Death & The Maidens:
Sylvia Plath, Assia Wevill, & Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath in their Boston apartment, 1958
“Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.”
– Sylvia Plath
“He was his own leftover, the spat-out scrag. He was what his brain could make nothing of.”
– Ted Hughes
“I talk to God but the sky is empty.” – Sylvia Plath
Their highly charged romance has been described as “the Romeo and Juliet of the 20th century” and their conjoined artistry has been likened to “a poetic powerhouse rivaled only by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning”. Despite all the literary and poetic accolades heaped upon the two, the relationship between the greatest poets of their Age, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, is made hollow by the nature of the couple’s highly tragic Fate.
From the moment their eyes first caught glance of each other, Destiny seemed to have made prior arrangements regarding every action taken between the two Fixed Sign intellectuals.
Even the first interplay between the Leo and Scorpio poetic geniuses has become the stuff of Romantic legend by virtue of the instinctual animalistic actions taken by both parties as if Fate had body checked them into their first encountering of each other.
It must be stated this most savage of introductory exchanges between the two intellectuals is a highly atypical, yet noteworthy example of the intense nature of the Fixed personality and also serves as a warning to anyone foolish enough to underestimate those born beneath the sign of Scorpio, no matter their gender, size, or age.
He, the Leo born August 17th, was 26 and she, the Scorpio born October 27th, was 24 when they first met at a party while both graduate students at London’s revered Cambridge University in late February of 1956.
As Sylvia recorded in her diary, their eyes met. He then immediately approached her, saying his name was Ted Hughes and that he had “obligations” in the next room (aka another date for the evening, which both he and she were both obligated to, respectively).
In the midst of drunkenly bragging to her that he made 10 pounds a week reading scripts, the Leo literally made the most lion like of surprise attacks by unexpectedly and without warning, kissing Sylvia, “band smash on the mouth.” As the large “hurly youth” proceeded doing so, the man who eventually became the Poet Laureate for the United Kingdom ripped the red hair band from the petite girl’s head and his forceful motions unclasped one of the silver earrings she had worn for the evening. As he forced his way further down to inflict the same kind of violent intention upon the flesh of her exposed throat and neck, young Sylvia counter-volleyed the Leo’s ferocity.
Despite being dwarfed by his physical size (he towered over her standing at 6’6 inches tall ) and rather than react with an open eyed, victimized inquiry tearfully asking how he could do such a thing, while the Lion born male was staking further claim on his romantic prey, the small framed Scorpio proceeded to bite him “long and hard” on the cheek.
As they left the room to meet once more with their respective “obligations”, she looked completely out of sorts and disheveled while he had blood streaming from the open wound she had just inflicted upon his face.
The two students met a second time, one month later in March of 1956, and were soon thereafter married 3 months later in June of that same year.
To be expected, the marriage between these Fixed sign intellectuals appears to have always been fueled by both the Leo’s and Scorpio’s inherently intense passions but even with that said, your Author must emphasize the following astrological relationship rule:
A marriage between two Fixed Signs is never “easy” by virtue of the varying degree of “challenge” that is constantly present.
And a marriage between two Fixed Signs who are each important in their own individualized right that has no sense of compromise between the two, is undoubtedly doomed.
Surprisingly, the artistic influence the two had over each other’s creative output was an aspect to Sylvia and Ted’s married life which flowed swimmingly well with each acting as a source of constructive criticism and comforting aesthetic security for the other.
“A relationship forged between two such forceful, difficult characters was unlikely to last.” – Scotsman.com
Two additional features commonly shared among the Fixed Signs which ran rampant at the Hughes home eventually served as the death knell both for Ted’s marriage and Sylvia’s very life – Intensity and the Refusal to Ask for Assistance.
Despite respecting each other as intellectual equals and inspirational mentors, along with being able to successfully blend a conventional lifestyle with the pursuit of their artistic goals while living together under the same roof, Sylvia could not reconcile the destructive aspects of her marriage with Ted. Aspects, which were present long before discovering her husband’s infidelities with their mutual friend, Assia Wevill.
