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Astrology by Hand

A column by Robert Hand

Editor's note: This article, written in 2001, is based on the birth time of 9:00 am, as it was known then. In 2008, McCain's birth certificate was published which gives 18:25 as birth time (see this chart).
For historical reasons, we do not update the birth time and leave this article unchanged. It may serve as teaching material nevertheless.

The Chart of John McCain

During the last presidential campaign, only one candidate seriously challenged George W. Bush for the Republican nomination: Senator John McCain of Arizona. It can be argued seriously that McCain captured the popular imagination far more than Bush has or is likely to. This week, we are going to look at McCain’s chart. It seems especially appropriate in view of the fact that campaign finance reform, one of McCain’s major issues, has been debated in Congress this week.

John McCainAccording to Astrodatabank, John McCain was born on August 29, 1936 at 9:00 am EST, somewhere in the Panama Canal zone, with coordinates given as longitude 79W48 and latitude 9N10. The time is given as being “from memory.” The time has a rounded-off flavor, but fortunately the house cusps are all in the middle of signs. So, unless the time is wildly off, we do know which signs affect which houses.

The Basics of the Chart

McCain’s Sun is in Virgo, his rising degree is in Libra and his Moon is in Capricorn. While these three signs only give a general description of a person, they do say some things about McCain that are relevant even without going to the rest of the chart. First of all, the combination of a Virgo Sun with a Capricorn Moon (both earth signs) suggests that we are not dealing with a political ideologue here, but a very pragmatic individual with high standards as to what is and is not correct. This comes from the nature of the element earth, which in human beings is generally oriented toward the real world and to getting results, and both Virgo and Capricorn have quite a strong sense of right and wrong.

I am fond of saying that there are three kinds of politicians: There are liberals, conservatives and then there are honest men and women. This last group seems to some to be liberal, to some conservative and others somewhere in between. What makes them different is that they are not strongly attached to an abstract political philosophy, but prefer to do whatever needs to be done to get the desired results, whatever it may look like to others. This might help to explain why McCain seems puzzling to both liberals and conservatives. His positions on most issues are broadly conservative, but his position on campaign finance reform seems quite liberal.

Saturn Is His Ascendant Ruler

His rising sign which is Libra indicates a strong need for balance and justice. This is made even more significant by the role of Saturn with regard to Libra. As I mentioned several weeks ago, more than one planet rules each sign. In Libra, we have Venus as the sign ruler and Saturn as the exaltation ruler. And, as I also mentioned a few weeks ago, Saturn rules all air signs in daytime charts. McCain’s was a daytime birth. Thus Saturn has two rulership modes over Libra, the rising sign, which gives Saturn a stronger rulership over the rising degree than Venus. This increases McCain’s tendency to be conservative, but the ancients describe Saturn in the daytime as being especially concerned with fair order and justice. As I say to my students and clients, Saturn in the daytime is discipline; Saturn at night is more like repression.

Now, it is always desirable to look at the ruler(s) of a rising degree when reading a chart. McCain’s Saturn is in Pisces in the Sixth House, and Venus, the sign-ruler of the Ascendant, is in Virgo in the Twelfth. On the face of it, neither of these is exactly wonderfully placed, but let’s remember that George W. Bush’s chart has the Sun ruling the Ascendant in the Twelfth and he is still president.

Again, according to medieval sources, when there are two rulers of an Ascendant, you take the one with more rulership over the rising degree if the rulers are otherwise more or less equal. Well, in addition to Saturn’s having stronger rulership than Venus, these two rulers are also NOT equal. McCain’s Venus is in the Twelfth House, the more difficult of these two difficult houses, and it is in Virgo, the sign of its fall, which indicates that Venus does not function terribly well. Saturn is in the slightly better house and has no special weakness in Pisces, and in fact has some features that actually strengthen it. We’ll talk more about that next week.

For the moment I would like to point out something that is also true of these combinations. Venus and Saturn are only a bit less than three degrees out of an exact opposition (180 degrees apart). Having the two main planets connected with the rising sign and degree in this opposition relationship definitely introduces some instability and difficulty into life. In particular, the Twelfth House is a place of confinement and imprisonment. Having one rising sign ruler opposed to the other involving the Twelfth House is the best indication in the chart of the fact that McCain spent quite a considerable time as a POW in North Vietnam. However, there are things in this chart that indicate that he would be able to turn this to his advantage at some point in his life, no matter how difficult it may have been at the time.

