elisabeth kubler-ross

Credit for the advancement of hospice and bereavement care is given to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.  Her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, was as revolutionary as it was controversial, but it is revered as THE classic text on the humane and dignified treatment of the terminally ill. It spawned worldwide workshops, over a dozen other books on the topic, and two healing centers to care for the dying and their loved ones, not to mention an entire movement in the health and helping professions.

The Swiss-born doctor had a career divided in four distinct phases:  1). as a medical trainee throughout post-war Europe, most dramatically in Poland with war and holocaust survivors; 2). as a psychiatric med student and practitioner in the United States after marrying an American, a fellow med student; 3). the most notable, as the leader in hospice care, first in the US, and eventually, throughout the world, which gradually softened even her harshest critics, of which there were many; and 4). as a researcher into life-after-death experiences, which cost her a great deal of credibility from even her most admiring following.  This last phase included work with channeling, out-of-body experiences, etc, and unfortunately, a scandalous business partnership with a charlatan (unknown to her) medium.

Even more unfortunate, however, was the tragic fire that burned her Virginia healing center to the ground in 1994, taking with it everything she owned personally and professionally!  Although the cause was never proven, it is assumed to be a case of arson, set by the townspeople who were overtly threatening and hostile to her work with AIDS patients.

Through the 1980’s, she made monumental contributions to the AIDS community, including an adoption program for babies with AIDS, as well as adopting 20 of these infants personally.  The through line of all her work, in fact, was children.  Ironically, however, she had great difficulty in delivering her own, i.e., two healthy births amid eight miscarriages.  And she even “lost” them, when they sided with their father during a stressful divorce (although reconciliation took place in her later years).

Interestingly, her own birth experience was extraordinary – the first-born of triplets, and being only two pounds, not expected to survive.  This is a testament to the idea that we are what we are from the first breath; or astrologically speaking, our charts are in effect from the initial moment of life!

With her well-known will of iron and resilience, she turned the medical establishment on its ear with her work, as well as the New Age community with her relentless smoking, caffeine and rich European diet!

All of this is so obviously depicted in Dr. Kubler-Ross’ natal horoscope that it almost defies any need for analysis.  For example, we see a bucket chart formation with an 8th house Saturn in Scorpio as the handle.  He is also in a grand trine with a Pisces Ascendant and a Sun-Pluto-Node conjunction in Cancer in the 5th house.  Saturn is furthermore in a wide t-square with a 12th house Jupiter, ruler of the MC, and Neptune in the 6th house of service.

In her autobiography, Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying, she writes of her “need – as a two-pound nothing – to constantly prove myself worthy of being alive.”
Workaholism admittedly ran her life and ruined her marriage.  She speaks often of herself as “someone who goes to extremes.”  And whether she looked for the hard way to do things or it just found her, she was certainly one to take that route, but always believing there are no accidents or coincidences, and that everything always has a reason and a meaning.  She was a big one for signs and omens.

The good doctor was also born just hours prior to a Solar Eclipse also representing a theme of endings-and-beginnings, which is additionally indicated by the rising Uranus at the last degree of the zodiac; hence, her individualistic and rebellious nature too.

The major asteroids are clearly evidenced in the chart.  Most significant is Ceres, asteroid of the “grieving mother” as well as “the lost child,” on the 6th house side of the Descendant, describing much of her client base, and who she feels herself to be in relation to her cases.  She was also an avid gardener, a great cook, and dreamed of living on a farm from 1962 to 1990 (a complete Saturn cycle), before the dream materialized.

Pallas is fully in the 6th house, in the aforementioned t-square, accounting for some of her outspokenness in her work too.  Vesta in the 6th explains the importance of the healing centers.  And Juno on the Ascendant is her fragile start to life as well as her genuine commitment to her husband, even through some acrimony, as reflected in her statement of surprise at the end of her marriage, “I just never thought of us as a divorced family….I told myself he would miss my cooking, need his laundry done and want to entertain his hospital friends now that the garden was in full bloom.” In actuality, however, she was traveling the world for lectures and seminars. 

Chiron, on the cusp between the first and second houses, manifests in a very literal interpretation as the wounded healer -- in her work, in her talents and in the value her profession gave to her identity.

Wanting to be a doctor was one of her first memories and she never desired any other line of work.  Throughout childhood, however, she was told that was no profession for a girl, and when, in fact, it came time to seriously study, her father refused to pay for her education.  In defiance, she broke away from her family, got a job as a nanny, and started to earn her way to school.  Surely, that was a scandal for a teen-ager during war torn Europe!  It was only when she passed her rugged entry exams, did her father acquiesce, although it was under the condition that she not go to work in the, then, very perilous Poland.

