When I was asked to write an article for the Writing Corner I wondered what I would write as I did not feel particularly inspired to write about any particular person at that time.  Then on Friday 30th August I was shocked and saddened to hear of Seamus Heaney's death.

I felt NPG x88253; Seamus Heaney by Mark Gersonintrigued by this man whom I'd studied at school. I remember being fascinated by his work then and,  only  two weeks prior to his death, I had attended the annual Ireland Fleadh (an Irish festival) where he had  recited  poetry, but unfortunately I had not been able to get a ticket to see him.

Seamus Heaney was an Irish Poet; Robert Lowell called him "the most important Irish poet since Yeats” [1] He    was also a playwright and an academic; translating and teaching at Queens, Harvard and Oxford.    Interestingly,  he was born three months after Yeats died and on the same day (different year) as Samuel  Beckett another  famous Irish Poet.  Seamus was the eldest of nine children, born in Derry, Northern Ireland  and raised on a  farm. He came from a long line of farmers and we can see his agricultural up bringing reflected  throughout his  poetry.

Seamus's time of birth is unknown.  However, I did a divination technique in an attempt to find out his time. This told me that he had a Leo Ascendant which seems to work although I still doubt it a little (I have Saturn in Virgo). For the purpose of this article I will work with this chart, but will not place too much importance on the angles and the houses.  Seamus achieved recognition for his work very early on and was described by many as gracious, generous and charismatic (Leo rising). However, he was shy as a young person and always remained very humble and down to earth; not character traits usually associated with a Leo rising individual, but as you will see, this can be found elsewhere in his chart. A Leo Ascendant would also place his Sun in the 9th house which is fitting for someone who published so much poetry, spent most of his life in academia and travelled.

Heaney's childhood shyness and general humbleness is symbolised by the Sun in his chart, although exalted in Aries it is tightly conjunct self-restrained Saturn and square to Pluto. He is likely to have doubted himself and lacked confidence when younger.  With Pluto strong in the chart he would have had a mysterious, hidden side that was perceptive and able to see what was going on underneath the surface. Heaney's Plutonic nature is evoked throughout his poetry (note if his Ascendant was correct, he may have Pluto on the Ascendant in the 12th which really works).

 

Seamus Heaney Chart Large

Much of Heaney's early writing was dark and dealt with difficult subjects such as the violence in Northern Ireland and death. Heaney wrote several poems about the bog lands in Ireland; “Every layer they strip Seems camped on before;” [2] Again we can see his Sun Saturn square Pluto signature here with the Mercury trine Pluto, and Mars in Capricorn (in the 6th house*) the ruler of his Sun and Mercury.

Heaney admitted to liking funerals (Saturn rules funerals) and he wrote many eulogies throughout his life.  We can see many themes of transitional phases and death in his poetry, his first major works was called 'Death of a Naturalist' and other poems include; 'The Funeral Rites' and 'The Digging Skeleton'. Seamus’s first major experience of death occurred in 1953 when he was fourteen years old in 1953; his four year old brother was killed in a car accident. He wrote about his experience “A four foot box, a foot for every year” in the famous poem 'Mid Term Break.’ [3]

At that time, like everyone at this age, Heaney would have been going through his first Saturn opposition. However, because natally, Saturn is conjunct his Sun and square Pluto, all Saturn transits would strongly affect his sense of identity (Sun) and were likely to push Heaney into the underworld and transform him (Pluto). Transiting Pluto was also trining his Sun.  This was obviously a major event in his life that changed him, not only losing his brother but seeing his father in the weaker position of mourning (Sun Saturn) seemed to have left an imprint: “In the porch I met my father crying, he had always taken funerals in his stride:” Transiting Saturn was conjunct his Neptune. Years later after his Father had died, in an article by Andrew O'Hagan, he reveals that Seamus said if he could choose to meet anyone in the afterlife it he would be his father. [4]

The land where Heaney grew up, the mystery of nature, his ancestry and his father were extremely important to him (Sun Saturn square Pluto, ruler Mars in Capricorn). Many of his poems described the vivid imagery of the rural landscape in Ireland.  In one of his most famous poem 'Digging' we can see him coming to the realisation that he will not be following in his father’s footsteps, continuing the farming tradition of his father and his grandfather (Sun Saturn), but perhaps able to continue the ancestral line through his writing:

