Today is a day of prayer and reflection, not just in his native South Africa, but around the world.  As a world citizen, he may be unparalleled.  His achievements were many, but all shot through with integrity and consistency.  The courage he bore in his long incarcerated years in Robben Island and the spiritual leadership in demonstrating reconciliation and forgiveness has set an example for world leaders (will they follow?) and an inspiration to all people.

He was born in the region of Umtata, in South Africa, in 1918 at the end of the first World War.  He was born into the Xhosa tribe and was a member of the Thembu royal family.  His birthchart reflects a sense of karmic responsibility, in the North Node conjunct his Ascendant.  He would be an agent of karmic change.

As a child and growing adult, he was impressed by the tribal method of settling disputes and airing injustices.  Travellers from all over Thembuland would gather:

“Everyone who wanted to speak did so. It was democracy in its purest form. There may have been a hierarchy of importance among the speakers, but everyone was heard:  chief and subject, warrior and medicine man, shopkeeper and farmer, landowner and labourer…”*

(*All quotes from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography unless otherwise stated)

He concluded that this was a wise way to conduct affairs:

“I have always endeavoured to listen to what each and every person in a discussion had to say before venturing my own opinion. Oftentimes my opinion will simply represent a consensus of what I heard in the discussion.”

His chart contains a close conjunction between Mercury and Saturn, which can produce adverse conditions in learning situations, but in his case produced an intensity of concentration, and I think also staying power.  I recently observed that it enables completion of long missions, and had he not lived long he would not have completed his mission.

He attended Fort Hare University, and Witwatersrand University, where he studied Law, a profession and application to which enabled him to help fellow freedom fighters and also on many occasions supported him in making his own case through various trials. It was a career path well chosen, and time and again proved fortuitous for him and his fellow men.  Sagittarius is traditionally associated with Law, and he had Sagittarius rising.  But Pluto was sextile his Midheaven (career), lending a serious purpose to his profession.

In the early days of his struggle against apartheid, he felt conflicts, such as loyalties towards his native tribe and wider interests, the tug between non-violent resistance and armed defence, and the conflict between family and his work in the world.

After his graduation from Fort Hare he reflected:

“But in my heart I knew I was moving towards a different commitment.  Through my friendship with Gaur and Walter, I was beginning to see that my duty was to my people as a whole, not just to a particular section or branch. I felt that all the currents in my life were taking me away from the Transkei and towards what seemed like the centre, a place where regional and ethnic loyalties gave way to a common purpose.”

His marriage to Winnie Mandela undoubtedly provided emotional stability and strength, and a sense of family important to his Cancerian Sun, including the experience of fatherhood.  She was to visit him in prison from time to time, and was a key figure in keeping his cause alive and understood by the outside world.  Her role of assistant in his activism is seen in their synastry as her Mercury (information) exactly conjunct his Mars (activism).  In their personal interaction, her Venus (supportive Love) was exactly trine his Uranus (attracted to his brilliance) which trined and bisected his conjunction of Venus and Jupiter (love of humanity).

His Cancerian nature gave him a love of his country and his people, but in a rare moments he was able to enjoy domestic life, he reported in his autobiography::

“I enjoyed domesticity, even though I had little time for it.  I delighted in playing with Thembi, bathing him and feeding him, and putting him to bed with a little story. In fact, I love playing with children and chatting with them; it has always been one of the things that make me feel most at peace. I enjoyed relaxing at home, reading quietly, taking in the sweet and savoury smells emanating from pots boiling in the kitchen.”

Though he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s method of non-violent resistance, and then Martin Luther King’s emulation of Gandhi, he did at some point decide that armed resistance had to be taken up.  He would not go all the way ideologically, and it may have been a key in his survival.  It is important to read his own words on the subject:

“As I condemned the government for its ruthlessness and lawlessness, I overstepped the line: I said that the time for passive resistance had ended, that non-violence was a useless strategy and could never overturn a white minority regime bent on retaining its power at any cost.  At the end of the day, I said, violence was the only weapon that would destroy apartheid and we must be prepared, in the near future, to use that weapon.”  Rightly or wrongly, it cost him friends, who were equally determined to carry on non-violently, but with whom he was reunited later in life.

In his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” Nelson Mandela is very honest about his own conflict and inner debate along his journey.  During the Rivonia trial which led to his final imprisonment, he summed up his thoughts and conclusions and actions of the time at the Court:

“…I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of violence. Some of the things so far told the court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness or because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arising after many years of tyrant, exploitation and oppression of my people by whites.”

He was imprisoned (with Neptune, the planet of incarceration exactly square his Saturn, showing loss of liberty) at Robben Island in 1962, and the courage and fortitude of his endurance there is legendary.  He always worked at relations between the staff and authorities and the inmates, in such a way that he would often gain rights for the prisoners, but also win moral battles with authorities who came and went in that time.  All the time he worked with the ANC and other organizations who were trying to eradicate apartheid and bring the sense of injustice to the wider world, enlisting the help of other nations.  He describes in his autobiography how he was sustained by a vision that he would ultimately be freed, and that he is fundamentally an optimist.

He also read widely and educated himself in many subjects.  I was bowled over when he quoted Marianne Williamson in his inaugural speech, as she is a New Age writer on the Course in Miracles:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”

His spiritual side was above all played out in his actions when he was released (on a Jupiter Return), in his vision for his nation that he had evolved in his time in prison, and his willingness to work those spiritual principles of truth, larger perspective, the good of the whole, justice, mercy, compassion, reconciliation and forgiveness into the arena of political leadership and world statesmanship.

He died as Mercury was making an exact return to the Mercury in South Africa’s birth chart: at one in mind and spirit with his nation.  Though the path is uncertain, I feel this is a sign to say he will be watching over them.

Everyone recognizes his outstanding qualities, and may emulate them, but above all I would love world leaders to put these qualities above greed and revenge and some of the unspiritual traits often displayed.

“To make peace with the enemy, one must work with that enemy, and that enemy becomes your partner”

~  Nelson Mandela