David Herbert Lawrence is one of the great writers of our time. His major works are considered to be among the finest literary works of the modern age, which when you consider his beginnings in working class obscurity during Britain’s late industrial age, and the relative fleetingness of his life – he died aged just 45 – marks him out as a truly remarkable character. And even within the scope of his successful years, he was continually attacked for the subject matter of his novels, viewed with suspicion and hostility because of his pacifism and his marriage to a German, fell prey to several life-threatening illnesses and was ultimately hounded out of the country of his birth to lead a rootless and unsatisfactory existence far from his home shores.
“It’s no good trying to get rid of your own aloneness. You’ve got to stick to it all your life. Only at times, at times, the gap will be filled in. At times! But you have to wait for the times. Accept your own aloneness and stick to it, all your life. And then accept the times when the gap is filled in, when they come. But they’ve got to come. You can’t force them.”
― from Lady Chatterley’s Lover
When we look at Lawrence’s peregrination chart, we are drawn immediately the lonely placement of Orcus on the cusp of the 4th house. One of the extant themes of Orcus, is alienation. The sign and house describe, often with startling clarity, the nature and format of that alienation. With Orcus in the 3rd, then we can expect his to be a ‘lonely’ but authentic voice, but with it so readily tipping over into the 4th, we must see marked issues around ideas of home, belonging, family, and one’s social identity. All of these themes are readily apparent in Lawrence’s work. His first major novel, Son’s and Lovers, was essentially autobiographical (a charge, if you like, that could be levelled at much of his writing) and describes his early and formative years in the village of Eastwood in Nottinghamshire. Here he lived in a working-class tenement, with his father, a near-illiterate miner, and his subtly dominating mother Lydia, who called him Bert. His father was related as being a ‘big character’ (as delineated by his Sun – Jupiter conjunction), but it was his mother who was the first and most enduring love of the young Lawrence’s life. Indeed, there is a nigh-on Oedipal quality to Sons and Lovers, and a major theme running through the work is the subtle battle for control of his affections between his mother, Lydia and his first sweetheart, Jessie.
Generally, where the 4th house is concerned we look for the opposite sex parent. This is not always the case, but it usually works out. So, we can tell a great deal about the condition and style of the mother from the Moon, in an archetypal way, but we can divine something too about her effects on the native’s life by looking at the 4th house, it’s tenants, it’s ruler and the condition of that ruler. With a Moon in the 12th and in Libra, conjunct Venus, then we might say that Lawrence’s mother was unhappily refined. Note that Moon and Venus square Mars too, so the unhappiness comes from a brutish element, and with Mars in the 9th, it is cultural.
Lydia always felt that she married beneath her. Lydia had married, for love, a man who worked with his hands – he “came home black” – and her family cherished a legendary history in which they had owned factories and had (once) even married into the aristocracy. They felt themselves to be gentlefolk even while everything about their circumstances ensured that they were not.
Bert’s father, Arthur Lawrence was a butty – that is, a man responsible for the working of a small section of coal-face along with the team of workmen he organized – and it seems possible that when he married Lydia, he had not told her that he worked underground. The loss of her own family, her disillusionment with her husband, and her anger at the ease with which – after early promises – he slipped back into the male world of evenings spent drinking with his mates, her dissatisfaction with her own roles as wife and mother in the succession of – to her – alien villages in which they had lived, had created in Lydia Lawrence both depression (moon in the 12th) and a great deal of anger (square Mars).
So, the gentlewomanly style of Moon in Libra, conjunct Venus, in the disappointed 12th squaring the anger of Mars, engendered by a world of hard-working, hard-drinking men, is clearly set out.
So, that is the maternal condition, but we can read about the practical effects from the 4th house. Bert grew up thinking he was an outsider even within his own community. This despite the fact that all the relatives he lived amongst were pitmen. His grandfather, his uncles, his own father, all daily came home black from head to foot from working at the coal face. Bert’s mother’s legacy for his life lifted him out of that menial squalor, but also set the stage for a lifetime of alienation, of being set apart, and ultimately, of being outcast with all its subtle, and profound consequences.
