Denzel Washington: Gravitas personified

his stars outshine even Crowe...

Denzel: his stars outshine even Crowe...

One of my favourite pastimes as an astrologer is to take a look at the astrology of celebrities and notables that I like and try to discover whether or not my impression of them is at all justified. I used this method to determine which of Federer or Nadal I would support in the Wimbledon final (I wasn’t particularly bothered, but any game is improved with a sprinkling of zeal – and I went for Federer by the way) and I would quite happily use the same approach to determine the probable sincerity of a politician. As any good astrologer knows though, a study of any human being’s astrology makes them much more interesting to observe; I liken meeting a client post-interpretation to watching the film of a book you may have particularly enjoyed, and usually the big-screen version is rewarding. Studying the astrology of actors, performers and other public notables has led me to take in a great deal of culture that would not normally have intrigued me overmuch. I became distinctly enamoured of Annie Lennox’s music after looking at her astrology, so too with Edith Piaf and Nina Simone, my respect for Liz Greene actually increased post-study, so too with Germaine Greer (who is undoubtedly brilliant), not to mention Sylvia Plath, and then there are those empathic moments too, as with the astrology of Lady Jane Grey, which left me – quite frankly – anguished for several hours.

On a lighter note then, I intend today to make a brief foray into the astrology of Denzel Washington, whom for me can almost do no wrong and I fully expect him to improve as an actor considerably with age: and not just because he is a Capricorn either. He is, astrologically, the genuine article.

I will personalise this just a little by saying that I have always felt a natural liking for the sign Capricorn, I love the dry humour, the deadpan observational style, the sheer toughness and resilience of it and wherever it is found it creates a wonderful wry, self-deprecating and pleasantly implacable ambience in the character. When I was a young man, my sidekick Tich, an accomplished Jazz musician and troubadour, was almost 100% Capricorn and we travelled the length and breadth of the British Isles together with guitars, ephemerides and wacky haircuts and it was entirely down to his uncomplaining determination that we ended up belting out Dylan numbers to a crowd of enraptured fishermen on a beach at dusk in Lindisfarne, or getting through three festivals in a week as far apart as Stonehenge and Wales with no car.

00) Mount Vernon, NY

Denzel Washington, actor. 28 Dec 1954, 00:09 (+5:00) Mount Vernon, NY

Denzel has this same quietly implacable quality and how much?! His astrology is a textbook case and almost impossible to misinterpret in its single pointed foci. Note all the indicators of drive, brilliance, outstanding talent and in particular determination in the astrology, here are my delineations, in a vague order of precedence:

  1. Sun is near Cazimi with North Node, conjunct Mercury and all three elements together are Peregrine. This then is Capricorn unalloyed, the purest distillation of Capricorn in self-awareness, in a sense of destiny and in manner of speech. This would give phenomenal gravitas even if ptolemaically aspected, but here that sense of weight is off the charts.
  2. But look! Peregrine Moon in Aquarius as well! So whilst he may have a serious demeanour, he gets to be cool with it too. Moon in Aquarius is sometimes just too detached though, and where the Sun is in Air, it can make the native almost unengagable, but this dissociative note (peregrine Moon is always dissociative) is probably countered by the Capricorn impetus to mean something. The only fly in the ointment here is the concern that for all his presence and detachment, he might be unable to convey much humanity, but then…
  3. Mars trine Saturn not only gives enormous self-control, it gives incredible emotional power as well; especially with the Scorpio influence and a mutual reception between Moon and Uranus gives a near-genius for expressing the personal needs and inner life.
  4. The tee-square to Neptune provides the drive to be seen as “the actor” and creates a rather tense need to be perceived as sensitive; this, combined with Saturn would in my view, provide the undercurrent of slightly stressed sympathy that adds the essential dash of humanity to his controlled exterior. The tee square is especially intriguing, a close conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus for a start creates a likely ongoing increase in individuation, trine to Venus provides his film-star mannerisms, opposite Chiron in Capricorn – thus a feeling of not being taken seriously enough, in the 4th, probably stemming from childhood. Denzel was sent away to boarding school while his parents divorced, and Chiron in Capricorn creates a real need to be heard, one that is often thwarted, setting up a life that attempts to redeem itself through being given respect; of course that too is unbalanced with Jupiter/Uranus, so his deep sensitivity is difficult to reconcile with his outgoing, powerful individuality and all of that tension gets fed into his acting (Neptune), and this configuration really adds the drive so typical of the tee-square to the whole mix. Interesting to note that Denzel’s first movie was released within a month of Chiron’s discovery in 1977.
  5. The only dark note is suggested by Venus square Pluto which would have been applying genuine formative pressure by Solar Arc at age 3. It is in that light no surprise then that Moon is peregrine and that his parents divorced fairly early in his life. There is a rift here with the mother and that sense of emotional isolation that accompanies peregrination of the Moon is here underpinned. Saturn too applies to square Pluto by SA at age 9, and I would bet good money that this was when the divorce was decided, even though the disintegration of the relationship started some 6 years beforehand. Wherever Saturn is configured with Pluto the outcome is usually hard-work, and across the Leo – Scorpio quarter it is especially rigid, inflexible and uncompromising.

