WINGED PLANETS: NESSUS
 
¡El Enigma es el rostro fatal de Deyanira! 
Mi espalda aun guarda el dulce perfume de la bella; 
aún mis pupilas llaman su claridad de estrella. 
¡Oh aroma de su sexo! ¡Oh rosas y alabastros! 
¡Oh envidia de las flores y celos de los astros!
(Rubén Darío, 1896)

TWIN PEAKS

   David Lynch and Mark Frost's gothic soap opera "Twin Peaks" is probably one of the best examples of centaur symbolism. The TV show was released April 8, 1990 and lasted for 29 episodes until June 10, 1991. David Lynch made a film based on it, subtitled "Fire Walks With Me", that was released in the USA on August 28, 1992.

   The jazz-like, strange and enchanting musical score was written by Angelo Badalamenti. This is what the composer says of himself: "My (musical) world is a little bit dark... a little bit off-center. I think of it as tragically beautiful. That is how I would describe what I love best: tragically beautiful".

   These words describe to perfection the symbolism of Nessus, especially of Venus/Nessus. "In a town like Twin Peaks no one is innocent". Everyone is a sinner; everyone has secrets... Both the music and the play are to me masterworks of genius; all borders are crossed, nothing is left untrespassed...

   Angelo Badalamenti's music captures the darkness, the fear, the moral debasement united with the sublime expression of innocence, beauty, and the fragility of love and youth, all circling around the mystery of Laura Palmer's death and the forces of evil that make themselves present in the forest at night...

   He was born Andy Badale in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 22, 1937. At 12 GMT that day, the Sun was in 1,27 Aries. When the TV show was released with his music score --considered his masterpiece--, Nessus was 1,28 Libra!
 

NOTE: The Internet Movie Database gives 1937 as his year of birth, but another biography gives 1938. I took 1937, but it very well may be 1938, considering that in the past I have found similar errors in that database. In 1937, without the Moon's positions and the houses, his Venus is conjunct Uranus, like this:

Venus = 5,17 Taurus
Uranus = 7,27 Taurus

On the other hand, if we take 1938 as his year of birth, then we find:

Venus = 12,34 Aries
DW2 = 12,46 Aries

An exact conjunction of Venus with a Centaur would explain his statement that he loves most what is "tragically beautiful", as without question is inherent to the music of Twin Peaks. Anyway, it would be interesting to have a confirmation of the true year of birth.

   Since he composed the music of "Blue Velvet" for David Lynch in 1985, they have been working together; Lynch has even written some of the lyrics himself. This is what he said in an interview regarding their relationship: 
<<David perfectly hears the music and he knows what he wants. He is one of the few directors who are able to tell the final decision. It is very valuable for music composer. I say about him he is my second "wife". Do not understand that wrongly, we are both normal and I have a beautiful wife, but that is a result of our long lasting friendship. He look at me, I look at him, he say a word, me too and we know what is going about.>> [it is badly translated in the original]
   We see a very interesting Nessus link:

      Lynch's Nessus = 5,54 Taurus (using noon GMT 20 Jan 1946) 
      Badalamenti's Venus = 5,17 Taurus 

      Lynch's Venus = 26,56 Capricorn (conjunct TO66 in 26,19 Cap) 
      Lynch's Jupiter = 26,37 Libra 

   establishing a perfect grand cross with:

      Badalamenti's Nessus = 26,57 Aries 
      Badalamenti's Pluto = 26,34 Cancer 

   Pholus is also to be seen, in all the glory of its "trickster" symbolism. We know its position in Lynch's chart (January 20, 1946, assumed Noon GMT): 

      Sun = 29,50 Cap 
      Venus = 26,56 Cap (midpoint) 
      Pholus = 23,32 Cap 

   When Badalamenti was born, Pholus was conjunct TO66:

      Pholus = 14,08 Cap 
      TO66 = 13,30 Cap

   When the TV show appeared (April 8 1990), we have: 

      Neptune = 13,49 Cap (prec-corrected)

   When the movie was released in the USA (Aug 28 1992):

      Uranus = 13,31 Cap (prec-corrected)

   The otherworldly and haunting Pholus and Nessus overtones can be heard in the soft and surreal singing of Julee Cruise, who completes this magical triangle (unfortunately, I don't have her birth date). She sings David Lynch's simple and painful words to the centaurean "crack" brought about by love and death:

How can a heart
that's filled with love
Start to cry?

When all the world
seemed so right
How, how can love die?

When did the day
with all its light
turn into night?
(from "Questions in a World of Blue")


Julee Cruise

   Here again Nessus shows its dark and very fragile mark, and how destructive it can be, as we will see in the examples below.
 

