I have always loved Aretha. Before I even had astrological references to solidify why that might be, I was drawn in by the passion of her voice, the intense yet feminine approach of her soulful singing style. Being a singer myself, I just resonated with her and the power that was behind such a magnificent voice. A triumphant voice. A voice for women.
Once I got into astrology, a decade or so ago, her chart was one of the first I looked up because I just knew there had to be some connections there that I would resonate with. Upon first glance, I noticed that we shared the same Ascendant in Scorpio (within a degree), our ruler Mars were both in Gemini (within a few degrees), both of our MCs in Leo, her Moon was conjunct my Sun exactly, and we shared the same nodal position by a few degrees. I thought to myself, "No wonder!!" It's moments like this that make astrology so magical.
I was quite heartbroken to learn of her passing yesterday as it felt like a piece of me had left with her, as if her own transition was transforming my life... reminding me that there is no better time to live than right now. I have many personal dreams that have yet to be realized, and her life-long artistic display of bravery, courage, and passion reminded me that no matter how hard life can seem to be, there is no excuse to sacrifice your dreams.
The Charts: Natal, Transits, & Progressions 🌟
"A magnetic new artist... saucy, teasing... rocking, shouting... she doesn't knock at the door - she breaks it down!" I had a good chuckle when I read this description of her from her debut secular album in 1961 (pictured above). These words really speak to her own natal chart and the power that was behind this force of a woman.
Below is a tri-wheel of her natal chart, progressions, and transits at the time of her death. My goal here is to take a look at some of these placements, and how they may have contributed to her life and death. I'm sure I won't cover everything, and welcome other people's observations! So please share the details you notice, if you feel so inclined.
Let's start with her natal chart first (the most inner wheel), and the inherent traits that she was born with. Here we have an Aries Sun, a Cancer moon and Scorpio rising as the three initial go-to's in the chart. All 3 of those placements can certainly indicate a power house of a personality, with the magnetic intensity of Scorpio rising filtering two powerful, and self-oriented Cardinal signs. I can certainly see how she would not knock on the door, but rather break it down with her own robustness!
Her Scorpio rising brings that emotional intensity to the chart and forms a grand water trine with her moon in its domicile of Cancer (in great strength due to her being a night chart), and Mercury conjunct the South Node nearly exact in Pisces. I think this Mercury / SN placement really shows her being blessed with the gift of music and a voice that can move the masses. A talent that came naturally to her, as she was born into a musical family. It also shows why she may have started out in faith based singing as a gospel singer before she transitioned into jazz and secular music in the early 60s. Mars the ruler of her ASC sits in Gemini which is another signature of a powerful voice, along with the multi-tasking Gemini gift of being able to play the piano while she sang... and rather well at that. She was considered to be one of the best key players in R&B.
Aretha's life was certainly not one of ease. She became a mother at the age of 12 (coincidentally when she would be having a 1st house profection year in Scorpio with her ruler Mars being in the 8th house). She then had another child a few years later at the age of 15. These young pregnancies may have been seen as controversial from the outside, especially within her unique family life (Aquarius on the IC) as her father was known for being the preacher with a "million dollar voice" that could whip up the spirit of the Holy Ghost into ecstasy.... leading the congregation to segue from prayer into an all night orgy session.
Despite what could be considered significant setbacks - being a teenage mother of two in a time where much sacrifice was expected in being a woman and a mother - she continued to push on with her own agenda. I attribute that to her Aries Sun and Cancer Moon in a first quarter moon position, for no matter what she encountered, she was going to power through with her agenda. Many others in her circumstances may not have made it out, but she had that drive to keep on pushing. Sure she was at odds with her decisions at times, but she knew that for herself, it was the right thing to do.
Her 5th house ruler, Jupiter, is in Gemini - which is the sign of its detriment - and in the 8th house of birth, death and the transition of all things. When a planet is in detriment, the ancients would look at it as being in exile. In this case, I think she had to regretfully leave her children in order to pursue her career, which in essence is a form of self-imposed exile.
She also had Venus in Aquarius at the bottom of her chart, in the 4th house and near the IC point. Venus rules her 7th house of partnership and 12th house of confinement, retreat, and self-undoing. She has been known for having unusual and traumatic partnerships, particularly in the first half of her life having married pimp / manager Theodore "Ted" White - which she left after years of abuse. I have a feeling the namesake title of one of her most successful albums "I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You" was certainly about him. (see video below)
It wasn't only romantic partnerships that Aretha struggled with, it was also her familial relations. Particularly her other two sisters who were also talented singers. There was discord there, which was intensified by the Scorpionic struggle of jealousy and control. She would display quite the fit in order to remain on top of her career and not outshined by her siblings. Which can certainly speak to that Saturn / Uranus conjunction in her 7th house, with Saturn ruling both her house of siblings (3rd) and the family (4th). Plus we know that an Aries Sun and a Leo MC is most likely going to do everything in their power to stay #1.
