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The Astrologer's Newsletter - January/February 2009

A Victorian Domestic Goddess

by Chris Ogilvie

Mrs Beeton, aged 26
In my motherís kitchen lived a blue leather bound copy of Mrs Beetonís Book of Household Management, a wedding present to her as a young war bride in 1945. I always pictured the author as a stiff Victorian matriarch with starched collar, buttoned up bosom and grey-haired bun, passing on a lifetime of familial experience to new wives. In fact, Isabella Beeton was a young, talented businesswoman who merely compiled and repackaged the domestic lore of others and probably couldnít even cook herself! Far from being a wise crone, she died before her first Saturn return, aged 28.

Married at 20 to publisher Samual Beeton, Isabella had the rare chance for a middle class Victorian woman to forge for herself a career in books and magazines. Spotting a market opportunity in her own situation of managing a household when just out of her teens, she published her famous guide in 1861. It was an immediate best-seller, clearing 60,000 copies in its first year and totalling nearly two million up to 1868. Most of the book contained recipes illustrated with coloured engravings, and it was the first to show them in a format that is still used today, ie with all the ingredients listed at the start. Delia and Nigella are among her inheritors. An iconic domestic pioneer who could spin her image; what does her chart reveal?

Isabella Beeton was born a Pisces in London on 12th March 1836. Idealistic Neptune forms the apex of a disassociated T square involving Venus (young women) and Saturn (authority). The Moon in Capricorn symbolises both household management and the professional woman. In the mid-day chart the Moon is powerfully squared by Pluto in the leadership sign of Aries. With Mercury in Aquarius conjunct Mars and Uranus, she was born to be a literary innovator. Jupiter, the teacher, is exalted in the domestic sign of Cancer and forms part of a grand trine with Saturn, Uranus and Mars. Her north node in Taurus, a sign connected with cooking and creature comfort, is squared by Mercury, god of communication.

However, a Domestic Goddess to millions down the generations, a Neptunian smokescreen masked the painful nature of her own home life. Samuelís mismanagement of business finance meant that they tottered on the brink of bankruptcy and had to drastically scale down their living circumstances. She lost two sons in infancy, had several miscarriages and died of puerperal fever just after giving birth to twins. There is speculation that syphilis contracted from her husband was a factor. Isabella had Venus in detriment, square to Neptune and opposed to Saturn in Scorpio. Pluto, god of birth and death squares her Moon in detriment.

Launch of the credit card

Her influence on family nourishment and nursing throughout the British Empire was huge, yet tragically she failed to keep her own children alive. Perhaps it was the agony of the empty nursery that drove her out to work at a time when respectable wives stayed at home. What cruel creative muse required such Piscean sacrifice in the service of the greater good?

Her life was short but her book became a classic. It is still in print and available from Amazon.