The Ebb and Flows of a River who became a Phoenix: The Astrology of an Enigma
River Phoenix had true, natural talent brimming with originality and spirit. His performances heavily drew on candid pictures of reality and he became known for his "method acting" style. River went beyond acting, into a place where he emerged as a conduit for the complex psycho-emotional structures of a character, a scene and/or a script. As a creative channel River had the uncanny ability to tap into this interconnected ocean of unlimited, creative subconscious energy in his environment and then transmitted this inspiration to his audience. From this organic, receptive space it seems he would translate the essence of all he assimilated in his own uniquely stylized way; reflecting via performance this newly incorporated layer of reality. He was an extraordinary chameleon. River was aware of this quality in himself, as he was quoted saying:
“I have a lot of chameleon qualities, I get very absorbed in my surroundings.”
Indeed, River was a young creative genius possessing creative prowess but he was also very much an empath which is why he was so naturally chameleon and equally so very sensitive. This rawness and ingenuity were inherent qualities that made him a brilliant performer. He took acting very seriously and involved himself in film projects he believed in. That is a key word in Rivers life: "Belief". This single word drove him to act in the most conscientious ways possible, holding the light of awareness and integrity to the utmost of his ability. He was once quoted as saying that he only ever did what he believed in. It is most probable that no human being can live so perfectly single-pointed as that in this world of duality. What his actions showed was that what he truly believed in was the undeniable nature of paradox. In some ways, you could say that he suffered paradox and human contradiction more deeply than the average person. As an artist and a spiritually acclimated soul - he lived paradox much more intensely than the layperson who is perhaps not so conscious, conscientious and highly attuned. River's trademark authenticity was reflected both in his acting and in his music, which came from his heart essence. Music had proven to take center stage in his life and it would be his panacea and his truest passion.
Astrologically, River had a Scorpio ascendant which explains his imploding intensity, his enigmatic quality, his sexual magnetism albeit “covert” and sublime, his extreme sensitivity, his secretive behavior, his tendency to go to extremes, his dark and brooding moods, and his experimentation with the dark side. His chart ruler is Pluto - which governs cycles of life, death, rebirth, sexuality, mysteries, occult knowledge, power, regeneration, and our own shadow. Pluto was found in his 11th house of friendship, organizations, society and social functions. Here is where River encountered the potent and often “discombobulating” power of Pluto in his life and inner psyche.
Pluto in this house lends quite a heavy, dark and serious undertone to his friendships and social circles and connection to social organizations and their intrinsic political power structures. In this sphere life, Pluto works best as an agent of deep social transformation and inner change. River at times unconsciously resisted that change perhaps because with this transformation comes a further opening within the subconscious and all that lies repressed and hidden must come to the light of awareness. Pluto is the call to transcendence and liberation but it is a tough call. When you resist the evolutionary thrust of Pluto, you meet crisis of great magnitude. Pluto is a celestial agent for human evolution and cohabits in our lives unseen and potent, the same way dark matter exists interconnecting a vast majority of our universe more powerfully than atomic energy (think black holes). Pluto exist in our lives to push us to greater evolutionary heights of existence.
River also had Jupiter in Scorpio in the 12th conjunct his Scorpio ascendant which only amplified his intensity and excessive expression of Plutonic energy in one manner or another. Here, the sensitivity deepens and carries karmic undertones which most likely appear hidden or deeply buried. There was a real desire to transcend the limitations imposed on him by Pluto’s dark side, because after all, Jupiter is the jovial, jubilant, free-spirited and benevolent factor which seeks liberation. But the problem lies in the excessiveness Jupiter brings to the sign it occupies - in his case, Scorpio, being an intense sign is only troubling because excess never leads “to the palace of wisdom” so to speak!
Scorpio energy must be balanced and transcended to become a purer, higher octave of itself. The difficulty lies in the ego (Jupiter) amplifying the shadow material (Scorpio) kept suppressed, unconscious and hidden (12th house) until an implosion happens and unconscious behavior patterns that are particularly self-sabotaging occur. This was Rivers case, although this aspect was also positive as it gave him depth, authenticity and a powerful intuition and insight into the human condition and soul of humanity.
