Letting Death Back In

Modern astrology, like much of our modern culture in general, does not welcome open talk about death. It is sometimes even taboo to use the word.

Never mention death when delineating a chart – some astrologers consider that immoral to mention – obscene might be a better word.

Always say something positive!

Death is a strong word, and a strong, emotionally charged topic, and yes we need to proceed with care and concern when we discuss it.

But – leave out talking about death – and you are excluding people who are dealing with, or have dealt with, the death of a loved one.

There is a pain in their heart they are not allowed to talk about, which adds a sense of isolation and even uncleanness to the hurt.

In earlier posts in this journal – for instance, this post on my two saturn returns – I mentioned that my wife died of cancer in November 2009, so I know this hurt and isolation firsthand.

I need to talk about Death here, out in the open.

People are said to Pass On. Or, Make Their Transition. Or, Move On. Or, Go Home.

Pretty much anything other than flat out saying, they died. They are dead.

Anything to deny that cold dead body…

I remember the night my wife died. She had decided to donate her body for medical research. After sitting with her for a couple of hours after she died, I called the school and told them to come take the body.

Around three am two very nice, polite and serious young men dressed in trench coats pulled up in front of my house in a large van. For some reason I thought about the Blues Brothers – they were here on a mission from God.

They were extremely considerate and kind to me, and also very efficient. Once they confirmed that she was indeed dead – rigor mortis had set in and her body was cold and stiff – they wrapped the sheets around her body, and placed it gently in a body bag on a stretcher.

When they zipped up that body bag something in me screamed…

Modern astrology has a positive thinking slant.

Go out to Facebook some time – I just tried it yesterday – and I saw a post, saying, Mercury is going Retrograde this week – but, we are going to take a Positive Attitude for a change. This is something new!

This ‘something new’ has been a tired cliche for over 50 years in our astrology.

In that old, evil, event-oriented astrology Saturn was a Malefic. What an ugly old-fashioned word; we are going to do Something New and view Saturn as Positive!

That last sentence, or a reasonable paraphrase, can be found in a lot of mainstream books on astrology from around the 1960’s and after. It is a cliche, and even the word New in the phrase is part of the cliche.

When my wife died, it was important to me that I find a reflection of that major a loss in the astrology of my chart. I had to turn to the techniques and rules of traditional astrology to find it.

The single most striking instance – using Primary Directions, my directed Saturn was conjunct my 7th house cusp within a few weeks of my wife’s death.

7th house of major relationships; Saturn, the out of sect malefic in my chart. Saturn, the old man with black cape and hood with scythe, or sometimes a skeleton holding a scythe. Father Time.


When I saw that Saturn primary direction hit I cried, but it was crying with relief and recognition. It fit in a larger pattern, and in a funny way I felt understood and included.

I found an astrology that didn’t exclude my wife’s death.

Please, no talk of Saturn as always being something positive.

Sometimes the kindest thing you can say in astrology is to admit that Saturn, a malefic, is sometimes just Malefic.

Mr. Steven Forrest, I understand you wanting to be Positive and offer Choice – but please, that is not Saturn being Teacher or Trickster. You trivialize the pain and loss of death when you say that.

Yes, sometimes Saturn is Teacher, and sometimes Saturn is Trickster.

Sometimes Saturn is Death.

I’ve been having an email conversation with an astrologer friend of mine. We are each past our second Saturn return. I lost my wife to cancer, she lost her daughter to cystic fibrosis (CF), and also lost both parents.

These next couple of paragraphs are quotes from her about the experience with her astrology community.

“Death and astrology.  Not one of my local astrological group, save — (she was at the conference) could talk to me when my daughter died.  They all really needed me to make them comfortable.  The mother in me wanted to and the me in me just avoided the monthly meetings for awhile.”

“Not very many people contact me.  I think that they don’t know what to say.  My sense of humor is still here.  I am still me.  People are afraid of death and even more afraid to talk about it.”

That’s rough; it kind of feels like being an emotional leper. You feel unclean, like there is something shameful or unmentionable about what you’ve been through.

When you’ve been through a major death it is like being initiated into a private club. You keep your signals out for other people who have been through that experience, people you can talk to, people who can share your pain, and your loss, and your love.

People who won’t turn their heads down and look away, and then try to change the subject.

Something else you find – when you can accept death, and can talk about it, you can be loving and open in a whole new way.

Yes, death is horrible, but there can also be a strange beauty in facing it openly, and people who can do that have a wonderful strength and gentleness, a kind of light that shines through them.

It is worth getting past the fear.

I guess that part of the purpose of this meditation is to ask my astrologer friends, all my friends – when you are with people who are dealing with death, please don’t turn away, please don’t avert your eyes and look down.

Please, be willing to admit death; you will find out so much about love.

I’ll leave the last words to my astrologer friend, talking of her wonderful daughter who died of CF.

“She spent a lot of time educating others and being a support to young families.  The Spanish speaking CF families here in town begged to have her speak at their meetings even though she spoke no Spanish because even through an interpreter she gave them a certain hope… I will never look back at her life thinking that it was anything but wonderful.  I miss her so much.”


Letting Death Back In — 3 Comments

  1. Thank you. I, fortunately, have not experienced the death of someone very close to me. I’ve lost friends, but not close ones, and extended family, and was with my ex wife’s father in his final days, reading aloud Leaves of Grass, hoping he could hear. While I can’t speak first hand about that sort of loss, I appreciate the advice from someone who has. I know it was affirming for me to see that a primary direction of an aspect of Saturn to my natal Sun, with Sun ruling my Leo 7th house, coincided with my divorce. It was an extremely painful time, frought with betrayal and numerous other issues that complicated the end of an intense 9 year relationship. That experience was a formative one for pushing me to research more traditional systems of astrology. Best wishes Charles, Anthony.

  2. Thank you for this meditation on death and astrology, and for sharing so openly your own intimate experience of losing your wife. Those of us who have lost someone close do enter a strange club we can never leave. Our memberships last a lifetime, and we sit here together, slowly welcoming in new members as they too feel their way through their own losses as those close to them die. Even those of us with exalted Saturns in diurnal charts get to experience extreme and traumatic loss. As a part of my own grieving process when my best friend was killed in a freak accident, I volunteered for a grief support group for children who who had lost one or both parents to traumatic death (usually suicide or car accidents, but sometimes illness). We were trained to discuss death with them openly and not use any euphemisms. It was incredible to witness eight-year-olds comparing how their fathers were buried as if it were the most natural thing in the world: “Oh yours got buried? Mine got cremated.” There’s a palpable rawness in your own sharing that resonates with this, a kind of rawness that is unwelcome in the feel-good, euphemistic culture of positivity-at-any-price that pervades the astrology you discuss here. Which is all just to say thank you, again, for your bravery and your sharing.

  3. Thank you this was beautiful to read. This is the Honest Astrology I need now. Just lost Dad few weeks ago now.

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