Beethoven illustration Daniel Adel

Beethoven’s Epic Struggle for Freedom of Expression

Beethoven quote
Beethoven quote

Ludwig van Beethoven was already composing as a boy. He studied Mozart, Bach and Haydn but brought music to brand new heights of drama and emotion.  His father was a music teacher but mistreated him and his mother never intervened. So he was forced to grow up fast. He was born on December 16th, in 1770 with a Sagittarius Sun and Moon so his boldness was seen in various behaviours, yet he still needed protection and nurturance. His birth time is disputed and there are two times given, so he could be either Scorpio or Aquarius rising. Both of these are fixed signs so whichever it was,  it added a powerful twist to the rebellious, idealistic artist within him. At this very moment Jupiter is transiting Capricorn at 3 degrees – exactly where it was in Beethoven’s natal chart. It is loosely conjunct his Sun in Sagittarius- 8 degrees- so whatever you want to name that clash of energy – bombast, expansion and  grandiosity, or sheer brilliance, generosity and broadness of expression of the fully evolved and questing self.

Young Beethoven
Young Beethoven

He lived in the era when Napoleon was conquering Europe, getting as far as Vienna where Beethoven lived.  Beethoven fully believed in the ideals of liberty, fraternity and equality as expressed in his sole opera ‘Fidelio’ (1805).  Few would deny that Beethoven was flooded with genius that fills our ears in symphony after symphony. One joke is that seasons come and go but the Sixth Symphony, a.k.a. ‘The Seasons,’ is forever.  There is something powerful and even monumental about his music, but it was also startling and original and he had a hard time convincing people of that.  At the time, people claimed his work was too long, too sophisticated or too complex to be played. He had Saturn in Leo square to Uranus in Taurus. Again fixed signs so a stubbornness mingled with turbulence. Plus his Moon is opposite Mars, perhaps accounting for his difficulties in personal relationships and with  his mainly rich aristocratic sponsors.

He pushed music beyond its boundaries for that era. His complex character was unpredictable. He was also sentimental and romantic. There was the intensity with a serious edge, his work is structured to the point of monumentality,  but this lay alongside a sternness and moral fanaticism in how he treated his brother’s wife. These are the shadow sides of Sagittarius. He was not even very discreet ( Mercury in Sagittarius). But he  would eat up any fears that a stellium of planets in Capricorn would cause concern as he had Pluto Jupiter and Venus there, and if he were alive today, he would be pushed into mass production by riding the 2020 Saturn-Pluto conjunction.

Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven

Yet, he is an exemplar of a great creative spirit suffused with the drive to put art above anything else in life. He would moralise too stridently and he found it difficult to be happy with any woman who might have been eligible as a wife, and each time a conflict and disappointment ensued, this only fueled his uncompromising experimentation and boldness. It speaks volumes that even early in his life, he was tuned in to his muses:

Since I was twelve my muse has often whispered to me: ‘Try my damned harmonies in your soul’ Only, 12 years old I thought? And how would I look as a composer. What would men of experienced in the art say about it?  I was almost shy. But my muse wished it, I bade and wrote.”

Beethoven natal Chart
Beethoven natal chart Dec 16th 1770

A grand Trine in Earth signs offered him a direct route to musical inspiration- and he was inspired – but instead of coasting along, he worked like a Titan, made practical use of it by catching wild and fiery compositions seemingly out of the air. That trine provided him with the goods – a continuously creative synergy abides there. He has Pluto in Capricorn just few degrees away from where Pluto is now conjunct Saturn. This trines Neptune in Virgo was the engine of his artistry to industry. This neatly trines Uranus in Taurus, so he was bound to be both adept at his craft but also prolific and had the muses backing him all the way even if he had not felt so impelled. When he realized he was going deaf, it was a call to become even more productive and he worked on two or three compositions at the same time, each one outdoing the previous one. That Uranus was in this trine gave his work that extra twist of originality- no one could keep up with him.

Beethoven was devastated by losing his hearing. He felt the need to keep this secret for the longest time causing him endless frustration.  Society did not adjust itself to a disabled person as we are advised by Disability guidance in the 21st century using the ‘social;y-constructed’ model. Being deaf allowed him to hear the inner music and not the din of social chit-chat. He had massive powers of concentration. If we look at this muse asteroids – those messengers of inspiration -that might also give an indication of which Muses favoured him.  His natal Sun is Erato of lyrical poetry his Moon is conjunct Calliope, the muse of epic poetry- so Epic and Romantic- and there is a conjunction of Chiron with the muse of Music, Euterpe.

Beethoven illustration Daniel Adel
Beethoven illustration Daniel Adel

Yet, in spite of this brilliance with music Beethoven endured the bitterest and most ironic torment a great composer could suffer. He was going deaf so much that eventually he could not hear himself play the piano. Astrologers point to afflicted Mars and Saturn to indicate this condition, but there is no clear cut signature of deafness – just of obstacles to communication.  Helen Keller’s chart has Mercury square to Saturn which is inconjunct the Ascendant. Beethoven’s has both Saturn in Leo, in the Sixth house of health and of Mercury. His Mars in Gemini is also ruled by Mercury. Saturn rules the 12th house too, indicating his sense of isolation of being misunderstood and even ridiculed. He became recluse almost as if he’d banished himself from society. If Mercury rules communication it is in so called ‘detriment’ in Sagittarius, plus it is squashed between the Moon and Sun and all three are opposed to Mars. Mercury is almost a caged tiger here with an Essential Dignities score of minus 10.  He was fragile but also hostile because misunderstood. Much depends in the response of the native to these challenging placements. An indomitable force of will power in Beethoven’s character relentlessly struggled with these obstacles to allow his abundant talent to burst through as if to spite anyone who thought he could not achieve the impossible. Posterity must decide.

