Flying with Icarus
1973 was a red-letter year in astrology when Eleanor Bach presented four asteroids to the astrological community. Chiron was added to our tool-kit in about 1978. All five of these minor planets have proven highly valuable to the astrologers who have taken the time to add them to their charts. But 1981 will go down in history for the largest increase in available planets in a single year. Al H. Morrison of New York, with the help of J. Lee Lehman (a New York psychologist) and Brian Marsden of the Smithsonian, has printed ephemerides for nine additional minor planets with one more soon to come. Astrologers who wish to experiment with the new bodies can order the ephemerides from Al at Box 75, Old Chelsea Station, New York, N.Y. 10113. Each planet has its own ephemeris covering 1900 to 2000. A minimal donation of $4 each is requested to cover the cost.
Future issues of The Mutable Dilemma will discuss the other new asteroids. We are tackling Icarus first. When the original asteroids appeared in 1973 and I was asked what others I would like to obtain, my response was always: I want Icarus. Of course, it was a leap of faith to assume that Icarus would be meaningful and might have a meaning related to the mythical person for whom it was named. So far, in naming the new planets discovered in modern times with the help of telescopes, the astronomers have managed to give them mythologically appropriate names! By the time this has happened eight times, starting with Uranus, we start getting the message that chance is an illusion and the world is really meaningful, not accidental. This does not justify assuming that all the rest of the asteroids have been properly named, but we can at least take the possibility as a working hypothesis. The only way we will be sure of the meaning of anything in astrology is through using the same techniques which have built astrology from its beginning in the far distant past. Astrology is based on pragmatic experience. We watch the sky, watch what happens on earth, and draw conclusions about the meaning of the cycles in the sky. In practical terms, in dealing with a new planet, we watch for individuals who have it in prominent positions in their charts and for times when it is in prominent positions in current patterns, and we study the person and the circumstances to see possible correspondences. Prominence is indicated by close aspects to other factors in the chart.
Since I have lived my usual over-extended life since receiving the ephemerides of the new asteroids, I can hardly claim any certainty about the meanings. There has simply not been sufficient time to do a thorough job. But fascinating cases are already in hand which at least justify some tentative suggestions.
In mythology, Daedalus, the father of Icarus, built the labyrinth on Crete in which father and son were then imprisoned. They escaped by creating wings of wax and flying out to freedom. Unfortunately, Icarus grew a little over-confident in the exhilaration of flight and freedom (the Greeks called it Hubris). He tried to fly too close to the sun, his wings melted, and he came crashing down to earth to his death.
I started my exploration of the asteroid (which does actually go closer to the sun that any other body in our solar system except comets) by putting it in a variety of charts of famous people. Naturally, I got out Richard Nixon’s and Thomas Eagleton’s charts. Nixon’s forced resignation from the U.S. Presidency was surely a major fall. There were, of course, many aspects in his progressed chart to suggest a major challenge in his life. Astrology is highly repetitive or redundant. Any important message will be repeated over and over again in a variety of ways in the chart. But if Icarus did symbolize the potential for an over-reach and come-down, it ought to be prominent in Nixon’s chart. Natally, he has it at about 27 Capricorn, which is opposite his Neptune and the Washington, DC Midheaven and tri-octile (sesquisquare) his birthplace Midheaven. It is also widely conjunct his natal Uranus in early Aquarius, quincunx Pluto in the 10th house, trine Saturn in the 9th, semi-sextile the Mars-Mercury-Jupiter conjunction in the fourth house, and widely tri-octile the natal Ascendant. The combination seemed strong enough to consider it a support for the hypothetical interpretation. (In passing, we might note that Nixon’s natal Pandora is at 24 Capricorn, conjunct his Icarus).
During the Watergate episode, and Nixon’s forced resignation, his secondary progressed Icarus was at 25 Aquarius, quincunx Neptune, while his solar arc directed Icarus was at 28 Pisces square Pluto, and by the time of the resignation, it had moved to square the Mars-Mercury-Jupiter conjunction in the 4th house. In general, one would consider the patterns a “hit”.
