This period while the sun is in Cancer has been cathartic mainly because I listened once again to the entire catalogue of Nick Drake. If you feel the monthly shift of the tropical zodiac, and tune in to that seasonal flow, this is the time to get in touch with your emotions- just before Leo party season begins on July 22nd. From the vantage point of the 21st century the songs of Nick Drake are epic journeys to the interior self. They are multi-faceted gems but with all the fat trimmed off; his songs are complex yet simple and satisfyingly whole. What people feel on listening to Nick Drake is unmistakable; it’s a frequency of “emotion recollected in tranquility” as in Wordsworth’s phrase. This tone evokes a loss, nostalgia and even sensitive awareness of nature’s cycles– While his music is moody and poignant, it veiled a sense of bitterness which is territory that Cancer knows well, his songs can be oddly uplifting and bear repeated listens.
Nick Drake was a unique artist. His tone is soft, sensual, almost a whisper, but is also dark, introverted and each song is brimful of an aching beauty in the sound. He was Keats with a guitar. He was the loner’s loner for a brief life- he died age 26. The songs are there to enjoy but also to let go of your own stuff, to make some inner shifts, as long as you take care those feelings don’t tip over into depression and despair.
Many would say these songs are ‘great’. One theory of great art is that it may be difficult to bear but can never be depressing If the work has artistry and eloquence it can be uplifting. Aristotle said that tragedy when presented in the right sequence can have a purifying cathartic effect and serves a public good. Nick Drake’s songs allow you to experience this -his own personal tragedy standing at an odd angle to his life; they reveal what we normally run away from, and as such are unintended therapy. Put simply, sad songs make you happy.
Nick Drake Birth Chart
He was a Gemini sun, so an expert communicator, at least through music, and with dexterous finger technique on the guitar, as many guitar players comment was not easy to reproduce. Not only is his sun ruled by Mercury but Mercury rules the 3rd house. Mars in Virgo would add to this. So where was this depth of emotion coming from? He was Cancer Ascendant and had a turbulent Scorpio moon which figures as a symbol in a few of his songs and this Sun was hidden away in the 12th House all secluded and operating from a mysterious vantage point with a nervous edge connected to Uranus.
Venus was conjunct Mercury were in the water sign of Cancer- so his words were laden with feelings artfully expressed, not at all dry or intellectual. But both planets were retrograde and added to the difficulty of expression with their placement in the 12th. Towards the end especially he was said to have retreated inside himself to be unduly quiet. While on stage, he never looked at the audience nor ever introduced a song with any banter. Venus lends charm to the wit of the ‘words of his songs – his only vehicles to reach the world- which in Drake’s case are as lyrical as any romantic poet, but Keats and Blake come most to mind.
Another classic signature of an artists is Venus square Neptune giving grist to the artist, and incidentally in his astro location chart Venus and Neptune are the planets crossing close to Birmingham where he spent most of his life. This Venus/Mercury square to Neptune in Libra which while a difficult aspect gives an artist all the material he would wish for to create art. Their lives become the raw material but also might point to the lure of drugs and escaping it all through courting oblivion.
In Riverman he sings…
Betty said she prayed today
For the sky to blow away
Or maybe stay
She wasn’t sure.
For when she thought of summer rain
Calling for her mind again
She lost the pain
And stayed for more.
But with Saturn in the first house in Leo-it teaches hard lessons such as facing up to stern realities.
I hear Saturn speaking loudly in this song he wrote Time Has Told me Tell:
Time has told me
You’re a rare, rare find
A troubled cure
For a troubled mind.
And time has told me
Not to ask for more
Someday our ocean
Will find its shore.
So I’ll leave the ways that are making me be
What I really don’t want to be
Leave the ways that are making me love
What I really don’t want to love.
Time has told me
You came with the dawn
A soul with no footprint
A rose with no thorn.
Your tears they tell me
There’s really no way
Of ending your troubles
With things you can say.
And time will tell you
To stay by my side
To keep on trying
‘Til there’s no more to hide.
So leave the ways that are making you be
What you really don’t want to be
Leave the ways that are making you love
What you really don’t want to love.
