Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Astrology and an everyday story of country folk

If you’re a soap addict, have you ever wondered about the birth date of one of the characters? Does it reflect their personality? How could it? Surely that date was plucked out of the air by a writer who probably had no interest in astrology or how it works. Yet, the character’s natal chart really does describe them. And not only that, but what’s happening in the chart at a given moment also describes what’s happening to them in soap land at that time. What’s more, the birth chart of the actor or actress who plays the character often slots in very neatly with that chart.

Take the case of Helen Titchener, née Archer (brilliantly played by Louiza Patikas), whose story has been dominating The Archers for the past couple of years and whose current marital plight has recently grabbed the national headlines. At the time of writing, she’s being held in custody for stabbing her husband Rob with a kitchen knife. He nearly died from a subsequent infection but appears to have rallied and will no doubt soon leap from his hospital bed to make Helen’s life a misery once again. Because, as those of us who tune in to The Archers know, Rob is a controlling bully who has been systematically undermining his wife in an insidious, subtle and extremely effective way ever since they first met. Helen meekly toed the Titchener line for months by wearing the sort of dreary clothes that Rob liked to see her in and damping down her personality until it became a washed out beige. But she finally flipped when Rob threatened her son Henry, grabbed the kitchen knife that he was brandishing at her (while telling her to kill herself) and stabbed him with it.

As a listener, I was gripped and shaken. As an astrologer, I was intrigued. What does Helen’s chart say? Does it reflect what’s happening in her life? Oh yes, it certainly does.

But before we get on to what’s happening in Helen’s chart at the moment, we need to look at her birth chart to find out more about her personality.

According to The Archers’ website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/3XtJ9HZNYzrBYThlKd0RyRb/helen-titchener), Helen was born on 16 April 1979. She was probably born in Ambridge, but apparently that isn’t a real place. (I know, it came as a shock to me, too.) So I set her chart for Worcester, which must be fairly nearby. We don’t know her time of birth so I set her chart for noon. This means her chart lacks the fine-tuning of such things as an Ascendant (which tells us how she approaches the world, among many other things) and the precise position of the Moon (which moves roughly 12 degrees per day), not to mention the distribution of the planets among the twelve houses of the zodiac, but we still have plenty to work with.

Helen was born with the Sun in Aries and the Moon in Sagittarius (the sign of the archer!), which is a nice fiery combination. She has enthusiasm (think of her passion for the Borsetshire Blue cheese she developed, the earliest prototypes of which sounded vile), initiative and warmth. But this combination also makes her idealistic, so she tends to see the best in others, whether or not the rest of us can spot it. (Her track record in choosing men has been lamentable, to put it politely. A previous boyfriend shot himself. Her current husband is a psychopath. She’ll probably fall for a brutish prison officer next, and then where will we be.)

Let’s look closer at that idealism. Helen has Venus in Pisces (idealistic, romantic, kind, sensitive, easily hurt) in a tight square aspect to Neptune, which is the ruler of Pisces. More idealism, more romanticism, more emotional vulnerability. Possibly even a Cinderella complex and an underlying sense that love involves pain and sacrifice. The Moon may be close enough to Neptune to form a conjunction (sensitive, lacking emotional boundaries, empathy, an emotional sponge). No wonder the BBC website calls her ‘the tragic heroine of Ambridge’.

She also has the Sun in a wide opposition to Pluto. This means there is a tug-of-war over control. It may be internal or she may disown it and project it on to other people. Such as the dreaded Rob, who acts it out for her. (Both the Sun and Pluto can represent men.)

A lot more could be said about Helen’s natal chart, but as I’m trying to avoid writing a three-volume novel about it I’m going to switch to what’s happening to her chart right now. (If this makes no sense to you, let me explain. Although a birth chart is a snapshot of the positions of the planets at the time of birth, the planets keep moving and therefore they can form significant relationships with the birth chart as the progress through the solar system.)

It’s usually the outer planets – Uranus, Neptune and Pluto – that are active when something really dramatic or significant happens. Each of them carries a lesson for us. Pluto teaches us about transformation and it often does this by dredging up major problems and triggering confrontations.* Pluto is currently in Capricorn and is edging ever closer to making a square aspect to Helen’s Sun – an echo of her natal Sun-Pluto opposition. It means that things she’s tried to bury will come to the surface so she can work through them. And the anger, hurt and frustration she’s felt over her marriage to Rob are obviously part of that. It also means potentially serious problems with authority figures.

Uranus is the planet of surprises and shocks. Events that happen during a Uranus transit can make it feel as though the rug’s been pulled out from under our feet – an astrological maxim for Uranus is to expect the unexpected. Uranus is currently in Aries and is making a conjunction with Helen’s Sun. Uranus shouts ‘Wake up!’ When Uranus conjuncts the Sun we want to break free from limitations, to revolutionise our life in some way. It can be wonderfully liberating. But, of course, that depends on how we act on Uranus’s message. Do we make rational choices or do we go off the rails? (Think midlife crisis.) And it also depends on whether Uranus is doing other things in our chart. For Helen, who has a Sun-Pluto opposition, when Uranus touches her Sun it also connects with her Pluto. Boom! Uranus opposition Pluto brings fresh awareness of what needs to change. This can be a shocking realisation, especially if we are trying to cling on to those things that need to change or we’re even denying that they exist. It might lead to an internal battle that has an explosive outcome, as in the case of Helen using that kitchen knife on Rob.  

Lots of other things are happening to Helen’s chart as well. One of the most worrying is that Saturn, the planet of limitations, is hovering around her Moon. The Moon represents motherhood, among other things. What is Saturn saying about Helen’s relationship with her son Henry and her unborn child? As things stand, Helen will be giving birth in hospital but while still in custody – very descriptive of Saturn conjunct the Moon, even if it is a rather exaggerated picture of what most of us might expect. But what happens next? Will Helen’s contact with her children be severely restricted? Or will Saturn give her the backbone for which it is so renowned, so she finally talks about what happened so she can protect her children? Her story in The Archers clearly has a long way to go before we can relax whenever we hear her voice.

* Astrologers often sound as though they’re saying that the planets make things happen. This isn’t really the case – what we are saying is that there is a correlation between the actions of the planets in the sky and the actions of the people affected on the ground. But if we were to say that each time it would get very wordy indeed, so we use astro shorthand.