Put it all together and you begin to perceive the underlying quality of the entire persona; the key experiential statement then for me is one of great power, gravitas and expressive potency, fuelled by intensely controlled emotions, a need to be heard and taken seriously and a drive to let go of a difficult and uncomfortable sensitivity, itself the legacy of an unhappy and isolated childhood, but with an overall impetus to gradual self-exaltation. Denzel will only get better.

More on Pallas: Powerhouse of Undiluted Talent.

Pallas Header ImageMy last article brought together the principles of Cazimi and Peregrination as identifying criteria for the most pure and profound expressions of planetary energy; in my experience there is no better method of identifying a specific astrologic archetype than identifying natives who display either Peregrinations or Cazimi placements. The first forces an ‘over-expression’ of the planetary theme, the latter ego-identifies that energy, and thus the effect is remarkably similar to Peregrination. If you have a subject whose Cazimi placement is also a Peregrine Island, then that would create a point of incredible focus in the personality. This offers a remarkable tool for insight to the practising astrologer.

It was by use of this exact method, in conjunction with a study of mythic resonance that I refined and identified the central theme of Pallas. Best practise demonstrates that planetary archetypes can be distilled (itself a Saturnine key) into a single all-encompassing principle; thus Jupiter expands or preserves, broadens or promotes; the failing here is entirely semantic, because the principle is easily grasped as a single-pointed theme or energy; Saturn distils or contracts, limits or concentrates, and again the principles are far from disparate; this is why extensive experience of astrology teaches that if text-books on the subject were to remain wholly accurate they would contain at most a single sentence!

Chiron suffers this same wilting lack of exactitude, although I believe I have finally determined the focal energy of the so-called ‘wounded-healer’ and I shall write a post on that subject in the future. Pallas has before now suffered the same ignominious fate, but by studying cases of Cazimi and Peregrination in tandem with the mythic root, it soon became overwhelmingly clear that the principle of competence, undiluted ability and opportunity for victory described most accurately – and succinctly – the archetypal message. How this conclusion was arrived at may be useful in the broader context of understanding the Palladian principle, but ultimately, a long discourse on pattern recognition is not much help in understanding the nativity. The gift that Pallas gives – of competency – is undoubtedly a gift of the mind, an ability to think “outside the box” that confers an almost inarguable advantage in the arena of human interaction and competition.

This identification would be almost impossible without the advantage of Peregrination and Cazimi. Take the cases of Peregrination of Pallas:

  • Alan Shearer, the greatest English centre-forward of the modern game has a Peregrine Pallas in Pisces which – usefully for a footballer – shows competency or undiluted skill with the feet.
  • Stephen King with a Peregrine Pallas in Pisces of the imagination in the 8th house of horror.
  • Woody Allen with a Peregrine Pallas in Libra; Woody’s genius for insights into human relationships can hardly be questioned.
  • MC Escher’s Peregrine Pallas in weirdly, lunar Cancer, brings out the pattern-competency implicit in the mythology.
  • The sheer number of tennis players that have Pallas Peregrine, Cazimi or otherwise strongly configured is almost unbelievable! Martina Navratilova, Michael Stich, Tracy Austin, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario to name but a few, all have Peregrine Pallas. (And Chris Evert has Pallas rising!)
  • Robin Williams’ has Peregrine Pallas in quirky, offbeat Aquarius in the 3rd house of communication!

