Monday, June 20, 2016

Deluded lone crusaders: cosmic parallels echo from Charleston to Orlando

First, a disclaimer. It hurts my heart to dwell on the topic at hand: I’d far rather be exploring positive ways to apply mundane astrology in today’s world. Yet, I am reminded that this week marks the one-year anniversary of yet another mass shooting in America, and the astrological echoes with this past week’s massacre in Orlando are simply too compelling to ignore. Two shootings hardly make a general pattern, but there's more than mere coincidence between them, and that deserves discussion.

One year ago in Charleston, SC

On June 17, 2015, then 21-year old Dylann Roof—a lanky, blond, mop-headed white man—attended a late evening Bible study meeting at the Emanuel AME Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He was the only white person at the meeting, but that apparently raised no red flags in the African American attendees he targeted that night. In a horrific turn of events, at 9:05 p.m., after disagreeing with a point made during a Scripture reading, Roof is reported to have opened fire with a Glock 41 .45 caliber hand gun, killing 9 of the attendees, shouting racial epithets the whole time.

Roof had apparently planned to take his own life, as well, so he spared one woman in the group, telling her to report on what he had done. Instead of taking his own life, however, he fled the church and was apprehended by police the next day. By way of confession, Roof told the police that his purpose for the killings was to “instigate a race war.” Immersed in violent white supremacist ideology, and clearly filled with hate, Roof deliberately planned and carried out his attack.  Probably much to his disappointment, the good people of “Mother Emanuel”—long a symbol of the American civil rights struggle—responded to the horrific death of 9 members with forgiveness. No race war ensued.

The media has been awash this past week with details of this horrendous June 12th killing of 49 victims (with over 50 additional wounded) in Pulse, an Orlando gay nightclub, but let’s quickly consider the highlights. The perpetrator, 29-year old Omar Mateen—the American-born son of Afghan immigrants who fled the Soviet invasion of their country in the 1980s—died in a gun battle with the police. The first shots reportedly rang out at 2:02 a.m. between Mateen and a patrolling police officer, who was unable to prevent Mateen from entering the building with his semi-automatic rifle and Glock handgun.

A massacre/hostage situation ensued—Mateen threatened to use explosives (we now know there were none), which made the police response much more complicated. A three hour standoff with the police ended (approx. 5 a.m.) when a SWAT team stormed the building and engaged Mateen. During the standoff, Mateen coolly contacted the news media, 9-1-1 and his wife. He took responsibility for the shooting—of “sodomites,” as he put it—on behalf of ISIS, and he praised victims he knew of Syria’s civil war. During his rampage, Mateen claimed he was acting in response to the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and Syria, and he texted his wife to make sure she was watching the news.

An important disclaimer

In both these events, I’ve chosen to examine the biwheels with the perpetrator’s natal chart as the inner wheel. There’s a good argument for flipping this to put the perpetrator’s chart on the outside, as well, but my interest here is to explore what astrological pressures may have existed on the shooters that finally exploded into the events themselves. Charts representing violent outbreaks are unfortunately fairly predictable; if we are to ever understand the root causes of these horrendous events, we need to better understand the dynamics the shooters were experiencing and responding to.

Let’s be clear, however: the natal charts of these two men do not necessarily represent an astrological stereotype for a potential mass murderer; this is emphatically not the issue here. An individual’s response to stress or environmental factors (including the contents swirling around in his or her mind for whatever reason) is unique, and yes, there are unfortunately evil and/or disturbed people in this world, too. A natal chart should not ever be used to pass judgment of that type, for two good reasons: 1) there is always a range of ways to express even the most stressful planetary dynamics; and 2) we are, after all, creatures with free will.

Let’s examine the biwheels for these two events.

A tragic April evening at “Mother Emanuel”

Biwheel 1: (inner wheel) Natal, Dylann Roof, April 3, 1994, 12:00 p.m. DST (time unknown), Columbia, SC; (outer wheel) Emanuel AME Shooting, June 17, 2015, 9:05 p.m. DST, Charleston, SC.  

Shooting Pluto (Capricorn) squares Natal Sun (Aries). As we’ll see, Pluto, Mars, Saturn and Neptune were tightly woven into the tragic actions Roof took at Mother Emanuel, and here we see all four and their various interactions brought to bear in one aspect (Aries Sun disposed by Mars; Pisces Mars disposed by Neptune). This event tragically killed nine victims, but it also transformed (Pluto) Roof’s life in a matter of moments. Imprisonment (Neptune-Saturn) and the possibility of a death sentence (Saturn-Pluto) are also baked into this chart.

