Kate Bush – Tortured artist or reclusive misfit?
As Kate Bush, the well-known singer from the 80s and 90s prepares to tour again for the first time in over 35 years, I thought I might be a fitting time to look at the horoscope of this rather unique and inspiring songstress who played such an important part of my youth and who paved the way for kooky artists like Bjork and Tori Amos to follow.
Reclusive and private, she remains, for many, something of an enigma, and of course everyone loves to try and solve a mystery! This is an astrological attempt to better understand her.
Described by critics and colleagues as a ‘maverick,’ banshee’ and ‘pop’s embodiment of fairy,’ Kate Bush was discovered at the precious age of 14 when she had already written haunting songs such as ‘The Man with the Child in his Eyes.’ Her refusal to conform to the gender stereotypes so often imposed upon women in the music industry, along with her decision early on in her career to produce her own music, meant that she bucked the trend in many ways for female singers, and in doing so, won the respect of many of her artists for her strong sense of artistic integrity and feminist attitude.
Born on 30 July 1958 in Bexley Maternity Hospital in Kent, Catherine Bush was the only daughter of a musical family of Anglo-Irish descent. Her mother was a former Irish folk dancer, and her father, who was a doctor, played the piano. However, it was her brothers, John and Paddy who she claims were the biggest influence in her life musically. Certainly, it was thanks to her brother’s contacts in the music industry that Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame discovered her and helped her to record a demo that led to her signing with EMI in the late 1970s and her first hit single at the age of 19.
This date makes her a sun Leo, and although she seems to have fulfilled this in the sense that she became a performer and followed a career that involved being on stage and in the public eye, she is somewhat uncharacteristic in that she was also very shy and reclusive and didn’t seem interested in courting attention from fans or the media.
Obviously much depends on her birth time, as house placement would help to give us more information about how and in what sphere her natal planets work. After much guesswork, I have plumped for a 2:30pm birth time, although I do also wonder about whether she has Cancer rising. My analysis of her natal chart below is based on this time.
Sun/Leo vs Pluto-Mercury/Virgo dichotomy
Some of the most frequent adjectives used to describe Kate are words like ‘original,’ ‘unique’ and ‘maverick’. This may have something to do with the fact that she has a natal Sun-Uranus conjunction, a combination I have in my own chart. This combination tends to make people very independent and keen to forge their own path. It also means they are not really concerned about conforming to societal dictates and are happy if left alone to do their own thing. It is this combination that is most likely responsible for her drive to take control of her musical career and produce her own albums so that she was less at the mercy of the commercial dictates of record companies to produce music that will be popular or release albums before she feels they are ready.
So, although she may have the Leonine self-possession and confidence needed to express herself artistically and perform in public, Uranus may make her more detached and cool, so that she may be less interested in what people think of her personally or in developing a high profile public image for PR reasons. This may explain her reluctance to do much publicity for her albums – she is not as egotistical or as needy as many Sun Leos can be when they are insecure.
It is a shame that her birth time is not known, but Kate has often talked about how exposed she feels in public and her biographer has described her as ‘morbidly self-conscious,’ which has a distinct Plutonian sound to it. People with strong Scorpio or Pluto influences in their chart are very often highly sensitive to criticism and rejection. As a result, they can become very secretive and reclusive.
If she had Scorpio rising, then the Pluto-Mercury conjunction in Virgo would become quite central to her chart – in fact, it would become the chart ruler. Having Pluto and Mercury in Virgo is of itself difficult, because it tends to produce compulsive perfectionists who set very high standards for themselves and others, who are very self-critical and who have trouble accepting any form of compromise or failure, especially with regards to work – if this is the correct birth time, then this conjunction sits in her 10th house of career. It therefore comes as no surprise that those she has worked with have described her as something of a control freak, especially when it comes to the details.
This combination probably also explains why she was driven to a ‘state of severe exhaustion’ after the poor reception of her first film, The Line, The Cross & The Curve, which she made in the mid-1990s after spending four years on the album ‘The Red Shoes,’ which also received fairly lukewarm reviews (although I personally loved it!). She has said in the past that her work almost speaks for her – and naturally if this is not well-received, it could lead to feelings of personal rejection. Having said that, it is also probably her Pluto-Mercury conjunction that has given her the label deep, especially when it comes to her lyrics.
Virgo is also a pretty humble sign, and this quote, from a TV interview she did in the December 1993 for a programme called Ego & Icons, perhaps sums up why she isn’t a typical Leo:
I really like the idea of my work speaking for me, not me speaking for me. I think my works says a lot more interesting stuff than I ever could and it’s more eloquent, and that is what I feel I have to offer the world. I don’t feel that what I have to say personally is that interesting and it’s not something that I have enthusiasm about, it’s not fun for me – I don’t really enjoy it.
As well as the influence of Virgo, I think we can definitely hear the influence of her Moon in impersonal Aquarius and her Sun-Uranus conjunction here, which makes her less interested in ego reinforcementand more removed emotionally from what society or the media thinks of her as a person.
