I have been away from blogging about Astrological topics regularly for a little while now, and one of the reasons (amongst a few) that I haven’t been writing so often is that I have been meeting up regularly with a close friend who has been suffering with depression. Now I am not a doctor, nor a psychiatrist or professionally trained counsellor and I myself have never suffered with depression although in the early 90’s I went through a horrible time in my life while living abroad on my own. At that time I lost both my parents, a relationship fell to bits, my career in radio, something I loved doing, disintegrated. I also lost my flat, I had to find a new place to live at very short notice and I ran out of money. My dear friend who I have been helping recently went through a similar if far more severe set of circumstances which lead her entering a very emotional and depressive state. The amazing thing is, despite never having had the condition, I understood her and where she was coming from. Through the Astrology that I had learnt, through the personal experiences I had I knew the signals, I could see the aspects in her chart, I could see a timeline that was going to bring her hope and eventually get her back to work, and this October just as I had suggested she returned to her job again after being off sick for a long time. In this article I am going to look at depression, if there are any trigger signs on a natal chart, if you can spot any one who is vulnerable and the deeper reasons why human beings sometimes suffer from this horrible illness.
Depression I consider to be an illness and something that I believe lies dormant inside the natal chart waiting to be triggered. As an Astrologer I do believe that some people are vulnerable to a depressive state if they are born with a set of circumstances where some of the planets are in a compromised position, and the rulerships of those planets are affecting certain areas of the natal chart. Not everyone with the right set of circumstances falls into depression, and I count myself as one of those people who could have found myself suffering with it, because I have some of the classic signs I have noticed in my own natal chart.
There are many, many routes that lead people down the road to this illness, but in my humble opinion early childhood experiences in the home which go on to affect us all subliminally and psychologically leading to a lack of personal self-worth, losing loved ones and experiencing relationship breakups, both linked because of a deep loss of someone we loved exiting our lives are the main causes that I think could lead someone to entering depression. Of course there is one other factor that has to be recognised too. Depression is an illness of the mind. Your brain controls all the functions of your body and your mental state, how you think, what you are thinking about, states of anxiety and worry all contribute to somebody falling under the spell of this condition. I myself was hugely shy when younger, I had weight and obesity problems, I had few friends, no girlfriends to speak of in my teenage years, and thus I suffered a lack of love and self-esteem. It took me a long, long time to get over my shyness and it still affects me even to this day. I could have ended up falling into depression in the 90’s but I was luckily born with a Sun Jupiter conjunction which always gave me optimism. That optimism has carried me through when all around me was black and hopeless.
Now this is an Astrology site, so what are the astrological links to depression? The brain and it’s workings are ruled by the planet Mercury, it’s associated signs Virgo and Gemini and it’s houses, the 3rd house of the mind and the 6th house of work, routine and health. When someone suffers from depression it not only affects the way they think and act but it stands to reason that it will upset their general life, their routines, and of course their health too. Mercury is the first planet I look to when any client of mine suffers from anxiety, worry or stress. From these basic mental reactions combined with events in one’s life that are deeply and personally emotional, there are often the conditions to send someone into a spiralling depression. The actual manifestation of depression leads to suffering, long periods of solitude and retreating into the shadows, often of escapism and the use of drink and drugs to transport oneself into a higher state where you can mistakenly feel that the troubles are left behind you only to realise once the effects wear off that not only is one is still back at square one but one is rapidly squandering all the money one has too. All these parts of life, psychological childhood hang-ups, suffering solitude, sacrifice, hospitals, rehabilitation and escapism are signified in the natal chart by the 12th house, the planet Neptune and it’s ruling sign Pisces.
