Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Wedding Feast

Do you remember the Vogon Commander in the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy who used to punish miscreants by reading them his poetry? I hope what comes isn't a punishment, but I've just joined a creative writing course, and my first assignment is a 500 word story (I've done 800). The idea was to take something dull like a wedding reception and try and do something with it. This is what I came up with, and it has nothing to do with astrology:

Favian leant back in his chair at the Wedding Feast and savoured that first kiss. It was 2 hours since, but he fancied he could still taste the scented oil on her lips. It was only the second time he had met Katrina. The marriage was political, designed for peace between his people, the Incatasi, and the incoming Molags.

The name said it all: their language was guttural and crude, at least to Favian’s educated ears, and so were the people. The Incatasi had been settled here for a thousand years, they had built great cities, had become artistic and learned, and Favian liked to think some of their ways had rubbed off on the Molag this last 50 years. They remained treacherous, however, and took cruel delight in humiliating their enemies before slaying them.

Still, Katrina seemed different. They had been introduced exactly a year ago, at the end of peace negotiations, and there was nothing crude about her. Admittedly she could not read nor write, but she could speak Incatasi, and though their conversation had been limited to formal exchanges, there was subtlety and intelligence in her delivery. Her looks were fine in an almost boyish way, and she had a slim, wiry frame beneath the long emerald green dress she wore for the occasion. The touch of androgyny appealed to Favian’s sensibility.

The Feast was taking place on Molag territory, in a great wooden hall, held up by massive trunks of timber. In contrast to the delicate friezes and rich tapestries of the Incatasi, the walls were decorated with animal skins, weapons and, usually, the heads of their enemies: the latter, however, being mostly Incatasi, had been removed for the Wedding. For the Molag, this constituted subtle diplomacy.

The men were seated untidily along one side of the hall, the women, including Katrina, on the other, with servants milling between. A low chant began among the Molag men: “The Bedding! The Bedding! The Bedding!” The chant gradually swelled and then broke loose into a raucous chorus.

This was the real sting in the tail for Favian. The Bedding. That primitive rite of witnessing that took place at Royal Weddings among the Molag.

A giant figure lurched towards him. It was Rulf, the Molag’s chief warrior, drunk and leery. “I’ll make a bet with you,” he announced slurringly, “A bet that says a wincy boy like you can’t do it. What d’you say?”

“Ha! Well we all know you’re not lacking, Rulf,” Favian replied, “if only sheep could talk, we’d have some fine stories to tell about you.” Favian knew this was the sort of humour that appealed to the Molag, and would raise him in their estimation. “No, Rulf’s certainly not lacking,” the warrior replied, “and it’s not just the sheep who’s got some fine stories about me either.” He roared with laughter, pleased with his own wit and prowess, and Favian slipped away.

The Incatasi had their own tradition of Royal Beddings, but it had died out centuries ago, and had never been public in the way it was for the Molags. Just a few discreet courtiers. And it had its uses, reflected Favian, helping remove doubts over paternity and succession. And above all the rumours of royal incest that nowadays did the rounds among the ordinary Incatasi.

For the Molags, the Bedding was a public spectacle - but being who they were, there was no loss of dignity involved. One way or the other, thought Favian, royal marriages are matings, whether carried out in public or in private. The prize bull and heifer producing an offspring for the benefit of the people.

The moment had arrived. In the centre of the hall was a bed arrangement, covered in furs. Favian was very uneasy, even though he had, in his own way, back at the palace, rehearsed the occasion. What was not as it should be? The political advantages of this match were considerable for both peoples; he had married a striking woman whose temperament, it seemed, suited his own; and the Incatasi and the Molags were, for the first time, gathered as one. Be calm, he told himself, there is nothing to concern you, it’s just a public duty you’ve been trained for.

The hall had gone quiet. Favian and Katrina were standing either side of the bed while the disrobing took place. First it was Favian. Now he was naked in front of all the people. It’s a duty, a ceremony, he reminded himself again, it’s not personal. Now Katrina. They looked directly at one another while Katrina was disrobed. And then, as the last garment came off, those lips pouted teasingly at him. Something was wrong, very wrong. Before him stood the naked body of a man, aroused.

The laughter began, quickly growing to great guffaws and table-bashing from the Molag men. Favian’s humiliation was complete. And then the knives came out.

© Barry Goddard 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014


I was watching an interview with James Hillman, the archetypal psychologist. And he was saying how important it is to have a ‘wonky’ friend, the friend who can’t do normal, who can’t make his life work like everyone else can. This friend releases us from the pressure of being straight. He pointed out also how the ‘odd’ uncle can have this effect, he lodges in your mind as a kid.

Grayson Perry
This is a very Aquarian theme. Aquarius is classically someone who is both very involved with groups of people, yet is always on the outside looking in, having his or her own critical take on the group. The Aquarian wants to belong, yet does not want to follow the rules that belonging requires, may not even notice those rules.