Shooting Uranus (Aries) trines Shooting Jupiter (Leo). This powerful trine supported the imposition of power over others by shocking means—a pretty clear description of Roof’s tragic actions. In cases like this, we look for personal ties to this dominant aspect of the day: we see that with Roof’s Sun-Part of Fortune (Aries) tying into both transiting planets by conjunction Uranus) and trine (Jupiter). These connections likely translated as “today’s the day” in Roof’s mind. As we’ll see below, transiting Jupiter also formed a stressful yod with Roof’s chart—nothing went quite according to plan.

Shooting Sun-Mars (Gemini) square Shooting Chiron (Pisces) and square Natal Mercury-Mars (Pisces); Shooting Chiron conjoins Natal Mercury-Mars. This painful set of squares suggests that Roof’s mind was steeped in deep wounds to his sense of manhood and to his ability to communicate and act in his own best interests. The Sun-Mars conjunction that day, along with the fiery Jupiter-Uranus trine, seems to have triggered risky, aggressive behavior in Roof—probably not the deepest “cause” for his actions, but powerful triggers that speaks to his possible motives or his mental state at the time.

Shooting Moon (Cancer) opposes Shooting Pluto (Capricorn); Natal Moon (Capricorn) possibly conjoined Shooting Pluto or Natal Neptune-Uranus (Capricorn). Because we don’t have a firm birth time, we can’t know for sure how close Roof’s Moon was to that day’s Capricorn Pluto, but the range of degrees would have been 14°-26°, so it was somewhere between an exact conjunction to the event Pluto and a conjunction to Roof’s natal Neptune-Uranus conjunction. Either way, the eruption of deeply felt emotion embodied in this tragic shooting (Saturn rules the Capricorn points) is certainly reflected.

Roof reportedly felt mission-bound to right the wrongs he believed were being done to white people by African Americans. Within an environment that cultivates such feelings (via home and community life, education, Internet and other media choices, etc.) Pluto and Saturn in hard combination—especially with an emotional (Moon) trigger—are certainly capable of self-righteous desires to play the “grim reaper.”  Putting those desires into action, however, requires opportunity and means—different types of triggers.

Shooting Part of Fortune (Capricorn) conjoins, Natal Mercury-Mars (Pisces) sextile and Natal Pluto (Scorpio) semi-sextiles Natal Neptune-Uranus (Capricorn); Shooting Saturn (Rx Scorpio) conjoins Natal Pluto; Shooting Neptune (Pisces) conjoins Natal Saturn (Pisces). A few words need to be said about the stressful generational Neptune-Uranus conjunction in Capricorn (exact in Feb., 1993). It’s an aspect that has heavily influenced the broad economic upheaval and demographic shift we’ve seen in the past twenty-five years, producing major stress for many with its tendency to sort populations into economic “winners” and “losers” (Capricorn can be brutal that way) with ever more distance between them—then expecting those on the losing end to simply accept the new reality.

The potential for anger set up by this long-term cycle has instead become a true backlash, to the point that the media speaks about an “angry white man phenomenon.” This phenomenon is palpable not just in Roof’s generation, but for anyone who feels marginalized and forgotten. Somehow it’s not surprising that a young suggestible man (Pisces Mercury-Mars sextile the Capricorn conjunction, Neptune disposing his Pisces points) was prone to absorbing this cloud of anger and finding an opportunity to act on it. With a cardinal Aries Sun widely square his Capricorn Moon, Roof valued action.

Transiting Saturn Rx conjoined his natal Pluto and semi-sextile his Capricorn outer planets Saturn applied even more stress to Roof’s disturbing agenda. Saturn-Pluto in Scorpio can overwhelm a vulnerable mind, and to make things worse, slow-moving Neptune had been transiting within orb of Roof’s natal Saturn in Pisces (ruled by Neptune) for months. This certainly reflects how vulnerable he seems to have been to twisted, irrational ideology.

The force of that transiting conjunction was only exaggerated by Roof’s Capricorn Moon. Capricorn Moons can reflect a person with a deep, ancestral sense of responsibility—clearly an impulse that can become twisted by environmental factors, by the individual’s mental state, and by a sense of destiny (Part of Fortune). Here, these ancestral and environmental factors seem to have overwhelmed his mind (trines from Scorpio to Pisces Mercury-Mars) and triggered action. Were there positive uses for those same dynamics? Absolutely! Thousands of young Millennials have experienced similar transits to their generational aspects, and the vast majority channeled those energies into something far better.

