The Inception of Monsters: Frankenstein and Dracula

Thursday November 8th 2012
Bela Lugosi as … Lilith?

1816: they called it the summer there was no summer. In the Swiss Alps, the cold was bitter even in June. Huddled under the stormy cloak cast by the unseasonable weather, a band of young  English travellers passed the time with talking, fantasising, drinking, sex and trying to shock each other.

Who was there? Four of the most notorious English people alive at that time – and one chronicler of the event.

Lord Byron. At 28 the most celebrated writer in Europe, a Romantic star –  infamous for his flamboyant contempt for convention; esteemed for his lengthy, clever, crafted poetry. Rumours of his incest, buggery and humbuggery kept tongues wagging from London to Rome.

Percy Bysshe Shelley. Another poet, three years younger than Byron. He had already managed to scandalise society with his flamboyant seduction of a teenaged Mary Godwin and his loud atheism.

These two would certainly have been considered the “senior” members of the party, and for much of the last 200 years, it is in them that  the world has recognised genius,

However,  more people today are familiar with the creatures who arose from the imaginations of two other members of the party than the poems of either Byron or Shelley.

Shelley’s girlfriend, 18-year-old Mary Godwin, daughter of the feminist hero Mary Wollstonecraft, would write a work that would be reinvented for each generation. And 20-year-old John Polidori, Byron’s “doctor” and amanuensis, would come away from the Villa Diodati with a tale that would plant the seed for a thousand tales of horror.

The last of the party was Claire Clairmont – Mary’s wild, bohemian half-sister, also just 18. That summer she was sleeping with Byron and probably already pregnant.

The summer was strangely cold for a reason. The massive eruption of Mount Tambora on the other side of the world months earlier had caused temperatures around the globe to plummet, but all our friends knew was that it was strange and dark. They were forced to stay in doors and come up with ways to entertain themselves.

On the night of 16th June, Lord Byron issued a challenge to the group. Who could write the most terrifying ghost story?
Lake Geneva in 1830

In the small hours of that morning, Mary Shelley was kept awake by a terrible vision – of a man frantically making his way across the icy wastes of the Arctic, pursued by a monster. Byron scribbled a half nothing, which John Polidori, re-imagined later and published as story called The Vampyre. It was a tale about a suave, contemporary, aristocratic bloodsucker called Lord Ruthven.

Within two years Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus and The Vampyre were the talk of London. For the next hundred years, they were produced repeatedly for the stage, sometimes as a double bill. The Vampyre metamorphosed into Dracula, of course, in the imagination of Bram Stoker, who like Mary, dreamt his story.  But the seed of Dracula was there on that night in 1816. Before then vampires had been coarse, animalistic creatures. It took an acquaintance of the predatory Lord Byron to see that there are bloodsuckers at all levels of society.

So what was happening in the heavens on the night these two modern monsters were conceived?

In the early morning of June 17th, the Sun was in the storyteller’s sign of Gemini, and the Moon was in imaginative Pisces. For those two hours in the depths of the night, Gemini was rising.

But the most striking thing about this chart is the rather disturbed stellium in Pisces, the sign of our collective unconscious. These two monsters, Frankenstein and Dracula, are archetypes – “ancient or archaic images from the collective unconscious”. (Paraphrasing Jung.) That night, they were reborn for the modern era.

The Moon is emotion and in Pisces the Moon is at it’s most porous, absorbing what is around it. Pisces is the sign of fantasy and there is Pluto the Lord of the Underworld inhabiting the fantastic realm and so being activated by the transiting Moon. What is interesting is that he is also conjunct to Chiron, the wound. Dracula inflicts a wound that never heals (like Chiron’s), and Frankenstein has wounds that never heal.

(Just to clarify. Mary Shelley calls him the monster and his creator is Frankenstein, but we all know him as Frankensteiin thanks to the films I think.)

