On Sunday, 2 February 2014, Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his Greenwich Village apartment, apparently of a drug overdose, with a needle still in his arm. Police identified upwards of 50 bags of heroin in the apartment, as well as cocaine and several bottles of prescription drugs. On Wednesday February 5, Broadway dimmed its lights for the versatile performer, Tony-nominated last year for his stage work in “Death of a Salesman”.
Hoffman took home the Best Actor Oscar for his starring role in the 2005 biopic “Capote”, for which he also won a Golden Globe. Three nominations for supporting roles followed, for 2007’s “Charlie Wilson’s War”, 2008’s “Doubt”, and 2012’s “The Master”.
Hoffman, 46, began his acting career in 1991, and his breakout role came early, in 1992’s “Scent of a Woman”. Notable turns included “Twister”, “The Big Lebowski”, “Boogie Nights” and “Almost Famous”. Hoffman also received three Tony nominations for his work on Broadway, and his widespread popularity and appeal merited a front-page obituary in The New York Times.
Born 23 July 1967 in a suburb of Rochester, New York, Hoffman struggled with his chemical addiction from an early age, admitting himself to a rehab facility after college graduation at age 22. In a 2006 “60 Minutes” interview with Steve Kroft, Hoffman recalled that era, replying when asked if the problem was drugs or alcohol, “It was all that stuff, yeah, anything I could get my hands on … I liked it all.” Hoffman had at least one relapse in the intervening years, again checking himself into a rehab in May 2013 for heroin and prescription medication abuse.
Hoffman’s issues with addiction are easy to identify in his birth chart, as is his massive talent. Neptune, which rules both acting and addiction, falls at 21 Scorpio, from where it loosely trines the Sun (no birth time is available, but the Sun transited from Cancer to Leo early that day, and I am assuming a 0 Leo Sun) and more closely squares the Moon, moving from 16 through 29 Aquarius that day.
Neptune contacted to one or both of the Lights encourages self-doubt and self-sabotage, but also promotes creativity and aesthetic or artistic abilities of whatever scope or variety, including dramatic arts. Neptune’s amorphous qualities were of tremendous use to Hoffman, noted for his versatility as a character actor, able to shed his authentic self and become the embodiment of the character he portrayed. His depiction of Truman Capote in particular showcased this ability to remake himself, taking on the persona of an actual historic figure, not just a fictional creation, and capturing the quintessential Capote in a venue which garnered him a well-earned Academy Award.
Whether at 29 Cancer or 0 Leo, the Sun is also well enmeshed in the gravitational pull of a Black Hole at 28 Cancer. Black Hole Sun natives have the ability, chameleon-like, to be all things to all people, to adapt to circumstance and present whatever facet of themselves is appropriate in the moment, an invaluable skill for an actor. They can also be secretive, living double lives or with aspects of their existence remaining sequestered, unsuspected even by those nearest and dearest to them.
Neptune also rules chemicals, drugs and alcohol, and its issues with addictive behaviors are legendary, made all the more insidious by Neptune’s accent on escaping reality and indulging in a fantasy life. For Hoffman, the trine to the Sun shows an ease of access and acclimation to the altered states Neptune evokes, while the square to the Moon suggests emotional pain or conflict as the basis of his withdrawal from reality.
Hoffman’s Neptune issues were exacerbated by several minor bodies which added fuel to the fire, and pushed the actor toward substance abuse in addition to creative outlets for this energy. Closely conjoined by asteroid Bacchus at 20 Scorpio, Neptune is also squared by asteroid Dionysos at 20 Leo. These deities, essentially the Roman and Greek versions, respectively, of the same god, encourage overindulgence in alcohol or drugs. Dionysos inclines more to revelatory, ecstatic experience of these states of intoxication, whereas Bacchus is more “party animal”-oriented, but the bottom line for both is a pull toward physical incapacitation via substance abuse. Dionysos is also noted as the originator and patron of the ancient Greek theater, further focusing Neptune’s artistic potential into the acting mold. Also of note is asteroid Nemesis, a point representing undoing, downfall or ruin, which at 23 Aquarius is closely squared Neptune, identifying drugs as a potential cause of Hoffman’s destruction.
