Saturday September 16th 2017

A man, who feels himself to be half wolf, wanders through the rainy night streets of a European city. He comes across a strange door in a wall and sees this sign, or thinks he sees it, but then does it disappear?

Magic Theatre 

Admission not for everybody

— Not for everybody 


Harry Haller, the protagonist of Hermann Hesse’s masterpiece, the short novel Steppenwolf, is having a bit of a crisis. Not only does his own life feel meaningless and empty, the world around him, especially the bourgeois world, seems hypocritical, deluded (and yet, and yet, strangely beautiful).

This is a novel about the arduous and sometimes life-threatening nature of the quest for self-knowledge.

One thing that thrilled me, reading this book now, 90 years after its first publication, is how exactly Hesse describes a transit of Pluto.

“This Steppenwolf had to die, he had to put an end to his detestable existence. Either that or he must undergo the deadly flames of further self-scrutiny till melting point, then transform himself, tear off is mask and enter upon a new stage of self-development. Alas, I was no stranger to this process, I knew it of old; I had already experienced it several times, always in periods of extreme despair….my then self had on each occasion been shattered in fragments; each time profound forces had shaken and destroyed it; each time I had been deserted by and lost a cherished and particularly dear part of myself…

“Every time my life had been shattered in this way I had, there is no denying it, ended up gaining something or other; something in the way of liberty, intellectual and spiritual refinement, profundity…”

There is much more on this theme as Haller struggles to find a reason to go on living. Steppenwolf is rich in mythical and psychoanalytic imagery. For example, at one point Haller falls asleep to dream of a scorpion climbing his leg as he waits to meet his great hero Goethe.

Hermann Hesse made no bones about this being a fictionalised account of his own mental turmoil in the years before the book’s publication, so I looked up his chart on Of course, he has Sagittarius Rising and Pisces Moon — all of Hesse’s work is profoundly philosophical, spiritual and mind-expanding.

Hesse worked on Steppenwolf between 1924 and 1926. The transits on the chart published here are for today’s date in 1926.

You can see that during those years, Hesse did indeed experience a transit of dark Pluto to his super-sensitive Cancerian Sun, and what is more electrifying, disruptive Uranus was on his poetic, boundless Pisces Moon. This latter may be reflected in another passage in the book:

“Only humour — the splendid invention of those highly talented but unfortunate individuals who are frustrated in the pursuit of the highest ideals, figures bordering on the tragic — only humour (possibly the most original and brilliant of humankind’s achievements) can accomplish the otherwise impossible feat of uniting all spheres of human life by bathing them in the iridescent light of its prisms…”

What is more, Hesse was going through his Chiron Return by 1926, often a tough transit characterised by deep soul searching and a desire for greater meaning.

If you, or anyone else you know, is experiencing a dark night of the soul — or a transit from an outer planet to a sensitive point in the chart, pick up Steppenwolf.

Excerpts here are from a translation by David Horrocks.



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  1. Good to see Steppenwolf get a mention! I’ve read all of Hesse’s books, and it’s certainly one of my favourittes (the other is Narziss and Goldmund). It was written at the time of Hesse’s Jungian analysis, which also fits in with his Pluto transit. If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend the film of Steppenwolf (1967), which stars Max von Sydow as Hesse (he bears a strong resemblance to him in the movie) and Dominique Sanda who plays Hesse’s anima figure, Hermione.

    • Christina says:

      I love the Glass Bead Game — which I often think about living here in Oxford. This is the first time I’ve read Steppenwolf and I’m electrified.

  2. Denise says:

    Thanks for the very interesting observations — with a Pluto square Sun/Sun conjunct Uranus transit still pretty fresh in my memory, I love your interpretation. I looked at a chart from the time period I read Steppenwolf – Pluto was just retrograding back towards my ascendant for the third and last time and Uranus was opposing my Sun. I remember being very impressed by that book (read it twice), and relating to it a lot, but at 19 I was pretty clueless about the changes I was going through.

    • Christina says:

      I think it’s a book you can re-read every now and then and find fresh insights. I have been thinking also about how he wrote it on his Chiron Return — around the age of 50, so although it’s the sort of book a lot of people read at 19, maybe it ought to be given as a set text to 50 year olds too!

  3. Denise says:

    correction – it was Pluto square Sun and Uranus conjunct Sun.

  4. 44 and counting says:

    Was intrigued by the sentence “I’d already been through it many times”.

    That led me to note that he has Saturn at 20Pisces exactly square his Descendant (20Gem) and Mercury (22Gem).

    Ephemeris has Pluto going over his descendant from 1904 – 06 and a quick look on Wikipedia indicates that “Having realized he could make a living as a writer, Hesse finally married Maria Bernoulli in 1904, eventually having three sons. In Gaienhofen, he wrote his second novel, Beneath the Wheel, which was published in 1906. In the following time, he composed primarily short stories and poems. His story “The Wolf,” written in 1906–07, was “quite possibly” a foreshadowing of Steppenwolf.” [edited for brevity]

    Can’t beat the stars!

    • 44 and counting says:

      Also from wikipedia …

      “On 17 October 1895, Hesse began working in the bookshop in Tübingen, which had a specialized collection in theology, philology, and law … By 1898, Hesse had a respectable income that enabled financial independence from his parents.”

      Transit Pluto square his 2H Mars for the first time in July 1895. Doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to see a 2H Pisces Mars needing to be financially rescued. Pluto forcing him to overcome that dependency.

      And in July 1898, transit Pluto squared the cusps of the 3H/9H which fits very well with his working in a bookshop and eventually becoming a writer.

  5. aqua says:

    Ive always loved that cover and have a deep abiding intrest in all things Lupian and Lycanthropic, no doubt due in part to my Transylvanian heritage and Moon in Cancer in kite to Chiron, Pluto and Neptune in Scorpio, but Im ashamed to say Ive never got around to reading it.
    I will remedy that soon, so thank you for this, very interesting.