By all odds, John McCain should have died in Vietnam. His survival made him a legend worthy of what is truly great about America: demonstrating courage under fire, and acting with honesty and integrity in support of principles that transcend individual well-being for the sake of one’s country.
His chart has several classic yogas. Sasha yoga, created by Saturn in its own sign in the ascendant, is the strongest among them, making him an icon of conservative values. The Sun/Saturn opposition across the horizon creates a Dharma-Karma Adhipati yoga via lords of the 1st and 7th, and since both planets are strong, this became a signature of two things – his leadership in bipartisan politics, and the anti-establishment streak that many times led him to break ranks with his own Republican party policies. A second DKA yoga, this time with 4th lord Venus and 5th lord Mercury together in the 8th reflected some of the many traumas, both personal and professional, that he experienced in his lifetime. This latter pair also constitutes a Neecha Bhanga Raja yoga, which reflects both his physical and political survival despite many reversals during the years.
McCain came from a military family. (Chandra Mangala yoga across the 6/12 axis reflects a fighting spirit, on both a personal and professional level.) His father and his grandfather were both four-star admirals in the US Navy. As a consequence, he was born in Panama where his father was stationed at the time, and he later attended 20 different schools as his family moved around the USA and the Pacific theatre. His frequent changes of residency and schools are reflected in 4th lord Venus debilitated in the 8th house.
McCain attended the US Navy Academy, from which he graduated in 1958. He had a high IQ but an anti-authoritarian streak, and finished near the bottom of his class. He completed flight school in 1960, during which time he earned a reputation as a party animal and a mediocre pilot. He crashed twice and collided with power lines another time, but walked away largely unscathed. Vehicles are ruled by the 4th house, whether cars, ships or planes. The sorry state of 4th lord Venus reflects his many misfortunes under transport.
He requested a combat assignment during the Vietnam War and was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal which suffered a cataclysmic fire in July 1967. An electrical malfunction caused a rocket to accidentally explode among a group of planes on the flight deck, setting off a series of fuel explosions that killed 134 sailors and wounded 161 others, including McCain. The USS Forrestal fire occurred during Rahu dasha, Venus bhukti, as did his final combat mission three months later.
In October 1967 his Skyhawk attack plane was shot down on a mission over North Vietnam. McCain broke both arms and legs, and almost drowned when his parachute came down in a lake. When the North Vietnamese pulled him out of the water, they prodded him with bayonets and struck him with rifle stocks, crushing one of his shoulders.
His captors initially refused to treat his injuries, torturing him instead for information until they discovered his father was an admiral. He spent six weeks in hospital, during which he received minimal care, lost 50 pounds and saw his hair turn white. Other prisoners thought he wouldn’t survive.
Because he wouldn’t cooperate with North Vietnamese demands for information or statements for propaganda purposes, in March 1968 he was put in solitary confinement for two years, spanning Rahu-Sun and Rahu-Moon, the latter bhukti lord sitting in his 12th house. During this period his father was named commander of all US Navy forces in the theatre. The North Vietnamese offered him early release, but McCain refused, abiding with the US military Code of Conduct which had a “first-in, first-out” rule for prisoner-of-war releases.
His North Vietnamese captors in the “Hanoi Hilton” subjected him to severe torture in which he was bound and beaten every two hours, experiencing such pain that he was driven to the point of suicide, prevented only by the actions of his guards. He remained a prisoner of war for five and a half years until his release in March 1973, along with other POWs at the conclusion of peace talks ending the war. His wartime injuries caused him irreparable damage that, even after extensive physiotherapy, left him with a limp and rendered him unable to raise his arms above his head.
Back in America, he took command of a training squadron in Florida. Although he’d married in April 1965 before going to Vietnam, he became involved in several extramarital affairs in Florida that ruined his marriage, for which he subsequently blamed himself. With natural enemies Sun and Saturn opposed across the 1/7 axis, Kujadosha from a debilitated Mars, and marriage karaka Venus debilitated in the 8th, relationships were up-and-down.
He became a Navy liaison officer to the US Senate in 1977, his first taste of civil service in which he began making friends with both Republicans and Democrats. This was his Jupiter-Mercury period, in which both angular Jupiter and exalted Mercury provided the Neecha Bhanga Raja yoga relieving his debilitated Venus. He secured a divorce in April 1980 and a month later married a woman he’d been dating for a year or more, an Arizona heiress to a beer empire, both transactions occurring in his Jupiter-Venus period.
