To Have and Have Not: A Strange Case of “Disposo-phobia” (the fear of disposing of things)


The world is often divided into “HAVES” and “HAVE NOTs” – those who envy and desire what the “HAVES” feel is theirs.  In astrology this polarity is reflected in the opposing signs of Taurus and Scorpio, and also in the opposing houses 2 and 8.  The assignment of key phrases to the zodiacal signs serves as a reminder of some of their essential qualities.

The astrological houses are a way of dividing the 3-dimensional space surrounding the birth place into twelve segments that symbolically represent twelve distinct areas of life in which the natal planets can express themselves.  We speak twelve houses of the horoscope, but a more useful way to think about them may be as six pairs of polarities or ways of expression of six fundamental principles of existence.  The following list of some common associations of signs and houses will make clear what I am talking about:

1 – Aries (I am, I initiate, I think of my needs) vs. 7- Libra (I balance, I act fairly. I consider the needs of others): awareness of self versus awareness of otherness.  The fundamental idea has to do with self-hood, mine or someone else’s.

2 – Taurus (I have, I possess) vs. 8 – Scorpio (I desire, I envy, I obsess, I remove waste): personal possessions versus the goods of others. The fundamental idea relates to possesses and the contrast between what’s mine and what’s yours.

3 – Gemini (I think, I make connections, I flit) vs. 9 – Sagittarius (I see far and wide, I think broadly): the concrete mind vs. the philosophical mind.  The fundamental idea has to do with how the mind works and what it thinks about.

4 – Cancer (I feel, I mother, I am a member of a family) vs. 10 – Capricorn (I use, I realize my ambitions in the larger world): home versus career.  The fundamental idea relates to our role as a member of a family, tribe, or the greater society.

5 – Leo (I will, I create, I am special, I express my self) vs. 11 – Aquarius (I know, I have fun with others, I assure others’ right to self expression, everyone is special): fun and self-expression vs. personal freedom, friendships, and enjoyments with others.  The fundamental idea has to do with generativity, pleasure, and the freedom to express oneself creatively.

6 – Virgo (I analyze, I serve) vs. Pisces (I believe, I perceive, I intuit):  discriminating and practical service, & subordination to others versus limitations, sacrifice, and spiritual awareness. The fundamental idea appears to be some kind of subservience to that which is greater than ourselves.

In this post, I plan to like to focus on the Taurus/Scorpio polarity.  A friend of mine with Taurus rising and several planets in Scorpio recently mentioned that when she was a little girl in NYC, her mother would encourage her to tidy up her room with an admonishment something like, “Pretty soon your room will look just like the Collyer brothers.”

I may be one of the few people in America never to have heard of the Collyer brothers; or if I did hear of them, I probably repressed the memory because of my own inclination to save things that might someday prove valuable to have around the house.  This trait of mine drives my wife crazy.  Fortunately, my own disorder of disposal is not as extreme as that of the Collyer brothers.  I suffer from only a mild case of disposophobia.

Given the popularity of modern reality shows that publicize and exploit the pain of compulsive hoarding, I expect that some drug company will soon offer a pill designed specifically to treat this fear of parting with goods.  Such a drug might be named Dispozac, and no doubt it would be as popular as Viagra.  [Actually, I say this in jest.  There is already a literature about the issue of hoarding in OCD, which can be a serious problem, and there are many types of medications that may be helpful. ]

The Collyer brothers, Homer (1881-1947) and Langley (1886-1947), were fairly well-to-do brothers who lived as hermits in a brownstone at the corner of Fifth Avenueand 128th Street in NYC.  Although they were first mentioned in newspapers in 1938, they became truly famous in 1947 when they were found dead at home and the NY Times published an article about their lifelong habit of compulsively hoarding goods and booby-trapping their brownstone against potential thieves.  The brothers were offspring of an eccentric gynecologist named Herman Collyer and his opera singer wife, Susie Gage Frost. The two boys were quite well educated but never pursued a career outside the home.

When the Collyer brothers died in 1947, hundreds of tons of collected goods were removed from their brownstone.  According to news reports, the items included:

“massive amounts of books and newspapers, many bizarre items, including an X-ray machine, the chassis of a Model T Ford, fourteen grand pianos, and mounds of trash. The chair Homer died in became a morbid collectors item.”

According to gothamist.com, the brothers came to a dismal and unfortunate end:

“Their bodies were discovered on March 21st and April 8th of 1947; Langley—whose decomposed body was found being eaten by rats—was allegedly trying to crawl “through their newspaper tunnel to bring food to his paralyzed brother when one of his own booby traps fell down and crushed him.” Homer died shortly thereafter from “malnutrition, dehydration, and cardiac arrest.” They are both buried at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.”

Their story has been made into a play called “Clutter” by Mark Saltzman.

