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Mata Hari

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely Players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His Acts being seven ages.”
  William Shakespeare

Adorned with an impressive stellium in Leo, Mata Hari was better equipped than anyone with the wisdom that life is a play. Born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in the Netherlands in 1876, she boldly penned her own narrative, constantly reinventing herself and fashioning the enigmatic persona of Mata Hari. The majestical light of her leonine planets shines brightly through the fabric of her colorful life as an exotic dancer and alleged WWI spy.

Let’s step into the theater of Margaretha’s chart and look at the roles the planets are playing.

Source: Astrodatabank

The First Act: The Flamboyant Daughter

Margaretha grew up in a relatively affluent family in the Netherlands. The 4th house ruler Saturn is co-present with the natural significator of family, the Moon, and they both reside as guests in the Piscean abode of the benefic planet Jupiter. Enjoying plenty of freedom as well as the best available education, she was encouraged by her flamboyant father, Adam Zelle, who was a successful hat shop owner. Nicknamed “the Baron,” I imagine her father to be represented by the noble Sun in this chart. Sol, in many charts the natural signifier of the father, lives high and proud at the top of the chart in his domicile of Leo. Adam delighted in his “informal title.” Margaretha was his favorite child, and he showered her with extravagant gifts, encouraging her to follow in his flamboyant footsteps.

Notice how 1st house ruler Mars, signifying Margaretha, approaches the end of its cycle in relation to the Sun. Mars, currently obscured due to its proximity to the Sun, symbolizes the protective influence Margaretha receives from her father. As we delve further, we will discover similar guardianship extended to her by several authoritative figures later in life. Despite being combust, Mars benefits from the benevolent solar generosity owing to the favorable positioning of the Sun in Leo. However, this conjunction also signifies a potential conflict, as Mars, traditionally considered a malefic planet, casts its disruptive influence upon the Sun. This suggests that while Margaretha may enjoy protection, this guardianship might also carry unforeseen consequences.

At one time, Margaretha captivated the entire town, exuding an aura of regal splendor as she traveled in a goat-drawn carriage, an opulent gift from her doting father. In school, Margaretha often appeared in new, flashy dresses. Indicated by benefic planet Venus’s presence in the 9th house of education, she was provided with top-notch education, which included piano instruction, horseback riding, as well as fluency in German, French, and English.

The Second Act: The Abandoned Child

Despite his ostentatious overindulgence, Margaretha’s father ran off with another woman after going bankrupt, abandoning his family in the summer of 1889. Both Pluto and Neptune were squaring Margaretha’s natal 4th house ruler Saturn, effectively disbanding the family. With Saturn transiting her 1st-house ruler in Leo around that time, we might also consider the Great Senex prodding her towards a deeper emotional maturity.

Two years later, in June 1891, as Saturn opposed the natal Moon and Pluto and Neptune approached their square to the Moon, Margaretha’s mother, Antje van der Meulen, died from tuberculosis. The Moon, subjected to three tumultuous transits, indicated the harrowing disintegration of Margaretha’s family. She and her three brothers were dispersed among various relatives, frequently moving from one household to another. Gone were the carefree days of her childhood.

The Third Act: The Scapegoat

Lodging with relatives, Margaretha enrolled in a teacher-training college to become a kindergarten teacher. The headmaster, Wybrandus Haanstra, in his 50s, took an inappropriate interest in Margaretha and pursued her. When this incident came to light in the late summer or early fall of 1893, Saturn was traveling through her 12th house and squaring natal Venus in the 9th house of education.

Natal Venus is almost standing still, after having turned direct only two days before Margaretha’s birth. This important planetary phase, together with a close trine aspect to the degree of the Ascendant, magnifies Venus’s overall significance in the birth chart. The theme of sexuality and relationships plays a crucial role in this chart, sometimes leading to her downfall as Venus is the ruler of the 12th house, associated with scandal and unconscious self-undoing.

Margaretha was asked to leave the school, whereas the headmaster suffered no consequences for his actions. This pattern where Venusian activity leads to negative consequences will reemerge later in life.

From another perspective, we can also revisit Mars’s proximity to the Sun, underlining general challenges with authority figures.

The Fourth Act: The Adventurer

Restless and yearning for adventure, Margaretha voiced her desire to “live like a butterfly in the sun,” as she later recounted in an interview. Drawn to the lavish lifestyles led by officers stationed in the Dutch Indies (now Indonesia) residing in large houses with numerous servants, she harbored a fascination for men in uniform. Once more, Mars, under the beams of the Sun, hints at Margaretha’s attraction to “commanding figures,” suggesting a magnetic pull towards solar personalities.

At 18, during her nodal return and between the eclipses in March 1895, she answered an advertisement in a newspaper facetiously placed by a friend of Rudolf MacLeod, a 38-year-old Dutch Colonial Army Captain. Six days after they met, they became engaged to be married on July 11, 1895. The marriage chart shows a prominently positioned Jupiter, exalted and cazimi, and close to Margaretha’s Venus. This alignment poignantly demonstrates her ascent into the Dutch upper class.

