The Astrological Journal

Christopher Milne: a snapshot

by Sue Tompkins

Christopher MilneI have chosen to write about Christopher Milne not because I admire him particularly but because I have used parts of his chart in a teaching context for many years. There are wonderful questions to tax the mind of enthusiastic astrology students here. How to get one’s head around the seemingly outgoing Sun-Jupiter conjunction in Leo falling in the distinctly not outgoing 12th house? Or how to square the four planets in Leo with Venus-Saturn more or less rising in self-effacing, unassuming Virgo?

Of course, when one knows the story all becomes clear. Christopher Milne is better known as Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh. His conversations with his teddy bear and other stuffed toys were the inspiration for the books.

It is difficult to say which came first. Did I do something and did my father then write a story around it? Or was it the other way about, and did the story come first? Certainly my father was on the look-out for ideas; but so too was I. He wanted ideas for his stories, I wanted them for my games, and each looked towards the other for inspiration.
(The Enchanted Places)

The story goes that in 1923, on a wet holiday in Wales, Alan Alexander “A.A.” Milne started writing verse about his infant son Christopher. The book When We Were Very Young appeared in 1924. It was a best seller and made Christopher Robin a household name. Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928) followed, as did a further collection of verse, Now We Are Six (1927). The books were illustrated by E.H. Shepard, and I would suggest that it was his artwork that sealed their success.

The Sun-Jupiter in Leo fits in neatly with Christopher’s fame and the fact that the first the general public heard about him was via a poem called Vespers where he was saying his prayers. Christopher received sacks of fan mail daily from all over the world. Described at the time as ‘the most famous child in the world’ his identity was hugely inflated. Of those times – the pre-nine school years – he said

I quite liked being Christopher Robin and being famous. There were indeed times . . . when it was exciting and made me feel grand and important.

It wasn’t so long after that, when he was teased and taunted at school (Moon-Mars Scorpio in the 3rd squaring the Sun-Jupiter) that he started to loathe the books. As he got older, trying to get away from his alter ego became his raison d’être. At one point he wrote:

It seemed to me almost that my father had got to where he was by climbing upon my infant shoulders, that he had filched from me my good name and had left me with the empty fame of being his son.

Reading about Christopher it is difficult to hear the buoyant, optimistic, confident (nay, overconfident) person one might expect from Sun conjunct Jupiter in Leo (though one does hear an air of self-importance) but where you do meet it is in the character of Tigger, who couldn’t be more Sun-Jupiter if he tried. Winnie-the-Pooh himself owes much to the conjunction, too, being a generous, warm-hearted bear whose greed results in him being a little too big to get through holes. I believe all the Pooh characters can be found in Christopher’s chart – hardly surprising since, to an extent, he invented them. Eyeore, for example, is to be found in the lack of air (which often results in an individual’s exhibiting something of a voice of doom), and the rising Saturn in ultra-worrisome Virgo. Christopher found it difficult to own his Sun-Jupiter conjunction in Leo and all the need for attention that it implies, but it seems he did own the 12th-house emphasis.

A lot of public figures (e.g. Tony Blair, George Bush, Richard Branson, Margaret Thatcher – if you use equal house) have a 12th-house Sun. One reading of that is that if you are in the public eye you sacrifice something of your own personal identity, the reason being that people view you as they wish to view someone in your particular role and as described by the media perhaps – you acquire something of an alter ego. You also sacrifice a good deal of your personal privacy. The part of the chart described by the Virgo Ascendant and Venus-Saturn is surely descriptive of a child who hears an inner message from those around him which says make yourself small, make yourself useful... the 12th emphasis potentially adds ‘go somewhere where you are behind the scenes’.

Milne chartChristopher’s early life especially was very much behind the scenes; he wasn’t even the major character in the Pooh books. The first nine or ten years of his life were also very solitary until he went to boarding school – as might be expected by the Venus-Saturn conjunction in the 12th. In keeping with middle-class English tradition in the 1920s, Christopher was brought up by a nanny. He was devoted to her, but was taken downstairs to see and play with one or other of his parents for half-hour visits only, rather formally, three times a day. He particularly enjoyed playing with his mother – “playing was something she was good at”. He also became close to his father in his teens, and they shared an interest in cricket and maths. However, Dad was distant and formal and both parents are described as having not much of a clue about parenting and being quite happy to absent themselves from the task.

