Difficult Charts | David Carpenter

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Thank you to reader Iago Pereira for bringing this chart to my attention.

Challenging Assumptions

Some charts challenge our assumptions. These charts can be very frustrating, especially for beginners, as they find that basic chart analysis leads them in the wrong direction. However, more than any other charts, challenging charts push us to refine our art. Without such challenges, our astrology does not grow and simply becomes dogmatic. We ignore such charts to our own disadvantage.

David Carpenter

In this article, we are going to look at one of the most challenging charts which I’ve come across. Life is complex and contradictory. This chart is one of a serial killer, rapist, and pedophile. Additionally, he was a victim of childhood abuse. Amazingly, he has also been unusually lucky in his life, in the sense of catching breaks. He was released from jail multiple times after horrendous crimes. He’s been married twice and has had three kids. Furthermore, he’s a reportedly well-behaved prisoner who has been on death row for decades (34 years) without execution, and still maintains his innocence. These days, he even has a penchant for religion.

The Trailside Killer

David Carpenter was born on May 6, 1930 at 9:16 pm in San Francisco, CA (AA-rated source). He is infamous as the “Trailside Killer”, owing to a string of murders which took place on hiking trails in some of San Francisco’s most scenic parks. Strangely, the murders took place when Carpenter was 49 and 50 years of age. He was caught shortly after his 51st birthday.

David Carpenter Natal
David Carpenter’s Birth Chart

Note on Biographical Sources

Information on Carpenter’s life and criminal record prior to the killings is somewhat hard to come by. I rely heavily on the collection of news stories at Murderpedia.org (see Information PDF). However, some stories are inconsistent or riddled with minor errors. For instance, a couple stories state he was born in 1930 but also that he was 33 years old in 1960. The Criminal Minds Wiki also has some conveniently organized information on his crimes and behavior. Additionally, for insight into his prison life, I read an interview with him that was conducted by a fellow prisoner. Note that there are also some minor errors in the Wikipedia article on Carpenter.

Issues with this Chart

Carpenter’s chart challenges in a number of ways. The bulk of my analysis is going to be focused on individual problem areas. I’ll present my solutions or at least some food for thought. After exploring the main issues, we’ll look at the chart in terms of timing.

Many of the challenges pertain to things I’ve previously written articles about. For instance, the interpretation of sign dignity is significant in the chart, as he has 3 planets in domicile. I’ve written many articles on how dignity is often mis-used by traditional astrologers. This chart raises some of those issues anew. Additionally, I’ve written on the importance of twelfth-parts and the lots, including the Lot of Boldness in the charts of murderers. I’ve also highlighted how mutable signs were seen as a destabilizing influence on the character by some Persian astrologers. I’ll explore these important considerations with this chart.

However, there are other ways in which the chart is challenging, particularly for me. I follow the approach of Hellenistic and Persian astrologers. They rely heavily on the Ascendant Lord, Mercury, and the Moon for character delineation. The Lord of the Ascendant is Jupiter in a somewhat benefic place. Additionally, Jupiter is with the sect benefic and its ruler, Mercury is with both benefics. The Moon is dominated by both benefics and her ruler. This is a pedophile turned rapist and murderer – hardly a benefic character. Reading character in this chart is complex.

I. Character

Jupiter is the domicile lord and main (first) triplicity lord of the Ascendant. Jupiter also closely aspects the Ascendant within about 5 degrees. Therefore, Jupiter is an important significator of the character. Jupiter is in the 7th house (a stake of the Ascendant) and is strongly advancing, so it is quite strong. Jupiter is out of sect, but it’s still a benefic, and one that is with the sect benefic (Venus), as well as its own ruler, Mercury. This would appear to bode very well for the character, but this guy is a pedophile, rapist, and serial killer. What gives?

David Carpenter Natal

Mercury too is typically used for the character and rational mind. Here Mercury is in the 7th place, in its own house and bound, with both benefics. None of the malefics aspect it with a hard aspect (square or opposition). Therefore, one the surface, Mercury is perplexing.

First, we have to seriously consider whether Jupiter and Mercury are saying something meaningful about the character and the life. Next, we have to look deeper at the “hidden placements” of these planets by twelfth-parts, and possibly even antiscia. Finally, we also have to consider special techniques specific to aggressive behavior.

