma, or comeuppance. But wherever I look in astrology, reading between the lines of charts, I see evidence for the cosmos acting as a matrix for energies generated by human conduct.

On the matter of the Windsors, I should mention that in their death charts Saturn opposes Saturn. The eclipse at 9½ Virgo, on the weekend of the crash, squared both positions. In my experience an eclipse is very apt to gather up energies created by previous events. Thus it not only powerfully aspected Saturn at the deaths of the Windsors, but other charts too, including the death of Marilyn Monroe, whose song was sung at Diana's funeral. It reactivated the assassinations of President Kennedy, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo, from where Diana had so recently returned, and the end of George V.

It is well within the astrological tradition to refer current planetary phenomena not only to birth charts but to events, therefore all I am suggesting is that if we exercise more curiosity in the tracking down what might belong with what, our horizons of meaning might be immeasurably enlarged.

A journalist for most of his life, Dennis Elwell has explored any byway that might throw light on astrology, leading to a study of science on the one hand, and occultists like Rudolf Steiner and Gurdjieff on the other. Teaching himself the basics as a teenager, he became a regular contributor to American Astrology; a platform for the leading astrologers of the day. The association continued for twenty years. He began lecturing to astrologers in 1963 and has subsequently gained an illustrious reputation as an original thinker and stimulating speaker.
His book Cosmic Loom, was published in the same year and was recently republished by the Urania Trust in an updated and expanded version.

[ More articles by Dennis Elwell ]

© Dennis Elwell. Reproduced from Traditional Astrologer magazine, Issue 17, September 1998

Mundane Astrology

Contact Deborah Houlding  | terms and conditions  
All rights on all text and images reserved. Reproduction by any means is not permitted without the express
agreement of Deborah Houlding or in the case of articles by guest astrologers, the copyright owner indictated