Archives for category: Celebrity Astrology

angelina-jolieHow we react, how we respond to the pressures of the world is, in many ways, a strong indicator of our quality of life. Why? Because it is through our reactions that we navigate and  negotiate with the world.  Are our reactions emotional or mental, rash or confused, thoughtful or inarticulate, hysterical or passive, generous or selfish?

In looking at a chart, there is no single feature that gives us an idea of how a person might react in a situation, though there are candidates. The modes – cardinal, fixed and mutable – can be helpful if one of these is highlighted in a chart. The elements can also be helpful. Imagine you’re about to be attacked by a bear. If you’re of a fiery nature, you’ll probably counter-attack.  If you’re earthy you’ll stand your ground. If you’re airy, you’ll be trying to quickly figure a way out. If you’re watery, you’ll likely cry!

But all that aside, we typically look at the Moon to get a baseline measurement of  how we react. As the fastest moving planet, its very nature suggests change and thus gives us a clue to our reaction time. But looking only at the Moon’s sign can be misleading. The placement of the Moon in the chart, along with aspects to it can exaggerate or inhibit a person’s mode of reaction.

Before examining a chart, let me be clear why I think this topic has some importance. As I mentioned earlier, in my experience our reactions to the world constitute a high percentage of our quality of life. For most of us, this gets “fixed” in our personalities early on. But if the goal of astrology is to help you understand yourself, then seeing how you react is a very valuable tool in improving the quality of your existence.

The good news is that there’s plenty of opportunity, even without a reading, to understand how you react. All of us, every day, are in situations that demand reactions and responses. Spend a few minutes reviewing these before you go to sleep at night and you’ll start to form a clear picture of how you react. As to why you react in a certain manner, I think there is limited value in dwelling on that, at least at the beginning. Let’s be honest: we all think our reactions are appropriate all the time. And even when we admit they’re not, we can come up with some very good reasons. So, think less about why. More useful, probably, is to think about how could your reaction have been different. Do you have a range of reactions? Are you in control of them or do they control you?

Jolie Planets

As for a chart, let’s look at Angeline Jolie for some insight. Her Moon is in Aries – “forceful, positive, masterful, independent, self-reliant” – according to the first book I grabbed off my shelves. Consider her recent handling of her preventive double mastectomy. Whatever you think of her decision – and I can’t imagine the difficulty in facing such a choice – she used all the features of her Moon in Aries to do so. And with that Moon at the top of her chart, she did it publicly. And please note that not only is it at the top of the chart, but it’s conjunct both Jupiter and Mars. Her reactions are big (Jupiter) and aggressive (Mars).  According to her doctor, “she knew always that in her philanthropic core she couldn’t keep this a secret and be who she is.”

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As long-time readers of the newsletter know, a chart can not only be cast for a person, but for a country, a question, even an event. So this week, we’re going to take a look at the opening of Baz Luhrmann’s much anticipated version of the Fitzgerald classic, “The Great Gatsby”. How is this done? The film had its public premiere in Los Angeles last Thursday night (May 9, 2013) at 10:00pm. The chart is below, with a few relevant placements marked.


As we’ve done in the past, we’ll simply examine the placements of the Sun, Moon, Ascendant and its ruler. The question we want to keep in mind is: what can be expected from this movie? In a word: EXCESS! Cast your eye to the lower right of the chart where the exclamation point is. That’s the 5th house. What is the 5th house? The house of creativity. What is in the 5th house? Sun, Moon, Mercury, and Mars, all in Taurus. Now, one of the characteristics of Taurus is sensuality, so we can expect that the film will be sensuous and creative to the extreme, with 4 planets sitting in the sign and house.

Going further, we look at the ruler of Taurus, which is Venus and that planet has just entered Gemini. Finally, we look at the Ascendant – Sagittarius – and its ruler, Jupiter, which, like Venus, is also in Gemini. So out of the 7 major planets in a chart, 6 of them are in Taurus and Gemini. Can we craft a statement, using a few keywords for these planets and signs? How about:

The movie is an expansive (Sagittarius) excessive (Jupiter) projection of sensuality (Taurus with 4 planets) that never stops moving (Jupiter in Gemini) but is ultimately divided in its feelings (Venus in Gemini).

