Celebrity Suicides: Spade & Bourdain
Two celebrity suicides shocked the world in the first week of June 2018. Kate Spade, New York fashion designer and sister-in-law of actor David Spade, was found hung by a scarf in the closet of her Manhattan apartment on June 5, and Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef, food critic and global travel guide, was found unresponsive in his Strasbourg, France hotel room, an apparent suicide, on June 8. Suicide has been highlighted in the sky recently, and both individuals had strong natal placements which opened the door to eventual self-destruction.
Let’s begin with a brief analysis of the astrological points one is likely to encounter in an event of this type. There are nearly a dozen such bodies, so frankly, it’s hard to imagine not finding at least one of these active in charts of suicide.
Alphabetically, there is asteroid Ajax, named for a mythic Greek hero who falls on his sword and commits suicide during the Trojan War; Antinous, named for a historic second-century figure, lover of the emperor Hadrian, who cast himself into the Nile in fulfilment of a prophecy, to save his beloved; Arachne, named for a mythic Lydian weaver who hanged herself after losing a competition to Athena; Dido, a queen of Carthage who throws herself upon a burning pyre after her lover Aeneas abandons her; Hylonome, a female centaur, who threw herself upon her husband Cyllarus’ spear after his death in battle; Ophelia, the mad daughter of Polonius in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, who drowns herself in a stream; Phaedra, wife of the king of Athens, who conceived an overpowering lust for her stepson, then killed herself after he rejected her; Pyramus and Thisbe, a pair of ancient Greek lovers whose story forms the mythic basis of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, with Pyramus stabbing himself when he mistakenly believes Thisbe has died, and Thisbe using his sword to join him in death after she finds his lifeless body; and Sphinx, named for the man-eating riddler who kills herself out of frustration after Oedipus correctly answers her question.
Whew! That’s a lot of myth for one sentence! But any or all of these can be active in a natal chart or event chart for a suicide, as we will shortly see. For death in general, we can also look to Saturn, ancient lord of death; Pluto, modern lord of death; Mars, for violent deaths; Atropos, named for the mythic Greek Fate who severs the thread of life at death; Lachesis, her sister, who determines the span of life; Osiris, ancient Egyptian god of the dead; Anubis, the Egyptian deity governing funerary rites; Requiem, named for the funeral mass for the dead, and Rip, which, as the acronym “RIP”, “Rest In Peace”, is a common tombstone inscription. Let’s look first at the general cosmic atmosphere of the week, for it is fraught with these energies, encouraging anyone inclined to suicide to take advantage of the astrological heavy weather.
First off, the Sun has been traveling with Osiris, in their annual protracted conjunction, within five degrees of each other from May 29 through June 21, in early-mid Gemini (their exact conjunction occurs June 9). This imbues the energy of the period with an undercurrent of death in general. Making things worse is the triple conjunction of Arachne, Dido and Neptune, at 16 Pisces, which squared the Sun exactly on June 7th (just before the Sun and Osiris met and shook hands). This adds Neptune’s flavor of despair to the mix, in addition to incorporating two prominent suicide indicators. Dido could suggest a rejection or abandonment of some sort as crucial to the motivation; Arachne indicates a disappointment, professional failure, humiliation or disgrace. These are not necessarily the prime movers in these tragic acts, but may have added to the overall tenor of the root cause of the victims’ decisions.
As well, this has been a week heavy with stationary activity of a similar nature. Stations highlight and accentuate the energies encapsulated in the celestial bodies involved, emphasizing them in the collective and in the lives of individuals who are strongly connected to their vibrations, by birth or in transit. Ophelia turned retrograde on June 3rd at 13 Aquarius, two days before Kate Spade was found. Incredibly, both Pyramus and Thisbe, those mythically-linked lovers, came to station during this period! Thisbe turned retrograde on June 7th, the day before Anthony Bourdain’s death, at 3 Aquarius, with Pyramus turning direct at 19 Libra on June 11th. Essentially, these formed a loose Grand Trine with the Sun, further coloring its energy with a focus on suicide.
