The Life Of Madonna: An Astrological Perspective (1)
What makes Madonna unique among entertainers is her staying power and her sphere of influence. When Madonna rose to fame in the early-to-mid eighties, very few purveyors of pop music believed that she had the talent or ability to sustain a career over the course of the decade, let alone over a few albums. When Madonna and Cyndi Lauper debuted concurrently on the pop charts and on MTV, most critics believed that Lauper’s sanitized-for-mainstream version of new wave punk would ultimately have more longevity over Madonna’s hyper-eroticized funk-influenced dance music.
However, it would be Madonna, over the course of two decades, that would continually stretch herself and grow as an artist and entertainer, ultimately towering over the other kings and queens of pop that emerged in the 1980’s. As Madonna’s career and biography branched out into new terrain year after year, her cultural significance and meaning continued to extend beyond the definitions of the typical pop star. Like a multi-armed Hindu Goddess growing new limbs, the various faces of Madonna infiltrated regions previously held off-limits for an entertainer: feminism, cultural studies, philanthropy, political activism, spirituality, art, and business.
Madonna makes a good case study for astrology for three reasons:
- her ability to transform herself and her constant progression into new and varied terrain;
- her honesty and self-transparency;
- her ability to mediate the gods and goddesses, or more appropriately, the archetypal forces, for an entire culture.
On Madonna’s shape-shifting and constant growth as an entertainer, biographer Mark Bego wrote,
Whenever we get used to one look, sound, or career path, an unpredictable Madonna simply shows us a new side to herself. Not since David Bowie has a pop star been more of a chameleon. (1)
As an artist, she fully manifests her desires, moods, experiences, and attitudes in the moment into her fashion, aesthetic choices, lyrics, and stage presence. It is this constant genesis of the “new Madonna” that allows astrologers to see–often with striking clarity–how astrological influences are inflecting her psychology and manifesting through her.
Although Madonna is very much a political animal, she rarely allows the politics of the entertainment industry to effect her opinions or how she communicates them. From the beginning of her career, Madonna established herself as direct, straightforward, and often shockingly and brutally honest.
Like her protean shape-shifting, it is this uncharacteristic honesty that allows followers of astrology to see how planetary alignments are persuading and operating upon her being, inflecting her opinions, interests, and outlook.
Finally, entertainers of Madonna’s stature must have more than talent, ambition, or charisma. They must have an extraordinary ability to mediate and translate energies that are larger-than-life and tremendously difficult for most individuals to be in possession of; they must be an intermediary of archetypal forces of the collective psyche.
Madonna is in the long lineage that would include Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones, entertainers that were able to arbitrate the erotic and taboo elements for a society and contain them for generations. It this is unusual ability to translate archetypal forces that makes Madonna such a striking canidate to study from an astrological perspective.
The following essay tracks Madonna’s evolution, from early childhood to her Ray of Light release. Selecting distinct chapters of her life, the essay tracks how particular astrological transits* manifest through her biography. In a remarkable career that never ceases in experimentation, controversy, and creativity, the planets are there to mirror every step along her path.
* transits are an astrological predictive technique whereby one charts planetary movements relative the positions of the planets at one’s birth.
Transits to the Moon: Madonna’s Mother’s Death
Biographers, social critics, and Madonna herself are rarely in agreement on the import and implications of events in her life, but all are in accord regarding the significance of the death of Madonna’s mother. Suffering from breast cancer, Madonna’s mother passed away when Madonna was merely five years of age. It was this event that created the greatest impression on Madonna’s fragile psyche, forcing her to mature quickly and instilling in her a passionate need for approval and acceptance. As she told American Film, “It left me with an intense longing to fill a sort of emptiness.”(2) Through coping through the hardship of her mother’s death, little Madonna Ciccone was already preparing to become the Madonna that would storm the world of popular music twenty years later.
In traditional and contemporary astrology, the Moon is symbolic of the mother and the general sphere of home life and domestic circumstances. As children, when the Moon in the birth chart receives significant transits from outer planets, our relationship to our mother changes or our relationship to our family and home life alters in some fashion. Later as adults, major transits to the Moon also includes renegotiating and revisiting unresolved issues stemming from childhood: self esteem, unsettled grief, emotional blocks, and other issues that have prohibited our maturation as adults.
During Madonna’s mother’s death, Madonna’s natal Moon was receiving two significant transits from both Pluto and Uranus (see chart).
