William Blake

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour”

~ William Blake, from the Songs of Innocence and Experience


Last week I went to see the William Blake exhibition at Tate Britain, and was bowled over by it: the size of it, the beauty of it, and the prolific quantity of the work he produced over his lifetime.  To do it justice you would have to spend the whole day there digesting the material the organizers have put out.  The exhibition runs until 2nd February 2020, and I would highly recommend it if you enjoy the writings and paintings of this visionary.

Birth Chart

The prodigious output of William Blake may be partly due to his hugely enthusiastic Sun in Sagittarius conjunct its ruler Jupiter.  This conjunction also accounts for the religious themes of his work, though he fought against conventional religion.  In his politics, he was a revolutionary, being in favour of the French and American Revolutions.  In Art, he fought against the conventional  institutions of his day.  He also rebelled against the class system, politically.  Uranus therefore has to be significant in his chart, as the Inner Rebel.  Uranus is in Pisces (a visionary placing)  in the 8th House of his chart, signifying the freedom of his spiritual vision.  But his intense rebelliousness is down to that Uranus squaring exactly his Pluto (an anarchic energy).  Uranus teamed up more harmoniously with Venus in a sextile, producing highly original art.  Mars in his chart was exactly trine his Pluto, giving him the fuel and energy to produce such a great body of work.  The themes of creativity and imagination are stamped on his birthchart; creativity from The Sun exactly trine his North Node, 29 degrees of his 1st House in Leo, and imagination from Ascendant in Cancer with the Moon in Cancer in his 12th House, mining the treasures of his personal unconscious, and the mythologies of the collective unconscious.  His 5th House of Creativity contained the Sun/Jupiter conjunction, and Pluto.  Last but not least, the Mystic Archetype – that is to be found in the North Node (loosely) conjunct Neptune in the 1st House, which often signifies spiritual leadership.

A Personal Note

William Blake once inspired a mystical experience of my own.  It was 5 a.m. on 15th March 1977.  The night before, I had been reading “The Ascent of Man” by Jacob Bronowski.  The four lines heading this blog were the heading to the chapter I was reading.  I woke up at 5 a.m. with two whole poems, which I hastily transcribed on to a bit of paper by my bedside.  One of the poems was set to music, and I can still hear the tune!  Ever since then, I have always kept a dream diary by my bedside, as I would not want to miss out on any gems from my subconscious!  It means that I can always record my dreams, but a whole poem has only emerged in this way on one other occasion, in 1989.  So far, twice in a lifetime!  But the poems that came as a direct result of William Blake’s lines and their accompanying feeling represented one of the peak experiences of my entire life.

Early Life

Blake received little or no formal schooling, but began to draw as soon as he could hold a pencil.  At the age of 10 he was sent to drawing classes.

He was then apprenticed to an engraver on 4th August 1772, at the age of 14.  At the time, Pluto was transiting his natal Venus in Capricorn in his 6th House of Working Conditions, transforming his relationship with art. This period gave him a profession starting out in life, honed his artistic skills, and provided him with stimulation for his religious subject matter (when sent to sketch in Westminster Abbey he experienced visions of Christ, the apostles, and monks and nuns, together with hearing their chants).


His marriage was long lasting, and his wife Catherine was very supportive of an involved with helping his work, but it was not without its problems.  Catherine was unable to bear children.  Saturn closely conjunct Chiron in his 7th House of Marriage describes those difficulties and loyalties.


In his numerous works, he not only illustrated his own poems, but other great works such as Pilgrim’s Progress, Paradise Lost, the Canterbury Tales, the Book of Job and Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Very often the commissions from his patrons dictated his subject matter, and he rarely turned work down, but biblical and mythological themes were most congenial with his own leanings.  His works depict both the light and the shadow, the Angels and the Demons.


Blake always preferred drawing and painting his own inner vision than drawing from life.  In his rich inner life, and access to the angelic realm, he had an affinity with Emanuel Swedenborg, and to some extent the German mystic Jakob Boehme (1575 – 1624).  According to Kathleen Raine: “Line was, for Blake, above all an expression of energy. Every solid form can be seen as the imprint and the product of a flow of energy, and it is certain that Blake saw line as energy, as the signature of life.”  Some thought him mad, e.g. William Wordsworth was on record as thinking so.


