DS2 trio

Call Me Barnabas

It’s a AAA Halloween “Dark Shadows” double-header!  We’ve already looked at the astrology of everybody’s favorite ‘60s gothic soap; how about the men who played the lead role of Barnabas Collins, in that series and subsequent productions?  From character originator Jonathan Frid to TV remake star Ben Cross and widescreen heartthrob Johnny Depp, the men who have assailed the role of the tragic vampire with a conscience all seem marked for the part from birth.

Born 2 December 1924 in Hamilton, Canada, Jonathan Frid was already an accomplished stage actor in his early 40s when Barnabas Collins came knocking. His stylized Shakespearean elocution and aristocratic bearing won him the role of the stilted, stiff, antiquated vampire, exuding a pomaded nimbus redolent of a faded gentility of days gone by.  Barnabas was the first popular vampire to have a conscience, paving the unhallowed ground for Anne Rice’s tortured Louis in “Interview with the Vampire” a decade later.

DS2 frid pic
The iconic image of Barnabas Collins, posed in modern day before his 18th century portrait; Jonathan Frid, who originated the role, had Sun opposed asteroid Barney, closest to Barnabas

Whereas most vampires before DS had been portrayed as depraved monsters, incapable of human emotion, Barnabas deprecated his sorry existence, feeling pity and empathy for those upon whom he was forced to feed to survive, and much of the series’ plotline was spent in trying to find his cure. Darkly mysterious, sympathetic but ultimately unapproachable, Barnabas gave and received love, friendship and trust, but found betrayal, suspicion and animosity, and in the process collected scores of panting female fans, caught in the web of his vulnerability and pain.

That Frid tapped into such a strong current of American culture may be explained by some stunning astrological contacts to the US natal chart. With his Pluto at 13 Cancer an exact match for the US Sun, Frid became the embodiment of all that was seething under the polite veneer of American cultural norms that were in the process of major breakdown as Uranus and Pluto made their mid-Virgo conjunction, that summer of 1966 when DS premiered.

Frid’s Pluto was the repository of the mystery, horror, and sexual power that was percolating up from the collective unconscious. With his natal 10 Sagittarius Sun conjoined the nation’s Ascendant at 12 Sagittarius, Frid’s Barnabas became a household name conveying a smoldering yet refined sexuality, a bloodlust held in check only by his Old-World manners and the ABC censors.

DS2 cross pic
Ben Cross, who revived Barnabas for the 1990s series reboot, strikes a pose before his antique likeness; Cross has asteroid Collins conjunct asteroid Cross, trine the Sun and at station

That 10 Sagittarius Sun conjoins a Black Hole, adding immeasurably to Frid’s power to attract and his dark, brooding nature. With a chameleon-like ability to be all things to all people, Frid’s capacity to pull others into his orbit, a noted Black Hole trait, was a hallmark of his performance. This Black Hole charisma easily over-rode the sometimes-stumbling presentation of his lines, borne of a grueling live-to-tape soap opera production schedule that rarely allowed for second takes, and required pages of memorization daily.

Barnabas’ problems with women and finding love, both before and after his vampiric conversion, are foreshadowed by a close conjunction of Frid’s Venus and Saturn at 6 and 9 Scorpio, trining the USA Venus/Jupiter conjunction of 3 and 5 Cancer.  Also with Venus/Saturn is asteroid Schadow at 12 Scorpio, homonym for “Shadow” in the show’s title; with Saturn, it shows the impact of the role on Frid’s career; with Venus it describes his hordes of female fans garnered via that venue.

Barnabas’ sexually unorthodox, be-fanged means of penetration can be seen in another conjunction in Frid’s chart, that of Uranus and Mars at 17 and 20 Pisces, with Mars tightly squared the USA’s own at 21 Gemini and opposed its Neptune at 22 Virgo, giving focus to the sexual (Mars) fantasies (Neptune) of countless women spanning several generations. Moreover, Frid’s Mars is exactly square DS’ own, at 20 Gemini. These feed off each other, each energizing the other; just as the undead role of Barnabas breathed life into Frid’s career, his introduction to the DS cast gave the show its macabre raison d’etre and gained it an audience.

Johnny Depp, who starred as Barnabas in the 2012 theatrical film by Tim Burton, in the now de rigueur pose; Depp has asteroid Collins conjunct the Sun, with asteroid Barney conjoined asteroid Johney and squared the Sun

Asteroids Barney (closest to Barnabas) and Collins fall into this mix as well; Barney opposes Frid’s Sun from 18 Gemini, allowing him to tap into the role with ease, as a part of himself.  Collins at 29 Pisces broadly conjoins Frid’s Mars and is tightly squared to his natal Jupiter/Mercury conjunction at 26 and 29 Sagittarius. The part of Barnabas Collins was tailor-made for this combination, so focused on both the Big (Jupiter) Story (Mercury), the epic saga of generations of the Collins family, as represented by Jupiter, and the detailed minutia of the daily interweaving of their lives, as symbolized by Mercury.  This pairing is joined by asteroid Lilith, named for the mythical progenitress of vampires, at 28 Sagittarius, for the story of a vampire whose saga encompasses two centuries, a Jovian grand sweep of history, all of which was played out as the show drifted between different timeframes, with Barnabas, and only Barnabas, always himself.

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The three actors who have portrayed “Dark Shadows“‘ Barnabas Collins all have prominent placements for asteroid Schadow, Barney and Collins – coincidence?

