The year 2020 is a dense one. The main roles on the astrological stage are played by no less than the two traditional giants Jupiter and Saturn, together with Pluto—the farthest celestial body discovered and used in modern astrology. Especially Saturn, as the host of the most significant astrological occurrences in 2020, has a major say in what themes we deal with this year.
So, what kind of host is Saturn? What does he have to offer? And what is his association with the monstrous octopus-like creature that emerges from the bottom of the sea in H. P. Lovecraft’s short story The Call of Cthulhu?
In the light of the heavy planetary configurations this year and how they interact on a personal level, it is almost comical that my first encounter with horror fiction happened to take place just at this point in time. I’ve never been interested in reading fiction or biographies. But here I am—on the finish line of a four weeks lasting marathon diving deep into H. P. Lovecraft’s tragedy-marked life and numerous stories of horror fiction. I don’t even remember how it had begun. All I recall is finding myself one night, headphones on, sitting in shady light in my apartment from where I took my journey to the lost city of R’lyeh. There, Cthulhu got a tight grip of me.
This article contains several citations from Lovecraft’s biographer S. T. Joshi and Lovecraft himself. I included them because they provide valuable insights about what Lovecraft’s life was made of and how he experienced it. This is helpful if you are not yet familiar with H. P. Lovecraft’s life. I highly recommend checking out Joshi’s books if you are further interested in Lovecraft’s life and personality. Especially the compilation of Lovecraft’s letters in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters, in cooperation with D. E. Schultz (2019), is most revealing.
In the first part of this article, I will give an overview of the symbolism associated with the planet Saturn in astrology. Then I talk about how Saturn’s nature is embedded in the story The Call of Cthulhu. Later, I give a brief introduction into Lovecraft’s life and career. Finally, I examine the extraordinary author’s life in the light of astrology using his birth chart and Zodiacal Releasing. The last part of this article will bring our focus back to the year 2020 and what Lovecraft’s stories have to offer in our time.
What life is made of
Life is eclectic. It expresses itself in countless different ways. And yet, in its essence, it is changeless. The colorful spectrum of life is in the end only a mixture of two forces—light and darkness.
Life can express itself in many different shades reaching from white to black. Astrology is capable of symbolizing the various mixtures of life’s appearances. It is also—and that is the main focus of this article—capable of breaking down the multifaceted expressions of human life in some basic categories of which we will acquaint ourselves with the one Saturn is responsible for.
Astrology is a complex system comprising of several factors. In combination, as displayed and interpreted in a natal chart, these reflect our experience of life on an individual level. One of the main components of astrology are the planets. These again, as stand-alone factors, can be seen as principles symbolizing the different aspects of life’s nature on a general level.
Each planet has positive as well as negative traits associated with it. However, traditionally there are two planets that hold the special position to signify mainly all that pertains to our experience of good fortune and positive things in general. These are Venus and Jupiter, which are called the benefics. Two other planets, Mars and Saturn, were assigned the position of symbolizing primarily all the ill fortune and painful struggles we may encounter. Saturn and Mars are called the malefics.
Before I go on, I want to point out that in a natal chart, under certain circumstances, the benefics can still indicate a possible downfall for the native, whereas the malefics can bear fortunate outcomes. How the symbolism of a certain planet or alignment of planets plays out in practice depends, besides on the individual structure of the natal chart, much on how we deal with that energy. In this article, I am only laying out some of the general symbolism associated with Saturn.
As said, the planets are capable of symbolizing and categorizing the different aspects of our earthly experience. So, what does the planet Saturn stand for?
Saturn is the outermost of the seven traditional planets—the last one still visible to the unaided eye. He is the second largest, the slowest moving, the dimmest, and coldest wandering star in our solar system. In astrology, Saturn rules the signs opposite the lights (Sun and Moon). From this we can draw the main significations of the Saturn principle.
The lights rule the signs (Cancer and Leo) that in the northern hemisphere coincide with the time of the year when the days are longest, vegetation reaches its high point and the weather is warm. Saturn, in opposition, rules the signs (Capricorn and Aquarius) that coincide with the coldest, darkest and most barren time of the year.
The sign rulership scheme as well as planet Saturn’s physical nature and location in our solar system puts it in the role of symbolizing primarily all that is the opposite of light and life, and everything that supports these. Saturn’s significations are rooted primarily in a combination of darkness, coldness, far distance, slow motion, gravity, and limitation.
Based on this, we get associations with everything that lies hidden—the unknown, the mystical, occult, secrets. Dark and underground places, such as caves and tunnels, as well as locations and buildings of isolation like prisons and monasteries belong to Saturn. We can find associations with the ugly, obscure, creepy, and alien. Animals like bats, rats, worms, and rather strange creatures fit in the range of Saturn’s significations. Unpleasant odors and things that are rotten belong to Saturn.
