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THE BIRTH OF A CITY:  CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA

by Gary Brand - written February 16, 2003,
published in the March 2003 edition of Echo* newspaper


Everything has a beginning or "birth" and cities are no exception.  I'm sure you've noticed that cities have different "personalities" just as people do, so it follows that a city has a "birth" chart just as people do.  After all, you may just love a particular city but a friend or significant other feels completely different about the same city.  Hence, cities have their own uniqueness just like people and, by comparing your birth chart with that of a particular city, much can be gleaned about your success, happiness, relationships, health, finances, home life, career, and other areas of your life while you are in that city (even if you live outside the city limits, the city still impacts on your life through work, shopping, social life, etc.).  This is the best way (aside from visiting) to anticipate how much you would like or dislike a city as a potential future home.

What event signals the birth of a municipality?  As I point out in my first book about the birth of self-government in U.S. cities, a community really comes together as a cohesive unit when it becomes self-governing, usually when it is first incorporated.  To read the rationale for not using an "establishment" or "founding" date as the birth date of a city, click here.  To read what constitutes the birth of a city, see Gary's commentary "When a Municipality Is Born."  An important method of testing this supposition is to compare the incorporation chart with the dates of subsequent significant events.  Although Moore claims that Charlottesville was incorporated by the same law that established it on December 23, 1762 (J.H.M., p. 29), this is not true.  At that time, there were virtually no residents, the town wasn't even laid out, and the law passed that day contained no authorization for local government of any kind (I have read it).

However, this is the only date to use to construct a chart for Charlottesville (top left) when examining events prior to incorporation in 1801, such as the one-day occupation of the town by British troops on June 4, 1781, an important date in the community's history.  Although there were skirmishes with colonial militia, the British destroyed military supplies during the raid, and Governor Thomas Jefferson and most of the Virginia legislature escaped capture, the worst damage done was the destruction of irreplaceable county records (Id. at p. 65).  When comparing the 1762 chart to the date of the British occupation, the unmistakable signatures for this loss are there - Mercury symbolizes records and it was heavily assaulted by transits:  a conjunction by transiting Saturn (significant loss) activated by oppositions from the transiting Sun (an outside force) and Venus (thankfully, they didn't burn the town).

When Charlottesville was first incorporated as a town by the legislature on January 19, 1801, it only contained about 45 houses (Id. at p. 92).  This date served as the "birthday" for Charlottesville until its birthday changed to March 2, 1888, the day it was incorporated as a city (more about this later).  Because the time of day that these incorporation acts were passed are unknown, an arbitrary time of noon is used to calculate the positions of the planets and houses are irrelevant and are not shown.  A significant aspect in the 1801 chart (middle left) is the Mars-Saturn square, meaning that impulsive actions (Mars) are discouraged (Saturn) and, in its over 200 year history, the town has never suffered a true conflagration (Mars), as many old cities have.  Selfish ambitions (Mars) are tempered (Saturn) and few (if any) projects are accomplished quickly (Mars) or without planning and much deliberation (Saturn).  This aspect is part of the reason that this is such a peaceful place (aggression is thwarted) and it is a major reason that Charlottesville is never became an industrial center like Richmond (Saturn inhibits Mars - manufacturing).

The 1801 Charlottesville chart has both Sun in Capricorn and a T-square to Saturn, significations of the importance of government officials, and this city is certainly associated with national figures, including Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe who lived nearby and Teddy Roosevelt who bought a hunting lodge nearby that was a favorite retreat during and after his presidency.  Venus and Pluto in Pisces attracted Pisces-natured, compassionate and caring people but also those with eclectic, reclusive and eccentric traits.  This chart also has a powerful Sun-Jupiter opposition, foreshadowing the birth of the University of Virginia (UVA) 17 years later and symbolic of the integral link between the University and Charlottesville's identity and economy (Jupiter is higher education, the Sun is the town's identity).  The chart of UVA is based on it's incorporation and the comparison of it to the 1801 Charlottesville chart very favorable.  In fact, Sun, Venus and Saturn in the UVA chart are conjunct Venus in the 1801 Charlottesville chart, meaning that there was and is a "love affair" and an integral link between the city and the University, especially in the arts.  Additionally, Mercury in Charlottesville's 1801 chart is conjunct Jupiter in the UVA chart, which indicates the openness of the University to the community, including allowing non-student residents to check out books and attend free-admittance events on campus.  More about the city and UVA relationship later.