Asteroid Panacea is another point noted for drug use. Named for a daughter of Asclepius, god of healing, whose purview was medications, Panacea is often active in cases of pharmaceutical overdose, and also represents the search for a cure-all to treat all ills and amend all hurts, a quick-fix way out of difficulties or emotional pain. In other words, there is a connection there to Neptune’s fantasy and wishful thinking, the desire to smooth things over, buff out the rough spots and live an idealized existence.
Hoffman’s natal Panacea at 7 Virgo is closely conjoined his Venus at 9 Virgo, and we can use simple astrological keywords to understand his “love for drugs,” as expressed in the “60 Minutes” interview. Asteroid Karma complicates this picture, as from 0 Virgo it indicates deeply ingrained, enmeshed roots for this problem and a fated resolution, based in prior behaviors. Venus exactly conjoins another Black Hole, suggesting a deep wellspring of talent and artistry, and the ability to identify intimately with alternate realities so important to realistic acting. But with Panacea also on a Black Hole, the pull toward total immersion in substances is palpable, facilitated by Venus’ affinities with desires and cravings.
Another factor in Hoffman’s success was an exact square from natal Saturn at 12 Aries to Mercury at 12 Cancer. This grants a sharp intellect, an ability to see straight to the heart of the matter, setting aside all extraneous distractions and diversions, and is a useful aid in memorization, a vital component of any actor’s life and career. In fact, a “career in words” is another apt astrological keyword shorthand for Hoffman’s life path. This combination also implies advanced vocal (Mercury) control (Saturn), something Hoffman was gifted with, and a talent once again especially showcased in his portrayal of Capote, whose vocal eccentricities he mimicked with eerie perfection.
Mercury also represents our peers (in the sense of peers being “siblings” and “neighbors”, those who share our immediate environs or heritage), and its conjunction with asteroid Academia (#829, for the Academy Award) at 14 Cancer shows the potential for recognition and praise received (both Saturn) in his Oscar, voted by his movie industry peers.
Of course Saturn was also the ancient lord of death, and transit Uranus’ station retrograde last summer, exactly on natal Saturn, may have been a contributory cause of Hoffman’s unexpected, sudden (both Uranus) death.
Regardless, transit Pluto, modern ruler of death, at 12 Capricorn was exactly squared Saturn when Hoffman died, and pulling in a third element by its simultaneous square to natal asteroid Achilles at 12 Libra, which formed an exact T-Square in Hoffman’s nativity with Mercury and Saturn. Achilles represents our weak spot, a congenital or pervasive vulnerability which leads to our undoing, something certainly applicable to the manner of Hoffman’s death, a prey to addictions he could no longer control.
Other astrological transits colluded with this to bring about Hoffman’s death at just this time. Saturn at 22 Scorpio had just conjoined Neptune and Bacchus, uniting the themes of addiction, overindulgence and death, and this, with the Pluto square, may be the most dramatic marker of his passing. But a host of minor points helped to further refine the timing and the manner of his death.
Predominant is a stunning Grand Cross of transit Bacchus and Karma, conjoined exactly at 12 Sagittarius, squared asteroid Atropos (named for the mythic Greek Fate who severs the thread of life at death) at 11 Virgo, and Chiron at 11 Pisces, and opposed asteroids Philippa (#977, for Philip) at 10 Gemini, with an exact conjunction of transit Panacea and TNO Chaos at 16 Gemini. This brings together the symbolism of a fated, predestined circumstance based in past behaviors (Karma), overindulgence in intoxicants (Bacchus), maverick behaviors (Chiron), chaotic conditions (Chaos) involving drugs (Panacea), and death (Atropos), focused very personally on Hoffman himself (Philippa).
That this Grand Cross keys on his natal Panacea/Venus conjunction and its attendant issues is just celestial icing on the astrological cake. Moreover, Chaos/Panacea was closing in on natal asteroid Sisyphus at 18 Gemini, a point noted for repetitive, pointless acts of struggle against impossible odds, and regression to old, unbreakable habits, which mirrors Hoffman’s struggle with chemical addiction.