Saturn represents depression, melancholy, denial and necessity. Undesirable feelings, foremost anxiety, and FEAR, are also under the governance of Saturn. Apathy, loneliness, desperateness, grief but also horror, nightmares and madness belong to Saturn’s significations. Saturn is also associated with time, everything that is old, and ancient. Regression, decay, loss, and death are significations of Saturn. Finally, he represents the doorway between the seen and the unseen—this world and what lies beyond it.
Some of the positive qualities related to Saturn are perseverance, studiousness, order, discipline, patience, responsibility, and wisdom that comes from experience and time. Saturnian character traits are reticent, reserved, contemplative, serene, steadfast, knowledgeable, but also isolated, secretive, jealous, fearful, mistrusting, sluggish, stubborn, malicious, deceitful, and proud.
Saturn is associated with the Greek mythic figure of Kronos, and the god Saturn—his Roman counterpart. Its nature finds expression in such materials as lead, and dark-colored stones. Of plants, trees, and herbs Saturn governs, among others, sage, cumin, capers, pine, and willow. He represents old people, ancestors, widows, orphans, people in hard labor, societies misfits and outcasts, prisoners, and slaves, but also figures of authority, and wise men.
The Spotify playlist below gives a pretty good impression of the gloomy and dreary nature of Saturn.
Saturn, The Call of Cthulhu, and the monster within
The Call of Cthulhu (pronounced Khlûl′-hloo) was written by Howard Phillips Lovecraft in August and September 1926. Lovecraft wrote many stories during his short life but this one would be the one that made him later well-known as the creator of the “Cthulhu Mythos” and one of the fathers of modern horror fiction. The story was published in Weird Tales magazine in 1928. Below the original digitalized issue of Weird Tales vol. 11 no. 2. from the website of the Internet Archive. The story starts on page 159.
If you are already familiar with Lovecraft’s story The Call of Cthulhu, then you probably figured out by now, that it is, as the author’s stories in general, the embodiment of Saturnian significations.
In The Call of Cthulhu we find an alien creature which is one of the so-called “Great Old Ones”, that once ruled over the Earth. Cthulhu lies hidden in the sunken city R’lyeh at the bottom of the sea, not dead but in a sort of sleep still able to connect with humanity through dreams. In Lovecraft’s story, the emergence of this ancient monstrous entity from the depths of the darkness marks the end of the human rule on Earth.
The story begins with the following revealing passage: “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
Below the campaign video for THE CALL OF CTHULHU illustrated by François Baranger. This work is an absolutely stunning interpretation of the first sentences at the beginning of the story.
The first passage of The Call of Cthulhu sums up the struggle of the modern man (us) to understand and accept his roots and his wish to be left rather unenlightened about their existence. İpek Beren Yurttaş in his master’s thesis Modern individual in search of his demons: A Jungian approach to the selected stories of H. P. Lovecraft (2016), states that: “The Call of Cthulhu revolves around the dilemma of the modern man who cannot reach the Jungian true Self by acknowledging the monster within.” The Call of Cthulhu describes in dark shades and horrible tones our inability to face the animalistic side of human nature.
Yurttaş continues: “When analyzed through Carl Gustav Jung’s analytical psychology, Lovecraft’s stories reveal deeper meanings. Jung states that every individual has a collective unconscious which is composed of archetypes. The shadow and the anima/animus archetypes reflect one’s dark side which is the part that one does not desire to acknowledge or accept. According to Jung, through the process of individuation, every individual should face and embrace their dark side to reach wholeness, fulfillment, the Self. […] In Lovecraft’s fiction, the characters can be interpreted as the ego while “the Other” is the shadow and the anima/animus.”
He further writes: “Jung asserts that “[o]ne does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious” (Alchemical Studies 8), so to be a whole, the characters, as well as the 20th century individuals, have to travel into the darkness, the unknown and undiscovered parts of their minds and accept their true nature. In other words, the modern individual has to make peace with his own archaic roots. Unfortunately, this seems to be impossible for Lovecraft’s characters as their individuation processes end in disasters rather than miracles. This negative outcome illustrates what might happen to the individual if the process of individuation is unsuccessful or ends abruptly: One falls into neurosis.”
H. P. Lovecraft’s life—extraordinariness and tragedy
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an American science fiction, fantasy and horror writer. He himself called the genre of his stories “weird fiction”. Lovecraft was born to wealthy parents at 9 a.m. on August 20th 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, and died of Cancer on March 15th 1937, in poverty, at the young age of 46.
