“Some dance to remember, Some dance to forget…” This is a reminder how incarnated experience serves each of us differently at different times in our journey. It is a marvel we don’t find the asymmetry, non-overlapping variability of the human condition more crazy making! Is there anybody out there who gets me, in here?
Rhetorical questions are allowed.
It has been almost twenty years since 9-11. A new generation of young people are growing up wondering if anything significant happened before 9-11. When 9-11 is where one starts, the history that led up to it could feel verboten—off limits or irrelevant. Add the Great Recession, Obama, Social Media, Isis, student debt and Trump to the same twenty year period and the mind begins to fog out. [BTW, fog is a symbol for Neptune].
Body modification is the subject of today’s post. The ubiquity of the tattoo, especially, is what we will explore. Young people since 9-11 accept the ubiquity of the tattoo if they do not wear them. On some level the tattoo feels like more than fashion. If it is not a new shiny object could it be code? Could it be a vector for non-verbal messaging? Can astrology go there? It can.
To explore the modern phenomenon of the body tattoo, astrologically, we do so through the lens of Mundane Astrology–a category of Astrological inquiry concerned with large scale social behavior.
Mundane Astrology has been part of the academy of astrological arts from Mesopotamia through the Middle Ages to the present day. The concept of a Cosmic State–whereby humanity serves a celestial authority whose agency on Earth is a king or queen, emperor or empress, is an old concept (some argue, a wearying concept). Social media and cable news content today reinforce the point–we appear to be fascinated with the concept of “State” while lost in the fog of all the clamoring. [BTW, Neptune is also associated with institutions, like State]. Archetypal space for a “State” is seemingly hardwired into the species. Mundane Astrology is where we turn to observe large group behavior. Task one: narrow the question.
We will examine body modification art, specifically the tattoo, as a possible social marker for understanding today’s political dis-ease (unrest) including the remarkable 50:50 symmetry of its signature feature–polarization. Diversity of opinion–forever. Sustained polarization at 50:50–-how is this even possible—it cannot be random. Random looks like a caucus. 50:50 is a house divided and thereby, worrisome.
Image: a quarreling couple.
Cycles are a key premise of astrology. Cycles are abiding, long or brief (Pluto, Mercury: 248 years v 88 days). Cycles abide and they are tidal.
Evidence of cycles are piled in heaps upon the astrologer’s workbench–like spare parts waiting to be called upon. The astrologer, nee tinkerer, never knows when a cyclical reference will come in handy. For all we know, we may be marooned. Just in case, astrologers keep their eyes on the horizon. Mircia Eliade, a leading scholar of religious experience in his lifetime, described the cycle of recurrence as the “myth of the eternal return”.
It may help to ponder the mandala and the horoscope–each a circle. On a circle, leading and following are indistinguishable. Joining the circle is the gift and the goal.
Euclid was a master geometer. His contributions, while they served the bridge builder, they never improved upon the circle as a metaphor for waking and non-waking incarnated experience.
Narration—a secondary purpose for today’s post.
The astrologer is an improvisational narrator. Musicians narrate, and musicians draw upon Neptune for inspiration–and so do astrologers. The best astrologers, to engage their readers, riff their interpretations–while giving full expression to their findings. The riff deserves a sentence and a musician’s perspective.
A few words about the riff as narration.
Master rock musician, Joe Walsh, when describing his time with the Eagles in the 1970s, observed: “we didn’t have a clue, we just knew we had the chemistry.”
Brilliant. And the rest is rock musical legend.
Musicians, good ones, talented ones, learn to riff. Great riffs define not only songs but eras.
Musical riffs externalize Neptune’s “chemistry” for all to hear. The best riffs take us in.
Broadcast radio personalities in the last century—Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Orson Wells, Arthur Godfrey–had a similar effect: they understood how to riff a narrative. [Joe Walsh, by the way, is a licensed amateur radio enthusiast.]
Left to right: James R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Orson Wells, Arthur Godfrey
Radio made it possible for a large audience to identify with a single personality. The narrator’s voice, for the first time, could also be recorded—tweezed out of Time. A short one hundred years ago, a new physics and a new engineering would take Time’s arrow and bend it or conserve it at will. It is always tempting to focus on the technology and its achievements. The possibility of assembling a very large audience, however, was the more transformative world changing invention.
