Charles Baudelaire: Asc/MC Midpoint Study

Baudelaire was a Virgo rising, signifying his approach to life would be expected to be one of service, discrimination and critical examination.  From the case notes provided, it is clear Baudelaire used the energy of his ascendant to impose a strict regime of discipline upon himself because he believed creation was not possible without it.  However, the facets of his outlook on life can be better explored through examining his ruling planet, Mercury.

In many ways this philosophy counterbalances the effects of what astrologers interpret as the rather sloppy effects of the ruling planet Mercury in Pisces.  The ascendant may present or seek perfection but Mercury communicates a deep spiritualism and highly artistic message. Baudelaire’s love of meditation and use of alcohol and other drugs (lost notable laudanum and opium) can be better understood with Mercury in Pisces, a tendency enhanced by a square to Neptune (fantasy world) and Uranus (a lack of control). He was also noted as “symbolist” as opposed to a concrete realist. This is a feeling Mercury as opposed to a thinking one (Mercury is seriously debilitated in Pisces).  Baudelaire was influenced by what he experienced at sea during what would become an aborted trip toIndiawhen he was twenty-one.  Again, we can see the effects this experience had through his poetry.

We can also see that Baudelaire had a strong desire to express his true self and his emotions in his ascendant’s trine to Uranus in the 4th.  As soon as he inherited money, he was spending it on clothes so he could fit into his idea of himself as a “dandy”.  By the age of eighteen, he was known to be an “exalted character” a description bolstered astrologically by Uranus trine the ascendant. Uranus’ rulership of the 6th house can help explain the astrological reasons for his sporadic work output

Baudelaire needed to express his imagination and emotions in his work, as seen by his Neptunein the 4th in Capricorn trine the ascendant.  As Neptune rules his 7th house (by modern significations), it helps to explain his need to see his lovers a “muse” or inspiration to his work.

Though Baudelaire would eventually become adept enough to use the energies available to him through his ascendant in Virgo aided by a trine to Uranus/Neptune, it cannot be overlooked that his thinking processes were challenged by fantasies and lack of control, astrologically explained by Mercury’s square to his Neptune/Uranus conjunction in the fourth house, the house of emotions and home.  Baudelaire troubled his family through his debauchery and the squandering of an inheritance

Baudelaire’s Mercury is conjunct Pluto so it would seem to be an injustice to merely consider Mercury by the sign it inhabits. Pluto’s conjunction to his ruling planet brought an intensity to Baudelaire’s work:  he was preoccupied with the nature of evil, the sexual act and death itself, all themes that may be associated with the god of the Underworld.  In fact, the titles of some of Baudelaire’s poems reflect this preoccupation:  The Dance of Death and The Remorse of Death, to name but two.  Baudelaire also described music as “possessing me like the sea.”[1]  He also favored the “gesamtkunstwerk” (“total artwork” meaning not just the music but the poetry, drama and visual-ness that would seem to encompass the all or nothing of Plutonic obsession) music of Richard Wagner and his reviews of the composer’s work helped to elevate his music to fame.

Mercury is also sharpened by a disassociate conjunction to Mars in Aries.  Though Mars and Pluto may share the common theme of sexuality, the Mercury/Mars conjunction is less about power and obsession and more about a quickness in thinking and the compulsion to act upon impulses.  The heady mixture of the fire of Mars in Aries and the water of Mercury in Pisces tempered the bold rashness of his actions into a more reflective impression that Baudelaire was supremely able to communicate to the world through his poetry.

Mercury inhabits the 7th house, the house of partnership.  Again, considering the influence of Mercury‘s conjunction to Pluto and Mars, Baudelaire‘s fascination with vice becomes easier to understand.  Baudelaire didn’t fall in love with a respectable woman or with a woman who may be considered “ordinary”.  To the alarm of his mother, he frequented brothels and fell in love with a prostitute who became his most significant woman.  Both Baudelaire and his love Jeanne Duval (whom he aptly named “Black Venus“) suffered from complications due to syphilis.  It also seems entirely apt that Baudelaire would entitle one of his poems “Don Juan in Hades”.  In fiction, Don Juan is a libertine who takes great delight in bedding women.  In one of his most famous ruses, Don Juan is portrayed as a trickster (in de Molina‘s The Trickster of the Seville and the Stone Guest) who is dragged to hell by a statue. In this case it seems a suitable metaphor for Mercury conjunct Mars and Pluto in the 7th as the ruling planet for Baudelaire.

