Astro Riffs is an astrology series in which I look at the birth charts of famous dead people and talk about what I find interesting.
It's tricky writing about famous dead people with bad reputations because it's easy to turn them into monsters. And if what they did was monstrous enough, no one else is likely to spring to their defense. Henry VIII did a lot of terrible things. He executed his wives. He kicked the Catholic Church out of England because the Pope wouldn't give him a divorce. He disowned both of his daughters because their mothers were out of fashion and kicked monastics out of their communities because he wanted their money. While he seems to have been charming enough in the beginning, by his death he wasn't even a sexy villain. Still, he was still a human being, and I don't think we gain much from losing sight of that. Everyone has it in themselves to be a villain, and if we create so much distance between ourselves and the villains of history that they don't even look human anymore, how are we going to understand how they got there and avoid following them?
So, when I looked at the chart of Henry VIII, I wanted to know if it was possible to use astrology to catch a glimpse into Henry the Human and maybe, maybe just a hint of how he might have gone another way.
When I thought about what signs I might associate with Henry VIII's, I thought of the regal charisma of Leo and the fiery energy of Aries. I thought that interesting things might be going on with Venus to explain all of those relationships, too.
And my guesses were partially right!
Henry VIII's Moon was in Aries. While Leo doesn't play a major role in his chart, he does have Mercury there in the 11th House. Fiery, competitive personality, charming regal communication with his peers at court--at least, when he was young. Venus in Gemini makes a big appearance, too, conjunct his Midheaven, the most visible part of the sky with Jupiter the expanding planet nearby. It's not surprising, then, that his big trouble with marriage is the first thing people think of when you say his name.
The most surprising thing about his chart, though, was his Sun: Cancer in the 11th House. When I think of someone with a Cancer Sun, I think of someone who is sensitive, cautious, caring, and introspective. None of these are words that I've ever seen used to describe Henry VIII.
So, what happened to that Henry?
The answer, I think, might be in the relationship between his Sun in Cancer and fiery Moon in Aries. They were locked in conflict at the moment of his birth. His core identity or ego was sensitive and lived in the world of emotions. His Moon, the seat of his emotions and the planet that tells us something about what he found comfortable, wanted exactly the opposite. It wanted to be a warrior, competitive. They say that he was an aggressive tennis player. With two core planets wanting opposite things, Henry VIII would have either been continually at war with himself, or he may have decided between those two planets once and for all and decided to do his best to shut one of them down.
My guess is that he did his best to shut his Cancer Sun down.
If Henry VIII were alive today, he might have been encouraged to find a balance between his Sun and Moon, but he was born in 1491, the year before Christopher Columbus sparked a war for colonial power between Europe's rulers that would last for over 400 years. During his life, England was at war with its neighbors constantly. This was not an age for emotionally sensitive philosopher kings. It was in Henry's best interest to look like a warrior. So he fell into a rut of self-indulgence and greed, and his highly visible Venus, that need for relational or aesthetic stimulation was expressed as boredom in his relationships and a penchant for violence.
Was he doomed to be a villain because he was born in the wrong time?
I don't think so.
Written into his chart was an invitation to evolve that would have resonated strongly with his Cancer Sun. His North Node of the Moon was in Scorpio and the 4th House. One of Scorpio's nicknames is "the psychologist." In private moments, when Henry was alone with his thoughts, his North Node invited him to introspect and understand the workings of his own mind, especially his capacity for evil. Admittedly, a king may not have had many opportunities to do this, but introspecting when he had the chance might have made him aware of his emotional conflicts, allowing him to made thoughtful decisions about how to deal with these challenges.
Doing this, ironically, might have even helped him to become a better warrior. Figuring out how his own mind worked and understanding his complicated emotions may have helped him with the psychological side of war as he came to understand the minds of his enemies, allowing him to predict when treaties that he clung to were being broken, saving the lives of his soldiers and resources spent on war. Even his Venus, might have been channeled into an interest in art (a favorite way to show dominance for Italian families during the Renaissance) or relationships with intellectually stimulating members of court. How differently things may have turned out for him...and Thomas More and Anne Boleyn?
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