On September 17, 1981, sexy Doors’ singer Jim Morrison’s bedroom eyes gazed out from the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. The caption read “He’s hot, he’s sexy and he’s dead.” It might not mark a milestone on the history of good taste, but astrologically, the event has always intrigued me. What was going on in his chart? Or more pressingly, would his chart still work “even though he was no longer in it?”
Morrison had died, probably in a bathtub, probably as a result of a heroin overdose, in Paris ten years earlier. That had put an end to The Doors, which had formed six riotous years earlier in Los Angeles.
Ten years gone, and yet Jim Morrison’s career was suddenly on a roll.
Looking at 1980, sales of every single Doors’ album had doubled or tripled compared to 1979. Joe Smith, the chairman of Elektra Records, said “No group that isn’t around anymore has sold that well for us.” The Doors’ magnum opus, The End, had been featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s hit film, Apocalypse Now, in 1979. The following year, a Morrison biography, No One Gets Out of Here Alive, by Jerry Hopkins, sold unexpectedly well.
Jim Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida at 11:55AM-EWT on December 8, 1943. Even though he exited that chart in 1971, it seems that it lived on, even without him.
- When someone’s Moon progresses into the seventh house, it’s not just about personal relationships. That event typically coincides with increasing public visibility – in my own chart, for example, it coincided with the publication of my first book. Jim Morrison experienced such a “Progressed Moonrise” on September 6, 1978 – three years before the infamous Rolling Stone cover, but right on schedule with the rising tide of his posthumous popularity.
- On May 19, 1980, as his record sales were exploding, Morrison’s solar arc Pluto, also in his seventh house, made a square to his tenth house Sagittarian Sun.
- Transiting Uranus conjuncted Morrison’s Midheaven three times: in December 1980, June 1981, and finally on September 19, 1981 – just two days after the pub date of that Rolling Stone cover. Seeing Uranus crossing the Midheaven, if I were sitting with a client, I might have said “expect the unexpected in your career.” That is what I would have said to Jim Morrison too, but I would have needed a Ouija Board to do it. He was maybe hot and sexy, but he was dead.
- There’s more: Solar Arc Mercury made a conjunction with Morrison’s lunar South Node on October 11, 1981, while Solar Arc Venus had made a trine to his Pluto on June 8, 1981. Note that Pluto ruled Morrison’s Scorpio Midheaven, linking that Venus event directly to his career. Meanwhile, by progression, Venus conjuncted his tenth house Sun less than a year later, on August 1, 1982. Progressed Venus hits his Midheaven and an artist’s career takes off like a rocket. No astrologer would be surprised at that development – but what if the artist had died a decade earlier?
All of this raises some really profound questions about how astrology works, and how a chart might live on under its own steam, even after death. Maybe that’s true . . . but a great danger in astrology lies in generalizing too much from a single example. “I’m a Sagittarian and I hate parakeets. Therefore Sagittarians hate parakeets.” Could the uncanny relevance of Jim Morrison’s posthumous transits, progressions, and solar arcs be some kind of fluke?
I have not made an exhaustive study of all of this. It fascinates me, so I wish that I had the time to do that. I think it would make an excellent topic for a book, in fact. Lacking the opportunity to dive into the question in an exhaustive way, I figured I would check out another example and simply see if the pattern still held.
As I cast about for another possibility, I immediately thought of Vincent Van Gogh. Arguably, no painter in the past two centuries has become so instantly recognizable, so widely copied, nor had such an impact upon collective taste. And yet Van Gogh was poverty-stricken. By most reports, he sold only one single painting in his lifetime – and that only seven months before he died. In other words, in my search for people whose lives illustrated a burst of posthumous fame, Van Gogh supplied an even better test than Jim Morrison, at least in terms of contrast. Morrison enjoyed enormous fame – perhaps enjoyed it a little too much – during his life. Van Gogh, on the other hand, was lucky to get a meal.
Vincent Van Gogh was born in Zundert, Holland on March 30, 1853, at 11:00 AM. That birth time, given on the hour, seems potentially shaky, but it has Rodden rating of AA.
The highest price, corrected for inflation, ever fetched by any painting in auction was US$82.5 million. That happened (in under three minutes) on May 15, 1990. The painting was The Portrait of Dr. Gachet, painted in June 1890, just one month before Van Gogh shot himself.
I cannot help but ponder the sense of irony that Vincent Van Gogh would have felt had he known the price that painting would fetch almost exactly one century after his death. That money would have bought a lot of absinthe.
- In Vincent Van Gogh’s natal chart, we see a triple conjunction of the Moon, the lunar south node, and Jupiter in Sagittarius and in the sixth house. When The Portrait of Dr Gachet sold for that jackpot price, the progressed Moon was right there aligned with those sensitive points. It had just conjuncted the artist’s natal Moon on March 1, 1990. It hit his south node on May 11 and his Jupiter on the 31st – right on schedule.
- Transiting Jupiter made a square to his Sun on October 1, 1989, quickly retrograded over it again on November 24, 1989 . . . and here is my favorite part. Jupiter squared Van Gogh’s Sun a final time on the very day his painting broke all the records: May 15, 1990, a hundred years after he was gone. (And anybody who thinks squares are automatically bad news obviously needs a reality-check.)
- By solar arc, Van Gogh’s Venus made a trine to his Sun on December 29, 1989. It was, in other words, only half a degree past exactitude when the big sale happened.
- Jupiter conjoined his natal Uranus on December 17, 1990 – and when I see Jupiter-Uranus interactions, I always tell my clients to enter contests. (I tell them deeper things too!) Van Gogh “won big” – but was it Van Gogh or just his chart that won? And what exactly is the difference?
Again, extensive research might possibly reveal that these two examples are just weirdly lucky, but I doubt it. I think this phenomenon is real. The questions it raises are about as juicy as questions get. The souls of Jim Morrison and Vincent Van Gogh were no longer bound in any definitive way to their birthcharts.
Were those souls sailing in astral realms? Had either of them reincarnated? Van Gogh had a century to think about returning, Morrison only a decade. Both had tragic deaths – dare I say “dumb deaths?” One died by unintentional overdose and the other one by suicide. I’ve often heard that such precipitous exits tend to lead to quick re-entries.
The inescapable fact is that neither of these human beings were “in” their charts anymore, at least not in the ways that we customarily assume. And yet their charts lived on, still actively responding to astrological stimulus, as if they were ghosts or machines whose batteries had not yet run down.
And maybe those are the right metaphors, more or less – that your chart lives on after you no longer need it, as if it were a ghost or a machine. Charts seem to still work, at least in a mechanical sort of way, after we pass away. Our two examples demonstrate that principle pretty clearly, I think.
I knew about Van Gogh when I was young, but seeing his museum in Amsterdam when I was twenty-four impacted me so profoundly that I had to write about it in The Changing Sky. That trip happened in 1973, when Vincent Van Gogh had already been dead for over eighty years. If I said that “his art still touched me,” no one would bat an eye. Me either. But was what touched me more than his art? Was his “ghost” still in the air? That Sagittarian complex in his chart happens to align with my natal Venus – and, weirdly, his progressed Moon was entering my own seventh house around that time . . .
. . ..but at some point, astrology can drive you crazy, and I think I just put my toe over that line.
In any case, this all got me thinking. I see that my own progressed Sun will trine my Midheaven on September 1, 2058 and four years later, Jupiter will do the same thing by Solar Arc. Looks good for my career then, eh?
I’ll be a hundred and nine years old when all that gets going, so I am hoping they serve hot buttered popcorn on the other side of the veil.
‘Til then, please stay well. I’ll do my best to do the same.