The Age of Individualism: Lord Byron’s travels across Europe

 

The name Byron represents one who stands out from the crowd- the lone hero battling his personal demons.  It is a familiar name and even has its own adjective ‘Byronic’. It is hard to see the famous portrait, and not feel his charisma ooze out of the canvas. If he had a Twitter account today he would be an ‘influencer’ with followers in the millions and it feels like he is still speaking to us in the 21st century. In the portrait, he gazes intensely into the distance, his lips almost pouting.  But there is some charisma. He is the archetype of the Romantic poet: striking good looks, bold, progressive, articulate, adventurous, eccentric and full of ideals he wanted to live to hilt- as fits his Aquarian Sun.  He was born on January 22, 1788 a year before the French Revolution and he channeled that awakening spirit through his life and work. It is worth a glance back in history to see why might his name come up in 2022 not just for a BOTD exercise but to understand who he really was from all the astrological clues.

Lorde George Gordon Byron
(c) Newstead Abbey; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

There was a lot to Byron that could not be easily pinned down: he was also at times melancholy, petulant, sarcastic, moody, quixotic and a tad devious. Plus he was very persuasive as fits his Moon sign in Cancer where the Moon is conjunct Uranus giving him explosive flashes of emotion. People could not keep up with him. He also had Mars in Cancer- steamily suppressed aggression and that could add up to sexual allure. “The devil is in the moon” he says in Don Juan (1820) which has a very modern attitude of realism mingled with mockery as he created a protagonist who was suspiciously flirtatious like himself.

Mars is close to his Ascendant in Cancer too, so there was no lukewarm response to Lord Byron. He split the public in two. The wateriness  of Cancer moon mollifies the dry and gritty side of his Aquarian sun. He loved falling in love, drinking, swimming- he swam the Hellespont- which connects Europe to Asia-and died in a torrid rainstorm.  So both emotions and intellect are strong in his work. One great marker of artistry is to have a fully aspected Neptune, the toned up muscle any poet needs. It rests in the 5th house as one third of a grand Air trine to Venus in Aquarius and to Jupiter in Gemini. He certainly was not short of ideas. Neptune in the 5th is someone like the troubadour, a prone to seduce others to be ‘in love with love’. And in Byron’s case the 5th house is ruled by Venus, mistress of the arts of love.

But more determination to get the work done of translating fantasy to reality comes with Neptune being square the the Moon in and to Mercury as well. There’s a heap of quirkiness to have Pluto, Venus and Saturn all in Aquarius. Saturn and Venus being just two degrees apart there echo the current Venus retrograde in Capricorn themes- love seen as a contract with its  sensuality uneasily contained – but also in Aquarius filtered through progressive ideas. And the ever-present watery Cancer and addictive Neptune theme is hinted at in literal events of his swimming feats and with his dead body was even embalmed in a vat of brandy to be shipped back to England from Greece.

People either fell at Byron’s feet treating him like a demi-god or they loathed and reviled him as a demonic challenge to society’s morals. On his travels in Europe his reputation preceded him. It alarmed some, but excited many who were curious to meet this English Lord. According to Rupert Everett ‘that’s the way he would have liked it’ as everyone went out of their way to meet the devilish handsome young upstart. That oft quoted phrase that he was “mad, bad, and dangerous to  know” could well have been true except that he wasn’t mad exactly, perhaps on the edge though. He could be quite sweet and tender hearted as Cancer Moons hide their soft spot behind a shell. His ‘evil’ or at least irreligious reputation backfired as his name has lived on more than 200 years. And to know Byron was only dangerous to those who feared what being totally individual meant.

There was good deal of posturing in all this as though he was the lead actor in the movie of his life. He was the first to stage-manage his own PR and to cultivate his image. That mercury in Capricorn knows how to organise the celebrity brand message.  He adopted a public persona -the curly haired moody brat- that was not natural, but he made it so by fusing the real human with the larger than life image as Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan.

There was a meteoric energy to his life as he was the first true European celebrity of his era. They had even heard of him in America. His work was so closely associated with his personality that when people read his poems, they felt they knew him personally. This permitted them to write gushing fan mail to him as if already intimate.  Women especially were prone to be magnetically attracted to Byron as the story of  Lady Caroline Lamb and Clare Clairmont shows. Clairmont even followed him in full groupie mode to the villa Diodata in Geneva.

