In previous pieces I’ve explored astrological themes when reflecting on the global events of a year (for 2020 and 2021). I’ve also done astrological readings of individuals (Donald Trump), as well as of Ethereum, a cryptocurrency. In those pieces I lay out more my philosophical approach to astrology—both weirdly natural and ontologically flooded. Astrology becomes, in this view, a cosmic correlational model with the placement of stars and planets reflecting outwardly the inner meaning and nature of persons (and events).
I’ve also been explored in separate pieces themes around the US Civil War: this piece on a social traumatological read of ideology of The Lost Cause of the Confederacy , as well as this piece on egregores, collective human and emotional thought forms become real (with the Confederacy as one major example).
As part of my research for those pieces, I found myself diving more and more into the life of Ulysses S. Grant, the victorious leader of the Union Army and later President of the United States. His life story is incredibly fascinating. Grant had been toiling away in failed businesses and obscurity prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. He did have a West Point education and had served (as a quartermaster) during the Mexican-American War with competence but in the post-war period had succumbed to alcoholism while stationed in remote California (away from his family). He was essentially asked to resign. Grant was working a low-level clerk in his father-in-law’s shop when the war broke out. Within 18 months or so he would go from impoverished desk clerk to commanding, at that point, the largest army in American history. It is a most American of stories.
Grant would later go on to a two term presidency and spent his later years again failing in business and investment schemes gone awry and back to impoverished circumstances. His legacy was tarnished for nearly a century by Southern sympathetic historians (see my earlier piece on The Lost Cause of the Confederacy for why). It is only in recent years that his image is getting the proper rehabilitation that it deserves.
Combining those two threads I want to take a look at the astrological birth chart of US Grant. In particular I want to explore potential astrological significators for the mind boggling meteoric rise and turn around of the man’s life in such a short period of time. This investigation will be a trilogy. In this piece (Pt1) I’ll look at the planets in Grant's birth chart. In the second piece I’ll explore asteroids and in third piece, some astrological timing techniques.
Here is Grant's natal chart (birth info courtesy astro databank):
The Reaper (Saturn at 0 degrees 40 minutes 1st house of Taurus)
I believe that Grant's Saturn is far and away the single most important element in his chart. We're going to cover many many aspects in this piece and the following ones but I want to start with the most impactful of all of them (in my estimation).
Saturn is at zero degrees, right on the line separating life in this world (1st house) from the spiritworld (12th house). Any planet residing at this crucial juncture in a chart will have an overwhelming influence on the entirety of the chart. It will flavor the whole of the chart with its specific qualities—in Grant’s case, Saturnian energies.
Saturn is a so-called malefic planet traditionally (along with Mars). The word malefic is controversial and its meaning in contemporary parlance doesn’t necessarily line up with what the ancients meant by the term. Malefic can indeed mean painful or destructive in a chart. But when a Saturn or Mars are well placed in a person’s chart and are healthy, they give their gifts and are more “positive” in a chart than a weak or debilitated (so-called) benefic planet which can turn sour.
So the adjudication here is much more subtle than some simple benefic planets being positive and malefic planets being negative. Malefics can sometimes act like a very challenging or even stern drill sergeant type energy. They may kick a person in the backside, as it were, to push them to grow. Given Grant’s military career, the drill sergeant reference to Saturn seems most apropos. However, Saturn does not typically bequeath his gifts until later in life, which is most definitely the case for Grant.
Saturn, in its shadowy or destructive form, correlates with depression and melancholy. Also often with respiration challenges as Saturn was traditionally labeled as cold and wet. Grant was a heavy smoker and suffered breathing challenges in his later life, including the most likely cause of the cancer that would eventually kill him. Grant originally felt pain in his throat which lead him to see a doctor and receive his terminal diagnosis.
Grant also, as has been well detailed, struggled with alcoholism most of his adult life. After the Mexican-American War (1840s), Grant was sent in 1851 out west and couldn’t afford to bring his family. He fell into a major depression due to the isolation and succumbed to heavy drinking. His opponents, throughout his life and later after his death, would charge Grant with being a drunkard.
Psychological astrology describes Saturn as revealing humiliations, defeats, and the energy of shame (or feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness) in a person’s life. Most of Grant’s first half of life consists of a series of humiliating failures.
Grant was a failed farmer and businessman. He was reduced at one point to selling firewood in the streets. As mentioned, when the Civil War broke out Grant was working as a low level clerk in his father-in-law’s store. That is the same father-in-law who wished his daughter never married Grant and had an extremely low opinion of him (Grant). A view that up until that point had evidence to support it.