Lovecraft was by no means ordinary. Already as a child he proved to be outstanding. He developed an interest in literature and science at a very young age. Lovecraft was a rapid talker at the age of two, and able to read at age four. At age six he wrote his first poems. He discovered chemistry at age eight. At eleven, Lovecraft began to dive deep into the world of astronomy. Both sciences—chemistry, and astronomy—led him to launch his own publications “The Scientific Gazette” (1899-1909) and “The Rhode Island Journal of Astronomy” (1903-1909). Besides poetry, fiction, and science, Lovecraft also wrote about politics and philosophy. You’ll find a list of Lovecraft’s works behind the following link Works by H. P. Lovecraft. Edgar Allan Poe and Lord Dunsany were two of Lovecraft’s favorite writers.
Although later in life he had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, in his childhood and adolescence Lovecraft rather lived a life in solitude. He was a shy but nervous boy, which led to troubles in schooling and building friendships. The young prodigy was a sickly child to the effect that he had to spend many school years at home with private teachers. He enrolled school late, at the age of eight, for the 1898-99 term but was taken out of school after that very first year.
Nervous illness disrupted Lovecraft’s entire school time. A major nervous breakdown in 1908 prevented him finally from receiving his high school diploma. Lovecraft was for the rest of his life badly ashamed of failing to graduate from high school and enrolling university, which would have been his big dream.
The nervous breakdown in 1908 had a major effect on Lovecraft’s career and life. He withdrew permanently from school. He even destroyed almost all his stories of the previous five years, and spent the next five years in self-imposed isolation until late 1913. He describes his condition during this dark period of his life in a letter to R. H. Barlow, April 10, 1934 with these words: “When I was 18 I suffered such a breakdown that I had to forego college. In those days I could hardly bear to see or speak to anyone, and liked to shut out the world by pulling down dark shades and using artificial light”. S. T. Joshi in H. P. Lovecraft: A Short Biography argues that the reason for Lovecraft’s breakdown may have been him realizing that his skills in mathematics weren’t enough to pursue the career as an astronomer he wanted.
In a letter to Robert E. Howard on March 25–29, 1933, Lovecraft writes: “In studies I was not bad—except for mathematics, which repelled and exhausted me. I passed in these subjects—but just about that. Or rather, it was algebra which formed the bugbear. Geometry was not so bad. But the whole thing disappointed me bitterly, for I was then intending to pursue astronomy as a career, and of course advanced astronomy is simply a mass of mathematics. That was the first major set-back I ever received—the first time I was ever brought up short against a consciousness of my own limitations. It was clear to me that I hadn’t brains enough to be an astronomer—and that was a pill I couldn’t swallow with equanimity.”
Lovecraft’s childhood was marked further by tragedy. His father Winfield Scott Lovecraft died on July 19th, 1898 after being struck by a form of syphilis and spending five years in hospital. He was committed to Butler Hospital in Providence in April 1893, after a psychotic episode in a Chicago hotel. Lovecraft then was age two. After his father’s hospitalization, Lovecraft was raised by his mother, his maternal aunts Lillian and Annie, and his maternal grandparents Whipple and Robie, all residing in the family’s home in Providence. Grandmother Robie died in 1896. Regarding the huge effect her death had on the five-and-a-half years old boy, Lovecraft writes:
“In January, 1896, the death of my grandmother plunged the household into a gloom from which it never fully recovered. The black attire of my mother and aunts terrified and repelled me to such an extent that I would surreptitiously pin bits of bright cloth or paper to their skirts for sheer relief. They had to make a careful survey of their attire before receiving callers or going out! And then it was that my former high spirits received their damper. I began to have nightmares of the most hideous description, peopled with things which I called “night-gaunts”—a compound word of my own coinage.”H. P. Lovecraft, Letter to Rheinhart Kleiner, November 16, 1916
The next dramatic life-changing experience was the death of Lovecraft’s grandfather Whipple in 1904 which marked also the loss of his birth place and the descent into poverty. According to Lovecraft’s own words in a letter to J. Vernon Shea, February 4, 1934, this was the one time that he seriously thought of suicide. Although, he mentions thoughts of suicide also after his mother died in 1921 in a letter to Anne Tillery Renshaw, June 1, and again in 1935 in a letter to Helen Sully, August 15.
Through the tragic experiences of death and loss during childhood years, the theme of fear was implemented deeply in Lovecraft’s mind. These incidents of great drama would play an enormous role in forming the essence of Lovecraft’s fictional writings.
Lovecraft felt not at home in the modern world. S. T. Joshi writes in H. P. Lovecraft: A Short Biography: “Indeed, he shocked his Yankee family by declaring himself, at the age of six, a loyal subject of Queen Victoria, not of President Grover Cleveland. His devotion to England was of long standing, and he claimed to have derived it in part from the English ancestry of his father. Throughout his life he used British spelling variants in his writings, and he even half-seriously regretted the “tragedy” of the American Revolution, wishing that the colonies had remained loyal to Great Britain.”
