Asteroid Achilles is named for a mythic Greek warrior, one of the heroes of Homer’s Iliad, a chronicle of the Trojan War. Son of a mortal king and a divine nymph, Achilles’ mother attempted to cheat Fate of a prophecy that her infant son would die young by dipping him in the waters of the river Styx in Hades to render him invulnerable. In this, she was largely successful, but she had to hold on to him by something, and so Achilles’ only weak spot was the heel her hand covered as she immersed him in the river. In due course, Achilles grew to manhood and gained a reputation as a fierce, unconquerable warrior of the invading Greek army, who caused the Trojans to quail at the sight of him. Eventually he was killed by the hapless Paris, who had started all the trouble by eloping with Helen; his poisoned arrow was guided to Achilles’ one weak spot by Apollo. Our term “Achilles Heel,” a point of vulnerability, weakness, and potential undoing, stems from this mythological incident.
Astrologically, asteroid Achilles (#588) shows prominently in the charts of famed military men, such as Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, as one might expect, given Achilles’ mytho-poetic identification with war. But it also serves as a marker of where we are vulnerable, susceptible to congenital weaknesses and character flaws that have the potential to unseat us despite our best efforts and overall competence or strength. It is the chink in our armor that brings disaster, often self-inflicted.
A number of scandals and downfalls this summer have reflected Achilles’ tendency to bring low the high and mighty, exposing their vulnerable underbellies and bringing to the fore character traits that have proved to be their undoing.
One of the more visible, and portentous, activations of the astrological Achilles heel was the case of Mohamed Morsi, erstwhile president of Egypt, and its first democratically elected leader. Just inaugurated on June 30, 2012, barely a year later his many missteps and abuses of power brought the largest mass protests in Egyptian history into the streets. On July 3, 2013, Morsi was deposed by the military, and now Egypt faces further turmoil and strife, with a possible escalation into all-out civil war, as Islamist supporters of the Morsi regime clash with secular elements of the society and the military grows increasingly abusive in the display of its authority.
Morsi, born August 20, 1951, has natal Achilles at 5° Gemini, which had been hit repeatedly by transits in the period leading to his downfall. (1) Neptune came to its retrograde station at 5° Pisces, in exact square to natal Achilles, less than a month earlier, and was still at that degree when Morsi was deposed. This transit eroded support and focused attention on the religious zealotry and bigotry that had begun to characterize his administration. Saturn had just formed an exact inconjunct from 5° Scorpio in the prior two weeks and was coming to station at 4° Scorpio, still within orb, just five days later, indicating Morsi’s vulnerability in career matters and imperiling his status as Egypt’s chief executive. A lunar eclipse on May 24 at 4° Sagittarius opposed natal Achilles, setting the stage and softening the ground for transit Achilles, which, at 8° Virgo for Morsi’s fall, was fresh from squaring its natal degree in late June.
Also of note were two political sex scandals that flared across the summer sky. San Diego mayor Bob Filner and “sexting” New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner both broke new scandal ground in late July, when, on July 22nd, a sexual harassment suit was filed against Filner, and on the 23rd, Weiner held a press conference to fess up to the latest allegations that he had sent nude photos of himself online. (An earlier, similar scandal had forced him to resign his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011.)
Filner’s troubles eventually mushroomed into more than 20 women accusing him of improper sexual conduct, advances, and harassment (including two women, both survivors of sexual abuse, that he hit on at a conference where they were presenting their stories). After a week-long hiatus to receive counseling, Filner was eventually forced to resign as San Diego’s mayor, effective August 30th. Weiner attempted to plough through his latest sexting revelations, continuing his campaign for New York mayor with a frank mea culpa and yet more promises not to re-offend, but his support disintegrated, and he went from leading contender to single digits in the polls. He remains on the ballot for New York’s September 10th primary, but this second round of scandal has likely sunk his political aspirations for good.