But what’s even more potent perhaps, is that Pluto is conjunct Black Moon Lilith. Lilith takes nine years to make her way through the Zodiac. According to legend, Lilith was the wicked first wife of Adam. She is the primordial feminine, the devourer, the vagina dentata. But in astrology, I think she represents often plain wildness, our shadow, in other words she can come as male or female. For more on this, click here. Either way, there is an element of sexual hunger about this archetype, which is exactly personified by Dracula. 

So we have the two darkest astrological “objects” separated by just under one degree.

You would expect the outer planets to be very much involved at this moment in history. And so they do. As well as Pluto conjunct the Moon, we have Neptune, the lord of illusion, opposite the Sun. These creatures hold a mirror up to the Sun and show us our own darkness. Neptune is squaring the Pluto-Moon-Chiron-Lilith stellium.

Meanwhile, Uranus (scienc, electricity, shock and surely Frankenstein himself) is opposite Venus, the woman. Surely Mary Shelley would have secretly said Frankenstein c’est moi.

The North Node, which tells us where all this is leading, is right on the midpoint of Neptune and Uranus, perched between the Sun and Venus in Gemini. This the land of story. The midpoint of Neptune and Uranus must surely be to do with the future and imagination.

The balance in this chart is complex but extraordinary. You can see there are subtle connections between all the planets criss-crossing through the chart.

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein: the agony of the outsider,

Jupiter is at zero Scorpio, a degree of great intensity. Scorpio is where monsters dwell, and with Jupiter here, they are big ones. But that Jupter is in an out-of-element Grand Trine with the Sun in Gemini, stories again, and Saturn exalted in Aquarius. Saturn is about making it real, actually writing the monsters down. And, of course, Saturn in Aquarius is scientific. The planet works at its best here, but also Saturn is a monster, and Aquarius is the sign of the future.

Both Dracula and Frankenstein are also outcast from society, just as both their creators were – Mary Godwin because she was living in sin and the mother of an illegitimate child. And Polidori was outcast from the band of outcasts, bullied and humiliated that summer by both Byron and Shelley.

Frankenstein and Dracula are alien creatures who will never be able to become human. One doomed to live for eternity, feeding off the human race; the other to die alone. Surely that is the lonely fate of Saturn in Aquarius, the sign of groups and society: to be the eternal outsider. And that feeling of alienation is part of the modern condition, something with which all of us have to come to terms.

More on these topics:
Frankenstein and Mary Shelley
Lilith: Both Anima and Animus
Lilith: Wild, Outcast, Wicked – Essential

Also search the site for much more on Lilith.

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  1. stephen says:

    What a fascinating post about one of my favorite literary events…and now the astrology comes through. Thanks so much. There is a great book: Byron in Geneva – That Summmer of 1816 – by David Ellis you might want to look into!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice piece. Did you notice as well the uranus/venus opposition. Attracted to the unusual if not ugly. I notice the grand trine between sun/saturn/jupiter. Lucky that saturn is retrograding away from jupiter at least.

    Saturn in aquarius – tell me about it!! My sat also squares the asc – not good – boo hoo!! 🙂

  3. Christina says:

    Hello Stephen – yes – no wonder there’s at least one movie about it. I haven’t read that book, so thanks. I have to admit I have not read Byron since university. He strikes me as a really unpleasant character.

    Anon – but Saturn in Aquarius can be very smart.

  4. stephen says:

    And not a very good movie at that.
    Actually he was not unpleasant. Spoiled yes, quite so. He was quite brilliant and of course ahead of his time. I think if you read a biography you may see a different Byron in his very short life…his relationship with animals was quite something, he could tame anything. Anyway I am still amazed you wrote about this. And Shelly was a mess too!

  5. Christina says:

    I was thinking of the Ken Russell one which was a bit of a stinker!

  6. […] If you are more interested in literary vampires, you could read my piece about the astrology of the night Dracula was conceived, Inception of Monsters: Dracula and Frankenstein. Click here. […]

  7. Locus Beatus says:

    A brilliant chart reading