The Manson Family murders in the Summer of ‘69 seared a hole in the American psyche. The Family was a cult of hippie nihilists led by Charles Manson, a frustrated singer-songwriter on the fringe of the LA music industry. In what was to become one of the first acts of social-class terrorism to date, Manson and his followers committed a series of nine murders, including that of actress Sharon Tate, at four locations over a period of five weeks.
Manson believed the murders would help precipitate an impending apocalyptic race war, which he described in his own version of the lyrics to the Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter.” The seven-member Family comprised three men (Charles Manson, Bobby Beausoleil, and Charles “Tex” Watson) as well as four women (Susan Atkins, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten.)
Malefics at large
In Vedic astrology, planets can be classed as natural benefics with the power to do good, or natural malefics with the power to do harm. Although there are caveats, the benefics are the Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. The malefics are the Sun, Mars, Saturn and the two nodes.
Malefic signatures are stamped on every member of the Manson Family, several of whom share common themes. Before we look at those patterns, let’s quickly review the malefics and their nature:
- The Sun is the least of the malefics, considered cruel, with a capacity to burn, but also to command, even at the behest of a twisted ego.
- Mars is aggressive and violent, with the fierce temperament of a warrior, and a capacity to turn rage into criminal action.
- Saturn is regarded as the prime malefic, in that it reflects depression and fear, morbidity and sociopathy, imprisonment and death.
- Rahu is Saturn-like, associated with alienation, strangeness, anti-social tendencies and a lust for forbidden experience.
- Ketu is Mars-like, and is considered “the headless one” lacking reason, restraint or an instinct for self-preservation.
It’s a Family affair
When we analyze the charts of the Manson Family, several astrological themes emerge among its members:
|Astrological factor||Members affected|
|A debilitated Sun||3|
|Kala Sarpa Yoga (Rahu & Ketu)||3|
|A destabilized Moon (often at hands of Saturn)||4|
|Dominance of kshatriya planets (Sun & Mars)||3|
|An aggravated Mars||7|
As we’ll see, no single factor influences every member of the group. And yet the composite influence of malefics is strikingly common.
The Sun also falls
Out of the seven members of the Manson Family, three have a sidereal Sun debilitated in Libra. There’s a one-in-12 chance to have a debilitated Sun, so in a group of seven people we’d expect no more than one, yet here are three:
- Charles Manson was the instigator who came up with the plans and sent his followers to do the killing. Although his Sun in the 7th house is strengthened by the presence of Jupiter, Mercury and a strong Venus, it is also aspected by a strong Saturn in Capricorn.
- Bobby Beausoleil committed one murder and participated in others. His Sun is in the 12th house and aspected by a debilitated Mars in Cancer.
- Although Squeaky Fromme participated in none of the Family murders, she was a devotee of the Manson cult and, years later, made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Her 2nd house Sun is associated with Ketu, and aspected by Saturn.
All three find their debilitated Suns further destabilized by the association or aspect of malefics Mars, Saturn or Ketu. This suggests almost half of the group, their leader included, suffered from some sort of ego deficiency that justified violence as a form of compensation.
The demonic nodes
The Moon’s nodes are described as chaya graha (shadow planets) because they denote the literal points across which shadows cast eclipses. Mythologically, they are two portions of the same body, that of an asura who crashed a party thrown by the devas. When the demon tried to drink the soma (nectar of immortality) being served, Lord Vishnu chopped it in two, but because it had already ingested some of the nectar, the two nodes Rahu and Ketu gained immortality to torment the Sun and Moon with eclipses ever after.
Four of the Manson family have angular nodes: Manson, Beausoleil, Atkins and Krenwinkel. The nodes can only be angular, succedent or cadent, so in a family of seven we’d expect two with angular nodes, yet here there are four. Far more remarkably, three of the family (all of the men) have a Kala Sarpa Yoga.
Kala Sarpa occurs when all seven of the visible planets are contained within seven signs or less, effectively restricted to one half of the chart as delineated by the opposing axis of the moon’s nodes. Watson has a relatively “pure” example of a Kala Sarpa, since all of his other planets are truly contained within the nodal axis. Manson and Beausoleil deviate from this high standard since certain of their planets exceed the node’s degree without leaving the sign occupied.
- Manson’s Kala Sarpa has all of his planets on the west side of the chart, from Cancer in the 4th to Capricorn in the 10th. This places emphasis on the nodal dispositors Moon and Saturn. Saturn is powerful in its own sign where it teams up with malefic Rahu to severely destabilize the Moon. Thus Manson, both unhappy and deranged, sought fulfillment by wreaking death on those he perceived to be part of the establishment.