Spotlighting Hoffman specifically on the day in question was a conjunction of asteroid Hoffman (#1662) at 12 Aquarius with the transit Sun at 13 Aquarius, giving that name a prominence in the day’s events. Also within orb of the Sun is asteroid Greenwich (#2830, for Greenwich Village, the venue for his death), which at 5 Aquarius is also exactly squared Hoffman’s natal asteroid Hoffman at 5 Scorpio, the exact degree of a Lunar Eclipse last April, shortly before the actor admitted himself to rehab. That eclipse also opposed natal asteroid Rip (#7711, which has shown itself to operate reliably as “RIP”, “Rest In Peace”, a common tombstone inscription), at 4 Taurus. Rip had recently been conjoined by transit asteroid Requiem, named for the funeral mass for the dead, now at 10 Taurus and more closely squared Sun/Hoffman.
The transit solar grouping falls on Hoffman’s natal asteroids Lachesis, Melpomene, and Damocles, at 11, 13 and 17 Aquarius. Lachesis is named for the Greek Fate determining the span of life, Melpomene is named for the Greek Muse of tragedy, and Damocles represents the doom hanging unseen overhead. Put it all together and we have an image of a tragic death that seems inescapable; squared natal Greenwich at 16 Taurus, we again see the significance of that location as the scenario based in natal potential plays out.
Melpomene asserted her right to be a part of the story rather dramatically (as is her wont) in the minor furor which erupted on Twitter after fellow actors Jared Padalecki and LeVar Burton tweeted their objections to the use of the term “tragedy” for Hoffman’s death. Both chose to focus on the stupidity of Hoffman’s acts, averring that such a death does not merit that description, and were roundly abused for their lack of tact in that assessment.
Additionally, the natal (and transit) Aquarian groupings opposed natal Jupiter at 11 Leo (Lachesis exactly), an indicator of a famed or notorious (Jupiter) death (Lachesis), with much public scrutiny and attention (Jupiter again). Transit Melpomene at 6 Leo was bridging the gap between the 0 Leo Sun and 11 Leo Jupiter, while opposed transit Greenwich and forming a Grand Cross with the natal Hoffman/Rip opposition.
Venus and Pluto were conjunct when Hoffman died, reflecting the passing of an actor generally. At 13 and 12 Capricorn, they were closely conjoined his natal asteroid Philippa at 11 Capricorn, once again bringing the potential home very personally to him. Natally Philippa is also conjunct asteroid Oskar (#750) at 7 Capricorn, perhaps indicating that Hoffman was destined to receive this highest accolade his profession has to offer.
Some final points to ponder are the fact that transit Achilles at 16 Libra had just returned to its natal degree, reinforcing any potentially devastating flaws in Hoffman’s character, and both natal and transit asteroids were squared the Pluto/Venus conjunction. Transit Icarus at 26 Sagittarius, representing rash, reckless actions heedless of the consequences, was just coming to meet Hoffman’s natal Rip at 27 Sagittarius; conjoined at the Galactic Center, this suggests a needless, preventable death garnering global or international attention (the GC). These opposed natal Requiem at 29 Gemini, yet another activation of a death-themed point in Hoffman’s chart.
In closing, word should be said about Hoffman’s triumphs, not just his tragedies. When he won the Academy Award for Best Actor on March 5, 2006, the Sun at 14 Pisces was exactly squared asteroid Philiphe (#20208, another variant of Philip) at 14 Gemini, with transit Philippa at 5 Aquarius exactly opposed transit Saturn at 5 Leo and T-Squared natal Hoffman at 5 Scorpio, bringing him to the peak of his career. Transit Venus at 0 Aquarius conjoined Philippa, yielding the positive outcome, white transit Academia at 12 Scorpio was conjoined natal Hoffman, bringing the actor into alignment with the Academy’s voting membership. Transit Hoffman at 21 Taurus exactly opposed natal Neptune, the movie industry, at 21 Scorpio, and squared transit Oskar at 24 Aquarius, itself likely within orb of his Moon.
Hoffman will be remembered for the many powerful roles he created, and the lost potential of the characters he might have brought to life in the future. When the lights of Broadway were dimmed in his honor at 7:45 PM EST on February 5, 2014, asteroid Philippa was fittingly cresting the Midheaven, the most elevated point of the chart, at 10 and 14 Gemini, with the 16 Virgo Ascendant conjoined his natal Pluto at 18 Virgo, a reminder of the mortality we are all subject to.