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THE GREY LADY

Posted on December 11th, 2015 by Don Cerow

 

Both Frederick Douglass and the island of Nantucket shared a common bond with one another. Each arose from an uncertain genesis, as neither was sure of their precise date of birth. Like the fog that often blankets this lonely island lying thirty miles out at sea, their origins were obscured beneath the damp grey mists of uncertainty.

This island was the birthplace of the American whale fishing industry. It was established sometime during the month of October 1641 as Thomas Mayhew acquired the rights to the islands south of mainland Massachusetts, but the specific day in 1641 was never recorded.[1] Incorporation would have to wait another thirty years until 1671.

Whenever it was established, the people and administration of Nantucket soon distinguished themselves as philosophically humanitarian in their dealings with the native population. There were about 3,000 Wampanoags headed by four chiefs living in permanent villages when the colonists moved to the islands. Interpersonal relations with the tribe were both peaceful and courteous through a benevolent policy of respect and fair trade said to be unequaled anywhere in the colonized world. [2] One of Governor Mayhew’s earliest orders was that no land was to be taken from the natives without their consent or in return for fair payment. When King Philip’s War erupted on the mainland during the latter part of the 17th century, the Native Americans of Nantucket remained at peace with their recently established islanders, even though they outnumbered the English settlers by about twenty to one. [3]

“In 1716 the Nantucket Friends became one of the first groups in America to take a stand against slavery, establishing a precedent that would help create what has been called “the enthusiastically abolitionist atmosphere of the whale fishery,” in which sailors of all colors were well paid for their services.”.[4]

When the red tide of slavery began to wash upon the nation’s shores, these policies based on humanitarian principles were to persevere, even when powerful currents within the country thought otherwise.

Celestially speaking, the archetypes of Pisces and Aquarius resonate to the tone of the story lines we are hearing here. Pisces, the sign of the Fish, deals with slavery, prisons, institutions and even hospitals. It is the hidden, sad and lonely. It’s the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and those lost at sea. As the sign that deals with the great maritime oceans, it rules both fishing and whaling and all that goes along with it.

Aquarius represents social freedom and personal liberties. It marches to the beat of the different drummer, is independent, and stands with the underdog especially when its views do not flow with those of the mainstream. The celestial waters of the Aquarian urn merge with the wine-dark sea of Pisces to form a collective current that sweeps away the old at a revolutionary pace, striking with a suddenness that can leave those in its wake stunned by its chilly abruptness.

Entering the first half of the 19th century Nantucket continued to spearhead the same spirit of freedom, independence and equality it had once demonstrated with the local Wampanoags. For an escaped slave it represented the geographic Compass Rose of the abolitionist movement, the unshakable moral measure of ‘true’ north. It held an exalted position with an elusive mystique for those attempting to break the bonds of servitude, a Shangrala of consciousness to strive for. Years before the cannons of Charleston Harbor rained down on Fort Sumter, Frederick Douglass would speak to a white audience in Nantucket’s Atheneum, a temple dedicated to the Olympian in antiquity.

For the local community this building was a nod to the goddess of wisdom. The classical poets referred to her as ‘grey-eyed Athena’. In this incarnation the Grey Lady was to adopt a new persona, supplying hope and direction beneath what would soon become the stormy and destructive winds of war. Before he was finished, Douglass would speak about slavery and the state of his people five times at the Atheneum, both before and after the great conflict. According to Douglass,”While attending an anti-slavery convention at Nantucket, on the 11th of August, 1841, I felt strongly moved to speak, and was at the same time much urged to do so. . . It was a severe cross, and I took it up reluctantly. The truth was, I felt myself a slave, and the idea of speaking to white people weighed me down. I spoke but a few moments, when I felt a degree of freedom, and said what I desired with considerable ease. From that time until now, I have been engaged in pleading the cause of my brethren. . . [5]

Like the date the first colonials first set foot on these islands to settle them in 1841, Frederick Douglass did not know his precise date of birth. While admitting uncertainty, Douglass selected February 14th as his mother used to call him her “little valentine”.From Wiki-”The exact date of Douglass’s birth is unknown. He later chose to celebrate the date of February 14.[6] The exact year is also unknown (on the first page of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, he stated: “I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it.”)” However, through extensive research, historian Dickson Preston has surmised that Douglass was born in February 1818.[7]If we use 14 February 1818 as his time, a number of his archetypes seem to spring to life. First of all, the preponderance of his planets fall in Pisces and Aquarius. The precise birth time is of course unknown, and therefore we use noon as an arbitrary time, dividing the day neatly in half.


