Maya Angelou lived a very complex and noteworthy life. She experienced life’s lowest lows and highest highs, keeping her humanity in tact along the way. Because he life has such low lows and high highs, and a well-timed birth chart is available for her, her chart is instructive one for understanding the complexity of significations.
Maya Angelou was born on 04/04/1928 at 2:10 pm (standard time) in St. Louis, Missouri. Her birth time is said to be from a birth record (AA rodden rating).
Note About Objectives
I read Angelou’s debut novel, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” when in my late teens. Additionally, I had the pleasure of seeing a lecture by her about 15-20 years ago. I recall that she emphasized the importance of letting those around us know we love them. She also discussed how all women can tap into the feeling of sexiness no matter their appearance. As the experience was long ago, much of the biographical information about Angelou’s life which I discuss, has been gleaned from online sources.
In this article I’ll explore the complex way that her chart reflects important points in her life. There are lessons on the site which explore the symbolism and this symbolic approach to astrology. My objective is to show how timing techniques enable us to better evaluate competing interpretations of factor meanings.
In Angelou’s chart this is particularly instructive. Her highs and lows were documented in an earnest fashion across seven autobiographies. She also has an exalted Venus and a Mercury in fall. These are particularly pivotal planets in her chart, as she is someone known particularly for her writing (Mercury), as well as art, entertainment, and sexuality (Venus).
Ages of Man
I recently completed an article that broadly surveys her life using the Ages of Man technique. In that article, it was clear that she was quite vulnerable and downtrodden during her Mercury and Venus periods of her youth. The solar period found Angelou much more empowered, as a globe-trotting entertainer and activist. The Mars period saw a full transition to very active writer and poet. We will consider again the Venus period in this article.
Here I will particularly focus on some strong activations of Venus in Angelou’s life. The major activations of Venus in Angelou’s youth coincided with some of the most difficult events of her life. Perhaps at some point n the future, I’d like to look at many of the other planets in her chart in greater depth, especially Mercury.
Angelou is known for her wisdom (Jupiter), personal triumphant story (Sun ruling 1st house), and fight for civil rights (Mars) as much as for her art (Venus) and writing (Mercury). All of these things are, however, strongly related to each other in her chart (Jupiter rules Mercury-Venus and is conjunct the Sun; Mars rules Sun-Jupiter). I hope to show the distinctiveness of some of these complex indications.
Venus Exalted and Afflicted
The significations of Venus have been prominent in many of the most important difficult events of her life, but also some of the good ones. Angelou was raped at the age of 7 1/2 by a boyfriend of her mother. Also, later as a young adult she worked as a sex worker and a pimp at different points. Venus is the planet of sexuality.
Maya Angelou is also known as an artist and entertainer. Venus rules her 10th house of actions, recognition, and profession. Venus is symbolic of artists and entertainers.
In this article, I want to start by zeroing in on Angelou’s Venus. It is all too easy to associate the successes in Angelou’s life with Venus’s exaltation. How do we untangle the complicated mix of a planet’s significations, anyway? Timing techniques enable us to separate out and distinguish many of the different, often even contradictory, indications of a planet by what is activated at different points in time. Here we will focus on the significations of Angelou’s Venus for her early life experiences.
Angelou has Venus in Pisces, the sign of its exaltation. I’ve noted in many articles on dignity and in some on sexuality, that reinforcement by dignity tends to make the planet’s natural significations a bit more prominent (raised up in prominence) in the life.
This is different from the way that dignity is typically interpreted, where it signifies social or political value (high status) or associates the signification with gain or pleasure (benefic). Rather, my interpretation is that exaltation is making the significations of Venus, both natural (sex, art) and accidental (8th house, rulership of X and III, aspects, etc.) a bit more prominent in the life.
Since my work on dignity many years ago, I’ve noticed that it has generally become less emphasized in traditional astrology. I’ve also noticed that when it is emphasized, it is at least re-interpreted. While these are positive developments, some of the reinterpretations have also been concerning.
