The Luminaries X2 – astrology notes –

luminariesThe Luminaries
by Eleanor Catton
2013  / 834 pages
read by Mark Meadows 29h 14m
rating 9 / historical fiction

This is my second reading and these notes focus on the astrology –  see The Luminaries – for the first review and some general notes –

Fwiw,  Slate Magazine did an article on this (found 1/19/15):

What follows is my work done prior to finding the Slate article:

Because The Luminaries is fiction I think it’s legitimate (and fun)  to use astrology in developing fictional characters as well as themes like fate, love and fortune, etc.  In astrology (which I agree is fiction) Capricorns are “said to be” ambitious.  Of course all real Capricorns aren’t ambitious – I never was particularly –  but it’s a fairly good thing to be in our culture so I won’t totally disclaim it (typical).  But I’m a real person with lots of characteristics.

“…there is no truth except truth in relation, and heavenly relation is composed of wheels in motion, tilting axes, turning dials; it is a clockwork orchestration that alters every minute, never repeating, never still.”   (p. 364)

Gascoigne in the book is ambitious – he’s a Capricorn.  Devlin, the chaplain is not ambitious, he’s more compassionate – as is befitting a Pisces.  Balfour is a “typical” Sagittarius – independent,  friendly.

Zodiac Signs (   has symbols which link to very brief attributes of that sign.  I’m going to line them up and see if Catton developed her characters along those lines.   I’m sure she did and added the info for our (and her) amusement).   I think the theme of astrology adds tremendously to the book even if you ignore it.

Also, it’s important to note that these characters have chosen to  live and navigate in a very rough environment – there are not “pure” folks –

I was looking for evidence that Catton used the descriptors to fashion her characters – I wasn’t looking for complete agreement – only one or two distinct characteristics.

• Te Rau Tauwhare (a greenstone hunter): Aries

–  Independent
– Generous – (p. 100)
– Optimistic
– Enthusiastic
– Courageous (p. 103)

• Charlie Frost (a banker): Taurus

– Dependable – p. 173
– Persistent
– Loyal –
– Patient   – p. 111
– Generous –

• Benjamin Lowenthal (a newspaperman): Gemini

– Energetic
– Clever
– Imaginative
– Witty  – p. 198
– Adaptable –  p. 198

• Edgar Clinch (an hotelier): Cancer

– Loyalty –
– Dependable
– Caring – Anna – p. 250
– Adaptable
– Responsive

• Dick Mannering (a goldfields magnate): Leo

– Confident – p. 211
– Ambitious –  p. 147
– Generous – p. ? (gave Anna a dress)
– Loyal
– Encouraging p. 211 – (with Frost) –

• Quee Long (a goldsmith): Virgo

– Analytical (p. 260)
– Observant  (p. 260)
– Helpful –
– Reliable
– Precise

• Harald Nilssen (a commission merchant): Libra

– Diplomatic  p. 120 etc.
– Graceful
– Peaceful  – tea?
– Idealistic – “judgmental?”  p. 128, 129 – Maoris – p.133
– Hospitable – p. 138,

Nilssen has a little mean streak though, retribution –

• Joseph Pritchard (a chemist): Scorpio

– Loyal  – absolutely!  To a fault —  p. 149
– Passionate  – hot temper
– Resourceful –
– Observant  –
– Dynamic – orders folks around (p. 130

• Thomas Balfour (a shipping agent): Sagittarius

– Independence – a traveler, – very much!  pp. 12, 88

• Aubert Gascoigne (a justice’s clerk): Capricorn

– responsible
– patient –
– ambitious –
– resourceful – p. 220
– loyal –  p. 218

• Sook Yongsheng (a solo gold digger): Aquarius

– Witty   p.  262
– Clever  p.
– Humanitarian
– Inventive
– Original

• Cowell Devlin (a chaplain): Pisces

(all yes)

– Compassionate
– Adaptable
– Accepting
– Devoted
– Imaginative


Various heavenly bodies are also involved in the story of The Luminaries – associated with different characters:


** Walter Moody: new gold prospector –
Mercury  – young messenger of the gods – communication
represents traders, attorneys and messengers.

