Saturday, 30 April 2016

Prince Rogers Nelson – Horoscope Astrology – Birth Chart and when Prince was Last Seen

The Story so Far

The discovery of Prince Rogers Nelson’s death the late morning of 21st April 2016 at his Paisley Park home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, shook the world like an emotional earthquake.  Many of us felt the tremors, because the music meant something special to us and, like many fans, I have been following the news around this event.  As an astrologer, I am naturally curious about how it may be reflected in the patterns of the stars, too.  In the days following Prince’s death, nobody yet knows exactly what happened to bring about that shock outcome – as far as we are concerned, he died before his time, at an unexpected, unforeseen moment.  He was known to have anything but a rock and roll lifestyle in the usual sense of drugs and alcohol excesses.  It has been reported, though, that, less than a week before, there had been a possible overdose of Percocet, a prescription painkiller, leading to a stop for medical assistance at Moline, Illinois on April 15th.  At the airport there, Prince is alleged to have received a “save shot” from paramedics – a strategy to counter serious effects of such drugs, including loss of consciousness.  The more general story around in the media was that he was suffering from flu symptoms and/or “walking pneumonia” – an atypical form of the disease, often characterised by fever, sweating, headache and myalgia/muscle pain.  And he may have received some kind of flu shot.

The last sighting of Prince in public seems to have been at a pharmacy near to his home on the evening of April 20th – reports give 8pm and indicate this was the last of four trips to the pharmacy, following the non-fatal overdose, to collect further prescriptions.

Percocet is a narcotic painkiller consisting of a combination of paracetamol/acetaminophen (an anilide analgesic) with oxycodone, an opioid analgesic. Along with other, similar combination pharmaceutical drugs, such as Vicodin, there has been pressure in the USA for its sales to be limited since 2009, due to knowledge of alleged high incidences of deaths from acetaminophen overdose and associated liver damage.  A Canadian study reported in 2009 also cited a doubling of all opioid-related deaths in Ontario alongside a five-fold increase in oxycodone-related deaths across 1991-2007.

The idea of Prince possibly dying from a further drug overdose might seem especially non-sensical to fans, many of whom are familiar with details of his clean-living approach to life.  A non-drinking, anti-drugs, vegan Jehovah’s Witness probably quite fairly describes the kinds of choices that Prince made about the lifestyle he was going to follow, for the larger part of his life.  Given this backdrop to the usual excesses of a rock and roll lifestyle, it may therefore not be surprising that so few health issues have been noted in relation to the so-called ‘Purple One’.  What has been reported is that he suffered from epilectic seizures as a child and, in mid-life, was thought to be fighting a private battle with hip pain across the last seven years of his life.  Reports have suggested this was the issue that was being treated with painkillers, particularly around April 14th 2016, when he is thought to have complained that the pain was much worse after his gig in Atlanta on that date.  A hip replacement operation had been considered in the 00’s but it is thought he backed away due to his religious faith, which would not have allowed for any blood transfusions.

There is also a story in the media suggestion that Prince’s history of epilepsy may have been relevant in that, if he was given medication for influenza – which he may, apparently, have had for a couple of weeks before the emergency stop in Illinois for medical treatment – it may not have been ideally compatible with that medical status.  In a few weeks perhaps we will know the fuller story.  For now, some of us can only follow the media and contemplate the stars.

The Astrology

Friends with an interest in astrology have been asking about the planetary patterns in relation to Prince’s life and death (maybe partly because they know that I studied his chart for my astrology certification in the 1990s).  As for many people, Prince’s music was a big part of my life then and I was an avid fan.  When I first encountered his music, I was studying for a BA Honours degree in the early to mid 1980s.  With friends met through University, astrological studies and personal growth courses, I was later lucky enough to see him perform three times live: on the 1988/89 Lovesexy Tour at Wembley Arena, the Diamonds and Pearls Tour in June 1992 at Earls Court and the Act I and II Tour (featuring songs from the Love Symbol Album) at Wembley Stadium in 1993.  It was exhilarating being in his presence and the music was truly amazing live.  He was the obvious choice for my astrology course paper!  Once I began working with his chart I realised I had given myself a tall order, because it is a deep and complex chart, which will probably come as no surprise when thinking about the complexity and range of his music output.  Surely it takes a special kind of person to have that kind of breadth and associated impact from his work.  At the time I was first writing about him, an interviewee had noted that he could play 22 musical instruments.  That number is curiously present in his birth chart, with Saturn at 22 degrees of Sagittarius, the asteroid Chiron (aka ‘The wounded healer’) at 22 degrees of Aquarius and a retrograde Jupiter just pulling back from that same degree (and the 12th house cusp) in Libra.  For anyone who doesn’t already know, Jupiter is thought to be the planetary symbol for faith and the 12th house is said to be the place of undoing in a birth chart.  Jupiter also happens to have co-rulership (with Neptune) over the Pisces Moon in Prince’s chart, placed close to the cusp of the 4th house, which is said to signify “the end of the matter” and can also indicate something about the end of life circumstances.