One of the more popular recent reinterpretations of dignity is that positive dignity shows something coming easy or naturally, while negative dignity shows something that one struggles with. I would caution against this interpretation. It is actually a re-working of the interpretation of dignity as benefic. Many of the arguments I’ve made in the past against the benefic/malefic interpretation of dignity apply also to this interpretation.
The interpretation also tends to diminish the accomplishments of those with planets in dignity. If, for instance, a writer has Mercury in fall and becomes a great writer, then it is seen to be due to their own perseverance against adversity. However, the same writer with Mercury in dignity supposedly just had it come easy. When one is successful, it is then attributed to dignity (easy talent) or negative dignity (improvement through struggle) when “success” itself is reflected by other factors in the chart, such as those pertaining to eminence. Therefore, too much is attributed to dignity or negative dignity in disservice to actually reading the chart.
Up and Down
When it comes to exaltation and fall, there are some special considerations. Fall was the only sort of “negative dignity” for most Hellenistic astrologers. Exaltation has a sense of raising up and fall of bringing down or depressing. These need not be benefic or malefic in signification. Rather it is again keeping with the interpretation of dignity that I advocate, pertaining to prominence; a type of raising up and putting it out there vs. a type of bringing it down and hiding it away. The planet in exaltation has its matters made more prominent in some way in the life, while the planet in fall may signify a type of being brought low, suppressed, or hidden.
As planets are in signs for extended periods, these are weak significations in themselves. However, when there are multiple similar indications then they can become more significant.
Exaltation as a Form of Prominence
Exaltation does not make significations better, easier, more beneficial, or more socially or politically normative. For example, both Jeffrey Epstein (Venus at 16 Pisces in partile conjunction with Mars) and Harvey Weinstein (Venus at 4 Pisces conjunct the twelfth-part of Saturn) were born with Venus in exaltation. Sexual circumstances in their lives, like those in the life of Angelou, became quite prominent. As Venus was also strongly connected with malefics, these circumstances tended to pertain to adverse circumstances (not “dignified” ones).
This is not to say that Angelou’s Venus has no benefic significations. All planets in any chart have both positive and negative indications. It is just that the positive or benefic associations of Venus do not necessarily pertain to “exaltation”. Rather, they include being a benefic herself and being ruled by Jupiter (and having a twelfth-part in Jupiter’s bound) among other things. Distinguishing the positive and negative associations of a planet in the chart is very important as different types of meaning will be activated at different times.
In any case, exaltation applies to a planet over a prolonged period of time (in theory one-twelfth the population could have Venus exalted). Therefore, it should be considered an overall relatively weak indication of prominence. Always look for repeat indications of any particular meaning in the natal chart and through predictive techniques.
Turning to Venus in Angelou’s Early Life
Venus and the 7th House in Angelou’s Chart
When it comes to the rape at age 7 1/2 and other such adverse sexual events we are most interested in Venus and the 7th house. This is because Venus is the natural significator of sexuality and the 7th house is the house of sexuality. Some also associate the 5th house with sexuality (it is the Joy of Venus), making the 5th possibly also relevant.
The adverse symbolic associations with Venus in the chart include her being out of sect, in the 8th house (a dark house), in the bound of Mars, domination by Saturn which closely aspects by superior square, and her twelfth-part in Scorpio which is the Place of Affliction in her chart and ruled by Mars.
The 7th house also has its share of adverse indications. Mars, the out of sect malefic, is present in the 7th house and is in the bound and home of Saturn. It (Mars) rules and squares the twelfth-part of Venus from the 7th house. The twelfth-part of Mars is in the dark 6th house, pertaining to health and accidents, opposite the twelfth-part of Saturn. Mars also connects its significations of violent adversity to the Moon (her twelfth-part is in the 7th). The partile conjunct between Mars and the Lot of Spirit is also noteworthy.
In conclusion, Venus has a lot of adverse meanings in the natal chart pertaining particularly to her location and aspect with Saturn, but also associations with Mars in the Place of Affliction. The adverse associations with the 7th house itself are primarily through Mars, but also its ruler Saturn.
Age 7-8 : Rape, Death, and the Start of Silence
One of the most well-known and pivotal events in Angelou’s life was her rape recounted in her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In multiple interviews, Angelou has stated that she was 7 1/2 to almost 8 when the rape occurred. The event and its aftermath altered her life forever.