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it. [5]

Heaney's Mercury is in Aries trine Pluto, Mars in Capricorn rules his Mercury and Sun (digging the earth).  As a poet, Mercury is an important planet to look at in his chart.  In a fire sign it signifies a creative and visual mind that sought meaning. Mercury in Aries can symbolise a fiery, blunt and assertive way of communicating.  However, his is retrograde which may have internalised the expression of his Mercury and depicted his reflective, imaginative nature.  If it is on the Midheaven; it would be angular and a strong planet. He certainly appears the archetypal mercurial figure; articulate, intelligent with a gift for words, a translator of many languages, and in his documentary broadcast on RTE [6] he spoke of living in two worlds (Hermes who is associated with Mercury in mythology travels between worlds), the unconscious, dream like imaginative world and the practical everyday world.

Perhaps another signature of feeling pulled between two between two worlds, is the Neptune opposite Jupiter in his chart.  Jupiter in Pisces opposes Neptune in Virgo (many of his poems write about nature and ritual).  Neptune connected to Jupiter expands the imagination, Heaney could see beauty in the mundane, the making of bread and the peeling of potatoes for example.

Heaney graduated from Queens University in Belfast with a first class honours degree. In his documentary ‘Out of the Marvellous’ he says that University was very important to him, he may not have become a poet if he had not attended.  Heaney enrolled at Queens in 1957 when Uranus in Leo was trining his Mercury in Aries, awakening his mind to new ideas and possibilities. In an interview with the Today programme's James Naughtie, he described the moment he first discovered poetry (perhaps under a Uranus transit): “It was the voltage of the language; it was entrancing.” [7]

Heaney's first poem was published 24th November 1962. North node was transiting his suggested ascendant,* calling him into the limelight where he was recognised for his creativity.  Solar Arc Pluto was trining his Sun and there was a lovely Venus Neptune conjunction on that day trine to his own Venus.  He also met his wife around this time.  With the Neptune trine to his natal Venus and Jupiter on his Solar Arc Moon in Pisces, he fell in love. Saturn was on his Solar Arc Mars (ruler of his Sun) representing the seriousness of this relationship and of his writing.

Heaney married Marie Devlin in 1965.  Marie herself is from a literary background and a teacher who later published her own book and poems. Their honeymoon coincided with his first meeting with the publishers Faber and Faber; this too would be a long standing relationship. Solar Arc Saturn was conjunct his Uranus in Taurus, ruler of his descendant.* This is apt for establishing contracts; not only was he committing to his wife but he was establishing a long term relationship with this publishing company. Saturn (commitment) was conjunct Venus (relationships/marriage). Jupiter was in Gemini (publishing) sextile his Sun (creativity, purpose), boosting his confidence and expanding his work into the world. Transiting Uranus and Pluto were conjunct at this time opposing his natal Venus (this was a long transit continued from 1964), his artistic talent (Venus) was being awakened and brought into the collective.

In 1966 his first volume of work 'Death of a Naturalist' was published by Faber and Faber. In this year the transiting North Node was conjunct his progressed Sun in Taurus (naturalist) and natal Uranus. Transiting Pluto and Uranus were conjunct opposite transiting Saturn and conjunct Heaney’s natal Jupiter Neptune opposition and sextile his Uranus; his poetic gifts were shared with the world. Neptune was quincunx his Sun and was about to trine his Jupiter.  He was also appointed Lecturer at Queens and his first son, Michael, was born.

Later on Heaney wrote many love poems, inspired by his wife and his marriage. He has a beautiful Venus exalted in the romantic sign of Pisces widely conjunct Jupiter in Pisces.   Talking about their marriage, in the RTE documentary, [6]  Marie said at times, she felt he could be too truthful (Mercury in Aries trine Pluto, ruler Mars trine Uranus).

