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A Time for Blight 04/10/2012

Posted by zoidion in Event, Mundane, Weather.
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Twin Cities weather report: Following a remarkable string of clear, warm, nearly windless days, this day is cloudy and cooler, with a northwest wind tearing leaves from the trees. Frosts are forecast for the next couple of nights, with the possibility of snow flurries—a month earlier than last year.

What little rain has fallen in the past two months has been spotty, totaling no more than half an inch. September was the second driest ever recorded; September 2011 was the third.

I’ve been busy in the past week, sifting and distributing in two of my raised beds the product of this year’s composting process. For a gardener, this is exciting: scooping up and shoveling out the fine, dark material still inhabited by bugs doing their work. I consider this batch to be my first real compost: not just the usual greens (weeds), browns (leaves from last year) and kitchen scraps, but with horse manure added. I started with the minimum recommended one-cubic-foot size pile, moistened by rain, then covered to prevent drying; the unsifted pile was about two-thirds that size. This is a major step in building the fertility of this urban lot.

This weekend I’ll be making my first rounds to collect bags of leaves to go into the compost bin as well as pile on to two of the newer garden beds, to invite the worms to come and do their thing.

It’s all looking toward next year and beyond. But what are the prospects for next year? When I look at the Mississippi River, and see the surface so still and so far below its spring level, it’s not easy to be hopeful.

The other day, I was flipping through George J. McCormack’s Text-Book of Long-Range Weather Forecasting. I’ve found it’s a lot to digest, though it’s for the most part well-organized.

“GeeJay” did a good job of describing the weather-related significances of the planets, alone and in combination, but what’s glaringly skimpy is material on the interpretation of ingress and lunation charts—particularly in combination. He made it clear that he considered those the keys to understanding and forecasting weather patterns. So I keep going back, often at random, looking for pieces of the puzzle—yeah, yeah, I probably ought to read the whole book front to back with a notepad handy.

I’ve been feeling rather stumped, but this time at least I found an item I could chew on a bit. McCormack quoted from A.J. Pearce’s Textbook of Astrology:

It cannot be ‘mere coincidence’ that Zadkiel [Richard James Morrison] foretold, from the planetary positions at the annular eclipse of the Sun in Taurus 5° 04´ , of April 25, 1846, ‘drought, failure of the fruits of the earth, and some peculiar disease in potatoes,’ and that Ireland and Scotland then suffered from these evils to such an extent that thousands were starved. . . “ Vide Zadkiel’s Almanac, 1846, pp. 15, 34, published a year before the event).

McCormack then goes on to mention that “the first decan [ten-degree segment] of the earthy sign Taurus relates to starchy products such as potatoes, corn, etc.”

Hmmm . . . I’d like to examine that publication. When was it really written and issued? The situation looks murky from that snippet of quotation.

Anyway, I started this little investigation by having my computer calculate that eclipse. So okay: the eclipse was at the south lunar node. That certainly fits for the subsequent event: the wasting of the pommes de terre. And that it was a famine on a grand scale was indicated by Jupiter also in Taurus. Over the course of seven years, the Irish population declined, through famine and emigration, by about 21 percent, and continued to decline in the following decades. By the time Ireland achieved independence in 1921, its population was barely half of what it had been in the early 1840s, according to the trusty Encyclopedia Brittanica.

But wait! The blight and famine didn’t begin in 1846, but rather the year before. “In 1845 the Phytophthora fungus arrived accidentally from North America, and that same year Ireland had unusually cool, moist weather, in which the blight thrived. Much of that year’s potato crop rotted in the fields. This partial crop failure was followed by more devastating failures in 1846-49, as each year’s potato crop was almost completely ruined by the blight.” (Brittanica)

Well, not exactly—maybe. The People’s Chronology, however, reports that in 1847 the Irish potato crop “is sound for the first time since 1844, but is small due to the lack of seed potatoes.” If that is true, then there are really only two years upon which to focus for the precipitating crisis.