He has Venus, the asteroid Pallas (Athena) and the Sun in Aquarius, while his Ceres, Saturn, Chiron and Pluto all fall in Pisces. He was to experience both the highs and lows of these signs; separated from his mother at an early age, being severely and repeatedly whipped while in slavery, and yet eventually drinking deeper than most from the cup of freedom. We find these archetypal images interwoven in his own words, experiencing the full range of what it meant to be subjected to such powerful and sensitive conditions.”As a slave on a landlocked Maryland plantation, he would look longingly toward Chesapeake Bay and its sailing ships. For Douglass the ships represented everything that had been denied him by slavery, and in his Narrative (1845) he describes how he would “pour out my soul’s complaint. . . to the moving multitude of ships”:
“You loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast in my chains, and am a slave! You move merrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip! You are freedom’s swift-winged angels, that fly round the world; I am confined in bands of iron! … It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave. I will take to the water.”[8]The Aquarian themes need little introduction. The desire for freedom, independence and the elevation of society so that all components are balanced equally is plainly evident. With his Pallas Athena in Aquarius, the grey-eyed goddess takes on yet another incarnation through the spirit of the French revolution as expressed by ‘Liberté, egalité, fraterité’, French for ‘Liberty, equality and fraternity’.  This sentiment was underscored in a late 19th century reminder when the Statue of Liberty was unveiled in New York Harbor, this time under the guise of Columbia, the New Colossus.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These lines combine archetypes in the poor, the huddled masses (Pisces) yearning to breathe free (Aquarius).

Aquarius is an AIR sign.

It is Saturn and Pluto in Pisces that truly reveal ‘the cross’ that Frederick Douglass, and all his people, had to bear. Oppression, subversion, and humiliation enforced by owners (Saturn) and backed by the local legislative bodies (Saturn) are among the attributes that constituted daily life for those bound by these political and legal chains (Saturn). Indeed, his Saturn in Pluto was squaring Neptune in Sagittarius, and this manifested itself as the prevalent mores of the times, the bottom of the social barrel, the generational familiarity, the crystallized status quo demonstrated in a thousand ways everywhere around him.

Finally, it was his Mars in Gemini that accounted for his eagerness to learn to read (Gemini) as a boy (Mars), seizing every opportunity, every paper, sermon and Bible that he could lay his hands on. This vibration would help to make him articulate, clever and lucid. The turn of a phrase, the capability for persuasive oratory, or what some might call the gift of gab was his true craft, and he was able to learn it on his own (Mars). If Frederick Douglass were born anytime during February 1818, his Mars would have been in Gemini, commencing with 10 degrees at the start of the month and ending with 18 degrees by its end. If he were indeed born on Valentine’s Day in 1818, the Moon would have joined his Mars in Gemini, doubling his desire to learn, to hope and to determine his eventual path to freedom.

Like the tides surrounding Frederick Douglass on his land locked Maryland plantation, we are now surrounded by the same two archetypes we opened with, but on a larger scale. The Age of Pisces and all it has represented over the last two millennia is being overtaken by the Aquarian vibration together with its new, radical and unfamiliar chords. According to these celestial currents, the social, political, economic, educational and even health care industries stand on the brink of a dramatic shift in consciousness. On the low side, we will be losing touch with many things we find familiar. On the high side, there will be a new social community that learns to pull together, to make new discoveries and develop new technologies that will help make life easier, with less need for a subservient slave society, bound by either race or the austere economic conditions of the majority.

Technology with be our servant. The myths and legends point the way.

Science and its offspring engender much that will help to make the world an easier place in which to live as we say a welcoming hello to the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

Footnotes:

  1. Palfrey, John Gorham. History of New England. Little, Brown (1899), Vol. II, pp. 196-97.
  2. Governor Thomas Mayhew, the Elder. Wiki-, from the subsection Relations with the natives.

3.  Wilson, James Grant, and John Fiske, eds. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Appleton & Co. (1900), Vol. IV, pp. 275-76.
4.   “I Will Take to the Water”: Frederick Douglass, the Sea, and the Nantucket Whale Fishery
By Nathaniel Philbrick. Originally published in the Historic Nantucket, Vol 40, no. 3 (Fall 1992), p. 49-51
5.   Ditto
6.   Frederick Douglass (1845). Narrative of the Life of an American Slave. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
Frederick Douglass began his own story thus: “I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland.” (Tuckahoe is not a town; it refers to the area west of the creek in Talbot County.) In successive autobiographies, Douglass gave more precise estimates of when he was born, his final estimate being 1817. He adopted February 14 as his birthday because his mother Harriet Bailey used to call him her “little valentine“.
7.  Slaves were punished for learning to read or write, and so could not keep records. Based on the extant records of Douglass’s former owner, Aaron Anthony, historian Dickson Preston determined that Douglass was born in February 1818. McFeely, 1991, p. 8.
8.   “I Will Take to the Water”: Frederick Douglass, the Sea, and the Nantucket Whale Fishery
By Nathaniel Philbrick. Originally published in the Historic Nantucket, Vol 40, no. 3 (Fall 1992), p. 49-51



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