David Bowie (1947 – 2016)
from my teenage diary:
8/1/66 [David Bowie's birthday]: “Went to the Marquee Club [in Wardour Street, London] and collected autographs from David Bowie and David Essex.”
How I wish that I had written more on his 19th birthday, and written in a less superficial vein. I hope to remedy that with my look into his life and times. David Bowie’s chart is very revealing and reflective of his genius.
“The source of all my frustrations is hammering away at the same questions I’ve had since I was 19, this daunting spiritual search. They’re continual questions and they seem to be the essence of what I’ve written over time. And I’m not going to stop.”
~ interview with The Word magazine
Needless to say, I always followed his career with interest, but his first album was not released until the following year, in 1967.
Life on Mars
The man who fell to earth from Mars had his Sun in Capricorn exactly conjunct Mars. He may well have known something about his astrological chart, and may have been inspired by that fact. The Mars/Sun Inner Warrior and Activist was placed in the 12th House, which is why he needed so much personal space in order to thrive. The Mars/Sun exact conjunction is also responsible for the red head of the iconic Ziggy Stardust Persona.
Bowie’s Ascendant was in whacky, individualistic, rebellious, innovative, revolutionary and androgynous Aquarius – just perfect for what he wanted to do with his life!
So with his Sun and Ascendant, he was a mixture of calculating Capricorn and spontaneous Aquarius. With the energy and drive of Sun/Mars, he got things done. His urge for creativity was strong until the end.
He had a lot going on in the Golden sign of Leo – the Moon, Saturn, Descendant, Pluto and Part of Fortune were all in Leo, the sign of the Performer and Creator Archetypes. His creativity was greatly boosted by the North Node exactly trine his Ascendant on the cusp of his 5th House, forming a Grand Trine with Neptune in the 9th House (the Dreamer Archetype).
Mars/Sun in 12th House of chronic conditions depicts very clearly the fact that, due to an altercation in the school playground when he was 15, he damaged one of his eyes permanently.
According to his biographer, Paul Tryke:
“The damage was serious. David was taken to hospital and his schoolmates were told he was in danger of losing the sight in his left eye …The injury to David’s eye resulted in paralysis of the muscles that contract the iris, leaving the pupil permanently dilated and giving it the appearance of being a different colour from his other eye. His depth perception was also damaged. ‘It left me with a wonky sense of perspective,’ David explained later. ‘When I’m driving for instance, cars don’t come towards me, they just get bigger.’ ”
This incident was undoubtedly karmic; it involved a long term friend, a dispute over a girlfriend, and mutual forgiveness.
The resulting changes to the eye may have affected his inner vision, or conversely the incident and resulting distortion may have been symbolic of his unique vision. I think David Bowie acknowledged that the unusually dilated pupil added to his mystique.
He was ambitious to make his mark as a musician throughout his teenage years, and the early years were a struggle; although he wrote his own material, the songs from this era are largely undistinguished. It was during this era that he made many regular appearances at the Marquee Club.
A friend named Dek Fearnley observed in 1966:
“He was on a higher plane. really. He wouldn’t be talking about the weather or the latest Who single, he was simply off in his own world.”
Even at a young age, his late teens, he took a serious interest in Tibetan Buddhism. He was always interested to explore other cultures, and spiritual systems such as Kabbalism.
Friends and musicians shifted in this period of time, and it could be said throughout his life. In some periods he was very keen to keep his bands cohesive, and in others he would cut off working relationships suddenly, partly out of a need to take his creativity in the direction he wanted.
Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills
and put your helmet on
He released the album Space Oddity in 1969, introducing this strand of his personal connection with the Cosmos, and the character of Major Tom. This was released close in time to the Apollo 11 Moon landing, very much in the spirit of this high point of space exploration.
According to Simon Hayes of Mercury records, when it was first played in Chicago they said “This is a sad story about a guy lost in space. And we’re gonna release it when there’s a space shot happening – and there’s a real possibility we could lose a man in space?”.
His Progressed Sun had reached his Aquarian Ascendant, and was entering his 1st House. This says a lot about its expression of who David Bowie was.
Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?
Ziggy Stardust was a creation of late 1971, though not unleashed on the world until 1972. Uranus was forcing the issue and squaring his natal Sun: the Universe was saying to him “be as outlandish as you dare!”. He was able to truly express his Aquarian side. His progressed Sun in Aquarius in 1st House was also opposing natal Pluto in Leo in 7th.
Peter Doggett described Ziggy Stardust as “the perfect rock’n'roll star…male and female, king and queen, alien and human, transcendental and sublime.” With Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie ushered in the bi-sexual revolution of the 1970s.
