Do we choose the times for events, or is everything decided for us beforehand, and we just need to enjoy the ride? It’s a question worth pondering. Every event, whether a birth, a major event or the smallest happenstance – is it all a matter of fate, kismet, karma, destiny or simply a chance collision of molecules? Heaven only knows. Fifty years ago there was a happening. What was supposed to be a cozy gathering of 200,000 turned into “half a million strong”. Before we get into what it was, have a listen to these dudes, who were there…
Woodstock was a symbol for a generation. I’m “talkin’ ‘bout my g-g-g-g-generation. Those guys , the Who, were there, too — 32 acts in all — and nearly 500,000 souls who braved the rain, mud, lack of facilities, and in spite of it blissed out on three days of peace and music and love. I have it on good authority that no one did a chart at the time of the festival. We will remedy that here. The chart is below (bigger):
Before we get into the chart, let’s set the scene. A chart out of context isn’t much use to anyone. Woodstock took place from 15 – 18 Aug 1969. In that year the Vietnam War was at its height. Secret peace negotiations began in July of that year. Nixon had just been installed as the 37th US President. Bobby and Martin had been assassinated the year before. Hair had opened on Broadway in that previous year, too. Chappaquiddick happened just before Woodstock. Kent State would happen the year after Woodstock. The Beatles gave their last public performance on a roof in London in 1969. The Soviets landed a probe on Venus. John and Yoko got hitched, had their second Bed-in, and wrote “Give Peace a Chance”.
Further, the gay rights movement started in the US. We walked on the moon. Believe it or not. And during the festival, Camille made landfall in Mississippi. We lost Sharon Tate, and the Manson family became household names, for all the wrong reasons. Monty Python first graced our screens, as did The Brady Bunch and Scooby Doo. The Beatles released Abbey Road and Let It Be, and then broke up. That was a sad day. It was quite a year. There was more that happened that year, too, but this gives us an idea of the mood in the US at the time. We needed peace and love and music then. Still do.
Woodstock was billed as “An Aquarian Exposition”. Before you ask, no the Moon was not in the 7th house of the chart and Jupiter was not aligned with Mars, nor peace guide the planets, nor did love steer the stars, not so we would know, anyway. Truth be known, peace always guides the planets, but divine Will steers the stars. We’ll leave that for another time, though. However, Venus was in the 7th house in Cancer and sextile to Mercury, pointing to the word going out far and wide and the overwhelming response to the event.
Venus rules the 5th house in the chart, which in turn rules concerts. It also rules the 10th house (the public face of the event). With Venus ruling those houses and well-aspected, Woodstock was always going to be as it was billed – three days of peace and music. And it may interest you to know the Sabian symbol for the degree occupied by Venus:
- In a sumptuous dining hall guests relax after partaking of a huge banquet (14 – 15 Cancer)
We’ll have more on those symbols in a bit.
So, was Woodstock an Aquarian exposition, as it was billed? You betcha! The chart bears it out. The first thing we notice is a Jupiter/Uranus conjunction (both of them rule Aquarius) elevated in the 9th house. And they form a midpoint structure with the horizon of the chart. The ninth house rules international affairs, with a few attendees from other countries, but it has spawned spinoff festivals internationally since. However, the real impact of Woodstock was in the belief systems in the US, belief systems also ruled by the 9th house.
The 9th house in particular rules beliefs, ideals, dreams, vacations, recreation and love affairs while on vacation, published writings and long-distance travel. It also rules the judiciary and religion in general. The Jupiter/Uranus conjunction itself has been called the “Thank the Lord!” conjunction, as it represents the release of inner tensions, at which point people are frequently heard to exclaim those quoted words. The midpoint structure Asc=Jupiter/Uranus describes shared happiness with others and the ability to shape one’s environment according to one’s wishes. It is a combination of factors that simply oozes Aquarian values – group activities, shared experiences, an eye to the future and universal brotherhood. Woodstock was all of that. But it also changed the way America viewed itself, its youth, rock & roll, its values and probably most importantly, brought more or less a definitive end to the conservatism that had characterized American society up to that point.