Pluto, being his chart ruler, fared well in terms of his natal aspects. Pluto was in an exact conjunction to his Mercury, and was trine to his Moon and Saturn. Lets just say that he had uncanny insight into other people, his mind was penetrating, intuitive and probing and if anything, he was always investigating life - going deeper into things, never halfway.
River also had Venus in the 12th house only Venus is in Libra. So, his nature was very loving, refined, responsive and beautiful. With Libra in Venus he was perhaps always seeking a muse, expressing himself creatively as a result of his feelings and refined sensitivity. He was probably ambivalent and indecisive in matters of love and also quite thoughtful and considerate - because a Venusian Libra is an extreme diplomat. River also had a conjunction between his natal Venus and Uranus - this shows that his love life was unpredictable, prone to shifts and constant change. This aspect would have made him very restless in himself and relationship. He ever widened his social circle, curious about others and wanting to know all kinds of people. He was quite intensely drawn to unconventional and eccentric individuals, those people who “thought outside the box”.
This aspect points to an individual who can readily see potential in people and River saw what others could become more readily than what they were in front of him - he had visionary qualities. With a 12th house Venus coupled with that Moon-Saturn conjunction in the 7th - his outward display of affection toward lovers and friends could appear as somewhat reserved or "serious" at times. This aspect denotes emotional repression and shyness - even if the individual is naturally charismatic and passionate, this aspect will tone that expression down several octaves in certain instances. Another expression of a Venus placed in the 12th house is hidden relationships or secret love affairs - as we know, the 12th house also has to do with secrets, with what is hidden and unconscious.
River's Moon in Taurus conjunct Saturn in Taurus created an interesting dynamic in him. The energy of Saturn creates a serious if not downright melancholic, self conscious, conservative and repressed quality within a person and when conjunct the moon, our feeling nature, can hinder our ability to display and communicate our feelings and affection for others. This seems to have been evident in River’s case, but to a softer degree.
On the positive side, Saturn brings order, pragmatism, structure, maturity and thoughtfulness to the personality. So having Moon and Saturn in Taurus made him serious, pragmatic, down-to-earth, earthy, sensual and artistic. For the most part, it appears he had a wonderful upbringing in which he was encouraged to express his feelings and opinions. Hence the sign of Leo at the MC conjunct Mars in Leo 10th - so this really shows that he was born to express his feelings and his creativity to the world.
It appears that he had his own quixotic nature and his exceeding depth incurred with it many inner conflicts. For instance, one could say that his performer “self” was inextricably tied to his survivor “self”. Therefore, strangely enough his sense of survival and security was intimately tied with his connection to Hollywood as a working actor. If you learn about his upbringing, you can imagine his ability to perform and to entertain were not only appreciated as one would appreciate the growing musical ingenuity and charisma of a young boy. But this ability also became synonymous with survival - financial security. He became the breadwinner of the family by his very ability to perform and entertain. This is perhaps where the Saturnine burden of responsibility lay, although at a certain point it became a choice. At the point when he knew he clearly had the choice to take a very long break from Hollywood and get a new perspective on life and his life direction. He chose not to break away and one imagines there are several co-existing factors as to why. One of these factors seemed to rest on his sense of duty and responsibility to finishing projects he had committed to. There also seemed to be an urgent desire to make more money for his environmental causes.
He was quoted as saying he wanted to buy hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest. It is well known that he was passionate about the preservation of wildlife, ecological stewardship and animal advocacy. These were his ambitious and noble humanitarian pursuits he held close to his heart. The hollywood game afforded him the ability to pour money into humanitarian projects and charities and to use his status as an actor to raise awareness of very important environmental and social issues. This was a huge part of his zealous mission and indeed tied to his very sense of self. Anyone can see this is why he had such an internal struggle with the idea of letting go of the movie business - even if only temporarily - because he felt so much sat on his shoulders.
