July 25, 2011

The Death Axis in Astrology

 Someone googled the term “death axis, astrology, rectification,” and landed at one of my other sites. That site, however, is for pictures, so I’m going to discuss the answer here.

There are three questions beginning astrologers often look for as soon as they can read a chart, and their order usually depends on their age, marital status, and financial status. They are:

  1. Will I ever win the lottery?
  2. When will I get married?
  3. When will I die?
It’s generally considered unethical for an astrologer to predict a client’s death. First, and foremost, we could be wrong. Imagine the impact on the client. Astrology is a fairly precise science, but interpretation depends on the skill and experience of the astrologer.

Death doesn’t usually stand out in a person’s chart unless it is eminent. Otherwise, we have to go searching for it.

While it is unethical to predict a client’s death, there are rare exceptions to the rule. In the case when a client has been diagnosed as terminally ill, they may have important business to take care of before they go. Those things might include saying goodbye to loved ones, burying the hatchet with old enemies, taking care of finances, finding homes for children or pets, or fulfilling a bucket list. In that case, you would be doing the client a favor if you could give them a small window. * (see edit at the end)

I once heard of an astrologer who was terminally ill, and her friends joked that she wanted another astrologer with her when she passed so that someone would preserve the precise time of her demise for astrological posterity. They could just see her hand raised, finger pointed, then dropping it in death, her dying words, “Now.”

The person who Googled the search term that sent them to me is not a beginning astrologer, though. I know this because they used the search term “rectification.”

Rectification is the process of working backwards in the chart, using known life events to find the correct time through planetary placement. It’s performed when the client doesn’t have an accurate birth time, or when the time is unknown. There are many reasons why someone might not know their birth time. A few don’t even know the day. Also, we might want to read the chart of someone famous or historical whose birth data is private or unknown. You know...celebrities, politicians, and such. And I don’t blame them for guarding the data. But when they do, we have the daunting task of trying to figure it out.

It helps if there’s a ballpark: right after lunch, sunrise, middle-of-the-night, almost the first baby of the New Year, and so on. But sometimes we have no starting point at all. It once took me twenty-five years to get a birth time I needed. Now the moment of finding it is its own "eureka!" chart. There are some people whose data I will want until the day I die, because the time is unknown. For years, off and on, I’ve tried to rectify the charts of those people, so I’ve had lots of practice.

If we have no starting time at all, we try to determine the client’s ascendant and midheaven from their physical appearance, personality, and career. But also remember that their moon, or a strong planet, a configuration, a stellium, or a host of other things might be just as responsible for our perception of them. All we can do is try different possibilities until everything begins to match up. What helps to narrow the field are the major events of the client’s life: achieving a degree, honors, marriage, once-in-a-lifetime things like winning the Powerball, surviving a plane crash, broken bones, major surgery, and our fifteen minutes of fame. The more events to work with, the better. The births of children are usually not helpful unless there was something (exceptionally) unusual or traumatic about the birth. The reason for this, is that birth time belongs to the child, not the mother. That chart becomes the one to compare to the mother’s chart to study their mother / child relationship.

Okay, finally, the death axis:

I have studied so many death charts I thought I’d die. There is no specific death axis, per se. The cause and circumstances of a person’s death are as unique and individual as his birth. There are many contributing factors. When it comes to the chart, every picture tells a story. JFK Jr.’s death was an interesting picture because along with a snapshot of death, he was traveling to attend a wedding, and both show in his chart.

One thing we want to check for, if we think we have the date pinned down, is confirmation in the charts of the client’s spouse, children, parents or other close relatives if we can get their data. If it’s not in those, then it’s not likely (unless they won’t learn of it until later). So while the unknown death may not show up in the relative’s charts until a later time: days, weeks, months or years, it should show up in all of them, because in our modern times, bad news travels fast.

There’s always an exception, right?

If the news of the death does not reach one of those in the group whose charts are tested, it could be because that person is away and unreachable by the others. That’s all part of the story, and can be used to narrow the timing.

There are some clues, but we can’t jump to conclusions if we see that one or two aspects are forming in the client’s chart. It’s going to take a lot more than that.

