Goodnight, Mr. Faithful

ALL I really knew about Norman Mailer before today is that he told the truth about the death penalty. I think he would agree, two people who are in accord about the value of human life are on the same page and that's most of they need to know about one another.

We know more about Mailer. We all know his name. We know he is someone who managed to write books that had impact -- something very difficult to do today, now that most writers are relegated to being bloggers, or produce what their agents tell them will sell.

He wrote The Executioner's Song about the murders committed by Gary Gilmore and Gilmore's subsequent role as the first person to be executed under America's new death penalty laws in 1977; and he also wrote a story, "The Witch of Westport," a satire that became the basis for the sitcom "Bewitched."

I might not have recognized his face, one of the most familiar faces among the famous and notorious of the 20th century, without a photo caption. In true Pisces style, he blended into the landscape, had an effect that was partly visible and mostly invisible, and he became ubiquitous: soaking into the background of life long after he shifted away from its foreground.

Pisces appears in his natal chart as his ascendant, his South Node and his Uranus. Uranus, with its boldly creative, innovative and at times shocking energy, has an 84-year orbit, and he lived one full Uranus cycle: enough to experience the return of that planet to its natal position.

Uranus is close enough to the ascendant to impact the world, but in the 12th house the effect will be imperceptible to many, and enormous in its reach. What we are more likely to feel is Chiron conjunct Mars in Aries: an overwhelming drive to self-actualization; someone so determined to live honestly as himself that it shatters any notion of ego. Nobody doesn't care what people think of them, but his own friend Jimmy Breslin said in an interview that he had an ego that was "half a show."

In true Chiron style, when you have a potent placement and a public life, you make your personal transformation into one that involves all the people your life contacts. With Mars and Chiron near the Aries Point, that would be a lot of people; making a close square to Pluto in early Cancer, you get tension between what it means to be a 'self' and the need to feel safe and secure on the planet.

That is always the risk, isn't it? How far can you go being yourself while honoring your need to have some grounding and safety? With a square this potent, and this pronounced in the chart, the struggle itself, reckoning that inner tension, will become the thing that keeps you grounded.

But that Pluto is in Cancer -- the fifth sign from the ascendant and so it's also going to function as the 5th house -- that of taking risks, fucking, and working out deep insecurities through creative process. Insecurities? It's retrograde. It's pointed inward, turned of in childhood, oriented toward the past, and it's a daily activity to drag that into the immediate moment. The Moon in Cancer and the 5th suggests that he had an emotional need to create -- something that many people who wonder why they don't get up and do art every day may not know is missing. One is usually an artist out of obsession; because one will die, if not. That's my read on Pluto and the Moon in his 5th house.

Let's look at the top of the chart -- he was, after all, one of the most famous intellectuals of our lifetimes. He has Mercury and the Sun in his 11th house (the public, the community), in Aquarius (groups, ideas, innovation, the mind) -- helpful for a socially crusading intellect. Aquarius is the sign that doesn't know whether it wants to conform or be an iconoclast. Mailer, summing this aspect up nicely, once said on National Public Radio, "I am the only major writer in America who has had more bad reviews than good reviews in the course of his writing life. So that gives me a certain pride: I feel they keep taking their best shot, and they're not going to stop me, ya know."

What tells the story the most succinctly is that on his 10th house cusp -- where you express your true calling, your mission, and the point where you impact society, is the Galactic Core. This point, the center of our galaxy placed so prominently, creates a life that is mostly behind the scenes and springs up like mushrooms everywhere. Mushrooms are some of the biggest organisms on Earth, sometimes spreading miles under the landscape, emerging from the ground like new plants but having the same genetic code as one five miles away.

He has Pallas Athene up there -- the warrior goddess of wisdom, strategy and protection. It is the highest planet in a conventional chart, on the 10th cusp; In Sagittarius, this is a crusader for a vision, someone obviously not content with the way things are but who is willing to be tactical about making the changes. Pallas Athene always has a plan. On the Galactic Core, it looks like a cosmic plan, and with Pluto working this point now, we can be sure that Mailer's message is just beginning to take hold.