The case for an astrology chart for Cook’s arrival (Part 1)
This article lays down the argument and justification for a new astrological chart for Aoteroa/New Zealand. In part 1 a brief description of the most commonly used mundane charts for New Zealand is given. A new map is proposed, drawn for the first footfall of the colonial power on New Zealand soil when the British Captain Cook landed from The Endeavour on late afternoon of the 8th October 1769 in Poverty Bay. The confusion around dating this landing is discussed, and a justification for the unorthodox choice of the astronomically ‘incorrect’ date proposed. In part 2 a few key rectification events are outlined, and evidence of the chart’s aptness and efficacy given.
Since first starting my studies in mundane astrology I have been slightly unsatisfied with the charts generally used by astrologers for New Zealand. This dissatisfaction comes from a vague or debatable choice of moment for which to cast the chart, a lack of symbolic radicality, as well as their capacity to ‘work’ – to show sensitivity to historic events.
Perhaps most publicized has been the Dominion chart (26th September 1907) of Baigent, Campion and Harvey’s (see chart), from their influential book ‘Mundane Astrology’. The chart’s draws its mandate from being the moment at which New Zealand moved from the status of a colony to that of dominion. This chart’s claim as the most recognised chart for New Zealand was partly reinforced when it was included in Campion’s Book of World Horoscopes. Although the chart figured there is for midnight (Gemini rising), Campion mentions the book Mundane Astrology’s timing for this chart from the public proclamation on the steps of parliament at 11am that same day (Capricorn rising – see chart).
I have worked with this chart a lot, in research and with students, and managed to find in it apt descriptions of New Zealand as a nation and culture, and seen it work quite well against some events. But I have never been entirely satisfied by the choice of date. Whilst at the time the transition to Dominion status seemed a strong symbolical of the path towards independence, it meant, in fact, very little for New Zealand constitutionally:
“The shift from colony to dominion was a change of name only. It had no practical effect. New Zealand was no more and no less independent from Britain than it had been before.”
Moreover, the day has hardly proved itself as arising out of collective mythology – so often the case in best best of national charts; it was only nationally celebrated for a few years afterwards before the day’s meaning slipped into insignificance.
It’s my understanding of a mundane chart that it must come from a publicly- or constitutionally-marked moment in the arising or evolving of nationhood, and then should stand a test of radicality, showing apt signification of what is known and experienced of that nation and its people. Furthermore, important historical events of a wide variety – political, constitutional, social, material, even psychological – should be able to be located in the chart itself, along with symbolically indicated directions and transits.
A better candidate on those grounds must surely be the Treaty of Waitangi chart, a map that is increasingly in use amongst New Zealand astrologers (see chart). This chart arises from the time of the first signing of the Treaty between Maori tribes and the British Crown, granting British sovereignty to the islands and Crown protection for the tangata whenua (the original inhabitants). Although problematic, the Treaty has immense constitutional, legal and symbolic importance for all New Zealanders, hence it presents a potent horoscope. The date and place are beyond dispute – 6th February 1840 in Waitangi; the time, however, has been open to much speculation..
Although I have used this chart for some time alongside the Dominion chart above, I haven’t sufficient experience of it or a full trust in the proposed time to make much comment. But I have no doubt whatsoever that it’s a most important chart for New Zealand, and can see that it carries apt symbolism descriptive of aspects of the national psyche and cultural/social/political environment, and is sensitive to transits and progressions. Given the situation behind this chart, I would also understand it to carry deep significance as a picture of relations between Maori and Pakeha, between first nation cultural and colonial values. Whilst it would be interesting – in fact is necessary – an exploration of this chart is beyond the scope of this article.
Cook’s Arrival – A New Chart
Over the last few years I have increasingly been impressed by another chart for New Zealand, the main focus of this article. This is drawn for the moment of footfall of British colonial power on New Zealand soil. Whilst the Dutchman Abel Tasman is credited as being the first official European to discover New Zealand, he sailed off after a brief sail-by, without ever having landed nor making any claim on the islands. It wasn’t until Captain James Cook sailed into what is now called Poverty Bay and came ashore early one spring evening in 1769, that the outside and western world had penetrated the largest ‘undiscovered’ land in the world at the time, imposing inevitable and far-reaching changes upon the inhabitants. Although there had almost certainly been previous new-comers from beyond New Zealand, this moment really symbolises a most signifiant beginning of the nation we now have today.
