Buried Alive in the Blues: the 12th-House of Janis Joplin
The 12th-house Sun in Capricorn can be troublesome when the rising sign is Aquarius. It is a special problem in the charts of women. And it was unusually worrisome for Janis Joplin.
Let me point out that the Aquarius ascendant is rare in populations north of the equator. The farther north you go, the rarer it becomes.
The birth chart patterns produced by Janis Joplin’s ascendant, therefore, are almost singularly unique and certainly could not happen to just anyone.
But what of her Venus and Mercury? Ah, but my argument today is that they should be separated out of her 12th-house. More on this below.
Why Is Her Sun So Troublesome?
It is a truism, unfortunately, that during Capricorn season those tiny time slots each day when Aquarius rises will be unfortunate hours for anything born. Why? Because then the Capricorn Sun will be in the 12th sign.
It is difficult for a number of reasons:
- The Sun universally symbolizes authority.
- The 12th is a place of secret enemies, illness, and things which confine us.
- With Aquarius rising the Sun will rule the 7th–an unfortunate pattern.
The first two bullet items become difficult when combined. The 12th-house Sun in general can symbolize people in authority who privately dislike you. They may pretend to be your friend. They may smile in your face. But in reality they either (A) hold a grudge or secret jealousy about you or (2) in spite of their best intentions, enable harmful habits in you.
The third bullet item about the Sun ruling the 7th is dubious and questionable because it links the 7th house of partnership with the 12th house of suffering, mistakes and enemies. It’s a generic pattern that you often see in the charts of people who divorce or who live in unhappy marriages, because the spouse tends to become an enemy of the native over time.
Anytime the ruler of the Descendant is in the 12th house (or even the 12th sign) this tends to make an adversary out of the partner.
Joplin’s Love Life
Janis Joplin certainly had a troubled love life. Her 7th-house partners included a chain of failed candidate spouses, and also included a long list of drug suppliers.
There must be a strong link between the two types of 7th-house people in her chart. No doubt her drug use was fueled at least in part by her failed romances, and in turn her drug use ruined her romances.
Her biography mentions bisexuality as part of her lifestyle, and this is shown by something other than her Sun. More on this in a bit.
Sun as Ego
Most astrologers will not describe her Sun in such practical and concrete terms. For modern practitioners the Sun is a symbol of the ego, a flowing-forth from the fountain of divine consciousness.
Since it is in Capricorn, the ego and self-concept is starkly colored by Saturn.
This means that Joplin would have seen herself as someone who is anxious and even afflicted by life.
Since there is no aspect between her Sun and Saturn, its ruler, this pushed the Sun’s expression toward the negative end of Saturn’s traits. Instead of responsibility and discipline–two of Saturn’s higher expressions–she suffered from wantonness and irresponsibility throughout her short life. No discipline, no constancy…all because Sun does not aspect its rulers.
In fact, her Sun aspects nothing. It is void in its course.
Ambition and Self-Sabotage
Capricorn is a sign of material ambition. In many ways it resembles Aries, with the exception that it makes fewer ego-driven mistakes as the daytime house of Mars does.
In fact, Mars is exalted in the Sign of the Goat. We see that when the zodiacal process reaches Capricorn Mars is at his highest function.
But the problem with Capricorn on the 12th is that the material ambition and cunning drive of the sign is oriented toward masochistic mistakes and self-sabotage.
This is what happened with her bands. Her Capricornian 12th-house Sun symbolizes the controversy she experienced when she switched bands from Big Brother & the Holding Company to the Kozmic Blues Band. It was the classic superstar situation where the artist feels as if her lesser-known bandmates are holding her back. Joplin’s quest for achievement and material advancement (Capricorn) turned out to be a mistake (12th-house) and bitter infighting ensued, followed by several public rows.
Symbol of the Counterculture
A potent symbol of the counterculture, everything Joplin did seemed destined to undermine the Establishment. This, too, is shown by her 12th-house Capricorn Sun.
She was determined to erode the conservative, crusty, ossified social mores of her time.
Intoxication was her daily bread, and she often performed stoned. During some of these concerts many accounts held that she almost tried to incite riots in the concertgoers.
But that’s not all. The 12th house has a special role to play in the racial equilibrium of the United States. Since the 6th house is the house of racial oppression, the 12th is the house of racial liberation.
Janis covered many songs which were originally composed by African-American artists. Her interest in the black musical legacy of the United States caused her a lot of grief during her time. And yet there can be no doubt that she owed much of her success to the rich cultural treasures left to her by this victimized community.
Lord of the Head of the Dragon
In ancient times the North Node was referred to as the Head of the Dragon (Latin, Caput Draconis).
It was interpreted much differently than it is today.
My practice is to encompass both the traditional and the modern readings of the Nodes.
