The annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is now one of the most outlandish celebrations of queerness on the planet!
The Mardi Gras chart has been calculated for the Saturday night of 24th June 1978, according to the poster that advertised the first Sydney Mardi Gras-style street "festival" in Taylor Square. While originally planned as a fun-filled one-off event, the violent happenings on that night would lead to the establishment of the annual "Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras" (that would later become the largest and most fabulous public celebration of queer culture/s in the world). Indications of this later recognition can be found in the chart. Fame-seeking Saturn in dramatic Leo rules the queer Eleventh House and opposes the Moon in queer Aquarius. Also, omnisexual Neptune is placed in the Tenth House of far-reaching publicity, and rules the Pisces Ascendant.
The chart is extremely "Neptunian": Along with Neptune on the Midheaven with her sign, Pisces, on the Ascendant, the Moon appears at 24° Aquarius (exactly on the zodiacal degree where Neptune was discovered in 1846). The annual Mardi Gras parade has thus always been a very public, fun-filled and extreme expression of all things "Neptunian": glittering objets d'art (Imelda Marcos' shoes), extraordinary sequinned costumes (Ron Muncaster's frocks), glamorous drag queens, dancing groups of impersonators (Clover Moores and Xenas), parodies of homophobes (Fred Nile's head on a platter; Pauline Hanson with the dancing Lemons, Fish and Chips), and increasing advertising hype, along with a sea of disco music!!
Astrologically, the "birth" of the Mardi Gras certainly occurred in the right place at the right time. As it grew to become the largest annual tourism event in Sydney, the queer Mardi Gras would become synonymous with its host city. And no surprise, because the Saturn-Ascendant-Jupiter triple conjunction at 9-16° Capricorn in the chart for Sydney makes up the sixth and final point necessary to form a rare and auspicious Grand Sextile pattern in the chart for the Mardi Gras. This means that when the chart for the Mardi Gras and the chart for Sydney are overlapped, a wonderous Grand Sextile (or six-pointed star pattern) is formed. Also, the evolution of Mardi Gras into Australia's premiere queer event, is indicated astrologically by the 11° Pisces Ascendant in the Mardi Gras chart which conjuncts the Sun/Moon midpoint in the chart for Australia. The Moon and Sun respectively represent feminine and masculine ideals. The Mardi Gras so successfully challenges hegemonic masculine and feminine gender roles in Australia (and gender roles across the world via Australia) because its Ascendant is found at the sensitive point between Australia's Moon and Sun.
Unnamed and illegitimate, the Mardi Gras began on that frosty June night in 1978 (with prominent Uranus in icy Scorpio), when a group of lesbians, gay men, drag queens and heterosexual supporters gathered publically to celebrate their cultural diversity. Some wore costumes, some carried banners like "Better Blatant Than Latent," and some chanted slogans like "Out of the Closets and on to the Streets" and "Stop Police Attacks on Gays, Women and Blacks" (Duncan, p. 19). More than 1000 in number, these people then paraded down Oxford street in a party mood to mark International Gay Solidarity Day (which commemorated the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City). However, police rescinded the march permit and anti-gay violence broke out. As recorded in Digby Duncan's photos at the scene (Witches and Faggots), the police arrested 53 people in a violent manner. This "King's Cross Riot" in inner Sydney reportedly occurred between about midnight and 12:30 am on Sunday morning as early Aries rose over the Ascendant and was quincunxed by its ruler, celestial thug, Mars (which is an angular planet in the Mardi Gras chart). A better way of seeing (and using) the Mars archetype is as a pioneer and defender of one's rights, and its in these guises (by sticking their necks out) that the shapers of Mardi Gras have tapped into his energies.
As the arrested International Gay Solidarity Day festival paraders appeared in court the following Monday 26th, several more demonstrators were arrested ouside the building. On Tuesday 27th, the Sydney Morning Herald published the names, ages, occupations and suburbs of all those that had been arrested, meaning that many of them lost their jobs. (In 1979, the police eventually dropped all of the charges they had illegally laid on the paraders). During another parade held on the streets of Sydney around the same date in 1979 the "Mardi Gras" name was adopted. The idea of Mardi Gras becoming a summer celebration was proposed at public meetings in 1980, the same year as the first post-parade party was held. In 1981 the Mardi Gras Parade was held in March before a crowd of about 5000. The event has been held around this time in Summer ever since (with the Sun in Pisces returning annually to shine through the Mardi Gras chart's Ascendant!!). In 1984 consensual sex acts between men were decriminalised in N.S.W. and the Mardi Gras parade that year was attended by some 50 000 people. By the late 1990s the annual audience and spectators on the streets would number over half a million!
With glamorous Neptune in vehicular Sagittarius placed high in the sky (ruling the Piscean Ascendant of its chart), the Mardi Gras parade involves many gay and lesbian community groups and individuals who create fabulous floats and costumes for the three hour long parade along Oxford Street. With Venus at the apex of a T-Square (with Uranus and Chiron), a queer visual Arts programme would become an important component of the Mardi Gras Festival annually from 1983 (when progressed Venus trined natal Neptune). With the placement of Venus in dramatic Leo, the performance arts have been an integral part of the Festival (since 1981). Dykes on Bikes first led the parade in 1988, the "Gay Mardi Gras" became the "Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras" in 1988, and Cath Phillips became the first female president of the organisation in 1989 (as progressed Sappho quincunxed the Moon). In 1991 (with progressed Sun quincunxing natal Neptune) a national Gay and Lesbian film festival first co-incided with the event. As progressed Venus moved to 23° Leo to oppose the Moon (ruler of the creative Fifth House) in 1992, the month-long Arts Festival became the largest gay and lesbian festival in the world.
For the International Year of the Family in 1994, the Mardi Gras Festival used "We are Family" as its theme. The Parade was filmed by the ABC and telecast amid much controversy (progressed Uranus quincunx Sun and square & dispositing Moon) on Sunday, March 6 at 8.30pm, easily winning its time slot and earning the ABC its highest ratings. In 1995 (as progressed Neptune opposed the Sun), the "Mardi Gras Party Anthems" CD was launched and became number one in the compilation charts for 5 weeks. In 1998 (as progressed Uranus aspected the Moon's Nodes), Mardi Gras celebrated it 20th anniversary: "From Riot to Revolution" with the biggest festival line up ever ..... And with Uranus progressing closer and closer to the Sagittarian Midheaven, Mardi Gras just gets bigger and queerer than ever!!
Carbery, Graham. A History of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Parkville, Vic.: Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, 1995.
Dunne, Stephen. "Riot to Revolution: A Brief History of Mardi Gras." 20 Years of Revolution: 1998 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival Guide, 1998, pp. 65-67.
---. "Saturday Night's All Right for Prancing." Sydney Morning Herald 27 Feb. - 4 Mar., Metro, pp. 10-12.
Dow, Steve. "Dancing Queens." The Australian Magazine 27-28 Feb. 1999, pp. 32-36.
Duncan, Kath. "20th Anniversary Mardi Gras Special: 'Get Your Laws Off Our Bodies.'" Lesbians on the Loose ("Lesbians Led the Way" issue) Feb. 1998, pp. 19-20.
Hinman, Pip. "Mardi Gras: From Politics to Business" Green Left Weekly.
"Protestors Clash with Police in Court Grounds: 2 Women to Appear in Court Today." Sydney Morning Herald 27 June 1978, p. 3.
Witches and Faggots, Dykes and Poofters. Producer: Digby Duncan.