Let’s take a look now at the specifics of each case. Born 24 December 1962 (no time available), Kate Spade had a number of challenging placements of suicide asteroids in her natal chart. The Sun at 2 Capricorn is conjoined by Thisbe at 28 Sagittarius, in semisextile to Ophelia at 29 Capricorn, exactly sextile Dido at 2 Pisces, trine Antinous (which was stationary, turning direct four days after her birth) at 0 Taurus, and exactly inconjunct Hylonome at 2 Gemini. That’s an awful lot of solar contacts, folks! It implies a very strong predisposition for suicide, which is deeply felt by the individual as natural and normal, even as an inherent right, a true part of them that goes right to the core of who they are.
An individual’s own Personal-Named Asteroid (PNA), especially for a first name, can act as a sort of “mini-Sun”, and celestial elements which accrue to it can affect how an individual sees herself, and how others see her. For Spade, asteroid Kate at 27 Libra is conjoined by Phaedra at 23, reiterating the solar conjunction to Thisbe with more suicide-related energies. Kate is also exactly squared to Arachne at 27 Capricorn, as well as Requiem and Ophelia, at 26 and 29 Cap, and broadly trined to Ajax at 21 Gemini. Having two suicide factors conjunct each other, in tandem with a general death indicator, doubles down on these energies and makes them much stronger than if they were strung out singly in the chart, even if all were also in aspect to the PNA. This becomes a sort of nexus of whatever theme unites the celestials involved, and if the points are close enough (these are) it can almost act as a planet in its intensity of manifestation. The power of PNA connections can be seen in the exact square from Kate to Arachne: so intimately connected to a mythic figure who hanged herself, Spade chose this method for her own suicide!
As well, several of Spade’s suicide asteroids which don’t have a relationship to the Sun, nevertheless are emphasized in other ways. Sphinx at 9 Sagittarius pairs with Osiris and Atropos at 3 and 2 Sag, both death indicators, boosting the trio’s overall effectiveness, and is exactly sextile Saturn at 9 Aquarius, ancient lord of death. Dido at 2 Pisces, in exact sextile to the Sun, is also conjunct Jupiter at 7 Pisces, which as much as spells out “celebrity (Jupiter) suicide (Dido)” in astrologese.
Uranus is generally cited as the planetary energy which most resonates to suicide, and Spade’s is stationary, at 5 Virgo, in trine to the Sun (having turned on December 11th, 1962), giving it that static force and emphasis in the biography (we can clearly see its importance for Spade professionally in her creativity, unique style and modern look). From there it forms a Grand Cross with Hylonome, Dido and Sphinx. Transit Uranus, now at 1 Taurus, is just a degree away from trine to her Sun, forming a temporary Grand Trine with its natal place and the Sun.
Kate Spade was found strangled with a scarf in her Manhattan apartment; amazingly, there is an exact conjunction of asteroids Scarfe and Manhattan at 13 Scorpio, exactly squared Pyramus at 13 Leo (with Saturn at 9 Aquarius filling in a T-Square). So in that simple square, we have the act (suicide – Pyramus), the means (Scarfe – homophone for scarf) and the locale (Manhattan). Simply stunning! Scarfe/Manhattan is sitting next to natal Neptune at 14 Scorpio, symbol of the despair and hopelessness necessary to take one’s own life. Again, the nearby presence of a planetary influence lends greater force to the asteroids’ actions.
In 2016 Spade had legally changed her name to Kate Valentine Spade, to reflect her new brand, Frances Valentine. Asteroid Valentine appears at 10 Leo, conjunct Pyramus, and it’s interesting that her suicide came just two years after she dramatically increased that point’s influence in her chart by making it a part of her name. It was as if the embrace of Valentine allowed her to actualize the reality of Pyramus, with these asteroids pooling their energies in her psyche on a more conscious level, and reaching out to the associated PNAs in Scorpio (itself the Sign of death) for a concrete manifestation. Nearby these is natal Venus, at 19 Scorpio, ruling fashion, linked here both with Neptune, emphasizing again Spade’s creativity, and the venue where she displayed it, as Manhattan.
