Like so many people around the world, I was saddened to hear of Donna Summer’s recent passing. Summer died on Thursday, May 17th after a battle with lung cancer. Donna Summer is a dearly missed musical icon.
I missed out on the heyday of disco in the mid-’70’s. However, I fondly remember as a child in the early ’80’s dancing to songs by Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, and similar artists of the era.
Longevity in Traditional Astrology
I don’t believe there is a single method out there, such as a hyleg/alcochoden technique, that on its own allows one to make accurate predictions about the length of someone’s life. In this regard I may be in the minority of traditional astrologers. Rather, I thank that if you throw a lot of techniques together, then there should be clear repeat indications of death. Predicting death in advance, particularly one’s own, is another matter. Looking at it in hindsight is always easier, and that’s largely what this series is about.
I’d like to look at some of the “signs” around the time of Donna Summers death and how they relate to death. Death is one of the key events in every life. By exploring the connection between death and natal predictive techniques, we sharpen our ability to recognize the astrological language of death.
Donna Summer was born on New Year’s Eve, 1948 (12/31/48) at 9 pm in Boston, MA (source: AstroDatabank). For the reader unfamiliar with her life and work, a good source for a quick brief is the Wikipedia article on her. Her chart with twelfth-parts is shown below.
It is hard to imagine a chart more oriented toward artistic performance. First, Venus is the significator of profession. This is so as Venus is in a stake of the chart (the 4th) and strongly advancing, while having triplicity at the Ascendant and possibly bound. She also receives the next application of the Moon and is with the twelfth-part of the sect light (the Moon is the sect light as she was born at night). Secondly, there is a whopping 5 planets, including the Sun and Moon, as well as the ruler of the 1st (in the bound of Venus), in Capricorn, the 5th House, which is the Joy of Venus and is oriented toward the fruits of creation and to representation. Finally, the ruler of the 5th is on the Ascendant and thus is extremely prominent.
Mercury also crops up as important for the profession as Mercury rules the 1st and 10th signs and the bounds of the Asc and MC. It also has its twelfth-part in the Ascendant. Therefore, Venus and Mercury as co-significators of the profession. Venus is the more dominant of the two. Together they combine artistry and beauty (Venus) with vocalization (Mercury). A fairly common combination for singers.
Donna Summers died of lung cancer at age 63. She was not a smoker. Donna believed that her lung cancer may have been caused from inhaling dust and smoke from the Sept. 11 attacks, possibly containing asbestos. However, she also had a family history of cancer and played hundreds of shows over the years in smoke-filled clubs.
Unlike the other deaths we’ve examined so far (Whitney Houston and Marvin Gaye), Summer’s death was not sudden. She was diagnosed with cancer the year prior to her death. Therefore, the exact timing of death might be thought of as less important than the overall characterization of that period of her life.
In analyzing the timing of death, we are most interested in the more potentially difficult elements of the chart. In my opinion, one of such difficult configurations is the conjunction of the Ascendant (significant for the body and self) with the out of sect malefic, Saturn (significant for death, loss, struggle, isolation). Another is the close (but separating) conjunction of the Moon and Mars (lord of the 8th of death, Aries) in the bound of Mars within 3 degrees of each other, with both ruled by Saturn.
Mars is particularly important. Mars not only rules the 8th house (Aries) but also rules the Lot of Affliction or Chronic Illness (also in Aries) and the Lot of Death (Moon to 8th sign, proj. from Saturn, day or night; in Scorpio). It also has its twelfth-part with those of Saturn and the Ascendant in Scorpio (Lot of Death). Additionally, Mercury, which can signify the lungs (as well as the self and body here as Lord of the 1st), is applying to Mars (conjunction).
For an introduction to planetary years, please see the introductory post on them. Donna Summer was in her 64th year, and 63 years old, at the time of death. Therefore we are particularly interested in combinations of planetary years that add to 63 or 64. This may involve multiples, as there are not two distinct planetary minor years that sum to more than 55.