Angelou was raped at nearly 8 years old by her mother’s boyfriend. Shortly after telling her family, the man was beaten to death. The rape was extremely traumatic for Angelou but the death of the rapist was as well. She believed he was killed due to her reporting the rape to her family. This tormented her as she came to view her own voice as responsible. She in turn went nearly mute for about the next 5-6 years. She spoke sparingly, only with her brother, during those years.
The events bring forth much of the symbolism of the Venus-Mercury conjunction (sexuality; voice) in the 8th house (death) in a mute sign (Pisces) sharply squared by Saturn (death, muting), ruler of the 7th house.
Planetary Years: Venus
The 8th year (age 7) and age 8 are interesting as 8 is the planetary years of Venus. Therefore, the 8th year represents an activation of Venus by planetary years. This points to the significations of Venus as particularly important when it came to events of the time. This indication fits well with the events of the year.
Profection: Pisces 8th House
The annual profection at age 7 is to the 8th house (age 0 is the 1st house). Therefore, the rape occurred at a time when the annual profection was to Pisces, her 8th house, occupied by Mercury and Venus, ruled by Jupiter. Therefore, the year of the rape was not only reflected by the activation of Venus by planetary years, but also symbolized by the activation of the 8th house Venus in Pisces by profection.
The annual profection puts a clear focus on the themes of death, harm, and idleness (8th house, superior square of Saturn, Mercury-Venus in bound of Mars), as well as their relation to sexuality (Venus) and communication (Mercury). Additionally, as we’ll see, after and out of the harm of the 8th house comes an escape to a vast world of wisdom and sense of identity (Jupiter as ruler, in 9th conjunct Sun, ruler of 1st).
It is also notable that the profection coincided with Maya briefly living with her mother. The rape occurred due to this brief stint of living with her mother and was at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend at the time. The 8th house, Pisces, is the Lot of the Mother.
Solar Return: Age 7
The meanings that are reinforced become clearer in the solar return for age 7.
Saturn in Pisces
Transiting Saturn had entered Pisces, the sign of the year. This was an activation of the dominating square from Saturn to the 8th house, and particularly to the Mercury-Venus conjunction.
Mars in Partile Opposition to Jupiter, Lord of the Year
The lord of the year, Jupiter was in Scorpio, the natal Place of Affliction, conjunct the natal twelfth-part of Venus, and opposed by return Venus, putting a focus again on Venusian events. When it comes to Jupiter natally, the capacity for upset to Jupiter is through Mars, as Mars is the out of sect malefic and rules Jupiter’s house (Aries). The return Jupiter is similarly “subject to” Mars, being located in Scorpio.
Natally, Jupiter, the lord of the year, is in very bad shape. Mars, the out of sect malefic, is in the return at 16 Libra retrograde, applying a partile opposition to natal Jupiter at 16 Aries. The position of Mars in Libra is significant for other reasons as well. Libra is a house of Venus and is the location of the Moon, indicative of the body. The rMars conjunct natal Moon also reflects the natal twelfth-part Moon with Mars in the 7th house (bodily harm in the house of sexuality).
Additionally, those with a good sense for twelfth-parts will realize that the position of Mars at 16LIB27 actually has its twelfth-part at 17 Aries, conjunct natal Jupiter.
In conclusion, we see an emphasis on the conflictive and malefic side of the Mars-Jupiter relationship. This is very significant as Jupiter is the lord of the year. Jupiter is also the ruler of the Mercury-Venus conjunction, so both the conjunction and its ruler are afflicted in the return.
Venus in Focus
I’ve noted a few ways in which Venus was in focus for the year, from the activation by planetary years, to the activation of the 8th house by profection. The solar return greatly intensifies this focus on Venus. It also reinforces what I’ve said about being wary of interpreting dignity as ease or beneficence.