Saturn, in the positive sense, is commitment, discipline, and rigor. When Grant finally found his calling in life as a general, he was famously described—both by his supporters and opponents—as “dogged”, “determined”, “unyielding.” Those are positive Saturnian qualities. Those are particularly qualities of a Saturn in the constellation of Taurus, i.e. the bull. Think bull-headed or trying to push a cow around in a field that doesn’t want to budge. Grant, both positively and negatively, had the characteristic of pushing through to see his goal achieved once he set his mind to it. Admirers turned the US in US Grant’s name into the nickname of “Unconditional Surrender”, a more Saturnian energy one may not find.
The Rising Sign (or Ascendant and 1st House) marks one’s birth and identity but also how one interfaces with the world—one’s persona. Saturn is also the Lawgiver. Saturn is Cronos, the preservation of order and stability. In Grant’s case that would be preserving of The United States and its constitutional order.
Saturn is also the reaper. Saturn’s symbol is, in fact, a scythe. Saturn is the Lord of Karma. Saturn’s adage is “you reap what you sow.” He is the harvester, the one who comes to collect the bill that has come due.
By being born directly on the energy of Saturn, Grant walks the entire path of Saturn—from his earlier humiliations and defeats, to becoming the Grim Reaper of the Confederacy, to preserving the Union, to blooming in his elder years as a President and Elder Statesmen.
Saturn, in Grant’s chart, is at 0 degrees of the 1st house, on the border of the 12th house (the otherworld/spiritworld). Grant lived through the apocalyptic hell that was the US Civil War. He wrote grimly, after The Battle of Shiloh, that he could have walked across the open battlefield only stepping on the bodies of dead soldiers and never touching the ground.
His enemies labeled Grant a butcher—particularly those who advocated for the Lost Cause of the Confederacy (as detailed in my earlier piece). They labeled him a falling down drunk which he was not—though he definitely suffered from the disease of alcoholism. His enemies also claimed that Grant threw thousands of men headlong to their deaths with no care for the well being. Also not true. His letters and memoirs show how internally torn apart he was by participating in this gruesome business.
Nevertheless, Grant was, it would seem, almost fated to be the reaper of the Confederates States.
“Mine eyes have seen the coming of the Glory of The Lord/
He is trampling down the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword/
His truth is marching on.” — Glory, Glory Hallelujah
As detailed in an earlier piece exploring the work of Christian theologian Margaret Barker, The Glory of the Lord is a phrase referring to the appearance in physical form of the Divine in human flesh (that appearance being glorious). Such glorious manifestation however can appear as wrathful in the Biblical tradition. Just like wrathful deities in Buddhism, a wrathful God comes to destroy that which is truly horrific. The Day of The Lord is also known as The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), when the Lord would appear and right the wrongs of history. This belief became the basis of apocalyptic theology (detailed elsewhere here) and was central to the teaching and ministry of Jesus. On the Day of the Lord, slaves would be set free, resulting in a Jubilee, where all the debts would be forgiven and justice would be served.
Grant was that terrible swift sword (or reaping scythe). Grant was not a bloodthirsty psychopath or a coldblooded murderer. He was however someone who believed—quite correctly in my estimation—that the will and the spirit of The Confederacy had to be broken and that slavery had to be abolished.
Grant, along with his friend Gen. Sherman, were the Reapers.
At the end of the Vicksburg campaign, after having laid siege to the Confederate held city and having starved both is soldiers and citizens, Grant paroled the soldiers who surrendered. Grant saw the Confederate rebels as still Americans—mistaken in his view, gone astray and needing to be brought back into the fold—but he did not hate them. And yet Grant throughout his generalship and later presidency was a staunch champion on the emancipation of formerly enslaved persons.
Lastly Grant’s Saturn is in an exact trine (within a degree) to the asteroid Vesta, which is located at 0 degrees 50 minutes in the 9th house in the sign of Capricorn. Vesta was the Roman goddess of the hearth. Her acolytes who kept the sacred fires burning at her Temple in Rome were the famed Vestal Virgins. Vesta in a chart represents the sacred fire or unquenchable divine ardor of a being. A trine—which is a relationship of 120 degrees in the chart—was classically understood to be the easiest or most frictionless of relationships in the chart. Grant, particularly through his commands to Gen. Sherman, burned down the US South. Saturn and Vesta is a cleansing, purifying, holy fire.
