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Astrology at Work: Mary Shelley

One reason I like using secondary progressions is because they put the natal horoscope in motion. Once you understand the rationale behind this technique, the one year for each day's of a planets movement,the progressed chart can tell you remarkable stories of upcoming triumphs and challenges. A good example of this is the horoscope of the writer Mary Shelley.

Mary Shelley’s horoscope (click on Mary Shelley to see the chart) describes a relatively conservative personality. Her Sun is in practical Virgo and she has Cancer rising with restrictive Saturn in the First House. The fact that her Moon is in Sagittarius and trine her Mars does provide a capacity for taking risks and acting on impulse, but the fact that Mars is also in Virgo would seem to put limits on this kind of behavior.

However, from the point of view of secondary progression, the position of Mars is like a loaded gun. It is near the I.C., which gives the planet extra strength. More important, it is placed just a few degrees away from her Sun and Uranus. The average daily motion of Mars is around 45 minutes of the arc. At this rate we would expect secondary progressed Mars to conjunct Shelley's natal Sun at around age four or five, and Uranus at age 16.

When Mary Shelley was four years-old her father remarried. His new wife brought two children of her own into the marriage and Mary went from being her father’s favorite to just one of her step-mother’s brood, a big step-down for her ego (as represented by the Sun.)

This was just the start. When Shelley’s secondary progressed Mars reached her natal Uranus, she did something that shocked everyone who knew her and British society as a whole. She eloped with a married man. The married man was Percy Bysshe Shelley. He was a poet, five years older and the father of an infant son. In doing this Mary Shelley threw the practicality of her Virgo Sun, the caution of her Cancer Ascendant and the conventionality of her First House Saturn to the wind. For a brief period, she became totally a creature of unconventional, liberating Uranus.

Of course, once this secondary progressed aspect had passed, so did the liberating influence of Uranus. Mary Shelley found herself trapped in a marriage that was filled with hardship. Percy Bysshe Shelley was the romantic hero of a generation, but he was also an egocentric Leo who believed in “free love.” Mary could never be certain of his fidelity. Meanwhile, she spent most of her married life either pregnant or caring for infant children. The family was always on the move and financially strapped. Adding to her misery, two of Mary’s children died in infancy.

These struggles are clearly described in her horoscope. Pluto is conjunct her Midheaven and it opposes Mars. This is indicative of someone who will face significant challenges in her life. For Mary Shelley these challenges included becoming a widow at the age of 24, being vilified by her husband’s fans when rumors were spread that she was not always “loving” toward him and making her way in a paternalistic world as a female writer.

The conjunction of Mary Shelley’s secondary progressed Mars to Uranus resulted is one more remarkable event in her life. She was still in the midst of this aspect when she was challenged by her husband’s friend, Lord Byron, to write a ghost story. The result was the first draft of what would become “Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus,” the novel that would make Mary Shelley famous.

“Frankenstein” stands apart from the rest of Shelley’s literary production much in the same way as her elopement stands apart from the rest of her life. Both came out a singular, Uranus interlude. Secondary progressions can be like that, particularly when explosive planets like Mars and Uranus are involved. They bring out potentials in our chart that we might otherwise never make real.


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