The recent illness of Boris Johnson got me thinking about decumbiture charts, especially the famous example of the chart of heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, which bears many resemblances to Boris Johnson’s chart.
The Italian-American actor Rudolph Valentino was a popular romantic superstar of film in the 1920s. When he fell ill and was hospitalized on 15 August 1926, the news made national headlines. According to wikipedia: “On August 15, 1926, Valentino collapsed at the Hotel Ambassador on Park Avenue in Manhattan. He was hospitalized at the New York Polyclinic Hospital. ”
Reporters noted the exact time that Valentino collapsed at the hotel in NYC: 11:50 AM EDT. Based on this data, astrologers were able to calculate a “decumbiture” chart for the moment the person first experiences symptoms sufficient to require taking to his sickbed. Here is the chart with Placidus houses, which were in vogue at the time.
Decumbiture charts are read in a manner similar to horary charts. Many special “rules” apply, however. For example, the 1st house signifies the sick person, the 7th is his physician, and the 10th is the treatment given for the disease. The Moon is often used to time “critical” periods for the illness, which correspond to the hard aspects of the transiting Moon to its radical position in the chart.
Valentino’s decumbiture chart is not especially favorable and suggests that he may not recover from this illness. It is cast for a Sun day during a Saturn hour. The malefic Saturn is without essential dignity and rises in the 1st house. Saturn is also almuten of the 1st (the body, vitality), 4th (endings) and 12th (confinement, undoing).
In addition, Saturn is opposes by Mars, which rules the 6th (illness) and the 7th (the treating physician). Mars in Taurus is in the sign of his detriment. The Moon (a general symbol of the body) lies in Scorpio, the sign of its fall, separates from an opposition to Mars and applies to conjoins Saturn, in the 1st house of the body and life-force.
Venus, which rules the 8th of health crises and death, applies to square the Ascendant, which lies in the term/bound of Mars at the end of Libra.
The Sun (a general signifier of the life force and ruler of the 10th of the medical treatment received) applies to conjoin Neptune, a planet of dissolution. The Sun also has the role of “hyleg” or “giver of life” in this chart. Sol closely conjoins Emerson’s Point of Death, which lies at 22 Leo 44. In her book on horary astrology (p. 173), Barbara Watters popularized Charles Emerson’s “death point” which is calculated by the formula: Mars + Saturn – MC. Watters noted that in her experience Emerson’s Point of Death was more reliable than the traditional Lot of Death.
The Moon will square its radical position and also oppose the Sun and Emerson’s Death Point on August 22, 1926, which will be a critical day in the progress of the illness.
Rudolph Valentino died on August 23, 1926 at 12:10 PM EDT. The cause of death was perforated ulcers which mimicked appendicitis and resulted in peritonitis, a bacterial inflammation of the tissues that line the inner wall of the abdomen. Apparently several of his distraught fans committed suicide after receiving news of his death. Perhaps Sun conjunct Neptune and the Point of Death in the 10th house of this chart reflects the mass hysteria attending his demise.
The most famous astrologer practicing in NYC in 1926 was Evangeline Adams. There is an astrological urban legend that Adams foretold Valentino’s death, but the evidence for this is scanty. According to Karen Christino, who wrote an excellent authoritative book on Adams:
“In their book The Day the Bubble Burst, Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts say that Evangeline Adams, ‘foretold Rudolph Valentino’s death to within a few hours’. This claim sounds outrageous, and I have seen it corroborated in no other sources. Yet the Bubble Burst team had scanned an incredible array of material in order to put together their book.”
Unfortunately, even if Adams did predict “Valentino’s death to within a few hours,” there is no record of how she did so. Karen Christino suggests that Adams may have used traditional methods of horary astrology regarding decumbitures to analyze the chart for the moment Valentino collapsed at the hotel and was then taken to the hospital. This information appeared in the newspapers on 16 August 1926, a day after the event. It is possible, or even likely, that Adams had erected and studied the decumbiture chart in anticipation of being contacted by the press about her astrological opinion of the possible outcome of the famous movie star’s surgery.
