Vincent Van Gogh

“But I could have told you, Vincent,

This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you” ~ Don McLean

Searching for alternative viewing from the Olympics last night, I settled into a fascinating investigation of the truth behind the tale of Vincent Van Gogh’s ear on BBC 2.  This also coincides with an exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, entitled “On the Verge of Insanity: Van Gogh and his Illness.”

His Birth Chart

Often, I focus on the aspects in my blogs, partly because a proportion of the people I write about do not have available birth times.  But Vincent was born on 30th March 1853 at 11 a.m. in Zundert, Holland, and his chart really comes alive as seen through a trip through his Houses.

His Ascendant was in the third decanate of Cancer, giving a personality whose emotions would fluctuate from day to day.  Much of his 1st House falls in the sign of Leo, which is one of the indicators of a fondness for the colour yellow.

Vincent’s I.C. (which represents security) falls in his 3rd House of Siblings.  His brother Theo was born on 1st May 1857, and we have been able to see much of Vincent’s life through the published letters between Vincent and his art dealer brother.  He also kept Vincent afloat financially as much as he could.

5th House of Creativity:

At the end of the House is a triple conjunction between the Moon, the South Node, and Jupiter in Sagittarius.

The Moon/Jupiter represents the florid emotions and fervent passion of his painting, and the prolific output of his creativity.  It is the manic side of the possible bi-polar syndrome he might have suffered from.  In her book “Touched with Fire” Kay Redfield Jamison gives evidence that Vincent’s family had a history of mental illness.  She quotes Vincent himself rather fatalistically as stating “The root of the evil lies in the constitution itself, in the fatal weakening of families from generation to generation…The root of the evil certainly lies there, and there’s no cure for it.”

This conjunction points to a closeness with the mother and the family, and his mother (Moon) was by all accounts very religious (Jupiter).

The addition of the South Node to this conjunction conjures up a picture of Vincent as a pious figure in past lives.

6th House of Health:

At the end of the 6th House of Health we find Chiron in Capricorn, which is closely conjunct the Descendant and opposing his Ascendant (physical body).  This points to his delicate health during his lifetime, and the prominence of a wound.  Unfortunately, he was never able to work through his wound sufficiently to bring out his Inner Healer, which is a process which normally takes place throughout a person’s life: the Chiron Return which occurs at the age of 50 is the coming of age for the Inner Healer.

Chiron’s presence here may also represent his friend and homeopathic doctor Paul Gachet, whom he painted.  Chiron can be a positive force in the 6th House, especially in the 21st Century when there are alternatives to historic conventional medical approaches.

As well as Chiron being bound up with his health concerns, it is also inextricably bound up with his relationships, being on the Descendant (or relationship point).  He had apparently a lifelong care for those who were unfortunate or poor, and he also suffered a great deal of rejection in his relationships.

8th House of Death:

In the 8th House Vincent has the planet Neptune, which represents a tendency to suicide.  Again, he was not able to overcome the vulnerability of this placing, which does not automatically lead to suicide, and indeed can indicate great spirituality and connection to the Source.  Neptune itself receives an sextile from Saturn, which should have been more stabilizing.  As time went on, it resulted in his contrasting charisma and sympathy after death, a sad irony when viewing his rejection and lack of recognition in his lifetime.

9th House of Foreign Travel and Religion:

This is another important House for Vincent.  It contains a triple conjunction of Venus/Mars/Midheaven in Pisces, and a conjunction of the Part of Fortune/The Sun in Aries.  The first conjunction depicts his career as a prolific and energetic artist, and the second depicts the search for himself and the quality of joy that also comes through his work.  The Sun also represents the father, and his father was a Minister.  In this placing too you can see his journey to Arles and the outstanding quality of sunlight which gave life to his painting there.  The Sun in Aries gives rise to the red hair, with the extra stamp of Mars closely trine the Ascendant (physical appearance).  Aries also represents the head, and the ears.

10th House of Career:

He had largely difficult planets in his House of Career.  Mercury at the top of his chart would not be difficult, but it squares his Ascendant and brings an ever-present nervousness to his physical existence.  That placing, together with North Node in Gemini in 11th House (his dream of brotherhood) suggests that his true purpose was as a teacher.  Pluto, Uranus and Saturn are the other inhabitants of this House, all challenging on his Career path.  Pluto occupies an interesting position at 0 degrees Taurus, pointing to his attempt at a groundbreaking art movement. Jonathan Jones, writing in the Guardian, says: “he invented a new kind of art that would come to be called expressionism.”

Here we also find a conjunction of Mercury and Pluto, which is the depressive side of his mental equation.  Pluto is not the flat depression of Saturn (which is well aspected in his chart), it represents more of an existential angst which constantly pulls his mind into a life and death struggle.  There again, there is a transformative potential about this conjunction, which he did display signs of in his intense vision and insight as portrayed in his art.

The Mystery of the Ear

In the programme the search by Bernadette Murphy, a resident of Arles, is detailed, a painstaking journey of great perseverance over many years to establish what actually happened.  I will try not to give away too much, as the programme is still available on I Player!  But there are intriguing features of this tale, such as whether he severed the whole ear or just the lobe, and the role of the young girl he gave the ear to the next day, and the programme gives satisfying answers to these questions.  What is most relevant to astrological research is that two things happened the day of his self-inflicted ear injury.  One was that he had an argument with fellow artist Paul Gauguin, who was abandoning the dream of an artist colony in Arles, and Vincent allegedly threatened with him with a razor.  The other event was a letter received from his brother Theo announcing his engagement to Johanna, which would threaten their closeness and exacerbate Vincent’s loneliness.