I note an overwhelming emphasis on Peregrine Pallas placements in the signs of Cancer, Pisces, and Capricorn.

As for Pallas Cazimi, note the following:

  • Tony Blair has Cazimi Pallas in the stubborn, determined sign of Taurus.
  • Yehudi Menuhin, also in musical Taurus.
  • Dan Rather, in investigative-reporter exalting Scorpio.
  • General “old blood and guts” Patton in ruthless warrior sign Scorpio.

Notice a pattern here? Cazimi Pallas seems to fare very well across the fixed Taurus-Scorpio axis.

Finally, looking at the charts of those with Pallas included in major aspect configurations is intriguing:

  • James Dean with Pallas in Virgo as part of a grand earth trine.
  • James Earl Jones with Pallas in Virgo as part of a grand earth trine.
  • Whitney Houston with Palls in Virgo as part of a tight Stellium with Pluto and Mercury. So that explains her belter of a singing voice, in pitch-perfectly-precise Virgo.
  • Consider Daniel Wesson’s Pallas in Taurus as part of a grand earth trine. He died having amassed an estimated 80 million dollar fortune in 1906!
  • Rory Bremner with Pallas in Pisces as part of a grand water trine.
  • Michael Caine with Pallas in Aquarius as part of a grand air trine.
  • Germaine Greer with Pallas configured in Pisces as part of a grand water trine.
  • Grace Kelly, with Pallas tightly configured with the Moon in Pisces as part of a grand water trine.

There is a simply overwhelming propensity of placements of Pallas across the Pisces-Virgo axis when configured in the grand-trine aspect pattern. On the whole therefore, there is a strong association between Pallas and Virgo-Pisces, also Cancer-Capricorn and Scorpio-Taurus. In my view Pallas is stronger in earth and water than anywhere else.

Now I want to concentrate on how Pallas looks. Here then it might be useful to look at those who have Pallas rising!

Pallas Rising

I will not say too much about these placements; but consider Stallone’s Pallas rising in strong, taciturn Capricorn, Pamela Anderson’s Pallas rising in breast-obsessed Cancer, Pacino’s configured with intense, darkly powerful Pluto, Janis Joplin’s Pallas rising in flower-child, peace-loving Aquarius or Meryl Streep’s Pallas rising in drama-queen, leading-lady Leo?

I am still looking for rulership clues, so if anyone has any ideas about that, please share.

Of Cazimi Kings and Queens and Peregrine Powers…

Title Image

Here’s a good question to ask all your hip café-crowd real-world friends next time you’re congregating for lattés and croissants down the King’s Road: what do Jimmy Page, Annie Lennox and Carole King all have in common? Now the appeal of this question is that everyone is going to have an answer; they’re all iconic musicians, they each defined something of the cultural ambience of their time, they were all somehow credible and meaningful in their art, the list goes on but I’ll bet that nobody is going to pipe up with the fact that they all share a Cazimi Mercury!

Cazimi, an ancient term used in Arabic astrology to determine a placement within “the heart of the Sun” is rare because it requires a partile (exact) conjunction of a planet to Sol, the closer the better, in the tradition of Persian star-lore any conjunction of less than 17 minutes will be purified and exalted, although in practise, greater orbs than this appear to on occasion offer some remarkable power to the conjunction.

Whilst a Cazimi placement can refer to any planet in partile conjunction with the Sun, the commonest placement is that to Mercury who never strays more than 28° from the Sun’s place on the ecliptic. Often, this configuration confers true genius in some area or other, consider these 10 fascinating examples:

