Howard Hughes – man of mystery or just another case of misattributed birthday?
Although Hughes’ birth time was accurately nailed down as 10:12 PM in Houston, Texas, astrologers must contend with two widely divergent birth dates for the notoriously reclusive billionaire. Astrodienst (astro.com), the go-to site for reputable birth data, provides two dates separated by three months.
One is September 24, 1905, as declared over a year later (October 7, 1906) in a baptismal certificate presumably endorsed by his parents, and whose date subsequently appears in a biography by Richard Hack, Hughes – the Private Diaries, Memos and Letters. Problem is, the only birth certificate Hughes ever had, issued in 1941[!], was based on a sworn statement by his aunt who said he was born December 24, 1905.
Wikipedia uses December 24th as Hughes’ birthday, but on Astrodienst’s site, September 24th is proffered first as the birthday, albeit with a Rodden Rating of XX (date in question), while subsequently indicating December 24th as the alternate. Curiously, the renowned rectification astrologer Isaac Starkman has not applied his technique to Mr. Hughes’ case.
Since nature abhors a vacuum, I decided to fill it… and started off thinking this would be a piece of cake. Usually it’s birth time uncertainty we have to cope with. Given an exact time, how hard could it be to choose between two birth dates separated by three months? Hughes’ life was certainly eventful enough, and well-documented so as to provide multiple data points for comparison against two distinctly different birth charts.
His mother died when he was 16, his father two years later. He inherited a fortune, and through shrewd business decisions in the movie industry, manufacturing, aviation and real estate, he multiplied it many times over. He married and divorced twice, but never had any children. At one time he dated nearly every Hollywood starlet of the day. He learned to fly when he was 14 and subsequently set world records for speed and distance. He had dozens of accidents – a car accident that killed a pedestrian, a flying accident that killed two passengers, and another plane crash that destroyed four houses and nearly killed him. Later in life, he became known for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle – oddities caused in part by an obsessive–compulsive disorder, and chronic pain from several plane crashes. He died in 1976 with an estate at the time of $2.5 billion, one of the most financially successful individuals in the world.
Here are the two charts on offer. Before going further, readers are encouraged to think about which of these charts they think is the better fit.
I won’t bore you with the internal debate that raged between my ears for a day or two. The beauty of jyotish is that there are so many charts, sub-charts and techniques to apply to this sort of thing; the curse of jyotish is that it’s a double-edged sword that allows you to split hairs both coming and going.
Anyone who’s done astrology for a long time will admit there are many charts that have confounded us. We’ve pondered some and wondered how these things could have happened to these people – how one lost their inheritance in a legal battle while another won the lottery, how one fell from a plane and survived while another choked to death on a biscuit, or another was wrongfully convicted to spend two decades in prison, while another was elected president of the USA.
Astrology is God’s work, my teacher’s guru used to say, and He guards it jealously. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Both the Astrodienst and Wikipedia entries for Howard Hughes offer a wealth of detail, including many specific dates for marriage, divorce, accidents, plane crashes, etc, and his death. Readers are welcome to do as I have done, comparing lagnas, yogas, amshas, dashas and bhuktis, transits, etc, against these two candidate charts. For anyone embarking upon this exercise, it will undoubtedly impress the open-minded how two distinctly different charts can still provide varying degrees of astrological post-mortem evidence for whatever circumstance or event is under consideration, sometimes favoring a September birth, other times, December. But at the end of the day, it all came down to a few critical factors that strongly favored the December chart. Following is a discussion of those salient features.
The December chart has Leo rising with Rahu in the 1st house. The rising nakshatra is Magha, and many of its qualities ring a bell: family pedigree, real estate wealth, winning trophies, and the exercise of power, politics and patronage. Hughes’ father was a millionaire inventor, his mother a debutante. Hughes made prescient investments in Las Vegas real estate, and bought and sold properties like baseball trading cards. He broke several aviation flying records and won many prestigious awards. He was involved in politics via lobbying, financial support and, sometimes, outright bribes.
The December chart has three planets – Mercury, Moon and Venus – in Jyeshta. Some of the relevant characteristics of that nakshatra are mystery and secrecy, care-giving, and receiving a kick-start from one’s father. Hughes was notoriously reclusive, often traveling under pseudonyms. He established America’s largest medical research corporation, and often paid for the medical treatment of friends, lovers and their family members. His entire fortune started with an inheritance from his father who’d invented a drill bit used world-wide by the oil industry.