Towards the end of his life, Blake cemented a friendship with Astrologer John Varley (1778-1842) who was highly successful, and believed strongly in Blake’s visions.

According to Alexander Roob: “Between 1819 and 1820 Blake carried out spiritualist seances with the astrologer and landscape painter John Varley, producing ‘visionary portraits’.”

Their synastry was significant: their Uranuses (Astrology) were squared, Varley’s Neptune (spiritual interests) was sextile Blake’s Mercury (mind), Varley Pluto was sextile Blake’s Jupiter (adding power to Blake’s enthusiasms) and Varley’s Pluto was opposite exactly Blake’s Ascendant – a deep relationship at the end of his life, requiring a certain level of growth, which may have been more challenging if they had met earlier in life.


I was musing about the fact that William Blake was born on 28th (of November) and his family home was at 28 Broad Street, and its numerological significance, when I came across the following words in “Alchemy and Mysticism” by Alexander Roob (2019):

” Blake had a special relationship towards the moon, as the ascendant in his horoscope was in the sign of cancer, which is related to the moon. Thus 28, the number of the completed cycle of the moon, is of great importance in his mythology: it signifies the surmounting of traditional ideas through the act of free creation, when the muses of fantasy are illuminated by the sun of imagination”.

I think that firmly establishes 28 as being his number!


Blake was working on his Dante series up to the time of his death, and just before he died he was inspired to sketch his wife.  At the time of his death it was reported that his eyes brightened and he talked of going home.  Pluto (the planet of death) was exactly trine his natal Sun.  His wife died about 3 years later, and at the time she died she stated that she was about to join him calling out to him “as if he were only in the next room, to say she was coming to him, and it would not be long now”.

William Blake’s depiction of his inner vision enables the rest of us, who may not have a visual access to the inner worlds, the chance to glimpse them.


And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold:
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.

~ William Blake, from Milton: a Poem in Two Books

Set to music by Sir Hubert Parry

Re-scored by Edward Elgar


“William Blake” by Kathleen Raine

“Alchemy and Mysticism” by Alexander Roob


There are three favourable aspects to Venus this week, which benefits Taureans and Librans in particular.  It makes for a congenial week generally on the social front.  It doesn’t promise to solve our political woes, however.  Although I hadn’t planned to, I downed tools yesterday to watch the parliamentary proceedings and the 1 million protesters in London.  I can’t remember the last time I gave up a whole day like that.  So I am hoping that the issue of Brexit does not impinge on the coming week.

Today’s Venusian aspect is Venus sextile Saturn, a steady and loyal basis for Sunday’s interactions.  Honouring your family and existing relationships and friendships, with compassion if not gratitude, is the order of the day. It is also a good day for laying the groundwork for artistic endeavours, continuing to work painstakingly on them, or completing them with satisfaction.

Tomorrow’s Venusian aspect (Monday 21st) is Venus trine Neptune, an even brighter prospect than Sunday’s.  Socially, you find spiritual links with people.  Artistically or musically, you can achieve inspirational heights.  It is an ideal day for contemplating the divine inspiration of William Blake’s art and poetry.  It is also a good day to understand the relationship between materiality and spirituality, say in your quest for abundance.

The Sun enters Scorpio on Wednesday (23rd) and any equanimity we have carefully nurtured under Sun in Libra is tested, tipping the balance towards passion and extremes, so it is that the zodiac wheel turns…But having gained that still, centre point, you can refer to it after you have explored one extreme or the other.  Don’t leave it behind altogether.  We need to experience life with more insight, resolve and conviction.  On the road to Brexit, the two sides may be as far apart as ever, but this Scorpio month is an important part of the journey (and includes the all important Halloween date).

Our third Venusian aspect occurs on Friday (25th): it’s Venus sextile Pluto, and essential if we are to marry the harmony of Venus with the extreme understanding and realism of Pluto.  It could be a time of difficult but rewarding soul searching with loved ones.  In finance, there could be hard won but satisfying bargaining and balancing.  In art, there is a search for the meaningful both in the execution of art and its appreciation.  Again, in this, William Blake could be your go to artist!  It may not be an easy ride, but it can be a cathartic and constructive day in the realm of human relationships.

The week in bullet points:

  • Today – love with loyalty
  • Tomorrow – love with inspiration
  • Wednesday – a deeper experience
  • Friday – love with psychological depth