  1. Alan Watts’ Cazimi Mercury in Capricorn (see this article for a full discussion).
  2. Montgomery of Alamein’s too, in Scorpio (see this article for a full discussion).
  3. Oprah Winfrey’s Cazimi Venus (at less than a minute of latitude!) in offbeat Aquarius.
  4. Donna Summer’s Cazimi Jupiter in Capricorn, in the 5th house of songwriting.
  5. Ed Moses’ Cazimi Venus in beautifully precise Virgo.
  6. Meryl Streep’s Cazimi Uranus in mimic and actor friendly Gemini.
  7. Alicia Silverstone’s Cazimi Pluto. There’s her source of hidden power!
  8. Kevin Costner’s Cazimi Chiron (he always did seem sensitive somehow…)
  9. Tony Blair, Yehudi Menuhin, Dan Rather and George Patton all shared a Cazimi Pallas!
  10. And how about Denzel Washington’s Cazimi North Node? Denzel’s chart is remarkable for about 10 different reasons, so I shall definitely be writing a future article on his astrology!

Today though I want to focus on the function of Cazimi Mercury in the charts of iconic musicians, and we shall begin by looking at Carole King, whose 1971 album Tapestry is considered one of the great works of the singer/songwriter story and is ranked at #36 in the Rolling Stone Top 500 albums of all time list.

Evidently the grand-trine between dreamy Neptune conjunct the fame-inducing Aries point, Uranus in comfort-loving, rich and mellow Taurus (which rules the voice of course) and the point of competence of Pallas conjunct the IC show a great triangle of talent, but King’s ability to hint at the profound shows a measure of Aquarian genius which is expressed through her Cazimi Mercury in the home-loving 4th; there is a gentle, lilting and safe quality, a tremulous hearkening to warm Sunday afternoon’s sat cosily watching the rain outside in her music, and there is no questioning her intelligence as a songwriter: “Will you love me tomorrow?” sung by such diverse talents as Roberta Flack and Amy Winehouse, “The Loco-Motion” (you remember when Kylie was only taken seriously by 7 year olds?) and “(You make me feel) like a natural woman” were all penned by King in addition to her own internationally recognised hits. With no easy aspect to the Su/Me placement there is plenty of drive to express its quality, and once it reaches the Uranus apex of the grand trine, that energy flows serenely out into the world.

Jimmy Page has been described as “unquestionably one of the all-time most influential, important, and versatile guitarists and songwriters in rock history” by AllMusic and Rolling Stone ranked him at #9 in the Top 100 greatest guitarists ever list too; so there is no doubting his pedigree. Mercury of course rules the hands and if we look at Jimmy’s chart we see that not only his Mercury Cazimi, but the conjunction with Sol is also peregrine! This means that the conjunction of Sun and Mercury makes no Ptolemaic aspect with any other planet, it is what Noel Tyl calls a “Peregrine Island”, and unquestionably it gives Page’s hands an almost superhuman and exalted ability to create structure, his fingers exaltedly communicate his message with almost overwhelming power and perfection. Think of the nature of Capricorn, think of that being Cazimi, think of it being Peregrine and you can well imagine the countless hours of building up of working slowly, carefully and methodically toward the summit of peak Mercurial experience and expression until one day his unparalleled power and magnificence could shine out and dazzle the world. And you only watch Jimmy give forth the opening bars of White Summer in the Albert Hall performance of 1970 to see how very apt that is.

Annie Lennox Nativity

Annie Lennox is the one person from this list that I have actually met (over breakfast in a hotel in Kings Lynn many years ago), and her reputation, initially as a singer and songwriter with the Tourists, the Eurythmics and latterly in her solo career has arguably to an extent been eclipsed by her poster-child status for the feminist movement, since she encompasses a near-archetypal lyrical, vocal and enduring power that somewhat transcends her role as a musician. She recently won an Academy Award for best song, written for the closing credits of the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).