With Venus in compassionate Pisces, Heaney had a peaceful nature and disliked violence.  Growing up in Northern Ireland, during a turbulent period he witnessed much bloodshed. However, he refused to take an active political stance during the troubles, insisting that he only wrote for himself, another Aries statement. His Moon* square Uranus indicates an independent, non-conformist nature. He did however protest when he was included in a book of British poets writing; “my passport's green/No glass of ours was ever raised/To toast the queen.” [8] The troubles were encapsulated in his poem 'Casualty' about a local man that had been killed for no other reason than he was a Protestant who took an interest in Gaelic football.  A friend said Seamus had responded to the incident by saying 'it hurt his soul'.  With his Mercury square Chiron, he was attuned to human suffering and expressed this through his poetry. He was a sensitive soul and was very happy when the peace process happened in the nineties.

With his Moon in Aquarius, Heaney was a global figure who gave voices to the people. He believed in treating everyone as equals from local shopkeeper to influential politician. Heaney’s chart has an unusual number of exalted planets, Sun, Venus, Mars and Jupiter in its own sign.  He was given numerous accolades, honorary degrees, awards, critical acclaims and prizes throughout his life and his work was mainly well received.   Even President Clinton once quoted a line from his play in one of his speeches. An exalted planet can be compared to being a guest of honour at dinner party and Seamus spent a great deal of his life as a guest of honour, although with his strong Saturn he always remained self-depreciating.

In 1995 Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, one of the biggest achievements in his career and, by all accounts, a hugeheaney speech (640x480) shock to him.   At the time transiting Uranus was opposing his natal Pluto, Neptune squared his Sun (it was a very glamorous occasion, where he was elevated like a God), Jupiter was trining his natal Mercury and transiting Saturn was conjunct natal Jupiter perhaps he was reaping the benefits of his creative gifts.

In his 70th birthday speech (2009) [9] spoken like a true Sun Saturn person, Heaney said he had been 'Cautious about moments of elevation.'  RTE organised a huge tribute to him, including an exhibition of his work, a TV documentary, 'Out of the Marvellous'[5], and a recorded box set of CD's of him reciting poetry.  At that time transiting Venus, Mars and Uranus conjoined his natal Jupiter, transiting Jupiter was sextile his natal Sun Saturn, the transiting nodes were on his suggested Ascendant/Descendant* axis and the slow moving Solar Arc Jupiter was conjunct his natal Mercury.  It would have been an exciting and joyful time for him.

Heaney’s progressed Mars went retrograde in 2008, illustrating his declining energy.  Sadly on the 29th August 2013 at age seventy four he was taken away from us suddenly. Solar Arc Mars had conjoined his Jupiter in Pisces (a release), he was experiencing a Nodal return, transiting Saturn was conjunct his natal North Node in Scorpio and his progressed Sun was conjunct Chiron signifying health issues that would have been felt all year.  With the Moon and Mars in Leo in the sky on the day of his funeral (conjunct his Ascendant*) Heaney had a grand send off with the President of Ireland and many other  dignitaries and well known literary figures attending his funeral.    He was a man who was all too aware of mortality and crossing over from one world to the next; Heaney's final words (in Latin) to his wife were 'noli timere' meaning, “do not be afraid.”[10]

 

Julia

Julia began studying with the Faculty in 2005 and her passion for astrology has lived with her ever since.  She obtained the Certificate in 2010 and is working towards her diploma.  She is the Student Rep of The Faculty.  Julia lives in London and is currently training to be a counsellor.

 

References

[1] Pinsky, Robert(1992) ‘Poetry and The World’ The Eco Press Hopewell.

[2] Heaney, S. (1969) ‘Door Into the Dark’ London: Faber and Faber.

[3] Heaney, S.(1997) ‘Opened Ground. Selected Poems 1966-1996’ London: Faber and Faber

[4] O’Hagan, A. (2013) Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/02/seamus-heaney-my-travels-with-poet

[5] Heaney, S. "Digging" from Death of a Naturalist. Copyright 1966 by Seamus Heaney. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.

[6].Seamus Heaney: Out of Marvellous (Celebrating Heaney at 70) [DVD]

[7] Today Programme’ (2013) BBC News Entertainment and Arts (online) available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-21242731

[8]Heaney, S. Untitled’ (1982)Written as an objection to being included in an anthology of British poetry, as he claimed his identity was Irish

[9]  The Irish Museum of Modern Art host a celebration of Seamus Heaney's birthday Radio RTÉ (2009) (online) available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kCBq2ULmsw

[10] BBC News Northern Ireland (2013) (online) available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-23922895

 

*Note Seamus Heaney’s birth time is unknown.

 

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