Entries in aries (33)
James Franco, 19 April 1978
Tim Curry, 19 April 1946
Heath Ledger, 4 April 1979
Marcel Marceau, 22 March 1923
Another great court portraitist, (like Anthony VanDyck, Red Aries #18), Francisco Goya, born on March 30, 1746, had a penchant for bright red, especially as an accent: red cape, red ribbon, red collar, red corsage, red boutonniere, red cuff, feather, box, flag, flame, hat, pants, ember, blood. He painted the Duchess of Alba twice, once in a white dress and once in a black one, each with a red sash. The painting above, Goya's most beloved, unites the color with his favorite theme, childhood. At the lower left, his frequent touch of the macabre, the three cats ready to pounce on the bird.
Here he equates the Aries bodypart, the head, and the Aries color.
The haunting portrait of Count Floridablanca is profound meditation on identity. The ostensible Subject is the central figure in bold red, but his existence is diffused, appearing also in his oval portrait dimly looming above him. There is also a self-portrait of the artist, humbly dressed on the left, whose profile is 'fortuitously' highlighted, while the individuality of an insignificant secretary seems to have struck the artist as more interesting than the Count, who is comparing his painted image with his image in a mirror. So there are at least six self-images present or implicit. Other important Aries images in Goya's work: Boy on a Ram, The Disasters of War series, The Massacre, and the hacked and bloody butcher's still life, "Head and Quarters":
1. Aries, the first sign, the pioneer, the warrior, the bully, Miles Gloriosus, the planet Mars, the color red.
The first thing I bring forth about Descartes is his Mars quality. He carries a silver sword, unenlisted he attends battlefields, he philosophizes in the barracks, he contributes to the science of ballistics, the technology of munitions. On the Orleans road he disarms a rival lover. Famously, on a ferry in the Lowlands he disarmed brigands who were plotting his murder. As De Quincey put it in his immortal essay On Murder, Considered as One of the Fine Arts: ". . . if ever one could say of a man that he was all but murdered—murdered within an inch—one must say it of [Descartes]. . . "
Frans Hals paints him as a dashing swashbuckler, his simian brow concealed in bangs, a veritable D'Artagnan with blazing eyes, a confident sneering smile and intimidating eyebrows. He has contempt for the past, the intellectual authority of the scolia, Aristotle, dead languages, books in general.
[....Not that I really give a shit about the horoscope crap but I did notice that all of the coolest MFers on this site are Aries. All of you Aries people come in here and show yourselves and the board will see what I mean. http://www.boxingscene.com ]
In the Discourse, Descartes uses the metaphor of battle: "Or perhaps we should make the comparison with army chieftains.... for to try to conquer all the difficulties and errors which stand in our way when we try to reach the truth is really to engage in battle; and to reach a false conclusion on an important issue is to lose the battle."
To facilitate the goal "to make ourselves masters and possessors of nature" he calls for this, perhaps his most tangible forecast of modernity, the organized campaign of science:
"Truth can be discovered only little by little . . . . It is true that as far as the related experiments are concerned, one man is not enough to do them all; but he could not usefully employ other hands than his own, unless those of workers or other persons whom he could pay. Such people would do, in the hope of gain, which is a very effective motive, precisely what they were told."
In other words, he calls for a mercenary army of researchers. He rejects volunteers, whose assistance would be "at a net loss" for among other reasons "they would infallibly expect to be paid . . in compliments and useless conversation which would necessarily consume much of the time needed for investigation."
There is a touch of testy impatience; it's also the Generalissimo barking Do it now! He feels pressure to see the practical results that will alleviate and transform Humanity. He's particularly concerned to expand human lifespan "as much as a thousand years," if not "prevented by the brevity of life." Descartes's contemporary, Aries Andrew Marvell gives a vivid glimpse of this side of the Aries temperament: "But at my back I always hear/Time's winged chariot hurrying near."