BYron natal chart
Lord Byron, Jan 22nd, 1788 (astrotheme.com)

He lived as a true ‘aristocrat,’ born into privilege. Others around him, even his friend Shelley, also quote radical and forthright,  did not have such a sense of entitlement. Byron assumed the world was his playground and with that mindset it very often did become just that, even when he was almost always in debt and juggling a menagerie of pets, servants and a trail of lovers. The sun ruled by Uranus made him a chaos magician ahead of his time, master of risk and probabilities,  and with a chart ruled by the Moon, he did it with maximum emotional verve.

A large part of Byron’s allure was in the whispers of sexual scandal that never left him- the Sun in the 8th house ruled by Scorpio and with the Moon as ruler of the chart and therefore ruling Uranus. The gossip was sensational and what with one revelation on top of another and a failed marriage to Anabella Millbanke, it forced him into final exile from England. The accusation of incest still lingers but then there was also a whiff of homosexuality.

Byron in Greek attire
Byron in Greek Costume

That he dabbled in both sexes must be taken a as given as the evidence exists in his own diaries and letters, sometimes in coded language, but also in numerous witness accounts. To look for an astrological signature of sexuality is like looking for artistic ability- it would be futile and misleading to pin it on one configuration. Yet it is clear that his love of the Greek ideal led to its being put into practice too. When he arrived in Albania, a country considered an ‘unknown’ frontier, the leader Ali Pascha (1740–­1822) , who was known to be fond of young men, eyed him up and down and approved of his appearance.  Byron was just 22 but he cut a dashing figure in spite of a slight limp which is perhaps Chiron in the 12th as Pisces the last sign is associated with the feet. He was travelling with his close friend John Cam Hobhouse who joined him in all these adventures that ended up as poetry in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and rocked England once it was published.

 

The Astro Location of Byron in Europe

Byron in Europe
Byron in Europe astro-location (solarfire.com)

Looking at the astro-map can offer clues as to what kind of experience the native might expect to feel in certain places. In London it is Saturn and Venus perhaps referring to his difficult marriage. His first Grand Tour intended to go into France but it was war-torn and dangerous. It was the era of Napoleonic conquests, so Byron had to take a detour, landing in Lisbon. This is on his Chiron line and he satirically joked that his weakness for for Mediterranean women, who fawned over their men but were tigresses in the bedroom. His Mars line runs firmly across London across Europe and like a backbone through Italy, where he eventually settled once he finally left England for good. He lived in Venice and Ravenna and ended in Greece.

Mars is energy, drive, ambition. It could bring accidents but also sexual experiences. He collected lovers like jewellery once he got to Venice. He was a fine shot with a gun and would play with guns for fun to scare people. Just to the west of this line is Lake Geneva, Here was the Villa Diodata and where Byron entertained John Polidori, Mary Shelly and Percy Bysshe Shelley when their creative juices were at their heightened best. This was July 8th 1816 but lasted over a period of days when they wrote their stories- the one by Polidori posed Byron as Lord Ruthven in The Vampyre and the other as the monster of Shelley’s novel Frankenstein- very Uranian in its themes.

To the East is his Mercury Line which runs exactly through Istanbul, then still called Constantinople, a place that thoroughly fascinated him and where he quipped the famous line that Turkish baths were “marble palaces of sherbet and sodomy.”

Albania lies between these two lines of Mars and Mercury and it he lent his writerly skills to to the plight of underdogs in their fight for independence against the Turks as the Ottoman Empire was still in power. He actually used the phrase ‘I will war with words.’  He consciously used poetry as a tool to shape the political climate and influence events. Mars does not back down from a fight. In Greece, he even quarreled with Lord Elgin over the stealing of the marbles from the Parthenon, now still in the British Museum.

