For the Love of Knut

I’ve been chatting with friends over the past couple of days and they’re really broken up about the Sept. 22 death of Berlin zookeeper Thomas Doerflein, known to millions throughout the world as the “father” of Knut the polar bear.

Knut was born Dec. 5, 2006 in the Berlin Zoo and was rejected by his mother. Doerflein reportedly spent 150 days around the clock feeding, bathing, and sleeping next to Knut. (Rhymes with “cute,” depending your accent.) Here’s a video about “Cute Knut” and his human daddy, for you animal lovers out there.

When Knut was introduced to zoo visitors on Mar. 23, 2007, he created an international sensation dubbed “Knutmania.” Doerflein was deluged with fan mail from around the world, including proposals of marriage, and was later awarded Berlin’s Medal of Merit, according to the Wiki.

As Knut grew larger, the hoopla died down, though not before he sparked a souvenir industry based on his image as a playful club frolicking with his “father” Doerflein.

I couldn’t find any birth data for Doerflein, who died of a heart attack at age 44, but I did find a birthday for Knut. I’ve run Knut’s chart, courtesy of Astrodienst, with transits for the day he made his “debut.”

He was born with a stellium in Sagittarius that includes Jupiter/Sun/Venus/Pluto, a powerful lineup that’s perfect for a media (Sag) darling. I’ve set the chart for noon because we don’t know Knut’s time of birth.

Interestingly, the noon time produces a horoscope with Neptune in Aquarius on the Ascendant, which might have some validity given the number of times Knut’s picture was taken and transmitted around the world on the Internet. (Neptune rules photography, while Aquarius is associated with electronic networks such as the Internet.)

On the day that Knut was presented to the public by Doerflein, transiting Sun in Aries was trining the cute cub’s Jupiter, transiting Jupiter was conjunct his natal Venus, and transiting Mars was on natal Neptune. A star was born!

Here’s a wild coincidence. Do you know what other “orphan” who became a worldwide celebrity has a stellium in Sagittarius? Elián González, who was born Dec. 6, the day after Knut, but not the same year. You may recall that the Cuban boy became the subject of a legal and diplomatic tug-of-war between the U.S. and Cuba in 2000.

Of course, Elián was born in 1993, not 2006, like Knut. And Elián’s mother didn’t reject him; she probably sacrificed her life on their trip from Cuba so that he could live. But both the boy and the bear have charts that were activated by Pluto in Sag, which has to do with powerful communications. Here’s Elián’s chart, courtesy of AstroDataBank.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Elián, now a teenager living with his father in Cuba, after he was chosen to deliver a speech in honor of the 80th anniversary of the birth of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

International fame made Knut the polar bear “addicted” to publicity and a “psychopath,” according to one of his keepers (not Doerflein). Life in the limelight can do strange things to bears and people. It is hoped that Elian’s brush with fame did not have a crippling effect on his psyche.


Saturn Returns: The World Trade Center and the Berlin Wall

I originally posted on the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall going into Labor Day weekend and got about three hits. I’ve since fleshed out my piece and am reposting it, having made the connection that both the World Trade Center and the Berlin Wall came down during their Saturn returns.

Like the U.S. government, I’m guilty of exploiting September 11. I’m reposting on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the dark day in the hopes of getting people to read my original post about the Berlin Wall.

When the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the WTC took place on April 4, 1973, Saturn was at 15 degrees of Gemini. On Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers went up in flames, Saturn was at 14 degrees of Gemini, the sign of the Twins (pretty weird, eh?), and was being opposed by Pluto in Sagittarius.

Unlike the World Trade Center, the Berlin Wall went up literally overnight, on Aug. 13, 1961. Of course, before there were bricks, there was barbed wire. It was a Sunday, a day that became known in Germany as Stacheldrahtsonntag or “Barbed Wire Sunday.”

What time did the East Germans start building Die Maurer? According to Frederick Taylor in The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989, construction began at 1:11 a.m.