Thomas Eagleton was the prospective Vice-Presidential candidate with George McGovern in the race against Nixon when the latter sought re-election to his second term. When Eagleton’s past history of serious depression and shock treatments become public, he was hastily dumped as a candidate; again a fall after attempting something presumably beyond his capacity. Eagleton’s natal Icarus was exactly (within one degree) conjunct his Saturn in Sagittarius in his 5th house, and it also exactly (within 2 minutes) squared his natal Moon! At the time of his brief rise and fall from the limelight, his progressed Washington, DC Midheaven was opposite Saturn and square Moon and his Washington Ascendant was conjunct Moon and square Saturn, thus forming the same aspects to Icarus. His secondary progressed Icarus was at one Capricorn, tri- octile natal north node of the Moon in the tenth house and trine Neptune. (Natally, Icarus was widely square Neptune). His solar arc directed Icarus was opposite natal Venus in the 12th house. Again, we could consider the patterns to be a support for our theory about Icarus.
Nixon and Eagleton were the extent of my Icarus endeavors, due to time pressures, until just before I left on my spring tour. The week before I was due to leave, Hinckley shot Reagan and I spent some stolen hours working on a possible chart for Hinckley, with only the birth date and place reported in the newspapers. My first discovery set off bells. Reagan and Hinckley had a natal conjunction between Icarus in their charts; transiting Icarus had returned to that place (an Icarus return for both of them) and it was precisely opposite the Ascendant in the chart of the shooting! I was also fascinated to discover that the inaugural chart for Reagan being sworn in as President had Icarus less than 3 degrees from the Midheaven, in Capricorn in the 9th house. It would have been pretty close to right on the MC when the last part of the ceremony began. Chiron is right on the Ascendant of the inaugural chart, so I had already noted that moral issues, ethics, and values would be a major issue of his term of office. Icarus, added to the 10th house South Node of the Moon conjunct Mercury and Mars, add a sober note of warning about the use of power.
I am still far from certain about the accuracy of Reagan’s birth time, and hope to get a list of events in his life to attempt a proper rectification some day. The best bets seem to be either 1:20 A.M. or just before 2 A.M. Depending on space, we may include the charts of Reagan, Hinckley, the inauguration, and the shooting. Just on the basis of that one crazy act of shooting a President, I did a speculative rectification of Hinckley’s chart, and was pleased to get the recorded birth time later and to find that I was only off 6 minutes. Out of 24 hours, with a single event, that is pretty good. Of course, it was not a garden variety event.
Having been alerted to watch for Icarus conjunctions between the charts of different individuals, I soon spotted another in gathering up charts to take on my lecture tour. Marcia Moore and her most recent husband, Sunny Altounian, had an Icarus conjunction. Moreover, secondary progressed Icarus was opposite her natal Ascendant when Marcia disappeared and presumably died. Most of our readers probably know that Marcia was a very well known writer, lecturer, and teacher of yoga and astrology. She had been introduced to a drug sometimes used to anaesthetize people for surgery, ketamine, and after her marriage she and her husband, who was a professional anesthesiologist, experimented with ketamine. They felt it permitted them to leave the body consciously and experience mystical states, without damaging the body. We still do not know what actually happened to Marcia. Part of her body has been found in the woods near their home, and identified by dental records. We don’t know whether she finally reacted to an overdose of the drug or whether there was some kind of foul play. But the Icarus conjunction between the two charts suggests a need to beware of excesses or over-reach of some kind.
Another Icarus conjunction between two people turned up on my spring tour. The woman was, like Marcia, an astrologer and yoga practitioner, a student of eastern beliefs, with a firm moral principle of not becoming involved with married men. The man was married, and had never been involved with any woman other than his wife: very straight and middle-class American. You guessed it. They are involved in a relationship, much against the principles and will of both, but drawn toward each other in an irresistible compulsion.
Another Icarus conjunction appeared in the book of famous women published by Lois Rodden. I brought the book along on my tour, planning to enter the new asteroids in the charts of individuals born in this century. The task is far from completed, due to my usual time pressures, but I have entered Icarus, Hidalgo, and Lilith, and have put all nine in a few of the charts. One pair of charts in the book is of a mother and daughter who were involved in selling sex when the girl was still in her teens. The police raided one party with a variety of men in various states of undress and arrested the mother for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Yes, mother and daughter have an Icarus conjunction.
