Joker in the Pack
On December 13th 1987 at least ten footballers and four more assorted athletes were born with sufficient skill and status to make it into the pages of Wikipedia. Also on that day at 21h04 in La Jolla, California, a bright young man entered the world intent on pursuing a career in neuroscience; in his free time he too became a footballer and a runner. It is now too late for him to refocus his chaotic energies on sport - his name was James Eagan Holmes1. He was born as a mid-Scorpio Mars came to the local IC ... opposite Chaos in the Midheaven (an asteroid pattern which I set eyes on for the first time after writing the previous sentence!) At 0h38 on July 20th 20122 James Holmes took a collection of guns, ammunition and smoke canisters into the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora Colorado and murdered twelve people, leaving a further fifty-eight injured. They had all bought tickets for the first public screening of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.’For one, Alex Sullivan3, who - ironically - worked at the Red Robin, a local restaurant, it was his 27th birthday treat. Saturn had already squared his natal Sun/Mars conjunction, and at the Solar Return of his Q-chart with Holmes Mars was rising opposite Uranus on the 7th cusp, squared by Pluto at the IC. He died.
As he burst onto the cinema stage, blinding the bewildered and then terrified audience with chemical smoke, Holmes is said to have shouted, ‘I am the Joker!’ and continued after his arrest. For years he had immersed himself in the imagery of Detective Comics’ Batman stories; he had filled his flat with pictures and posters and memorabilia to the point that he identified totally with the character of the superhero’s nemesis. Holmes had dyed his hair bright orange; his eyes were wild.
So who was the Joker? And who else had taken on his savage mantle?
Just before the outbreak of the second World War the creative team of Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson produced the first issue of their monthly publication to feature Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight. This was #27 in May 1939; no more specific date seems to be available4. A year later Batman and Robin were so popular that they were given their own quarterly (quickly revised to monthly) in the Spring of 1940. Again there is no specific date for the first issue, but the Wikipedia Batman page states that it was first advertised in early April. This new comic book, crucially, saw the birth of the Joker5.
In the 1960s the heroes and villains of Gotham City moved from print to TV. From January 12th 1966 to March 14th 1968 the filmed episodes of Batman were broadcast twice every week as a two-part cliffhanger, airing at 7h30 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.6 On January 26th the Joker, played by Cesar Romero, appeared onscreen for the very first time in episode 5, The Joker is Wild. This is the moment I have taken as his effective birth. The shows were massively popular, and led to many more films and animated series in cinema and on the small screen. I only wish there were space here to expand on their data and that of all the actors and directors who worked on them over the years.
In 2005, on June 15th, a new Batman film went on general release in North America. Director Christopher Nolan had entered the creative fray and ‘Batman Begins’ was a great success.7 It was the first of a trilogy; in the second, The Dark Knight, 8 the mushrooming Batman fanbase saw the return of the Joker at its Australian release on July 16th 2008 - six months after the shock death of Heath Ledger whose role as the Joker had been the main focus of the film’s advertising campaign. The USA had to wait until July 18th; the UK until July 24th. The Dark Knight became the thirteenth highest grossing film of all time; it was nominated for eight Academy Awards. And now the third film was enjoying its public release - at 0h00 on July 19th in Australia and New Zealand, and July 20th in the UK and USA. However, The Dark Knight Rises had its official premiere in New York on Monday July 16th 2012. By 11h04pm the New York Daily News had its copy in for the online report,9 and two posed photos (#20 and #28) of arriving celebrities show watches that seem to be reading about 6h10pm and 6h45pm. The two-hour forty-five minute show may have started at 7h30pm. Tickets for the midnight screening in Aurora Colorado on 20th July show a start time of 12h05am.10 But where was the Joker? Hidden in the pack.
It was going to be James Holmes that night. Why? What was built into this highly intelligent young man that wanted to tear a community apart? Not only was he born with that exactly angular Scorpio Mars so close to Pluto, but opposite his 5th House stellium of Sun, Saturn and Uranus in Sagittarius was Chiron, the fire sign’s co-ruler. Yes, a brilliant and creative lad; but potentially very unstable, with the ever-present likelihood of going off at half-cock. Sport and entertainment are huge draws for 5th-house people; a south-node Virgo Moon squaring all this from the 2nd House accounts for the collecting mania that proved ultimately so destructive. If that were all, there might be a chance of channelling explosive energies reasonably constructively, but it isn’t. We have to look at the Reflex (contrascia) chart with the radix to see the full power of the pattern, and sure enough the Pluto/Mars/IC conjunction reflexes to the Ascendant. A pattern like this always exaggerates the individual’s drive to the point where they will not be ignored and must leave their mark on the world, for good or ill. Then there is the Dwad. This finely-tuned level of the natal chart, astrology’s natural fractal, is very, very important; it gives us a far deeper insight into the mental life of a man or woman than the radix charts alone can ever hope to offer. The dwad expresses the Idea behind the Form. In Holmes’ case, not only does Mars remain with the IC but is found in its own sign, Aries, and even closer to the Dwad IC is Chiron, opposite Uranus at the dwad Midheaven. This poor young man is a walking time bomb. The dwad Ascendant joins Pluto in Pisces opposite a ‘setting’ Saturn. This is the pattern of a compulsive fantasist who feels alienated from his peers and will readily identify with iconic figures in the battle of Good and Evil. Add to this the dwad Sun and Moon in Leo - the Sun on his radix Ascendant - and you can see his need to be the blazing hero of his own story. Poor James. He realised he was mentally in trouble, and not only had he begun some treatment but warned his friends that he might not be safe to be around. On July 20th 2012 transiting Chiron was on his daily converse IC and progressed Scorpio Mars met his daily converse Ascendant. Tragically his compulsion fully to enter his fantasy world was fated to be far stronger than that initial insight.