- Beausoleil’s Kala Sarpa has all of his planets in the south half of the chart, from Taurus in the 7th to Scorpio in the 1st. This highlights nodal dispositors Venus and Mars. Venus sits on an exaggerated nodal axis (Rahu is debilitated in Taurus, Ketu exalted in Scorpio). Mars is debilitated and associated with Saturn. Charm was Beausoleil’s laissez-passer but his propensity for violence was on a short leash.
- Watson’s Kala Sarpa has all of his planets in the northeast portion of the chart, from Gemini in the 12th to Sagittarius in the 6th. Mercury and Jupiter thus become the control planets for the nodal axis. Mercury is afflicted only by the Sun, while Jupiter is aspected by Saturn. He committed five murders and directly participated in several others.
In short, a Kala Sarpa Yoga can reflect an extreme form of personality, with a tendency for bigotry, conspiracy theories, fanaticism and revolution as a cure for what ails society. This was essentially Manson’s message: start a race war that would transform America. Beausoleil and Watson were his willing dupes and, with all three men in agreement, it facilitated getting the women of the Family aligned toward the same goal.
The dark side of the Moon
The Moon represents the emotional mind, the part of our limbic system that “thinks” like an animal, with its instincts, primal desires and antipathies. In six of the Family members, the Moon is afflicted by Mars, Saturn or the nodes. Four of them are particularly destabilized:
- Manson’s waxing Moon in the 10th is associated with a strong Saturn and Rahu. The north node is generally Saturn-like with the potential to take on other influences; Ketu is Mars-like with options. Both nodes function like lawyers, taking on clients by whom they are conjoined, aspected or disposited. If there are multiple clients, the lawyer favors the most powerful. In Manson’s case, Saturn in its own sign is strong so effectively Rahu also wields Saturn’s power. This creates a situation where the Moon is put under pressure from the worst two malefics.
- Atkins’s waning Moon is dark in the 4th house, just two days away from a solar eclipse. This Moon is notable in being under attack from every malefic in the chart. It conjoins an exalted Sun. Alternatively, if we exercise the option to transpose the Sun and Mars in our mind’s eye, since these two are in mutual reception, we’d see the Moon afflicted by Mars in its own sign. Saturn from the 7th house aspects the Moon. Last but not least, the Moon sits on the nodal axis. She directly participated in eight of the Family murders.
- Fromme’s Moon is just past full in the 9th house, and exalted in Taurus. But it’s aspected by a powerful Mars in its own sign, which gives an aggressive personality. And it’s aspected by Saturn from the 12th, which gives an attitude of there’s-nothing-to-lose.
- Krenwinkel’s Moon is waning but in its own sign Cancer in the 10th. There it’s closely conjoined with Saturn, with all its attendant negativity. She committed one murder and directly participated in several others.
The Moon is only one element in any analysis of the manas, or emotional mind of an individual. Its stability is a general indicator of mental health, while its instability reflects at least neurosis if not some form of “crazy thinking.”
The Kshatriya are prepared to kill
In the Hindu caste system there are essentially five classes of society. The Brahmin, represented by Venus and Jupiter, promote culture via law, religion, education and art. The Kshatriya, posts held by the Sun and Mars, protect society in the form of the government, military and police. The Vaishya, circulating as the Moon and Mercury, are promoters of trade and commerce. The Shudra, weighed down with Saturn, offer basic services, trades and labor. The Mleccha, outcastes Rahu and Ketu, are the foreigners, sick and criminal element.
The Kshatriya planets Mars and the Sun are considered armed, as are their personnel – guards, police and soldiers. Being armed, they can kill. Thus, combinations involving the Sun and Mars reflect a strong-armed approach, with all possible ramifications. In the Manson Family, three out of the seven have a strong Sun/Mars connection in their charts:
- Manson has Aries rising ruled by Mars. Mars is in the 5th house Leo, the Sun’s sign. The Sun and Mars are in a friendly 3/11 relationship. Mars is unafflicted in a friendly sign. The Sun aspects the Aries ascendant. Mars is in the “cognitive” 5th house, where it dwells on violence but doesn’t necessarily act on it. The weak ego of the debilitated Sun can only work through others – the 7th house.
