Bowie Turns To Face The Strange
David Bowie must have known he was dying when he recorded ★ (Blackstar), his final album, released on his to birthday three days ago. It’s a privilege to hear from this liminal place, the place between this world and the next, from such a great artist and poetic visionary.
The title song ★ is an apocalyptic vision, possibly a warning about the dark tides sweeping through the collective mind. The song Lazarus is about being dead. Can’t Give Everything Away, the final song on the album, sounds exactly like a swan song.
In both the videos for his last album, Bowie is blindfolded. This is inner vision. It’s somewhere he has taken us before. His conjunction of Mars (energy), Sun (life) and Mercury (communication) in the shamanic sign of Capricorn is mostly in the 12th house of the collective unconscious — perhaps this was where he was most comfortable. Capricorn at its finest connects the spiritual with the material — connects the ancestors to us and to the future. It’s interesting that he’s said the creative process could make him “quite angry” — Marsy.
This is also the house of loss of self or self-undoing. Twelfth house people often spend time ill, addicted or lost in their heads. The 12th house is our inner space, boundless, the star-studded sky within. This is the space that Bowie often explored.
Bowie is a Uranian — with Aquarius Rising and the North Node conjunct Uranus. Uranus is on the point of a decisive Yod from Jupiter and Mars-Sun. Uranus is the planet of aliens, space travel and futurism. And the North Node is the gateway to the future. Even in his last album, Bowie’s experimenting with new ways of making music and movies. He’s so inventive. He is the poet of strangeness, of feeling weird, of being an outsider, disjointed, of disjuncture.
A poetic image that recurs in his work is the astronaut lost in space. In the video for ★ the astronaut is back, but he’s no longer living. All that is left of him is a jewel encrusted skull worshipped backwards.
No wonder Bowie’s last visions are so very dark. His solar stellium has been transited by Pluto, the Lord of the Underworld, for several years. Right now, Uranus, his guiding planet, is exactly squaring his Sun. The Sun by transit has travelled in the last few days from Pluto to Bowie’s Sun. On Bowie’s birthday (Jan 8), Jupiter, who is often the angel of death, turned retrograde.
Bowie is well-versed in esoteric ideas. The ★ in the film looks like the five-pointed communist red star — indeed he holds a book rather like Mao’s little red book — but it may also refer to Saturn, called the black star in esoteric literature. Or it may refer to a kind of negative Venus, who is also represented by a five-pointed star because of the pentacle pattern her retrogrades make in the sky. All of these are probably true. It’s a multi-layered poetic vision, and therefore more powerful because the meaning comes at you slantwise through your 12th house.
Saturn, according to astrologer Liz Green, is the dweller on the threshold, between the inner planets and the outer planets, in other words, between the personal and the collective. This is the space of ★, the threshold between this world and the next. Until quite recently, Saturn was believed to be the last planet in the solar system. Saturn, of course, rules Capricorn Bowie’s Sun sign and traditionally, his Ascendant (although Aquarius does have two rulers, Uranus and Saturn).
In his natal chart, Saturn is conjunct the Moon and Pluto in Leo, the sign of the performer and artist. You can expect Bowie’s work to have long-lasting impact (Saturn), and we know already that his career was long, varied (lunar) and inspiring (Leo). The strength of this seventh house shows how important partnership was to him — both in his private life and at work. All his best work is collaborative. He has needed other people to help him pull out that huge imagination and inner vision. This final album is released as Saturn transits Venus and the MC and moves into the 10th house of status. This is 30 years of work harvested, status confirmed.
But we could pick this chart apart indefinitely, thanks the richness of Bowie’s cultural legacy and the strange beauty of it. (Bowie’s Venus on the MC = a career as an artist.) Instead, here’s one more thought on Saturn, the grim reaper, on the day he died, Saturn conjoined Bowie’s South Node. This is called Ketu in Indian astrology and it brings the cycle of birth and death to a close.
Rest in peace — and thank you.