An eye-opening PBS special this past week focused on the life and work of L. Frank Baum, who gifted America with one of its few and probably its most enduring homegrown fairy tale—the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
The original book version of this tale was a best-seller for years after its original 1900 publication (it was the first of a long series of Oz stories), and by the time it was turned into the colorful Hollywood production in 1939 we’ve all grown up with since, Baum had transformed American children’s literature.
A classic like Oz is far more than a story that enjoys fleeting popularity, of course: it’s a work of art (a long series of stories and other media versions) that has earned its way into our national consciousness because it embodies archetypal symbolism that we can identify with as a people and society. We empathize with Dorothy’s harsh" black and white” existence in Depression-era Kansas, and we celebrate her technicolor Oz adventures, especially because she meets the friends she so desperately needs and learns “there’s no place like home.” How could her life not be different and better after that, even if it was all just a “dream,” after all? Sometimes a good twister that throws stale old existences up in the air is the greatest gift possible?
What a nice piece of astrological wisdom we find embedded in this tale: into every life comes the guiding, formative forces of both Jupiter and Saturn—we dream of new horizons and adventure out there, “over the rainbow,” yet we also know “Auntie Em and Uncle Henry” need us. It’s a balancing act we’re all called to navigate and both “realities” are essential to our development as healthy individuals in society.
The Oz story also resonates on less personal levels, however: it captures the allegorical nature of the American “Dream” and it speaks to our tumultuous historical path as a nation, and of course there are astrological correlates for all that as well. For starters, the story manifested shortly after Neptune conjoined Pluto in literary Gemini in 1891, and the chart for its 1900 release shows Neptune squaring Sibly 10th house Neptune (Virgo). This was clearly a turning point in the evolution of the United State’s image abroad, especially as an economic world power. As the saying goes, you accomplish what you pay attention to, and building economic strength—the “American Dream”--has been a U.S. focus from day one.
The allegory speaks loudly to this: the U.S. has always aspired to be that glowing “Emerald City” on the hill that radiates opulence, and it’s held that “Dream” (Neptune) out to generations of migrants looking for opportunity. In 1900 the memory of the California Gold Rush (1849-50) would still be fresh in people’s minds—thousands came from all over the globe to participate in that Neptune-in-Pisces mass frenzy that did create a few very wealthy people, but disillusioned far more—maybe the origin of our mythic reputation for “streets paved with gold.”
|And behind the curtain...|
Once the Wizard’s condition for fulfilling all their wishes in the story was accomplished (“Ding, dong, the Witch is dead...”) and the curtain was pulled, busting the illusion of the Wizard’s Power and Greatness, the true situation emerges: who needs a phony blowhard “Wizard” ruling the day, anyway? Pulling back that curtain is a delicious turn of events and climax in our heroes’ fortunes: challenged by the rude awakening of disenchantment and dis-illusionment, Dorothy and pals are then free, with a bit of friendly Good Witch guidance, to express their own best selves—with “Heart” and “Brain” and “Courage”--and to find their way home.
The astrological paradox at work here is, of course, that our Sibly Neptune and Pluto can also be read as the twin poles of our so-called “Culture Wars,” as well. What’s “good,” what’s “evil?” What’s “liberal,” what’s “conservative?” It’s not always easy to find common ground across the great divide, even around such basic concepts. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, embodies Love and Light; she protects and cares about the “little people,” while the Wicked Witch of the West stews in jealous, vindictive rage and sets her enslaved minions loose to terrorize and subjugate those she hates. You would think the “sides” of our culture wars could at least agree that the first is “good” and the second is “evil.”
Yet, we constantly dance with this dilemma: it's an outrageous example, of course, but even if she’s done so with Plutonian ruthlessness, Ms. Wicked built a fiefdom for herself, after all. Isn’t there just a chance that she represents the American Dream fulfilled and that if she were to leap off the screen into a Wall Street CEO suite that we would grudgingly admire her? That we might see her as the victim of a vicious character assassination in the story, in fact?
In the story, no one mourns her "melting" when Dorothy—an innocent who still believes that promises must be kept—throws a well-placed bucket of water on Ms. Wicked—water is Neptune's weapon of choice, after all. Yet, Ms. Wicked’s driving passion lurks in our nation’s value system (Sibly Capricorn 2nd house), which allows for, if not privileges ruthlessness and greed. It’s a system that is not so easily transformed with Neptunian idealism and compassion. In fact, for some philosophical heirs of our austere Puritan forebears, isn’t Ms. Goodie-Two-Shoes waving her magic wand and helping those lazy Munchkins the problem, when all is said and done?
