J.K. Rowling’s progressed Mercury retrograde
The link above is to a speech J.K. Rowling gave at a Harvard University commencement ceremony on June 5, 2008. In this speech she elucidates the benefits one can gain from failure, as well as the supreme importance of imagination and how it gives humans the power to not only imagine solutions and inventions that did not previously exist, but more importantly to create imaginal empathic connections with others living very different lives from our own.
It may not be surprising to you, given J.K. Rowling’s well-known distaste of media exposure, that there is not an accurate birth time known for her, making it more difficult to know her natal birth chart for certain. Nonetheless, we do know that she was born on July 31, 1965 in Bristol, and since having a strong Leo Sun makes sense given her work, I have taken the presumption to make an example chart with her born in mid-day with her Leo Sun near her mid-heaven:
Again, since her birth time is unknown the house placements above are not accurate. However, with the exception of the Moon (her Moon could be anywhere from 12 degrees of Virgo to 27 degrees of Virgo), we can feel confident that all of the other planets are at least at the correct degree and sign of the zodiac. In particular we can know for certainty that the outer planets are in their exact degree, and one can see from above that J.K. Rowling was born at the time of the most recent conjunction between Pluto and Uranus, in the sign of Virgo. Furthermore, we can be certain that her Mercury, Venus, Uranus, Pluto, and Moon are all in the sign of Virgo, with Saturn and Chiron opposite in Pisces. For the select group of people who have consistently been reading my blog, you may have noticed that the last chart I examined belonged to Kurt Cobain, who was also born at the conjunction between Uranus and Pluto in Virgo. We are currently experiencing intense aspects between outer planets with a Uranus-Pluto square, and so I am focusing attention on people born during the previous conjunction between Pluto and Uranus that have had a large cultural impact on our modern life today.
Being an acclaimed writer, one of the first planets you may have focused upon in J.K. Rowling’s chart is her Virgo Mercury that is at zero degrees. This is a fitting placement for such a popular writer, as Mercury not only rules Virgo, but Mercury is in it’s exaltation in the sign of Virgo. This means that in the mutable, internal, and receptive energy of the sign of Virgo, Mercury is in a position to access the resources and techniques necessary to effectively communicate in the greater world in a manner that can be widely understood and appreciated in society. Now, some of you may be saying, wait, I thought Mercury is exalted in Aquarius? I have recently discovered that the Aquarius exalted location of Mercury is a modern invention of astrologers, but that when one looks at more ancient text, which is where the concept of exaltation came from in the first place, Virgo is in reality the exalted location of Mercury. I do not intend to argue here with anyone wanting to praise the benefits of having Mercury in Aquarius, but what I do intend to do is praise the benefits of anyone having a Mercury in Virgo.
Perhaps it is her own Virgo-nature, but J.K. Rowling provided a perfect example for the brilliance of a Virgo Mercury in her Harry Potter books in the character of Hermione Granger. Hermione, who at first glance obviously has a Hermes-inspired name, also happens to be a Virgo Sun sign. We can go a step forward and link a Virgo Mercury to Hermione because my daughter Vivika, a well-versed expert in Harry Potter lore, has told me that J.K. Rowling based the character of Hermione upon how she was as a youth. In the books Hermione as a Virgo also displays the reasons why Virgo is an exalted sign for Mercury, as she is the “star” student who is able to read, study, and absorb more academic material than any other student. In addition, she has a strong intuitively analytic ability to reflect upon situations and discern creative solutions to problems in the stories. Like Virgo, a mutable Earth sign, she is both pragmatic and flexible enough to shift her perception to align with the present moment. She is also able to be widely appreciated for her intellect and academic communication skills by other students and teachers; this is in contrast to Ron, who is a Pisces. In contrast to Virgo, Pisces is considered to be a detriment of Mercury, and in the books we can see how Ron’s academic studies are constantly challenged by his emotional and passionate Pisces nature. This does not mean that a Pisces Mercury does not possess great gifts, only that in a society-sanctioned place such as academia, a Virgo Mercury would have an easier time receiving acclaim than a Pisces. On a mythic level, my own feeling about Mercury being exalted in Virgo relates to Isis. Isis is often associated with the sign of Virgo by many writers across time, and she was a figure who was able to move between the underworld and the upperworld. I believe that like Isis, a Virgo Mercury is also able to embody this internal/external movement of perception and communication, deeply processing perceptions taken in, as well as being able to transmit a healing vibration through communication in a manner similar to Isis. This ability also connects with the character of Hermione Granger, as she was exceptional at casting magical spells just like Isis.