Speaking of the 4th house, consider the mother. The dark and debilitated Moon is a classic case of karako bhavo nashto, a potential spoiler for the mother or one’s relationship with her. Hughes’ mother adored her only child and was so possessive of him it verged on emotional incest. Afraid that he’d pick up germs and become ill, she checked his naked body for temperature, bowel movements and signs of illness. She insisted on bathing him from infancy until he was in his early teens. She died from complications of an ectopic pregnancy when he was 16.
With respect to relationships, it was complicated. Mars and Saturn are in graha yuddha, and their planetary war damages both of them. Hughes was married and divorced twice. For a time he dated some of the biggest names in Hollywood, but also had compulsive attractions to underage women, meanwhile employing a team of private detectives to track the movements of anyone with whom he was temporarily infatuated. In his later years, he was too much of a germophobe to have relationships with anyone.
Aside from his well-known weirdness and obsessive-compulsive disorder, Hughes suffered multiple physical issues: neurosyphilis and brain inflammation, allodynia (exaggerated pain from physical stimuli), and later in life, dementia and kidney failure. Although some of this can be attributed to syphilis stemming from his youth, and 14 head injuries from accidents, his spiral into mental deterioration and full-blown psychosis is also consistent with a disturbed manas, that autonomic function of the brain that is the body’s operating system.
Analysis of the manas hinges on three factors – the 4th lord, the 4th house, and the Moon as karaka – trouble looming when any of these three are weak, poorly placed, or fall under the influence of Saturn or Rahu, the two planets of decay and derangement. In the December chart, Hughes’ 4th lord is Mars, weakened by planetary war, conjunct with Saturn in Saturn’s sign, and aligned on the Rahu/Ketu axis. The 4th house itself is aspected by a powerful (swa, dig bala) Saturn. Finally, the Moon is dark, debilitated, and aspected by Saturn. Overall, this reflects massive damage to the manas.
Although I examined dozens of life events through the lens of dasha, bhukti and gochara, scarcely anything compares to death itself. Hughes allegedly died aboard a private jet en route back to Houston, his death occurring at 1:27 PM on April 5, 1976, over Brownsville, Texas. Using the December chart, Hughes would have been running RA-MO-JU.
Rahu gives results for both Mars and Saturn who aspect it. As occupant of the 7th, Mars is a maraka, but as lord of the 9th for a fixed sign rising, is also a badhaka planet. Saturn is a double maraka, being both lord and occupant of the 7th. The Moon is the lord of the 12th, while its nakshatra dispositor Mercury as lord of the 2nd is a maraka. Jupiter is the lord of the 8th, while its nakshatra dispositor Sun is the lagnesh. At the time of death, the transiting Sun was in Hughes’ 8th house in a Mercury (maraka) nakshatra, while transiting Moon was in his 10th in a Mars (maraka, badhaka) nakshatra.
One final note that may illustrate the validity of the December chart comes from the Notable Names Database (nndb.com), whose entry for Hughes is shown on his Astrodienst page. Interestingly, Hughes appears in his aviator helmet, while the executive summary for his entry labels him as “Insane billionaire.”
As is perhaps well known, many devotees of Nadi astrology and Krishnamurthi Paddhati subscribe to the principle that a planet serves its nakshatra lord. If we examine the star lords of Hughes’ planets in the December chart, we see that the three planets in his 7th house fall in a Mars nakshatra, while the three planets in his 4th fall in a Mercury nakshatra. Aside from both Mars and Mercury being swa nakshatra, this tells us that one-third of the time (Mars, Saturn and Ketu dasha/bhuktis), his life is about Mars, while another third of the time (Moon, Mercury and Venus), his life is about Mercury.
Mars is many things: primary significator of a compromised manas, troubled relationships and crashed vehicles (planes), but also a karaka for adventure, speed and real estate. By a similar token, Mercury is the primary significator for money (lord of 2nd and 11th), and a karaka for business acumen. By that logic, thanks to these two pivotal planets, “Insane billionaire” is quite apt.
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, Volumes 1 & 2, offer a wealth of time-tested techniques in the form of biographical profiles, analyses of world events, and technical essays. 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