And so it goes: clearly the Oz characters and symbolic motifs, like that ever-beckoning “Yellow Brick Road” we’ve been skipping down all these years, resonate deep in the American psyche, explaining a lot about the dynamics that bedevil and bind us. How timely that this story would recapture the public’s attention now: we’re in the midst of a stressful Sibly Pluto return that is only exacerbated with a simultaneous Sibly Neptune “half return” (more on this in a bit).
In the end, Dorothy and friends overcame the evil that would exploit them, and they found out that Ms. Good’s magic wand was no cure-all either. What really helped them find their strengths was learning the Truth about the self-promoting carnival barker who scammed the gullible denizens of Oz into believing that he was a "great and powerful” Wizard with all the answers. Once the illusion was busted, he was off in his hot air balloon. Sound familiar?
Further down the road...
It’s in the nature of mythic stories that rattle around in our national psyches that they keep resurfacing over time; I can’t begin to describe the many forms the Oz story has taken over time in our national consciousness, but the major milestones of its release as a book in 1900 and its Hollywood film debut in 1939 warrant a deeper look for our purposes here. This latter is the version that the Baby Boom generation (Pluto in Leo, 1939-1956) and perhaps every generation since has grown up with, so how could it not permeate the nation’s worldview?
Its latest resurfacing—the PBS American Experience documentary entitled “American Oz,” about its author, Frank L. Baum that’s just aired—is almost equally interesting for what it tells us about the history of the Oz phenomenon and how it tracks with significant moments in American history. This genesis is almost as interesting astrologically as the story itself.
For one thing, Baum, born just before the U.S. Civil War, was well into his forties before his career as a some-time entrepreneur and functionary kind of writer finally experienced a creative breakthrough. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, illustrated very charmingly by his friend W.W. Denslow, was an instant best-seller and would go on to sell 3 million copies before entering the public domain one hundred years after Baum’s 1856 birth. At the book’s release, the Neptune/Pluto midpoint (Gemini) opposition to Chiron (Sagittarius) was transiting t-square Baum’s natal Neptune (Biwheel #1 below)--this was a moment of spiritual and cosmic importance for Humanity itself, let alone Baum and the U.S., poised on the threshold of the new century.
Baum, as you might have deduced, came of age under the first quarter phase of the 1891 Neptune-Pluto cycle, a generation that produced an outpouring of writers and artists who captured and foreshadowed both the Light and Dark potentials of the century ahead. Baum portrayed the struggle ahead with a light, colorful touch, with two metaphorically-charged Witches and a crew of friends joined in a quest for Self and belonging—other artists from this era would go for the bleak, Expressionist, Futurist and Abstract jugular. Dark forces would literally tear the world apart over the few decades ahead, challenging Humanity in ways that seem unimaginable now.
Yet, the potential for such Darkness was always lurking at the heart of our national fairy tale—that’s what kept us on the edge of our seats watching it on TV. What if the Friends don't look out for each other? What if the Wicked Witch succeeds in turning them against each other for her own purposes? What if the Tin Man truly has no Heart, and the Lion’s courage fails him when Dorothy needs him most? What if the flim-flam artist behind the curtain was never revealed and people kept suffering his delusions of grandeur?
Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) L. Frank Baum, May 15, 1856, 12:00 p.m. LMT (no time known), Chittenango, NY; (outer wheel) Wonderful Wizard of Oz book, May 17, 1900, 12 p.m. ST (no exact time), Chicago, IL Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts cast with Kepler 8.0, courtesy of Cosmic Patterns software.
Notice that Baum’s Sun conjoins Uranus in earthy Taurus, which in turn conjoins the book release Sun (outer wheel)—his heart’s desire was to make a secure living as a writer, and Oz certainly provided for that. This conjunction may be one way with which Baum and Oz resonate today, in fact, with Uranus again transiting Venus’s earthy domain and nearing its Gemini return to Sibly Uranus. Its first return was in June 1860, so leading into our Civil War; the second was in May 1944, during WWII, and the third will be in 2028. My guess is that this re-emergence of Oz in our times carries a warning that deserves our attention, looking ahead to that not-so-distant time.
