The Life Of Madonna: An Astrological Perspective (2)
Weathering a Storm: transiting Uranus conjoins Saturn
Although fame was an adjustment for Madonna, causing a severe loss of her privacy and anonymity, if anyone was prepared to take the exposure of the spotlight, it was Madonna. The first three years of Madonna’s renown were trouble-free and like a dream. The hits kept rolling, the positive though somewhat controversial celebrity rose astronomically, her first major tour was flawlessly produced, and legion were the number of fans that were obsessed with Madonna’s influence and iconographic status.
However, trouble began to manifest in Madonna’s personal and professional career at about the time she married Sean Penn. Although both were similar in their fiery, rebellious personalities, Sean’s love for privacy clashed drastically with Madonna’s obsessive need for public adoration and attention. As paparazzi and the press increasingly entered the life of the famous couple, Sean’s desire for remoteness was violated too many times. On several highly-publicized occasions during the marriage, Sean’s unpredictable and volatile temper was unleashed on the press. Starting with the chaos of their helicopter-invaded wedding to the allegations of domestic violence perpetrated against Madonna, the Penn-Madonna marriage was fraught with controversy, altercation, and constant clash with the world-at-large.
As Madonna’s private life was fraught with durm und strang, the smoothness that had blessed the beginning of her career was also beginning to show signs of turbulence and disruption. Sean and Madonna were involved in the much-ballyhooed bomb of a movie, Shanghai Surprise. So abysmal were all facets of the film that it nearly sunk George Harrison’s production company HandMade films, the party responsible for the film. This was the first scar in Madonna’s otherwise unblemished career.
This entire period of tempestuousness, unpredictable behavior, and career setbacks coincided with a once-in-a-lifetime transiting Uranus conjoining Madonna’s Saturn. (see chart)
This transit has the potential of being one of the most disruptive and psychologically stressful periods of one’s life. It is the transit of crisis simply because the energies of Saturn and Uranus are so diametrically opposed. With Saturn and Uranus, one grounds an electrical storm; high voltage energy is forced to contend with structure and earthy reality.
Of the transit, astrologer Rob Hand states, “It is often a time of great tension and sudden releases of tension.”(10)
Certainly Sean Penn’s unpredictable outbursts and sudden acts of hostility would have fit this description for Madonna. When shooting on location for Shanghai Surprise, Madonna stated of the storminess and turbulence surrounding her and Sean, “When we got to England, it was like the Third World War.”(11) The frenetic quality, controversy and darkly chaotic energy of the Saturn-Uranus arrangement certainly can be experienced as warlike in its high-pitched intensity and bombast. However, as with all tests involving Saturn, Madonna emerged stronger, more resilient, and more mature.
Everyone Must Stand Alone: The Saturn Return
The period of roughly mid 1986 though all of 1988 encapsulated Madonna’s Saturn Return. Although the Saturn Return is not necessarily one of tremendous outward change–it can be–almost invariably this represents a time of remarkable reorientation to the world, with major intrapsychic alterations occurring. In fact, this period of life can be quite fallow because limitations and restrictions are occurring subjectively as well as externally. For Madonna, this period was not one of tremendous artistic creativity or output. Very little original music was released from Madonna during this time, only a few tracks accompanying the release of the film, Who’s that Girl would constitute new material.
However, the Saturn Return can be a significant seedtime psychologically, whereby we mature and deepen. This appears to be the case for Madonna. The musical material released in the 1990’s–although it is unmistakably Madonna–is unhesitatingly more serious in tone, more seasoned, and more adult in theme and approach. Ironically, although Madonna’s musical output was curtailed during the Saturn Return, arguably without the maturation that occurred during this period, she would never have been able to later sustain her popularity. The lighter, more poppy faire that she produced in her twenties would simply not have been as appealing or novel as the deeper, more mature works she would produce after her Saturn Return.
However, Madonna’s Saturn Return could be evidenced by more than just her lack of artistic output, it inflected her entire approach to life at this point in time.
Serious, conservative, reflective, more mature, Madonna took on projects and surrounded herself with people that were more representative of the Saturn archetype. Madonna stretched herself at the time and devoted much hard work and energy to David Mamet’s Speed the Plow, which pressed her acting ability to its greatest possible depth.