I suppose if someone were going to label an axis as the death axis (and heaven help me if I have at some point in the past referred to one), they might be talking about the 2nd house / 8th house axis, because everyone thinks of the 8th house as the house of death. But it’s also lot of other things, like regeneration, sex, surgery, insurance, shared money, public support, crime, and more, and so we don’t freak out if our sun enters the 8th house, because it’s done that once a year since our birth. The 2nd house is included in this axis almost by default. It’s the house opposite the 8th. Thus, the term “axis.”

It’s true that often it shows up in a death chart. Things that might stand out are the moon’s nodes across it. Or maybe some of the more pernicious planets conjunct or square it. We also look at any planets in the 8th, or any afflictions to the ruler of the 8th.

Tip: The natal sun in the 8th house is often prominent the charts of those who become famous after their death (often, but not always, victims).

Just as likely to be a death axis, is the ascendant / descendant axis. This is because the ascendant not only represents the physical body, but can also act as a bulls eye of sorts. Whatever is laid out in the stars to happen will do so to “you, at this time, and in this place.” And the opposite, the 7th house cusp, is representative of the place where the sun sets on life.

Also likely to be prominent in a death chart are the midheaven (the 10th) and 4th house cusps. The 10th, a planet in the 10th, or the ruler of the 10th, might be afflicted in the death chart of someone famous, or one whose death will become famous or infamous. The 4th house represents early beginnings and final endings, among many other things.

There are three houses of endings: the 8th, the 4th, and the 12th.

The twelfth house is the house of confinement, and commonly referred to as the house of secrets, sorrows, and self-undoing. Confinement can mean many things: hospitals, asylums, jails, monasteries, convents, and hiding places among many others. So we look at the condition of planets in the 12th, and ruling the 12th.

Look at the 4th house for another condition of death. For instance, a water sign on the 4th house might mean a death on or near the water, or a body in water. In Scorpio, it might be a swamp or sewer. If Taurus was on the 4th, and Venus was placed in it, I would expect a peaceful death, in a pleasant place. Consider the signs on the cusps, as well as the planets.

Look for insidious aspects forming between pernicious planets, particularly Pluto, Neptune, Saturn, and Mars. If we find them, then we should check for upcoming eclipses. Where they hit in a chart, and the aspects they make, can be a trigger. So can the progressed moon.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it a million times: there are three planets I never like to see squaring off with each other: Pluto, Saturn, and Mars. Nothing good can come from it unless we’re purposely trying to set off a volcano. And I take a much harder look if they are in fixed signs, or the angles of the chart. I calculate the Saturn / Pluto midpoint and look for any aspects to it.

Look for any difficult aspects to Uranus, especially if aspected by the moon’s nodes, or Saturn. Mars can trigger an accident there. Mercury will be part of the picture if travel is involved. Uranus can easily indicate a sudden death, such as a heart attack or stroke. It’s there in unexpected deaths.

I would look further into the chart if one of the Heavy Hitters (Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, moon’s nodes) were crossing the ascendant, paying more attention if the conjunction received difficult aspects from other Heavy Hitters.

I would note what kind of aspects, if any, the natal, progressed, and directed sun was receiving.

I would take a good look at the aspects to the ruler of the ascendant.

Don’t overlook the 6th house of health, and its cusp, in particular. Pay attention to what’s happening to planets in the 6th, and to the ruler of the 6th.

Transiting Saturn is often on the ascendant of death charts in the case of illness. Jupiter (surprise!) is often on the ascendant of death charts in the case of accidents involving travel, and in those whose death is a relief or welcome release. It can also show up on the ascendant of one who inherits.

If I found many of the aspects mentioned here in a single chart, or some of the aspects mentioned here in combination with other things in the chart that painted a sinister picture, then I would look for similar aspects in the progressed and directed charts, going through the entire checklist in each of them. I would look for more confirmation in the solar and lunar returns around the suspected date.

In conclusion, I would warn those who are looking for death in the chart to remember that there are aspects for every event, but there are not always events for every aspect. Don’t get carried away or paranoid.

* This post is being edited soon after the passing of my own sister. Experience with her terminal illness has caused me to change my mind about predicting a client's death.

Never take hope from the dying. No matter how accepting of the inevitable they claim to be, they're not being honest with themselves. As human beings we cling to every minute of life until the last sand in the hourglass has run out. Usually, even the suicidal want to live; if they could make the problems go away, they would stay.