Medusa uncovered: Goodness had something to do with it!

‘Why can’t she write about Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio or George Clooney, for God’s sake?’ -  will probably be a question that at one point or another passes through the kind reader’s mind. It’s a matter that I too have repeatedly tried to answer, with no success! There are though so much more interesting matters to be answered.   For one, what Goodness had to do with it and, secondly, what was Medusa thinking while she turned men into stone? Hopefully, both matters will have been answered by the end of this article.

She started performing at the age of five; she participated in amateur shows by seven and became a professional at fourteen. Life preserver jackets were named after her during World War II, while our favorite surrealist, the fabulous Mr. Salvador Dalí, created one of the most popular surrealistic artifacts, inspired by her beauty. Her witty lines have become a part of popular culture around the world. She lived to see the roaring 20s, the Great Depression, World War II, the revolutionary 60s and the psychedelic 70s; she’d seen the Earth, as her own life, take quite a few spins before passing away on November, 1980. 

This girl was born at August 17th, 1893 somewhere in Brooklyn, to a prizefighter dad and a model mom. This little girl was nothing like other little girls. The world had never met one like her before. A baby vamp – ‘born on a cool night of a hot month, so I knew I could expect anything’ using her own words - showered in stardust, destined to be one of the most controversial stars of all times. Ladies and Gents, the one and only, Mae West!

(Click to enlarge)

Act I: ‘He who hesitates is a damned fool!’

Mae was a member to the Choleric (fiery) temperament, which as fire suggests, is inclined to act and create. This is what she is made of; a creature of action and creation. How extravagantly marked those qualities were in this native, will soon become clearer. 

Her Moon is in the Sanguine phase, it wants to think and communicate, while in a Phlegmatic sign, so she goes about it through desire; in Scorpio, a fixed kind of desires, which means she’s exploring this concept by every possible aspect. The Moon is located in the sign of Lord 7, (Mars) which represents spouses, relationships, and other people. Intensely motivated by itself, this Moon, which is also the most westbound planet in this chart, decisively reaches out for other people, showing openly her feelings – wearing her heart on her sleeve could be a way of seeing it. 

The Moon is important for one more reason: it rules the 3rd house, the way Mae lives her life. She lives by communicating desires, while she’s wearing her heart on her sleeve, caring about 7th house type matters and this is one of the characteristics that she became famous for. Jupiter who refuses to move forward because it’ll enter its detriment, fixed too, in an Earthy sign, very determined to have and to hold, exalts the Moon: ‘Too much of a good thing can be wonderful’, then?

One of the most important players is Mercury, which is Choleric, living in harmony with her temperament. This Mercury, however, is not the usual model of choleric Mercury: retrograde and now entering station, in the middle of a fixed, fiery sign. Mercury is something of a stimuli gatherer. Fixed, fiery and stationed, this Mercury is working non-stop, exploring all stimuli and aspects of creation and action. It also wants to hold onto its actions and creations; it wants them to last (stationed), giving it a Melancholic quality. As if it weren’t already enough exaggerated, we also find it conjunct to the Part of Fortune, the part of Hunger: what is missing; what one is hungry for having more.  As Mercury is retrograde to turn direct, its expression is not exactly clear. It’s just about to stand still to become direct, but still carries the ‘memory’ of retrograde motion. So, it is easy for Mae to become famous about her double entendre lines. Those become the meeting point with the Moon’s priorities, communicating desires, suggesting that those lines were a bit…sly! 

It falls on the fixed star Acubens, the claw of the Crab. For those (except for me) that are wondering what this has to do with anything, consider what that claw is doing? First of all it is holding on to what it wants, so another indication of having and holding qualities. Certainly a bit irritating as it bites. According to the myth, this little crab was biting Hercules’ foot while he was trying to kill the Hydra (further discussed later). So this Mercury carries a potential of becoming inconvenient on the things he chooses to explore.   Last but not least, Mercury, this extremely marked Mercury, along with the Part of Hunger which is important by itself as it shows us what’s lacking and consequently what the native is motivated to pursue, both ruled by the Sun; a very important point, to which I’ll return later.