Singers have tried to better Drake’s own rendering of his own songs and often fail to do them justice. But Krystle Warren’s version of Time Has Told Me pushes further than Drake could ever have gone to reveal the hidden longings in the words. Even his producers said there is nothing to add or subtract to a Nick Drake song -they were exquisitely nuanced enough- but Warren extracts a new layer of heightened intensity in a tribute concert organized by Teddy Thompson which is well worth listening to in full.
Saturn is conjunct Pluto so his world view was one of trenchant suffering and it probably hit hard. This first house position of Saturn according to Arroyo has a profoundly introverted impact on the self. It speaks of being forced to confront the basic realities, being bumped down to earth at the start the life cycle and being forced to ‘get things together.’ And most of Drake’s output was drenched in melancholia, another trait of Saturn and depression which dogged him. In the end it became too much to pull himself together. With Pluto there too, it would gaze unflinchingly at mortality, loss and the passing of time as modes of adapting to the turbulent psychic forces in life.
His reputation has made him a giant whereas in life he was largely unrecognized and didn’t sell albums and this galled him more than people realised. He had drive and ambition in abundance as all four angles are Cardinal, yet because it did not work out the way he wanted he suffered frustrations. He did that thing the rational mind does and compared himself unfavorably to fellow artist John Martyn on the same label- Island Records. Perhaps because he knew his worth, but the public was not ready for Drake’s elegant sadness. It took three decades more for that to happen. So there is a reverse proportion dynamic here. Fame in life can be high but snuffs out immediately after death; fame in life can be null and void, but after death can skyrocket to supernova status. Now even people like Brad Pitt jumps to produce radio documentaries about Drake and he is one of the most highly regarded singers of the 20th century.
People talk of Nick Drake in hallowed tones now, and millennials fall under his spell. I do remember friends urging me to listen to his music back in the early 70s so he was not unknown, even if he believed he was. He was the bedsitter’s best friend – where vinyl LPs were played over and over and even saved lives in dismal towns across the UK. They cost around £2 which was a sizeable chunk of weekly wage back then for a poor boy.
To some extent he poeticised the pain as a natural way to deal with life. It staved off depression to know someone could portray that in a pleasing way. His tone is plangent and I was not able to deal with that. But I could tell his songs were expertly crafted. He along with others like Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Tim Buckley, Peter Hamill, Ralph McTell and Donovan, were the real gypsy troubadours, singer-song writers with an eloquence in a folk tradition that crossed over freely into jazz, blues or pop- a rare breed.
To return to the Venus conjunct Mercury- this is great signature for poets but there is extra sensitivity because of it being in the 12th House where the combined forces of these two personal planets struggled to emerge from its preferred shyness- hence why Drake avoided people, didn’t perform much, kept to himself and never explained his feelings. The isolation some say ‘peregrine’ or as Noel Tyl called it ‘feral’ planets can play out in different ways. This is the idea is of a planet being a wanderer, not connected much to any other planet in the chart, not supported by anything, and that if you discount minor aspects it stands alone. A planet in Scorpio such as his moon, would be considered troublesome enough-but when it is un-aspected as well, it turns into a wild card. Though technically it is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Moon’s exaltation in Taurus.
But what is true is that Drake was profoundly unable to relate to others in any healthy way. He would come and go without talking much and often had to borrow money. Few one could ‘reach him where they felt they really knew him. There are few relationships, though he did have a girlfriend- Sophia Ryde. He ploughed his own pathway in the wilderness of himself.
The Chariklo Moon
But I have not seen anyone talk of the fact that his Scorpio Moon is almost exactly conjunct Chariklo the archetype of compassion, standing in the clear ground of consciousness with those also in pain. She was the enigmatic wife of Chiron coming from the beyond. This to me characterizes why so many feel this wave of sadness from listening to his work- whatever depth of loss, fury or isolation he experienced he transmitted those feelings with the clarity of a bell. It does however bring calm to the turbulence. And the message comes through directly in the way he plucked strings and gently sang the words in odd and intricate rhythms but which harmonized perfectly. The lingering resonance of a Nick Drake song is well known and is the rarest quality to find in pop music. In Drake every song is saturated with this other-worldly Chariklo feel, and no doubt why he is so highly revered today.