I was reminded recently that something a bit less obvious was at stake in those first two Uranus returns: the South seceded in response to the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, an election that southern Democrats did not want to recognize as legitimate at the time, so it was a time that definitely resonates with our current dilemma with Trump’s “Big Lie” about the 2020 election. Trouble is, it’s not so easy to secede these days, so those in charge in GOP-led states are trying to disenfranchise opposition voters in future elections on the basis of that “Big Lie,” hoping this will basically put them back in charge of the House of Senate. Illegitimately, of course: democracy doesn’t appear to get them where they want to go, so they’re bent on ditching democracy. The levers of power depend on other planetary forces as well, but our history is dotted with disguised “coups” that fit the Uranian mold, and we’re not out of those woods yet. Dorothy and pals encountered many shocking challenges along that yellow brick road.
Oz Jupiter conjoined Oz Uranus-North Node (both Sagittarius) and trined Baum’s natal Jupiter (Aries)--Baum’s efforts had hitched a ride on a bolt of lightning. It was a Uranian breakthrough, not just in his own life, but in public trends, as well—I encourage everyone to watch the documentary I mentioned earlier if you’d like more details on this. Clearly, Baum and his publisher released his story in the right place and an opportune time.
A lovely Cancer Venus disposes those Taurus points in the Oz chart, sextiling Baum’s natal Venus (Taurus) and widely squaring his natal Jupiter (Aries)...interestingly, this Cancer Venus also conjoins Sibly Sun (chart not shown) --the author’s desire for a secure, materially-comfortable life resonated well with the nation’s natural Cancerian focus. In 1900 the nation was still recovering from a serious 1893 recession that made Dorothy’s hard-scrabble life on a Kansas farm all too familiar; in truth, with the exception of a few decades of better than normal middle-class progress after WWII, working class Americans seem to be always struggling or recovering financially from one cyclical event in the markets or another—that's the “genius” of our capitalist system in a nutshell. So Cancerian bread and butter issues always resonate, as does the wistful Oz cure-all: “there’s no place like Home.”
The personal and the collective
As we’ve seen, Baum lived to see his Oz story in print form go “viral” in today’s parlance, but since he died in 1919, he fell 20 years short of living to see it in vivid color on the Hollywood silver screen, with his story adapted, directed and set to an amazing musical score by some of the best writers, directors and musicians of the time, and his characters played by some of the nation’s most endearing and celebrated actors of that period.
On a personal note for Baum, notice that the 1939 Uranus (Taurus, outer wheel BW#2 below) conjoined Baum’s Sun-Uranus conjunction in Taurus (inner wheel, Biwheel #1 above), so if he had lived, the film’s release would have been a Uranus return experience for him.
At some point in a classic story’s evolution, however, it becomes less about the person who wrote it and more about the collective that receives, perpetuates and enjoys his gift. That’s what happened, I would argue, upon the August 25, 1939 release of the Wizard of Oz in glorious Technicolor.
It couldn’t have been a more significant moment. Europe was one week away from plunging into the abyss of World War II—Hitler's forces invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. America, under FDR, was still committed at that moment to neutrality, and with a 1940 presidential election looming, there was no changing that stance yet. When we consider this context, The Wizard of Oz definitely transcended its Hollywood entertainment value. As Biwheel #1 shows, this stunning cultural moment resonated deeply with the Sibly chart—let's have a look.
Biwheel #2. (inner wheel); U.S. (Sibly) chart, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m. LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) Wizard of Oz film 1939, August 25, 1939, 12 p.m. ST (no exact time known), Hollywood, CA. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts cast with Kepler 8.0, courtesy of Cosmic Patterns software.
Notice that this film was being released (and produced, for that matter) during the nation’s Neptune return (Virgo, outer wheel)--Hollywood filmmaking is, by nature, a Neptunian pursuit, but what better timing could there be to produce a classic fantasy that would delight children, giving them an imaginative, uplifting story with characters to love at the same time it captured the nation’s aspirations and Soul? Clearly, this Neptune return is tightly woven into the significance of this film release.
Interchart Grand Earth Trine: 1939 Uranus (Taurus) conjoins Sibly Vesta (Taurus), trines Sibly Neptune (Virgo) and 1939 Mars-con-Sibly Pluto (Capricorn), suggesting that the film release represented a surprising, but deliberate and nationally-significant conflation of artistry (Hollywood’s “dream factory”) with innovative technology (Uranus) that surprised and delighted American households (Sibly Vesta). MGM’s use of Technicolor was relatively new at that time, but the cutting together of black and white footage (the Kansas scenes) with full color Oz footage was even more innovative.
