Sometimes a story lands in the inbox which is just too perfect to pass up. Whatever your thoughts on NSA leaker Edward Snowden, judge him villain or valiant, there’s no denying he’s shaken things up a bit lately.
Snowden, an NSA contractor with access to secret but congressionally authorized “metadata” spy programs such as PRISM and others, which collect massive phone and Internet records on millions of US citizens, ostensibly to prevent future acts of terrorism, made news in early June when he disclosed the existence of these programs. After speaking with journalists such as The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald for months, Snowden recently fled his home in Hawaii in advance of the first revelations published on June 6.
First stop was Hong Kong, where US officials attempted to extradite Snowden but were met with a legalistic roadblock when the local government claimed its forms were not properly completed. Although his US passport had been revoked, the Chinese allowed Snowden safe passage to Moscow, where he has been living in limbo in an airport “transit zone,” which Russian President Vladimir Putin describes as not technically Russian soil. Snowden has sought political asylum in Ecuador, so far undecided, but has been rumored to be making a stop in Havana, Cuba en route.
Fortunately for your Astro-News Reporter, all these places have asteroids named for them, and, predictably, all factor significantly into Snowden’s birth chart, making for an intriguing celestial itinerary and travelogue.
Born 21 June 1983, the 30-year-old Snowden’s propensity to tell tales and inform on somebody, sometime, and then to reap the whirlwind, is well established by a Grand Cross comprising a Sun/Mars conjunction at 24 and 29 Gemini, opposed Neptune at 27 Sagittarius and squared to asteroid Askalaphus at 25 Pisces and a combination of asteroids Sphinx and Eurydike at 25 and 29 Virgo. Sun/Mars is driven and headstrong, not necessarily keyed in to the possible ramifications of one’s actions, just compelled to take them. “Fools rush in where angels fear to read,” about sums it up; particularly in Gemini, which is often torn in decision-making between two competing views of the outcome of mooted actions.
The opposition to Neptune connects with cloak-and-dagger, hidden or covert impulses, motivations and actions, including spying and espionage (the one being engaged in by the US government, the other something they accuse Snowden of in his disclosures). Neptune can also obfuscate, confuse and disorient, and is likely the source of Snowden’s ability to slip the net and remain essentially incognito or under the radar in undisclosed locations, despite currently being perhaps the most sought-after man on earth.
This primal polarity defines much of Snowden’s character and explains how he got where he is, but if we want more specifics, we can look to the arms of that Grand Cross. The square to Sphinx evokes an inscrutability, a mystery, an indefinable mystique to Snowden, difficult to fathom, impossible to fully understand. The motivations of such an individual are always in question (more of this later). The square to Eurydike, that hapless naïf whom Orpheus tried unsuccessfully to retrieve from the Underworld, represents a bitter loss, a harkening back to what once was, something irretrievable that cannot be recaptured, much in the way Snowden now finds himself without a country, and can never return to the land of his birth.
But it is the square to Askalaphus that is the most telling, and a quick rehash of his myth explains why. Askalaphus was the gardener of Hades (both the god and his realm). After his master had abducted Persephone to the Underworld and forced her to become his bride, her mother Demeter interceded with Zeus to have her released. Zeus decreed she could indeed return, if she had eaten nothing during her sojourn in Hades.
And so it seemed—Persephone had been disconsolate, and refused all nourishment during her captivity, so her release seemed imminent. Until Askalaphus stepped forward to relate that once, as he tended his plants, he had observed Persephone walking in the garden, where she plucked a pomegranate, opened it, and ate six seeds. Zeus therefore granted only a partial reprieve. Persephone could return to the Light World, but only for six months of the year—the remainder must be spent with Hades. Demeter cursed Askalaphus for his tale-bearing and turned him into an owl.
So Askalaphus is celestial shorthand for “snitch.” It may be malicious exposure, or simply the truth that needs telling, but Askalaphus represents the disclosure of facts which may be inconvenient, even devastating, to those involved. And having asteroid Askalaphus in close square to his impulsive, “leap-before-you-look” Sun/Mars makes Snowden psychologically prone to expose secrets, perhaps with dire implications for others, and serious repercussions to himself.
But more, Askalaphus does not stand alone in the horoscope. Incredibly, close beside it at 21 Pisces lies asteroid Hong Kong (#3297), the very place Edward Snowden resided when his own tale-bearing was revealed!
