Published by the International Journal of the Astrological Association of Great Britain – July/August 2010
Some of the most rewarding moments as a consulting astrologer happen when I can tell clients when a particular crisis is likely to end. The realization that a period of difficulties, unhappiness or loss will eventually subside and glimpsing light at the end of the tunnel provide clients relief from the gloom that has pervaded their lives. Hopefully they leave the consultation if not with a sense of optimism at least with something positive to look forward to.
When I saw the news of the Alexander McQueen’s death I wondered what had motivated a successful, talented British designer at the top of his career to commit suicide. After looking at his chart and the transits that have been affecting him I wished he had had the benefit of an astrological perspective. It might have saved his life.
Alexander McQueen was the protagonist of rags to riches story. Born on March 17, 1969[i] in a working class section of London, the youngest of 6 children of a taxi driver, he showed artistic talent and fashion sense at very young age by designing dresses for his sisters. At sixteen, armed with some art courses and the information gathered during a TV show on the scarcity of tailoring apprentices, Alexander McQueen went to work for top Savile Row tailors who sell suits to the best dressed men in London. He gained further experience as a pattern cutter with Japanese and Italian designers and eventually enrolled at the prestigious St. Martins College of Art and Design. He showed his graduation collection at 23 and was immediately spotted by an influential fashion journalist, Isabella Blow, who bought his collection and was instrumental in launching his career.
He had a meteoric rise in the difficult world of fashion. Known as for his shockingly forward designs combined with impeccable tailoring, Alexander McQueen became the “bad boy of British fashion”. His fashions shows were always edgy but he demonstrated keen commercial sense. In December 2000 he sold 51% of his label to the Gucci Group while remaining Creative Director. This financial backing allowed him to develop more collections, perfumes, and cosmetics and open stores in London, Milan, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Sarah Jessica Parker, Madonna and Lady Gaga were some of his clients.
Describing himself as the “pink sheep of the family” Alexander McQueen married his boyfriend in the Summer of 2000 but that relationship did not last. His personal life was affected when Isabella Blow, his friend and initial mentor, committed suicide in May 2007. He adored his mother Joyce and in an interview published in the Guardian in 2004, McQueen stated that his greatest fear was to die before his mother. That fear was not realized. Joyce died on February 2, and Alexander McQueen tragically hanged himself in his London apartment on February 11.[ii]
The eye is immediately drawn to the 5th – 11th house axis. A second look reveals that the natural rulers of these houses inhabit those houses, the Sun in the 5th, Uranus in the 11th adding strength to these energies. Creative and innovative, talented and edgy, possessing an identity built on rebellion, putting on runway shows that were unpredictable and shocking speak to the manifestation 5th and 11th archetypes[iii]. With his 5th house planets trining Neptune and 11th house planets sextiling Neptune his presentations were creative, provocative and magical.
The moon is in a Balsamic phase, ready to conjunct the Sun. This is the last phase of the moon prior to the beginning of a new cycle. The cosmic purpose for people born under a balsamic moon is to be the vehicle of the future, channeling the emergence of new trends. In that sense Alexander McQueen fulfilled his purpose. Just like people born under a new moon are at ease with beginnings, balsamic moon types are good at endings, at separating themselves from whatever is not working for them. Unfortunately in his case life was exhausting him.
The Sun and Moon are also very close to the Moon Nodes indicating a birth within hours of a solar eclipse. Not all eclipses are created equal; they take on the quality of their specific Saros series which resonates in person’s life if they are born under an eclipse. This particular one, Saros N° 7 North is characterized by Bernadette Brady as “ A very sensual family of eclipses, ranging from sudden sexual passions and lust to birth and procreative drives. This series is not subtle, and catch people off guard and confront them with their own very deep passion which may have been hidden for many years”[iv]
The theme of deep passion is pervasive in McQueen’s personality, seen essentially through the Moon Pluto, Sun Pluto oppositions and the Scorpio ascendant. Examples of how Alexander McQueen projected himself onto the world through his runways shows speak volumes of the Scorpio archetype: models miming their electrocution, textiles with images of a man being executed, a show recreating a shipwreck and another one inspired by the witches of Salem.
The ascendant is not just how others view you but it also shapes how you view the world. McQueen’s probably viewed the world as a dark and cold place.
Venus in Aries stationary retrograde conjunct Saturn in 6th house of work is another feature in his horoscope that is quite relevant to McQueen’s life story and is also rich in archetypal symbolism. “To be born in either of the stations – retrograde or direct – signifies a powerful connection with the interior mechanism of the Golden Section.” [v] The Golden Section vibrates to the 5th harmonic which is the number of creative spirit. His creativity was first expressed by the precision of pattern cutting for tailoring purposes. Saturn represents that quality of perfection, the structure necessary for a well tailored garment. Aries brings to mind the use of scissors which is the weapon of choice for fashion designers. In the 6th house this combination can represent the workaholic that Alexander McQueen was. At personal level a Venus Saturn conjunction speaks of difficulties in relationships maybe even denial of love by his father. This aspect probably affected him in childhood and influenced his love life in adulthood. Sue Tompkins[vi] observes that when the road of Venus is blocked by Saturn, one gives more importance to the other symbol of the feminine, the Moon. The mother is represented by Moon probably became his emotional anchor, a focal point in his life.