This is initially evident from a very strong (peregrine) Orcus. The ruler of both Orcus and the 4th house is Uranus, which scores an astonishing 32 points of dignity. This sets the basis therefore for Lawrence’s ongoing outcast status; it is the primary cause. Uranus is in Libra and the 11th house, so ideals about the universality of love are his defining issue, consider this:
“No form of love is wrong, so long as it is love, and you yourself honour what you are doing. Love has an extraordinary variety of forms! And that is all there is in life, it seems to me. But I grant you, if you deny the variety of love you deny love altogether. If you try to specialize love into one set of accepted feelings, you wound the very soul of love. Love must be multi-form, else it is just tyranny, just death”
Lawrence’s revolutionary Uranus squares orthodox Saturn in Cancer so here is the conventional culture (in the 9th) of his home and family (in Cancer) clashing with his innate desire to be free of those conventions. There is a further clue in the close conjunction of Ceres and Juno in the 1st house. It is almost as though his mother was his partner in the family home. Any planets that conjunct the Ascendant are expectations of self-expression within the prevailing family dynamic (however that family is formulated, the same would be true for an orphan growing up in a children’s home.) So, it is as though he was expected to treat his mother almost as he would a partner. And this is likely because he was sensitive, literate and refined: everything his father was not. She preferred him to be the man of the house.
But Saturn squares Uranus and brings other dimensions too. Consider that Lawrence was born into the most benighted of working-class communities, but his mother’s culture was aspiring. She saw herself as being better than the circles she had married into, so Bert internalized this aspiring worldview. Not only did he drag himself out of the working-class squalor of his youth, he constantly sought to break out of conventional expectations of social order. This meant that the majority of his writing centered on themes of marrying out of one’s own class. This is indeed the pivotal tenet of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It is the same with The Virgin and the Gypsy, Women in Love, and many of his short stories. In his own life, the son of a miner, he married into German aristocracy, but he suffered with the ongoing tension of always being outside his own cultural milieu. If we consider the implications of the 9th house, we can see myriad expressions. The 9th is about the exotic and the unfamiliar, and here is the sign of Cancer, so we see a person whose home, and even their sense of, yearning for belongingness are associated with unfamiliar places and conditions. With Saturn here that is imposed by a higher authority, or it is seen as a responsibility or a burden. With the ruler of the 9th in the 12th, there is sadness and regret attached to this condition.
Lawrence married Frieda von Richthofen on July 13th 1913, the day after the second pass of Chiron opposition his Sun (the wounded man), but also within the scope of a longer series of oppositions between Orcus and his Libra Venus (the outcast in matrimony), Neptune conjunct Mars (the sexual fantasy) and Uranus conjunct Orcus (the suddenly cast out). It is well known that Lawrence was at the time of his marriage, a virgin. Frieda’s German parentage and Lawrence’s open contempt for militarism caused them to be viewed with suspicion in wartime Britain and to live in near destitution. The Rainbow (1915) was suppressed after an investigation into its alleged obscenity in 1915. Later, they were accused of spying and signaling to German submarines off the coast of Cornwall where they lived at Zennor. In late 1917, after constant harassment by the armed forces authorities, Lawrence was forced to leave Cornwall at three days’ notice under the terms of the Defence of the Realm Act. Unable to settle due to ongoing suspicion and condemnation, he began, in 1919 what he termed his “savage pilgrimage”, a time of voluntary exile just as Pluto fell conjunct Saturn by both transit and Solar Arc. He escaped from Britain at the earliest practical opportunity, to return only twice for brief visits, and with his wife spent the remainder of his life abroad.
Lawrence died on March 2nd, 1930, from complications related to tuberculosis. Two notebooks of Lawrence’s unprinted verse were posthumously published as Last Poems and More Pansies. These contain one of Lawrence’s most famous poems about death, “Bavarian Gentians” which is worth reading with an astrological eye:
Not every man has gentians in his house in Soft September,
at slow, Sad Michaelmas.
Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime torch-like with the smoking blueness of Pluto’s gloom, ribbed and torch-like, with their blaze of darkness spread blue
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto’s dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter’s pale lamps give off light,
lead me then, lead me the way.
Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of a flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness,
even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness is awake upon the dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice
or a darkness invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms Plutonic, and pierced with the passion of dense gloom,
among the splendour of torches of darkness, shedding darkness on the lost bride and her groom.
The astrology of the outcast can manifest in many and diverse forms, but we must look to Orcus, which in every case defines the area and style of one’s isolation from others.With Orcus in Cancer or the 4th house, or even in tense relationship with the Moon, we might find ourselves set apart from our tribe, our home, our traditional roots. Planets in difficult aspect with Saturn often delineate the ways in which we are in a state of tension with the expectations and orthodoxies of our environment. We struggle to conform in these ways. Uranus gives us insights into how we are pressed to rebel and go against societal norms. As always we have to appreciate planetary strength because this gives us a view of the resilience of placements and tells us which planets will win out in a struggle. With Lawrence, his Uranus scores 32, while Saturn scores 7. Were it the other way around, he might have lived a safer and more inclusive existence alongside his father working at the coal face, and we would never have known his genius and his tragedy.