Somewhere between Professor Trelawney's endless stream of macabre, theatrical predictions and the vague planetary omens deciphered by the centaurs beams a ray of truth about astrology from the pages of the Harry Potter books. It is no accident that Joanne Rowling bestowed upon Harry her own birthday, making him a proud, courageous Leo.1 She created quick-witted Hermione as a voluble Virgo, a sign ruled by Hermes, the Greek god of language.2 She cast Hagrid's date of birth under the generous, notoriously animal-loving sign of Sagittarius,3 and gave the mischievous Weasley twins a playful Aries impulsiveness as well as an appropriate April Fool's birthday.4 I believe Ms. Rowling consulted the stars in her character development, deliberately placing each individual under a specific zodiac sign with an accompanying set of unique planetary aspects defining his or her personality, also known as a birth chart. By interpreting these charts we can become better acquainted with Harry Potter's friends, and his enemies.
Harry's ultimate enemy, Lord Voldemort, was born Tom Marvolo Riddle on the bleak final day of December in 1926,5 a characteristic contrast to the sunny midsummer birthday of his young nemesis. Since J.K. Rowling has not provided an exact time of birth for Riddle, I constructed his chart using an estimation of around 2:00 PM as it gives the most accurate ascendant, Moon sign, and aspects. Although in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince Mrs. Cole at the orphanage makes it sound as though Tom was born at night, she does not state this precisely. I feel strongly that he was born in the afternoon because a nighttime birth would have not only changed his Moon sign from Scorpio to Sagittarius, but also grouped many of his planets in the Northern Hemisphere of his chart, giving him a less ambitious and more reactive nature. Though fictional, I have interpreted Riddle's chart as though he were real. Any person with a birth date, whether imaginary or flesh and blood, is subject to the same universal energies and truths.
This birth chart seems to perfectly, almost eerily, fit Lord Voldemort, and it brilliantly illustrates the power of astrology when combined with free will and environment. The planets laid out an obstacle course for Tom Riddle when he was born and his ancestry (inbreeding) and environment (an orphanage) added a few more obstacles to the course. How he maneuvers through the course is up to him, and this is where choice comes into play. Just as Harry chose not to be placed in Slytherin, Tom Riddle chose to seek vengeance upon the world instead of befriending it. He made a deliberate choice not to grow by overcoming adversity, but to passively allow the negative planetary forces in his chart to control him. Attempting to piece together the reasons he made this choice is like trying to put together the world's most complicated jigsaw puzzle. Using astrology, perhaps we can begin to "understand the steps of the celestial dance"6 as Trelawney said, and bring together a few of the pieces.
Tom Riddle's Birth Chart
"There's so much black in me¦I feel a lot of the time I'm pretending to be nice."
”Ralph Fiennes, born with the Sun in Capricorn and the Moon in Scorpio
The first piece of any astrological puzzle is the Sun, the planet governing the conscious personality. Tom Riddle's Sun is in Capricorn in the Eighth House, and I believe Harry Potter's Sun also probably falls in the Eighth House. They are both intuitive, intense, and possess powerful magical abilities, but Tom's Capricorn Sun lacks the warmth and compassion of Harry's Leo Sun. When controlling, unemotional, Saturn-ruled Capricorn is channeled into the Eighth House, the house of death and family legacies, the result indicates not only someone who follows in the footsteps of a long-dead ancestor (like Salazar Slytherin), but someone who actually attempts to control the forces of life and death, forces beyond any human being's control. It can indicate also a certain callousness or disregard for life and death in general; other people's lives, that is.
Capricorn the Goat is generally determined to succeed at all costs, and against all odds; this trait defines the Capricorn personality. Goats do not permit sentiment, emotion, or other trivialities to impede them in their quest for the top of the mountain. Add to this the intense willpower of a Taurus Mars closely trining the Sun from the secretive, mysterious Twelfth House, and the pieces begin to fall into place. Now we see a person who coldly, stubbornly, and insistently uses force to overcome all enemies and obstacles, but in clandestine or secretive ways. Who would suspect polite and studious prefect Tom Riddle of being Salazar Slytherin's heir and a potential mass-murderer?
