Mark Rylance: Being Saturn

Sunday February 22nd 2015
Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall

Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall

Lush with satin and velvet, beautifully lit by candles and England’s cool northern daylight, the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall is as enthralling as the book. At the centre of the bedizened, voluptuous court of Henry VIII, there is a still, dark point, Thomas Cromwell.

For more on the story and why — astrologically speaking — it has had such an impact on the collective imagination, read my piece about the novel here.

Mark Rylance is mesmerising as Cromwell — still, watchful, intelligent. Of course, he is beautifully directed, and supported by an outstanding cast, notably Damian Lewis as the king (epitomsing Cancer Sun/Aries Moon), and Clare Foy as clever, stubborn Ann Boleyn (Taurus Sun/Mercury in Gemini).

Rylance is profoundly Capricorn. Not only does he have Sun and Mercury here, he also has Mars in exaltation and Saturn in domicile.

We do not have a chart ruler since there is no birthtime. But Rylance’s performance is an embodiment of the planet Saturn, Capricorn’s ruler. He is slow, deliberate, relentless, and even dark-eyed, in short he is saturnine.

“My instinct is to turn in on myself, I have a very self-critical voice that can dominate me if I’m not careful. I feel I have to figure it out. I mustn’t ask for help. I deal with a lot of difficult emotions so I can be moody and that can be confusing sometimes. I fall into depressions and can be unable to speak or explain quite what’s going on. But that’s getting better.” — from an interview in The Daily Telegraph

Saturn is silent, a strange planet to be so strong in an actor’s chart, but when Rylance was a boy, he was overpowered by this. He did not speak until he was six. In a fascinating interview on Desert Island Discs, he posited that this was because somehow his soul knew that he was destined to perform in front of thousands of people — and it was terrified. In this context, he mentioned James Hillman, whose book The Soul’s Code is a must for any spiritual seeker.

No birth time. Midday chart

No birth time. Midday chart

With Jupiter in its own sign Sagittarius, Rylance must have a philosophical bent, and it’s conjunct Venus. He probably loves playing with big ideas. This conjunction receives a trine from Uranus, the planet of out-of-the-ordinary, in Leo, the actor’s sign.  He must love games and indeed he said he loves “playacting.”

But there’s even more power to this risk-taking, Falstaffian Jupiter. It is close to the bendings — the halfway point from South to North Node — a power point. A planet here must play a role in the person’s destiny, forcing you out onto that river. Jupiter was never going to let Rylance stay silent.

“The readiness to serve your particular fate is such a mysterious thing, like there’s this diamond or this deep subterranean river inside you which you are searching for. When you feel connected to it, boy you know exactly.” — from  The Daily Telegraph

Indeed, the year he found his voice, Venus, the planet of beauty, had progressed to the bendings. Rylance has a lovely voice, often a gift of Mercury in Capricorn, which is in perfect semi-sextile to that powerful Jupiter.

In the same interview, Rylance explained how he used the I Ching to make an important decision. That Jupiter-Venus would have no problem understanding the I Ching — a foreign philosophy — and with the help of Uranus, he’d have no trouble embracing something unorthodox.

“…everywhere in our culture everything that is truly mysterious is immediately dismissed. In a way I think science is the modern religion and at times I despise it as much as I despise other religions, because it really will only accept stuff that fits its masculine ability to define the world.” — from  The Daily Telegraph

So the strong Jupiter stops the strong Saturn from consuming the chart.

Cromwell is, of course, a Scorpio character — the power behind the throne, the manipulator, the enforcer. Notice that both Scorpio’s rulers are working together in Rylance’s chart, Mars exalted and Pluto in practical Virgo. He understands power instinctively. And his Moon in Virgo is close to the North Node — a destiny to master a skill. The Node is trined by the Sun, when he gets on the path, he will shine.

Rylance has had an illustrious career on stage. He was the first artistic director of the Globe in London and has won numerous awards. I saw him as Henry V years ago, which was memorably funny.

But he’s broken through to a new level of fame with Wolf Hall and maybe, skill as an actor.

The Uranus-Pluto square has been brutal with Rylance. In 2012, his smart, clever step-daughter was snatched from her family by a brain haemorrhage on an airplane. This is such a Uranus-Pluto event, a sudden death in the air. This was at 8°. The next squares would have shaken his strong Saturn to the roots

And here we see him at the final square literally playing Saturn.





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  1. aqua says:

    Thank you for this interesting piece about such an excellent, enigmatic actor.

  2. Locus Beatus says:

    An excellent reading, going further than mine did. It’s beautifully written too.

    I didn’t know about the loss of MR’s stepdaughter – how terrible. She was vastly talented and a great beauty: what a shocking blow

  3. mimi says:

    I love this series and can’t wait for the next episodes.

    I had been wondering and thought he could be a Scorpio – he simply is Cromwell.
    He is a great actor and I certainly will follow him in future roles he might play.


    • Christina says:

      I certainly think Cromwell must have had a lot of Scorpio.

      • mimi says:

        Mind you,: Capricorn can also play a big role in the background, however he does this as part of the planning of his own career, he wants to shine in the end.

        Scorpios almost always prefer to stay in the background. it is their environment where they are at their best.


  4. Gilly says:

    I was reading this and thinking – well, that sounds just like my chart. As well it might, as I see we were both born very close in time, and those quotes – he could have been speaking for me. I wish I were even a fraction as talented. Wolf Hall has been unmissable and – wonderfully good as everyone involved is, it’s Mark Rylance’s performance that has lifted it so far beyond the usual good, solid costume drama the BBC generally does so well.

  5. […] Astrologer, I came across a new-to-me astrological concept. Christina Rodenbeck was discussing Mark Rylance’s embodiment of Saturn in his performance as Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall, noting that he found his voice when his […]