The Au pair Case
It does seem sometimes as if most of our charts involve people with serious problems, but we learn astrology by trying to understand the psychological dynamics behind the critical life events. Thanks to Fran McEvoy in Boston, we have accurate birth data for Matthew Eappen, who died of brain injuries. The prosecution charged his au pair (live-in nanny) with killing him by shaking him in anger. Woodward claimed that she loved Matthew and only shook him a little when she saw that he was having trouble breathing. She made an emergency call to the hospital at 3:45 P.M. EDT on February 4, 1997 in Newton, MA. Garry Heaton in England sent me the birth date of Woodward and the data on her phone call which was given in the police evidence at Woodward’s trial. I do not have the exact data for Matthew’s death, but think it was soon after he was taken to the hospital. Woodward was born in Elton, England on February 24, 1978, but her birth time is not known. She was found guilty of first degree murder on October 31, 1997 at 9:39 P.M. EST in Cambridge, MA. The jury was not given the option of finding her guilty of manslaughter, which certainly seemed more likely since first degree murder indicates an intent to kill. The judge on November 10, 1997 reduced her conviction to manslaughter and freed her from jail, sentencing her to the time already spent in jail. The prosecution is appealing his decision, and Woodward has to stay in the U.S. until the case is settled.
Matthew Eappen was born on May 24, 1996 at 8:35 P.M. EDT in Boston, MA. Both of his parents are working professionals. The case has stirred up a hornet’s nest with people polarized on several issues. Matthew’s parents and his aunt in San Diego, who is also both a working professional and a mother, are appalled that the judge could overrule the decision by the jury. Of course, they emphasize the right of mothers to have a profession and the need for competent child care. Others point out that Matthew’s parents could have afforded competent care and not turned to an untrained, teen-aged au pair. Some traditionalists say the case shows that mothers should stay home and raise their children while liberals point out that the abolition of welfare forces uneducated, untrained, unskilled mothers to abandon their small children to work for minimum wages which cannot pay for even a teen-aged baby sitter. If it did nothing else, Woodward’s case put the spotlight on working mothers and the lack of effective childcare in the U.S.
Matthew’s chart fits the issue! He was born with Ceres, the “mother” asteroid, in Sagittarius exactly on his Ascendant, and his Moon in the 9th house. The potentials include a mother-figure from a foreign country, a highly educated professional mother, moral and/or legal issues involving mother, a mother who valued personal freedom or who traveled, etc. The 10th house Chiron is another connection of a parent to the Jupiter principle, and Jupiter in Capricorn repeats the message. Saturn in Aries shows a father to whom personal freedom was also important. Saturn had very mixed aspects, trine Pluto and sextile the Sun but in a T-square to the East Point and Chiron. The nodes across the houses of the parents connects them to the freedom-closeness dilemma as well as indicating it as part of Matthew’s nature. His oppositions across the 5th and 11th houses repeat that message, and the Sun opposite Pluto says it again. Life is a juggling act. Compromise is necessary if we are to be whole people.
Matthew had many positive aspects, so I would not have anticipated his drastic death at such an early age. In addition to Saturn’s sextile and trine, the Moon was sextile Venus though also quincunx Neptune, and Juno squared Venus and was quincunx the Moon. Uranus held a grand trine in air signs to Sun, MC, and Chiron, plus sextiles to Saturn and Pluto. Mars and Mercury were trine Jupiter, though also quincunx the north lunar node and Pallas and octile Saturn. Jupiter squared the nodes and Pallas. A normal reading of the chart suggests a very bright and verbal child who would have a chance to be educated and do well in the material world in a profession involving learning and communicating. We would expect the quincunxes to function as the need to compromise in order to manage both a career and personal relationships. If I had been looking for a time of challenge, I would have looked at age 3 to 5 when Matthew’s P MC would have opposed Saturn, his P East Point would have been square Saturn, quincunx the Sun and trioctile Mercury. Presumably, he might have been sent to nursery school or maybe had to share his parents with a sibling. One does not expect a child of upper-middle class parents to be abused.
Matthew’s P MC and P East Point at his death were both trioctile Mars, an aspect which is equivalent to a square when it is exact, but which is often neglected by astrologers. P north lunar node held the quincunx to Mars. P Neptune held the quincunx to Venus and the Moon, forming a yod, and it also held a square to the Part of Death in 27 Libra. P Mercury held the octile to Saturn, and P Ceres the conjunction to the Ascendant. Another valuable tool in astrology which is often neglected is the use of local house cusps, especially when the individual is living fairly close to the birthplace. But, in Matthew’s case, even the small shift from Boston to Newton, which is a suburb of Boston, maintained an octile from P Vesta to his local MC, and it was octile the natal East Point. Vesta is our super-Virgo asteroid which can point to either job or health issues.
Matthew’s P Moon provides a challenge to traditional astrologers, since it had aspects to asteroids and midpoints, but not to traditional planets. In 6 Virgo, it was octile Pallas and trioctile Massachusetts in 22 Aries and Aeternitas (immortality) in 21 Capricorn. It completed a grand cross in mutable signs to several midpoints: Neptune/north lunar node and Uranus/Chiron in 6 Sagittarius, Neptune/south lunar node in 6 Pisces, and Venus/Mars in 7 Gemini. The emphasis suggests ethical questions or misinformation or unrevealed information with the water prominence: Neptune, lunar nodes, Pisces and the Pisces house. The most dramatic information we get from the Moon is the fact that during the two to three months prior to Matthew’s death, P Moon had very stressful aspects to more traditional factors. It was quincunx Saturn and Uranus to form a yod, and square the Sun after going through a trioctile to Jupiter. When he died, Matthew’s P Part of death was in 19 Libra, trioctile the Sun and quincunx Mercury. An octile of P Moon to P Part of Death was in effect for about a month and it had ended just a couple of weeks before Matthew’s death.
