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Cold and Dark 27/12/2012

Posted by zoidion in Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera – The nearly Full Moon is shining almost clearly tonight as a thin mist of very fine snow settles to the ground. It’s been a good week for observing the night sky, though I missed by a couple of hours and one continent the Moon’s occultation of Jupiter on the 25th.

The price for clear skies in late December and most of January around here is cold weather, and it has been cold—just seasonably cold. No record breakers in this region that I’ve heard of. We haven’t even quite dipped down to zero Fahrenheit here in the urban heat island.

The mercury has been below freezing since the morning of the 16th, ending the thaw that started on the 12th. The compost pile has ceased cooking. The frost is now reaching deeper into the ground each night, so there seems little point in continuing to carry buckets of bath and kitchen water outside and dumping them. But I find it painful to see water going down drains and hear gurgling in the pipes.

I sit inside and try to imagine how dry or moist my garden areas are, as they sleep. But I sleep easier and longer knowing that I’ve done everything I know and can think of to prepare the soil for a more verdant season. And I’m spending some time poring over books about herb gardens.

I’m also more hopeful about trends within this quadrant of the city. A couple of weeks ago, after deciding to join the “stewardship council” of the “local foods resource hubs,” I attended a small meeting of the hub for this part of town; there we began planning an event on or around Earth Day that will include distribution of seeds to hub members,  opportunities to buy compost at nominal cost and exchange experience-based knowledge, music and movement. More good news: Mother Earth Gardens, an excellent business that’s tuned in to urban ag developments (and where I bought three hop plants last May), is opening a second store on this side of town in the spring. And the Northeast Investment Co-op, organized only about a year ago to help revitalize the mostly funky old commercial district, has signed a purchase agreement for its first project. Yippee!

With water signs on both the lower meridian and the Ascendant—Pisces and Scorpio, respectively—of the Capricorn ingress chart, it appears this central section of North America is due over the winter season for overall wetter conditions than through most of 2012. As C.C. Zain puts it in Weather Predicting, “Its [Pisces’] influence in the Temperature Chart [seasonal chart cast for the Sun’s ingress into Capricorn (winter), Aries (spring), Cancer (summer) or Libra (autumn)] is consistently toward somewhat lower temperatures, but not of an extreme nature. . . . its influence in general is not violent, but mild. It is consistently a wet sign, but not given to the downpours that Cancer occasions, nor to the floods and disagreeable storms indicated by Capricorn.”


This seems borne out so far in this young season by the significant snowfalls and rains from the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys to the middle Atlantic region—Pisces is on the lower meridian for locations from the longitudes of Denver to Washington DC. Drizzly, foggy, even freakish and destructive  weather is most likely to be problematic around Denver’s longitude (105 degrees West), where Neptune was on the lower meridian for the Capricorn ingress, particularly so around 4 February, when Mars joins Neptune; the potential for deluges causing flash flooding will be present around 28 February, when Venus catches up to Neptune . (The basic Neptune factor, minus Venus and Mars, is similar to the situation for New England with the Libra ingress of 2012, during which period Superstorm Sandy inundated the New Jersey/New York coast, where vastly more water was available to wreak havoc.)

For the area of the Twin Cities, however, considerable variability of weather—and somewhat windy—can be expected through the season, as indicated by Mercury at an exact right angle to the axis of the meridian.

The metro area has missed the past several precipitation events—sorry to use such a stuffy but necessary term—but the snowstorm of the 19th was a particularly interesting one to investigate. And precipitation calls for reference to the Moisture (lunation) charts. The heaviest snow—a foot-and-a-half and more—fell in a band from east central Iowa (sorely beset by drought during the growing season) to the area of Madison, Wisconsin.

The date of course was two days before the Capricorn ingress and, strictly speaking, was still within the domain of the Libra ingress chart for temperature and general indications: primarily dry and cool. But as mentioned, the Capricorn ingress chart shows distinctly wetter conditions overall. In that regard, the nationwide snow cover maps of December 6 and December 26 offer quite a dramatic comparison: from six percent to sixty-one percent.

So the new season kicks off a wetter pattern, but one could say that the first quarter moon in twenty-nine degrees of water-sign Pisces on the 19th ushered in a particularly wet period within the season. The Ascendant for the first quarter at Madison was twenty-two degrees Virgo, and the Moon was opposite that point at about noon—during the hours of heaviest snowfall.