Now here’s a paragraph from the New York Times review by A.O. Scott:

“The result is less a conventional movie adaptation than a splashy, trashy opera, a wayward, lavishly theatrical celebration of the emotional and material extravagance that Fitzgerald surveyed with fascinated ambivalence.”

Did I pick through a lot of revies to find this one? No, it was my first choice. Are there are other statements that could be made from the planetary placements? Sure, but given the excess of Taurus and Gemini the chart for the release and the general perception of the critics, this all seems pretty accurate.

the-desperate-man-self-portrait courbet-1845

One of the most common questions I get from people seeking readings is why they don’t identify with their Sun signs. “I don’t feel like a Pisces,” a woman said to me recently, and certainly she was not typically a Pisces type. And this is the drawback of only looking at the Sun sign: it’s a piece of the puzzle, a significant piece to be sure and in some charts the most important piece, but not always.

One thing to realize is that every Sign is ruled by a Planet. And the placement of that planet is just one of the important considerations in how much or how little you feel like your sign. That’s why we look at all the planets, where they are and how they relate to each other. Going back to something I’ve written about in the past: the chart represents levels of behavior, of being. This is why there are contradictions in our characters and behaviors.

For instance, Moon in Cancer wants to nurture. Sun in Aries wants to go out and conquer. How do those conflicting needs get resolved? Is there a comprise? Is one chosen over the other? So with Aries ruled by Mars, we would look to where Mars is in the chart. Strong? Weak? Connected to the Sun or to the Moon, or neither?

Remember: planets can be described as needs. Growing up in your particular family, is one need much more rewarded than the other? The way the planets fit – not just the Sun sign – but all of them together starts to give us a portrait. Too many conflicting needs may leave you uanble to act with certainty or confidence. Not enough inner conflict and you may lack motivation to do much.

In addition, the relative strength of other planets may take center stage over the Sun sign. A strongly placed Venus or Jupiter – for instance, on an angle of the chart – may give it precedence over the Sun sign. But let’s use an example, and to do so we’ll use one of my favorites: the chart of Angelina Jolie below.

  Jolie Planets

Jolie is a Gemini: Sun and Mercury are in Gemini. Mercury rules Gemini, which should give her strong mental qualities. She should be diverse in her interests and her approach, if we’re looking at it strictly from a Sun sign perspective. And with her humanitarian work, interest in directing and so on, that certainly seems to be the case.

But what we know her for is her beauty and her roles in which she projects herself as a person of powerful action. In the chart, we see that in two places: Venus right on the Ascendant (marked on the left side of the chart) and Mars, Moon and Jupiter in Aries (fighting, headstrong, force) at the top of the chart (also marked). The Gemini signature is there, but there’s a way where it is subsumed by the Moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter. She described herself once as someone who gets what she wants. That’s not a Gemini statement, that’s an Aries statement, and the placement of those three planets at the Midheaven (career, public exposure) testifies to those needs.

Summing it up: the question of why you do or don’t feel like your Sun sign is a complicated one. And there may be a very good reason why you don’t.



Vice and Virtue. Long ago, people used these words to describe the flaws and strengths, the good and bad qualities of those around them. But times change, and the words Vice and Virtue have largely fallen out of favor, which is probably a good thing. They still have a use, however, and we can use astrology to figure out what that use might be.