I did not follow the case closely enough to remember the details of the medical evidence, but the chart strongly suggests that there were one or more prior injuries which undermined Matthew’s health. I think the autopsy showed prior brain scarring, and Matthew’s P Moon aspects fit that conclusion. Could the many positive aspects in Matthew’s chart indicate an inner resilience which kept him from showing more overtly the earlier damage?
There were the standard number of relevant asteroids in Matthew’s chart. Since they move relatively slowly, the natal positions would have remained in orb through the fraction of a year that Matthew lived. Phaethon, a key to overreach, was on his Descendant, pointing to someone else in his life who overdid it, to his detriment. Attila was on his Part of Death, square Neptune but sextile Moon and trine Venus. Brita (England) was in 16 Aquarius square Mars so his P MC and natal East Point were octile/trioctile it. Makhaon was on the IC, connecting his home and/or care-taker to healing or a need for it, and Paracelsus on Mars highlighted personal health. Urania opposed the natal Moon. Newtonia, with the root name of the town in which Matthew lived, was on Venus and quincunx Neptune. It was out of orb of the grand air trine of Venus-Urania-Part of Death-Attila, but connected by its conjunction to Venus. Harmony aspects do not guarantee pleasant results. There are always some positive and some conflict aspects. Louise, Woodward’s first name, was in 2 Gemini on Hephaistos, creator of weapons. Both opposed Pluto and were trioctile Jupiter. Luisa, another personal name asteroid for Woodward, was in 5 Cancer square Saturn. Medea who killed her children was on the mean north lunar node.
We may never learn the full truth about what happened to Matthew. The asteroid Aletheia, named for the goddess of truth, was in 20 Leo square Mercury, quincunx Aeternitas, and octile Luisa. Certainly, a mother-figure was involved, his au pair and maybe his mother. I have not mentioned the primary death asteroids. They had mixed aspects. Libitina was in 13 Virgo trioctile Neptune. Hel in 11 Aries was trine Matthew’s P Ascendant. Hela in 2 Cancer was octile P Mars. Was Matthew’s death just an unfortunate accident? The patterns we have listed are not a picture of a chance or random event. Even with astrology, we are guessing when we try to figure out the details of how anyone will handle ambivalence and inner conflict. Hopefully, Matthew can do some soul searching upstairs and receive a better break next time.
The major planets in the chart for the emergency call to the hospital can probably be used as transits for Matthew’s death, though the Moon and angles of the chart would have moved. The Sun on Vesta pinpoints a Virgo issue with their square to Matthew’s Mars. Pluto squares his P Moon, and Venus, Ceres, and Jupiter have joined his Uranus to suggest the unexpected. Mars, a key to the life force, opposes his Saturn. Mercury, a key to breath and the nervous system, is on his Antivertex. Hel squares Matthew’s Jupiter and Hela is quincunx it. Libitina squares his lunar nodes. The hospital was unable to save him.
Without a birth time for Louise Woodward, we have a limited amount of our data, but as with the emergency call chart, we can look at the major planets. The first one to shout at us is Woodward’s Saturn on Matthew’s Moon. This could be an appropriate aspect to carry out the role of parent, but it is also a warning of the need to be practical and responsible in such care-taking. Jupiter on Matthew’s Venus and sextile his Moon looks reassuring until we remember that his Neptune forms a yod to the two placements. Woodward’s Mars is on Matthew’s Vertex, which is like putting Mars on one’s Descendant. The individuals can be partners or competitors. Woodward’s north lunar node is on Matthew’s Chiron trining his Sun and Uranus. Like the Jupiter on Venus, this seems like a reassuring combination, suggesting mutual understanding and acceptance which would include communication if Matthew had been older, able to talk instead of just crying. Woodward’s Pluto on Matthew’s north lunar node could be protective. Water shows the issue of dependency/nurturing, but does not guarantee the latter. Her Uranus on his Vesta might be less reassuring. Like Saturn, Vesta shows the need to be practical and careful. Woodward looks idealistic with Neptune and two asteroids in Sagittarius and Sun, Mercury, and Venus in Pisces. Her Moon is probably in Virgo to help her stay grounded, with two more asteroids in Capricorn and Chiron in Taurus. Mars in Cancer should be nurturing when we deal with small children, though it signals a freedom-closeness dilemma along with the lunar nodes across Aries-Libra. Her chart certainly does not look like a murderer of a baby. Would an astrologer have advised Matthew’s parents against hiring her as an au pair?
Woodward’s home town believes firmly that she is innocent. They celebrated when the judge overruled her jury and freed her from jail. U.S. TV audiences are very polarized, with opinions ranging from innocent to completely guilty. I did a speculative chart for her with early Virgo rising to put her P Sun opposite her N Moon when Matthew died, but will not discuss her chart further unless we get information from England on an approximate birth time. The tragedy has had a drastic impact on several lives, and in addition, it was a wake-up call to the U.S. to face what our policies are doing to a great many mothers and children.