While looking at charts for Wednesday’s terrorist attack in Paris, I was listening to a YouTube playlist of recordings by English musician William Orbit. I instantly gravitated to his work after hearing a clip in the 2004 docudrama What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? but hadn’t kept up with his new releases. Until this past week, I wasn’t familiar with his version of “Nimrod,” a late 19th century work by Sir Edward Elgar.
Near the top of the comment section on YouTube, someone wondered why Orbit titled the song after “one of the most evil people who ever lived (i.e., the founder of babylon).” He didn’t, of course; Elgar did. But that got my curiosity piqued. First, I knew that Nimrod was a biblical character, but didn’t know he was considered the Hitler of his day, nor had I realized he was credited with the founding of Babylon. I’ve done quite a bit of reading on ancient Sumer and knew that it was overrun by the more patriarchal and warlike Babylonians, but that was about it. Second, I wanted to know why Elgar chose that name.
As it turns out, little is known about Nimrod, who is mentioned four times in the Old Testament and not in any detail. When and where he ruled is a mystery, although there’s a clue in the Old Testament that he was the founder of Babel – Babylon – which was about 53 miles south of modern-day Baghdad. Biblical scholars can’t even agree on the meaning of his name. Some say it means “great hunter,” while others assert that the correct translation is more like “slaughterer,” with subsequent speculation about who or what he might have hunted or slaughtered. Did it mean he was a brutal military commander? Or perhaps was it a reference to human sacrifice, which was still practiced in that part of the world in his era? Another interpretation is “rebel” or a variation thereof, which ends up – this being the Old Testament – as a presumption that his rebellion was against God, thereby making him a very, very bad man.
Over the centuries, historians embellished the story of Nimrod. From a few lines in the Old Testament, a Jewish historian in the first century A.D. turned Nimrod into a tyrant who defied God. Among Nimrod’s offenses was an attempt to persuade his subjects that his strength and courage came from within and not from God. It’s not hard to read between the lines. The Israelites made Yahweh the One True God and Creator, and the old religions of Mesopotamia with their multiple gods and creation myths needed to be demonized. Why? Well, when you’re trying to conquer foreign countries, part of the battle is winning the hearts and minds of the people. You do that with propaganda, and religion is a powerful propaganda tool. “Side with us or go straight to hell.”
The Jewish historian, Josephus, goes on to write that Nimrod built the Tower of Babel. Although the biblical account of the tower doesn’t mention him at all, there actually might be some truth in this. We know that the Sumerians and Babylonians built ziggurats, high pyramid structures that served as religious temples. Many modern scholars believe the Tower of Babel was a ziggurat. If there really was a Nimrod who ruled in Babylon, he almost certainly would have been involved with building a ziggurat, which means that he indeed was “defying” Yahweh. Some scholars speculate, incidentally, that ziggurats had an astrological function. To that, I say, “Duh.”
There are differing accounts of the Tower of Babel, the most common being that God saw the tower as an indication that human power would soon rival his own, so he confounded their speech so they couldn’t understand one another. Then they scattered all over the face of the earth. In another version, an angry God strikes the tower with lightning. What does that remind you of?
It doesn’t seem to me that speaking different languages would be that much of a problem, nor is it plausible that all of humanity spoke the same language until God decided otherwise. It’s far more likely that the split was over “religious language.” No amount of translation would bridge the divide. Suddenly religion was a noble excuse for grabbing your neighbor’s land, resources, and slave labor, and you could justify your rapacious behavior by believing yourself to be God’s Chosen, not only entitled but obligated to destroy the godless barbarians. It’s telling that Josephus accuses Nimrod of being a tyrant. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. But it doesn’t hurt, when you’re trying to get a foothold in territory that doesn’t belong to you, to hurl accusations of tyranny against an opponent who thinks he has a more rightful claim than you do.
Fast-forward to January 7, 2015.
(Still trying. The fast-forward button appears to be stuck.)
The story of Nimrod – or, more precisely, how a few words in the Old Testament morphed into a story of “one of the most evil people who ever lived” – is a stunning illustration of how beliefs become “truth,” how they become set in stone, how they can unite and divide, and how they can be manipulated to rob us of our inner power. Enter Saturn in Sagittarius, where the teacher and Lord of Karma meets the Archer, the seeker of the Truth, the hunter. As most of you who have experienced difficult Saturn transits know, he is rarely a kind teacher.
Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, and both are associated with the ninth house in the natal chart. All have attributes related to beliefs, including religion, philosophy, political dogma, beliefs about the world around you, and beliefs about yourself. I have Saturn in Sagittarius in my natal chart, so this theme takes up a great deal of my mental bandwidth. I’ve often mentioned beliefs in my writing. One of the first blog posts I ever wrote was about how hard it is to change beliefs. Back then, it was more or less theoretical. Given events in the past week, now it’s critical.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a reference to Carroll Quigley, a Georgetown University professor who made no secret of his knowledge about the power elite and the influence of secret societies in world affairs. He died in 1976, but there’s a website with an archive of some of his work. I was poking around and found an article in which he discusses the role of “cognitive systems” in relating to other cultures. That’s just a fancy term for beliefs. In the article, titled, “Needed: A Revolution in Thinking,” Quigley concedes how difficult it is to recognize one’s own belief system, let alone that of someone in a different culture, be it a foreign country or a different social class. He wrote the article in 1968, the year the revolutionary thrust of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction broke wide open, even though it peaked in 1966. While reading, I was thinking that much of what he says is dated, and yet the “cognitive sophistication” he describes is as rare today as it was back then. The difference is that we’re on the verge of a critical mass of cognitive sophistication.Before we look at the week ahead, I’d like to share some thoughts on the chart for the Charlie Hebdo attack. Based on reports in the French media, I cast it for 11:25 (the actual time might have been a couple of minutes before or after). That puts 19-20 degrees Pisces on the Ascendant, with chart co-rulers Neptune in Pisces in the twelfth house and Jupiter retrograde in Leo in the sixth. Jupiter also rules the Midheaven in Sagittarius. In modern astrology, Pisces is ruled by Neptune, but Jupiter is its traditional ruler. As I discussed above, Jupiter and Sagittarius are associated with religion, philosophy, and dogma. Pisces is more about faith. Some like to say that Sagittarius is about religion, while Pisces is about spirituality.
Neptune, Pisces, and the twelfth house are, in any case, more about the mystical side of spirituality, our direct experience and connection with the divine. Unfortunately, Piscean faith also can be of the blind and misguided kind, and Neptune, while inspired, also can be delusional. Martyrdom falls within the realm of Neptune and Pisces. In the Charlie Hebdo chart, Mars, the planet of war and aggression, also is found in the twelfth house, although he’s in late Aquarius. He’ll enter Pisces this week (more below). In mundane astrology, acts of terrorism are attributed to Mars.
These chart features are consistent with a terrorist attack based on religion. I also looked at the individual charts of two of the identified gunmen, brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, and compared them with the attack chart. Chérif, the younger brother, has a remarkable five planets and two asteroids in Sagittarius, including his Sun. In Saïd’s chart, the Sun and Jupiter are conjunct in Virgo. What jumped out at me first, though, was the Moon-Ascendant conjunction of the two brothers by exact degree at 17 degrees Leo, with Saïd’s lunar North Node, a point of destiny in the chart, at 20 degrees Leo. When the attack took place, Jupiter was at 21 degrees Leo, with the Moon at 11 degrees Leo. These are karmic connections. That doesn’t mean they were destined to be murderers; we all have a free will. In fact, I don’t see anything inherently violent in their charts. I do, however, see a couple of trouble spots.
In the latest issue of The Mountain Astrologer, Wendell C. Perry describes some of the generational traits of Pluto/Neptune combinations. He connects the rise of religious fundamentalism (not just Islam) with Neptune in Sagittarius, which he calls “the keepers of the faith.” He notes that most of the Pluto in Libra generation also had Neptune in Sagittarius, and that the dark side of Pluto in Libra is that the “other” represented by Libra is perceived as an enemy. That signature, combined with world events, made Middle Eastern youth of that generation more susceptible to radicalization, Perry contends. Both Kouachi brothers were born in that generation and have strong Neptune-Pluto connections in their charts. What I see as more troubling, however, is that they both have difficult Moon-Chiron connections, suggesting profound emotional wounds, whether from this lifetime, other incarnations, or both. In fact, both were raised in an orphanage. Chiron in Taurus further suggests low self-worth. In other words, they were easy targets for radicalization. According to accounts in the media, that’s what happened.
All of the above notwithstanding, the very first thing that jumped out at me in the chart for the attack was Neptune and Mars in the twelfth house. Something is not as it seems on the surface. There is more to this event than a couple of radicals avenging Allah for offensive cartoons. One of the questions I sought to answer in analyzing the charts was whether this might be a false flag attack or whether it was a true terrorist attack. I think the answer is “both.” How can that be? Well, it goes to the heart of who’s sponsoring Islamic terrorism and to what ends. That question has persisted since the 9/11 attacks in the United States, and still there is no convincing answer. And it’s not because no one knows.