Much astrological research has been done on the birth charts of serial killers and some definite patterns have been established. According to a study conducted by astrologer Joanne Wickenburg, 74% of known serial killers on file at the FBI have their Sun in either Capricorn or Sagittarius.7 I mention this fact not to alarm the many loving, mentally stable Capricorns and Sagittarians out there, but because in our Muggle terminology Tom Riddle would probably be classified as a psychopathic serial murderer, and his chart actually does reflect many of these traits. Sun in Capricorn closely trining Mars is but one of the many danger signals.
Tom Riddle's deceptively determined Capricorn Sun becomes even trickier when combined with his Gemini ascendant. Like a clever chameleon, the sign of Gemini the Twins has the mercurial ability to morph into whatever shape is required at the moment. This explains why so many people have fallen for Lord Voldemort's act; he can shift his personality to become just what each person wants to see, kind of like a boggart in reverse.
Gemini-rising people also tend to go through many physical changes over the course of life, and can reinvent their images on numerous occasions. They have a gift for communication, for language (especially foreign or unusual languages like Parseltongue), for being able to talk themselves out of (and others into) slippery situations, and can be as elusive and hard to capture as mercury itself. The split energy of Gemini in Tom's chart is also responsible for his various identities and guises, from his creation of the anagram "I Am Lord Voldemort" as a teenager to his later acquisition of "The Dark Lord" and "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named". Various names are a form of split energy, a sneaky way of seeming to be everywhere at once. Furthermore, the soul-splitting process involved in creating horcruxes is very Gemini in nature.
Saturn in Sagittarius opposing Tom's ascendant tells me that whether he cares emotionally for other people or not, he does need them in his life. One cannot become a ruler without subjects, so Riddle must surround himself with admiring devotees; he requires an audience. Saturn's influence has always been regarded as cold and inhuman, leading ancient astrologer William Lilly to refer to the planet Saturn as "the author of mischief." 8 This gives us an idea of how Voldemort treats his followers and foes alike.
A Friendly Contradiction
Mercury, ruler of Gemini and therefore ruling planet of Riddle's chart, falls in Sagittarius in the Seventh House of relationships. This placement confirms the fact that although the people in his life can never truly know him, love him or fulfill him, Tom has a strong need to communicate his ideas to others.
A Twelfth House Uranus in Pisces closely squaring Mercury lends a know-it-all, superior attitude as well as a brusque, sarcastic manner in dealing with others. Uranus in the Eleventh House of friendship is a contradictory placement. Uranus, though very different from Saturn, also has a cold, inhuman energy that is too insincere and unemotional to govern the house of friendships and social ties.
Uranus rebels against society, against all recognized standards and values, and here it gives us a person who actually believes himself too unique to associate with other, common people. He may have revolutionary ideas and possess a gift for putting vague abstractions into words so others can understand them, but instead of using this talent to solve society's problems he merely initiates bizarre schemes to alter the world to fit his own needs. Any associations or "friendships" he develops are simply means toward his selfish ends and mean nothing to him personally. In fact, due to the blurred lines of a Piscean influence, he is likely to view most people not as individuals but as one massive pool of humanity with many different faces.
So far our puzzle consists of a cold, ambitious, condescending, well-spoken man with a socially radical mindset who believes it is possible to alter the forces of life and death. This may sound dangerous enough, but the most frightening pieces have yet to be added to the puzzle.
A Darker Dark Side
D.H. Lawrence once called the Moon "A great gleaming nerve-centre from which we quiver forever." 9 Though many people are familiar with the Sun Signs used in generalized modern astrology, the ancients knew how profoundly the Moon affected and defined the one's inner character. Where the Sun rules the daytime territory of the conscious, the Moon controls the subconscious, the dimly-lit underworld of the psyche.
