Perhaps the easiest way to make predictions is to follow Ptolemy's dictum about the power of planetary positions at the time of eclipses. These configurations can be read off straight from the ephemeris, but it is wise to focus on those which are exact or nearly so.
A journalist from a women's magazine, who came to interview me following the publicity arising from the tragedy of the Herald of Free Enterprise, wanted to know how the planets could signal disasters. So I talked her through it by taking as an example the upcoming eclipse of 7 October (1987) when Mercury and Pluto would be conjoined in Scorpio in semi-square to Uranus. I explained briefly that Mercury was about 'communication', and Pluto about the subterranean and hidden side of things.
Given that Uranus often connects with sudden disruptions and unforeseen turns of fate, I asked her where she thought the dangers of this eclipse might lie. 'How about underground trains?' she said. And so, after two minutes instruction, this absolute novice cottoned on to something yet to happen - the horrific fire at Kings Cross Underground Station, London, on 18 November 1987, in which 31 died and 20 were seriously injured.
Most of the time it's that simple, but of course the challenging part comes when you try to narrow down a general indication to specific times and places. In my experience calculating the angles for different localities for eclipses is not as helpful as might be supposed. For one thing, to pin configurations down to a minute of time often seems artificial - I mentally allow an orb of time for eclipses, as well as phenomena like solar returns. This disposes of questions like whether the eclipse chart should be drawn for the conjunction of the lights in longitude, or the moment of maximum obscuration.
(It's not commonly realised that there is a strong notional element in some of the times so confidently listed in the ephemeris, as will become clear if you compare the times given for aspects of the major planets in different ephemerides. There is often no 'correct' time: it depends on which formulas the compiler prefers. So it is astronomical nonsense to erect charts for, say, the minute of a
conjunction for different capital cities, because such conjunctions cannot be that nicely calculated.)
Rather than rely overmuch on the angles, I favour examining the charts for those entities -
organisations, institutions, individuals - which seem pertinent to the inquiry. The eclipse configuration, or the eclipse point itself, may engage some radical chart. Of particular importance are those eclipse aspects which repeat a radical aspect. For instance, there are well authenticated national charts, and in the horoscope of the United Kingdom (1801) we find Mercury in the 3rd house, 75° from Pluto. Many astrologers believe all 15° multiples are valid aspects, but the orbs of lesser 'beats' like 75° and 105° need to be tight. Another aspect worth watching is the semioctile of 22½° which does have some traditional validification. In the UK chart the Mercury-Pluto midpoint is in semioctile to Uranus, therefore the eclipse recombined the elements of this radical configuration.
Of course, once we decide to zoom in on underground transport a whole range of charts must be relevant, if not always immediately accessible. There must be a chart for the London Underground, for each branch line, and indeed for each individual station. Then there are the people conspicuously connected with each enterprise - a whole hierarchy of charts, ranging from a company chairman down to a branch manager. Any serious investigation thus automatically involves a wide area of research. The task of digging out all the data may be more than a single-handed astrologer can contemplate, but I'm afraid there is a tendency to expect results without being prepared to take the trouble. Yet it is surely worth some effort if lives are in the balance, or fortunes can be made or lost.
A crucial issue in prediction is how far ahead we are expected to attempt it. There is a process of manifestation, whereby the possibilities prefigured in the heavens find their way into expression on earth, using whatever expedients are currently available. After all, in 1801 there was no underground railway for Uranus to disrupt! I visualise ourselves and the cosmos as involved in something like a computer game, an interactive program in which we make our move, and the cosmos alters its strategy accordingly. We need to be more aware of this manifestation process, and to realise that
the closer we get to the point of precipitation the easier it becomes to anticipate what will happen and where, because as we come abreast of an aspect we can watch for telltale signs - straws in the wind.
An aspect never produces one event only, but has a range of expressions, some of them trivial, and the trivialities can serve as omens for what is to come. Several months before the Kings Cross inferno an exercise was in preparation (it took place on 7 February, with alarming simulated injuries) to rescue passengers from a disaster on the London Underground. It was codenamed 'Operation Gateway', which has a Plutonic ring. Also planned before Kings Cross was a full scale simulation of a disaster on the Brussels Metro, scheduled for 18 December. Therefore an eclipse will start to pull events towards it some time before it is due, and whether they are real or 'pretend' seems not to matter.