The fastest way to do that is by taking a look what used to be called The Seven Sins and the Seven Virtues. Here’s what it looks like:

Planet:                 Virtue                        Vice

Sun                        Faith                        Pride

Moon                    Hope                        Greed

Mercury                Prudence                Envy

Venus                   Charity                     Lust

Mars                     Courage                   Wrath

Jupiter                  Temperance           Gluttony

Saturn                   Justice                      Sloth

Before I start, it’s important to put aside the religious connotation of these terms. Most of us have indulged in a fair amount of vice during our lives, so there’s no reason to rain on anybody else’s parade. What’s useful here is to look at the planets as symbolizing potentials – both good and bad potentials. For instance, at its best, Mars will symbolize courage, fortitude, right action; at its worst, we will see anger, vengence, cruelty, and so on. In a chart, those qualities are expressed through the sign of Mars, as well as its position and its relationship to other planets. We all know people in whom anger is a chief characteristic; it has, almost in a literal sense, captured the person’s personality.

In a natal chart, we will see this in different ways. For instance, here’s Sylvia Plath’s chart:

Sylvia Plath

Mars (in hot Leo) squared to Mercury (in deep Scorpio): the mind and tongue will be sharp, cutting, there will be impatience, nervous tension.

Or go back to Donald Trump’s chart from last week.

Donald Trump

Mars (again in Leo) right on the Ascendant. He’ll force himself (Mars) into the world in a dramatic (Leo) style. Both Mars and Leo are hot and dry in their qualities. What is Trump best known for? Telling people that they’re fired!

Now here’s the interesting part. If there was no free will, we would be prisoners of our nature, but we are not. The chart indicates the potential but not the outcome. Energy and qualities – which is what the planets are – can be re-directed, reformed if you will, when you see them clearly within yourself. Because, while it can be very gratifying to occasionally indulge in our vices, it’s not a great long-term strategy. And that’s not because of some soppy religious idea of “it’s better to be virtuous”. It’s more that to indulge in the worst nature of our planets is to deny or block other opportunities, potentials and paths.




If you tried to imagine an antidote the high-flying excesses of “Sex in the City” you couldn’t come up with anything more perfect than the HBO series, “Girls”. Created by Lena Dunham, the show follows the lives and sexual adventures of 4 young women fumbling around with relationships, work and identity in New York City. Unlike “Sex in the City,” the show seems stripped of illusion and fantasy.By turns entertaining and nerve-wracking, “Girls” is pretty remarkable for being openly, even bluntly sexual and intimate in its portrayal.

At the age of 26, Dunham has a significant number of credentials under her belt. A long with “Girls,” she wrote, directed and starred in the indie favorite “Tiny Furniture” as well as a number of short films. Her book is reportedly being shopped around New York publishers for $3 million. Judging from both the show and the movie, Dunham has some core themes that she’s working with. So let’s take a quick look at the chart.

 Lena Dunham

Almost magically, we see the Moon in Cancer exactly on the Cancer Ascendant (circled on the left side). Highly fitting for a writer working on issues of feminity, nurturing and relating (all highly Cancerian themes). Even physically, Dunham has the round, dreamy face of a Moon child.


Her Moon connects directly to Jupiter, powerfully placed in Pisces at the midheaven (career, public visibility). In my practice, when I see Pisces strongly emphasized in a chart, it almost always leads to involvement in film, theater, music or something related to those arts. With Jupiter (reward, expansion) placed there, we see great potential, but is that Jupiter supported by other planets. In other words, the potential is there to rise up but do other energies in the chart contribute to this happening?

As a matter of fact: Yes. Jupiter is supported by contacts from the Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Mars Venus and Neptune. The chart overflows with creativity, one might even say, an obsession with it. But what stands out, is the connection of energies, of planets in good condition supporting and reinforcing each other. What most of us have to consciously work on doing, seems to be already set in place in this remarkable woman’s chart.

the-sisters Stanley Spencer

A few months ago, I wrote about certain themes running through families. At the time, a number of people asked me to elaborate, so here you go.

In the case of astrological themes, we’re usually thinking in terms of signs, although it can also be extended to planets. It’s certainly not unusual to find families that are Saturn or Jupiter-like in terms of their sensibilities. Where astrology can be helpful regarding families is that it can identify the black sheep, the person who was working on a different theme from most of the other family members. Because it’s important to remember that parents and siblings and all the rest of the clan are, on some level, simply other people. They may be much more, of course, but astrologically they can be wildly different, with a different purpose, a different purpose, a different sensibility and so on.

