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Besieged!: Seeing Challenges in the Natal Chart through Malefic Enclosures

In traditional astrology, the only house closely configured to the native, their psychology, personality, health and vitality, is the first. Any planets in the first house have a direct bearing on the interpretation of the native themselves, as does the planet ruling the ascendant. If the ruler of the ascendant resides elsewhere in the chart, then it’s a safe bet that whatever topics that planet signifies will be amplified in the native’s life owing to its connection to the ascendant. As for the rest of the planets — they symbolize other people, events and circumstances in the life; they’re not all a reflection of an individual’s psychology.

In natal chart delineation, we want to examine the good as well as the “bad.” I use “bad” in quotation marks, since experiences are relative and sometimes objectively “bad” experiences can turn out to be blessings in disguise or set us down unexpected and surprisingly beneficial paths. We can use synonyms like “salty,” “challenging,” “difficult,” or “frustrating” — all of which still emphasize the fact that every life has its ups and downs. While I don’t believe the natal promise is a life sentence, I do believe that we need to balance our assessments of the chart. No life is completely rosy; without acknowledging where we can encounter more challenges, we are doing ourselves and those we read for a disservice. Unquestionably, we need to be careful about the ways in which we transmit information — this is why it’s so vital that delineations are a dialogue in which we can groundtruth our assumptions and clarify how natal placements manifest in a life — but we cannot paint everything with a brush that hides the less-than-stellar areas. As you all know, I’ve written openly about Pluto transiting over my natal IC. Was it great? Heck, no, but it’s an opportunity to share difficult experiences with others and emphasize the overarching point about the natal promise: not everything is activated at once, not everything is sunshine and lollipops, but all cycles do end and new ones begin.

Sect as a Foundation of Natal Chart Delineation

Before delving into the topic of enclosure, I want to say a few things about the concept of sect. If you study Hellenistic astrology, you’ll quickly learn that this is one of the most basic, bedrock concepts on which so many delineation techniques are built.

Sect relies on the distinction between diurnal and nocturnal births as determined by the Sun’s position with respect to the horizon. If the Sun is above the ascendant-descendant axis, we have a diurnal chart. The Sun is the sect light; Jupiter is the benefic of the sect, illuminating topics of ease in the native’s life; and Saturn is the malefic of the sect, offering constructively challenging areas of growth for the native. Mars in a day chart has the potential to wreak havoc, though various other conditions can mitigate the extent of those difficulties. Conversely, if the sun is below the ascendant-descendant axis, we have a nocturnal chart. The Moon is the sect light, Venus is the benefic of the sect, and Mars is the corresponding malefic. In a night chart, Saturn is the troublemaker. We look to where these planets fall in the natal chart to see the topics that will represent ease and obstacles for the native.

Despite the fact that Saturn in a day chart and Mars in a night chart may behave more constructively, at the end of the day, both of these planets are malefic. At no time should we be lulled into a false sense of security by thinking that Saturn and Mars will be do-gooders when in sect with the chart (exceptions, of course, since some ancient astrological texts indicate that even the malefic rejoice in the tenth). Ultimately, though, Saturn wants to Saturn and Mars wants to Mars and together they will always highlight certain challenges. (For a short video on sect, check out my Instagram, @theeclecticoccultista.)

Maltreatment and Enclosure

In Chris Brennan’s magnum opus Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, enclosure (emperischesis) is defined as “the Hellenistic equivalent of the Medieval concept of ‘besiegement,’ which is when a planet is surrounded either bodily or by ray by both malefics or both benefics” (474). While we would obviously prefer planets enclosed by benefics, a malefic enclosure can prove quite difficult, as the two examples below demonstrate.

Benito Mussolini

A dramatic example of malefic enclosure is illustrated in Benito Mussolini’s natal chart. The Moon is trapped between Saturn at 7 degrees and Mars at 13 degrees of Gemini respectively.

In an enclosure/besiegement, a planet separates from one malefic and applies to the next without an intervention from another planet, either bodily or by ray. In this case, the only planets that could strike a ray to the Moon would be the Sun and Mercury, since they can “see” the eighth house planets by Ptolemaic aspect, but, as we can see, the degrees of both Mercury and the Sun precede Saturn, meaning that they cannot help the Moon.

In an ISAR lecture a few months ago, I heard Dr. Nicholas Campion of the University of Wales Trinity St. David mention that the English astrologer Olivia Barclay used to require that her students cite the basis for their delineations. This sounded grueling, more than a little time-consuming and something worth adopting, so let’s start with some general remarks from Vettius Valens about configurations of Saturn, Mars, and the Moon:

“Saturn, Mars, and the moon cause men to be venturesome in their business enterprises and noble, but ineffective, meeting with reversals and violence. They become in turn violent, reclusive, wicked: they have a plundering and thievish disposition, and become defendants in trials. They experience detention and criminal charges, unless of course the nativity happens to be fond of wrestling or of weapons, in which case the ‘detention’ configuration is fulfilled by the holds <of wrestling>. Some become injured or diseased and will suffer a violent end” (Book I, Anthologies, 19).

