Woodstock Revisited

How about you: Have you caught a bit of Woodstock fever?

Amidst a seemingly expanding plethora of dark developments, it’s been refreshing to look back at what happened at that violence-free event — look at the attitudes that shaped it — look at the people involved in organizing it. Yes, there was a great deal of chaos — and that’s what some people, mostly observers from afar, I suspect, have focused on — yet a great many people both on-site and off-site responded helpfully. It’s a remarkable story, its details new to me.

The story of the lead organizer, Michael Lang, is a fascinating one of a quick starter in life: someone who early on became acquainted with both musicians and music business people, and who enjoyed the support and instruction of people who could pass on crucial skills. (It was his father who passed on the observation: If you’re talking, you’re not learning.) Yet it was his innate characteristics that provided the catalyzing spark.

How is that reflected in the relevant astrology?

Mr. Lang’s basic birth data is easy to come by: 11 December 1944 in Brooklyn, Kings, New York. Given that, and his testimony and that of others, what approximate birth time makes sense?

A crucial distinction is Luna’s sign: Libra or Scorpio. It so happened that Luna moved from one to the other in the pre-dawn hours, at 8:42 a.m. Universal (Greenwich Mean) Time, or 4:42 a.m. Eastern War Time, then in effect.

(By the way, this is one of those occasions when it’s really handy to have an old-fashioned printed-and-bound ephemeris available. Looking up a lunar sign transition is quick and easy. In fact, I’m not sure how else I’d go about it, other than by using an ephemeris generator built into an astrology calculation program, or utilizing that as one of the many wonderful no-cost options at astro.com. And of course, neither of those options was available back in the day.)

So, by four o’clock that morning, Luna was done with Libra, and if Libra is more fitting than Scorpio, then a nocturnal birth is certain. That increases the influence of Luna over the personality, and limits the places (houses) where Sol in Sagittarius can appear: either the third or second.

Even going primarily by Mr. Lang’s testimony, the choice seems fairly easy: Luna in Libra. The ever-ready, easy-going social skills are abundantly evident. In particular, he possessed the facility for forming working partnerships along with the ability to smooth over rough interpersonal situations. A Scorpio Luna man, intensely feeling, would not be capable of managing the myriad and frenetic negotiations and adaptations that were his lot in organizing such a major outdoor event — even before it ballooned in magnitude. (The originally anticipated crowd was fifty thousand, and a minimum four hundred thousand is commonly accepted; and Lang is far from alone in stating: “An estimated one million people tried to get there on Friday and had to turn back.”)

Given how central his sociability was to the organization of the endeavor, Luna’s position in the birth chart must be prominent: probably in an angular place (house). And the only one available within the established time frame is the first place, with a Libra ascendant. With Neptune also there, adding chameleon qualities. (“An enormous halo of dark curls frames a face that is, by turns, evil, wanton, fey, impish, and innocent. . . . Lang is . . . all-accepting, attuned to unknowable vibrations.”*)

The basic fuel for an individual’s endeavors comes, of course, from Sol, and in Lang’s case the solar fire comes through the visionary, venturesome zoidion Sagittarius. Astro Poet Alex puts the significance of this smartly: “The possibility of a creative life and making space for such a life is one thing that keeps fire signs going (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius). These are signs that not only need to be seen, in terms of getting everyone’s attention at a party or in any room, but they also feel a strong impulse to add to the world through the imagination—to bring into being what is not there. Fire signs are often artists, scholars, and visionaries.”

It was Lang who, having already attended a number of festivals, organized one in Miami and returned to New York, came up with the idea of an event with a broader scope. It would combine music and visual / sculptural / theatre / dance art at a rural site where attendees could camp for several days: an experimental and flexible confluence of emerging perspectives on life. In the midst of a deeply divided nation mired in unending war.

At least the nation possessed the cultural and political armature to allow for such an experiment. (Can one imagine something of this sort happening in China or Russia? Not likely.)

It would be an “Aquarian Exposition.”

Lang himself was only slightly older than most attendees: twenty-four, in the expansive year of the second return of Jupiter to its natal place, in the lead-up to the structurally decisive Saturn return (twenty-eight to thirty), when one must sort out one’s calling: what one must do.