Lack of self worth and shyness can also be a cause of depression later in life. When one feels unworthy and shy and being unable to make normal friendships and relationships, it can lead all manner of reactions within one, from obesity to anorexia and/or a reclusive lifestyle later on in life. This lack of self worth can lead to heartbreak when a longed for relationship, something that might have been incredibly difficult for the subject to enter into in the first place, breaks down or is ended through tragedy or an accident. This can lead to severe loneliness, depression and mental illness too, especially if one does not have the inner confidence nor the desire to go out and find love and appreciation from someone else. The lack of self worth in a chart can be seen through the 2nd house and the planets in it or ruling it. Across the chart from the 2nd house is the 8th house the one ruling sharing, intimacy and sex, power, control and obsession. In the same way that shyness and a lack of confidence can lead one into depression, so can being overly obsessed with someone, so much that when a relationship breaks one cannot find any way to let go of them, and then new relationships are blocked from being made. Again the state of your mind ruled by Mercury holds the keys to whether you can let go, or if you have to suffer first.
It is amazing in the cases that I have looked at how many times these two planets and these five houses, the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 8th and 12th are highlighted. The trigger for the depression may not be associated with either Neptune or Mercury, their position in the natal chart nor the houses being activated at the time that it occurs, but in the background on the natal chart these planets are either linked, have rulerships over these critical houses and often either one or both of them are connected by aspects or are under duress themselves, indeed it seems that in pretty much every case of depression I have looked at, Mercury is being affected by an outer planet in a stressful aspect or configuration in some way in the birth chart. It stands to reason doesn’t it? The planet of the mind has to be initially compromised in one’s birth chart for mental illness to occur. To illustrate this point I will look at a series of famous people all of whom suffered in different ways with depression.
To start with a classic case of a man who notably suffered with this illness, Winston Churchill. He called it his “black dog” and he lived a life of heavy drinking and smoking to fend off the worst effects of the periods of darkness that he endured. With people in depression I know, I have found individuals who discovered enormous inner strength to overcome enormous odds, you either give in or you fight on against the illness, and that fight was certainly inside Churchill as he never gave in to the threat on Britain’s doorstep. His chart shows all the signs of someone who was born with the potential for depression. Mercury in emotional Scorpio is under huge pressure from outer planets, opposed by dark controlling Pluto from his 8th house hinting at hidden powerful enemies opposing him and squared by unpredictable Uranus making his mind sharp as a razor but also heightening his imagination and thus the fear and trepidation inside him. Mercury was sitting in his 2nd house of self-worth ruled by the planet opposing it. His thoughts would be emotional ones, fearful of his own existence and of personal survival, and this would have constantly dragged him down and yet it also toughened him up. Mercury also ruled his 12th house of suffering with Virgo on the cusp of this house and so solitude and escapism through heavy drinking and smoking was his escape to alleviate this fear. As a child Churchill would surely have been affected by his father’s own mental illness, hinting at psychological problems that he himself took into adulthood, thus another link to 12th house issues. As Mercury is under duress, then so is this house too and funnily enough the 9th house (Gemini on the cusp) of overseas contacts. Looking to Neptune, it sits in the hidden 8th house opposed by expansive and excessive Jupiter again pointing to a secret obsessive drinking and smoking habit and of course Pisces, Neptune’s ruling sign sits on the cusp of the 6th house of illness, health and routine.
Now a more up to date example. Monica Lewinsky who famously had the brief fling with President Bill Clinton, had previously suffered when her parents split and divorced in her teenage years and now is living the life of a recluse and suffering with bouts of depression. Look at Mercury on the chart in the public 10th house squared and under pressure from Uranus and Mars conjunct Chiron. An unexpected (Uranus) sexual act (Mars) caused a deep wound (Chiron) in her which has caused her subsequent mental problems (Mercury). Notice Mercury is retrograde so her thought patterns are internalised, they will swing round and round in her head, causing anxiety and stress from within. Venus again is ruling that 12th house of solitude and suffering and this time Pluto is found here too, showing her afraid to accept change and almost imprisoning her in her emotions and her thoughts. Neptune sits in her 2nd house of self esteem and self worth, weakening this part of the chart and with it her own self confidence plus Pisces rules her 6th house of illness and routine.