I was able to find the birth dates but not the birth times of the brothers.  Here is the data:

Homer Lusk Collyer (November 6, 1881 – March, 1947): stellium in Scorpio opposite Sun/Mercury conjunction in Taurus, with Uranus in Virgo.  Venus (possessions) quincunx Neptune in Taurus (confusion about what is of value).

Langley Wakeman Collyer (October 3, 1885 – March 1947): final dispositor Venus in detriment in Scorpio opposite Neptune in Taurus, with Jupiter and Moon’s North Node in Virgo.  Venus (possessions) opposite Neptune in Taurus (confusion about what is of value).

Before casting a chart of a notable person, I always hypothesize about what I might expect to find on the basis of astrological symbolism.  Given the extreme hoarding and fear of intruders, I expected Taurus and Scorpio to be prominent (personal possessions, desire, envy, suspicion, and the goods of others).  Given the compulsive nature of their practice, I expected Pluto and Scorpio to be strongly represented.  In a previous discussion of Martin Luther, we saw the importance of Scorpio in the process of eliminating waste from the body and by extension from our lives.  Finally, given their hermit-like existence, I expected planets to appear in detail-oriented Virgo (associated by the Golden Dawn with the Hermit card).  If birth times were available, I would expect the 2nd and 8th houses to be prominent and maybe also the 12th of confinement and self-undoing.  Without birth times, I can’t confirm or reject my hypothesis about which houses are prominent in their charts.

[As an aside, in my own natal chart Scorpio is on the cusp of the 2nd house of possessions, and Pluto, the modern ruler of Scorpio, is almost exactly semi-sexile my Virgo Sun.  Mars, the traditional ruler of Scorpio, lies in Gemini and widely squares my Virgo Sun.  Herein lies the astrological evidence of my own mild disposophobia.  My wife, unfortunately, doesn’t accept this astrological argument and just exhorts me to tidy up my office because she can’t stand the clutter.  She doesn’t understand that I can’t help myself; I’m just living out my astrological chart.]

Below are the sunrise charts of Homer and Langley Collyer, cast for NYC, times of birth unknown.  Given their history of hoarding, Homer (the elder brother) has a more striking chart with a remarkable stellium of planets in acquisitive Taurus opposing his Sun and Mercury in Scorpio.  Homer’s Pluto, which rules his natal Sun and Mercury, is posited in possessive Taurus – an intense obsessive need to collect material goods.  Based on Homer’s chart, I suspect he was the mastermind behind the compulsion to collect possessions.  I have included Chiron, which modern astrologers describe as the “wounded healer” whose role in the chart is to reveal areas of life in which we need healing.  Chiron in Taurus opposing the Sun/Mercury conjunction in Scorpio of Homer’s chart suggests a need to heal the obsessive devotion to material goods.

Langley’s chart has only Venus in Scorpio (in detriment) and Neptune in Taurus.  This debilitated Venus is the final dispositor of all the planets in the chart, making it a very powerful factor in his nativity.  Venus in detriment in Scorpio opposes Neptune in Taurus, suggesting that his obsessive desire (afflicted Venus in Scorpio) has a stressful relationship (opposition) with his fantasies and illusions about the possession of material goods (Neptune in Taurus).  One site describes Neptune is Taurus as “addicted to wealth and property.”

I leave the remaining delineation of these charts to the reader:

Collyer Brothers natal charts, time unknown, cast for sunrise in NYC

Here is a 1947 news photo of their house, cluttered with junk:

Inside the Collyer brownstone, 1947 (almost as messy as my office)

About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
This entry was posted in Astrology, Tarot and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to To Have and Have Not: A Strange Case of “Disposo-phobia” (the fear of disposing of things)

  1. Jane Stern says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I have a cup of espresso in my hand and the Collyer brothers natal charts on the computer screen….the start of a great day. I waffle between clinging to things for their sentimental memory filled appeal, and stripping away possesions via consignment stores, dump runs etc. I am finding the stripping away both painful and cleansing. Jane

  2. Jane,

    Thanks for your comment. That’s a beautiful way to describe the Taurus/Scorpio polarity. Taurus wants to accumulate and enjoy things it values, but Scorpio wants to eliminate what is no longer useful or necessary from our lives. The Collyer brothers got stuck in the middle of this polarity and couldn’t dispose of anything.

    In my post on Martin Luther, I mentioned that the tarot associates Taurus with the Pope (Hierophant) card. Luther, who has Scorpio prominent in this chart, was not only focused on excrement but was strongly opposed the the Church’s practice of selling indulgences to increase its wealth (a Taurus function). The Protestant Reformation is another expression and mode of resolution of the Taurus/Scorpio polarity.

    Tony

  3. biżuteria says:

    Keep em coming… you all do such a great job at such Concepts… can’t tell you how much I, for one appreciate all you do!

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