Leonard Cohen (1934 – 2016)

But let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t untie

Your eyes are soft with sorrow
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye”

Poet and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died this week, providing an emotional distraction from the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. Presidency.  Though he died on Monday 7th November, his death was not announced until Thursday 10th, the day after the election results.

His music meant a lot to me, as to many of my generation and subsequent generations, and evokes memories.  I was at University when I first heard and loved his voice.  A friend dubbed us the “Sisters of Mercy”.  When I heard later that some thought his gravel-like sound to be droning worthy of party music (not), I was shocked.  It had never occurred to me that this serious tone, almost a default position for teenage angst, was anything other than uplifting.  But, like Bob Dylan, he was a poet and his songs were popularized by others, such as Judy Collins.  One of my closest friends had daughters named Suzanne and Marianne, which I found inspirational.  Later still, coming into the 21st Century, I remember a highlight of “Sound Pod” with voice coach Felicity Cook, singing “Hallelujah” together with Sarah.

Birth Chart

Leonard Cohen had Sun exactly conjunct Ascendant in late Virgo, the Sun being in the 12th House, and there was a basic shyness and reclusiveness in his nature.  He also had the Virgoan penchant for neatness and order, and was usually immaculately dressed.  The Sun on the Ascendant gave him the Creator Archetype (supported by North Node in his 5th House).  He was also very industrious and perfectionistic, and would often record a song many times over before he produced a version which was to his satisfaction, or “true”, as he put it.

His Moon was conjunct exactly the Part of Fortune in Pisces in his 6th House.  Though he lost his father at the age of 9, his mother was always a great influence.  The Moon describes his mother well: dramatic, joyful and sensitive.  The Moon/Part of Fortune in 6th House also describes his habit of using drugs, often employing acid or speed to finish a creative project.  When asked “Your songs don’t sound like they come from a man on amphetamines” he replied “Well my processes, mental and physical, are so slow that speed brought me up to the normal tempo”.*

His Mercury was sextile Mars and at McGill University, he excelled at debate.  Saturn was also trine his natal Mercury, resulting in a lifetime application in study.

Venus in his chart was conjunct exactly Neptune, showing exquisite musicality, in his 12th House of subconscious and dreams.  This also describes his renunciation of the world in a Zen monastery for many years.

His Mars in Leo was hedonistic.  His friend Irving Layton described “a strong streak of hedonism” going on to say “it’s because the artist is dedicated to pleasure and bringing pleasure to others particularly.”*

His Mars was conjunct South Node, which also gave him the Warrior Archetype, brought through from past lives.  He went to Cuba in his youth and was there during the Bay of Pigs invasion, which partly disillusioned him about the effects of revolution (he had Saturn in Aquarius natally, and at the time of his trip Saturn was opposing his natal Uranus, planet of revolution).  He was drawn to warfare, at least at this phase of his life:

*” I was very interested in what it really meant for a man to carry arms and kill other men, and how attracted I was exactly to that process. That’s getting close to the truth. The real truth is I wanted to kill or be killed”.

Early Influences

Leonard was brought up as a Jew, and the bible was an early linguistic influence from which he drew richly.  He was part of a literary and poetic circle in Montreal.

He was largely self-taught as a guitarist, but learned six chords at the age of 16 from a fleeting contact with a Spaniard who played flamenco. *”It was those six chords, it was that guitar pattern, that has been the basis of all my songs, and of all my music”.



“Suzanne” was the song that really made his name, when recorded by Judy Collins.  On his greatest hits album he wrote, “Everything happened just as it was put down. She was the wife of a man I knew. Her hospitality was immaculate”.  She was the first of two Suzannes in his life, the second being the mother of his children (Suzanne Elrod).  The earlier Suzanne was Suzanne Verdal, who was shocked when she discovered he had written a song about their relationship.  Her own verdict was “Ours was a soul connection as far as I was concerned”*.


Marianne Ihlen was a Norwegian, who lived with him on and off for many years on the Greek Island of Hydra, where he spent many of his most fruitfully creative periods, and you can hear Greek rhythms in some of his songs.  He was able to buy a house there with a legacy from his grandmother in 1960, with Jupiter sextile his natal Jupiter in 1st House, and Saturn trine his Venus/Neptune in Capricorn in his 4th House of Home.  Theirs was a long relationship, but not without unfaithfulness on his part (he was a commitment-phobe).  But their astrological compatibility was excellent: Suns trine at the end of Virgo and Taurus; her Sun sextile exactly his Pluto; her Moon exactly sextile his Sun/Ascendant; their Mercuries exactly trine.

“Well you know that I love to live with you,
but you make me forget so very much.
I forget to pray for the angels
and then the angels forget to pray for us.”


With Mars in his 11th House, Leonard Cohen very much enjoyed male camaraderie all his life.  Two friendships with women are particularly worthy of mention:

Judy Collins

Judy Collins, as had already been mentioned, originally recorded “Suzanne” in November 1966, and regularly championed his work.  She beckoned a very hesitant Leonard Cohen on stage with her at a benefit concert in New York at the beginning of 1967, which encouraged his performing side.  Her Jupiter is on his Descendant, opposite his Sun.  In her autobiography, she wrote: “His songs carried me through dark years like mantras or stones that you hold in your hand while the sun rises or the fire burns”.