That’s when the Warsaw Pact issued a statement that said: “Through deceit, bribery, and blackmail, West German government bodies induce certain unstable elements in the German Democratic Republic to leave for West Germany…The Warsaw Pact member states must take necessary steps to guarantee their security and primarily, the new security of the GDR.”

Taylor says the Wall started coming down at 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 9, 1989, but I’m going to round it to Nov. 10 for transit purposes. (In the free version of Astrodienst, you can’t set a time for transits, only a day.)

In the Berlin Wall chart, beautiful Venus is rising in security-minded Cancer. Now, Venus isn’t a planet you would normally associate with a wall, but as the Warsaw Pact statement indicates, officials were trying to protect the integrity of the GDR.

By sealing the border between West and East Berlin, East Germany was creating a womb (Cancer) of sorts around its 17 million citizens for its experiment in socialism. And, in fact, some of the social services that former East Germans mourned when the Wall came down were free day care and elder care centers, very Cancerian services.

It always comes as a bit of a surprise when so-called benefic planets such as Venus and Jupiter are angular (on the first, fourth, seventh, or tenth house cusps) in event charts. We don’t expect the “good” planets to feature prominently in the charts of “bad” events. For instance, this AstroDataBank chart shows Jupiter on the Midheaven at 8:46 a.m. in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

Like the World Trade Center, the Berlin Wall came down during its Saturn return. Saturn was only at 10 degrees of Capricorn when the Wall was torn down, but it was in the same sign as it was when the division went up.

Now, you don’t have to tear down all the structure in your life when you have your Saturn return, but you must get rid of what is no longer useful. The Berlin Wall is an extreme example of a Saturn return because its Saturn was in the earth sign of Capricorn.

I’m not going to speculate why the World Trade Center had to be destroyed during its Saturn return. There’s still a lot we don’t know about this event and how and why it came to pass.

Back to Berlin: With Cancer rising, the Moon rules the Berlin Wall chart and it’s conjunct oppressive Pluto in Virgo. The Moon/Pluto in Virgo could be seen in the drabness and uniformity (Virgo) of daily life (Moon) because of government control (Pluto). A more sinister interpretation of the Moon/Pluto is: “Your mother is a spy.”

After reunification, the files of the Stasi, Germany’s internal security force, were released and many East Germans learned that their co-workers, neighbors, and even family members were dutifully (Virgo) filing reports on their whereabouts and actions.

It gets weirder. Evidently, the Stasi had millions of underwear samples on file to make it easy for guard dogs to track an East German down if he decided to go missing. A poignant movie about the Stasi, The Lives of Others, won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2007.

I don’t want to get too carried away with my interpretation of the Moon/Pluto in Virgo because this isn’t the chart of the GDR, it’s the chart of the Berlin Wall. However, I do think the same thinking that informed the Stasi was behind the building of the Wall.

The difficulty involved in keeping the Wall in place can be seen in the quincunx between a Jupiter/Saturn conjunction in earth sign Capricorn and a stellium of Sun, Uranus, and North Node in expressive fire sign Leo. The Wall (Jupiter/Saturn) divided the East Germans from the freedom and fun of the West (Leo).

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the tensions in this chart were activated strongly enough to prompt citizens to demand their freedom and literally tear the Wall down. That happened as revolutionary Uranus and visionary Neptune were conjunct in Capricorn on the chart’s descendant, opposing natal Venus, which was being transited by Jupiter. These transits were all exact by degree, if not by the minute, when the Wall came down.

Here’s the Berlin Wall chart, courtesy of Astrodienst, with transits of Nov. 10, 1989.

I’ve always traced my interest to the Berlin Wall to the fact that I was born in Berlin in January, 1960, and lived there while the Wall was going up. Of course, I was too young to remember much of what was going on. Now that I’ve found the exact time that the Wall went up in Frederick Taylor’s book, I see why the Berlin Wall is of enduring interest to me from an astrological standpoint.

My Moon, at 10 degrees of Cancer, sits exactly on the ascendant of the chart, while my Saturn, at 10 degrees of Capricorn, is on the descendant. The Saturn of the chart, 25 degrees of Capricorn, is quite close to my Cap Sun.

