Following on our discussion of frontier icon Annie Oakley, let’s look at another famous-in-her-lifetime figure of the Wild West, Martha Jane Canary or Cannary, better known as ‘Calamity Jane.’ I’ve already discussed Jane’s strong and unique manifestation of the Chiron energy in ‘Chiron in the Natal Chart’ http://dogandsunflower.wordpress.com Her birth data is seriously in dispute in terms of date and even year, though the place is not, but I chose to distill what is reliably known, including from her own remarks, and rectified her birth to May 1, 1852 3:59:24 LMT at Princeton, Missouri USA, with the event that drew my attention to her in the first place being her death within spitting distance (certainly a Jane-appropriate image!) of her Chiron Return.
In many ways Jane’s early life was a mirror opposite to Annie’s; Jane lost her mother at age thirteen and her father soon after, but even before the paternal death some accounts contend that she was literally abandoned by her struggling (and insensitive) father and brothers in Virginia City, Nevada. When her parents were alive Jane was barely able to attend school, spending her time instead caring for her many siblings (which she tried to continue to do after both the mother’s and father’s deaths), and though, like Annie, she learned to ride and shoot in childhood, she was very much on her own by adolescence, often working in whorehouses (likely as a cook, some say as a prostitute), moving from town to town, still dressing and living conventionally as a female.
There is some speculation that Jane suffered sexual abuse at many points in her early life, and this is bolstered by her own cryptic remarks later in life; it’s not unreasonable to see her flight to male attire and manners as a way to protect against such attentions. We know that she adopted male frontier dress when she broke once and for all with what remained of her family; this is also the time when she began to work as a scout for the US Army, and shortly thereafter her first major exhibition of bravery and skill came to light, when she swooped in on horseback and plucked up her commanding officer who had fallen from his mount in the midst of an Indian skirmish. It was widely acknowledged that without Jane’s rescue he would’ve been killed; it was the episode that began her legend, and is in character very similar to other instances when Jane went forward into dangerous circumstances in order to aid others. Other examples include her willingness to nurse the ill during a virulent epidemic in Deadwood, and seeing an out-of-control stage being chased by pursuing hostiles, climbing aboard at full speed, and guiding the coach into the next station, saving both passengers and the day’s mail shipment–and staving off attack by her unusual dress, once the pursuers recognized her–let me explain.
Jane’s man-costumes and cuss-like-a-cowboy mannerisms may have brought her ridicule and rejection by the society in which she grew up, but afforded her an unusual protection when traveling the plains and mountains of the West. Native tribes typically recognized those we would today term gay or transgendered as specially in touch with the unseen–it was considered a gift to have the body of one sex but the strong spirit of the other–and Jane was viewed this way, simply by her choice of clothing and her behavior. The Native Americans perceived her as someone who was not to be confronted or violated in any way, a kind of emissary for the spirit world who must be allowed to move about and act at will; as a consequence, the only violence or violation she experienced on her travels came from the society that made her, not the ones indigenous to the territory.
We don’t know whether she liked the ladies, but we do know she liked the men– in particular, the love of her life, Wild Bill Hickok, to whom she claimed to have been married, and with whom she claimed to have had a daughter, who was given up for adoption. This is widely disputed, particularly by those who want to keep Hickok’s image as squeaky-clean as possible; I tend to believe the claim, if only because it was one thing she stuck to and didn’t embellish. It seems to me a singular piece of truth, if one proclaims the fact of a relationship and offspring in the face of displeasing the very person on Earth (Hickok, in her case) you most love. The reality is that Hickok was a drunk himself, one who had even less success at making a living in his chosen profession (cards) than he would admit; his days as a gunslinger were long gone by the time he met Calamity, and it’s possible the two were together even as he publicly disavowed any relationship–after all, a marriage and child with a notorious alcoholic who violates every social rule of conduct isn’t the kind of thing Bill would’ve seen as glamourizing the ‘gentleman sharpshooter’ image he cultivated.
The Dude who captured Jane's heart: Wild Bill Hickok
Jane had a second child later, with her late-in-life, much younger husband; this child was another girl who Jane kept but saw little of, boarding her with a family while she continued to roam the West. Eventually she joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, but after many appearances dead drunk (and many disasters created in towns they visited) Jane was fired. She also worked for the Army, as a bullwhacker (one who drives a team of oxen using only a whip and their voice), and was for hire in a variety of capacities–and she made some money from a series of brief memoirs, and as well appeared as a character in many ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ of the era, pamphlet-novels of people and adventures of the American West.