Blood flows around him. For a time, he purposely lives near a slaughterhouse. "I have spent much time on dissection during the last eleven years, and I doubt whether there is a doctor who has made more detailed observations than I." He is joined in this pursuit by several other Aries natives of genius and energy excited to pioneer in studying the mechanism and vitality of the physical body. Sanctorius, the widely published physician born 35 years before Descartes, proposed that the body is a machine, and measures its temperature, rejects scholasticism. William Harvey, 18 years Descartes's senior establishes the circulation of the blood. Descartes, disagreeing with Harvey about the heart's activity, cuts out part of the heart of a live dog and measures the pulsations along the aorta with this bare hand. He vigorously defends vivisection. He is credited with writing the first textbook of physiology but it follows on Sanctorius and Harvey; a team of Aries invade the body.
He frightens his neighbors and is thought to be an atheist. Pascal seems to takes him for such (for practical purposes) in his well-known remark:
"I cannot forgive Descartes; in all his philosophy, Descartes did his best to dispense with God. But Descartes could not avoid prodding God to set the world in motion with a snap of his lordly fingers; after that, he had no more use for God."
2. Cogito ergo SUM
Descartes himself admits that the Cogito is not a piece of reasoning. Paul Valery calls it "a fist coming down on a table . . . . the explosion of an act, a shattering blow . . . If the cogito turns up so often in Descartes work, if it is found again and again in the Discourse, the Meditations, the Principles, it is because it is an appeal to his essential egotism. He takes it up as the theme of the lucid Self; it is the clarion call to his pride and the resources of his being. . . . . I say that the real method of Descartes ought to be called egotism: the expansion of consciousness for the purposes of knowledge."
Aries comes infant naked and with the passionate energy of newly discovered self-hood it must clothe itself in individuality, and defend its unique, unshareable position in space-time, and its creativity is born of that need. Aries is urgent and distinct, never bland, often noisy.
I shall never be silent. Never. Samuel Beckett
I am here to live aloud. Emile Zola
It is a truism that Descartes introduces the Subject to philosophy. Aries invokes the immediacy of the nascent I, the human being-as-subject, im-mediately in agonic relations with both the source-of-being, Nothing, and the context-of-being, the World, striding frantically forth with a cry in a state of emergency (and usually picking up the nearest weapon).
Astrology does not presuppose a simplicity of origin, but recognizes in birth the agony and terror, as well as the miracle. In choosing a point representing the start on a circle or cycle, the necessary arbitrariness is a violence which provokes or uncovers a crisis-state. Descartes's I AM immediately confronts the Other, (or does he defer the encounter by creating this) Doubt, the all-powerful Demon, and then opens a Pandora's box of dualisms, which are dealt with for centuries: mind/body, subject/object, self/other, conscious/unconscious, certainty/doubt. Not the least of them is progress/regress. The terror of regression, back into an imprisoning non-being, fuels Aries pre-emptive aggression with pre-rational force.
This first-person singular Descartes, this "I" that was born and thinks, that dissects eyeballs and fetuses (competing, again with Harvey, for a "father of embryology" award), who dreamed of living a thousand years and determining the "cause of the position of every fixed star" is the hero figure of intellectual modernity. Or the villain: overreaching, insecure, power-mad fantast, imperialist colonizer of infinity, self-declared origin. At any rate, for the next 250 years after Descartes's birth, there was no need for another Aries in the philosophical sphere.
Not until Edmund Husserl, who explicitly embarks on a new Cartesian-style beginning (and is similarly forced to deal with solipsism). That Husserl’s philosophy goes straight back to Descartes is widely accepted. Descartes is "the original founding genius of all modern philosophy," he wrote. (See The Cogito in Husserl’s Philosophy, Gaston Berger, 1972. And Paul MacDonald, in Descartes and Husserl: The Philosophical Project of Radical Beginnings, refers to “Husserl’s repeated insistence on the importance of the Cartesian point of departure” and “the abundance, even superfluity, of commentaries on this avowed influence."
The next Aries of highest regard is J. L. Austin: Is the Cogito not par excellence the speech-act, or performative utterance, inaugural of European thought for 300 years . . . sort of? (A cadre of language philosophers and logical positivists exist in the Taurus/Scorpio polarity. Austin is the only one who wanders into neighboring Aries territory. In a list of the 40 most important philosophers of the last 200 years, compiled from 600 contributors Husserl and Austin are the only Aries.)