We’ve seen until now how her Moon and Mercury worked and how those two found a way to live together, meeting on the common ground of communicating desirous things, through acting and creating. Mae became a movie star at an older age, despite the fact she’d been acting since she were a little girl. But whether young on stage, or later as a big movie star, she didn’t change her personality, manner or personal law, even if that meant problems for her career. The nature of her public image and career is signified by the 10th house and its Lord; in this chart ruled by Saturn, which is found in his exaltation, Libra. 

We find that the cusp is falling on Altair, a star that preoccupied us in a previous article, signifying the mortal beautiful Ganymedes, who was carried to heaven by Jupiter, and given immortality. A fortunate indication for 10th house matters.  Saturn in Libra on the other hand, seems to suggest that whatever the nature of this image or career may be, it may carry an exaggerated quality.  Saturn is in a Venus sign so an indication of Venusian qualities, while Venus is Lord 1, and in her fall:  a Venus gone bad! And then, Saturn on the fixed star called Vindemiatrix, the gatherer of grapes, also known as the ‘widow maker’; a femme fatale who is collecting men instead of grapes? As we all know this is the image that was cultivated by her, choosing and writing roles (and attitudes) that were promoting it. An image, a career, which is and always will be, remembered: the immortal image of the beautiful but fatal, fiery and provoking, incarnation of the female principle – acted with a great sense of humor!

However all these took place back in the late 20s to early 30s. While the audiences loved her unique style of acting, provoking themes and lines, she became a red flag for officials, and ethic committees, that were constantly censoring her plays. She was even sentenced once to 10 days in jail, after replying to the judge’s question ‘Are you trying to show contempt for this court?’, with the famous ‘I was doin' my best to hide it.’ 

Saturn is also Lord 9 in this chart, the law, and as mentioned Lord 10, the authorities, and an exaggerated kind of them too. Luckily, Saturn was ruled by Venus (Lord 1) so all they finally managed to do to her was to make her even more famous than she already was, resulting to Mae’s statement: ‘I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it’! He is in the Sun’s fall, who, except in his role as ‘Me’ in this chart, also rules the 5th house - a most important house for an actor and a writer. Her Sun in Leo, shows that apparently the feeling is mutual, being in Saturn’s detriment; which brings us to the planet that rightfully deserves the leading role in this chart: the Sun. 

Act II: ‘In my whole life, I've never envied anyone. I was too busy thinking about myself. Some people thought I should see a psychiatrist, but why spoil a good thing?’

I could leave you with that statement, but then, my own Mercury is determined to write more about it. The Sun is important in every chart of course, showing another, deeper, level of ‘Me’, among other significations. Yet, in this particular chart he is strategically placed in square with the Asc/Dc axis. That makes him the most angular planet in this chart and angularity means accessibility with ease for the native and qualities that are directly evident to other people. Being in square with that axis makes him a focal point, as he is placed where the IC, the lowest part of the chart should be. That placement shows what runs through this person, what’s gushing out of this person. In our case here, it is a dignified, strong, brilliant Sun; a very shiny, proud and content with itself, ‘Me’. The Sun also rules as mentioned previously, Mercury and the Part of Hunger. That means that the creating and acting and gathering stimuli as we’ve investigated earlier, will be ruled by the ‘Me’ and will be addressed to the ‘Me’. Naturally she will be much interested in herself, that wonderful ‘Me’, that which is what she’s craving for - and she will not be at all modest about it too: ‘why spoil a good thing?’ Why, indeed, Mae!

Ever more emphasized the Sun and his loyal servant Mercury, are in Leo, a fiery, fixed sign: a natural powerful breakout for her fiery temperament to be expressed to the world. That puts the cherry on the cake on the already tremendous amount of energy for creation and action for them, marking with a yellow highlighter their importance in this life to be lived. 

The Sun rules the 4th and 5th house of the chart – the house that interests us of course is the 5th: the house of creation and recreation – she’s an actress and a writer; a natural born show woman, one might say!This 5th house cusp falls on the royal star by the name Regulus, the heart of the Lion. Another fortunate indication for the matters related to this house, which is extremely important for this line of work - already emphasized as the dignified Sun is on this cusp. The heart of the Lion carries the meaning of doing what must be done, for the greater good; having courage to rise to an occasion.  Her work – and she as a personality – carried a sense of doing what must be done, even if that meant sacrificing what she’d prefer to do. She’d choose the prohibited subjects, she’d choose to show the hypocrisy and Puritanism in a society that was bubbling away suffering the consequences of the Great depression and making the hard choices,  she’d choose to make her working life difficult to make a point, instead of just standing there and being the pretty girl to be adored. The above combined with this Sun’s natural dislike of Saturnian concepts (like restriction, and in a deeper level the pessimistic, strict approaches to life)  as perceived in this particular chart of course, sign and seal her general outlook, because the Sun is playing such an essential role in this life.