He influenced hundreds of writers and artists to take this Byronic stand- an attitude to life was as individual as it was robust.  But also his love of nearby Albania shows up here. He admired the fierceness of the people, their male bonding rituals. But his pen was mightier than his sword so to speak- Mars with Mercury – sharp and mordant words but also battle speeches. What is clear is that he and remembered as a national hero in Italy, Albania and Greece, even 200 years after he went there, his name is known and statues and that is a powerful legacy.

 

What the Asteroids Say

Byr
Byron at the death of Shelley L.E. Fournier (1889)

Asteroids are like wave-particle theory, they only have an effect when you notice them which could be said for the whole of life but that’s another story. They can be so easily be disregarded, except when  they are bang on a personal planet- that then becomes a life signature. With more than 12,000 it is information overload for most people. But when they do pop up their significance can override other factors in the chart. There’s a story attached. They create wonder at synchronicity and pointing to an intricate web of connecting factors that bring them into prominence.

There is no asteroid actually called Byron as yet. Perhaps there should be? Then we could locate that Rebel hero Romantic warrior side of ourselves in our charts not just by Uranus alone. Asteroids have a way of doing that as they add an extra dimension to planets and events in the native’s life and can act like a hidden key.

But Byron does have his Sun conjunct Euterpe, the muse of Music at zero of Aquarius. Rhythm and assonance were essential to his poems as they were long yet threaded through carefully like a piece of music to give them coherence, though he was not a musician, and he loathed painting.

But there is asteroid Orpheus too, the ultimate poet and singer of Greek mythology – his voice was like a pied piper and charmer of animals. There is something of the leader of the people in Orpheus, someone who becomes the voice of his generation I feel. This marks him as seen to be poet, embodying his entire life as a work of poetry. He did also love to sing to entertain his friends and he memorised Albanian and Greek songs he learned from the revolutionaries: one was called ‘Freedom or Death’.

Asteroid Poesia is lodged between Mars at 11° and the Moon at 28°, Cancer. This is in the first House perhaps making his words more physically embodied than most? Eris, the equally troubled sister of Ares, the god of War, is conjunct his Mercury in Capricorn reminding us of that fierceness of speech, that he never held back or avoided conflict. She represents feeling ‘discontented’ and getting revenge for that.

And to have a clue as about his sexuality Byron I’d look at Eros which is in Pisces, truly the most romantic of placements. It is spiritualised sexuality and thus not easy to pin down for any mundane commitment.  Erato, muse of love poetry, is close but  some would say 4° is too large of an orb to bother with- but this muse is in Capricorn close to his Mercury so it is organised and efficient in penning lyrics and ballads of love like She Walks in Beauty Like the Night and Love and Death (below). He is known for some moving love poems and his readers expected him to be an oracle on the topic of love. Even British pop band Suede pay homage to the lovelorn Byron using  these lines as in the song ‘Heroine’.

It is also Interesting that Juno is conjunct his Ascendant. Many just point to jilted loves and managing difficult partnerships or being the beleaguered wife of a philandering husband. Juno is seen as a celebration of feminine concerns of marriage contracts and partnerships. But there’s more to it. His marriage to Anabelle Millbanke was a disaster- he called his wife ‘the princess of parallelograms’, and nothing went right for them. They married on Jan 2nd 1815 and it was a mixed bag of aspects that day, not least of which was his Sun opposing the North Node. Like Shelley, he was probably was not psychologically suited to marriage- a strong Uranus struggles when confined by contracts. One thing to bear in mind was that Juno in mythology was in fact the sister and consort of Jupiter- this combination adds a twist to the accusations of incest for Byron. In bloodlines it is the norm, but the rest of society judges it badly. He allegedly had a relationship with Augusta-Leigh, his step-sister before marrying his first wife, thus creating a complex menage that was difficult to disentangle. It would appear the classic build them up to knock them down tabloid strategy was in force:  after lionising him as a hero the British public smelled blood and went in for the kill.

The Death of a Poet

Byron on Death Bed
‘Lord Byron on his Death Bed’ J.D. Odavaere (1826)

Byron may have been weary of life by the time he got to Greece in 1824. His little daughter Allegra had died; his best friend Shelley had drowned. At the age of 36 he was tired of love dalliances, and in his letters complained of old age and grey hair. His star had burned fast and he was jaded.  He caught a fever in torrential rain while on marshland while organising troops against the Turks. Doctors used bleeding to improve the condition which just made it worse. Jupiter was opposite Neptune so the right decisions were not made. He died on April 19th, 1824.