Strangulation itself is attributed to Mercury, and not only is transit Pluto (modern lord of death) at 20 Capricorn currently conjoining natal Mercury at 18 Capricorn, but the upcoming solar eclipse at 20 Cancer on July 12th opposes it, and falls exactly on natal asteroid Rip. Rip/Mercury in and of itself in the birth chart would show death by strangulation to be a possibility (as well as by any other Mercury-ruled area, such as cars or siblings), but says nothing about how that occurs.
So let’s talk about the transits. When Spade was found on June 5th, the Sun and Mercury (strangulation) were exactly conjunct at 14 Gemini with Osiris nearby at 16, all of these squaring that triple conjunction in Pisces with Arachne and Dido at 15 and Neptune at 16. Natal Pluto at 12 Virgo makes of this a T-Square. Just a bit further down the celestial pike is transit Antinous, which at 24 Gemini has just conjoined natal Ajax at 21. Transit Uranus at 1 Taurus has just conjoined that stationary Antinous at 0 Taurus in Spade’s nativity, and is currently accompanied by Phaedra and Valentine, at 2 and 4 Taurus respectively.
Transit Venus at 20 Cancer warms the seat of the upcoming eclipse, conjoins Rip exactly and exactly opposes Pluto at 20 Cap (death – Rip/Pluto – of a fashion designer – Venus). Venus is also engaged in a Grand Trine with transit Anubis at 20 Scorpio and the Neptunian stellium in Pisces. Transit Rip at 24 Libra is exactly opposed transit Kate at 24 Aries, and these conjoin and oppose natal Phaedra/Kate at 23 and 27 Libra (transit Uranus is also still technically opposed Kate, though out-of-Sign). Amazingly, transit Scarfe at 13 Leo is exactly atop natal Pyramus, activating that square to Scarfe/Manhattan, which is conjoined by transit Jupiter at 15 Scorpio! That stationing Arachne at 13 Aquarius forms a T-Square with this, and its stationary status “anchors” the energy in her psyche as well as establishing the “feel” of the period.
Saturn has been transiting Spade’s 2 Capricorn Sun (an aspect often noted for depression), and will come to station exactly atop it in early September. Meanwhile, transit Sphinx fills that spot, exactly on Spade’s natal Sun, providing a very strong direct connection to the theme of suicide, and possibly one of the primary factors in the timing. Transit Hylonome and Ajax are broadly conjunct the natal Sun, both at 10 Capricorn.
So you can see that, although there are quite a lot of death and suicide indicators to look to, most of them were active at the time of Spade’s suicide, creating a cosmic pile-on effect which was, apparently, irresistible.
Moving on to Anthony Bourdain. Born 25 June 1956 (no time available), Bourdain, like Spade, has a solar conjunction to a suicide asteroid, with the Sun at 3 Cancer and Pyramus at 7. Note further that Spade’s and Bourdain’s Suns oppose each other, so solar stresses on one were repeated with the other.
Bourdains’ Sun is also broadly trine Ajax at 11 Scorpio, inconjunct Ophelia at 4 Sagittarius, semisquare Hylonome at 20 Taurus, and exactly sesquiquadrate Sphinx at 18 Aquarius. Both Ajax and Sphinx are stationary, with Ajax turning direct 15 days later (but already at its station degree), and Sphinx turning retrograde on June 22, just three days prior. Reinforcing Sphinx’s impact is its conjunction with asteroid Borden, closest to Bourdain, at 19 Aquarius, which stationed the same day. Ajax, by the way, is exactly trine asteroid Cook at 11 Cancer, which lies on the natal Sun, defining his general occupation (though he became mostly noted as a food writer and travelogue presenter).
With Uranus at 0 Leo, roughly in semisextile to the Sun, are Arachne and Thisbe at 1 and 2 Leo. As with Spade, we see here a blending of suicide energies which renders the whole as greater than the sum of the parts.