But what of Saturn?  Saturn in Sagittarius, according to the Dictionary of Medical Astrology by Diane L. Cramer, is associated with hip joint disease.  Prince hip pain was thought to be a result of his dancing and jumping acrobatics on stage, as well as his wearing of high heeled boots and shoes.  Pisces happens to be associated with the feet.  For dancing, in its expressiveness, I think of the sensual, provocative, beautiful and artistic planet Venus – although fast-moving Mars in Aries might be a symbol for acrobatics, especially as it is linked with agile Mercury in Gemini (by sextile aspect).  Mars is squared by Saturn, too, in Prince’s birth chart – a difficult and painful square if ever there was one.  Traditional astrologers talk about these two planets as the “malefics” and although modern astrology often sidesteps such descriptions, I think it is hard to skip over them (no pun intended) when they’re in your face around issues such as pain (Mars) and death (Saturn).  It is also, by the way, rather hard to see it immediately in the chart because those two planets are both in Fire signs and usually we’d be looking at a friendly, kindly trine aspect between the two  But take a look at the degree of Mars – it’s at 0 degrees of Aries, therefore fresh out of Pisces (since the degrees of each zodiac sign run from 0 to 29).  And the range of orb between those two planets, with Saturn at 22 degrees and 52 minutes of Aries, is just 7 degrees and 39 minutes of separation.  It’s like saying that Mars can’t outrun Saturn during this man’s lifetime, even though Mars is technically the ‘stronger’ planet by sign.  The trouble is, if Mars is at all malefic by nature, you don’t necessarily want it to have great strength in a chart.  Traditionally, it is a Fire planet and so has associations with inflammation – perhaps one of the key factors with painful joints.  Mars also rules the 6th house in Prince’s chart – the main area associated with health.  It is additionally associated with fevers.

Transiting Mars – that is, the planet up in the sky currently and just a little while ago – moved into Sagittarius on 6th March 2016 and moved through the first 8 degrees and 54 minutes of the sign until it visually “parked” itself at that degree and turned to a retrograde pattern on 18th April.  That is, it appeared to be moving backwards against several of the other planets (only several because a few, such as Jupiter and Saturn, were already retrograde).  As though it didn’t want to be left out, the once heavyweight outer planet Pluto, these days reduced to ‘dwarf’ status - but nonetheless still considered to be mean, toxic and potentially deadly in its astrological symbolism – also turned to retrograde motion that day, at 17 degrees and 29 minutes of Capricorn.  Why does this matter in this discussion?  Because  Mars and Pluto happen to be joint rulers of the Ascendant in Prince’s birth chart, at 16 degrees and 42 minutes of Scorpio.  The Ascendant and 1st house can be viewed as the same point, in charts such as those shown in this article (and even when astrologers use different house systems: I use Placidus).  So when I speak about the Ascendant I also mean the 1st house.  The 1st house is traditionally associated with the body and the planets that rule that area become extra important in matters of life and health.  For both of the rulers of the 1st house to be slowing down says something: maybe Prince was meant to be slowing down (according to his body’s needs?)  Maybe he knew that and maybe he didn’t.  Symbolically speaking, one of the powers of a planet such as Saturn is the power of denial.  Maybe, to an extent, he could deny the extent of his hip problems.  Possibly, prescription drugs could numb out the pain to a degree – for a while.  But with any kinds of drugs, (legal or otherwise) the threat of overdose is very real and sometimes hard to avoid.  Whether that was a factor in his death – and we don’t know, at this stage - an intuitive take, from the astrology of Prince’s chart, is that he truly didn’t see that kind of outcome coming.

That may sound obvious, but, if painkillers were in any way implicated, why would it be?  For someone who not accustomed to using drugs in any format, why would he have been an expert on their effects?  It is, after all, the fate of many a rock star to succumb to a drug overdose – not necessarily through the often-assumed (and perhaps media highlighted and stereotyped) problem of indulgent excess, but because of the general complications of addiction issues coupled with the too-powerful effects of anything toxic.   In reading the under-stories through more detailed biographies, it seems some stars had been trying to quit a drug-addicted lifestyle – and had not been taking the obviously threatening substances for a while – when they had slipped up and then a final small dose, or a dabble in something relatively minor (for anyone without addiction issues and the related tolerance complications) took their lives. According to recent documentaries, this seemed to have been the case with performers like Amy Winehouse and, further back, Janis Joplin.  In the case of Prince, here’s someone whose lifestyle, by all accounts, was already very clean.  But prescription drugs do have risks attached and it is possible to underestimate their risks and then, partly through the components they contain, to experience memory impairment.  Perhaps amidst the intensity of pain creeping back in all too quickly, someone could simply forgot how many doses have been taken.   In Prince’s birth chart, Mars is sextile Mercury (ie 60 degrees between them) and both of those planets make a minor but significant aspect to Neptune in the 12th house – an aspect called a quincunx or inconjunct, which represents a 150 degree relationship to the other planet, in each case.  This configuration of three planets, as a whole, is known as a Yod, or Finger of God.  And Neptune is associated with drugs and escape (often escape from something painful).  We cannot of course draw any definite conclusions, but the inconjunct aspect between planets is traditionally linked with the idea of a blind spot; it's as though they can't recognise one another.

A Sequence of Events

In the run up to Prince’s death, transiting Mars squared his chart’s Ascendant (4th September 2015) and traversed across all those points in the left upper quadrant, linking with Pluto, the Midheaven (MC), Jupiter, the Moon’s North Node and Neptune.   We’re talking about a lot of planetary activity here, linked with a planet connected with quick actions and, sometimes, impulsive and rash decisions.  Mars was well placed in Aries in Prince’s chart – such impetuosity may often have served him well.  But when usually ‘helpful’ planets go through a retrograde phase, people can be out of sorts and may not always have such a strong, intuitive grip on the very best actions (as with all astrology, we have to remember this is sometimes true – and not always inevitable, neither would it always have dire consequences).  It is notable that Mars was conjunct the Ascendant in Prince’s birth chart on 4th February 2016, then square the Moon on 11th March and trine Uranus on 12th April.  This planet, strongly placed in Prince’s chart, as we know, was, by transit, making contact with planets involved in many of the main configuration groups in his chart, too – and there are several of them (outlined below).  But after transiting Mars turned retrograde in the sky on 17th April, it then made a second connection, by trine, to Uranus in Prince’s chart.  Just a little old friendly aspect that one, the trine – representing, possibly, a day to day occurrence – or maybe a reoccurrence.  Maybe the symbol of a repeat prescription?  Or a repeat sudden event  leading to who knows what – a heart attack?  A seizure?  Maybe not such a little event, after all.  But we don’t yet know.

