Krakatoa 1883: A World Event Examined (1)

While the greater part of the astrological community is in eager expectation of havoc in the communication and transport sectors 🙂 we will apply ourselves to looking back into the past. Appropriate for Mercury Rx, don’t you think? Th.

The instruments we use to define critical periods by mundane astrology can be refined by looking at past events. We can expect that an event of such major import as the volcanic explosion of Krakatoa in 1883 to be reflected in the charts. I am a bit wary of speaking of Signatures, as these can easily be misinterpreted as a fixed set of very particular configurations. The temptation is to make lists of aspects and then compile them, looking for the most common denominator. This however ignores the individual quality of the event, which is probably more important. There are of course general rules that must be followed, but these only provide the framework on which to build a judgement. But first let us look at the event before we describe the framework we will use to examine it.

The eruption of the Krakatoa volcano on the 26th and 27th of August 1883 is among the most catastrophic eruptions in history. It’s detonation was one of the loudest sounds in recorded history, heard thousands of kilometres away. The explosion itself was equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT, almost 13000 times stronger than the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima. The volcanic eruption was of course accompanied by earthquake and tsunami of immense proportion. Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” was inspired by this event. He says:

…suddenly the sky turned blood red … I stood there shaking with fear and felt an endless scream passing through nature. (see this Wikipedia article for more details)

If you have any familiarity with mundane astrology you will know that the story of the event (or in this case, series of events leading up to a dramatic climax) is not confined to the event chart(s) alone. In fact it is easier to understand the event when you look at the cascade of a whole series of charts that lead up to the event, and trace the chain of testimonies from one chart to the next. Mundane astrology is a very time consuming affair as there are so very many charts (we will be looking at the Grand Conjunction, Small Conjunction, pre-event lunar and solar eclipses, Aries and Cancer Ingress, previous lunation and the major event chart) and so very many factors that have to be considered. Where does one start? This is the IC. In this series of articles I will be focussing exclusively on the IC. You will see that it is enough to begin with. I encourage you, dear reader, to print out the charts and examine them yourself. You are very welcome to share any insights as a comment to this series of articles. You can find all the charts I used here in the Charts section of Altair Astrology for later easy reference.

59 pm GMT 105e25, 6s06

Grand Conjunction, 18 Apr. 1881 1:35:59 pm GMT 105e25, 6s06

This is our beginning chart. What we can note is that Mars is within 7 degrees of the IC and he is in opposition to Uranus. As the opposition was world-wide, the important thing is the presence of Mars in the 4th house. The opposition is strengthened further by both planets also being contra-parallel to one another (Mars 8s27, Uranus 8n34).

00 LMT 105e25, 6s06

Small Conjunction, 20 July, 1883 9:56:00 LMT 105e25, 6s06

Here the first thing we need to search for is the tie-in with the Grand Conjunction. It isn’t surprising that the Small Conjunction (Mars/Saturn) is in square to the IC of the Grand Conjunction chart. We also have Grand Conjunction Mercury conjunct the Ascendant. What I would also like to point your attention to is that the MC/IC axis is more or less exactly the midpoint between the Mars/Saturn conjunction on one side and the Mercury/Jupiter conjunction on the other side. We have the explosive violence of Mars/Saturn combined with the megadecibel [big (Jupiter) bang (Mercury)] noise and the enormous debris carried swiftly in the atmosphere around the earth (Mercury/Jupiter) focused on this axis. The stage is set.

More on the Lord of the Geniture

Our exploration of the Lord of the Geniture has shown that there are many different approaches to how the Lord of the Geniture may be considered. As Caroline Allen has pointed out in a comment to the last article:

“It is usually the most ‘influential’ planet in the birthchart, being the planet whose dignities are most occupied by other planets, and therefore will have a very strong effect on the character and behaviour irrespective of other configurations.”

or as Andrew Carter has pointed out (also in a recent comment):

“… (it) describe(s) the disposition and propensities…”

But deeper, more philosophical questions have been raised. One central question is to what extent is the human condition one of free will, and where do determination and Providence play a role? How can this be shown in a chart?

One approach is the remedial approach in which the Lord of the Geniture opens the way to applying determination to planetary determination! But in order to do this we must postulate the following:

  1. Every chart is a momentary reflection of the macrocosm, which is in itself held by the metacosm. (see the article Microcosm, Macrocosm and Metacosm)
  2. Because it reflects only an instant of time no natal chart can be completely harmonious.
  3. The planetary determinations in each chart are unique and must be viewed in their context. This means that each chart unfolds according to its own inner laws. This is seen in directions, progressions, profections and other prognostic methods.
  4. Essential and Accidental Dignity show planetary strength, just as Essential and Accidental Debility show weakness.