Joshi explains further: “Lovecraft, in his letters, is presenting a carefully fashioned image of himself—he liked to pose, even in his twenties, as a preternaturally aged gentleman, devoted to the past and scorning all the social, political, and cultural movements of his own day.”
Being himself exceptional, it is not surprising that Lovecraft was, according to his own words, not interested in ordinary people. “It is man’s relations to the cosmos—to the unknown—which alone arouses in me the spark of creative imagination”, he writes in The Defence Remains Open! (April 1921). Surprisingly, Lovecraft was a convinced atheist already in his childhood years, although one would think he would have had some sort of believe in the spiritual world since his stories revolve around mysteries, myths, and gods.
Although old-fashioned, Lovecraft was somewhat protesting against tradition, especially when it came to religion. In a letter to Maurice W. Moe, April 5, 1931, he writes: “The whole keynote of my personality, aside from my antiquarianism, is individual revolt against meaningless convention.” Religion, to him, was of no use and a sign of lack of education. In a letter to Clark Ashton Smith, October 9, 1925, he writes: “I am, indeed, an absolute materialist so far as actual belief goes; with not a shred of credence in any form of supernaturalism—religion, spiritualism, transcendentalism, metempsychosis, or immortality.” Although into astronomy, he rejected astrology.
Lovecraft held further an attitude of dislike towards everything foreign which would express itself later in form of racism, although one of his friends and also his wife Sonia were Jewish. About Lovecraft’s bleak, and pessimistic worldview we read the following revealing statement:
“I have no opinions — I believe in nothing . . . My cynicism and scepticism are increasing, and from an entirely new cause — the Einstein theory. . . . and assumedly it removes the last hold which reality or the universe can have on the independent mind. All is chance, accident, and ephemeral illusion . . . There are no values in all infinity — the least idea that there are is the supreme mockery of all. . . . I believe in everything and nothing — for all is chaos, always has been, and always will be.”H. P. Lovecraft, Lord of a Visible World, as cited in Modern individual in search of his demons: A Jungian approach to the selected stories of H. P. Lovecraft by İpek Beren Yurttaş, 2016
However, it is interesting that back in 1918, on May 15th, he wrote to Maurice W. Moe: “I confess to an over-powering desire to know whether I am asleep or awake—whether the environment and laws which affect me are external and permanent, or the transitory products of my own brain. I admit that I am very much interested in the relation I bear to the things about me—the time relation, the space relation, and the causative relation. I desire to know approximately what my life is in terms of history—human, terrestrial, solar, and cosmical; what my magnitude may be in terms of extension,—terrestrial, solar, and cosmical; and above all, what may be my manner of linkage to the general system—in what way, through what agency, and to what extent, the obvious guiding forces of creation act upon me and govern my existence. And if there be any less obvious forces, I desire to know them and their relation to me as well.”
During his lifetime, Lovecraft found himself struggling with his work as a writer of weird fiction. There was only one book ever going into print. This book, containing The Shadow over Innsmouth, was released by William L. Crawford (Visionary Press) in November 1936—only a few months before Lovecraft’s death. The book was not a success. It had many errors. “Four hundred copies were printed but only two hundred bound in a “cheap and shoddy hardcover binding”, which Crawford sold for $1. Later, the other two hundred copies were destroyed. The book made no real impression, even in the tiny world of fantasy fandom”, writes Joshi in H. P. Lovecraft: A Short Biography.
Due to missing education Lovecraft was also not able to find a job outside of writing. It was only after his death and through the work of August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, which established Arkham House, that his work became known to the world.
In our days, Lovecraft’s contribution to the genre of horror fiction is well-known and highly respected. Howard Phillips Lovecraft is regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors in his genre and nowadays remembered as one of the fathers of modern horror literature.
The astrology behind
Lovecraft’s time of birth is found in S. T. Joshi’s book I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft (2013) and the brief biography The Life of a Gentleman of Providence, where he writes: “Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born at 9:00 AM on August 20, 1890, at his family home at 454 (then numbered 194) Angell Street in Providence, Rhode Island. Astro-Databank gives the same time and date and mentions as source, besides S. T. Joshi, David Fisher, who “quotes a colleague from Lovecraft by letter”. In I Am Providence, Joshi mentions in a footnote Lovecraft’s letter to his aunt Annie E. Phillips Gamwell, on 19 August 1921.