By saying that, I’m not diminishing the ties of family but simply pointing out that there can be essential and painful differences between people who share the same blood. “Is it wrong not to like my sister?” a client once asked.  “If it helps,” I told her, “she probably doesn’t like you either. There’s simply no compatibility between your charts. Stop worrying about it.”

In some astrological circles, it’s believed that people choose their families on some mystical/psychic/soul level. I’m not much a believer in that idea and certainly over the years my clients seem to absolutely hate it. “Trust me, of all the parents on earth, I wouldn’t have chosen those two,” is how a woman put it to me once.

Having said all of the above, it would be a mistake to think that looking at the charts of family members, siblings for instance, is an exercise in searching for the negative. Below are the charts of two well-known brothers: Ben and Casey Affleck. They have worked together often, and have done so in an industry that could easily set siblings at odds (think of Eric and Julia Roberts, or Warren Beatty and Shirley Maclaine). We’ll look at them first through the planetary connections and then through the connections of temperament, though in practice the process would be reversed. Ben’s chart is on the inside, while Casey’s is on the outside.

The Affleck Brothers

While born three years apart, the brothers have some unusual connections. Starting with the Sun (marked with an arrow at the bottom left of the charts) and moving counterclockwise, we see that their Suns are conjunct, Casey’s Mars is conjunct Ben’s Mercury and that their Moon’s are conjunct. AND both those Moons are favorably supportive to the Ben’s Ascendant and Venus (marked on the left side with a couple of rectangles). Is it any wonder they work together and work well?

Going further, let’s look at the temperaments: Ben is primarily phlegmatic (cold & wet) in nature, with a sub temperament of choleric (hot & dry), while Casey is primarily melancholic (cold & dry). What does that mean? They connect through the cold element, but balance each through the Ben’s preponderance of wet and Casey’s preponderance of dry. In other words, there’s a lot, in terms of both temperament and planets that make them well suited to working together.


The tragic story of Mindy McCready’s recent suicide brought questions from a few readers on whether depression can be seen in a chart. As that word has such broad connotations, it’s not a term I would use. That said, there are charts that certainly show stress around either thinking or emotions, or both. As I mentioned last week, when Venus, which generally symbolizes love and relating, is under stress there can be difficulty socializing or having stable relationships. In terms of depression – or Melancholia, as it used to be called – we look to Mercury and the Moon, the two fastest moving planets in the chart. Under stress, it can be difficult for these two to function. And depending on what kind of stress, we can get a glimpse of what kind of problems turn up.

For instance, Mercury under stress in an earth sign can suggestion a heaviness of thought, depression, if you will. While Mercury in a fire sign afflicted by Mars (which shows up in the chart of poet Sylvia Plath), may be an indicator of anger. In an air sign, Mercury is less likely to lead to unhappiness though it may result in a loss of focus or unrealistic thinking depending on the aspects.

And finally, we have Mercury in a water sign. As he is a well-known figure, and because his chart is so extreme, we’ll take a look at the horoscope of Kurt Cobain, where Mercury is placed in watery Pisces and see how this works in practice.


There’s a lot going on here, but it’s easily broken down. On the right side of the chart, in brackets, we find Sun, Mercury, Venus and Saturn ALL in Pisces. A water sign, Pisces symbolizes, among other things, oneness, empathy and sacrifice, but negatively victimization and vulnerability. With so many placements there, we can anticipate those qualities running deeply through the core of the Self. But there’s much more, as those planets are also connected to both Moon and Jupiter (arrow at the top of the chart) and Neptune (arrow at the bottom of the chart) also in water signs, all of which greatly heighten and increase the sensitivity. In my experience, a preponderance of planets in water signs frequently indicates a tendency to addiction and Cobain’s struggles in this area are well documented. In fact, out of ten planets in the chart ALL EXCEPT TWO ARE IN WATER SIGNS.