Before we resign ourselves to the above as revealing all — there’s a lot there that speaks to Mussolini’s fate! — let’s do a little extra analysis of our own, beginning with the planets in the eighth house.

According to Deborah Houlding in The Houses: Temples of the Sky, the eighth house rules “all matters relating to loss, decay, death, and the fear and anxiety attached [to] these. The quality and nature of death” (80). Whereas the fourth house rules “the end of the matter” in horary and the seventh house rules death itself, we see a strong configuration between Saturn and the Moon as rulers of the fourth and seventh houses respectively.

The Moon, which can represent the body of the native, their environment, travels, and changing fortunes among other significations, is separating from Saturn and applying to Mars — the ruler of Mussolini’s ascendant. Mars is also ruler of Mussolini’s sixth-house, which was known by the ancient name of “bad fortune.” Topically, Mars signifies violence, anger, aggression, ammunition, armies, army officers, assassination, guns, gunshot wounds, and countless other less-than-pleasant things.

Saturn, the natural significator of imprisonment, exile and death, among other significations, rules the topics of the third and fourth houses respectively. Among the various topics that the third speaks to, my focus was on “brothers in arms,” since this has some relevance to Mussolini’s demise, which we will outline momentarily. One final note is necessary around the nature of the dispositor of the eighth house.

Gemini is on Mussolini’s eighth house cusp, which is ruled by Mercury in the tenth house of public standing and reputation. Mercury also rules Mussolini’s midheaven in the eleventh. Mercury is in a condition known as “cazimi” or being “in the heart of the sun.” According to Patrizia Nava quoting Abraham ibn Ezra, “A planet joined with the Sun is like a person sitting with the king in one chair” — it is a signification of power and success and is the “greatest accidental strength imaginable.” Yet, as we know, Mussolini’s great rise to power was met with the violent end thanks to the malefic enclosure of the Moon.

Despite Mussolini’s two decade-long political success in Italy, in 1943, as Italy’s fortunes in the Second World War waned, King Victor Emmanuel dismissed Mussolini from office and had him arrested. To keep his location secret from the Nazis, he was moved to various places in Italy (moon signifying travel, Saturn signifying exile, imprisonment, enemies). By 1945, as the Nazis were advancing on Italy, Mussolini and his mistress fled, bound for Switzerland. Two days into their journey they were stopped by communist partisans, arrested, and shot the next day, along with the rest of their travelling companions, which included ministers and officials of the Italian Social Republic (or “brothers in arms,” ruled by Saturn in the eighth house of death). I’ll refrain from describing what happens next (though there are some further hints to how the malefic enclosure manifests for him after his death), since it gets quite gruesome, but it’s fair to say that this is a severe yet instructive example of how a malefic enclosure impacted Il Duce.

Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine

In a less dramatic example, Princess Alice’s chart has another kind of malefic enclosure. In contrast to the bodily enclosure we saw in Benito Mussolini’s chart where the three planets were configured by a conjunction, Princess Alice’s natal Venus in the twelfth house is enclosed by rays from both Saturn in the tenth and Mars in the ninth. Although I’ve read differing accounts on enclosure/besiegement, some of which indicate that the only allowable aspects for a malefic enclosures are a square, opposition or conjunction, I nevertheless think the principle applies here, with the sextile from Saturn mitigating perhaps some of the more dire possible significations were it configured differently.

For this particular example of enclosure/besiegement, we are evaluating the condition of Venus in the twelfth house. Venus rules Princess Alice’s second house of resources, material comfort, and income, and her seventh house of marriage partnerships. Venus in the twelfth is enclosed by a square from Mars, from which it is separating, and applying to a sextile with Saturn. Mars is in the ninth house, which signifies “long distance travel, voyages and journeys…foreigners, pilgrims and explorers…mysticism, philosophy, beliefs; the desire to unite with something greater than oneself. Religion and clergy of any kind. Affairs of the church. Holy places, sacred grounds, intellectual inspiration and spiritual quests” (Houlding, 82).

The dispositor of Mars in the ninth is in the eleventh house of friends, alliances, networks, and the company we keep; according to Houlding “its condition [also] indicates the fidelity or falseness of friends” (87). Jupiter is connected to the twelfth house as its ruler, though Jupiter is in aversion to one of the houses that it rules: Jupiter “sees” the ninth house by a trine, but cannot “see” the twelfth house. The same can be said for Jupiter’s dispositor, Saturn, which is also in aversion to the house that it rules. Saturn is in the tenth house with no “line of sight” to the eleventh. Because planets can only “see” each other by one of the classical Ptolemaic aspects — sextile, square, trine, or opposition — the modern astrological aspect of the semi-sextile and the inconjunct are places of blindness for planets. Although these planets do not form an aspect, there is still a delineation to make. Ben Dykes writes, “When the lord [of a house] is in aversion, it and the house are in need, with the danger of mischief, and the lord being weakened and cut off from its home” (Dykes, Traditional Astrology for Today: An Introduction, 71). The tenth and eleventh houses are “in need.” We will see later on how this might show up in Princess Alice’s life.