Alexander McQueen had a large number of planets and sensitive points within a short range: Pluto, Ascendant/ Midheaven midpoint, North Node, Jupiter and Uranus from 23 Virgo to 2 Libra in very close oppositions to Moon, Sun, South Node and Chiron in 23 Pisces to 2 Aries. As a consequence, the energy of transiting planets affects this seesaw pattern in a concentrated way. Some periods of time are excellent and others are characterized by stressful and difficult events. One such period started 5 years ago for Alexander McQueen.
Some Pluto transits are once in a life time events and when they strike it represents intense periods of time synchronic with powerful changes in our lives. Pluto is associated with transformation which is the nice way of characterizing destruction and rebirth. Starting in 2005 and 2006 transiting Pluto squared the Moon signaling severe emotional experiences and possible power struggles. At the same time Pluto also squared itself amplifying the need for profound change. Next came a Pluto square to the Sun and to the Ascendant/Midheaven midpoint, a time of questioning his identity and the personal and professional path that he traced for himself. Alexander McQueen seems to have powerfully reaffirmed his position as a premier designer but surely this year was stressful to say the least. At the same time transiting Saturn, the planet of restrictions and responsibilities was conjuncting his Midheaven. This energy reinforced the workaholic in him, burdening him with extra responsibilities and duties. Also during the same year Neptune was entering McQueen 4th house signaling the possibility of confusion at home, situations that are less than clear. Another possible effect is a loss connected to his roots, connected to mother or a mother figure. This was the year that Isabella Blow, the woman who discovered him, committed suicide. In 2008 Pluto squared the Nodes, a turning point in one’s life. Looking beyond transits, in September of 2008 secondary progressed Mars had become stationary signaling a decrease subtle vitality and energy.
But Alexander McQueen was not done with Pluto transits. In 2009 Pluto squared Jupiter, Uranus and Chiron. These energies gave him the drive to try new things such as designing for the stage. He created the costumes for a Sadler’s Well production based on life of an 18th century French “chevalier” who by trade as a secret agent and by choice as a cross dresser, spent a lot of time in women’s clothes. The character was strongly divided between his female and male identities. It led McQueen to remark “This male-female character was so up my “strasse”. I’m interested in the dark psychosis of his mind. There’s a melancholy there…..”
This statement about melancholy was certainly a projection from McQueen’s own life. His seesaw natal pattern was now being activated by transiting Saturn. All through 2009 transiting Saturn opposed the Moon, Sun, North Node and Chiron while conjuncting Pluto, South Node, Jupiter and Uranus. His energy was low; every endeavor must have seemed hampered by real or perceived obstacles resulting in emotionally trying times compounded by a sense of loneliness.
Saturn was not working alone. Uranus was transiting the other side of the Zodiac in opposition to transiting Saturn. Uranus, the energy of change and upsets had conjuncted McQueen’s Moon in March and October 2009 and transited over the Moon for the last time on Jan 7, 2010. This marks a period of serious emotional turmoil possibly equated with his mother’s illness but it might have been synchronic with other distressing events in his love life. On February 2, 2010 as Uranus applied to the Sun/Moon midpoint his mother died and one day before her funeral, Alexander McQueen ended his life. The midpoint between any two planets represents the merging of those two energies; Sun and Moon, identity and emotional needs, his life force and the image of his mother. Transiting Uranus on the Sun/Moon midpoint was the last straw.
Some of transits described are once in a life time transits. Having so many in a period of several consecutive years must have been very draining and exhausting. He had been driving himself relentlessly, working very hard with no down time with the constant pressure of collections to be produced for every season. Although he created beautiful clothes and fashion was his business he did not lack perspective and depth. He is known to have said “At the end of the day, it’s just clothes”. Clothes, fame, success, money were not enough without his emotional anchor.
What the astrologer might have pointed out
People born under a balsamic moon need down time, they need to replenish their energies. They have to find ways to recharge batteries in order to continue to release their vision of the future. The astrologer might have pointed that out to McQueen and stressed the importance of rest and retreat.
The astrologer might have alerted him for the meaning of the natal eclipse and caution him on sudden powerful emotions that might erupt in his psyche. They did not need to be suppressed but rather directed towards creative outlets
The astrologer might have mentioned that transiting Pluto and its dramatic influences were out of McQueen’s planetary picture, providing some relief. Saturn would continue to affect him but Uranus applying to his natal Sun and North Node in the 5th would bring excitement, a new wave of creativity, new relationships. Alexander McQueen would have the opportunity to redefine what he wanted out of life, to live according to his own expectations and rules rather than to the expectations of others. In his personal life he would probably be more aware of his emotional needs and be able to satisfy them.
The astrologer might have informed him of the upcoming transits of Jupiter that bring opportunities for expansive feelings, for confidence, for abundance and relationships that are easy and enjoyable. The cosmos would also provide him with periods of time appropriate for healing and coming to terms with the loss and pain.
Would an astrologer have prevented his tragic suicide? I don’t know … but the privilege of a long term perspective given by an astrologer is invaluable when considering the dark and desperate periods of one’s life.
March 6, 2010
[i] March 17, 1969, 10:45 pm, Lewisham, England, source Astrodabank
[ii] Bio material adapted from Daily Telegraph online, Feb 11, 2010
[iii] Archetypes refer to the common energy of a planet, corresponding sign and house
[iv] Bernardette Brady “ The Eagle and the Lark, Samuel Weiser, Maine,1992, page 317
[v] Retrograde Planets, Traversing the Inner Landscape, Erin Sullivan, Arcana, Penguin Books, London, 1992 page 91
[vi] Sue Tompkins, Aspects in Astrology, Element Books, Great Britain, 1989, page 185