He has some rare and potent natally-bestowed characteristics, signified most dramatically by a planetary lattice consisting of the placements (in zodiacal order) of Uranus, Pluto, Neptune and Mars. Together, they represent the potential personal desires and drive converging with a collective need for transformative experience. Plus, the combination of Neptune and Chiron (the latter not yet discovered until 1977) suggests the capacity for fostering the conditions conducive to cooperative and collaborative interaction: One is merely a channel.

Venus, far ahead of Sol in zodiacal placement as an evening star, appears appropriately in the first degree of Aquarius. As mythopoetic lady guiding the Libran ship, she is in the place of her “joy” in the fifth place, beckoning all moved by the vision to make the pilgrimage to connect with one another in sisterhood and brotherhood, to have fun and enjoy music as one great gathering of tribes.

For such a vision to have a chance at actualization, a great deal of effective organization was essential. And that is perfectly indicated by an exact opposition of Mercury in Capricorn and Saturn in Cancer, the latter considered “weakened” in traditional astrological interpretation. Saturn is both out-of-sect in a nocturnal chart and “in exile” in Cancer. What Saturn signifies here is a sacrifice of whatever element of raw ambition may have initially motivated this production, and instead embrace the caring and nurturing characteristics whose development — likely hindered somehow by Lang’s relationship with his mother — is called for by the Cancer placement. People came first, especially when the problematic facets of the gathering became obvious. (Some politicians wanted to deploy the National Guard; that might not have gone over very well among the crowd singing along with the anti-Vietnam War “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag.”)

Moving communicative and organizational skills (Mercury – Saturn) into a context of collective significance is Neptune’s placement at the midpoint of that opposition. Neptune symbolically calls for it all to transcend strictly personal satisfactions.

What about the timing for Lang? As mentioned above, Jupiter was back for the second time since his birth in the detail-oriented zoidion of Virgo, the opportunity to refine such skills within the milieu of a collective enterprise (the domain of Jupiter’s twelfth place in the chart). In the spring of 1969, Saturn moved into Taurus and his eighth place, and during that time Lang moved deeply and appropriately into the realm of shared finances.

Also that spring, Mars, symbolizing energy in action, entered into a retrograde phase in the same zoidion, Sagittarius, as Mars occupied when Lang was born. Mars appeared to move backward, from seventeen degrees to two degrees of Sagittarius, crossing Mars’ natal placement at eleven degrees: three crossings, actually. (The last crossing was during the festival weekend.) During such a time, one would likely be faced with challenges to continued movement of projects already underway.

Accordingly, initial plans foundered in part on the hostility of townspeople to use of an industrial site at Wallkill — a most unwelcoming name, yes? The festival group had no home until just after the Mars retrograde period ended, when they made a deal with Max Yasgur for use of one of his dairy farm’s pastures on 20 July: only a month away from opening day, and coincidentally the same day that American astronauts first walked on Luna. (The doubly momentous occasion was marked by Luna’s joining in the sky with Jupiter and Uranus on the “world axis” point of the first degree of Libra.)

The Aquarian Exposition was scheduled to officially begin with music at the main stage at 4:00 p.m. on Friday (Venus’ day), 15 August, at which time the Jovian zoidion Sagittarius was ascendant. Jupiter, still close to Uranus, was in the eleventh place: appropriate for an especially large gathering. But such was not to be. The get-together may not have played out so peacefully with Mars rising.

Instead, at 5:07 p.m., Richie Havens reluctantly took the stage upon Lang’s pleading, began by playing through his whole repertoire, and killed time tuning and re-tuning his guitar before improvising on the yearning he detected coming from the crowd: “Free-dom, free-dom . . . “ And so the festivities began with Capricorn on the ascendant, with Saturn (“lord” of Capricorn) in pleasure-oriented and pacific Taurus in the playful fifth place. Thus, restraint was the order of the whole rain-soaked weekend, and the needs of group survival under extraordinary conditions took precedence.

Morning-star Venus in Cancer was sinking invisibly toward the western horizon over the forested hills, invoking a nurturing atmosphere in which women, a minority of those attending, could be safe: By all accounts, not a single sexual assault occurred. (What city of comparable size could claim as much?) Instead, helpful communication was the norm, as represented by the exactly sixty degrees between Venus and Mercury.

Mercury’s separation from the square angle with Mars is another indication that any argumentative energies were on the wane: yet another bit of excellent cosmic timing.