On March 3, 1865, near the end of the Civil War, the mayor of Charlottesville surrendered the town, without a shot fired, to George Custer.  At that time, the only stressful aspects in the town's chart were a square from Saturn to the town's Sun-Jupiter opposition.  This meant some humiliation and frustration (Saturn) for the town but the leaders (Sun) were wise (Jupiter) to humble themselves, because Custer and his men moved on after only two days, Charlottesville being of neither strategic nor political significance (Mars square Saturn in the town's chart).  Elwood said, "even though Charlottesville residents cast no votes for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 election, there was little support for secession" (M.A.E., p. 12).  The fact that Charlottesville escaped virtually any damage during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars (and many battles were fought in Virginia in both wars) is testimony to the Sun-Jupiter opposition, the Sun-Saturn mutual reception, the Mercury-Venus sextile (all are lucky or fortunate), and even the Mars-Saturn square (Mars is battles and warfare and Saturn is restraint, caution and prudence).

The next big event in the life of the town was the day it was incorporated as a city, on March 2, 1888 (see the above chart).  In the lives of most municipalities, the transition from town to city is symbolically equivalent to the transition of a person from childhood to adulthood, with the assumption of certain attendant, adult rights and privileges.  However, in Virginia the transition from town to city is of greater import than in any other states because Virginia cities are totally autonomous of their surrounding county.  They are equivalent to counties in that they are primary divisions of the state, like counties, and the Census Bureau treats them as such (therefore, Charlottesville is not part of Albemarle County even though it is the county seat).  Because of this distinction, it makes sense to treat Charlottesville's incorporation as a city like a "rebirth" and to look at all subsequent events in the history of the city in comparison to the city incorporation chart.  Interestingly, transiting Pluto was precisely square Pluto in the town's chart (transformation) on the day it became a city.  I can't help but mention that I moved here in large measure because the Sun and Mercury in my chart are conjunct the city's Sun and Mercury in Pisces, the Moon in my chart is conjunct the city's Moon in Scorpio, Venus in my chart is conjunct the city's Venus in Aquarius, Saturn in my chart is conjunct the city's Saturn in Leo, and the city's Jupiter is conjunct the Midheaven in my chart.

The personality of this city is multifaceted.  With Sun conjunct Mercury in Pisces, it is very eclectic in its makeup and these planets are indicative of the annual hosting of the Virginia film festival.  Jupiter in Sagittarius opposite Pluto in Gemini is symbolic of the power of wealth behind the scenes in city politics and of the annual festival of the book celebrated this month.  Amazingly, the 1888 chart has a Mars-Saturn square like the 1801 chart (see previous paragraphs for meaning).  With Venus in Aquarius, the city has an interesting mix of people and an active social and artistic life.  Many different artistic and personal expressions (Venus) are not only tolerated but encouraged.  This Aquarian Venus (and the Pisces planets) makes this a politically liberal and progressive city and it means that there is an openness and permissiveness toward unconventional relationships here.  The city's fairness, friendliness, and open-mindedness are traits of Venus in Aquarius and this, along with Sun and Mercury in Pisces (peace), are symbolic of the passage, on February 3, of a resolution by the city council against the war with Iraq (at a time when transiting Jupiter opposes and transiting Neptune conjoins Charlottesville's Venus and all three planets symbolize peace).

The city also has a Moon-Venus square, indicative of the many restaurants with gourmet desserts and other businesses catering to our culinary indulgences like gourmet chocolates, pastries and a plethora of other artery-clogging goodies.  There is also a passion for the arts - poetry, music, dance, paintings, sculpture - and an over-abundance of banks.  A downside to this aspect is gullibility, sentimentality and a vulnerability to manipulation, especially by land developers.  The importance of the University of Virginia is indicated by Mercury in Pisces (Jupiter's sign) and Jupiter in its domicile, Sagittarius (Jupiter is higher education).  The University of Virginia was incorporated on March 1 so it has a birthday just one day before Charlottesville each year.  Saturn and Venus in the University's chart conjoin Charlottesville's Sun; the Saturn contact means that the University gets what it wants from the city (often by saying they have to have what they want) but the Venus contact means the city loves the University anyway, and vice versa.

A rare tragedy in the life of this city was the Rotunda fire on October 27, 1895, said by some to be the worst fire in the city's history, for it destroyed most of the over 50,000 books in the University of Virginia Library at that time.  Transiting Saturn (losses) was conjunct the Moon in the city's chart and square the city's Venus (sadness and grief), transiting Uranus (surprise and upheaval) was square the city's Mercury (books), and transiting Pluto (destruction) was in a very powerful square (tribulation) with the Sun (identity) in the city's chart.  The fire itself was indicated by transiting Sun (heat), Mars (fire, energy) and Mercury (excitation) conjunct the city's Mars (fire potential).
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Reference Citations.

*Echo is a monthly newspaper about community, the environment, health, cuisine, and spirituality that is distributed in central Virginia.
Good Timing and Location are Keys to Success

Gary Brand, Traditional Astrologer
Tallahassee, Florida
850-656-5758


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