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JK Rowling: Failure, Imagination, and Saturn in Pisces

Published: 9th August 2008

Recently the author of the Harry Potter series of novels, JK Rowling, gave a talk at Harvard University in the USA that 'spoke her chart' so well, it's worth an article devoted entirely to it.

Entitled 'The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination', she could actually have called prefaced that title with the words 'Saturn in Pisces', because within it she essentially spoke an essay on what that placement means.

Rowling's talk covered her family's fear of poverty, her experience of failure 'on an epic scale', her work for Amnesty International, the role of fear in rebuilding one's life from the ground up, and the power of empathy. All good Saturn-in-Pisces topics.

So let's look at JK Rowling's birth chart and see how Saturn is configured within it.

JK Rowling's birth chart

Here is Joanne's birthchart, showing Saturn in Pisces in trine to Neptune in Scorpio. Since Neptune is the ruler of Pisces this is a kind of 'doubling-up' of the Piscean nature of her Saturn.

JK Rowling birth chart

One of the psychological associations of Saturn is how a person defines success. As Joanne pointed out in her speech, if you don't have your own definition the world is very much ready and willing to give you a pre-defined one of its own that doesn't necessarily match your life or what's really important to you.

Discussing what she has learned from experience about her definition of success, and speaking aloud her Saturn in Pisces, Joanne said:

"One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we inwardly achieve will change outer reality.

This is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It express, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people's lives simply by existing."

This combines Saturn's need for achievement and its relationship with the outside environment with Pisces' attunement and responsiveness to the inner environment.

Both Saturn and Pisces have long had assocations with poverty and the 'have not' circumstances of society. Joanne articulated it thus, touching on the Piscean/Neptunian poetic imagination ('epic scale' and 'fairy-tale resolution') brought to this cold, hard experience:

"So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality."

The time-scale is relevant here. Joanne graduated at 21, as is usual, and that is when transiting Saturn is in square to its natal position. In her case Saturn was in Sagittarius at graduation time, squaring her Saturn in Pisces and in semisextile with her Neptune.

Seven years later is the well-known Saturn Return, the time when transiting Saturn conjoins its natal placing. The Saturn Return is often a time of summing up, taking stock, taking a good, hard look back and forward, and heaving a sigh of 'well, like it or not, here we are...'

It's a rite of passage to adulthood, to mastering one's experience, and to manifesting one's potential by bringing to summation the previous nigh on 30 years of living, distilling its essence then carrying it forward in a new form.

Describing this quintessential nature of the rock bottom, back to basics, reality principle associated with Saturn, and beautifully expressing just how the seeds of success lie within the experience of failure and how it's all linked with the developmental path of one's life reaching a crucial review point at the Saturn Return, Rowling went on to say:

"So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.

I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."

No pretences, only essentials, bare bones (Saturn rules the skeletal system), what really matters, the redirecting power of what should really be written as 'failure' with inverted commas, freedom from fear, solid foundations - Saturn themes all.

Moving on to speaking of imagination, the mainstay of Pisces/Neptune, Joanne offered these important words:

"In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared."

This so neatly encapstulates the learned wisdom (Saturn) of Pisces. This Sign and planet so often get a bad press, with the potency and life-enhancing sides of them often neglected or underrated, that it's really important to focus on its virtues.

The truth is expressed here so well by someone who's lived it, Saturn symbolising what we learn from experience and know in our bones, that no scholar or academic institution, no matter how prestigious, can teach.

Illustrating how imagination is the prerequisite of that other Piscean virtue, empathy, and how blocking (Saturn) off imagination (Pisces, Neptune) cuts off empathy in an attempt to self-protect but actually increases fearfulness and pain, Rowling said:

"Many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid."

And finally, speaking of the tremendous power of the human capacity to empathise:

"The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life."

Humbling, inspiring, redeeming, freeing, joining together, each are associations of Neptune and Pisces, showing them at their healthiest and best.

In reminding us of the importance of these things, JK Rowling has not only provided a glimpse into what it's like to live a life with Saturn in Pisces, she has reminded us of our responsibility to be truly successful human beings.


JK Rowling's full speech at Harvard University in the USA can be read as a transcript, listened to as an mp3 file, or watched at this link:

NB This link opens in a new window, and takes you to an external website that is not affiliated with this website and therefore no responsibility for it is assumed

Applying astrology to political lifeGordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, EU, USA, France, Australia, Uranus in Pisces & Neptune in Aquarius, & more

Applying astrology to business life Euro Currency, NHS, BBC,
USA economy, Ofcom, Concorde,
W Edwards Deming, European Central Bank, stock markets, & more

Applying astrology to people's lives Health, emotional intelligence, Zodiac elements, understanding change, Russell Brand, James Bond, Angelina Jolie, Desmond Tutu, & more

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