The thing about living the magical life is that it requires no beliefs of any kind whatsoever. What magical living requires is practice. Either you do things, such as roam the woods and get a sense of nature and its cycles, or you find a system that allows you to read the signs in nature. As I said it elsewhere, I’m fascinated with oracles, omens, and cartomantic divinatory systems simply because they allow me to participate in the creation of stories. Going about in nature and observing how the flight of birds or scattered bones and branches form a pattern is good work for the brain. Nature gives you some variables, and if you have a question in mind, you can be sure that after you flex your brain for some 20 minutes you will arrive at a nice answer. Magic doesn’t have to ‘mean’ anything. The function of magic is to give you a sense of your aliveness.
When the moon turned into the last quarter on October 15 I was thinking of doing something that is aligned with the beautiful month of October, the month I was born in, and the month I remember the dead. Some would say that this time is morbid, but the truth is that thinking of death in October is very much aligned with what nature herself does. As we watch the beautiful leaves leaving the trees they’ve crowned since spring, we learn something about letting go. We learn about death. This is commonsense.
Now, to return to the idea of living a magical life, how do we go from commonsense to magic? We find, or invent, a system that allows us to impose possibilities onto what is happening around us as a matter of course. If we think we may need protection through the winter that’s coming, what do we do? How about going to a nice perennial tree?
Ask the yew tree, for instance, to sacrifice a small branch for us. One that people throughout the ages have found has good protective qualities. We can store it in our homes and call on its spirit. Nature based rituals are always the most beautiful. And knowing that we are not all there is, but that we are here to serve, can be very useful.
So, while vacationing in Sweden in a familiar surrounding, I decided to craft a twig from a yew tree. We find these most often in cemeteries. As I’ve been to this place before, I knew a few yew trees that I thought would fulfil my wish. I elected a good hour to go there after I had a quick glance at one of my numerous astro gadgets installed on my computers. The last quarter moon herself was on my side too, which made the two events concord – the moon aligned with the planetary hour. According to the Chaldeans and the old Arab magicians, one needs three concordant things in order for magic to happen.
I decided to let the yew trees be the third element, by allowing for the game of chance to play its role. In other words, I decided to go quite directly to the first tree that called to me without first looking at whose dead head they were planted by. I didn’t want to be biased in my choice. This was very easy.
I went like a rocket to one of them, looked around to see that no one was after me thinking that I was vandalizing the place – the Swedes are very particular with their public spaces – and I did the cutting. I left an offering of cake flavored with the most delicious vanilla cream. Only afterwards did I turn to the stone itself. Much to my surprise I saw that the grave I took the yew twig from was the one where the churchwarden himself got buried. My third element.
But that was just my first impression after reading the words on the stone. Back at the cabin and goggling diligently I realized that the Swedish word for ‘kyrkoherden’, literally the ‘church shepherd’, signifies in fact a rather high position in the Lutheran hierarchy: just one step below bishop. So this was not the lay-official in the parish church, but the high priest himself, Johanness Bratt. Ok, I thought. This is good. My twig comes from an elevated place.
For more storytelling I cast a nice little chart for Johannes Bratt, mainly to get an idea as to what kind of a man he was.
It looks like he is a man who struggled to get where he got, in spite of his good wit and talent for speech. His Sun is in detriment in Aquarius, the sign of knowledge and social conscious. Although his Sun has a Moon face, displaying empathy and concern in Mars’s term, it is not strong enough. The ruler of Johannes’s Ascendant, the Moon herself, is here quite peregrine. Overshadowed by the light of the weak and destitute Sun, she does not perform as well as she could in the house of career.
Consequently, due to the weak positions of both the Sun and the Moon here, it looks like Johannes went for becoming an administrator, embodying the fair and square Saturn. The ill-dignified Sun, however, makes us suspicious as to how honest Johannes was, and whether he climbed the social ladder for the wrong reasons.
What the Moon decan, on the other hand, tells me here is that Johannes was a man of action, in spite of his Sun representing a flat and damaged life force indicating struggle with the right actions in life. In his confrontations to bring newness to his community, as the sign of Aquarius indicates, he was, however, cautious, and not the revolutionary type.
We find the reason for this by looking at Jupiter, another detrimental and powerless planet. To have Jupiter in the 12th house – the house of all things hidden and transcended, on the one hand, and the house of incarceration and constraint, on the other – is a mighty thing, but if the propensity for occult or transcended knowledge is not integrated and acknowledged, then a lot is lost.
This damaged Jupiter makes a square aspect to both Saturn and Venus, yet in spite of his Mercurial term, it looks like he meets a wall in Johannes, the Saturnian administrator, who although liking his public self, has a hard time getting what lies beyond personal ambition. On a more mundane level, Jupiter in the house of enemies suggests exactly that, great enemies, and because of their unknown nature, neither possible nor easy, if at all, to reckon with.
Ultimately one detects an irony in this life. Johannes was born lucky – the Part of Fortune resides in his first house conjunct the Ascendant, and he achieved great things in his life, but it’s not sure that he was very liked. Although Venus is in exaltation here, she is conjunct an ill-dignified Sun, while also squaring off against the mighty and strange, but equally ill-dignified Jupiter.