7th House: Sex and Marriage

Jupiter is in the 7th house, which in ancient astrology is the house of marriage and sex. Many indicators (especially Venus with Mercury) in the 7th tended to show a preoccupation with sex. One thing noted frequently with Carpenter is that he was an uncontrollably lustful character. Even in his first marriage he was said to want sex constantly. He started stalking other women while married. The lord of the 1st and Mercury (two significators of the self and mind), in the 7th, with Venus, mathces this emphasis.

Jupiter’s role in the 7th is also interesting in the sense that Carpenter was able to marry and have children given his notorious past. He was a convicted pedophile prior to meeting his wives. He was also very abused as a child and suffers from an extreme form of stuttering. That he could get married, twice, and father three children is somewhat remarkable. Benefics in the 7th house are an indication of some undeserved luck in this area.


While Carpenter was a depraved pedophile and stalker from early on, he seemed able to get off on good behavior time and time again. Prior to a string of murders, his stints in prison were rather brief compared with his crimes. He is noted as being a somewhat model inmate and one who is religious. It is thought that his victims may not have originally suspected he’d harm them because his mild manner and stutter made him seem harmless. He has molested many boys, raped many women, and killed at least 8 people. Now, at age 88, he has survived 34 years on death row without execution. He maintains his innocence and fights for his own release.

We see the role of Jupiter strongly advancing in many of these facts (see also the chart of OJ Simpson). Jupiter is loud in the life, granting lots of opportunities and breaks. It is quite likely that his character is one that does seem to align with Jupiter ruled by Mercury. Someone who seems friendly, even helpful, as well as knowledgeable or judicious. Jupiter is not indicating that he is a “good guy” but Jupiter is indicating that he can come off as one, and that is part of what makes Carpenter so dangerous.

David Carpenter Natal

Mars Influence

Jupiter is in the bound of Mars and is most closely aspected by Mars, from the right side. Therefore, Jupiter is linked strongly with Mars, and Mars is the more influential of the two in the relationship. Mars is the closest aspect to Jupiter from the right side and it is an applying aspect, so it is a Jupiter colored by Mars. The Mars bound of Gemini is particularly associated with blood and destruction.

The fourth term, 7° belong to Mars: much-burdened, with no brothers, having few children, a wanderer, with a good income, destructive, bloody, inquisitive. (Valens, Anthology, Riley trans., 2009, p. 6)

Mars itself is in sect and in a good place, but Mars is very strongly afflicted by Saturn. Saturn is out of sect, in the dark 2nd place, and it dominate Mars. This is exacerbated by the fact that the aspect is applying within 3 degrees. Therefore, Mars is strongly colored by and connected with Saturn.


This chart was brought to my attention in reference to another article of mine on Mercury and mutability. Mutability was associated with instability and fickleness in Hellenistic astrology (see Ptolemy, Book III, Ch. 13). Some of the Medieval astrologers additionally associated the Lord of the Ascendant or Mercury in a mutable sign with anger, fearfulness, and an unsound mind. The passages pertaining to that are quoted in the article.

In the case of David Carpenter, we see the Ascendant, its lord (Jupiter), Mercury, the Moon, and Venus in mutable signs. Most of the planets, including the most important character significators are in mutable signs. Furthermore, three of the seven planets are ruled by Mercury, including the Asc Lord and Mercury itself, adding more instability to the mix.

Missing Pieces

Obviously, we cannot get the full story on character from the apparent state of the Lord of the Ascendant and Mercury in the chart. For the most part they indicate positively. It is in fact troubling that they can apparently indicate positively for the most part but we can end up with someone like David Carpenter. We do see that the strongly advancing Mars is very loud in the life and influential upon the character, but there are plenty of missing pieces. Remember this before assuming that you can judge character based on the apparent state of a few factors that signify character.


I have written extensively on the twelfth-parts. I have discussed how you don’t know the full story about a planetary placement until you’ve examined the twelfth-parts. These additional positions were used by nearly every Hellenistic astrologer, with some of them stressing that they hold the secret to hidden information. Carpenter’s chart emphasizes the importance of these positions.

David Carpenter Twelfth-Parts
David Carpenter’s Birth Chart with Twelfth-Part Positions Along Outer Wheel

A few notable things are revealed in the twelfth-parts. Twelfth-part Jupiter is conjunct Saturn, the most malefic planet in the chart, This ties the Asc Lord to Saturn’s significations. The Ascendant and Saturn’s significations get tied to the Sun (publicity) in the dark 6th house by way of their twelfth-part positions. Mars has its twelfth-part square its natal position, intensifying it. Furthermore, its twelfth-part is in the harmful 8th house of death. That twelfth-part is also opposed to Saturn and the twelfth-part of Jupiter. Venus has her twelfth-part conjunct the Moon in Virgo, confirming the strong instinctual need for sexual gratification.