Mercury also rules the MC of Baudelaire’s chart.  It has already been established how this planet colored his outlook on life so its rulership of the MC will show how it’s presence influenced his reputation.

Firstly, it is important to distinguish how the ascendant and MC are different.  Both angles can be viewed as one’s face but the MC is more to do with the social standing face, the career and achievements and the ascendant is more to do with face one puts on when meeting others.  The ascendant is more obvious, the MC is more the result or achievement of one’s ascendant:  the ascendant is how we want the world to see us through the effort we put into it; the MC is how the world judges us.  If we apply this to Baudelaire’s chart, it can be surmised that he wanted to meet the world with discernment (Virgo rising) but was viewed by the world as someone who may have lived a dual life (Gemini MC).  Indeed, Baudelaire is remembered for his imaginings of heaven and hell/good and evil perhaps one of the most polarized dualities of our imaginations.  He may have been body conscious or exceptionally fussy about his food as astrologers may expect from someone with Virgo rising but this would seem to be a more personal viewpoint and would appear to be lesser known personality attribute.  His work output was sporadic and (wrongly) attributed to indolence (I think he was just being cautious!). It is his MC that he is remembered.

It is equally important to distinguish between how Mercury functions in both Virgo and Gemini because this planet rules both.  The most obvious difference is that Gemini is an air sign and Virgo is an earth sign.  Gemini is characterized by mental agility whereas Virgo is characterized by practical service.  The Mercury of Gemini is more about spreading information whereas the Mercury of Virgo is about choosing which information is useful. 

However, both signs share the mutable quality and were regarded by Paulus Alexandrinus as being bi-corporal or double bodied because their time was between seasons and thus they carried the qualities of the season both before and after.[1]  Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces are also represented by double animals.  For example, the sign of Virgo (mother and virgin) is between Leo (summer) and Libra (autumn).  Later astrologers such as Bonatti and Lilly made the connections between seasons and qualities more tenuous.  This again reflects Baudelaire’s duel nature astrologically although Baudelaire blamed it on his step-father!

Baudelaire’s ruler of the MC, Mercury is caught up in a triple conjunction in the 7th along with Pluto and Mars.  As the 7th house is about partnerships, open enemies and the people we attract into our lives, we can take it that Baudelaire didn’t have a quiet life–regardless that Mercury and Pluto are in Pisces (which only makes their qualities more subtle and perhaps harder to get to grips with).  He liked to exchange his powerful and independent ideas with others, making it unlikely that they would remain hidden.  His MC in Gemini is was one that has to write and talk.

Baudelaire’s sun in Aries was in semi square to his Gemini MC, meaning there was some friction between his creative sense and his reputation.  In his case, the sun in the 8th would represent his interest in death and sex and this would create a need for him to take some action to reduce this discomfort or–perhaps create a need for him to make things more difficult for himself.  Working as individual (Aries), he created duality (Gemini), a theme prominent throughout his work. The 8th house also represents other people’s money and it has been demonstrated already the difficulties he had in this area. He

An easier aspect is his Venus sextile his MC.  Venus in Aries is direct and independent but for Baudelaire, it was in the 7th house meaning this was the type of people (more specifically women) he attracted to himself.  The women in his life had a direct influence on his life and he referred to Jeanne Duval as his literary “muse,” a title which seems apt for this particular aspect.

