Sunday, October 18, 2015

Henry V at Agincourt: an Astrological Review, Part I

In honor (honour?) of the recent 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, I thought it might be interesting to review a few astrological artifacts. I will not lay claim to expertise on either the history, nor the astrological methods, but I want to explore the event to find out whether Astrology has anything to tell us about it. Since this is not an excercise in prediction, let's see if we can discover anything novel or notable.

Schlacht von Azincourt.jpg
"Schlacht von Azincourt" by Chroniques d’Enguerrand de Monstrelet (early 15th century) - Antoine Leduc, Sylvie Leluc et Olivier Renaudeau (dir.), D'Azincourt à Marignan. Chevaliers et bombardes, 1415-1515, Paris, Gallimard / Musée de l'armée, 2015, p. 18-19, ISBN 978-2-07-014949-0. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

You can read more about the battle in Wikipedia, or, or some other source (e.g., Tuchman, A Distant Mirror), but, to summarize, this conflict between the English and the French took place on 25 October 1415 (Julian calendar) at Agincourt (now called Azincourt) in France. It was the culmination of a brief military excursion during the Hundred Years War by King Henry V of England, who was only about 28 at the time. Henry was pursuing an arguable claim to the throne and territory of France—possibly based on justifications promoted in the prior century by his predecessor Edward III.

One could say that France was in a weakened condition around that time for at least a couple of reasons: (1) it had warring factions within itself vying for control, namely the Armagnacs vs. the Burgundians; and (2) it did not have a particularly strong ruler at its head: Charles VI is said to have suffered from intermittent mental health problems. Henry favored and sometimes abetted the Burgundians, while Charles was aligned with and supported by the Argmagnacs.

After arriving in France on 13 August at Calais (a port city under English control), Henry's forces managed to prevail in a series of sieges and skirmishes. He was essentially trying to pick a fight with the Armagnacs. After a couple of months away from home, he was moderately successful but his forces were weakened, and he decided to head back to England. His opponents finally took the bait, or possibly saw an opportunity to strike a weakened foe. The Armagnac faction amassed a force superior in number of men  (about 12000 to 36000) to block Henry's army (numbering 6000-9000) as they made their way back to Calais. Both forces assembled near the fortified town of Agincourt.

Ironically, the French may have had too many soldiers to wage this battle: the structure of the battlefield required whoever made the first advance to pass through a relatively narrow field; and, as it happened, it was the over-eager French cavalry who made the first move.  They underestimated the efficacy of the longbow both for themselves (had 4000 archers, mostly idle) and for the English (didn't think they would be a factor against their armor), whose archers were positioned at the fringes and in an elevated position such they could not be attacked from the front, and, because of the woods and terrain, they could not be outflanked. The cavalry were ineffective, because of the narrow field and muddy conditions, and suffered losses to the longbow. The foray merely served to make the middle ground even more impassable and muddy: when their men at arms advanced they could move only slowly, easy targets for archers or soldiers with lighter or no armor. It was a stunning defeat for the French and a glorious victory for the English.

First one has to ask, how will an astrological chart indicate something meaningful as regards a battle between two foes? After all, the stars at any given moment are at the same position for all of the people at a particular location. In natal astrology, we take the rising sign (eastern horizon) and the first house as an indicator of the Self, and the setting sign (western horizon) and the seventh house as an indicator of the Other. In mundane astrology, I believe we can use the locality to guide us, i.e., given the location of the event, it seems reasonable that for this chart we should assign the ascendant to the home team (the French), and assign the descendant to the away team (the English).

With that in mind, here's the chart corresponding roughly to when it all began ("three hours after sunrise").

[I've presented the sidereal version of the chart, but we can look at the tropical chart as well, later.]

The glitteringly obvious aspect pattern is the Grand Trine in Air signs between Uranus, Mercury and Pluto. (It's really a kite pattern, involving the Venus+NNode conjunction, and perhaps that indicates some component of the French abetted the English in their victory. This would not be surprising, since Henry supported the Burgundian cause and the French forces opposing him were supposedly Armagnac. The descendant ruler for the sidereal chart is Venus.) It's notable also that the motion of Uranus just two days earlier turned direct.
   But what does the trine or kite mean here? I would like to say that it paints a clear picture of an aerial victory with the Promethean arrows (Uranus), skillfully and dextrously launched by the longbowmen (Mercury) in service of their cunning and driven King (Pluto), but I'm afraid that's above my pay-grade; it certainly seems plausible, however.
   Mercury square Saturn attests either to a weakened, slowed-down condition of Henry's men, or to the fact that they were seasoned professionals (in contrast to the many nobles on the French side), or both.

