Writing Horror Against My Will: How Astrology Helped Me Make Peace with My Own Jekyll and Hyde
This is part two in a series of articles on the intersection of astrology, writing, and learning about myself as a creative.
Spend a quick minute or two on my Instagram account, and you'll experience a particular vibe: bright, colorful, dreamy, hopeful, fun but reflective. And while my bio says I'm a writer of supernatural fiction, I doubt anyone who sees that account––or even this website––would think I write horror. I don't think anyone would expect to read a grisly shotgun scene mutilated bodies in one of my books or mutilated bodies, but if you read my work that's what you'll find. And maybe, from a marketing standpoint, that's a problem. Can I be an author of horror with an aesthetic that looks like I fell out of Wonderland? Well, actually, Wonderland is a little scary, and certainly many a horror authors have adapted it as such.
As for me, I'm not worried about the marketing. My goal is to be authentic. No, that's not quite true. My goal is to understand myself. With a first house sun and moon, you might even say it's what I both want and need most in this life, which why I struggled so much with reconciling who I feel I am with what I know I need to write. So, let's talk about Marjorie Flack.
The main character in my first complete manuscript is Marjorie Flack. I'll write another post about my experience with her and with writing her, but for the purpose of this post, what's important is to know how she came to me. Marjorie walked out of the fog of my subconscious as I neared the end of my listening to the Audible production, West Cork, a documentary about the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. That audiobook was a challenging listen for me, triggering on multiple levels: my past history of severe childhood trauma as well as my experience with domestic violence as an adult. And yet, I had to listen to it, because the rage it evoked in me stirred something I had never felt before. I didn't know what that something was, but within a week of working through the audio, I received a download from the universe.
It didn't come in a dream; it came in that weird space between dreaming and waking up. That's when most of my messages come through. That morning, the message was just an image––literally the image of a woman stepping out through some kind of bushes or shrubbery. Stepping through the mist and the fog and stretching her arms out wide like she'd been asleep for years. And what I first felt from her was her rage, and it terrified me.
The first two iterations of Marjorie Flack are so violent I still struggle to read them. The plethora of unused scenes that will never see the light of day, and that I had never shared with anyone, are some of the most graphic and gruesome things I've ever read. I would write this character, write what came through me from her, and I was mortified. I felt such shame that these horrible words and images came from inside me somewhere, and I needed to understand why and how I was capable of writing them. I do have a diagnosed history of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and so at first, I worried that I was having an exacerbation of symptoms. Was Marjorie a manifestation of my pathology? She didn't feel like it, because the more I wrote her, the stronger I felt, and that was confusing. Then I started studying astrology.
Sidenote: traditional astrology only uses the seven "original" planets (sun, moon, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn). I put original in quotation marks, because obviously Pluto, Uranus, and Neptune existed in ancient times. People just couldn't see them with the naked eye, so all the original theorization and anecdotal configurations don't include them. And I think, in practice, for a lot of people, that's okay. Those distant outer planets are most significant for the collective...usually. But I have come to learn and believe based on my own experiences that some people are what's called "outer planet people." These are people who have the outer planets at angular places in their charts and/or making significant aspects to their personal planets. Can you read those birth charts and not look at those distant planets? Sure, but I think you'll miss something. I have one such chart.
The most aspected planet in my chart is Neptune, which sits in my first house conjunct my ascendant, moon, and mercury. The next most aspected planet is Pluto, which sextiles my entire first house, five-planet stellium and is in an exact sextile with my moon and Neptune (which are both just minutes apart). Pluto's also in a superior aspect to my Venus and sits conjunct my calculated midheaven. So yes, I could talk about the fact that the ruler of my eighth house (the moon) is in the first house conjunct the ascendant, and that would get me some of the understanding I was looking for, but it is the addition of Neptune and Pluto that helped me come to terms with what I'm calling my own Jekyll and Hyde.
A note about Jekyll and Hyde: I don't want anyone to read that and think I'm demonizing one side of myself at the privileging of another. Just the opposite. The whole point of the Jekyll and Hyde story is the necessity of having both parts in balance in ourselves. That's where I want to go with this post.
I think it can be tricky, especially when talking about the first house in astrology, to have the sun and moon in the same house, because it's easy to take on other people's purpose as your own and to confuse your wants and your needs. My sun wants to shine. My Sagittarius stellium, in general, is optimistic, truth-seeking, and double-bodied. I come by this split between light and dark/human and centaur naturally. But with the dreamy, imaginative planet of Neptune taking such a dominant role in my chart, that element of a bright sun shining through beautiful pastel-colored clouds only gets amplified. That's the aesthetic that feels most like who the conscious me is. That's my IG aesthetic.
But Pluto forms an exact sextile to that planet and to my moon. Pluto is the planet of the Underworld, the god of bringing up the deepest secrets and pain and darkest places for exploration. And Pluto squares my Venus. If you want to know what kind of art someone might make, look at their Venus placement and the aspects that planet is making. So my body (the moon), my ascendant (the helm, the point of entry into the world for the native), how I desire (Venus), and how I think and communicate (Mercury), are all in conversation with the planet of deep transformation. Yes, I have dreamy Neptune there, but Neptune's dreams are Plutonic in nature. I can't tell you what a source of liberation this knowledge was for me.
When we experience trauma and we undergo the lifelong process of healing from it, it gets so easy to pathologize everything out from the space of that trauma. This happened to me, and so I'm like this now. It's not an arguable claim to say that trauma marks you, rewrites you, but it is also not an arguable claim to say it doesn't define you. I think that's what this astrology journey helped me understand with regards to my creativity. I think there was a space where I was like, damn, am I just this fucked up now? Not that I'm saying authors who write graphic, gory horror are fucked up in general. I'm talking about me and how my insides didn't feel like they matched my outside. They don't match. I have a zero degree sun that wants to shine and leave its mark. Most days I feel solar. And I have a moon that needs to experience intense, deep, often dark and transformational emotions. Those are my two halves, and I have learned to love and nourish both of them. I am mostly sunshine and daisies pursuing a life of freedom for myself; I need to feel free to experience all emotions, even the darkest ones; and I desire to create art that is intense and transformative. I'm all of them, and there's nothing pathological about any of that.
I felt like this was an important article to write, because I know I'm not to only one who wonders where and how and why they create what they do, when they do. And I certainly know I am not the only trauma survivor walking the line between healing and self-actualizing. If you let it, the healing path can swallow you, and you can find yourself in a place where all you are is someone who needs to be healed. But that's not true. Maybe you have a certain karma in your birth chart that you're playing out in this lifetime. Maybe what happened to you is all part of the plan, so that you could then take those experiences and create something beautiful––horrible, frightening, powerful, and beautiful.
Next week, I have a bonus article coming on Monday about the evolution of the horror genre and how I've situated myself within it given the history I write about in this post. Then, next Wednesday (05/04), this series will finish with an article on one of my favorite subjects, monsters!