Of Hubris and Myth: a Titan(ic) Tale
Updated: Aug 25
More than a century after the Titanic plunged to the bottom of the sea, the luxury passenger liner and its fate still captures public imagination. Named after the Titans of Greek mythology, whose size and strength made them rulers of a primordial earth, the British ship struck an iceberg and sank on 15th April 1912, killing 1,500 passengers. The maritime tragedy has gone from a historical event to an enduring cultural and legendary touchstone. It has inspired countless books, films, and documentaries and has also served as a beacon to the intrepid and the adventurous, to the historian and the scientist alike.
One hundred and eleven years later, we are witnesses to another tragedy: a vessel, whose main purpose was to explore the wreck of the Titanic has suffered a similar fate. As investigators try to understand what went wrong, many are questioning the vessel, known as the Titan, whose reliability has been under scrutiny especially given some of the concerns raised as to its safety. The company behind the “experimental” sub had reportedly been warned about safety concerns but still took passengers to the depths of the North Atlantic.
The sinking of the Titanic served as a wake-up call for the maritime sector and the disaster led to much more stringent laws governing maritime vessels, their safety and capacity to minimise the risks of a sea journey. Former merchant mariner Sal Mercogliano said that “one of the ironies of this whole situation is that two years after the Titanic sank in 1912, all the major shipping nations of the world came together to overhaul maritime safety and avoid another tragedy of its scale.
“They promulgate what's called the Safety of Life at Sea convention that says, ‘hey, you need lifeboats, you need rescue material, you need a 24-hour radio’ … all these provisions that we take for granted today, that are inspected and double-checked,” he said. Mr Mercogliano has suggested modern changes could be prompted by the Titan's demise.[i]
As astrologers, what were the indicators, if any, of the outcome of the Titan’s journey?
The Titan Voyage
The Chart used here is for the time when the Titan submersible started its descent to the wreck.[ii] The first consideration is to look at the Ascendant and the chart has 6 degrees of Leo rising and the ruler of the Ascendant is the Sun in the last degrees of Gemini, in a tight square to Neptune. The Titan was touted as a groundbreaking submersible that could give tourists the extraordinary chance to visit the deep-sea grave of the Titanic, the legendary liner that met its fate in the North Atlantic when it collided with an iceberg in 1912.
The allure of the Titanic was the basis of the appeal in the company’s promotion of its submersible tours of the shipwreck. This allure and romance is mirrored astrologically in the Sun square Neptune, heightening the sense of illusion and romance. Interestingly, this particular aspect is an echo of the same astrological signature in the original Titanic’s maiden voyage chart.[iii] But more of this later.
The Sun as lord of the Leo Ascendant squares Neptune and is in the last degrees of Gemini. It is in the terms of Saturn all of which combine to compromise the Sun’s ability to provide ‘light’ to the direction of the Ascendant. Both Venus and Mars sit with the Ascendant making a statement of desire and drive which colour the reason for this journey of the Titan especially the money and motivation for adventure.
If we look to the dispositor of the Gemini Sun, we find Mercury in Gemini in rulership in the Eleventh house, underlining the strength of support for the journey, and one can also say that it represents the price of the journey with each ‘passenger’ forking out USD$250,000 each for the privilege. Hence, the voyage starts with the ‘gold’ of its passengers, all of them rich and influential as per the Leo Ascendant, the curiosity of the Gemini Sun, and the confidence and control of the Sun’s dispositor Mercury in rulership.
In the Hellenistic tradition, the placement of the Moon indicates the beginning of the endeavour, and the placement of the lord of the Moon indicates the outcome. The Moon in the chart is in Cancer, in the sign of its rulership but in the difficult Twelfth, suggesting that the start of the endeavour promises much but because it is at 0 degrees, it indicates a lack of substance and its placement in the Twelfth indicates that the outcome is tinged with sorrow and difficulty. This placement can also signify that although Titan was supposedly well resourced, there may have been undisclosed, unknown or secret issues. As it has been revealed to date, there were concerns about safety arrangements and doubts over the use of certain materials in its construction.
The Moon is also in an applying trine to Saturn emphasising that the outcome of the event is troublesome and characterised by heaviness, a lack of buoyancy or movement as Saturn is stationary in the Eighth. Additionally, the Moon is also in the terms of Mars, reflecting the risk, challenge and danger that colours the outcome. In the Descent chart, Mars sits on the Ascendant in the First house, indicating the risks and dangers visible but ignored. Again the latest reports in the wake of the tragedy have shown that previous concerns were not taken seriously with one expert commenting that this will draw attention to murky regulations of deep-sea expeditions[iv] especially the lack of certification of the Titan submersible.