Nick Drake died in the early morning of November 25th 1974 in Tamworth. It was not clear whether it was a suicide or an accidental overdose. His songs themselves pointed directly to a standpoint already beyond life. Way to Blue uses a pure string orchestral arrangement and dispensed with the guitar and that was startling and innovative at the time enriching the feelings.
Place to Be has the lines
‘Now I’m darker than the deepest sea. Just hand me down, give me a place to be.’
In I was Born to Love Magic he sings
‘I was born to love no one.’
And In Fruit Tree he sings:
They’ll all know
That you were here when you’re gone.
And so we do know now he’s gone. These lyrics show an awareness that he was already ‘not there’ in his own life- it was a ‘voice from above,’ ‘from the mountain’ he heard. That’s a strange experience to have before your physical body was taken out of the equation. This outer planet feel is strong in those with prominent Uranus, Neptune or Pluto and Drake had the Sun conjunct Uranus- he was a maverick and did not fit in almost pathologically refusing to do concerts to promote his work. But his wound – his Chiron was in Scorpio in the 4th to do with how the troubled notions of who he was and all the lessons he had to learn around coming to terms with that.
He also has Ceres conjunct the Sun/Uranus which points to all the nature imagery that sprouts throughout his work.
I could not ignore the muse asteroids in Nick Drake’s chart and the only really outstanding muses i.e. within close orb are Urania, muse of astrology/astronomy conjunct Chiron in Scorpio We do not know whether Drake took any interest in astrology except that the Moon figures prominently in his work. He warns us about the Pink Moon
I saw it written and I saw it say,
Pink moon is on its way.
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all.
The ‘Pink’ Moon is the first full moon of April. This year’s Pink Moon was a super-moon. There are 4 Super-moons in 2021 making this an exceptional year. Pink would be the colour of Phlox which blossoms that time of year and could also be called the ‘egg’ or ‘fish’ moon. But it might also hint at Mars conjunct the Moon. At this acute point in the chart to have Urania would emphasise this outer planet feel. This is the outsider looking on with curiosity to the human comedy, analysing their foibles from a great distance. But it has an ominous feel like he is warning of a fatal eclipse.
Otherwise there a cluster of muse asteroids in the sign of Virgo. Calliope, epic and leader, Terpsichore of dance and Euterpe, the muse of music is closest to Mars. This cluster leading up to Mars conferred sustained push towards meticulous craftsmanship he showed in fashioning these songs in an intricate way. Mars in Virgo speaks of being industrious in ways of making and crafting things to last the test of time. Though friends remarked that he lost his skill at the guitar towards the end due to his slipping further into depression. Euterpe is opposite to Erato, muse of love in Pisces- and the romantic feel to his music was an act of love in its most Neptune ruled heights of fancy.
The Death of Nick Drake: What does the astrology say?
The synastry of Drake’s birth with his death indicates the way in which astrology is about returning cycles, yet- transits can be played like waves. Oppositions and squares that look bad and scare people are not necessarily harbingers of life’s end- just struggles, and even opportunities to change. When an ominous-looking transit comes around again it is a good idea to be aware of how to play it differently. The natal chart is like a sheet of note music as Pam Gregory depends on the level of consciousness as to how it is played out.
aSo in this case there are different stories all of which could be true. Examining a death is always controversial so I realise this can be considered a morbid area to focus on but I think it is of interest- as a mini-tragic myth in the making. Just to say also that looking for death signatures while someone is alive is not a recommended practice. Astrology can help in examining a case to gain insights into what happened. If you want evidence of the ominous symbolism of these cycles from astrology then it is certainly there.
On that day November 25th, 1974, Saturn was transiting Drake’s Ascendant at 18/19 Cancer; transiting Mars was conjunct his natal Chiron at 19 Scorpio; and the Moon at 9° of Aries was opposite Pluto at 8° Libra. This is volatile enough, the Chiron would is an acutely sensitive point in the chart and Mars would have propelled energy into his feelings about that.
What adds to this pile up is interesting since it involved the murky world of drugs and death is that transiting Pluto was also conjunct his natal Neptune at 10° Libra. Neptune is anything if not nebulous.