On the other hand, outside philosophy, Descartes's researches into the mathematical physics of motion, force, energy, heat, light were extended rapidly by crucial figures born under Aries: Huygens, Euler, Laplace, and Fourier. I doubt that four names of equal importance to the development of theories of physical energy can be found together under any other zodiacal sign, certainly not within 200 years of Descartes's birth.
There is, however, one other canonical philosopher born under Aries, and contemporary with Descartes, namely the "menacingly terse" Thomas Hobbes, whose long life encompassed Descartes birth and death. If Descartes originates the philosophical Subject, Hobbes does so for the political Subject. Hobbes is the man of two clear and distinct . . . not even sentences, clauses only: "And the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" and "the warre of each against all". At the same time that Descartes is devising methodical doubt in the Meditations, Hobbes assumes the same strategy in his Human Nature: "intending not to take any principle upon trust, but only to put men in mind what they know already, or may know by their own experience." They each dissect primitive concepts of physical extension, motion and force. Hobbes regrets coming too late to a familiarity with geometry. Extended discussions of similarities between these two figures that reinforce the Aries theme occur in Hoffman, Piotr, The Quest for Power: Hobbes, Descartes, and the Emergence of Modernity and Farrell, John, Paranoia and Modernity, Chapter 7: "The Demons of Descartes and Hobbes". From Farrell I would quote this about Hobbes: "Hobbes is one of the style-setters of paranoid modernity . . . His ironic empiricism and satirically reductive materialism were to become central instruments in the arsenal of the modern, perennially available for deployment against idealistic opponents whenever they might emerge."
I think of Hobbes as Descartes's henchman. De Quincey's quintessential essay examines a list of major philosophers on the point of their 'murderability'; Hobbes he calls "a man who was always dreaming of murder."
"Hobbes, but why, or on what principle, I never could understand, was not murdered. This was a capital oversight of the professional men in the seventeenth century; because in every light he was a fine subject for murder, except, indeed, that he was lean and skinny; for I can prove that he had money, and (what is very funny,) he had no right to make the least resistance; for, according to himself, irresistible power creates the very highest species of right, so that it is rebellion of the blackest die to refuse to be murdered, when a competent force appears to murder you. However, gentlemen, though he was not murdered, I am happy to assure you that (by his own account) he was three times very near being murdered. . . . . "
3. Aries and atheism
It can hardly be denied that Cartesian, mathematical, scientific materialism is atheistic, if not necessarily insistently so. Aries Laplace famously remarked to Napoleon of God, "I have no need of that hypothesis." Laplace, like Descartes, is accompanied by his Demon, and the demonic is one version of atheism, in its most simplistic form. The Demon is lively; Aries atheism is not so much a logical position as an expression of rebellion, contrariety, anti-authoritarianism, pugnacity, and can have an underlying streak of vitalism or animism.
Like Descartes, and with even more justification is Hobbes pursued for atheism, called "the monster of Malmsbury". (". . . the K. hath at length banisht from his court that father of Atheists, Mr Hobbes".)
Aries pugnacity produces a unique style of hard-line atheism. Three of the four so-called Horsemen of the New Atheism, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett are Aries and notably belligerent. Dawkins with his selfish gene theory promotes a Hobbesian position, and as Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science, he carries the sword of Descartes and the cudgel of Hobbes into the battle for the hegemony of science. At the same time his attitude towards DNA is distinctly animistic and even mystical.
Aries atheists seem to clump together like clotting red-blood cells. Hitchens biographizes Thomas Jefferson, atheist author of a secular Bible (supernaturalism removed). Another Aries, British philosopher John Grayling recently gave us his own secular Bible, and is himself biographer of the pugnacious Aries atheist William Hazlitt (best known for his classic essay "On Boxing"), as well of Rene Descartes himself. Another Aries philosopher I've noticed is John N. Gray, with much in common with Hobbes. Certainly, being of one particular sign does not force one to a particular side of any issue. That said, Gray's evisceration of Grayling was clear, distinct, nasty, and not too long.
