Michael Giffin, author of Jane Austen and Religion: Salvation and Society in Georgian England, stated that “…Austen’s vision is extremely radical and prophetic, not unlike the vision of those women who dominate the old and new testaments, and not unlike the vision of those women who dominate four thousand years of Jewish and Christian history.” In a previous work of mine entitled, Becoming Malka, I broach a controversial subject or two that could well be described as “extremely radical and prophetic.” The protagonist of that novel accidently propels herself back in time through the use of a mythical tarot card and Kabbalistic innuendo. I am not—by any means—a proponent of these concepts, nor am I trained in these fields. I will admit that I am curious and open to believe that there is some truth in these ancient beliefs. On the whole, I mostly found them to be a creative vehicle for my story.
I again found myself going back to early cultures and ideologies when I began crafting my novel, Celestial Persuasion. Without wishing to cause offense or questioning Miss Austen’s theology, I couldn’t help but wonder how she might have felt about the subject of Astrology. Mind you, I’m not referring to what is readily available on a quick Internet search or on the back pages of the T.V. guide. I’m talking about an ancient science that dates back some 25,000 years. Numerous cultures delved into the study of the stars, long before the accepted science of Astronomy came into play. Shakespeare made use of his astral knowledge in almost everything he wrote, including, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, and Richard II. Similarly, Jane Austen illustrated some interest with the subject in her novel Mansfield Park. Read this excerpt from Chapter Eleven:
Fanny spoke her feelings. “Here’s harmony!” said she; “here’s repose! Here’s what may leave all painting and all music behind, and what poetry only can attempt to describe! Here’s what may tranquillize every care, and lift the heart to rapture! When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world; and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried more out of themselves by contemplating such a scene.”
“I like to hear your enthusiasm, Fanny. It is a lovely night, and they are much to be pitied who have not been taught to feel, in some degree, as you do; who have not, at least, been given a taste for Nature in early life. They lose a great deal.”
“You taught me to think and feel on the subject, cousin.”
“I had a very apt scholar. There’s Arcturus looking very bright.”
“Yes, and the Bear. I wish I could see Cassiopeia.”
“We must go out on the lawn for that. Should you be afraid?”
“Not in the least. It is a great while since we have had any star-gazing.”
In this scene, readers understand that the practice of studying the night’s sky is a familiar and time-honored tradition for Fanny Price and the soon-to-be ordained, Edmund Bertram. And though I acknowledge that this may be considered cherry-picking, here is another note of interest. In a letter dated January 8, 1799, Jane Austen wrote to her sister, Cassandra, and briefly alluded to some celestial knowledge.
Of my talent in drawing I have given specimens in my letters to you, and I have nothing to do but to invent a few hard names for the stars.
Just for fun, I researched Jane Austen’s astrological chart. The website is clear that the reading provided is generic for those born on December 16th and even provides other celebrities who share the same birth date (Catherine of Aragon, Ludwig von Beethoven, and Margaret Mead); horoscopes having the same aspect Sun square Neptune (Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Caroline, Princess of Hanover, and Marie Antoinette); and horoscopes having the Moon in 14° Libra (Nikola Tesla, Rudolph Valentino, and Maureen O’Hara). You can find the entire chart here, but I’ll just share some interesting points.
- The “nocturnal North-eastern quadrant” prevails in Austen’s chart. This speaks to her need for self-assertion, stability, and material security. The reading indicated that a person born on this particular date would crave communication and would pay close attention to others in order to grow and improve.
- A person born on this date shows a natal chart that lacks the Water element. According to this website, the average Water element would be 25%. Jane’s only shows 4.33%. “In general, a lack of Water does not necessarily mean that you are unable to love as much as others do. However, you may find it difficult to express the deepness of your heart and of your feelings.”
- With Neptune as one of Austen’s three dominant planets, it would be expected for her to be endowed with “unlimited imagination and inspiration, as well as with an extreme sensibility.” A person born on this day would be a daydreamer; and like any Neptunian, would be able to notice things that others would ignore. Observation matters deeply to those under Neptune’s power. “You judge the tree by its fruits.”
- A “Solarian weakness” means that this person has the propensity of being prideful or for showcasing a sharp tongue. These attributes can lead people to believe that the Sagittarius is a “witty but heartless person, intellectualizing situations and juggling with words…some may criticize your brutality or your tendency to lose your temper, but you are so warm and genuine…your sense of humor is overwhelming.”
- According to this astrological portrait, there is an “important 4th house” in Jane’s chart. This speaks to how her home and family played a fundamental role in her life. Her security and family’s well-being was necessary for her “to blossom.” Interestingly enough, this chart shows that her father would have played an important role in her journey.