Jennifer Warnes

Jennifer Warnes performed as a backing singer to Leonard in later years, and played a very supportive role as a close friend generally during those years.  Her role is shown by her Venus/Jupiter exactly trine his Sun/Ascendant; her Uranus trine exactly his Mercury (on his wavelength) and her Neptune trine exactly his Chiron. Describing a life deeply felt, Jennifer Warnes has said “Leonard acknowledges that the whole act of living contains immense amounts of sorrow and hopelessness and despair; and also passion, high hopes, deep love, and eternal love.”


The song Hallelujah first appeared on the album “Various Positions” in 1984.  It has been recorded by at least 200 artists, and Cohen wrote 15 verses for it.  The most notable version, apart from his own, was by the iconic Jeff Buckley.  It is also quite a mystery, and Leonard himself did not have very much faith in its potential originally.  K.D. Lang has said: *”It just has so much fodder, so much density, it can be deep, simple, mean a lot of things to different people, there’s so much in it”.


Leonard Cohen explored religion generally, and although Judaism was a source of inspiration to him, he flirted with Scientology and came to think of himself as a Buddhist.  Just this morning I watched an hour long documentary about the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which he narrated.  But he is most associated with Zen Buddhism, and spent several years in retreat in a Zen monastery on Mount Baldy in California, under the tutelage of Zen Master Roshi Kyozan Joshu Sasaki.  Their synastry is instructive: Kyozan’s Mars trines exactly Cohen Uranus in Taurus in 8th House of Spirituality; Kyozan’s Uranus trines Leonard’s Venus/Neptune in Virgo in 12th House of Seclusion, and Kyozan’s Pluto trine Leonard Saturn in Aquarius in 5th House – a very deep bond.


He signed away the rights to the song “Suzanne” early in his career, but most dramatically in 2004 his daughter Lorca discovered that Leonard’s financial advisor Kelley Lynch had fleeced his bank accounts.  At the time, Saturn was square his Venus/Neptune (realization of financial deception), but Jupiter was trine his North Node (it fortunately came to light).  He decided to go on tour, late in his years, in order to recoup his financial standing.  Jupiter square Pluto in his natal chart describes the terrific power struggles of his life and psyche, of which this episode was one.


Leonard leaves behind a son Adam, and a daughter Lorca (named after the poet whom he admired).  He also has a grandson Cassius (from Adam) and a granddaughter Viva (from Lorca).  Viva is the product of two musical dynasties in Montreal.  The singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, son of Loudon Wainwright III, met Lorca growing up as teenagers, and although Rufus is married to Jorn Weisbrodt, such was the depth of their friendship that Lorca asked Rufus to be the father of her child.  So it is that Leonard Cohen’s genetic inheritance lives on in this unusual way, in a child who may be gifted musically.


When Marianne died on 28th July this year, Leonard wrote her an open letter, saying “… Our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”

He died on 7th November, having just completed his latest album “You Want it Darker”, which he was perfecting.   Uranus was sextile exactly his Saturn, giving a sense of accomplishment, but Neptune was square exactly his Chiron, a sense of goodbye.

* “There’s a certain kind of writer that says hello to people in their songs and there’s a certain kind of writer that says goodbye to people – and you know I’m more a writer of elegies”

~ Leonard Cohen

*Quotations which are from “I’m Your Man” by Sylvie Simmons 2012, drawn from private archives



We begin this week with a Full Moon at 22 degrees Taurus tomorrow (Monday 14th November).  Though it opposes the Sun in Scorpio, Moon in Taurus is more stable than in other signs, and we have the added interest of it being a Supermoon (when the Moon is closest to the Earth, and therefore appearing larger than usual).

Tuesday (15th) brings a sextile between Mercury and Mars, when fine words may butter parsnips.  It is a good day for activity, communication, and all combinations of the two.  Note that Leonard Cohen had Mercury sextile Mars natally, and as well as being a wordsmith he had a talent for debate.  So keen debate may also be a feature of the day.

Thursday (17th) begins a couple of days of karmic consideration, with Neptune on the South Node at 9 degrees Pisces.  You may connect with a feeling of wanting more seclusion to ponder, or wanting to connect with your spirituality, and this may take you back to past lives spent in this mode.

Friday (18th) may be just as karmic, but initially slightly less introspective and more communicative, with Mercury squaring the Nodal Axis.  Your impressions and dreams from Thursday may be more easily articulated, and some information may come your way which explains current patterns, especially those in groups you may be involved with.

Later on, on Friday afternoon (in the U.K.), Neptune squares Mercury, which could bring more confusion and more to process mentally and spiritually, especially if karma is shared.  You may be sifting truth from illusion on your own, with a friend, or a group.  The day may be characterized with that feeling of having truth in your grasp, then losing hold of it, then regaining it.

Saturday (19th) is much more harmonious: first, Venus makes a trine to the North Node.  You may make connections, and see the unity behind seeming karmic interactions.  Good relations may be restored, if they were even ever unstable.  But karmic understanding prevails.

In the late evening, Venus sextiles Neptune, which is a sublime sprinkling of inspiration, and spiritual love, to bless your social interactions.  It favours honest financial dealings, artistic efforts, and dance productions.  Above all, sensitivity in human interaction is enabled.

The week in bullet points:

  • Tomorrow – full emotion
  • Tuesday – effective words
  • Thursday – karmic complexity
  • Friday – confusion
  • Saturday – harmony and sensitivity