With natal Mercury at 12 Gemini are asteroids Antonia (for Anthony; one’s own PNAs will often aspect Mercury, which rules the naming function), Antinous and Anubis, at 4, 7 and 9 Gemini. On the far side of Mercury is Phaedra at 20 Gemini, still broadly within orb. Asteroid Dido at 21 Capricorn is sesquiquadrate Antonia and semisextile Borden.
Asteroid Strasbourg, named for the town of his death, figures prominently in the natal chart as well. At 22 Leo, Strasbourg lies in a remarkable Grand Cross of death indicators (though most do not indicate suicide specifically), conjoined Pluto, modern lord of death, at 26 Leo; squared Saturn, ancient lord of death, at 27 Scorpio; opposed Lachesis, the Fate determining the span of life, at 16 Aquarius and Sphinx at 18 Aquarius; and squared Requiem, named for the funeral mass for the dead, at 25 Taurus, and Hylonome at 20 Taurus.
When Bourdain was found in his Strasbourg hotel room on June 8th, the Sun at 17 Gemini and Osiris at 18 Gemini were conjunct natal Phaedra at 20 Gemini, and squared by the Neptune/Arachne/Dido triple conjunction, now exact at 16 Pisces. Also exactly with natal Phaedra was transit Mercury at 20 Gemini and transit Antinous at 25 Gemini, with Antinous exactly squared transit Antonia (Anthony) at 25 Virgo.
A transit Uranus/Phaedra conjunction at 1 and 3 Taurus closely squared the natal Uranus/Arachne/Thisbe conjunction at 0, 1 and 2 Leo. These Uranian conglomerations form a T-Square with transit Thisbe, which at 3 Aquarius is stationary and opposing its natal degree. Transit Borden at 5 Pisces squares natal Ophelia at 4 Sagittarius, bringing together in that moment the man himself (Borden) with the act of suicide (Ophelia); it is also exactly inconjunct transit Requiem at 5 Leo.
Transit Sphinx has now retrograded back to 1 Capricorn, but is still opposed the natal Sun, while transit Pyramus at 19 Libra is trine the transit Sun and natal Phaedra. With Pyramus is asteroid Cook at 12 Libra, which stationed direct on June 5th, opposing natal Atropos and Rip at 14 and 6 Aries and broadly squared the natal Sun and Pyramus. Also opposing Cook and the natal Sun are transit Ajax at 9 Capricorn and transit Hylonome at 10 Capricorn.
Transit Strasbourg at 11 Leo is broadly within orb of Requiem at 5 Leo, exactly squared natal Ajax at 11 Scorpio, also squared transit Jupiter at 14 Scorpio, as well as exactly inconjunct natal Mars at 11 Pisces, forming a Yod, or Finger of Destiny, with transit Hylonome and Ajax at 10 and 9 Capricorn. (The cause of Bourdain’s death was not available as of publication of this article; if a gunshot wound is involved, then Mars, ruling guns, would be applicable here.)
Two more powerful, but tragic illustrations of the major impact these tiny bits of space debris have on our lives, and deaths.
[If you’d like to learn more about the astrology of suicide, check out these articles, on gay teen suicide, and the death of actor/comedian Robin Williams.]
Author’s Note: 12 June 2018. The exact cause of Anthony Bourdain’s death has been revealed by French police. Bourdain also hanged himself, with the belt of his bathrobe. We can see that from the conjunction of natal asteroid Arachne, who hanged herself, at 1 Leo with natal Uranus (planetary ruler of suicide) at 0 Leo and Thisbe, another “suicide asteroid”, at 2 Leo. These are sextile natal asteroid Antonia at 4 Gemini, and were squared by transit Uranus and Phaedra at 1 and 3 Taurus when he died. Transit Arachne, at 16 Pisces with transit Dido and Neptune, conjoined natal Lachesis (named for the Fate who determines the span of life) at 18 Pisces, also squared natal Mercury (strangulation) and Phaedra at 12 and 20 Gemini. The transit Sun at 17 Gemini activated all these points.