Uranus: The Cosmic Crank

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Oscar Wilde

In my view, the complexities that manifest from Uranus are criminally underappreciated in the astrology. Usually, Uranian energy is pigeonholed as eccentricity, genius, crankiness, perhaps individuation, and certainly these describe some dimensions of the Uranus experience, but do they get at the underlying mechanism? In my view, the Uranian experience derives form a need to step back from uncomfortable emotional dynamics. The native intellectualises that which he or she is not safe to process emotionally. Too much talk and not enough cuddling is usually the real issue.

William Herschel

This certainly chimes with the history of this most unusual planet. Though discovered in 1783, Uranus was not officially so named for 70 years. During this interim, there were disputes about what the new planet should be called. Astronomer William Herschel, who is credited with the discovery, first proposed Georgium Sidus (George’s Star), or the “Georgian Planet” in honour of his new patron, King George III. This brought an outcry from international astronomers who objected to the new planet being appended to the British Empire. Some simply called it Herschel in honour of its discoverer. Even this was mildly controversial since there is strong evidence to suggest that the new planet was in fact first discovered by another English astronomer John Flamsteed, in 1690. The French astronomer Pierre Charles Le Monnier observed Uranus at least twelve times between 1750 and 1769, including on four consecutive nights. When finally, Uranus was determined to be a planet, rather than a comet or star, Herschel was slow to react. It was Finnish astronomer Anders Johann Lexell who confirmed Uranus as a planet, and he computed its orbit. So, though Herschel has been credited as the discoverer, it seems likely that he was neither the first to see the new planet, nor the first to realise that it was indeed, a planet. Nonetheless, when he realised that Uranus was a new addition to the solar system, he was quick to claim the credit.

To this end, he pronounced “By the observation of the most eminent Astronomers in Europe it appears that the new star, which I had the honour of pointing out to them in March 1781, is a Primary Planet of our Solar System.”

As the years passed, new names were proposed, prominent among them was Neptune. But in the end, it was decided that, since Saturn was the father of Jupiter, and Uranus was the father of Saturn, then Uranus it must be.

A Cosmic Mistake

But do you see the anomaly here? Uranus was not the father of Saturn, not exactly. In fact, the father of Saturn was Caelus. By all rights therefore, Uranus ought to be known as Caelus.

So, what am I talking about? All our planets are named after Roman deities, with the exception of Uranus, which is the latinised form of Ouranos, the Greek god of the sky. To be consistent, the Roman equivalent is Caelus. The name Uranus was proposed by another astronomer, this time a German, Johann Bode, who, it has been supposed, simply got his pantheons confused, leading to the error.

So, what we have is a long-winded back and forth between a bunch of rather periphrastic academics, rattling on in circles for seventy years before coming to a conclusion which was basically… wrong. This is doubtless where Uranus’ tendency to be a misfit begins.

The Misfit Archetype

Wherever Uranus resides in the astrology, there is a rejection of accepted norms. One finds oneself unconsciously repudiating the affairs of the placement, or at least, its premise. So, for example, if you have Uranus in the 4th, you are going to be, in some sense, the family misfit. This will almost never be a choice, but events have transpired to place you in this role, and it is never simple. Nobody with Uranus in the 4th wants to be the family misfit, but they have to work with it regardless. They are not necessarily against families per se, but they will certainly have issues with their own family. It is similar for the aging Uranus in Cancer generation. With Uranus in the 7th, there is a subtle disdain of commitment, as with Uranus in Libra. Uranus in Sagittarius or the 9th is often unconsciously scathing of organised religion and might view it as infantile and vacuous. And the shadow side to Uranus is another style of superiority, so the native seems somewhat too smart to fall for the same tired tricks that everyone else has bought into.

It is my view that all outer planet energies are a response to perfectly normal trauma. That is to say that some trauma is simply inevitable and is part of the human condition. That trauma is only pathologized where Hadean placements become involved. These are, after all, impersonal placements and we cannot easily assimilate them without experiencing some existential distress.

So, what happens in the Uranian journey? The sign and house placement becomes a point of sensitivity where there is some shock or outrage in the childhood time which destroys emotional closeness. You can ruminate with the energies of course. If Uranus is in the 1st, was there some kind of enforced, sudden and deeply unsettling episode of independence that came, like an unwelcome thunderbolt to shake up the normal pattern of security and ease? In the 5th, a burgeoning romance in its most elemental form (perhaps in kindergarten or elementary school) set the stage when the rejection that followed cut to the quick.