Mars and Sibly Pluto (Capricorn) also oppose Sibly Mercury (Cancer), creating a Kite out of this earth grand trine: Baum's Oz story was, through a great, sometimes challenging collaborative effort (Capricorn-Cancer opposition), given new life and perpetuated as the cultural product or “fairy tale” (Sibly Neptune-1939 Neptune) its adapters envisioned.
And, as alluded to earlier, this tale permeating American discourse at that time had political ramifications as well: “There’s no place like home” could have been a mantra for the wave of nationalist and isolationist fervor that was, in fact, sweeping the nation as Europe was teetering on the brink of WWII—the U.S. hadn’t entirely recovered from the Great Depression by 1939, and a lot of people weren’t interested in falling backward again. Did Hollywood foresee that we would need a pop-cultural boost that promoted collective solidarity and a can-do attitude going forward? Neptune certainly seems to have known what was coming.
1939 Mars conjoined Sibly Pluto and inconjoined both Sibly Moon (Aquarius) and Sibly Mars (Gemini). Because the public was so adamant about staying out of the war, FDR was fending off requests for American help in WWII from several different directions, using U.S. “neutrality” as justification. It wasn’t until the U.S. was actually attacked by Japan in December 1941, however, that he was able to unite the nation behind the broader war effort. When that happened, Saturn and Uranus were nearly conjunct in late Taurus and trine Sibly Pluto and Neptune, with Jupiter transiting conjunct Sibly Mars (Gemini). What’s that saying often attributed to FDR’s good friend, Winston Churchill? “You can depend on America to do the right thing when it has exhausted every other possibility.”
Stick a pin in that 1941 Saturn-Uranus relationship in Taurus —the cycle launched by this duo at 29°+Taurus in 1942 has a lot to do with why that late 1930s-early 1940s time period resonates so powerfully with today’s Saturn-Uranus waning (3Q) square from Aquarius to Taurus.
Finally, 1939 Venus–Sun (Leo-Virgo) opposed Sibly Moon (Aquarius) and t-squared 1939 Uranus (Taurus). Clearly there was a pervasive Taurus theme to those significant times (we’ve seen this repeatedly in the charts above), but it was also a heady, celebrity-crazy time as well. Judy Garland was a teenager when she played Dorothy Gale in Oz, but she definitely embodied the Hollywood “Star” ideal evoked by Venus in Leo as well, and was herself born with Neptune in Leo.
Looking at this 1939 chart is also a stunning reminder of why Trump got a foothold in American politics when he did: his natal MC falls at 24°+Taurus (chart not shown1), and his nationalist approach to politics resonated all too headily with the experiences we’ve had during pre-Sibly Uranus return periods. Overcoming the nation’s cyclical tendency to fall back into dark divisive and nationalist times is our major challenge these days: to isolate ourselves from the world’s challenges right now would be both disastrous and unthinkable.
Flashing forward, clearly our national fairy tale has re-emerged for a reason, and sure enough, Pisces Neptune is now transiting opposite Sibly Neptune. As it turns out, this coming lunar month seems to be welcoming the Oz story back into our awareness, and probably not a moment too soon. There are ties between both the May 11th New Moon, the May 26th lunar eclipse and both the 1900 and 1939 versions of Oz. Why does this matter? Bear with me, here...at times it’s difficult to truly understand what we’re going through in the present without looking back. Maybe a good fairy tale helps make sense out of complicated, confusing times?
The coming lunar month picks up in the darkness of the New Moon on May 11, with the Sun and Moon conjunct at 21°+Taurus, a point disposed by Gemini Venus, widely conjunct the Gemini North Node. Set for Washington, D.C. (Chart #1 below), all these points occupy the Taurus/Venusian 9th house. We have here a merging of earthy fruit-bearing potential with a strong, ideologically driven urge to “get the word out” about better days coming. Let’s take a closer look.
Chart #1: New Moon, May 11, 2021, 2:59:38 p.m. DST, Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts cast with Kepler 8.0, courtesy of Cosmic Patterns software.
