When Herman Melville reached the legendary paradise of Tahiti on Sep 20, 1842, he surely could not have been aware that he was about to land himself in “a spot of trouble.” As we have seen, the lord of the bounds by primary direction was Jupiter, with that same planet playing the role of secondary lord as well. He was in the Jupiterian “first third” of his life. Venus was among his time lords, whether counted from Tyche or the Daimon, and he was still basking in the glow of his Venusian sojourn with “Fayaway” in the Marquesas. How could things go wrong?
We have already mentioned his solar return of 1842, which took place in the Marquesas, and of the strong role that the time lord Venus played in that chart. In fact, solar returns were among the earliest astrological techniques and date back to Hellenistic times. But they cannot be seen or understood separately apart from the factor known as profection.
And therein lay many changes for young Mr. Melville.
Profection simply means that a year of one’s life is governed by each successive house, and therefore by the planet ruling that particular house. (As noted earlier, I am not attempting to enter the fray regarding the use of Whole Sign as opposed to Quadrant house systems, but it must be said that profection certainly makes more sense if we use Whole Sign houses, for this gives us an orderly succession of planetary rulers – which is not the case with Quadrant systems and their intercepted houses.) August 1, 1842, which passed while Melville was on Nuku Hiva, was his 23rd birthday. He landed in a 12th House year, and could be expected, therefore, to experience 12th House issues. But what kind of 12th House issues?
One of the most important of all possible time lords is the profected lord of the year. One of the earliest detailed texts on solar returns, authored by the influential Abu Ma’shar, places great emphasis on the way in which the profected lord of the year is positioned in the solar return chart. Melville’s natal 12th House was Aries; therefore his profected lord of the year was Mars. In his solar return chart of 1842, he may have had opportunity to dream his life away with Fayaway for a little while – but only for a while. Mars was to hold sway over the year, and Mars could scarcely have been in worse straits in Melville’s 1842 solar return. It was in Cancer, its sign of debilitation; this, from the very beginning, is one of the worst possible placements. But Mars was near the very end of that sign, and the last degrees of any sign were almost always unfavorable because the last degrees of any sign always constitute the bounds of either Mars or Saturn. In this case, Mars was in its sign of debilitation in the bounds of Saturn, and, as we have also noted in the first installment of this blog, Saturn was a time lord by virtue of its rulership over some of the cycles which derived from Tyche and the Daimon. And as we noted at that same time, it is the transits of the time lords which have the most clout. Saturn, who has special power in the 12th House because it is his house of “rejoicing,” was strong in its own sign of Capricorn during this 12th House year, and it was in opposition by transit to the year lord Mars. Saturn has some added clout here as the principal time lord from Tyche, as Fortune relates to the daily events of life. And a grim series of daily events it was to be.
One of the classical meanings of the 12th House is, of course, imprisonment or incarceration – and prison is where Herman Melville soon found himself, within a mere week after his arrival in Tahiti. While the vessel Lucy Ann still lingered in the port of Papeete, there was trouble on board. The captain, apparently a pleasant fellow, took ill, and command of the ship passed to his first mate. This individual was wildly unpopular among the crew members – probably because he seems to have spent most of his time in an alcoholic rage. Ten or eleven members of the crew (the number is not clear in the records) simply refused to obey his orders. Melville was among them; along with his cohorts, he was arrested for mutiny, taken to the local “British prison’ by colonial authorities, and locked up. In 19th century terms, that meant that he was frequently confined to “the stocks.” Welcome to your 12th House year, with Mars and Saturn playing starring roles!
Even so, there was a bit of surcease, and here again we see how the transits of the time lords are the ones with all the impact. While time lords Jupiter and Saturn remained locked firmly in place, Venus and Mars were moving on. Venus came into transiting conjunction with the Moon, Melville’s sect lord, around the same time that transiting Mars, released from the exile of its debilitation in Cancer, moved along far enough to trine his natal Ascendant. Released from jail, Melville crossed over to the blissful island of Moorea, where he lived for a month or so as a “beachcomber,” sleeping in the warm sand and gathering fresh fruit from the trees in an idyll which would delight the present day rainbow hippies who haunt Kauai’s Kalalau Valley.
In time, Melville took passage on another ship, this time to Hawaii, where he did something quintessentially Saturnian – he got a job. He served for four months as a clerk in a mercantile house before finally heading home to the U.S.A. He was still in the first “Jupiterian” phase of his life when he published his first two books; Typee chronicled his days on Nuku Hiva while Omoo detailed his life in Tahiti. Not surprisingly for a young man so thoroughly under Jupiter’s regime, he became a best-selling author. All seemed to be going well.
And then, as the wheels of time shifted, things began to go terribly wrong. Though we have finished with the principal topic of this astrological study – his sojourn in the South Pacific – we still need to take at least a brief look at some factors the Hellenistic astrologers might have used to determine why things crashed and burned – especially since it was at this time of his life that he authored Moby Dick, generally agreed to be one of the greatest novels ever written by anyone, anywhere, at any time. It was such a dreadful financial failure that Melville was forced to seek a “real job,” and spent the rest of his days working as a functionary at the customs department in New York harbor.
In 1848, of course, Melville would have passed his first Saturn return. No longer in the life period of Jupiter, he would be governed by the Sun for the next thirty years. But the solar influence here certainly does not portend such a dark change in fortune. On the contrary, his Sun is in its own sign of Leo, hence well dignified, and in an angular house (the 4th) as well. The ruler of the bounds had changed too, but Jupiter had in this case given way to Venus, a charming benefic.
The answer lies with our old friend the Daimon. We may remember, from the first installment of this article, that Valens names the time cycles that roll forth from the Lot of the Daimon as relating to “employment and rank,” and even as the very “cause of employment and progress.” During his dreamy years in the South Pacific, Melville had been in the major period of Libra, hence ruled by Venus. In March of 1847, even as he was basking in his new found fame as the author of popular South Sea adventure novels, he entered the major period of Scorpio, ruled by malefic Mars. In 1849, a he was preparing to begin his mythic tale of Moby Dick, he entered the minor period of Capricorn. Mars and Saturn – the two malefic – now acted as the overseers of his employment, rank, and progress. Seldom a joy ride in any event, the fact that Melville’s Saturn was retrograde, at the very first degree of Aries, its sign of deepest debilitation, and in the 12th House if we employ Whole Sign Houses… well, it was a grim picture indeed. And since his minor period of Capricorn was followed in 1851 by that of Aquarius, Saturn continued to rule his professional fortunes. Moby Dick was published in that year. No one read it. It was Melville’s financial ruin. By the time Saturn released its hold over him in 1854 and he entered the minor period of Pisces, yet another novel, entitled Pierre, had been published to scathing reviews. Fickle Tyche, the Queen of Fortune, was unprepared to help him either, having entered the major period of Aquarius in 1846 and keeping him under an even stronger influence from his debilitated Saturn until 1875, by which time he had already surrendered his literary aspirations and begun working for the customs department.
And here I shall stop. As I noted at the beginning, this little essay makes no pretense to provide a complete picture of the many predictive techniques used among Hellenistic astrologers. It is simply a demonstration of the many possibilities.