There are only two combinations of three planets’ minor years that work without any multiples. They are Saturn-Mars-Sun (30+15+19=64) and Saturn-Venus-Moon (30+8+25=63).
Possibilities involving multiples with one and two planets are below:
One Planet: Venus (64)
Two Planets: Venus-Mercury (24+40=64), Mars-Sun (45+19=64), Jupiter-Mercury (24+40=64), Sun-Moon (38+25=63).
Of these, I regard some as less important because the planets in the relationship are not all configured together with each other by either rulership or aspects. For instance, Saturn-Venus-Moon is less significant to me. This is because Venus and the Moon are in aversion, and Venus is not ruled by Saturn. Similarly, Venus and Mercury are in aversion, so that two planet combination is not as important.
The Most Important Activation: Saturn-Mars-Sun
There are four possibly significant activations by planetary years. They are Saturn-Mars-Sun (Mars and the Sun are together and ruled by Saturn), as well as Mars-Sun (they are together), Sun-Moon (the Sun and Moon are also together), and Venus. The most significant is Saturn-Mars-Sun. Not only is this an activation of 3 planets without multiples, but Mars and the Sun are together in Capricorn, ruled by Saturn. Additionally, the activation of Mars-Sun reinforces this activation. The activation of Sun-Moon also somewhat reinforces it, again stressing the stellium in Capricorn.
This Saturn-Mars-Sun activation is also the most significant activation for the matter of death. The activation includes both malefics. Each of the malefics directly afflict significators of the body in the chart (Mars with Sun and Moon; Saturn on Ascendant). The Sun is symbolic of vital power.
A Peak at Transits: Saturn-Mars-Sun
The importance of the Saturn-Mars-Sun activation is confirmed by transits on the morning of the death. Mars transited with natal Saturn in the 1st house and applied to the natal Sun within a degree (superior trine). The transiting Sun also applied to natal Mars within a degree (trine) while closely opposed to the natal twelfth-part Mars (25 Scorpio). We will return to these transits after looking at some of the big-picture indications.
Primary Directions – Distributors
Distributors are time lords which tend to rule over more than a one year period and can be very significant for health matters. The distributor is typically the bound lord of the directed Ascendant. Traditionally, for about the first 1,500 years, primary directions were done by zodiacal semi-arc without latitude, using the Ptolemaic-key (see my article on primary directions). While the Ascendant was typically preferred, some later Persian astrologers used the sect light as well as, or instead of, the Ascendant. The sect light was seen as an alternative to the Ascendant in some Hellenistic techniques as well.
The distributor is a time lord, but a planet actually applying an aspect to the directed angle or sect light (presumably either within 3 degrees or within the same bound) could take over or share the rulership of the distribution. The obsession with direct hits by primary direction, rather than the use of it for time lords, was a later post-Hellenistic development. I touch on some of these issues in my introductory article on primary directions. There’s also an article on the software calculation of primary directions.
Ascendant->Venus and Mars; Sect Light->Mars
Donna Summer died on 05/17/2012, so we are interested in the periods containing that date. From the table of distributors we can see that the distributor of the Ascendant was Venus. The distributor of the sect light (the Moon) was Mars. What about any aspectual co-rulers of the distributions?
One of the very useful features of the primary directions module in Morinus is that one can pull up the actual primary directed chart for a given day. For the day of Summer’s death that chart is below.
What the chart tells us is that 25 Libra was passing over the Ascendant at the time of death. Similarly, we see 23 Pisces passing over the natal Moon’s position (relative to birth location) at birth. Let’s return to the natal chart to see if these represent applying aspects.
The zodiacal position of Mars was 27 Capricorn, so the Ascendant (significator) at 25 Libra has the square of Mars (promissor) directed at it within 2 degrees. The 23 Pisces position directing over the natal Moon does not involve any applying aspects within 3 degrees, so there is no co-ruler in that case.