Dark and Fallen

Some interesting things occur with the twelfth-parts when dark houses and zodiacal fall are considered. The Sun and Moon end up conjunct in the dark 12th house. Actually, the twelfth-parts reveal 5 of 7 planets in dark houses, with all involved in hard malefic aspects. Additionally, the twelfth-parts put 4 of the 7 planets into the signs of their fall.

The Lot of Spirit

A look at the lots is vital to an analysis of any topic in the natal chart. The Lot of Spirit is particularly relevant to matters of character. I’ve explored the Lot of Spirit in depth in the article on the Four Principal Lots and the lesson on the lots.

David Carpenter Lots
David Carpenter’s Birth Chart with a Selection of Important Lots (Affliction and Mother at top of chart – names cut off)

As noted by reader Iago Pereira, Carpenter has the Lot of Spirit with and ruled by Mars, while dominated by Saturn. In terms of character, Spirit shows an aggressive martial character dominated by a bitterly dark and malefic Saturn. Mars is in the bound of Venus tying the violence to women and sexuality. As noted, Mars has its twelfth-part in the 8th house, connecting it with harm and death.

The Lot of Boldness

I have written an article on the Lot of Boldness as a possible indicator of capacity for bloodshed. The Lot of Boldness and Mars were the main factors explored by Abu’Ali for delineation of aggressive behavior. Additionally, many planets significant to the character in masculine signs was said to exacerbate aggressiveness. Mars in the 4th was also said to be significant for bloodshed. We may wish to consider Mars advancing toward the IC in a similar fashion, as quadrant houses were starting to be used during the period in which Abu’Ali practiced.

David Carpenter Lots

Carpenter, like the mass murder James Holmes, has Boldness with and ruled by Mars, while Mars strongly advances toward the IC. The Lot of Spirit additionally connects this with the character. Furthermore, the Ascendant, Lot of Spirit, Lot of Boldness, and 4 of 7 planets are in masculine signs, including the Asc Lord (Jupiter), Mercury, Mars, and Venus. Therefore, this special technique for assessing numbness to violence appears to be a promising one.

Additional Factors

Planetary Day and Hour

It is hard to look at Carpenter’s chart and not notice that he was born on the planetary day of Mars and at the planetary hour of Mars. Many Medieval astrologers included the rulers of the planetary day and hour as significant in their techniques for finding an overall chart lord. Vettius Valens also advised to look at the planetary day and hour rulers of the natal chart (see my article on planetary days and hours). We may consider this another indication of the importance of Mars in characterizing Carpenter’s life.

Antiscia Chart

Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th century) advised that the secrets of the chart can be found in the twelfth-part and antiscia positions. Many Hellenistic astrologers used the twelfth-part positions, and I’ve discussed them in this chart. However, only Maternus appears to have used the antiscia positions as additional body-doubles, or shadow points, for the planets. While I don’t normally use the antiscia points in practice, Carpenter’s chart has made me wonder if maybe I should. I’ve touched on the use of antiscia by Firmicus in an article on the twelfth-parts, and I’ve discussed antiscia in more detail in an article on symmetry in ancient astrology.

David Carpenter Antiscia
David Carpenter’s Birth Chart with Antiscia Positions Along Wheel

The Ascendant and Saturn are antiscia each other. This connects Saturn, the most malefic planet in the chart, with the nature of the self and character. Even more striking, Saturn is contra-antiscia Jupiter to the degree (i.e. they are the same distance from 0 Aries). This is seen as an opposition in the antiscia chart. Therefore, Saturn pertains strongly to both the Ascendant and its lord (Jupiter) by antiscia.

Additionally, Mars has its antiscia in the 10th house with the Moon, connecting it with the appetites and irrational mind as well as Carpenter’s role in the public eye. Similarly, the Moon’s antiscia is with Mars (i.e. the Moon and Mars are antiscia each other by sign). Also, both benefics and Mercury have their antiscia in the 8th house linking them with harm and death.