Where Uranus resides there was a shock or disconnection that sets a life dynamic; one that, often through rejection, belittling, mocking, or simple unkind words, caused a wound of rejection. The reaction to this difficult experience was formative, one detached emotionally as a protection. Thereafter, whenever these same motifs were stirred, the response was to connect intellectually as a kind of shield against vulnerability.

We all know the Uranian archetypes, the man (or less frequently, woman) of science, the intellectual, the technician. Uranus as a ruler tends toward theorisation, so where the Moon is in Aquarius, there is a reasoning component to relationships and community. There is a family of ideals. What can be more reasonable than the ideal after all? Any point that is in a connection with Uranus, spurs a thoughtfulness which is both enlightened and distorting. What is happening under the surface is that one’s human core is being shielded by the mind. Sometimes this can be helpful, as we see in the case of Mercury in Aquarius, which is sympatico with Uranus, so there is a breezy, unaffected, cool component to interaction. At other times, this reasonableness is less useful. Think perhaps of Venus who ought to crave intimacy, but with Uranus can only manage a theoretical intimacy, an intimacy of ideals perhaps. Yes, this is useful, there’s good reason why right-wingers and left-wingers don’t usually get married after all, but with Uranus, there will always be a challenge in realising closeness. People with Moon in Aquarius for example, will very often have an enormous tribe or family of like-minded friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, but very rarely do they find themselves a part of a thick group, of a tight-knit community. They replace depth with breadth. They substitute independence for intimacy, but it is independence of the mind for the most part, not physical independence in the way of Mars.

 Where Uranus is high scoring, 25 or more shall we say, there was some considerable wounding in the early childhood. The same can be said where Uranus is in aspect to any of the Hadeans. So, for example, if you were born between 1965 and 1968 then you will have Uranus conjunct Pluto in the late degrees of Virgo. Similarly, between 1977-8 Uranus and Ixion were conjunct in Scorpio. And by the same token Uranus and Orcus were conjunct in the mid to late 1940s. These events are trauma pathologies which denote extremely difficult psychological conditions in the early home. The most recent fractional synod for Uranus was the recent squares to Pluto, and before that the squares to Ixion in around 2005.

We understand then that with Uranus there is this intellectualising mechanism which is itself a protective response to an emotional upset, so when a Hadean becomes involved, this happens at an especially deep level. It becomes a pathology instead of a merely defensive response to uncomfortable emotional situations.

Uranus and Being Cool

So, a natural Uranian response is one of coolness, in both the literal and colloquial senses. Think of Grace Kelly, who had the benefit/curse of a Grand Trine of Sun/Moon/Pluto in water. When I think of ‘coolness’ I think of Grace Kelly.

What you can perhaps see is that her Uranus is peregrine and (alongside Mercury) is her strongest energy signature. Also, with Mercury/Mars/Uranus so strong, is it a major surprise that she died in a car crash? So she was overall somebody who developed incredible poise (Su/Mo/Pl GT in water) and self-control, but also she emanated remarkable coolness.

Who else do we think of as being ‘cool’? Paul Newman is one of those candidates and we can see that he has a peregrine Aquarius Sun. I would also say that at 5°21’ trine to Saturn, Uranus is very nearly peregrine.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, James Dean also had a peregrine Aquarius Sun.

Another example is Audrey Hepburn, who we’ll study in more depth imminently.

Also, the great Alan Watts.

Other examples of highly Uranian characters are Ernest Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence and David Bowie.

It is possible to demonstrate therefore, that this supposedly positive quality of coolness is a uniquely Uranian phenomenon. But is it positive, truly? Certainly, from the outside looking in, it is. But actually it derives from an originating aloofness that is predicated upon rejection.

A Childhood Trauma

Usually when we talk about trauma, we think about a catastrophic event which occurred during childhood, which in turn causes a disruption in the psyche. This psychic wound then distorts behaviour as a consequence. Trauma, however, can occur at any age.  But the specific cues for outer planet trauma often occur during important planetary phases, in addition to where major transits occur to personal planets. The typical phases for Uranus are as follows:

  • 11-12 years (semisquare)
  • 23-24 years (square)
  • 33-34 years (sesquiquadrate)
  • 42-43 years (opposition)
  • 52-53 years (sesquiquadrate)
  • 62-63 years (square)

In theory, Uranian trauma can occur at any of these stages. Similarly, hard transits of Uranus to other major points should also be included in the picture, as well as arcs and progressions of Uranus. Any of these might be a trigger for traumatising experience, and very often, each will be an evolution of the last. That is to say that the originating sensitivity, which is described by Uranus’ natal placement, will be given new dimensions through each phase, transit, arc or progression.