Other Aspects of 1st House: Sun and Jupiter
Grant’s sun sign is very close to his Saturn. Saturn is at 0 degrees Taurus with the Sun at 6 degrees (a conjunction). His personal vitality and identity are deeply intertwined with his Saturnian energies, which have marked him since birth (0 degrees first house). On the day and time of his birth the sun was just beginning to arise, as the sky would have begun to just lighten. The Sun is at 6 degrees with the Ascendant, marking the horizon being at 18 degrees. That sense of light was there but not yet fully visible is another clue to the strange circumstances of Grant’s relative obscurity and insanely meteoric rise to command of the overall Union Armies.
Jupiter is nearby at 11 degrees Taurus. Jupiter is the great benefic planet. Jupiter has mutual reception with Venus in his chart which is a very positive indicator. In Hellenistic astrology planets were assigned as rulers (or hosts) of constellations. Mutual reception was the doctrine that if planets were in each other’s houses of rulership they formed an alliance. Somewhat like friends who living in different parts of the world who do a house swap. The fact that Jupiter is in mutual reception with Venus is significant as both are classically term blessing (or benefic) planets. Jupiter is the king of the gods and a ruler while Grant would of course later become a general and a President.
One form of planetary strength was determined through rulership. Another system is known as exaltation. If the ruler of the planet is the host/lord of the manor, then the exalted planet is the honored guest. Jupiter, in addition to mutual reception with Venus by rulership, has mutual reception with the Moon by exaltation. Jupiter is in Taurus where The Moon has exaltation. Grant’s Moon is located in the 3rd house of Cancer. The Moon is ruler in her own house AND exalts Jupiter. Venus, also, is in the sign of her own exaltation (Pisces, ruled by Jupiter). The theme of mutual exaltation could also be added in as another contributing factor to the insane rise from clerk to head of an army in under two years.
Mars and the South Node
In certain strains of astrology (both Western and Eastern), the Nodes of the Moon point to past life time dynamics. (For those interested in the astronomical background to the planetary nodes, see here.). The lunar nodes were compared to a dragon. The North Node of the Moon was called The Head of the Dragon and The South Node the body and tail of the Dragon.
The North Node is the place of increase and the South node the place of decrease. For others the North Node represents one’s dharmic path—like North on a compass—while the South Node is karmic.
The South Node, in this lineage, would be what we come into this life having already cultivated in prior lifetimes. (For a weirdly natural, ontologically flooded perspective on past lifetimes see my earlier piece on the subject).
Grant’s South Node is conjunct Mars, god of war. The South Lunar Node is 22 degrees of Leo with Mars being 23 degrees. In a conjunction the two elements merge their meanings. If The South Node represents what the soul has cultivated prior to this incarnation, then Grant had cultivated expertise and insight into warfare.
When Grant attended West Point military academy he was a middling, at best, student. He was then a quartermaster—i.e. supplies and logistics—during the Mexican-American War. While he saw some fighting and showed bravery he was not in outright command of troops. His military genius only showed under the fire of battle as if preternatural (or perhaps, if you prefer karmically cultivated). Worth noting that his Part of Fortune is also located in the same house. There’s Fortune (Fate/Destiny) surrounding this conjunction for him.
Grant’s South Node-Mars conjunction occurs in the sign of Leo. Leo is sovereignty, king of the jungle, ruled by The Sun (prominent in his chart as noted earlier). Leo is charisma. Grant’s charisma was not that of a flashy heroic Stonewall Jackson or Jeb Stuart or Robert E. Lee with daring cavalry raids and romantic patrician mythos. Grant’s Leo is in the 4th House, the house of home, family, land, and ancestry. Grant was a working class man from working class roots. He was a rugged, plain spoken man, smoking his cigar, drinking his whisky. He identified with his soldiers because he was not an elitist. He was a common man of the people type. He was homely, gruff, and private (4th house). That was the source of his Leonine courage, charisma, and leadership in war (Mars).
The energies and gifts cultivated in the South Node have to be put in service of the destiny laid out by the North Node. The Lunar Nodes are always opposite each other in a chart. Consequently, with Grant’s South Node being in Leo, his North Node must be in Aquarius. As the South Node is in the 4th house, the North Node must be in the 10th.
The 10th house is the house of career, life path, as well as The State (again think Generals, Kings, Queens, Prime Ministers, Presidents).
His North Node is set between two important asteroids: Pallas Athena (18 degrees) and Ceres (26 degrees Aquarius). The North Node is at the midpoint of those two asteroids. Midpoints astrologically are places where energies integrate or intersect: in this case, Pallas Athena and Ceres.
