A guest post by Mick Frankel…
…Introduction by Catherine
Working his way through the genres in search of music that is true to Scorpion depth and emotion, he finds this in 1960’s gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Mick does a grand job in showing the link between Mahalia’s music, her style, her personality and her Scorpio birth chart.
Seeing as they are so intrinsically linked and this being a Tarot blog, I thought it a worthwhile exercise in comparing the Tarot with the Astrology Mick examines in his article. Thinking about Scorpio, we are presented with the Death card – a central theme running through Mahalia’s music. She is singing about death in the religious sense though; of life everlasting and the promise of a heavenly Jerusalem. While the Death card in Tarot promises no such thing; it does point to changes and transformations.
If I think of the Death card in a religious sense and apply the keywords to it this way, I think of the Christian baptism, particularly in adulthood, of being born again. This simply represents the death of the current self while being immersed in the baptismal waters; and on resurfacing, being born again of the Spirit of God – a transformation. The Tarot though makes no distinction in the Death card, be it religious or not; it simply highlights the transformation itself.
Using the Golden Dawn’s astrological associations with the Tarot and Scorpio, we also have three other Tarot cards we can look at:
1° – 10° of Scorpio – 5 of Cups – Disappointment
10° – 20° of Scorpio – 6 of Cups – Pleasure
20° – 30° of Scorpio – 7 of Cups – Debauch
If we stay within the confines of the religious theme, it’s not difficult to look at those Tarot cards as seeing our baser desires ruling the roost – the opposite of religiousness. I’ve used the Crowley Thoth Tarot keywords as they best demonstrate the antithesis at play here: Mahalia’s music was gospel, her morals religious; and yet we have thesis and antithesis connected to her through Astrology and the Tarot. It begs the question – is Mahalia herself the synthesis that reconciles the two? It might be fanciful, but I would like to think so.
In Scorpio Music, Mick makes no assumption, but he does provide terrific insight into Scorpio intensity and depth; as shown through the life and music of Miss Mahalia Jackson. Enjoy.
By Mick Frankel
What genre of music would you say best represents the wonderful sign of Scorpio? Not necessarily Sun in Scorpio but the pure sign of the Scorpion. We need to find something that a) has powerful emotional intensity, b) has nothing superficial about it at all and, crucially for me, c) is totally comfortable with the idea that death is part of life.
Let’s start at the top end of the market, Radio 3. There’s plenty of Classical music that has a scorpionic quality. Rachmaninov virtually built a career out of the musical phrase “Dies Irae” and his wonderful symphonic poem “The Isle of the Dead” gets close I think.
There’s the bleak, traumatised, emotional landscape of Shostakovich and more recently Arvo Pärt, not to mention Wagner, Richard Strauss and other heavy-duty Teutonic possibilities.
For me, the genre and the artist that best embodies the sign of Scorpio is Gospel music and in particular the magnificent singer, Mahalia Jackson
Moving down the cultural scale slightly, there’s Heavy Metal. That can get pretty close to the sound of Scorpio. In fact, “The Scorpions” would be an obvious choice. There’s even a sub-genre called Death Metal.
For the soundtrack to the film “Judgment Night”, each song featured a collaboration between a Rock band and a Rap band. Some are relatively gentle such as Pearl Jam with Cypress Hill. Others, I think, get much closer to the power of Scorpio, especially the title track by Biohazard with Onyx.
There’s always Pop music which for the most part fails to satisfy my second Scorpio criterion because it tends to be fairly superficial. But there are exceptions such as some of those songs that stayed at No. 1 for weeks. “Without You” by Nilsson or “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago both have something of the emotional intensity of Scorpio.
Country/Western offers the fascinating sub-genre of narrative songs that tell the story of the narrator’s death. How does that work? Well, Tom Jones had a huge hit with “The Green Green Grass of Home”, a song which ends with the central character’s death and burial. Marty Robbins “El Paso” is, to my ears anyway, a more enjoyable example.
English Folk music – as distinct from Celtic Folk which strikes me as more upbeat –can be pretty bleak. Richard Thompson is a fantastic song-writer but it takes some emotional stamina to sit through more than about twenty minutes of the man’s work.
But would Scorpio sing, “There’s Nothing At The End Of The Rainbow”?
For me, the genre and the artist that best embodies the sign of Scorpio is Gospel music and in particular the magnificent singer, Mahalia Jackson.
The Gospel According to Miss Mahalia Jackson
Gospel music is one of those genres that, unfortunately, is best known to a lot of people by parody. Manic, double-time, clap-clap is used to try to sell us car insurance.
But just as the beautiful, touch guitar playing of Joe Satriani has little in common with Spinal Tap, so the rich, deep singing of Mahalia Jackson is a million miles away from parodies of Gospel music.
Let’s take as an example the song “Walking To Jerusalem” written and performed by Mahalia Jackson.
The rhythm is a lovely, mid-tempo New Orleans shuffle. The drums could be from a track by Little Feat. The piano playing belongs to a lineage that includes Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Fats Domino and Professor Longhair.
Here’s a section of the lyrics:
Walk in Jerusalem, talk in Jerusalem
Sing in Jerusalem, shout in Jerusalem
High in Jerusalem
When I die, when I die.”
At first glance this seems to be nothing special. Rather repetitive really. But remember that this is the sign of Scorpio and there’s more going on than meets the eye.