Somewhere en route on my tour, I discovered Nixon’s secretary was in the Rodden book, but although they had Icarus aspects, there was not a mutual conjunction. Rose Mary Wood’s Icarus was close to Nixon’s natal Mars, so quincunx his Neptune and Saturn and opposite his Pluto among other aspects. But I hit pay dirt when I looked at the secondary progressions, for 1972-1974. His progressed Icarus was conjunct her natal Midheaven and her progressed Icarus was conjunct his natal Icarus! They did have an Icarus conjunction; a progressed one! In case you are curious, Pat Nixon’s natal Icarus was about 8 Pisces, tri-octile Richard’s Neptune and Washington Midheaven. Her progressed Icarus was going over Richard’s Saturn during the Watergate activity, and quincunx his 4th house Mars-Mercury-Jupiter when the truth came out—to the shock of the family because he had lied to them along with everyone else. His progressed Icarus, at the time, was on Pat’s natal Venus-Moon in her first house.
Many of the famous women in the Rodden book had strong Icarus aspects, and some of them such as conjunctions to fire planets (Mars, Sun, Jupiter) or presence in fire signs or houses, seemed to fit a hypothesis of very early, even premature development. Many were working in the theatrical world very early in their lives. But my most dramatic case came from someone I met while on tour. In the natal chart, Icarus was exactly conjunct the Sun in Sagittarius in the 5th house, with Mars in the same sign and house just 5 degrees away. The individual had been a musical prodigy, playing in public from the age of two to age six, with much attendant newspaper publicity. At age six, her parents moved to a different city and her music stopped, almost as if it had never been! Instead, she developed a precocious interest in sex and was considered a “loose” woman by her school mates in a middle-class climate. Most of the activity was voyeuristic. She was an only child and willing to let the little boys look at her in exchange for her being able to look at them, but her way of describing that period of her life was that “all the little boys wanted to get into my panties.” Right out of high school, she married a man who supported her very well financially, but was a workaholic and uninterested in sex. This caused a problem, to put it mildly, since she had a normal and healthy appetite. The Icarus message, combined with all that fire, seemed to be a danger of both over-reach and prematurity; of flying to the top without a solid foundation, and having the whole thing vanish as if it never were.
A few hundred charts is still only a beginning of what we need to reach solid conclusions, but at least we can tentatively suggest that Icarus may symbolize some sort of aspiration or urge to escape limitations, to reach the top, to achieve desires, but with a danger (encouraged by fire emphasis in the chart) of excesses or premature efforts; of over- confidence or hubris. How do we fit Reagan into that? Maybe his desire to be President is a supreme hubris? Hinckley wanted to be famous and to win the attention of a fantasized love by his dramatic act. His Icarus is in the first (Aries) house while Reagan’s is in the 3rd house natally but the 5th house in Aries by progression if his birth time is approximately correct.
One other somewhat startlingly specific potential has appeared in my preliminary work with Icarus. An astrology student in a workshop discovered that her solar arc directed Icarus was conjunct her natal Mars in the 8th house when her father was killed in an airplane crash when she was still a child. In another case, the daughter of a man lost at sea during the Korean war had natal Icarus opposite Ascendant; solar arc directed Icarus exactly opposite Ascendant at the actual loss of the father; but secondary progressed Icarus exactly opposite the Ascendant when she actually accepted his death as a reality and went through a period of crying for hours at a time while she was in her early teens. In the father’s horoscope, (time of birth unknown), progressed Mars was conjunct natal Icarus and opposite Jupiter when his family lost their ranch due to both a flood and the depression of the early 1930s. He was sent to live with an uncle at that time, and thus separated from his family. At the time he was lost at sea, flying over the Japan Sea during the Korean War, his progressed Mars was conjunct progressed Icarus just leaving Capricorn to enter Aquarius. Mars-Icarus at the time was also square his daughter’s natal Sun at 29 Aries. A couple of the women in Rodden’s book died in air crashes, including a French pilot who was a speed champion and Carol Lombard. Both had strong Icarus aspects at the time of the fatal crash.