The strikingly beautiful Assia Wevill
Sylvia had come to depend on Ted, both creatively and emotionally.
The Scorpio suddenly realized that she needed her Leonine husband for emotional sustenance.
For the non-Fixed, this realization is neither harrowing nor life altering in any way. Some may actually see a person’s arrival at that realization as an event of sentimental sweetness. For many born beneath the Fixed Signs, however, grasping the reality of such a realization is akin to a death warrant on their soul.
Rather than embrace her mortal vulnerability, Sylvia Plath would instead fly into rages of irrational jealousy, which propelled her down a false path of self-autonomy and intense emotional over-defensiveness.
The Fixed sign’s refusal to change goes hand in hand with an all controlling perspective of Life. A perspective which believes that asking for assistance, no matter how minor or great, will undermine their core sense of self, eventually toppling over anything considered grounded or stable in their lives.
From an astrological perspective, Sylvia’s discovery of her husband’s extra marital affair served as a mere surface excuse for her soul to never reconcile the fact that committing suicide didn’t make her human, rather, her soul’s core desire of truly needing another was what marked the great poet’s mortality.
Despite the Scorpio extinguishing her life at the age of 30 while just one room away from her two small children, karmicly it would appear that Sylvia was the member of the doomed pair who transgressed the least.
A police photo taken of Sylvia Plath’s body found at the scene of her death with her head still placed in her kitchen oven.
A character flaw most Leos are never afflicted with is low self-esteem. Rather, many a Leo, especially of the male variety, can have problematic issues involving the opposite effect of low self-worth.
By all accounts, Ted Hughes suffered immensely from this unevolved Leonine condition of an acute imbalance of low self-esteem’s opposite effect.
He and Sylvia first encountered Assia Wevill when she and her husband rented the Hughes’ London flat in 1961. Hughes wrote the following poetic passage the night he met Assia which is his only description of her in any of his poetry. The poem, entitled “Dreamers” was put into print just 9 months before Hughes’ death in 1998 and the Leo’s more than obvious self-aggrandizement borders on farce:
“The dreamer in her
Had fallen in love with me and she did not know it.
That moment the dreamer in me
Fell in love with her and I knew it.”
Hughes goes on to describe Wevill’s exotic beauty with a tone that in your Author’s humble opinion, are the words of a misogynistic racist:
“We didn’t find her, she found us
She sniffed us out…She sat there, in her soot-wet mascara,
In flame-orange silks, in gold bracelets,
Slightly filthy with erotic mystery –
A German/Russian Israeli with the gaze of a demon
Between curtains of black Mongolian hair.”
Like Plath and Hughes, Assia Wevill was born beneath a Fixed sign, that of Plath’s polar opposition, the Venus ruled sign of Taurus.
Ted Hughes may have been well versed in charming the ladies with his manly man looks but this Leo sorely lacked traits no self-respecting man should do without: the ability to take responsibility for one’s actions as well as the capacity for self-introspection.
Not only did Ted Hughes continue his adulterous relationship with Assia after Plath’s death in 1963, soon thereafter he asked her to live with him mainly so she could look after his two children. Adding insult to injury, Hughes impregnated Wevill who gave birth to their daughter, Alexandria “Shura” on March 3rd, 1965.
The Leo never married Assia Wevill and despite their daughter living under the same roof with the two children he sired with Plath, Ted Hughes never claimed Alexandria as his daughter. When she was born the girl was given her mother’s married name of Wevill.
The last picture ever taken in December of 1968 of mother, Assia Wevill, and her daughter, Alexandria “Shura” just three months before their deaths on March 23rd, 1969. The pain in Assia’s face is palpable.
