Character | James Holmes | Advancement and Dignity Revisited

The events of July 20th, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado were deeply disturbing. They were so disturbing that some modern astrologers simply refused to look into the killer’s chart much, believing that something so heinous must be beyond astrology.  I’ve always been very interested in the astrology of the worst experiences in life, not so that I can blame them on the stars as some might believe, but because I view astrology not as causal but as a language, as a system of signs from the gods or some higher intelligence.  Therefore, when something particularly bad happens, I wonder if there was any such indication given by the gods or some higher intelligence through a celestial language of signs.

It is not easy for me to come to grips with the fact that this world creates people like Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and James Holmes, who commit horrible atrocities.  However, the world does create such people and they are indeed part of our reality, one that ranges from the most sublime expansive spiritual experiences to senseless random unfair cruelty like this tragedy in Colorado.  I do astrology because it’s what I do, but I remain agnostic about my beliefs with regards to a great many things, so events like this repulse me, make me cry, and lead me to pray for the victims and their families and for protection for myself and my loved ones against such idiotic displays of cruelty.

About a week ago, the birth certificate of the Colorado movie theater shooter, James Holmes, was unearthed and his birth time uncovered.  In ancient astrology a valid birth time is essential to character analysis as it sets the rising degree which determines which topics are assigned to which signs, in what is called the houses of the chart.  Now that we have a birth time for James Holmes, I would like to make a couple brief notes about the chart which reiterate some of the important points I’ve raised in past posts about critical factors for character analysis, issues with the use of essential dignity in the community, and the use of advancement in assessing planetary prominence.  This will not be an in depth look at the events and will largely be devoid of timing techniques.  I may delve into such topics at some future point.


James Eagan Holmes was born on December 13th, 1987 at 9:04pm in La Jolla, California (source).  His basic chart is shown below.

James Holmes Natal Chart
James Holmes Natal Chart

Some of the most important factors in character analysis include the Ascendant and 1st house, its lord, the Moon and her separations and applications, the Sun, Mercury, and general planetary strength and weakness.

Holmes has Leo rising, with the Ascendant in the bound of Mercury, so we expect some “self-identification” with the Sun and Mercury, with their placements in the chart being fairly important to the character, even more so than typical.  The Sun would make someone attention-getting, competitive, leading, powerful, achieving, and dominant, but this more so if the Sun is regarding the Ascendant also, strong, and is somewhat prototypical (in a place of its dignity).  Mercury would make someone clever, flexible, complicated, analytically skilled, and possibly a bit mischievous, and again more so if also regarding the Ascendant, strong, and somewhat prototypical.  Both the Sun and Mercury regard the Ascendant and are advancing (see the last post for more on advancement), so we do expect something of the solar and mercurial to be quite evident in the nature of the character.  In his chart these planets are together in the 5th house, that of Good Fortune, which pertains to physical enjoyments and achievements, such as entertainment.  They are ruled by Jupiter which is in the 9th house, which among other things pertains to higher education, and is particularly scholarly here in the bound of Mercury (also stationing direct, bringing very good benefits through higher ed to the native).

However, we find that the solar personality is modified quite substantially in the chart by the fact that the Sun is adhering (i.e. applying conjunction within 3 degrees) to the out of sect malefic, Saturn, in Saturn’s bound.  Saturn pertains to darkness, death, the macabre, and cruelty, especially when out of sect, so there is a sense of this solar being staying in the room of a malicious Saturn and powerfully joining up with Saturn over time.  Mercury is also in assembly with this Sun-Saturn (applying conjunction within 15 degrees in the same sign) while under the beams of the Sun, signifying hidden plans or communications.  So overall, from the lord of the Ascendant and its bound lord, which are also two of the chart factors that have some general bearing on the look at the mind and spirit in the chart, we get the sense that James Holmes is a solar-mercurial figure with a somewhat choleric personality belying some darkness, depression, dark malicious thoughts and so forth. Additionally, the twelfth-part of the Ascendant, which can show a hidden emphasis in the mind of the native, is in the 8th place of death and harm (as are the twelfth-parts of Fortune and Spirit, and the regular position of the Lot of Necessity).

Holmes Natal with Twelfth-Parts
Holmes Natal with Twelfth-Parts

Another very important factor for personality is the Moon, which Ptolemy (2nd century CE) regarded as particularly important for understanding the more instinctive or body-linked part of the mind (i.e. the subconscious), as opposed to the rational mind (which he associated with Mercury).  The separations and applications of the Moon were thought to be extremely significant by many ancient astrologers, and are, for instance, delineated by Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th century CE) with descriptions that have bearing on character.

