In honor of David Bowie’s passing, we’re republishing this year-old article on the astrology of Ziggy Stardust. Rest in peace, Starman (1947-2016).
“One man in his time plays many parts.” — William Shakespeare
On February 10, 1972. A pub in Southwest London. David Bowie played a gig that would go down in history. The musician did not perform as himself — he appeared as an alien garbed in a strikingly androgynous outfit, his hair dyed shockingly red. This was Bowie’s first public appearance as Ziggy Stardust with his band, The Spiders From Mars. It turned out to be a moment that would propel Bowie, who had previously released a few mildly successful albums, to super stardom and would ultimately revolutionize rock and roll, spawning countless new possibilities and genres in its wake.
On that historic night, Bowie incorporated elements of theatricality into his performance and made a post modern, ironic commentary on the distance between performer and audience that had never before been attempted — giving rock, which was becoming stale in its message-laden sincerity, a much needed shot of adrenalin. This was the first of numerous public alter egos through which Bowie would channel his heavily conceptual songs, albums, and public performances — blurring the lines between his art and his persona and casting shadows on the masks worn by public performers.
Part of the cultural significance of this wildly original moment of creative innovation is that it, along with the horrific Manson family murders and the ill fated, poorly organized free concert by the Rolling Stones at the Altamont Speedway which ended with a young black man being knifed to death by the Hell’s Angels in front of the stage as the Stones played “Sympathy For The Devil”, heralded the end of the idealstic 1960’s. Bowie’s Ziggy stage show would grow from here into a postmodern mythology which would include themes of aliens, futurism, salvation, fame, and apocolyptic catharsis — themes which are archetypally reflected by the three outermost planets in our solar system.
Bowie is an artist who has always understood and creatively utilized the current archetypal energies to great effect. As a student of Astrology, which has an association with these same energies, I became interested in studying the connections between the planets in the sky on the evening of Ziggy’s debut and the configuration of the planets at the moment David Bowie took his first breath. To phrase it differently, this is a look at the connections between the birth charts of Mr. Bowie and his creation, Ziggy Stardust.
Astrology is an ancient symbolic language which is based on the location of the planets in the sky at any given moment and on the angular and cyclical relationships those planets have with each other. The highly overused phrase “As above, so below” is a simple explanation of the concept that there is an unfolding of energies and events on our planet which can be symbolically decoded by examining the location and relationship of the celestial bodies in the sky as signified in an astrological chart. Much as musicians can translate notations on a sheet of music into various sounds, the astrologer can decode the glyphs in an astrological chart into a conversation with the Archetypal energies at any given moment in time. And just as each musician will have his or her own style of playing the notes on that page, so will each astrologer have his or her own style of interpreting the information in a horoscope.
As I will be looking at the transits, or location of the planets during a particular event in Bowie’s life in relation to his birth chart, I will focus mainly on the powerful and slow moving outer planets, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. These planets, named so aptly for the mythological gods and archetypes they represent , move very slowly through the zodiac making their presences very potent indeed. It is for this very reason that astrologers tend to look to connections being made by these powerful outer planets to planets or sensitive points in the birth chart during important events or periods in the life of an individual.
Rewind. Almost 200 years before Ziggy. March 13, 1791. An Englishman is looking through his telescope and in one moment completely and forever disrupts the accepted classical view of the planets in our solar system. An old view is irrevocably shattered. Our solar system no longer ends with Saturn as was believed since ancient times. Unexpected, shocking new vistas and heretofore unimagined possiblities open up. Not coincidentally, this is the era of the American and French Revolutions and it is a time in which people are beginning to experiment with different methods of taking flight, leading eventually and ultimately to space travel. Sudden liberation from the old order, rebelliousness, innovation, disruption and disruptive events, electricity and lightning, wild creativity, high originality- these are some of the properties that Astrologers associate with Uranus. It’s not much of a stretch of the imagination to guess the reasoning here.
Fast Forward. Ziggy’s debut. While not nearly as paradigm shifting as the discovery of the first outer planet, the young singer, tongue planted in his Promethean cheekiness, would discover new horizons and revolutionize rock music in true Uranian fashion. Transiting Uranus was in the sign of Libra in February 1972 and was making a soft 120 degree angle (an exact trine) with Bowie’s natal Uranus in Gemini signifying a highly compatible and easy flow of energies. Uranus is acting in this case as Awakener — electrifying Bowie’s artistic potential, activating an inner process of ever shifting curiosity, versatility and ambiguity, all qualities assocaited with the Gemini archetype: an internal dialogue at the deepest core of Bowie’s being which “Changes,” just like his famous song, with each passing intellectual idea that grabs his attention. We have the airy flow back and forth from Gemini and Libra of idea or thought into aesthetic ideal/art (Libran qualities) in a highly innovative, future oriented (Uranus) manner.
To add another layer here, Bowie’s natal Uranus placement is very close to being located at the same degree of the zodiac (conjunct, in astrological terminology) as his North Node of the Moon. The Lunar Nodes are highly important points in the chart which signify directions of evolutionary development or stagnation and lessons. The North Node signifies that which we need to grow towards; the South Node usually signifies that which we need to leave behind. With Uranus so close to the North Node in Gemini, we can see that the properties and expression of this planet are highly important for Bowie’s growth as a soul and as an artist.
As Bowie grew into his Uranian potential, so many of the songs that he would write (Gemini) would carry Uranian titles — a few examples are “Rebel, Rebel, ” “Loving the Alien,” and “Aladdin Sane.” David’s next album cover would bear the image of him as an androgynous character (Gemini) with a lightning bolt (Uranus) painted on his face. I think it’s also worth noting that Bowie’s Aquarian Ascendant (the sign rising on the eastern horizon at the birth moment which signifies our approach to life) is ruled by the planet Uranus — yet another clue to the importance of this planetary “sky god” to his life and art.
