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Thoughts on a few fixed stars…

I have always thought of the fixed stars in natal astrology as operating at a deep stratum in the psyche. That impression was in part formed by experiences of people in my life with Menkar, the brightest star in the constellation Cetus the Whale, in a prominent place. The early myths of this constellation connect it to a massive sea monster that is destructive and all-powerful. He arises from the depths of the sea, unannounced and terrible. We understand that the sea is a symbol of the unconscious. Of Menkar, Bernadette Brady writes: “The unconscious becoming conscious. The sudden emergence of deep unconscious issues.” (1)  

I have seen Menkar (13°37’ Taurus) conjunct the Sun in the radix of someone who suffered from devastating mental illness and someone else who is an astute psychological astrologer. Another person has Menkar conjunct Jupiter (the Ascendant ruler); this is the nativity of a psychologist who focuses on bringing the unconscious into consciousness in quite dramatic ways. 

I heard John Frawley say once that the fixed stars influence the body, not the soul (except in rare situations). 

I was inspired by Serbian astrologer Aleksandar Imsiragic’s talk at UAC 2012 on the fixed stars. He articulated the idea that the fixed stars operate at the unconscious level; they speak of qualities that are deeply embedded in our psyche, which he also related to our biology and physiology. They are parts of ourselves that we don’t understand, the deepest part of ourselves. This is a view I currently am exploring.

Fomalhaut, from the Arabic for “fish’s mouth,” is in the constellation of the Southern Fish, i.e., Piscis Australis, near the constellation Aquarius. (It is one of the Royal Stars of Persia, the Watcher of the South opposite Regulus, now at 0° Virgo, after 2,160 years in Leo.)

The Four Royal Stars of Persia are often seen as the most important stars in the sky, with rich mythological histories. They confer charisma and a special gift or task when pronounced in a chart. Fomalhaut (at 3°52’ Pisces) is connected to creativity, musical talent, and idealism. 

I know five people very well with Fomalhaut on the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant. The idea that a fixed star is not easily understood, but has a powerful pull on the psyche, holds true in all of these cases. 

My friend has the Moon and North Node at 3° Pisces conjunct Fomalhaut. He has always had a profoundly sensitive and idealistic nature that has confused and bedeviled him all of his life. He struggled early in life with periods of feeling very strange and unable to make any sense of himself. It was quite an odd experience for this man, who is athletic, practical, and has a very discriminating intellect; he was often overwhelmed by states of tremendous confusion. He found his way into a very suitable career as an exquisitely sensitive body worker, directing the gifts of the star to help others. Talking to him recently about the presence of Fomalhaut in his horoscope was deeply moving for us both. 

Another friend with the Sun at 3° Pisces is a metaphysician, a musician, and a poet, who has had a hard time with the material demands in life.

Two people with 3° Pisces on the Ascendant are both charismatic healers and physically attractive. Both are gifted seers, and have found their abilities to often be misunderstood by others, or misapplied by themselves. (Brady makes the point that the Royal Stars are hard to manage; she says that especially those with Fomalhaut strong must stay very attentive to their motives. “If the ideal is a noble cause, the person will find personal happiness or success for the benefit of the collective. However, if the ideals or dreams are corrupt in any way, then the downfall is total.”) (2)  

Traditionally, the fixed stars are used with a very small orb and are used primarily when conjunct a planet or angle in the horoscope (although the opposition and parallel are also important).

Working with parans is an additional method. Basically, any planets on any angle (i.e., rising, culminating, setting, and nadir) at the same time a star crosses any angle links the two bodies in a paran, “rising side by side.” Some sources believe it is the most ancient way of working with fixed stars, and Bernadette Brady explains it in her opus, Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars. What is especially interesting is that the stars become activated at different stages of life. It’s a bit too complicated for this blog, but definitely something to investigate if you haven’t already. (When I first looked at the parans in my natal chart that were active in childhood, I had to put it away for a while; it was too scarily accurate. And, I had the distinct sense that unconscious memories were being awakened.)
 
The fixed stars are potent and evocative, telling stories within the fabric of the horoscope. I am thinking of someone else I know well with Canopus (14°43′ Cancer) conjunct Mercury. Canopus is the brightest star in the very large southern hemisphere constellation Argo, the Ship. The Egyptians saw Argo as the vessel that carried one on mysterious journeys to far lands. It is noted in writer’s and actor’s horoscopes, as well as conferring a sense of being on a long trip before arriving at the destination. I certainly more fully recognize and appreciate the inner world of this gentleman by remembering the stories of Argo and its navigator and guide, the great star Canopus.

Footnotes: 

(1) Bernadette Brady, Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars, Samuel Weiser, 1998, pg. 32.

(2) Ibid, pg. 197.

Resources:

Here is a wonderful 319-page thesis on The Use of Fixed Stars in Astrology by Anthony Writer. He compiles the history and use of the fixed stars, and offers very detailed case studies. 

Marina Partridge at DarkStar Astrology has a detailed look at Fixed Star Fomalhaut.

Deborah Houlding writes on Cetus: the Whale and Argo: the Ship.

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15 Responses to "Thoughts on a few fixed stars…"

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  • OMG! Thank you so very much for this wonderful article. I have become embedded in Traditional Astrology, and fully appreciate notations on your resources for reference, and the Parans. I so hope I find much more on fixed stars, Parans, Asteroids, etc, from your wonderful contacts with such knowledgable Astrologers WORLD WIDE. Thank you so very much, once again. Dadio John

  • Thank you Mary,

    Very interesting about Menkar. I have Menkar conjunct my ascendant (13:24 Taurus ASC, born 1955). I have not found any information in aspect to ascendant other than the general meaning of swallowed by fears, great misfortune or linked to the collective consciousness. Any clients with this aspects or thoughts?