II. Mercury and Communication

One of the other perplexing things about Carpenter is his severe stutter. He is said to have been a severe stutterer since early childhood. This speech condition has caused him immense suffering due to the difficulty of communication as well as bullying in his school years. However, Carpenter has Mercury in sect, with both benefics, in domicile, in its own bound, and unafflicted by malefics.

David Carpenter Natal
David Carpenter’s Birth Chart

Before getting to the possible ways Mercury could indicate stuttering, let’s look at the ways Mercury may be indicating true things about the life. It is well known that IQ is not a strong predictor of intellectual success in life. Carpenter is reported to have an IQ of 125 (very high) and to have gotten good grades in school. Additionally, he got a degree in computer printing and was trained as a typesetter, a very mercurial profession. He even taught classes on these matters.

These things all suggest that Mercury is indeed prominent in his life. That prominence is reflected in Mercury’s position in a stake, in its own place, ruling the Moon and MC. Its benefits through association with both benefics are also well-attested in the life.


As noted above, mutability, as well as rulership by Mercury and a position in an air sign, can all destabilize Mercury. Mercury is complicated enough, while Carpenter’s Mercury (and its twelfth-part) in a mutable sign, in air, and ruled by itself vacillates so much that it causes difficulty.

Retrograde Station

In the lesson on planetary prominence, I noted that whether a planet is direct or retrograde is not as significant as whether it stations within a week of birth. Additionally, a direct station within a week of birth is very strengthening, while a retrograde station is the opposite. Amazingly, astrologers often discuss how a planet is retrograde but miss that it is actually stationing direct (powerfully strong). In Carpenter’s case, it is too easy to see that Mercury is direct and miss that it is stationing retrograde.

David Carpenter Two Days After Birth
Two Days After Carpenter’s Birth – Mercury Stations Retrograde

Mercury stations retrograde less than 2 days after Carpenter’s birth. It is this debility of Mercury which may be the symbolic key to Carpenter’s severe speech impediment.

III. Parents

Taking an approach which stresses the importance of the 4th house, the Sun, and the Moon for parents can lead to surprising results. The 4th house is ruled by Jupiter, a benefic, which is in a strong house. The Sun is in the weak and dark 6th house but is ruled by Venus and in the bound of Jupiter. The Moon is the sect light, very prominently positioned in the 10th house, dominated by the benefics and her ruler. However, Carpenter was notably abused by an alcoholic father and had a domineering strict mother.

David Carpenter Natal

Saturn and the Father

Both the Sun and Saturn are relevant as natural significators of the father. By night, Saturn often becomes the more important significator. Both the Sun and Saturn are in dark places (6th and 2nd places respectively) and out of sect. Saturn is also the only planet making a right side aspect to the house of father (4th) and to the Sun (trine). Therefore, Saturn has a significant influence over the significations of both the 4th and the Sun. Saturn is very malefic in this chart, exacerbated by being out of sect, in the dark 2nd place, and in an applying close aspect with Mars. As we’ll see with timing, Saturn activations also relate strongly to Carpenter’s crimes.

The Moon and the Mother

Little is known about Carpenter’s family, though his mother is characterized as domineering and physically abusive. Note that the Moon literally dominates the 1st house of the self in the chart. Additionally, the Moon is trine that malefic Saturn, signifying friendship between the Moon and Saturn. Also, the Moon rules the 8th place of the chart, which is occupied by the twelfth-part of Mars.


Again, the twelfth-parts provide plenty of additional insights. The Sun and Moon are together in the 12th house of enemies and undoing. The twelfth-part of Saturn is with the Sun, reinforcing their strong relationship.

David Carpenter Twelfth-Parts


Interestingly, the Lot of the Father is conjunct the Lot of Boldness. Both together are with and ruled by Mars. They are also both with the Lot of Spirit. Above I discussed how Spirit linked the character with the influence of this Mars. We’ve also seen how indicators of the father connect with the sense of self (Jupiter as ruler of the 4th and 1st, Asc antiscia Saturn). Now we see the occurrence together of Boldness, the Lot of the Father, and Lot of Spirit, with and ruled by this strongly advancing Mars. Violence, the sense of self, the role of the father, and a numbness to violence are all connected in this house.

David Carpenter Lots

There is a similar connection between the Moon, the Lot of the Mother, and the Lot of Affliction in Virgo. The Lot of the Mother in the 10th house confirms that the Moon in the 10th is the main significator of the mother. The Lot of Affliction connects the Moon with with crises in the life. As they are in the same degree, it would seem that the mother is connected with crisis-inducing situations in the life.


