Friday, April 26, 2013

Starry, Starry Night - Astrology and Elizabethan England

Dr. John Dee,
Elizabethan Astrologer to the Stars
If you've been feeling a little unsettled for the past few days, you can blame the heavens. Starting on April 25, we're in the midst of three significant eclipses in the next forty-five days, the first time we've experienced this sort of heavenly transit since the early 1930s. That was a very turbulent time for the world, and today is no different. 

I came across this information a few days ago, and found myself researching what the impact of such astrological chaos would be for me. The message I received was that "despite the crashing of the waves around me, my ship is on the right course."

Okay, so that was a little vague. However, since I'm knee deep in research for upcoming books in the Maids of Honor series, it made me think of how that message might equally have been given to the people of Elizabethan England.

Elizabethans were caught between considering astrology as claptrap or as a powerful and legitimate science. Championed by Dr. John Dee, the greatest astrologer of Elizabethan England and the Queen's own astrologer, the studies of magic, astrology and alchemy proved a fascinating focus for the scientists of the time. This was also the age that saw Nostradamus gain prominence, and the idea of predicting the future appealed to many despite (or perhaps because of) outcry against such studies by the Church. Much later in Elizabeth's lifetime, astrology also played an important role in the works of William Shakespeare -- over a hundred references to astrology can be found in Shakespeare's works, and the subject is mentioned in every one of his plays. In addition, the central character in "The Tempest" is Prospero, whose character is said to be based on John Dee. (see: as a great starting point for researching the Elizabethan time period!) Dr. John Dee also plays a part in MAID OF SECRETS (off stage) and will be a more significant character as the books continue.

With MAID OF SECRETS coming out May 7, I definitely am in a chaotic time, but fingers crossed that my ship is indeed on the right course!

NOTE: If you are looking for debuts from Simon & Schuster authors at your local Barnes & Noble, and don't see them, by all means ask at the desk! With the current disagreement between my publisher and the bookseller chain, B&N is not stocking many of the newer S&S authors. You can still find our books at Amazon and and Independent bookstores (LOVE Indie bookstores!) but just a word to the wise !

What about you? Do you read your horoscope or pay attention to the stars?

Jennifer McGowan has been writing fiction since well before she knew any better. A past Romance Writers of America Golden Heart winner and 2011 Golden Heart finalist, Jenn is represented by agent extraordinaire Alexandra Machinist, of Janklow & Nesbit.

Jenn's debut novel, MAID OF SECRETS, will be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 7, 2013. You can find Jenn at Goodreads, online and on twitter.


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