Gustav Holst, (unlike so many since Liz Greene wrote her rather grim assessment of what is possibly our most beautiful planet, Neptune), thought of the blue-green orb as ‘The Mystic.’
Imbuing Neptune, wrapped in its gauze of gossamer blue-green, with the magical energy of pure fantasy and mystery, his symphony honored the mystical, which this planet represents.
The Planets‘ seven-part orchestral suite was written from the perspective of the influence of the planets on our psyche, and Neptune, from Holst’s perspective, contained nothing negative to haunt or taunt us.
Composing the suite as he did between 1914 and 1916, Holst lived in an era with a kinder, gentler view of Neptune than the rather harsh ideas we have formed about it these days.
The idea of the work was suggested to Holst by Clifford Bax, who introduced him to astrology when the two were part of a small group of English artists holidaying in Majorca in the spring of 1913; Holst became quite a devotee of the subject, and liked to cast his friends’ horoscopes for fun.
Holst also used Alan Leo‘s book What is a Horoscope? as a springboard for his own ideas, as well as for the subtitles (i.e., “The Bringer of…”) for the movements.
Neptunian escapism for some during the Art Nouveau period, but for others, Neptune is a muse. During Neptune transiting Pisces, these dichotomies must be integrated.
Granted, he composed in an era on the brink of the First World War—the war to end all wars—a concept foreign to us now. He wrote the suite before the world lost its innocence, one could say; before we understood or even began to address PTSD, alcoholism, drug addictions, or any of the thousand-and-one other ailments we would nowadays attribute to a negative Neptunian influence.
But this post is to remind you, with Neptune now transiting through its own sign of Pisces, involved, on February 21, 2012, in an evocative conjunction with Chiron, both at approximately 4˚, while at the same time intertwined with a New Moon in Pisces at 2-3˚, that Neptune can wear another face.
The face Holst would have had you see was influenced by the charming fantasy-inspired Art Nouveau period, rather than by a world weary of war, seeking oblivion in escapism. I suspect Holst was undoubtedly more than a bit of an idealist, you see, with possibly a strong Neptunian contact in his own chart.
Here you can watch ‘The Mystic’ suite performed and listen to the haunting chorale music Holst was and is famous for: