A skyscape and a man: the Snake, the Crab and the Bear.  An exploration of a part of the sky which is focused on all issues to do with the life of planet Earth. A sky story in the light of the recent death of Thomas Berry, the founder of the deep ecology movement.

Facing Facies: Green Passion or Red Devil? A look at Facies, the nebula in the face of Sagittarius, and its involvement within the charts of two environmentalists: Thomas Berry and James Lovelock.

Notes - thank you!

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A skyscape and a man:
the Snake, the Crab and a Bear

Bernadette Brady MA


Between the regal head of Leo the lion and the busy and bright twins of Gemini lies the dimmest of the zodiac constellations, Cancer. Lucida, Cancer's brightest star, is only at the 4th magnitude and it takes a keen eye on a dark clear night to see this celestial crab moving across the heavens.  

Dim it may be but it marked the summer solstice from around 2000 B.C.E. – 1000 B.C.E. which is more than likely the reason for its identification and  membership of the zodiac. For the Egyptians it was the Scarabaeus, the sacred beetle that was linked with immortality, whereas for the Greek astronomer Eratosthenes (276 – 195 B.C.E.) it was the Crab and contained two asterisms, the Asses and the Crib. This Crib, lying near the head of the crab and between the two asses, is a nebula which was named Praesepe meaning in Latin “the manger”. The two asses were supposedly placed into the constellation on each side of the manger by Zeus as a reward for aiding him in the battle at Phlegra, the mythic location where Zeus overcame the giants to claim rulership of the world. 


By the time of Christian Europe, however, the Crab with its manger and two donkeys had morphed into the Christian nativity scene. Nowadays the twinkling nebula in Cancer is known as the Beehive, still flanked by the two donkeys, Asellus Borealis (the northern donkey) and Asellus Australis (the southern donkey). Thus since its earliest records this constellation has been linked with life, the protection of it, and the sacredness of it. Indeed according to Allen [1], within Platonist philosophy it was the supposed Gate of Men through which one’s soul descended from the heavens to incarnate into the sub-lunar realm of the physical body.

The constellation Cancer with the Beehive and Two Donkeys


The Earth, Life and Us, a skyscape

But there is a larger story around this celestial life-giving crab. Its location in the heavens is on that part of the ecliptic which passes between the great bear, Ursa Major to the north and the Hydra in the south (see figure below). Ursa Major is the constellation linked with the rhythm of the Earth's greening, the seasonal part of life on the planet. In the summer months she (assigning it a feminine role due to the constellation's mythology) can be seen moving along the horizon as the earth's diurnal moment carries her forward in her evening stroll, whereas in winter in the evenings, she is seen high in the sky on her back, hibernating. Ursa Major is symbolic of the rhythm of seasons and of life on Earth. On the other side of the ecliptic is The Hydra, the great snake associated with the vitality of life and a species' immortality through countless generations.  


Therefore this part of the sky is rich with the symbolism of life: the great seasonal rhythm as embraced by Ursa Major, and the universal concepts of the renewal of life symbolized by the Hydra.


Both of these constellations "look" at each other through the zodiac constellation of Cancer.

In terms of sky-stories, here are two expressions of life's energy (Earth and Life) linked across the ecliptic by the constellation Cancer.


This is a place where the rich symbols of the earth’s seasons (the Great Bear) and the renewal of life on planet earth (The Hydra) meet and merge with the human desire for children and one’s own immortality through one’s family (Cancer). So this skyscape embraces all of life: the Earth, the different species, and the tenacity of life to renew itself across the generations.

