On Monday August 11, 2014, the world was shocked and sorrowed to hear of the death of legendary comedian and actor Robin Williams. Williams’ personal assistant found him hanging from his bedroom closet door shortly before noon.
The breadth of Williams’ talent is hard to describe. A frenetic, super-charged, stand-up performer, his ability to ad-lib was unequaled. In 1992 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ nomination committee refused to submit Disney’s animated film Aladdin for an Oscar (best-adapted screenplay) on the grounds that Williams, who voiced the genie, had ad-libbed so much that a large portion of the movie was essentially unscripted. In one brief extemporaneous speech, analysts chronicled more than 50 distinct characters, accents, and impressions in under two minutes, all done off the cuff. Williams’ comedy styling also graced such live action hits as Hook (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), and The Birdcage (1996).
But it wasn’t just his comedic performances that drew audiences. The poignancy of his dramatic roles in such films as Dead Poets Society (1989), The Fisher King (1991), and Good Will Hunting (1997), for which he won a best supporting actor Oscar, established Williams as a serious actor. In total, the global box office take from his 80 films is in excess of $6 billion.
But, as is often the case with genius, there was a downside as well. Williams struggled with addiction all his life, and like any good artist, he used this pain in his work, regularly riffing on the life-altering effects of his substance abuse in stand-up routines. Depression was another frequently encountered demon, and in the end, it claimed his life. Some days after his death, his wife Susan Schneider revealed that Williams had recently received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, which he was grappling with but had not yet made public.
Born at 1:34 p.m. CST on July 21, 1951 in Chicago, Illinois, Robin Williams’ birth chart reflects a life torn between comedy and tragedy. (1) His 28° Cancer Sun exactly conjoins a black hole, the source of the seemingly boundless energy animating his performances on stage and screen, but exacting the price of a private life saddled with addiction and two failed marriages. The black hole granted that chameleon-like ability to slip into any guise or character at whim, effortlessly and convincingly, but it also denoted a self-absorption that was crippling to the interpersonal relationships so critical to recovery from habitual substance abuse.
Mercury is the star of the chart; at 22° Leo it exactly conjoins the Midheaven, the point of highest elevation and the focus of all eyes. And indeed, it was Williams’ matchless vocal skills that drove his career (with Mercury just minutes into the 10th house). Slipping seamlessly from one persona to the next, Williams riffed off the male and female characters that seemed to explode from his mind with Gatling gun swiftness and force. A master of accents, he could be an old Yiddish grandpa one moment and an LA Valley Girl the next, with Russian, Indian, Brazilian, and Chinese characters in between. Mercury conjoins Pluto at 18° Leo, allowing Williams to manipulate the rich verbal skills he inherited, and empowering his career path in the process. But Mercury-Pluto carries its own demons, and can open the native to a dark and threatening underworld, depressing and bleak.
Williams’ big break came in a guest appearance as Mork the alien in a Happy Days episode in February 1978. The character was so wildly popular with fans that ABC added a spin-off, Mork and Mindy, to its fall line-up. The show ran four seasons, at the end of which Williams was an established film star.
But his early film roles garnered little critical acclaim, causing Williams to doubt his talent, and his retreat into drug and alcohol use began, reflected by the 12th-house placement of Neptune at 16° Libra. His cocaine addiction went largely undetected by him until the overdose death of friend and party companion John Belushi, in 1982. Williams described this event as “a wake-up call,” prompting his first visit to rehab. Neptunian overindulgence is foreshadowed by its opposition to expansive Jupiter at 13° Aries, which magnifies whatever it touches. The Jupiter-Neptune opposition becomes a t-square when we factor in a Mars-Uranus conjunction at 11° and 10° Cancer, making this a formative agent of his character. With his fame (Jupiter) based in an energetic, almost violent (Mars) quirkiness (Uranus), Williams was thrown back on his heels by a lack of faith (Neptune) and the need to escape when reality became too real (Neptune).
A variety of mythic and personal-named asteroids flesh out the portrait. The pull toward intoxicants is shown clearly with two conjunctions to the 10° Virgo Venus, the thing we are attracted to, from Panacea (named for the Greek goddess of medicines and thus ruling all types of pharmaceuticals, legal or otherwise) at 3° Virgo, and Bacchus (named for the Roman god of wine and revels) at 13° Virgo. Additionally, the pairing of Dionysus (Greek god of wine and ecstatic trance) and Nemesis (undoing) at 29° and 24° Leo in the 10th house shows clearly the weak spot in his work life and the ding to his reputation from substance abuse.
Robin Williams is the first celebrity I have profiled who has an asteroid actually named for him — asteroid Robinwilliams (#12820). Astoundingly, although not discovered until 1996, when Williams was 45, this teeny bit of space debris falls at 11° Scorpio, just one degree from his natal 12° Scorpio Ascendant, the point where we present ourselves to the world. This example alone should be sufficient to testify to the power and impact these points have in our lives when they strongly resonate with us.
But the personal-named asteroids (PNA) story doesn’t end there. An asteroid named Robyn and another named Williams appear together, at 9° and 6° Leo, in the company of two mythic-named asteroids very key to his life path — Thalia and Melpomene, at 13° and 10° Leo, respectively. Individuals having both first and last name PNA referents conjunct in the birth chart tend toward very focused, directed, and driven lives, for good or ill; it represents an augmentation of energies where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Thalia is named for the muse of comedy and is itself exactly conjunct asteroid Circe, the enchantress. Williams certainly bewitched us all with his comedic turns, but Melpomene (named for the muse of tragedy) reflects his dramatic abilities, the darker path taken in his private life, and his tragic end.