Planetary Configurations in Prince’s Birth Chart

What we do know is that, in his birth chart, as well as the Mars/ Saturn square and the Yod involving Mars/Mercury and Neptune, there are also two T-squares – big, powerful groupings of planets that aptly describe the power house that was Prince!  (and at one time, ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’... known identified then by a symbol of love, in order that he could take control of the contractual and distribution side of his music career).  Anyone who understands Pluto’s symbolism will likely pick up on the power issues associated with Pluto on Prince’s chart’s MC, opposing the Pisces Moon and squaring Mercury in Gemini – the planet of agents, discussions, liaising and agreeing contractual arrangements and so forth.  Again, the pattern is slightly hidden because Pluto, rather being in early Virgo, is in late Leo – it’s a dissociate, or ‘out of sign’ aspect.  But it is very fully there.  The other big T-square in the chart involves Venus in Taurus opposed by Neptune in Scorpio (with the Moon’s North Node), square to Uranus in Leo.  This is strongly descriptive of Prince’s shock aspect and his tendency to spring new developments, so that his fans might suddenly need to flock to a venue to catch his latest impromptu concert (for example).  He was nothing if not unpredictable!  Thinking about the involvement there of Uranus in Leo – and a discussion recently with my colleague and friend, Helen, about Prince’s chart’s progressed planets – we noted that the progressed Sun in Leo was moving to a conjunction with progressed Uranus (12th May).  Real life events around planetary progressions often don’t occur ‘to the day’; they are thought to act as a backdrop and so we tend to allow 6 months either side for progressions to show and indicate something significant for someone.  Leo relates to the heart in the health and physical body side of astrology and its ruling planet is the Sun; Uranus relates to sudden events.  This looks like a possible signature for a heart attack or some other sudden event involving the heart.

There is a further major aspect in Prince’s chart which we mustn’t skip over and that is Saturn opposite the Sun in Gemini.  If we are all wondering if there was anything shown in the chart about a shortened life span, well, possibly, there it is.  But remember, astrology students and fans who know their chart placements, that does not mean that everyone with a Sun/Saturn hard aspect is going to life a short life!  We can’t think about it in that way.  We have to look at the individual situation.  And in this case the individual situation suggests that Saturn in Sagittarius signified hip joint issues for Prince.  Together with this aspect to the Sun, the symbolism might describe a life (Sun) strongly affected by that issue – and potentially limited for it.  I can’t imagine Prince would have been especially happy singing in a wheelchair, although who knows.  But he was such an active and physically alive person in his stage performances, it’s hard to imagine the man with only the music and not the action – albeit that he was an incredible composer, singer and musician.  Just to say, though , that this is an example of a limitation.  Death is obviously the final limitation.  There might be others and, in some cases, people would find a way to live with them.  We have to take the whole chart into consideration, as astrologers, which means considering what was going on with other planets, too – Mars, Neptune, Uranus - all those configurations involving them, too.  But it is nonetheless remarkable that transiting Saturn was once again in Sagittarius all through this year and last year.  Like it or not Prince Rogers Nelson was heading towards a Saturn return around the time of his death.  For some people the second Saturn return – close to the age of 60 – provides a chance to deal with something not dealt with at the first return around age 30.  We perhaps cannot know what all of this meant for the notoriously private Prince.  But we can calculate the date range of his second Saturn return.  Incorporating Saturn’s retrograde phase, this created a ‘triple transit’ –that is, three points at which Saturn in the sky would be in the same place as Saturn in Prince’s birth chart: 19th February, 30th April and 10th November 2016.  For whatever reason, the cosmic pattern seems to describe that Prince’s time had come.  And maybe if certain things had been a different way, it would have come out a different story – if he hadn’t been alone that night, for example.  We can only conjecture.


The Chart Astrology for When Prince was Last Seen

The last known public sighting of Prince was the night before his death, when he visited the local pharmacy at 8pm in Chanhassen, Minnesota.   In traditional astrology theory, it is thought that an event chart can show the events before, during and after a particular event – the time, date and place for which are the data used to construct the chart.  The event here is the pharmacy visit, with this being a significant moment – the moment Prince was last seen alive (as far as we know). 

A couple of factors leap out, astrologically, in this chart.  Firstly, retrograde Mars is close to retrograde Saturn in Sagittarius.  Mars is co-chart ruler and indicative of a male – as such we might take it to symbolise Prince.  As we know, Saturn can symbolise boundaries and endings, occasionally including actual death.  Combining this with a more intuitive take on the symbolism, the term and state of retrograde movement of a planet is often connected with words that also have the ‘re’ letters (and meanings) before them.  In this case, the term recall came to mind.  Noticing both planets in Sagittarius, a sign with spiritual and faith connections, the Archer’s arrows here seem to be pointing upward to the stars and the heavenly realms above.   The gap between them, in terms of astrological degrees is about eight degrees; sometimes such a gap can be linked with a correlation to timing of events in the life situation.  There is a possible suggestion here, then, of Prince’s death having occurred around 8 hours after that 8pm visit – ie between around 3-5am the next morning.