Annie Lennox AstrologyAnnie’s chart is remarkable in many ways; without the inclusion of Chiron it evinces no oppositions, and her Cazimi Mercury is in Peregrine, the same as Jimmy Page’s, but her Moon is also Peregrine, a remarkable combination when you consider that her three most personal planets have almost no relationship with any other factor in her astrology. The message here is clearly one of isolation, and in the sign of Capricorn there is a “go it alone” mentality on the lonely road to success. It is reported that her childhood as an only child of a poverty-wracked family living among the shipyards of Aberdeen was unhappy and lonely because her father, overprotective of her interests, limited her independence. Her time at the Royal Academy of Music in London was similarly described as lonely, and there is a haunting note of loneliness or a certain apartness in Annie’s life which is strongly resonant in her music too. Capricorn is tough, it creates often harsh conditions, but especially it creates structure and Annie’s icy, chiselled bone structure is manifest in her iconically Capricornian good looks. Cheekbones like that define structure after all. And the pure peaks of her vocal range are almost unmatched in popular music. The disconnect of her personal planets from her wider nativity is an excellent example of the power of Peregrination in practise, here we see undiluted and startlingly pure Capricorn energy and once again we see the sheer, almost primal power of Peregrination at work, add to this the Cazimi factor and you have a voice of unremitting power and purity.

Alan Watts and the Philosophy of Cazimi and the Quindecile

The following is a continuation of the previous article, below. For a full appreciation of the themes and configurations in Watt’s astrology, please refer to the article preceding this.

To the casual listener, Alan Watts might well come across as extremely thoughtful, intelligent and insightful, but there is no question that his style was anything but taciturn; his subject matter, which consisted of various facets of esoteric, philosophic and indeed transcendental thought, also underlined his interest in fundamentals and unquestionably his style of discourse was to present an idea and then gradually and systematically to follow the trains of logic which ran out from that starting point to see where they would lead. So then, we have a picture of a communicator, taciturn and methodical in style, one that builds up a picture upon a base supposition and then ultimately reaches a pinnacle insight, usually of a philosophic or spiritual nature; unquestioned in all of this process, is an appreciation of the man’s genius; indeed, I could often feel his frustration at having to hammer home some nuance of his argument to an audience that would clearly be losing the thread of it.

The taciturnity of expression is found in the conjunction of Sun with Mercury in Capricorn. The sign of Capricorn, denoted by the mountain-goat, is profoundly objective focused, it does not have an affinity with frivolity or frolicking, because, like the goat, it sees its world as a hard and often harsh environment where it must be single-minded and determined in order to survive; the food in those lofty realms is scarce, the path is uncertain and treacherous and the drop, no doubt fatal to the distracted. One step after another, the goat makes it way up the mountain, sure-footed, intensely focused on its ascent, driven, but not urgently, driven in a calm, assured way, but driven all the same.

Apply these principles to the Solar principle, Watts’ sense of who he must be are informed by this same driven certainty, and blended with Mercury, he must communicate that sense of self, at all costs. Here also is a measure of his genius because the conjunction with Mercury is so close as to be termed Cazimi, an Arabic word meaning “the heart of the Sun” and it is reckoned by the old-world astrologers to be extremely fortunate, because the principle that is wedded to Sol thus is imbued with the power of eternal life. Mercury Cazimi then gives a power of communication and intellect beyond the pale, beyond the envelope of human norms and this is clear in Watts’ easy discourse on profound matters; actually the most profound matters imaginable, and I shall turn to his subject matter soon enough. Some consider Cazimi to become combust if the conjunction falls outside of 17 minutes of one degree; Watts’ Mercury conjuncts the Sun within 21 minutes; but clearly his genius is absolutely beyond question. This astonishingly close conjunction explains his brilliance, but here, in the sign of Capricorn, it also explains his taciturn manner; his downbeat style, his dolorous, almost flat and unerringly focused approach to the subject in hand. Capricorn describes exactly how he takes a proposition and gradually and undistractedly leads the listener on an ever-ascending journey toward a revelation, a pinnacle, peak, or you might say mountain-top of insight. Then, the first house placement denotes a great energy, it explains his goat-like demeanour and appearance, it resonates with that Mars in the 1st house too, also in its exaltation in Capricorn, where his great energy can build gradually, methodically, to a crescendo of self-expression.

All of which explains how Watts would express his thought processes, but not particularly why, and of course, for an astrologer, the why of a personality is the causal spark, the raison d’etre of incarnation. So then, why did Alan Watts feel such a powerful need to express himself in this way?