The originating impetus though is based upon formative experience. Unless there are major Uranus transits in the first decade of life, it is likely that the radicalising experience will occur around age 12. This is a natural part of our individuation. Every child moving into their teens begins to collect the varying ephemera of their own unique identification. They find the music, art, dress style, interests, and social and political stances which begin to set them apart as a proto-adult. Very often they embrace their differences as a means of individuating. Children with overactive Uranian tendencies often relate highly Saturnian situations in their childhood.

Case Study: Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn was born in Brussels, Belgium in 1929. Her mother was a member of the Dutch aristocracy, while her father was a British consul in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Audrey enjoyed a very privileged and sheltered childhood, but her father left the family in 1935, to work more closely with the British Union of Fascists and moved to London. After the start of hostilities between England and Germany, her mother moved with Audrey to Arnhem in Holland, because she believed that Holland would remain neutral and they would thereby be safe in the ensuing conflict. On May 10th, 1940, Germany invaded Holland, while Audrey’s first Uranus semisquare occurred one month later, on June 24th. It was at this time that she had to change her name to Edda van Heemstra, because an “English-sounding” name was considered dangerous during the German occupation. We note too that Audrey’s Uranus is in the 1st house.

The conditions of the German occupation were shocking for her and the family. She later said, “had we known that we were going to be occupied for five years, we might have all shot ourselves. We thought it might be over next week… six months… next year… that’s how we got through” In one interview she stated that “We saw young men put against the wall and shot, and they’d close the street and then open it, and you could pass by again… Don’t discount anything awful you hear or read about the Nazis. It’s worse than you could ever imagine.”

In 1942, her uncle, Otto van Limburg Stirum (husband of her mother’s older sister, Miesje), was executed in retaliation for an act of sabotage by the resistance movement; while he had not been involved in the act, he was targeted due to his family’s prominence in Dutch society. Hepburn’s half-brother Ian was deported to Berlin to work in a German labour camp, and her other half-brother Alex went into hiding to avoid the same fate

Audrey Hepburn: 4 May 1929, 03:00 Ixelles, Belgium

After her uncle’s death, Hepburn, left Arnhem to live with her grandfather, in nearby Velp. Around that time Hepburn performed silent dance performances to raise money for the Dutch resistance effort. She also supported the resistance by giving “underground concerts” to raise money, delivering the underground newspaper, and taking messages and food to downed Allied flyers hiding in the woodlands north of Velp. She also volunteered at a hospital that was the centre of resistance activities in Velp, and her family temporarily hid a paratrooper in their home during the Battle of Arnhem. In addition to other traumatic events, she witnessed the transportation of Dutch Jews to concentration camps, later stating that “more than once I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon. I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on the train. I was a child observing a child.”

After the Allied landing on D-Day, living conditions grew worse, and Arnhem was subsequently heavily damaged during Operation Market Garden. During the Dutch famine that followed in the winter of 1944, the Germans blocked the resupply routes of already limited food and fuel supplies as retaliation for railway strikes that were held to hinder German occupation. Like others, Hepburn’s family resorted to making flour out of tulip bulbs to bake cakes and biscuits; a source of starchy carbohydrates; Dutch doctors provided recipes for using tulip bulbs throughout the famine. Hepburn developed acute anaemia, respiratory problems and oedema as a result of malnutrition. The Van Heemstra family was also seriously financially affected by the occupation, during which many of their properties, including their principal estate in Arnhem, were badly damaged or destroyed.

When we think of food, family property and the like, we get a strong lunar signature, and it was indeed, in 1944, that tr. Uranus squared Hepburn’s natal Moon. Both Moon and Uranus score off the scale in her chart (Ur: 56, Mo: 50).