I’m filing this post under Heroes, in tribute to those who died on Sept. 11, 2001 — whether at the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, or when United Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania — and to the East Germans who fought tirelessly for freedom and who risked and lost their lives to get past “Checkpoint Charlie” into the West.

President Ronald Reagan, an Aquarian, gets a lot of credit for bringing about the end of communism with his declaration, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” However, the truth is that lots of nameless, faceless people (Moon in Virgo) worked for years to bring the Wall down.

In Praise of Reinhold Ebertin

I’m in tizzy! I can’t find my trusty copy of Reinhold Ebertin’s The Combination of Stellar Influences. As readers of this column know, I can’t live without this book. I had it out recently when I was doing my BlogTalkRadio broadcast with Pamela Cucinell of AstroChatter, and now it’s gone missing.

I’m hoping it will turn up when Mercury goes retrograde later this month. I know the minute I order it from, I’ll find it. I guess I could give the new copy away as a present.

Labor Day weekend was an emptying of armoires, closets, and drawers and the transfer of seasonal clothing in anticipation of cooler weather. Maybe COSI, as fans call it for short, is stuck in a box of my husband’s golf shorts.

With all the clothes flying around the house, I didn’t keep up with my favorite astrology blogs going into Labor Day weekend. I missed a very important post on my hero over at Chirotic.

I’m linking to the post on “cosmobiologist” Reinhold Ebertin here. This is a dense post, but one well worth reading. Wait until you have a few minutes of quiet time to study it.

Readers and fellow bloggers who have noticed that my links have more words in them: The word has come down at my day job that if you link to someone’s site using the word “here,” the subject matter doesn’t get credited properly in Google’s search machines. We bloggers who love to link are racking up millions and millions of instances of the word “here.”

Olympia Rising

As readers of this blog know, I’ve been having fun playing with the name asteroids that are now available on Astrodienst. Given that the Beijing Olympics begin this Friday, Aug. 8, at 8:08 p.m., I decided to see if there is an asteroid named Olympics or something close and where it’s transiting right now.

Sure enough, there is an asteroid named Olympia and it’s at 17 degrees of Scorpio. Olympia is squaring the North Node, now at 18 degrees of Aquarius. The aspect will soon be exact because the Nodes move backwards. In Uranian astrology, which I’m a fan of, squares and oppositions basically are read as conjunctions. So we’ve got the public (Nodes) focused on the Olympics (asteroid Olympia).

Then my brain started doing its pinball thing — that little silver ball of thought bouncing off the sides of the machine, setting off bells and whistles and triggering lights. Are there any other things or people with the name Olympia? Perhaps they will also be in the news.

Interestingly, the asteroid Olympia was conjunct filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl’s North Node when she was filming her epic picture Olympiad at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Here’s Riefenstahl’s chart with transits for Aug. 1, 1936, if you’re interested. It took Riefenstahl nearly two years to finish Olympiad. The film made its world premiere on Apr. 20, 1938, Hitler’s birthday.

More recently, we saw the powerful effect that a name asteroid can have during May, when we had the Indianapolis 500 race and the new Indiana Jones film making its premiere as the asteroid Indiana traveled with the North Node and Neptune. Something else happened that didn’t get much press: The U.S. government held a big nuclear disaster test, which is also consistent with Node/Neptune, just outside Indianapolis in mid-May.

Here’s my theory: Based on the asteroid Olympia’s transit right now with the Nodes, I think we’ll be hearing about Olympia Snowe, the respected Republican Senator from Maine, as a possible vice-presidential candidate.

Don’t automatically assume that her name is being bandied about only by GOP Presidential candidate John McCain’s camp. On the political blogs, Snowe has also been mentioned as a possible veep for Democrat Barack Obama. Now that would really be shaking things up, but Snowe is considered a “Republican in Name Only” because of her support for gay rights and abortion, among other issues that are anathema to the conservative right wing.