But to backtrack slightly, let’s begin the celestial magical mystery tour at the beginning. Snowden lived in Hawaii at the time he first contacted the media, and there is also an asteroid Hawaii (#48575). Appearing at 15 Libra in Snowden’s chart, it exactly opposes TNO Eris at 15 Aries. Eris is named for the Greek goddess of discord, a troublemaker who, stung by not being invited to a wedding, rolled an apple into the celebration inscribed with the words “To the Fairest.” This act of mischief-making led directly to the Trojan War. So Eris, in addition to her reputation for sowing dissention and generally stirring things up, is also an astrological symbol of big effects proceeding from small causes. For Edward Snowden to be living in a state which astrologically activates his potential for troublemaking at the time he realizes this potential (he only moved to Hawaii in 2012 for his NSA assignment) is an almost too perfect textbook example of how geographic asteroids insert themselves into an individual’s life story, for good or ill.
To return to the narrative, Snowden’s Sun lies in a waxing square to asteroid Hong Kong, an aspect signifying a crisis of action. And action is just what was prompted, as Snowden fled Hawaii and the US in advance of his leaks becoming public, fearing the consequences to himself should his government get their hands on him. Hong Kong, with its strong celestial association to the “snitch” element in his chart, was a natural choice in this crisis, and it was there that Snowden enacted a more verifiable manifestation of that Sun/Neptune “espionage” potential, when he allowed Chinese authorities to download the contents of the four laptop computers he had taken with him, containing NSA secrets, and then facilitate his escape. Setting the seal on this cozy relationship is asteroid China (#1125), which now controls Hong Kong, and at 0 Capricorn in Snowden’s birth chart closely opposes his Sun, joining the Grand Cross discussed above.
Hong Kong was also a natural celestial springboard to his next destination, being in trine to asteroid Moskva (#787, Russian for “Moscow) at 25 Scorpio. The trine facilitates an ease of energy interchange between the points so linked, making Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong to Moscow something almost effortless. An interesting point about Moskva in Snowden’s chart—it also conjoins asteroid Washingtonia at 27 Scorpio, representing the US capital. Having both the US and Russian capital cities so close together suggests some degree of, if not collusion, at least shared interest, a common perspective.
Additionally, Moskva/Washingtonia lies on the midpoint of a sextile between natal Pluto and Saturn at 26 and 27 Libra, and Neptune at 27 Sagittarius, in semisextile aspect to each. This also suggests some form of governmental (Saturn) manipulation or power play (Pluto) and deception or espionage (Neptune), which may simply be the programs Snowden revealed, or may have some other meaning unknown at this time.
There is also an asteroid Russia (#232), which at 1 Taurus conjoins both asteroid Snowdonia (#129092, for Snowden) at 4 Taurus and TNO Chaos at 7 Taurus, named for an energy of disruption, disorder and anarchy. These points also oppose Snowden’s natal Moon at 13 Scorpio and asteroid Edoardo (#27917, a variant of “Edward”) at 10 Scorpio, suggesting a very personal (Edoardo), emotional (Moon) element to his Russian sojourn.
The road ahead for Snowden is not clear, but he has applied for political asylum in Ecuador, which has no extradition treaty with the US, and may be stopping off in Havana. The pull toward Cuba is also reflected in the chart, with asteroid Havana (#11095) at 4 Aries in conjunction with asteroid Eduarda (#340, also for Edward) at 2 Aries, giving him a very personal connection to the place, and asteroid Cuba (#11094) at 19 Aquarius, in broad trine to Sun/Mars. But Cuba is also conjunct asteroid Icarus at 23 Aquarius, representing rash, reckless behaviors heedless of the consequences (also tapped into Sun/Mars by trine and helping to define his character), so the Havana option might not work out so well for Snowden.