   PUCCINI

     Giacomo Puccini, the Italian opera composer, considered the greatest exponent of operatic realism, was born in Lucca, Italy (10E30/43N51), at 2 a.m. the 22nd of December of 1858. The chart appears in Louis Rodden's "American Book of Charts", who quotes Lockhart in "Constellations" (1977), citing birth records. He has an exact Moon/Nessus conjunction:

     Moon = 21,27 Cancer
     Nessus = 20,48 Cancer

     The following words from the Encyclopedia Britannica explain very well the meaning of this aspect in his chart:

<<The majority of Puccini's operas illustrate a theme defined in 'Il Tabarro': "Chi  ha vissuto per amore, per amore si more" (he who has lived for love, has died for love"). This theme is played out in the fate of his heroines --women who are devoted body and soul to their lovers, are tormented by feelings of guilt, and are punished by the infliction of pain until in the end they are destroyed. In his treatment of this theme, Puccini combines compassion and pity for his heroines with a strong streak of sadism: hence the strong emotional appeal but also the restricted scope of the Puccini's type of opera. (...)
<<... he invented an original type of melody, passionate and radiant, yet marked by an underlying morbidity; examples are the "farewell" and "death" arias that also reflect the persistent melancholy from which he suffered in his personal life.>>
     Puccini had fled from his native Lucca with a married woman, Elvira Gemignani, a passion that gave him the zeal to face the enormous scandal created by their illegal union. They had a son and were able to marry only nearly twenty years later, after Elvira's husband died. She was a tempestuous woman, and their relationship suffered from her (justified) jealousy attacks that became violent. One such instance deserves mentioning, since it illustrates well the character of Nessus:
"In 1908 [age 50], having spent the summer in Cairo, the Puccinis returned to Torre del Lago and Giacomo devoted himself to 'Fanciulla'. Elvira unexpectedly became jealous of Doria Manfredi, a young servant from the village who had been employed for several years by the Puccinis. She drove Doria from the house threatening to kill her. Subsequently, the servant girl poisoned herself, and her parents had the body examined by a physician, who declared her a virgin. The Manfredis brought charges against Elvira Puccini for persecution and calumny, creating one of the most famous scandals of the time. Elvira was found guilty, but through the negotiations of the lawyers was not sentenced, and Puccini paid damages to the Manfredis, who withdrew their accusations. Eventually the Puccinis adjusted themselves to a coexistence, but the composer from then on demanded absolute freedom of action."


     In my opinion, the 15-year-old Cio-Cio-San, "Madame Butterfly", mother of an inter-racial child and despised by her own family, is a perfect example of the paradoxes of Nessus, of tenderness and cruelty at the same time, of extreme delicacy and extreme destruction, of carnal abuse that destroys purity, of innocence that is converted into blood, the unyielding power of un-requited love that is consecrated in death by suicide...
 

   ZHIVAGO

     Boris Pasternak received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1958, because of his "Zhivago" novel. He was already 66 years old when he submitted it for publication in the Soviet Union in 1956. It was rejected because <it represented in a libelous manner the October Revolution, the people who made it, and social construction in the Soviet Union". But an Italian publisher managed to buy the rights for the book and refused to send it back to the author for revision. When it was edited in English in 1958, it had already been translated into 18 languages.

     When Pasternak was born, January 29 1890 (February 10th in the Gregorian Calendar), the Sun and Venus were in conjunction in 21,45 and 19,49 Aquarius, respectively (noon GMT). Nessus was in 21,02 Aquarius, in the middle of it, and becomes a key to the whole story, and definitely to Pasternak's life as well. He wanted to become a musician first but became a major lyrical poet instead, having grown up in a highly cultured and artistic Jewish household. He had been physically disqualified for military service during First World War.

     Mars was at birth in 21,27 Scorpio, in exact square to the Sun and with Venus "coming" (applying) to Nessus and the Sun, having to face the cruelty of Mars. This is what happens in the movie, and it is also probably a very good description of Pasternak's life. He always was a very controversial figure, a romantic and lyric voice amidst Soviet "Socialist Realism" and Stalin purge trials of the 1930's. It is said that he survived only because he had translated poetry of Georgia, Stalin's native land. It was through translation that he survived, since he couldn't publish anything since 1933 (Zhivago was published in the Soviet Union only in 1987).