I find it difficult to read these abbreviated passages—compiled from “pseudoscientific” data—and not visualize Jane Austen. What do you think? While you’re pondering, I’ll leave you with a excerpt from my book:
Mrs. Frankel glanced at her dinner companion, whose eyes now were lifted to the stars above. “It is a happy coincidence that we were seated by a window, my dear. Dare I ask? Where have your thoughts taken you?”
Abigail smiled and knew she had been forgiven. “This talk of Papa and his philosophies brought to mind something we read together in the Talmud.”
“And what was that, pray?”
“According to Mama, being born under a specific constellation, predisposed a person to certain personality traits and to a particular destiny. I sought to find an answer to my questions in the Talmud, though Papa could not agree.”
“Your mother’s beliefs in astrology vastly differed from the science on which your Papa relied,” Mrs. Frankel allowed. “What did the midrash have to say?”
“The message is quite clear, as I am sure you must know. We are forbidden to use the constellations to foretell our future, however much influence the celestial formations may have upon our lives. But it is in our power to channel these partialities. We are at liberty to choose how we apply any talent, be it for the highest good or the basest evil.”
“You were born in January. That corresponds to—?”
“This is where it all becomes a bit complicated,” replied Abigail, happily settling into intellectual discussion. “If we use the Gregorian calendar, January corresponds to the sign of Capricorn.”
“Very well. You are a Capricorn, then.”
“Not exactly. When calculating the astral charts utilizing our own moon-based calendar, my birth month becomes Kislev; and therefore, I am a Sagittarius.”
“And what does this all mean? Really, my dear, I am at a loss.”
“I shall tell you, Frankie, but I forbid you to laugh!” Abigail replied. “According to my research, my ruling planet compels me—and I quote—to ponder, philosophize, and to expose myself to new concepts by traveling to parts unknown.”
“I would not dream of laughing at your research. I am much accustomed to your hubris, my dear, even if you do not care to own it,” Mrs. Frankel chided. “That said, Mr. Isaacs instructed me on the subject, when I first questioned him regarding the propriety of allowing such teachings in your home. He acknowledged that his great love for Mrs. Isaacs, and respect for her intellect, inspired him to look closely into the matter. He encouraged me to read the Sefer Ha Olam. The great scholar, Avraham Ibn Ezra was an ardent believer in astrology; but, much like your Mama, only when it was practiced and applied correctly.”
“Jonathan was born in the month of Nisan—an Aries,” Abigail murmured.
“Ah yes—the month we celebrate our liberation from Egyptian bondage. Pray, which of the constellations ruled over the young master?”
“Jonathan was ruled by the planet Mars. It is of little wonder that he was always compelled to be a catalyst for change, for this is a period that emphasizes leadership and redemption,” she said, gripping the table linen with growing fretfulness. “He often spoke of tearing down the boundaries that restricted our people’s participation in the modern world. And yet I question whether the more unfavorable influences attributed to Mars might have caused Jonathan to misjudge his circumstances—and led him to his demise.”
“We may never know, Avileh,” Mrs. Frankel murmured, softening her reply with the Yiddish diminutive of her charge’s name. “I sometimes fear this unrelenting thirst for scholarship. You must own, for all that you question and postulate, you have had little society. It simply does not suit. I know your own dear mama would not have approved.”
“We are speaking of an entirely different matter, Frankie dear.”
“Indeed? Perhaps I should have a word with your ruling planet, for I would add to the list of your allotted attributes. You ought to avail yourself to new and interesting young people. It is plain to see—you have had too much time alone with your books.”
“You would have me speak of inconsequential matters and waste my time with polite conversation?” Abigail set aside the now-wrinkled and much abused serviette with a decided thump. “More than anyone, you must know how I abhor small talk.”
“Anyone hearing you speak thus would consider you arrogant and a braggart. I know better, of course. When your mother was alive, there was a certain symmetry, a balance in all things. She knew how to speak intelligently and kindly to one and all. Only think of how she took me in when I found myself widowed and alone in this world, never having been in service, yet unable to survive alone among genteel society. Your mama’s generous spirit was my saving grace.”
Abigail sighed and conceded to the turn of their discourse. “I must admit I easily become discomfited when I find myself in new company. This, I fear, is a direct result of Papa sending me to that dreadful school for girls. After one term I was made to believe that I would forever be a bluestocking and quite ill prepared for polite society.”
“Nonsense, my dear. You simply need more practice.”
Like my protagonist, I am a Capricorn by the Gregorian calendar. Some of the more positive traits attributed to my sign are: appreciation for family, tradition, music and craftsmanship. Capricorns are determined, resourceful, and disciplined. We can also be stubborn, too sensitive, and unforgiving. I must admit, this rings true! What about you? Do you find that your sign’s attributes fit your personality?