Let’s look at her chart, courtesy of Astrodienst:

What’s interesting about Ms. Snowe is that transiting Jupiter in Capricorn will make a powerful station on her natal Venus in early September, during the Republican convention. Sorry, Carly! Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has been campaigning for McCain in what many people believe is an effort to be designated the Arizona Republican’s vice-presidential candidate.

A name asteroid transiting the Nodes and a beautiful Venus/Jupiter conjunction can’t guarantee Snowe the No. 2 spot on either ticket. But this I will guarantee: We’ll be hearing a lot about Snowe, a Pisces born Feb. 21, 1947 in Augusta, Me., during the next month or so.

Here’s what one blog, The New Republic’s The Plank, is saying about her. All hail Olympia!

Barack in Berlin: Back to the Future

I don’t remember being there, but my parents told me that they took me to President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech in Berlin on June 26, 1963. At that point in time, Berlin was on the front lines of the Cold War between the U.S. and the USSR, and Kennedy sought to reassure Berliners by declaring, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

Typical American, he didn’t get it quite right. Instead of saying, “I am a Berliner,” he ended up declaring, “I am a jelly doughnut” in German. The mistake was the extraneous “ein.”

Like JFK, “Ich bin Berliner.” I was born in Berlin in January, 1960. So I can’t help getting a little misty-eyed about the prospect of Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin tonight. I looked at the ephemeris to see what, if any, connections exist between tonight’s speech and Kennedy’s remarks.

Before I get to that, I want to mention that Barack Obama was born Aug. 4, 1961, nine days before the Berlin Wall began going up to divide East and West. Interesting, eh? There’s something about Obama that feels so early Sixties to me, especially the gray suits that he has been sporting on the campaign trail.

Of course, astrologers believe that we carry the imprint of the moment when we were born. Does that mean I’m going to wear an “I Like Ike” button to work tomorrow? (When I was born, Dwight D. Eisenhower was still in the White House). No, but I’ve always had an appreciation of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex” that Ike, a retired general, warned us about.

Back to Obama, JFK, and Berlin. The only real connection I can find between the aspects of the two speeches (I haven’t run charts because I don’t have exact times for either in front of me), is that today’s transiting Neptune and North Node are on the Saturn in Aquarius of the JFK speech.

Reinhold Ebertin in The Combination of Stellar Influences says Neptune/Node can be “the inclination to expect more than is possible from a community or from an association of people.” Interestingly, today’s headlines say that “Obama will ask more of Europe.”

The Saturn, which comes from the Kennedy speech, becomes the midpoint of the transiting Neptune/Node in Aquarius, and it’s not a happy picture: “The demonstration of emotional inhibitions when in contact with others.” Perhaps the speech will not be as well-received as Obama and his supporters hope it will.

Another intepretation of these three planets in combination offered by Ebertin is: “Disadvantages…through associations with others.” Maybe it’s not in Obama’s best interest to invite comparisons between himself and JFK. Just a thought.

P.S. I’m not the only astrologer who was captivated by Obama in Berlin. Jude over at Jude’s Threshold posted on the speech here. So did AstroTableTalk, though his comparisons were to Hitler, not Kennedy. Check out his ominous post.

The Führer’s Filmmaker

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg’s Feb. 12 announcement that he was dropping out of opening ceremonies for the Beijing Summer Olympics because of the mainland’s ties to Sudan got me thinking about another filmmaker inextricably linked to the Olympics: Leni Riefenstahl.

Best known for her Nazi party rally documentary Triumph of the Will, Reifenstahl was at the top of her game when she immortalized the human physique in Olympiad, her film about the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

I was only vaguely aware of Reifenstahl until I saw The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl, Ray Müller’s 1993 documentary (released in German as Macht der Bilder) made on the occasion of her 90th birthday. At the time, I was blown away by Müller’s film, but I haven’t given Riefenstahl much thought since then.

During her life, which spanned more than a century, Riefenstahl was admired for her considerable talents and moxie, envied for her access to Adolph Hitler, ostracized for her involvement in National Socialism, and then accepted for her sheer staying power.

