A series looking at the 2020 Democratic frontrunners.
The longtime independent senator from Vermont, now making his second run for the presidency, came back to the debate stage this week. Recent news that Sanders underwent heart surgery in early October is concerning for the many people he’s inspired. What does his chart suggest about his role in U.S. politics?
Bernie’s birth time is unknown. I’m going to cautiously use an 8 pm time here. I can see a handful of plausible times for him, which is a bit unusual—often, a single time will jump out with some digging. (For those who are curious, the placement of the Moon and its aspects aren’t known with exactitude without an exact birth time; the houses, angles, and points like the Part of Fortune and Vertex are also not certain.) No matter what time we use, this much is clear: Bernie’s electrifying role in U.S. history is reflected in a powerful, prickly, politically radical chart.
Sanders grew up in a 3.5-room Brooklyn apartment, where he and his brother slept in the living room. His parents lived “paycheck to paycheck” and fought bitterly over money. In Our Revolution, he wrote:
“There were arguments and more arguments between our parents. … Arguments that seared through a little boy’s brain, never to be forgotten.”
In an 8 pm chart, Sanders has a Uranus-Saturn conjunction falling in his 2nd house, reflecting this restriction, even trauma, around finances as well as their profound effect on his values, also the province of the 2nd house. Not far from this Uranus-Saturn, Black Moon Lilith suggests an even darker history: he’s said he was “very conscious as a kid that my father’s whole family was killed by Hitler.”
Sanders’ mother passed away when he was 18, as Saturn crossed his Midheaven. The family had struggled to find affordable medical care during her illness, and her death would be the inspiration for his later work: Sanders says this painful, Saturnian experience helped shape his view that “health care is a human right—it’s not a privilege—and that was not the case back then and that certainly is not the case right now.”
Saturn-Uranus in the 2nd also reflects his later disinterest in finances. As Politico tells it:
“He was always poor,” Sandy Baird, another old friend, told me in Burlington.
“Virtually unemployed,” said Nelson, the political science professor at the University of Vermont.
“Just one step above hand to mouth,” said Terry Bouricius,
“I don’t know what he did for money,” another added. “Everything was always campaigning. Everything was always organizing. Everything was always writing.”
Of course, he’s since gone on to fight for the working class his entire life. What in his chart makes him a political firebrand? Well, this is part of why an Aries rising sign makes sense: he’s always been on the front lines of the good fight. In high school, a track teammate recalled, “He was sort of a natural leader among the track team kids. They would ask, ‘What does Bernie think?’”
He also apparently made a failed bid for senior class president, in an early reflection of his 5th house Pluto-Chiron conjunction: his projects (5th house) may be strongly transformative (Pluto), yet may end up being painful for him in some way (Chiron), even as they seek to heal and repair.
Sanders also has a remarkably close Moon-Mars conjunction in his 1st house. Combined with an Aries Ascendant, this astrological signature reflects his irascibility and energy: Moon conjunct Mars is a passionate, indefatigable fighter and generally not going to be terribly sensitive to emotions.
As another early political friend describes him:
“He’s a unidirectional wind-up—I don’t want to use the word toy, because he’s nobody’s toy, but he’s a growler. Straight ahead, growl. Straight ahead, growl.”
In the 1st house, these traits are all the more emphasized in his personality and expression. The same piece describes him as having “the consistency of a piston”—a great description of an Aries Mars-Moon in the 1st house.
In another dramatic signature, Sanders has an almost exact Juno-Mercury conjunction, which opposes Eris. This is a strong fighter (Eris) using words (Mercury) to advocate for justice, fairness, and community-minded values (Juno). I see this complex as one of the most influential elements, if not the driving force, of his chart.
Juno and Mercury fall on his Descendant from the 6th house, suggesting he’ll use communication to serve others in the cause of justice, while Eris is on his Ascendant from the 12th, suggesting fame or renown in that fight. Juno-Mercury and Eris also square the Midheaven here, adding extra emphasis to their role in shaping his work in the world.
This 8 pm chart puts significant emphasis on his 6th house, which I see as more reflective of his life’s work and values than, say, a 4th or 10th house focus might be. When Sanders announced his run in 2016, he said, “This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders.” Such self-effacement in favor of the issues—the work—is a highly 6th house, Virgoan trait.
Over the decades, time and again, as one account has humorously pointed out, Sanders has insisted the media turn away from discussion of his personal life and instead focus on the issues. “I do not like personality profiles,” he once told the New York Times Magazine. Bernie’s Virgo Sun would have it no other way: Virgo is famously modest while being back-breakingly hard-working. It’s his Neptune in close conjunction with his Sun and aspecting his MC, along with all that Aries in the chart, that allow him to seek the spotlight.
For most of his life, he has in fact avoided answering questions about his family at all—as is, of course, his right. But it’s a rare reticence in politics. Scorpio co-ruling his 7th house of partnership, with Vesta in the same house near his Descendant, echo these themes of keeping relationships scrupulously private, even sacrosanct.
“A handful of people own almost everything … and almost everybody owns nothing,” Sanders wrote in 1972.
Jupiter is another standout element in his chart. In the 3rd house of communication, it reflects his gift for communication and argument. “People didn’t want him to stop talking,” an old friend says. Even early on, another early co-organizer described, “he just had a difference about him. He was not like the rest of us kooks, who didn’t know what we were doing. He had more ideas, and he spoke better.”
Jupiter also squares Bernie’s Sun, Neptune, and North Node, meaning he’ll always have an urge to push forward—sometimes further than is wise, given Jupiter’s ability to inflate. Yet it also trines his Venus, a lucky aspect if ever there was one. Meanwhile, Venus opposes his Moon-Mars: Venus-Mars is the classic combination of magnetism, while Venus-Moon reflects a generally content, affable character. These Jupiter and Venus aspects help explain his ambition and broad appeal.
It’s a fascinating chart, reflecting a historically influential life. What do his recent and upcoming transits suggest? During the last election, and for much of 2016, Pluto was trining his Sun, as Saturn retrograded in and out of squaring it. Uranus was also camped out on his Moon-Mars. Sanders’ electrifying candidacy showed Uranian effects with a surprisingly catalytic candidacy, while Pluto supported the changes to his outward presentation and personality needed to step onto the national stage.
His transits over the coming year do not look quite as promising. Most notably, Chiron is squaring his Midheaven (at the 8 pm time) and opposing his Juno-Mercury—the two driving forces of his chart. Reflecting the mood of many, his innate sense of justice could feel significantly battered. Meanwhile, Neptune is opposing his Sun: while Neptune’s star power again puts him in the national spotlight, he could be misguided about what he can accomplish in this election cycle. Eris conjoining his natal Moon-Mars may, at the same time that it adds support to his fighting spirit, also make those same abilities feel under siege.
Chiron will retrograde over his Ascendant for most of next year, continuing that opposition to Juno-Mercury. The historic heavyweight conjunctions of 2020 will also occur largely in his 10th house in the 8 pm chart—and no matter what will square his Venus and Moon-Mars, no matter which house they’re transiting.
The morning I wrote this, two large red-headed woodpeckers and a tiny wren were noisily occupying themselves in the tree outside my office window. Symbols of persistence, both in their own way, they were a reminder of Bernie’s apparent friendship with the avian clan. Who can forget the little finch who visited Bernie’s podium in 2016? A strong 6th house can reflect a bond with animals. It may be that the birds were, once again, expressing their favorite. Let’s wish the very best for Sanders in what could be a year of challenges.