The intention of Cook’s expedition – to observe the transit of Venus, by which more accurate assessments about the solar system would be possible – add a certain intrigue to astrologers. That he also observed the more common transit of Mercury here in New Zealand, about a month after landing, adds even more. However, what subtly but significantly charges the event of his arrival with astrological import, notwithstanding its imperious ambition, is that, after observing the transit of Venus in Tahiti, he opened the sealed document given to him before leaving to reveal perhaps the real reason for the voyage: to discover the great southern content, terra australis incognita.
The choice of this historic moment for a national birth chart will certainly not be appreciated by all; colonization of any first nation is a highly contentious and culturally traumatizing move that many would say is too loaded to be able to yield an objective picture of the nation. This notwithstanding, I hold that it still offers a seminal moment in the meeting of the two cultures that have led, over the past 250 years, to the country New Zealand is today, and hope that the resulting chart can be appreciated separately from the political and emotional heat the event itself generates.
I certainly don’t believe that there need only be one ‘right’ chart for a nation or other mundane entity: a nation can certainly go through iterations, mutations or evolutions of such a scale politically, geographically or socially that often several can be justified and seen to ‘work’, as we see with countries like France or the UK. To quote Nicholas Campion, one of the main researches into national charts and mundane astrology:
“During the course of my research for The Book of World Horoscopes I became aware that the concept of national birth charts is to some extent misleading. Instead, I conclude that any state may have a series of national horoscopes resulting from critical moments in that state’s political reorganisation. Some horoscopes might be more important than others, but in some cases a state might have horoscopes which function equally as major national charts.”
Thus I am not proposing the chart I discuss at length below as the chart for New Zealand, but as an additional one that I believe is justifiable conceptually, historically, and, as it can be shown to be highly radical as well as remarkably sensitive to transits and directions when applied to historic events, astrologically.
A look through Campion’s Book of World Horoscopes reveals that the majority of national charts arise from a political move, whether a constitutional change (eg. France), a coup-d’état (Fiji) or revolt (Mexico), a coronation (England or Japan), or an independence declaration or treaty (USA or Iraq). As well as a good reflection of the notion that a nation may have several incarnations – and therefore charts – based on these constitutional shifts, this is also, no doubt, a consequence of how infrequent it is that we can date a country’s initial settlement or colonial invasion. So often such information wasn’t recorded, pre-dates written records, or rests in an oral tradition somewhat separate from the western calendar. New Zealand is in a fairly unique position in that, like Australia, its colonial history is relatively recent and well documented.
The historical justification for this chart comes from the story of New Zealand’s settlement. It is commonly accepted that the Maori arrived from East Polynesia from around 1300. Although the immense astronomical skills of those first settlers would almost certainly have meant the arrival moment would have been noted and could well have been passed on orally – and would have offered a most interesting and significant birth map – sadly, fixing a date on this moment is currently not possible. In terms of western contact, Abel Tasman’s siting of New Zealand in 1642 didn’t result in setting foot on land, let alone making any decisive claim which could be both timed and seen as symbolically suggestive of a birth of a nation. It wasn’t for another 127 years, until Captain James Cook arrived on the Endeavour from England, via Tahiti, where he observes the transit of Venus (not an irrelevant detail), that we have any documented evidence of the arrival of a westerner. Moreover, from a nationhood perspective it would be hard to eclipse the gravity of Cooks’ arrival, when the country was claimed ‘for king and country’. Thus, in the essence of this arrival can be found the birth of New Zealand as we find it today, with its mix of indigenous and exotic peoples and cultures.
After sighting land and sailing into Poverty Bay the place on which Cook first set his foot was along the true left bank of the Turanganui River, right near the centre of modern day Gisborne.
View of the North Side of the Entrance into Poverty Bay, & Morai Island, in New Zealand, an engraving made from the book: A journal of a voyage to the South Seas, in his Majesty’s ship the Endeavour, by Sydney Parkinson
The moment of Cook’s landfall is recorded in at least three journals from the expedition: Cook’s, his naturalist Joseph Banks, and Banks’ helper Sydney Parkinson (see his image of the bay above). All three record this as being late afternoon, or “in the evening” (Cook), sometime between 4pm and 6pm ship or nautical time.
What happened in the short period Cook and his men were ashore makes fascinating reading, although space prevents me from going too much into them. These events provided important timing details and significant symbolic images that helped me hone in on the exact time of Cook’s leap off the small boat onto to beach. Beyond that, they carry a confronting significance as an enduring myth or image forever linked with the founding of this nation, so eloquently captured in the chart’s symbolism. I hope to explore this in a future article.