We can see quite clearly how Uranus transits mirrored the events in her homeland, the initial German occupation (Uranus semisquare Uranus), the execution of her uncle in 1942 (Uranus in the 3rd semisquare Pluto), through to the Dutch Famine of 1944 (Uranus square Moon), the D-Day landings and Operation Market Garden and the subsequent liberation of Holland (Uranus semisquare Mars). For a young girl who lived a very sheltered and privileged life these shocks and horrors, culminating in her near starvation are the triggering events so commonly associated with a Uranian character.

She took some small theatre roles and decided, in 1950 to register as a freelance actress: the same year as her Uranus squares. Her breakthrough came in 1953 when she starred in Roman Holiday (watch it if you haven’t already, it’s fantastic), as Uranus fell conjunct natal Pluto, and her poise and self-control are the hallmarks of this performance. You can truly feel the blend. In his review in The New York Times, A. H. Weiler wrote: “Although she is not precisely a newcomer to films, Audrey Hepburn, the British actress who is being starred for the first time as Princess Anne, is a slender, elfin, and wistful beauty, alternately regal and childlike in her profound appreciation of newly-found, simple pleasures and love. Although she bravely smiles her acknowledgement of the end of that affair, she remains a pitifully lonely figure facing a stuffy future.”

Uranian Themes and Concepts

Sun: Edgy, difficult, or unusual in self-presentation. A rebel, maverick, or cool guy or gal by reputation. A difficult father, shocks and upsets related to the father experience, especially around age 12. A person who stands alone, though in a self-imposed manner.

Moon: Unusual mother and family experience. A lack of security, closeness, or comforts during childhood or adolescence. A split or division with mother or family around age 12. A necessity to develop self-reliance. A struggle to achieve emotional intimacy.

Mercury: A bright, unconventional, and often unorthodox communicator and thinker. Difficult relationships with siblings. Some shocks or upsets with extended family members.

Venus: Niche, edgy or unconventional tastes, especially in relation to music, art and literature. Socially unconventional. Attracted to unusual love interests, but with some difficulty forecast in realising true intimacy. A tendency to indulge in too much screen time (love of tech).

Mars: Sudden and shocking episodes of violence, aggression or sexual experience which colour the outlook. Too much energy which when pent-up can be destructive and prone to a kind of outburst. Brothers that cause upset in the earlier years.

Jupiter: Strong and idiosyncratic views, sometimes culminating in the sense that other people’s ideas are idiotic or unenlightened. Grandparents that were unconventional or difficult. Religious, political or philosophical views in the early years that coloured the outlook. Shocking, weird, or outright bizarre beliefs are a feature.

Saturn: Extreme tension held in check. Older, usually male (but not always) authority figures that seemed determined to crush the spirit were encountered in the formative experience. This led to a distrust of authority that is lifelong and unshakeable. There is a kind of impasse that results, and this native can live quite uncomfortably in a world that they usually see as profoundly dysfunctional.

Neptune: As ever with Neptune there is a defeating energy at work. One starts out with shocking experiences of belief, of psychic phenomena, of spirituality, or perhaps more often and more mundanely, of drugs and alcohol, or of people’s unreliability and dishonesty. These experiences can profoundly damage faith. One’s brilliance is undermined by enemies and detractors, though usually in secret.

Pluto: Profound independence, realised out of trauma. Learned very early on that relying on others had hidden costs, was dangerous, or toxic. A deeply unusual, unconventional, or brilliant character, but one’s differences are equally a source of conflict, jealousy, and even hatred. Sudden unlooked for power struggles, often with friends. Similarly, enemies may become close friends too. A genius for deciphering the deep undercurrents of life. Sometimes misanthropy.

Orcus: Differences which lead to isolation and a need to go it alone in life. A special gift for prayer or meditation. Extreme views or insights which set one apart from the masses. A great need for solitude. A lonely childhood or adolescence.

Ixion: an inability to see one’s differences clearly or objectively. A shock or upset in friend groups which makes one determined to improve oneself. A sense of specialness derived from one’s differences. The shadow of this archetype is a tendency toward libertarian, neoliberal, or fascist perspectives. At the other end of the spectrum a belief in higher spiritual values, but this can be equally exclusive.

Are you able to put your Uranus placement into context and understand the dynamics that pushed you into this expression? That’s not just sign and house, but rulers sign and house too. And what were the circumstances of your Uranus semisquares at around age 10 to 13? All of these will give important clues to your Uranian story.

Please share your thoughts, and thanks for reading, this was a long one!

Until next time,

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