We talk about the Saturn return, when that planet returns to the same point in the sky that it occupied at your birth, but today I want to talk about the history of Wonder Woman, and which planets herald her spectacular return to earth just when we might need her most. What does it mean that she’s coming back now, what themes does she bring with her, and what futures might it herald? (Spoiler alert: they’re definitely female!)
The 500 year cycle of Pluto and Neptune
Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, was born May 9, 1893 with Pluto and Neptune scarcely a degree apart in Gemini. Richard Tarnas, in Cosmos and Psyche, observes that because this conjunction, which only happens every 500 years, is the longest of all the planetary cycles that the relative “historical and cultural phenomena are in certain respects the most profound and consequential.” He points out that the 1890’s conjunction corresponds with “the great sin de fiècle epoch of the last decades of the nineteenth century”, which is an era marked by the utter assimilation of the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent dawn of geopolitics, with radical ramifications for gender and sexual parity.
Tarnas charts feminism by the path of Uranus-Pluto through the sky, and while the Uranus Pluto opposition was in effect from 1896 – 1907, the first nation to give women the right to vote was New Zealand, in 1893, the same year that Marston was born, when the conjunction of Pluto and Neptune was near exact. With the development of geopolitics in the same time period, a movement that looked at how the burgeoning technology of the day would change conquest, warfare, and mapping, it’s hard not to read into the birth of Wonder Woman’s creator the dawning of a new age, one marked by devastating new weaponry but also its opposite: a new call for peace and reconciliation and the inclusion of people long left out of the equation. Humanity’s earliest understanding of ourselves as a global culture sparked the first World War, but that, in turn, called into question the need for war at all.
That we still question this is evidenced not only by the current polarized political climate, but by the return of Wonder Woman herself. In a truly canny moment of synchronicity the writers and director of the new film chose to place her new origin story during WWI, which goes against cannon, because the first Wonder Woman was released July 18, 1942 during WWI, when the enemy was a little more obvious. However, truthfully, the backdrop of WWI is where her story always began. Despite the bold, technicolor, optimistic strokes Wonder Woman is best painted with, these strokes inevitably mask her true origin story, one marked by complexity, secrecy, technological upheaval, and collective doubt about the nature of mankind.
However, Marston, bless him, never met a problem he thought a woman couldn’t solve and buoyed by the extreme, if volatile, optimism described by a Jupiter Uranus opposition in his chart, he crafted a heroine for this new age, one who could take on the troubles of the world and vanquish them with a snap of her lasso. Cheesy? Maybe, but if you think that’s a valid criticism don’t tell Patty Jenkins, the woman who directed the newest version of the story. Jenkins, who possesses Jupiter as the focal point of a T square in her own chart (opposing Marston’s Venus), has famously “banned” the word cheesy in her world. She says, “I wanted to tell a story about a hero who believes in love, who is filled with love, who believes in change and the betterment of mankind. I believe in it. It’s terrible when it makes so many artists afraid to be sincere and truthful and emotional, and relegates them to the too-cool-for-school department. Art is supposed to bring beauty to the world.”
To truly understand Wonder Woman, you have to understand why painting in such broad jovial strokes, hiding the ugliness underneath, was necessary not only for her own survival, but for that of her creator, and arguably, for all the rest of us too.
The future was always female
William Moulton Marston was fascinated with Greek myths and embedded his heroine within them, casting her out of clay sparked to life by the Gods themselves, which can also be seen against the backdrop of the Pluto/Neptune cycle, as the opposition of those two planets was present during the Hellenistic years of Greece. Jill Lepore, author of the fascinating Secret History of Wonder Woman charts how Marston studied philosophy at Harvard in the heady early aughts of the twentieth century under the tutelage of a professor fully enamored of both Aristotle and early feminism. This professor, who was the faculty sponsor of the Harvard Men’s League for Woman Suffrage, spoke passionately to his students about both Greek hedonism and intellectual pursuits and took pains to remind the young men in his classroom that women possessed the capacity for both as well, despite what was commonly thought.
In addition, the feminism of Marston’s young adulthood was colored by tales of Sappho and the Isle of Lesbos, both of which were used as mythological inspiration for notable fictions penned by early feminists, featuring lands populated only by women, Lepore reports. Marston took all of this to heart. So much so that by the time he came to create Wonder Woman, thirty years later, a founding text for her character included the groundbreaking book published in 1920 by Margaret Sanger, Woman and the New Race. In this book, Sanger, who coined the term “birth control”, declared that, “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” Sanger declared “it is woman’s duty as well as her privilege to lay hold of the means of freedom. Whatever men may do, she cannot escape the responsibility”, because “Others may help, but she and she alone can free herself.”
So Wonder Woman was literally created as an avatar for a new breed of woman. A new breed of woman through which a new race would be born, unlimited by the color of their skin. Women who would break the shackles of restraint imposed upon them by endless cycles of reproduction and child-rearing and take over the world to remake it in loving and righteous order with government sponsored daycare, family leave, and liberty and justice for all. And by all, she meant all.
