How Bram Stoker created Dracula, Lord of the Undead.

 

Many have wondered from which pit of hell was wrenched a character so imprinted on the collective mind as Count Dracula. Stories as to how this happened are numerous but not much is really known. I doubt that it was just the story of a undigested crab salad that caused a nightmare as some biographers claim. The origins of Dracula have more complex roots most of which hang loosely together like a spider’s web.

Bram Stoker 1906
Bram Stoker (1906)

The author of Dracula was was a Scorpio Sun and a Scorpio Moon; and that’s enough for anyone to be getting on with in one life time. To have Chiron there too just adds to the exquisite pain. He was an Irishman from Dublin named Bram Stoker, born November 8th, 1847. He was steeped in Irish faery tales which can be ultra strange, and he was familiar with the darker scenes in Shakespeare plays. Most likely he would have read Polidori’s The Vampire (1819) and Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872), the female vampire. But he was also a man who said ‘I’m secretive to the world’ so there are smokescreens to peer through. He never clearly revealed exactly where his Dracula came from.

He was a studious, loyal and hardworking man. His physical prowess and athletic was unexpected as he started the first seven years of his life bedridden as a classic sickly child. Scorpios are deeply emotional and love strong commitment and Stoker earned a reputation as a theatre manager and personal assistant to the classical actor, Sir Henry Irving. The level of support he gave was almost 24-7 even to arranging all the details around Irving’s death and his funeral receiving the death mask as a gift. This meant he subsumed himself into the more public career of Irving. Stoker administered Irving’s PR with consummate skill and tact. He was happy to take the backseat. Thus he was sought out as capable, reliable and solid sort of person. Yet there were signs of closeness between the two men that bordered on the abusive. Irving, an Aquarius, was the more egoistic and domineering, and Stoker the willing victim. So Irving was definitely a model for Dracula, but others say it could also have been Oscar Wilde whose body was re-exhumed several years after his death. In 1909 it was moved to Pere Lachaise cemetery. The corpse was apparently quite well preserved by quicklime to the shock of those present.

Bram Stoker (1847) astrotheme.com

Secrets are Scorpio territory; these natives are ultra-discreet. They love clandestine activities. They are the dragons jealously guarding their lair of treasure. Not surprisingly, Stoker had tiny occluded handwriting. Stoker’s Moon is at 19° on Serpentis, the ‘accursed degree’ which is also known as ‘the devil’s degree’ – serial killer Charles Manson had his Sun at this degree- and here begins the first of many curious synchronicities that magnetise me into this subject for this season of Sawain, October 31st. This is the time of year when the veil is thinner than usual and we can sense spirits as our eyes get more used to the dark.  Psychic energy is increased and Dracula is back in the form of fancy dress, but the real meaning of Sawain is to connect with ancestral spirts and not just to celebrate evil.

Stoker’s Sun and Moon are trine to Jupiter in Cancer and that brought some wind to his sails. He landed in high society.  He has Saturn in Pisces which can be practical with the artistry and give structure to the vivid imagination,  but Saturn is square to Mercury in Sagittarius. Dracula, the novel, includes long journeys, and uses the lands of Transylvania and the Carpathian mountains, London and Whitby as placeholders for all that is familiar but yet is also alien and other.  Even a sea voyage full of coffins on a ship called Demeter is woven into the story. The square reveals all the doubts he had about his skill as a writer, and the longstanding difficulties he had in the writing and expressing himself. There were numerous revisions with some saying the draft of the novel was an unreadable mess for which he needed a lot of help.

Venus is conjunct his North Node in Libra pointing in the direction of the theatre and art as a career – he was in charge of all the sets at the Lyceum Theatre,  but he was supposed to be a barrister and his mother did not approve. This is also very Libra. He did not know it would eventually become the ‘classic’ and it  took him some ten years to write. It was not until just after his Chiron return, age 50, that it was finally published in May of 1897. With Dracula  something powerfully Gothic was born that is revived with each new film or drama that increases the legend.