On 3/7/73 he “killed off” Ziggy Stardust, and discovered a relish for reinvention. Killing off his alter egos is identifiable in his chart by his Pluto in 7th House close to his Descendant. At the point he “killed off” Ziggy Stardust Uranus was exactly trine his natal Uranus, enabling him to take great pleasure in the reinvention process.
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
Aladdin Sane was a 1973 album, which featured the iconic image on its cover of the lightning bolt make up, representing a high point in his artistic creativity. He loved to play with words, and the title was a play on “A Lad Insane”, Mercury in his chart being square to Neptune and sextile Chiron. This album featured the song “The Jean Genie” which was also a play on the name of the writer Jean Genet:
“The Jean Genie lives on his back
The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks
He’s outrageous, he screams and he bawls
Jean Genie let yourself go!”
Bowie had a long career, and never stopped creating. It would make a long blog to follow all these astrologically, but it is fascinating to look at his evolution in this way.
I watched three long interviews on You Tube this week. The first was from 1976, with Russell Harty. His style was clipped and severe, in a Capricorn way. Russell was asking silly questions, and David was trying to focus and be entertaining but with clarity. It was a time when he had just finished acting in the film The Man who Fell to Earth, and he was talking about being a very disciplined person and how he applied that in his acting. So, again, he was talking about a Capricorn quality. There was still a very strong reinvention theme going on planetarywise, as Uranus was now squaring his natal Moon, and Pluto was trine his Ascendant. It would also have been the year of his formative Saturn Return.
That year he exiled himself to Switzerland for tax reasons, then to Berlin in 1977 to detox and rediscover his joie de vivre. That was the period when “Heroes” was written… We can be Heroes, just for one day…
Next I watched an interview with Mavis Nicholson in 1979, in which Bowie talked about the recurring themes of isolation and alienation in his work and life, and its capacity for creating a microcosm within that experience. He said he was not good at being too much in contact with people, liking the geographical conditions which reflected that such as the plains of America, and New Mexico. This theme of isolation (Sun in 12th House) and alienation (Ascendant in Aquarius) are very central to his birth chart. He also had Moon conjunct Saturn (an emotional “Ivory Tower”). He told us in this interview that he thrived on the various forms of friction within life (expressing his Mars exactly conjunct the Sun). He seemed softer than in the 1976 interview, and slightly more at ease with himself. In that year Jupiter sextiled his Neptune bringing some spiritual peace, but Pluto squared his Mars ratcheting up the friction of life at that time as well.
My own personal favourite of all his songs was the 1983 “Let’s Dance”, a swan song to Pluto in Libra. It is more mellow than his usual edgy style, and Jupiter was again sextile his natal Neptune. The album of that name was also his best-selling album.
Let’s dance put on your red shoes and dance the blues…
If you say run, I’ll run with you
If you say hide, we’ll hide
The third interview I watched was with American host Conan O’Brien. The year was 2002, and he had a two year old daughter. He was much more mellow in his mood and style, with a soft and natural hairstyle. Again he was humorous, but in a much more relaxed way. It seemed as though he had grown into himself, and could entertain as himself rather than as a studied persona. He had just celebrated 10 years of marriage to Iman, and I wondered how much her influence had shaped his direction. This new sense of peace is highlighted by his transits that year: Neptune trine his natal Neptune, Neptune trine his natal North Node, and Pluto trine his natal Pluto. The current album was Heathen, the lyrics of which contain a great deal of angst in connection with New York and pre-dating the events of 9/11 which had happened the year before. He seemed to have been through intense changes over the preceding few years, and had a reborn joie de vivre through his daughter’s birth.
He married two very different women. Angie (born in Cyprus) helped him establish and publicize his more outlandish personae. Iman (of Somali origin) seemed quieter and more dignified, and brought him more personal satisfaction in a relationship.
Angie is currently in the Big Brother house, and in a strangely public way she heard the news of his death on camera, her seeking the limelight at this time contrasting surreally with Bowie’s withdrawal. Angie portrayed herself as a style icon (Sun, Mercury and Neptune in Libra), and saw herself as bisexual before she met David Bowie (Venus square Mars in her chart hints at that). Her impression is stamped on the young Bowie’s life and art. Astrologically, they fostered each other’s success, with a mutual sextile between their Jupiters.
Iman’s Sun trines exactly Bowie’s Venus, a step more compatible than Angie’s Sun sextile to his Venus. Her Sun is conjunct his Moon, a romantic pairing. Iman’s Jupiter is conjunct exactly with his Descendant (Marriage Point) and sextile exactly his North Node (happy karma).
They were introduced by their hairdresser in 1990. The aspects for Bowie on their first date (4th October 1990) were powerful: Pluto sextile his Mars, and Mars sextile his natal Pluto. He proclaimed it was love at first sight. She had a Jupiter Return and Jupiter also transited her Mars.