A sea of inconjuncts

When tragedy strikes, we often look for the transiting squares and oppositions in operation: interestingly, this case features an unusual number of inconjunct (approx. 150°) aspects between the two charts—in fact, enough to form three yods (one planet inconjoins two other planets that are sextile each other): 1) Shooting Sun-Mars (Gemini) inconjoined both Natal Uranus-Neptune (Capricorn) and Natal Pluto-Transiting Saturn (Scorpio); 2) Shooting Jupiter (Leo) inconjoins both Natal Mercury-Mars (Pisces) and Natal Moon-Neptune (Capricorn); 3) Shooting Node (Libra) inconjoins Natal Venus (Libra) and Natal Saturn (Pisces). Yods create “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” situations—we can only imagine the mental pressure cooker that resulted here.

We’ll probably never know for sure, but it’s feasible that Roof felt—feelings being by definition irrational—that he was faced with an urgent do-or-die situation that night in Mother Emanuel. Was the attack his chance to act on a toxic fantasy (Pisces Mercury-Mars) of being a great warrior for justice (Leo Jupiter, Libra Venus in Libra)? We’ll never know for sure, but the chart offers that possibility. As mentioned above, he spared one woman in the group so she could report on his actions, so getting the word out was important to him. He may still consider himself to be a wounded hero or martyr of sorts—Neptune’s rule of his Pisces points could nurture such delusions. 

Imprisonment and the death penalty may regrettably feed his deluded cause in those of like minds. Hopefully Roof doesn’t get the posthumous race war he wanted.

Echoes in Orlando

One year later, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen joined Dylann Roof’s deluded crusade to kill people he didn’t like or trust. Before discussing further parallels and differences between the two events, let’s consider Mateen’s biwheel.

Biwheel 2: (inner wheel) Natal, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, November 16, 1986, 7:00 p.m., ST, New York, NY; (outer wheel) Orlando Mass Shooting, June 12, 2016, 2:02 a.m., DST, Orlando, FL. Source:, rated AA.

Natal T-square: Natal Sun (Scorpio) opposes Natal Moon (Taurus); both square Natal 8th house Mars (Aquarius). A full Moon type who finds himself attracted to the dark side of these fixed signs can exhibit belligerent, hateful behavior, and this concurs with reports from Mateen’s schools about his behavior growing up. The addition of a fixed Aquarius Mars square to both luminaries suggests that Mateen’s sense of identity and comfort depended heavily on his ability to aggressively shock those around him.

The 8th house placement of his Mars is sobering for what it says about the killings in Orlando. For starters, a Uranian 8th house can indicate unconventional sexuality—a point of great speculation in regards to Mateen’s choice of LGBT victims. The 8th house's Scorpionic connection to death (rendered shocking by the Aquarius cusp here) is another sobering detail. 

Shooting Sun-Venus (Gemini) conjoin Natal Chiron (Gemini) and oppose Natal Uranus (Sagittarius); Shooting Uranus (Aries) trines Natal Uranus. An opportunity for the shocking attack in Orlando opened up that day, with the Sun-Venus’s sextile to aggressive Uranus in Aries. The trine between Aries Uranus and Mateen’s natal Sagittarius Uranus reflects the unstoppable ease with which Mateen took over the nightclub and proceeded to terrorize people for three hours. It also perhaps reflects the shocking way in which the SWAT team literally broke through the nightclub walls to intervene, resulting in the shootout that ended Mateen’s life.

Shooting Moon (Virgo) squares Shooting Sun and trines Shooting Pluto (Capricorn). It’s also significant that Mateen chose the stressful 1st quarter Moon to launch his attack—from Virgo the Moon trined Pluto, supporting Mateen’s deadly outpouring of self-righteous emotion and tapping into Saturn’s rulership of Capricorn. In mundane charts, the Moon represents the People, so the trine also represents the darkly generous opportunity Mateen had to kill large numbers of people. As we’ll see, Saturn figured heavily into this event.

Interchart T-square: Shooting Jupiter-Node-Moon (Virgo) opposed Shooting Neptune-Natal Jupiter (Pisces) and squared Natal Saturn (and Saturn/Uranus midpoint-Sagittarius)-Shooting Saturn (Rx Sagittarius). The opposition in this t-square reflects that Mateen’s deluded sense of ideological mission (Neptune-Jupiter) had reached a critical point—the square to his volatile Sagittarius points provided an outlet for expression. Mateen may have also been harboring a toxic “martyrdom” fantasy that we’ve come to equate with terrorism—his elevated Jupiter in Pisces, conjunct his MC suggests an inflated sense of destiny that was perhaps blocked or frustrated with his natal Jupiter-Saturn square.

A few words about Mateen’s Saturn return are in order: with that critical passage happening square his natal Jupiter-MC, it’s likely Mateen struggled in the few years prior to this attack to prove his worth to others. Divorced by one wife early on and left by another more recently, Mateen was clearly not succeeding in marriage. His attempts to break into a career in law enforcement were never successful, and as we’ve heard, he was on the FBI’s radar screen for long periods.