Traditionally, the North Node magnifies the topics of the house it resides in, as do the manifestations of any planet within twelve degrees of it.
If it was close to a bad planet, then its manifestation was bad. The unlucky planet grows in its expression.
If it was near to a good planet, then its manifestation was good. The benevolent one puffs up in its goodness.
Joplin’s North Node is either in the Placidus 6th house of illness, work and low-class things/people, or it is in the whole-sign 7th house of interpersonal relating and warfare. Leo is the seventh sign of her chart.
So what would be the difference?
Both houses make sense, considering her biography. It is utterly sensible to say that 6th-house addiction issues and harmful elements were indeed ramped up in her life. The various 7th-house people in her life (lovers, drug dealers, fans) also experienced increase in the realm of their identities.
The Modern Perspective
The contemporary rendition says that we gravitate karmically toward what the North Node signifies. We’re supposed to be “going toward” whatever our Node represents.
Using this modernized logic we might say that it was Joplin’s karma to increasingly involve herself with others (7th whole-sign placement of the Node) in an effort to help the others secure their identity (Leo).
And if we consider the 6th-house Placidus placement of the North Node then it seems clear that Joplin’s spiritual evolution was toward 6th-house topics such as magic and purification through her everyday work routine, especially insofar as her own identity (Leo) was concerned.
Again–the Sun is the ruler of all this, and he does not aspect the Node that he rules…which is one reason why Joplin failed her spiritual tests and lapsed into addiction in the first place.
The karmic duties imposed by the Node never linked up to her consciousness (Sun) due to this lack of an aspect.
VENUS AND MERCURY
When we convert the Joplin nativity into a whole-sign format, Venus and Mercury become first-house entities. Only Sun is in the twelfth. The whole-sign format cleanly and neatly separates Venus and Mercury from the 12th.
This is logical. We cannot dispute that Venus is in her house of life and personality and skill (the 1st). We cannot dispute this because her Venus is evident as a first-house planet. Audio and video and box sets have captured it.
Venus in the 1st
Venus is a “universal” or “natural” significator for music, singing, dancing, feasting and drinking, and pleasures of all kinds. To have her in the 1st, as many (although certainly not all) musicians do, is a clear sign that something Venusian will be a natural talent for Ms. Joplin. Venus—singing, dancing, rhythm, pleasures, sex—is part of Joplin’s skillset simply by occurring within the 1st whole sign.
How, then, do we rationalize her 12th-house Placidus placement? Venus is a natural significator for pleasures, and that includes the delights of narcotics. Seeing her in the 12th Placidus house, it is all too easy to jump to the keywords, “Secret (12th) drug use (Venus).”
This is wrong, though, for a variety of reasons. First, Ms. Joplin’s drug use was no secret. It sparkled and cavorted openly, contrary to what we expect 12th-house things to do. Joplin’s candyman, the drug dealer shown by her 12th-house Sun, operated in the shadows. Second, I would contend that Venus’s accidental significations override her natural ones.
Accidental vs. Natural Meanings
By accidental significations I mean house rulerships, both by quadrant divisions (such as Placidus, or Koch, or Regiomontanus, or Alcabitius) and by whole signs.
Venus rules the Placidus 8th-house cusp, and the 4th whole sign. These are both morbid houses with macabre topics. The primary meaning of the 8th is death. The primary meanings of the 4th are ancestors and real estate, but it carries important secondary meanings of death due to its millennia-old associating with endings and subterranean activities.
Venus’s placement in the rising sign brings these macabre topics to the life and skill (1st house) of the native. As an accidental significator of death, Venus says that premature death can happen to Joplin. All because Venus is in the 1st house of life.
Her universal or natural meanings are what we are most familiar with. Venus is a universal or natural significator of music and dancing and pleasure and rhythm. By tenanting the rising sign, Venus is bringing these skills to Joplin and making them an essential part of her personality.
Janis likes (1st) Venus-things. She thinks of (1st) Venus things all the time. And she has a natural talent (1st) for these same generic Venus-ruled subjects.
In her role as Lady of the third-house cusp, Venus also says that journeys—in other words, touring—will come to Joplin. Mars, as ruler of the 2nd-3rd and placed in the 10th-11th, says the exact same thing, and adds finances—the 2nd—to the journeys/touring.
Finally, Venus is saying rather bluntly that “young women” will come to Joplin, and according to most biographical sources the bawdy blues singer was bisexual.
How To Read Such A Planet?
How do we reconcile the Placidus 12th-house placement of Venus?
Venus has the topics of the first house, and shows what Joplin had an intelligence and talent for. Yet, because Venus is retreating and falling away from the angular degree of the Ascendant, she is pulling back from life, and is withdrawing into the shadows in the sweet by and by. The short distance between Venus and the degree of the Ascendant allows me to say that the planet of love and music jumps with stimulation, yet because she occupies the 12th-house side of the axial degree, she falls away from the visibility that angularity confers.