Selecting a house that reflects the matter under consideration, we go to the Ninth as this is about a voyage or an adventure to the ‘unknown’ i.e. under the ocean and at significant and unexplored depth. Aries is on the cusp of the Ninth and we find the Aries MC in the Ninth, underscoring the adventurous and risk-taking nature of the voyage, as well as the vision and the idea of ground-breaking endeavours.
The ruler of the Ninth is Mars in Leo in the First, conjunct the Ascendant which is another testimony that emphasises that what is being considered is headed into both adventure and danger.Mars is also in square to Uranus flagging instability and the unexpected which colour the matter at hand.
In order to add more specifics to the judgement of the voyage, we turn to Dorotheus of Sidon, who tells us in the Carmen Astrologicum to:
“... look for the traveler from the Ascendant, and [for] the land which he desires from the seventh, and for the action and for the necessity which he seeks in that journey from the house of government [the tenth], and for the outcome of that matter from the house of the fathers [the fourth].” [v]
Looking to the Ascendant for the traveller, we see Leo and the ruler, the Sun at 26 Gemini in the Eleventh house. This is descriptive of the passengers who were millionaires and explorers, pushing the frontiers of technology and horizons whilst pursuing ideals set around curiosity and scientific exploration. The Sun is in a tight square to Neptune, suggesting that the passengers brought with them their ideals and were perhaps blinded by the allure of the legend of the Titanic, the excitement of adventure and a certain naivety. In fact, there is a chance that they also put their dreams above some of the confusing facts about the safety of the vessel.
The party set out on the support vessel, the Polar Prince, which was used to transport submersibles to the wreckage site, on Friday 16 June at 9:44am [vi] a few hours after the New Moon at 26 Gemini, in the terms of Saturn. The New Moon at the time was also in a tight square to Neptune (Moon 26 Gemini - Neptune 27 Pisces) and Saturn stationary in Pisces suggests a ‘watery’ theme to the period.
Dorotheus then tells us to look at the Seventh to determine the nature of the destination. The Seventh sign is Aquarius ruled by Saturn in Pisces in the Eighth and one could say that their destination is associated with water, and perhaps with an element of peril with the ruler of the Seventh’s placement in the Eighth. Neptune also sits in the Eighth implying that the danger may be unknown or confusing or may be of an ephemeral nature i.e. water, air or gas.
Saturn is in a tight sextiles to Jupiter in Taurus in the Tenth suggesting that the destination is coloured by its size and its prominence. The lord of the Seventh is also ‘blind’ to the Seventh sign and as such describes the destination: the wreck of the Titanic lies at thebottom of the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 4,000 metres under the surface and 740 kilometres from Newfoundland, Canada. The wreck sits in the wilds of the North Atlantic, far from any available assistance and as such, ‘invisible’ to the world at large i.e. out of sight.
The Purpose of the Journey
To determine the purpose of the journey, Dorotheus tells us to look at the Tenth to discover what is being sought. We find Taurus on the Tenth and its ruler Venus in Leo in the First, conjunct the Ascendant and Mars. This suggests that pleasure and challenge define what the passengers were seeking.There is also a sense of excitement and of being on a quest, signified by Jupiter and Uranus, both in the Tenth.Jupiter also aspects Venus by square signifying that the passengers were very much united in their purpose.Venus, lord of the Tenth in the First also tells us that the purpose of the journey was front and centre of the trip.Venus is also in an applying sextile to Mercury enhancing the notion that intellectual curiosity and a thirst for knowledge also underpins this. The passengers were described as “true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world's oceans.”[vii]
The Outcome of the Voyage
The last consideration is to determine the outcome of the voyage. Dorotheus points us to the Fourth and we find Scorpio with its ruler Mars in Leo, in the First conjunct Venus, and square Uranus. This is not very good indicator of the outcome of a voyage as the lord of the Fourth, in spite of being in an angular house and conjunct a benefic, is in a hard aspect to an outer. Uranus signifies uncertainty and instability and the combination of Mars-Uranus is often seen as a signifier of accidents, break-downs or explosions. We now know that the submersible was subjected to an implosion less than two hours[viii] after its descent.
An added point is that Mars in this diurnal chart is the ‘out-of-sect’ malefic and its condition and placement suggest that the venture carries with it both excitement and risk, a dangerous combination. Its prominent position in the First implies that this Martian nature will define the voyage. The South Node is also in the Fourth, disposited by the angular Mars suggesting a ‘diminution’ as the outcome of the voyage.
Looking at the chart, we look to the Moon’s phase and we see that it is a waxing Moon, and although increasing in light is at its most vulnerable stage, the New Moon. The Moon would not have been visible, hence the journey is undertaken in darkness, and in spite of the hope with which a waxing Moon is associated, echoes the notion that there were risks that were either not evident, not acknowledged or simply ignored. The darkness which is the backdrop of the journey is mirrored in the fact that the voyage takes place in the unknown depths of the ocean which is one of the world’s most unforgiving environments with much of it still a mystery.
