Category: Humour

TERRY PRATCHETT’s garden is as full of meandering paths, sudden dead ends and hidden gems as one of his Discworld novels. Copper-hued fish navigate their way through a weed-choked pond, a tray of Venus flytraps sits in a greenhouse that overflows with chillies the length of a child’s arm, and beady-eyed tortoises quietly crouch in a herbarium.

Pratchett himself is slight, dressed all in black. His famously luxuriant beard has been trimmed. His study looks like a medieval chapel, complete with cartoon-like cobwebs and wizardly paraphernalia: there’s a giant bronze lectern, Saturn hangs above a desk, a candle drips into a skull and a cat skulks amongst his papers.

Now 61, Pratchett was knighted this year and has been awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to literature. He is best known for the 37 books set in his fantasy kingdom of Discworld. A flat planet, balanced atop four elephants which are in turn perched upon a giant turtle flying through space, Discworld is like Lord of the Rings 500 years on – humans, werewolves, vampires and goblins live side by side semi-peacefully.”

So begins Sanjida O’ Connell  her recent article on Terry Pratchett in ”’New Scientist”.

Surely, Terry Pratchett, the British Fantasy fiction author, needs no further introduction. After all, he has sold over 65 million books in 35 languages. In the ’90s he was the top selling UK author, and his ” Discworld” series alone- the series that made him famous – consists of 36 + books, but has written many other books, a number of which have become TV films , e.g. ”The Colour of Magic”,and ”The Hogfather”. He has become a Knight of the Order of the British Empire in 2009, for his services to Literature.

His wit is unbeatable, mixed with a good dose of science fantasy, history and lore. And who else, but Terry Pratchett, could have written, or said, things such as the quotes below?

” The trouble with having an open mind is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it ”

” Geography is just Physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it”

”In ancient times, cats  were worshipped as Gods. They have not forgotten this.”

”Education was like a communicable venereal disease – It made you unsuitable for many jobs, and you had the urge to pass it on”

– Let ‘s now look at  Pratchett’s astrological chart –  the time of birth is not known – and see what it can tell us about the attributes of his personality as it has emerged from his books, his interviews , and other events of his life.

Terry Pratchett was born on April 28, 1948, in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, UK. The chart below is his natal Solar chart in the inner circle, with his secondary progressed chart for 2007, when he was unfortunately diagnosed with having posterior cortical atrophy(PCA), arare form of Alzheimer’s disease, that affects first vision and motor nerve activity.

Terry Pratchett-Natal and Sec.Prog.2007

In his natal chart, we see the close conjunction of the Sun with Mercury in Taurus, thus the Mercurial qualities in his work and personality. He published his first story at 13 in the school magazine, was a journalist at first and later concentrated on his books, producing on average two books yearly. This Mercury-Sun conjunction is squared by the very strong conjunction of the three  planets in Leo – Pluto, Saturn , Mars. ( I believe that, although Mars is a  9 degrees away, this is still a conjunction, and thus all its planets are squaring the Sun-Mercury conjunction).

This very strong combination shows his devotion to his writing and the  intensity of it. His books are full of the mystical, the magical and his deep knowledge of all things metaphysical comes up in his work. Death – with a capital D – is a prominent character in many of his books – quite characteristic of a person with this planetary configuration.

Although the exact position of the Moon cannot be known due to the lack of the exact time of birth, it is within the range of  1 to 13 degrees of Capricorn ( 7 degrees shown in the chart), and is therefore in trine to the Sun-Mercury conjunction, showing the harmony within himself and the ease of communication and  excellent wit. At the same time , the Moon is squaring Neptune – and only Moon-Neptune can have such a rich fantasy world.  And Terry Pratchett, with the aid of Mercury ,  so successfully communicates his fantastic creations to large numbers of people through his writings!

The Sun-Mercury conjunction is at 150 degrees ( inconjunct) aspect to Neptune, reinforcing  his ability for  imaginative creations, as well as  being responsible for his ” humanism, both in a sentimental regard for his characters’ good fortune, and in that his writing is generous-spirited and inclusive.” as the ‘Guardian’ writes.