For Little Rock, Arkansas, site of an unusual nine-inch snowfall on the night of the 25th—still within the first quarter lunation week—the lunation chart has nineteen degrees Virgo on the Ascendant. So the Moon was ten degrees above the western horizon at the lunation. Its snowfall came with the Moon in Gemini, passing first over the place of the lunar eclipse on November 28 (seven degrees Gemini) and then over the place of Jupiter—the aforementioned occultation. (This seems to be a point in favor of regarding Jupiter, not Neptune, as lord of the sign Pisces for weather work.) The Moon reached nineteen degrees Gemini at sunset on the 26th. It appears that the Moon-eclipse point-Jupiter-occultation was the combination that triggered such an unusually copious southern snowfall.

It was the snowiest Christmas Day on record for Little Rock—more than twice the previous record, dating to 1926—with even more falling to the northeast. A small swarm of tornadoes and lesser winds tore at a swath from east Texas to Alabama, along the boundary of cold and warm air masses. Such turbulence accords with the square angle between the Sun and Uranus, which attained exactitude in the evening of the 25th.

Somewhat similar to the seasonal chart, the Full Moon chart for the Twin Cities shows a snowy week—both Moon in water-sign Cancer (and Sun, of course, exactly opposite) and Saturn closely connecting to the primary weather factor, the lower meridian. Of special interest is the (November 13) solar eclipse point on the Ascendant, although this of itself is unlikely to herald any historic precipitation event. The most pregnant period for precipitation—related to the Moon’s movement—during the week appears from New Year’s Eve into the morning of New Year’s Day.


Keyed by the New Year’s connection of the Moon in Leo with Venus in Sagittarius, celebratory spirits are apt to be unusually boisterous. End-of-party decisions are especially crucial.

Best wishes for 2013. Stay in touch, y’hear?


Life of a Muse 19/12/2012

Posted by zoidion in Hellenistic.
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Twin Cities weather report: It’s a little hard to believe: a bright golden disc appeared low in the southeastern sky this morning. I think it was that object known in other seasons as “the Sun.” I even saw it for a few minutes yesterday. Otherwise, the past five days have been gray, gray, gray. At least the clouds keep the temperature up.

After the big snowstorm on the 9th, the temperature dropped as low as 12 degrees on my backyard thermometer. Getting around was difficult for the first couple of days. The commercial snowplow guys were having a grand time, piling up lots of money—as they had no opportunity to do all of last winter. But they were dealing with parking lots, not sidewalks. The buses were jammed on the 10th, and that enabled me to meet a neighbor at the bus stop—he usually drives to work, and I wasn’t about to try riding my bike to my destination, as I usually would.

By the 12th, the Sun was out, and eaves were dripping. In the deceptive warmth of midday, I forgot to take my sweater as I gathered my things in preparation for a couple of days in Duluth.

What a town! More like a string of villages, especially when taking the low road along the St. Louis River, rather than the high Interstate from the Cities. I passed the roadblock for the way to Jay Cooke State Park—parts of the road were washed out back in June, at the same time that the suspension bridge for pedestrians was destroyed. The extreme west end of Duluth is poor, with little in the way of commercial enterprises beyond a gas station, gun shop, and laundromat. Highway 23 here is called Grand Avenue. Not really.

Further on and a bit more upscale, the turn for Morgan Park beckoned—it had been a long time since I’d had a look at the company town built by US Steel (the steel plant long gone), the original workers’ houses all built of concrete blocks, where I’d been part of a documentary photography project in the summer of 1990.

My first full day there this time, I was on a quest for a frame for a photo I’d brought with me, and I pounded the pavement quite a bit. I started out from point zero: the corner of Lake and Superior. As one who loves to explore places, even fairly familiar ones, on foot, the process was mostly a pleasure. But this quest took a while, and without that extra layer, I was chilly by the time I arrived at Chester Creek Books and Antiques, 1333 East Superior. As a book lover from way back, I was amazed I hadn’t found it before. But the sign was small and set just above the snow (less than in the Cities). And the building was a former church.