Baudelaire’s Neptune/Uranus inconjunct to the MC is a good example of a generational effect affecting a personal point.  The Uranus/Neptune conjunction of the 1820s signaled an era of a changing work ethic (the conjunction was in the sign of Capricorn). Photography and theories about electrical current were just beginning to emerge–both of these themes of discovery would radically alter our world, and still do continue to bring change with the more recent Uranus/Neptune conjunction of the early 1990s. Baudelaire was known for his decadence rather than any hard grafting–he seemed to put more work into avoiding work.  Baudelaire was not a man of his time and as most of his works were published posthumously (what he did publish in his life time got him into trouble), the world did not seem ready for him. He had to adjust to the world as an astrologer might expect with an inconjunction to the MC.

Having said this, Baudelaire also had the North Node conjunct the ascendant so it may be taken that he was able to adjust his Virgo characteristics to prevailing social trends.  Baudelaire described his being “dandy” as “as one who elevates æsthetics to a living religion.”[2]  Having the South Node conjunct the descendant may have meant that other people found it difficult to see his as sincere or genuine because he was reflecting what society wanted (South Node in Pisces).  The nodes are square to the MC so he may not have felt that he fitted in with society or may have had excessive problems with authority figures which ultimately would damage his reputation.

The ascendant/descendant midpoint shows where the personal identity and public image meet.  Or as Ebertine prefers, it is the relationship between the ego (the higher self) and personality (the lower self).

Baudelaire had his asc/desc at 22 degrees Cancer and the other cardinal signs are connected by the 4th harmonic to this degree as well as the mutable signs at 7 degrees.  The only planet to be affected by this midpoint is Baudelaire’s Moon in Cancer.  With this connection, there can be no denial of the Moon’s importance in his chart.

Before attempting to delineate the midpoint and planet together, it would be important to determine the blend of ascendant and descendant in Baudelaire’s case.  If it is taken that the Virgo rising represents Baudelaire’s personality and his Gemini MC represents his public image, then the blend together is a strongly Mercurial one.  Baudelaire is both a collector and a refiner of information.  His personality would carefully sift information to determine importance (this would be both incoming and outgoing information).  His public image was one that distributed information. Blended together, the earthy practicality of Virgo fuses with the airy intellect of Gemini to create powerful emotions and a deep connection to the past and to his family (asc/desc in Cancer).  It has already been noted how much his mother meant to him and that he would die in her arms (the sun would have been at 7 degrees Virgo on that day).

To add the influence of the moon on this midpoint, Baudelaire used his carefully refined personality and intellectual reputation to develop an abundance of ideas (the midpoint falls in the 11th house).   Ebertin indicates such a person would be guided by instinct and would have a strong association with the female sex.  It has been explored how this point would have been troubled by 8th house associations of death and debt.   Although considered a challenging aspect, the square is a productive one.  Again, we see this reflected in his chart and in his work.

Without knowing it, Baudelaire left the legacy of his Moon square Sun and the Moon conjunct the asc/desc midpoint in his poem, The Sadness of the Moon.  In this work, the themes of the astrological sun and moon are neatly reflected: womanhood, the “contour of the breast”, the tear drops of emotion, and the challenge of the square aspect as being hidden from Sun but kept hidden in the poet’s heart.

THE SADNESS OF THE MOON

            by: Charles Baudelaire

      THE Moon more indolently dreams to-night

      Than a fair woman on her couch at rest,

      Caressing, with a hand distraught and light,

      Before she sleeps, the contour of her breast.

      Upon her silken avalanche of down,

      Dying she breathes a long and swooning sigh;

      And watches the white visions past her flown,

      Which rise like blossoms to the azure sky.

      And when, at times, wrapped in her languor deep,

      Earthward she lets a furtive tear-drop flow,

      Some pious poet, enemy of sleep,

      Takes in his hollow hand the tear of snow

      Whence gleams of iris and of opal start,

                        And hides it from the Sun, deep in his heart.

 


[1] Alexandrinus, Paulus. Introductory Matters. Text translated by Dorian Gieseler-Greenbaum in Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus. ARHAT Publications (Archive for Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts) (Reston,VA; 2001.) P. 5

[2] Baudelaire, in his essay about painter Constantin Guys, The Painter of Modern Life

[3] Hyslop, Lois Boe Baudelaire, Man Of His Time,YaleUniversity Press, 1980, p 84

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