Before radio, one had to be physically present in the public square, the university hall or the cathedral to “feel” the narrator first hand. The new physics and the new engineering might compare to the transforming innovations of fire, the lever and then the wheel. This may explain why, today, we have such a sense of empowerment.
The new physics and the new engineering appear to push back the scary forest further into the darkness—like their fire, lever and wheel forerunners. The new empowerment–self-publish, podcast, 3D printing– has led to a new way of thinking about narration as self-guided improvisation.
Astrologers and Musicians are kindred narrators–Neptune is the connection.
Ostinato. Would you be familiar with the term? Musically speaking, it is the classic precursor of the modern day riff. Ostinato is a repeated musical phrase. The riff, too, is a repeated phrase.
Joe Walsh would understand both terms, their similarities and differences, ostinato v riff. Why? because, like his musician parents, he was classically trained. He began playing the guitar, the instrument that would define his rock star legacy, at age ten. In high school he would perform in a band playing the oboe.
Featured: Dan Felder, Joe Walsh, guitar solo riff, Hotel California
The master musician learns to “hear” the oboe, the same instrument capable of tuning the entire orchestra, in the rock guitar. The astrologer learns how to observe Aquarius in the Gemini, Pisces in the Scorpio, Capricorn in the Taurus. Every constituent part of the horoscope is capable of tuning the entire orchestra of waking and non-waking instruments!
To narrate for the reader, Astrologers engage their intuitive and counter-intuitive faculties. They are also responsible for extending a tradition of codified practices, definitions and axioms that have stood the test of time within the context of the Western Mystery Tradition–from Ptolemy to Jung. It is a form of art, not science, to balance the two.
Shall we try to narrate the tattoo, astrologically speaking?
To start, the tattoo must be acknowledged as a very intense collaboration of Mars and Venus. The disposition of Mars and Venus in the natal chart of the host can be instructive. For now, we shall think in terms of the generation(s), not the individual, that have incorporated body modification tattooing as part of their idiom for communicating to self and others. What follows applies to women and men.
Human skin and hair are ruled by Venus. Venus shapes the feminine aspects of experience from an androgynous first cause. Attraction to objects of allure and other people have long been associated with Venus (think: Cupid—Venus gets what Venus desires. While feminine. the arrow wielding Cupid is also predatory).
Venus is the ruler of two signs, Taurus and Libra—the anatomical rulers of the throat and the kidneys respectively. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the body’s vital energy is associated with a construct called the “Triple Burner”. In the West: vitality and kidneys go together. Kidneys are so important they are provisioned redundantly–like the eyes and breasts, ovaries and testes. The tattoo, given its Venus-Kidney-Libra connection has something to say about how we experience partnerships (7th house Libra-Venus).
The throat—occult history of the throat is all about power–viz., one’s capacity to give voice to the Logos. “In the beginning was the Word…”
Skin, the organ system ruled by Venus, serves as the venue for all tattoos. At the hands of the tattoo artist, enter: Mars–the tattoo machine–the agent of pain.
Venus endures all the pain. Alone, Venus also endures the temporary disfigurement of the body real estate devoted to the ink. Are you thinking…“poor woman”? Don’t. Horoscopes for men and women alike always include a placement for Venus. We are describing the nature of the tattoo experience. We are not ascribing gender to the tattoo itself. The host has a gender. The tattoo has a host!
Tattoos are fundamentally erotic–they represent the intimate proximity of Mars and Venus (penetrating machine on and under the skin). Choosing one’s tattoo artist may prefigure, generally, how one thinks about significant partners.
Punchline: The tattoo is no small commitment. Most hosts adore their tattoo(s) and not all hosts can explain exactly what they are intended to convey nor how the location of the tattoo was determined—in a waking state. Most tattoo explanations draw upon non-waking insights and content. Think: Moon.
Enter Mars. Mars is the ruler of surgical instruments and hard steel. The tattoo machine is designed to puncture the skin–rapidly and repeatedly. It may feel like a stretch–but the tattoo machine is a nano-stigmata machine. The process punctures, pain and bleeding follows.