The first reason is the Cazimi conjunction of Sun and Mercury that we already understand. Every conjunction between the Sun and the energy of communication, Mercury has to some extent this effect; the self-image is fundamentally a communicating one; the “I” of the ego is an “I” that talks, writes or moves in such a way as to convey meaning. Normally, the wider conjunction gives an element of blindness and often creates a person that talks about themselves a great deal and struggles to talk about much else, but with Cazimi, the communicating awareness is refined and dignified, rather than scorched and obliterated. But this does not explain all of it; after all, Sol and Mercurius can never be more than 28° apart on the plane of the ecliptic, so it is a common association and not many were so driven to explain themselves in this way.

The Quindecile aspect is one that is not much understood in modern astrology, although it has been revived by Noel Tyl, an astrologer of no mean reputation from whom I have learned a great many useful and insightful techniques. For a full discussion of the aspect then read this article. Suffice to say that for the purposes of this discussion at least, the Quindecile (or 165° aspect) has an element of obsessive-compulsive behaviour attached; from the Aries Point, the aspect falls in 15° Virgo and 15° Libra which describes obsession (striving for mental balance and harmony) followed by compulsion (taking a practical step toward the attainment of perfection). This describes the nature of the aspect well, since it is a mental dissatisfaction that provokes a practical fix. The fix rarely actually fixes anything of course, it merely alleviates the imbalance for a time and then it is back to the start, of thinking that something is not quite right and that we had better do something about it.

In Watts’ case we find two separate Qunideciles to that Cazimi conjunction of Sun and Mercury. Looked at in this way we can posit the understanding that his need to express these carefully expounded mental constructs in the form of lectures was the Virgoan solution; it was the fix that he was striving for. The mental imbalance then comes from two separate sources; Saturn conjunct Pluto in the 7th and Neptune on the cusp of the 8th.

Let us consider each of these in turn. Saturn conjunct Pluto is a real soul-destroying aspect; it is back-breaking in effect, because it adds Hadean depth (and you don’t get much deeper than the underworld) to Saturn’s propensity for hard work. Put these together then and you get astonishingly profound limitations, hard work, difficulty, burden and constriction, and in Watts’ case, with Pluto on the Aries Point, and in the 7th, marriage was for him, hard labour. Of course, wherever Pluto is found we have to transform ourselves somehow, but it is the place where we are least able to change, so it is an irresistible force and an immovable object, you know that something has to give, but usually it is ugly and painful even so. Watts went through 3 marriages, and whilst not much is known about the conditions of any of them, there is a between-the-lines intimation that they were far from easy.

Thus, it is entirely reasonable to suggest that the pain and discomfort he experienced in his intimate relationships left him feeling out of balance, and the practical ‘fix’ for that imbalance was to express his ideas in this way.It is almost as though his philosophising about the benign nature of the Universe would assuage the brutality of his marriage experience.

This ties in somewhat with the second Quindecile configured to the Sun Mercury conjunction, from Neptune in the 8th. It is reasonably well-known that Watts had a drinking problem; although he never openly admitted such. When he died aged 58 (at around the time of his second Saturn return – thus Saturn would be transiting the natal Saturn-Pluto conjunction in the 7th) the cause of death was recorded as ‘heart failure’ although it is commonly acknowledged that incipient alcoholism was a contributing factor. This is simply one level at which Neptune might manifest in the 8th, as a contributing factor in the (confusing) conditions surrounding death, also as a motivating obsessive impetus to the compulsion of expressing his spirituality and finally there is the question of talking about death as well, in a spiritual context. Watts frequently spoke about the value of meditating on death, his themes were often uncomfortably Plutonic, his spirituality was all about 8th house ideals of letting go, of non-materialism, of Buddhist ideas about attachment; fundamentally his spiritual DNA was 8th house and he felt compelled to talk it out.

These are not the only Quindeciles in Watts’ chart, he has another from the Dragon’s Head to the Moon which perhaps conveys something about his fated compulsion to bring his ideas before humanity at large, and in this last consideration, he was only partially successful. The taciturn genius pinpointed by his Cazimi Mercury was, like the air the determined goat breathes at the summit of his lonely mountain, always going to be somewhat rarefied and remote for general consumption; his brilliance was of the type of the stars, distant and ethereal rather than the tactile and fawned over diamond of earthly desire, but arguably, it was more precious even so, and will hopefully appreciate with time and contemplation.