And as for the two that aren’t – Uranus and Pluto – both are exactly opposite Mercury, the ruler of thought, which brings us extreme and unconventional communication and thinking. All that Pisces, with its longing to leave the material body, is perfectly suited to a person who was the creative force behind a band named, Nirvana.



By any standard of measurement, the last few years have not been peaceful ones for the Church of Scientology. Along with a number of scathing books about the church’s practices, the public has witnessed the acrimonious departure of Paul Haggis, an Academy award winning writer and director. In 2011, Haggis and his split with the church was profiled in a long New Yorker article by Laurence Wright. Now, Wright, a Pulitzer-prize winning author, has written a serious and thoughtful examination of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

While reading the book, I became curious about Hubbard. (Clearly I’m not the only one: last year’s movie, The Master, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, used Hubbard as a basis for its main character.) At any rate, the birth data for Hubbard was easy to find and it presents a rare opportunity. If we accept that the church is a genuine religion, which the U.S. government does, then we have the birthchart of a religion’s founder. Better yet, we have a lot of Hubbard’s texts, from his days as a pulp writer of hundred of short stories and novels to his teachings about Scientology. Here’s the chart; let’s see what stands out.

Hubbard 1









Given Hubbard’s prodigious output, we look for Mercury, planet of writing and communication (and marked with #1 at the bottom of the chart) and find it in Pisces. Does that make sense, given Hubbard’s history. Very much. By itself, Mercury in Pisces is given to fantasy, imagination, intuition and can be telepathic on a certain level. The thinking is not linear, but associative. In general, Pisces is not considered a good placement for Mercury because the nebulousness of Pisces acts against the Mercury impulse towards clear definition. On the positive side, Mercury here is given to creativity, but negatively there is a risk of illusion, of either deceiving or being deceived.

But there’s more, of course. That Mercury is in a very strong contact with Jupiter in Scorpio (marked with #2 on the chart). In many ways, Jupiter in Scorpio is an occult position; it seeks to get to the depths of things. The contact with Mercury suggests both exaggeration (Jupiter is expansive by nature) and a desire for power through Jupiter’s expansion into deeper matters (Scorpio). Interestingly, a large number of Hubbard’s works turn on issues of power, dominating or being dominated.

But just a little more: Mercury and Jupiter are also in strong contact with Neptune. Once again, we see the heightened imagination, the powerful capacity to think in images, the visionary. But also, we see the risk: an inability to differentiate between what’s true and false. In an old book of German astrology, we come across this description: “may translate the inner images into a language that isn’t understandable or can hardly be understood.”

Obviously a great many church members would disagree with that last quote and that’s certainly their right. But whatever you think of Scientology, Hubbard’s chart – and we’ve barely touched the surface – seems accurate to a high degree. A grand imagination, the fascination with the occult and deeper meanings and a tendency to exaggeration and inflation (for instance, requiring members of the church to sign a billion year contract.) While the church has attacked Wright’s book, it seems to be a rigorously researched and carefully written examination of a highly extraordinary and eccentric human being whose ideas continue to fascinate. Much as he hoped they would.

While doing readings at Dose Market last weekend, a woman sat down and asked: What happens when people don’t know what time they’re born?

It’s a good question. And the answer is that the astrologer then has to take what he does know – the date of birth and place of birth – and try, through trial and error to figure out the time of birth. It’s important because the time determines the degree of the Ascendant, also known as the rising sign. In ancient astrology, the Ascendant was sometimes called the “helm,” because it was believed to be so important that it served as a guide for a person’s life.

To illustrate the difficulty, I’ve chosen a person we’re all very familiar with – Tom Cruise – but whose birth time has never been published or discovered. If you look on the web, the charts that are posted for Cruise use noon as the time of birth, which is the standard astrological convention when you don’t know the real time.