Act …at will (!): ‘I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.’

The last point to make about this Sun is that it falls on Alphard, the Hydra’s heart, that snake- headed creature which Hercules was trying to kill. He realized that once he managed to cut off one of its poisonous heads, it grew back, multiplied by two. Not the ideal pet for any Hercules!  This is the core of all those dangerous desires that we have to fight with, throughout our life. We deal with one and other two pop out to get us. It would be really easy for Mae and her potential as we’ve seen it until now, to indulge all those dangerous desires and bring herself in harm’s way. But she didn’t. She loved herself too much to harm it. What she did, was to take those venomous desires and turn them inside out; speaking of them openly in her plays and incorporating the ‘poison’ to her image, where it could not essentially harm her.
On the contrary, her poisonous, sarcastic lines became her trademark; not to mention that her entire way of acting to my (surreal of course) point of view, resembles little shimmy- dancing, King cobras: ‘It isn't what I say, but how I say it, and how I look when I do it and say it’. I rest my case!

In action: ‘Used to be Snow White but I drifted’? 

‘… Mirror, Mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all?’ asked the extremely beautiful, but evil, stepmom. The magic mirror that told only the truth, replied with an answer that didn’t satisfy her at all. She was fair, it said, but Snow White, the girl with the skin as white as snow, and lips as red as blood and hair as black as ebony, was a thousand times fairer than any other girl on the land. Needless to say the vain stepmom was filled with anger and envy and decided to get rid of Snow White. The seven dwarfs saved the poor girl a few times, but they couldn’t save her from the last attempt: the Poisoned Apple. 

The very seductive Apple is one of the most popular and powerful symbols. I am not aware whether the Grimm Brothers used it in its symbolism of the forbidden knowledge, or in its connection with Goddess Aphrodite, Goddess of beauty and love; or in the one of the famous Eris Apple, which according to the myth caused the Trojan War.  However unaware we may be though, we can clearly see that in all the above cases we find a common quality, that of the apple representing desire. But this apple is poisoned, so this desire is not the innocent, everyday, necessary desire. That distinction I find to be very smart from the Grimm’s part, as it differentiates the poison from the apple itself and places it where it should be: to the human intervention to its nature. Perfect on the outside, but rotten in the inside, this particular apple is poisoned with envy for a beauty that cannot be matched by the material world. 

Snow White gives in, takes a bite and she falls to an evil sleep. She lays, still a beauty, in a glass coffin like a soulless empty cell. The Mirror now sees the stepmom as the fairest girl on the land (that always made me wonder about the character of the rest of the girls on that land!). Snow White was the fairest girl on the land only as long as she had her soul within her, because it was her Soul’s beauty that surpassed that of the flesh. Without it she was nothing but a meaningless cell. Our heroine is ultimately saved by her Prince Charming who breaks the spell seeing her true nature with his guileless love and a kiss, and they live happily ever after. I love happy endings!

Another Mirror and a woman -shaped ‘Apple’, played a most important role too, on a strange land and time. Somewhere in the land of Greek mythology, lived a beautiful girl named Medusa, who passed her days peacefully being a priestess to a temple dedicated to Athena. Unfortunately her beauty was noticed by Poseidon, with the usual results of a God noticing a human’s beauty, offending the Goddess with his action. Athena was furious but, as she couldn’t punish him being a God, she punished Medusa instead: she replaced her hair with living venomous snakes (in those times when the female hair meant the crown of their beauty) and cursed any man who was to directly look upon her, to turn into stone. 

A time came when Perseus had to deal with Medusa.  Athena gave him a Mirror shield, so that he could avoid looking straight at Medusa’s wild look, and help him safely take off her head. So he did. And, not only did he take her head, but he also used it as a weapon against his enemies,  till the day he gave it back to Athena -Goddess of wisdom, who placed it on her shield. In extension to the myth except for gods, mortals too wore or carried talismans with the Medusa’s head, to protect them from evil and their enemies.

