Crucifixion anyone? Drowning, beating to death, stoning, burning alive, impalement, hanging… many methods have been invented to take the life of humans who have been judged to be criminals by their fellow men. In the past, seeing as there were not so many mass entertainment possibilities, executions were quite an event and drew large crowds. That is not to say many people did not have strong sensitivities – already in the early Middle Ages powerful voices were heard condemning the death penalty in Britain, though there was a resurgence of executions under Henry VIII, when you could get hanged for almost anything, like cutting down a tree. In the USA there were also strong voices against the death penalty, including some of the founding fathers and also Benjamin Franklin. America inherited many of England’s capital offences, and included a few of their own, like stealing grapes and killing chickens.
Nowadays, it is pretty difficult to get yourself executed. First of all, it is no use living in a major democracy; capital punishment was deemed uncivilized decades ago. The USA will do it for you, although there are 12 states that have banned it, including Michigan which did so in 1847 and was indeed the first democracy to do so. In America, Texas is the place to get it done – with over 370 executions since 1976. It helps to be black, though being poor does it too. If you would like to increase the odds of execution Singapore is the country that executes the highest number of people in proportion to the population. Asian countries generally approve of capital punishment, as does the USA where a 2000 international Gallup Poll showed 66% for (in contrast to Western Europe’s 34% for). If you do not want to hang around endlessly on Death Row, the best place is China, where you are executed almost immediately after sentencing. With 3400 executions in 2004, 90% of executions worldwide took place in China. (Note 1)
The execution seen by most people will have been that of Saddam Hussein, thanks to the availability of camera phone video recordings. Google seems to register about 20 million views, so that human tendency to gape at other’s misfortune is still alive and well.
HOROSCOPE: 30.12.2006 6 am Baghdad AS 22.09 SG
One of the main issues at Saddam Hussein’s execution was that of dignity. He was filmed and jeered at, and the trapdoor was activated before he had finished his prayers. As the attendees were mostly Shiites (Hussein was Sunni), it gave a strong impression of revenge rather than justice. Looking at the chart for the moment, Saddam Hussein is represented by Ascendant ruler Jupiter dignified in its own sign, and he was the only one who actually maintained his dignity throughout the process. Mars in Sagittarius square the nodal axis is more associated with revenge than justice. Over the coming two weeks Mars approached Pluto, and at the approximate time of the conjunction, Saddam Hussein’s brother in law was also hanged, and decapitated in the process, again provoking international protest. (Note 2.)
Uranus in Pisces in the 3rd house in Hussein’s execution chart probably symbolizes the use of cell phones to spread the video material, and the square to Jupiter shows how Saddam’s fate became a collective event. The approaching conjunction of Uranus with the nodal axis will bring similar electrifying media events over the coming months.
The issue of executions of this sort is becoming globally relevant now as Pluto, that recently demoted dwarf planet, is at 26 degrees 58 Sagittarius, which is in fact the exact position of the Galactic Center – the conjunction is exact to one or two minutes of arc. Humanity is therefore asking serious questions about the right to take human life. With the arrival of Jupiter in Sagittarius a month prior to Saddam Hussein’s execution, the whole question of international justice and the death penalty is coming to the fore. When Jupiter conjoins Pluto in December 2007 there may be a radical evolution of world opinion regarding the death penalty. With the Olympic Games taking place in China just months after, it could be that the Chinese government would consider it expedient to declare a moratorium on capital punishment for example. The US had a moratorium from 1967 – 1977, but resumed capital punishment after this date. As it is a vote winner in the US, and an election is coming, it is difficult to see any change there at this time, though the example the US sets is used by many other countries to justify their continued policy of execution.
Pluto is also trining Saturn in this period, and this aspect too could hint at restrictions being placed on the taking of life. This trine becomes exact just once – at 26 degrees in August 2007 – again activating the Galactic Center. It is likely that the Saturn/Pluto is related to the use of capital punishment. The 1967 US moratorium took place with these two planets in opposition, whilst when the moratorium ended with the execution of Gary Gilmore on January 17th 1977, Pluto was sextile Saturn within ½ degree. So capital punishment was outlawed with the opposition and allowed again with the sextile.
Perhaps the most significant execution of a head of state was that of Louis XVI in 1793. This took place at the height of the revolution and it naturally sent reverberations throughout the royal families of Europe.
