Like Pablo Picasso, Stephen King and several others, Chuck Berry is proof positive that having three debilitated planets in your birth chart is no impediment to reaching the top of your game.
But America’s iconic rock ‘n’ roll pioneer was frequently in trouble, and we can only credit his chart – not his parents or his upbringing – for the cantankerous character he ultimately became. His father was deacon of a Baptist church, his mother a highschool principal. Chuck Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, at 06h59 on October 18, 1926. (Birth data courtesy of Astrodatabank.)
Note first that Berry had Ruchaka Yoga, courtesy of a double-strength (own sign and retrograde) Mars in his 7th house. This defining astrological characteristic fueled his persona both onstage and off, including his run-ins with the law, his aggressive guitar licks, the swaggering stage moves, and the modern lyrics that reflected the restless passion of teenage America embracing adventure and rebellion.
Chuck Berry had an ego that he wore on his sleeve. In the kendras are both kshatriya planets – the Sun and Mars – always ready for a rumble. But the Sun is debilitated in the ascendant, and aggravated by that powerful Mars. Chuck Berry was not a team player – he was the perpetual star of his own road show, and his whole life confirmed it.
While still in highshool, he robbed three cars at gunpoint and was sent to reform school to finish his education. Years later, he was arrested under the Mann Act, transporting a minor across state lines for immoral purposes, and went to prison for three years. Age didn’t mellow him. In his 50s he was charged with assault and battery against one of his own backup singers. Even Keith Richards got punched in the face one night when he tried to intercept Berry backstage as he was leaving a gig with a guitar case stuffed full of cash.
Berry married at age 22 and remarkably, despite multiple infidelities, stayed married to the same woman for 68 years until his death. In the early days, he worked in an automobile assembly plant, and later trained to be a beautician. But music was always his driving passion.
He formed a band while he was in reform school, and the warden even let them out to play some gigs. He took lessons to become a better guitar player, fused the blues with country western music, and became known in his area as a “black hillbilly” for his brand of music. Although Berry was a competent musician and a lively performer, it was his songwriting that ultimately earned him a place in America’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
With both Mercury and Jupiter in the kendras, and Budhaditya Yoga in the ascendant, he had a remarkable way with lyrics, and captured the spirit of a young America on the cusp of social and sexual revolution.
He had one of those relatively rare yogas – Mahabhagya, found in only 3% of the population – that can be thought of as representing a male archetype. He was a man born during the day, with his ascendant, Sun and Moon all in positive signs. He had balls, and he wasn’t shy about flaunting them – in his numerous sexual affairs, his bellicose manner, and his swaggering stage presence.
Every one of his debilitated planets enjoyed some sort of relief. Before itemizing those details, let’s review the rules for Neecha Bhanga Raja Yoga. A debilitated planet is relieved if:
- it is aspected by its dispositor,
- its dispositor is angular,
- the lord of its exaltation sign is in a kendra, or
- the planet that would be exalted in its debilitation sign is angular.
However, keep in mind that one or two of these conditions constitutes only a weak form of compensation, like a broken-legged man being given a crutch. True Neecha Bhanga Raja Yoga status is typically reserved for situations where the debilitated planet enjoys three or four means of relief.
His debilitated Sun is rescued by that powerful Mars in the 7th, which qualifies because it’s the lord of the Sun’s exaltation sign. His debilitated Jupiter is relieved by the aspect of its dispositor Saturn, and by the angularity of Mars which would be exalted in Capricorn. And his debilitated Venus is relieved because its dispositor Mercury is in a kendra.
But of these three debilitated planets, the Sun and Venus are barely relieved, which was reflected in the fact that Berry had both an unchecked ego and a messy love life. His Jupiter, however, enjoys at least moderate relief, thanks mostly to the compensation from his powerful Mars. As lord of the 3rd and 6th houses, Jupiter delivers artistic prowess, showmanship and a competitive spirit. Its residency in the 4th seemed to have played out in a relatively happy and comfortable retirement.
The other significant and life-defining pattern in Chuck Berry’s chart is the Parivartana Yoga between lagnesh Venus in the 12th house, exchanging signs with 12th lord Mercury in the lagna. Primary among its meanings are pleasures of the bed, addictions, institutionalization, and loss of face or money.
As mentioned earlier, he indulged in many sexual affairs, including one with a 14-year-old waitress, which landed him in prison. In his 50s, drug enforcement agents raided his house and found drugs and guns, but also videotapes from the women’s washroom of a restaurant he owned. The resulting class action lawsuit filed by 59 women cost him a settlement of $1.2 million plus legal fees.
With lagnesh Venus debilitated in the 12th house, its periods were almost universally problematic for him – either putting him behind bars or costing him a bundle. His brief string of armed car robberies sent him to reform school when he was running Saturn dasha, Venus bhukti. When his next Venus bhukti came around 18 years later during Mercury dasha, this activated his Dainya (unfortunate) Parivartana Yoga. Caught transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes, he went to prison for three years.
During Venus dasha, Rahu bhukti, he had a whole string of trouble – charged with assault and battery, arrested for drug possession, taken to court in a class action suit that cost him a fortune. In its bhukti, Rahu in the 9th spells some legal problems on its own, but its occupation of Gemini also invoked Mercury’s participation in his Parivartana Yoga, and the troubles piled on.
But Mercury also had its virtues. Aside from Budhaditya Yoga, Mercury also formed Raja Yoga with his powerful Mars, and Dhana Yogas with both his Sun and Mars. Although his initial success occurred in Saturn-Jupiter, it was his Mercury dasha in the late Fifties and early Sixties that cemented his place in American music. He had a whole string of hits in this period – Roll Over Beethoven, Rock and Roll Music, Sweet Little Sixteen, Johnny B. Goode, Back in the USA, Nadine – that sold millions of records and made Chuck Berry a rich man.
Although his Ruchaka Yoga was the powerhouse that drove his persona and career, so too was his Mars a malefic with greater-than-normal power to harm. As both lord of the 2nd house and occupant of the 7th, Mars is a full-fledged maraka. In esoteric terms, a maraka planet first spells death of the spiritual Self, through pursuit of money (the 2nd) and sex (the 7th). From there, its interpretation generalizes to suggest the death of all things, including the physical self.
Chuck Berry died in Mars dasha, Mars bhukti. Further note that Mars in its periods will also fulfill the mandate of its nakshatra lord Venus, debilitated lagnesh in the 12th, signifying losses and endings of every kind…
Berry contributed three things to rock music: an irresistible swagger, a focus on guitar riffs as primary melodic elements, and an emphasis on songwriting as storytelling. Less well known is the fact that his Johnny B. Goode was the only rock-and-roll song included in the Golden Record collection sent out on the Voyager space missions of 1977. Chosen as a form of cultural message-in-a-bottle, these were intended for any intelligent extra-terrestrial life that may discover them, centuries or millennia from now.
Someday in the distant future, aliens too may be singing, “Hail, hail, rock ‘n’ roll!”
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