A Focus on Mars
In conclusion, Mars is the distributor of the sect light. Mars also became the co-distributor of the Ascendant, starting about a year prior to death, due to applying aspect.
These time lords by primary direction are extremely important for matters of health and general circumstance. Here we see an emphasis placed upon Mars in the natal chart. As noted, Mars is the ruler of the 8th house of death (and illness/affliction by lot) and the Lot of Death (Scorpio). Mars is in the 5th afflicting the Moon, Sun, and Ascendant lord (Mercury).
Primary Directions – Aspects
There is also one very close aspectual primary direction within about a month of the death that is very symbolic of death. It is the direction of Saturn (promissor) to oppose the prenatal syzygy (significator). The prenatal syzygy is the New Moon or Full Moon directly preceding the birth. It is one of five points that are particularly important for symbolizing the health in the chart, the five hylegical points. These include the Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Fortune, and the prenatal syzygy.
The syzygy is particularly important for Donna Summer as she was born just the day after the New Moon (syzygy) in early Capricorn. In fact, the Moon was still in the same house as the Sun at the time of her birth (Capricorn). This opposition is from the prenatal syzygy’s ruler, Saturn, so it appears to be an important direction in symbolizing the death.
Profections and Solar Return
If unfamiliar with profections, please see the introductory post on profections.
The time of diagnosis at age 62 corresponded to a profection to Summer’s 3rd house, Scorpio. Scorpio is the place of death by lot (Lot of Death). It is ruled by Mars and is occupied by the twelfth-parts of Mars, Saturn, and the Ascendant.
At age 63 the Ascendant profects to the 4th house, which in Summer’s case is Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, which is cazimi the Sun, in the 5th with Mars, and ruled by Saturn. Being the lord of the year, Jupiter is a particularly important planet to examine in the solar return.
Valens Profections: Mars and the 8th
It is also worth noting that by Valens-style profections, both lights (Moon and Sun), the Ascendant lord (Mercury), Mars, and Jupiter (lord of the year), all profect to Aries. Aries, the 8th house of death, is also the place of illness/afflication (by lot), and is ruled by Mars. The profection of the sect light (and the Moon generally) was particularly important to Valens for health and overall circumstance. As Aries is empty, it is the case that the sect light (and all the planets in the 5th) transmit to Mars, the ruler of Aries.
Again, this places emphasis on themes of death (the 8th, malefic ruler) and affliction of the body (Mars-Moon conjunction, Moon ruled by Mars, Aries as Lot of Affliction). The solar return transit of the Moon through Aries (the 8th) is also a repetition of this theme (see return chart). Additionally, the profection of the Lot of Fortune was used for health by Valens and it profects to Scorpio, the other house of Mars and the other place of death (by lot).
Profections repeat every 12 years, so the real value here is in seeing which themes and planets we should watch. We again find Mars to be a particularly important planet to watch in the solar return and by transit.
Jupiter in the Return
Jupiter is in separating opposition to Saturn in the return (within 3°). Saturn is the out of sect malefic, and Jupiter relates to the vitality through the Sun (cazimi the Sun). This is a suggestive configuration. However, as an out of sign aspect and pertaining chiefly to the return itself, it is not particularly compelling. However, there is much more to this return than just the position of Jupiter.
Donna Summer’s Last Solar Return
Analyzing the Final Solar Return
As I explained in my article on analyzing solar returns, there were some particular red flags identified by Dorotheus. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th rules mentioned in that article are particularly important. The third rule is to watch squares and opposition from malefics, especially superior squares (domination). The fourth rule is that planets transiting in dark places of the natal chart can be more malefic. The fifth rule is that there will be a focus on the solar return Moon and its house, especially for health. The sixth rule is that there is a focus on the place highlighted by the annual profection and its ruler.
