The Planets, Holst and Sovereignty

If you want to go beyond words, which I admit have vast limitations when it comes to trying to describe cosmic influences, then do try listening to Gustav Holst’s Planet Suite to get a feel for the qualities of each planetary governor.

It is obvious that Holst was skilled in the language of the initiate because this magnificent musical odyssey is organised into sequential movements that follow the planetary governors of the houses in their correct order around the zodiac. Not only that, but to me, the whole suite is a musical story of Sovereignty restored on behalf of the ancestors, which is the common metaphorical understory of all great myths.

It begins on a beautiful Aries Spring Equinox with the martian qualities of Mars, and it builds slowly from an ominously quiet start, with the drums of war barely heard in the background, but then, by turns, sounding louder and softer, as if a huge army is marching over the hills and dales towards the listener, accompanied by alternatively soaring and then diving violins that mirror the surging fear in the stomach as war grows ever closer and closer.

The next two movements sound to me like the aftermath. Now that the peace has been won, along comes the sweet and harmonious Venus at Taurus, restoring order and proportion. After Venus, we meet the quicksilver, spiralling, darting Mercury at Gemini, reinforcing again the spider’s-web networks of communication and trade.

Holst leaves out the Sun and the Moon of Leo and Cancer (probably because they’re not strictly, scientifically, planets, although I’d love to have heard his interpretation of the alchemical Marriage of the Sun and the Moon) and he passes over Virgo and Libra because he has already provided the music for their governing planets, Mercury and Venus. He also skips over Scorpio, having already given us its ruler Mars at the beginning.

So then now we are in Sagittarius and his joyful, patriotic, chest-beatingly expansive Jupiter is proudly praising the Sovereignty of the nation that reaches a climax at I Vow To Thee My Country. Then finally we reach Saturn at Capricorn, who is in his Grim Reaper guise and thus the whole piece ends with the church funeral bells on Earth that gradually and softly lead into the heavenly bells welcoming home the Deceased into the realm of the ancestors.

© Annie Easton/Annie Dieu-Le-Veut, May 2018

This is an extract from a practical exercise that I give in the new book Stories in the Stars, out soon, in which I’m teaching the reader how to work alchemically and astrologically, with the planets.