The larger potency of the occasion is represented by Luna very close by Pluto and the south lunar node — with Neptune sixty degrees away. As astrological historian Rick Tarnas has pointed out, Woodstock 1969 was a dionysian event of ecstatic participation, and perhaps a reunion of some kind. Surely it was an unprecedented gathering and dispersal, a densely populated field of love comparable in magnitude only to a great battle in another time and place.

What about the weather indications? (You didn’t really think I’d pass up a look in that department, did you?) For anyone even slightly interested in the event at Bethel, the challenging weather of those days is a well-known part of the whole mythos.

And it shows in the season chart: water zoidion Scorpio on the crucial lower meridian, with Neptune nearby. That would be enough to indicate a chronically wet season. Venus with Saturn at the upper meridian adds further evidence of moist and cloudy conditions. That is well documented in the literature on the preparation stages of the festival.

An astro-meteorologist of the time might have hoped for or even expected a drying out period beginning with the New Moon that occurred around actual (rather than “daylight saving” time) midnight on the 13th August, two days before the official start of the festival. Sol swallows Luna in its brilliance at the New Moon: the solar energy predominates. And so a New Moon on the ascendant of the season chart would indicate a likely dry and warm(er) period starting during that quarter (week) of the lunar cycle.

It did not kick in right away, that’s for sure. The hasty construction of concert facilities on the Yasgur site was much hampered by rain and soggy grounds. And it continued through the weekend, most famously on Sunday afternoon the 17th. Dramatically, a thunderstorm with gusty winds threatened not merely the hundreds of thousands on the ground but also light towers that hovered over them. After that downpour, some folks took to sliding through the mud along one long slope among the great crowd. Through the whole weekend, as the rains continued off and on, Sol was moving — a degree per day, approximately — toward the right angle with Neptune.

The last performer, Jimi Hendrix, with his new band took the stage around 8:30 on Monday morning the 18th: about twelve hours later than scheduled. The crowd had shrunk considerably: Thousands of minors had to make their way home to face a different kind of music, and a lot of people had jobs to get to. About halfway into his two-hour set (the longest of his career), a fresh inspiration came to him:

The massive stage was sparsely populated compared to how packed it had been all weekend with musicians, crew, and friends. Jimi, a red scarf around his head and wearing a white fringed and beaded leather shirt, looked almost like a mystical holy man in meditation. His eyes closed, his head back, he’d merged with his music; his Strat — played upside down since he’s a lefty — his magic wand.
As he almost reverently started the national anthem, the bedraggled audience, worn out and muddy, moved closer together. Those of us who’d barely slept in three days were awakened, exhilirated by Jimi’s song. One minute he was chording the well-worn melody, the next he was reenacting ‘bombs bursting in air’ with feedback and distortion.It was brilliant. A message of joy and love of country, while at the same time an understanding of all the conflict and turmoil that’s torn America apart.
— The Road to Woodstock, p. 238

How utterly appropriate that Uranus and Jupiter were at the moment rising over the eastern horizon (representing a tremendously electrifying moment). Venus, in the family / tribe oriented zoidion of Cancer, was nearing the upper meridian. That day, as the crowd dispersed across the country, across the globe, Sol reached the exact right angle — last-quarter phase — with Neptune. That combination at that angle represented, more than any other part of the horoscope, an opportunity for an evanescent experience.

The moment was the culmination of one of the great dreams that manifested for a time on planet Earth — shortly before Earth became Gaia. The largest peaceful social event became history (not much herstory yet) and myth, the memories and recorded media among the fragments of that dream — those who attended and participated being seed-keepers and seed-bearers.

It is well to remember that seeds well-tended can survive for a very long time, awaiting the return of conditions necessary for germination. Perhaps even, as improbable as it now seems, after an Aquarian Shift.

(For many more astro-meteorological investigations, studies of notable persons, and broad historical and futuristic perspective, check out the book I authored and published in 2018: Scenes from a Tapestry.)

Primary source: The Road to Woodstock, Michael Lang with Holly George-Warren, 2009

  • Young Men with Unlimited Capital, Joel Rosenman and John Roberts, 1979, quoted in The Road to Woodstock

One thought on “Woodstock Revisited”

  1. Another indication of the cosmic orchestration of this event is that first performer Richie Havens was born a bit less than four years (21 Jan. 1941) before Michael Lang — which amounts to two cycles of Mars. In both their charts, Mars is in the same degree of the zodiac, reactivated at the time of the festival. Mars is often associated with competition, or in being first in some way.

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