I told the proprietor what I was after, and he led me through the sanctuary—books and antiques—and down the stairs at the back, past room after room filled with books in cases, to the very end. Near the “employees only” barrier were a couple of cardboard boxes on the floor, filled with picture frames. Mostly quite ordinary, but that was okay: I wasn’t looking for anything artsy fartsy, not for this particular friend, a very down-home kinda guy. I found a perfectly fine one, simple but with a rustic design and finish. Three bucks—cool.

Time to look at the books, for gifts, for me. I had a sad moment when I came upon a couple of cases of books, marked “From the library of Robert Bly.” He’s still with us, but fading.

From another room I found several to take with me: for a high school teacher friend who unwinds by reading Louis L’Amour (don’t give it away!), not a shoot-em-up but The Walking Drum. It’s about a young man in the 12th century AD searching for his father from Brittany through Moorish Spain (referencing al-Biruni’s Chronology of Ancient Nations), along the merchant caravan trail to Kiev, then alone to Constantinople and the climax in the fortress of the Valley of the Assassins in Persia. For myself I bought the late Minnesota writer Frederick Manfred’s The Chokecherry Tree, about a young man in the 1930s returning to his drought-stricken home place in southwest Minnesota, and Francine Prose’s The Lives of the Muses.

It was a curious coincidence, coming upon a chart for Lee Miller, stuck inside the folder of charts I keep on my daughter, returning home today for the holidays. Just the one sheet on Ms. Miller, a noon-calculated natal chart with an approximate solar return for 1945. The comparison date was within a couple weeks of when she was photographed bathing in Hitler’s bathtub in Munich, days after the Fuhrer’s death in Berlin. And there were gloomy indications for that time: Mars on the degree of natal Saturn, and Saturn on the degree of natal Jupiter.

Elizabeth Miller was a beauty, a model for her amateur photographer father, her image at age nineteen splashed on the cover of Vogue during the heyday of the Roaring Twenties. She had already been to Paris, shaken off her chaperones, and immersed herself in the art scenes there: “Lee’s beauty admitted her to circles that would likely have remained closed to the average eighteen-year-old from Poughkeepsie.” (Prose)

Her father had “saved” her from Paris, and soon after, on Fifth Avenue in New York, she was saved while crossing the street by none other than Conde Nast, publisher of Vogue. She couldn’t die so young: she was the New Woman of the time.

Two years later, Miller was back in Paris, boldly announcing to surrealist painter/photographer Man Ray that she was his new student and assistant. She soon was also his lover and muse. Her rise as a photographic subject was meteoric: Time magazine declared that she was “widely celebrated for having the most beautiful navel in Paris,” and a champagne glass maker issued a line based on the shape of her breast.

But she also had talent and ambition as an artistic photographer: fashion was her day job. And muses are averse to jealous lovers. “During those years [with Man Ray], Lee Miller took some first-rate photos that were nothing at all like Man Ray’s or anyone else’s, images that often involve visual surprises brightened by the spark of a highly individual sense of humor.” (Prose)

The weather became tempestuous in 1931, when she fell in love with an older, richer Egyptian, Aziz Eloui Bey, whose wife Nimet was also a prominent beauty and model in the Paris scene—until an affair between the older man and Miller ensued, and Nimet killed herself.

In 1932 she fled back to New York, where, in the midst of the great economic slide, she opened her own studio. Before long, one of her clients was Aziz Eloui Bey, in America on business to purchase railroad equipment. The affair was on again, and Miller surprised nearly everyone by marrying him, ditching her demanding career, leaving the country, and embarking on a leisurely existence in a mansion on the Island of Giza. It took a while, but the tedium took its toll on the restless Miller. By 1937, with war clouds gathering over Europe, she returned to Paris and took up with the painter Roland Penrose, her ticket—as things worked out—to England and relative safety as war broke out.

Miller began taking photos of scenes of resistance and destruction—photos that were later collected in Grim Glory: Pictures of Britain Under Fire. Her artistic style was fully on display in a different context: “These shots of bombed-out London made the war seem to have been orchestrated by a demonic intelligence with an ironic Surrealist humor and a taste for macabre, ghastly tableaux.” (Prose)

She was preparing for entry into the belly of the beast. In December 1942, she was accredited by the US Army as a war photographer, and in July 1944 (age 37), a month after the Allied invasion of Normandy, she teamed with a twenty-five-year-old American photojournalist, documenting the aftermath of the first combat use of napalm, the horrors of Buchenwald, the incongruous bucolic countryside, the plight of refugees, the execution of Hungarian fascist ex-Prime Minister Laszlo Bardossy.

