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.