The first two premises are inherent to astrology, as it is based on a traditional cosmology and that assumes that there is God. The perfect chart is that before the Fall, when all planets were in their exaltation and remained so. So the chart of any being born in Paradise is the same, as it is rooted in eternity. The movement of the spheres begins at the Fall and so from an astrological standpoint the source of the constant ebb and flow of harmony with disharmony. Disharmony has its expression in ageing, sickness, death and other aspects of mortality. (See also the articles on the Horoscope of the World)

Astrology may then be approached as a means of correcting the general human tendency towards ‘dis-balance’. This is the source of all remedial measures that arise from considering a birth chart. Jyotish astrology makes use of Mantras for example. In western astrology the astrologer may look to the Lord of the Geniture, the most influential planet in the chart. He is that planet that shows which remedial measures may have the best possibility of success in balancing a chart. This is why planets with essential dignity are prime candidates, as they are by nature strong. It generally gets more difficult if there are no planets in a chart that have essential dignity. Here the unique determinations of the chart must be considered and the best possible planet chosen. Any planet with accidental dignity is then a candidate. It may not be essentially strong, but if its position is one of strength then it must be considered. Not only the natal chart but also the pre-natal syzygy and pre-natal eclipse are considered. Lastly the unique mesh of receptions between the planets is judged. A planet with strong dignity but without reception can have little influence. The more a planet is in a ‘hub’ of reception, the better. That is why it is possible for a planet with no essential dignity but with strong accidental dignity and reception to be chosen as the LoG, even when a planet with weak essential dignity but with accidental debility and without appreciable reception is present. The astrologer searches for that planet that can best be used remedially. Some may argue that giving a debilitated planet this role is like giving a pirate the captaincy of a luxury liner. But it depends on the condition of the chart and so other metaphors may have to be used to describe such a situation. For example, the amputation of a limb, is an extreme and damaging remedial measure, but it may be the only possibility of saving someone from gangrene and certain death. An antibiotic that doesn’t do anywhere near the same damage may be too weak to help. And that is why in this particular context I cannot exclude this as a possibility. But here skill and experience are needed. After all amputation is not necessary when an antibiotic might do!

Once Lord of the Geniture is recognized it is possible to find the means where the native’s reach can exceed his grasp (as Caroline has so nicely expressed). This is the use of a planetary determination to, with determination of will, grow out of oneself like that of a caterpillar into a butterfly.

Mercury and the Horoscope of the World

The Horoscope of the World shows the moment of the Fall. And here we see the special role of Mercury. If you remember in our discussion we spoke of Mercury being poisoned by the Dragon. Mercury is in its detriment and fall. Where was it before the Fall? In Virgo, where it is in its domicile and exaltation.

Let us go a little deeper. Meister Eckhart in his sermon, “Vidi supra montem Sion agnum stantem…(Apoc. 14,1)” [“I saw a lamb standing on Mt. Zion…] describes the nature of man’s soul. This can help us understand her condition before and after the Fall and also when the pilgrimage of life has been acheived. Seen also in the above context it can help us to understand Mercury in connection with the Nodes. By way of review I want to point out some of the themes discussed so far. We have the poisoning of Mercury by the Dragon in the Horoscope of the World, there is also the Dragon in the form of Prometheus and Epimetheus in the myth of Pandora, there is also the axis of the Nodes seen as both the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil and also as the pilgrim’s staff. We have yet to look at the Nodes in connection with the Caduceus or Staff of Mercury.

But first Meister Eckhart: (here a loose translation, as I do not have an english edition)

“There is a power in the soul…if it were entirely so, would be uncreated and uncreatible. But this is not so. With the other part of her being she perceives and attaches herself to time, and so touches and associates herself with the created and so is created — it is the Intellect: there is nothing that is far from or outside of this power…God (takes her bare, without covering) into His Being. She is one with Unity, not equal with Equality. May it, with the help of God, also come to pass with us. Amen.” *

This was misunderstood, and condemned as heretical by Pope John XXII, to mean that a part of the soul is uncreated and as all is created by God would mean that this part would therefore not be from God. What Meister Eckehart was pointing to is that were the soul pure Intellect it would be united with God, creative in His creation, she would be one with God and as God is uncreated so would she also be. Simply put it would be in the pure state before the Fall.