The antiscia chart also shows the mother linked with harm. The Moon and Mars are antiscia each other by sign. As already noted, the Saturn-Ascendant antiscia shows self-identification with the father.

David Carpenter Antiscia

Important Time Periods

Let’s change gears and look at the timing of Carpenter’s crimes and life relative to indications with ancient predictive techniques. A thorough analysis of these time periods could fill a book. I’ll keep the analysis brief to focus on just a few techniques for each year in order to investigate if factors are activated which were singled out in the delineation above. The timing of events explored is from a work-up with a timeline from Radford University.

Age 17: Molestation Conviction

The details are unclear, but by age 17, Carpenter molested two of his young cousins (ages 8 and 3). He was sentenced to the California Youth Authority.


The annual profection of the Ascendant at age 17 is to the 6th house. For Carpenter that is Taurus, occupied by the Sun, ruled by Venus. Venus is posited in the 7th house of marriage and sexuality. The public significations of the Sun, sexual themes of Venus, and themes of harm and illness of the 6th fit this period.

David Carpenter Natal

Solar Return

The solar return for the year sees srVenus conjunct nMars in Aries. It even has srMars with her in an applying conjunction. The srMoon in the sr12th applies to srVenus. All of these configurations further highlight the significance of Venus and give her a strong link for the year with Mars and sexual violence (Venus-Mars).

David Carpenter Age 17 return
David Carpenter Age 17 Solar Return

The srAscendant is with nSaturn, ruled by Saturn, and in the bound of Venus, highlighting the natal Saturn’s themes. srSaturn is very malefic in the chart, as it is in the 8th of the return, out of sect, and strongly advances toward the Descendant. Therefore, Saturn in the chart is also highlighted in the solar return.

Secondary Progressed Moon

Using the Valens technique for secondary progressions, we pull up the chart 17 days after birth. We are particularly interested in the relationship to the natal chart.

David Carpenter Age 17 SP
Carpenter’s Age 17 Secondary Progressions Along Wheel

The spMoon progressed to conjoin Mars in Aries. In this we see Mars highlighted yet again. The spSun also progressed to conjoin Mercury in Gemini. Mercury rules the 10th house of reputation and we see an important event in this year in terms of developing Carpenter’s public reputation.

Primary Directions: Distributor

The distributor of the Ascendant by primary directions from ages 14-18 was Mars. In other words, the Ascendant directed through the Mars bound of Sagittarius during that period. At age 14, Carpenter was hospitalized for committing sex offenses and by age 17 he got his first sentence. Therefore, we see a confirmation that Mars in his chart is particularly linked to sexual violence.

David Carpenter early distributors
Carpenter’s Youth Distributors of the Ascendant

Age 25: Marriage

Carpenter was married at age 25 to a 19 year old Ellen Heattle. She gave birth to their three children over the following 5 years.

Planetary Years

25 marks the activation of the Moon by planetary years. The Moon is the sect light of the chart and separates from Mercury (ruler of VII in VII) to apply to Venus (in VII). The Moon naturally signifies the mother and personal life, and here is accidentally connected with status/reputation (10th house) and marriage (Mercury-Venus in VII) among other things.

Primary Directions

The marriage was on November 5th, 1955, when Carpenter was 25.5 years old. By primary directions, Venus directed to the natal Sun within a week of the wedding.

David Carpenter Age 25 Direction
Carpenter’s Direction of Venus to the Sun at age 25.5

Age 30: Assault and Attempted Murder

While still married, Carpenter attacks a woman. He tied her with a clothesline and tortured her with a knife and claw hammer. A military officer responds to the screams. Carpenter tries to shoot him but misses and then is shot twice by the officer. Later in the year, he is tried and sentenced to 14 years (only 8 will be served). Additionally, he is diagnosed with sociopathic personality disorder at this time.

Planetary Years

30 marks the activation of Saturn by planetary years. I have noted that Saturn is particularly associated with the father, sense of identity, and the worst malefic significations in the chart. Saturn and Mars are in an intense applying square with Saturn dominating. Saturn also signifies isolation (imprisonment).

Primary Directions

Interestingly, Saturn directs to the Ascendan while the square of Saturn (11 Libra) directs to the Moon, both at age 30. Again, the activation of Saturn reflects the native having to come to terms his actions and do hard time.