Much more palatable would be Ecuador, which also has an asteroid referent (#10792); at 0 Sagittarius this conjoins both Jupiter at 3 Sagittarius, promoting a more optimistic, fortunate, life-affirming future, and Uranus at 6 Sagittarius, suggesting freedom for Snowden. Ecuador also trines Eduarda at 2 Aries and forms a Grand Trine with TNO Orcus at 3 Leo, a point noted for oath-breaking, perhaps an apt final destination for someone who, in the opinion of some, has betrayed his country (but who has certainly broken his oath of secrecy, whatever his motivation). There is also an asteroid for Ecuador’s capital Quito (#10793) which, astoundingly, falls at 8 Capricorn in Snowden’s chart, in exact square to his natal asteroid America at 8 Libra, this contentious configuration well depicting the strain in relations between the two nations which Snowden’s political asylum petition has exacerbated (already weakened by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s request for asylum there last year). The only fly in the ointment for Ecuador is that Pluto makes its direct station in September exactly conjunct Quito in Snowden’s chart—if he flees there, he’d do well to steer clear of the capital, at least initially.
America’s natal position may provide additional clues to Snowden’s motivation. Portrayed by some as a principled whistleblower, and by others as a traitor, Snowden’s relationship to his native land may be complicated by the aspects America makes in the birth chart. Its broad opposition to Eris reaffirms the troublemaking aspect so exactly energized by Hawaii, but it also opposes asteroid Hybris at 14 Aries, suggesting some level of arrogance associated with Snowden’s feeling for the US. A square to a pairing of asteroids Karma and Narcissus at 10 and 11 Cancer indicates that while this breech may have been something predestined or fated (Karma), there is also an element of self-absorption, wanting to draw attention to oneself, oblivious of the effect one’s actions may have on others (Narcissus). Venus also here at 14 Cancer does suggest that on some level Snowden does indeed love his country, but bound up with Narcissus, his values are self-focused and arbitrary, not necessarily ones others would understand or identify with, based as they are in a very ego-centric interior life.
When Edward Snowden’s first disclosures became public on June 6, some remarkable fancy footwork was going on in the cosmos. For one, Askalaphus and Hong Kong are again in conjunction, as in the birth chart, reinforcing the connection between the “snitch” and his geographic position at the time he made the leak. This pairing at 9 and 13 Leo shows Hong Kong exactly squared the natal Moon, another strong incentive to make that city his “home away from home” (Moon) in this crisis (square). Askalaphus is squared natal Edoardo, identifying Snowden personally as the leaker.
The Sun at 16 Gemini is exactly conjunct TNO Chaos and asteroid Havana, suggesting the possible ramifications of his disclosure and another indicator that his Havana reception, should it take place, may be less than friendly. Transit Pluto at 10 Capricorn exactly opposes natal Karma, suggesting that this was in fact the fated moment, while transit Uranus at 11 Aries is exactly squared natal Narcissus, once again calling into question Snowden’s motivation. Is this for the public good as he sees it, or all about him? As with the natal conjunction of Washingtonia and Moskva, we now see a pairing of transit Washingtonia and Quito at 15 and 16 Taurus, once again implying that the goals and perspectives of supposed antagonists are in actuality very much aligned.
Transit asteroid Snowdonia at 5 Aquarius is exactly squared by transit Saturn at 5 Scorpio, suggesting a probable loss or restriction for Snowden, as well as representing the US government. This is further reflected by transit Eduarda’s exact conjunction with the US natal Saturn at 14 Libra, which also activates Snowden’s natal Hawaii/Eris opposition and squares his natal Venus/Karma/Narcissus (transit Ecuador at 14 Cancer is exactly squared transit Eduarda and exactly conjoined natal Venus, another indication that Ecuador might be a reasonably comfortable, pleasant final destination for Snowden). Snowdonia is also exactly aspected by Neptune (exiles) at 5 Pisces and Narcissus (intense self-absorption) at 5 Capricorn, both in semisextile with Snowden on their midpoint. And to top it off, transit asteroid China, representing the ultimate power in Hong Kong, appears at 5 Taurus, forming an exact T-Square with Saturn and Snowdonia, as well as conjoining asteroid Snowdonia at 4 Taurus in the natal chart.
Two other points of note: transit Damocles, that doom hanging unseen overhead, exactly conjoins natal Icarus at 23 Aquarius, suggestive of rash, reckless behavior that redounds to the native’s undoing; and transit Nemesis, named for the goddess of vengeance and retribution, is exactly conjunct natal Eduarda at 2 Aries, perhaps implying a karmic comeuppance soon to manifest. Whatever the intervening circumstances, these form two powerful indicators that all may not end well for Edward Snowden.