Even in the latter part of her life she had been in a romantic relationship with Willie Wilkerson since the 80s, with them deciding to get engaged in 2012, yet called it off shortly after saying that they were "moving too fast." Most would say they were moving too slow! Yet there is that Aquarian Venus that is going to approach love and partnership in a unique and freedom-oriented way. They stayed together until the end, and I think by this point in her life - and after going through a few marriages of her own - she found the whole tradition unnecessary.
The Moment of Death 🍂
In the event chart for the moment of death - which was reported by CNN to have taken place at 9:50am on Aug 16th, 2018 in Detroit, MI - there were certainly some significant placements going on to indicate some "movement" to her situation (refer to the most outer wheel of the chart).
With any 'chart of the moment' there is a considerable importance placed on the two fastest moving points, the ASC and the MC. This can also be true to the ASC and MC of the natal chart as transits make connections to these sensitive points. These points are 'moveable' and can signify energy spurring into action.
At the time of her death, the Sun was exactly conjunct her MC in Leo, within a week of having a New Moon Solar Eclipse near this point. The ASC of the chart of death had also just passed over her natal Neptune, which can signify the activation of Neptune's dissolvable qualities and initiating her into the realm of spirit once again. Transiting Jupiter was also conjunct her ASC at the time of death, and the more I research death charts I realize that Jupiter has a strong role to play in death a lot of the time. Especially when contacting a ruling planet or an angle. Jupiter wants us to grow, and sometimes that means moving into the next natural phase of life - that being death. I like to look at Jupiter's involvement as bringing peace in death, somewhat aligning with the fable of Baucis and Philemon.
Another factor at play here is the Moon in Scorpio approaching an exact square to natal Pluto in Leo. She had also been going through a transiting Pluto opposition to her natal Moon in Cancer. So there is a doubling of impact in a way. One long term and one as more of a trigger. I am going to imagine that it didn't help to have our Total Lunar Eclipse in Aquarius on July 27th fall on her natal Pluto (aka the Lord of the Underworld). I would guess that this is when things really started to go downhill and the need for hospice was on the horizon.
The fact that everything is retrograde right now is certainly not helping! Her chart ruler Mars is currently RX and had been moving through the 4th house for some time, before moving back into the critical 29° of Capricorn a few days before her death. The body truly couldn't fight the battle any longer. Plus Mercury, the ruler of her 8th house of death and transition, is currently slowing down to station - which gives the messenger great strength (more about my Mercurial theory in the next segment). Her natal Mercury and South Node are also receiving a transit from Neptune in Pisces which was helping the transition along.
Progressions: Her Final Years & Failing Health 🥀
The progressed chart helps to show where we are at in the current moment of time in our charts. Life is not static, and neither is the chart... so we must look to the progressions to help see the state of the now.
There looks to have been a few potential triggers in regards to the Progressed chart that inevitably led to her decline. The transiting MC was conjunct her progressed Jupiter, helping along that transiting Jupiter that is conjunct her natal ASC. Once again we have Jupiter involved on these key hot points.
We also have a balsamic moon phase in the progressed chart, which can indicate the increasing release of aspects of her life in order to renew once again. However, this release was one of the earthly vessel with that Moon in Taurus. Progressed Balsamic moon phases can be difficult when you have a chart like hers that is a more 'get up and go' vibe. So I don't imagine it had been entirely easy for her to succumb to this illness, but yet there is an inevitability about it all.
Her health had been in decline for years now and in typical Scorpio rising fashion she was not keen on others knowing her weakness, and so she was quite secretive about her health. It is reported that her first surgery for cancer took place in 2010. I noticed that Mercury had gone retrograde in her progressed chart in Oct 2008, so I'm wondering if perhaps that is when the illness that slowly led to her death began. Especially since she passed when transiting Mercury was also slowing down to station (conjunct her Progressed Chiron), so there seems to be a tie here. Mercury does rule her 8th house after all.
It was around this time in 2008 that her progressed moon moved into Capricorn and made a square to her natal Sun in Aries in the 6th house of health. This could also have been a trigger of what was to come. Her progressed Sun was in Gemini in the 8th house, conjunct her natal Mars (the ASC ruler) and on its way to conjunct her natal Jupiter. Triggering a long and slow battle that would eventually lead to her transition from this world.
A Life Lived To The Fullest 🦋
What can I say though? She did her thing! And the thing she did touched me greatly and I am forever thankful to have gotten to hear the power of her voice and that deep well of emotion. She wasn't perfect, yet none of us are. However, she was perfect in her own way - as a female pioneer (first woman in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), a loving mother that had to make some tough choices, and a sensational power house that was determined to share her gifts with the world. RIP the Queen of Soul. 🙌
PS: Please enjoy some of my favorite tunes by Aretha!