The Origins of Dracula

Henry Irving
Sir Henry Irving

Stoker’s time of birth is unknown, but speculation has it that he must have been Pisces rising as he martyred his own life to Irving’s. If he felt beaten down by a more dominant personality is not revealed in any diary. But Stoker’s revenge was perhaps to use Irving as the model for Dracula.  Irving excelled at dark, intense roles like Mephistopheles in Faust and playing Macbeth. He physically matched the description of Stoker’s Count Dracula. There may be something to this Pisces Ascendant theory as that would not only place Stoker’s Sun and Moon in Scorpio but in the 8th House too. That underscores the Scorpionic energy and the themes of passion, emotional depth, of shared resources, whether emotional or monetary. Other pointers to a victim-like personality would be difficult aspects to Neptune in the chart. Stoker’s Neptune has a sextile to Pluto and a trine to Chiron, two of the easier aspects, but both transformational planets, yet nebulous Neptune is still the best metaphor for how Dracula was such a shapeshifter who frazzles in the light of day.

Count Dracula looms large in the popular imagination and not without cause. He is depicted as tall, somber-looking, powerful and able to shift at will into animal form. He was charming and seductive, yet malevolent; horrific and revolting, yet utterly compelling and able to transfix his victims into submission with his majestic presence.  He was the ultimate unapologetic predator who brings out the inner victim in all who encounter him- males and females included.  Victims must fight with all their strength to resist his power as he will literally bleed out their life force in the form of blood; and eventually take their soul. Dracula offers eternal life and that gift taps into hidden or repressed sexual desire. It goes even beyond life to the wish to conquer death.  Part of the deal with vampires is that whoever accepts to become one must relinquish their soul and live as the undead retreating to their graves each day and feeding on victims by night. The novel was originally to be titled ‘The Undead’.

Dracula
Dracula Cover (1919)

Dracula is ridden with these Scorpionic and 8th House themes- psychology, hypnotism, mind control, ruthless domination, sexual allure, death, and transformation. All these seem to excite each new generation who discovers vampire lore afresh. The Mind Control element shows up in the character of Renfield whose behaviour is controlled at a distance by Dracula. That Chiron was in Scorpio too hints at Stoker’s point of vulnerability in the area of life, death and transformation. It could be that there was a difficult birth- he was sick for seven years with blood letting as the treatment. It also suggests very deep healing needed where sensitivities were profound. He was eager to learn these mysteries. He was probably a Mason though of course discreetly; and though not as famous as the other members of the Order of the Golden Dawn, poet W.B. Yeats and magician, Aleister Crowley, must have been familiar with the Dawn’s rites and practices.  He would also have read Bulwer Lytton’s Zanoni (1842) laden with Masonic references. Irving was also well known as a Mason. The character of Van Helsing, the vampire slayer, was based on Max Muller, a Sagittarian, who was the man who challenged Madame Blavatsky of the Theosophical Society and declared her a fraud. These were ‘secret’ enclaves that would have appealed to Stoker’s Scorpio sun. He saw the absolute sense in keeping a public and private self completely separate.  

Chiron is the acute sensitive point and in Scorpio it would never allow the native to skim the surface of the wounding. There could be turbulence here in all profound relationships and Melanie Reinhart says of this position that it could lead to “unconscious emotional destructiveness projected on to others”; and that it could suggest love triangles.  Stoker was involved with Florence Balcombe, who happened to have been the previous fiancé of his friend Oscar Wilde who had given her a ring before ending their relationship.  Also, Stoker mediated between Sir Henry Irving and famed actress Ellen Terry, his lover out of wedlock. Stoker managed their hotel meetings and kept the affair discreetly away from prying eyes of the public and the newspapers.  Yet of Irving, Stoker said it was a relationship “as profound, as lasting as can be between two men.” Stoker puts a love triangle of sorts – more of a quadrangle -into the novel Dracula where the character of Lucy has to make a choice between three suitors before she is finally seduced by Count Dracula. 

The Forensic Astrology of Dracula (1897)

Once Dracula was unleashed on the world, he never willingly went back into his coffin. He is the granddaddy of horror archetypes and every true Goth-lover’s wet dream.  Astrologers have made guesses that Dracula was a Leo because of his kingly manner, or that he was based on Vlad Tepes, the Impaler, but what I prefer to do is to take the publication of the novel as the real birthday of Dracula. That was May 26th 1897. That makes him a Gemini- two sharp teeth to sink deep into your neck, a quick wit and sly, chameleon-like character, forever shape shifting, with an element of the trickster, so all this is quite Mercurial.

Dracula
Dracula Birth Chart (1897)

The birth chart of Dracula has some layers of meaning for a fictional character on his way out into the world : Jupiter (publishing) is in Virgo which is ruled by Mercury (writing) and Mercury/Venus are in Taurus which is ruled by Venus. That is a lovely placement for writers to have their work perceived as well written or even eloquent. Uranus is conjunct Saturn in Scorpio giving constructive inventiveness to to the machinations and manipulations. Pluto and Neptune are  8° apart in Gemini, also ruled by Mercury. These two outer planets are in a 500 year cycle and marked touchpoints in the decade from1890-1900. This was dubbed the ‘mauve;, or ‘decadent’ era and which marked an interest in depth psychology and the unconscious and other weird creatures such as Dorian Gray. A certain type of evil mystification reigns when Pluto conjoins with Neptune and impacts the collective mind.

Many of the stories about Mercury or Hermes call him the ‘Trickster’ – especially in African traditions where he is Elegua and/or Papa Legba, or in Norse mythology as the devious figure of Loki. It is this ambivalence, duality and untrustworthiness that gives this version of Mercury that devilish twist. It aligns him with phantoms of the devil perpetuated by the Christian Church and an overly simplistic morality which could not understand why good turns to evil, and evil to good, or why life has so many tests, trials and tribulations. But also vampires were said to linger at crossroads where people lose their way where roads go in different directions are the home of trickster spirits.

Nosferatu (1922) Dir: Murnau

Even before the novel was published, it was turned into a stage show- to ensure Stoker’s copyright on the content. Then a few years after Stoker’s death the first film Nosferatu appeared in 1922.  Its creepiness is unmistakable. Murnau was a German Expressionist using a strong visual language as it was silent. The image of the long shadow almost independent from the man, has remained a staple dramatic effect of Dracula films ever since. The actor was Max Schrek, a Virgo with a stellium in Taurus.

The question often asked is that Dracula was the psychological shadow of the man Bram Stoker. Perhaps so – but there are few letters and journals to offer concrete evidence of that so it is largely supposition.  This is where astrology can play a role in indicating with greater psychological insight. Literary critics have had a field day interpreting Dracula as ridden with misogyny, perversions, racial tensions, obscenity, catalepsy necrophilia, and disease-phobia especially as it hints at the transmission of syphilis. And all that is fair enough- but it can be analysed to death and modern criticism tends to read into works from previous ages in an inappropriate manner. Skal’s  2016 book outlines this criticism while still describing the man who was Stoker.

Something in the Blood
David J. Skal Something in the Blood (2016)

Such anachronistic interpretation tends to misfire and to sideline the humanness of the authors themselves.  Novels from 124 years ago are scrying stones into the future and can be mirrors of the present age. They often reveal more about the perceiver than the object perceived.  Works of art that are outstanding have that capacity to resist categorical interpretation and remain ambiguous. It’s a study of the charts that surfaces the configurations and connections.

What is fascinating too is that most known historical source for the creation of Dracula was Vlad Tepes Draculae III and here’s another resonance: in one of the charts claimed as Drac III’s birth. He was a Scorpio and, if at that degree, that places Drac’s III’s Sun on Stoker’s Moon, along with Drac III’s Moon on Stoker’s sun. It is almost too good to be true with such a sun and moon dance in Scorpio.  Other charts citing different times and sources however, say Drac III was a Sagittarius or an Aquarius. That makes it Dirty Data as defined by Lois Rodden.

Christopher Lee as Dracula (1958)

Stoker constructed his fevered concept of the vampire out of bits of legend and history. Vlad’s birth  constructed from records of born 1431 in Romania, but then Stoker converted this fragment into a character more like an English Aristocrat. Enter Lord Byron, an Aquarius. One of the first known novellas about a vampire creature was written by Dr Polidori, a Virgo, who called his vampire Lord Ruthven. His model was Lord Byron and it was from Byron that Dracula inherited the suave manners, intelligence, strategy and a deadly reputation for seduction and the ability to hold his admirers in thrall.

The actor who most embodied Dracula in a whole series of films for Hammer House of Horror was Christopher Lee. The choice of casting was inspired, as not only was Lee one of the finest Draculas, tall, imperious, menacing, but also suave and gentlemanly. Lee shares a birthday with Dracula. In my mind, he ‘is’ Dracula.  The bi-wheel chart of Dracula the novel and Christopher Lee the man, born in 1922 shows just one degree apart. They shared the same sun sign of Gemini.