At the same time, with the Saturnian gifts of commitment and sobriety, Madonna became heavily involved in the fight against AIDS. With several of her New York friends infected with HIV, Madonna felt she was accountable to use her celebrity to help this cause. Madonna stated, “I want to do anything I can to promote AIDS education, awareness, prevention-whatever. I think because I am a celebrity, a public person, I have a responsibility to be a spokesperson.”(12) It’s the deep feeling of duty and conscientiousness that manifests from an active and well-functioning Saturn.
The Saturn Return can also affect the qualities we deem attractive in others. For heterosexual women, often the internal masculine attributes that are projected on males-called the animus figure in Jungian psychology-deepens, matures, and becomes more conservative. During the Saturn Return, Madonna would involve herself with two men that reflected this internal change. Distancing herself from Sean, Madonna would have romantic involvements with JFK, jr. and Warren Beatty. Simply the age difference between Beatty and Madonna alone–twenty-one years–suggested that Madonna was becoming more attracted to older, more wise, and worldly men. Relative to the spirited and irrepressible Sean Penn, Warren Beatty was more secure, even-tempered, and responsible. Although younger than Madonna by two years, JFK, jr. also reflected changing attributes of attraction and facets of Saturn other than age, maturity, and wisdom. One of Saturn’s various faces has much to do with achievement, the status quo, old money, and the establishment. Certainly, there could not have been another bachelor available for Madonna to be attracted to that would have embodied these qualities more than JFK, jr.
Finally, Saturn and the Saturn Return allow us the ability to say “no,” to define limits, and to end periods of our lives that interfere with our long-term ambitions and plans. As much as Madonna might have still have had passionate feelings for Sean Penn, she was fully aware by the end of her Saturn Return that the relationship was damaging her career and her marriage of Sean couldn’t be sustained in the end run. As painful as it might have been for her, Madonna cut her self off from the source of much difficulty and stress in her life by filing for divorce.
On turning 30, Madonna stated, “Oh shucks, I can’t be twenty anymore. It seems like when you’re twenty there’s more of an opportunity for you to behave childishly and get away with it. When you’re thirty, you have to really grow up and get responsible.” (13) And yet it would be the added responsibility instilled through the Saturn Return that would allow Madonna to grow in her thirties, through having a family, deepening as an artist, and creating her own music label.
Causing a Commotion: The ‘Like a Prayer’ Controversy
Madonna emerged out of the Saturn Return with her greatest artistic statement to date, Like a Prayer. Adding the Saturnian attributes of depth, gravity, and restraint, Like a Prayer allowed Madonna to expand her artistic range exponentially. The title track, Oh Father, and Spanish Eyes reflected a bittersweetness and reflective quality that simply is incongruent with the Madonna of her twenties. Like a Prayer displayed one of Saturn’s greatest gifts–mastery of one’s craft; Madonna was becoming a serious songwriter and artist.
However, Madonna was able to emerge from the Saturn Return with her passion, rebelliousness, and wild creativity in tact, if in fact it did not strengthen. Nowhere was this more in evidence than with the firestorm she created with the Like a Prayer video. After signing a multi-million dollar deal with Pepsi allowing the soft drink corporation to use Like a Prayer for endorsement, Madonna would film her most hotly debated video of her career to that point.
Populated with burning crosses, an African American Christ figure, and erotic innuendo and nuance juxtaposed against an unassuming chapel, the Like a Prayer video stirred up fanatical reaction from groups as diverse as the KKK to the Moral Majority. Pepsi would ultimately bow out of its deal with Madonna and discontinue their popular ad utilizing Like a Prayer. Madonna publicly displayed shock at how her artistic vision was inciting such controversy, however, commonsense dictates that Madonna had more knowledge of what she was doing than what she disclosed.
But Madonna’s video was not the only controversial cultural statement that was stirring debate, censorship, and uproar over religions at this time. Quite the contrary, there appeared to be a significant clustering of controversial pieces and events that were shaking the foundation of world spirituality and religions.
A year prior to Madonna’s video release, Jimmy Swaggart publicly apologized for his adultery, a confessional broadcast to millions and permanently etched in the collective American consciousness. Months after, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ goaded boycotts from Christian groups across the nation. Concurrently, due to notorious pieces such as Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” the NEA under the leadership of Jesse Helms, pulled funding from artist’s they deemed objectionable. Finally, in 1989, the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini threatened to sentence to death Salman Rushdie, British author of “The Satanic Verses” for allegedly desecrating Islam.