David Carpenter Age 30 Directions
David Carpenter Age 30 Directions of Saturn

Age 39: 2nd Marriage and Multiple Rapes

Unfortunately, Carpenter was paroled after only 8 years. Less than a year later he was married to his second wife, Helen. However, less than 6 months after marriage, in late January and early February 1970, he was involved in many violent crimes. The period is of interest for its intensity with two rapes, multiple attempted rapes, stolen cars, home invasion, and kidnapping all within the span of a week. The crime spree culminated in his arrest on February 3, 1970. He also briefly escaped from jail in April.  He was convicted at age 40 through a plea bargain.


His lucky break of being paroled, his marriage, and his out of control sexual aggression relate to activation of Venus and Jupiter in the chart. The profection is to the 4th house, Pisces, making Jupiter lord of the year. Jupiter is with Venus and both are influenced by Mars. Note that by Valens-style profections, it is also the case that Jupiter and Venus profect to the Moon (House of Affliction), Saturn profects to Mars, and Mars profects to its twelfth-part and the Moon (ruler of the 8th). The strong role of the benefics in the year make it a complex time – one of a release from prison, a marriage, and a sudden slew of rapes.

David Carpenter Natal
David Carpenter’s Birth Chart
Primary Directions: Distributor

During the release from prison, the marriage, and the rapes, Venus was the distributor of the Ascendant. Around the time that Carpenter was convicted, Saturn took over as distributor. This echoes the benefits of Venus running into the problematic sexuality of Venus, then the dark isolation of Saturn.

David Carpenter Age 39 Distributors
David Carpenter Distributors in his thirties and early forties

Solar ReturnThe solar return has echoes of many of the Venus and 7th house themes discussed. Gemini, the natal 7th house, rises in the return. Return Mercury is in Gemini conjunct natal Venus. Jupiter is advancing in the return and rules the MC (gift of status).

David Carpenter Age 39 Solar Return
David Carpenter Age 39 Solar Return

However, we also see some echoes of the themes of sexual aggression. Return Mars is in the 7th of the return, 1st house of the natal chart. It is in the house of the other for the year from the house of the self in the natal chart. There is an application between srVenus and srMars echoing he natal chart. Importantly, srVenus is at 11° Aries conjunct natal Mars within 2 degrees and ruled by natal Mars.  The srMoon is with nSaturn while srSaturn is with the nSun.


We know that the crimes of the year took place in a short period of time from January 27th to February 3rd of 1970. A look at the transits kicking off the crime spree reveals many interesting things.

David Carpenter 1-27-70
David Carpenter 1-27-70 Transits Along Natal

The crime spree takes place during a Mars return as tMars entered Aries just a few days prior. It actually kicks off with the tMoon’s opposition to nMars. Jupiter, the lord of the year, was transiting in Scorpio, Carpenter’s 12th house, ruled by Mars. Mercury transits in Carpricorn with natal Saturn. Saturn is transiting in the 6th through the house and bound of Venus, with his malice directed along sexual dimensions. Transiting Saturn overcomes the Moon by trine, echoing the natal Moon-Saturn trine.


The entire crime spree took place during the period between the transiting Moon’s opposition to natal Mars and her conjunction with natal Saturn. Carpenter is arrested soon after.

David Carpenter Age 39 Arrest transits
02/03/1970 Day of Arrest Transits

Age 49-50: Serial Killer

Sadly, Carpenter was paroled to a halfway house shortly after his birthday in 1979, after serving less than 9 years. Within months of his release he had become a serial killer. Previously, he had not killed anyone. It is believed that he killed at least 10 people between August 1979 and May of 1981. Most of his victims were women hiking along scenic trails in the San Francisco area. Many of the victims were raped. He was arrested just after his 51st birthday.

Planetary Years

Age 49 is an activation of Sun-Saturn relationships by planetary years. On its own Sun-Saturn configurations often crop up at time of death, as the Sun signifies vitality and Saturn signifies loss. As noted previously, the twelfth-parts of Saturn and the Ascendant are in Taurus with the Sun. Additionally, the Sun and Saturn are trine each other across the dark 2nd and 6th houses, with Saturn overcoming the Sun. I had noted how this configuration relates to the father as well.

David Carpenter Twelfth-Parts
David Carpenter’s Birth Chart with Twelfth-Part Positions Along Outer Wheel

Ages 49 and 50 are profections to the 2nd and 3rd houses. Therefore, Saturn was the lord of the year for both years that Carpenter was an active killer. Additionally, Saturn occupies the 2nd house, further highlighting Saturn’s significance the year the killings began.

