Their faithful Friend and Servant, C. D. December, 1843.
An enduring classic is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas”. It has been made and remade cinematically many times. My first exposure to the story was as a child the Mr. Magoo cartoon of this story that played year after year at Christmas time. It scared the bejeezus out of me, especially when Scrooge’s doorknocker morphed into the twisted grimace of his former partner, Marley. Maybe is takes an Aquarian, like Dickens, to associate ghosts and Christmas, but perhaps its timeless quality can be attributed, in part to themes that resonates with the planets.
Dickens’ popular novels were written against the backdrop of Victorian England and the Industrial Revolution. As a child, his father’s profligate spending of the family financial resources sent his father to debtor’s prison, and Dickens himself into a shoe polish factory as a young child to support himself and also to provide some support to his family. It was these experiences that shaped a not inaccurate worldview that the working class bore a disproportionate share of the burdens of his society. In “A Christmas Carol’ Dickens’ touched on this theme briefly. However, the main theme is the one we remember well, that the vain pursuit of money does not bring happiness.
So what metaphors did Dickens use to bring his themes to life? If one looks even as a passing glance, you will find the themes of the Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto.
As you remember, Marley, Scrooge’s long deceased business partner visits him on the night of the anniversary of his death, Christmas Eve.
Because Marley lived only for the pursuit of money, having done nothing of worth for his fellow man, he was doomed to walk the earth, alone, until the end of time wearing the heavy chains of sin that he forged during his lifetime. Marley warns Scrooge that his fate would be the same if he didn’t mend his ways. To drive the point home, Marley arranged for a spiritual intervention. Three ghosts would visit Scrooge during the night. Scrooge believes none of it, thinking he is hallucinating from bad food.
The ghost of Christmas Past wakes Scrooge from his sleep and takes him on a tour of childhood, including sad experiences from his life that turned Scrooge’s once bright and cheery nature to that of a crotchety miser. The planet Saturn represents these experiences of want, deprivation and frustrated desire. Saturn is a stern taskmaster though the experiences wrought by this planet are meant to mature the soul not sour it.
“Spirit!” said Scrooge in a broken voice, “remove me from this place.”
“I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “That they are what they are, do not blame me!”
“Remove me!” Scrooge exclaimed, “I cannot bear it!”
The second ghost, that of Christmas Present, is an incarnation of the planet Jupiter, which brings bounty and gifts of the spirit. The things that this spirit showed Scrooge were of hope for better things despite the difficulties of earthly living. But underneath the robes of this generous spirit are two piteous looking children.
“Spirit, are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.
“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.
The last ghost, showing Scrooge his own death and his final resting place, is a metaphor for the planet Pluto. Pluto represents transformations, including the earthly transformation of physical death. Astrologically, Plutonian experience strips away everything except our essential selves, forcing us to look at who we really are. Scrooge is given the benefit of seeing the ultimate result of his earthly life, that of pity from his poorer relations and the scorn of the community. In this last profound experience he entreats the spirit:
“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?”
He attempts to make this bargain as the spirit brings him to his grave topped with a single unadorned stone:
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
Dickens wrote this piece as transiting Saturn sat on top of Dicken’s planet of communications, Mercury, transiting Jupiter sat on his Sun, his essential essence, and transiting Pluto was in friendly energetic connection with his Sun, and in challenge aspect to his natal Mercury. These planets were lighting up his chart like a Christmas tree, so he was especially in tune with their energies.
The processes of the planets Saturn, Jupiter and Pluto are meant to uplift the spirit. Many of us have been experiencing difficult times, or we know of people who, sadly, are living through such difficulties. As Scrooge learned, all we have are each other. Our lives are only enriched by sharing it with others.