Incredibly, both men share a birth date, September 4th – Filner in 1942 and Weiner in 1964. So both men were receiving an exact conjunction from transit Achilles at 11° Virgo to their natal Suns when their respective scandals broke, evoking their vulnerability to inherent personality defects. Additionally, both men sport powerful natal Achilles placements that highlight the nature of their indiscretions. Filner’s natal Achilles at 14° Virgo straddles the gap between his Sun at 11° Virgo and Mars at 21° Virgo, emphasizing both the fundamental centrality (Sun) of this character flaw to his nature, and also honing in on the sexual component, via Mars. During the period of his discomfiture, Filner also experienced an Achilles return, with the transit asteroid ending up at 20° Virgo, conjunct natal Mars, when he resigned after just nine months in office. Weiner’s natal Achilles is even more indicative of his issues; it exactly conjoins natal Mars at 23° Cancer and is also conjunct natal Venus at 26° Cancer, showing him to be particularly vulnerable to self-undoing via areas of sexuality and intimacy.
Another political collapse came in the form of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s fall from grace. Previously regarded by his constituency as an honorable straight shooter, a Washington Post expose in mid-June 2013 revealed a pattern of poor judgment regarding the acceptance of gifts from political supporters and campaign donors. In particular, McDonnell was confirmed to have accepted more than $145,000 in gifts and another $120,000 in loans from Star Scientific executive Jonnie Williams, allegedly given in exchange for the governor’s support of a dietary supplement marketed by his company. McDonnell repaid the loans after the Washington Post story broke, and has been working to return or reimburse Williams for the value of the gifts, but his popular support has eroded significantly and, far from helping elect his successor, fellow Republican Ken Cuccinelli, he is now a drag on that candidacy.
When the Washington Post story was published on June 16, 2013, transit Achilles at 5° Virgo was exactly opposed Neptune, ruling bribery and the disappointment or disillusion felt by McDonnell’s supporters. It had just returned to its natal degree of 1° Virgo, reactivating the inherent weakness of character and potential for self-undoing that it represents. (McDonnell was born on June 15, 1954.) Asteroid Achilles was also exactly semisquare transit Venus at 16° Cancer, ruling gifts, which was itself exactly conjunct natal Mercury, ruling the Press. This is an indication that McDonnell is naturally vulnerable to the media, and particularly that day, on the themes of cash, donations, and gifts (all Venus-ruled). Also conjunct natal Achilles is asteroid Virginia at 6° Virgo, named for the state McDonnell governs (conjoined also by transit Achilles when the story broke), suggesting that any public service or official position in Virginia is likely to prove problematic in terms of activating that latent potential for loss via character flaw.
Character flaws of another type were on display August 5, 2013, when New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received a whopping 211 game suspension for his use of PEDs, performance enhancing drugs, to gain an edge in his pro sports career. Rodriguez, too, was experiencing a major contact between natal and transit Achilles, with Achilles in the sky at 14° Virgo forming its waxing square to its natal degree of 16° Gemini (born July 27, 1975). Natally, Achilles is semisquare the 3° Leo Sun, but also forms a broad opposition to Neptune, generally ruling drugs, at 9° Sagittarius, and a tight sextile to asteroid Panacea, named for the goddess of medications and ruling pharmaceuticals, at 15° Aries. Both contacts indicate that drug use can be a major character flaw, potentially imperiling Rodriguez’ life or position. When the suspension was handed down, transit Panacea at 15° Gemini was conjunct natal Achilles and square transit Achilles, which was also sextile transit Mars, ruling athletes and professional sports, at 15° Cancer.
Lastly, let’s consider the ongoing effect of his natal Achilles on the presidency of Barack Obama. One of the major critiques of Obama has been his lack of experience in military matters, from the infamous “3 a.m. phone call” campaign ad in 2008 to assertions of a timorous attitude toward the use of power in his “leading from behind” stance during the Libyan rebellion that unseated Qadaffi and led directly to the attack on the Benghazi consulate, resulting in the death of the U.S. ambassador in 2012. This ambivalent attitude toward things military has been seen as a major weakness, a point of political vulnerability that Obama overcame in his first presidential run due to the American population’s war-weariness after the Bush years.