Of course, as with every birth time given exactly at a full, half or quarter hour, we have to take into account that the actual time may be a couple of minutes off. As for Zodiacal Releasing periods from the Lot of Spirit (LoS), one gets the impression that the given time is accurate. Although, it would have to be roughly forty minutes earlier or sixty minutes later to cause a sign shift for either the Lot of Spirit or the Lot of Fortune. For the Ascendant to change one sign earlier or later, the time would have to be about seventy to eighty minutes off.
Note: I am going against the tradition, using Chaldean instead of Egyptian bounds.
Lovecraft’s chart is diurnal. That makes Mars the primary significator for challenges and hardships. In Lovecraft’s chart Mars is located in Sagittarius in the third whole sign house (WSH). Struggles with schooling due to nervous illness colored the boys life heavily.
According to his own words, he was also “considered a bad boy, for I would never submit to discipline”. Lovecraft was neither reticent in expressing criticism. About his temper he writes to J. Vernon Shea, November 8, 1933: “I was, in fact, decidedly pugnacious—having a violent and ungovernable temper which the passage of years and a growing sense of the cosmic inevitability of all things has almost totally eradicated.” The latter statement may be symbolized by Saturn’s square to Mars.
The third house’s ruler Jupiter is located in the fifth WSH linking themes of communication, learning and writing to hobbies, pleasure and creative self-expression. The Ascendant’s ruler Venus’ twelfth-part in the fifth highlights further the importance and role of this place in Lovecraft’s life.
Saturn and Mercury are the primary and secondary rulers of the air triplicity—Ascendant, fifth, and ninth signs in Lovecraft’s chart. These places relate closely to the native’s Self and what supports it (first = body and mind, fifth = self-expression, ninth = worldview). Both planets are located in the twelfth WSH. Mercury’s importance is raised because he is also the bound ruler of the Degree of the Ascendant (Libra 13°41′), assumed the time of birth is accurate within twenty-nine minutes on one and six minutes on the other side.
Saturn and Mercury are in a key position in this chart. Saturn gets the highest overall score when calculating his strength relating to the hylegical places (Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Lot of Fortune, and prenatal lunation). He is the Almuten ruler of the career and status related tenth sign’s and MC’s ruler Moon as well as the Ascendant, and as said, the primary ruler of the air triplicity, that governs the first, fifth and ninth places in Lovecraft’s chart.
Triplicity rulership puts Saturn in an influential position. Saturn is located in the declining twelfth WSH, which is also the place of it’s joy. Saturn is a malefic by nature, although in Lovecraft’s chart he is of the sect in favor. The twelfth place is associated with retreat, exile, and self-undoing. Places related to the twelfth are, for example, prisons, monasteries, and hospitals. The houses above the horizon primarily relate to the mind and spirit. The 6–12 house axis is associated with health, the sixth pertaining to physical and the twelfth pertaining to mental health. All places in aversion to the Ascendant (12, 8, 6, 2) carry in some way the symbolism of unconsciousness and helplessness. The Ascendant (the native) can not see these places. Experiences related to the twelfth, eighth, sixth, and second houses seem often to come out of nowhere or are unconscious.
Lovecraft experienced several nervous breakdowns during his life. Already as a child he is said to have been nervous and restless. S. T. Joshi writes in I Am Providence: The Life and Times of HP Lovecraft: “One remarkable admission Lovecraft made late in life was as follows: My own nervous state in childhood once produced a tendency inclining toward chorea, although not quite attaining that level. My face was full of unconscious & involuntary motions now & then—& the more I was urged to stop them, the more frequent they became.” Lovecraft does not exactly date these chorea-like attacks, but context suggests that they occurred before the age of ten. All this led J. Vernon Shea to suspect that Lovecraft might actually have had chorea minor, a nervous ailment that “manifests itself in uncontrollable facial tics and grimaces but gradually dissipates by puberty.”
Lovecraft’s senses were very sensitive. In a letter to J. Vernon Shea, November 8, 1933, he writes: “I always shunned any place suspected of harbouring bad odours. In later years a sinus trouble has dulled my sense of smell and removed this attitude. I was also hypersensitive to sounds.”
If the time we have for Lovecraft’s chart is accurate, then I would suggest that the out-of-sect malefic Mars’ square to the Ascendant’s bound ruler Mercury together with the triplicity lord Saturn in the twelfth could symbolize the nervous troubles Lovecraft was suffering from. Mars is also in close conjunction to the Lot of Fortune, which, as well, is associated with the body and health. The sextile from Mars to the Ascendant’s ruler Venus is exact, and albeit a positive aspect, could have some significance here.
Although I focus primarily on the traditional seven planets and traditional techniques for chart delineation, I want to mention that in Lovecraft’s chart there is a within-one-degree-orb square from Neptune (+Pluto) to Saturn as well as a within-two-degree-orb conjunction between the Moon and Uranus.