The indications of some kind of rapidly manifesting, utterly devastating crisis are present in the Aries ingress chart for 1845: Uranus, Jupiter and Pluto joining the Sun, clashing with Mars in Capricorn. This does not, according to my understanding, portend crop failure—though it does point to armed clashes with an occupying force. (Is that in the historical record for Ireland in1845?)

The other major planetary configuration—besides the rare Jupiter/Uranus/Pluto conjunction, not repeated until 1969—was the developing conjunction of Saturn and Neptune, which was exact in April, September and December 1846. This is a tough one in reference to weather: “atmospheric conditions may be expected to endure for weeks and sometimes months at a time. Greatest extremes have been indicated under the conjunctions and oppositions. Both planets are very slow in motion.” Cloudy, damp and cool conditions could be expected, but where? Not in the Irish spring, since Saturn-Neptune did not appear near the meridian at that longitude.

The historical record indicates that the spring started warm and relatively dry, as could be expected from the appearance of fire sign Sagittarius on the lower meridian.

When the shift to cool and damp came is uncertain, but it was likely close to the eclipse of May 6, 1845, whose pattern was particularly ominous. As with the eclipse of April 1846, this was a south node eclipse, with Venus and Mercury bracketing the lights, all of which were square to the horizon as well as Mars, Saturn and Neptune; in addition, the Jupiter/Uranus/Pluto combination was clustered around the meridian, heralding the sudden and utterly devastating turn of fortune.

By the time of the Cancer ingress, another, not-quite-so-rare combination was in full play: Mars had fully joined Saturn-Neptune, adding the element of freak and extreme changes. The Cancer ingress chart is what shows the dire situation taking hold: the upper meridian at Limerick, in the west of Ireland (the region most severely devastated), was in the last degree of Cancer, with the Moon (one day past perigee, an indication of special potency) close to the lower meridian in the opposite cold sign of Capricorn (the next sign, Aquarius, holding Mars-Saturn-Neptune, being indicative of unusual and persistent cold). Also, no small factor, Pluto was on the western horizon.

The primary factor shown in the weather records was apparently not an unusual amount of rain, but rather unusually chilly and cloudy weather, resulting in continual dampness: an excellent environment for the fungus.

Extensive meteorological observations of the time, quoted by Irish university researcher P.M. Austin Bourke in 1965, indicate that, “The Irish farmer was too conditioned to poor summers to attribute solely to the weather so spectacular and unfamiliar a disease as the potato blight.  . . . The only marked peculiarities . . . were that night fogs and thunderstorms were unusually frequent in 1846.” This after the growing season of 1846 “opened most promisingly but deteriorated badly later . . . [while] the summer of 1847 was mainly fair and dry.”

So 1845 brought initial conditions of privation, the loss of food and seed crops, while the following year brought extreme suffering and depopulation.

The comparison of Aries ingress charts for the two years makes it symbolically vivid: 1846 Moon is on 1845 Mars (a distinctly restive combination*); 1846 Mars, itself on the western horizon, on 1845 south node. But for truly alarming significance, note that 1846 Mars is conjunct the malefic star Algol, with a millennia-old reputation for association with death and disaster.**

Admittedly, Mars represents, on a mass level, factors of violence: actions of cutting and piercing. But what puts the 1846 chart fully into the realm of foreboding is the tight square of Mars (and the nodal axis) to both Saturn and Neptune. This symbolizes debilitation and loss in the extreme.

That was then . . .

With the lunar nodal axis recently (end of August 2012) shifted into Scorpio / Taurus, the stage is again set for crises that will lock in difficult conditions for extended periods. First comes the Scorpio north node eclipse, two weeks after the American Election Day, initiating a trying season of issues of debt, taxation and obligation that can no longer be ignored. Come spring and the Taurus south node eclipse, the start of the growing season in critical areas of the northern hemisphere is apt to look ominous, with food prices ratcheting upward and the populace becoming much more recalcitrant.

* See Matthew Carnicelli’s examination (PDF) of Moon-Mars combinations in US presidential inaugural charts.

** See online article “The Algol Effect.”

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