From extensive research on these events, including taking into consideration that they anchored around 4pm, had to row between (according to three separate journals) one-and-a-half and three nautical miles to shore (2.75-5.5km), briefly explored a side stream for a water supply, and had a short, intense encounter with the local Maori, both of which probably lasted no longer than half-an-hour at the most, and were back on the ship by 6pm, I narrowed this window down to the forty-five minutes between 4:35pm and 5:20pm ship time.
Subsequent rectification based on a large range of events in New Zealand’s history has satisfied me that the meaningful event of Cook coming ashore took place on or around 5:11pm ship time, or 5:04pm LMT. I trust there will be things below and in an appendix published on my website, in which I explore this chart against key historic moments and through significant planetary cycles, that will satisfy those wanting evidence to support this rectified time.
Curiously, settling on the date proved even more tricky than the time! According to Cook’s ship log, he came ashore in the evening on the 9th October 1769. As mentioned in footnote 14 above the nautical or ship day began at noon the day before the midnight at which civil day begins. Thus Cook’s date in fact refers to civil 8th October 1769. However, Cook didn’t make any longitudinal adjustments for the fact that he had travelled more than 180º west from Greenwich, over what would now be 12 time zones; I have used his logging of the transit of Mercury, a precisely time-able astronomical event, to show that his dates are not adjusted for this.
So, his coming ashore was actually on the 9th October in civil or local time.
With this year being the 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival, getting this date right hasn’t only been my concern. Decorated anthropologist Dame Anne Salmond, an advocate of commemorating this historic and fateful encounter between Maori and European, has thought through this confusion around the date of arrival, including having it checked with navigational experts at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. She is of the opinion that the 8th of October is, in fact, the appropriate if not ‘correct’ date to use for his arrival (pers. comm.). Whilst I am still convinced of the logic behind my argument for the 9th October, and wonder whether the advice Salmond received came more from “widely accepted international convention” (my italics) rather than technical accuracy aimed at astronomical/astrological precision, after much thought I have made the decision to defer to their considered opinion (albeit for subtly different reasons) and to commonly accepted tradition and choose the 8th October.
Of course a whole day makes a significant difference astrologically, with the Moon moving slightly over 12º right to the end of Capricorn on the 9th October, among other more subtle yet still significant changes. But given the way I have approached the rectification, were I to have opted for the 9th the resulting chart would have looked, other than with the Moon’s placement, remarkably similar, and the rectified time been to within 4 minutes. However, this aside, to have full confidence in the resulting birth chart – beyond being convinced by its radicality and responsiveness to astrological timing methods against historical events – I have had to be convinced of the date’s collective significance, which, I believe, Salmond and others, along with historic record and tradition, and public sentiment, have shown the 8th October to have.
The move to go with the ‘wrong’ date has been received with some consternation by some astrologers, who believe it my duty to orient the chart to the correct astronomical facts by timing Cook’s footfall for the 9th October. Whilst I admit I have found the empirical evidence of the accuracy of the chart for the 8th most compelling, I would also point out that I have been strongly influenced by ideas put forth by the Company of Astrologers, along with my own thinking and research, on the curiously mercurial nature of the astrological moment. The ‘wrong’ chart could almost be seen as seeking to nudge itself forward, through subtle means such as synchronicity, illogical accepted conventions and the collective imagination. A discussion on this move is beyond the intention of this article, but I may explore it further in the future.
Although some might argue that the decisive gesture in the European settlement of New Zealand was the raising of the Union Jack some weeks later at Mercury Bay on the 15th November, when Cook “after displaying the English Colours, (I) took formal possession of the place in the Name of His Majesty”, according to Sydney Parkinson’s reliable eye witness records this had already happened in Poverty Bay at or around the time of first landing. But I would argue, anyway, that on symbolic grounds alone Cook’s landing represents the more significant gesture by which to time a meaningful chart.
To summarise these sections, despite the confusion around dating Cook’s actual arrival into Poverty Bay and my choice to ignore the concrete evidence that his arrival was in fact the next day, I propose a new astrological map for New Zealand based on Cook’s celebrated first footfall on Aotearoa soil at 5:04pm LMT on the 8th October 1769, set for Gisborne (chart shown above).
This article continues into a second part