Dykes further provides an interesting delineation around a chart example in his book with the ruler being in aversion to the eleventh house. He writes, “being in aversion to the eleventh does not mean that there will always be breaks, differences, and so on in the native’s friendships…[when this position is activated] Maybe a friendship is dissolved, maybe the native breaks with old friends and makes new ones, or maybe the friends themselves have erratic experiences” (71). In Princess Alice’s chart, we have a similar aversion: the ruler of her eleventh is in the twelfth and the ruler of her twelfth is in the eleventh. There is something to be said here about the topics relating to friendships, isolation, sorrow, public standing, and her “office” in life — and all connected to the significator of marriage.

Finally, one quotation from Vettius Valens on Venus configured to the malefics seems apt:

“Saturn, Mars, and Venus are favorable at the start of actions, friendships, associations. These stars bring profit, high rank, and political associations. Later, however, men are put into a disturbed state, liable to lawsuits arising from some envy/hatred and treachery. Because of this, such men make accusations and they endure hostility from men and women. They are involved in shameful faults and adultery, and are the object of scandal and denunciation…They suffer no ordinary anxiety” (Book I, Anthologies, 19–20).

Let’s turn to Princess Alice’s biography to begin filling in some of the blanks with respect to the above-noted significations, beginning with the twelfth house.

The Moon can be a topical significator of the mother, particularly in a night chart. In Princess Alice’s chart, the Moon is in the twelfth house, which can be a place of confinement and restriction, and it is also the dispositor of the fourth house of home, family, roots, and foundation. Here the Moon is co-present the significator of Alice’s house of marriage. According to Wikipedia, “Alice’s matrimonial plans were begun in 1860 by her mother. Queen Victoria had expressed her wish that her children should marry for love, but this did not mean that her choice of suitors would necessarily be extended to anybody outside the royal houses of Europe.” The twelfth house is ruled by Jupiter in the eleventh — Jupiter also being a topical significator of royalty, alongside the Sun. (As an aside, in ancient astrology, the Sun and Moon were viewed as the King and Queen respectively, another relevant tidbit to mention.)

A minor German royal, Prince Louis of Hesse was eventually selected as a suitor and invited to Windsor Castle in 1860 for the Queen’s inspection. (The twelfth house can be a significator of foreigners and foreign places as well.) Princess Alice entered into an engagement with Prince Louis in 1861 and married him in 1862, despite the family still grieving the loss of Prince Albert, who died in December 1861. (The twelfth house can also indicate sorrow.)

During her marriage to Louis, Alice developed a friendship with David Friedrich Strauss, a controversial theologian. (Mars in the ninth house of religion ruled by Jupiter in the eleventh house of friends and associates.) Strauss was said to “[offer] Alice an intellectual companionship that her husband was not equipped to provide, and he was regularly invited to the New Palace to read to Alice privately.” Although Princess Alice distanced herself from Strauss after the death of her favourite child, Frittie, in 1873, I speculate whether this relationship led to tensions in Princess Alice’s marriage, owing to the malefic enclosure from Saturn and Mars. The friendship certainly led to tensions between her and her sister, Princess Augusta, who allegedly labelled Princess Alice a “complete atheist” as a result of the association.

In a biography about Princess Alice available on Project Guttenberg, the authors write, “ It was like the Princess’ straightforward nature boldly to acknowledge to the world her friendship for Strauss, even at the risk of incurring the most unfavorable criticisms” (240). While there are no implications of anything romantic occurring between Princess Alice and Strauss, there are some suggestions around a profound loneliness in her marriage, and especially during her time in Darmstadt, when she had first struck up a friendship with Strauss. In an 1876 letter to her husband, Princess Alice wrote:

“I longed for real companionship, for apart from that life had nothing to offer me in Darmstadt…So naturally I am bitterly disappointed with myself when I look back, and see that in spite of great ambitions, good intentions, and real effort, my hopes have nevertheless been completely ship-wrecked…You say, darling, that you would never have caused me hardship intentionally…I only regret the lack of any intention or desire — or rather insight — to be more to me, and that does not mean spending all your time with me, without wishing to share anything with me at the same time…I have tried again and again to talk to you about more serious things, when I felt the need to do so — but we never meet each other — we have developed separately…and that is why I feel true companionship is an impossibility for us — because our thoughts will never meet” (Wikipedia).

Although Princess Alice broke off her friendship with Strauss— Venus separating from Mars in the ninth — she remained isolated and lonely in her marriage and position — her midheaven and public reputation ruled by Saturn, the malefic contrary to the sect in favour, but dignified and angular, which mitigates some of the harm. Venus is applying to a sextile with the malefic, a more harmonious aspect, in which duty to her position prevails, but Saturn nevertheless continues to produce strains on her marriage — a marriage to a foreigner, in foreign lands, in which she feels alone and isolated.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think? Drop me a line or comment below!

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