Speaking of which, self-destruction is hinted at in several “suicide” asteroid placements in this birth chart: Ajax, Antigone, Arachne, and Phaedra, all classic Greek characters who killed themselves, and Ophelia, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who drowned herself in an excess of despair and insanity. Ajax at 10° Cancer falls exactly on the Mars-Uranus conjunction, further activating the Neptune-based t-square, while Ophelia at 15° Capricorn opposes Ajax, filling in the empty leg of that grand cross.
Arachne at 26° Gemini is sextile the Sun and forms a t-square with the Saturn bundle and natal Chiron at 27° Sagittarius, a point which represents deep wounds that may never heal. This grouping also involves the Galactic Center at 26° Sagittarius, which grants global attention or notice. In this case, the contact proved powerful for Williams’ career (Saturn), but also for his death (Atropos), with his suicide (Antigone/Arachne) garnering immediate international attention. Phaedra conjoins Arachne from 21° Gemini, feeding into the same pattern and drawing the Antigone/Atropos element more strongly into it. Perhaps significantly, the method of suicide chosen by each of these Greek heroines was hanging.
Williams’ PNA contacts follow him throughout his life and career. His breakout performance in the Happy Days episode, “My Favorite Orkan,” aired on February 28, 1978, with the Sun at 9° Pisces exactly on his natal Moon — Williams was ready to shine (Sun) and the public (Moon) took notice and embraced him. Jupiter at 26° Gemini trined transit asteroid Robyn at 23° Aquarius and squared natal Saturn at 27° Virgo, providing a personal link (Robyn) to the expansion (Jupiter) of career (Saturn) the role would provide him. Transit asteroid Williams at 17° Libra was traveling with Pluto at 16° Libra, showcasing the huge transformation and empowerment that was to ensue (these conjoin natal Neptune, ruling TV). The Pluto conjunction is exact, showing the transformative agent the small screen would be for him. Transit Robinwilliams at 21° Pisces paired with Venus at 18°, indicating his immense popular appeal.
That strong Venus and Pluto emphasis holds for Mork and Mindy’s premiere on September 14, 1978, with asteroid Williams now in Venus’ tight embrace, from 5° and 6° Scorpio, aligning with Williams’ natal Ascendant. Transit asteroid Robyn at 19° Aries had recently conjoined his natal Jupiter at 13° Aries and opposed transit Pluto at 15° Libra, repeating the theme of transformation and empowerment. Transit Robinwilliams at 26° Taurus was trine the 21° Virgo Sun.
The winner of two Emmys, five Grammys, four Golden Globes, and two SAG awards, Williams was nominated for an Academy Award four times, winning Best Supporting Actor in 1998 for Good Will Hunting. When the awards were presented on March 23rd, transit Robinwilliams at 28° Pisces aligned with the 2° Aries Sun, marking him as central to the proceedings, and fell in an exact trine to his natal Sun, a karmic benefit long overdue.
Married three times, all his wives appear in PNA form at appropriate points. First wife Valerie Velardi, whom he met while working as a bartender before finding fame, is represented by asteroid Valeria, which at 4° Capricorn opposes Mars at 10° Capricorn, suggesting a strong sexual attraction but some friction in the relationship as well; they have one son, Zachary, and divorced in 1988 after ten years of marriage. Within the year he had married Marsha Garces, his son’s nanny, already pregnant. Asteroid Marcia (phonetic match for Marsha) appears at 11° Scorpio, exactly conjunct natal Robinwilliams and on the Ascendant, suggesting a match of propinquity (the exact PNA conjunction), and a need to regularize their relationship in front of others (the Ascendant contact). They had two children, Zelda and Cody, and divorced in 2008 (the longevity of this match also reflects the Ascendant conjunction — she was the “public face” of his private life for two decades). Williams married graphic designer Susan Schneider in 2011; represented by asteroid Susanna, this point’s 6° Virgo conjunction with Venus at 10° Virgo suggests a love match at last.
When Williams died on August 11th, the transit Sun at 18° Leo had come to exactly conjoin natal Pluto. Mercury at 21° Leo had crested his natal Midheaven and was about to return to its natal degree, culminating its final cycle for the man whose voice captivated millions across the globe. A combination of Jupiter, Requiem (named for the funeral mass for the dead), and Panacea at 5°, 6°, and 7° Leo straddles the natal Robyn/Williams conjunction and tells the guts of the story — a celebrity (Jupiter) death (Requiem) with drug use implications (Panacea — Williams had entered rehab again just weeks before his death, to “focus” on sobriety).
Transit Pluto, ruling suicide, at 11° Capricorn had been stressing the Mars-Uranus-Ajax combination all year, and now exactly opposed Mars. Transit Ajax at 23° Virgo was conjoined natal Antigone-Atropos and approaching Saturn, following close behind transit Atropos at 29° Virgo, which had recently made its natal return and passed over the triple conjunction. Transit Antigone at 15° Virgo was also nearing her return to her natal degree, while transit Ophelia at 15° Taurus conjoined the Descendant and opposed natal Robinwilliams.
A sad end to one of the most unique and irreplaceable performers the world has ever seen.
(1) Birth data obtained from Lois Rodden’s AstroDataBank, rated AA.
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