What was going on in the heavens that fateful evening that Vincent severed his ear (23rd December 1888)?  How do the planetary positions relate to Vincent’s chart, Gauguin’s chart, and Theo’s?

Transits to Vincent’s own chart shows that he may well have been having a manic episode: Jupiter was on his Moon, Uranus sextile his Moon, Mars square his Saturn (self-inflicted injury).

Gauguin had natally Mars square exactly Vincent’s Pluto – a potential for combustibility!  At the time of the argument, Pluto was on Gauguin’s Venus (relationship), Mars trine exactly his natal Sun.  There was an emphasis in his transits on the planets of freedom, Jupiter and Uranus. Uranus was square Gauguin’s Jupiter (he wanted to break free); Jupiter was on Gauguin’s Jupiter (a lucky escape); Jupiter trine exactly Gauguin’s Uranus (again the theme of freedom); he was undergoing his Uranus Opposition (mid-life crisis, again wanting to break free).  Two years later, Gauguin made his first visit to Tahiti, where his destiny lay, but this may have been a defining moment for Gauguin.

For Theo, Mars was opposite his Moon, a family crisis; Saturn was square Theo Mars (difficulty for a male in his life); Neptune was conjunct Theo’s Mercury (mental confusion); Pluto was sextile Theo’s North Node/Ascendant, a change in life circumstances (relating not only to Vincent’s trouble, but also a change in relationship status).

This does not sound too romantic for one who had just become engaged, and indeed we do not know when the engagement took place or when he wrote and sent the letter.  So I had a look at his fiancee Johanna’s chart: She had some mixed influences at the time, too, but Uranus was sextile her Uranus (favourable changes) and Chiron sextile her Pluto (so some personal healing for her).

Vincent’s Death

The period of painting which followed the ear incident rsulted in some of the most prolific and successful for Vincent (although he only sold one painting in his lifetime).  He shot himself on 27th July 1890, and died two days later.  Again, his transits point to a manic period of excitability at that time:  Jupiter squared his Uranus, Uranus trined his North Node, and Uranus squared his Chiron (a decisive point for his Inner Healer, and the strain was too much).

Posthumous Postscripts

Again, not giving away the narrative of the television programme, but a letter or document written and signed by the doctor who treated Vincent for his ear (Felix Ray, also the subject of a portrait) was dated 18th August 1930.  This letter was crucial in its significance, and the relation to his chart posthumously is most positive:

Jupiter was trine exactly Vincent Sun, the North Node was conjunct exactly his natal Mars (his Sun ruler) and Neptune trine exactly his natal Jupiter.  Vincent would have been smiling about this.

The screening of the “Ear” programme too compares very favourably to Vincent’s chart:

Saturn is exactly trine his Sun, Chiron exactly conjunct his natal Mars; Uranus is exactly trine his natal Jupiter; Pluto trine exactly his natal Saturn in 10th House (a significant and deep insight into the realistic portrayal of his life); Chiron is exactly trine his Ascendant on his 9th House cusp (representing a healing for him); and extremely significantly Neptune has exactly returned to its natal position in the 8th House of Posthumous reputation, clearing up some of the mysteries of his life, and invoking compassion and understanding for his struggles.  Again, he would be very pleased to have this clarification.  If he has not reincarnated, he would not be turning in his grave!


A slightly more challenging week this…so fasten your safety belts.

The early hours of this morning saw a square between Venus and Mars, which may have been stimulating emotionally or romantically.

In the middle of the afternoon (in the U.K.) Neptune opposes Mercury, and we may be mentally befuddled, or allow ourselves a little reverie, distraction or mental escapism.  Travelwise, journeys may be complicated.

On Tuesday (9th), Mercury is conjunct the North Node at 13 degrees Virgo, concentrating the mind on the meaning of events and possible karmic nuances.  There may be fine discussions or splitting hairs about the rights and wrongs of actions.

Wednesday (10th) brings a trine between Mercury and Pluto which builds towards the evening.  You may be supported by your inner knowing along a line of thought which incorporates your deepest psychological understanding.  By the evening, you could reach important conclusions.

Jupiter opposes Chiron on Friday (12th), and although an adverse Jupiter aspect is not usually too damaging, it could produce some deep dilemma, especially on the subject of health and healing and the right direction to take.  The dilemmas may concern how far to maintain an attitude of Trust and Hope, and how far to intervene.

First the good news for Saturday (13th) – Saturn goes stationary, preparing to turn direct.  Some aspect of your plans get the green light again, where they may have stalled around the end of March (when Saturn turned retrograde).

By late lunchtime however, Saturn squares Venus and some sadness in relationship or financial burden may require a process of letting go, and re-evaluating what is important to you.  Some better news will be coming next week…

The week in bullet points:

  • Today – sensuality and confusion
  • Tuesday – karmic information
  • Wednesday – profound insight
  • Friday – pulled in two directions
  • Saturday – some progress, and some deflation