Even more interesting, however, Rowling was born with this Virgo Mercury stationing retrograde. When a planet is stationing retrograde, it puts added weight on it because the planet was barely moving and in fact was stationing still at the time of birth. As a result, J.K. Rowling has a potent Mercury at the initiation degree of Virgo, and since her Mercury is stationing retrograde it means that Mercury would have been travelling retrograde in Rowling’s progressed chart for the first twenty-five years or so of her life. Significantly for the themes of the Harry Potter novels, it also means that Mercury would have been moving retrograde in her progressed chart in the sign of Leo. What is a progressed chart, you may be asking? Before I continue, I would like to comment that I hope you bear with me in this post no matter your current astrological understanding, as I will be attempting to explain an important astrological technique that defies rational logic, but is extremely effective and has been one of the core components of my personal astrological practice when working with clients. I will be more astrologically technical in this post than in many previous ones, but hope I am able to explain this concept in a manner that will have it make sense for you and prove its value when considering your own chart.
A progressed chart is a way we can enter another dimension of astrological understanding that defies rational logic. In progressed charts, we look at each day following the date of birth as representing an entire year of someone’s life. So, since J.K. Rowling was born on July 31, 1965 it means we would look at the date of August 5, 1965 to figure out her progressed chart at the age of five, and that we would look at the date of August 30, 1965 in order to figure out her progressed chart for the age of thirty. Whether the fact this works out so well in charts is due to the axial rotation of the Earth or some other scientific explanation, in the end does not really matter when you pay attention to the significance of progressed transits and aspects and how your life develops correspondingly.
As I mentioned, since Rowling was born with Mercury stationing retrograde at zero degrees of Virgo, it means that as she grew up Mercury began to move backwards in her progressed chart through the sign of Leo. When a planet in a progressed chart is moving retrograde, it has a similar meaning to when an individual is born with a planet retrograde. For instance, the individual may experience the archetypal energy of the planet in a counter-cultural manner that goes against expectations of the status quo for how such an archetype “should” behave in society. In Rowling’s case, it means that her Mercury function, her style of perceiving reality and communicating her understanding to others, goes against the grain of cultural expectations. As she references in her speech above, Rowling did in fact refuse to conform to the expectations of her parents to study (Mercury) subjects in college that could lead her to more easily make a lot of money, and instead chose to focus on her own passionate interests like Greek myths (Mercury retrograde) that did not increase the likelihood of her becoming employed somewhere that could provide her with an affluent or comfortable lifestyle. Yet, because Mercury was moving retrograde in Leo it plays up the heroic quality of this early phase of Rowling’s life that has been well-documented in the “legend” of how the Harry Potter books came into existence. More importantly, since Rowling has a Virgo Mercury in her natal chart, it also demonstrates how she would have the natural Mercurial resources to make use of her perceptions and learning to ultimately bring herself acclaim through her communication. The chart below is for the day in which Rowling’s Mercury would have stationed direct in her progressed chart:
As you can see from the chart above, when progressed Mercury stationed direct in J.K. Rowling’s chart, it was closely conjunct her progressed Moon. And if you notice that her progressed Moon is only about sixteen degrees behind her progressed Sun, it also means that her progressed Mercury stationed direct in Leo conjunct a progressed Leo Moon that was in a balsamic or dark Moon phase with her progressed Virgo Sun. Furthermore, her progressed Virgo Sun would have been conjunct her natal Mercury in Virgo! These aspects would have been the case no matter what her birth time was on July 31, 1965, only the date of this progressed station of Mercury would change with a different birth time.