Tattoos bring Mars and Venus into a special union–a union whereby Venus submits to a forceful Mars. A union whereby Venus sustains both pain and injury leading to healing. A union whereby Venus bleeds. A union whereby the masculine contribution predominates leaving the feminine to nurse the result. The Erotic dimension of the tattoo as a Mars-Venus entanglement, is inescapable. It may be archetypal.
Is it ironic that a generation that eschews long term commitments somehow accommodates the permanence of the tattoo? We may not be as confident committing to one another as we are to committing to ink. Is the tattoo a new proxy for a charming covenant we thought we were leaving to the past, “until death us do part”? “Us” used to be plural–as in two persons. In tattoo terms, “Us” becomes an integer–one. The host is committed— to the host his/ herself. The permanence of the ink hints “until death us do part”.
Long after Mars has withdrawn its surgical needles, Venus remains the ink-impregnated placeholder for the tattoo.
The tattoo is an erotic event requiring a brutish motif–Mars gets its way with the skin. Venus endures the scarring and the pain; on some level the ink becomes progeny (think: 5th house).
Does the tattoo betray today’s aversion to male dominance? Even if Mars has permission to ink Veronica? And Venus is hosted by Phil? In each instance, Venus clearly submits to Mars. Let it percolate. Masculine domination may be archetypal and thereby present in all human beings, male and female–Phil and Veronica alike. Archetypes—are the stuff Astrologers study as Spiritual Alchemy—a topic for another time.
Pain is requisite to realizing the tattoo as outcome. Pain, consequently, is an important part of the tattoo experience, not for the artist but for the Venus-host, interchangeably Veronica or Phil. Tattoos link Pain and Eros. When you expand the marriage of Eros and Pain on the scale of an entire citizenry, the implications are intriguing. Pain externalized at a societal level is a form of anxiety. The tattoo acknowledges this anxiety as it pushes back. Women don’t wear tattoos? Says who? Tattoos are to be hidden below neckline and sleeves? Says who?
Is it Stoic to wear a tattoo? A call to indigenous people practices? Is it Samurai? Maori? An exotic form of graffiti? Akin to self-loathing? An experiment with self-love? The unmasking of what it means to secularize the world? Self-mutilating? Astrologers could travel any of these lanes of inquiry given the time.
The tattoo is now commonplace–but the adventure to understand it’s teleology (the purpose served) is just underway. We think the case has been made—the tattoo as content belongs to the Moon–to our non-waking awareness, not to Marvel or Freud.
On a deep level the tattoo is a graphic way to embody the moral ambiguity of our time. Moral ambiguity produced “Sophie’s Choice”. No longer! “I accept the pain.” “I participate voluntarily so there can be no victim.” “I accept Mars (my masculinity) as the agent of pain.” “It was horrible for Christ to suffer stigmata alone.” “The tattoo allows us all to share the pain of stigmata, to heed the call to ‘take the stranger in’.”
These last few lines may feel like, what? Stigmata are part of the West, as cultural reference. Stigmata, crucifixion, hospitality, hospice, hospital, women’s empowerment—Western all, and not surprisingly, part of the Western Mystery Tradition canon.
Time to put our pencil down. We followed the instructions at the opening—the narrative is to be improvisational. We hope some of the Mundane Astrology principles came through it all.
Thank you Joe Walsh and the Eagles! May the chemistry be with you! “Some dance to remember, Some dance to forget…” It is a beautiful thing.
“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Let it be so.
We bid you peace,
Should you have time to consider a musical reflection to accompany this post, we refer you to “Hotel California” as written by Don Henley, Don Felder and Glen Frey and recorded by the Eagles, December 1976. “Hotel California” is Joe Walsh’s debut album with the Eagles. Key words: riff, solo, narrative.
A Reference of symbols, charts and definitions important to Western Mystery Tradition studies is listed as Post No. 900. Enter “900” in the Search box to be directed to this location.
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Joe Walsh “chemistry” quote (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fASuwu6ZmyA)
Editorial Contributions: M. A. Snider