The fourth Horseman, Sam Harris, is not an Aries; he's a Gemini and expressing his sign's inherent dualism, like Emerson and Whitman he triumphs over inconsistency, and is now a Buddhist. A series of videos on Youtube brings the four of them together, where you can see the qualitative Zodiacal difference. Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett assert, preen, threaten and pontificate while Harris, the zodiacal odd man out, gradually assumes the interlocutory roles of the Twins, an interviewer and a student, relating to and eliciting the positions of each of the others with stimulating curiosity. I propose ousting Harris from the quadrivium, and, to add to the spectrality of the image, resuscitating the murdered Madalyn Murray O'Hair, a fourth Aries, disowned by her movement, redoubtable fury and victim.
4. Aries and parturition
I've noticed that Aries often has something to say or hide about the circumstances of her birth that is formative of her concept of herself. We know quite a bit about the earliest days of both Hobbes and Descartes. Hobbes told Aubrey that "His mother fell in labour with him upon the fright of the invasion of the Spaniards." He told it himself in Latin verses (here is a contemporary anonymous translation):
In Fifteen hundred eighty-eight, Old Style,
When that Armada did invade our Isle,
Call'd the Invincible; whose Freight was then,
Nothing but Murd'ring Steel, and Murd'ring Men;
Most of which Navy was disperst, or lost,
And had the Fate to Perish on our Coast,
April the Fifth (though now with Age outworn)
I'th' early Spring, I, a poor worm, was born. (l. 1-8)
. . . . For Fame had rumour'd, that a Fleet at Sea,
Wou'd cause our Nations Catastrophe;
And hereupon it was my Mother Dear
Did bring forth Twins at once, both Me, and Fear. (l. 25-8)
( . . . geminos, metque metumque simul.)
Hobbes clearly situates his emergent self with the scene of murder, drowning, catastrophe, and the great early modern spiritual rift of Catholic vs. Protestant forces. Early maternal symbolizations arise in any psychological parsing of Aries. The neofreudian discourse of the role of the pre-Oedipal mother (the good-enough mother, the good breast/bad breast mother, the dismembering, cannibalistic mother), in the formation of the Self, derives from two Aries head-shrinkers, Melanie Klein, and D. S. Winnicott.
Descartes's birth circumstances present parallels: his father, a Protestant of Poitou, his mother a Catholic of neighboring Touraine, the two families separated by the often crossed river Creuse. Descartes reported that his mother died at his birth. He seemed to have forgotten that she died when he was fourteen months old, after giving birth to a short-lived brother. A forgetting as good as a remembering, poignantly evoking a distressing infancy of unutterable loss and fratricidal fantasy. At any rate, there is a suggestion of some emotional wreckage around the Cartesian womb. Attention is drawn to the re-enacted birth experience, the enigmatic episode of the visionary dreams in the "stove". Even his life-long idiosyncrasy, the inability to get out of bed in the morning, has been traced by psychoanalytic students of Descartes to a mother-fixation.
The greatness then of both Descartes and Hobbes derives in part from their opportunity and ability to be shaped by the alignment of the purely personal agony of birth (from which Aries never entirely dissociates), with the geo-political agon of his time: Protestant vs. Catholic
Of course, the philosophy of mind is rooted in Descartes's Aries self-discovery or assertion. Consciousness, self, mind-body dualism, etc. I'll try not to get in over my head, but observe that, to a layman, the top-seeded players on this court are Daniel Dennett and David Chalmers. Stepping back a bit, the first scientist to programmatically measure subjective processes? Aries Gustav Fechner. (cf. the first to measure processes inside the human body, Aries Sanctorius). Fechner was a vitalist, and so in a way are Chalmers and Dennett with their various approaches to "emergence" and the Will, some sort of unceasing birthing or creation "to emerge" etym: to come out of mother or ocean). I would sidestep neurophilosophical tangles here and give some Aries illustrative of emergence:
Vincent Van Gogh, an inexhaustible self-portraitist, writes: "There is only a constantly being born again . . a constant going from darkness into light."
Harry Houdini with his compulsion to repeat the act of escape, especially from water (along with an abnormal attachment to his aged mother).
Lady Gaga, flamboyantly re-enacting her birth from a gigantic egg.
