Astro Riffs is an astrology series in which I look at the birth charts of famous dead people and talk about what I find interesting.
If I had a nickel for every woman who has told me that she started writing poetry because she read the work of Emily Dickinson, I would buy a yacht and sail around the world. I am not one of those women. While I've tried and tried to catch the Emily Bug, I seem to be immune. I've always been intrigued by the stories of her reclusiveness, though--and the courage it must have taken to write such exquisite poetry and put it in a box--so when I saw that her birth chart was available online, I decided to check it out.
Before I go into it, take a minute to imagine what you think Emily's chart would be.
Then take a look at her chart.
Since I am far from an Emily expert, I didn't expect to be able to piece much of a story together. If I did find a story, I expected that it would be heavily influenced by perception bias. I guessed that she might have lots of planets in Cancer or the 4th House, maybe some Libra, trouble in the 6th House.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw that her Sun was in Sag conjunct Mercury and Venus, and her Mars and Pluto were in Aries.
These are not the placements of a wilting Victorian flower. These are fiery signatures. That Venus and Mercury, especially, with their need for relationships and communication don't scream, "Recluse."
Of course, it's possible that all of the Emily fans reading this are seething because the myths are ungrounded, and everyone knows that Emily wasn't antisocial in general, just disinclined to deal with the slush pile. (Who can blame her?) And having lots of fire in a chart, of course, doesn't guarantee that a person will be the life of the party wherever they go. Sag can just as easily be directed into philosophy (or, say, poetry?) as globetrotting.
Still, barring that, it's a strange chart for a woman famous for being a recluse, and I wondered if there was anything in her chart strong enough to overcome all that fire and create the Emily legend.
If I was going to put the blame anywhere, I decided, I would put it on that South Node in 4th House Pisces and the Moon in Libra and the 11th House. Pisces is a dreamer. While that doesn't say withdrawal exactly, a drive to live in that headspace could certainly could have contributed to the desire to withdraw, especially in the 4th House of Home.
Habits are hard to break, and while her North Node in the 10th House of Career probably made her long for visibility, breaking out of the rut may not have been easy, especially with the Moon in Libra, the peace-lover, in the 11th House, which for her would have covered the literary world. Being a woman poet in the 19th century was controversial. While there were women who wrote anyway, Emily probably would have felt uncomfortable rocking the boat of the literary world.
Are the South Node and Moon strong enough to overcome the rest of her chart, though? Those aren't weak influences by any means, but I wasn't entirely convinced.
Then I saw that I'd missed the obvious: Her Ascendant was in Scorpio. She was wearing the mask of the lover of secrets. She could have been a wild child behind closed doors, but the Ascendant, the Moon, and the South Node combined definitely justify the reputation.
It makes me sad, though. There must have been a fascinating woman behind the obscurity. I may not reach for her poetry on a rainy day, but I definitely would have read her memoirs.
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