David Carpenter Natal
David Carpenter’s Birth Chart
Solar Return Age 49

We see the lucky Jupiter and the aggressive sexuality highlighted in the solar return. The return has srVenus in srVII and ruling the return Ascendant. It also has srJupiter on the srMC (gift of status; release from prison). However, note that srVenus is in Aries, ruled by and occupied by nMars. Additionally, she is with srMars and srMercury, indicating aggression with intent. Additionally, we see the lunar return in the solar return, but one with srSaturn, emphasizing the Saturn-Moon relationship noted in the natal chart.

David Carpenter Age 49 Solar Return
David Carpenter Age 49 Solar Return


I could go on and analyze each murder and the ensuing arrest. For instance, the Moon and Mars were transiting in Cancer at the time of the 1st murder. However, due to time constraints I will wrap things up.

Beyond the Superficial

The chart of David Carpenter is interesting on a number of levels. I believe it is impossible to accurately see the key associations in this life without using the twelfth-parts, lots, and other such hidden factors. Additionally, we see the importance of detailed delineation in which things like possible stations, twelfth-parts, antiscia, and the lots are checked. In fact, it may be that much of the key information in every chart is actually less apparent. Such hidden information tends to be more individualized and to indicate things that are less superficial. By contrast, easily apparent indications like dignity by sign can easily lead one astray if misinterpreted.

Additionally, we see the importance of special techniques. Unusual features of a life don’t typically stand out at face value in the natal chart. Special techniques such as that for finding unusual aggression in the chart are vital. We see additional promise with the technique of using the Lot of Boldness, as we did for James Holmes.

Confirmation through Timing Techniques

Even when delineation is difficult, we find that the principles behind the best predictive techniques can help us make sense of important events. We see repeated and reinforced activation of the relevant factors that were identified in the delineation. In fact, we can use timing techniques to test our hypotheses about the significance of certain houses and other factors in the natal chart.

For example, on a superficial level Carpenter’s Moon appears strong and even benefic. Through timing techniques and a closer look at indications involving the mother we see Virgo, the Moon’s house, crop up time and again. Many of the events are true to its role as the House of Affliction. For instance, see the lunar return with Saturn conjunct the natal Moon at the 49th solar return. Factors are often mixed in signification, and sometimes their significations can have a very broad range across positive and negative dimensions. In Carpenter’s case, the wide range of significations may be exacerbated by the mutability of signs of many factors (dualistic or vacillating).

Loose Ends

While it is grim subject matter, all astrologers should check this chart out and keep it in mind. Delineation is very difficult and we still have many unanswered questions. A big part of delineation is understanding the central tendency and spread of various factors. We compare indications, look for repeat indications, and try to come to some conclusions about the most probable possibilities. In all of this we need to know the relevant factors for a given subject matter and how to prioritize and integrate them.

As you come to refine your own art of chart interpretation, return often to this chart to test your methodology. Carpenter is a complex individual but a severely damaged and destructive one. In untangling the web of his chart one faces many tough interpretive decisions. Ultimately, we want to make the same decisions, with the same interpretive principles and priorities, with every chart. Otherwise, where shall we start with the chart of someone we don’t know?


Valens, V. (2010). Anthologies. (M. Riley, Trans.) (Online PDF.). World Wide Web: Mark Riley. Retrieved from http://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/Vettius%20Valens%20entire.pdf

Featured image is cropped from a documentary on serial killers.

Update 1/28/19: Added note about Jupiter-Saturn contra-antiscia and link to new article on planetary days and hours.



Student of astrology since the mid-nineties. Business owner, husband, and father of three. I enjoy hiking, reading, making music, and learning languages.

3 thoughts on “Difficult Charts | David Carpenter

  • March 8, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    Excellent article! I completely agree that just looking at the individual essential dignities of the planets without considering how each of the planets relate to each other via regards as well as their house placement, 12th parts, lots, bounds/terms and antiscia is going to give a very incomplete picture.

    However, I think the significance of essential dignity can be resuscitated through integrating the Vedic concept of lajitaadi avasthas – because these sets of dignities consider individual essential dignities together with planets that are friendly or inimical casting regards onto a planet.