It is interesting to note, that Saturn is the domicile lord of the fourth WSH and the IC (home, family roots, parents) in Lovecraft’s chart. The Lot of Affliction (ASC + Mars – Saturn), in the bounds of Mercury is, as well, located in the fourth sign. His mother and father had both been committed to Butler hospital, a mental asylum, after being diagnosed with psychosis (mother), and after suffering a seizure (father, diagnosed with paresis, which was the term then used to denote syphilis). Both parents died in Butler hospital.
In Lovecraft’s chart, the Sun, in the bounds of Mars, is applying to a conjunction with Saturn indicating challenges pertaining to self-esteem. The Sun is also ruler of the eleventh sign associated with friends. Lovecraft writes in a letter to Rheinhart Kleiner, November 16, 1916: “You will notice that I have made no reference to childish friends and playmates—I had none! The children I knew disliked me, and I disliked them. I was used to adult company and conversation, and despite the fact that I felt shamefully dull beside my elders, I had nothing in common with the infant train. Their romping and shouting puzzled me. I hated mere play and dancing about—in my relaxations I always desired plot.”
Both feminine planets, Venus and Moon, are located in the first sign of the Self, Libra, in Lovecraft’s chart. The Moon, and according to some sources Venus in a day chart, signifies among other things, the mother. Lovecraft’s relationship to his mother, Sarah Susan “Susie” Phillips Lovecraft, was very strong, but not easy. His mother had an unusually great influence on Lovecraft’s life and self-perception.
S. T. Joshi writes in H. P. Lovecraft: A Short Biography: “Susie Lovecraft seems to have had mixed feelings about her own son. She had hoped for a daughter and had begun a hope chest for her. When Howard was born, she dressed him in frocks for years, far beyond what was normal at the time. Indeed, his aunt Annie once mentioned that Lovecraft, as a very small boy, would sometimes say “I’m a little girl!” Susie also liked Lovecraft’s long hair—and she cried when, at the age of six, he made her cut off his curls.”
Later in the book, Joshi cites W. Paul Cook and Rheinhart Kleiner: “Every few minutes Howard’s mother or his aunt, or both, peeped into the room to see if he had fainted or shown signs of strain.” Kleiner adds an interesting note: “I noticed that at every hour or so his mother appeared in the doorway with a glass of milk, and Lovecraft forthwith drank it.”
A neighbor of the Lovecraft family, Clara Hess, said: “Mrs. Lovecraft talked continuously of her unfortunate son who was so hideous that he hid from everyone and did not like to walk upon the streets where people could gaze at him.” Joshi comments: “It is shocking to think that any mother would say such a thing about her only son, but it was clearly a function of the strange love-hate relationship that had developed between the two.”
Venus and Moon are also general significators of females. It is striking, that women played a significant part in Lovecraft’s upbringing. After his father’s and grandfather’s death, Lovecraft was raised by his mother and paternal aunts. His aunts continued supporting Lovecraft after his mother had died.
Interestingly, Venus rules besides the Ascendant also the eighth house of death and fear—themes that may in Lovecraft’s mind have been, from an early age on, related strongly to women. The terrifying feelings he experienced at age five, when his mother and aunts were dressing in black after the death of his grandmother, expresses this very well.
Lovecraft was also not much of an initiator himself. Decisions were mostly made by his mother. Even as an adult, albeit him being most unhappy in New York, he did not ask himself to return back to his home town. His return to Providence, after two very difficult years, was finally initiated by his aunts. His aunts also had a word to say when Lovecraft’s wife Sonia planned following Lovecraft to Providence, after his return from New York. They didn’t approve having a “tradeswoman” in the family, which would have been too harsh a blow to their social standing.
To be fair, it also has to be mentioned that Lovecraft did threaten twice this custom of female decision making over him and his life. He namely enlisted successfully, and against his expectations, into the army. When he married Sonia, he did not inform his aunts but only in a letter six days later. The enlistment into the army, however, was soon annulled—initiated by his mother.
Lovecraft was seemingly not comfortable with the opposite sex. His wife Sonia said that “Lovecraft was a virgin when he married her (at age 33), that he had read several books about sex before the marriage, and that she had to initiate sexual activity every single time over the next two years; […] Sonia goes on to say that Lovecraft did not like to discuss sex and became visibly upset at the mere mention of the word.”, writes Joshi in H. P. Lovecraft: A Short Biography. Relating to the difficulties with the opposite sex and romantic relationships, it is worth noting that the rulers of the seventh and fifth place, Mars and Saturn, are both in declining places and in square to each other.