Aquarians are the free spirits of the zodiac. Well, not the only ones, the Fire signs don’t do badly in their own way. But Aquarius has this thing about rules. At best it sees the necessity for them for an orderly society, but it also sees how people are often trapped by them: trapped into being straight, into feeling that unless they are like everyone else, they will be an inadequate person, not a person that other people will respect. And this is a big pressure.

Well, for some people it’s a pressure. Others don’t seem to mind so much either way. And one of the functions of Aquarius is to be an example of being free, and in so doing allow others to be free. Of course, some people will look down on you for being different, they will feel better about themselves because they perceive you as inferior, and you just have to live with that, it is one of the prices you pay for being free.

Aquarius grows out of Capricorn, the preceding sign. Adjacent signs do not aspect each other. A bit like signs that are 5 apart, they don’t have anything in common to challenge or flow with the other sign. And yet they do, adjacent signs grow out of each other, beginning with new-born Aries and ending with old-soul Pisces. In the case of Capricorn and Aquarius, there is both a lot in common, as well as mutual incomprehension.

They are both Saturn-ruled, though Aquarius also has its modern ruler Uranus. And being towards the end of the zodiac, their gaze is directed towards the collective. They are both leaders. Capricorn feels a responsibility towards society, to its smooth running and to its traditions and its success in relation to other collectives. Its responsibility is based on the past, on maintaining and building that which has been handed down. Aquarius also feels a responsibility to society, but the emphasis is based more on the future, how things might be, correcting the wrongs and limitations that have been handed down.

To an Aquarian, Capricorn can seem like a dusty old fogey. And to Capricorn, Aquarius can seem like an immature rebel.

I think Aquarius needs to find its peace with institutions without losing that outsider’s ability to critique.

And in finding peace with institutions, with convention, if you like, Aquarius also finds peace within him or herself. And this can take decades. It can be a lifelong task. With Leo being the sign most classically at ease with itself, the opposite sign of Aquarius has claims to be the sign least at ease with itself.

One of the Aquarian fears is that if they conform, they will lose their individuality, they will lose that spark of magic that makes life worth living. But they need to get over that. Because if you can’t also be part of the normal world, your insights are of no use, your benign desire to help the world will come to nothing. And we can see this tension in the 2 rulers of Aquarius, Uranus and Saturn. Uranus, if you like, is afraid that his son Saturn will come along and castrate him, just like he did in the myth.

Aquarians look outward to the world they want to change, and they also tend to live in a world of ideas, which can be held quite rigidly, Aquarius being a fixed sign. The freedom they seek is inner, it is essentially beyond conformity vs rebellion. Aquarius has a powerful feeling nature – they are, after all, the water bearers – but they are not always very aware of it.

Aquarians need to peer inside that urn of water and see their own reflection, the emotions they have that are the same as everybody else’s – it is easy to think of yourself as superior if you are Aquarian - and which therefore give them that sense of belonging. And which will also enable them to come from that inner place, that inner voice that makes you at ease with yourself and gives you the freedom you seek.

All signs of the zodiac are possessed by a god. Or in the case of Aquarius, 2 gods. Our lives are in this sense fated. There is a particular spirit that wants to live through us, and will create the conditions for that to be possible.

So an Aquarian who keeps finding him or herself on the outside, always in that rebellious place: well maybe there is some work to be done, maybe there are issues with authority that come from earlier in life that need a bit of looking at. But maybe that’s just half the story. Maybe that god of Aquarius (and I don’t find Uranus completely convincing in this role) needs us on the outside, rebelling, pissing people off, maybe sometimes with good cause, sometimes we get it wrong, but always stirring the pot, bringing in troublesome ideas from the outside. Who knows what larger purpose the god of Aquarius has in putting us in this awkward place? Who says that it is our purpose to become at ease with who we are? On the deepest level, we can only really be happy if we are serving the gods that have claimed us, and that may mean we spend our whole lives in that awkward Aquarian place, for reasons we might never understand, but would we want it any other way?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Venus Retrograde

Venus is going backwards through Capricorn till the end of the month. It is a time for re-assessing, even re-prioritising, what is important to you in a practical way. And this includes relationships, Venus being the planet of love. It will be time to take action from 1st Feb (when she starts going forward.) At that point she will be square to Uranus, so any action may be quite sudden and unexpected (from an earlier standpoint) and may involve endings and/or new beginnings. Don't be afraid to break the usual rules you live by, or what seem to be the expectations of others.

As an inner planet, the movements of Venus do not involve major transformations in themselves, but may trigger major transformations that have been brewing for some time. Venus is also a planet of the arts and creativity, so again it is a time for re-assessing what matters most to you there. Check what Houses she is in natally and by transit to get a fuller picture.