And he chose to become the Joker. Not Batman, but the hero’s enemy. Why? Well, we can look to the Sagittarius stellium for a start, as every healthy Jupiter-ruled Sag loves to be the local funny man. But this Joker is malign. Let’s look at his ‘birth’; are there any clues there? We cannot know exactly when the cartoon character first appeared as we have no publication date. But we do have his first appearance on the small screen - January 26th 1966 at 7h30 pm. The chart is set for Los Angeles. And I’m only showing you the dwad - simply because this is where we see exactly where James Eagan Holmes and this new being in the mind of the cosmos become one and the same. Echoing the Joker’s radix Jupiter opposite Holmes’ Sagittarius Sun, dwad Jupiter is opposite his dwad Leo Sun, and the unruly dwad Sun/Uranus conjunction is right on his dwad Jupiter in Aries ... opposite Chiron, just as in Holmes’ radix chart. The south node, IC and Mercury are all on his Sagittarius stellium, the Moon is on her nodal axis, and destructive Mars is at the IC. “I am the Joker.”
And - fascinating idea - we might observe on this basis that he was literally ‘not in his right mind.’
Ten days after the tragedy, The July 30th Big Issue asked, ‘Is Batman to blame? ... does Hollywood and pop culture also bear responsibility?’
There is an asteroid for Hollywood; its name is Babelsberg. ‘Studio Babelsberg celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012. On February 12, 1912, in a glass-house quickly erected on the site of an old artificial flower factory in Babelsberg, a set of grand Jupiter-lamps were switched on for the first scene of The Dance of the Dead (Der Totentanz)... Studio Babelsberg is the oldest large-scale studio complex in the world.’11 This then is where the first ever feature film was made; Hollywood itself became the hub of the US motion picture industry nearly two years later when Cecil B. DeMille’s The Squaw Man began filming in a barn on the Los Angeles outskirts on December 29th 1913.12 When James Eagan Holmes was born, asteroid Babelsberg was at 10 Scorpio conjunct Mars and the IC, reflexing with them and asteroid James to his Leo Ascendant (with dwad Sun) and asteroid Savage. For him, intensely personally, Hollywood = violence. But what of the wider movie industry? We can put up a sunrise chart for Babelsberg itself, and a starry, celebrity-filled sky it is too! For at sunrise that February day asteroid Babelsberg rose conjunct the Sun, and California was also on its way at the end of Aquarius. The Moon was culminating with Jupiter in Sagittarius. There are the ‘grand Jupiter-lamps’! However, the title of the film says something about the stories that have dominated cinema over the decades - The Dance of the Dead. Atropos was square the Moon. Perhaps prophetically asteroid Aurora rose between Babelsberg and California, quite close to Holmes’ 7th cusp. Grim Saturn opposed Fantasia, which was right on his Mars and IC ... close to Babelsberg.
Holmes’ relationship to the actual Hollywood chart, when cameras rolled for The Squaw Man under another Moon/Jupiter conjunction (plus Uranus), is also important. It has to be said right away that although this chart like the Babelsberg chart overflows with showmanship and drama, it is not especially violent. We do find the draconic Sun in 19 Capricorn opposite radix tropical Mars; but this puts the emphasis on the forces of order confronting passion and peril. However, we have seen how crucial the Reflexes are - and here the early Capricorn Sun, being transited by Pluto as the whole drama unfolds - reflexes with Ceres to 20 and 22 Gemini, opposite radix Mercury and James Holmes’ Sun. So we can see the influence that cinema had over this young man, even if it was, overall, not at all malign. And that this tragedy of his making now puts extremely serious questions to both the industry and the gun culture which pervades it.