The Moon has special significance in event charts and in traditional astrology generally.  Here, the Moon in Aquarius has recently separated from a sextile aspect connection with Mars and is heading towards a square with the Sun in Taurus.  Squares usually represent challenges of some kind and the potential to turn a corner.  Taurus is a Fixed sign, by quality, suggesting that whatever was around that corner, there probably wasn’t an easy way back.  In Sagittarius a planet (or what it represents) might be negotiable, but rather less so in the Fixed signs like Taurus.  

There is another interesting anomaly; Saturn is in a mutual reception by ‘term’ with Mercury in Taurus.  Terms are weaker than rulerships where planets are concerned .  So although a mutual reception represents movement, through a possible swap – and maybe therein ‘another chance’ – it seems it wasn’t enough to get Prince out of trouble.

Others may see other factors in these charts and it’s always interesting to extend the astrological discussion.*  For now, I wanted to note Pluto and the MC in Prince’s birth chart: they are on the royal star, Regulus, a significator of success, wealth and prominence.  The event chart features some interesting ‘Parts’ (from Arabic astrology – significant pointers found through mathematical calculations of factors in the chart): the Moon conjunct the Part of Spirit and Pluto conjunct the Part of Nobility and Honour. There have already been many respectful, loving, heartfelt tributes by many colleagues, fans and admirers.  There is every likelihood that Prince will continue to be remembered well in the hearts of many people, and across the music airwaves.   Time now, I think, to gather together the CDs and tracks, in their various forms, for a trip down Alphabet Street, noting the Little Red Corvette in the parking lot, waving to Anastasia and others, who have hopefully avoided the Thieves in the Temple and too much Pop Life and Controversy.  (Who was wearing the Raspberry Beret, by the way?) ....  What a rich life he created!

* For those interested in further research: my friend Helen noted the officially recorded time of death, at the Coroner’s office, for Prince as 10.17 AM on 21 April 2016 (in Chanhassen) and felt that the chart for that time was also quite telling.  I had a brief look and noticed that the Moon in Libra, ruler of the chart was conjunct Black Moon Lilith opposing Venus and Uranus in forward-thinking, impulsive, ‘do it now’ Aries, in a T-square with Pluto in the rather more reserved Capricorn.  Lilith is often associated with the ideas connected with other ‘dark’ goddesses, such as Kali and Persephone.  She represents untamed energy, often linked with sexuality, but refuses to be submissive.  If Prince was controversial it was generally around the explicitness of lyrics in his songs, around themes of a sexual nature.   M.  Kelley Hunter, in her article on Lilith in the April/May 1999 issue of the Mountain Astrologer mentions a shift in the collective image of the feminine and ‘some deep undercurrent of unease that needs to be acknowledged and healed in our personal lives’.  I am reminded of Prince’s androgyny, as well as the way he raised the image of women as musicians in his bands.   It was quite something to be in the same room with Sheila E opening Prince’s concert at Wembley Arena with the most amazing bass coming from the drums at what felt like a ‘forbidden’ level of thudding sound that went right through the body – and such a spectacle, to see this stunning, long-haired woman in what I remember as a gold bikini type outfit, looking very sexy whilst fully in command of her performance.  A woman drummer!  This was the 1980s, of course, when looking powerful, whether or not that encompassed looking sexy, was a big deal for women (remember those statement shoulder pads!)  The discussion still continues in the twenty-teens, as to whether it is actually a position of strength for a woman to appear as ‘sexy’, within the music industry or otherwise – chances are, Lilith probably wouldn’t have cared what other people thought!   There are some great pictures from the tour on the Prince Lovesexy board at Pinterest.

Copyright Diana McMahon Collis, UK 25/29 April 2016
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Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Meaning of the 9 March 2016 Pisces Solar Eclipse

Our take on the Pisces Solar Eclipse, in the Totally4Women monthly Astrological Inspiration column:


Tuesday, 12 January 2016

By the Light of the Moon's Phases

The Moon reflects the light of the Sun and hence has associations with mirrors, water and silver, which all have reflective qualities.  Astrology is a vast subject, eternally fascinating, but can lead in so many directions, with such a lot of information that it can seem overwhelming to get to grips with.  There is a whole subject within the subject, though, which is lunar astrology - literally, that which focuses on the Moon as a celestial body (ie something significant in the sky above us).   The three main areas of lunar focus for most Western astrologers are these: the Moon's Nodes, which have karmic and past life associations; aspects of the Moon to other planets, which are used by horary astrologers, looking to answer specific questions from a horoscope chart drawn for the moment of the question - and, finally, the Moon's phases from its cycle in its relationship to the Sun.  It is this, latter focus that most people are familiar with, where we talk about the New Moon, Full Moon and Half Moon.  There are also special names for the Moon's positions in between, but usually we stick to talking about the Moon at, respectively, 0 degrees, 180 degrees and 90 degrees from the Sun and those are normally the positions you will find mentioned in an average diary or calendar for the year. It is this simple lunar phase cycle that I have chosen to focus on as the inspiration for my new column at totally4women.com.  Due to ongoing, passionate interests in health and healing, writing and editing, you will find that this is not a typical column just about predictions - although I do look at the current trends of the month, both there and in other astrology columns that I am responsible for creating. Usually my focus will be the New Moon, since this is often such a potent and positive point; but you may also find mention of other aspects of the cycle or other features of current astrology where they are relevant. I am grateful to Maggie Steele, for her fine work in making my copy look pretty with beautiful, appropriate images!  And to the late Carolyn Lazarus for her vision in creating the site. We hope you will find something that interests and inspires you at totally4women.  My recent contribution can be found at: http://www.totally4women.com/2016/01/05/astrological-inspiration-jan-2016/

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Note About Comments to CelestialSpot