Venus in the 9th house lets Margaretha’s marriage take her abroad. Leaving the Netherlands for Java on May 1, 1897, Margaretha thought her dream was coming true. She became enamored with Indonesian culture. Mars is closely connected to Mercury, the ruler of the 11th house of friends, allies, and groups. Margaretha loved being part of the social circle of the military elite and regularly entertained guests. Not surprisingly, a youthful Mars in Leo combined with a freedom-loving Jupiter in the 1st house, found it impossible to play the role of obedient housewife.

The couple welcomed two children, Norman-John and Louise Jeanne, yet their marriage was characterized by constant struggles. A classic indicator of marriage, the Moon is co-present with a retrograde Saturn in Pisces, which does not only indicate the 20-year age gap between Rudolf and Margaretha but also the hardships they faced as a couple, aggravated by Rudolf’s infidelity and alcoholism. Two years into their marriage, Margaretha contracted syphilis as a result of Rudolf’s philandering.

“My own husband has given me a distaste for matters sexual.”  Margaretha Zelle (1)

Additionally, Rudolph openly kept a Javanese woman as a concubine. He frequently raged over the attention his vibrant and flirtatious wife garnered from other officers. At one point, he even attacked her with a bread knife.

“I can only tell you that out of passion and madness, he almost killed me with the bread knife on a Sunday afternoon and that I owe my life to a chair that fell over and gave me time to find the door and get help.” Margaretha Zelle, November(2)

Margaretha temporarily moved in with another Dutch officer’s family.  She enjoyed studying the local culture and joined a dance company. She soon came up with her artistic name Mata Hari, which is the word for the Sun – “eye of the day” in the local Malay language. It couldn’t be more fitting! I wonder if she was aware of her birth chart.

The Fifth Act: The Mother

In June 1899, as progressed Mars came within three degrees of opposing progressed Saturn in the 5th house, both children fell violently ill. Margaretha and Rudolf suspected that a disgruntled servant poisoned their children. It was rumored that they had congenital syphilis, which was commonly treated with mercury. Did someone administer the wrong dosage? Unfortunately, Norman-John did not survive the poisoning.

In Margaretha’s solar return chart for that year, we see Pisces rising, bringing the topic of children to the foreground. Ruler Jupiter is in the 8th house of death. The South Node in the solar return is in the 5th, pointing to sudden shifts and potential loss relating to children.

Whether the cause of death was the treatment of syphilis or deliberate poisoning, we can see natal Saturn, the natural ruler of poison, residing in the 5th house. In a sextile aspect with Neptune, Saturn introduces an element of mystery into the theme of children.

The superior whole-sign square — a powerful omen in traditional astrology —from an invisible natal Mars to Jupiter, the 5th-house ruler, does make me wonder about foul play.

When their son died, the marriage died with him, and upon their return to the Netherlands in March 1902, the couple separated. In a 2nd house profection year, Jupiter served as Lord of the Year. This not only triggered the long journey back home but also, given Jupiter’s debilitated position in Capricorn in the solar return chart for the year, indicated looming financial hardships. Despite securing legal custody of her daughter, Margaretha faced a challenge when Rudolf declined to provide the agreed-upon allowance. Struggling to support her daughter, she ultimately had no option but to return her to Rudolf.

The Sixth Act: The Star

“I thought all women who ran away from their husbands went [to Paris].” Margaretha Zelle (3)

Leaving for Paris in search of a new role to play, Margaretha earned a living by giving piano lessons, teaching German, and as a model for a department store. In 1904, true to Jupiter in the 1st house and especially the Sun at the top of the chart, she became a circus equestrian. Around that time, Saturn was transiting the 4th house, squaring Jupiter in the 1st house, and opposing the 10th house stellium. This is when she felt compelled to let go of her old self and fully adopt the persona of Mata Hari.

Projecting an aura of sophistication and refinement, she found a more lucrative job as an artist’s model for a few well-known Montmartre painters like Edouard Bisson and Octave D.V. Guillonnet. Through them, she met Émile Guimet, a very influential figure in Parisian society. Struck by Margaretha’s leonine grace, he suggested that she try dancing in a private salon.

The debut of her sensual and seductive performance as Mata Hari for a highbrow audience at the Musée Guimet on March 13, 1905 turned her life around. She became an overnight success. In a 5th house profection year, ruler Jupiter was activated as the Lord of the Year. Exactly on March 13, there was also a level 4 loosing of the bond in Jupiter’s fire sign Sagittarius through zodiacal releasing from the Lot of Fortune. In her solar return chart, Jupiter at 29° Aries made an auspicious trine to her natal Midheaven. Thanks to this triple activation of Jupiter, her new identity as Mata Hari was firmly established and widely acclaimed.

Jupiter’s significations stand out beautifully as Mata Hari claimed to demonstrate the art of “sacred temple-dancing.” Spinning a royal thread around her appearance, she turned a common striptease act into an enchanting, and even “educational” art. She was at the right place at the right time to enjoy the best of La Belle Époque. By 1907, she had earned a fortune but true to Jupiter’s generosity, she also did her best to spend it all.