Mars in the Return
At the return, Mars was transiting in the 1st house, that of the body and self. We’ve seen how Mars is the primary significator of death in the chart. It rules the places of death by house and lot, and the Lot of Affliction. It is also activated by planetary years, distributions, profections of the sect light and Fortune, and the profection of the entire Capricorn stellium to the 8th house. Now we see Mars as chiefly pertaining to the self and body for the year.
Mars dominates the place of the annual profection of the Ascendnat. It is even in a partile superior square to the Ascendant lord Mercury, transiting in that place. Mars is also in a close aspect to natal Mercury by superior trine. Therefore, not only is Mars oriented to the body by being in the 1st, but it connects directly with the lord of the 1st (Mercury) by aspect in the return and natal. This echoes the bodily application of Mercury to Mars in the natal chart.
Twelfth-Parts and Mars
There are many things of interest when it comes to the solar return Mars and the twelfth-parts. First, the natal twelfth-part of Mercury is at the end of 17° Virgo in the 1st house. Mars was conjunct this within 3 degrees in the solar return. Yet an additional connection between Mars and the 1st house and its lord.
In the return, Mars was at 20°12′ Virgo and Jupiter (lord of the year) was at 0°26′ Taurus. This puts the twelfth-part of Mars at 2° Taurus and that of Jupiter at 5° Taurus. Therefore, the twelfth-part of return Mars was conjunct return Jupiter (lord of the year) and its twelfth-part, both within 3 degrees. The solar return Ascendant is also interesting as it was at 27° Scorpio. It is not only ruled by Mars and the place of death by lot (Lot of Death) but it is also conjunct the twelfth-part of Mars (25° Scorpio) within 3 degrees.
Saturn and the Return Moon
Return Saturn is at 28 Libra, in dominating close square to the natal Mars-Moon conjunction at 27 and 29 Capricorn. Echoing the domination of the Moon by return Saturn is the opposition between the return Moon and return Saturn. The return Moon is the natal sect light and is in the 8th house, a dark house, putting a focus on its themes of death for the year, particularly in relation to health. Saturn is the out of sect malefic and in the return is also in a dark place. The opposition of the Moon to Saturn echoes the theme of loss.
Natal Venus is in the sign of the profection so should also be looked at. In the natal chart, Venus is dominated by Saturn. Return Mars also dominates natal Venus. Return Venus is placed in Aquarius, the 6th house, which is a weak house pertaining to illness and ruled by Saturn.
Monthly Profection to the 8th House-Aries-Mars
As noted, the return Moon transits through the 8th of death (Aries), under rulership of Mars. This echoes the natal Mars-Moon conjunction and the profection of the Moon to Aries. The monthly profection of the Ascendant at the time of death was also to Aries, the 8th house, ruled by Mars. The monthly profection is indicating the month when the themes marked out by the 8th house and Mars by the time lords and annual methods will come into focus.
Ruler of Days
Some Hellenistic astrologers used daily profections, but it is not my preferred technique for daily time lords. I discuss an additional technique for small period time lords at the end of this article (levels 3 and 4 of zodiacal releasing). Personally, I also like another time lord technique for periods of days. This ruler of days technique was discussed by Julius Firmicus Maternus. In this technique we start with the lord of the year, and assign days to the planets according to their planetary days according to their zodiacal order in the natal chart. This divides up rulership of the year to each of the 7 planets. The lord of the year is Jupiter for Donna Summer.
Planetary days and their natal order:
- Jupiter – 34
- Mercury – 56 2/3
- Mars – 42 1/2
- Moon – 70 5/6
- Saturn – 85
- Venus – 22 2/3
- Sun – 53 5/6
Moon as Ruler of Days
Using a date calculator, we find that Donna Summer died in about the 138th day following her solar return. The Moon took over days about 133 days after the return. Therefore, the Moon was ruler of days at the time of death. I find the ruler of days to be particularly important in timing events by transit. Also, note that the Moon was transiting in the 8th house opposite return Saturn in the solar return.