The solar return had the Moon rising and conjoining Venus in Taurus, with the actual bound of Venus on the Ascendant. Additionally, the degree of return Venus is 17 Taurus, the same degree as Angelou’s MC. This is a “status” changing year, but not for the better. Saturn’s twelfth-part in the return also falls in Taurus by the Ascendant (5PIS47 -> 9TAU), again reinforcing the Saturn-Venus natal configuration.
Of course, looking beyond the Saturn-Venus indications, we find that the Saturn-Mercury indications are also in focus for the year. Mercury is in return in the 8th house, while Saturn is also there. Due to the tight applying Mercury-Venus conjunction in the natal chart, the significations of both planets are often strongly related to each other. Return Saturn and return Mercury together in Pisces further emphasize the themes of suppression and muteness associated with natal Mercury in Pisces square Saturn.
Primary Directions: Saturn to the Moon
The primary directions for the period are revealing as Saturn (by sextile) directed to the natal Moon. This connects Saturn’s significations of affliction to the personal life and sexuality. The Moon is located in the house of Venus and has her twelfth-part in the 7th house with Mars in Aquarius, ruled by Saturn. Saturn’s difficulties pertain particularly to sex, communication and death due to Saturn’s square to the 8th house Venus-Mercury).
Aftermath of Experience
I’d like to take a moment to note the transformative effect that the year had on Angelou. The events were traumatic on multiple levels and would drive her to become a near mute. However, over the subsequent years, Angelou would immerse herself in reading and writing. She would also meet a teacher, Mrs. Flowers, who would become a pivotal role model, eventually coaxing her to start talking again at age 13.
Much of the aftermath is reflected by the natal Sun-Jupiter conjunction in the 9th house and the Moon in the third (female school teacher). The beneficial aftermath consisting of near constant reading and writing would transition to more difficult periods in her late teens and early twenties. Note that the period from age 4 to age 14 is the period of Mercury, planet of communication and study, in the Ages of Man (see below).
Age 14-22: Teen Pregnancy and Struggles
Ages 14-22 are interesting when looking at Venus. Ptolemy viewed the ages of 14-22 as particularly tied into the symbolism of Venus. A scheme that he noted called the Ages of Man creates a set of correspondences between the planets and stages in every person’s life. In this scheme, Venus is representative of the late adolescence, a time puberty puts sexuality and relating into focus and one physically transitions into an adult.
This is a time lord technique used by Ptolemy for sketching the broad outlines of the life. You can find Ptolemy’s full explanation of the Ages of Man in Book IV of Ch. 10 of his Tetrabiblos (follow the link).
For Maya Angelou, these years were some of the darkest in her life, as detailed in her second autobiography, Gather Together in My Name. The period is marked by teen pregnancy, dropping in and out of school, despair, suicidal thoughts, and resorting to crime, even prostitution to survive.
Age 14: Moves in With Mother
At age 14, kicking off the Venus years, Angelou moved from her grandmother, who had raised her since age 3, to her mother in San Francisco. This would have been an annual profection to the 3rd house, Libra, ruled by Venus, and occupied by the Moon. The symbolism of the chart fits, as the Moon, in her Joy in the 3rd, is very symbolic of Angelou’s mother. This would have been the first profection to the house occupied by the Moon since Maya moved in with her grandmother 11 years prior.
Age 15 or 16: First Black Streetcar Conductor
Around age 15 or 16, Angelou became the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco. This was a job she was very proud of. It is sometimes reported as happening in 1943 (she turned 15 in 1943) and at other times in 1944 (she turned 16 that year), and typically reported as when she was 16. As she got pregnant when she was 16, I’m guessing that this event took place when she was 15, during the profection to Scorpio, occupied by the twelfth-parts of Mercury and Venus, significant for a job (Venus ruled 10th) pertaining to street cars (Mercury).
Age 16: Teen Pregnancy
Angelou’s Venusian troubles didn’t end at age 8. She got pregnant at age 16 (another activation of Venus by planetary years; 2 x 8) by a neighborhood boy, and gave birth to her first and only child at age 17. Note that age 16 was an activation of the Sagittarius 5th house of children by profection (occupied by Saturn), and age 17 of Capricorn (Saturn as lord of the year).