Mata Hari’s performances were shrouded as cultural events at which the Parisian elite could catch a glimpse of the mysterious East. Venus in the 9th ensured her success abroad as she toured the most prestigious venues in Berlin, Vienna, Monte Carlo, and Milan. Paid by designers to wear their clothes and jewelry at parties, she mingled with aristocrats and earned a great deal of money.

Hidden under Sol’s rays, Mars symbolizes the secrecy around Mata Hari’s true identity. Claiming she was a Javanese princess, and speaking a few words in Malay now and then, she added mystique to the myth that she embodied.

The Seventh Act: The Spy

The wonderful Belle Epoque ended abruptly when the First World War started, and by that time, the success of Mata Hari’s tantalizing performances had already dwindled. Replaced by numerous younger imitators, 40-year-old Mata Hari relied on her advantageous liaisons with government officials, industrialists, and military officers that allowed her to carry on with the luxurious lifestyle to which she had become accustomed.

Living in Germany when the war broke out, her assets were seized by the German authorities. However, being a citizen of neutral Holland afforded her the freedom to travel, a privilege she readily utilized. Her frequent travels raised eyebrows among British and French intelligence, leading them to place her under surveillance.

Due to Mata Hari’s fluency in French and German, coupled with her association with influential circles, the German consul in Amsterdam proposed a lucrative offer of 20,000 francs for her to procure French intelligence. Subsequently, in August 1916, she was approached by French authorities who solicited her as a spy. Desperate for funds to support her beloved, Russian captain Vladimir de Masloff, injured on the front lines, she provided both the French and Germans with information of minimal value.

“If indeed she was a spy,” writes Pat Shipman in Femme Fatale, “Mata Hari surely ranks among the world’s most inept agents… “ (4)

The progressed Balsamic Moon, sandwiched between aspects to Mars and Saturn, was taking Mata Hari to her downfall. Despite the lack of direct evidence against her, she was convicted of espionage in the summer of 1916 and executed by a firing squad on October 15, 1917, less than three months before a progressed solar eclipse. Numerous historians argue that Mata Hari was framed by the French, who sought a scapegoat to rationalize their significant losses during the war. She found herself in the unfortunate position of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Death is nothing, nor life either, for that matter. To die, to sleep, to pass into nothingness, what does it matter? Everything is an illusion.”  Mata Hari (5)

Since nobody claimed her remains, they were donated to the University of Paris Medical School for dissection. Surprisingly, her embalmed head vanished in the 1950s, sparking speculation and intrigue. Some stories assert that her head was preserved and kept as a macabre relic, while others suggest that it was lost or destroyed over time. Even in death, Mata Hari’s hidden Mars has the last word, leaving a lingering sense of mystery.
Painting of Mata Hari by Isaac Israëls (1916)

Footnotes and References:

(1) The Guardian Mother, dancer, wife, spy: the real Mata Hari

(2) Fries Museum mata hari

(3) The Guardian Mother, dancer, wife, spy: the real Mata Hari

(4) BBC Who was the real Mata Hari?

(5) Thoughtco Mata Hari

Further references:

Britannica Mata Hari, Dutch dancer and spy

Biography Mata Hari

Grunge The Crazy Real Life Story of Mata Hari

Michelle Corbesier is an astrologer and artist residing in Belgium with her beloved husband and furry companions. Offering natal, horary, and synastry consultations, Michelle is passionate about guiding others on their journeys of self-discovery and empowerment. Sharing her love for the starry craft, she also provides private tutoring and mentoring to aspiring stargazers. As a co-founder of astro-zine Astrum Opus on Substack, she frequently writes forecasting articles and chart delineations. Get in touch with Michelle at michellesmidheaven, or Michelle’s Midheaven on Substack, Instagram, YouTube, MeWe, and Facebook.

4 Comments

  1. Fascinating, thank you. I just wanted to add, I had seen a doumentary on the protection of the grave of Shakespeare because of the (macabre) pastime of some collectors who would desecrate the graves of the famous to collect their head. Mata Hari was not alone in this gruesome experience. Here is an article about this: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/66343/6-historical-heads-stolen-their-graves
    It’s also worth saying that the Mars in Leo is conjunct Regulus. In her chart, with Mercury, the source of the popularity and fame, but wiht the Sun, her power, influence and riches also holds violence, sickness and ultimate disgrace and ruin. A famous ex-President has this Regulus Mars, too, and with the Ascendant, just into the 12th. We see all the benefits that have been given, even protection from enemies, but ultimately, all these will ‘at last suffer an eclipse’ and the end is an unhappy death. (Regulus info from Vivian E. Robson, The Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology)

    • Hi Shellie, thank you so much for reading. That’s so incredibly fascinating about the “head collectors!” Thanks for the link. Interestingly enough, I notice a lot of these cases have interesting Mercury/Mars connections.

      You mean Regulus conjoining the MC, right? At the time of Mata Hari’s birth, Regulus was at 28°06′. That could definitely emphasize the regal attitude she cultivated to conduct her performances.

  2. I found this article insightful into the workings of the Mars/Sun conjunction in her chart.


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