Day of Death
Finally, let’s return to the transits at the day of death. To recap, we’ve established that there is substantial importance placed on the malefics and the lights in the time lord techniques. Recall that Saturn-Mars-Sun and Mars-Sun are active configurations by planetary years. Mars, the ruler of the 8th house, Lot of Affliction, and Lot of Death, was particularly highlighted. For instance, it is a distributor or co-distributor of the directed Ascendant and sect light. It was also highlighted by the profection of the sect light and lord of the year to Aries (8th house ruled by Mars). Additionally, there were the many 1st house/Mercury connections with Mars in the return. Finally, we determined that the monthly profection is to the 8th, Aries, which was occupied by the Moon in the return and the Moon is ruler of days. Now let’s look at transits.
The chart for the morning of May 17, 2012 is below. Summer died some time in the morning on this day. The time of Summer’s passing is not known, so please disregard the houses in the chart. In the next section, I’ll show the chart as a set of transits against the natal chart. For now, note how closely the chart mirrors the solar return, from Mars in Virgo (natal 1st) to the Moon in Aries opposing Saturn in Libra.
Shockingly, the Moon was transiting through Aries, the 8th house, at the time of death. This echoes both the solar return and the Valens-style profection of the Moon. It is also in the house of the monthly profection. The transiting Moon was applying an opposition to transiting Saturn at the time of death. The transiting Moon also applied a close square to natal Mercury, the Ascendant lord. Transiting Venus and Saturn were partilely aspecting each other, while receiving the application of the transiting Moon, at the time of death.
Mars was transiting at 9 Virgo through the 1st house. This is over 5 months after Summer’s solar return, and Mars is still transiting in the 1st house. In fact, Mars had been transiting in her 1st house all year (see ephemeris)! About a month prior to death, Mars had stationed direct at 3 Virgo, in adherence to Donna Summer’s Ascendant (6 Virgo). Transiting Mars was applying to the natal Sun-Jupiter conjunction within a degree at the time of death.
As Jupiter is the lord of the year, its transits should also be looked at. The transiting Sun and Jupiter (in late Taurus) were applying to natal Mars within 3 degrees at the time of death. Transiting Jupiter (and Sun) were also opposing the natal twelfth-part of Mars (25 Scorpio) within 3 degrees. The transiting Sun-Jupiter conjunction by degree itself also echoes the natal Sun-Jupiter conjunction.
Before concluding I’d like to explore another Hellenistic time lord technique which I think can be valuable. Zodiacal releasing is the modern name given to a technique which survives only in the text of Vettius Valens. I’ve placed this exploration of the technique at the end of this article as it can be confusing. Zodiacal releasing is traditionally from the Lot of Spirit or the Lot of Fortune. For matters of bodily health and material circumstances, Fortune (the Lot of the Moon) is used (glyph looks like an X in a circle). Spirit (Lot of the Sun) was used for professional and mental matters.
Moving Signs by Planetary Years
Zodiacal releasing was discussed by Valens in Book IV of his Anthology (download it here). One stars with the sign of Fortune, giving the ruler of the sign the first period. This period is the length of the ruler’s minor years (the only exception being that we use 27 for Capricorn rather than 30). It transitions to the next sign in succession activating that sign and its ruler for the number of planetary years of the ruler. We continue moving from sign to sign after each period.
There are also minor periods that are 1/12 the length, and some additional nuances. One key “nuance” is that the periods involve “years” of 360 days. Therefore, I recommend using software to calculate them (such as the free Valens program). I recommend getting the technique from the horse’s mouth (i.e. download and read Book IV of Valens). The interested reader can also get a thorough education on the technique through Chris Brennan’s Hellenistic course, or his module on Zodiacal Releasing. As of this update, there is also a good explanation of the technique in a podcast by Chris Brennan and on Anthony Louis’s website.