    For example in David Carpenter’s chart, the ASC lord Jupiter is in the “starvation” lajitaadi avastha in several ways – it is in an enemy sign (per Vedic essential dignities, Mercury and all of Mercury’s signs are inimical to Jupiter), and it is getting starved by both of its enemies – Venus and Mercury – by being conjunct with both in the same house. We also consider the strength of the starvation by Venus and Mercury by determining how strong their own essential dignities are – the stronger the planet is by essential dignity, the more it is capable of hurting its enemies – in this case Jupiter. Mercury is in domicile and Venus is in a friend’s sign (since Venus and Mercury are mutual friends per Vedic essential dignity). And because Jupiter is so weak by being in an enemy sign and getting starved by two strong enemies, any benefic influence it brings to Venus or Mercury is minimal.

    On the other hand, having Mercury and Venus conjunct does bring its benefits, but when in Vedic astro when Merc and Venus are conj in 7th or 10th then the person is excessively focused on sexual relations. In this case, because ASC lord is in the same sign and being starved (hurt) by the two planets forming this yoga (combination), the person’s life gets dominated by these themes of excessive sexual desire.

    His emotions and subconscious mind are disturbed – because there are no planets in the 12th or 2nd whole sign house from the Moon, he has Kemadruma yoga. Kemadruma yoga can get mitigated (cancelled) by having planets in stakes from the Moon or from the ASC and that does apply here, but notice that the planets in the stakes other than the Moon (7th house) are the planets that cause the obsession with sex and hurt the ASC lord. And Merc/Ven are closely squaring Mo as well! Mercury and Venus closely aspecting Moon make a person more prone to being selfish – concerned with satisfying their own desires.

    It’s interesting how both David Carpenter and Jeffrey Dahmer both have Saturn and Mars in domicile and squaring each other. Mars is an enemy to Saturn and so it starves Saturn…they tend to be disrespected by authority figures and have difficulty exerting their own will and so often get frustrated and very angry…

    Note, that this method of analysis doesn’t flat out contradict what you have said about essential dignity, but it does somewhat qualify the issue – planets in good essential dignity are good, but they are only good if they aren’t hurt by their enemies (especially when their enemies are strong in essential dignity and more capable of doing damage) and also not hurting any other planets that they are inimical to as well. and of course having a planet in good essential dignity that isn’t the ASC lord and is in a dark place (2nd, 6th, 8th, 12th WSH) doesn’t help as much and could (depending on other factors) be a potential negative indication because of the negative associations of those places.

    Thanks for the excellent article!

    • March 9, 2019 at 10:33 am

      Another great analysis Kevin! Thank you for sharing this. It makes me want to learn some more Jyotish myself.

      Best wishes,


  • November 21, 2018 at 11:23 am

    That was a great article showing how complex (and rich) the deep analysis of a natal chart can be, especially when dealing with someone so extraordinary (in this case evil). You mentioned that using antiscia is probably worthy of deeper study (along with 12th parts). After many years of using them (I first learned how to use them from John Frawley), I can attest that they are invaluable. Besides giving supporting or corroborating testimony to the ‘regular’ chart, often they will reveal characteristics that do *not* readily show up in the chart. Their positions often have a quality of indirectness to them or show something that may be hidden or secretive (they are after all shadow positions). I was in an astrology class once and they had up on the screen the chart of a pedophile. At first look it appeared rather ordinary, but when the antiscia were inserted the potential for sexual violence clearly popped out and was connected to the 5th house (children). The 12th parts would probably have shown this also, but they were not put in this particular chart.
    The other thing I wanted to add, was that the fixed stars can give valuable information in just about all charts (with horary probably being the least use for them and mundane astrology being the most important for their use). In Carpenter’s chart a quick look shows Mars on Algenib which according to Robson’s book can show ‘notoriety, violence, dishonor, misfortune’ among other things. (Some are positive, but since we are dealing with a serial killer/rapist, I picked out the more relevant ones). The Sun on Menkar = ‘great troubles, sickness, loss, ruin, loss of money’. Venus is on Aldebaran (Oculus Taurus) = is one of the ‘royal’ stars and generally gives good things, especially ‘good marriage’ when with Venus. On the down side it says, ‘benefits seldom last, ferocity, and danger of violence’.
    Lastly, Saturn is on Pelagus, ‘reserved, self-centered, ambition thwarted, danger of disgrace.’
    Obviously not everyone who planets and points on these stars is going to exhibit all of these characteristics, but they can add powerful supporting testimonies to what is already shown in the basic natal chart configurations.


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