Pluto transits are life altering in the deepest sense, forcing change and evolutionary transformation at the core of our being. Pluto forces an elimination of that which is outworn or has outgrown its purpose so that new development can occur. Often described as a death-rebirth sequence, a psycho-spiritual regeneration occurs during a Pluto transit. In Madonna’s case, this transformation involved the literal death of her mother. Madonna’s life and experience or her world was deeply uprooted and irrevocably altered. As biographer Mark Bego describes the alteration, “Uncontrollably, her innocent world of Barbie dolls and Shirley Temple dance lessons was shattered by the reality of death and loss. For the first time in her life she had to look death in the eye and try to comprehend it.”(3) The raw, stark, and uncompromising quality that Bego describes is often a hallmark of Pluto periods in our lives, a time where simultaneously we experiencing wounding, pain, or even trauma, while also feeling unwaveringly reborn in some fashion.
At the same time that Pluto was transiting Madonna’s Moon, Uranus was also conjoining her Moon by transit. As Pluto was to correlate with the actual death and the profound conversion of Madonna’s world, the Uranus transit added the elements of shock, disarray and upheaval to her mother’s death and the events surrounding it. If Pluto connotes deep transformation, Uranus suggests rapid, swift change and unpredictable destabilizing. In order to keep his financial situation solvent after his wife’s death, Madonna’s father, Tony Ciccone, had to split his family up, and Madonna and her siblings lived with various relatives for weeks on end. As Madonna was dealing with her mother’s death as only a five-year-old could, her home life was in chaos and disarray; she was on the receiving end of the crazy-making face of Uranus.
Uranus part I: Madonna’s Cultural Awakening
The period of late high school was Madonna’s first great awakening. Rebellious, mature, and worldly for her age, Madonna was desirous for change and wanted to go beyond the confines and limitations of her high school peer group and the normal opportunities available for a teenager. Learning all she could from the dance classes available at high school, Madonna enrolled in dance instruction at a local academy. With this seemingly small step, Madonna would quite literally step into a new world.
At the time that Madonna risked venturing beyond the confines of her high school world, Uranus was transiting her natal configuration of Neptune, Jupiter, and Venus (see chart).
Although Madonna has always loved dance and movement–from dancing to records at home as a young child to becoming a cheerleader in high school–it was truly only when Uranus crossed this constellation that her innate potential as a dancer was liberated into full manifestation. With a natal Venus-Neptune configuration, one often needs to experience art and beauty in a way that dissolves the ego and self-structure. What better way to accomplish this than dance, and when Uranus crossed over this dimension of her natal chart this desire was fully stimulated, awakened, and energized. Through going to dance clubs in the Detroit area, Madonna awoke to an entirely new plane of losing one’s self through dance. Bringing back the moves she learned at local clubs to high school dances, teachers and students alike would stand back from Madonna in equal parts awe and misunderstanding.
As Uranus was enlivening Madonna’s ardor for dance, the transit was also waking up a thirst for culture, motivating a need to explore new worlds, and urging her to go beyond the confines of her sheltered suburban life. Beyond the trite interpretation of Jupiter as meaning success and luck, Jupiter is more importantly associated with the world that we inhabit and our view of the world, what in German is more precisely called weltanschaaung. Often those with a pronounced Jupiter in their birth charts have a profound psychological desire for worldliness–through traveling, through exploring the world’s cultures, and through learning.
Although almost all Uranus transits are associated with a breakthrough in some fashion, arguably the most pure expression of this is when Uranus makes an important transit to our natal Jupiter. When Uranus transits our natal placement of Jupiter, the previous limitations of our conception of the world or, more literally, the boundaries of the world space we inhabit are broken through; we can quite literally be reborn into a more expansive, more comprehensive view of the world–we become more worldly. This was certainly the case for Madonna at the time. She quite plainly left the restricted world of her youth and entered the more cosmopolitan (relatively speaking) world of downtown Detroit through exploring the urban music scene and the culture available in a large metropolitan area.
Christopher Flynn, Madonna’s dance instructor largely responsible for initiating this time of cultural sophistication and growth, describes this time in Madonna’s life (and the Uranus-Jupiter interface) perfectly:
Madonna was a blank page, believe me, and she wanted desperately to be filled in. She knew nothing at all about art, classical music, sculpture, fashion, civilization-nothing about life, really…She had a thirst for learning that was insatiable. (4)
An Abundance of Saturn: Hard Times
After the ever-confident Madonna enrolled in the University of Michigan, she would soon outgrow the opportunities of co-ed and academic life and she would yearn to broaden her horizons, just as she would do a few years earlier in high school. Sparked by her powerful desire to make her mark on the world, she would leave her college education prematurely and head for the star maker machinery that is New York City. However, unlike the awakening to new worlds and opportunities she would experience during her high school years, she found the move to New York to be an altogether different experience.