Venus’s proximity to Cauda Draconis, the Tail of the Dragon, further emphasizes the motif of reduction and decreasing importance as life progresses.
Just as the North Node increases and magnifies, the South Node decreases and diminishes
Venus’s closeness to the South Node, therefore, renders her influence toward the malevolent side of things.
When a good planet (like Venus) lies within twelve degrees of the South Node then its benevolence drops. This is bad.
But when a bad planet (like Mars or Saturn) lies within twelve degrees of the South Node, its malevolence and bad luck likewise drops. This is good.
Therefore, Venus’s nearness to Cauda Draconis is unfortunate. It sucks out much of her long-term potency. It weakens her considerably and throws her meanings more toward the negative…toward hedonism and shattered love affairs and abandonment of artistic mastery as the life progresses.
Let’s turn to Mercury, another inhabitant of the rising sign, and one who has at least some dignity in it. Venus is totally alien and peregrine at 14° Aquarius, while Mercury is an elemental ruler of all Air signs and for that reason can never be alienated in any of them.
When Mercury is in the same sign as Venus (whether they enjoy a conjunction by degree or not) such a native will likely possess refined artistic instincts, and the ability to do artistic activities at a rather high degree of functioning. It is a powerfully creative assembly of planets.
Why? Because the translating abilities of Mercury, along with his dexterity, combine with the aesthetics of Aphrodite. That’s why. Mercury shows, among other things, the songwriting and lyrical component of Joplin’s artistry, not to mention the cerebral mechanism which permitted her to do wondrous things with her voice.
By residing in the first whole sign Mercury, like Venus, will impress his meanings onto the body and skill of Janis Joplin.
Mercury as Symbol of Death
Like Venus, Mercury veritably reeks with accidental significations of death. By accidental I mean that it is a fluke of the cosmos that Joplin happened to be born during an hour when Virgo was in the 8th place of the zodiacal circle.
So, like Venus, Mercury connects himself with the 8th house of death. Also like Venus, Mercury links himself with the death-dealing, semi-hurtful 4th house, since he rules the degree of the IC.
But, again like Venus, Mercury turns away from the axial degree of the Ascendant even though he is in the rising sign. So he will connect his significations with the first-house meanings of skill and talent, yet his distance from the angular degree will cause him to gradually retract as an important force in her life.
To be clear, by occurring within the rising sign Mercury and Venus both pertain to immediately accessible spheres of life experience, rather like storefronts on a busy street. They benefit from advantageous positioning. But due to falling on the 12th-house side of the angular degree they pull back from that immediacy, like an advantageously-located store that rarely stays open.
Unlike Venus, though, Mercury is more distant from the rising degree and for that reason suffers more from a phlegmatic and drowsy effect, way less provoked and stimulated.
In terms of house rulerships, Mercury rules the 7th-8th and the 4th-5th. The 7th-8th combination is certainly death-dealing in that the 8th indicates what leads to death while the 7th shows the act of slipping into eternal oblivion. And the 7th shows open conflicts and declared hostilities, enemies which you certainly know about—as opposed to the more hidden and unknown adversaries of the 12th.
As for the supposed lethality of the 7th, which is surely a new and startling concept to most, if you don’t believe me grab a Ouija board and ask any murdered spouse just how deadly the 7th can be….
When I first listened to Janis Joplin sing, my initial reaction was, “Jesus, why all this screeching?”
By the time she had finished, my body bristled with goosebumps and I found myself bowing before my television in an I’m-not-worthy gesture, fully prepared to acknowledge an artistic genius hitherto unseen on this earth. What at first sounded like inhuman caterwauling was in fact a gorgeously controlled chromatic glissando through fifty different sharps and flats. Joplin carried me aloft to dizzying heights on wave after wave of her soaring sonorities.
How sad, to learn she overdosed. How sad, to learn she died so young.
Many astrologers have jumped on Joplin’s Venus, Mercury and Sun, and have understandably labeled them all as 12th-house planets that caused both her drug addiction and the death which resulted from it.
This reasoning, though natural and logical, is faulty. First, a packet of smack killed Joplin, not her 12th House. Astrology simply showed a probable life-path she would take as a consequence of her soul’s habits—but nothing astrological caused her death. She died from drugs, not the stars. Second, there exists a more sophisticated and accurate way of conceptualizing the planets in her Placidus 12th.
To summarize, when planets are in the rising sign but on the 12th-house side of the rising degree it is very rational to assign them the viewpoint and subject matter of the 1st house…yet with the drawing back and recanting features of the cadent planet. This allows a much more refined and sophisticated (not to mention accurate) reading than does simply lumping everything into the 12th and calling it a day.