Christopher was not unloved; if anything he was adored, but he didn’t receive much in the way of physical affection. Venus combined with Saturn may have many virtues, but alongside them there is often an experience of feeling that there are conditions to being loved, especially in terms of one’s behaviour (one has to keep to the rules). The Sun-Jupiter conjunction brings popularity, but not the physical affection that Venus-Saturn craves. Little wonder that one’s relationship with teddy bears and other stuffed toys takes on such huge importance. Focussing on those toys for a moment, one notes that Mercury, the chart ruler, is tightly conjunct Neptune in the eleventh. The eleventh, it seems to me, must be the house of toys especially stuffed animal-type toys, for, amongst other reasons, these are the first close friends that most children make. The Mercury-Neptune shows the fact that Christopher’s words were idealised and distorted, the dividing line between reality and fiction barely existing.

Remembering that Virgo is the sign to associate with craft, skill and technique and with paying attention to detail, it should come as no surprise that Christopher was very good with his hands (the sign Virgo actually rules the hands in the same way that the feet come under the umbrella of Pisces). Virgo rising suggests someone who goes out into the world wanting to be of service, wanting to be useful; but perhaps it is the Venus-Saturn which is the significator of his liking for sewing and knitting, his dismantling of clocks and locks, and his generally making things. He liked repairing objects, and by the age of seven he was calling himself the family’s Chief Mender. In true Virgo fashion, he talks about liking things to function well, to actually WORK! For Venus-Saturn in Virgo, beauty, precision and functionality come together.

Christopher came into his own during the Second World War, in which he spent time in the Middle East and Italy and where his mechanical and woodworking skills were put to good use. He came to dislike war hugely, but it must have brought out the leadership aspect of his Leo planets and the bravery and daring-do suggested by the Mars aspects. The war enabled him to toughen up and distance himself from his past and his parents.

After the war he met, and on 24 July 1948 married, his first cousin (on his mother’s side), Lesley de Selincourt. He also cut himself off almost completely from his parents, who disapproved of the match, partly because the couple were first cousins and they feared the risk of genetic mutations. The marriage endured, and in 1951 the couple opened a bookshop in Dartmouth called Harbour Bookstore. In 1972, Christopher handed over the reins of the shop to Lesley in order to write. He’d always had writing aspirations, but his father was a hard act to follow in terms of drama and fiction. A hugely creative man (Sun conjunct Jupiter in Leo), A.A. Milne was a successful playwright, a regular writer for the then popular magazine Punch, and editor of Granta magazine. Christopher did write five volumes of well-written autobiographical material, some talking of his philosophy of life and all aimed at distancing himself from Christopher Robin. The first two volumes sold well. Perhaps only someone with four planets in Leo (including Mercury) helped by a lack of air could feel self-important enough to be able to write so much about themselves!

The couple had a daughter, Clare, who was disabled with cerebral palsy and went on to run a charity for the disabled – the Clare Milne Trust. For space reasons I have ignored the fact that Uranus is part of Christopher’s t-square, but its aspects may contribute to the disablement, given that the Uranus myth seems to be a story warning of the perils of in-breeding. Uranus is very much the planet of all mutations, deformities and deviations from the norm. Be that as it may, Christopher’s skills with maths, machinery and woodwork came into their own as he was able to make special cutlery and furniture for his daughter for when she was home from school. He said of Clare: she set us an example and taught us a philosophy that parents don’t usually expect to learn from their children. Once he brought home a little vole he’d rescued for her which amazingly entertained her for nearly three years.

toysAs child and adult Christopher felt great kinship with the natural world, a world in which he felt all creatures are equal. He described in The Open Garden (1988) how he had once reared the four heatherbell-like eggs a fox-moth had laid on his finger. He was immensely pleased when he was told he looked the sort of man who would be interested in a caterpillar. He recognised many wild plants. He liked walking outside at night and knew the names of many stars. At one point he fronted a campaign to save Ashdown Forest from oil prospectors. The area was not just the home of Owl and Rabbit, he said, but one of the few areas of outstanding natural beauty in the vicinity of London.

He died peacefully in his sleep on 20 April 1996 in Totnes but had suffered for some time from the neurological disease Myasthenia Gravis (which literally means grave muscle weakness). Mercury-Neptune (or Mercury-Uranus) contacts are common with this disease where messages delivered by the nervous system are misplaced and generally go awry.

All quotes from:
The Enchanted Places, 1974.
The Path Through the Trees, 1979.
The Hollow on the Hill, 1982.
The Windfall, 1985.
The Open Garden, 1988.

Sue Tompkins is known for her best-selling titles Aspects in Astrology and The Contemporary Astrologer’s Handbook. Sue discovered astrology c.1972 when she was nursing. She went on to study psychology and counselling and to become a full-time astrological consultant and teacher. She lectures widely in the UK and around the world including for the London School of Astrology (LSA) which she co-founded in 2000 and for whom she runs annual residential courses. A registered and practising Homeopath, Sue is currently researching medical astrology.

First published in: The Astrological Journal, November/December 2013

© The Astrological Association of Great Britain 2014

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