Scorpio rising would also put Chiron, symbolic of the wound and where we feel most vulnerable, on her IC, which might explain her need for privacy, seclusion & separation from the world in order to remain centred as an artist and individual.
Having a Scorpio AC would also mean that she had natal Neptune in the 12th house, an exceptionally sensitive combination that would endow her with musical ability, as well as possibly an almost psychic ability to tune into the realm of the imagination and draw from it for artistic inspiration, as well as the feelings of those around her. On the negative side, it may have made her exceptionally open to negative influences from a psychic point of view, which may explain why being in the public sphere proved to be so taxing mentally and emotionally for her. More on this later.
Femininity, Feminism and Female Embodiment – Venus in Cancer and Mars in Taurus
Many scholars who have studied Kate’s work over the years have noted that her fan base is mainly female and that her lyric soften seem to help them negotiate female issues, such as their role of women as lovers, mothers etc, with one academic describing her lyrics as often epitomising the ‘nourishing and life-giving force of the maternal for women, as the speaker sings to the woman in the song as sister, daughter and mother.’1
This could well be because her muse, natal Venus, happens be in nurturing Cancer. This means that creatively and personally, Kate values the role of motherhood/nurturing (and conversely may feel a strong need for familial closeness and support) and is happy to elevate these qualities to the realm of art, something she does very well in her duet with Peter Gabriel, ‘Don’t Give up.’ Yet, some would argue, she goes further; rather than simply using motherhood/the maternal as an emblem of the traditional function of women in society, she goes further, extending the maternal metaphor to both ‘celebrate the creativity and resilience of women, as well as inscribing woman as agent of desire.’2 In this last, we hear the distinct echo of Venus in her role as goddess of beauty and sensuality.
It may also be significant here that she has Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, and the star of the Egyptian mother goddess, Isis, conjunct her natal Venus. Bernadette Brady describes this combination as indicative of someone who strives to combine the sacred with the mundane through art, music or poetry, as well as someone with a tendency to look for divinity within one’s relationships. This is a topic we see played out in songs like ‘Breathe’ in which she describes breathing her mother in, and of the mother as the beloved – a great expression of Venus in Cancer. We also see the themes of love and mysticism crossing over in her album, The Red Shoes.
If she does indeed have Scorpio rising, this would put her Venus in the 8th house of intimacy and collaboration, making it trine to the Ascendant, which might explain how she manages to draw in her listener in and make them feel like an integral part of the experience that she is singing about. It might also explain why she has always chosen to work with family and close friends/those who are familiar to her (Cancer being the sign of family and the home) and record and produce much of her material from a home-based studio. Keeping the family theme, it seems that she is now passing on the family tradition of music to her son Bertie, who played a key role in her stage performances. Creativity, home and family all seem to be closely inter-linked for her.
We also hear refrains of her Moon in Aquarius, (ruler of Cancer) which is essentially subversive and feminist, delighting in being ‘other.’
Source of Tension – the Moon in Aquarius
However, in Kate’s natal Moon, we find a certain conflict between the need for closeness and relationship on one hand, and the desire for freedom and independence, on the other – a theme that is echoed by her Sun-Uranus conjunction.
This may be because the Moon in Aquarius forms a T-square with her natal Leo Sun and Mars in Taurus, a combination that points to internal emotional tensions. The Moon in Aquarius always wants to be separate (Aquarius is not a fan of intimacy) and retract from too much interaction with the world, and yet her Leo Sun will crave affection and affirmation from others.
Both sit in contrast to her physical and banshee-like ability to express herself more freely through non-verbal lyrical mediums such as dance (her teacher described her as ‘wild’ when she danced). In this way, she could use dance as a way to throw off the shackles of self-consciousness and emotional anxiety, and help her to reconcile any difficulties she might be having in terms of processing/showing her emotions and expressing herself openly without fear of criticism or rejection.
Mars in Taurus – lyrical movement & contact with the elemental
Dance always formed a very important part of her image and life as a performer – many of her music videos and live shows contained elaborate dance routines and in many of her early publicity photos, she wears a leotard and dance attire. As well as possibly allowing her to tap into an ancestral ability to connect with music and the world of myth and poetry through her mother’s side, it may also have provided a much-needed outlet for any internal tensions or stresses that she may have been experiencing in her life at the time.
In later years, the loss of contact with the physically grounding experience of dance may have also contributed to her growing unhappiness with her physique and increasing reticence to be seen in public. I would argue that for her to feel grounded, she needs to keep exercise as a key part of her daily routine – a form of reconnecting her body to the rhythms of music and nature, to the earth and the pulse of life and vitality that runs through it. I would argue that the ‘Red Shoes’ may well be a metaphor for her natal Mars (red) in Taurus (shoes, dance, earth)…and that in the song, ‘The Red Shoes’, she begins to feel a compulsive need to dance as a way to feel alive and recover from her grief – this very sensual and physical form of non-verbal self-expression may have proved very healing for her psychologically.