The 1st house has the ascending (aka north) node conjunct Venus, along with Jupiter, all in Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter. Venus opposes Pluto, the latter which conjoins the south node. They may have had a good feeling about all this, as though everything were falling into place: there's a foreign King making an incursion into our territory, so we'll get our best gentleman fighters and, with enough of them, we'll be able to smite him down. But they may have underestimated the tenacity of the opposing Pluto.
   Jupiter seems to echo the massive force they were able to muster, and their optimism, but in its opposition of Neptune, they probably couldn't get a read on what the opposition was truly capable of. Jupiter squares the midheaven, as if it's doing the work of the King (i.e., Charles VI, who was not present at the battle). Does the fact that Jupiter is in its detriment in Virgo (the MC sign) indicate anything about the King's attitude toward the nobles? Jupiter is sextile with the Sun, inconjunct the Moon in the 8th house: there seems to be a chain of relationships here between the nobles in the 1st house, the King in the 11th house, and the common soldiers in the 8th house.

What of Mars, the ruler of the Ascendant? Peregrine in Virgo at the very end of the 8th house, with no major aspects, but septile to the Sun in the 11th house, an edgy, irrational aspect indicating possible miscommunication, lack of traction, failed intentions.
   (My casual inclination is to assign the Sun to the King of France—he was not present, and in this chart he is in the lucky 11th house, but the proper thing is probably to correlate him with the Midheaven ruler, in this case Mercury. That would undermine my all-English trine formula above.)
   Lastly, Mars conjoins the Part of Fortune: does this mitigate the weakness of Mars, or does Mars militate against good fortune?

The 7th house has the descending (aka south) node conjunct Pluto: a fated release of transformative energy or tension. Neptune in the 7th for subterfuge.
   Saturn is in the Seventh house, in its detriment in the sign of Cancer, again, possibly reflecting the weakness of the English, hungry, weary and sick.

When cast as a tropical chart, the dispositorships shuffle around a bit. The ascendant ruler becomes Jupiter, which is still somewhat strong, but in its fall in Capricorn, and now ruled by an 8th house Saturn in its detriment. Saturn here could stand for ineffectual leadership on the part of the French commanders. Jupiter and Neptune are in opposition, with the message being superior numbers amassed against a cunning, deceptive enemy. Lastly, the descendant ruler becomes Mercury, still engaged in a grand air trine, with determined cunning (Pluto) and technology (Uranus): bowmen rule (10th house) the day?

We've made the assumption that the ascendant and its ruler corresponds to the "home team" of France and the descendant and its ruler corresponds to the "away team" of England. Can it be read in the opposite way? Probably not without getting twisted in knots. I leave that as an exercise to an argumentative reader.

Getting back to the earlier question, whether a chart can tell us about the battle, I believe that the chart does so. It may or may not be telling us about the specifics of the eventual outcome, but we have a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of the parties involved, and the dynamics of the event.
   It's also interesting to compare this chart with that of the Battle of Crécy, another lopsided English victory featuring the longbow. Mercury trines Uranus again, then in Fire signs, and without Pluto (which opposes Mars). And once again, Jupiter in its own sign seems to represent the superior numbers of the home team. Unlike the Agincourt event, Crecy appears to have occurred just over a week after a solar eclipse. [I can post the chart upon request, but the data I'm using to generate it are as follows. Locality: Crecy en Ponthieu, France (1e53'00, 50n15'00), 26 Aug 1346 AD JC, 4pm LAT.]

I'll return to the discussion of Agincourt later, when I present a some further astrological artifacts leading up to the event on 25 October 1415. Specifically we'll look at the ingress charts, as well as the two eclipses that preceded the event, in June of that year. Meanwhile, the next post(s) will be about Henry V, Charles VI, and a further post will discuss how the transiting lunar nodes seem to draw them together into this conflict.

Part II is next.

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For more on the conditions leading up to the battle, refer to Anne Curry, ‘France, England and the Political Climate, 1400-1415’, in The Online Froissart, ed. by Peter Ainsworth and Godfried Croenen, v. 1.5 (Sheffield: HRIOnline, 2013), first published in v. 1.0 (2010).

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