I wanted to say a big thank you to those who read the blog and it is wonderful that you find it interesting.  Also to add that the comments on this blog are moderated.  Therefore, if someone posts a nice comment about a post, any kind words are appreciated, however, the comment may not be automatically posted.  The reasons why it would not be posted might be, for example, that it includes a link directing visitors to an unknown website, or where the content is in any way inappropriate.  In recent months there was a spate of comments of this nature and I was unable to post them.  However, sometimes it is harder to spot the more genuine in such cases and I will be checking back soon in case I have made any mistakes (for which I apologise ahead) and your comment will be posted.  Thanks to everyone for their co-operation.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

An Astrological Tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman
born 23 July 1967
Fairport, New York
Birth time unknown (chart set around sunrise)

When the spirit moves you... it's important to respond (or so I believe). Like many people, I felt shock at reading about the death at age 46 of talented actor and film director, Philip Seymour Hoffman.  This post is one little tribute among hopefully many that will appear over the coming days and weeks and focuses on a birth chart drawn for around sun rise.

He "lit up the screen" - is the way that British film critic, Jason Solomons, described Philip Seymour Hoffman (BBC website).  That sounds rather like Jupiter in Leo, symbolic of the larger than life star and his Leonine mane of blonde hair.  There is also a close square (90 degree connection) in the birth chart, between the Moon, symbolising shadowy light and reflections, and Neptune, planet of illusion; he had a talent for playing offbeat, somewhat conflicted characters, so well described by the Moon in Aquarius.

That same Moon signifies another quality of his, also mentioned by Solomons: "He'd take the weirdest parts and give them a human element."  Aquarius may capture the quirky, off the wall side of life. It also connects powerfully with humanity in general.  With this 'Moon square' in play, the boundaryless planet Neptunian, with its out-of-focus picture lets us see the fuzzy, ragged side beneath any glittery illusion.

Hoffman may have been a Hollywood star, and some of his characters may have been attracted to glitz and glamour; a lifestyle of 'living it up' (like Freddy Miles in The Talented Mr Ripley) but we know that Freddy Miles could see through Tom Ripley's phony front - and Philip Seymour Hoffman was well aware in his roles that he was portraying an illusion yet he may have appeared very convincing.  Of his experiencing of acting he has said: 

"I'm probably more personal when I'm acting than at any other time. More open, more direct. Because it allows me to be something that I can't always feel comfortable with when I'm living my own life, you know? Because it's make- believe." (IMBD website).

Philip Seymour Hoffman is thought to have died from a heroin overdose and was known to have had a history of substance abuse.  As anyone with more than a passing interest in addiction recovery may know, it's not necessarily the death of on/off addicts that is surprising; it is the fact that they have managed to live as many days as they did, given that every single day can be a battle.  Are Hoffman's demons and his struggle with alcohol and other drugs shown clearly in his chart?  The Moon/Neptune square suggests a struggle with dealing with feelings, with a strong pull towards just wanting to escape from them, to transcend the feeling state.  Neptune is linked with chemicals and the Moon/Neptune pairing represents a desire for a pink, fluffy float along life's emotional path, not wanting one's feet to touch the ground too easily.

We should not forget that Neptune is a planet linked with creative inspiration and imagination, as well as the ability to shift, chameleon-like, into the 'feel' and spirit of another person.  Neptunian types are often psychic and can imagine what it is like to be in another person's world.  Every little helps with a job such as acting! Sometimes, creative, Neptunian types need some special access or protection to stand in that bridge-like place between two worlds; to lose themselves and temporarily take up the space that others would usually inhabit, whether fictional or real - dead or alive.  We can only guess at how that may have worked for this particular talent, since whatever links to the Moon is private and personal whilst paradoxically the Moon can also be a symbol of how we connect to others in public life - and of popularity with the public.

Something probably needs to be said about the Venus/Pluto/Uranus conjunction in this chart, in the sign of Virgo.  Philip Seymour Hoffman famously said, of his appearance: "A lot of people describe me as chubby, which seems so easy, so first-choice. Or stocky. Fair-skinned. Tow-headed. There are so many other choices. How about dense? I mean, I'm a thick kind of guy. But I'm never described in attractive ways. I'm waiting for somebody to say I'm at least cute. But nobody has." (IMBD).  Traditionally, in astrology, Venus in Virgo is considered to be a 'fallen' or 'debilitated' planet - not a very nice word, maybe, but, as the planet most associated with physical attraction, it does rather well describe the struggle of a lack of nice compliments about appearance.

This orb of the triple-conjunction of planets is on the 'wide' side.  That is, when we look at the distance between planets (the orb of aspect), here, the 'orb' between the first two planets (Venus and Pluto) happens to be a little wider than the accepted norm for a conjunction (8 degrees)  Some astrologers will allow 10 degrees, though and this conjunction is at 9.  I personally think it's a fairly accurate astrological signature for an on-off struggle with substances.  Venus is linked to appetites - with the Moon possibly implicated, too, because that relates to our need for food, nutrition, water, etc - the stuff of daily, physical survival through taking care of the body and brain.  But, as many a person who has become informed about addiction will know, with drug taking of various kinds (in which we could include misusing alcohol, food, prescription drugs, illegal drugs etc) none of it is usually about a real need for physical survival.  It relates only to the addict's distortion about what feels or seems like something necessary for survival - because drugs interact with the pleasure and reward centres in the brain and that person's brain is not functioning in the same way as a normal person's brain (a detail that is often overlooked in stories about addiction problems). New medical research has revealed that the usually peaceful, mellow, confident mode that a perfectly healthy person may experience much of the time is somewhat missing for the addict. This means that, like it or not, he/she has an inbuilt drive to look for something to compensate for this - because it is a normal reaction for the body and mind to look for ways to find balance.