Neptune and connection to the mystical & imaginal realms
In her 1993 album, The Red Shoes, she includes a song called ‘Lily’ which includes references to a protective magical ritual (the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram used in Kabbalah and other esoteric traditions) involving the creation of a circle of fire and a summoning of the angels of the four directions & elements. It also features an English version invocation of an ancient Vedic hymn, The Gayatri Mantra’ or Path of Light, which has its origins in a series of ancient Hindu texts known as the Rigveda, in its opening:
Oh thou, who givest sustenance to the universe
From whom all things proceed
To whom all things return
Unveil to us the face of the true spiritual sun
Hidden by a disc of golden light
That we may know the truth
And do our whole duty
As we journey to thy sacred feet
This, together with other magical and mystical references in songs such as ‘Song of Solomon’ and ‘Constellation of the Heart’ which has clear references to the stars (and by association, astrology), suggests that she does have some interest in divination and alternative spirituality. Some have speculated that Lily, whose voice we hear chanting the above invocation on the track that bears her name, is in fact, a real medium and healer. Perhaps, this could well be true, given that Kate is often described by friends as extremely sensitive, and that she went through a rough patch before her son was born and after her mother died.
Given how reclusive she has been in recent years, and that her record label is called ‘The Fish People,’ I would venture to speculate that she has a strong Pisces/Neptunian/12 house aspect to her birth chart. If she was born in the early afternoon of July 30th, then she would indeed have Neptune in Scorpio located in her 12th house.
This kind of natal Neptune could prove to be something of a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, as the possible ruler of her 5th house cusp (the house of creativity), it could mean that she has an incredible, almost shamanic ability to tap into the more ethereal realms of the imagination, and become a kind of vessel through which creativity and artistic inspiration can flow, a process that Tori Amos has described as being similar to a spiritual medium. It may also explain the ease by which she was able to evoke dreamlike, surreal images and sounds in her songs, as well as shape-shift into different characters from a lyrical perspective.
On the other, it would also potentially leave her very open and vulnerable to the energies of her environment and the feelings of others because of Neptune’s difficulties in maintaining good personal and psychological boundaries. This might explain her tendency to speak of feeling very exposed when in the public eye, as well as her tendency to tire easily and feel drained after performances and tours.
Rectification can sometimes help to confirm the correctness of a guessed birth time by matching events to transits. If Kate does indeed have Scorpio Ascendant, this might explain the timing of her retirement from public life, which would have coincided with the transit of Pluto over her natal Neptune and Ascendant. This suggests a devastating few years in which she may have had some kind of psychological breakdown or personal death/rebirth experience, possibly triggered by a dramatic event such as a death, which would force her to completely reassess her life and then rebuild it again, almost from scratch. Between 1989 and 1992, she is said to have collapsed with grief over the untimely deaths of several close friends from HIV-related complications, followed by her mother’s tragic death from cancer a few years afterwards.
It is perhaps telling that in 1993, she released an album that included a song with these lyrics:
“Lily, Oh Lily I don’t feel safe
I feel that life has blown a great big hole through me”
And she said: “Child, you must protect yourself
I’ll show you how with fire”
This very aptly describes someone experiencing the devastating power of Pluto to destroy one’s sense of orientation and mental security, and may well have been written around the time that she was experiencing her Pluto-Neptune conjunction, or Pluto crossing her Ascendant.
In his book Planets in Transit, Rob Hand describes this transit in the following terms:
At this time, your relationships with others, both intimate and otherwise, will be greatly transformed. Your personality will undergo a period of change that will bring to light some very important but often unacknowledged elements of your psyche, which you will have to deal with. This may be a period of extreme crisis in your life…The psychological changes that take place now may make it desirable for you to undergo psychotherapy or a similar treatment in order to get more in touch with yourself.
The advice offered by Lily to protest herself psychically fits perfectly with what any astrologer would advise someone with Neptune in the 12th house, while Hand’s advice about how to deal with a Pluto-Asc conjunction offer a way to deal with the terrible compulsions and fears that may arise from deep within and need dealing with. On wonders if Lily was a real life healer who did fact, play the role of counsellor to Kate during this difficult period of loss and change.
It does seem telling to me that much of her work has a dreamlike, watery quality to it (think, for instance of the instrumental beginning to ‘Wow’) and her work frequently references fish, water, oceans, fog – all of which are very Neptunian symbols.
I find it fitting that just as Mars and Saturn make a conjunction in Scorpio (possibly on or near her Ascendant) she makes a public re-appearance – how apt, given Scorpio’s affiliation with the phoenix and reinvention. Perhaps she will trump fellow Leo, Madonna yet on that score!
Still, with Jupiter currently moving over her Sun and Venus having recently contacted her natal Uranus, I think we can expect big things from Ms Bush – she certainly has the stars working in her favour!. Some things just get better with age, and I think as far as this particular artist is concerned, the best may be yet to come.
Just as a postscript, I understand that she opened her new tour with this song, which makes me wonder if she was in fact, initiating the protective ritual before the concert to help provide her with the psychic protection she needed to get through the show and overcome any anxiety she might have about performing in public again.
1 & 2. Deborah Withers, Phd Thesis entitled KATE BUSH: INVOCATIONS, PERFORMANCES AND TRANSFORMATIONS OF THE FEMININE SUBJECT, p. 75-80