Touching on the present, we must now call a spade a spade, a sword a phallus, thanks in part to the most prominent neo-neo Cartesian, Jacques Lacan, solipsistically absorbed in the subject of the Subject that is always already split, defective, in conflict, dismembered, yet-to-have-been mirrored, and so forth. He and his Aries acolyte Slavoj Zizek interrogate the Subject with maddening techniques, Zizek bringing the violence of Hobbes back into the picture. It will be easy to cull their texts for references to the cogito, and redefinitions of the Subject. Casting a backward glance on the portrait of Descartes as a swashbucking swordsman, from the viewpoint of Lacan's panphallicism, I am reminded of a string of record-breaking Aries rakes: Aretino, Casanova, John Wilmot Earl of Rochester, Lacan himself Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, Hugh Hefner
5. Aries the macabre.
If Descartes set walking the powerful illusion of the unified ego, Lacan sets out to ambush it in any way possible, for instance with the shadow concept of the fragmented body. "The infant perceives its own body, which lacks motor coordination, as divided and fragmented. His anticipation of a synthetic ego is constantly threatened by the memory of this sense of fragmentation which manifests itself in images of castration, emasculation, mutilation, dismemberment, dislocation, evisceration, devouring, bursting open of the body which haunt the human imagination.” (An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, Dylan Evans, pg. 67)
Among David Chalmers many colorful maneuvers is his philosophizing about zombies, repeating the idea of the mechanical body of Descartes and Sanctorius, not to mention the spooky legend of Descartes's mechanical daughter. There is a creepy, ghoulish vitality to Aries, in its affiliation with demons, zombies, automata, self-replicating DNA, selfish genes, ceaselessly activity and strife. It sometimes manifests in the separate career of severed body-parts: Van Gogh’s ear (in the mail), Gogol’s nose. Charlie Chaplin’s body (robbed from its grave), the memorial bust on Houdini’s tomb (stolen). Pieces of the body of the outspoken 17th century Aries Spanish mystic, Teresa of Avila, spread throughout the catholic world immediately after her death and now reside in reliquaries all over Europe and South America. The skulls of both Haydn and Raphael were stolen and became peripatetic momenti mori. Philoprogenitive J. S. Bach’s skeleton disappeared. Madalyn Murray O'Hair was dismembered, along with her son and granddaughter.
Christ’s traditional birthdate coincides with pre-Christian winter solstice festivals; but some evidence (a well-worked out theory about the Star of Bethlehem being a close conjunction of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn that took place in April 3 BC) points to an Aries birthdate for Jesus Christ, whose resurrection (and missing body) is the ultimate great escape. Descartes himself was virtually canonized in the 18th century, a sort of rationalist saint, and, like Teresa's, his skeleton and skull were circulated, moved several times in Sweden shortly after his death there, divvied up and carted around northern Europe and France, ideologically freighted, and finally cherished as relics of the new religion of rationalism. (See Descartes' Bones, by Russell Shorto.)
Aries Lady Gaga looks great in red. Wearing blood, for instance, is one of her fashion statements, and she has just associated herself with a headphone-accessory named (Red). The most interesting thing about her chart is the action of transformative Pluto as the cutting, or high focus, planet of her bowl configuration,conjunct the Moon in Scorpio, bolstered by a strong trine to Jupiter in Pisces (exalted). Mars is in 0 Capricorn (also exalted). She's an extreme Plutonian, obsessively personating chthonic goddess figures, flagrantly displaying the exalted menses of a hellish dominatrix, with a beat and a sense of humor -- her rapid success marks something, it's hard to tell what -- related perhaps to the Large Hadron Collider's start-up.
Fernando Botero, (b. April 19, 1932): Femme habillee par Valentino. Aries painter Botero is not afeard of red, for sure, tho I wouldn't say it plays a special role in his work. But he was attracted by fashion designer Valentino's great romance with the color. Valentino is a Taurus, but the Sun is his sole Taurus planet, while his chart's outstanding element is a powerful triple conjunction in Aries of Mars, Mercury and Uranus (all trine Jupiter), which he shares with Botero, who was born only three weeks before him.
see more Aries in Red here.