What we know of Evangeline Adams’ horary technique is that she did not follow traditional guidelines. Her “new horary” method, which she documents in her writings, was to calculate the horary cusps for the moment of the question and to insert the natal planets into the horary figure, ignoring the planetary positions at the time of the question.
Although Valentino was apparently not a client of Adams, she would have known the basic birth data (perhaps not the exact hour) of this superstar and may even have studied his chart as she did for many famous personalities of her time. Here is Valentino’s natal chart based on his birth certificate:
If Adams used her usual horary technique, she would have calculated the decumbiture cusps for 15 August 1926 at 11:50 AM EDT in NYC and placed Valentino’s natal planets in the decumbiture wheel, without the current transiting planets of August 15, 1926. The resulting “Adams-style decumbiture” would look like the following:
Given Adams’ reports of how she did horary astrology, my hunch is that she would have taken the moment of Valentino’s decumbiture as a horary chart and inserted his natal planets into it, resulting in the above figure. It is striking that in the birth chart based on the official Birth Certificate the first degree of Libra is rising, and in this decumbiture chart the Ascenant lies in the last degree of Libra, symbolically implying that the native has traversed his entire life span.
Also apparent in Adams’ version of the decumbiture chart is that the Retrograde Saturn in Scorpio rising to conjoin the very late Ascendant in Libra is an ominous sign that portends the death of the actor. As William Lilly (CA 122) warns,
“if Saturn be in the Ascendant, especially Retrograde, the matter of that Question seldom or never comes to good.”
Adams regularly used Uranus in her work, and she would also have been alarmed by Retrograde Uranus in Scorpio in the 1st house so closely opposing Mercury and the Sun in Taurus in the 7th of the physician.
The Sun rules the 10th of the treatment received by the patient, and its opposition to Uranus suggests an unexpected turn for the worse. Both the Sun and Mercury are disposed by Venus, which rules the 8th of death. Mercury itself rules Gemini, which lies mostly in the 8th Placidus house. Adams used Placidus houses in her work.
The Moon, which is always important in horary charts, occupies the 12th of hospitalization where it is separating from a square to Mars (ruler of the 7th of illness and a symbol of surgery). The Moon’s next major aspect to a visible planet is a trine to Venus, ruler and occupant of the 8th of death. Thus, the Moon is transferring the light of Mars (the illness) to Venus (death). The Moon will perfect the trine to Venus in almost exactly 8 degrees, which symbolically could represent exactly 8 days, corresponding to around Noon on August 23rd, his actual date of death. (The use of this method of timing depends on an accurate birth time.)
Adams would probably have noted that the Ascendant ruler Venus also rules and occupies the 8th house of death, suggesting that the “querent” or sick person is confronting his own mortality.
As for timing, it is unclear how Adams would have predicted the death to within several hours. (Using the Moon, as noted above, she would have predicted that he would die around Noon on August 23rd.) One possibility is that she considered when 8th ruler Venus would change signs from Gemini into Cancer. Venus lies about 7.67 degrees from the end of Gemini. If she used a degree for a day, the adding 7.67 days to August 15th at 11:50 AM EDT would give an estimate of August 15th at midday plus 7.67 days (7 days and 16 hours), which calculates to August 23rd at about 4 in the morning. Valentino died on August 23rd at 12:20 PM EDT, roughly 8 hours later.
If Adams had access to Valentino’s birth data from his birth certificate, she might have calculated the moment when his natal Venus, ruler of the 8th of the decumbiture by transit would reach the natal MC at 01 Cancer 01 and oppose the natal 4th cusp of endings and the grave. By transit his natal Venus reached his natal MC on 14 May 1895 at about 1:30 AM CET. He was born on 6 May 1895 at 3 PM CET, so the difference is 7 days 13.5 hours, which is very similar to the result obtained in the above paragraph. Either way she would have concluded that Valentino was likely to die in the hospital in the early morning of August 23, 1926.