Archives for posts with tag: celebrity

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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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.




With his orange face, orange hair and smokin’  tagline – YOU’RE FIRED! – I wondered how much elemental fire we would actually find in the chart of “The Donald.” Turns out, there’s quite a bit, but also a great deal more, which is why we’re going to take a look at the natal chart of America’s most visible and ridiculous tycoon. Here’s the chart, followed by a quick read.

Donald Trump

If you’ve been reading the newsletter over the past couple of years, you’ll recall the importance of temperament. It is considered to be a permanent and largely unchangeable aspect of ourselves. The best description I’ve ever heard of it is also the simplest: temperament is the cloth from which we’re cut. Think of the essential difference between a silk skirt and a wool skirt. They have a different essence, a different materiality.

In Trump’s chart, the main temperament is choleric (hot & dry), thus: controlling, dictating, forceful. But there is a secondary temperament, which is sanguine (hot & wet), thus: persuasive, energetic, engaging.

While most of us associate Trump more with the choleric characteristics, it’s undeniable that he can talk up a storm. And it makes sense that there would be a sanguine side to a person who’s written a book called “The Art of the Deal”. Fact is, you can’t make a deal without being able to talk a good game.

Next, the Ascendant and its ruler. Here we see Leo rising. Leo: the lion, the king, royalty, the person who wants attention. And before we even look at the Ascendant ruler, which is the Sun, check out what’s right on the Ascendant: Mars, planet of war, of action (right side, marked with an exclamation point).  A critical placement – and one he shares with Beyonce – fiery Mars right on fiery Ascendant suggests someone who burns with a lot of passion.

Moving to the Sun (ruler of the Ascendant and marked at the top of the chart) and the Moon in Sagittarius (another fire sign, marked at the bottom of the chart), we have a combination that suggests a drive to be influential, to make their opinions and ideas known.

Strongest planet in the chart? Without a doubt, it’s Mars, whose placement on the Ascendant gives it a lot of force and suggests someone who is ready for a challenge. But that Ascendant becomes even more important and powerful when we realize it is conjunct the fixed star, Regulus.  What does Regulus symbolize? Named by Copernicus (yes, that old guy Copernicus!) it means “little king” and is associated with ambition. When well-aspected as it is, it will “raise the person to high positions in life and denotes successful activity, prominence and wealth”. Maybe it’s not surprise that when he was a kid, his brothers and sisters called Trump “the Great I Am”!

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.


Back at the end of January and beginning of February, I had wanted to take a look at Beyonce’s chart – since we were reading a lot about her performances at Obama’s inauguration and the Super Bowl – but I never quite got it together.  But when I came across this extraordinary photo, I had to pull out my notes and just do it. The chart is below.


One way of approaching the chart – or of approaching your life, for that matter – is by answering the question: what is your “primary motivation”? It’s an old, old phrase but useful as a focusing mechanism. Of course, to some might appear to be a touch anachronistic, particularly in this time where everyone encouraged to have it all, whatever that actually means. But the concept of a Primary Motivation can be a powerful one, as it gives you a reference point for direction.

Looking at any chart, we start, not with the Sun sign, but with the rising sign, the Ascendant, as the indicator of the Primary Motivation. In Beyonce’s chart, that gives us the sign of Leo rising with the planet Mars close the cusp. Here the Primary Motivation is, or should, be for recognition and power, either positively or negatively. Why? Because those are the essential qualities of Leo.  To find out whether those qualities have the opportunity to express themselves is accomplished by looking at the rest of the chart. In this case, Mars is close to rising, which adds more force to the Primary Motivation, leading to a take charge approach.

To keep this manageable for the newsletter, we’ll skip the Sun and Moon, and go right to the group of planets that are bracketed at the bottom of the chart: in order, that’s Mercury, Saturn,  Jupiter, the Part of Fortune, Venus and Pluto all in Libra. This extraordinary group in Libra is an overwhelming projection of grace, beauty, artistic expression and so on. In fact, Venus is likely the most powerful planet in the chart: it rules Libra as well as the 10th house of career and profession, we can expect these Venus qualities (beauty, grace) to be powerfully projected. Which leads us back to the Primary Motivation. How is power and recognition found? Through Venus. What kind of Venus? A comfortable Venus that will always find a way to be in its own element (sign). What else? Venus is conjunct Jupiter: lots of beauty, excess, an overflow.

Very quickly, let’s go back to that photo. The date is Feb. 3, 2013, the day of the Super Bowl. Below is Beyonce’s harmonic chart for the beginning of the game.  What do we see: her Venus (marked on the right) EXACTLY in support of her Part of Fortune (marked at the top of the chart which is shown below).  That’s a good day for anybody.

Beyonce Harmonic



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.

With the sad, sudden passing of Whitney Houston we’re reminded again of the brevity of life. That’s an idea that almost everybody readily agrees with, but in reality is very hard to live. Because unlike most precious things, we seem to have a lot of time, it does not seem to be in short supply. Yet when it’s gone, it’s all gone at once. When we look at a chart, we’re looking at potentials that may or may not come to realization over time. If we lived a thousand years, all the potentialsof the chart would come to pass and we would become much and know much, but instead we live for less than a hundred years, not for long really. Time is precious.

When we look at Whitney Houston’s chart, the first thing that jumps out is the extraordinary number of planets in fire signs: Sun, Moon, Venus and Jupiter, all in either Aries or Leo and all making the most supportive aspect possible to the midheaven, which is career, profession, visibility. With the regal Leo placements, we can expect drama and the need for the spotlight. With the Aries placements, particularly the Moon and Jupiter there which she shares with Angelina Jolie, we can look for the aggressive pursuit of Self. And she achieved that, which is important to remember: it’s the chart of someone who sought enormous exposure and attention and she received it.

So what are the challenges of the chart? In my experience, excessive fire in a chart runs the risk of burning out. I mean that literally. There’s a danger of all that fire simply consuming itself. In addition, when we look at the 7th house (the partner), we find a powerful Mercury that is tightly conjunct Pluto. On some level, the interpretation is pretty straightforward: destruction through the partner or a partner that self-destructs. While I don’t know much about her relationship with Bobby Brown, my first impression is that was intense and explosive, which are typical Pluto attributes.

In addition, since addiction plays a role, we look to Neptune (a fairly reliable indicator of addiction, fantasy, etc.) and find it squared to both the Sun and Venus. From that placement, we might say that fantasy or unreality are potential dangers in the chart. Finally, it’s worth noting the absence of water in the chart. One frequent manifestation of people who lack water, which symbolizes the emotional qualities of an individual, is that they don’t know what their emotions are. It’s certainly not that they don’t have emotions, but that they have no frame of reference for what they feel.There’s more, of course. But this is the speed read of the chart. Given the overpowering amount of fire that is in her chart, perhaps it’s best to end with a quote of Houston’s: “I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow; if I fail, or if I succeed at least I did as I believe.”