With Mercury/Jupiter closely trined by Neptune (ruling TV and acting) at 22 Leo, Frid was able to easily capitalize on his presentation of a tortured, mysterious soul, at once victim and deceiver, whose existence is driven by an addiction for blood, all Neptune keywords. The pivotal importance of the role for Frid’s life is seen in asteroid Collins’ placement on a reality-warping Black Hole, transforming Frid virtually overnight into a national sensation.

These two groupings, Venus/Saturn/Schadow and Uranus/Mars, form a Grand Trine with Frid’s natal Pluto at 13 Cancer, conjoined asteroid Vampilov at 18 Cancer, a sort of portmanteau version of “vampire love”.  This cements DS’ (Schadow) transformative (Pluto) role as Frid portrayed the unorthodox sexuality (Uranus/Mars) and lack of love (Saturn/Venus) displayed by his amorous undead character (Vampilov).

DS2 frid depp
An aged Jonathan Frid shares a moment with Johnny Depp on the set of the 2012 film “Dark Shadows”, some fifty years after he last played the part; Frid (who had a cameo in the movie) has asteroid Schadow conjoined his Saturn for this career-making role – Depp has Schadow opposed Saturn

Ben Cross’ connection with the role is also indisputable. Born 16 December 1947, his natal asteroid Collins at 26 Aries not only matches the series’ Collins exactly, it forms a Grand Trine in Cross’ chart with natal Sun at 23 Sagittarius and Saturn (career) at 22 Leo, the same degree as Frid’s natal Neptune.  A personal connection to the role is foretold by asteroid Cross at 21 Aries, conjoined Collins, with both points at station, indicating unusual prominence in the life or biography (Cross turned direct December 7th and Collins followed suit on the 13th, just three days before Cross’ birth).  We might also muse on the comedic irony of Ben Cross’ surname indicating one of the major means of defense against the powers of the vampire.

In addition, asteroid Schadow at 22 Sagittarius closely conjoins Cross’ Sun, making the show a genuine part of him – Cross and DS were meant to be together.  Frid’s pairing of Pluto with Vampilov is repeated as well, at 14 and 19 Leo respectively, with Vampilov just past its station achieved December 4th.  These with Saturn join the Grand Trine with Cross’ Sun/Schadow, transformed into a Kite with the Sun’s opposition to Uranus at 24 Aquarius, perhaps inclining him to the unorthodox role (similarly, Frid’s Sun squared Uranus, providing yet another link between the two men).  Asteroid Barney at 9 Capricorn broadly conjoins Venus at 19 Cap and squares Neptune at 12 Libra, both indicators of acting and television; Barney further squares Lilith at 2 Aries, for the vampire role.

DS2 cross blood
Censorship standards had relaxed considerably by the ’90s when Ben Cross revived Barnabas; whereas Frid never drew blood on camera, Cross was awash with it; with asteroid Vampilov at station and trined the Sun conjunct Schadow, Ben Cross’ performance was both bloodier and more overtly sexual

Johnny Depp, too, seems destined for the part; at 17 Gemini, his natal Collins conjoins the Sun at 18 Gemini, closely identifying him with the role (he has stated that as a child he was so obsessed with Barnabas that he wanted to be him, dressing up and acting out the part). Remarkably, Frid’s natal asteroid Barney at 18 Gemini matches Depp’s Sun exactly, for the role they would one day share.  A child of the ‘60s himself, Depp’s natal (born 9 June 1963, 8:44 AM CST, Owensboro, KY, Rodden Rating AA) Uranus, Mars and Pluto combine at 1, 3 and 9 Virgo, mirroring the series’ Mars square Uranus/Pluto energies, so vital to DS’ brand of skewed sex mixed with horror. His Sun/Collins conjoins the DS natal Mars at 20 Gemini, and lies in square to Frid’s own Mars at 20 Pisces, providing an unbroken line of blood-soaked succession.

Asteroid Schadow at 19 Leo conjoins the 12 Leo Ascendant and exactly squares Lilith, ruling vampires, at 19 Scorpio, also squared Neptune, ruling acting and films, at 13 Scorpio.   Lilith/Neptune in and of itself is a strong indicator of portraying a vampire on screen.  Phenomenally, Depp’s natal Schadow exactly conjoins the original DS Midheaven, while the show’s Schadow at 1 Taurus closely conjoins his own MC at 3 Taurus.  Consider the precision of timing required to produce such close angular connections, with these directional markers changing degrees every four minutes!  Certainly, some symbiotic career connection is indicated.

DS2 depp blood
Johnny Depp’s makeup was the least squeamish of the three, with scenes where Barnabas is literally drenched in blood, head to toe; asteroid Schadow conjoins the Ascendant and exactly squares asteroid Lilith, ruling vampires

Asteroid Barney at 11 Virgo broadly conjoins asteroid Johney (alternate spelling of “Johnny”) at 21 Virgo, and both square Sun/Collins, cementing both character’s names with Depp’s self-identity, not only via his outward persona (Johney), but also through his core essence (Sun).  Asteroid Vampilov appears here, too, broadly conjoined the Sun from 24 Gemini. 

Three very different actors, all showing strong connections to a shared role.  Can it be coincidence?  Or perhaps a bit of cosmic magic?

Alex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book, detailing deep space points in astrological interpretation, and the forthcoming Heaven on Earth, a comprehensive study of asteroids, both mythic and personal. Alex is a frequent contributor to “The Mountain Astrologer”, “Daykeeper Journal”, and NCGR’s Journals and “Enews Commentary”; his work has also appeared in “Aspects” magazine, “Dell Horoscope”, “Planetwaves”, “Neptune Café” and “Sasstrology.” He is a past president of Philadelphia Astrological Society, and a former board member for the Philadelphia Chapter of NCGR.

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