Jean Cocteau and the New Eve

"O you, most beautiful of women, loveliest of God's creatures, you were the best loved. So I want you to be my best piece of work too..."

 

With these words, Jean Cocteau began work on three murals dedicated to the Virgin Mary which adorn the walls of one of London's hidden treasures, the chapel of Our Lady of France in Soho. 

 

A church has stood on the site since 1865, when a distinctive circular building (which originally housed a tourist attraction called Burford's Panorama) was purchased and rededicated by the local French Catholic community.  All but destroyed during the Battle of Britain, temporary repairs kept the church operational until 1953, when work was able to begin on a complete rebuild.  In addition to the eclectic mix of artists and architects who donated their talents to the project, key events in the restoration show some astrological alchemy at work.

 

In astrological terms, the laying of the foundation stone (or cornerstone) marks the 'birth' of a new building: An astrological chart for this event can be read in a similar manner to a natal horoscope.  In the case of Our Lady of France, we have a date, 31st May 1953, but no time.  Nevertheless, the chart set for noon has much to reveal. 

 

Saturn is very strongly placed in Libra (20 Libra 59), the sign of his exaltation.  There is nothing temporary about a place of worship:  Sacred buildings are designed to withstand the ages, so a strong Saturn (natural ruler of longevity) is an excellent sign.  Saturn also rules boundaries, walls and - by extension - architecture:  Strongly placed as he is here, Saturn lends his strength to the chapel and fortifies against further damage from man or time.   The exaltation of Saturn might be viewed as referring to the heavenly purpose of the chapel.  Furthermore, in an exact description of the building's restoration to former glory, Saturn is retrograde.

 

 

 Saturn is closely conjunct the fixed star Spica (Libra 22); the most benefic star in the heavens. Cornelius Agrippa writes of Spica's efficacy in protective talismans "it conferreth riches, and maketh one overcome contentions, it taketh away scarcity and mischief" and Shakespeare might have been describing Spica when he wrote of "an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wand'ring bark". A bright star in the constellation Virgo, Spica is closely associated with the Virgin Mary, both as Stella Maris ("Star of the Sea"), guiding light for lost souls and also in her aspect as the New Eve, personification of the Spring, hope, renewal and redemption.  

 

Neptune (21 Libra 22) conjunct both Saturn and Spica continues the theme of incarnation and redemption; the chapel as a spiritual ideal given material form (as well as faith as a means to transcend our earthly existence).   

 

The restored

building was reconsecrated on 6th October 1955 (an event which might be viewed as similar in spiritual intent and importance to a Christening).  No time has been found, but the chart set for noon shows Venus closely conjunct Spica, beautifully depicting the New Eve and her message of redemption described in the previous 'foundation stone' chart.  Venus, natural ruler of art and creativity is also dispositor of the Arabian Part of Fame (25 Libra 51) .  Not only is the chapel dedicated to Our Lady of France, it is also famed for the beautiful artworks created in homage to her.  

 

Are all these astrological synchronicities a coincidence or something more?  Traditionally, electional astrologers were often employed to determine auspicious times for the construction of important buildings, but whether astrology or divine inspiration was at work in the construction of the chapel of Our Lady of France may always remain a mystery.   

 

What is clear, however, is that the astrological songlines established by the foundation and consecration of the new chapel were still very much in evidence years later and that Jean Cocteau was very receptive to their music. 

 

 

Between 3rd and 11th November 1959, Cocteau would arrive at the chapel at around 10 am every morning.   A celebrated artist (also poet, cinematographer and playwright), he worked behind a temporary screen, shielded from the considerable media attention his presence attracted. Each morning, he would light a candle and begin painting, talking to the Virgin Mary as he worked.    

 

 

Grace. Beauty. Most loved.  To astrologers, Cocteau's words might also evoke the planet Venus, who was certainly making her presence known at the time Cocteau was painting his murals.  On 3rd November Venus was in Virgo (sign of the Virgin), at 23 degrees 53, closely trine Cocteau's natal ascendant at 23 Taurus 22. 

 

​​On 8th November, transiting Venus exactly conjuncts Cocteau's natal Moon at 28 Virgo 16, before moving into her own sign of Libra as Cocteau was finishing his work on the murals. Venus being Cocteau's ruling planet, he would have been particularly receptive to the harmonious influence of his muse at this time.

 

 

"O you, most beautiful of women, loveliest of God's creatures, you were the best loved. So I want you to be my best piece of work too..." 

 

Did astrology, artistry, divine inspiration or a combination of all three bring Cocteau's murals into being?  An opportunity to visit the little chapel of Our Lady of France is not to be missed, and is a chance for each visitor to wonder for themselves about the mysterious alchemy which led to their creation. 

Transits to the Moon are a particularly personal influence for Sun-sign Cancerians:  Can you see Cocteau's self-portrait in this mural?

 

Credits: Cornelius Agrippa "Three Books of Occult Philosophy"

Shakespeare Sonnet 116

Photograph of Jean Cocteau by Cecil Beaton

Charts created with Astrogold for Mobile 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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