The solar return for age 16 sees Saturn at 21 Gemini, opposite natal Saturn within 3 degrees. It also sees Venus at 22 Pisces, in exact return within 2 degrees. The lord of the year, Jupiter, a planet that confers children, is transiting through the 1st house of the body and closely trine its natal position. Clyde, who later went by Guy, was to be her only child.
Venus as Distributor: Ages 16-28
The teen pregnancy was not just an activation of Venus by planetary years. It also occurred just after the distributor changed to Venus for the first time. The distributor of the Ascendant had been Mercury since about age 7 1/2, around the time of the rape and the silence. At about age 16, it switched to Venus.
The period which began with the pregnancy, also included the desperate years of her late teens and early twenties, as well as her first marriage, and the start of her entertainment career. We see darker elements of the Venusian signification during the Venus developmental years (by Ages of Man), while themes switch to marriage, publicity, and travel in relation to entertainment during the solar ones.
Ages 17-21: Struggles and Criminality
In the late 1940’s, as a young adult (about age 17-21) she worked odd jobs to support her child. This included exotic dancing in night clubs and even serving as a madam and sometime prostitute at a brothel.
Using the Ages of Man technique, we find that the Venus developmental years are largely marked by obscure struggle to survive; a desperation to make a living and support her son. She came face-to-face with poverty, racism, and having to resort to crime to survive, even resorting to prostitution. Almost as soon as the period ended, circumstances changed for the better.
This is the contrast between the heavily afflicted Venus and the very strong and prominent Sun which is conjunct Jupiter. Angelou married a Greek sailor who was an aspiring musician, at age 23, just after the Sun period started. Her and her husband immersed themselves in the study and performance of dance and music. She also changed her name from Marguerite Johnson to Maya Angelou. This change involved her childhood nickname of Maya, together with a modified version of her Greek husband’s last name Angelos.
Age 26: The Venus-Pisces Activation
While the activation of the exalted Venus at age 8 by planetary years was tragic, we may suppose that this was an isolated incident. Perhaps activation of Venus together with the sign that she is exalted in (Pisces) would produce a much different scenario.
One traditional Hellenistic means of looking at an activation of the planet together with the sign is to look at the planetary years of Venus plus the rising time of the sign. The rising time for Pisces in her chart is 18.57 years, which together with the 8 planetary years of Venus is 26.57 years. What happened at about age 26 in Angelou’s life?
In 1954, at age 25 or 26, Angelou got divorced from her first husband and briefly went back to exotic dancing (1954-1955). This was a difficulty and a setback, keeping with the symbolism of Venus in her chart. It was also a liberation that would make way for her career as a traveling entertainer.
There are some important significations related to the combination of the solar significations of the development period (by Ages of Man) and the Venusian significations of the Venus in Pisces activation. Actually, age 26, the 27th year, is also an activation of the Sun-Venus relationship by planetary years (19+8). One point of contention in the marriage (Venus) was religion (Sun-Jupiter in IX), as her husband was an atheist. Additionally, just after the marriage dissolved, Angelou didn’t just feel freer to worship (Sun-Jupiter in IX) but also to travel as an entertainer (Venus ruled by Jupiter in IX).
Career Takes Off
Starting at age 26, Angelou joined a production of Porgy and Bess which toured Europe. This was one of the highlights of her early entertainment career. While she didn’t complete the entire tour due to a need to return to her son, she visited 22 countries over about a year’s time. It was a significant time for career, travel, and Venus.
Profection to Libra
I’ve already noted how the Sun-Jupiter in IX and Venus in Pisces fit into the equation. However, the annual profection continues the themes of Venus and travel. The profection was to the 3rd house, Libra, occupied by the Moon and ruled by Venus. The Moon and the 3rd are both significant for journeys, while the ruler, Venus, lord of the year, signifies the arts and entertainment. The twelfth-part of Jupiter is also in Libra conjunct the Moon, further reinforcing the themes noted by other indications.
