Mary Shelley – the author of Frankenstein – is the subject of two upcoming bio-pics – which i think is absolutely relevant. Here, the insanely erudite Jessa Crispin talks about just how Plutonic and modern she was.
Let’s let Mary Shelley teach us how to do Pluto.
Mary Shelley was born with Pluto at 29 degrees Aquarius on her midheaven, which is a lot of crazy heavy innovative energy. Wild ideas and revolutionary urges. Her father was a revolutionary, a political radical and novelist. Her mother was a revolutionary, the feminist mother to us all, Mary Wollstonecraft. That’s the environment she was dropped into: an intellectual realm, but one where the ideas had the power to change the world. It’s a lot to carry as a child, the burdens of the family and the burdens of the stars.
But Mary Shelley held her own. Not only with her family — she was allowed as a teen to participate in the salons and political gatherings her father held, and by all accounts she did not hold her tongue — but with the literary group she became a part of when she hooked up with Percy Shelley. Byron never knew what to do with her. He preferred his women passive and insane, flirty brainless things that flung themselves at him. He didn’t quite know what to do with a woman who was not obsessed with him. (Poor dear, he simply hadn’t met many of them before.) Mary Shelley was quiet and serious, but also passionately engaged. And despite being married to her rockstar poet Percy, she was a writer as well. Perhaps (heaven forbid) the better of the two.
That heavy Pluto influence was balanced out by her Mercury in Virgo. Rather than getting overly excited by the death and the gore and the Persephone myth (lord protect us from writers way too into the Persephone myth), she wrote her books with a reasonable and quite realistic tone.
I mean, how do you put your Pluto into the world and still have it contain a lightness? Mercury in Virgo. Virgo, with its wit and its unadorned elegance, that is how you go deep into the underworld with your audience willingly following you down. And the Pluto themes abound. In Frankenstein, it is not only the issues of death and rebirth, but man’s need for power over these arenas, the need of men to feel like Gods. In Mathilda, there is a creeping revelation of father-daughter incest, a book considered so scandalous (um, her father was her publisher?) it was not published until after her death. The Last Man deals with plague and destruction, as well as carrying on while everyone around you dies.
Her own life was Pluto-inflected, with her mother dying mere days after her birth from complications in childbirth; not great boundaries between herself and her father; several attempts by others to blackmail and exploit her; the suicides of people in their circle; the drowning death, foretold in dreams, of her husband; the death of their children. Her whole life was like a Pluto transit. Her books, particularly The Last Man, the story of a group of people traveling through the end of the 21st century as the world dies around them, seem her way of making sense of what she has suffered through. The Last Man is my favorite of her works, absolutely excruciating and beautiful, the bodies stack up but the story is quite grounded. There is nothing of the romantic in her experience of death, but it’s not the overwrought wrenching of garments, either. It’s that steady Virgo eye that keeps things from tipping over into melodrama.
Mary Shelley did Pluto with dignity, dealing with the rebirth aspect as much as the death, with the merging of the soul aspect as much as the power and control. She has much to teach us, about how to incorporate the supernatural into the natural, how to carry on after loss, and how to turn something horrific into something beautiful.
Jessa Crispin is the editor of Bookslut and Spolia, and her book, The Dead Ladies Project, will be released by the University of Chicago in the Fall of 2015. If you’re interested in a tarot reading, specially designed for writers and other creatives, contact Jessa here.