Looking at person’s death astrologically can tell us about life cycles, not because it shows finality in any concrete way that can be predicted as a fated moment. That’s not how it works. The chart shows the potential for something to occur given a set of variables and probabilities.  If we see these aspects on a graph we might say, that’s a dangerous day, perhaps I’ll be cautious and stay at home, and that is our choice, but some have an unconscious instinct to go and meet their deaths without fear. But most have no idea of their charts – the stars impel but do not compel.

It is likely that he preferred a heroic death on the marshland of Missolonghi where his legend would be captured forever, rather than endure a slow descent into old age and irrelevance. It is speculation, but death became the theatrical endpoint of his artfully crafted life story.

But should you wish to see them, the astrological signatures are all there. On the day of his death the Moon, Neptune, Uranus, the North Node (and the Vertex which hints at fated events and meetings) are clustered in Capricorn opposite Jupiter, and the South Node in Cancer. This stellium was transiting his natal Ascendant and South Node in Cancer. There is an uneasy square from both his natal Moon and Sun to the transiting Sun which itself is at the anaretic degree- the culmination point of Aries the sign of warriors and heroes.

Venus was conjunct Pluto also in Aries, and there were wranglings over the funding. He had arranged for a huge loan from London- to be distributed to the local warlords in Greece whom he was supporting and he was aware of all the schisms the money created. And so he passed on- and since that money all depended on his name and reputation, once dead, the money flow instantly dried up, and therefore, along with it, any support for the Greek cause.

Being Byron

What we learn from Byron is that he was an authentic child of the revolution and a symbol of how the individual can stand against the herd where those who claim they hated him probably secretly admired and followed his lead. With that Sun ruled by Uranus, his insights were lightning fast and had stunning clarity, and that gave him a certainty others did not possess. But but when Uranus resides in Cancer ruled by the Moon, it was subject to irrational shifts and changes and he very often veered from one extreme mood to the next. As stated, his impact on people was like the tide – either in or out.

Byron's stone
Byron’s stone in Tepelene, Albania

He demonstrated that sovereignty- the ability to command oneself which at the core is the command of the mind first and foremost. His self awareness too was canny and his ability to put his experiences into words in that autobiographical manner poured out of him. He could praise, be melancholy or also mock the world all in a bitter-sweet way, even on occasion all at the same time. He had the gift of irony which many literal-minded people fail to do justice. This complex attitude was finely crafted through stanzas and quatrains so that what he said then can still have a modern tone. 

Finally, Byron reminds us as we enter Aquarius this January 2022 and enjoy the forward movement of Uranus the awakener, from the 19th January, we can understand the value of freedom and of individual and inalienable rights before these are demolished before our eyes.  He even used the phrase the ‘regeneration’ of the people in his strategic thinking.  This links back to the discovery chart of Uranus in 1781 just seven years before Byron was born when Saturn was conjunct Mars- both opposed to Uranus in Gemini, the sign of ideas. The tension is difficult to hold in balance without some kind of turmoil.

He died for Greece as he believed that self determination and autonomy was the way forward.  This applies to the individual as well as to nations and states. He would say to us just to dare to live life – and write the story of it, preferably in quatrains, if you can. He supported the cause of Greece over and above the individuals leading those causes- another Aquarian trait. Aquarians are everyone’s friends irrespective of rank, but still perhaps a mystery to themselves, and even if they become cranky, they generally do leave their unique imprint on all those who come to know them.

‘Love and Death’

“And when convulsive throes denied my breath
The faintest utterance to my fading thought,
To thee—to thee—e’en in the gasp of death
My spirit turned, oh! oftener than it ought.
Thus much and more; and yet thou lov’st me not,
And never wilt! Love dwells not in our will.
Nor can I blame thee, though it be my lot
To strongly, wrongly, vainly love thee still.”

© Kieron Devlin, Proteus Astrology, January 22nd,  2022, All rights reserved.   

 

Unless otherwise stated, image credits are in the Public Domain via WC 

 

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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

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