Age 26 Solar Return
The solar return for age 26 shows the divorce and separation from child (she didn’t take her son on tour), as well as the career focus and glory. First of all, 19 Scorpio rises in the return, putting a focus on Maya’s 4th house and her twelfth-part Venus (20 Scorpio). Saturn is transiting in the natal 4th house at the return, indicating a break-up and ending of the home life. This is further reinforced by a partile opposition between the Moon in the 7th house of the return and Saturn in the return 1st house.
Libra, the sign of the year is occupied by only the Lot of Fortune (and twelfth-part of return Mercury at 8 Libra). It is unafflicted by the malefics. Venus is lord of the year, and in the return she is opposed to Saturn. I take this as showing a separation from (Saturn and opposition) the difficult home life (Saturn transiting through 4th), through entertainment career (Venus transiting in X) and travel (Moon with Venus in X; natal Moon and twelfth-part Jupiter in Libra III).
A Complicated Web
The return Jupiter graces natal Venus with a very tight (within a degree) applying inferior square from the natal 11th house. All in all, we find a very mixed year. The significations of Venus for family and partnership are clobbered by Saturn. Return Mars has a superior square to Pisces which also plays out a return to some of the 8th house Venus themes of sexual exploitation. However, as a stripper she is discovered by a production company and her entertaining career hits a new high.
The distinct career benefit orientation of Venus is shown by return Venus (and her twelfth-part) in X, finally calling the shots in that house sheReadability rules. Therefore, there is a distinct polarity between career success and family upheaval playing out. The malefic reign in the lower chart and the benefics up high.
What can we gather about exaltation from all this? On the one hand, the activation of sign and planet together coincided with some Venusian lows, including divorce and a return to stripping. Yet, on the other hand, it coincided with Venusian highs of career opportunity (Venus ruled 10th) and globe trotting as an entertainer.
Again, I would argue that chiefly what we see is that an exalted Venus is one in which the sign gives the planet more prominence. The activation by sign + years brought forth an explosion of important themes represented by Venus in the chart. An annual profection to Libra certainly reinforced these. However, this is a very complex Venus, and one quite loaded with symbolism of affliction. Many of the themes of affliction through Saturn were reinforced for marriage and home life. At the same time, many beneficial significations follow from Jupiter in the natal chart and its relation to Venus.
It is important to first consider the role Jupiter may be playing. That is, before crediting “exaltation” with all manor of benefit as astrologers are apt to do. The profection falls to Jupiter’s twelfth-part and Jupiter in the return aspects natal Venus within a degree. Natal Jupiter in the 9th conjunct the Sun (recognition, fame) also accords with the nature of the travel and significant opportunities of the year.
In the sense of being “raised up” to prominence, perhaps the exaltation can signify more. As I’ve noted before, it signifies weakly in itself. Planets are continuously in a sign over an extended period, so the signal is not very distinctive. Still, we may see a broader signification of raising up in some sense. In this case, a raised up signification is reinforced by Jupiter, which also signifies loftiness, and return Venus in the 10th house, the loftiest of houses. Angelou was literally raised out of her home and circumstances to tour the world for entertainment (Venus-Moon in X).
A Note on 1965 and the Sign+Planet Technique
Very few astrologers today use symbolic techniques like planetary years and rising times of signs. However, I think they are missing out. For instance, combining rising times with planetary years, we might also want to focus on the time that is about the 37th year and the age 37, 1965. That year combines the planetary years of Mars (15) with its natal house Aquarius (22.18 years), as well as the Sun (19) with its natal house Aries (18.57 years).
1965 is interesting as it marked Angelou’s return from Africa to the US. She had lived in Ghana with her son for the preceding few years. Upon her return to the US she worked with Malcolm X on the new civil right organization, Organization of Afro-American Unity. However, he was assassinate in February of that year. Devastated, she moved to Hawaii to sing again. Yet, she then moved to the Watts neighborhood of LA to focus on writing. There she witnessed the Watts riots of the summer of ’65, the worst LA unrest until the Rodney King riots of 1992.
These events clearly show the importance that the Sun and Mars hold for political activism in her chart. I touched upon how her Aquarian Mars and her Aries Sun relate to her career in activism in my exploration of the Ages of Man. Similarly, we see the value in using planetary years and ascensional times as a form of planet in sign activation.