Tom Riddle's Moon is in the notorious sign of Scorpio, the sign associated with sex, death and rebirth. Scorpio is a very powerful sign with more potential for spiritual transformation than the other eleven signs of the zodiac, consequently Scorpio represents both the highest levels man's soul can achieve (represented by the phoenix) and the lowest depths to which man can sink (represented by the scorpion). There is very little in between. As the moon governs a person's inner self or "dark side", the placement of the Moon in Scorpio therefore gives one a dark side that tends to be much darker than the average dark side. Scorpio Moon types radiate an emotional intensity that can be so penetrating it makes others uncomfortable, though they may be simultaneously drawn like magnets to that sexy, mysterious Scorpio charisma.
The unevolved, scorpion type of Scorpio has one desire above all: POWER. With such a power-hungry Moon in the service-oriented domain of his Sixth House, it seems Riddle is bound to serve one master, himself. His personal desires and needs rule his day-to-day thoughts and activities, and every move he makes, no matter how minor, is a move toward gaining more power. Surprisingly, it seems a lack of emotions is not his problem, but an overwhelming need to structure and organize his emotions (the Sixth House is concerned with organization) in order to reap the maximum benefits from them. Somber old Saturn's closeness to the Moon further inhibits a healthy expression of feelings. Any emotional wound experienced in childhood will not be expressed easily but will fester beneath the surface for years until the thirst for revenge completely outweighs the original wound itself.
Because this dysfunctional emotional expression is so closely tied to his mother (the Moon represents the mother), I believe that Tom Riddle's early lack of maternal love created a painful void within him that became larger and larger over the years. He decided at a very young age to seek vengeance upon the world for dealing him an unfortunate lot, grasping and scheming to fill the void which remains always empty despite his efforts. By the time Albus Dumbledore (representing the phoenix) entered his life, eleven-year-old Tom had already made his decision to avoid spiritual transformation and remain a lowly scorpion; to stagnate at a very immature emotional level. In many ways, Voldemort is still functioning as the child in the orphanage who hoarded stolen objects in a box. Dumbledore represents what might have been for Tom”a chance to leave his old self behind and be reborn from the ashes like Fawkes.
One of the most difficult planetary configurations in astrology is the T-square, or two planets in opposition to each other, both squaring a third planet. T-squares create friction and stress, challenging a soul to grow through adversity. T-squares are common and do not necessarily lead to any serious problems, but the particularly stubborn, fixed T-square in Tom Riddle's birth chart just might be the key to unlock his chamber of secrets, and the answer to the Riddle riddle: How did a lonely orphaned boy become the fearsome Lord Voldemort, the self-proclaimed "greatest sorcerer in the world"?
The T-square in this case consists of Jupiter in Aquarius in the Tenth House opposing a retrograde Neptune in Leo in the Fourth House, both planets being squared by Tom's power-loving Scorpio Moon in the Sixth. This configuration is similar, though not identical, to the fixed T-square found in the birth chart of former United States president Ronald Reagan. Although Reagan was a very popular president, to many minorities he represented a harsh dogmatism against anything foreign or unorthodox, cloaked in a faÃ§ade of "traditional family values". According to astrologer Erin Sullivan, Reagan's Aquarian nature can be likened to the Greek god Uranus (for whom the planet Uranus, ruler of Aquarius, was named), who "was the sky itself, from where he coldly observed the animals of earth and did not like them at all. He only liked the ones in his own image." 10
This intolerant side of Aquarius becomes even more dangerous in Tom Riddle's chart, where it holds Jupiter in the Tenth House (public image) and is directly opposed by a dramatic Leo Neptune at the nadir of the chart. This shows us that Tom Riddle rose to a position of power by acting as a characteristic spokesman for a "traditional" cause: the segregation of all wizards who were not pureblood. His image preyed upon the public's fear of diversity, while beneath the surface the only cause he cared about was his own crippled ego. An unfortunate consequence of Jupiter opposing Neptune comes in the form of promising more than one can deliver, and I can easily envision Voldemort showering the wizarding world, one by one, with a torrent of false promises to gain its support.