Mercury rules the Virgo ASC of this chart from its other rulership, Gemini, and with Saturn and Neptune in their respective rulerships, it forms a trio of chart co-dispositors. This suggests that the Mercury-Saturn trine represents a New Moon “message” that has a chance of landing well, especially if it appeals to our collective imagination. New technologies, innovations and bold initiatives are pressing in on us, waiting for the “go” signal (Saturn also squares Sun-Moon); we just need to trust the process and be willing to adapt (Gemini Venus disposes Taurus Sun-Moon). Christine Valters Paintner writes eloquently of situations like this:
“These reminders that everything begins in darkness and emerges from the night, much like the great womb of our own birthing, offer some solace and courage to welcome in the darkness in our lives. We might, perhaps, begin to see the fertile space of new life alongside the uncertainties and fears.”2
Yet, bisecting that nice air Mercury-Saturn trine is Aries Chiron, vibrating with its square to Cancer Mars and vividly representing those “uncertainties and fears.” And long-suffered wounds, of course—playing out on a plane of its own in our national discourse at the moment is the ongoing crisis of police abuse, especially against our racial minorities. Interestingly, Biwheel #2 above features a potent Capricorn Mars squaring Sibly Chiron (Aries)--a too-rapidly repeating aspect (most recently in March, 2020, two months before George Floyd was killed) that never fails to re-activate the Sibly chart’s radix Pluto-Chiron square. What is systemic racism if not a deeply-rooted wound that keeps getting ripped back open and defies healing, no matter how many opportunities we’ve had to do so?
Which brings us back to Neptune, as the third co-dispositor of this lunation chart. Positioned at the chart DSC, conjunct Pallas (Pisces) and t-square MC-opposite-Juno (Gemini-Sagittarius), it seems to be saying that women are a special focus of its current heightened influence. We saw that this past Wednesday night (4/27) in Biden’s address to the Joint Session of Congress, as he welcomed “Madam Speaker...and Madam Vice President” for the first time in U.S. history. Demetra George and Douglas Bloch also see the potential in Neptune-Pallas aspects for “confusion in one’s perception of reality with the inability to distinguish between the real and the unreal,” but they also say that these issues can be resolved by “using one’s mental creativity to develop a holistic and realistic perception of subtle dimensions as they interact with earthbound reality.”3
Similar dynamics are at work here with Juno square Neptune-Pallas; however, with a potent Mercury ruling this chart, I suspect we can find the mental creativity needed to navigate these perception issues. As we know, our political discourse is very perception-driven, so these challenges can be consequential.
All this talk about the Wizard of Oz reminds me that perception is often confused with reality in American public discourse. I think we can take some wisdom from Oz,
in fact, for processing the confusing disparities that we’re
experiencing, looking from one “news” source to another. The archetypes embedded in Oz allow us to
distill what are certainly infinite possibilities into two simple
sounding polar extremes: one "reality" unfolds on a dreary screen where
life looks harsh and sparse, is captured in shades of fearsome,
intolerant gray where the people dwell in confusion, resentment and pain; and
another, lighter version, exists where brilliant colors wash across the scene,
music lightens people’s steps and wishes really can come true because
there’s a path for progress laid out ahead. It’s worth considering, I
think, how much of our experience depends upon the filters through which we
watch life scroll by.
We’ll see more of these dual perceptions, in fact, when the solar/lunar cycle reaches opposition in the May 26th eclipse in early Sagittarius—the next topic we’ll look at here. From where I’m sitting, it feels like we’re on the threshold of some very exciting times and, of course, some important astrological milestones. Jupiter—ruling the May 26th eclipse—will have joined Neptune in their co-ruled sign of Pisces by then, but will only stay there for about a month before it backs out to revisit Aquarius for some time.
These are all important developments when an end to the pandemic and forward progress is so sorely needed—Jupiter’s retrograde and shadow period may be our best opportunity to finish getting everyone vaccinated and to head off another unwanted surge of the virus. Hopefully Biden will make good on his promise to start helping the rest of the world get vaccinated as well during this time. There is no isolated solution for what ails the world today—there's still “no place like home,” but our Home at this moment, more than ever, is the global community and the Earth.
Keep it real, folks!
Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, U.S. history, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. These are recurring topics on this blog (see the Index here for an archive of older articles) and topics she’s published articles about in several key astrology journals over the years, including most recently, the TMA blog. See the Publications tab on this site for a list of Raye’s recent E-books on current topics, including the newly-released title, The Mundane Moon: an evolving cosmic story for “We the People.”
For information about individual chart readings, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Raye Robertson 2021. All rights reserved.