Aretha Franklin was born with 15°46’ Scorpio on the Ascendant — the middle degrees of the fixed signs are the place of maximum strength in the zodiac. Midway between the equinox and the solstice, 15° of the fixed signs carry the concentration, endurance, and focus of their respective season. In mid Scorpio, the life-sustaining presence (and emotional depth) of water is greatly potentized. (1)
Aretha Franklin, natal
March 25, 1942
10:30 p.m. CWT
Memphis, TN, USA (35°N09’, 90°W03’)
Porphyry houses; True node
(chart created by Graphic Astrology, IO edition)
She knew the turbulence of the Scorpio Ascendant in her personal life (which she did not like to talk about), and she was sturdy and reserved.
In a tribute in The Guardian, Dorian Lynskey writes that “… she liked to downplay her own exceptionalism and say that she felt the same pain that everybody did — it’s just that she could sing that pain better than anyone else … This daughter of the church was always moving on up, always overcoming. She might bend but she would never break.” (2)
I am reminded of Isabel Hickey’s memorable words: “No unevolved soul is born with a Scorpio Ascendant. The razor-edged path that can only be tread when there is strength and power enough to do so.” (3)
The Queen of Soul has both luminaries dignified in the natal horoscope: The Sun, ruler of the Leo Midheaven, is at 4°50’ Aries, the sign of its exaltation. And the Moon, ruler of the 9th house of religion, is in its home sign of Cancer.
As Aretha was born at night at the First Quarter, the Moon is gaining in light and the power to manifest.
I did not know anything about her personal life, and the commentators I heard after her passing spoke of her dedication to her family (she had four sons, the first born when she was 12). (4) Her father was minister of the New Bethel Baptist Church, and her mother was the choir mistress during Aretha’s earliest years. She had two sisters who were both singers and songwriters (and sometimes her backup singers). Both preceded her in death.
The traditional ruler of Scorpio, Mars, is in Gemini conjunct Jupiter; her dexterous musical gifts are part of her biography. She was from a musical family and learned to play piano by ear as a child. She was also an arranger and recorded her first album when she was 14.
It is her voice and the enormous feeling it carried that moved the world. Describing her voice on that first album, her producer Jerry Wexler explained that it “was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic hierophant.” (5)
Venus, traditional ruler of the voice, is in Aquarius, square to Saturn in Taurus (and in mutual reception). In the Guardian article noted above, the author writes: “In fact, her voice’s perfect alloy of pleasure and pain, suffering and endurance, sex and spirituality, virtually constituted a scientific formula. ‘This is a voice that has not only sound but a smell and a depth,’ said poet Nikki Giovanni. ‘A taste. You hear Aretha, but you also lick your lips.’”
Using traditional rulers, Mercury in Pisces is in mutual reception with Jupiter in Gemini and in square aspect, strengthening the capacity of those planets to interact. Mercury rules the natal 8th house (the occult) and the 11th house (hopes and aspirations) — the swift-footed messenger travels naturally in those dimensions. In the Guardian article about Aretha, singer Mary J. Blige is quoted as saying: “When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her.”
Mercury in Pisces is also tightly conjunct the South Node — a voice from the depths of the ages.
Aretha Franklin passed away on at her home in Detroit, MI on August 16 at 9:50 a.m., surrounded by friends and family. (6) Transiting Jupiter was at 15° Scorpio conjunct the Ascendant, and the Sun was at 23°39’ Leo, on the MC. (Although not shown here, the progressed Sun was at 19° Gemini, just into the natal 8th house.)
Bi-wheel: inner: natal, outer: transits to her death in Detroit, MI
Rest in Peace to the “voice that gave America its heart and soul.”
(1) Aretha Franklin, March 25, 1942; 10:30 p.m. CWT; Memphis, TN, USA (35°N09’, 90°W03’); AA rating: Astro.com
(2) A voice that gave America its heart and soul: Aretha Franklin The Guardian
(3) Isabel M. Hickey, Astrology: A Cosmic Science, Altieri Press, 1970, p. 78.
(4) Biographical material and quotes (unless otherwise stated) are from Wikipedia.
(5) “A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.” Wikipedia.
The Hierophant is also a card of the Major Arcana in the Tarot.