The next thing that we need to notice is that Venus is moving away from the opposition. This is an aspect whose influence was passing away at birth and which should have less influence as time passes, so it is likely that it has manifested most strongly early in life. But let’s look more at this Saturn.

Saturn is in the Sixth House. This is not one of most astrologers’ favorite houses. It has to do with work, illness and in the older forms of astrology is one of the houses of enemies. Given that McCain was imprisoned by the North Vietnamese, the enemies of our nation at that time, this old interpretation of the Sixth seems appropriate in McCain’s case.

However, there is an exception to the general negativity that astrologers used to feel about the Sixth House. This exception is embodied in the fact that even now most astrologers regard the Sixth House as signifying work. The medieval astrologers stated that if there were some strong connection between the Sixth House and the Tenth House, then the Sixth House would have more to do with career and work than with illness or enemies.

In McCain’s chart, Saturn in the Sixth is the planet making the closest aspect to the Midheaven, the point at the top of the chart, and Saturn will be the next planet that the Midheaven aspects. Recall that the Midheaven has the strongest signification for career. The aspect is a trine, usually regarded as harmonious or favorable, and it is less than four degrees out.

What this means is that something or several things about that Saturn and what it signifies would assist McCain in his career. Well, in fact, his political career is at least to some extent derived from his war-hero reputation, which in turn is derived from his experience and behavior as a P.O.W. And let’s not forget that this Saturn is one of the rulers of the Ascendant, or rising degree, which describes the way that an individual appears to the world.

Now this Saturn in the Sixth is not a perfect one, even aside from the fact that it is in the Sixth. It is retrograde, i.e., apparently going backward in the zodiac, and Saturn has no dignity in its degree of Pisces, a state known as peregrine. But this is itself interesting. “Peregrine” means foreign or wandering. McCain was from the North Vietnamese point of view a foreign enemy, so here we have one Ascendant ruler “peregrine” opposing Venus, the other Ascendant ruler, in the Twelfth House, signifying imprisonment.

A question here! Could I or anyone else have forecasted any of this? If we lived in the Middle Ages the answer would probably be “yes,” because this sort of thing was not unusual with the noble clientele of the medieval astrologer. It is much harder to forecast this kind of thing now because the greater fluidity of our social order makes the outcome of astrological combinations much less determined. But we can say this: As McCain has already discovered in connection with the Keating scandals of a few years ago, someone with a chart like his must live an absolutely squeaky clean existence in order to make this aspect in his chart work at all well.

Back to Saturn! It is doing something else that is interesting. Jupiter is approaching a 90-degree angle, or square, to Saturn. And since Saturn is going backward, Saturn is also approaching Jupiter. This does not look especially good at first, but it is much better than it looks.

Saturn is in Pisces, which is traditionally ruled by Jupiter (I use the old rulers). Jupiter is in Sagittarius, which means that Jupiter is dignified. Any planet being in its own rulership is considered good for that planet. This means Jupiter is strong, and its strength can rub off on Saturn, making this a much more productive square than average according to medieval astrologers.

While this square is, like all squares, an unstable aspect, it is much more likely than most squares to lead to something useful. So here is yet another indication that the Saturn in his chart might be more helpful than it first seems.

So we have a pragmatic conservative who has turned a difficult experience to his advantage. But what makes him buck his party’s establishment the way he does? Next we will see why this is happening at this time.

So far, we talked about general features of Senator John McCain's chart. Now I want to concentrate on what in the chart makes him buck his own party concerning campaign finance reform and why that is an issue now. The bill has just been passed by the Senate, and it looks as if McCain is going to be able to pull off a campaign reform bill that is close to what he intended. What will happen after that in the courts and in actual practice is another matter.

First we have tenacious Pluto in the Tenth House of career opposite the Moon (emotions) in the Fourth House of origins, the past and family. This combination has many qualities, some of them difficult, but among them is a tendency toward obsession and persistence with an idea or an emotion. Moon-Pluto types do not readily let go of something once they have gotten hold of it.

