By Eugene Johnson
It is not really surprising anymore when we hear the news that a pop star has died suddenly after a long, well-publicized history of drug and alcohol problems. That these deaths, such as Whitney’s, occur to people who seem to have it all is extremely perplexing to the average person for whom a life of such fame and wealth is something they can only dream about. Whitney Houston died via slow-motion suicide. Why did she do it?
Whatever the official reason for her death, perhaps it will be ruled an accidental death by drowning, the many years of drug and alcohol abuse was unarguably a primary contributing cause. Of course, the chemicals were only the material cause of death: her psychological state was the final cause.
Modern astrology is sometimes accused of being just so much psychobabble because it focuses too much on the subjective side of things rather on the hard facts of life and the prediction of events. Maybe, but it is also true that behind it all is the mind. And, although some astrologers may push the psychological side of astrology beyond its reasonable limits, astrological symbolism and methodology does provide insights into the human psyche and behavior that are unobtainable by any other means.
So, what was the nature of the mental demons that seem to have tormented Whitney Houston? I looked at her chart and here are some of the things that I find which may be enlightening.
Much of my analysis is based on the work of Marc Edmund Jones’ Sabian Astrology. He begins with what he calls the whole view of the wheel, one part of which is determining the planetary pattern, or what he called the Temperament Type. The planetary pattern technique is fairly well known, as are the seven individual patterns. Whitney’s chart should be classified as a See-Saw, but it also could be a Locomotive as a secondary possibility.
A See-Saw pattern occurs when the planets are arranged in two distinct opposing groups. Individuals with this natal pattern often experience life as a series of complex human relations with challenging polarities and conflicts which stress their social skills to manage the many ups and downs of their lives. Consequently, these folks must be flexible, open-minded and alert to changing circumstances. Being naturally good communicators, they have a gift for sharing intelligence and building bridges between various areas of life and kinds of people. The See-Saw pattern is the norm of the seven types, as it is the most commonly encountered.
Opposition aspects are almost always found in charts with a See-Saw pattern. The opposition has a particular significance in the Sabian method because it reveals an individual’s capacity to gain a detached/objective perspective on the relations and circumstances in which they are involved. The opposition thus serves as a sort of backbone of the natal wheel, enabling a person to maintain poise and equilibrium when meeting the challenges of life. The absence of oppositions in the natal chart can be a definite handicap, depriving the individual of a necessary perspective on their situations. However, the wider freedom of activity that is made possible here can become a positive for the creative individual.
Whitney’s life and personality were a wonderful expression of the See-Saw in her ability to communicate emotion and spirit through her matchless voice, bridging and connecting so many people across various colors and creeds. Her life also seems to have had more than its share of turbulence. Even though she possessed extraordinary talent and physical beauty, she was plagued by self-doubt, insecurity, anxieties, and fear. Perhaps her state of mind was reflected in part by the absence of a core opposition in her chart.
The chart has two oppositions, Mars with the Moon /Jupiter, and the Sun/ Venus with Saturn, but neither of these is placed near the mid-line of the pattern which could provide a firm basis of security and certainty of being that a core opposition provides.
The quadratures or modes (cardinal, fixed or common) in which the oppositions are placed is also important in the delineation of a chart. Oppositions in the cardinal signs are indicative of a personality that thrives on the excitement of immediate situations, crises, and taking risks. Oppositions in the fixed signs are indicative of personalities that are most concerned about potentials and probabilities of actions; hence, they are primarily ‘future’ oriented types. Oppositions in the common signs are indicative of personalities that are most stimulated by people, human relations, and attaining and holding their particular niche in the scheme of things.
Whitney’s chart has cardinal and fixed oppositions, which suggests that she was gifted with what you might call psychological ‘ambidexterity:’ she could on occasion be very quick to act while in other situations she could be very reflective and cautious before making a decision and acting. This ambidexterity could also manifest in confusion, indecision, acting inappropriately and with bad timing.
A further refinement of analysis in the Sabian scheme is to divide six of the planets and the two lights into four pairs, each representing a department of life, i.e., the Sun and mMUranus and Neptune= Significance.
With this task done the next step is identifying which pairs of planets/lights are linked by major aspects which will in turn identify the Mode of Self-Integration. A detailed description of this technique can’t be given here, of course; suffice it to say that the typical natal chart will often have the planets of two departments linked by major aspects. In Whitney’s chart the planets of each of the four departments are in major aspect.
This is indicative of an over-abundance of potentials and talents which give a tendency for the four areas of self-ordering to defeat each other as when “too many cooks will spoil the broth”. Perhaps this posed one of her greatest challenges: to be self-organized, self-disciplined and decisive. She probably could recognize what should be done in a given situation but perhaps found it difficult to act on her good intentions.