The public follows the patriarchal Saturnian discipline and order, and no one wants to hear anything about what might transcend the dogma. Incidentally, the Swedes have a history of a deeply seated in their recesses interest in all things magical, but as with many other places, Christianity also put an end to all things magic here.
The bottom line is that with a stronger Sun, Johannes might have said to his Jupiter: ‘I don’t know what this is, but I like it.’ As it is, this is more a situation of ‘I don’t know what this is, and therefore I don’t like it. Better follow the rules.’ But this is called self-deception, alas, as the person ends up denying that which fascinates the most, with the result of having the ill-dignified Jupiter suggesting false piety and hypocrisy. Here it would be interesting to look at Johannes’s progressed chart to the time of his death to see if he either managed to integrate the potentially best he got in the house of the unconscious, or if he failed. A debilitated Sun and Jupiter to begin with is not a good idea.
Meanwhile, after some more research, I discovered that there was something very fascinating about Johannes Bratt. The archives mention that his father worked in a sugar factory and his name was Engelbrekt Andersson. Andersson? What’s this? Did Johannes change his name to Bratt?
Perhaps he did. He made a lightening career. He went straight from secondary school in 1868, the Göteborgs Latinläroverk, to Lund University to study theology. He graduated in 1877, going also through the required three pastoral exams prior to that. He became the high priest in Knäred in 1879 where he remained in office until his death in 1909. Unusual for the son of a worker.
Now, the speculation. When searching for the Bratt family I discovered that this one has a long line of priests going back to 1720. For instance, Johan Bratt was a vicar in 1764. He later became a Dean in 1774, and then he went to an even higher position, that of vicar and executive Dean in 1787. His son Gustaf became a doctor of theology and a high vicar in 1812. Gustaf’s son broke this line slightly, as he became a naval officer and merchant. The family then got rich through mining and banking.
Here there are two possibilities: either our Johannes wanted to dissociate himself from his family and his father’s name and craft, or he got adopted. If the latter, why? The archives don’t say anything about Johannes’s mother becoming a widow at an early stage. In more contemporary parlance, when I get to this kind of an impasse, I like to remember one of my favorite lines from the film about Watergate, All the President’s Men: ‘If it ain’t sex, follow the money.’ Did Johannes’s mother have an affair with one the Bratt people? Good question.
Taking a new name, especially one of prestige is not so easy in Scandinavia, as names are protected. What secret did Johannes have on the Bratt family that allowed him to take its illustrious name? More stuff to look at in his chart, as there’s much more in it than one can cover in a blog post.
So there I was, stealing a yew tree twig from our mysterious high priest Johannes Bratt. Incidentally, ‘Bratt’ in Swedish means steep. He climbed high, and it looks like he was also highly endowed with what others might identify as the ‘woo’. Yet according to his natal chart, Johannes couldn’t handle the transcended religion in a good way.
He basically made a career out of theology and married off well. Becoming an administrator and getting a wife that can give you more structure and discipline is a good move (the 7th house cusp is in Capricorn ruled by Saturn), when you have large and unknown things ruling from the inside (Jupiter in 12) and that you don’t know what to do about. But if the aim is to live, then you must look past the promise of solid, domestic life.
The burial place is made for two, Johannes and his wife, Amalia. The yew tree is mutilated in shape so that it actually looks like there are two trees planted by these people’s heads. With my twig in hand, I asked the cards, yet already assuming that Amalia must have decided to plant the tree: ‘Who gives me this twig, you or Johannes?’ Such a joyful image! The Scythe told me that the cutting was made on Amalia’s side of the grave. The Stork, featuring the Queen of Hearts, gave generously from all her Heart.
I thanked Amalia for her gift, and asked her to bless me on my own path. It looks like she was a woman of knowledge, who liked to travel, and learn new things. She also had money of her own, as the Moon in her second house suggests. The archives attest to this, as we’re told that her father was a rich merchant.
And finally, perhaps she was a grave beauty too, with the face of Saturn suggesting that she may not have been too comfortable with that. Her Venus squares her Ascendant, ruled by Mercury, which indicates that she ‘talked’ her looks down. She was also good at communicating her knowledge, though she was reluctant to say anything about her home. Her ill-dignified Saturn suggests that she may have been distrustful of anything to do with being the wife of a public figure.
I would say that my trip to the cemetery gave me quite the gift. The magical arts help me to think imaginatively about where these gifts I receive come from. What lives, dead or alive, cross our own path? How do they make us think and feel? Having an idea of the life stories of the people whose yew tree I’ve plundered gives me the opportunity to honor their names, in this month of October. As they say, never talk badly of the dead.
Thank you Johannes and Amalia for some very agreeable hours of storytelling, and for the magical yew tree twig, which I shall put to work an in interesting way.
P.S. After the write up of this post, more research resulted in an image turning up of Amalia and Johannes together. This image confirms my reading of Amalia’s chart and my suggestion that she must have possessed a ‘grave beauty’. How rightly so, indeed.
The caption for the image states that the girl is a foster child, and the women on the right are another vicar’s wife and a servant.
The calculator used for these charts is Morinus. The Houses are Placidian. The triplicities are Dorothean. The terms Ptolemaic, and the decans Chaldean. The interpretation above is all my own. None of it is computer generated.
The cards are the original Lenormand cards from 1800 in facsimile published by the Association of Tarot Professionals.
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