I would also highlight Chiron, associated with Sagittarius because of being chief Centaur and the most sensitive point and life’s wounding for which we can do nothing to help ourselves; Chiron is placed in Pisces ruled by Neptune which is conjunct the Vertex and intercepted in Virgo. This had done its profoundly hurtful job of teaching him his powers were limited, not boundless, as they sound. Some say he achieved a kind of bliss and perfection in the late quartets. These were his swansongs he gifted to the world. He once again obliterated all the previous boundaries and as Charles Hazelwood says “he was the last great classicist’” making a statement that beyond this there was nothing further, only an abyss. But he had that Sagittarian flavor that also pointed the way forward into the future so these works sound very contemporary as if they could have been written by a modernist. The form of the string quartet had reached its outer limits as in ‘The Grosse Fuge’ (1825)  in listening to the transformations of the music you can easily detect that there is a kind of alchemy going on, where the salt, the Sulphur and the Mercury are all potently swirling in the archetypal mix, and the probing development of any composition,  but none are allowed to achieve full dominance, but they finally come to acquiesce in each other.

This is someone who suffered just by being alive. Chiron in Pisces is at the tip of a T-square opposition between Mars and the Moon – hard to find a more acutely sensitive placement – there would be so much turmoil and inner wounding here for this already tormented soul.  He was volatile, reactive and brusque and he had more than a few violent and emotional outbursts as his circle knew only too well. Beethoven’s behavior came across badly. People thought he just wanted his own way.  He would declare he knew what was right for him but his responses lacked the patience to keep people on his side. He did not put up with those he considered not up to his standards. His Mars in Gemini would create even family conflicts- he refused to see his nephew for eight years alleging the mother was not worthy. That Mars opposes the Moon also points specifically to the longstanding legal battle he had with his brother’s wife- it was a bitter feud in which Karl, his nephew, was the pawn.  Mars is also retrograde natally, aggravating an already strained situation.

That he transformed these turbulent emotions into works of art was indeed a saving grace. He turned to composing when these tensions overwhelmed him, but they could be expressed in works like Sonata no 23 Op 57 such as the ‘Appassionata.‘ (1804-5). This work is technically demanding, complex and sounds like rage exploded across the piano keys.

Thor's fight with giants
Thor’s fight with giants

Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’ became the libretto of a symphony masquerading as an opera yet which was something different to both. Beethoven for the first time brought choral singing one of most powerful works  – the ‘Ninth’ Symphony (1822-24). It also  introduced one of the greatest statements about freedom of mankind. It is the ultimate Sagittarian philosophy as if the words come out of the mouth of Jupiter himself  “Joy, beautiful spark of the divine gods, Daughter of  Elysium, We enter, drunk with fire, Heavenly One, thy sanctuary! “ It celebrates Faith in an inclusive world a rousing heroic vision of the brotherhood of man,  and of freedom which might suggest the Aquarian Ascendant. Both Aquarius and Sagittarius are voices for the freedom to be oneself, yet both skate on the edges of tyrannical assertion of those same freedoms Orwellian 1984-style. His Saturn in Leo strikes that ultimate father figure chord very well, and so dramatically. This symphony ‘the choral’ is often played at protest marches or where liberation from tyranny is at stake as it was played by Leonard Bernstein when the Berlin wall came down. One review stated review state he had in the Ninth Symphony “revealed new secrets of a magical art.” It verifies the  truth of the statement he made that: ‘Music is a higher revelation than all Wisdom and Philosophy’ and just as the first few chords of the 5th are Fate encoded, this Symphony definitely has the power to blow your head off and set it free.

His last words were ‘Applaud my friends. The comedy is over!” perhaps showing that he had some mordant wit. He died on 26th March in the middle of a thunderstorm so very appropriate for a Sagittarian sun sign, as Jupiter is often equated with Thor, but the gaseous planet Jupiter is apparently ridden with thunderstorms very much like those on Earth.

Beethoven's grave in Vienna
Beethoven’s grave in Vienna

Beethoven had a colossal influence. He rattled the rule book in multiple ways with that Pluto in Capricorn, and classical music was never the same after he departed.  People clamoured to hear his symphonies played over and over and orchestras and conductors formed and expanded around that need and to the challenges of the music. The chart reveals many of his characteristics, the troubled nature- the Moon Mars opposition- the struggle with himself that plays out even in his motifs and the way the music develops working each motif exhaustively from conflict to resolution.  People stand back in awe at the sheer achievement, a greatness that is almost too great for its own good. Fabulist E.T.A. Hoffman said in 1810 that Beethoven’s ‘music ‘Reveals the realm of the mighty and immeasurable’ and ‘ sets in motion the machinery of awe, of fear, of terror, of pain.”

 

 

© Proteus Astrology, December 16th, 2019.

 

www.proteusastrology.co.uk

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Kieron is a London-based and trained astrologer at Proteus Astrology on Facebook:

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He writes for Celestial Vibes Magazine edited by Aswin Balaj.

 

 

 

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