As usual, there was a celestial signature that correlated with the heated controversies surrounding spirituality and religion. In 1988 and 1989, there occurred a rare triple conjunction of the planets Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus. (see chart)
The Saturn-Uranus combination, as witnessed earlier in this essay, is one known for its tempestuousness and volatility. However, it is equally known for its controversial aspects because Saturn, representing conservatism and tradition is forced to contend with the progressive freedoms and shocking nature of Uranus. If we add Neptune, affiliated as it is with image, spirituality, and religion, the controversial heat of Saturn and Uranus sparked controversy in spheres associated with the divine impulse of mankind.
In a limited, myopic worldview, much of the realm that the astrological Pluto represents would be considered dark, profane, and base. From this dichotomous perspective, all that Pluto is associated with is essentially evil and should be repressed. Serpentine, sexual, and shadowy, the realm of the astrological Pluto is often split off from consciousness, even in the most evolved communities or in groups that pretend to offer more than lip service to psychological wholeness and wellness.
For essentially five years, as Madonna experienced Pluto transits to her Sun and to her natal Pluto, (see chart)
Madonna explored the question “Why is it so good to be so bad?” and most of us publicly deplored and chastised Madonna for her adolescent self indulgence, while privately we were curious to see how low she could go. Arguably, no popular artist of Madonna’s stature so obsessively “raised Cain” with such overt and explicit self-transparency. From roughly the period of her controversial, banned video, Justify my Love created in late 1990 until the release of Human Nature in 1995, Madonna explored–immersed herself in, rather–the sexual, the orgiastic, the pornographic, the explicit, the taboo. Throughout Madonna’s long, dark period, Pluto was making a slow transiting square to both her natal Sun and Pluto.
Madonna didn’t score points for subtlety or self-restraint during this phase of her career. Like a young child testing parental boundaries with incessant “poopey” jokes, Madonna assaulted her audience with the fact that for an extended period she was engrossed in the potency and primacy of the Id–and reveling in it.
Biographer Mark Bego muses on the phase:
After a bestselling book about sex, a double-platinum album about sex, two disastrous films about sex, and her verbal-fuck fest on the Letterman show, she lost some of her appeal and her audience.(14)
How does one evaluate this period? Usually we give highest marks to those artists that are able to redeem, sublimate, or transform this particular dimension of human experience. It obviously takes a lot more effort, energy, and thought to take what’s in the bowels and depths and converting it. Yet, there is something quite significant and powerful to what Madonna exposed during this period. She’s doing our dirty work for us.
The theory in astrology is that after a planet is discovered, we learn how to handle and best utilize its energies. After Pluto was discovered in 1930, we became much more in touch with the primal energies of the human unconscious.
However, many of us would like to pretend that this didn’t ever happen. Madonna was in all actuality doing something that most people are extraordinarily frightened of doing–integrating in a very obvious and apparent manner the primal power associated with Pluto. If indeed Madonna was posing the question for herself and for all of us, “Why is it so good to be bad” then the answer is: “that it is better to be whole than good.”
Rays of Light: Uranus and Neptune
When Madonna released Ray of Light in 1998, she was in the midst of significant professional, personal, and psycho-spiritual changes. If the Sex and Erotica phase of her career was marked by a descent into a garden of sensual delights, then the Ray of Light period would be discernible by Madonna’s evolving consciousness, transcendence, and a quest for self-fulfillment.
Surrounding the release of Ray of Light, Madonna was experiencing two significant generational transits: the Neptune square (90 degree aspect) to its natal position and the Uranus opposition.(see chart)
The combined effect of Uranus and Neptune transits can be as otherworldly, cosmic, and mystical as a potent Pluto transit can be passionate, libidinous, and “sinful”. As the Pluto transits of the early 1990’s took Madonna down into the boiling cauldron of seething instincts, the Uranus and Neptune energies lifted her way out into the heavens and beyond.
The Uranus opposition, occurring somewhere between the ages of 38 and 42 (depending upon one’s generation) inevitably brings about major changes in one’s life. Career, relationship, and family can go through major disruption and revolution.
This certainly was the case for Madonna, as she had her first child just shortly after her 38th birthday, and with it, significant alterations in lifestyle and approaches to her career. However, as important and disruptive the outer changes can be during the Uranus opposition, an inner revolution occurs that has just as great an impact. Often the case with the Uranus opposition is that we find life as we’ve built it to that point either stifling or meaningless. The Uranus opposition can be a time of great questioning: “What’s it all about?”, “How can I make my life more meaningful?” and most importantly, “Isn’t there something more?”