If we dig into asteroids it becomes even more interesting. Asteroids add touchpoints and resonances that normally do not make any difference in a chart, but if there is a special significance of a Personal Name asteroid, or the name of a location, as those begin to resonate loudly with the chart and the destiny of the native.  Lee’s Moon is conjunct the asteroids Drakonia and Bohemia.  Asteroid Psyche is conjunct Lee’s North Node in Libra.  Psyche refers to the myth of the curious maiden of Eros, who embodies curiosity to unveil a god. She loses love then finds it again only by performing a series of hard tasks;  Psyche’s sisters were like vampires stealing her energy, her gifts of love.

Many of the actors who have played Dracula are not Geminis -except Denholm Elliot whose birthday is close to Christopher Lee’s in the same year of 1922.  But they have just one thing in common that is their height – mostly above 6 feet.  Christopher Lee was 6 feet 5″. Bela Lugosi was 6 feet 1″. Jack Palance 6 feet 3″ and 3 quarters.  William Marshal, a Leo, was the ‘black’ Dracula in the film Blacula made in 1972. He was also 6 Feet 5″. Denholm Elliot was 5 feet 11″. One was Gary Oldman in the Francis Ford Coppola version ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992). Oldman was only 5.8″ but he played Dracula to the hilt. He licks Jonathan Harker’s (Keano Reeves) bloodied razor blade with an relish that is humorous and obscene at the same time. If the model was Henry Irving who was 6 feet 2″ then whoever plays Dracula simply cannot be short.

Udo Kier in Blood for Dracula (1974)

Dracula is steeped in eroticism, no doubt about it. The chart has asteroid Eros conjunct the sun, as prominent as it gets. But that sexuality was filtered through the lens of a Irishman in London in the Victorian era. So he layers the horror genre with the languid call of blood and ecstasy.  Some lines from the book read: “her body shook and quivered  and twisted in wild contortions; the sharp white teeth champed together till the lips were cut, and the mouth was smeared with a crimson foam.”  Not quite purple prose but quite evocative for Victorians – the Venus/Mercury again. But it was clear Stoker wrote to make money, so he was not necessarily aiming to create a work of art, but it is nevertheless now regarded as a classic of its kind. It is firmly lodged in the horror genre, but it is also spookily supernatural – hinting at occult secrets and mysteries. The sinking of fangs into the neck was all but sexual penetration and an exchange of fluids containing the life force. Dracula was then regarded as a cipher for a type of sexuality that was taboo; homosexuality. It could not be named, but only hinted at frequently.

One of the many things Stoker was intensely secret about was his long contact with Oscar Wilde, who was his friend – and as mentioned they had been involved with the same woman Florence Balcome. Yet Stoker’s sexuality was not certain. In his early years  while at Trinity, wrote a gushing letter to his hero Walt Whitman, who himself was reputed to be homosexual, or at least open about same-sex relations, But Stoker never ever mentioned this much to anyone, and especially not his closeness to Wilde, when the scandal broke upon Wilde’s trial in 1895.

Stoker published several other books but none have the staying power of Dracula. Stoker became even more gnarly and occluded. He ran a public campaign to stop sensationalism and obscenity in fiction which is highly ironic given that he created one of the most sensational of all in Dracula. Dracula outlives his author and his popularity is undiminished 100 or more years on. The appeal of Dracula is palpable yet it is difficult to explain as by rights we should loathe and hate such a predatory figure.

But human psychology is never straightforward and even Oscar Wilde said sex has nothing to do with sex, but Jean Shin Bolen came close to expressing it best: “I am convinced that we enter the world seeking love and when we don’t find love, we settle for power.”  This could have been said by Stoker, the Scorpio Sun and Moon native who gave us one of the most glamorous and deadly creatures in fiction.

Finally, the vampire is a phenomenal archetype that exists the world over in every culture and one final clue is to contemplate the Sabian Symbol for Stoker’s Moon which could be a scene from a Dracula film:

A WOMAN DRAWS AWAY TWO DARK CURTAINS

CLOSING THE ENTRANCE TO A SACRED PATHWAY.

 

© Kieron Devlin, Proteus Astrology, October 28th,  2021.

All rights reserved. 

Image credits in the Public Domain via WC 

Some elements of the above article will be discussed in the talk at the Astrological Association Conference 29th-31st October, at Wybostan Lakes, Cambridge.

LinkTree/Proteus

Kieron is a London-based and trained astrologer at Proteus Astrology on Facebook and my home page:

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Published by Kieron Devlin

Growing, guiding, nurturing, cultivating, encouraging, accepting, curiosity, confidence, kindness and understanding your place in life and the cycles of change.

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