That’s not all- as it was suggested that he was impulsive -still quite young and people did not really know the effect of these prescription drugs – but Jupiter at 8° of Pisces was widely opposite his natal Mars at 14° and to examine what kind of dark mood he was in we might look at the fact that the Moon was square to his Venus/Mercury conjunction in Cancer.
So what actually happened? His mother found his body sprawled across the bed. Some believed Nick Drake intentionally committed suicide, that he wanted to end it all, but others including his close family say it was an accidental overdose of the anti-depressant Tryptizol complicated by use of other prescription drugs. Friends of his hint that heroin was involved- he moved in circles where it was probably easy to obtain- but none of this is possible to prove and remains supposition. More recently a letter was discovered from his girlfriend Sophia Ryde- she had broken up with him some weeks before. That hints at how he may every well have been suffering a breakdown of his normal functioning and connection with others.
Just to add another curiosity and one that makes me amazed at the synchronicity and precision of astrology is that the Nodes have something to say as well. People’s reputations have a cycle in which their story is picked up again in the news long after their deaths and the North Node’s position is a great indicator of that.
The Nodes are in the exact same position as in 1974- just north and south, the head and the tail in reverse. This can perhaps explain why we are still talking about Drake’s death now in 2021. Drake’s North Node was at 10° of Sagittarius, and now we have these positions reversed- the North Node is in Gemini and the south is in Sagittarius. But on the day of Drake’s death transiting Neptune always associated with drugs and mysteries, enigmas- was transiting Drake’s North Node in Sagittarius – it was at the exact same degree 10° as it is now in July of 2021.
Why listen to Drake Why now?
The nodes give a clue to a peculiar synchronicity with music and memory -how it codes our life’s events- and returns to complete the story or add another twist to the plot. These are repeated imprints weave a pattern across time.
I asked myself why I am connecting to Nick Drake now of all times when the world is troubled and the impending chaos demands our full attention elsewhere. We see the crumbling of the old manipulative political systems and institutions. The Saturn-Uranus square x 3 this year is taking its toll in the tug of war both psychological and social- silent weapons for quiet wars are wreaking havoc and we have to stand firm all the posturing and virtue signalling. You can smell the corruption closer than ever. It was always there but now our noses are being rubbed in it.
Times are asking us to be warriors not wall flowers. So surely is it not escapism to listen to pretty little sad songs from early 70s? But if you move forward too quickly without integrating your heart, you will become entangled in the egregore -the wetiko spirit which is that wild thing running amock in our world destroying everything we once valued such as freedom to travel and to share ideas openly.
There is a trap to fall into aspects of anger and hatred take possession of the soul, and when we sit in our feelings, we ‘abide’ there (a word strongly associated with Chariklo) it cannot do that. The tricks and deceptions are seen for what they are; they fall away. This deep listening is the magic charm to dis-spell the discord. It takes genuine courage to face your feelings and all the psychic turbulence that might lurk within and process and eventually integrate it.
By doing this you become more of who you are. You become less disconnected and less able to be whipped up by insidious PR campaigns or peer pressure. You can decide to discern between news and propaganda much better while grounded in your heart. This is especially true if you are not naturally a watery type and tend to bypass or rationalise your feelings- that goes for most fire and air signs who fail to see why being water or earth might benefit them.
So enjoy the Cancerian vibe and reconnect with your feelings, but it does not matter whether it is Nick Drake or any other artist whose work is able to reconnect and remember, who helps you remember who you are a human with emotions that are not just dumbed down to a standardised common level to be branded into the internet of things. And if you can endure these feelings as Chariklo can, it rapidly transforms beyond emotion recollected in tranquility to a much more integrated type of energy where the mind and heart are fulling functioning as one whole being that is greater than the sum of its parts.
2021 is a pivotal year to do this – what we choose now is like the choice Frodo the everyman hobbit, had to make to let go of the ring, to hold on or to throw it in the crack of doom once and for all. That choice is now.
© Kieron Devlin, Proteus Astrology, July 14th, 2021.
All rights reserved.
Kieron is a London-based and trained astrologer at Proteus Astrology on Facebook and my home page: Instagram and Twitter I am now also on Gab, Telegram (as Proteus Astrology), Patreon, MeWe. Bitchute, Rumble and Odysee
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