Jupiter, Saturn, and the 5th House of Creative Fruits: Some Key Years
I won’t be looking at every activation of Venus in Angelou’s life, as that could fill a book. However, I do want to note that many landmark years actually coincided with profections to the 5th house, Sagittarius, occupied by Saturn and ruled by Jupiter. In the article on the Ages of Man, I noted how the 5th house can pertain to creative fruits of all sorts. I also mentioned that Angelou directed her first film to kick off her Saturn Ages of Man period (age 68; also a profection to the 9th house, occupied by Jupiter). AI also noted that Angelou’s teen pregnancy occurred during a 5th house profection.
Yet, the significance the 5th house Saturn extends well beyond her teen pregnancy or the 68 year old directorial debut. Angelou recorded her first CD in November of 1956 (Miss Calypso), which would have been during a profection to her 5th house (age 28). She also acted in her first film the same year (Calypso Heat Wave), which would be released after her 29th birthday.
Angelou wrote her first book, and most famous autobiography (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) when she was 40 (1968-1969), another 5th house profection. 24 years later, in January 1993, at age 64, she delivered her landmark public recitation of a poem, at Clinton’s inauguration. The performance catapulted her fame and the recording of the poem won her a Grammy the following year.
I bring up these Jupiter-Saturn 5th house activations because they point to an often overlooked part of her chart. Saturn is a malefic and contributes to the harsh significations around Maya’s 8th house Venus. However, Saturn is also a planet in sect, ruled by Jupiter, involved in a trine with its sect mates the Sun and Jupiter. Together with Mars in the VII, we find that activations of these planets have much more to do with productive and successful periods in Angelou’s life than Venus.
This highlights the symbolic complexity of a natal chart. We must go beyond “good planets” and “bad planets” to specify just how certain combinations can symbolize in difficult or beneficial ways. Saturn in this chart is quite mixed, being very harsh in relation to Venus but extremely beneficial in relation to the Sun and Jupiter.
A Couple Key Activations
That first book was not only written when Angelou was 40 but it was published when she was 41 (her 42nd year), an activation of Saturn with Jupiter (30+12). Angelou most memorable acting role was in early 1977, during her 49th year, an activation of Saturn with the Sun (30+19), in Roots.
Venus, Mom, and Character
I want to end this article with a look at character analysis in the chart, as well as some of the significations pertaining to Venus, especially as regards her mother.
In some of the other explorations of character on the site, I’ve noted the key importance of the rulers of the Ascendant for self-identification. There are other factors that are important as well. These include Mercury, the twelfth-part of the Ascendant, Mercury, and the Ascendant lord, the planetary day and hour rulers, the Lot of Spirit, prominent fixed stars, the sect light, and more.
The Ascendant lords are always a good place to start though. Angelou was born with the Ascendant in the Mercury bound of the Sun’s home, Leo. The Sun is a key planet for the character in her chart, as both the Ascendant lord and the sect light. We see the Sun’s natural significations of confidence, attention-grabbing, leadership, boldness, and flair in the character.
There are also its natural significations pertaining to its conjunction with Jupiter in the Mercury bound of the 9th house, Aries. We see religion, wisdom, travel, internationalism, courage, teaching, bluntness, honesty, and communication as tied up with these accidental significations.
Mercury is the other most significant key planet for character in her chart. It is not only the bound ruler of the Ascendant, but also the bound ruler of both lights, and Jupiter, and Saturn. In addition to being the bound lord of the Sun, Mercury also rules the Sun’s twelfth-part (in Virgo). Mercury can even naturally signify the conscious or rational mind.
Day and Hour?
Even more significantly, Mercury is the planetary day and hour ruler. While these symbolic day and hour rulerships are not strongly emphasized today, they were in the past. Hellenistic astrologers like Valens, Paulus Alexandrinus (Chs. 19-21), and Rhetorius (Ch. 56) noted the planetary day and hour rulers. The day lord was said to preside over the day, while the hour lords managed affairs for their period. These day and hour lords were also given significant weight in some later medieval point-based techniques for finding a chart lord.