He retired from the Navy in 1981, moved to Arizona and ran for a seat in the House of Representatives. Accused by a local heckler of being a “carpetbagger,” an opportunist who wasn’t a real resident of Arizona, he explained that, being in a military family, he’d been obliged to move around a lot more than was normal. In fact, he said, the longest he’d spent anywhere was his five-and-a-half years in a Hanoi prison. The heckler fell silent and McCain went on to win his seat.
From there he progressed to the Senate in 1987 (Jupiter-Rahu), capturing the Arizona seat left vacant by the late Barry Goldwater. McCain completed five terms and was into his sixth when he died. Over the years, he developed a reputation as a man with a conscience who would often buck the party line if it didn’t sit right with his own principles.
His Sasha yoga was a testimony, not only to his stoicism during his years as a prisoner of war, but also his willingness to take tough stands. The Sun/Saturn opposition is a signature for a maverick, someone who is anti-authoritarian, and perhaps proud of it. And yet with that strong Saturn as an influence, his ego appeared to be largely in check.
Thanks to his Chandra Mangala yoga, he was known to have a temper, and wasn’t afraid to engage in combat, whether physical or legislative. In school he wrestled and boxed. As a pilot, he pushed the envelope in his flying. Whether dealing with hecklers in the crowd, or members of his own party with whom he disagreed on principle, he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. His debilitated Mars in the 6th indicates a fighter, however reckless, and its aspect on the ascendant gave it punch.
In 2000 (Saturn-Mars), he went head-to-head with George W. Bush in competition for the Republican nominee for President. Despite a vicious smear campaign from the Bush camp, spreading rumors that McCain had fathered a black child (he and his wife had adopted a child from Bangladesh), that he was a homosexual, that he’d been brainwashed in Hanoi and become a “Manchurian candidate,” he refused to respond in kind. He stuck to his principles and lost the leadership race.
Eight years later (Mercury-Mercury), he won the Republican nomination process and campaigned for President with Sarah Palin as his running mate, but this time lost to the Democrats under Barack Obama. His concession speech was gracious and he vowed to continue serving the country as best he could from the Senate where he had over the years acquired more and more senior committee appointments, in foreign policy, and especially the armed services.
In the 2016 Presidential campaign (Mercury-Rahu), he withdrew support for Donald Trump after hearing the Hollywood Tapes in which Trump bragged about groping women. From then on, he became something of a symbol for a mere vestige of the Republican Party that seemed otherwise eager to shed its principles so long as Trump kept on winning the support of the Republican heartland.
For a man of such high principles, one might ask, how can Venus, his 4th and 9th lord of morals, ethics and right behavior, be in such a ruinous state? Recall that his Venus has Neecha Bhanga Raja yoga, which arises under four different scenarios: (1) when the debilitated planet is associated with or aspected by its dispositor, (2) when the dispositor of the debilitated planet is in a kendra, (3) when the lord of the sign in which the debilitated planet would become exalted is in a kendra, and (4) when the planet that would be exalted in that debilitation sign is in a kendra.
See what happens in McCain’s chart: (1) debilitated Venus is associated with its dispositor Mercury; and (3) Jupiter, the lord of Pisces where debilitated Venus would become exalted, is in a kendra. The other two do not apply: (2) Mercury the dispositor of debilitated Venus is not in a kendra; and (4) Mercury that is exalted in Virgo, where Venus is debilitated, is not in a kendra.
So for McCain the whole portfolio of ethics has been a mixed bag. He was a role model during his five and a half years as a prisoner of war. But after the war, he had extramarital affairs and, by his own admission, ruined his marriage. In the early years of his political career, he was involved in a savings and loan scandal that earned him a slap on the wrist from the Ethics Committee, wherein he acknowledged his poor judgement and apologized. Throughout his subsequent Senate role, he worked zealously for Indian affairs, campaign finance reform and many other just causes. On the other hand, he backed unwinnable wars, and waffled on health care. He was a bundle of cantankerous contradictions, but America loved him anyway. Over the decades, his approval/disapproval ratings averaged about 60% vs 30%.
His career is roughly mapped out by his dasha sequence. Rahu dasha spanned the whole of his active military service. Jupiter dasha covered the period from his prison release through state-side non-combat roles and Navy liaison officer, to public office in the House of Representatives. His Saturn dasha saw him become the Senator for Arizona, a role in which he accumulated increasing stature and respect. Mercury dasha ushered in his failed attempt to win the Presidency, multiple frustrations during the Obama administration, and the brain cancer that ultimately killed him.
Although his actions in recent years polarized the Republican party, his integrity and reputation remained intact. Like the “slow walker” Saturn that commanded his ascendant, indeed his chart, his legacy will inevitably endure, and history will likely grant him an honored place among American heroes who made personal sacrifices for the sake of their country.
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