Surprisingly, the man’s man who hunted for wild game also was a devotee of astrology. Although he did not give his own daughter his surname Hughes did have a natal chart cast when Alexandria was born. Hughes told a friend after reviewing the girl’s chart the astrologer told him the child was artistically gifted and highly intelligent. What Hughes didn’t mention was the astrologer’s words of ill omen for his daughter: “severe loss in this person’s life — with deaths and accidents in the family“.
Sadly, the girl whose father would become the Poet Laureate of Great Britain was born a Pisces, the sign which rules over that high aesthetic artform better known as Poetry. We can only imagine the poetry which lay in anticipated potential within the soul of Alexandria Wevill.
In a most strange twist of Fate which can in no way be called coincidental, six years following Sylvia Plath’s suicide on March 23rd, 1969 Assia Wevill killed herself. She was 41 years old.
She is listed on Ted Hughes’ Wikipedia page as his “domestic partner”. Hughes married a 20 year old nurse 20 years his junior named Carol Orchard less than a year after Assia’s death in 1970.
Horrifically, Assia Wevill took her life in the exact same manner as Sylvia Plath did with one exception. Unlike Sylvia’s children she had with Ted Hughes being in the next room when Plath committed the grizzly deed, Assia Wevill killed her only child she had with Ted Hughes in the same room along with herself.
From a karmic perspective, it must be mentioned the date Assia took her life of March 23rd was a noted day of significance between Ted Hughes and his first wife, Sylvia given that was when the intellectual couple was first able to be alone together and subsequently make love in a friend’s borrowed apartment on Rugby Street in the London neighborhood of Bloomsbury. Hughes marked the date in his poem, “18 Rugby Street”.
Unable to analyze the role he played in these mirror imaged instances of unthinkable death, Ted Hughes instead blamed the victims as the cause for their untimely demise. In his poem, “The Error” Hughes infers that Assia should have known better than to kneel at “the ugly mouth” of his deceased wife’s grave:
“When her grave opened its ugly mouth
Why didn’t you just fly,
Why did you kneel down at the grave’s edge
to be identified, accused, and convicted?”
In his poem “The Descent”, the self-obsessed Leo dares to confront his mistress about killing her own daughter despite the man’s man not being man enough to describe the dead child with the word “our”. The coward instead erases any responsibility to his deceased 4 year old daughter through his use of the word “your”:
“…your own hands, stronger than your choked outcry,
Took your daughter from you. She was stripped from you,
The last raiment
Clinging round your neck, the sole remnant
Between you and the bed
In the underworld…”
Seven years following Assia’s death, her sister Celia finally met Ted Hughes face to face. She asked him directly why he was attracted to “sick and troubled women”. His response is both infuriating and utterly pathetic:
“Hughes looked at her in wonder and said: “Sick? troubled? I have no idea what you mean.” She persisted: “Don’t you see the comparison?” Hughes shrugged: “I never thought of it this way.” – The Guardian, “Haunted by the Ghosts of Love”
They say Karma runs in families. And this would certainly seem to be the case with the Hughes Family. Ted and Sylvia’s only son Nicholas who was just 13 months when his mother died would become a fisheries biologist who was an expert authority on salmon ecology. Nicholas Hughes claimed his father did not tell him that his mother had taken her own life until he was age 15. Tragically he followed his mother’s footsteps when he hung himself in 2009. Nicholas Hughes was 47 years old.
Sylvia Plath with her son Nicholas in 1962. The lives of both mother and child would end by suicide, hers in 1963, his in 2009.
We can only hope the man who eventually became the Poet Laureate of Great Britain in 1984 learned the karmic lessons asked of him upon leaving this world in 1998, given one last non-coincidental fact the Leo left this plane of existence on the following day but most likely began the death process on the date which marked the birth of his Scorpionic wife, Sylvia’s birthday of October 27th.
May the souls of Sylvia Plath, Assia Wevill, Alexandria Wevill, Ted Hughes, and Nicholas Hughes find Peace and Perpetual Light.