The two highest level periods are particularly important in zodiacal releasing. I give four levels below:
- Sagittarius (Jupiter): The sign is occupied by Venus and the twelfth-part of the Moon, ruler is cazimi the Sun in 5th, Capricorn. This is about a 12 year period beginning in 2010.
- Capricorn (Saturn) – The sign is occupied by 5 planets, including Sun and Mars, with ruler in 1st, Virgo. This is a nearly 2 year period beginning in February of 2011.
- Scorpio (Mars) – The sign is occupied by the twelfth-parts of the Ascendant, Saturn, and Mars, with ruler in 5th, Capricorn. This is about a 5 week period beginning on May 9th, 2012.
- Capricorn (Saturn) – See #2. This is a nearly 5 day period beginning on May 15th, 2012.
Before getting into the finer points of the interpretation of zodiacal releasing, I want to note the repeat Saturn-Mars activation. Saturn and Mars rule all but the largest of the time periods (the Sagittarius period of about 12 years). The signs activated are also very significant. Capricorn holds the natal stellium, including the Sun and Mars ruled by Saturn, but also the close Moon-Mars conjunction, and Jupiter (ruler of Level 1). Scorpio is the sign holding the twelfth-parts of both malefics (Saturn and Mars) and the twelfth-part of the Ascendant. In terms of the umbrella period of Level 1, Sagittarius, its ruler is Jupiter, which is cazimi the Sun in Capricorn, so it is closely associated with the Sun’s significations there.
Judging by Angular Strength
As mentioned, in interpreting the releasing of Fortune, Valens paid special attention to the first two levels. One interpretive principle commonly used is that the Lot or its ruler in an angle of the chart (1st, 10th, 7th, or 4th place) shows strength. By strength, we are referring to a stability and achievement in what is signified. In this case, material fortune and health (Fortune). On the other hand, if cadent from an angle (12th, 9th, 6th, or 3rd place) it will show weakness. This rule can get difficult to use in practice, as Valens also suggests that we can use the angles of the Lot of Fortune. Using both the angles of the chart and those of Fortune, with both the Lot and its ruler, there are simply too many points and strong places in the chart to enable us to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Places from Fortune
Some people sidestep this dilemma by considering only the angles and cadents from Fortune, rather than from the Ascendant. Using that approach, the Capricorn periods would be vulnerable. Fortune would be in the 6th from Fortune (a cadent place). Periods ruled by a planet that is in Capricorn could be similarly vulnerable for the same reason. However, note that 5 planets are in Capricorn, which would cause most periods to have weak rulers.
The place of the Lot was thought to show the start of things and the ruler the development. So Level 1 in Sagittarius would start out not particularly strong or weak (as it is not an angle nor a cadent) but in the development of the period weaknesses could result (as the ruler is in the 6th from Fortune). Level 2 in Capricorn would start out weak, and would not develop much towards strength or weakness (as the ruler is not in an angle or cadent). The 3rd Level would start strong but end weak (Lot in angle, ruler in cadent). Level 4, like Level 2, would be weak without much improvement. Therefore, the overall stress of all 4 periods is on Capricorn. Capricorn is cadent from Fortune showing vulnerability when it comes to material circumstances.
Judging by Transmission
Valens discussed other principles of interpreting releasing from Fortune which I feel are a bit easier to delineate. One thing that he does is to view the 1st two levels as if the ruler of Level 1 is transmitting or passing off to the ruler of Level 2. It is like the ruler of Level 1 is running into some type of thing signified by the 2nd level ruler. For instance, a benefic transmitting to a malefic, as in the case here with Jupiter transmitting to Saturn, shows success liable to overturn. Additionally, the transmission of the Sun or Moon to Saturn is particularly dangerous for health, while Saturn to the Sun or Moon indicate the opposite, vigor.