Madonna has a cluster of planets in the signs of Leo and Virgo (including her Sun and Moon) and coinciding with her move to New York, Saturn was making a very powerful series of conjunctions by transit to these Leo and Virgo planets (see chart).
All accounts of this period for Madonna are very Saturnian in nature; it was a time of hardship, frustration, loneliness, isolation, dejection, deflation, paucity, debilitation and challenges–all attributes of Saturn.
The young Madonna, so successful in her attempts at getting her ambitions and needs met in the smaller, less competitive world of high school and college, logically thought that she could parlay this on the larger stage of New York. However, Madonna was about to receive one of Saturn’s most powerful qualities–a heaping dose of reality.
Madonna was talented and ambitious but so were all the other thousands of New Yorkers hungering for a shot at fame and stardom. At the time, Madonna’s ambitions and opportunities were thwarted and limited at nearly every turn, and, in a fashion typical of Saturn, Madonna had to curtail her dreams–albeit momentarily–to settle for far less than she had expected and imagined. This is fundamental for the nature and action of Saturn–to impress hardships and limitations so that our desires and dreams conform to that which is more realistic and to force a more mature acceptance of the world on its own terms.
It is also characteristic of major Saturn transits to give its challenges and life lessons in spades. Not only are Saturn’s trainings hard and push us to the brink, but almost all facets of life become frustrating, depressing, bleak, and confining. So all-consuming can major Saturn transits become that during critical points it is often difficult to recall times of joy, excitement, freedom, and openness–as if the experience of these very human and very necessary dimensions of life become completely unavailable to one. Madonna, without money, established friends, and the familiar landscape of home, was left alone in the often austere and embittering backdrop of New York to tackle fame and fortune.
After consistently experiencing rejection, Madonna describes her only solace:
I’d go to Lincoln Center, sit by a fountain and just cry. I’d write in my little journal and pray to have even one friend. I had been used to being the big fish in the little pond and all of a sudden I was nobody. (5)
Although some accuse Madonna of over accentuating this period of frustration–of turning the process of rejection and testing normal for any star into an overblown, media-ready Mein Kampf–there is little doubt that these were the years that forged Madonna into a war-hardened woman taking knocks from the greatest of all urban jungles, New York. An individual lacking Madonna’s confidence and ambition would have been knocked out from this severe testing from Saturn. On the positive side, because of Madonna’s birth chart configuration and because of the relative slowness of Saturn’s orbit (29.5 years), she would be able to take the most difficult passage of Saturn in one large dosage.
However, of greater value, it was this period that matured Madonna, forcing her to take her ambitions seriously, to adjust her dreams and confidence to the reality of the world, and to thicken her skin.
Jupiter: Opportunity Knocks
As Saturn continued its orbit and moved off the major collection of planets in Madonna’s natal chart, her fate would change. It would be Jupiter that would next move through the heart of Madonna’s chart and correlate with her change of fortune. (see chart)
If Saturn is the planet of restriction, limits, deflation, and painfully hard work, Jupiter is, in some regards, its complete antithesis. Although considered psychologically unsophisticated to claim Jupiter as merely a planet of abundance and luck by modern astrologers, the medieval astrologers, who deemed Jupiter with such a signification, were able to hit upon this particular facet of the planet through their folk wisdom.
If in the world according to Saturn, one gets exactly what one deserves and positive outcomes are only afforded through hard work and perseverance, then in the world according to Jupiter, waiting for the right moment and relying upon fortune gets equal–if not better–results. As Jupiter crossed Madonna’s Sun in 1979, she answered a random want ad–several of the ads she would answer in the previous year without avail–and her luck would change. Auditioning for a production company that called for a back-up dancer, Madonna not only landed a job but so impressed the producers that they wanted to turn her into a touring disco star. Her lucked reversed.
However, the want ad would also display facets of Jupiter that went beyond mere luck and opportunity. Madonna’s horizons would expand again. As a young twentysomething, Madonna was flown over to Europe where disco was growing in popularity as it was waning in the United States. Here we again see Jupiter’s proclivity toward culture, travel, and the inclusion of other ways of life to expand one’s worldview. Moreover, while in Europe, she could rest comfortably in two other dimensions of Jupiter–luxury and excessive indulgence. The disco production company catered to her needs and satisfied her every material desire. She was transported from life of want and scarcity in New York to a life of extravagance and comfort while in Paris. Food, money, chauffeuring, and alcohol were Madonna’s in exchange for her services as pre-made disco star.