Transiting Uranus in Libra is also forming a nearly perfect square (a hard and challenging 90 degree angle) with Bowie’s natal Sun/Mars conjunction in Capricorn. Bowie’s natal Mercury, which is the ruling planet of the North Node in Gemini, is widely conjunct his Sun and Mars so it gets pulled in as well. Uranus in Libra: A shocking revolutionary expression of the alien (Uranus) and the culturally acceptable, including gender bending androgyny, and mock ritualized sexual acts performed on stage through fashion and artifice (Libra) challenging (the square aspect) the traditional (Capricorn ) male identity (Mars/Sun).
I think it’s worth mentioning that Bowie (whose real name is David Jones) named himself after the Bowie knife — a neat Sun/Mars reference of finding an identity (Sun) in a knife (Mars) and perhaps a foreshadowing of having alternate stage identities. I wonder if it is Bowie’s Sun/Mars conjunction in the twelfth house which gives him the strength of identity and strong psychic boundaries (a specialty of Capricorn) to give form to various characters from the collective unconscious without losing himself totally in the process.
Mercury in Capricorn is the perfect placement with which to give structure and voice within the medium of popular songwriting to these highly original Uranian themes. On a final Uranian note, the transiting North Node in Aquarius had recently crossed Bowie’s Ascendant, perhaps allowing his appearance and approach to life to reflect these Uranian group evolutionary themes while the transiting South Node in Leo was conjunct Bowie’s natal Moon/Saturn conjunction, which makes a statement about his pride and responsibility as an artist.
The Leo/Aquarius themes of the alien and the adored, of the performer and the audience and of authentic expression from the heart and detachment are at play here. It’s ironic in light of Moon/Saturn in Leo that Bowie would later have a hugely popular tour named”Serious Moonlight” and that he made an album titled “Low” during his Saturn return over his natal moon.
Oh Neptune. Boundless and oceanic, named after the god of the seas. It was discovered in 1846 — an era marked by an interest in spiritulaism, utopian ideas, and the Califonia gold rush — a quest to get rich quick by way of ever elusive glittering treasure. It is said that Neptune flickered and faded in and out of view in the lens of the telescope as it was being discovered. Now you see it, now you don’t. It’s archetypal properties include fantasy, illusion, delusion, salvation, dissolution, enchantments, stardom, glamour and transcendence. Why not Stardust and Glitter too?
Neptune was an important player in the sky that night in London in 1972. It was making some key aspects to points in Bowie’s natal chart. It was in the sign of Sagittarius, which is associated with sincerity, travel, religion/philosophy, the priest and the sage and conjunct the highest point in Bowie’s chart which is called the Midheaven along with Bowie’s natal Venus. The Midheaven denotes one’s career or public identity and Venus relates to beauty, values, and relationships. Bowie masterfully used the glamour and illusion of Neptune (along with the Venusian make up, hair dye, and fashion) to construct the public identity within his career as a musician (the Midheaven) of an alien preaching a fiery message (Sagittarius) of stardust and glitter (Neptune) and rock and roll salvation (Neptune again).
The conceptual story behind Bowie’s elaborate alter ego had a basis in mythology and religion and majorly expanded Bowie’s popularity and success leading to a worldwide tour. Transiting Neptune is also conjunct Bowie’s South Node in Sagittarius: Here we have the dissolution (Neptune)of the public identity (Midheaven) of the earnest and sincere folk troubador (Sagittarian South Node) who sang songs about the philosophy of Nietzsche with heavily occult themes (ruling planet Jupiter is in the sign of Scorpio which can relate to the occult) to be replaced with an exploration (Sagittarius) of alternate realities and imaginary characters (Neptune). This was a glittering coming out party for the first in a long line of crafted personas for Bowie and the end of the faux preachy uber-sincerity of the sixties .
And last, but never least is the big gun in the sky. The one they say is no longer a planet. The one that corresponds with themes we like to repress or deny altogether as a culture. Death/rebirth, intensity, the underworld, deep transformative processes, volcanic eruptions, all things taboo, and the soul itself are but a few of the archetypal associations here. Pluto was discovered in 1930 in the era of the rise of fascism and at the discovery of nuclear power through splitting the atom. It is of note that transiting Pluto in Libra is square (that hard 90 degree apsect which represents a challenge or conflict) Bowie’s natal Mercury in Capricorn emphasizing communication (Mercury) of powerful taboo subjects (Pluto) through art and fashion (Libra). Bowie’s Sun and Mars get pulled in here as well — artistic transformation (Pluto again) of the traditional male image. Another possibility is that the artist’s penetrating mind (Mercury) was up to the challenge (the square aspect) of tapping into the psychic undercurrents (Pluto) which lie beneath polite society (Libra) in his heavily conceptual work to powerful effect.
These are the key outer planetary transits that tell the story of Bowie’s first appearance as “not himself “on stage. On the night of Ziggy’s debut, the planets, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto were hurling glittering lightning bolts of illusion, fantasy, glamour, rebellion, futurism, gender taboos and transformation into Bowie’s ingenious realization of the curious messenger genius chameleon(Gemini and Uranus ) who innovates by communicating his fluidly shifting ideas by shape-shifting into the masks and mouthpieces of various characters — and at the same time allowing this sense of duality (Gemini) to keep his innermost being safe and protected in the manner of a more outgoing twin.
Image by qthomasbower, courtesy of Creative Commons license.