And, of course, Venus, ruler of his sunsign, is in close conjunction to Uranus , and opposition to Jupiter, showing his love of computers, computer games , but also the new and the original, and being an indicator of his great humour.

If we look at the progressed chart of the year 2007, what is most prominent is the conjunction of prog. Mercury and prog. Venus ( Of course, there are other indicators, but I should like to concentrate on this for now). This was , as mentioned above, the year when he was diagnosed, as having PCA. That was following an initial wrong diagnosis of having had a stroke in the last couple of years. Taking into account that the first symptoms are some impairment in vision and motor nerve activity – both Mercury -related activities – Mercury becomes important.

It is also noteworthy that both Mercury and Venus had turned retrograde a few years back. Mercury turned retrograde when he was  44 , in 1992, and Venus a few years before that. This disease is probably one that starts at an earlier stage, is slow  in development, thus it might have started when Mercury became retrograde at 7 degrees of Cancer, in opposition to the natal Moon.

Terry Pratchett announced that he was diagnosed with the disease on Dec.11, 2007. At the time, Transiting Pluto and Jupiter were about to enter Capricorn and oppose the progressed Mercury-Venus conjunction , and transiting Mars had turned retrograde in Cancer, in opposition to natal Moon, close to conjuncting  the progressed position. Terry’s strife had started. He is determined to fight the disease , continue to write his books with the aid of electronic media, and also help other people with the same condition – he has donated one million pounds for the research into the disease to help further investigation into this condition.

And I, amongst the millions of his fans, wish him ‘All the Best’ in his fight, and may he have many more productive years!

‘And now, for something completely different!”

On October 5th, the Monty Pythons team celebrated  the 40th birthday from  their first broadcast on the BBC, with their series ”Monty Pythons Flying Circus”  on October 5th, 1969.

A few years later, as a young student in the UK, even though my English wasn’t very good at the time, I used to watch them and found their show really hilarious! Even nowadays, I still recall many of their sketches and have a good  laugh  by myself. In fact, their style of humour, wacky, zanny, unconventional, call it what you will, was full of vibrant ideas, and the viewer was taken by surprise, never knowing what to expect. Their writing was revolutionary, as it did away with traditional style sketches. It had no punchlines, and often ended abruptly.

Monty Pythons have acquired so many fans worldwide. Their humour is unique and has lasted for so many years as it spans all generations. Their anarchic , groundbreaking style has created the most imaginative comedy on British TV.

Their 40th birthday gave me the idea to look at the astrological signature of the team. It is worth noting here that , on October 5, 1969,at about ”11.00 pm”, as the BBC site mentions as the time of broadcast, there was a stellium of the planets Mercury,Uranus, Sun and Jupiter in wide conjunction in the 4th house, all in wide sextile to the Moon in Leo in the 2nd house – the Moon being the ruler of the Ascendant.

Being a person whose Mercury is aspected by Jupiter,Saturn ,Uranus and the Moon myself, in addition Mercury is the planet closest to the MC,I thought that,if  we are to examine the astrological markers for humour, we certainly need to look at the planet Mercury. The position and aspects of Mercury in the horoscope signify mentality ,speech patterns, communication style,  sense of humour etc. Humour, though, can be expressed differently, and not everybody may find the same things funny.

But what do we mean exactly by the term ”’humour”? Many writers have given definitions for it. For example, Alastair Clarke says that ”humour occurs when the brain recognises a pattern that surprises it, and that recognition is rewarded with the experience of the humorous response, an element of which is broadcast in laughter”.

Arthur Koestler’s basic idea is that the creative act is a “bisociation” (not mere association) which happens, if two (or more) apparently incompatible frames of thought (“matrices”) are brought together by an ingenious mind. In jokes and humour, these conceptual systems are reversed, in the arts and in ritual, they are juxtaposed, in science, they are fused into a new larger synthesis. This corresponds to a “self-assertive” tendency in humour and a “self-transcending” tendency in art, while in science both tendencies are balanced.