The Moon’s next aspect is the sextile to Jupiter in Taurus in the Tenth, suggesting that the ongoing feeling was of universal optimism but more importantly, the Moon is in the Twelfth and as Dorotheus tells us:
“If the Moon is in the sixth place or the 12th from the Ascendant, then it indicates that misfortune and pain and misery will happen... on this journey.” [ix]
What we see here is the start of this ill-fated descent has the markings of danger, uncertainty and darkness and as such would had enough signifiers to call for at the very least, caution and consideration with regard to the journey.
Titanic & Titan
The tragedy of the Titan has left many questions unanswered but what is interesting is that the astrology of one disaster is echoed and mirrored in another, over a century later and bound by similar signatures.
The bi-wheel shows some striking similarities which provide some interesting discussion points:
Both charts have a Leo Ascendant and are conjunct within two degrees perhaps signifying the pride of being part of something unique, an undertaking that would bring some level of glory and adulation and also cost a lot of money. Any passenger travelling on either vessel would have had to invest a significant amount of money to enjoy the luxrury and the prestige of either journey.
Both charts carry a Sun-Neptune square[x] suggesting that both endeavours were alluring, appealing and idealistic but also had weaknesses and vulnerabilities. An additional point is that both Suns are in the terms of a malefic[xi], adding a level of danger.
Both Moons are in the terms of Mars[xii] making the Moon as the signifier of the journey and its dispositor signifying the outcome, tied to Mars which in both charts, is the “out of sect’ malefic which is not ideal. Firmicus Maternus[xiii] tells us that Mars ‘out of sect’ produces rashness, separation, physical danger and action without thought of consequences. He tells us that Mars ‘out of sect’ causes perils as a consequence of raw, instinctual actions which cause mayhem and destruction.
Both charts have contacts between each other’s Pluto and the luminaries – Pluto in the Titanic chart conjunct’s the Titan’s Sun and the Titanic’s Moon conjuncts Pluto in the Titan’s chart. This suggests that there is a Plutonic connection between the two events, redolent with drama and crisis, which has certainly come to define both.
Both charts have planets on the North Node – the Titanic chart has the exalted Aries Sun conjunct the North Node and in the Titan chart Jupiter conjuncts the Taurus North Node. One could say that there is a sense of fatedness with both events. The Sun-North Node defines the event as one that is influential and the ‘exalted’ nature of the passengers, the pomp and sumptuousness, as well as the label of ‘unsinkable’, are reflected in the Titanic and her maiden voyage. On the other hand, the Titan’s Jupiter- North Node conjunction describes the fact that this event is defined by the adventurousness and risk-taking nature of the activity as well as its participants. Jupiter in the Tenth also describes the passengers, all of whom were at the top of their professions, their industry or their career as well as being multi-millionaires.
Both charts have an Aries MC disposited by Mars again redolent of adventure, risk-taking and danger and emphasising the importance of the MC as a determinant of the purpose of the journey. According to Firmicus Maternus:
"… in all charts, the MC holds the principal place, and from this we deduce the basis of the whole chart…" [xiv]
Both MC’s are in the Ninth house as both charts are cast in Whole Sign[xv]. This movement of the MC from the Tenth to the Ninth suggests that the focus or goal is away from public recognition or adulation and the outcome of actions is driven by belief and vision. Indeed, the passengers on the Titan shared a love of adventure and exploration echoing Ninth house matters.
These testimonies show that events have connections over time, and as humans the myths that we invoke through name or action, often find ways of manifesting in our lives.
The myth of the Titans is the myth of power: its rightful place and the consequences of acquiring, displacing or losing it. The Titans, also known as the elder gods in Greek myth, ruled the earth before the Olympians overthrew them. The ruler of the Titans was Cronus who was de-throned by his son Zeus. Most of the Titans fought with Cronus against Zeus and when the Olympians triumphed, the Titans were punished by being banished to Tartarus. Tartarus was known as the deep abyss used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked. The name was originally used for the deepest region of the world, the lower portion of the two parts of the underworld, where the gods locked up their enemies. It is a telling metaphor for the deep ocean where both the Titanic and the Titan met their doom and to which they were consigned.
In our modern Titan myth, two vessels, both with the name and claiming power over others, through size, technology or daring, pay the ultimate price, brought down by hubris. The concept of hubris comes from Ancient Greece, and originally, the word was used to describe the character of humans who were so overconfident that they believed they could become godlike. Over time, the English word came to mean a general overconfidence that may be excessive enough to lead to a downfall.