Since we do not know the birth time of J.K. Rowling, it does complicate matters. For example, in her natal chart Rowling could have been born in a New Moon phase (which would be about her more instinctually embarking upon a new personal cycle) or if she was born very late at the end of July 31 it would give her a Crescent Moon phase (which would be more about her fighting the “ghosts of the past” according to Dane Rudhyar while going forward in her new cycle of identity). Personally, as I previously mentioned, given the importance of a Leo Sun to the themes of the Harry Potter books, I strongly feel that it would make more sense that Rowling was born during daylight hours, including more of a mid-day birth. However, unfortunately in this case we can not know for certain besides the general natal Moon phase theme having something to do with a New Moon/Crescent Moon intention to embark upon a new cycle of development in her life. As a result, the fact that her progressed Mercury stationed retrograde in Leo conjunct a Leo progressed Moon that was in a Balsamic Moon phase to her progressed Sun, is incredibly important. This means that this potent stationing of progressed Mercury would have coincided with a time period in which she was meant to do some clearing of the past while opening to the seed of a new vision, according to the meaning of a Balsamic progressed Moon phase. As I will demonstrate in a moment, the general time period this event would have happened no matter her time of birth on July 31 would have been in the year 1990. The year of 1990 is the time period documented by biographers in which Rowling was on a train in England and experienced an inner vision of the character of Harry Potter. As a result, she began devoting her life in stages to the manifestation of this character and story, battling many dark events in her personal life at the same time (poverty, death of her mother). Below is how she described this vision on her website:
I was travelling back to London on my own on a crowded train, and the idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head. I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one… I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me. Perhaps, if I had slowed down the ideas to capture them on paper, I might have stifled some of them (although sometimes I do wonder, idly, how much of what I imagined on that journey I had forgotten by the time I actually got my hands on a pen). I began to write ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ that very evening, although those first few pages bear no resemblance to anything in the finished book.
Checking various birth time possibilities, if Rowling had been born around 1:00 AM on July 31, her Mercury would have stationed direct in the progressed chart in April of 1991. In contrast, if she was born around 11:00 pm on July 31, her Mercury would have stationed direct in May of 1990. Finally, if she was born around 1:00 PM as shown in the chart above, her Mercury would have stationed direct in October of 1990. In all cases, her progressed Leo Moon would have been conjunct her progressed Mercury at the time of the stationing, within a progressed Balsamic Moon phase with a progressed Virgo Sun conjunct her natal Mercury in Virgo. In addition, she would have also had a progressed Scorpio Mars that would have been sextile to her natal Mercury in Virgo. And, we can see that the average time period of these various birth time possibilities would have been the year 1990 in which her vision of Harry Potter took place. She also would have been working at Amnesty International during this time period, which she spoke at great depth about in the linked speech at the beginning of this post.
If you are curious about your own progressed lunar phase, you can run a progressed chart on http://www.astro.com or another program and calculate the difference in degrees between the progressed Moon and progressed Sun. Each phase has a different meaning: the New (0-45 degrees ahead of the Sun), Crescent (45-90 degrees ahead of the Sun), First Quarter (90-135 degrees ahead of the Sun), Gibbous (135-180 degrees ahead of the Sun), Full (180-135 degrees behind the Sun), Disseminating (90-135 degrees behind the Sun), Last Quarter (45-90 degrees behind the Sun), and Balsamic (0-45 degrees behind the Sun). It is always important to pay attention to whatever progressed moon phase you are experiencing, but especially to have the awareness when one is experiencing a Balsamic Moon phase (or to look back and examine what happened during a progressed Balsamic Moon phase). Below is an excerpt written by Demetra George concerning the progressed Balsamic Moon phase in her book, Finding Our Way Through the Dark:
The progressed Balsamic phase is the dark moon phase of the lunation cycle. It is the bridge between the ending of one cycle of activity and the beginning of the next one. During this time you are summing up and completing all that you have been involved with for the previous twenty-seven years. It is a time of letting go, purifying, healing, and preparing for renewal.