… the sun and moon when transmitting to Saturn are indicative of setbacks and anxieties, and they bring hostility […] as well as bodily disorders and dangers, shipwrecks, sudden collapses, and very many crises … (Valens, Anthologies, Book IV, Ch. 5, Riley trans., 2010, p. 73)
Jupiter Cazimi to Saturn
According to Robert Schmidt of Project Hindsight, the original meaning of a cazimi planet is that it takes over signification for the Sun. Jupiter is cazimi the Sun in Summer’s chart and so acts akin to the Sun, another indicator of the vital spirit. The transmission of Jupiter to Saturn can be viewed as similar to a transmission of the Sun to Saturn, an indication of material danger.
Malefic to Malefic
If we were to consider the other levels in this type of consideration then we have Saturn transmitting to Mars (Level 2 to 3) and Mars transmitting to Saturn (Level 3 to 4). Valens regarded transmission from a malefic to a malefic (Saturn to Mars and vice-versa) as particularly dangerous, much like a situation that goes from bad to worse.
Interestingly, in the zodiacal releasing method for health we find a repeated emphasis on Capricorn, Scorpio, and Mars. There is repeat activation of the 5th house. For Valens, the places from Fortune were even more important than the natal places for the purposes of this technique. Interestingly, Valens considered the 6th place from Fortune to pertain particularly to health crises. The 6th from Fortune is none other than Capricorn, the sign we see so strongly emphasized by the releasing from Fortune.
In addition, after finding the Place which has been assigned to Fortune, examine the points square with it and the other aspects, just as with the angles in the natal chart. The Lot itself will be equivalent to the Ascendant and will mean “Life;” the tenth place from it will be equivalent to MC and will mean “Rank;” the seventh will be the Descendant; the fourth IC. The other places will have the same effects as the <original> XII Places. Some astrologers have mystically hypothesized that the astronomical Ascendant and the points square with it are the Cosmic Angles, while the Lot and the points square with it are the Natal Angles […] (Valens, Anthology, Book II, Ch. 18, Riley trans., p. 34)
Donna Summer’s death was by the slow wasting illness of cancer. It did not involve dramatic sudden events like those of Whitney Houston and Marvin Gaye. We find Mars to be the most important planet for the topic of death and serious illness in her natal chart. Mars rules and dominates the 8th house of death and place of affliction by lot, and rules the place of death by lot while occupying it by twelfth-part. Summer’s Mars is fairly well-placed, being in sect, in a sign of its sect, in a benefic place (5th house), and exalted (Capricorn) with a trine from its 1st house ruler.
The timing of death coincided with about a dozen repeat activations of natal themes pertaining to Mars and death. The period ones involved Mars as a distributor of the sect light and co-distributor of the Ascendant, second level zodiacal releasing to Capricorn occupied by Mars, planetary years highlighting the Saturn-Mars-Sun configuration, profection of the Capricorn stellium (including Mars and sect light) to Aries, and profection of Fortune to Scorpio.
The solar return, with its Scorpio rising, Mars in the natal 1st, and the Moon in Aries (natal 8th) opposed to return Saturn certainly reinforced these themes. There was also that prolonged transit of Mars through the natal 1st house, passing back-and-forth over the Ascendant. That transit was not only in the January 1st solar return but spanned the entire first half of 2012, including at the time of her death in May. Finally, we saw Donna pass during an Aries, 8th house, monthly profection. The Moon timed the death with its transit through Aries on that day, in fitting application to transiting Saturn and Venus (death and artistry).
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
Update: February 2019
In late February of 2019, this article was significantly edited and revised. There were some significant changes. I revised the wording of many sections for greater clarity. For instance, the analysis of profections and solar returns was re-written to explore the important Valens-style profections and the rules for returns which I noted in another article. Additionally, the section on zodiacal releasing was moved to the end due to the learning curve involved. There are now some great free explanations of zodiacal releasing out there, so I’ve linked to those. Also, the Lot of Death and Lot of Affliction were not touched on in the original article but were added due to their great significance.