But Madonna did not rest easily in Jupiter’s excess and luxury. She quickly realized that the abundance she was receiving didn’t feed her in the way that her life in New York had. As Madonna exclaims:
I missed struggling…they wanted to spoil me and they wanted me to dress a certain way. So they dragged me to restaurants and no one would speak English to me. So once again I was playing the part of the rebel. I didn’t want to do anything they wanted me to do. (6)
If Madonna was to be famous and be in the spotlight, it had to be on her terms, in her unique way, and with the element of power and control that she desired. Although she received a tremendous boost of confidence from the experience, she was still wanting more. Astrologically, the needs symbolized by her Sun-Uranus conjunction and her Sun-Pluto conjunction were not being met or fed by Jupiter’s lap of luxury. Uranus demanded her own uniqueness be manifested and Pluto yearned for struggle, control, and intensity that a being superficial disco tart was not granting.
Although some accuse Madonna of over accentuating this period of frustration–of turning the process of rejection and testing normal for any star into an overblown, media-ready Mein Kampf–there is little doubt that these were the years that forged Madonna into a war-hardened woman taking knocks from the greatest of all urban jungles, New York. An individual lacking Madonna’s confidence and ambition would have been knocked out from this severe testing from Saturn.
On the positive side, because of Madonna’s birth chart configuration and because of the relative slowness of Saturn’s orbit (29.5 years), she would be able to take the most difficult passage of Saturn in one large dosage. However, of greater value, it was this period that matured Madonna, forcing her to take her ambitions seriously, to adjust her dreams and confidence to the reality of the world, and to thicken her skin.
Uranus part II: Madonna is Born
Tasting both the bitterness and hardship and the success and indulgence that the world of New York can present one, Madonna had yet to experience the emergence of her true distinctiveness and persona. The years of 1980 and 1981, a period where transiting Uranus would form a square aspect to her natal Sun, would facilitate the emergence of the individual and recognizable star known as Madonna. (see chart)
Uranus transits to the natal Sun are distinguished by at least five characteristics:
- a time of abnormally fast personal evolution and rapid change
- a state of near overexcited creativity, possession of original and inspired generativity
- a striving toward authentic expression and self-actualization, often through making rapid and clean breaks with the past; the breakthrough of the self
- a surge of revitalization and tremendous–almost overwhelming–stimulation and excitement
- radical eclecticism, a need for experimentation, the new, the radical, and the progressive.
Although there are other important characteristics of an important Uranus-Sun transit, the above list accounts for some of the more noticeable and egregious qualities.
During this period for Madonna, all five of the above facets of the Uranus-Sun transit were in evidence.
In the two years beginning the decade that would witness her greatest fame, Madonna would shift her desires from a burgeoning dancer, to fronting a number of rock bands, to eventually singing her individual brand of dance music. Realizing that her true ambition was to become an entertainer and performer, Madonna altered her aspirations from the world of dance to music, recognizing that the limelight was more easily attained by singers than by dancers. At the time, Madonna was making a radical break from the past to try something new. It is often a desire and motivation to burn bridges and break free from previous limiting circumstances when Uranus transits the natal Sun.
Through the help of boyfriends at the time, Madonna learned music, from the rudiments of drum and guitar playing, to songwriting, to stage presence and singing. Amazingly, Madonna obtained the skills for being a musical pop star in a period of a few years, having never dabbled in music outside of high school theater productions. Although one cannot say that Madonna’s ascent to fame was overnight, her breakthrough into the world of music did have a sensational immediacy to it. It is this heightened acceleration of learning and adjusting to rapidly shifting circumstance that is a trademark of a powerful Uranus transit.
During this period, Madonna learned the skills necessary to become a stage performer as quickly as she would later shift personas. The music that Madonna was involved with at the time was far more edgy, progressive, and raucous than the carefully crafted and professionally produced music that was her output as a superstar.
Fronting a band called Emmy, Madonna belted out punk influenced by the Pretenders and the Police. With an identifiable rebelliousness, Madonna would pit herself on the cutting edge of New York.
When an individual (or the world for that matter) embraces the archetype of Uranus fully, there is a need to explore the progressive frontier and be a part of a pioneering vanguard.
In Madonna’s case, she crested on the cultural avant garde of New York. Not only was she drawn into the world of New York’s progressive music scene, but she also befriended visual artists such as Keith Haring and Martin Burgoyne at the time. Couching surfing, singing in New York’s new wave clubs, and spraypainting New York with graffiti artists, Madonna was riding an experimental, creative high so typical of a potent Uranus transit.
Not only was Madonna caught up in the creative spirit of the times, but she herself was also a conduit of tremendous creativity at the time. The atmosphere of Madonna’s work-live space, “The Music Building” was described by all onlookers as a hotbed of kinetic creative fire.