- Atkins has the Sun in 4th house Aries, in mutual reception with Mars in Leo in the 8th. This exchange of 4th and 8th house lords is a bad sign for the mother, domestic stability and peace of mind. At the Sun’s end of the exchange, the 4th house is damaged by the presence of a dark Moon and Rahu, and the aspect of Saturn. The influence of prime malefics Saturn and Rahu on the 4th house or the Moon (here, both apply) is a classic signature for some form of neurosis or sociopathy.
- Remarkably, Krenwinkel too has a mutual reception between the Sun and Mars, although in her chart it’s from Leo in the 11th to Scorpio in the 2nd. Mars is clearly dominant since it aspects the Sun. She committed one murder and directly participated in several others.
Since the Sun and Mars form powerful interactions in these members’ charts, there’s an impulse to command and control. Organizational leadership is reflected in the Sun, but it takes Mars to use the knife or pull the trigger.
Caution: contents under pressure
Of all the planets, Mars is the most aggressive and violent. A person with a damaged Mars, eg, debilitated or combust, is a candidate for uncontrolled rage. This usually comes courtesy of some neurosis, bad chemicals, or a shitty childhood, and can have negative effects on health, relationships and employment.
Everyone in the Manson Family had a dominant Mars:
- Manson’s Mars is his Aries ascendant lord, well-placed in the 5th house, unafflicted by any other planet. The lord of his rising nakshatra is Ketu, which is Mars-like.
- Beausoleil’s Mars is lord of his Scorpio ascendant. It’s debilitated in the Cancer 9th, associated with Saturn. In the Shadbala system of planetary weights, Mars is his strongest planet. The lord of his rising nakshatra is Jupiter, in Mars-ruled Scorpio, and in the 1st house with Mars-like Ketu.
- Watson’s debilitated Mars occupies his ascendant. In the Shadbala system, Mars is his strongest planet. The lord of his rising nakshatra is Saturn, associated with Mars.
- Atkins’s Mars is in the 8th house, exchanging with the Sun to access its own sign Aries. As per Shadbala, Mars is her strongest planet. The lord of her rising nakshatra is the Sun in mutual reception with Mars.
- Fromme’s Mars occupies its own sign Scorpio in the 3rd house. In the Shadbala system, Mars is her second strongest planet. The lord of her rising nakshatra is the Moon, in mutual aspect with that strong Mars.
- Krenwinkel’s Mars is in the 11th house, exchanging with the Sun into its own sign Scorpio. As per Shadbala, Mars is her strongest planet. The lord of her rising nakshatra is Jupiter in Mars-ruled Scorpio, and aspected by Mars.
- Van Houten’s Mars is in the 11th house Gemini, the most elevated visible planet in the chart. In the Shadbala system, Mars is her strongest planet. The lord of her rising nakshatra is Mars-like Ketu, also aspected by Mars. Technically, she committed no murders but participated in some.
To sum up, every one of the Manson family has a dominant Mars by virtue of its involvement with the shtoola lagna – the rising sign and its lord – or the sookshma lagna, the rising nakshatra and its lord.
The end of the summer of love
The “Summer of Love” was a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when as many as 100,000 young people sporting hippie fashions of dress and behavior converged in San Francisco. Ironically, this was also where Charles Manson got his start, living in the Haight-Ashbury district where he gathered adoring women around him by giving out LSD. Soon he was also attracting young men to his group by promising sex with his “young loves.” Thus, a cult was born.
Two years later, things had begun to unravel. Brian Jones drowned in his swimming pool, and the Rolling Stones’ Altamount concert unleashed an orgy of violence. The first victim of AIDS died. The Chappaquiddick incident exposed Ted Kennedy’s adultery. The My Lai massacre in Vietnam outraged Americans and mobilized the anti-war movement. The “Helter Skelter” murders by the Manson Family in Los Angeles were just further evidence that it was the end of an era. Indeed, many media outlets dubbed 1969 as “the end of the Sixties.”
The malefics were loose again.
Alan Annand is a graduate of the American College of Vedic Astrology and a former tutor for the British Faculty of Astrological Studies. His New Age Noir crime novels (Scorpio Rising, Felonious Monk, Soma County) feature astrologer and palmist Axel Crowe, whom one reviewer has dubbed “Sherlock Holmes with a horoscope.”
He’s also the author of several non-fiction books. Stellar Astrology offers a compilation of techniques, in-depth celebrity profiles, and analysis of world events. Parivartana Yoga is a reference text for one of the most common yet powerful planetary combinations in jyotish. Mutual Reception is an expanded companion volume for western practitioners, covering the same subject of planetary exchange through the lens of traditional astrology.
Websites: www.navamsa.com, www.sextile.com