Sadly and paradoxically, Sanger’s reputation has been sullied in recent decades by accusations of racism, which, despite being soundly debunked, persist. That these accusations stem from anti-abortion groups intent on discrediting reproductive rights activists seems not to have hampered the effectiveness of their campaign. In today’s polarized political climate greater credibility is generally granted to cynics than optimists.
What’s a Wonder Woman to do? One might wish to apply her magical lasso to those scurrilous liars…
Because of course we can’t talk about Wonder Woman without talking about her superpowers, and we can’t talk about her superpowers without talking about her magic lasso, which she uses to bind people to get them to tell her the truth. The Truth then, for Wonder Woman, is part of the alchemical process of liberation, achieved through binding. This apparent contradiction is fascinating on several levels.
The 12th house: what is hidden must come out
Let’s start with the most obvious, which is that in order for the truth to be set free it must first be forced. This mirrors the ancient wisdom carried by the 12th house, the house of secrets, loss, and suffering. Of the 12 houses, which describe 12 areas of life, the 12th is traditionally considered the worst of the worst, and the area of life it describes the least desirable. Modern astrology hails it as the house of transformation, but generally transformation isn’t necessary if things aren’t pretty crappy to begin with. But why? Why is the 12th house associated with secrets and sorrows? And what does it mean to transform those things?
A penetrating look at all the houses of an astrological chart reveals something very simple, yet almost always overlooked. The 12th house is only number 12 because it has just risen and will hence be the 12th and last house to rise again. Houses 1 through 6 are all below the horizon. We only have to consider the everyday experience of waking to understand the abrupt and even harsh change from below to above, from hidden to revealed, and from asleep to awake.
People with strong 12th house signatures carry something from their private, subterranean worlds into the inescapable prison of visibility. Of course we all have twelfth houses, we all have something to protect and shelter, but we are not all called to do so as a matter of survival the way people with strong 12th house signatures often are, with varying degrees of success. The trouble for such people is that they can’t not see what they do, and after carrying the significations of their 12th house throughout the previous twelve hours the desire to share their experience is often characterized by both need and dread. Unearthing the buried is not always met with approval, after all.
We know that Willam Moulton Marston was never able to live out his truth, instead he lived with a massive secret most of his life. Despite being the inventor of the lie detector and the creator of a superheroine who wields truth like a weapon, the mores of his time (and even ours, for the most part) dictated absolute secrecy around his home-life. Marston lived a polyamorous life with one wife, one live in mistress, and at least one long term lover invited into their home frequently. His mother knew about their arrangements, he apparently (from letters that still exist from her to him, Lepore reports) kept little from her. To the world at large, however, these arrangements, so far from commonplace in America in the early twentieth century, were kept entirely private.
This is reflected in his chart, of course, with Mercury ruling both his 9th and 12th houses from Mercury in Aries in the 7th (His time of birth is revealed in the afterward of Lepore’s book, where she quotes his doting mother’s careful annotation of his birth time as 3:50 PM). Marston’s chart reflects his drive to ferret out the truth of others (Mercury in Aries in the 7th) whilst guarding his own secrets (Mercury ruling the 12th). Of course, his Pluto Neptune conjunction is in Gemini, which is double bodied, and his Mars there, in mutual reception with his Mercury in the 7th only serves to underscore his desire for multiple partners and passion for each of them. That Pluto Neptune conjunction, which is trine to Saturn (in the 12th house using angular signs) speaks to deep and grounded intuition regarding the cultural conditions of his time with a profound and canny insight into what the future might bring forth from the changes afoot at the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth century.
Secrets kept out of necessity, not of desire
But what does Marston’s need for secrecy tell us about Wonder Woman’s desire to conquer it? Well, first of all, no one can speak more eloquently about the promised land than someone who’s been there and Marston, by many measures, was a beloved family man and enjoyed some success in the world as well. He was possessed not only of a strong bond with a devoted mother, but of adult relationships with powerful women who adored him, (his live in lover was Olive Byrne, the niece of Margaret Sanger, a frequent visitor to their home) children who grew up within a loving, if secretive household, and a successful career with not just one, but two lasting legacies (he is remembered for both the lie detector test and for Wonder Woman, whose influence may only have just begun, but whose success was marked even before Marston died in 1947).
So Marston lived with passions and an unusual lifestyle he had to keep secret out of necessity, but in his imagination he created a world where such secrets were unnecessary. Wonder Woman, whose famous wrist cuffs are, in fact, symbols of bondage which she wields in a supreme act of transgression to break herself and others free, is the ultimate heroine living out the life Marston was bold enough to create privately for himself but, being mortal and of his time, unable to create publicly.
Through Wonder Woman, however, he broke through those restraints and dared to imagine a world where both women and men were free. As Margaret Sanger declared,
“The relentless efforts of reactionary authority to suppress the message of birth control and of voluntary motherhood are futile. The powers of reaction cannot now prevent the feminine spirit from breaking its bonds. When the last fetter falls the evils that have resulted from the suppression of woman’s will to freedom will pass. Child slavery, prostitution, feeble-mindedness, physical deterioration, hunger, oppression and war will disappear from the earth.” (italics mine)
Marston incorporated Sanger’s philosophy into the creation of Wonder Woman so fully that when a new writer was brought onto the comic Olive Byrne gave her Woman and the New Race, telling her that the slim tome would tell her everything about Wonder Woman she needed to know. So while Marston had secrets to keep, they were based on a fairly rich and rewarding personal life, and this actually tells us quite a lot about the nature of the 12th house and secrets in general. Houses 1 through 6 are all below the horizon, they are all hidden from view, and hence considered private. The 12th house, being the last house to rise again is actually the first house to emerge from this darkness, bringing it into the light. In other words, the private life is suddenly, with the full strength of dawn, brought into stark clarity, whether we are ready for it or not.