Before I talk about how I chose this particular time, let me just add that: FIGURING THIS OUT IS VERY DIFFICULT. There are 12 signs and 360 potential degrees to choose from, so there’s a lot of pushing and pulling the planets around the chart to see where they may work the best. Of some help is the fact that while the Moon moves at around 13 degrees per day, the degrees of the rest planets are stable. It’s just the houses and where the signs fall that we’re trying to determine. That said, below is the chart with a birth time that I’ve landed on for the actor.

So why, out of all the twelve signs, did I choose this particular time, which gives the actor Libra as the ascendant? First of all, remember that every sign has a ruling planet and for Libra that planet is Venus. When we look at Venus’ placement, we find it in Leo, which makes a lot of sense regarding Cruise’s “star quality”. Quite simply, whether you like him or not, he shines, and with both Venus and the Moon in Leo, he shines a lot. By using Libra as the ascendant, his Venus and Moon are suddenly in the 10th house, the midheaven, the most visible placement in the chart. Does that make Libra the only candidate? Not at all. I also considered Scorpio, for his secretive qualities, as well as Leo, for the qualities I’ve already mentioned. But in the end, Libra is the sign that best puts Cruise’s star potential in the chart position in which it has the most potential for fulfillment.

One thing that must be said about the chart is that there is a lot of power. Moon and Venus in Leo, the most dramatic and royal of signs: enormous needs for attention,  love and respect. A sense of drama is high: remember Cruise jumping up and down on the couch during the Oprah show? Venus, also in Leo, reinforces the need of the Moon and adds a magnetic quality. With the placement of both high in the chart – due to the Libra ascendant – these needs are played out dramatically in the world, in full view, so to speak. With Mercury in Gemini, we can anticipate a high degree of verbosity, there are a lot of ideas being tossed around in his head. As the chart stands, both Venus and Mercury make supporting aspects to the Ascendant: the image is everything and everything that is done protects the image. Speaking of protection, the Sun in Cancer adds both a layer of protection – think of the crab – and a sensitivity. In combination with the Leo Moon: enormous pride. There’s more that could be said, of course. But let’s look at the Cruise’s natal chart for the time I’ve calculated it against his chart for the current year.

What stands out here is Saturn (circled) almost exactly on the Ascendant and opposite the 7th house of relationship. Saturn on the Ascendant in any given year points to difficulty, a restriction, a loss, a reality check for the individual, a category in which being left by your wife belongs. How will Cruise deal with it? His Ascendant for the year is in Scorpio, a sign well known for its skill in rejuvenation, self-healing and resurrection. In other words, don’t worry too much about Tom: he’s going to be fine.

Last week’s newsletter forced me into a tough decision: write about Katie leaving Tom or examine the implications of the imminent discovery of the “God particle,” also known as Higgs Boson. Fortunately, it took less than a nanosecond for me to decide on Katie/Tom and here’s why.

While I was charmed by seeing a group of scientists get all giddy about the discovery of the God particle, I think their celebration is too early, or maybe too late. Too early, because I’m sure that somewhere down the road, future researchers will come up with some other particle that will become the “new” elementary widget that’s going to explain everything, including why Katie left Tom.

But really, it’s too late, because the issue cannot be decided in the manner that they’re seeking. To my mind, finding the God particle is like finding “the first brick” of the house you live in. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the brick is going to tell you much about your life, your time, your time here and now in this place.  I wrote about Katie because in contrast to the God particle, I think she’s more significant in that her struggle to express her needs is illustrative of a struggle we all deal with, in one way or another, at one time or another, in our lives. The word “God” has become so charged and so tainted, it’s almost impossible to use. So in regard to the stars, let me put forward the idea in this manner: astrology is based on a foundation that there is meaning. No meaning, no astrology. That meaning is not given to us, but uncovered by us, like uncovering a pattern, through living. The chart helps show the pattern, the design, but it’s also part of a larger design, but to reach that larger design we all have to begin with the pattern that’s inside us.