The secondary progressions for these years are astoundingly apt.  In the short time between 1940 and 1942, the Sun progressed into Leo, Mercury turned retrograde and Saturn turned direct, Venus entered Cancer, and there was her first progressed full moon!

At the start of these years, she writes rather girlishly, “I promised God that when I become old enough I would travel to Poland and help these courageous souls defeat their oppressors. ‘As soon as I can,’ I whispered, ‘As soon as I can I would go to Poland and help.’ ” In a more serious tone, at the end of these progressions, she describes herself with this, “By the time my public schooling ended in 1942, I had become a mature and thoughtful young adult.  Deep thoughts resided in my head.  My future, as far as I was concerned, was medical school….I literally felt called to the profession.  What was better than healing the sick, giving hope to the hopeless, and comforting those in pain?”

At the end of the war in 1945, with Saturn moving over her Cancer planets, signaling a new beginning, and in defiance to her father, she began her way to Poland as a medical volunteer.  She writes, “My destiny, whatever it turned out to be, was still many miles ahead of me, somewhere in the desert of human suffering.  If I was ever to get there, if I was ever to help, I had to get on the path.”  Quite an accurate description of transiting Saturn’s conjunction to the natal Sun!

Those adolescent progressions have interesting correlations in adulthood.  In the mid-50’s, on the next progressed new moon, which coincided with her Saturn Return period, she actually became a full fledged physician and became engaged to Manny Ross.  And in the mid-60’s, when Mercury progressed out of retrograde and Venus was at the end of Her progression through Cancer, Dr. Kubler-Ross gave her first lecture on the topic of death.

On November 21, 1969, Life Magazine did an interview with her to coincide with the publication of On Death and Dying, which was revolutionary at this time, but not an instant hit, much less a classic.  It was her first book and any book was a never-imagined undertaking for her.

Again, the secondary progressions are appropriately descriptive.  The progressed Ascendant had just entered Gemini.  (Remember the book led to the expansion of her workshops and an actual community).  Progressed Mercury returned to His natal position after that retrograde progression.  Jupiter, ruler of the natal MC, was opposed by the progressed Sun, indicating a turning point in her career.  Most interestingly, the progressed MC, opposed progressed Venus, and passed through the square of Chiron and came to the conjunction with the natal 12th house cusp, i.e., incorporating the value of being the wounded healer and sharing it selflessly with the world.

This is a perfect example of the scope of the Saturn cycle too.  The material for the book was prepared while transiting Saturn was in a culminating square to her Cancer planets, adding up all of her experience as a doctor since the conjunction back in 1945; and the book’s publication occurred with Saturn in a closing sextile to these Cancer planets, indicating “sharing the fruit of her labor” with the collective.  This, then, was also the Saturn Return of those sobering high school years!  And note transiting Saturn’s conjunction to Chiron.

From the collective’s point of view, however, more significant was transiting Neptune’s exit from Scorpio and ingress to Sagittarius, coincidentally Kubler-Ross’ 9th house cusp.  He would continue to weave in and out of these signs through 1970, while the book gained in popularity and society began to change its views on death, dying and the taboo of terminal illness, in ways so clearly symbolized by these signs.  (On an ironic note, Neptune’s early days in Scorpio saw the introduction of the birth control pill).

Uranus had just completed His stay in Virgo too, perhaps indicating some innovative ideas in the medical field, but this sign, more than any other, has more to do with actual caretaking in the hospice; and it is here that we truly see Uranus’ innovations.

As for Pluto, at this time, He had a few more years to go in Virgo.  However, His passage through Scorpio in the 80’s and 90’s, which of course brought the rise of AIDS, turned hospice and bereavement work into a full-fledged movement.

It was Pluto’s transit through Scorpio, in fact, when I found myself in positions to marry my work as a bereavement counselor and astrology.  For instance, in those years, I would recommend to students and some clients On Death and Dying as reading material to understand the process of Pluto.  I know that helped them more than any astrology book by offering validation to the deep feelings of death and transformation that are so common in those times.  That doesn’t seem to be as necessary with Pluto’s transit through Sagittarius, which is comparatively less intense, but I do continue to quote the most well-known theme of Kubler-Ross’ book, which I think will be helpful for Pluto transits for all time:

There are five stages in the process of dying -- denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance.  They do not take place in any particular order or for any specific amount of time.  They might even take place simultaneously or move forward and backward.  However, the one consistent quality through all these stages is hope.

Birth Info for Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:  July 8, 1926, Zurich, Switzerland, 8E32 47N23, 10:45 P.M. MET.