She was drinking a lot, and no wonder. By the time she returned to England, she was a wreck. By May 1947 she had stabilized enough to marry Penrose before, in September, giving birth, at age forty, to her only child.

Lee Miller’s artistry did not die with motherhood in middle age. Based at the family farmhouse in Sussex, England, she occasionally undertook photography assignments, but that was the scene of her social life with visiting artists, embracing gourmet cooking. But for the rest of her life she exhibited signs of being haunted by her wartime experiences. She died 21 July 1977, age seventy years three months, from cancer at home in Sussex.


When the natal chart for Lee Miller is considered in light of the character of her life, the data, posted at Astrodatabank, looks valid. The complications of precocious beauty and artistic talent are poignantly represented in the Libran Ascendant, whose lord, Venus, appears exalted in Pisces but conjunct Saturn, and in the problematic sixth place. Venus is also lord of her Sun sign, Taurus, in the eighth place (fear, torment, death).

What complications, you say? For one thing—one major thing—her attractiveness brought devastating attention: at age eight, she was raped by a family friend. In all likelihood, the experience contributed to her propensity to dissociate mind and body in modeling sessions. And she had had plenty of modeling experience before she was “discovered” by Nast: in addition to receiving technical photographic instruction from her father, she also posed for him, often nude. Not exactly an ordinary, innocent childhood.

This extra-potent father is symbolized by Mars exalted in Capricorn in the fourth place. Professionally, he was an industry executive and engineer—an apt combination of Mars and Capricorn.

Let’s back up a little. The natal chart is for a late-afternoon birth: daytime. It is a diurnal chart. Both Venus and Mars are stronger when placed in the nocturnal half of the sky: below the horizon during the daytime, as they are here.  Nocturnal planets, nocturnally placed, in their signs of exaltation: Venus and Mars are powerful. But that doesn’t mean their significance is of situations necessarily pleasant or easily managed.

Jupiter is also very strong and prominent: a diurnal planet, exalted in Cancer and at the upper meridian, it shows one who would rise to considerable fame in her own right. Jupiter, along with Saturn, is of the diurnal sect, and so is further dignified. (Saturn, however, is below the horizon and thus out of sect.) These are indications of a form of royalty, one who carried a kind of favor and protection—as in the rescue by the publisher on Fifth Avenue.

Closely connected by degree to both Mars and Jupiter, and likewise on one of the two axes of the chart, is Mercury, representing her original and curious mind. Even though it was about to set in the west at the time of birth, it was in diurnal placement in relation to the Sun—that is, Mercury rose before the Sun. Well before the Sun: Mercury appears well out of the Sun’s “beams,” nearly as far from the Sun by angle as Mercury ever gets. All these factors of Mercury’s placement would contribute to her well-documented restlessness, spontaneity and quest for original expression.

There are further corroborating details within other levels of dignities: the triplicity rulers and terms. (Triplicities are the three signs of the same element, and terms are varying sections, five in all, within each sign.) The five-degree Libra Ascendant is within the term of Saturn as well as having Saturn as the daytime triplicity ruler, thus emphasizing the troubles and sorrows that came from having Saturn with Venus.

Similarly, Venus is the daytime triplicity ruler of Pisces, where Venus is placed. But Venus is within the term of Mars, thus linking her erotic life and artistry with drive and force.

More nuances can be gleaned from looking at the other planetary placements in this way.

But what of the Moon, symbol of the emotional body? As domicile lord of Cancer, wherein lies a very potent Jupiter, the Moon is a crucial indicator. Moon is related to Venus by being located in Virgo, where Venus is daytime triplicity ruler, and in the term of Mercury. But Luna is above the horizon, out of sect, and in the twelfth place from the Ascendant: the place of isolation and chronic/long-term health problems. In the natal chart, Luna is about one degree past a sextile with Jupiter: she is moving away, losing the capacity to benefit from whatever Jupiter brings. So it was when Lee Miller returned from the horrors of war, which period followed the playful experimentations of her youth. She sacrificed her safety and sanity in order to experience, document and report on the hell of war. In consequence her emotional body was shattered, and her success could offer no help.

We are left with the image of the beauty of her form and the surreal juxtapositions of her mind on film.

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