We do need to look closer at the asteroids in these charts. They may show us something underlying the main pattern. Holmes has asteroid Aurora at 9 Libra opposite Loke at 10 Aries. (Loke or Loki is the Norse god of mischief, lies and evil, who brought about the death of Balder, the god of light, joy, beauty, and innocence.) Hollywood also has asteroids clustered around these cardinal degrees: California and Siva at 8 Libra opposite Fantasia at 8 Aries; Hel at 12 Aries, Prey at 12 Libra. Atropos reflexes to 9 Libra. The reflex Chaos at 12 Taurus conjoins Holmes’ own, culminating opposite his Mars/Pluto/IC and on his reflex Descendant. He is certainly picking up on the themes of death and destruction. Two such links extend to the Babelsberg chart, where reflex Atropos - death - is at 12 Aries, and the reflex Chaos is conjunct Holmes’ Chaos again, exactly opposite his Mars/IC from Taurus 13. He has been getting a very negative and dangerous message. On the day of the shooting, Uranus was transiting 8 Aries opposed by Mars at 9 Libra, and Pluto had already begun squaring everything on this axis. Its reflex transit was at Gemini 22, on its final run right opposite Holmes’ Sun.
There is one more chart that cannot be ignored: back in April 1940 when the first Batman periodical hit the shelves there was an annular Solar eclipse square maverick Chiron, conjunct Jupiter and the Dragon’s Tail. This is incontrovertibly either the ‘prenatal’ or ‘postnatal’ eclipse for Batman, and probably the Joker. In New York, the headquarters of Detective Comics and first birthplace of the Batman saga, the 8th House Aries eclipse reflexes to the Pisces Descendant, conjunct Aurora and opposite Atropos. Ceres - icon of bereavement - rises. Chaos and James are only 3º from Aurora. In the Midheaven Mars conjoins Fanatica, Savage, Robinhood, Babelsberg, and reflex Smiley is opposite Hilaritas, Robyn and the IC. Gunn is conjunct the eclipse and South Node in coelo and reflexes precisely with the 7th cusp. If ever there was a clear statement that the gun was the curse of American culture, this was it! The karmic implications are serious. This eclipse encounters further dark forces in the dwad: Sun and Moon - opposite radix Hel and Lucifer - join Mercury in Scorpio square Pluto, Ceres in the same sign falls in the Dragon’s Tail opposite Saturn, Mars hits the Descendant. Most significantly, the Sidereal angles, carrying their remarkable asteroids, are almost identical to Holmes’ tropical radix, and here attacking Mars (opposite Holmes’ tropical angular Mars) reflexes with its attendant asteroids opposite Hilaritas onto the Descendant. And surely it must also mean something that in Hollywood the Ascendant of this eclipse bore Loke and Prey, opposite Knight and Karma?
This extraordinary pattern is so predictive of the traumatic events seventy-two years later that the question, ‘Is Batman to blame?’ can realistically be addressed, even if ‘blame’ isn’t ultimately the right word. Maybe the April 1940 eclipse set a combative trend (it was, after all, during the early years of World War 2) whose energy coalesced in the characters of Batman, posing heavy questions about mankind’s authorship of and response to evil. These, unanswered, climaxed in the tragedy of July 20th 2012.
As James Holmes fired, the Sun was reflexing to the Dragon’s Head, and both dwad Mars and a reflex conjunction of Jupiter with Ceres met the Midheaven. In the Composite chart of Holmes with this flashpoint the Sun hit transiting Mars-Uranus on his asteroid of Death, Uranus was pressing on his 7th cusp, and Jupiter had reached his Midheaven opposite natal Mars. His natal Chiron-Uranus conjoined the composite horizon. The awful story written into his nativity was ready for the front page; he was the answer to the violent question in the sky; he exploded into action. The dwad of Holmes’ Q-chart for 00h38 MDT is poignant: a Jupiter-Mercury opposition holds the horizon on the meridian and Nodes of the Joker, Mars and Ceres meet his radix Nodes, Saturn is close to his radix Ascendant, and he throws himself away spectacularly with the meeting of Sun, Midheaven and Dragon’s Tail in Leo. At some level James Holmes may have felt he was carrying out a mission in bringing such grief - Ceres - to a place of entertainment. This is something we cannot possibly know; the questions go too deep. We do know that the laws of karma are inexorable. Jesus himself made reference to them: ‘All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.’ ‘ Not one letter or one stroke of a letter will disappear from the Law until everything has been accomplished.’ ‘For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence comes.’ Even if we had space here to examine the many additional details of these patterns, we cannot fully know what the universe required of James Holmes or his victims, why he was born with such a volatile nature and the Dragon’s Head at the end of Pisces in the 8th House, drawing him into illusion and intimacy with death. All we can do is trace his inner cosmic journey and cast a critical eye on the world of fantasy that turned him from a brilliant, athletic student into the monstrous creation of other men’s minds ... on whose relocated Ascendant in Aurora, Colorado were asteroids Hilaritas and Smiley - the macabre grin on the face of the waiting Joker.
DATA (charts not yet attached):
James Holmes - 13th December 1987, 21h04 PST in La Jolla, California
The Joker's Eclipse - 7th April 1940, 15h18m19s EST in New York, NY
'The Joker is Wild' - 26th January 1966, 19h30 PST in Los Angeles, California