When we look at the distribution of the planets in her wheel there are three planets, Saturn, the Moon and Jupiter, with Chiron in the eastern half while the other seven bodies are located in the western half, with the moon’s nodes lying across the 5/11th house axis. Here we see a very definite demarcation between the two hemispheres, the eastern side, representing the Self and the western side, representing the Other, which suggests that Whitney experienced the separation and distance of these two aspects of her life with sharp sensitivity.
And, the fact that of the four planetary pairs, only the Moon and Sun by aspect (trine) link the eastern and western hemispheres. The planets of Motivation (Jupiter & Saturn) are both on the eastern side while the planets of Efficiency and Significance are located in the western half of the wheel. This throws all the stress on the lights to ‘bridge the gap,’ integrating the two hemispheres.
The Sun (will) and the Moon (feeling) represent the primal essence of a person, the ‘vitality’, and the basic life force of an individual. This linkage in Whitney’s chart could mean that she sensed a separation or disconnection between herself and other people. She wanted to feel closer than she did. What most people take for granted, perhaps for her became an issue.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article Whitney’s chart could be classified as a Locomotive because it contains the necessary empty trine. The Locomotive planetary pattern is noted for its capacity for power generation and executive organizational ability. Further, of the planets in trine, one will identified as focal, a cutting planet. Whitney has an empty trine in her chart, edged by the Moon/ Jupiter conjunction on one side, and Venus on the other. Venus is positioned as the cutting planet. It perhaps gives an insight into the secret of her artistic genius – Venus, artistry, linked to Jupiter, soul, linked to the Moon, her audience. She may have felt most herself and alive when she was performing.
Looking at the Moon’s nodes, the North Node in the 5th house gives confirmation of her creativity, and of course she has the Sun in Leo and the Moon in Aries. It can also be noted that her Moon and Jupiter are almost exactly square to the nodal axis. The moon’s nodes, north and south, represent the points of intersection of the ecliptic (the Sun’s apparent orbital path) with the lunar orbit. So in general terms, the Nodes symbolize the linkage of the Sun (spirit) and Moon (matter), and are often interpreted as revealing an individual’s path of destiny (North Node) and karma (South Node)
The Feb/Mar 2009 issue of The Mountain Astrologer had two excellent articles on the lunar nodes. One article by Kathy Allan describes the role of “The Bendings.” These are points on the zodiacal circle that are square ( 90 degrees) to the nodal axis. There is a North Bending which “resembles the North Node and is a point of outer manifestation”. The South Bending “resembles the South Node; planets here have difficulty in outer expression and are best used subjectively, spiritually, or given away.” Whitney’s Moon and Jupiter are positioned at the South Bending, consequently, in some ways she would have to “give up her Moon and Jupiter functions,” sacrifice them to others. It is fairly easy to imagine how one could sacrifice their Jupiter function; there is so much of it that probably a little would be left over for personal use after you gave it away. The Moon is a much different proposition since it functions at the deepest organic and emotional levels of the human psyche. Whitney may have felt that she could never give enough to others and her audience, that more was demanded of her than she had the capacity to deliver. Also implied is that her sense of identity was real only as it was reflected back to her from others. Here again are indications of feelings of self-doubt, insecurity and alienation.
Probably the most significant configuration in Whitney’s chart is a T-Square made up of an opposition of the Sun /Venus to Saturn; these in square aspect to Neptune. There is much that could be said about the match-up of these planets and not all of it good. Also there would be no disagreement that the involvement of Neptune is usually potentially problematic. Neptune has a wide spectrum of vibrations and hence a wide variety of manifestations and individual expressions. In the most positive, it brings a heightened sensitivity, intelligence, and esthetic appreciation, along with a charming, gracious social persona and sometimes, great spirituality.
The formidable challenge in managing and using Neptune is to recognize that it is such a perfect mirror of our projections. It picks up and reflects back whatever a person wants to see and believe, thus, in this capacity Neptune plays the role of a great magician and a source of all manner of illusions, delusions, hallucinations, misconceptions, addictions, deceit and deceptions. Whitney seems to have been a victim of her Neptune.
What advice should an astrologer have given her that might have helped avert her tragic, untimely death?
The tight conjunction of Mercury/Pluto located on the angle at the Descendant would have been a very good place to start a search for a resolution. This pair is also in opposition to Chiron rising near the Ascendant. Mercury/Pluto has a wide range of aspects to the other planets and points; in particular they are sextile Neptune, and trine Chiron. Here was a wonderful possibility because it brings the mind (Mercury), transformative power (Pluto),and the wounded healer (Chiron) to bear, giving the possibility of raising the level of conscious awareness to a more objective, even transcendental perspective to her and her life. It could have perhaps helped her to gain a surer, stronger identity, less needy and more discerning of her reality.
Data from AstroData Bank: Aug 9 1963, 8:55 pm, Newark, NJ