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.
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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