Unfortunately, an addict may develop an appetite for something that soon becomes destructive; at first the substance (or in some cases process) may seem to bring the desired balance and all is well.  But fairly soon the constant usage means that the balance is not achieved and a higher 'dose' is needed.  It isn't too long, then, before the addiction has hold of the person rather than the other way around. The tastes of the demon - the starved pleasure/reward centre - have now taken over.  Typically, in media portrayals, the addict is seen as seeking pleasure, euphoria, peace, calm, fun, excitement, or thrills - some sort of sensory experience over and above the usual, everyday, up and down feelings and moods that go with life (pain, shame, fear, boredom, guilt, etc).  What is often overlooked is that, due to an inborn problem involving chemical imbalance, the addict experiences those usual, everyday responses and moods at a far more intense level than a person who doesn't have that default setting in the brain nor related, different hormone reactions.  Ironically, the down phase of drug withdrawal and the misery of being caught up within an addiction cycle will make all of that even worse - but by the time an addict discovers that, it's often too late!  The destructive cycle has begun.

What has all of this to do with astrology and the chart of Philip Seymour Hoffman?  Well, Venus in Virgo represents a taste for certain 'medicines' (the planet is located in a sign related to health). Venus keeps company here with the decidedly un-jolly planets Pluto and Uranus; this little band of fun looks horribly like "Trouble with the Sweet Stuff" (nodding to Billy Idol).  Pluto is the equivalent of Hades, the god of the underworld in Greek mythology.  Nobody saw Pluto/Hades coming; he was an abductor.  I don't know if he used ether or its equivalent at the time, but he could easily have done so.  He could take someone hostage, threaten them, abuse them and generally remove their power, eventually taking them over.

A Uranus quality can make a person feel like an outsider - which the Moon in Aquarius can sometimes also represent.  The person with a powerful planetary aspect to Uranus (like this) may temporarily imagine that they don't have any friends, that nobody would want to hear from them even if they did - and that nobody will understand their experience or their pain.  With these two outer-planet rogues, Pluto and Uranus, chasing down a person's thought process, it wouldn't be a great surprise to see them retreat into a world of pain and try to find some way to sweeten any bitter pill that had to be swallowed, or to try to find a way to obliterate the usual messages of the senses - to reach a stage of blackout for a while.  Rather like the film reel, once the image stops projecting, the story is over for that showing.  The characters can rest.  The villains stop chasing the good guy.  The fact that he's slumped over, unconscious and not looking terribly attractive in that position is - well, just another Venus in Virgo type thing.

Philip Seymour Hoffman knew that he was in serious trouble with substances as early as the age of 22, when he stopped drinking alcohol.  Bearing in mind that, for some people, this might not be far off the age when they begin imbibing, he had had a head start with his particular addiction struggle (his parents had divorced when he was 9 years old and he and his siblings were brought up by his mother; the sense of abandonment experienced by the lack of a father in his life from there on in might have had something to do with where things went for him, since modern research has linked addiction with the lack of a stable father figure in a child's life.  To an extent we can only surmise, of course).

A characteristic of addicts is that they often feed their addiction in solitude.  People may have come across stories about Hofmann's last days being spent drinking at the counter of a bar, whilst taking frequent 'breaks' in the bathroom.  Clearly he wasn't interacting a lot with other people.  Interestingly, he is quoted, in happier days, as saying:

"My favorite thing about acting is being alone and going through the scripts and working on it and getting ideas and asking myself questions, looking outside myself for them and researching and getting to the bottom of something and being creative with it as an actor and how to express it in a creative fashion. That's my favorite part. And,the actual acting of it." (IMBD)

That all sounds rather a lot like Venus in Virgo with Pluto and Uranus!  Virgo can be shy and introverted; Pluto is linked with the underworld (the bottom).  Uranus represents being/looking outside oneself. Venus can of course be creative.

I also found the following quote to be appropriately descriptive of these outer planet connections in the chart - of Neptune with the Moon and of Pluto/Uranus with Venus:

"On my down time I do a lot of nothing. I just kinda read, run and hang out with friends because I haven't had a lot of it lately. I just try to do a lot of nothing. ...when you stay home you really don't want to do too much because you've been going out and getting up early and staying out late all the time. So you just do very little." (IMBD)

The Moon, Neptune and Uranus are all at 21 degrees in Hoffman's chart.  The day that he died the planet Saturn, in the sky, was at 22 degrees of Scorpio, conjunct Neptune, square the Moon in Aquarius and sextile (60 degrees away from) Uranus in Virgo (the planet that rules over Aquarius).  Saturn represents boundaries.  You could say that Hoffman struggled with the boundary with heroin (Neptune) that day.  Some people say that death is the ultimate boundary.  Saturn in Scorpio can mark the point of no return for some people.  For an addict it might well represent a 'bottom' - a place of rock bottom, where things can't feel much worse and, quite likely, where the addiction feels completely out of control.  The Venusian appetite and the abductive quality of Pluto may have been drawn in that day, due to those planets' proximity to Uranus. Not that happy heights of creative inspiration reached then, sadly - just the struggle of someone caught in a vicious circle, who knew that this Saturn in Scorpio end was in sight.  Scorpio is said to have a destructive or healing quality, depending on how the person uses its energies.  Perhaps the line was just very hard to find for this relapse period of Hoffman's life. Only a few weeks before, when his partner had drawn a boundary about him no longer living at home with the children, and he had checked into rehab, he had confided in a friend that if he didn't beat his addiction that time, it would kill him.  It's a big loss when Saturn and Pluto take charge - to the film going audience as well.  With the Sun in Cancer, he would have had a deep desire to do right by his family, which would perhaps have informed his decision to accept the request to leave the family home and get clean.  But the Sun in his birth chart was square Mars (at a 90 degree angle) which suggests the family 'stuff' was also a source of conflict for him.  Perhaps that simply made him human.  RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Decans Articles - Sagittarius