Pallas Athena (Minerva) was the goddess of arts and crafts, philosophy, but also political and military strategy. Ceres was the grain goddess (as in Cereal) and is the energy of resourcing and nurturance in a chart.
Grant was a master strategist. In fact, he was the master strategist of the US Civil War. His Vicksburg campaign was absolutely genius, studied by military strategists up the present times. While his nemesis Robert E. Lee was a greater tactician and improviser mid-battle, Grant had a long term strategic vision and, just as importantly, he was able to execute that vision (Pallas Athena).
In particular that vision included the ability to coordinate naval and land power as no one had done previously. Grant was a pioneer of logistics, provisioning (Ceres), and cutting off the enemies communications and supply lines. Grant deployed feints, siege warfare tactics, cavalry, naval bombardment, and artillery to devastating effect.
The midheaven (mid-coelum, MC) astronomically is the highest point of the Sun on a particular day. Astrologically it symbolizes one’s North Star or point of power. Grant’s MC is in the 9th house at 29 degrees, just about to enter his 10th house of career. The 9th house represents philosophy or life outlook (remember Athena being goddess of philosophy/wisdom). His floating MC in the 9th house imports its meaning to his 10th house of career. Vision and outlook were critical to Grant (9th house). His 9th house is in the sign of Capricorn, the constellation of administration, logistics, and institutional power.
While the Union side undoubtedly had greater manpower, technological capacity and Naval power, it was only Grant who was able to harness those advantages and coordinate them both with strategy and intelligent execution to gain victory. Grant’s multiple predecessor head Generals in the North had miserably failed to do combine all those elements into strategic victory. Capricorn is ruled by (you guessed it) our old pal Saturn.
Which brings us back to the North Node itself in Aquarius. Recall that the North Node is like North on a compass and the point is to incorporate or include the gifting of The South Node while having it serve the overall vision of the North Node. Aquarius is the sign of progressive evolution, humanitarianism, and of a liberated future. The abolitionist movement was an Aquarium movement par excellence.
Grant had to bring his cultivated warrior (Mars, South Node) in support of human liberation through the abolition of slavery (Aquarius, North Node). The fixed star Regulus, the star of the king/ruler, is very close to the Mars/South Node conjunction. Yet another symbol of greatness in that area.
Pluto (0 Degrees 14 Minutes in Aries, 12th House)
The last planetary element I want to discuss in Grant’s natal chart is his Pluto. Pluto is at 0 degree, 14 minutes in Aries in his 12th house. As with his Saturn, the first degree (zero degrees + some number of minutes) makes an appearance. This degree is the initiating phase of that particular sign, in this case Aries. Aries is the Ram, sign of independence, autonomy, freedom and is ruled by god of war Mars.
Pluto is the planet of death and rebirth, of alchemical dissolution (negredo) in order to rebuild to a new creative state. (For more on alchemy, see numerous pieces on the site, including here.)
Grant’s natal Pluto is in the 12th house. The 12th House traditionally is the house of hidden enemies, karma, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead, and places of social isolation (e.g. hospitals, military encampments, prisons, etc.)
One of Grant’s key tactics was to isolate and surround his enemies, In Vicksburg he surrounded and laid siege to the entire town. In his campaigns in the Eastern theater against Robert E. Lee at the conclusion of the war, he kept cutting Lee off from any means of escape and slowly but surely tightened the noose.
The US Civil War was an alchemical event as the entirety of the slave based economy and political order of The South was the direct target both during Grant’s generalship and during his Presidency (Reconstruction).
Pluto in the first degree of Aries is apocalyptic and Grant and Sherman's march through the South was most definitely apocalyptic. The staggering and horrifying numbers of dead and wounded in the war attest to the 12th house topic of life and death and the veils between them.
Grant also came out of the Western theater and was a low ranking general at the beginning of the war. His earlier successes led to a meteoric rise to overall leadership of the Northern war effort within a few short period of time. He was the “hidden enemy” of the Confederacy (12th House).
The Confederacy’s karmic chickens, as it were, had come home to roost (12th house). Grant’s 0 degrees of Pluto harkens to his 0 degrees Saturn—the karmic debt collector.
In Pt 2 I’ll explore the uncanny, almost eerie, nature of asteroids in Grant’s chart that can help us get a better grasp of the incredible several in fortunes that characterized this man’s life and the ramifications of those reversals for US and world history.