What about the themes of horror and madness Lovecraft’s stories revolve around? If we take Mercury as the general significator for writing and mental activity, than it is already striking that he is co-present with Saturn in the twelfth sign. Mercury’s twelfth-part is in the eighth house importing themes of fear, loss, and death into the twelfth place and Mercury’s nature. Saturn’s twelfth-part, being in the second WSH, is located in opposition to Mercury’s twelfth part. Mercury in Virgo is in his domicile and exaltation. Mercury is his own lord also by bounds. So we have a dignified Mercury here keeping himself busy with the fearsome themes that the eighth and twelfth places and the co-presence of Saturn may bring forth.
Traditionally, quadrant houses were used for examining planetary strength, whereas topics were delineated through whole sign houses. Some astrologers use quadrant or equal houses as a secondary overlay also for topics. I am undecided about that, but noticed that in Lovecraft’s chart, when calculated with Porphyry or equal house cusps, Jupiter falls in the fourth house.
Jupiter is the general significator of wealth. In Lovecraft’s chart Jupiter is in retrograde motion and ruled by Saturn in the twelfth. This fits with what happened with his family’s wealth, which was decreasing after Lovecraft’s grandfather died. Jupiter is the benefic of the sect in favor in Lovecraft’s chart. The family home and his home town Providence were considered the most fortunate things in life by Lovecraft. That the family had to give up their home after the grandfather died, did hurt Lovecraft deeply. This could, of course, be already indicated by the fourth house’s domicile lord Saturn’s position in the declining twelfth place.
Much more can be seen in Lovecraft’s chart, especially through twelfth-parts, triplicity rulership, and lots. Lovecraft’s Lot of Necessity (Valens formula) is located in the fifth WSH Aquarius in conjunction with Jupiter. His Lot of Love (Valens) is in the ninth WSH Gemini. Here, we have again the connection and importance of Mercury and Saturn in the twelfth WSH.
But let’s leave it here and next look at the Zodiacal Releasing (ZR) periods from the Lot of Spirit (in Leo). Below a list displaying Lovecraft’s ZR periods on the left and some major life events on the right.
Zodiacal Releasing periods were the first thing I looked up after I got introduced to Lovecraft’s story The Call of Cthulhu and read about the immense influence it has to this day. And what did I see? Lovecraft experienced his second and last loosing of the bond (LB, marked in green) during the time he wrote the story. He was also in a peak period on both the general and sub-level.
Lovecraft was then in a Virgo L1 period, which is also the tenth from Fortune, making the general period a major peak. Both malefics are present in Fortune angles which makes the most active periods also the most challenging times in Lovecraft’s life. Indeed, the years after Lovecraft’s first LB, starting in 1907, were the most difficult ones beginning with a major nervous breakdown during high school which led the young man to self-isolate himself for five years.
The Virgo L1 period later brought marriage and made Lovecraft relocate from Providence to New York. Unfortunately, things didn’t improve well for the freshly married couple. Financial troubles made life very difficult. Lovecraft was not able to get a job and his career as a writer did not take off. He was virtually unknown outside the readership of a few pulp magazines. In the end, he was very unhappy. He later said that the two years in New York were a mistake.
His marriage broke down. The divorce was initiated by his wife Sonia who in 1929 forced Lovecraft to pursue divorce proceedings. Lovecraft, however, “neglected to sign the final decree, meaning that the divorce was not finalized; since Sonia remarried in 1935, before Lovecraft’s death, that marriage was technically bigamous”, writes S. T. Joshi in H. P. Lovecraft: A Short Biography (2018).
The second LB meant new hope for Lovecraft whom fate had treated harshly. Lovecraft moved back to his home town Providence in spring 1926 (a couple of months before the LB). It seems that he was the happiest man at this point in time. In a letter to Frank Belknap Long, May 1, 1926, Lovecraft writes about his journey to Providence:
“Well—the train sped on, and I experienced silent convulsions of joy in returning step by step to a waking and tri-dimensional life. New Haven—New London—and then quaint Mystic, with its colonial hillside and landlocked cove. Then at last a still subtler magick fill’d the air—nobler roofs and steeples, with the train rushing airily above them on its lofty viaduct—Westerly—in His Majesty’s Province of RHODE-ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE-PLANTATIONS! GOD SAVE THE KING!! Intoxication follow’d—Kingston—East Greenwich with its steep Georgian alleys climbing up from the railway—Apponaug and its ancient roofs—Auburn—just outside the city limits—I fumble with bags and wraps in a desperate effort to appear calm—THEN—a delirious marble dome outside the window—a hissing of air brakes—a slackening of speed—surges of ecstasy and dropping of clouds from my eyes and mind—HOME—UNION STATION—PROVIDENCE!!!! Something snapped—and everything unreal fell away. There was no more excitement; no sense of strangeness, and no perception of the lapse of time since last I stood on that holy ground.”