A few cases is enough only to justify looking at many more, so I spent some hours out of a very short period at home to put Icarus in a collection of 76 horoscopes of air crashes. I think that the charts are set for the take off of the plane, not the actual crash which is often hard to locate in geographic coordinates, but I am not sure. There were enough tight aspects to Icarus to consider it a potential key, though not all the charts had strong aspects. Using a 4 degree orb (though most of the aspects were much closer) Icarus conjunctions included 6 to the Sun, 7 to the Moon, 5 to Mercury, 4 to the north node of the Moon, 1 to the Ascendant, 1 to the Antivertex, 3 to the IC, 1 to the Descendant, 3 to the West Point, 5 to Vesta, 2 each to Saturn, Venus, Neptune, Mars, and Pallas. Altogether, there were 50 conjunctions. The other was to Jupiter. There were also 16 oppositions, 67 squares, and 95 octiles or trioctiles. I did not tabulate the quincunxes but noted a good number. In many cases, there were several close aspects as Icarus would be part of a network of aspects such as semi-square (octile) a Sun-Moon square. Uncounted but relevant were combinations such as conjunct the midpoint of Sun and Saturn (8 degrees from both); conjunct the midpoint of Mars and Vesta (5 degrees from both), octile the same midpoint in another chart, and so on.
One interesting series of charts I have is for the terrible collision of two planes in the Canary Islands on March 27, l977. I have charts for the origin of the flight (take off in Los Angeles) and for the take off in New York as well as the collision in the Canaries. Unfortunately, I am not sure of the correct time zone for the actual crash, having been given conflicting information. But there were striking aspects anyway. Icarus was conjunct the Sun in Aries (not counted in the preceding totals) and opposite Ceres with Neptune opposite the MC and square the Ascendant in the Los Angeles take off. The New York take off put the Icarus-Sun-Ceres combination into aspect to the angles, quincunx the MC and square the Ascendant while the Vesta-Pluto square was moved so that Vesta opposed the Ascendant and Pluto squared it. By the time of the fatal crash which killed hundreds of people, the Moon had moved in to form an exact T-square to the Icarus-Sun opposite Ceres. The chart drawn for one time zone puts the Icarus-Sun-Moon-Ceres octile or trioctile the Ascendant. The other time zone puts Mars opposite the Ascendant with Icarus-Sun just inside the 8th house and quincunx Ascendant and East Point.
After such a collection of cases, traditional astrology would not hesitate to dub Icarus a malefic and tell people not to fly when it is involved in tight conflict aspects. But if you realize that in the airports of large cities, many planes take off and land within a few minutes of each other, most of them quite safely, there has to be a deeper principle at work. I have never had the opportunity to study all the charts of a group of people who went down together in a crash, but I would expect to find appropriate aspects in all of them. Character creates destiny, and until one’s character is ready to exit this world in favor of the next, we may fly with Icarus and land safely. I have flown every week for months at a time during the last ten years, with natal Icarus in a grand cross to Sun, Mercury, Uranus, and Moon, and with progressed Icarus square Jupiter and Saturn for several years of that period. I think we need to watch the danger of over-reach and premature action without a firm foundation, but if we are building with care and thoroughness, Icarus can just symbolize a helping hand to fly over some of the obstacles; to get out of the limitations. I don’t feel ready to assign it to one of the 12 sides of life as yet. Maybe we won’t be able to fit all the new asteroids into our handy alphabet though I certainly intend to try. So far, Icarus seems a bit like Jupiter plus some added Uranus and Saturn. Maybe it’s a blend of several of the transpersonal sides of life; aspiring to the heights but needing to climb sometimes, not try to make it in one leap. Or maybe it just warns us not to expect too much. Greta Garbo had it in Libra, had romantic relationships but no lasting marriage. The mother mentioned previously who contributed to the delinquency of her daughter had Icarus in the 5th house (like Garbo) but the mother’s was at the midpoint of Mars and Venus, with Icarus and Venus in Scorpio. Margaret Trudeau, former wife of Canada’s Prime Minister, has Icarus conjunct Moon and Jupiter in the first house in Sagittarius. Her life has demonstrated the fire excesses of this position, including leaving her young children to run off to be in the theater plus involvement in the hippie drug scene.
A summary of possible keynotes might be high expectations, need for freedom, need to reach the heights, with the danger of excesses and loss. Basically it seems very Jupiterian but that dash of Saturn and Uranus must be kept as potentially part of the message. Try it in your charts, and let us know what you find. I would expect to find it prominent, probably with conjunctions, in people who reach the top in any area, especially if they do so at a younger age than usual. I would also expect it to be prominent (as Jupiter is) in criminals who expect something for little effort. Next issue, we look at the real Lilith, not the imaginary dark moon.