This song has nothing to do with sight-seeing in the Middle East. Jerusalem represents a heavenly place that Mahalia Jackson hopes to visit after her death. So the central premise of this song is that the singer is totally accepting of her own mortality. Despite the theme of death, the song is uplifting and joyous.
The four verbs that Mahalia chooses are walk, talk, sing and shout. All four words are monosyllables. Not only that, they all come from Anglo-Saxon or Norse. Latin-based monosyllables would be chant instead of sing and cry instead of shout.
Anyone who wants to write plain English should try to put across what they want to say using straightforward Anglo-Saxon words.
Also, the four verbs represent a definite progression along a scale of self-expression. In this context, I think that walk means to move around independently, talk means to express your thoughts, sing means to express your feelings and shout means to express your most intense feelings.
The music for these four actions has a nice swing to it but on the words “High up”, the same note is played twice, staccato before the New Orleans beat returns for the final lines.
In fact, the moment of death is placed as rather a throwaway in the two-bar turnaround at the end. “High up” is the climax of the piece. Notice that this phrase also contains two Anglo-Saxon monsyallables.
“… a voice… creates a sound that is as all-embracing, as secure as the womb, from which singer and listener may be reborn.”
Apart from the contracted form “gonna”, the only thing that breaks the run of one syllable words is the repetition of Jerusalem. The name Jerusalem comes from two Hebrew words, “iyr” which means city and “shalom” which most people might recognise as meaning peace. So this is a vision of peace after death.
Mahalia Jackson’s Frenchified New Orleans pronunciation “Jer-ooz-alem” only seems to make the whole thing more powerful for me.
Writing about Mahalia Jackson in DownBeat magazine, Dan Morgenstern said , “Her art, projected with immense dignity and vital power through the magnificent instrument of her voice, is one of the glories of black American music …”
Wilfrid Mellers, in Gospel Women of the Night, goes even further: “… a voice… creates a sound that is as all-embracing, as secure as the womb, from which singer and listener may be reborn.”
“Vital power”, “as secure as the womb”, what imagery! And very much related to the sign of Scorpio.
Mahalia Jackson seems to have been present at key moments in history. She sang at the inaugural ball for doomed US President Kennedy, she sang before Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” speech and a few years later at his funeral.
She sang “The Lord is my Shepherd” with the Duke Ellington orchestra at the Newport Jazz Festival but she steadfastly refused to sing the Blues.
What then, of the Astrology of Mahalia Jackson?
Firstly, never mind birth-time, in this case, it’s hard to find an accurate birth-year.
Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler’s normally reliable “Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies” gives 26th October 1911. Other sources give 1912.
Here’s an un-timed chart for 26th October 1911:
Sun, Mercury and Jupiter in Scorpio. The Moon opposite Pluto, Jupiter opposite Saturn and Uranus opposite Neptune. Whack in an Earth Grand Trine between Venus, Saturn and Uranus with the Jupiter/Saturn opposition running close to the Uranus/Venus midpoint and this chart has the right kind of power for me.
The 1912 chart is also powerful but lacks the Grand Trine and has Mars in Scorpio rather than Jupiter. The Moon applying to the Pluto opposition in the 1911 chart gets my vote.
Sun in Scorpio conjunct Mercury in Scorpio. This person has absolutely no problem communicating from the depths of herself. She has no sustained interest in the superficial day-to-day world although the Moon in Sagittarius means that she can hold her own in any context and is quite happy being the centre of attention when it’s on her terms.
Jupiter in Scorpio opposite Saturn in Taurus. Mahalia Jackson was a big woman with a huge presence on stage and even in photographs. Although she was the foremost gospel singer, she could have made a fortune had she accepted Louis Armstrong’s offer to sing the Blues. Instead, she travelled the world and touched millions of people with her music.
Scorpio carries with it a special kind of healing I think. It’s not fluffy and pink. It goes right into the depths and emerges reborn
Her private life was troubled at times though. Perhaps the wide square between Mars and Venus reflects this?
Pluto, the modern ruler of Scorpio, is in the sign of Gemini and Mars, the traditional ruler, is also in the sign of the Twins. Both Pluto and Mars are ruled by Mercury in Scorpio.
The Moon in Sagittarius, which is opposite Pluto, is ruled by Jupiter in Scorpio.
All roads lead first to Scorpio. Uranus in Capricorn is ruled by Saturn in Taurus is ruled by Venus in Virgo is ruled by Mercury in Scorpio.
But these chains of rulerships all lead on to Gemini, the home of both Mars and Pluto. Scorpio/Gemini seems to suggest powerful vocal communication.
Mahalia Jackson – True Scorpionic Representation
Gospel music and in particular the music of Mahalia Jackson fulfils all three of my scorpionic criteria.
It’s incredibly intense. Whatever your faith, have a listen to “Walking in Jerusalem” or “He Said He Would” and see how you feel afterwards.
There’s nothing superficial about this music. Mahalia Jackson didn’t follow fads or fashions of the day in order to make money. She sang from her heart.
The starting point of many of her songs is that she is joyfully embracing the idea of death and looking forward to a spiritual life of holiness and peace.
Scorpio carries with it a special kind of healing I think. It’s not fluffy and pink. It goes right into the depths and emerges reborn.
Be sure to visit Mick’s excellent website for Tarot, I-Ching, Astrology and Dream Interpretation services and articles.