Those with Jupiter (symbolizing good fortune and abundance) in the Tenth House (the sector of eminence) can acquire fame so quickly and easily that it seems almost effortless, though it never is. Fueling Tom's desire for prestige and consequent rise to power is an unfathomable sense of shame surrounding his Muggle upbringing and half-blood heritage, giving him a need to exaggerate his status and prove his importance to the world. The very public Tenth House is opposed by Neptune in Leo in the Fourth House, hinting at Riddle's mysterious, dramatic background. Since the Fourth House governs childbirth and motherhood and Neptune is in charge of magic and occult powers, this placement also symbolizes Merope Gaunt and the talent for dark witchcraft she passed on to Tom. Even though he never knew her, Tom Riddle is clearly his mother's son. Because Neptune is retrograde, meaning the planet was stagnating and appearing to move backward at Tom's birth, its enchanting spell can easily twist into confused self-delusion. This is why Tom's gift for black magic was blown out of proportion”he himself was seduced by its power to transform reality and empower his ego.
Scorpio's influence on the T-square puts the final nail in the coffin by blocking all of Riddle's suppressed emotional pain until it has poisoned his entire soul, creating a deeply rooted obsession with destructive power. This obsession will only grow greater until it has engulfed the world. That is, unless it is stopped by a more powerful force.
Heart Versus Hades
Legend has taught most of us to associate the planet Venus with love, and indeed it does govern all facets of love, sensuality and beauty. In Tom Riddle's chart Venus resides in chilly, distant Capricorn and is opposed by a retrograde Pluto in Cancer. Pluto's power can be best understood by analyzing its deific Greek counterpart Hades who, acting on lustful self-indulgence, dragged the beautiful maiden Persephone down into the underworld with him. Therefore Pluto in retrograde action can represent powerful, selfish desires that result in violent, life-changing confrontations, like Tom's plot to control Ginny Weasley's mind and ultimately draw her down into the Chamber of Secrets.
Tom's Pluto in mutual reception (positively linked) to his Scorpio Moon could have given him the ability to love passionately and with a fierce possessiveness had he chosen to channel his emotions properly. Experiencing love requires feeling vulnerable, and Tom Riddle would never place himself in a vulnerable position; it would weaken his power. His capacity for love was filled by hate instead, which is very close to love in many ways. Hatred is weakened by love and therefore they are natural enemies, though branches off the same emotional tree. Hate is essentially a mutilated form of love; a crippled twin who cannot bear to stand beside his healthy counterpart. This is why love can destroy Lord Voldemort. His power is built upon a foundation of hatred.
Pluto and Mars, co-rulers of Tom's Scorpio Moon, both represent power. Mars is associated with physical violence, while the planet Pluto (discovered in 1930, just as the Third Reich was gaining power in Europe) is concerned with gaining authority over masses of people. Tom's Venus (love) opposes his Pluto, constantly putting his authority at risk of being questioned or undermined. Furthermore, Harry Potter's Sun (self) squaring (challenging) Tom's Mars (physical power) hints at the damage Harry caused to Voldemort's physical power years ago on that fateful Halloween night when Harry's parents were killed and Voldemort was weakened to a shadow of his former self. Harry also has a powerful Mars/Pluto conjunction perched at the highest level in his chart, showing that Harry will continue to challenge the Dark Lord's power until it is completely destroyed, although Voldemort's legacy may live on in the form of the Death-Eaters. Harry's Leo Sun rules the heart, the love that Tom Riddle has always been afraid to feel. This will be a key to his downfall.
