Benjamin Zephaniah (1958 – 2023)

“…We can all be refugees

Sometimes it only takes a day,

Sometimes it only takes a handshake

Or a paper that is signed.

We all came from refugees

Nobody simply just appeared,

Nobody’s here without a struggle,

Andy why should we live in fer

Of the weather or the troubles?

We all came here

From somewhere”

 ~ Benjamin Zephaniah

Two poets died at the age of 65 within the last fortnight, Benjamin Zephaniah and Shane MacGowan.  Benjamin was born a few months after Shane.  Both were very much poets of the people.  Zephaniah, who died this week from a brain tumour, was dubbed “The people’s Laureate”.

Birth Chart

Benjamin Zephaniah was born under a conjunction of the Sun and Mercury in Aries.  He is often described in Arien terms, e.g. pioneering, authentic, innovative, trailblazing.  With half his planets (5) in Fire signs, he was spirited.  Hugh Muir wrote in the Guardian: “He had fire, but not the visible anger the right seizes upon.”  The Sun in Aries conjunct Mercury would tell it like it is – the Obituary in the same newspaper by Peter Mason said he “could be relied upon to speak his mind with forthrightness, honesty and self-effacing humour”.  His Sun sextile an exact conjunction of Mars and Chiron in Aquarius marked him out as an Activist, e.g. on behalf of racism and Veganism.  In an exact trine with Saturn, his Sun was part of a Grand Trine with Pluto in the Fire element.  That was part of his great strength – Frankie Boyle has commented “the world has lost a strong, strong human being.”  But all these aspects to the Sun may point to the performer in him (not just in his poetry but in a dramatic role in Peaky Blinders), and if we had a birth time we might see the Sun even more prominent in his chart.  He has the poet in Moon conjunct Venus and Venus trine Neptune, but he was a different kind of poet, he was practical and performing, in some ways similar to John Cooper Clarke, bringing poetry into the mainstream.  Jupiter closely sextile Saturn represented wise and balanced judgement. His North Node in Scorpio was conjunct Neptune, making him a spiritual leader of sorts: poet Lemn Sissay, who has followed in his footsteps, has stated “He’s been a guiding light all my life”.

Life and Career

Benjamin was born and brought up in Handsworth, Birmingham.  He wrote, “When I hear the word Birmingham I feel pride, when I hear the Brummie accent I hear music, and when I see the people of Birmingham I see my family.”  He was a twin, and the eldest of  several children, but his father was abusive and he and his mother fled when he was 10 years old, leaving all the other children with the father.  At 11 he performed in church, and he left school dyslexic and unable to read or write at 13 after being expelled. By 15 he was making a name for himself in his community as a poet and wordsmith.  After that he went off the rails, which included a spell in borstal and in prison for burglary.  This is depicted in his birthchart by a complex square of Uranus and Neptune/North Node, a sense of confusion he had to work through, but which also shows up in his stated belief in anarchism.

The turning point came when he tired of that way of life, and went to live in London for the stated aim of becoming a poet, at the age of 22. In that year, he published his first book of poetry, Pen Rhythm.  In 1994, he published his first poetry book for children, “Talking Turkeys”.  In 2001 he published “The Little Book of Vegan Poems”.  He was offered an O.B.E. in 2003, but declined it for its association with Empire.

In 2011 he accepted a year-long position as poet-in-residence at Keats House.  He explained: “I don’t do residencies, but Keats is different. He’s a one-off, and he has always been one of my favourite poets.”

He has worked with Lemn Sissay for many years.  Lemn has posted this week “In 2013 we (Benjamin and I) adapted his hit novel Refugee Boy for the stage. Today our version is on the national curriculum as a choice text.”

He published an autobiography in 2018, with the title “The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah”, which earned the nomination of “autobiography of the year” by the National Book Awards.

Benjamin Zephaniah is one of those rare people who can carry the accolade of National Treasure.  On Question Time last Thursday, Fiona Bruce paid tribute to his numerous appearances on the programme.  I can say that whenever he appeared,  his was always a sane voice.

“Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought. I get angry when I hear that word ’empire’; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised… Benjamin Zephaniah OBE – no way Mr Blair, no way Mrs Queen. I am profoundly anti-empire.”

– Benjamin Zephaniah


In the early hours of this morning, Jupiter opposed Venus, and there may have been a lighter moment in your dreams.  Venus and Jupiter are known as the lesser and greater benefic planets respectively, so they don’t tend to do too much damage to each other, and they may even have a good time.  There could be some much needed laughter for instance, hopefully at no one’s expense.  Or if at another’s expense, no harm done.  There’s the possibility of letting out some tension in light relief.

Tomorrow (Monday 11th) Mercury sextiles Venus, which is an ideal day for cafe culture, Christmas shopping and good conversation.  It favours socializing, and creative forms which combine art and writing.  There is potential for negotiation in diplomatic efforts, and harmony and agreement between kindred spirits.

The New Moon at 20 degrees Sagittarius arrives on Tuesday (12th), and Sagittarian New Moons are more upbeat than most, focussing on expansion, the planning of holidays, deep study and learning, global issues, and matters of faith.  Re-play your affirmations, with more confidence.  You can have powerful inner conversations under this New Moon.

Mercury goes Retrograde on Wednesday (13th), so be prepared earlier in the week in Mercury-related concerns such as communications, documentation and I.T. It’s not a good time for Mercury to retrograde, in the middle of the Christmas post season.  I have already had a cheque go missing en route to a catalogue.  Do what you can to minimize such occurrences.  Postal and phone scams may also arise – again, I nearly got caught last week.  Must have been Mercury’s shadow period, which I do not usually notice.  Be clear in your communications for the next three weeks, in order to avoid misunderstandings and loopholes.  Although technology can go awry, it can be a good period to upgrade such devices.  You may have developed your own strategies, according to past experiences.

On Friday (15th) our Sun is aligned with two Fixed Stars in the constellation of Scorpio.  Lesath, or Upsilon Scorpii represents the principle of inner healing.  According to “Starlight Elixirs” by Michael Smulkis and Fred Rubenfeld:

“There can be enhanced circulation as well as strengthened physical functioning.  This can bring insights based on unconscious concepts and beliefs or long-buried ideas.  The inner healing processes may be strengthened, but some degree of counselling or emotional release would be necessary for these to be ongoing in the person.  There can be great value in sharing the influence of this star for a group of  individuals who are looking for a common goal, who wish this to be a part of physical form in animals, plants, or people.”

Then the Fixed Star Shaula, Lambda Scorpii, also described by Michael Smulkis and Fred Rubenfeld, represents the principle of working with emotion:

The ability of people to work with emotions in many different ways has created a shared emotional body amongst humanity.   The group soul of all of humanity is broadcasting feelings and emotions which are disturbing to the Earth.  This is an important contributing factor to some of the geophysical changes that occur, such as in volcanos and earthquakes, which are an important facet of the Earth’s cleansing.”

and on a more personal note:

“Repressed emotions can be brought into consciousness and understood with the use of this star.  These emotions can be released and the energy brought into coordination with other facets in one’s life.  This can enhance recall of emotional blocks felt in childhood and to a lesser extent from past lives.  The reasons behind the emotions are better understood and forgiven.”

The week in bullet points:

  • Today – off the wall socializing
  • Tomorrow – cafe culture
  • Tuesday – new beginning
  • Wednesday – strained communications
  • Friday – inner healing; working with emotions, both planetary and personal