How Father Sky became the Houseless Wanderer: Astromythology and Uranus (Part 1)
I’m often asked for recommendations on where to get started with astrology. What are my favourite books, authors, websites, apps? I have a go-to list that I recommend to anyone looking to really dive in–books by Isabel Hickey, Noel Tyl, a handful of podcasts and YouTube lectures. It can be a dense field at best (and complete fluff at worst), and I know it’s tricky to sift through resources. But if we’re being honest, it’s not how I got started.
Human beings learn best through narrative. We remember best through narrative as well, and creating stories around the systems in our lives helps us remember all the moving parts. Astrology is no different. It comes with a wealth of stories to help us unravel many of the complex meanings within. Those stories were a large part of my introduction to astrology, as part of my third grade literature curriculum.
I’m talking about mythology.
You’ve probably realized that most astral bodies are named after mythological figures. The traditional planets of astrology–Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn–are all named for Roman gods, giving a good indication of their roles. But the real magic comes in when you apply this narrative system to the relationships between each planet and other objects in your chart. They add personality and motivation to celestial bodies so often reduced to keywords and bullet points. I’d like to excavate some of these stories and examine them under a modern astrological lens to illuminate the narratives these bodies help us weave.
And I’d like to start with Uranus.
I always felt Uranus had a strange planetary namesake–he wasn’t a god so much as a primordial being, a proto-god if you will. Ouranos was Father Sky to Mother Earth, the husband of Gaia and father of the Titans among several other pre-Olympian races. He was the first entity to establish rulership of the universe, the progenitor of several generations of kingly gods. In many ways, Ouranus was the original patriarch of Greek mythology, the literal founding father of the mythological system we know and love. But he wasn’t exactly keen on the title: Ouranus hated his children. In fact, he couldn’t stand the sight of them. As quickly as they were born, he sealed them deep inside the earth, casting them into an underworld limbo. But the primordial entities were very literal beings, the actual Sky and Land. By casting his children into the depths, he committed an act of violence against his wife as well, tearing her open and forcing her to contain her monstrous offspring once more. As the Sky, Ouranus removed his children from his own awareness and his only contact with the earth itself was at dusk when he lowered himself onto Gaia — once an act of love now a cycle of trauma and resentment. Gaia could still hear and speak to her hidden children who heard her cries of pain and anger. Ouranus’ nightly visits continued to produce monstrous progeny, and Gaia appealed to children for help, begging them to castrate their father. Bitterness hardened her flesh into stone and she crafted a scythe to arm them for the deed–it was her youngest Titanic son Cronus who accepted the weapon, which remains his most iconic symbol. Cronus waited until Ouranus descended upon Gaia and sliced himself free from his underworld prison, maiming his father and consequently installing himself as the new ruler. But as the adage goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely and Cronus fell to a very similar fate as his father at the hands of his own children.
Discovery charts are a sort of modern astrological mythology, the second layer of narrative we can use to examine a body’s influence: appropriately, when Uranus was discovered in March of 1781, it was in tight opposition to Saturn which was at the time conjunct Mars, the God of War, drawing this myth forever into its own astrological makeup. Uranus is appropriately known to destabilize whatever it touches, a blustery chaotic energy that lives by its own rules. Its discovery chart confirms this: it squared the Sun in Pisces, completely ready to revolutionize the spiritual current of the time–the Enlightenment is generally accepted to have ended that same year and Uranus (itself in discovery- and communication-oriented Gemini) scattered our focus like never before. If we look at the symbolism for 24 Degrees of Gemini, we see an emphasis on multidimensionality and elevated awareness. We’re given a new lens through which to view the past and move into the future. And Uranus is indeed a new lens: in 1883, Robert Cross, writing under the time-honored pseudonym Raphael, published a new book on Horary Astrology and was the first to list the new planet as ruler of Aquarius.
But traditionally, Aquarius was considered Saturnian territory. Capricorn and Aquarius were two faces of Saturn’s expression: the heavy Cardinal Earth of Saturn as the God of Time, tirelessly tending to crops, ensuring status and prosperity, alongside the Fixed Air of Saturn as the King of Heaven, reforming the despotic rule of his tyrannical father to ensure the good of all. Both, however, are stable progressive energies dependent on supreme focus and initiative. To replace Saturn with Uranus not only casts the planet in a very different light, but it perpetuates the mythological war between Cronus and Ouranus and turns the opposition of its discovery into a very literal conflict. At worst, it puts the Sign of Progress back in the hands of a mythological autocrat and oppressor. At best, it installs a ruler who is distant and dysfunctional. Personally, I don’t love the idea of Uranus as the ruler of anything–it’s incredibly destabilizing, erratic, and while I think it’s a valuable indicator of other astrological concepts, I don’t feel like it finds a comfortable home anywhere in the zodiac. In fact, A.J. Pearce referred to Uranus as a “houseless wanderer” in his 1879 text, a title linking it much more comfortably with the energy of the tarot’s Fool–the dawning understanding of something larger, the spark of discovery, but wholly preoccupied with the journey.
All of this is important to consider when we look at the role of Uranus in today’s astrological climate. Next week, we’ll examine the ingress of Uranus into Taurus and the defining Uranian transits of 2021 with this understanding of the planet’s namesake and the energy it brings.