In their own way, both vessels names evoked the concept of ‘larger than life’: in the Titanic’s case she was billed as ‘unsinkable’ and the first-class accommodation was designed to be the pinnacle of comfort and luxury. First class areas were quarantined from steerage by heavy gates which remained locked even after the alarms were raised condemning many poorer passengers to their death. Additionally, life boats on the vessel were inadequate for the number of passengers.
The Titan on the other hand, was a leading light in underwater tourism as no company had plunged into Titanic exploration quite like OceanGate, the company behind the Titan. Its co-founder, Stockton Rush, who died aboard the sub, had said the tours were helping research efforts by documenting the deterioration of the wreck.[xvi] However, he and the company were also accused of ignoring safety advice in favour of technological innovation and scientific imperative. So concerned were maritime experts that a letter in 2018, addressed to OceanGate, accused Rush of falsely advertising Titan as a DNV[xvii]-approved vessel. The letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, said the company's methods were “experimental” and “could result in negative outcomes (from minor to catastrophic) that would have serious consequences for everyone in the industry”.[xviii]
Both events highlight the tragedy of pride and the repercussion of hubris as manifested in their shared Leo Ascendant. As we know, both events bore the hallmarks of pride and perhaps disdain for such ‘mortal’ concerns as safety. Theirs was a belief in the strength and might of science, engineering and technology to overcome any supposed or actual shortcomings associated with the vessel. Both vessels carried those whose wealth bought them the ultimate in luxury, adventure, risk and excitement. The vessels represented the pinnacle of technology and engineering in their respective eras and both promised experiences well beyond the ordinary. Unfortunately, the gods can be unforgiving when humans seek to aspire to be like them.
5th July 2023
Copyright © M Garcia 2023.
[i] Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The Titan submersible mystery unfolded in unimaginable horror but for those on board, it was over in a moment By North America correspondent Jade Macmillan in Boston with Lucia Stein, Lucy Sweeney and Rebecca Armitage. Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-06-24/titan-submersible-voyage-how-the-expedition-ended-in-tragedy/102506466 Accessed: 24/06/23.
[ii] The Guardian. Titan submersible: timeline of vessel’s voyage. Published Fri 23 Jun 2023 06.45 AEST. Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/21/titanic-sub-timeline-titan-submersible-missing-vessel Accessed: 23/06/23
[iii] Time sourced from Encyclopaedia Titanica at http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/list_timeline.php Accessed: 30/06/2023
[iv] Ben Finley, Tourist sub’s implosion draws attention to murky regulations of deep-sea expeditions. AP News. Published 1:38 PM GMT+9:30, June 23, 2023. Source: https://apnews.com/article/titanic-sub-accident-laws-deep-sea-6d1e100f39a46091ae9895706adbcceb Accessed: 1/07/23
[v] Dorotheus of Sidon. Carmen Astrologicum. trans D Pinnigree. Ascella Publications, 1993. Book V, Chapter 21.
[vi] Marine Traffic website. St John, Newfoundland. Source: https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:380909/mmsi:316006460/imo:5329566/vessel:POLAR_PRINCE Accessed: 23/06/23.
[vii] Aimee Pichi. What to know about the 5 passengers who were on the Titanic sub. CBS News. 22 June 2023. Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/who-is-on-missing-titanic-submarine-passengers-hamish-harding-shahzada-dawood/ Accessed: 24/03/23.
[viii] 1.45pm GMT/9.45am ET: Communications between the submersible and the surface vessel are lost 1 hour and 45 minutes after starting its descent. Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/21/titanic-sub-timeline-titan-submersible-missing-vessel Accessed: 24/06/23
[ix] Dorotheus of Sidon. Carmen Astrologicum. trans D Pinnigree. Ascella Publications, 1993. Book V, Chapter 21.
[x] Titanic – Sun 20 Aries square Neptune 21 Cancer; Titan – Sun 26 Gemini square Neptune 27 Pisces
[xi]Titanic Sun 20 Aries in the terms of Mars – Mars in Cancer in Fall in the Twelfth house of the chart; Titan Sun 26 Gemini in the terms of Saturn – Saturn in Pisces stationary in the Eighth house of the chart.
[xii] Titanic 29 Capricorn – Titan 0 Cancer
[xiii] Firmicus Maternus, Ancient Astrology Theory and Practice: Matheseos Libri VIII, trans. Jean Rhys Bram. Book 3, 2; 16-17.
[xiv] Ibid. Book 3, I; 18.
[xv] Whole Sign places the whole sign in each house with the Ascendant still in the First but not defining the beginning of the First house while the MC can be anywhere between the Eighth and Twelfth houses depending on the latitude. This does not change the meaning of the MC, instead it gives an indication as to where in life the realization of goals and ambitions is achieved.