Mercury retrograde and Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Notes on the Charts of Philip Seymour Hoffman

The chart of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death — that is, the chart for when his body was found, the only time we can know for sure — is thick with drug-related themes. We know that about the situation already; media reports say he was found with the hypodermic needle in his arm and heroin packets nearby.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and MIchael Angarano in Almost Famous.
Philip Seymour Hoffman and MIchael Angarano in Almost Famous.

Hoffman was considered one of the great actors of his time, often playing the roles of troubled, complex men.

His roles included rock journalist Lester Bangs in Almost Famous (who died of an overdose), the lead role in Capote about the life of writer Truman Capote, Andy in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and a weird film from a few years ago called Synecdoche, New York.

He also is credited with a diversity of Broadway roles, including none other than the terminally doomed Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman. There is an idea among astrologers who specialize in actors and their biographies that the astrology of the actor is a fair stand-in for the astrology of the characters they play. Said another way, there is a strong association between the actor and their roles. While Hoffman had a reputation for diversity, his roles all seem to have something in common — a distant quality and an existential struggle.

The primary chart I am working with is that of Hoffman’s body being found on Sunday morning. It’s impossible to know the actual time of his death; the discovery of the scene is what we can know more or less for sure. I’ve seen no conflict in the time, so I am working with 11:30 am on Feb. 2 in New York City.

This is clearly the chart of a drug overdose. We see this in the Mercury-Neptune conjunction in Pisces, as well as a centaur planet called Pholus appearing in the 8th house, one house that often points to the cause of death. Pholus for its part is often related to substance issues, most often alcohol though it could be anything addictive and intoxicating. Pholus has the key phrase “small cause, big effect.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead in his apartment in New York City. Time source: media reports.
Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead in his apartment in New York City. Time source: media reports.

All overdoses are worth considering as suicides, but I don’t think this was an intentional one. I don’t think he intended to die. I think he got heroin a lot stronger than he was accustomed to. It’s something that can happen when someone is clean for a while and starts using again, or when they use a different batch with considerably higher potency than the last few times. It looks like one of those two scenarios was the situation.

Yet lurking underneath the immediate scenario of the overdose was a sense of being trapped in his situation, and these charts have a feeling of deep isolation and the drive to break free. No doubt heroin offered at least the sensation of that feeling, temporary though it was.

The chart describes a person who is well known but who feels invisible; someone who is loved but who feels that there is something blocking his ability to really make contact with others. He seemed to be so mentally oriented that he lacked real interest in sex or other forms of human closeness. It seems like sex was not something done out of passion or the drive to connect or even to conquer; for Hoffman it seems to have been a negotiated arrangement.

He may have had a long-distance love interest who actually did inspire his passions yet who was not in the area and with whom he could not actually be with, someone who was deeply important to him — and this added to the sense of isolation.

Here is some information from his natal chart. We don’t have his time of birth; it’s not known to the astrology community at this time. He is also born with his Sun right on the Cancer-Leo line — we don’t know what sign he is, though I would bet he is born with the Sun in very late Cancer. This indicates a life spent clinging to the edge, and describes a sensitive person who is easily overwhelmed. Sun trine very late-degree Chiron in Pisces makes perfect sense for this person.

My proposed rectification of Hoffman's chart. I have put his Sun in late Cancer rather than early Leo, trine Chiron; his Moon is in late Aquarius conjunct Pholus.
My proposed rectification of Hoffman’s chart. I have put his Sun in late Cancer rather than early Leo, trine Chiron; his Moon is in late Aquarius conjunct Pholus.

Regardless of the exact time, we can see some key transits. Here are a few:

Transiting Uranus is almost conjunct (two degrees) his natal Saturn, and of course transiting Pluto is squaring that. One’s Saturn taking a double transit from the Uranus-Pluto square creates obvious tension and pressure to change. Note, his Saturn is a complex placement. It was exactly conjunct Eris when he was born. It’s also squared by Pallas and Mercury. This creates a lot if internal pressure — the sensation of wanting to explode — and a depressive quality as well. He seems to have often put his feelings into cerebral override, adding to the sense of emotional pressure.

Transiting Jupiter is conjunct his natal Mercury. This is the illustration of overwhelm/overdose. It’s the image of him seeking something wider, larger, deeper, more interesting…some spiritual meaning in his life. But in the death chart, Jupiter rules the 8th house (cause of death) and we can see that he was expressing this through a toxic substance. Note that transiting Jupiter is also square his Saturn-Eris conjunction — adding to the tension of that aspect and seeking an escape, which comes in the form of Jupiter.

Transiting Saturn is conjunct his natal Neptune. This can be the sensation of ‘the fantasy killed’ and it’s certainly an interesting image of an overdose. He reached or ran into a limit. It can be a frustrating transit for someone who is fantasy-driven or who depends on inspiration for their work; it’s the feeling of that inspiration not coming across. It takes discipline and focus (Saturn) to create and manifest what you imagine (Neptune).

He was in a node reversal, a transit that happens every 18 years, with the first event at nine years old. The lunar nodes (which are in an 18-year cycle) are reversed against the natal position, i.e., the transiting North Node is conjunct the natal South Node and vice versa. This can add to the feeling of being trapped in one’s own karma.

— Additional astrology: Elizabeth Michaud

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