What do Edith Piaf, Teri Hatcher and Jane Austen have in common?  They were all born under the sign of Sagittarius!  But do you know which Decan of the sign? Perhaps more vitally, do you know which Decan of your Sun sign (zodiac sign) you were born under? You can find out by looking at the Decans information at Totally4Women:


For Sagittarius, the current sign of the month, look here:


As some of you know, I have been writing the horoscope column at the T4W website for some time now and the Decans focus will soon be complete, with Capricorn the next sign covered.  T4W have kindly decided to keep the Decans personality readings available for the ongoing future, so do visit back to view the set whenever you want that kind of information. You can find the overview here:


Thanks also to those who post comments to this site.  All comments are moderated and we do only publish those that are truly relevant and genuine to what is being discussed here.

Celestially yours!

Friday, 18 October 2013

The Light of Venus - author: Adam Gainsburg; review by Diana McMahon Collis

Celestial Spot has had a little gap whilst I have been kept ultra busy with external writing, editing, author support and consultation services.  Apologies to fans of the blog, but I shall now be posting some book reviews by way of a little catching up... Here is the first one and I hope you enjoy it.  It may have special interest for fans of the Sun and Venus, but also for anyone interested in understanding more about their life purpose... Celestially yours, as ever!
Book Review of:  The Light of Venus
Author:  Adam Gainsburg
Published by:  Soulsign Publishing, Virginia USA 2012 (paperback edition)

Review Text Copyright Diana McMahon Collis 2013 + beyond
Review First Published in The Astrological Journal Vol. 55 No. 1 January/February 2013

Adam Gainsburg’s book will appeal to anyone interested in understanding about their unique purpose on this planet, particularly through their “dharma” – or spiritual responsibility – describing the unique gift that each person can bring into the world.
Whilst the book’s title focuses on one particular planet, it is not just a study of Venus, or yet another planetary ‘cookbook’.  The Light of Venus is primarily about the relationship of Venus to the Sun in the sky.  In that way it instantly reminded me of Dane Rudhyar’s work on Moon cycles (The Lunation Cycle), but Gainsburg explains, that systems such as Rudhyar’s rely on an equal-phase formula (phases of equal duration), whereas his own study and theory has been based upon direct sky experience – ie “astrophysical” rather than astrological.

This book is about the cycle of Venus in relation to the Sun and the particular stages (phases)  of that cycle.  The author observes the movement of Venus from Morning Star to Evening Star and back again, indicating that each person has a personal Venus phase (although, paradoxically, this links them to a higher, collective purpose).   Understanding this phase can demonstrate “how your inner feminine nature can contribute to our improved collective femininity”.  Gainsburg suggests that Venus-Sun ‘alchemy’ shows the heart’s intelligence, providing a route away from perceived separateness, towards a more connected, personal communion with life in general – quite a profound idea.  This work is rooted in solid experience, though; not only has the author spent much time literally observing the sky, but also many hours with clients, noting how the Venus-Sun phase has played out in their experiences.  I wish that he had been able to include some actual case studies, as this would have made his arguments more persuasive.
On with the theory, however: as any astrologer knows, it is not unusual for there to be a range of contradictions within an individual horoscope; Gainsburg goes on to describe how Venus’s natal phase can seem at odds with the horoscopic placement of Venus by sign, house, aspect and dignity.  The main thrust of the book may, however, detract somewhat from the established idea that, inner planets usually point to more personal aspects of a person’s character and life experience, whilst outer planets are often seen to better represent the collective – or a sense of shared, ‘generational’ consciousness.  Gainsburg’s take on the Sun-Venus cycle together suggests that they are “dynamic stages of a collective developmental process”, although he does emphasise a “personal communion” according to specific phase.  It may be that he is describing a difference between the ‘mundane’ self and ‘higher’ self, towards which – the theory appears to go - the feminine life force (or side of the brain) has a stronger access link.

 It is worth mentioning that Gainsburg observes a synodic cycle, not a sidereal cycle for plotting the phases, with this definition: “ (from Greek synodos for “with the path”) ... synodic cycles are measured from the conjunction of two or more bodies to their next conjunction.  Synodic cycles are formed by two planets which share a path together or travel with one another.  (Wikipedia defines a synodic day as sunrise to sunrise and a sidereal day as star-rise to star-rise; apparently, if we are talking about a synodic month, this represents the Moon’s phases, focussing on the Moon’s position in relation to the Sun as viewed from earth).  Details such as this and the emphasis on sky-watching, as opposed to astro-logging (presumably working only from ephemerides, logarithms and maths), emphasise a subtlety of astrological approach that is often missing in a lot of astrological literature. 
As teachers of astrology often find, if we pull the old literature apart too much we can start to see flaws in the astrological system.  To an extent, Adam Gainsburg’s approach shows up these flaws, which is oddly quite refreshing - perhaps because it reminds us just what a complex subject astrology can be, as well as how simple it could be!  I felt reminded of the split in astrology between an externally observational, physical practice (more akin to astronomy) and a logical, table-building, mathematical practice, both with relatively ancient routes of course.  Yet I am tempted to call Gainsburg’s approach “retro” – in the nicest possible way.  The Light of Venus reminded me a little of some of the 1970s astrological literature and of the Jeffrey Wolf Green school of astrology.