Thomas Berry
and The Great Work

My attention was focused on this area of the sky as a result of the death of Thomas Berry on 1st June. Berry was a priest, scholar and author. Many people may not recognize his name but he is/was the inspiration behind the deep ecological movement fuelled by his book, The Great Work.  In this work he talked of the great works of humanity of the past. According to Berry, the Great Work of classical Greece was their ability to give an understanding of the human mind and the creation of the Western humanist tradition; the Great Work in India was their ability to lead human thought into spiritual experiences of time and eternity; and the Great Work of classical Rome was their ability to gather the people of the Mediterranean world and of Western Europe into an ordered relationship with one another. Berry believed that another Great Work was incumbent upon humanity, the work before us now, which is to learn how to live in harmony on this small green planet. [2]

 “Whatever preserves
and enhances
this meadow
in the natural cycles
of its transformation
is good;
whatever opposes
this meadow
or negates it
is not good.”

Thomas Berry (1914 - 2009)

Born 9th November, 1914, in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA, Berry’s own life was transformed at 11 years of age when he strolled into a meadow with white flowers one afternoon on a day in late May.  He talked of how this meadow, complete with trees, flowers, clouds, sunlight and the noises of life, kept returning to him throughout his life, causing him to develop a personal philosophy of: “Whatever preserves and enhances this meadow in the natural cycles of its transformation is good; whatever opposes this meadow or negates it is not good.” [3].



Berry saw the Universe as the concept of story both emerging and creating. In this light, then, it is in keeping to look at his personal sky story to see what the starry sky had to say about a man who saw the very nature of story as the key to life itself.


The sky for his birth on 9th November 1914 contains many interesting comments: the retrograde Venus in the stars of the Scorpion reveals his opposing attitude to society, and the Sun moving between the Symplegades in the constellation Libra indicates his ability to pose the hard questions about the environment.   Yet apart from these personal statements there was also his Moon and Neptune in Leo moving through the stars of Cancer.

Thomas Berry's sky map (birth time unknown). The Sun moving through the Symplegades and Venus deeply off the ecliptic making a retrograde loop near Antares.


He was born, or as Berry would probably say, he was created by the Universe at a time when  Neptune was moving through this life-filled area of the sky, a type of celestial Eden.

This “U” shaped patch of sky, centred on the stars of Cancer, is the place where these three faces of life on Earth meet, coming together to form one story – life as a universal concept, life for the Earth, and life for the individual species, a family.

Neptune began to move into the stars of Cancer in 1914 and took roughly 6 to 7 years to complete its journey.  The shadow side of Neptune's journey through this celestial Eden was the emergence of chemical warfare in WWI with all of its environmental dangers, but this was also the generation whose work has caused us to see the environment as an entity in our lives.

Sky Map for Thomas Berry (9 Nov. 1914)
showing his Moon Neptune in the stars of Cancer.

Berry was born with his Moon-Neptune in this area and so was James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypotheses. Lovelock was born on 26 July, 1919, in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England (time unknown) when the Moon, Sun, Jupiter and Neptune were all crowded into the tiny Crab.  For Lovelock, planet Earth with all its living and non-living parts, forms a single organism, self-regulating and self-maintaining for all life, in a state of homeostasis. This is the Gaia hypothesis. For Berry it was the Universe that was the single living entity. Both men were born as Neptune moved through this life-rich skyscape.


After the birth of this generation the next outer planet to move into this celestial Eden was Pluto in the mid-1940s. We now know that the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were more than an assault on the Japanese people. They were an assault on life itself.


As the planets move through the stars of Cancer in their inevitable cycles we can gain personal sky stories which reveal our individual approach and attitude towards life on planet Earth. We may be a long way away from our ability to achieve Berry's idea of The Great Work, but if you have planets between 10 and 150 of Leo, stop and think about your position on the environment and nature, and how those planets contribute to its expression. Is your connection generational or personal? Do you support, disagree with, or are you apathetic to the idea of the world as a living entity?


These planet(s) will contribute to your thinking about environmental issues and indicate the actions you take and your attitude towards our little blue planet.  

[1] Allen, Richard Hinckley. (1963).  Star Names Their Lore and Meaning. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. pg. 107.
[2] Berry, Thomas. (1999).  The Great Work, Our Way into the Future. New York: Three Rivers Press. pg1.