Mateen’s first wife reported that his behavior was unstable, characterizing him as abusive and bipolar; in fact, news reports now show that he had a history of violence towards others throughout his school years—a temperament likely reflected in his fixed T-square (see above). His father routinely dismissed complaints from teachers and students about his son’s behavior, according to school officials, so perhaps his initial response to the nightclub shooting should be no surprise. A Saturn return demands that individuals take responsibility for their own lives, growing into full adulthood in the process. In a tragic way, Mateen’s actions at Pulse accomplished that aim—no one would be able to save him from or dismiss the consequences of his actions.

Natal Venus-Pluto (Scorpio) trine Natal ASC (Cancer), Natal Jupiter (Pisces) and sextile Natal DSC-Neptune (Capricorn); Shooting ASC (Aries) squares Natal ASC-to-DSC-Neptune axis. The easy connection between Mateen’s Venus-Pluto (Venus is retrograde; Pluto is dignified in Scorpio) and his ASC-DSC angles suggests that defensiveness (Cancer-Scorpio) and harshness (Scorpio-Capricorn) were his “modus operandi.” Neptune’s placement at Mateen’s DSC in Saturn-ruled Capricorn (also sextile his Venus-Pluto) adds an aggressive edge towards others. His attitude towards women, in particular (Venus-Pluto) would likely be less a romantic one than a demanding, discipline-oriented one. 

Ruling recreational pursuits, the 5th house placement of his Venus-Pluto in Scorpio trine his Pisces Jupiter (which in turn disposes his Uranus) may explain why he was seen partying at Pulse several times. LGBT sexuality was clearly compelling to Mateen, whether he was a closeted gay or not.

More inconjuncts…

As with Dylann Roof’s biwheel, Mateen’s biwheel features a few strong inconjunct aspects, including two yods: 1) Shooting Sun-Venus (Gemini) and Shooting Uranus (Aries) inconjoin Shooting Mars-Natal Sun (Scorpio); 2) Shooting Moon (Virgo) inconjoins Natal Mars (Aquarius) and Natal Node (Aries). The first yod tapped into Mateen’s natal need to be the most powerful person in the room at any given time. The second yod leveraged whatever desire he felt to act out, feeding his delusionary mission to “punish” LGBT individuals, avenge Afghan and Syrian victims, impress ISIS, launch himself onto the world stage as a heroic martyr, and so on.

Parallels and differences

Both Dylann Roof in Charleston and Omar Mateen in Orlando seemed to need the “cover” of a twisted heroic narrative for their compelling (if deluded) destinies. Both “sat in” with their future victims before opening fire, suggesting there was a certain level of curiosity at work, or the need for experiences with those victims that they could use to mentally justify their tragic rampages. Both men’s charts feature suggestible, water-signed Mercury placements—not necessarily a negative, but in these cases, Mercury seems to have supported their delusions and possible mental illness.

Delusions are often related to a person’s natal Neptune dynamics; in both cases here, Neptune falls in Capricorn and is closely tied into personal chart points. The punitive impulses of Saturn-ruled Capricorn certainly came into play. The difficulties of integrating outer planetary with personal energies could fill an entire article.   

There are also clear surface differences between the two shootings: Charleston’s was a racially-motivated hate crime with relatively few victims (any victims is too many); the massacre in Orlando was a much larger scale terrorist/hate crime with seemingly mixed motivations. Was it against Americans in general (because the U.S. is bombing Afghanistan, etc., because Mateen wanted to support ISIS, or wanted to use ISIS to publicize his act, etc.)? Against the LGBT community (homophobia, possibly inspired by the shooter’s repressed gay sexuality)? Against Latinos (why target “Latin night” at Pulse, if not)?  

Another important distinction between the two shooters is their age, since that has important astrological ramifications. Dylann Roof was 21 at the time of his crime; as we’ve seen, Mateen was 29 years old, dealing with the completion of his Saturn return. Roof was waking up to his power as a young man, clearly confused about what that means in a healthy sense; Mateen had been through a prolonged period of pressure with Saturn, which could have produced in him an urgent, if misguided, need to prove his worth in the world. Unthinkable choices were made in both cases.

Thankfully, the overwhelming response to the mayhem in Orlando has been outpouring of caring for the LGBT community there, and for all who fear the anger and hostility of others because of who they are and whom they love. Perhaps there's hope, after all.

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former university English instructor. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years. Raye can be contacted by comment here, or at: 

© Raye Robertson 2016. All rights reserved.