Mars and a Will of Iron

This is the chart of an exceptional person, Jean-Dominique Bauby. If you haven’t read his book, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, read it. The book demonstrates exceptional will-power in a hopeless situation. It was literally written with the blinking of an eye.

Here is his chart:

I want to point out only two elements of this chart. The first is an ‘almost’ feral Mars and the second is the opposition between Mercury and Saturn.

What is a feral planet? It is a planet that has no aspect with other planets. In this chart Mars, forms a very wide opposition to the Sun, but as he is within moiety of the Sun and retrograde, he is applying opposition to the Sun so we cannot technically say that he is feral. Even so this is an important concept and the ‘almost’, with only one slowly forming aspect shows something unusual. Mars in his own sign, Scorpio, and so has strong essential dignity, this is weakened somewhat by his slow motion and being retrograde. He is also in the 7th house. And most importantly he is Lord of the Ascendant and the dispositor of the Moon, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter. Morin in his discussion of planetary aspects describes the situation thus:

“If a strong planet has no aspect with another planet it is said to be feral and will act simply in accordance with its own nature, especially if located in its domicile. Every feral planet indicates something unusual – good or ill – depending on the nature of the planet.” Chapter 11, Book 22, Astrologia Gallica

Mars as Lord of the Ascendant, dispositing a whole crew of planets on the Ascendant, all the above-mentioned planets except Mercury, is a strong indicator that this ‘something unusual’ will show itself in connection with his body. The strong grouping of planets in Aries on the Ascendant is already indicative of strong will-power, especially when we consider that the Sun is also in the first house, though in Taurus. The one planet placed in the 12th house, for Morin the house of ill health, is also the one that is in opposition to the Lord of the 12th, Saturn. Saturn being in the 6th house. This is a determination for crippling illness at some point in the life. When that time is reached can often be shown by primary directions and also by solar return charts. We will look at the solar return for 1994 and for 1995, the year in which Bauby had the massive stroke which was the cause of the ‘locked-in syndrome’ that literally imprisoned him in his body.

First the 1994 chart, which in a sense shows the circumstances which in the following year would become reality. The first thing that immediately shown is the 8 degree Cancer Ascendant. This is the IC of the radix chart. And this solar return Ascendant is at the centre of the radix Mercury/Saturn opposition at 9/10 Aries and Libra. The antiscion of the solar return Saturn at 20 Libra is also in oppostion to the radical Ascendant.The movement of the IC to the Ascendant can be viewed from different angles. First it is the deepest part of the horoscope and indicative of being buried, in the grave. It is also signifies ones roots, the ancestors. It is very possible that an inherited tendency toward a stroke may have also been activated. It is very clear that Saturn as Lord of the 12th will have a role to play.

Now to the 1995 solar return:

Here we have 12 Virgo rising. What is not at first visible is that the antiscion of the Moon and Venus of the radical chart at 11 and 13 Virgo respectively are conjunct the Ascendant of this solar return chart. In fact this chart is overlaid with antiscion activations, notably the antiscion of Mars s.r. (solar return) at 12 Taurus is in opposition to radical Mars. The same is the case with the antiscion of Saturn s.r. at 9 Libra. It is in opposition to radical Saturn. Both the malefic planets are activated and also from the opposite position in the chart. There is yet another antiscion aspect and that is between Mercury s.r. and Mars s.r. both are in conjunction. Mars also conjuncts the cusp of the 12th house, that of confinement and dangerous illness. Both Mars and Mercury are applying square to one another. This is not good. Mars is also Lord 8, the house of death. He was indeed in danger of death. The stroke which in an older world view could be considered a surge of choler, should have led to death. The only ‘saving grace’ was the radical Moon/Venus conjunction to the Ascendant by antiscion, but because Venus is in detriment, she is, as the lesser benefic, not strong enough to prevent major damage. The basis for the stroke was already laid in 1994. It came to completion in 1995. It might be added that Mars conjuncts the solar return Ascendant in 1996, the year he began writing his book. We see in these two charts a strong activation of natal Mars, Mercury and Saturn. He communicated the contents of his book through blinking his left eye. In a man’s chart it is the Moon that is the natural ruler of the left eye.

What is the Butterfly in his chart? And what is the diving bell? The Butterfly I think is Venus that is hovering with the Moon just above the horizon of the radical chart, and who is the companion of the saving Moon in the solar return chart. The diving bell? This one is made of iron. It is Mars in the water sign Scorpio. The lead weight of Saturn has led to his bodily confinement, sunk him into the depths and has almost completely shut off his nervous system (Mercury). But it also Mars, the will who through the Moon communicates this moving story of a strength of will that few attain. Herculean.


4 thoughts on “Mars and a Will of Iron

  1. Quelle coincidence! I watched the film based on the memoir by Bauby a couple of days ago: it was directed by Julian Schnabel (for whom one of my teachers worked in the nineties). I note that (from a non-traditional perspective) Uranus is conjoined to the fourth house cusp of his radix while Neptune is conjoined to the seventh house cusp in opposition to his Ascendant. The conjunction of Uranus and Neptune in December 1995 afflicted his natal Sun and Ascendant (to which his directed Sors [part of fortune] was conjoined at the time of his stroke) and was in opposition to the contrascion of his directed Moon. Incredible!

  2. N’est-ce pas?

    I recently saw the film as well, although I read the book years ago. The film set me to thinking about whether a determination for stroke and ‘lock-in syndrome’ could be found in the chart. I also wanted to demonstrate how powerful a tool it is.

    It is of course always interesting to see how the outer planets are involved. So thank you for supplementing the judgement above. I don’t have an ‘eye’ for them

    best wishes,

  3. Thank you for such an interesting chart Thomas!

    Jean-Dominique Bauby is undoubtedly possessed of a will of iron. But what sends shivers up my spine is noticing the magnificent mutual reception between the two Lights.

    The Moon in Jean-Dominique’s nativity is in the 19th degree of Aries, the degree of the greatest exaltation of the Sun, and the Sun is in the 3rd degree of Taurus, the degree of the greatest exaltation of the Moon.

    No wonder Jean-Dominique Bauby has such an extraordinarily indomitable will. One wonders what he might have accomplished if he hadn’t been burdened with that opposition across his 6th/12th axis of ill health?


  4. Hello Caroline!

    As you point out, the mutual reception between Sun and Moon, are yet another exceptional feature of this chart. On the exact exaltation points is indeed extremely rare. Thank you for pointing this out!


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