[3] Berry 1999: pg. 17.


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Facing Facies: Green Passion or Red Devil?

by Darrelyn Gunzburg


Facies, is the concept of ruthlessness, the nebula in the face of Sagittarius, The Archer


The sky contains many constellation narratives that offer us an understanding of what it is to be human and when our planets, particularly outer planets, connect with a part of a constellation, we gain an insight into that constellation's expression at the human level.  The Archer of old was the valued killing machine who could destroy from afar, rather than in the “noble” confines of face to face combat. So the wild and ferocious Archer was deeply feared, and his accurate stare was what gave him his power.

This stare is the essence of Facies and it sums up the narrative of what it is to fight. However the essence of the narrative of Facies is absolute focus on a goal, and if that is a person, then it can contain cruelty and violence, making either a great leader or a feared dictator, or one who is the focus of and hence victim of the archer's stare. However, if it is ploughed into an issue or a project, this strongly focused driven energy can help a person achieve their ends.


Two examples of people who contain Facies with an outer planet are Thomas Berry and James Lovelock. Both men stride at the boundaries of how we understand life, symbolizing the macro and micro of the same coin, Berry concerned with the entire universe that throbs and pulses as one living organism and Lovelock with the complex interacting system of the living and non-living parts of the earth as a single organism.

Thomas Berry has Pluto rising when Facies was setting:

To be a catalyst for change.
A person who focuses intensely on their goals.
To be at the right place at the right time.
The end of one era and the beginning of another.[1]


Berry was born with a partile (exact) Saturn-Pluto conjunction at 10 of Cancer. Born four months into the start of World War I, this explosive combination natally implies a great sensitivity to the violence in the community, and the necessity to harness its ferocity through hard work in a productively-intense environment. To have Facies sitting underneath his Pluto simply underlines the concentrated and passionate energy that was available to him. Berry recognized early in his life, even if he did not then understand it, the place that would teach him where this passion could be placed – the meadow – and he learned to fight for what he called “a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship” [2] describing the necessity for “the transformation of humanity’s priorities”, words that sum up Facies in paran with Pluto and Berry’s role as a catalyst for change.

         James Lovelock has Uranus culminating when Facies is Setting
To become outraged at injustices.
To seek to understand or instigate change on one’s culture or society.[3]

Lovelock was born with Uranus at the bendings (square to the nodal axis). When a planet is found in this position in a chart it highlights that planet in some way and even suggest it may become part of what that person takes on board as their career or vocation. For Lovelock this suggests he may be involved with something that is at the cutting edge of new technologies or it may place him in a maverick position as a touchstone for the common person. With Facies sitting underneath his Uranus, this passionate intensity can be focused through an intellectual lens.

James Lovelock (1919 -  )

Lovelock has been a lifelong inventor but his Gaia hypothesis was first formulated during the 1960s as a result of his work for NASA regarding detecting life on Mars.[4] A recognition of the absence of life on one planet allowed him to better appreciate life on another (our own), to become outraged (Facies-Uranus) at its abuse and to instigate changes to stop this.

In summary…

These two men both contain a difficult star (Facies) in paran with an outer planet in their charts. Yet the actions of their lives have shown how they have been able to harness that energy and focus its passion to make changes. So have a look and see if you have Facies making a paran to a planet in your chart and ask yourself how you are expressing that passion in your life, whether it is a devil with which you dance as a victim in some way or a passion that greens your life with abundance.



1.  Brady, Bernadette (2007) Star and Planet Combinations. Bournemouth: The Wessex Astrologer, p.168.

2.  Described in a 2006 interview with the filmmaker Caroline Webb: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/us/04berry.html?_r=3&ref=obituaries – accessed 12th June 2009.

3.   Brady, Bernadette (2007) Star and Planet Combinations. Bournemouth: The Wessex Astrologer, p.168.

4.  Lovelock, J.E. (1965). "A physical basis for life detection experiments". Nature 207 (7): 568–570.