Now Obama is embroiled in the Syrian civil war, needing to respond to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people, which Obama described a year ago as a “red line” that Assad could not cross without retaliation. After waiting for U.N. inspector reports, and decrying Assad as a “thug and murderer” via the surrogacy of the Vice President, Obama stepped back from the brink of armed reprisal for the chemical attacks when he postponed a decision on action until consulting with Congress, which was still in recess for ten days when the delay was announced on August 31st. Political opponents at home and Syrian authorities abroad both characterized the delay as a sign of weakness, an Achilles keyword.
Why this should be a weak spot for Obama is easy to see in his natal chart, with Achilles at 24° Pisces opposing Mars at 22° Virgo (born August 4,1961). Involvement with military matters is naturally a vulnerability with this placement, something exacerbated by this polarity’s meshing with the U.S.A.’s natal square between Neptune at 22° Virgo and Mars at 21° Gemini, forming a t-square with Obama’s points. In particular, the exact conjunction of Obama’s Mars with the nation’s Neptune renders his military actions and decisions in a potentially poor light, appearing dilatory, confused, and indecisive, all of which can be turned against him and constitute a political Achilles heel for the administration. At the point when Obama deferred his decision, transit Achilles at 20° Virgo was perfectly poised to activate the synastric t-square, in square to the U.S. Mars, conjoining the U.S. Neptune and Obama’s Mars, and coming to oppose its own natal degree in Obama’s chart and psyche. Achilles’ exact conjunction to the U.S. Neptune/Obama Mars pairing occurs September 7-10, just as Congress returns to take up the issue as job #1.
Achilles functions as this identifier of vulnerability and weakness in the birth charts of ordinary mortals, too. In my own nativity, Achilles at 21° Aquarius makes a close opposition to Uranus at 20° Leo, and technology has always been a particular bête noire of mine. Things technological tend to go haywire, with frequent problems, glitches, and breakdowns. Upgrading systems is a nightmare, and my lack of technical aplomb has certainly dented my bank account, as I have no recourse but to call in professional help when these problems arise. It has also been a limiting factor in career development. Granted, all this is exacerbated by Uranus’ conjunction with asteroids Nemesis (harm, ruin, undoing), Pelion (steep uphill climb), and Sisyphus (repetitive, nonproductive actions), plus squares from Karma (fated circumstance) and Mars (anger, conflict, lesser malefic), but Achilles definitely has a role to play in my tech woes.
One client of mine has Achilles in exact conjunction with Juno and semisquare Venus and finds himself bedeviled by partnerships, both romantic and business. They frequently end badly and leave him holding the bag when the partner splits, often fracturing or imperiling financial interests. Another with Achilles square Jupiter has difficulty finishing academic courses of study and has twice failed to certify in disciplines that she has a working command of, as well as encountering unusually adverse circumstances when engaged in international travel (all Jupiter arenas). A third with Achilles opposed Moon has lifelong health issues of a chronic, weakening nature, some stemming from physical abuse by her mother when an infant.
All these examples confirm Achilles’ tendency to project and magnify weakness, and vulnerability or susceptibility to loss, either through character flaws and failings or congenital factors. Their repetitive nature indicates that Achilles continues to impact our lives wherever its natal or transiting placements expose a soft underbelly, an inherent feebleness or fault, which it exploits to our detriment.
(To find out where your own Achilles raises its ugly heel, check out the asteroid ephemeris generator at Serennu.)
(1) Editor’s note: All birth dates are from Wikipedia.
Bio: Alex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of “The Galactic Calendar,” and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society. His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. His work with deep space points and asteroids appears monthly at DayKeeper Journal. Alex can be reached for comment or services at firstname.lastname@example.org