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The Worst Day

We all have bad days. And then there are days that make those bad days seem trivial, days that completely alter our lives and shake us to the core. In her memoir, A Widow’s Story, Joyce Carol Oates writes about such a day, the day her husband, Ray Smith, died.

So what does astrology have to say about days like this? Generally, quite a bit, and in the case of Joyce Carol Oates, it speaks volumes.

First of all, let’s take a quick look at Oates natal horoscope. (Click here to see the horoscope.) She is a Gemini by Sun sign with Mercury in Gemini conjunct the I.C., the lower angle of her chart. Mercury forms a dynamic square with Neptune, the planet of imagination. This is the horoscope of a born writer, a person in love with words and capable of reaching far and wide with her imagination.

By itself this aspect might indicate delusional thinking and an inability of focus, but Mercury makes two other aspects, a semi-sextile to Uranus and a nearly exact sextile to Saturn. Rational Uranus and steady Saturn keep Oates’ Mercury from veering off track. She’s written about some crazy stuff in her prolific career, from serial killers to sexual deviants, but her own life has been remarkably quiet and conventional.

There’s one other factor in Oates’ horoscope that must be mentioned. Her Moon is in Capricorn in the 12th House of confinement, opposed to Pluto. The Moon is Capricorn, particularly in the 12th, is prone to depression. Pluto is also a dark indicator. It takes us down to the depths of our soul. We can emerge from those depths a stronger and wiser person, but only after we’ve faced the full extent of our human vulnerability.

The first “bad day” Oates talks about in her book was Feb. 11, 2008. That morning she took her husband to the emergency room after he complained he was having trouble breathing. Even though he was 77, Oates’ husband had been healthy and relatively active up until that point and, despite a sense of foreboding, Oates had no reason to fear the worst.

On that day, (click here to see a double chart) Oates was under two long term aspects. Uranus was square her Sun and opposed to her Neptune. The two most important planets in this writer’s chart were being hit by the most disruptive of planets. Also the Nodes of the Moon were crossing her Ascendant and Descendant. The Nodes bring up spiritual issues and they are often, but not always, a factor when death is involved.

In the short term, Mars was conjunct her Sun and the Moon was crossing her Saturn that morning. By themselves these aspects would predict and “bad” day. In combination with the long term aspect, they brought Oates to the brink of the worst day.

Also on that day there was an aspect that everyone was feeling. The transiting Sun was conjunct transiting Neptune. It was not a day for definitive judgments or clear perceptions. Oates’ husband was diagnosed with pneumonia and the doctors assured her that, with care, he would recover quickly.

Now we move on to Feb. 18, the night that Oates got the call that her husband was dying. Smith had seemed to recover at first, but then a secondary infection had set in and his condition worsened quickly. (Remember what I said about the Sun conjunct Neptune.) By the time Oates got the hospital, her husband was dead.

On that night the long term aspects I spoke of were still in effect. (Click here to see the chart.) Mars had moved two degrees away from Oates natal Sun. It was no longer a major factor. But the transiting Sun was conjunct both her Ascendant and the Nodes of the Moon. More ominously, the Sun was also quincunx Oates’ natal Pluto, the lord of the underworld.

The connection to Pluto is particularly important, because this was the beginning of a long journey through the netherworld of grief and depression for Oates. Oates’ relationship with her husband had been especially close, and it was an important part of her identity. Now, (as often happens with Pluto) the bedrock of her soul had been jerked from beneath her, and she was in free fall.

Oates reestablished her footing and found her way out of that netherworld by using the means provided by her Gemini/Mercury based horoscope. by writing. Her book is a detailed and painfully truthful record of that journey.

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