Canada’s most famous poet was a man of mystery, mysticism and mistresses. Over the course of his life he enjoyed a stellar career as poet, novelist, songwriter and performer. He rubbed shoulders with literati, generals, filmmakers, Zen masters and Hollywood actresses. Did it get any more eclectic than this?
Cohen was born September 21, 1934, at 6:45am in Montreal. His father ran a clothing store and upon his death left Cohen a trust fund that allowed him some financial independence. He first made his name on the Canadian literary scene as a poet and novelist, but when neither earned him much money, he turned his talents to songwriting, where he found his niche.
Cohen has one classic Mahapurusha Yoga in his Vedic chart. Bhadra Yoga is created by Mercury in its own sign in the ascendant. In addition, Mercury is independently strengthened by gaining dig bala (directional strength) in the 1st.
Bhadra Yoga exemplifies an archetype: Mercurial nature, brainy, observant, analytical, clever with words, but also ambivalent, calculating and detached. Calling him a wordsmith is an understatement; essentially he was a man of ideas – spiritual, secular and sexual – using his pen as a mighty sword.
Aside from the classic rule of requiring angularity, some authors also allow that a true planet in its own sign can enjoy yoga status in a trinal house too. Under this looser definition, Sasha Yoga arises with Saturn in its own sign in the 5th house. It is further strengthened in being retrograde.
Sasha Yoga offers a different archetype: a Saturnine nature, introspective, philosophical, spiritual, but also depressive and reclusive. Occurring in the 5th house, which rules both mind and spiritual nature, Saturn invokes a certain Spartan ethic. Indeed, Cohen spent several early years as a relative recluse in the Greek islands, and from the 1970s onward was deeply engaged in Zen Buddhism.
Over the years Cohen was romantically linked with many famous women, eg, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Rebecca de Mornay, but he said cowardice and fear prevented him from marrying his longtime partner, artist Suzanne Elrod, with whom he had two children.
His prospects for longstanding primary relationships were not strong. The 7th house lord Jupiter is ordinary in the 2nd house, aspected by malefics Mars and Saturn. The 7th house itself is aspected by malefics Sun and Saturn. Venus, karaka of love, is in the 12th house, a dusthana, a place of suffering and loss.
He struggled with depression for most of his life. Saturn is powerful in its own sign in the 5th house (the rational mind), joined by the malefic (and deranging) Rahu, and aspected by a debilitated Mars. The Moon, a generic significator of the emotional mind, is in the 6th house in a sign of Saturn.
Spirituality was a major theme. An observant Jew with priests among his ancestors, he consistently interwove spirituality into his writings, referring to many of his poems and songs as “prayers”. One of his novels, Beautiful Losers, explored the themes of Mohawk Indian mysticism. Cohen became involved in Zen Buddhism in the 1970s, spent five years in a monastery in the 90s, and was ordained a Zen monk.
In the powerful 5th house, Saturn associated with Rahu invokes both the minimalism and “foreign” aspect of Zen Buddhism. The 9th lord Venus is gone to the 12th, suggesting mentors and gurus encountered in retreats and/or foreign locales. The 12th lord Sun, itself a karaka for the spirit, is exactly upon the ascendant.
Saturn’s 19-year dasha began in 1962, marking an era of dedicated craftsmanship, often in seclusion, to his writing. He moved to the USA in 1967 (Mercury bhukti) to pursue his new profession as singer and songwriter. His stature grew throughout the 70s, a combination of influences including the use of his music in Hollywood films and his collaboration with other artists to develop a new sound for his music.
The 17-year Mercury dasha began in 1981, a prolific period that extended through the 90s. He got more involved in film, and made increasing use of video clips as new media to promote his work. He segued into a new musical mode epitomized by the album I’m Your Man, and saw at least one aspect of his social conscience (Mercury also rules the 10th, ie, social status) materialize when some of his work was adopted as torch songs by the Polish Solidarity movement.
He retreated to the Mount Baldy Zen Center near LA in 1994, during Jupiter bhukti, and in the following bhukti of his powerful Saturn, was ordained a Zen monk, adopting the name Jikan, meaning “silence”. He remained in seclusion for five years, well into his Ketu dasha.
Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury dashas ran sequentially, and all delivered the results of Mars, whose nakshatras they occupied. Debilitated Mars in the 11th house owns the 3rd and 8th houses, both dusthanas (places of misfortune) thus characterizing “mis-adventures.” This can be correlated with his recurrent themes of infidelity and betrayal, depression, social injustice, war, and a lifelong predilection for the underdog, the “beautiful loser.”
The following 7-year dasha of moksha karaka Ketu (associated with Mars, aspected by Saturn in its nakshatra) saw a further extension of the same themes – creative work suffused with spirituality. Unfortunately, during the dasha of Ketu, aka “the headless one”, Cohen also lost sight of some vital worldly matters.
Immediately with the onset of his 20-year Venus dasha, Cohen discovered that his longtime former manager had misappropriated $5 million (97%) of his retirement fund. Note that Venus is lord of the 2nd gone to the 12th, a clear indicator of financial loss. Although Cohen fought and won a civil suit, and was awarded $9 million, his former manager refused to disclose her financial records, the end result being that Cohen was never be able to collect the awarded amount.
To quote Cohen from one of his songs, “I’ve seen the future, brother, and it is murder.”
After being financially devastated, Cohen was obliged to do what many another musician has been forced to do – get back to work. Despite not having toured in 15 years, he launched a world tour in the spring of 2008 that lasted until late in 2010. In the fall of 2010, Sony put out another album, Songs From the Road, showcasing Cohen’s recent live performances.
Life on the road took its toll. In September 2009, with transiting Saturn just a few degrees from his ascendant and natal Sun, he collapsed onstage in the middle of singing “Bird on a Wire.” He was rushed to a hospital, reportedly diagnosed with food poisoning. In 2012 and 2013 he did another world tour, this time plagued with back problems.
He put out another two albums in 2014 and 2016, the latter just three weeks before his death. Cancer was a contributing factor in his demise, but it was precipitated by a fall on November 7th, 2016, and he died that night in his sleep.
At the time, he was running Venus dasha, Jupiter bhukti. Venus is a maraka (death-provoking) planet because it owns the 2nd house. Since Venus occupies its own nakshatra, it powerfully acts on its own behalf, and its 12th-house placement is reflective of both loss and the end of things.
Bhukti lord Jupiter is a double maraka because it occupies the 2nd and owns the 7th. It produces results for its star-lord Mars, a very problematic planet for Virgo rising since it rules both the troublesome 3rd house and the traumatic 8th house. Furthermore, Mars is debilitated, aligned on the Rahu-Ketu axis and bound in an opposition with its powerful arch-enemy Saturn.
He was laid to rest with a Jewish rite, in a simple pine casket next to his parents on a family plot in his hometown Montreal. Although physically departed, his spirit will nevertheless live on through his music and poetry, as suggested perhaps by lyrics from his most revered composition:
“I did my best, it wasn’t much, I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.”
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