Now honestly, doesn’t the nickname ‘Calamity’ clue you in that this person was in some major way chaotic? There’s even dispute about how she got this name in the first place, and it’s symptomatic of the way the facts of her life have been lost and distorted in Jane’s own unreliable reporting and the mythos building of any sparsely populated, wild, exciting venue where tall tales are a natural outgrowth of the loneliness and challenges of the environment. Jane, like all of us, seems to have dealt with her internal experiences and external interactions in the best way she knew how–and in her case, obscuring matters (Neptune) as well as being a one-of-a-kind (Uranus) seems to have met her needs in the best way she could manage.
For Jane, the Saturn/ Uranus conflict of energies we mentioned earlier does begin to explain things: they are conjunct each other in the 1st in Taurus, giving us a picture of wholly disparate inclinations–following the rules v. rebellion, individuality v. conformity, structure v. anarchy–that must be acted out physically by the individual (Earth placement, 1st House). These two also sit conjunct Pluto, Mercury, and the Sun, making for a complex that shows a powerful (Pluto) need to communicate (Mercury) the Soul (Sun) intents materially (Taurus)–this suggests that Jane very deliberately chose the messages she sent–there was nothing accidental about her path or her behavior.
What we may find even more striking, though, as we inspect her chart is that there are a number of ‘tells’ here that let us know a great deal about both the inner state and the importance of relationships to Jane–the Uranian independence and rebellion against reality (all Uranus/ Saturn conjunction effects) she exhibited hid a strong sensitivity to others. For starters, we have Libra on the 7th, as well as a Libra Moon; and yet there is also a Jupiter in Scorpio opposition to the Sun–did Jane feel both a need to transform herself in order to have a role in society, and society’s sting because of it? And this accompanied by the emotional need to connect with others, a literal need to interact (Libra). With placement of Jupiter in the 7th plus the opposition to the Sun/ Soul, it might have been very easy for her to project injury onto the social sphere, but with Jupiter ruler Pluto in the 1st conjunct the Sun, we see an energy closed circuit that fed a feedback loop that featured Soul needs v. society, at the very least inclining her toward change/ destruction of the Self in order to fit into society (and yet remain both separate from and rebellious toward–Uranus in the 1st).
We have seen, in the Libra connections, that Jane had a very basic need for relationship; we have many more relationship clues here, though, of a much more personal and definitive nature: Libra ruler Venus is in the 3rd in Gemini (need to communicate, to share and communicate love) sesquiquadrate Earth (the Material Purpose and the love and acceptance urge are continually trying to adjust to each other, unsuccessfully), conjunct Pallas (the natural inclinations as a woman are wise and should be followed, if they could only be known, see square to Sedna), and opposed Chiron (unconscious projection of hurt as coming from without; also the tendency to believe others may carry Chirotic skills that are actually her own). Venus is also square Sedna; could there be a more obvious indicator of one who doesn’t know what love really feels like, who doesn’t know her own worth as a woman? Jupiter conjunct the Earth means that every material encounter is likely to be not only exaggerated, but to carry the aura of being representative of the social order–something we know from the Sun/ Jupiter opposition Jane felt alienated from.
With Mars in Leo Jane’s ideal man was someone who put himself center stage–this fits Hickok–and with Juno exact conjunct Neptune at 10 Pisces in the 12th, Jane may have been totally deluded about what was truly empowering to her; as well, the partner image, shown by the sign opposite Juno, suggests that a man who was critical and judgmental may have felt ‘right.’ Pisces and the 12th probably only contributed to the tendency to long for connection and yet sabotage it through her feelings of rebellion and separateness. Finally we should note Chiron in Capricorn, opposed Venus, square the Moon (emotional hurt as a ‘given’ in life), trine Pluto (fueling the Self-destructive urges), Uranus (rebellion from hurt!), Saturn (conformity hurts too!), and Mercury (communication as wounding instrument)–though all of these in contact with Chiron could also promise support to the Capricorn-themed skills, once awakened. Chiron also makes a wide quincunx (more than 1.5 degrees, less than 2) to Zeus, which suggests that, at least mentally and emotionally (and perhaps stemming from early life sexual violations) Jane was continually adjusting to the sense of assault, and the ambitious wilfulness, of someone like Hickok, to her own detriment.
Jane was, if we look below the surface, a romantic, and a brave one, willing to risk her own well-being to accomodate the needs of others, though this caring attitude was carefully and deliberately hidden under confusion, Self-destruction, and personal discord. Where Jane was a maelstrom of emotion and conflicting attitudes, Annie was even-keeled, persistent, buttoned-down; the estimation of which set of choices is superior rests with whether you see freedom (and consequent rejection) as preferable to constraint (and consequent acceptance), or whether the discipline of Annie would’ve seemed stifling, and quickly made you want to join Jane in howling at the Moon.
Next, the quiz! And thank you for being so patient–unexpected challenges have made it tough for me to work on the blogs as much as I’d like (though this post was almost finished when I lost most of it about three days ago–it took me that long to get back to it!) but I should be around more often in days to come.
Picture is historical and widely available on the internet.