In the case of the Monty Pythons’ style humour, it is not at all ordinary and certainly not slapstick. It definitely has the element of surprise, of the unexpected.  We should expect to find a very strong Mercury and aspects to Jupiter in great humourists, as Jupiter gives the joie de vivre and the expanding of horizons needed for one to see the funny side of things.But, that is not enough for the Monty Pythons unique humour : I should expect the anarchic Uranus to be in aspect to Mercury. Uranus is the one giving  the flavour of the unexpected, the original, the unique, even wacky, if you will.


Let us look at the horoscopes of the members of the team, and see the positions and aspects of Mercury:

Starting with Eric Idle:

HOROSCOPE-MontyPythons-Eric Idle

We see that Eric Idle has Mercury in Aries and has no aspect to Jupiter, but they are in Signs squaring each other. Mercury does have a sextile to Uranus, opposition to Neptune and trine to Pluto.

Michael Palin:

HOROSCOPE-MontyPythons-Michael Palin

Michael has Mercury in the sign it rules- Gemini- in conjunction to both Uranus, and Saturn, alll in sextile to Pluto. In addition, it has an open square to Mars.

John Cleese:

HOROSCOPE-MontyPythons-John Cleese

John has Mercury in Scorpio in opposition to Uranus,sextile to Neptune and an open square to Mars, but no major aspect to Jupiter.

Graham Chapman:

HOROSCOPE-MontyPythons-Graham Chapman

Graham (deceased 1989)  had a conjunction of Mercury-Sun in trine to  the Moon and Uranus , and open trine to Jupiter and Saturn. In addition the ruler of his Ascendant ( Capricorn) was in conjunction to Jupiter.

Terry Gilliam:

HOROSCOPE-MontyPythons-Terry Gilliam

Terry has Mercury in Scorpio in sextile to hisVirgo Ascendant and in opposition to Saturn and Jupiter, plus an open square to Pluto. Terry mainly concerned himself with the animations, and his acting roles were supporting ones.

Terry Jones:

HOROSCOPE-MontyPythons-Terry Jones

Terry Jones has Mercury in Aquarius in square aspect to Uranus and Saturn, while Jupiter, although making no major aspect to Mercury, is in Gemini, trining his Sun and Venus.

Having looked at all their charts, we found that all but one – Terry Gilliam – of the Monty Python team members, , have aspects of Mercury to Uranus. This should come as no surprise, as Uranus is related to the original, the surprising, and the unexpected. Mercury in all members of the team is overall heavily aspected. Three have major aspects to Jupiter.Again,  it should not surprise us that in fve out of six members, Saturn is aspecting Mercury. Saturn is always necessary in order to provide the  discipline and hard work required  to put great original ideas into materialisation.

In addition to the Monty Python team, I examined the horoscopes of another six well-known humorist writers/comedians , namely:

( Note that their charts are not shown here, but can easily be found on the Internet )

Writer Douglas Adams ( Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) ,Actor Roberto Benini ( Il Mostro), Comedian Rowan Atkinson ( Mr. Bean and Blackadder), writer Tom Sharpe ( Indecent exposure), Benny Hill ( the Benny Hill show) and writer/director/actor Woody Allen.

I must stress at this point that the above examples examined, by no means constitute a valid statistical study, as a  greater number of  charts of humorists would be required, as well as an appropriate ”control group” .In addition, we have not taken into account in this study other aspects indicative of great humour and/or fame, e.g. MC aspects to Jupiter. Still, the results , I believe, are highly indicative of what we would expect to find in intellligent / witty people.

In all the horoscopes I examined above, I found a combination of planets aspecting Mercury: Jupiter, but also Saturn AND Uranus aspects Mercury. Jupiter shows expansion and optimism in intellectual pursuits, thus gives the proclivity for humour, Saturn gives the discipline, but it is Uranus that gives the urge to open things up, experiment with the new and original, and shows the need to be different from everyone / everything  else , therefore creating the basis for Great Humour- and , most certainly, in the case of Monty Pythons, we were in ” For something completely different” !