Reflect that this Aries/Taurus cusp is the site of the great crisis of modern primitivism, modern solipsism, materialist despair: births of Hitler and Lenin. The two simplest, densest signs butt heads. Where the impetuous, irresistible force of Aries, fleeing the entrapping womb of Pisces, still filled with dreams, encounters the immovable reality of Taurus -- there can be much gnashing of teeth.
The cusps are controversial. Although the word usually denotes a precise demarcation, I like to use it to describe the range of relationships, from antithesis to blending, which exist between adjacent zodiacal signs, a range that implicitly permeates even the purest expression of a sign. As the tropical and siderial zodiacs approach complete overlap, many new and penetrating truths are cuspal in nature.
The tragic sacrificial splendor of the corrida ritualizes the first zodiacal crisis of Self, where Aries encounters Taurus: freedom-craving spirit encounters material necessity, the obdurate World. The bull is color-blind, and it's the movement that he reacts to; it is the human participants in the corrida who react to the red color. More red even than the capote (which is in fact usually magenta) is the copious blood, the blood-soaked hide, that makes the point. The next, Taurus / Gemini, cusp is summond in the gesture of the stinging picadors and the banderillos, or the legend of the gadfly. The fixed earth principle provokes attack from both sides --
Marcel Marceau, carrot-topped French mime, born March 22, 1923, at the zero degree of Aries. His persona, Bip, was inseparable from his partner and alterego, the red flower.
Why is the first edition dustjacket of The Double Helix red? Because blood is the metaphor of hereditary transmission – bloodlines, blood relations, blood will tell. The Aries author told us (in his third volume of memoirs, Avoid Boring People) that he was delighted by the jacket color. The 1953 book shocked, like a bride in red, with its assertion that science is personal and cutthroat, and that scientists are primarily motivated to high achievement by the blind desire to get laid. Watson’s second memoir is called Genes, Girls and Gamow, reiterating the strain of crude sexual reductionism that infects the ‘selfish gene’ theorizing of the belligerent Aries Richard Dawkins as well. This Don Juanism, an inability to get beyond the domination of pubescent excitement, is Aries extroversion par excellence. In all three of his memoirs Watson comes off as a puerile oogler.
On the cover of Avoid Boring People Watson put a picture of himself hammering his chair in childish glee.
Watson is a good read, with a brisk Aries writing style. (“Use snappy sentences to open your chapters,” he advises.) Obviously he enjoys ruffling feathers, but it comes as a shock to read E. O. Wilson say he was “the most unpleasant human being I had ever met.”After all, Wilson, author of Consilience, is a master at smoothing out differences. Watson notes with pleasure that Linus Pauling called The Double Helix “a disgraceful example of malevolence and egocentricity’. At the beginning of his career he “deeply offended several old-timers by giving lectures in unlaced tennis shoes and wearing my floppy hat at night as well as during the day.” At the end (recently) he scandalized with reactionary remarks about race, intelligence, sexuality, ecology, obesity, and so forth, as if compelled to hit the hot button.
Watson is not so much a great scientist as the most aggressive competitor in a race to complete a difficult jigsaw puzzle. The word double (in The Double Helix) invokes the Gemini, so the astrologer is pleased to remark that Watson’s partner in the discovery of the double structure of the dna molecule, Francis Crick, was born under that collaborative sign.
Aries is the Subject, par excellence, and Watson’s three volumes of memoirs have importantly contributed to an awareness of the subjectivity of science, a field whose emphasis on objectivity could only be pierced by an exhibitionist.
"There is only a constantly being born again . . . . . a constant going from darkness into light."
Exactly a year before his birth, [Van Gogh's] mother, Cornelia, gave birth to an infant, also named Vincent, who was stillborn, or dead upon birth. His grieving parents buried the child and set up a tombstone to mark the grave. As a result, Vincent Van Gogh grew up near the haunting sight of a grave with his own name upon it.
Take a look at this Self-Portrait with Sunflower by Anthony Van Dyck, the other great redheaded Dutch painter. Any other major painter who featured sunflowers so importantly as him and Van Gogh? (Here for Van Gogh sunflowers.) Not that I know of. I guess the sunflower appealed to Aries, the first fire sign, as a down-to-earth blossoming of the solar fire, as a benign representation of the fiercely assertive individuation principle.
