Astrology and Heredity: a Personal Detective Story


© 1997, revised 2003 by Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum


                        Studying family relationships through astrology has always interested me.  In particular, I am intrigued by the astrological patterns that make up the charts of families, and how these are manifested in the lives of each family member.  I am also interested in genealogy, and during the last three years I have begun to explore my own roots in depth.  It is the story of the merging of these two interests that I would like to tell now.

            In August of 1991, during the beginning of my Pluto square Pluto year (transiting Pluto was 1° from my natal Mercury as well), my mother and I discovered a cache of old letters among my late grandmother's papers.  There were about 500 of them, written to my great-grandmother, Josephine Webling-Watts, by her 5 sisters in England and Canada.  My mother and I had had no knowledge of their existence, but as we began to read, we were captivated by the fascinating stories they contained.

            And in reading the letters, I found something that was very exciting to me personally: my great-grandmother's oldest sister, Ethel, was, among other things, an amateur astrologer and a Theosophist!  In one of the letters she spoke of my maternal grandfather's chart to his mother: "I will tell you of his horoscope, as I said before, he is held back -- and his character is complicated and so dualistic -- bright, severe, venturesome, timid; life hanging before him like a dream yet wrapped up in material things." (letter of October 31, 1916) (See his chart below.)

            As I continued reading, I looked for clues about the birthdates of the sisters.  Early on, in another letter of Ethel's, I found out the birth date and time of my grandfather, Ruskin.  I was also thrilled to discover the birth date of my great-grandmother, Josephine, in letters wishing her "many happy returns of the 7th" (it was August 7th that they were referring to).  Eventually, I was able to figure out birth dates for three of the other sisters as well.  

            At that point, I had no expectations of finding out anything more about my ancestors' birth times.  However, in 1994 I was invited to England to visit one of the last surviving children of the sisters.  It was when I arrived at my cousin Louis McRaye's seminary (he is a priest) that I came upon "the mother lode," so to speak.  Louis invited me to look through his collection of the sisters' papers, which he had stored since his mother's death in 1952.  Among them was a small postcard dated May 10, 1906, addressed to Ethel in her mother's hand.  On it she had written the birthdates and times of her children (seven in all), and Ethel had added birth dates for her maternal grandparents and paternal grandfather.  You can imagine my joy at finding this card!  I was now able to chart five generations of my ancestors and descendants with birth times, and seven generations with birth dates.

            Although space does not permit a thorough analysis here, I would like to share with you some of the information I have discovered.  The following charts show four generations of direct descent.

            My great-grandmother, Josephine Webling-Watts, was born August 7, 1862 at 2:00 p.m. GMT in London, England.  As a girl and young adult, she performed with her sisters in dramatic recitals all over England, including one for the then Prince of Wales, Edward VII.  As an adult she was a lecturer and a suffragist.  Her Sun in the 9th house and nodal polarity in Gemini - Sagittarius show her strong intellectual bent.  Her Mars square Venus represents her involvement with the suffrage movement.  Sun and Mercury elevated in Leo show the passion for drama.  Note also the T-Square of Venus opposite Moon both squaring Mars.

            Her son, my grandfather Ruskin Watts, was born on November 7, 1895 at 7:00 a.m. EST in Nutley, NJ.  He was a fighter pilot in World War I who came home and made a fortune in the printing business.  He was married 4 times, and fathered a son at the age of 66.  An elevated Jupiter in Leo in the 9th square Mars, Saturn and Sun in Scorpio show his Jupiterian personality: he was expansive, bombastic and dominated the people he was with.

            For privacy reasons, I will not give the birth data for my mother, Patricia Watts Gieseler.  She is a strong woman, like many in my family, and her chart shows it.  The fixed grand crosses are striking in this chart, and her life on the psychological level has not been easy.  However, she is a survivor, as shown by the Sun trine Mars.

            Again for privacy reasons, I will not give my own birth data.  Like my mother, I am strong-willed, creative and analytical.  There is no doubt I am my mother's child astrologically!  (Fixed T-Squares/Grand Crosses, strong Leo archetype and Jupiter in the 7th house.)   But what is even more fascinating to me is the fact that all these charts have major similarities.  The most striking ones are listed below:

          The axis orientation of these charts is similar.  Three of us have Scorpio rising and the other has Scorpio on the MC - IC axis.

          Fixed signs are strong in these charts.  (It was no surprise to me to find that this was so -- we are intense, opinionated and strong-willed, with a great capacity for endurance.)

          Three of us have strong Leo archetype -- Josephine and Dorian have Sun and Mercury in Leo (Dorian also has South Node and Pluto in Leo) and Patricia, in addition to Leo rising, has 3 planets (2 of them personal) in Leo.  As I said before, Josephine was an actress and lecturer; I have performed for most of my life as either a singer or an actor; my mother was very successful as a smoke-cessation teacher (I feel that teaching involves a certain amount of dramatic flair!). 

          Three of us also have strong Scorpio archetype -- Josephine, Ruskin and Dorian have Scorpio rising, Ruskin has 4 planets in Scorpio and Dorian has Mars in Scorpio and Sun, Mercury and South Node conjunct Pluto (which, though it does not rule Scorpio, certainly has affinities with it).  Ruskin and Josephine also have personal planets in the 8th house.  Power struggles, deep personal transformation, and emotional intensity are just some of the Scorpionic themes running through the family.

          Three of the four also have cardinal moons -- Ruskin and Dorian in Cancer, Josephine in Capricorn (opposing her son's Cancer Moon).  It is also interesting that all four moons are in compatible earth and water elements. 

          All four of us show a complete lack of sanguine temperament, and three of four have quite a bit of choleric (for more information about temperament, see my article “Temperament: Astrology’s Forgotten Key.”  As a family, we are rather strong-willed and not at all interested in being charming social butterflies.

            As I continue to analyze the data from all generations of my family, I am able to say at this point that the similarities I have noted in the above charts seem to be borne out over the other generations.  We are a "fixed" family with strong Scorpio and Leo archetypes, and overall are low in air/sanguine.  The axis orientation is particularly striking, with over 50% either Scorpio - Taurus or Leo - Aquarius. 

            Further investigation reveals aspect patterns repeated over generations and synastry between generations.  It is also very useful to look at the charts and people who do not fit the family pattern.  Why is this so (is it inheritance from those who married into the family, perhaps?)  and how do they function in the family?  Are they there to enable the other members of the family to learn about what they lack?  To me these are all fascinating aspects of the puzzle that is astrological heredity.





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Last Updated 12 March 2003