Tail of the Dragon
Our jigsaw puzzle is almost complete. There is hate where there should be love, coldness and control instead of warmth and spontaneity, an insatiable desire for power over others, a willingness to use brute force when necessary, the ability to achieve fame quickly, a gift for languages, a charismatic charm that is sexual in nature but lacking in human warmth, a fear of love, an authority which is destined to be challenged by outside forces, a resistance to spiritual growth and an inherited knack for black magic. However, a few important pieces still must be added before we truly understand Tom Riddle.
The Moon's Nodes are two opposing points in the birth chart which indicate a person's karma or spiritual lesson for this lifetime. Tom Riddle's North Node (Caput Draconis, or Head of the Dragon) is in Cancer in the Second House, while his South Node, also called Cauda Draconis (Tail of the Dragon) conjoins his Capricorn Sun in the Eighth House. This tells us that whenever he feels frightened or insecure he automatically reverts to gaining control over others. Control is his comfort zone. Tom secretly fears the dark because darkness represents the unknown; that which cannot be controlled. Even death (the Eighth House)”the ultimate unknown”does not escape Tom's attempted controlling and maneuvering, indicating that his lesson for this lifetime would be to relinquish his control in favor of faith.
Tail of the Scorpion
The final, tragic piece of the Tom Riddle puzzle can be found in his Twelfth House (the house of secrets, mysteries and the afterlife) in the form of a dynamic conjunction between Chiron and the Part of Fortune in Aries. I believe the pairing of these two energies could have saved Tom Riddle from becoming Lord Voldemort had he chosen to follow a spiritual rather than terrestrial path. Though technically not a planet, the comet Chiron symbolizes the wounded, self-sacrificing centaur from Greek mythology and can illuminate the area in which a person can heal others using his or her own pain. Chiron's placement in intense Aries and conjunction with the Part of Fortune (a point in the chart representing true happiness) gives Tom a tremendous capacity to endure physical suffering to achieve spiritual enlightenment, as well as the power to teach and heal others on a profoundly deep level. An enthusiasm for learning and solving the mysteries of life and afterlife is also present, which could have lead him to become a great healer, magic scholar, or philosopher, releasing the stagnant energy of the terrible T-square.
Ironically, the Part of Fortune in the Twelfth House is often associated with immortality and is reputed to bring the gift of many lives to a soul. Tom Riddle's retrograde Pluto in the Second House (the house of material possessions) ruined this chance at immortality by placing too much importance on material objects, leading Tom to be a collector of trophies and a hoarder of possessions. This is his biggest mistake: choosing the material over the spiritual. Objects, as well as human bodies, have a limited shelf life. Only the human soul has the endurance to live on eternally, but Tom Riddle chose to place severed pieces of his immortal soul into various man-made objects that can be easily disposed of or destroyed. In his supposed quest for immortality, he has achieved just the opposite. He has ensured his own soul's destruction.
Why would he do this? The answer lies in the scorpion, the only self-destructive animal on earth. It is a scientific fact that if a scorpion is placed in a ring of fire it will turn its tail on itself, choosing to inject itself with deadly venom rather than be destroyed by an outside force. This is the real secret of Tom Riddle and the final twist of irony: his narcissistic obsession with self-preservation only masks an inner hatred of himself. If his capacity for love is filled with hate, that inevitably leads to self-hatred. Incredible as it may seem, I believe Riddle's true”albeit subconscious”motivation in creating the Horcruxes was not immortality but self-destruction. The true control freak cannot allow his reign of power to be brought to an end by anyone other than himself. Though another person must find and destroy the Horcruxes, Riddle is still the master of the game; he created and hid the soul-bearing souvenirs, challenging his foes to discover and demolish them. Deep within, his twisted soul was planning his demise all along. Tom Riddle may have hungered for eternal power and schemed for unlimited control but a small part of him just wanted to turn the tail on himself, on the monster he had become: Lord Voldemort.
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”””. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2000.
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”””. Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, 2003.
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