The Moon in this chart is at 29 Virgo, in the sign of Mercury and the bound of Saturn.  So far we are seeing a reiteration of the importance of both Mercury and Saturn in understanding the character, revealing again a sense of intellect or scholarship, as well as possible darkness, obstruction, or cruelty.  The Moon is also conjunct the South Node of the Moon very closely, which is the eclipse point, and often associated with Saturn, suggesting again a sense of darkness.  Turning to the Lots we find that the Moon is also conjunct, in the same degree, the Lot of Affliction, which is the lot which pertains to the worst sorts of evils, afflictions, and problems (more on the Lot of Affliction here).  Also, the Lot of the Moon, called Fortune, which pertains to physical and circumstantial happenings, is very closely conjunct Mars, the planet of violence and aggression.

Holmes Natal with 5 Lots
Holmes Natal with 5 Lots

The Separations and applications of the Moon are also interesting in the chart.  The Moon separates from a square with Saturn, but applies to nothing, being void (i.e. the Moon completes no application within the next 13 degrees of travel, or about a day, thus is not “connecting” with any planets, “connection” being the terminology for a degree-based aspect).  So it is as if we have a Moon fresh off connecting with a rather cruel Saturn from a rather tense square aspect and then just going off aimless, suggesting a personal impulse from cruelty toward randomness, with Saturn (bound lord and last planet connected with) setting the tone.


In the last two posts, which were part of my beginner series, I looked at the importance of advancement in assessing planetary prominence.  James Holmes will be particularly well known for his brutally violent criminal actions.  In his chart we find Mars as strong as can be, actually conjunct an angle, the IC at the bottom of the chart.  While I haven’t gotten into the “stakes” of the chart yet, it is also important to mention that Mars is in a “stake”, the 4th house, which also makes it more prominent.  The next most advancing planets are the assembly of Mercury, the Sun, and Saturn.  However, note that the only two planets that are retreating in the chart are both benefics, Jupiter and Venus, which are additionally cadent (i.e. the 12th, 6th, 9th, and 3rd are also weaker houses).  Thus, while the events in the life see the volume turned way up on Mars, they see the volume turned down on the benefics.  Competitiveness, aggression, and violence get “featured” in the life.

Dignity Revisited

It’s probably a good time to revisit the issue of essential dignity and its misuse and general overuse in the astrological community.  As with my polemic on this issue in which I discussed Jeffrey Dahmer’s many highly “dignified” planets, including Dahmer’s very dignified Mars in Aries, the chart of Holmes also warns against using dignity in any sense in which it makes a planet act more benefically or more “dignified” in its expression.  Mars is in Scorpio, both in domicile and with first triplicity (a solid +8 in late traditional dignity pointing systems), yet the display of violence that this person brought into being was anything but dignified.  What we see instead is a Mars that is quite prototypically Mars, as in violent, and in the bound of Mercury adds a sense of cleverness, irony, and weirdness.  A Mars more Mars-y, but definitely not a “better” Mars in a beneficence or honor sense.

Even in terms of strength, we must be careful not to attach a lot of importance to sign-based dignity.  It is worth noting for instance that Michael Phelps has Mars in Cancer, the sign of its fall.  Mars being a planet of brawn, competitiveness, and atheticism, we’d be mistaken to say that these things are weak with Michael Phelps because Mars is in fall.  On the other hand, from an associative point of view, Mars in Cancer fits Phelps well, as it links those things with water, both by being in a water sign and the sign of the Moon, which rules over bodies of water and swift travel.


It’s my hope that this short look at the chart of the mass murderer, James Holmes, will assist astrologers in more quickly picking out those chart factors that matter for character delineation and will encourage critical thought with respect to the status quo manner by which traditional astrologers today tend to evaluate planets by sign-based dignity.

4 thoughts on “Character | James Holmes | Advancement and Dignity Revisited”

  1. Great chart analysis, Ant! Mars is a real bruiser here. It’s interesting that Jupiter is in the house of the sect malefic, while Venus is in the house of the out-0f-sect malefic. Strange swap.
    Jupiter picks up all of that Mars in Scorpio aggression. Jupiter in the 9th rationalizes that racial dominance hate-think it to make it mentally “acceptable.” Jupiter likes to be better, superior to others; and as you said, Sun, Mercury & Saturn are in Jupiter’s sign Sagittarius.
    I see a strange loop where Mars feeds evil thoughts to Jupiter, and then Jupiter feeds those thoughts (suitably puffed up) to the Sag planets.
    Mars is in Mercury’s bound – with Mercury in Sag, he committed a heinous crime in a church. The whole thing is tragic.

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