Character | James Holmes | Advancement and Dignity Revisited


Looking Away

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. Some thought it to be a distasteful thing to examine while other believed something so heinous is beyond astrology. I understand the sentiment that many astrologers have of not wanting to upset the victims, victims families, and others impacted by such horrific events. It offends the sensibilities of many people to say such things were “in the stars”.

Signs Not Causes

I’ve always been very interested in the astrology of the worst experiences in life. Not so that I can blame bad times on the stars as some might believe, but because I view astrology as a language, rather than as a cause. To me astrology is a system of signs from the gods (some higher intelligence).  Therefore, when something particularly bad happens, I wonder if there was any such indication given by some higher intelligence through the celestial language of signs.   I remain agnostic about whether things happen “for a reason” or according to some higher preordained plan. I simply look to see if there were any signs in the sky, after the fact and with hindsight on my side.

The Existence of Evil

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. Those who go on to commit horrible atrocities.  However, the world does create such people and they are indeed part of our reality. Our reality ranges from the most sublime expansive spiritual experiences to senseless random unfair cruelty, like this tragedy in Colorado. If these astrological signs reflect reality, then they should reflect such a horrifically significant experience. Events like this repulse me, make me cry, and lead me to pray for the victims and their families. I offer my condolences to all involved and hope my loved ones are never faced with such idiotic displays of cruelty.

Birth Certificate

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 (i.e. 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. I have previously explored the factors for character analysis and issues with the use of essential dignity. I’m also an advocate of 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 Holmes

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

Solar/Mercurial Character

I’ll discuss the indications from some of the most important factors in character analysis. These factors include the Ascendant and 1st house, its lord, the Moon and her separations and applications, the Sun, Mercury, and general planetary strength.

Holmes has Leo rising, with the Ascendant in the bound of Mercury, so we expect some “self-identification” with the Sun and Mercury. Their placements in the chart more important to the character than typical.  The Sun would make someone attention-getting, competitive, leading, powerful, achieving, and dominant. This is even more so if the Sun is regarding the Ascendant, is generally prominent, and is somewhat prototypical (in a place of its dignity).  Mercury would make someone clever, flexible, complicated, analytically skilled, and possibly a bit mischievous. Again, this is more so if it’s also regarding the Ascendant, strong, and somewhat prototypical.

The Clever Golden Boy

Both the Sun and Mercury regard the Ascendant and are advancing.  Therefore, we expect the solar and mercurial qualities 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 and stationing direct. Jupiter indicates benefits or opportunities related to higher ed in this case (9th house).

James Holmes Natal Chart

Not So Sunny

The solar personality is modified quite substantially in the chart by the fact that the Sun is in the bound of Saturn and is adhering to Saturn (i.e. applying conjunction within 3 degrees). Saturn is the out of sect malefic which is typically the planet in the chart that signifies the most difficulty or disruption.  Saturn pertains to darkness, death, the macabre, and cruelty, especially when out of sect. Therefore, there is a sense of this solar strongly influenced from being in the same house and room (bound) of this malicious Saturn, and powerfully joining up with Saturn over time. Mercury is also in assembly with this Sun and Saturn (assembly is an applying conjunction within 15 degrees in the same sign). Mercury is under the beams of the Sun, signifying hidden plans or communications.

Therefore, from the lord of the Ascendant and its bound lord, we get the sense that James Holmes is a solar-mercurial figure with a somewhat choleric personality but this belies bleakness, depression, dark malicious thoughts, and the like (Saturn). Additionally, the twelfth-part of the Ascendant, which can show a hidden personal emphasis, is in the 8th place of death and harm. The Lot of Necessity and the twelfth-parts of the lots of Fortune and Spirit are also in the 8th.

Holmes Natal with Twelfth-Parts
Holmes Natal with Twelfth-Parts
Holmes with Principal Lots

Dark Moon

Another very important factor for personality is the Moon. Ptolemy (2nd century CE) advised that the Moon is particularly important for understanding the more instinctive or body-linked part of the mind (i.e. the subconscious or irrational mind). By contrast, Ptolemy used Mercury for the rational mind.  The separations and applications of the Moon were thought to be extremely significant by many ancient astrologers. Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th century CE) provided lengthy delineations of the Moon’s separations and applications which pertain to the character.

With the South Node in Saturn’s Bound

The Moon in this chart is at 29 Virgo, in the sign of Mercury and the bound of Saturn.  In this we see a reiteration of the importance of both Mercury and Saturn in understanding the character; intellectual and possibly dark or cruel.  The Moon is also conjunct the South Node of the Moon very closely, which is the eclipse point. The South Node is often associated with Saturn, suggesting again a sense of darkness.

Moon on Affliction

Turning to the Lots we find that the Moon is also conjunct, in the same degree, the Lot of Affliction. Affliction 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
From Saturn into the Void

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. Traditionally, the Moon is considered void when it completes no application within the next 13 degrees of travel, or about a day. In such as circumstance, it is not “connecting” with any planets as “connection” is 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 proceeding to go aimless. The personal impulse is from cruelty toward randomness, with Saturn (bound lord and last planet connected with) setting the tone.

Malefics Advance; Benefics Retreat

In the series of lessons, I looked at the importance of advancement in assessing planetary prominence.  James Holmes will be known for his brutally violent criminal actions.  In his chart, we find Mars extremely prominent. It is conjoined to an angle, the IC, the bottom of the chart.  Mars is also in a “stake“, the 4th house.  The next most advancing planets are the assembled Mercury, the Sun, and Saturn. Therefore, the malefics (Mars and Saturn) are advancing. By contrast, the benefics, Jupiter and Venus, are retreating. Additionally, the benefics are cadent (the 12th, 6th, 9th, and 3rd are 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.

James Holmes Natal Chart

Dignity Revisited

I have strongly spoken out against the misuse and overuse of essential dignity which is common in traditional astrology. For example, see my polemic about 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 is interpreted as making the planet more benefical or “dignified” in its indications.  Mars is in Scorpio, its domicile and triplicity which is a solid +8 in late traditional dignity pointing systems. However, the display of violence that this person brought into being was anything but dignified.  What we see instead is a Mars that is prototypically Martial, as in violent. Its bound ruler, Mercury, adds a sense of cleverness, irony, and weirdness. This is a Mars that is more Mars-y, but definitely not a “better” Mars in the sense of being beneficial or honorable.

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 is a planet of brawn, competitiveness, and atheticism. Mars in fall is not indicating that these themes are weak in the life of Michael Phelps.  On the other hand, from an associative point of view, Mars in Cancer fits Phelps well. Cancer is a water sign and is ruled by the Moon. Water obviously associates with swimming and the Moon rules over bodies of water as well as swift travel.


It’s my hope that this short look at the chart of a monster will assist astrologers in picking out chart factors relevant to character delineation. I hope I’ve also encouraged critical thought with respect to the status quo manner of dealing with essential dignity.

Featured Image

The featured image is The Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado where the 2012 Aurora shooting took place, photographed the day after the shooting By Algr [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons



Blogger interested in all things astrological, especially Hellenistic, medieval, Uranian, and asteroid astrology.

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