Spielberg’s decision to boycott this summer’s Olympic Games prompted me to do a little reading on Riefenstahl. To learn more about this chameleon who claimed that art trumps politics, I’ve been reading Jürgen Trimborn’s gripping biography Leni Riefenstahl: A Life.

I don’t know much about Trimborn other than what is in the jacket of the book and in the reviews indicating that this 2002 book is the seminal work on Riefenstahl’s life. I found myself wondering whether Trimborn was raised Catholic in light of his assessment that Riefenstahl’s life was incomplete because she never confessed her sins and never apologized for profiting from her association with Hitler and his hate machine. Obviously, an apology is preferable to denial, but it still doesn’t constitute atonement.

I want to read more about Riefenstahl, especially from a psychological point of view. In my estimation, she was both a textbook narcissist and a sociopath. When repeatedly confronted by courts, journalists, and filmmakers with her collaboration (at the very least) and crimes (at the worst), her strategy was: “Deny, deny, deny.”

I was quite eager to run Riefenstahl’s chart and was disappointed that Trimborn’s book didn’t have a time of birth. Biographies are great treasure troves for the astrologer looking for an accurate time of birth. Riefenstahl was born on Aug. 22, 1902 in Berlin, Germany. You can see Riefenstahl’s chart, thanks to Astrodienst, here.

Triumph of the Will could be the subtitle of Leni Riefenstahl’s story because her success, first as a dancer and then as the star of German “mountain films,” was due entirely to her own determination and her ability to attract patrons. The artistic life that she envisioned for herself was not what her parents, particularly her father, had in mind for their daughter. In freedom-loving, modern-day America, it’s hard to imagine the hurdles that Riefenstahl surmounted in a patriarchal society where women were controlled first by their fathers and then their husbands.

The self-directed, athletic life that Riefenstahl pursued epitomizes her Aries Moon, which I’ve seen frequently in the charts of female dancers, gymnasts, trainers, and sports therapists. Riefenstahl wasn’t merely mirroring Hitler’s misguided search for human physical perfection; her celebration of the martial beauty of mountain climbers, soldiers, athletes, and African tribes was part of her own aesthetic. 

If there was a time when Reifenstahl must have felt as if she were standing on top of the world, it was on Hitler’s birthday (April 20) in 1938, when Olympiad had its premiere after two years in the making.  In looking at the transits and progressions for this day, the main thing that jumps out is the opposition of Jupiter in Aquarius to her Leo Sun. Clearly, she was at the apex of her influence.

I’ve been studying astrology off and on for nearly 30 years, but I still don’t understand the significance of “unaspected” planets. Riefenstahl’s Sun is so late in Leo that it doesn’t make any connections to any other planets in her chart. Some astrologers would say the lack of aspects gives the Sun a renegade quality. Certainly Riefenstahl was an original.

What I found interesting in reading Trimborn’s biography of Reifenstahl was how she responded to the transits of outer planets in her life. She was certainly dragged through the depths as Pluto made its way through Leo during World War II. But after the war she grew interested in Africa and studying the isolated Nuba tribe of Sudan as Pluto came to oppose her Sun late Leo. (I’m speaking broadly here.)

Late in her life, as Neptune in Aquarius opposed her Sun, she discovered yet another career, as an underwater photographer, which she pursued until her death.

The 1993 Uranus/Neptune conjunctions in Capricorn opposed Riefenstahl’s Mars at 21 degrees of Cancer. That coincided with the international release of Müller’s documentary. The film in turn precipitated a brutal re-examination of Riefenstahl’s role in the rise of the Third Reich and whether the various tribunals that exonerated her after World War II were told the truth. Indeed, some of the damning documents and footage that Trimborn uses to make his case against Riefenstahl weren’t available until recently.

Although Riefenstahl maintained until her dying day (Sept. 8, 2003) that her films were art, not propaganda, clearly other artists, including Steven Spielberg, understand the dangers of appearing to serve a brutal regime.