As soon as the brothers were identified as the gunmen, it came out that they had been involved in “jihad-related” activities for years. The younger brother was convicted in 2008. Security agencies also knew of regular trips to Yemen, during which they received paramilitary training. There is further evidence that Chérif went to Syria in 2014, ostensibly to fight against the forces of Bashar al-Assad. They had been under surveillance for years, and yet the French government suddenly stopped watching them six months ago. Authorities are tripping over themselves trying to explain, with the French saying the brothers were low priority, because Yemen was an American concern, and the Americans saying they left it up to the French. If the media reports are accurate, surveillance would have ended right about the time Chérif returned from Syria. Just a coincidence?
The whole thing smells fishy, and my nose says it’s coming from the twelfth house. We’ve already seen how a brutal act of terrorism can galvanize public opinion in favor of a war that had nothing to do with rooting out the perpetrators and everything to do with grabbing someone else’s resources, including the strategic location of the land itself. Military action in the Middle East in the next several months bears watching, especially regarding Syria, along with Israeli incursions into Gaza. Also – and this is so tragically ironic – the Charlie Hebdo attack may be used as an excuse to increase data collection and surveillance of private citizens. Already, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has stepped forward to say we are “at war” with “lone wolf” terrorists. Then, this may be nothing but an attempt to deflect attention from the Kouachi brothers’ connections.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Sun in Capricorn was four days past conjunction with Pluto on January 7. I’ve written a lot about the Uranus-Pluto square, so I won’t go into detail here but will say only that humanity is undergoing a major shift. We are being pushed to find new ways to cooperate, even while the old power structure is desperately trying to hang on. Keeping the masses divided is essential, and religion is a time-tested propaganda tool.
The week ahead is going to bring tense follow-up and fallout from Charlie Hebdo, with Mars entering Pisces on Monday and squaring Saturn on Thursday (late Wednesday in Western time zones). The deception likely will get worse as more embarrassing and potentially incriminating facts come to light. Even though Saturn and Neptune won’t reach an exact square until late fall, it’s close enough now, and Mars carries the energy forward to his conjunction with Neptune on Monday, January 19. I just hope there will be enough Saturn-in-Sagittarius reality to offset the delusional nature of the Mars-Neptune conjunction. Despite the “no fear” slogans in the marches in “defiance” of terrorism, fear is a risk, especially given pronouncements by certain politicians that the war on terrorism will never end, there will be weekly attacks, and other statements the only purpose of which can be to keep people in a state of fear. At least some are asking the right questions and looking beyond the official spin, not only about the attack itself but about the deeper issues fueling the conflict between the West and the Arab world.
There is one other possibility that I’d like to mention with Mars entering Pisces. The big snowstorm on the East Coast in February 2013 occurred shortly after Mars entered Pisces and conjoined Neptune. The aspect back then was compounded by a square to Jupiter in Gemini. This year, the square with Saturn could be the complicating factor. As I’ve said many times, I’m not well-versed in astrology related weather events. Still, I thought I’d better mention it.
There are a couple of positive aspects this week, fleeting but helpful in supporting real change through unity and exchange of factual information. The first occurs on Tuesday, when Venus in Aquarius sextiles Uranus in Aries. News of cooperation between former antagonists could be surprising. National grief and sorrow can be manipulated by politicians with an agenda, but it also can bring people together in peace and cooperation. Muslims in Europe and the United States are afraid of a backlash, and that’s a real threat. Fortunately, there have been some encouraging stories about attempts at peace and understanding, which is where Venus is coming from. The press conference by the brother of the Muslim police officer slain in the Charlie Hebdo attack has been particularly heartening.
Wednesday’s Mercury-Uranus sextile is dynamic for enlightened communication and flashes of brilliance. The Messenger is slowing down to turn retrograde on January 21. News and messages that emerge mid-week will be particularly powerful and can be the focal point of discussion for the next six weeks.
Now, to finish my story about Edward Elgar … It turns out that the title of his famous composition had little to do with Nimrod, but was a loose association between the “hunter” translation of the biblical ruler’s name and Elgar’s friend August Jaegar – Jäger being the German word for “hunter.” Elgar credited Jaegar with helping him through a period of profound career disappointment and discouragement. “A day’s attack of the blues … will not drive away your desire, your necessity, which is to exercise those creative faculties which a kind providence has given you. Your time of universal recognition will come,” Jaegar told him. In a wonderful bit of synchronicity, “Nimrod” is the piece for which Elgar is most known. Elgar believed he wasn’t good enough, and it caused him to be depressed and hopeless. It took a friend to convince him that what he believed about himself wasn’t true.
As for William Orbit, he was born just six weeks before me, with both Sun and Saturn in Sagittarius. The song that introduced me to his work is called, “Time to Get Wize.”
Yes, it is. And with Mr. Orbit, my story has come full circle.
Much love and courage to all,
© Pat Paquette, RealAstrologers.com, 2014.