The Sabian symbols for the chart are most interesting, in addition to the midpoint. For the Ascendant, we have:
- A group of people outfitting a large canoe at the start of a journey by water. (3 – 4 Cap)
For the Midheaven we have:
- A man becoming aware of spiritual forces surrounding and assisting him (27 – 28 Lib)
For the Sun we have:
- In a circus the bareback rider displays her dangerous skill (22 – 23 Leo)
And finally, for the Moon we have:
- A lion tamer displays his skill and character (22 – 23 Vir)
The most important of the four are the Ascendant and Midheaven, as they describe the purpose and the public perception of the event. Woodstock symbolized an emotional journey and stood as a vehicle for the expression of a generation (the canoe and the water). And it was a BIG canoe. It also provoked changes in attitude for the entire nation. Attitudes toward the Vietnam War were souring quickly, with troops around that time becoming openly rebellious and evading combat situations. Enlistment had dropped radically, especially among officer corps. Protests against the war escalated sharply the following year after the invasion of Cambodia. The Vietnam Moratorium took place a few months after Woodstock. And that brings up the symbol for the Midheaven.
Woodstock took place at the height of the counterculture movement in the US. Astrologically this was signaled by the Uranus/Pluto conjunction in the mid-60s – out with the old (Pluto), in with the new (Uranus). That was also sextile to Neptune, and it marked a period of strong spiritual renewal worldwide. That combination marked the rejection of ‘50s values and the conservatism of the times, the expanding Civil Rights Movement, the sexual revolution and with the advent of the birth control pill becoming widely acceptable and available, the Women’s Movement, and a rejection of materialism. It was also strongly anti-war.
The period was also marked by the movement of Sedna into Taurus, which was at the 2nd degree of Taurus at Woodstock. The Sabian symbol is described as, “An electrical storm”. It certainly was a stormy period and was one of the most potent periods of social change in recent history. Woodstock was also came as a shock to the establishment in the US. And it changed the character of the US (and many other nations, too). But there is a particular point to note regarding Woodstock and spiritual awareness.
The consciousness that was coming through the younger generation in the late ‘60s gave birth to the New Age Movement in the early ’70s. The major media at the time was pretty jaundiced in its reporting of the ‘Aquarian Exposition’, not quite ready for a more Aquarian approach. But they quickly changed their outlook when they saw that close to a half-million ‘kids’, as they called them, could come together and not have a major incident, nor any violence. And we may not realize it, but rock & roll received little coverage in the US media (there was no social media at that point) prior to the event. Afterwards there was an literal explosion of coverage, especially when the major media outlets of the time realized they were missing out on something big, and that there was a buck to be made in the process. But their reporting of the event itself, sparse-to-nonexistent as it was, was less than salubrious.
The media of the time chose to focus on the drug use, the lack of facilities, the ‘filth’ of the place – it rained frequently and the venue was covered in mud – along with the trash after the event, those damn hippies and their loose values (“wild kids having sex”), and so forth. It puts one in mind of major media coverage today of anything that runs against an accepted mainstream narrative. But how much of what was reported was true?
There was widespread and unhindered use of drugs throughout the event, indicated by the Sun/Neptune square in the chart. Various accounts I have read told that the police turned a blind eye to it. Actually, the off-duty police who had been hired by producers had to agree to not hassle kids smoking pot or they would not get the job at the show. So, they had to turn a blind eye. What else could they do? Drug use was commonly focused upon by the media at the time as one of the more ‘damning’ aspects of the exposition.
There were was one death, and that was in an adjacent field, not on the Festival grounds. A young man went to sleep under a tractor and lost his life when the tractor was moved. It was tragic. They never did find out who caused that one. But the fact that there was such widespread drug use, but no violence, points to the character of the people there – they just wanted to bliss out and listen to music with their community. That was the 11th house placement of Neptune in Scorpio, sextile to Pluto. The 11th house is called the house of friends, hopes and wishes. Neptune in the 11th – gettin’ high with a little help from my friends.