Coming back to where he grew up, had a definitely positive effect on Lovecraft’s work. After the LB in 1926 he was highly productive in writing stories. S. T. Joshi writes: “Despite the string of longer works rejected by magazines, the five years after Lovecraft’s return from New York constitute the high point of his creative life, and many of the works that we denote when we use the adjective “Lovecraftian” were written during this short but productive period. […] The final ten years of Lovecraft’s life saw him become not only the revolutionary weird writer we all know, but also a profound thinker and a warm and genial friend.” S. T. Joshi, H. P. Lovecraft: A Short Biography (2018)
Lovecraft’s Zodiacal Releasing periods start with Leo on the general level. This indicates the subjectively most positive general period in Lovecraft’s life, which started at birth and lasted until 1909 after the end of the first LB. Although, we know about Lovecraft’s tragedies in early life, he himself still considered childhood the most fortunate time in his life.
The first LB did mean the beginning of self-isolation and the most unfortunate period of Lovecraft’s life. The second LB was the bringer of hope and light. It might be worth noting, that the first LB happened to be in Aquarius, ruled by the malefic Saturn located in a declining place. The second LB fell in the sign of Pisces, ruled by the benefic Jupiter located in a succedent place.
I quickly looked up Lovecraft’s ZR periods from Fortune. He had a LB in Cancer from October 1919 to November 1921. In Joshi’s I Am Providence, we read: “In many letters of the 1930s, when recalling his early years, he (Lovecraft) makes statements such as: “My health improved vastly and rapidly, though without any ascertainable cause, about 1920–21”. What a beautiful illustration for the loosing of the bond from Fortune—a totally unexpected change in health, this time for the better!
Meeting Cthulhu in 2020
As cited earlier, Lovecraft desired at some point in his life to know “what my life is in terms of history—human, terrestrial, solar, and cosmical; what my magnitude may be in terms of extension,—terrestrial, solar, and cosmical; and above all, what may be my manner of linkage to the general system—in what way, through what agency, and to what extent, the obvious guiding forces of creation act upon me and govern my existence.”
It may be justified to say that Lovecraft’s life was heavily marked by constant personal encounters with the Saturn principle, that then would lead him write his many stories painting the Saturnian nature in gloomy shades before the readers eyes. Through his work, Lovecraft has provided future generations with tools to make the dark, the shadow, the depth of the human psyche conscious. In that sense, Lovecraft’s stories may well bear the potential to lead the reader from darkness to light, if one allows.
The year 2020 might be remembered as the one that has confronted us with humanity’s shadow like we haven’t been confronted in a long time. This year we have experienced huge challenges on a collective, global level. But there is also a personal shadow carried by each and everyone of us that has a huge impact on our decisions and social interactions. Jung writes in Psychology and Religion (1938): “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”
For H. P. Lovecraft writing was the way to cope with the darkness of life. What about you? Have you met your demons yet? How do you deal with them?
“That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”H. P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
Sources and further reading:
About and by H. P. Lovecraft
Hagon, G. Call of Cthulhu HP Lovecraft – Audio Book – With Words / Closed Captions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqIxCqayQok.
IMDb. The Call of Cthulhu (2005). https://www.imdb.com/video/vi3079274777?playlistId=tt0478988&ref_=vp_rv_ap_0.
Johliest. H. P. Lovecraft – Der Ruf des Cthulhu [inklusive Cthulhu-Song]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_D059YaaxA.
Joshi, S.T. I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft. Hippocampus Press, 2013.
Joshi, S. T. H. P. Lovecraft: A Short Biography. Sarnath Press, 2018.
Joshi, S. T., Schultz, D. E. (edit.) Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Hippocampus Press, 2019.
The H.P. Lovecraft Archive. The Call of Cthulhu By H. P. Lovecraft. http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/cc.aspx. Page last revised 20 August 2009.
The H.P. Lovecraft Archive. Joshi, S.T. Howard Phillips Lovecraft: The Life of a Gentleman of Providence. http://www.hplovecraft.com/life/biograph.aspx. Page last revised 20 March 2018.
Yurttaş, İpek Beren. Modern individual in search of his demons: A Jungian approach to the selected stories of H. P. Lovecraft. 2016.
Wikipedia. H. P. Lovecraft. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._P._Lovecraft.
Wikipedia. The Call of Cthulhu. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Call_of_Cthulhu.
Saturn’s symbolism in astrology
Green, L. Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil. Weiser Books, 2011.
Obert, C. Saturn Through the Ages: Between Time and Eternity. Almuten Press, 2019.
Wilkinson, R. Saturn: Spiritual Master, Spiritual Friend. Fifth Ray Publishing, 2017.
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