Madonna’s ex-boyfriend and producer, Steve Bray, recalls of the locale:
It was a good place, very artistic. You could just taste the creativity there. We loved it, just being in the atmosphere was intoxicating. Our band was hot and getting hotter all the time. (7)
The electric atmosphere was Madonna’s songwriting laboratory. As biographer Mark Bego states, ” Madonna claims that once she got into a songwriting mode, the music started pouring out of her like crazy.”(8) Madonna was receiving her first great taste of what it is like to be ‘turned on’ by Uranus’s electric firestorm of creative blaze. Crazy and manic-like, Uranus’s flood of ideas and creative juice is as exhilarating as it is irritable and chaotic.
Arguably most importantly, during the Uranus transit, Madonna emerged as the unique personality that would be primed to seize the pop world. Madonna was able to use her limited financial situation to her advantage. Shopping at a number of New York’s thrift shops, Madonna concocted a look that would ultimately be immortalized by her first music videos and be imitated by millions of teenaged girls. Sexual and still somehow androgynous, urban and gritty but with a openness and affability, Madonna’s look couldn’t be reduced to its parts. It was simply an outer reflection of the creative individuality that was emerging inside of Madonna.
Lucky Star: Pluto transits Jupiter and the Jupiter-Uranus Conjunction of 1983
Madonna emerged from the Uranus transit to the Sun as an electrifying performer who was buzzing with creative foment. Although a star was not born at this point, the aspects of her individual identity were given a tremendous inoculation of evolutionary energy. From roughly 1982 through early 1984, Pluto would conjoin Madonna’s Jupiter.
Not only would her personal ambition rise to a new level of intensity, but this would be the time of establishing her enormous worldwide success and commercial breakthrough. Having a taste of success earlier as a disco starlet in France, Madonna was ready to once again assert drive for fame but this time with her authenticity and originality in tact.
Madonna is ambitious by nature and her survival instincts have always allowed her to place her needs and goals above others with very little remorse. However, the period in which she established her reputation and fame was peculiarly characterized by a near obsessive level of focus upon success and fame. Pluto transits not only make changes on the most profound levels of being, but they also intensify and empower the area of life that is symbolized in the birth chart with an often all-consuming passion.
When Pluto conjoins one’s natal Jupiter, a thirst and desire for success, personal ambition, and societal influence can become an insatiable desire, even if it is not characteristic of one’s overall approach to life or temperament.
The period of Madonna’s early career was marked by an uncanny and ruthless ambition and an assault on the music industry. Marred by power struggles, manipulations, exploitations, and intense interpersonal conflict, Madonna unapologetically used the leverage, reputations, and influence of others to gain advantage in the music industry.
The publicist hired to work for Madonna at the time, David Salidor, said of the rising star:
Madonna was someone fixated on succeeding…None of us knew how she was going to do it–but there was no question that come hell or high water she was going to become a star.(9)
However, not only can the Pluto-Jupiter interface be one of ambition and social climbing, but it can also be characterized by success, and, given the nature of Pluto, success on a titanic, elemental scale. Talent and ambition aside, the period of Pluto conjoining Jupiter was scored by lucky breaks, fortuitous encounters, and successful negotiations. Through the Pluto-Jupiter transit, Madonna signed to Sire Records; became networked to a number of influential New York producers, DJ’s, and industry V.I.P’s; and was given an entourage of seasoned entertainment professionals to maximize the most of her star quality.
More than lucky breaks and doors opening, the Pluto-Jupiter combination can translate into larger-than-life, over-the-top success.
And this certainly was the case for Madonna. Her debut album, Madonna, would easily break the Top Ten of the Billboard pop charts and would ultimately sell over 8 million copies worldwide. Her first and most popular performance in movies (with the exception of possibly her lead role in Evita), Desperately Seeking Susan, was filmed during these years. Music videos, controversial appearances on MTV, and magazine covers would expose–if not overexpose–Madonna to the entertainment-starved public.
At the same time that Pluto was exactly conjoining Madonna’s natal Jupiter, 1983’s Jupiter-Uranus conjunction was opposing Madonna’s Midheaven.
When Jupiter and Uranus come into conjunction approximately every 14 years, the world prepares for progressive breakthroughs in one or several cultural arenas; the world embraces the birth of something radically new. The Apollo mission to the Moon, the success of cloning, and the establishment of the personal computing revolution are advances that have correlated with recent Jupiter-Uranus conjunctions. However, and equally importantly, new cultural personas or forms usually make their mark during Jupiter-Uranus conjunctions. Causing both incredible excitement and eliciting controversy, stars and art forms that push the creative envelope during these times are the delight to the young and the progressive and the bane of the conservative and older generation.