Neptune rules drugs, but it also rules the blurring of boundaries and bliss. It entered Scorpio in 1957, when the first hints of the sexual revolution began to appear. People began to question all sorts of sexual mores and what it meant to be a sexual being when Neptune transited through Scorpio. The Sun/Neptune square in a personal chart can cause all sorts of problems related to a lack of a sense of boundaries, self-deception and belief in things that are way ‘out there’. But in a setting such as Woodstock, it actually served as a help, to break down the boundaries between the people there and the community, as evidenced by the 11th house placement, as well as between generations.
The other prime favorite of media scrutiny concerned what many considered the inadequate numbers of portable toilets and food. No one involved expected 500,000 folks, so whatever plans for sanitation and food to handle the situation were further hampered by the inability to get to the site, because the NY throughway was closed due to traffic heading to Woodstock. But, where else were you going to find the range and quality of performers for 6 bucks a day, or $18 for all three days/$21 at the gate? Even by today’s figures, adjusting for inflation, that’s a bargain! But facilities are ruled by the 4th house, and Saturn is in the 4th house of the chart – limited resources. Of interest, the Sabian symbol for the 4th house cusp reads, “A large audience confronts a performer who disappointed their expectations.” It wasn’t the performers who disappointed expectations, but the facilities certainly were disappointing.
There were shortages of food. And other accounts I read also said there was a lack of medical care, but that was not true either. There were no overdose deaths, as there were plenty of medical people there and the Hog Farm helped with handling the drugs. But, sanitation was challenging and poor, and the governor of New York threatened to send in 10,000 national guardsmen in response, while the Sullivan County commissioners declared the county a disaster area. It almost was a disaster, but the governor was dissuaded in the end. Instead, a bit of magic happened. The surrounding community responded and rose to the occasion. Communities are ruled by the 11th house and Neptune.
Personnel at the nearby Air Force base helped with order and airlifted performers in and out of the venue. Attendees shared everything. The Women’s Group of the Jewish Community handed out 30,000 sandwiches to concert-goers. Food was flown in by helicopter. Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm volunteered their services for security and if needed they used seltzer water and cream pies on anyone who got out of line. They were the festival’s “Please Force”. They also set up a children’s playground, a tent for people having bad drug trips and a free food kitchen. People in the nearby town of Bethel also offered their services.
Things could have been a lot worse. There is a Mercury/Mars square in the chart, which points to arguments, logistical problems and a high nervous energy. One might expect with that square that the atmosphere at the event would have been tense. That it was so laid back was attributed by many to the widespread use of psychedelic drugs. But that discounts the idealism of the people, the music, the community spirit, and in the large was overrun by the midpoint listed first along with the Sun/Neptune square. Of course, the drugs helped, but one has to ask: If that had been 400,000 middle-aged people of the time there with those facilities, how do we think things may have been different? Quite different, we might suppose, and not in a good way. The attitudes of the older generations were reflected in the news media.
If you want a real laugh, but more than that a look at the established culture of the times, have a gander at the news reports about the last day of Woodstock (click on the links):
NBC: Pretty conservative.
CBS (with Walter Cronkite): probably some of the best statements of the three.
And ABC: with comments after about population control (but the ‘kids’ were well-behaved).
Those ‘kids’, those ‘youngsters’ (you don’t hear those words describing the younger generations these days) broke the mold and set an example of what is possible when large groups in close quarters decide to cooperate. Unfortunately, it was a one-off, but the memory lives on. Subsequent events were never so successful in human terms, although financially they went far more successfully. Lessons learned in that respect, I suppose.
And this brings us to the final consideration in the chart. Woodstock was intended to be a money-spinner, a financially successful enterprise. This receives little attention, but it is true. Finances are indicated several places in a chart. But specifically, income from concerts is represented by the 6th house of this chart, ruled by Gemini and Mercury. Mercury is in the 8th house – losses, public income, international banking, outcome of lawsuits, debt and tax collectors. The Mercury/Mars square was not immediately evident at the event, except as it resulted in free admission (losses) and that it can represent disputes and problems over logistics. It came more into effect after the fact, as represented by the trine of Mercury to Saturn in the chart. And that links the money woes for the event itself with its planning and infrastructure. Saturn with any planet brings either late results, results over time or losses. And Woodstock produced all three.
