tumbling walls and unlikely centaurs

25 years ago today, the Berlin wall fell.

Is it really 25 years? Hell yes, and really it feels like a world away. Neptune was conjunct Saturn in Capricorn at the time, very closely (and very near to where Pluto is now), and maybe it was that which gave it the impression of just dissolving overnight (though obviously it took a lot more than that). The process of undermining had been going on for I’m not sure how long, and suddenly it seemingly just fell away, with all the specific political psychology that went with it.

It’s probably difficult for people who grew up since then to grasp the world that existed prior to that, but our collective landscape (and indeed our collective memory, very Saturn-Neptune) was not the same afterwards. It’s like the world that had seen the Second World War, Cuban missiles and Kennedy, Nixon and Vietnam, even Thatcher and the miners, belonged on one side along with rock n roll, television plays and the Moon shots, while on the other side the world officially shook off history and all things non-post modern, like a dog shakes off water on emerging from the river. Personally, I just crawled through to 1990 and disappeared into a massive, apolitical peak experience. You can see the chart of the fall of the Berlin wall here. I can’t say I’m sorry that it’s a long time ago, but it was one of the endings of a very different world that we grew up in, which seemed rock stable at the time.

Criggion Cold War Architecture by Peter Evans [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On a quite unrelated note, we were watching a TV tattoo program the other day, and a cop wanted a cover up using the image of St Michael, and apparently St Michael is a common choice of tattoo for police officers. Now the dedicated section of my working life was spent working as a nurse, and I am still  a carer in fact, so out of curiosity I wanted to know if there was a patron saint of nurses, and as it happens there are several. I’m not keen on Catholicism (though nothing like as allergic as my Catholic raised husband), and most of them were like “eek! let me draw pentagrams over you, now!”, but one really intrigued me. His name was St Camillus de Lellis, and there is a little picture of him here. I think the black and red of the image grabbed my attention first (shallow, I know), but the story was interesting. He lived mainly in the 16th century and was quite a turbulent character. According to the story Camillus’ mother was 50 when she had him, and his father was often away from home as a soldier. Camillus had his father’s temper, and his aged mother found it difficult to control him, and in any case she died when he was 12. He was neglected by family that took him in and at 16 joined the Venetian army, which was fighting the Ottoman Empire. His regiment was disbanded in 1575, and he had  to work as a labourer at the Capuchin friary, but during his time in the army he sustained a wound that would not heal in his leg. If you are interested in astrology and healing/wisdom stories, the unhealing wound will alert you to a potential theme, as it immediately resonates with the story of Chiron, the wise, wounded, healing centaur.

Camillus was aggressive  by nature and was also a big gambler, but the guardian of the monastery saw something in him and tried to encourage what he saw as his better nature. Camillus had a conversion experience and wanted to join the order, but when it turned out that his leg wound was incurable he was denied this. After this he moved to Rome and went into the Hospital of St James, which cared for people with incurable ailments. Though he himself had an incurable ailment, he became a care giver at the hospital, and eventually its director.

“De Lellis began to observe the poor attention the sick received from the staff of the hospital. He was led to invite a group of pious men to express their faith through the care of the patients at the hospital. Eventually he felt called to establish a religious community for this purpose, and that he should seek Holy Orders for this task. Neri, his confessor, gave him approval for this endeavor, and a wealthy donor provided him with the income necessary to undertake his seminary studies”

Wikipedia entry

Camillus was also concerned that proper treatment of the sick be extended to the ends of their lives.  He established an order which came to be known as the “Camillians”, devoted to the sick, while his experience in war led him to establish a group of health care workers to help soldiers on the battlefield. The members of his order also devoted themselves to caring for victims of the bubonic plague. In terms of applied compassion, they sound pretty hardcore.

He was finally ordained in 1584 by the bishop of Wales. Camillus and his companions continued caring for patients at the Hospital of the Holy Ghost. He died in Rome in 1614.

It seems like a very Mars-Neptune story to me, which may be why it resonated (I have Mars opposition Neptune in my birth chart, and the combination of Jupiter/North Node/Neptune in my 6th house probably did bequeath me an unexpected appreciation of service, and an interest in healing). He appears to be very unpromising material, and I like that. He has an elderly mother who dies while he is young, and an absent soldier father, a hot temper and a propensity for gambling (an addiction), a neglected childhood and youth. He joins the army but is out of it by the age of 25, and sustains a wound that won’t heal, and is simply forced to work as a  labourer at a Friary. There is no place, no home, and no respectable role for this guy. It’s a 12th house story that turns into a 6th house tale astrologically.

When he has his conversion experience, he is blocked from joining the Friary by his wound. Denied what he must have seen as his vocation, he goes to the hospital in Rome as a patient, and becomes a carer. He just keeps on, despite having no official route. Because of his denial of a religious vocation, on account of his unhealing wound sustained in war, he does his life’s work, organizing and improving the care of the sick and dying. Eventually he is ordained as a priest, but that doesn’t really seem the point. This angry gambler from a messed up family life, a hot tempered, injured, gambling soldier who had to work as a labourer at a Friary because there was nothing else to do and probably nowhere to go, is driven to help the sick by his own wound and whatever it was that awoke in him. An unlikely centaur indeed.

I was quite surprised, and moved.

It wasn’t so much the saint as the soldier that moved me, the neglected, wayward child, the wounded soldier, the angry gambler, the placeless labourer, and the alchemy of failure leading to something not actually imaginable, and a powerful, persisting sense of peace.

Hercules killing a centaur, Iconotheca Valvasoriana by Hans Sebald Beham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

10th November 2014: minor edits to 4th line 8th paragraph, and last line of blog.



  1. An interesting guy living out his own myth. 1989, such a pivotal year. The fast unexpected collapse of many communist countries within 6 months…Tienamen Square and also the plug being pulled on quite a few big business people.

    • yes, I remember 1989 as being the last year of an old world in a sense, and the last year of my old life as well, as I went through such profound things ’89 – ’90, with everything really changing in 1990. I think how we collectively responded to things like the collapse of communism, and the dissolution of communism as our cultural “bad gay” has also formed parts of the world we live in now, with the “Islamic Block” taking the place of the “Eastern Block”, and us going from a world with two political poles, to really one that was dominated by only one. With Pluto going over the same ground in Capricorn, I would not be surprised if what we were left with after 1989 is up for questioning again

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