Brian Williams: An Astrological Guide by Fern Mercier
If Brian was a tarot card, I think he would be The High Priest – Hierophant of mysteries, a presiding priest and interpreter of our esoteric art that is the Tarot. It is in this role of teacher, guide, and mentor that I knew him best. Although northern Italy was the crucible in which my personal relationship with Brian was formed, his Tarot decks and books are the extraordinary legacy he as Hierophant has bequeathed to me and the world at large.
In Venice in September 2000 at the end of our Tarot Art History Tour, when I mentioned how he carried this role of Hierophant, I think he felt slightly discomfited. The hierarchical and conservative aspects of the card did not sit quietly with his unique wacky brilliance. His visionary, iconoclastic and non-conformist self wanted out of the ceremonial robes, especially since it was the end of our trip and he was discarding the professional role of teacher and guide and coming back into his personal life - the life of Brian.
Yet the Hierophant gives us not only the idea of hierarchy – but also tells us about ‘hieros’ that means sacred. Brian did indeed perform a sacred role for many of us in the Tarot world. His art, like his guided magical mystery tours through Italy’s cultural landscape, showed us the way, lighting the path through the arcane and the antique into contemporary relevance and insight. The clarity of his deep, enriching scholarship traced direct routes from the past into the present.
In 2000, Brian had asked me to read his astrological birth chart. Astrology, like Tarot, is a traditional language system that draws from the treasury of images, symbols and myth that lies embedded deep within the western cultural heritage. I’d like to explore some of my ideas about Brian’s life and work using the language of his horoscope as a mirror to reflect upon – just like reading a tarot spread.
He was the true Aquarian, humane, intellectual and intense. Here was a man who would march to the beat of his own drum - yet always be a loyal friend. A strong independent spirit with the paradoxical need to play both the outsider and insider; wanting to be different from the herd, yet still defining himself within a community of peers.
His Sun – the central organizing Star around which all the other planets (or parts of his psyche) revolved – was in the 8th House. Traditional astrology speaks of this placement as ‘recognition after death, although in life nature’s genius goes begging.’
Venus, goddess of love and beauty was both combust with the Sun and retrograde, emphasizing his unconventionality, requiring him to develop his own unique social and aesthetic values often in periods of reclusion. Retrograde Venus yearns for a perfect ideal, is eclectic and attracted to art forms extremely modern and /or extremely ancient. Venus gifted Brian a loving tender heart, popularity, artistic and aesthetic refinement, a highly charged sensitivity, and, above all, grace
Brian’s Sun and Venus worked as a team, but were in tense relationship with Uranus and Neptune - transpersonal planets. This combination impels an individual to reflect and transmit his generation’s – the larger collective’s - concerns and dreams. Held tight in the grip of Neptune and Uranus, Brian was compelled to actualize a variety of vehicles that could express not only the gods’ sensual and emotional theatricality, but also their immortal visions. This is the signature of the artist who translates our human longings into fusion with the Divine.
Uranus in opposition to Sun/Venus powers a trailblazer who pushes into new frontiers of thought and action, expressing views ahead of his time, cutting across conservatism and tradition. An ambassador of the cosmos to planet Earth, Uranus made it impossible for Brian’s unusually creative spirit to settle into one field of specialization. Such a constant urge for stimulation, variety and excitement would have sought periodic radical and maybe dramatic changes throughout his life.
Neptune in Brian’s chart was not only in a challenging square aspect to his Sun/Venus, but tightly involved in a conjunction with Jupiter and his north Node of the Moon. This opened him to the intangible forces in the cosmos and drove him on an idealistic search for greater meaning and wisdom. Neptune endowed a fertile imagination fueled by divine discontent. Jupiter demanded a constant internal struggle to practice what he preached. He would have needed always to approach worldly affairs from a broadened philosophical - even magical - perspective. Neptune invested Brian with a special capacity to inspire - the ability to act as a medium for the thoughts and feelings of others as a guide, an artist and writer. Indeed such a potent brew affirms Brian as the consummate ‘Renaissance Man’.
Brian’s Ascendant was in the sign of Cancer, which describes a sympathetic mild, reserved demeanor. Emotionally private and psychically sensitive, a Cancerian personality identifies strongly with his family. The Moon in Gemini in the 12th House highlights a natural bent for writing, combined with a subtle attunement to inner perceptions and an innate poetical sense. This Moon gave access to a rich reservoir of images and feelings that enhanced any form of communication Brian chose. Remarkably versatile, quick-witted and resourceful, the Moon in Gemini, sign of the twins, illuminates why Brian had two homes – one in California and one in Italy - and his facility with language(s).
Mercury in Capricorn, not to mention Saturn and Mars conjoined in Sagittarius, ensured that Brian had the necessary discipline, worldly ambition and organization to provide sturdy vessels to hold his dreams. His delight in the classical world, coupled with his strong sense of composition and structure, has resulted in art forms that will stand the test of time. Mercury in the 7th House bestowed the ability to work in partnership and communicate with the public. The Saturnine drive to achieve distinction as an authority through systematic efforts in the Sagittarian fields of higher learning, philosophy and education was hugely evident. The Saturn/Mars combo made for a hard taskmaster, as those of us puffing to keep up on his famous ‘breakneck tours’ will vouch.
Saturn plays an immensely important part in Brian’s chart because it is the co-ruler of his Aquarian Sun. It is conjunct Mars in Sagittarius, which is in mutual reception with Jupiter in Scorpio. The Sagittarian desire for adventure and wisdom in the 6th House of hard work is integrated with the need to know the truth at any cost. There is a definite resemblance between this Sagittarius/Jupiter/Saturn mix and the tarot card, the Hierophant.
And yet Brian is much much more than a Hierophant. Obviously Brian’s genius can’t be encapsulated in just the one tarot card. For good measure then, I’ll deal in the Magician and the World.
The Magician - the Magus - because he made magic happen. His wit and humor, his leadership of those merry traveling bands he directed around Italy, his creative imagination captured in his art and scholarship – all these were instruments of the magic that he wrought.
He gave us the World and he belongs to the World. The attic dance that was his life has emerged triumphant and transcendent. It hangs suspended now in our memories like the animus mundi of The World card, surrounded by the laurel leaves of the victor.
Brian’s really a whole tarot spread - his life’s work laid out for eternity.
‘When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all
Ye need on earth, and all ye need to know.’
Born a Sagittarius in the year of the Fire Dog and bred in the South Island of New Zealand, Fern Mercier has been practicing her twin passions of Tarot and Astrology since the 1970's. Based in Auckland, she works as a consultant, writer, columnist and educator. She has been teaching both Astrology and Tarot for over a decade and runs workshops and classes including a year-long Diploma Course in Tarot. The impetus of her work is the recovery of the Feminine in myth, images and symbols from the past, and its restoration into modern mainstream consciousness via Astrological and Tarot wisdom. Her website is called Tarot Aotearoa.
Article © 2002 Fern Mercier
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes
25 April 2002