It is obvious that symbols are easier to survive through the centuries, because they speak to a personal level without being personified. They teach universal lessons, using those symbols to draw our attention to all that which are in the end essential to us. And always the essential is the soul - the material beauty being wonderful of course, but only a humble home for the soul to reside in. 

The Mirror, a symbol of wisdom, a symbol of truth, mirrors what’s essential, the Soul, in all its glory or, in all its ugliness and poverty.  The snake -haired, fair Medusa, is a symbol of the material beauty crowned with desire; when Man looks upon it without wisdom he is doomed to become like stone, a soulless cell.  When he looks upon it with wisdom, he can use it as the most powerful and useful weapon that it is, in the journey of his life.

 It is with that extended but necessary introduction that we come to one of the initial questions that of, what Medusa were thinking while she turned men into stone. As you may have guessed by now, dear reader, nothing really! She didn’t get any pleasure from that, it was only her nature. Similarly, material beauty and desire don’t have an opinion of their own, nor can they be blamed for our lack of wisdom. 

A dame – and yet another one- that knew the ropes.

It will not come as a surprise that Mae’s Ascendant falls on that fixed star named Algol, commonly known as Medusa’s Head – called also by many other, very unpromising, names, which is told to give the ‘power of the sword’. Of course this is the fixed star with the worst reputation ever! Being with the Asc, the star’s potential comes with the house that represents the native himself. This is about Mae’s own nature. Nothing malefic there: she was beautiful, smart, no apparent venomous snakes and she lived a life that many would envy. How is that possible one may think, since this is considered to be the meanest fixed star of them all? 

As with all things, potential too has to do with the way we use it. And especially in the case of this particular star, which as we mentioned earlier in the myth, comes down to the question of whether one will let himself get its shortcomings, or if one will see its true colors, and use the potential against his ‘enemies’. This is a matter of one using the power given to him with wisdom for his progress or else it will be thrown upon him. 

Mae used this potential for her own good. And she, so skillfully, incorporated this potential for her advancement: 'Medusa, with Asc? Fine, let’s be the best Medusa ever'! She turned Medusa to a ‘mask’, as if it were a talisman, which became her public persona. She was always very careful, and prepared for hours, before appearing to anyone; her make- up, hair and clothes, she had to look perfect; a perfect vamp, representing the material beauty crowned with desire, that Medusa was. 

Another great example of using this fixed star in a most constructive way is Uma Thurman, who has her Midheaven, her career and public image, with Medusa’s head. One of the roles that made her famous was the furious, thirsty for revenge, Bride, to my personal all times favorite film, ‘Kill Bill’. Even the plot of the film reminds us of Algol: our heroine refuses to use the power of the sword, and the sword falls upon her. What she does next is to pick up her artifact sword once more and take some heads off! Did I say some? Well, more like lots of them!  A few years later starring in another film, she played the role of Medusa herself! (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.)  Obviously, Uma too, found a way to use this potential for her own progress. 

We can now see that the ‘malefic’ in the star lies to how one shall use it and of course on his personal context.  That’s true, as many times before mentioned in this blog, for all things in life (including apples!) and of course about our astrology. Which blissfully brings us to the last matter waiting to be answered: what did Goodness have to do with it, after all? I believe the answer is outright: the stars wrote Mae’s scenario with such dearness and attention,in order for her to act out so faithfully the role that they entrusted her with, that we can only be sure that Goodness had something to do with it - as always!

While Medusa was uncovered though (or at least I hope it was), we can’t say the same about Mae. Who she really was when she took off her public persona mask of the Vamp, when she'd take all that make – up off, and stay in the company of her wonderful self? We know so very little about her private life, or about her charities, all of which she kept in secrecy.  And I’m going to keep it that way, kind reader, respecting her wishes.
I am though going to leave you in the company of another great artist who had his Sun and Lord 1 with the snake –haired Medusa; Mr. Erik Satie, and his Gnossienne No.1.

References :
- John Frawley’s teaching of fixed stars 
- Vivian Robson, ‘The Fixed Stars & Constellations in Astrology’

- Mae West Wikipedia 
- Goodness had nothing to do with it, the Autobiography of Mae West
- Charlotte Chandler's interview with Mae West in Ravenswood Apts, Hollywood, in 1979,