Around this year, his Progressed Sun moved into Pisces, when he met Iman. This marked a shift to a quieter, softer sense of self and lifestyle, and more a more compassionate influence and pathway.
A lifelong chain smoker (judging by film footage), his health problems escalated when he started taking cocaine in early 1974. By April of that year, when he visited America, friends noticed cocaine had entrenched itself in his lifestyle. At that point, Neptune (drugs) was exactly conjunct the South Node point of self-undoing.
On 25/6/2004 while on tour in Germany, David Bowie experienced pains in his arms and shoulder, which turned out to require emergency heart surgery. Again we refer to his Sun/Mars exact conjunction in 12th House, a hidden strain on the heart.
Uranus (Ascendant ruler) from Pisces in his 2nd House squared his natal Midheaven in Sagittarius in his 10th House, signalling a complete change in life direction. He stopped touring from that moment on.
The Next Day album
Although disposed to withdrawal (12th House) as well as fame (Leo planets), health was the reason for his disappearance from public view.
In 2013, he issue his back to Berlin album, on his 66th birthday, and a haunting video. The grey and lifeless still image of a cut out of his face, I felt to be slightly ominous. The accompanying song Where are We Now? was a strong one, and indicated that his creativity was intact, but I felt something was missing. I did not pick up a sense of decline when he originally retired from view, but at the time of The Next Day, I did feel unease and therefore was not surprised when his death was announced.
At the time, Saturn was square his Ascendant from 10th House cusp, conveying a bleakness of outlook. Uranus was trine his Moon in Leo in 6th House – he sprang this album on the public, quite literally. Neptune square his Venus, depicting a sense of nostalgia.
Blackstar was issued on the Friday before he died on Sunday 10th January this year. In those 3 days, the album was critically acclaimed. Saturn trined exactly his natal Pluto, symbolic of taking control of his death. Uranus squared exactly his natal Sun in Capricorn in 12th House, adding to the drama. Neptune was sextile exactly his natal Mercury, and trine his natal Chiron – he was presenting another riddle. Neptune squared exactly his natal Midheaven: his journey would take him beyond the veil.
The image of his “Lazarus” on the Blackstar video was literally a depiction of his dying. He had prepared for it, and depicted it on his own terms, creating his life as ever.
Uranus from 3rd House squared his Mars/Uranus. It will have been a shock but he had time to prepare and fashion more of his creativity. In reading about his life, the period of 18 months seems to crop up a great deal (the lifespan of Ziggy Stardust, the courtship before marriage with Iman, and his final illness), and that is a Nodal cycle. With North Node on the cusp of the 5th House trine his Ascendant, that indicated a positive co-operation between his karma and the self-creation of his life.
He died on Sunday 10th January 2016, though we did not hear about it until Monday. There is to my mind a sense of completion about his life, and the liberation of his spirit. He left behind a large, varied and generous back catalogue of work, something for everyone. I feel he will continue to inspire people through his work, and from his new expanded dimension, the source of his own being.
Recommended reading: “Starman” by Paul Trynka
Tomorrow Venus squares Jupiter, with the possibility of wild socializing, if that is how you want to start your week!
At 11.01 a.m. (all the ones) Mars trines Neptune, and you can fall into some sensitive applications of your energy. Tai Chi or Quigong would be perfect.
Venus also squares the Nodal Axis that day, and life may force a re-evaluation of relationships, especially within groups of people (3 or more).
Tuesday (19th) brings a sextile between Mercury and Chiron, which is a perfect co-operation between conventional and alternative medicine, and also good for problem-solving.
On Wednesday (20th) the Sun enters Aquarius, so permission to be as whacky, individualistic, rebellious, innovative, revolutionary and androgynous as David Bowie.
Until tea-time, that is, because Mercury squares Uranus and you may have gone too far, but if you are like Alan Rickman who had Mercury square Uranus, you may not regret a bit of controversy.
There is mental tension until Friday (22nd), when Mercury conjuncts Pluto, and ruminations are deep and serious in tone.
Saturday (23rd) seems more upbeat, with Jupiter conjunct the True North Node at 22 degrees Virgo, bringing some karmic reward, especially if you have been diligently recycling or looking after your health. If you enjoy that aspect, you’ll enjoy its recurrence in late June – something to look forward to.
Finally, on Saturday evening, Venus enters Capricorn. That may be chillier than Venus in Sagittarius, but it is warmer for Capricorns, and they can look forward to a three week surge of love and affection in their lives.
The Week in bullet points:
- Tomorrow – extravagant gestures; physical attunement; relationship karma
- Tuesday – balance between body and mind
- Wednesday – whacky, positive and negative
- Friday – concentrate and try and get things right
- Saturday – karmic reward, and loyalty in love
Read my tribute to Alan Rickman below