There was also an apparent darker side to this reason. The drug culture of Hollywood associated with his famous musical contemporaries and other fellow actors with whom he felt deeply connected as creative comrades, was his “achilles heel”, a weakness that would prove sadly fatal. One may imagine that he may have felt he made more of an intimate connection with people through this darker subculture (in a different reality picture sense) when ritually taking drugs. This may have been a subconscious rebellion of sorts, after all, the drug culture is often made up of a collective of individuals who are forced to live on the fringe of society, like the boys in the film My Own Private Idaho. Whether the users are rich and famous or homeless street youth, there is a deeper connecting link - and perhaps River feeling the painful dichotomies of life and sought refuge in deeper, darker places.
Taking another look at his chart, I found that he had Neptune in Scorpio in the 1st house. Neptune’s presence here is human paradox personified - the sacred and the profane fuse, the redeemer and the destroyer co-exist, the mystic and the addict also occupy this sphere. One might imagine that River experienced these realities and projected them on the outside. He expressed the compassionate, oneness quality of Neptune. His sense of self literally could dissolve and this is where he could be chameleon and deeply empathetic. He could lose all sense of his own boundaries because Neptune always gives the desire for selflessness, altruism, self-sacrifice, transcendence of self and even martyrdom in its more extreme sense. Neptune is also expressed in terms of escapism tendencies and addictions. River certainly expressed this side of it as well. With Neptune here, there is almost always a certainty that the individual will have at least one major addiction to contend with. River expressed all of these aspects of Neptune as well as the ethereal, other-worldly and quixotic qualities.
Despite his many internal conflicts and challenges, he appeared to be a truly a wise, old soul - an evolved being who incarnated on this earth with a very grand and nobel purpose - but with this purpose came his cross to bear. Astrologically, he literally had a grand cross, this carried with it intense spiritual obstacles as well and they say that only advanced souls tend to create such karmic aspects for themselves - for purposes of evolution. His sun sign was in Virgo conjunct Black Moon & South Node. So he came into this world with wisdom from previous incarnations and also with an understanding of all that is mysterious and arcane. Virgo is an earth sign, and with the Sun in Virgo conjunct South Node you have a highly principled, pragmatic, ecologically minded, earth resonant, health conscious person of a spiritually attuned nature and integrity. His family created the perfect environment to nurture this already present aspect of his soul.
The grand cross he was to bear basically speaks of being lead off the true path and distracted by worldly illusions from fulfilling his true purpose. The Moon/Neptune are in opposition and both are squaring the North Node. The Sun-Black Moon were creating tension in past-future timeline karma potentiality - and at that time it seems his identity was eclipsed by the power of his own deep unconscious urges, confusion, and the nebulousness created by the Moon-Neptune opposition. Creativity was intense and dominant and all permeating in his life and his soul calling was well channeled. Generally speaking though, the grand cross seems to have diverged the soul purpose somewhat, in terms of reaching full potential - and soul evolution was threatened by this hard to fathom, deep divergence of soul and self - but to manifest the triumph of a transcended grand cross into matter - completion was the task. The task was cut short, but I believe that he will return to complete it in his next incarnation. For life is a like a wheel, the Buddhists believe it to be the wheel of birth and death, what lies beyond the wheel is simply Tao of the Universe.
An excerpt from the poem called "Drunken Morning" by Arthur Rimbaud:
Let us re-create ourselves after that superhuman promise
Made to our souls and our bodies at their creation:
That promise, that madness!
Elegance, silence, violence!
They promised to bury in shadows the tree of good and evil,
To banish tyrannical honesty,
So that we might flourish in our very pure love.
It began with a certain disgust, and it ended -
Since we could not immediately seize upon eternity -
It ended in a scattering of perfumes.
Raven on July 06, 2015:
That was beautiful! I've never read a birthchart like that. Would you read a birth chart for October 5th 1990, at 4 pm in Tucson Arizona? Seeing as this post was many years ago, I will just put out wishful thinking ;)
Scarlett on January 03, 2014:
What is all this nonsense?
flor on March 31, 2010:
Hi! I'm a member of http://river-phoenix.net and I totally love what you wrote here but how do you know all of this about him?