HOROSCOPE: 21.01.1793 10.20 Paris AS 13.22 AR
This execution heralded the end of an era in Europe, and the grand cross involving the Uranus/Pluto opposition and Jupiter in Scorpio with Moon in Taurus shows the terror regime of the time. The judgment of Jupiter in Scorpio was obviously death in this period, where Paris was awash in blood from the guillotine. Here also Saturn is sextile Pluto.
150 years previously at the previous Uranus/Pluto opposition, a similar earth-shaking event took place when Charles 1st of England was beheaded under the new republic of Oliver Cromwell.
HOROSCOPE: 30.01.1649 14.04 London AS 12.11 CN
This chart is even more striking than the Louis XVI execution chart, with a massive grand cross in mutable signs. This time Saturn is in conjunction with Pluto. In both charts the Sun is in Aquarius, and on both occasions it is the people who have taken the power. In this chart the Jupiter/Pluto trine makes a grand trine with the Sun, which shows how ideological enthusiasm triumphs over humanitarian considerations.
These royal executions of the past had huge historical significance, partly because they took place at very significant astrological moments, when rare planetary alignments showed the reversal of heaven and earth, as trends towards democracy unseated the aristocratic power base. The execution of Saddam Hussein can hardly be compared to this, much as he would have liked it to. It could be argued that the dominant astrological trend is the trine of Pluto in Sagittarius to a weak but dictatorial Saturn in Leo, and that with Jupiter in its own sign Sagittarius, justice was done. Perhaps the greater significance of this event is the Jupiter/Uranus square and the role of media in displaying events such as this for all to see. This square seems to have exacerbated the religious divisions in Arab society, rather than bring any form of closure.
In previous historical periods, the general idea was to also inflict as much discomfort as possible when executing criminals. They were really meant to pay for their crimes. In Britain a favorite practice was being hung, drawn and quartered – the idea being that it took a certain amount of time before you actually died. The guillotine was a new democratic method which was meant to reduce the element of pain and revenge. Today this has been perfected in the United States with the injection of poisons. Relatives of the victims are invited to attend so they can attain closure.
The historical trend towards minimizing suffering at execution will in the end eliminate execution. At present surveys show 52% of people in favor of the death penalty worldwide, but in the democracies of Europe and South America, this percentage is 34 and 37 respectively. If western democracy becomes the norm in future societies, the death penalty will ultimately be banned everywhere. For example Russia declared a moratorium on the death penalty in 1999. A New Jersey commission has shown that it is cheaper to imprison a person for life than to have the death penalty. They concluded that executing a small number of persons guilty of murder is not sufficiently compelling to justify the risk of making an irreversible mistake either, as DNA evidence has shown time and again that some convicted murderers simply did not commit the crime.
The question remains: when will there be a worldwide abolition of the death penalty? As I write this question and look at the horary chart that forms as a result, I am struck by the fact that the Sun is at 26.58 Capricorn exactly conjoining the MC. This represents the judgment of society, here the death penalty. As the US (Sibley) Pluto is at 27.33 Capricorn, the horoscope keys in to the anxiety factor in America, which is perhaps a primary reason US citizens are so keen on execution. The media in the USA – Mercury in Cancer opposition Pluto – whips up fear through its sensational reporting of terrible crimes, and this unrestrained sensationalism is a major reason for the proliferation of weapons and their murderous use.
HOROSCOPE: When will capital punishment be abolished? 17.01.2007 12.25 Odense AS 3.46 GE
In the horary chart there is a Pluto/Mars/Moon conjunction in the 8th house– not exactly a life-enhancing combination. This stellium affirms the relevance of the horary question, and as far as Mars in Capricorn is concerned, state execution is a valid punishment. But the Moon is in the same sign as the Sun, and there will be a new moon at 28.41 Capricorn. The fact that the moon is at the end of its cycle could indicate that capital punishment also is. I think therefore that the Pluto return to its 27.33 Capricorn position in the 4th July chart, which will take place in 2022, 15 years from now, will signify the final reckoning regarding the death penalty in the US. And, when the United States abolishes the taking of human life by the state, remaining governments will surely also do so.
Adrian Duncan 17th January 2007
1. Information from www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
2. This execution took place on January 15th at 3.00 a.m.