Eventually the organizers of Woodstock realized some of their financial returns, though. But after the event there were 80 lawsuits against Woodstock Ventures (the organizers), mostly by farmers in the area. The event posted an initial loss of 1.4 million dollars, but that was recouped through movie rights and paid off settlements from the suits. The 1970 film, Woodstock, was a box office smash, the highest grossing film of 1970.
The Sun in the chart is in dramatic and charismatic Leo, in the 8th house, and the Sun rules that house. The symbol for the Sun, listed previously, goes to the success of the exposition over the long term, and displayed the skill and daring of the organizers, as well as the performers. But more than that, it displayed the fearless idealism, some would say foolhardy nature of the people who attended, and in the face of what today would be daunting conditions. I would have doubts that something of that nature and magnitude could be pulled off in that manner in our current times. It was indeed a very adventurous event. And the Sun was in the 8th house of death, rebirth and transformation, in addition to the other factors listed previously regarding Mercury in that house. Woodstock transformed the way America and the world viewed a generation, rock & roll and popular culture. The baby-boomers – those who attended – went on to transform the world in their own image.
In summation, although the Moon was not in the seventh house, it did rule that house, the house of partnerships, unions, cohabitation and the public. The Moon rules the public in general anyway, along with women and children, the ‘kids’ who made Woodstock the happening that it was, when all is said and done. They are symbolized in the lion tamer, and they did tame the media and many in the establishment in many ways on over those three days. The man who owned the property – Yasgur’s dairy farm – on whose land cows normally grazed and on which Woodstock took place, perhaps summed it up best in an address to the crowd on the closing day:
He saw Woodstock, “…as a victory of peace and love. He spoke of how nearly half a million people filled with potential for disaster, riot, looting, and catastrophe spent the three days with music and peace on their minds. He stated, “If we join them, we can turn those adversities that are the problems of America today into a hope for a brighter and more peaceful future …” He spoke a big truth there. Sadly, he passed on a few years later. Now a plaque commemorating the event rests on the concert grounds, the site now a historical landmark.
When Woodstock is mentioned among my peers, my generation, it is often accompanied by a nostalgic sigh, with often a mention of a wish to return to that time. People remember the idealism of the time, the adventurous spirit, the bliss that went along with it, and the daring of a generation that overturned the stuffy norms of a time passed and ushered in an era of change that would lead us to where we are today. Now, fifty years after the fact, we stand poised at yet another great turning point in the evolution of our societies, with the norms and ideals of that generation, my generation, being faced by those of the millennials. And the question is, does the spirit that took hold at Woodstock still have relevance, or was it simply a blissful passing moment, an aberration, or a dream that was actually pie-in-the-sky? Does my generation still have the spirit to confront the past and build a better future with the generations to come?
The ‘kids’ of today listen to the music that was played 50 years ago at Woodstock, and they love it just as much as we did, and still do. There is a timeless quality to it, as there is to all good music. I hear a lot of that same music these days in Italy. It is loved the world over. Music has a way of uniting people and breaking down barriers. There have been many spin-off festivals celebrating and in the vein of Woodstock around the world, too. But none of them have matched what was in the air those three days in 1969.
And now, 50 years later there is an attempt at a “Woodstock50”, to be held at Watkins Glenn, NY, and on the 16 – 18 of August. The planners are running into problems, same as happened at the original. The promoters have vowed to see it through, though. Good on ‘em, I say. It won’t be the original. The astrology is nowhere near the same. But then, I’m not in on the planning and have no idea what time it will start. Events like Woodstock happen only once. But many of the same performers that were there in ’69 will play at the 50th anniversary, too. Whatever happens, those three days fifty years ago foreshadow what is possible and eventually will be – a true Aquarian Exposition. We are that much closer now to the Aquarian Age. We will call it our world then, when the Age is fully with us. Until then, well keep playing that rock & roll, soul and folk, and all the great music that has ever been written. May it serve to unite us always, and may it always bring us the bliss and love that it did when we first heard it. Peace and love, everyone!
(Many thanks to Rona Elliot for inspiring this article and for some inside information about the goings-on there)