The plans drawn up by the emergency services suggested that this type of event was 'in the air'. Coming to omens for Kings Cross station itself, the escalator where the blaze started
had caught fire twice in the days before the disaster (7 and 11
November). So inflammatory had this spot on the planet become, that on 8 January an investigation team looking into the cause of the tragedy accidentally started another fire on the same escalator with a cutting tool, triggering an emergency in which hundreds had to be evacuated. Why fires? Midpoints are useful in fine-tuning interpretation, and in this eclipse the Mercury-Pluto conjunction fell on the midpoint of Mars-Saturn, a combination often implicated in loss by fire.
Pluto is not just underground, but anything that disappears and emerges from 'underneath'. Therefore this eclipse threw a harsh spotlight of debate on tunnels generally. The Channel Tunnel put its shares on the market in November but there was a disappointing public response, falling short by 20%, amid reports of delays and difficulties with the project. Following Kings Cross, the safety of the Channel Tunnel was in question -- could it become the longest crematorium in the world? In Japan the world's longest tunnel, due to open in March, was reported to be in irremediable financial trouble. In Liverpool (the Mercury-Pluto conjunction fell in Scorpio a sign long associated with that city), a million pound fiddle came to light, and in January eleven tunnel staff were jailed.
Underground communication? In November Sydney's telephone and data systems were massively sabotaged when an axeman severed 24 main underground cables. He was apparently an employee with a grievance.
Pluto often signifies irresistible elemental force, and coupled with the airy planet Mercury produced a ferocious hurricane on October 16, Britain's worst weather disaster for nearly 300 years. The Mercury effect was that the storm totally disrupted communications by bringing down the power lines, switching off the great power stations through an automatic tripping mechanism. The newspaper presses, the TV and radio stations, all fell victims. Saturn was then transiting Mercury in the 1801 map.
As the manifestation process got into its stride, the location of the hurricane was a pointer to what was to come. For one thing the electricity failure stopped the London Underground.
More significantly, the devastation cost British industry and finance a billion pounds because it knocked out the sophisticated computerised communications technology of the
City of London. Dealing on the stock exchange collapsed.
On 'Black Monday', 19 October, the stock market itself collapsed. Those who study charts for clues to world markets will know that any aspect can have financial repercussions; but Mercury has much to do with the 'markets' particularly today when dealings depend on rapid computerised transmission. The markets had been overheating all year, following an eclipse invoking a Jupiter-Neptune square, and Mercury-Pluto brought the crunch. (Incidentally, a thorough astrology must take into account the cosmic background of historical precedents: thus it was no accident that this conjunction fell on the eclipse of November 1929, which prefigured the Wall Street crash.)
With important events there is always more than one cosmic factor: several indicators converge to produce a single development, each describing a different facet of it. The October eclipse also saw an opposition of Venus and Jupiter. (Amusingly, Venus rules apples, and on 29 October it was reported that the year's 'most eatable apple' was a new variety - name: Jupiter!) A feature of this economic collapse was that it showed how interdependent the markets are around the world. Jupiter is the international, global element; and Venus the constant checks and balances that dealing involves. Moreover, Venus not only has a financial significance in itself, it especially has to do with ordinary shares - equities. After a long bull market investors suddenly wondered if equities were sound.
A conspiracy to create a false market in Guinness shares became a scandal that shook London's financial community in the autumn of 1987. Mercury-Pluto often brings buried factors to light and the conjunction at this eclipse also brought an obsessive fascination with matters of espionage, counter-espionage, intelligence and treason. Whether the Spycatcher book could be published against the wishes of the British Government was exercising the courts. In November senior members of the Government met privately to express their dismay at the criticism being levelled at the royals - 'stirred up in the vile sewers of the press' as one of them put it. October saw the launch of a new satirical magazine, The Digger.
All this - and more - show how eclipse configurations can saturate world affairs. They are probably the most dependable factor in astrology, but if the information they provide is to be of practical use, the mechanisms involved in the route whereby the cosmic potentiality becomes 'grounded' needs to be studied more inquisitively.
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
; 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