George Michael suffered severe shyness and lack of self worth as a youngster, and with his proud Leo Moon in the 2nd house of self worth opposed by harsh dominating Saturn you can see exactly why. His Cancerian Sun also sits in the background in his 12th house of suffering ruling (through Leo) his 2nd house of self-worth and the 3rd house of the mind. Mercury sits in that 12th house alongside Venus, a house it rules with Gemini on the cusp of it under attack from a series of squares, from Pluto, Mars and Chiron. Virgo the other sign it rules sits on the cusp of his 4th house, the sector of the chart ruling home and domestic affairs showing a reclusive and troubled family life when growing up, one where he was constantly hurt and humiliated (Chiron) by his shyness, his sexuality, the growing realisation that he was gay (Mars Pluto square Venus) and a troubled relationship with his sisters (Mars Pluto and Uranus in the 3rd house of close relatives). Later on, that hurt was made deeper by having to care for his dying lover from Brazil Anselmo Feleppa who passed away from Aids, shown incidentally by Chrion, the wounded healer in the 9th house of relations with foreigners opposite to Pluto the planet of death. This tragedy in his life lead to a wound in his heart that failed to heal for a long time (Chiron trine to Neptune in the 5th), his severe depression and a long term battle with drugs. That battle can be seen through Neptune in Scorpio making a difficult inconjunct aspect to Mercury as well from the house of lovers, the 5th, and through Pisces, Neptune’s sign, which Chiron is sitting in.
Now in all the examples I have highlighted so far there is Mercury sitting at the point of a t-square. Just to prove that this need not be the case in people who have suffered depression, I look at Robert Downey Jnr who was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and was sent to prison, rehabilitation several times and has had his fair share of drug related and mental problems since he was a child. Here we have Mercury retrograde and Neptune in a nasty inconjunct aspect, the only difficult connection that Mercury receives. The problem on this chart is that axis that Mercury and Neptune rule, the Virgo-Pisces axis. Look across it and you see a brutal Mars, Uranus and Pluto conjunction opposing Saturn and Chiron. That triple conjunction also makes a set of inconjunct aspects to Robert’s Sun (father) and Venus, also representing his father through Taurus (Venus’ sign) ruling the Midheaven.
It was his father who introduced Robert when he was 6 years old to drugs, smoking marijuana and this lead to a life based on hard drugs and alcohol abuse. His self-worth as he admitted himself came through the mind bending drugs and alcohol he took ruled by these two planets Mercury and Neptune across this axis, Mercury ruling the 2nd house and Neptune ruling the 8th house of obsession. This lead to unpredictable behaviour and violence (Mars, Pluto Uranus) which the authorities represented by Saturn in the 8th house stamped down upon leading to hurt and suffering (Chiron). You’ll also notice that Neptune opposed the Moon and Jupiter. Jupiter is the planet of excess leading to his wild drug taking and heavy drinking, and the Moon planet of emotion, ruling the 12th house of suffering, escapism, rehab and prisons, where Robert spent a lot of his time in the late 90’s. Pluto, the planet of incarceration and under the control of other more powerful people was transiting the house that it is ruling on his natal chart, the 4th house of home where Neptune natally sits dealing with his drug and drink problems, highlighting hidden psychological and obsessive tendencies at that time.
There are countless examples I could have given you of other famous and not so famous people all of whom have had depression or depressive states, and in each one Mercury and to a lesser extent Neptune are involved. These tendencies are sitting in the birth chart, they are present from the moment that we are born and circumstances and thus the actions we take in our lives, the kind of relationship we have with our parents and loved ones, our own self-worth and obsessive tendencies determine whether we will have to deal with this illness in our lives, or not. I think that through Astrology one can detect the potential for depression before it happens, and through Astrology one can often note the causes and thus aid understanding of why things happened as they did.
I am not saying one can prevent this disease, far from it and it is dangerous and unwise to claim that one can, but maybe just maybe Astrology in the future can be a useful tool for bringing some understanding and hope to lots of people around the world that believe that all in their lives is lost. Certainly my friend gained some hope from my understanding of her situation and I know that had I not had the knowledge that I have now, then I would have found it much more difficult to give her the right kind of support when she most needed it.