An Astrologer’s Guide To Death


Tell enough people that you’re a professional astrologer, and you’ll get used to a clenched response. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen, they’ll tell you, fearing that you might know something, that a reading may foretell certain doom. Such agitation isn’t necessarily unwarranted. For ages, court astrologers could predict the death of a monarch down to the day… though, in the cases of Louis XI’s seer, and the great oracle Nostradamus, the rich and powerful did not always care to be reminded of their mortality.

As the language around psychology and individuality has evolved, so has our concept of death, from strictly literal to metaphorical. Concepts like ego death and even gender transition inform a more holistic approach to the life cycle. Astrology, itself a study of cycles, is built to reckon with annihilation and resurrection. It’s unlikely that in this century, any ethical practitioner of astrology would predict a client’s death — imagine the lawsuits! — but through the careful and creative reading of a chart, we can glean critical knowledge about the metamorphoses you and your loved ones are set to endure — through lives, incarnations, and modes of being.

THE TURNING POINT

Astrology and occult thought often go through resurgences during periods of death and reckoning. Indeed, the bubonic plague brought on a renewed interest in the stars, and even brought tarot into larger consciousness, as the masses tried to make sense of the unimaginable. “A lot of times, when people come to see an astrologer, they’re in crises,” Theresa Reed, tarot and astrology reader and author, tells NYLON. “They’re going through a shocking loss, or they’ve gotten a diagnosis, or there’s a plague happening in the world. Why they come is often to ask: Am I going to be OK?” Reed’s new book, The Cards You’re Dealt: How to Deal when Life Gets Real, faces this difficult question head-on.

The best place to start, says Reed, is the eighth house, known traditionally as the domain of death and inheritance, where we contemplate the familial order, and how it changes when a loved one dies. If the family patriarch passes, who takes their place? What does a will say about who we were to our loved ones, and who we are to become now that they’re gone?

This part of the chart is essential to understanding what these times of transition look like for you. “The eighth house gives us an idea of the person’s philosophy regarding this topic that we’re all going to deal with at one time or another,” says Reed. “It gives people a perfect opportunity to talk about their fears, anxieties, their plans, and the plans they don’t have.”

Ruled by Scorpio, the eighth is also the house of metamorphosis. Something dies here so that you may be reborn. After the loss of a parent, you understand that you are now the head of your own family. Going through the 12 steps of recovery, you cast aside a previous identity, ready to step into responsibility and presence. Waking up after a surgery, you realize that you’re ready to begin your life anew and leave behind old patterns of self-destruction.

One way or another, the eighth house, the signs it hosts, and any planets therein, will point to your journey through literal and metaphorical death. The reward is psychedelic re-ignition, a spiritual return to the world of the living, and the chance to face the unthinkable head-on. “That’s when the magic happens with astrology,” Reed says. “When you’re talking about it, and being proactive, it’s not that you’re in control of illness or death, but you can be present with it.”

If you’re in the presence of sickness, danger, or the nearing loss of a loved one, Reed says to look out for any planets currently hitting your eighth house. Of course, the big two to consider are Saturn, the planet of finality, and Pluto, the archetype of death and rebirth. Were you born with any planets in your eighth house? Are any of the bigger players, like Saturn, making an aspect to that part of your chart?

In the case of Saturn, Reed notes that the planet of responsibility will show you how you need to take care of yourself, get your affairs in order, and ensure that you’re not ignoring your physical or emotional needs. Pluto will likely lead to bigger conversations about your ancestry and the spiritual baggage that has been passed down through generations. This will be a longer, more psychedelic process, no less important, but further reaching in its scope.

SHINING LIGHT ON IT

The eighth house deals with those critical transitions, those rites which mark the passage from one state of being to the next. But what happens after? Look to the moon.

As the planetary archetype of the mother, the moon taps us into how we have been loved and cared for by our forebears — and what we need to parent ourselves in the present. “The moon is our emotions,” Reed says. “Anytime we’re going through a difficult transit to our moon, it’s not: oh my God, this is a terrible thing that’s happening, you’re going to be sad and depressed. Instead, it might be giving hints so that we can grieve in a healthy way. That looks different for everybody. Just as we all have different moons, we all process our grief differently.”

A Libra moon may take charge of organizing the Shiva, then, after a long week of managing family and friends, duck out to Vegas to blow off steam in total anonymity. At that same Shiva, the Cancer moon of the family will be passive-aggressively demanding attention, and damn it, they deserve the extra hugs, and to eat a little more rugelach than is necessary.

OTHER HOUSES ON THE JOURNEY

Your chart has endless information when it comes to the next phase of life, after you’ve experienced loss or reinvention. The ninth house is traditionally known as the domain of travel and spirituality, the realm of expanding consciousness. After enduring what Drew Barrymore calls, in Donnie Darko, a “recent brush with mass destruction,” you may have big questions that set you out on a journey to parts unknown. The nature of your ninth house will help inform the spiritual voyage necessary for your healing.

And then comes the 12th house, the end of the chart, where we heal and process all that’s been learned over the previous 11 signs. We’ve noted that this house provides information about past lives and ancestral karma. But the 12th house is said to deal with hospitals, therapists’ offices, and even artist’s studios — anywhere we go to incubate and seek care, to process and release before the cycle begins again. How you need to move through your feelings, what you need to finally throw in the fire, and what remains to be held, are all revealed here.

YOUR CHART, YOUR CHOICE

Like it or not, astrology promises that the cosmos keeps moving, and that, inevitably, the cycle will close and begin anew, over and over again. By embracing the system of death and rebirth, and by understanding how you’re wired to process, grieve, and heal, you can at least meet life’s harder tests with compassion and clarity. The mystic initiate is not expected to transcend pain or avoid loss. But if you’ve taken to astrology and find yourself asking questions that go beyond the hospital bed, you’re ready to see meaning in everything, and embrace what comes next with curiosity. Your chart will help you find new wholeness — if you know where to look.

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