Celebrity Astrology: The Divine Maria Callas

June 10, 2007 by  

Singer with Glove - Illustrating Natal Astrology - Maria Callas Horoscope

One of the most valuable pieces of knowledge that natal astrology can give us is an understanding of others’ motivations. Yes, we can get a good feeling for how one’s personality manifests, but this is but a robe over the basic shape of the personality. To illustrate how this can be found, we will look at the horoscope of Maria Callas, a woman famous for both her intense dedication to her art, and her tumultuous, colorful personality. Her performances in La Traviata are renowned, as well as her spectacular singing in Medea.

Her renowned temperament and dramatic flair were a major attraction of her larger-than-life public persona, but what motivated her? This is where we get a sense of the level at which a person lives. Maria Callas’s horoscope is below:

Astrology - Maria Callas Horoscope - Natal Astrology - Significator of Manner

If we examine the temperament, we get sanguine (airy)/choleric (fiery) blend, with the former slightly predominating. This combination would give us an outwardly-focused, dynamic, ambitious, warm personality, someone very much living for the public, but emotionally self-contained.

Still, these are just adjectives. They are meaningless without us understanding the essential quality that they describe. For this, we turn to what William Lilly (and other traditional astrologers) calls the significator of manner. I will not give the complete method here, as that is easily available in William Lilly’s writings. It is more interesting to see the principle in action. The first step is to determine whether any planets occupy the first house, particularly around the Ascendant. These are our prime candidates for the significator of manner.

In Callas’s horoscope, we have the Sun in Sagittarius (on the royal star Antares) right on the Ascendant. Ptolemy says that the involvement of the Sun adds probity, industry, and honor to the native’s inherent motivations. Certainly, with the Sun in its triplicity on the Ascendant, a major motivation is going to be for glory, recognition, and honor. Lilly and Ptolemy say that the luminaries can only participate, rather than determine, manner. So we must look at Mercury, also in the first house. Mercury is the planet most influenced by others, so we also examine its dispositor, Jupiter in Sagittarius.

Ptolemy writes that a strong Jupiter connected with Mercury “will render men fit for much business, fond of learning, and of geometry and the mathematics; poetical, public orators, acute, temperate, well-disposed, skilful in counsel, politic, beneficent, able in government, pious, religious, valuable in all useful professions, benevolent, affectionate in their families, ready in acquiring knowledge, philosophical, and dignified.” The problem is that Mercury is in its detriment in Sagittarius, so it will make one inconstant, foolish, and frivolous. Mercury is angular, compared to Jupiter’s cadent 12th house placement, and so the negative characteristics will come through more easily.

How does this square with what we know of Callas? She was known to be temperamental and divaesque, which matches the Mercury in mutable, fiery Sagittarius, combined with the Sun on the Ascendant. However, the real power of the significator of manner is to help us understand what drives and motivates the native. Mercury (especially when debilitated) gives the love of change for its own sake, combined with the Sun’s need for glory and fame. Still, the Sun’s and Jupiter’s essential strength and lack of serious afflictions help ensure that the native lives out her life at a high-functioning, positive level. Morinus tells us that strong benefics in the malefic houses (here, Jupiter in the 12th house of self-sabotage and secret enemies) prevent the worst that those houses might ordinarily bring. So we can say that Callas’s changeability and need for acclaim caused her repeated problems (she famously walked out of many contracts with the world’s top opera companies), but her career did not suffer long term. Rather, her artistic career ended prematurely due to her vocal deterioration, perhaps also indicated by the weak Mercury, ruler of the voice.

Waiting for the Miracle – Leonard Cohen

July 22, 2006 by  

St. Francis - The Miracle of the Spring

Baby, I’ve been waiting,
I’ve been waiting night and day.
I didn’t see the time,
I waited half my life away.
There were lots of invitations
and I know you sent me some,
but I was waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

– From “Waiting for the Miracle” by Leonard Cohen

The singer/songwriter/poet Leonard Cohen hardly needs an introduction;his carefully crafted lyricism has inspired countless musicians from Suzanne Vega to U2. I recently saw the documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man and became curious about Cohen’s horoscope and what it showed about his unique artistic style. For those unfamiliar with Cohen’s writing, he is at once deeply melancholy and humorous, a romantic on an endless quest for redemption and rare Grace.

Even before I had seen the documentary, it was clear to me that Cohen was a melancholic, though obviously with a twist, since melancholics are not in themselves given to pouring out their experiences to the world. He struggled for many years with depression (perhaps not unlike Lilly’s “hypochondriac melancholy”) and has come out the better for it, his innate lyrical ability burnished by the friction between the attraction of the material on the one hand and a striving for salvation on the other. Several years in a Zen monastery on California’s Mount Baldy seems to have refined Cohen’s perspective without necessarily dulling his acute power of observation. His birth chart is below:

Leonard Cohen Horoscope

Note that the birth time is approximate, and thus may actually give an early Libra Ascendant. Regardless of this, however, the conclusions I reach would be largely similar. Neurosurgery this is not.

The Lord of the Geniture here is Saturn retrograde in its own sign in the 5th house of creative works. Cohen is said to spend a year on each song, refining it through numerous drafts to create a polished gem. This is a Saturnian process indeed, with the endless revisions expected from a retrograde planet. And yet, Saturn in the 5th house will leave its stamp on the native’s creations (be they children, poems or songs) – Cohen is not known for chipper musical fare. And yet, the whole thing is saved by a trine from Jupiter near Spica in the 2nd house. In its higher sense, the 2nd house shows the self-worth of the native. Jupiter on Spica, a religiously orientated, benefic fixed star will give an eternal belief that redemption is possible. This constant religious yearning is present in seemingly every song and poem, whether overtly spiritual or not. Let us move on to the overall temperament; using Lilly’s method, the constitution is strongly melancholic and overwhelmingly dry.

Along with the usual traits of melancholics, Cohen has quite a dry sense of humor (he said of his first stay at the Zen monastery that he left because it was run by a Japanese Roshi, with a German head monk and with all the Americans walking around in sandals, it seemed to him too much like revenge for World War II). Along with Jupiter, an important source of life-giving moisture here is the Moon in Pisces on Fomalhaut, a royal fixed star that gives treasures in the next world. Cohen spent many years working hard to renounce material success and acclaim; perhaps only his stay in an austere monastery, serving as a cook and driver to the Roshi (6th house of servitude) allowed him to satisfy that longing. The long sabbatical seems to have refreshed Cohen’s spirits and creativity in a way his previous efforts did not. The proximity of the Part of Fortune further underscores the importance of renunciation and service in his very core of the being.

Finally, then, we come to Cohen’s art. First house Mercury rules the chart, and we immediately notice its mutual reception with the very weak Venus in the 12th house. This connection immediately makes one think of artistic skill, and yet, with the difficult Venus, the artistic process cannot be easy nor joyful so much as an urgent necessity. Mercury and Venus further dominate the chart by reception; five planets are in the dignities of one of the planets. Notably, Saturn, the Lord of the Geniture is not one of those five. This may signify that ultimately, he will do his best work when he approaches his creativity as a discipline, rather than merely a means to create art (Venus) or express himself (Mercury). I believe that Cohen has been largely successful in this – ultimately, he says, he is a vehicle through which art and Grace flow as They will, when they will. His goal is simply to be prepared when They arrive.

“There is a crack in everything;
That’s how the light gets in.”

– Leonard Cohen