Van Dyck was pre-eminently a portraitist of others but found time to paint himself often, usually emphasizing his auburn hair.
RAPHAEL was born and died on Good Friday (1483-1520). Almost invariably, his Christs and Madonnas are robed in red. According to Matthew the soldiers put a scarlet robe on the bleeding Christ. He is often conjectured to have been an Aries; the December date is a late borrowing from an ancient Roman festival. He was, if not born, more importantly, reborn at the Passover time. The stark echo of womb and tomb, the perpetually tragic Mother and Son, the sacrificed lamb of God, the cult of sacred suffering and sacred Paschal blood, the barbaric cannibalism repeated in the Eucharist, are colors from the paint pot of Aries, the emblem of origins.
ARIES'S MOTHER PROBLEM
I hurry through these references in order to achieve a general impression of the harsh reality of the birth experience which Aries exposes.
Samuel Beckett’s parents made it flagrantly known that he was an unwanted pregnancy. He was obsessed with memories of suffocation in the womb, of an attempted wire hanger abortion on himself as a fetus, and with a nagging sensation of having been “incompletely born”.
Marguerite Duras was obsessed by her demented mother, who favored her horrible eldest son. She was traumatized by her only pregnancy, which ended in stillbirth. She wrote, “I believe that always, or almost always, in all childhoods and in all the lives that follow them, the mother represents madness. Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we've ever met.”
Cynthia Ozick’s tale of Puttermesser and her golem, is an amazing meditation on the mother/child dyad. So, for that matter, is her famous holocaust story, The Shawl.
Baudelaire and Mme Aupick, a paradigmatic relationship acutely analyzed by J-P Sartre in his classic Baudelaire. Baudelaire lived fatherless with his mother in a state of symbiotic, quasi-fetal bliss, until he was eight, when she abruptly married Aupick. The poet never recovered from the late loss of his paradise.
The mother of the poet Paul Verlaine “suffered three miscarriages before Paul’s birth in 1844; she preserved the fetuses in jars. When Paul came along he received the obsessive and indulgent mothering that such behavior portended. . . .In 1869 Verlaine made at least two violent attacks on his mother, threatening to kill her (how genuinely remains unclear), and on one occasion breaking the glass jars in which the three dead fetuses were kept.” (Bohemian Paris, by Jerrold E. Seigel)
Bette Davis in Now, Voyager, a self-proclaimed matricide and in My Mother’s Keeper, an abusive parent. Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, an abused mother, and in Mommy Dearest, an abusive mother. In Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, they abuse each other.
Among the psychoanalysts:
Wilhelm Reich, as a teenager, spied on his mother’s trysts, reported them to his father, precipitated her suicide, and discovered her body. Donald Winnicott and Melanie Klein, two important post-Freudian theorists specializing in the child: Each of them criticized Freud for his over-emphasis of the oedipal phase and his neglect of the crucial mother/child bond.
Billie Holiday suffered this formative meta-maternal disaster. Her favorite family member was her greatgrandmother, her grandfather's mother:
She really loved me and I was crazy about her. She had been a slave on a big plantation in Virginia and she used to tell me about it. She had her own little house in the back of the plantation. Mr. Charles Fagan, the handsome Irish plantation owner, had his white wife and children in the big house. And he had my great grandmother out in back. She had sixteen children by him, and all of them were dead except Grandpop.
We used to talk about life. And she used to tell me how it felt to be a slave, to be owned body and soul by a white man who was the father of her children. She couldn't read or write, but she knew the Bible by heart from beginning to end and she was always ready to tell me a story from the Scriptures.
She was ninety-six or ninety-seven then and had dropsy. I used to take care of her every day after school. No one else paid any attention. I'd give her a bath sometimes. And I'd always bind her legs with fresh cloths and wash the smelly old ones.
She'd been sleeping in chairs for ten yearrs. The doctor told her she'd die if she ever laid down. But I didn't know. And once after I'd changed the cloths on her legs and she had told me a story, she begged me to let her lie down. She said she was tired. I didn't want to let her. But she kept begging and begging. It was pityful.