You may experience the loss of what has previously given you your sense of identiy and purpose . . . It is not unusual to feel lonely, depressed, suicidal, crazy, chaotic, alienated, and without direction. Tremendous grief may come up at this time as you mourn your losses.
The message is to release whatever has ended for you. It has served its purpose and has no further value in what is to come. Like the snake shedding its skin, an old part of you is truly dying. Allow the old to be destroyed. This is a period of retreat, emptying out, and the final letting go. You need to make room for the birth which is to follow at the next progressed New Moon . . .
As you prepare your seed capsule you may feel the urge to resolve the past by distiling the wisdom you have gained into some kind of form that will become the basis for what is to emerge. Releasing the past, you begin to envision the future. You yearn for something new, fresh, vital. In your daydreams and night dreams you weave the images of what is waiting to be born, something which will satisfy your vague inner longings. It will be in answer to this need that the new will come forth. As this phase draws to its conclusion, you may sense the future and dedicate and commit yourself to following the course that opens up to you, even though you may have no idea where it will eventually lead.
–Demetra George, p. 50-51, Finding Our Way Through the Dark
Of course this is exactly what J.K. Rowling ultimately did, and is a perfect example of how potent the stationing direct of a retrograde planet like Mercury can be in relation to other aspects, in this case the fact that her progressed Mercury was stationing conjunct her progressed Moon in Leo. During the next seven years of Rowling’s life, as she began writing the Harry Potter stories, her mother died, she became married, gave birth, became divorced, and battled poverty while writing a story that was ultimately published in 1997, ultimately bringing her great fame and fortune. In 1997, she most likely would have still been in a progressed Crescent Moon phase, so the idea of writing the book goes strongly with the progressed Crescent phase in which we must struggle to persist in bringing the new identity and vision into form.
When considering the retrograde movement of progressed planets in our birth charts, it is important to not only pay attention to when the planet stations direct, but also when it finally returns by progression to its natal placement if that is possible in our lifetime. For J.K. Rowling, her progressed Mercury would have returned to zero degrees of Virgo sometime around 2004, again depending upon her birth time. This is interesting because by this time, Rowling would have already re-married and would have already started a new family with her new partner, and also would have either been writing or finishing up the story of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, having already achieved world-wide acclaim for her stories. With her progressed Virgo Mercury conjunct her natal Virgo Mercury, she would have been at the stage of making the final part of the story of Harry Potter a reality. During this time she would have been in a progressed Gibbous Moon phase, meaning she was more at a place of fine tuning her skills in relation to her vision, with a progressed Sun around 15 degrees of Virgo, which actually happens to be the specific “exalted” location of Mercury in Virgo according to ancient text (she would have had a progressed Aquarius Moon at this time).
As I previously mentioned, exactly how and why the progressed chart can be so powerful defies rational logic and is somewhat of a mystery. One of my favorite descriptions of its meaning comes from my astrology teacher, Rosie Finn:
The transits show us what we are learning about ourselves in “real” time. They show us how we are able to alter our life as we know it with all of the experiences we have garnered in our life. The progressions then show us what we are learning despite all of the experiences we have had in this life. It shows us how we can alter our life without all the collection of “stuff” that has clung to us in this life. With this understanding, the progressed chart becomes a tool for looking at what is possible for us to change, to learn, to be, regardless of the tapes we collected from childhood, regardless of that bad experience we had in the 8th grade that we continue to recreate, regardless of the titles we give ourselves, etc . We can use the progressed chart to look at who we have become in the meantime. And we can use the progressed chart to look at where in our life we can make significant change without this lifetimes collection of tapes.
–Rosie Finn, p. 94, Journey-work of the Stars
Exploring progressed charts is one of my favorite activities involving astrology, and I am always amazed at what can be found through taking the time to investigate various aspects within the progressed chart as well as in synastry to the natal birth chart. The life of J.K. Rowling is a perfect example of how powerful these charts are to take into consideration.
Finn, Rosie. (2011). Journey-work of the Stars: how to use astrology on your path to wholeness.
George, Demetra. (1994). Finding Our Way Through the Dark. AFA.