This is the real reason the 12th house is the domain of secrets. People who have difficult 12th house signatures will be forced, whether by instinct or external pressure, to hide circumstances of their private life or worse, some aspect of their actual nature. While the liberation of those bonds of secrecy may set them free they may also send them to prison, both real and metaphoric (also ruled by the 12th house).
We live in a period in which it’s hard to imagine Marston being able to keep his secrets at all. Between corporate data mining for profit and government spying on private citizens courtesy of the NSA secrecy has taken on a whole new meaning. That Wonder Woman should return to us now, in a time marked by the absolute blurring of privacy and secrecy is beguiling to say the least. What is her message for us? What do we need to be set free from?
In a culture where shaming has become a national past time it’s not hard to understand why the Marston household kept their family life a secret. What if they were right to do so? Even now, a hundred years later, his private life is considered shocking and suspect, the women he lived with assumed to be unwilling accomplices to his sexual proclivities, despite solid evidence to the contrary.
The fascinating and compelling book I’ve quoted multiple times in this post, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, is exactingly researched and meticulously detailed, yet it contains at its core a deep bias against Marston and a scarcely concealed delight in the attempt to shame him. The author, Jill Lepore, saves her best turns of phrase for revealing public records of disdain for him, despite that disdain stemming from people who may very well have been upset by his sexual appetites and bold statements about them. Her animosity may have driven her to research him as completely as she did, so I cannot fault her for it, but the most compelling moments of her research are never her arguments, but the source material she uses against her subject.
I can’t claim he was a paragon of virtue or even truly happy (can anyone be truly happy who is forced to live in secret?), but I can’t see that the material documents Lepore uses against him actually vilify him the way she seems to assume they do either.
Perhaps Wonder Woman is right to force the Truth only upon mortals who would use our secrets against us, shoving those villains into the very shackles they would seek to cuff us with.
It remains to be observed that the current film incarnation of Wonder Woman was released June 2, 2017, with Venus conjoining Uranus in the 28th degree of Aries, closely conjoined Marston’s before-mentioned Mercury in the 26th. His message to us is still bearing fruit.
Furthermore his natal Jupiter Uranus opposition is mirrored by the current waning Jupiter Uranus opposition, a contact that is connected to radical changes in technology and philosophical breakthroughs. That the film should be released before Venus leaves Aries in her warrior goddess phase rising before the sun, and directly on the heels of a powerful Venus in Aries retrograde cannot be allowed to pass without comment. We have a president with Venus conjunct Saturn in his 12th house closing Planned Parenthood centers around the country. Margaret Sanger was the founder of that organization, for the sake of Sappho! Great Hera, we have never needed Wonder Woman more!
However, people will likely continue to argue about whether Wonder Woman can possibly be feminist when she is so scantily clothed and riddled with so many sexual innuendos, not to mention outright BDSM imagery. They will complain that no man could create a woman he sexualized and still call himself, or her a feminist. To them I will simply say, even Zeus Himself sprung forth wise Athena from his head. That Marston’s chart shows the asteroid Pallas Athene conjunct his Sun conjunct Venus is all the “proof” I need that a beloved heroine such as Wonder Woman can have a complicated history, a controversial father, a bit of a naughty side and still be the absolute bad ass we all need.
I can be grateful to Patty Jenkins for literally cloaking Wonder Woman’s entire body in the only sexual scene of the current film, and be grateful to her original creator for giving us a heroine whose overall narrative is still current, relevant, and even necessary.
In closing I will leave you with a paragraph from Margaret Sanger’s book, Woman and the New Race. Marston may have created a heroine whose valor and heart may yet span this Neptune Pluto epoch, but he did not and cannot do it alone.
“We must set motherhood free. We must give the foreign and submerged mother knowledge that will enable her to prevent bringing to birth children she does not want. We know that in each of these submerged and semi-submerged elements of the population there are rich factors of racial culture. Motherhood is the channel through which these cultures flow. Motherhood, when free to choose the father, free to choose the time and the number of children who shall result from the union, automatically works in wondrous ways. It refuses to bring forth weaklings; refuses to bring forth slaves; refuses to bear children who must live under the conditions described. It withholds the unfit, brings forth the fit; brings few children into homes where there is not sufficient to provide for them. Instinctively it avoids all those things which multiply racial handicaps. Under such circumstances we can hope that the “melting pot” will refine. We shall see that it will save the precious metals of racial culture, fused into an amalgam of physical perfection, mental strength and spiritual progress. Such an American race, containing the best of all racial elements, could give to the world a vision and a leadership beyond our present imagination.”