Finally I spred a blanket on the floor and helped her stretch out. Then she asked me to lie down with her because she wanted to tell me another story. I was tired too. I'd been up early that morning to scrub steps. So I laid down with her. I don't remember the story she told me because I fell asleep right away.
I woke up four or five hours later. Grandma's arm was still tight around my neck and I couldn't move it. I tried and tried and then I got scared. She was dead, and I began to scream. The neighbors came running. They had to break Grandma's arm to get me loose. Then they took me to a hospital. I was there for a month. Suffering from what they said was shock.
When I got home Cousin Ida started right in where she had left off, beating me. This time it was for letting Grandma out of her chair. The doctor tried to stop her. He said if she kept it up I'd grow up to be nervous. But she never stopped.
What a gruesome version of the birth trauma, the terrifying struggle of nascent being against negation and regression, that continually animates Aries, the sign of beginning.
Happy Birthday to "Democracy Now!" host Amy Goodman! Yet for all their outspokenness, we find very few Aries among the major names of the classical feminist movement. Gloria Steinem is just about the only one I can think of.
The amniotic sac (gr. amnos, lamb) and the blood-laden placenta. Aries never fully recovers from the trauma of birth. They oscillate between the exhilaration of freedom and the unfairness of having no choice but to BE. They never give up their first lover/enemy, the Mother. The personal history of Aries often contains a flamboyancy in the mother-figuration, an dramatic engagement they can't pass up or let go of.
Aries tells us about beginnings: at the beginning of the modern mind Aries speaks through two philosophers, the contemporaneous Descartes (March 31, 1596 - 1650) and Hobbes ( April 5, 1588 - 1679). Philosophical argument deplores the ad hominem, but astrology adores it: both Descartes and Hobbes endured particularly vivid birth circumstances. Descartes, with cogito ergo sum, objectified the concept of the Self we continue to use and question. He experienced a complicated and politically dense infancy. Briefly, he lied about it; philosophers are not supposed to lie.
As for Hobbes, inventor of the rational materialist politics of power, his reputation rolls on the wheels of a few Arietic formulations, ("clear and distinct" as Descartes said thoughts should be) the "warre of each against all", "nasty, brutish, and short". His birth took place during the bombardment of the English coast by the Spanish Armada. "His mother fell in labor with him upon the fright of the invasion of the Spaniards," Aubrey's Brief Lives puts it. A bachelor, Hobbes had no offspring but left an autobiography. He attributed his lifelong anxiety to his delivery: "And hereupon it was my Mother Dear/Did bring forth Twins at once, both Me, and Fear."
Bordo, Susan. Ed. Feminist Interpretations of Descartes (1999)
Hoffman, Piotr. The Quest for Power: Hobbes, Descartes, and the emergence of modernity (1996)
Farrell, John. Paranoia and Modernity: Cervantes to Rousseau (2006)
Frankfurt, Harry G. Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen: The Defense of Reason in Descartes's Meditations (2008)
In Aries Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Red Shoes" the color red plays the same role it does in Bette Davis's "Jezebel". To shock propriety, the heroine insists on wearing red dancing shoes to church, with dire consequences.
The great 17th century portraitist Anthony Van Dyck, a March 22 Aries, adored the ferric oxide pigment which has come to be known as Van Dyck red and made it the principal feature of many paintings. Red swags, red drapes, red trousers, dresses, robes, ribbons, tablecloths, stockings, capes, cloaks, rags, you name it.
Strange! That thy hand should not inspire
The beauty only, but the fire:
Not the form alone, and grace,
But act and power of a face. (Waller, To Van Dyck)
Van Dyck introduced to portraiture the goal of presenting, on a red curtained theatrical stage, distinctive, individual personality, dash and flair. His years (1599-1641) correspond to those of Descartes. His subjects all say, "Therefore I AM!" Descartes (born March 31, 1596-1650), the philosopher who ushers in the modern era, is ground zero for a methodical exposition of the zodiac as an approach to the post-modern Subject. (Which is in the works, but we're doing red dresses now.) We have no portrait of Descartes in red (although he was known to dress en militaire and carry a sword). Let Van Dyck represent him visually.