The author’s claim is that “What’s Your Phase” is the new “What’s Your sign” and suggests that “it may be that your greatest contribution comes not from your planets and thus your personal identity, but the spaces in between them”.  I like this approach as it reminds me of certain modern artists (playwrights, film-makers, authors, actors) who emphasise that it is not always what characters say that matters: it is the gaps in between what they say that often conveys something of profound importance!
Adam Gainsburg’s work is considered to be pioneering in the astrological field and as such it might be fair to compare him with other innovators, such as John Addey.  It is certainly refreshing to see someone talking about something that seems new, even if the relationship between the Sun and Venus has been there all the time!  With any new approach, though, I am eager to test it against reality.  Only then can I decide if I am going to add its methodology to the (already fairly packed) repertoire of tools for understanding “what’s in a chart” – and whether I should be pointing clients and students to the new information.  I want to feel satisfied that it adds something vital or at least very relevant, when students are already struggling to understand the basics of astrology or clients are busy wanting answers to slightly more mundane queries.  Even if the book is only going to be of passing interest to me plus nearest and dearest, perhaps the acid test for relevancy of astrological material  is that the information (or interpretation) has to ring true.   I am glad to report that I could certainly relate to the description of my own Venus phase; a part of me wished I had some other Venus phase, as what I read was effectively a repeat of a message I have received in other areas.  But there is value in having confirmation of what you already know –  this is sometimes what clients seek from a consultation session or reading.  For more objectivity and a fairer test, I compared the interpretations given of the various Venus phases against the charts and personal knowledge of a handful of people I am well acquainted with – and equally thought that the phase meanings reflected something quite profound about those people.

Whilst I prefer not to gripe about small technicalities in any painstakingly constructed art work, there are a couple of features that niggled a little, although they don’t detract from the core value of the book.   The first is that, whilst this may not strictly be an astrology ‘cookbook’, it does have a somewhat formulaic component.  This is particularly clear in the definitions of the “Collective Theme” of each phase, under the “Phase Meanings” headings.  These revolve around ‘feminine intention’ and ‘feminine identity’ and come across as variations on a theme, with verbs as their distinguishing factor.  Maybe this is just the way it has to be.  A book needs a structure after all; the material has to be clearly organised in some way.  But, when I noticed the similarity of the wording in these sections, I suffered that temporary experience of doubt and slight cynicism that I hear in the voices of those members of the public who say: “but when I read the sections in horoscope columns, I could relate to any one of them”.
The second factor is that the author mentions that he has taken pains to keep the book’s language simple and accessible; whilst I am sure that his intentions were true, I also think the book contains psycho-spiritually-based language that will be more accessible to some readers than others.  For example, a phrase  such as “Crystallizing our re-made feminine intention; radiating, manifesting our feminine destiny” might not bring immediate clarity to all.  This might not matter, however, if the book contained case studies and/or even a few metaphors that could help to elucidate and pin down meanings.  As it is, the language in the book seems to leave some of the’ meanings’ given open to further interpretation.

Moving on, to structure, as well as the key chapters on the 13 phases of the Venus-Sun cycle, there are explanatory chapters on Adam Gainsburg’s reasons for writing the book, the meaning of Dharma, the Feminine Principle and Feminine Self, astrology (the sky approach vs the other approach) and how the Venus phases work.  A further, tabled section clearly lists the Venus phase dates, helping to instantly identify your Venus phase (no clunky maths or chart scrabbling to do!). 
One way and another, the book has some hidden depths and extra little nuggets tucked away.  There is a glossary of astrological terms and some fascinating appendices, which include things like ‘Notes for Consulting Astrologers’, ‘Meditation Images of the Venus Phases’ (which reminded me of I-Ching hexagram phrases), ‘Venus Retrograde & Venus Invisible’, ‘Venus and the Moon’, ‘The Solar Feminine’ – and more, across 13 separate subject headings ( nice symbiosis!).   Last, but not least, there is an extensive bibliography and reading list, together with a resources section. 

Appendices can sometimes look like passing add-ons.  However, one of these focuses on the Venus-Moon ‘alchemy’ in the chart, an understanding of which can help “those interested in increasing their feminine authenticity” – a section which might be helpful for anyone working with their shadow side/dark side, wanting to get clear on actions that could move them more towards the light.  Once again, I ‘tested’ the readings of each sign against that which I know to be true about self and others and was quite impressed by how the interpretations seemed to really fit.  Not only is this useful for self-knowledge, but it helped me to somehow understand and even forgive some previously inexplicable behaviour through the years.   I suspect The Light of Venus could therefore be a helpful ‘manual’, over time or, at the very least, become one of those texts that I can reach for if I feel I have lost my way a little, to remind myself of why I am here and how to get back on track.  Clearly, a lot of time and love has gone into the creation of The Light of Venus and for that reason alone, it deserves careful, meditative reading.  It is a book that focuses on astrology as a tool for growth – on a global scale - but starting simply and very personally, with you - and me.  All in all it is a very thoroughly researched book, with a fresh approach and the kind of deeply insightful information that might make a difference to how you feel about yourself and your life.  For professional, natal astrologers, it might make a difference to your clients’ view, particularly if they are interested in concepts such as spiritual/personal/planetary growth and evolution.  Many of mine just want to know about quite everyday, down to earth things!  But I can see the concepts in this book appealing to those keen to pursue a spiritual path.  Adam Gainsburg has produced an interesting, refreshing book, worthy of praise and attention.
If you are interested to know more about your own birth chart, you may like to consider booking a Mindbliss Astrology reading: http://www.mindbliss.co.uk/astrologychartreadings.htm