I was excited to get the opportunity recently to catch a screening of the Elliott Smith documentary Heaven Adores You at the 2014 Portland Reel Music film fest. A pained soul who left the world too soon, Smith is yet another artist whose absence makes our growing adoration for his work bittersweet. And the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death only serve to heighten our interest in his life.
The director was in attendance at the screening and told the audience he’d intended to make a film that would honor Smith’s music and that he intentionally de-emphasized the last year of his life and his death. After the drama and accusations that littered the blogosphere following his death, the film comes as a sort of healing balm to soothe the collective wound and bring the focus on Smith back to the thing that was most dear to him: his music.
I was immediately struck by the Neptunian theme that permeated the film from Smith’s discomfort with live performance but love of writing and recording music, to his decent into drug use, and his persistent cries for help from his friends. One of the hallmarks of his chart is a tight T-Square between his Moon+Ascendant in Taurus, Neptune in Scorpio, and Mercury in Leo in the 4th. Let’s take a look at that more closely, knowing what we do about his life.
Smith’s Taurus Moon at 27° is tightly conjunct his Taurus Ascendant at 29°. That makes me recall a quote from a fan who wrote, “I know that when I saw him being a complete mess on stage last year, I wanted to take him home and take care of him.” (1) You can find similar posts on many Smith fan blogs. With the moon on the Ascendant, Smith couldn’t very well disguise his feelings. They were on display for all to see—and to empathize with—whether he wanted that or not. His vulnerability was a draw, and his fans formed a deep emotional connection to his music. And many experienced that connection as the desire to nurture him.
Tonight I just watched a film that pushed me out of my comfort zone. And to calm my nerves, I’m sitting in front of the computer late on a Saturday night, writing this as a kind of therapy. The film is the very dark “comedy” God Bless America, written and directed by warped comedian Bobcat Goldthwait. Now let me say this loud and clear before you rush out and watch the film: I don’t recommend the film, nor do I suggest you watch it! In fact, take my advice and don’t. My own interest was piqued when I first saw the trailer, but in that can’t-turn-away-from-a-car-wreck sort of way. The images were shocking but I also instantly noticed their relevance to the current transit of Uranus through Aries. So I chose to watch it because I was really curious to see how the film’s release played out in the larger culture.
I expected there to be a lot of press around the film’s release, including protests and angry dissent. But the release was relatively uneventful. In fact, after seeing the pre-release trailer in some art-house theater, I never saw mention of the film again, and forgot about it entirely until the mass shootings of 2012 started. And for reasons which will soon become apparent, I was instantly reminded.
In short, God Bless America is the story of a middle-aged male and a teenage female who embark on a violent killing spree, randomly shooting people who “just piss them off.” Some of their main targets are right-wing pundits and radicals, and they also take direct aim at pop culture, shooting participants on an American Idol-style reality TV show.
After watching this film I became fascinated with how markedly the director was tuned in to the zeitgeist. He couldn’t have known that shooting sprees were about to become even more of a prominent fixture in our culture just after his film’s release. And yet he was clearly already deeply in touch with the archetypal energies that were brewing even before any of the dramatic shooting incidents of 2012 took place. Because of that, this film is prophetic and even more deeply disturbing than it would have been in any other context.
So let’s take a closer look.
At the 2009 at the ISAR Astrology Conference in Chicago, the hot topic was predictions about the years 2009-2015. At the conference, and for the months to follow, the astrological community was buzzing about the looming 2010 Saturn-Uranus-Pluto T-Square, and the coming years of the Uranus square Pluto transit. There were predictions of financial collapse, civil war, unrest, assassination and revolution. And the fear expressed in the astrological community was mirrored with identical projections all throughout our culture. It seemed that wherever I looked, people were saying that the apocalypse was at hand, the sky was about to fall and that it was time to head for the hills.
As I started to do my own analysis of the potentials of the coming transits, I zeroed in on the potential for revolution. With Uranus in Aries squaring Pluto in Capricorn, I imagined challenges to the status quo, who could in turn respond with even more harsh measures of control. I imagined the possibility of fascism in response to revolution. History has no shortage of grave human errors. And I wondered if we might be at the threshold of another such time.
Another line of thought had me worried about physical changes in the earth, and catastrophes that we wouldn’t be able to stop. I began to get pretty worked up about all of these fearful projections, and everywhere I turned it seemed that other people were doing the same thing. Because of the daily stress I started to feel, I made a deliberate effort to stop this line of thinking, which was both unproductive and disturbing. I decided to leave fearful speculation to the masters – the newscasters. I turned off the news, and decided I’d just take it day-by-day and respond to whatever life delivered as best I could in the moment.
And then bang – just as the square between Uranus and Pluto heated up, revolution was on everyone’s lips. From the Arab Spring, to the Occupy movement, challenges to the status quo were in full force. Dramatically, the day Uranus moved into Aries, we experienced the colossal earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan. It seemed that all of my worst fears about the potentials of the transits were coming true. I had a feeling there would be more to come. And because one of the potentials of Uranus is that events colored by its transits can be quick and shocking, I knew it would be hard to pin down exactly when or where such events would take place. All of this was a recipe for my fearful projections to start up again. So I really had to make a daily effort to avoid that and do my best to stay present.
Then the shootings started. And right on time, I was shocked and surprised like the rest of you. I’m not sure why I hadn’t considered the lone-shooter scenario as part of the potential of Uranus’ transit through the sign of Aries, because in hindsight, it makes so much sense. But astrology is often like that: easy to explain after the fact, but more difficult to predict with certainty. I’m sure someone out there did accurately predict the increase in lone shooters. But I was so focused on Uranus’ interaction with Pluto spelling r-e-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n, that I overlooked some of the most basic meanings of both the planets and the signs. So let’s look at them.