18 Jul Memory Play ~ New Moon in Cancer – July 20th, 2020
“The scene is memory and is therefore nonrealistic. Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart.”
– from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
Black moons happen when a second new moon falls in the same zodiacal sign. At the solstice, the Solar Eclipse in Cancer initiated the season with a lot of noise. But the eclipses are over and the wisdom of Cancer will speak more softly now.
“I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further -for time is the longest distance between two places.”
The fallout from the pandemic has already depleted so many reserves. Money is tight. Patience is waning. Compassion is drying up. The remainder of this year will be a very difficult journey, making it absolutely necessary to seek sanctuary now, finding a restful place that hasn’t been pierced by madness or fear. In soft ripples, the lunar currents of this New Moon will wrap you in a cocoon, enfolding you in bliss and tenderness.
“Being disappointed is one thing and being discouraged is something else. I am disappointed but I am not discouraged.”
The sign of Cancer represents an oasis in the zodiac, a warm pool of water that gently nourishes everything it touches. This pool bubbles up from the earth’s deepest mineral wells, enriched by the bones of the past. This is a languid world of lucid dreams. Fossils and footprints scatter the shore, luring you deeply into the realm of memory where your voice joins an ancestral chorus.
“Has it ever struck you that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going?”
You are always at home in your past. And the season of Cancer weaves your sense of individual selfhood back into a bigger picture of family, heritage and culture. This brings sweetness and danger, stirring the deepest feelings of sentiment and revulsion.
The potential for negation and discomfort is heightened at this New Moon by an opposition from Saturn, recently returned to haunt the last degrees of Capricorn. And with Jupiter and Pluto hovering nearby, expect the emotional atmosphere to be intensified, darkened by a tone of tragedy.
Capricorn truly embodies the experience of tragedy. In zodiacal myth, Capricorn represents the spirit’s descent into matter, when eternity is bound to a prison of time and space. Keenly aware of its confinement, the spirit of Capricorn suffers from an agonizing homesickness. Its legendary ambition to climb up to the heights and conquer the world comes from the longing to touch eternity once again.
As the sign of the goat, there is another thread that weaves Capricorn to tragedy. The word originally comes from ancient Athens, referring to an innovation in dramatic arts that honored the god Dionysus.
The Greek tragoidia, translates to goat-song. Tragos, meaning “goat”. In Athens, the goat songs were rituals, intended to inspire collective healing and growth. Aristotle famously theorized that the art of tragedy stirred a necessary catharsis of emotions, allowing people to purge their repressed feelings of pity and fear.
Since the days of Dionysus, the concept of tragedy has come to describe real moments in life that bring you to a breaking point. Tragedy raises dark feelings until a purifying flood is released. It may not be comfortable or pleasant to live through tragedy. But the intense emotional catharsis often inspires a profound depth of self-knowledge and strength. Though it is melancholy to consider, Saturn in Capricorn knows how much great sorrow can inspire spiritual growth.
Amidst the backdrop of the world’s chaos, this New Moon’s opposition with Saturn will offer you a glimpse into the baptismal power of tragedy.
An applying square between Mercury in Cancer and the Mars/Chiron conjunction in Aries will also be active during this New Moon, heightening your appetite for words that have the power to heal. The conjunction of Mars/Chiron aches with a desire to fight, but is tempered by a greater desire to channel that fire into creativity.
And Mercury in Cancer speaks through memory, with words warm and mellifluous enough to transport you completely into another time and place.
“In memory everything seems to happen to music.”
Nothing evokes the ambiance of this 2020 Black Moon in Cancer quite like The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. This was his first successful play, a remembrance of his life during the Great Depression. Economic worry and fear dominated most communities in America. And the living conditions in urban areas were becoming increasingly grim. The dim backdrop of the Depression offers audiences of today much to sympathize with.
Fortunately, this is not a political play. It is a meditation upon William’s mother and sister, a reflective pool of memory that perfectly captures the Cancerian mood. The Glass Menagerie is full of nostalgia and despair. But it acts like a blood-letting, draining the poison from the wounds of the past. The narrator, Tom, introduces the story:
“The play is memory. Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic”
The dialogue and stage directions in the Glass Menagerie have a hazy quality, mingling color, light and music the way that memory does. Some moments skip by quickly, while others are exquisitely elongated. And though Tom’s memories aren’t realistic, there is deeper truth that comes through in the feelings they convey.
As an analog for Williams, Tom lives with his delusional and overbearing mother, Amanda, and his painfully shy and crippled sister, Laura.
“She lives in a world of her own – a world of – little glass ornaments…”
Like a song of Saturn, the family was abandoned by their father and left destitute. Thus, Tom is chained by obligation to the drudgery of a job he hates.
‘How lucky dead people are!’ But I get up. I go! For sixty-five dollars a month I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever!”
This angst describes so many people’s pain in 2020. More than 60% of workers in the US have been stuck in jobs with such low wages that their pandemic unemployment checks have offered them a considerable raise. In light of that grim reality, the weight of Saturn grows heavier.
“I know I seem dreamy, but inside—well, I’m boiling!
As The Glass Menagerie unfolds, Tom’s angst is shared by the audience as they sympathize with his dreams. But to escape from this trap, he acts without pity and abandons his mother and sister. The tragedy arises from the gravity of his guilt, another trap not so easily escaped.
“Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!”
The Glass Menagerie evokes the feeling of being constrained by societal expectations and being stuck in a rut that threatens to darken your light forever. But it should not engender resignation and hopelessness, for it reveals the true struggle of creation and the sense of personal destiny that leads to greater understanding.
In real life, Williams did leave his mother and sister to become a writer. And in his absence, his sister was subjected to a lobotomy that left her catatonic. This fact intensifies the tragedy of The Glass Menagerie. For its deathly pangs of guilt were born from real pain. Williams once wrote that:
“Guilt is universal. I mean a strong sense of guilt. . . I think that, at least below the conscious level, we all face it. Hence guilty feelings, and hence violent aggressions, and hence the deep dark of despair that haunts our dreams, our creative work, and makes us distrust each other.”
In another essay, “The Timeless World of a Play,” Williams describes his love for the tradition of Greek tragedy. In his mind, modern plays too often disguised the intensity of human feeling behind the veneer of reality, evading the truth that lay within the heart. By contrast, he felt that ancient tragedy offered stories that contained an:
“almost liquid warmth of unchecked human sympathies, relieved of self-consciousness.”
The mysteries of Cancer could be described exactly this way, as the liquid warmth of unchecked human sympathies. Williams’ deeply personal and autobiographical plays were written to restore some of the timeless and elemental power of that ancient Dionysian magic. His plays strike a chord vibrational enough to shift something deep inside you so that your heart is relieved of self-consciousness.
This second New Moon in Cancer offers a brief, but meaningful retreat from the world. Consider this an opportunity to contemplate your own memory play, allowing the harsh edges of reality to dissolve in the waters of your true feelings.
With your soul nourished and restored, you’ll emerge from this cocoon iridescent with bliss and tenderness.
surreal photography by Dora Marr