Chapter 1 where he talks with 12 men –



** Lydia (Wells) Carver née Greenway: married to Wells and Carver and brothel owner?
Venus – primarily love also money, creativity
She represents artists, traders, and all occupations related to beauty and seduction.

Yes – Lydia married twice and got the bucks –  creative brothel


** Francis Carver:  ships
Mars  – passion/action/impulse – anger/ rage-a-holic –  virility, action, violence, courage and boldness.
represents the military, sportsmen, warriors, surgeons, blacksmiths, etc.
The 12 men in Chapter 1 agree Carver is a villain.

“… a loner, a wretched twist of a man who drank itself into a stupor every night and dreamed of nothing.”   p. 124

** Alistair Lauderback – politician –
Jupiter –  good fortune ???
Jupiter represents people in power, magistrates, great professors, and religious figures.
symbolizes abundance, warmth, blossoming, good luck and self-confidence


** George Shepard – gaoler
non-emotive, active, secondary, or sometimes, emotive, non-active, secondary. He is a phlegmatic, sentimental or apathetic.

Shepard is apathetic – unemotional –


Anna and Emory are opposites as well as being both bodies, sun and moon –

** Anna Wetherell – prostitute –
The Sun/The Moon

emotive, secondary, active. “He”  is passionate

passionate, volatile   p. 128,  p. 153 –

very unlucky –


** Emery Staines – wealthy young man –
The Moon/The Sun

emotive, non-active, primary, or non-emotive, non-active and primary. She is nervous, or amorphous.

Emory is a nice guy – rich – young – lucky – no enemies,   p. 122

very lucky –


“Medium Coeli” and “Imum Coeli”
Each sign has its own “Medium Coeli” and  “Imum Coeli”  –  Midheaven and hell, basically –

“Medium Coeli”  This southern highest point is also known as the Medium Coeli, or MC for short. The Midheaven is the entrance to the tenth house and relates to your career, ..

“Imum Coeli “   The Imum Coeli is said to refer to our roots and also to the least conscious part of ourselves. It symbolizes foundations, beginnings in life, what may have been experienced through parental inheritance and homeland influences, need for security and relationships with the home and family life. It also may describe the circumstances that we will encounter at the end of our lives. Because this house was the most distant point possible from the visible part of the horoscope, Hellenistic astrologers considered the IC to be the home of the underworld, or Hades.

“True Node in Virgo”   (Quee Long)
The Node is a calculation of the Moon. The South Node shows where you have been (in Soul terms), and the North Node shows where you are going (why you are here).

Page – 240  Chapter titled:    “Medium Coeli / Imum Coeli



The occult stuff,  seances and ghostly incidents, was pure fun but never believable – not for me.  I suppose it makes the book a kind of post-modern Victorian Gothic?  Only instead of deteriorated mansions we have a gold-rush town.  Fwiw,  seances were very popular in the mid to late 19th century – also astrology was coming into its own again following the clamping down during the Reformation/Inquisition eras.

*** I think this is the reason that Emory was hit by the bullet and that Anna used Emory’s hand to write his name.



Money:  Pounds, Shillings and Dollars –

1£ (BPS) in Dickens day was worth about £44 today and £44 is equal to $70.80 US.

1 shilling is .05 of 1£. (It’s like a nickel that way.)

1 shilling given in 1860 or so would be about $2.20 today. Moody’s 10 shillings to the maid is like $22. Land was about 10 shillings an acre – $22. Prospector’s license was £44. Balfour’s shilling to Tauwhare is like a couple bucks.

Anna’s bail was 1£ 1 shilling – $72. Her rent was 10 shillings a week – $22. She owes 3 months so that’s £6 or $264 (very cheap rent!). I’m not sure what the cocaine cost.

Anna’s debt to Mannering is $4400. (£100 in 1866- page 319)

Info from –

Also interesting;’-writing-Christmas-Carol-hierarchy-money-system-schilling-crown/



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