Prepared for the Public

Another factor is the action planet Mars in the Eleventh House of the public. Now, the exact placement of Mars could be given as the Tenth or Eleventh House depending on which house system the astrologer is using. In the Koch system Mars is so close to the Eleventh House cusp that I would have to reckon it an Eleventh House placement. In the Whole Sign system that I now prefer, it is completely in the Eleventh. This placement gives a high degree of self-assertiveness within groups. It may or may not denote a leader, but anyone with such a placement who is not a leader will act independently of whoever is the leader.

On top of this, Mars is moving into a 120-degree angle (trine) with lucky, expansive Jupiter, and Jupiter is in its own sign, Sagittarius. I mentioned Jupiter last week in connection with its square (90 degrees) to Saturn. This is an extremely dignified Jupiter. “Dignified” simply means that it behaves in a way that is completely consistent with its own nature. Mars and Jupiter together indicate fortunate or expansive actions, actions often taken against the odds but with the anticipation of a good result. Jupiter is in the Third House, which indicates communications. So we have Mars in a house of group relations and Jupiter in a house of communications. This indicates that McCain is likely to have prepared carefully for his campaign to get the finance reform bill through Congress, and to have networked very effectively.

A Conservative Rebel

As Mars moves toward Jupiter in McCain’s chart, it also separates (moves away from) from a 90-degree angle (square) to rebellious Uranus. Here we have the maverick—an unconventional member of a group—in McCain’s chart. If he did not have restrictive Saturn in such a powerful rulership (the Ascendant, one’s public face) he would not be so conservative. His chart is both in balance and tension with the conservatism of Saturn ruling the Ascendant (by exaltation and triplicity) and his fastidious Virgo Sun and traditional Capricorn Moon, all working against the Mars-Jupiter and Mars-Uranus combinations.

Why Now?

Why is all of this happening now? As I write this, Pluto is at 15 degrees and 13 minutes of Sagittarius. McCain’s Jupiter is at 15 degrees and 6 minutes of Sagittarius. In late March, Pluto stopped moving forward and turned backward very close to where it is now. The debate on the bill is occurring on the exact crossing (transit) of transformative Pluto over McCain’s natal Jupiter. Jupiter-Pluto is a combination that indicates reform and regeneration. The symbolism is perfect.

While Pluto will eventually get to the 90-degree angle (square) of his natal Saturn, it will not be this year. Pluto’s next transit will be to come back over Jupiter within the next couple of weeks because Pluto is now retrograde  (going backward as seen from Earth). Then it will come close to making the 120-degree angle again to his Mars. But it does not quite make it. This will be in August, and the final pass of Pluto will be in December.

Will McCain continue to be successful? He should in the near future. It is a bit harder to say in the long run. Saturn, which is now quite far from making any combination with his natal Jupiter, will begin to oppose it, falling just short in September.

In May of 2002, Saturn will oppose his Jupiter just as Pluto crosses over that same Jupiter for the last time. I believe that May of next year will bring a time of crisis concerning this legislation (although it could be something else in his life, to be sure). Saturn will be in the Ninth House of the chart, which rules the courts and legal system. That could be the time of the court challenge, although as of this writing it is difficult to see how it would take so long to get to the courts. Time will tell.

About Robert Hand

Robert Hand is one of the world's most famous and renowned astrologers. He takes a special interest in the philosophical dimensions of astrology and is quite dedicated to computer programming. Currently he is fully engaged for Arhat Media as an editor, translator and publisher of ancient astrological writings. Rob Hand lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

Rob is an honor graduate from Brandeis University, with honors in history, and went on for graduate work in the History of Science at Princeton. Rob began an astrology practice in 1972 and as success came, he began traveling world wide as a full time professional astrologer. In 2013, he was designated as a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) by The Catholic University of America.

Current Planets
26-Apr-2017, 13:14 UT/GMT
Sun629'29"13n41
Moon73'24"9n30
Mercury2614' 6"r10n02
Venus2910'21"1n35
Mars331'52"21n28
Jupiter1556'56"r4s50
Saturn2727'41"r22s03
Uranus259'46"9n13
Neptune1334'51"7s15
Pluto1923'22"r21s10
TrueNode19'25"r11n04
Chiron276' 8"2n19
Explanations of the symbols
Chart of the moment
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