Guernica is the name for one of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso’s most famous paintings, a town in the northern part of the Basque region of Spain, and the name of an important battle of the Spanish Civil War that took place there.
The Spanish Civil War was a conflict between the troops led by Francisco Franco and the recognized Republican government of Spain. The troops led by Franco, who had been on duty in the Spanish colony of Morocco, attempted to take over the Spanish government. The Soviet Union (Stalin) backed the existing government and Germany (Hitler) and Italy (Mussolini) backed the Franco faction. In much the same way that in the present day certain countries back the rump government in Venezuela even though it is not the recognized government, certain countries backed the rump government in Spain in the Thirties.
If we look briefly at the chart of Francisco Franco, the Spanish leader most closely connected with the Spanish Civil War and leader of Spain until his death in 1975, we see he was born under a full moon and under the strong Neptune-Pluto conjunction that so colored the early Twentieth Century. And in fact his Moon is conjunct those two planets, showing that he was a manifestation of the energies of those two outer planets. He was a strong man who would leave his mark on the Twentieth Century.
Since the United States did not want to takes sides in the Spanish Civil War, while many members of left wing organizations did, there was formed what was called the Abraham Lincoln Brigade of volunteers from America who fought on the Republican side. America itself, under President Franklin Roosevelt, remained neutral. Many who became famous later were involved in covering this war, such as Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gelhorn (who later would marry Hemingway), George Orwell, and Robert Capa. Martha Gelhorn was such an important journalist of the Twentieth Century that a prize bearing her name has been awarded since 1999. The winner of the prize in 2011 is someone who is now imprisoned in a prison in Britain for doing journalism, Julian Assange. That fact alone shows how the respect for journalists had fallen in this century.
The Spanish Civil War broke out in the evening of July 17, 1936, after the details of the attempted coup were discovered prematurely. The coup leader was Francisco Franco, who was associated with the Falange Party of Spain.
Here is a chart for the start of the Spanish Civil War that evening. The time is early evening and it is set in the capital of Spain. There are a number of interesting aspects. First it is just before a New Moon, which would happen in less than a day. That phase of the lunar cycle has been compared (The Vision by W.B.Yeats) to the fool in Tarot, the suggestion of new beginnings. And the Spanish Civil War is often seen as the true beginning of the Second World War. The Sun is conjunct Pluto, again emphasizing transformation on this day, though “transformation” is not always in the direction that we would like. Uranus is at the lowest point, opposite the Midheaven: hidden changes happening now. And there is a triple conjunction of Moon, Mercury and Mars at the Descendant: Violence and publicity at this location.
The most famous battle of the Spanish Civil War was in Guernica in the Basque region of northern Spain. This took place about nine months after the start of the War — conception to birth in other words. Guernica was a town at that time of about 5000 people. Monday, the day of the attack, was a market day in the town so more people would be outside. There were about 250 people killed in the raid, but what was most notorious was the brutality of the attack. The air assault was carried out by allies of the Nationalist Party, Germany and Italy. The planes of those two countries attacked the town starting at about 4:30 in the afternoon of April 26, 1937. Since it was a civilian town that was attacked, this was considered controversial and a war crime since never before had civilians only been attacked, but it was to become more common in the ensuing World War II. The first wave of planes dropped 550 pound explosives to destroy the buildings. After that came planes dropping incendiary devices burning at temperatures to 2500 degrees Celsius.
The chart for the beginning of the assault on Guernica which started at 4:30 in the afternoon shows Pluto elevated in the Tenth house. Pluto was on the Midheaven about an hour later when the bombing was at its height. The bombing of Guernica took three hours. Of course, since Pluto transits the MC in any location once a day, this is not terribly unique. Saturn had just set as the bombing commenced; the most prominent aspect is the Jupiter opposition Pluto, suggesting a wealth (Jupiter) of transformation (Pluto), though the transformation was not the type that would occur to one. The Guernica attack on civilians was precedent setting at the time, and that type of attack would set the pace for many of the attacks of the upcoming World War Two, as well as future campaigns up to the present day. Drone attacks are notorious for the number of civilians who are killed.
Spanish artist Pablo Picasso was well known at the time. He had been commissioned to paint a mural for the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair. Living in Paris, he heard the news of the bombing almost immediately. He had difficulty deciding on a subject before the horror of Guernica happened, but after the attack he knew immediately what he would paint. As soon as May 1 he had preliminary sketches of what the final work would look like.
Picasso was born about a decade before Franco. The upcoming Neptune Pluto conjunction is 15 degrees from exact. Picasso has a close Mercury-Jupiter opposition which suggests a wealth of ideas, demonstrated with the many forms of painting he moved through, most famously cubism which he developed with French artist Georges Barque. What stood out for me was the close Sun-Pluto triseptile. Septiles — seventh harmonic aspects – are associated with creativity and inspiration, and Picasso was famous for his creativity.
The transits at the time Picasso first conceived of the painting of Guernica — about one week after the bombings — show transiting Mercury opposite his natal Mercury and thus energizing that natal Mercury Jupiter opposition. There is a transiting Sun-Uranus conjunction, which speaks of sudden insights or flashes of brilliance, and this conjunction falls on Picasso’s natal Saturn, suggesting that there will be a concrete and long-lasting result from this blast of inspiration. This mural is considered one of the Twentieth Century’s most profound statements on the destruction and brutality of modern war.
Some have suggested that if European countries and the United States had stood up to Hitler and Mussolini at the time, in what was a precursor to the violence of the upcoming war, then Germany and Italy would have backed down, or at least not felt they had the green light to attack other countries, for example Poland in two and a half years.
Picasso said that he did not want the painting shown in his home country until democracy returned, so it was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for a long time. Unfortunately, Picasso died two years before Franco and so the artist was not able to see Guernica shown in his native Spain.
In 1955 Nelson Rockefeller commissioned a tapestry of Guernica since he could not buy the original. It was done under Picasso’s supervision, and has been displayed at the United Nations Building since 1985. But Guernica made news again in 2003. During Colin Powell’s justification for the upcoming invasion of Iraq in front of the UN Security Council, the tapestry of Guernica, which would have been visible in the background of his speech, was mysteriously covered by blue curtain. It would appear that a tapestry depicting the horrors of war would not provide good optics for a speaker justifying an upcoming war, though many excuses were offered for the veiling. So even in the twenty-first century, Guernica shows its power.
By Doug Kellogg, reprinted with permission