Uranus’s energies always provoke us to seek new horizons, find new freedoms, and see beyond current limiting factors in our life. In this manner, the Uranus opposition was the great leveling agent for Madonna. She had gathered critical acclaim and commercial success in multiple entertainment fields and became one the great icons of the late twentieth century. Essentially, she had created a powerful and strong ego to help accomplish all there is to accomplish in the outer world. However, during the Uranus opposition, she realized that even with an abundance of fame and recognition she wasn’t terribly happy, content, or fulfilled on the inside. The new horizon was inward.
As this search for more and inward questioning coincided with the generational Neptune square, much of her inner revolution was spent at integrating the archetype of Neptune, involved as it is with compassion, spirituality, and our innerconnection with all of creation. The material girl was transforming into spiritual girl. As she said of the time, right after filming Evita, “I just feel an infinite amount of compassion toward other people.”(15) Madonna became involved with all things New Age, holistic, and non-secular. She began studying the Jewish mystical texts of the Kabbalah, turned in her rigorous workout routine for yoga, began integrating progressive New Age ideas into her belief system, and changed her wardrobe and look to include more Eastern-influenced attire.
All of her new found interests were funneled into the Ray of Light album.
Biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli describes the album’s contents:
The album’s songs…spoke of ecology, the universe, the earth, ‘the stars in the sky,’ angels and heaven and surprising some observers, contained respectful references to God and ‘the Gospel.(16)
Songs like The Power of Goodbye spoke of the need of honoring the sacred in all things and Shanti/Ahstangi explicitly incorporated a yoga chant. By in large, critics were nostalgic for the smeltering drive and provocations of Madonna’s earlier work, however, as Madonna successfully channeled the spirit of the times through the album, the public embraced Ray of Light with open arms.
Reflecting on the meaning of Ray of Light, Madonna told Billboard magazine:
I feel like I’ve been enlightened, and that it’s my responsibility to share what I’ve learned so far with the world.(17)
As Uranus and Neptune moved on, once again Madonna shed another persona and layer of evolution and the rays of light that were responsible for her temporary awakening receded.
What will the entertainer that Norman Mailer called “the greatest living artist of the twentieth century” do next? Being the prime exemplar of an ‘anything goes’ postmodernism, Madonna’s mix’n’match style of eclecticism did its fair share of deconstructing orthodox values and attitudes of Western culture. Her very name reversed age-old connotations that ‘Madonna’ should only connote that which is pure, chaste, and holy in life.
If the Ray of Light period is any indication, Madonna’s incredible ability to deconstruct will not apply to the culture that she deemed oppressive, but to herself. In the upcoming years, with Saturn once again going through Leo and Virgo and with Neptune opposing her Sun, it is quite conceivable that Madonna chooses the power of goodbye to “her iconess.”
(1) Bego, Mark. (1992) Blonde Ambition. New York: Copper Square Press, p.3
(2) American Film July/August 1987 “Who’s that Girl?” By Lynn Philips.
(3) Bego, Mark. (1992) Blonde Ambition. New York: Copper Square Press, p.21
(4) Taraborreli, J. Randy (2001) Madonna: An Intimate Biography New York: Berkeley Books. p. 29
(5) Madonna (magazine), Spring 1990, Larry Flynt Publishing, “Madonna: Her Life and Times, Part 1.”
(6) Bego, Mark. (1992) Blonde Ambition New York: Copper Square Press, p.52
(7) Taraborreli, J. Randy (2001) Madonna: An Intimate Biography New York: Berkeley Books, p. 57
(8) Bego, Mark. (1992) Blonde Ambition New York: Copper Square Press, p.61
(9) Bego, Mark. (1992) Blonde Ambition New York: Copper Square Press, p.89
(10) Hand, Rob. (1976) Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living Atglen Pa: Whitford Press, P. 401
(11) Bego, Mark. (1992) Blonde Ambition New York: Copper Square Press, p.163
(12) Bego, Mark. (1992) Blonde Ambition New York: Copper Square Press, p.194
(13) Bego, Mark. (1992) Blonde Ambition New York: Copper Square Press, p.217
(14) Bego, Mark. (1992) Blonde Ambition New York: Copper Square Press, p.292
(15) Taraborreli, J. Randy (2001) Madonna: An Intimate Biography New York: Berkeley Books, p. 328
(16) Taraborreli, J. Randy (2001) Madonna: An Intimate Biography New York: Berkeley Books, p. 331
(17) Billboard, February 21 1998, “WB Expects Madonna to ‘Light’ Up international Markets,” by Larry Flick.