    • GB,

      I’m not remembering anyone right away with your Ascendant degree..

      Have you read about the myths of Cetus the Whale?

      Sometimes reading the stories awakens something inside..

      Did any of the themes I mentioned speak to you?

      Thank you for commenting,

      Mary

  • Mary – Great topic! Stars are so fascinating!
    I’ve researched stars over the past several years, mainly focusing on natal contacts. There are many layers of lore and myth, depending on the culture one studies. A natal planet-star contact gets mediated through the planet. The way it is expressed depends on the planet’s condition in the sign & aspects. If the planet has a strong relationship to the star (these are in Ptolemy and other sources), then the effects are more pronounced.

    For instance, I did a lot of work on natal Algol contacts. Algol is a Mars/Moon star. Different planets mediated this star’s powers in vastly different ways. A man with Jupiter-Algol is a welder. A man with Mars-Algol is a wife-beater and refused to take any responsibility for their second child, and had children with other women (which follows the Medusa story with some precision). A woman with Ascendant-Algol is an artist and sculptor who has had many disappointments in love. There are other examples, but each planet seems to evoke a different facet of Algol’s lore. (I wrote an article about this but editors weren’t too interested at the time)

    Star meanings are permanent and rather monolithic, whereas planets are more subject to personal and contemporary adaptations. They could be perceived as unconscious, but in some respects, the influence of a powerful mag 1 or 2 star is more like core life-path programming. It’s going to come through in some way or another – one’s consciousness of it is irrelevant. A fixed star conjunction injects overarching narrative content that the individual must, in some way, enact during his or her life. Individuals with many fixed star contacts may be very exceptional in some way.

    It’s also interesting to look at star oppositions that have natal planetary or axis conjunctions – but alas, another topic for another day.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for all the great input..”A fixed star conjunction injects overarching narrative content that the individual must, in some way, enact during his or her life.”

      Yes, Algol…lots of stories there…

      Mary

  • Jefferson Power says:

    I have sun 28 leo conjunct Uranus 0 virgo…Regulus was at the midpoint and now on uranus?? Im 51 and feel that my life is only now coming together. Ive had dreams ands premonitions of something big happening. Feels very close. Would love to hear any thoughts…

    • Hi Jefferson,

      Nice to hear from you..Regulus is (of course) on the ecliptic..

      Bernadette writes of the drive for success and ambition tied to Regulus.

      I always think it’s useful to read and ponder the myths of the specific constellations (i.e., Leo and Virgo) which contain the star and even out to the surrounding constellation…the bigger sky stories wherin Regulus shines.

      Best,

      Mary

  • Another well written article. I just want to note that Alderbaran is exactly conjunct my Gemini Mars at 9 degrees in my natal 3rd house. When I was 15 years old my cousin was abducted on her last day of university. Five years later her bones were found. Officially her murder is a cold case. It is amazing how accurate astrology can be.

    • Hi Angela,

      Sad story about your cousin, thanks for sharing it with us..

      I hope you have been able to find some peace after such a terrible event..

      Warmly,

      Mary

  • Great piece Mary. I am surprised though you did not include Vindemiatrix-“the grape gatherer”; not only known as “the widow-maker” but also one who slowly and methodically collects and gathers people, places, things and facts that she/he likes or needs. Gathering being a major theme in the life. (from Brady) Nice to hear it has another side other than being a widow maker. xox

    • Hello Kate (how many others are lucky enough to have a sister who is an astrologer?)

      Yes, Vindeamiatrix the grape gatherer..

      She is a beautiful star..I always thought of the widow maker part as inclining one towards self sufficiency and understanding solitude

      xxo

  • Thanks for another great article Mary, I appreciate the depth you share with the fixed stars. They do bring a layer of appreciation to the chart not always seen. As fate has it you also mentioned 2 fixed stars prominent in my chart too. I see the influence of fixed stars in clients charts also, seems that Algol is one that is easy to recognize. The point of parans is well taken, it is easy to see the parans and rising setting in action when using the software Nova chart wheels.

    • Hi Donna,

      Thank you!

      So happy you can relate to my writing..the feedback is so nice..

      I also always look at the fixed stars in clients’ charts, depending on how the session goes, I may or may not mention them..But, yes, for me too just being aware of their presence when I see people is very revealing and great way to learn..

      The friend I talked about with Moon NN at 3 Pisces; we spoke many times about his chart before I brought Fomahault into the session. It was almost too much at first, I felt we had to kind of drop into its intensity…I do find the stars a having a very very strong impact but talking about it to clients not always something I do..

      And you, do you bring the stars into client work? I’d love to hear..

  • I hadn’t thought much about the Fixed Stars before reading this. I especially appreciated the ideal of the Hero’s Journey highlighted by Canopus as part of the constellation Argo, the ship. Bernadette Brady, in her book of fixed stars, describes Canopus as “representing the very essence of human desire for adventure and exploration, be it with our minds for personal growth, or via the heaves for the growth of the collective knowledge”. Robson says Canopus has the power to “change evil to good”. As a 4H Cancer Sun at 14°, I’ve both bright Dog Star Sirius and Canopus as companions in my Natal chart, squaring Jupiter (1H Aries) in opposition to Neptune (7H Libra) and can attest to what a long strange trip it’s been , visiting many ports along the way, sailing solo, with no clear destination yet in sight. Who am I? Where am I going? What will I find when I arrive? Merc Rx period suggests sitting with the questions rather than seeking answers as the Mystery that is Life continues to unfold.