     There are many centaurean themes in the story. Particularly the "crossing" of orbits becomes very clear: Zhivago was living at right angles to the mainstream of history and social revolution that was happening around him, traveling through life enmeshed in his own subjective world and intimate conflicts, divided between his love for his wife and family and the passionate adoration he felt for Lara. This was his tragedy. One scene in the film, in particular, describes this to perfection:

     He had decided to end his relationship with Lara, out of devotion to his wife and family life. So he went to see her in the nearby town to talk to her for the last time. They departed, and he was crushed, riding his horse very slowly, half-dead in his sadness, when revolutionary troops appear at cross-angles to the road and kidnap him to force him be their doctor. He is taken in the rush of the horses galloping, forced to attend the wounded among his kidnappers. He never sees his family again.

     This is it. The centaur crossing. Do you remember the scene? How is it in the book?
 

   PELLEAS AND MELISANDE

   The widower Golaud, half-brother of Pelleas, falls for the strange woman-child Melisande whom he found crying in the forest when he was out hunting. He takes her to his castle and marries her. But Melisande falls in love with Pelleas, much younger than Golaud, and physically repulses her husband. She is pregnant. Golaud is suspicious of their romance and is consumed by jealousy. Having discovered them kissing, he strikes his brother dead with his sword. Melisande is not guilty of any serious infidelity, but her husband is tortured by doubt and by guilt even at the last moment at her bedside where she dies after childbirth.

   This, very briefly is the plot of Maurice Maeterlinck's symbolical masterwork, considered  "the most accomplished of all 19th-century attempts at poetic drama", and for which, together with many other less popular works, he received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1911. "Set in a nebulous, fairy-tale past, this play conveys an irresistible mood of doom and hopeless melancholy." (Britannica)

   He was born, according to Gauquelin, August 29th, 1862, at 8:30 a.m. in Ghent, Belgium. He has centaurs surrounding his Sun:

   Sun = 5,42 Virgo
   95GO = 7,45 Geminis
   Chiron = 4,13 Pisces

   But what has more bearing on the story above is this:

   Venus = 9,39 Leo
   Nessus = 12,49 Leo
   Pluto = 11,21 Taurus
   (Pluto only 0,07 from the exact Venus/Nessus m.p.)

   There are many points from which to view this aspect, or from where to start. Love-death is the axis, and indeed it represents a universal truth about love when it becomes very intense and is un-requited or impossible to consummate: it keeps growing and getting closer to death. Love and death are always very close; the closer you are to the moment of death, the bigger love becomes, until at the moment of death it has become immense and un-measurable.

   Literary dramas become popular because they portrait symbolically what happens in the inside of people, like fairy tales. Everybody knows they do not correspond to the outer, daily, and often trivial superficiality of living, especially middle-class, bourgeoise, or physically comfortable living. These types of dramas really happen in the lives of many people, however, especially among the poor, the "gipsy", the outcast. But whether they correspond to outer reality or not, or whether people need them to compensate for the superficiality of their lives, they are a reality of the soul, and this is why they can be interpreted as symbols of inner experiences.

   Melisande, as Venus, is an object of love, and of desire. It also represents the youth of both Melisande and Pelleas against the older Golaud. Golaud is like Nessus, in love with the woman-child Melisande. There is a reminiscence of the story of Lara and Komarovsky in Zhivago: Komarovsky, the older man, seduces young virgin Lara (and Lara, unconsciously, has seduced him and is seduced by him). Boris Pasternak had Sun/Venus/Nessus in conjunction, except that it was in square to Mars, which can be related to the crudeness of the Lara affair with Komarovsky and the ultimate self-destruction of her boyfriend/husband Pasha.

   But here it is a little different, because Golaud is indeed in love with Melisande and has married her. But Melisande doesn't love him. She is innocent and submits to his husband, but her heart, her passion, belongs to his youthful brother. Then Golaud has her but doesn't have her at the same time, until he goes mad. No wonder. This may be the Venus/Pluto part: like the stroke of Golaud's sword over the Venus/Nessus midpoint, killing his brother Pelleas, his own Venus whom he loved, and which leads also to the death of Melisande.

   It is a typical triangle: beautiful and innocent Melisande loves his husband and remains faithful to him, but feels no physical desire or passion, she is not "in love"; that part of her being belongs to Pelleas. Golaud is tortured (Pluto). Venus cannot reach Nessus, or rather, Pluto solves through death or killing an intrinsic Venus/Nessus incompatibility. What would have been of Nessus and Deianira had not Hercules been in the middle? What would have been of Beauty and the Beast had Beauty fallen in love with someone else?

   Maybe, Venus/Nessus is the marriage of Golaud and Melisande, of Beauty and the Beast. It has certain characteristics, having to do with the redeeming power of love and the overcoming of death through love. Venus loves and feels inclined towards Nessus/Beast, a wonderful, vulnerable, and humble prince hidden inside a rough exterior. But the relationship is "tragic", because it involves a contradiction, a division (especially compulsive and dramatic here with the square from Pluto).

   We are a youthful Pelleas and Melisande inside, not matter our age. They represent the primal, healing power of Eros, of life and love, like Daphnis and Chloe, etc... They are our Venus, our soul-mate, our most cherished treasure, or dearest, intimate soul where primal love and eternal youth reign. Nessus, maybe, represents the eternal fracture, the dis-ease, the accident that can and will always happen, the fragility of life, the imperfection, the ugliness; so Venus/Nessus can mean a profoundly "cemented" love that, at the same time, is based on an impossibility: it trembles, it is never solved or rounded, there is an abyss, a division, an incompatibility.

   What chance did Quasimodo had with Esmeralda? She loved him dearly, but... Quasimodo is an outcast, he doesn't belong to the "normal" world, he will never be normal. What were the chances Frankenstein had of being loved? Nessus probably represents this lack, a fundamental disfunction, a dis-unity. If we take Venus as our most cherished and intimate values, then maybe, married with Nessus, she will carry this inner division and lack, this impossibility, this erotic disfunction, while at the same time be intensified in a measure inversely proportional to Nessus size.

   There will be passion indeed, passion that must be redeemed, that may be hidden, that has to overcome its own death or denial...
 

   COMMENTARIES:

     Nessus has to do with the awareness of our vulnerability against darkness, abuse, and emotional death. Nessus is very vulnerable, as the pilots of the Japanese kamikazes, or as "Madame Butterfly". From this come ideas or images about how someone deals with this basic frailty against the forces of darkness and death, either in yourself or in society.

   An illustration of this principle is found in the chart of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. Robert von Heeren's VIP list provides a birth time of 6h30m, which puts the Moon in late Taurus. We have (April 1 [March 20 OS] 1873, 38e05/63n55):

   Moon = 29,16 Taurus
   Venus = 20,20 Taurus (conjunct Pluto in 19,27 Taurus)
   midpoint Moon/Venus = 24,48 Taurus
   Moon's true node = 24,51 Taurus
   Nessus = 24,39 Scorpio!

   This describes very well the craggy and depressive mood of his compositions, morbid and romantic, with ecstatic moments of great beauty and sublimity... Certainly Venus/Pluto could qualify for this (they are less than a degree apart), but it is through Nessus that the Moon is dynamically involved in such a strong way, generating the sublime intensity,  the delicate and passionate tenderness, for which his music is known and loved.

    Pluto is not vulnerable: he is death (our Moon, Venus, etc are vulnerable against him); but Nessus "travels" through this darkness, aware of his fragility, and makes "the death" less implacable and more treatable, more human, allowing you to "engage" in living without going to plutonian hell, by sharing this condition of "frailness" in comunity.

     Saturn says to Nessus: "come, bring me the fragments of your death, show me the offspring of the dragon inside, and let's work with it. Let's try to live even if you don't have a leg, or an arm... I will build a structure and a place for you. I can't make you happy, but I can work with your fragments and cement them so strong..."

     Personally, I don't see anything dealing with revenge in Nessus. To me, it has more to do with being vulnerable, or, rather, with being "small". Like being black in a white community, or being ugly, or having been abused. This doesn't mean that it doesn't have its nasty aspect, which may be all the bad feelings you accumulate for being in that situation. Involved with Pluto, it may have a lot to do with manipulation and the putting of feelings in second or third place, trying to develop strength to compensate for the lack.

     The image of Japanese society and Japanese samurai warriors comes very strong to me when I think in Nessus. It has a shining armour made of some cloth that is close to metal, but it's not rigid like the armours in the west.

     Another image is the dragon's skin.

     I would say that Nessus is dark, and seems to go downward. Like the wings of a dragon, as opposed to Pholus, who has "wings of light", like an Angel. Nessus is like bringing out the dark so that it can be redeemed, whereas Pholus is like an overflow of one into the other...

     Nessus frailty is the key to its meaning. The paradox of weakness. Saint Paul said: "for when I am weak, then I am strong". This passage of 2 Corinthians is worth mentioning here. I think it deals with Nessus:

12,7-10: to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me --to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness¨... Therefore I am well content with weaknesses... for when I am weak, then I am strong.


     This is the paradox of Nessus, and probably of all the other Centaurs as well.
 

Juan Antonio Revilla
San José, Costa Rica, July 1999.


 
 
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