Fritjof Schoun referring to this sermon says: “The fall, was precisely, the rupture between reason and Intellect, the ego and the Self…”

It is not by chance that Virgo is the domicile and exaltation of Mercury. This is the sign of the Virgin and so points to a pure condition of the soul before reason and Intellect were ruptured and bound to time. The Nodes are divided. There is not one Node. And here we have a reference to the staff of Mercury. Yes, another staff. If you look at the alchemical depiction of the Caduceus, below, you will notice that the Sun and the Moon are also present.


(image with courtesy of Adam McLean,
the alchemy web site

One of the central aspects of the alchemical process is to unite the two Mercurys. There are two. One takes on the form of the crowned wingéd or volatile dragon — Intellect in this context, the other the wingless or earthbound dragon — reason. In the Caduceus these two dragons are entwined around a staff that connects earth to heaven. Mercury is healed (you see how strongly the imagery is woven together) when the two dragons are united or more explicitly when that which was ruptured by the Dragon to bring it into his sphere of influence is once more united. If you also remember from our discussion, the Dragon “devours” cosmic intelligence into itself during an eclipse, trying to separate it from its source. If the two Mercury’s devour each other this is released and projected into the gold and silver of the luminaries.


(image with courtesy of Adam McLean,
the alchemy web site

* “Eine Kraft ist in der Seele… wäre die Seele ganz so, so wäre sie ungeschaffen und unerschaffbar. Nun ist dem nicht so. Mit dem übrigen Teil (ihres Seins) hat sie ein Absehen auf und ein Anhangen an die Zeit, und da(mit) berührt sie die Geschaffenheit und ist geschaffen – (es ist) die Vernunft: dieser Kraft ist nichts fern noch draußen…Gott (nimmt sie ganz entblößt) in seinem wesenhaften Sein; sie ist eins in der Einheit, nicht gleich in der Gleichheit. Daß uns dies wiederfahre, dazu helfe uns Gott. Amen.”

The Horoscope of the World


The Bundahisn is also known as the Zoroastrian Genesis. If we compare it with the Genesis of the Old Testament we find that there is more direct astrological reference. As we will see in our later discussion, this does not mean that there is no astrology in Genesis. Before looking more closely at the Horoscope of the World we need to form a clear picture of the Zoroastrian cosmology. In it there are two opposing principles. There is the fullness of being which is expressed in the World of Light and represented by Ahura Mazdao, the Lord of Light and Wisdom. Opposed to this is the negation of being and light expressed in the Abyss and represented by Ahriman, the Adversary. These two principles are irreconcilable and at war with each other. Their battlefield is creation. The Zoroastrian cosmology is a complex one and so we would misunderstand it if we merely said it divides the world into black and white. What we need to understand is that to each aspect of Fullness there is a power that negates it.

The Horoscope of the World shows the moment of the Fall. Before the Fall, all of the planets were in the sign of their exaltation. The Sun was always on the meridian. It was always day. All of creation was filled with the Light of the World. The Bundahisn states that, “Until the coming of the Adversary, the Moon, the Sun and the stars were standing still, they did not move, and were passing their time with purity, and it was always mid-day; after the coming of the Adversary, they were in motion and would not desist from that motion, until the end.” (Stanza 2:17)

With the Fall the dragon entered the scene. His head in the 12th house of misfortune in Gemini, his tail in Sagittarius. The ruler of Gemini, Mercury was the first poisoned and the first to fall. That is why in this chart Mercury is placed with Venus in the ninth house in his detriment and fall. Mercury was poisoned and became poison. It might be noted here that Mercury is the only planet that can be in his detriment and fall, and this is in Pisces. He received a double-whammy so to speak. From there the rest of creation became infected. The Sun which was on the meridian moved into the ninth house, by primary motion, to remedy the situation, and in so doing also moved into a cadent or falling house. The Sun made the first step towards his setting, celestial movement and the cycle of night and day began. Parallel to this, the shift of the Sun from the pre-fall house of God to the 9th house sets another remedial action in motion. The 9th house becomes the house of God. The secondary movement, in the opposite direction, of the mundane houses also began.

Although in the text an eclipse is described, the astronomical situation is not shown in this chart. We must remember that before this event there was no movement. The first eclipse is the entry of the dragon and is repeated astronomically ever afterwards. We also have to remember that with the dragon creation became occluded, a first level of turgidity distorts what had once been pure.