Complex and Verbose
Mercury is clever, communicative, and complex. From Angelou’s self-identification as a poet to her teaching and her influential period of near muteness, Mercury in the chart says a lot about who she is. Mercury is conjunct Venus in the bound of Mars, in fall, in the 8th house, dominated by Saturn, but ruled by a lofty and fiery Jupiter. Much of what Angelou has to say is described by this proximity to love and art, and rulership by a planet granting broad opportunity, yet familiarity with abuse, desperation, prejudice, and loss.
Mars is the most prominent planet in the chart in one sense. This is because it is so strongly advancing toward the Descendant and is the only planet in an angular house. In fact, these two factors render Mars an important career significator. This is further reinforced by the conjunction of Mars with the Lot of Spirit. The Lot of Spirit can signify in relation to the character but also in relation to profession.
As Mars does not rule the Ascendant, its significations regarding the character are a bit more indirect. Its prominence makes martial affairs prominent in the life in a way that suggests Mars is “busy” in the life. Angelou is very familiar with violence, masculinity, struggle, conflict, and courage. She even had relationships (Mars in VII) with revolutionary men. Aquarius, a human sign, makes the struggle largely a humanitarian one, and connects it with the oppressed and minorities (Saturn).
In the Ages of Man article, I noted that Angelou’s writing career didn’t fully materialize until her Mars period started at age 41. The Mars period saw her as highly productive and extremely politically active. Mars represents the activist, fighter, and hard-working side of her character.
Venus also has no rulership of the Ascendant so its significations too are a little more indirect. She does rule the twelfth-part of the Ascendant though, which gives he some importance for the character. However, Venus is more important when it comes to the career. Venus and Mercury, like Mars, have significance as career significators. There is more identification with Venus-Mercury for matters of career because of their connections with the Ascendant and MC, despite the greater prominence of Mars. Venus-Mercury also both have their twelfth-parts in the 4th house, a stake of the chart. See the first article in the series on career significators for more information about these placements.
The 10th house, Taurus, is ruled by Venus and both her and Mercury closely aspect the MC. Angelou identified with being an artist and entertainer, especially in her early years. She was a singer, dancer, and actor. Even her forays into being a madame, an exotic dancer, and prostitution indicate her associating Venus with making her way in the world (X). Therefore, I take Venus as being less relevant for describing the character itself than in describing an identification with using Venus for the career.
She was eventually able to combine her more personal identification with Mercury with her need to incorporate Venus into her career. Her role as poet and creative autobiographer/memoirist fits the bill. Few professions are a better fit for the symbolism of her Mercury-Venus conjunction in Pisces.
A Closer Look at Venus and Mom
Angelou’s Venus is significant on a number of other levels as well. I’ve noted that exaltation, rulership by Jupiter, and its rulership of the 10th house all serve to increase the prominence of Venusian matters. Less obvious is the connections between Venus and Angelou’s mother. This is itself a matter of afflicted hard feelings with prominence, much like Venus.
Pisces is the Lot of the Mother, and Venus is there. Venus has her twelfth-part in the 4th house of roots, and as a feminine planet in the house of roots this is significant for the mother. The Moon, a natural significator of mothers, is in Libra, ruled by Venus. The Moon has her twelfth-part in Aquarius with Mars. There’s much Mars and 8th house in these significations, but also a lot of importance and prominence. The Moon, and Jupiter, tend to show the pleasant side of things here while Venus the more problematic.
A Pivotal Complex Relationship
Angelou felt abandoned by her mother as a child. Her rape occurred during her brief time living with her mother again, and at the hands of her mom’s boyfriend. Her mother disapproved of her marrying a white foreigner. There was a lot of conflict with her mother in her early life. Yet, Angelou’s final autobiography centers entirely on her complex relationship with her mother. It is title Mom & Me & Mom and was published in 2013.
Maya reconciled with her mother and they were crucially supportive of each other. Her book is a testament to her profound admiration of her mother. It befits a birth chart with a Full Moon in its Joy in Libra conjunct the twelfth-part of Jupiter. She laid out the good and bad of her mother and their relationship in the book, while leading with the theme of her mother’s profound influence and wisdom.